Friday, December 30, 2016

Review - - Absolute Trust

Please give Maria Lokken a warm welcome to The Romance Dish review team. Maria shares my love of romance novels and she and her sister are the reason I began reviewing them. I'm delighted to have her share her thoughts with us here at the Dish! ~PJ

Absolute Trust
By Piper J. Drake
True Hero Series - Book #3
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: December 20, 2016

If you like your romantic suspense filled with tension, a bit of mystery and a relationship that sizzles – this is a book to put on the top your to be read pile.  In book three of the True Hero Series, Absolute Trust quite literally begins with a bang and then takes you on a thrilling ride through danger and a slow build toward a happily ever after.

Brandon Forte is ex-military who now runs a kennel training military dogs.  Sophie Kim is an accountant who has known Brandon since grade school. While they’ve both had strong feelings for each other, his absence coupled with their inability to open up about how they really feel has kept them at arm’s length despite their desire for one another.   

When Sophie’s life is threatened, Brandon jumps into action to protect her.  And this is where the author really makes you turn the pages.  She has created a character the reader becomes invested in.  Behind his incredibly strong exterior is a man who has the tenderness to envelop the woman he loves and the intelligence to keep her safe despite the constant threat she is living under. Brandon is a hero that is not only multi-dimensional but whose feelings unfold in such a way that you find your heart racing just a little bit faster as you move through the book.  And if that isn’t enough – there’s the dog.  Yes, the German Shepard named Haydn that Brandon is training. His love for animals, and particularly this dog, gives you one more reason to want Brandon to leap off the page and into your living room; even for just a minute.

The author keeps you guessing as to who is trying to kill Sophie or if it’s really Sophie they are after.  Amidst the fears of being hunted down and killed, the relationship between Brandon and Sophie is a slow burn as they dance around their feelings.  When the fire is finally ignited it’s a very worthwhile love story with a lot of action.

~Maria Lokken

Maria is an award-winning television producer.  Currently as Executive In Charge of Production at Jarrett Creative, she’s helmed the production of Killision Course and The Haunting of on Lifetime, Boston’s Finest on TNT and Alaskan Women Looking for Love on TLC to name a few.  She’s had a life-long love affair with romance books and would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Review - - This Is Our Song

This Is Our Song
By Samantha Chase
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: December 6, 2016

After enjoying success with his band Shaughnessy, Riley Shaughnessy has hit a rough patch. First, he was considered and rejected as part of a documentary on rock legends, and then the rumors began to circulate that he was the least talented member of the group and would never make it on his own. The other band members seem to be doing fine with their solo projects while the band takes a break, but Riley’s insecurities are mounting. For the first time in his career, he can’t write. That means that he can’t finish the album that was supposed to be all his music. His label has grown impatient. Without quick results, they are ready to cut him loose. The only way he can win more time is to consent to an interview with a journalist from Rock the World magazine. Riley resists the interview, to no avail. The best he can do is plan to fake it and give a bland interview with smiles and no revelations.

Savannah Daly has been promised a career-making interview with Coldplay. An interview with Riley Shaughnessy, a musician whose music she doesn’t like, whose talent she questions, and whom she has relegated to just another pretty-boy-rock-star status is a poor substitute. But when her boss tells her it is the Riley interview or a move back to cutting hair to make ends meet, Savannah begins her research on Shaughnessy. She may have no choice in whom she interviews, but she is determined to write a gritty piece based on the reality of who Riley Shaughnessy is, not a shallow PR piece.

Both Riley and Savannah are surprised when their first meeting challenges all their preconceptions about one another. They are even more surprised—and uncomfortable—with the chemistry they share. When Riley insists that they move the site of the month-long interview to North Carolina, home to the tightly knit and steadily growing Shaughnessy family, Savannah discovers a very different Riley Shaughnessy. She falls in love with him and with his lively, affectionate, welcoming family. Riley finds Savannah easy to talk to and easy to love. She sees him as a man, not merely a celebrity, and she inspires new music and new plans for the future. But just as an HEA for another Shaughnessy seems certain, Riley discovers Savannah’s role in his period of despair and reacts in anger. Is this obstacle too great to be overcome?

I love the Shaughnessy family, and This Is Our Song was a book I eagerly anticipated. For much of the book it was all I hoped it would be. Riley and Savannah were engaging, interesting characters individually and credible and endearing together. The gathering of the Shaughnessys was delightful. I enjoyed seeing the in-process HEAs of Aiden and Zoe (Made for Us), Hugh and Aubrey (Love Walks In), and Quinn and Anna (Always My Girl). Seeing more of Riley’s twin, Owen, and Darcy, the only Shaughnessy daughter, and catching another glimpse of patriarch Ian involved in his new romance were bonuses.  The thread of the brothers’ ongoing sense of loss with their mother’s death and her enduring influence on their lives continues to pack an emotional punch. I found the way Chase wove his mother’s influence into Riley’s music particularly moving.

However, I thought Riley acted like a jerk when the moment of revelation occurred. I understand the principles of the black moment, but he just came across as mean and vindictive to me. I had a difficult time getting past that to the reconciliation and concluding bliss. His reaction wasn’t enough to ruin the book for me, but it knocked it from Perfect Dish rating.

Samantha Chase is a fairly recent discovery for me, and I have fallen in love with her family stories. I enjoy the tight family connection and the distinct differences among the siblings. I have been following the Shaughnessy Brothers with joy and catching up on the Montgomery Brothers, which is also good. The next Shaughnessy Brothers book, A Sky Full of Stars, will be released in June. I hope it is Owen’s story since I love a nerdy hero. (Band on the Run, Chase’s new series, a spin-off from Riley’s book, debuts with One More Kiss on February 7, 2017.) If you like family stories with lots of warmth and teasing, a satisfying central romance, and a moderate sensuality level, I suggest you give Chase a try. This Is Our Song will work as a starting point.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Review - - Apprentice in Death

Apprentice in Death
By J.D. Robb
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: September 6, 2016

The opening scene of this latest installment in the In Death series is chilling, with a father drawing his child into his plans to kill people he feels have wronged him.  Three people die on a skating rink in Central Park, and Lt. Eve Dallas must figure out whether all the deaths are random or at least one was a specific target.  Either way, a long-distance serial killer is unlikely to stop with one hit.  She and her team race against the clock to find and catch the killers before more New Yorkers die.

Of the usual characters, Roarke (of course), Mira, and Peabody feature most prominently, but Berenski in the lab gets new depth in his character, Lowenbaum of the SWAT team (last seen in 2012’s Delusion in Death) returns, and Somerset steps to the fore in an unexpected way.  Each of Eve’s squad, along with Feeney and McNab, also contributes to the increasingly tense investigation.

The exchange between Eve and Peabody about Lowenbaum nicely illustrates the difference in their two characters while giving him a very nice introduction:

“Lowenbaum. He’s so cute.” At Eve’s steely stare Peabody hunched her shoulders. “I’m with McNab through and through, but I can see cuteness through my eyes and my Cute-O-Meter.  You have to admit, he ranks high on the Cute-O-Meter.”

“Cute’s for kids and puppies—if you’re into kids and puppies.  I’ll give you he’s frosty enough.”

He’s also a very good cop, willing to follow the investigative trail wherever it leads, even when he finds it personally disturbing.

Later in the book, we get a look at Eve and Summerset through Roarke’s eyes. He and Eve quarrel over her need to take a statement from Summerset.  When Summerset intervenes, Roarke snaps at him, too.  Roarke stalks off, leaving Summerset with Eve.

“I frightened him,” Summerset told Eve when they were alone.  “It’s difficult to see weakness in the one who raised you.”

“Understood, but—”

“And you worry him.  You look, Lieutenant, as brutally tired and heavy as I feel.  And what can he do for us, he asks himself when one he loves above all else must use one he cares for as a child for a parent? Why, snarl at them both, of course.”

The team uncovers the identities of the killers fairly early in the book, but the difficulty in actually finding them, especially after a second hit, ramps up the tension as the story progresses. The race against time has an urgency that makes the book difficult to put down.

As is often the case in this series, the investigation causes both Eve and Roarke to ponder fathers and children and the importance of roads not taken.  The role of mentor also comes in for some discussion, and there’s a little comic relief near the end, as Eve and Roarke attend the first birthday party for Mavis and Leonardo’s Bella.

One of the killers is twisted but pathetic, while the other is twisted and evil.  As the story progresses, additional motivations emerge, and the expectations of one are thwarted by the plans of the other.  The targets are also well drawn, with distinct personalities despite having very little time on the page.

The action scenes, packed with danger, move fast but are clearly choreographed and easy to follow.

Apprentice in Death has a tight plot, engaging character interaction, and a smooth pace.  It also introduces new characters and sheds new light on familiar ones.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Review - - The Scottish Duke

The Scottish Duke
By Karen Ranney
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: November 29, 2016

The Scottish Duke by Karen Ranney surprised this reader from the very beginning. We are introduced to all the main characters in very short order which sets the pace for this book. Lorna is a maid in the household of the dangerously handsome and aloof Duke of Kinross, Alex Russell. Lorna is no ordinary maid. She took this position because she was desperate to finish her father’s work in cataloging the herbal remedies of Scotland. The duke’s estate provides ample resources for gathering, growing and making up these remedies.

Given all that, Lorna is more than curious of the duke’s penchant for not being disturbed by anyone or anything. He allowed himself to be open to others once and was ultimately betrayed. A hard lesson but a necessary one. In order to quell her curiosity, she decides to take a once in a lifetime opportunity and attend the Duke’s masquerade. She wants a chance to meet the duke as his mysterious equal.

Dressed as Marie Antoinette, she captures his attention as soon as he sees her across the ballroom. She intrigues him and almost makes him forget his ire at losing out on an award from the Scientific Society of Scotland. His interest in forensic science is unconventional for a duke. Alex prefers his exploration into the burgeoning new world of fingerprinting. They end up in a secluded room and overcome by the her beauty and the mystery of who she may be they make love. She is a willing participant despite her innocence. She flees.

However, their encounter leaves her with child and she finds herself put out before it becomes evident to everyone. She is, by no means, a fortune hunter looking to snare herself a duke.

 *******SPOILER ALERT*******

She ends up in dire living conditions open to the scorn of the people she now lives around. Her friend takes matters into her own hands and alerts Alex’s mother. The Duchess of Kinross is by no means a conventional duchess. She cares not for the conventions of polite society where the welfare and happiness of her son is concerned. She takes a very open mind for someone of this age towards Lorna and the fate of her unborn child.

If I were to describe this book in one word, that word would have to be unconventional. The duke’s interest in forensics. A duke not afraid to get his hands dirty. A young woman determined to finish her father’s life’s works. A determination not to burden a duke with a bastard. A mother of a duke who puts happiness and joy for her family first. It’s her hand in getting Alex to marry Lorna minutes before their son - now an heir - to be born on the right side of the blanket. Unconventional in how neither the duke or his mother act as spoiled members of the ton. They can do what they want. They are a ducal family going back hundreds of years. And it’s Scotland!

There are villains aplenty in this book. Lecherous relations who really give themselves more consequence than deserved. But, again, an unconventional household that allows a libertarian uncle and the bitter sister of the duke’s faithless wife who died giving birth to a stillborn child who may or may not have been the duke’s child.

Alex and Lorna’s attraction is there from the beginning but their love grows despite less than ideal circumstances. They weather censure and treacherous betrayals. The bond of their child keeps them together and helps to grow their love. That is why I give this book four out of five stars for a book anyone would take as conventional. But its unconventional characters and turns are a very pleasant surprise.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Holiday Wishes!

To all my Romance Dish friends who celebrate, 

I wish you 


May your blessings be many, your troubles, few, and

may your holiday be filled with peace and joy.

Safe travels to anyone on the roads 

or in the air this holiday weekend.

See you on December 27th! 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Throwback Thursday Review - - Miracle in New Hope

Miracle in New Hope  
By Kaki Warner
Publisher: Penguin - InterMix
December 11, 2012

I love Christmas romances, especially novellas. With my busy schedule, the closer we get to Christmas, the harder it is to find time to sneak away and lose myself in a good story which makes shorter novellas perfect for December reading. There are so many terrific new novellas each year that I rarely have time to re-read favorites from previous years but Miracle in New Hope by Kaki Warner is one that I try to make time for. Four years after it was published, the story of Daniel and Lacy and their desperate search for a Christmas miracle touches my heart as powerfully as it did during my first reading. ~PJ


Trapped in an avalanche of snow that buries the General Store, it is only the voice of the young girl trapped with him that gives loner Daniel Hobart the will to live.  When he's rescued, Daniel is stunned to discover that he was the only person in the store and the widower, haunted by the deaths of his wife and child, wonders if he's finally lost his mind. When Hannah continues to appear to him however, he's convinced the young girl is real and has reached out to him for help. He was unable to save his own child. He's not about to let Hannah down, even if the whole town thinks he's crazy.

When her daughter, Hannah disappeared on their journey to New Hope, Lacy Ellis was devastated. She searched and searched but found no trace and now, one year later, the young widow is just beginning to come to terms with the loss of her only child when Daniel Hobart appears in town with claims of having seen her.  Lacy wants to believe him but his tale is so outlandish.  Dare she hope?  Her brothers want to run him out of town but when Daniel insists he's going to search for Hannah, Lacy is determined to go with him. 

As Daniel and Lacy re-trace the route of the previous year's journey, they find in one another, understanding, compassion and an attraction that's been simmering since they first glimpsed each other on the streets of New Hope.  As the attraction deepens and feelings emerge, Lacy and Daniel are given a second chance at love but will that fragile emotion withstand the crushing disappointment if they are unable to find Hannah?  Or, will two people who have known more than their share of heartbreak be given a second chance with a miracle in New Hope?

Kaki Warner is one of my favorite authors.  When I read one of her books, I'm not just reading about people and places; I'm experiencing her characters' journeys with them. Their hopes and dreams, heartbreak and despair, joy and salvation.  I feel it all.  If you've read Warner, you already know what I mean.  If you haven't, this stand-alone extended-length novella (146 pages) is a perfect place to begin. 


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review - - Miracle on 5th Avenue

Miracle on 5th Avenue
By Sarah Morgan
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Publication Date: November 29, 2016

Sarah Morgan gives her readers an opposites-attract Christmas tale featuring Eva Jordan, the hopeless romantic among the three partners in Urban Genie, an events and concierge service, and Lucas Blade, a cynical widower and celebrated crime writer in this third novel in her From Manhattan with Love series.

Eva Jordan is a natural optimist who loves Christmas and all the trimmings, especially the snow, but this year she is still struggling with grief over the loss of her grandmother just over a year ago. Eva’s friends are worried about the dimming of her usual ebullient spirit. Because Eva doesn’t want them to worry about her and she doesn’t want to feel that her grandmother would be disappointed in her, she determines to reclaim the Eva she once was, starting with her current job. Her first client and good friend Mitzy has hired her to decorate the Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment of international bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade, who happens to be Mitzy’s grandson. Lucas is in Vermont, and Eva has the weekend to fill his apartment with Christmas and his refrigerator with prepared meals as per Mitzy’s instructions.

The only problem with Eva’s plan is that Lucas Blade is not in Vermont. He is in his New York apartment. Since his family and agent think he is in Vermont, his apartment is the perfect spot for him to retreat and brood in solitude. He can’t escape the pain that has been a part of him since his wife’s death three years ago, and he can’t escape the fear that the writer’s block that has plagued him since he started his latest book is a permanent resident. Thus, he might as well be in New York as anywhere, hating Christmas and obsessing over the fact that he has not a single idea for his next, much anticipated book—a book that is due to his editor in three weeks.

Eva and Lucas are opposites in many ways. Their differences are clear from the moment of their romantic comedy movie-worthy first meet. He is the Scrooge in this Christmas story; both personal experience and his writing encourage him to saturate himself in gloom and doom. Eva’s naturally optimistic temperament is reasserting itself. He mocks her sentimental views, and she tries to push him past his cynicism. Lucas is genuinely concerned about Eva’s safety when he insists she remain in his apartment through the snowstorm, but his reasons for wanting her there soon become more complex. He feels more for her than he wants to admit, and he is excited that she has inspired the idea for a character he can use to move past his writer’s block. Despite their differences, the two have their experience with loss in common, and they learn to genuinely like one another. Then there is the sexual tension that simmers between them. All the elements for an HEA are in place, but Eva still has to learn that the character she has inspired is a serial killer. And, more seriously, Lucas has to learn to let go of his fear.

Often I have problems buying into romances in which the hero and heroine know each other for a few days or a few weeks and are almost instantly ready for an HEA but the isolation of the snowstorm and the resulting proximity of Eva and Lucas make their swiftly developing intimacy credible, as does Eva’s open, trusting nature. Sarah Morgan excels at creating characters I want to have long chats with over coffee and whose happiness matters to me. They have that kind of dimensionality and likeability. Eva and Lucas were no exception. Granted, I wanted to give Lucas a good shake a time or two, but he makes up for his mistakes beautifully.

Another of the things I liked best in Miracle on 5th Avenue was the conversations between Eva and Lucas. Their banter was terrific, but they also say meaningful things to one another. Morgan is particularly good at using their words to make the reader aware of their persistent differences, as she does in this exchange.

“You matter to me. But you want the fairy tale. I could never give you that.”

“Oh, Lucas.” She felt a rush of sadness and mixed in with the sadness was frustration that he still didn’t get it. “The fairy tale isn’t Prince Charming or magical unicorns. It’s love. What I want is to love someone, and for them to love me back. For me, that’s the fairy tale.”

“Love isn’t what you think it is.”

“It isn’t what you think it is. Love isn’t a curse, Lucas, it’s a gift.”

Readers who have followed the From Manhattan with Love series will delight in seeing appearances from Paige and Jake (Sleepless in Manhattan) and Frankie and Matt (Sunset in Central Park) as well as seeing the lovable Eva meet her match. But this book can be read easily as a standalone. Whether you have read the first two books or not, if you like contemporary romance that is not only sexy but also deeply romantic or Christmas love stories that are as satisfying and seasonal as spicy hot chocolate, I highly recommend Miracle on 5th Avenue. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Nancy Herkness Winners

The two randomly chosen winners of an

autographed print copy of

The Irishman's Christmas Gamble 

by Nancy Herkness are:

Kim M




Please send your full name and mailing address

(with Herkness Winner in the subject line) to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Today's Special - - Charis Michaels' One For the Rogue Excerpt Tour, Q&A, and Giveaway.

Charis Michaels is thrilled to be making her debut with Avon Impulse. Prior to writing romance, she studied Journalism at Texas A & M and managed PR for a trade association. She has also worked as a tour guide at Disney World, harvested peaches on her family’s farm, and entertained children as the “Story Godmother” at birthday parties. She has lived in Texas, Florida, and London, England. She now makes her home in the Washington, D.C.-metro area.


Pre-Made Tasty Q&A

Can you tell us a little about your book?

Well, this is sort of a reverse My-Fair-Lady story.  The heroine is a young dowager duchess who has been trained since girlhood in manners and decorum. Through a series of hopeless circumstances, she is is charged with giving lessons on how to be “proper” to the roguish hero. He, however, has something else in mind for their instruction. The story revolves around the reluctant relationship that develops and their journey to love.

Name three things on your desk right now.

My Mrs. Daryl Dixon coffee mug, naturally.
An old Dollywood brochure (I got ‘the call’ at Dollywood!).
The lid to a stationary set that says, “Write a little happiness into the world.”  The stationary is long gone, but I keep the lid because I love the design/message so much.

What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

Another wonderful question! I adore talking books!
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Eligible by Curtis Suttenfeld
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber
Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

Well, to be honest, my favorite thing to do when I truly have nothing else to do is go to a discount retailer such as Marshall’s or TJMaxx and simply browse all of the cheap things I did not know I needed until I dug for them at the bottom of the clearance rack.

A la Twitter style, please describe your book in 140 characters or less.

Bad boy transformed by the love of a good woman.  In Regency England.  At Christmas. And it’s funny.  😀

What types of scenes are your most favorite to write?

Dialogue-heavy scenes when the hero and heroine are in love but at least one of them is fighting it!
In the opening of the book, the hero lives on a dilapidated “narrowboat” on a canal in London.  I lived in London for a time, just across Regents Park from Camden Lock. Camden was not yet a lock or a canal in 1813, but I was inspired by it and researched until I discovered Paddington Lock had just been formed.  And that is where I docked the hero’s boat.

Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

Oh, I’ll eventually be back for dear Miss Breedlowe, I promise!

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

Oh yes – I’m happy to share that I just signed a contract with Avon-Impulse for my next series: The Brides of Belgravia!  This is a trilogy featuring two young men from the Bachelor Lords of London, Jon Stoker, and Joseph Chance--all grown up. (The London neighborhood of Belgravia was developed in 1831).  I’m writing Book 1 now, and it’s so much fun.  The expected release date is October 2017.  Thank you for asking!

One for the Rogue
The Bachelor Lords of London #3
By: Charis Michaels
Releasing December 6, 2016
Avon Impulse

The third dazzling romance in USA Today bestselling author Charis Michaels' Bachelor Lords of London series.
Beauregard “Beau” Cortland has no use for the whims of society and even less for aristocratic titles. As a younger son, he travels the world in search of adventure with no plans to settle down. Even when the title of Viscount Rainsleigh is suddenly forced upon him, he will not bend to duty or decorum. Not until an alluring young woman appears on the deck of his houseboat, determined to teach him propriety in all things and tempting him with every forbidden touch

Lady Emmaline Crumbley has had a wretched year. Her elderly husband dropped dead without naming her in his will and she’s been relegated to the life of a dowager duchess at the age of 23. She has no wish to instruct a renegade viscount in respectability, but desperate to escape her greedy stepson, Beau’s family makes her an offer she cannot refuse: teach the new lord to behave like a gentleman, and they’ll help her earn the new, self-sufficient life of her dreams. Emmaline agrees, only to discover that instructing the viscount is one thing, but resisting him is quite another. How can she teach manners to the rakish nobleman if he is determined to show her the thrill of scandal instead?

Excerpt #1
This is the tale of two brothers.
No, allow me to go back. This is the tale of two half brothers, a distinction that does not affect the brothers as much as it creates a place for the story to begin.
They were born deep in Wiltshire’s Deverill Valley, less than a mile from the River Wylye, in a crumbling manor house called Rossmore Court.
Although the Rainsleigh title was ancient and the family lands entailed, the boys’ parents, Lord Franklin “Frankie” Courtland, the Viscount Rainsleigh, and his lady wife, Este, were not held in high esteem—not by their neighbors in Wiltshire nor by members of London’s haute ton. Instead, they were known mostly for their predilections: recklessness, coarseness, drunkenness, irresponsibility, and deep debt.
Their notoriety did not curtail their fun, however, and they carried on exactly as they pleased. In 1779, the viscountess became pregnant, and Lord and Lady Rainsleigh added “woefully unfit parents” to their list of indiscretions. Their firstborn was called Bryson—the future viscount, Lord Rainsleigh’s heir. Young Bryson was somber and curious, stormy and willful, but also inexplicably just and kind.
In 1785, Este and Frankie welcomed a second son, favored almost immediately by his mother for his sweet nature and easy manner, his angelic face and smiling blue eyes. The viscountess named him Beauregard, known as “Beau.”
On the whole, the boys’ childhood was not a happy one. Lord Rainsleigh was rarely at home, and when he was, he was rarely sober. He managed the boys with equal parts mockery and scorn. Lady Rainsleigh, in turn, was chronically unhappy, petulant, and needy, and she suffered an insatiable appetite for strapping young men, with a particular preference for broad-shouldered members of staff.
Money was scarce in those years, and schooling was catch-as-catch-can. The brothers relied on each other to get along.
Bryson’s hard work and good sense earned them money for new coats and boots each year, for books, and for an old horse that they shared.
Beau employed his good looks and charm to earn them credit in the village shops, to convince foremen to hire them young, and to persuade servants and tenants to stay on when there was no money for salaries or repairs.
And so it went, each of the boys contributing whatever he could to get by, until the summer of 1807, when the old viscount’s recklessness caught up with him, and he tripped on a root in a riverbed and died.
With Frankie’s death, Bryson, the new viscount, set out to right all the wrongs of his father and cancel the family’s debts. He moved to London, where he worked hard, built and sold a boat, and then another, and then another—and then five. And then fifteen. Eventually, he owned a shipyard and became wealthier than his wildest dreams.
Beau, on the other hand . . .
Well, Beau had no interest in righting wrongs or realizing moneyed dreams—he wasn’t the Rainsleigh heir, thank God. His only wish was to take his handsome face and winning charm and discover the delights of London and the world beyond.
For a time, he sailed the world as an officer of the Royal Navy. For another time, he imported exotic birds and fish. He spent more than a year with the East India Company, training native soldiers to protect British trade. His life was adventurous and rambling, sunny if he could manage it, and (perhaps most important) entirely on his own terms.
Until, that is, the day the Courtland brothers received, quite unexpectedly, a bit of shocking news that changed both of their lives.
The news, which they learned from a stranger, was this: the boys did not share the same father.
The horrible old viscount—the man who had beaten them and mocked them, who had driven them into debt and allowed their boyhood home to fall into ruin—was not, in fact, Bryson’s father after all. Bryson’s father was another man—a blacksmith’s son from the local village with whom their mother had had a heated affair.
Beau, as it turned out, was the only natural-born son of Franklin Courtland.
Beau was the heir.
And just like that, Beauregard Courtland became the Viscount Rainsleigh, the conservator and executor of all his brother had toiled over a great many years to restore and attain.
It made no difference that Beau had no desire to be viscount, that he was repelled by the notion, that the idea of becoming viscount made him a little ill.
In protest, Beau threatened to leave the country; he threatened to change his name; he threatened to commit a crime and endure prison to avoid the bloody title—all to no avail.
He was the rightful Viscount Rainsleigh, whether he liked it or not.
His brother, now simply Mr. Bryson Courtland, shipbuilder and merchant, set out on a new quest: to train, coach, and cajole Beau into becoming the responsible, noble, respected viscount that he himself would never be again.
To answer that, Beau seized his own quest: resist. He could not prevent his brother from dropping the bloody title in his lap, but he could refuse to dance to the tune the title played.
He would carry on, he vowed, exactly as he had always done—until . . . well . . .
“Until” is where this tale begins.
But perhaps this is not a tale of two brothers or even the tale of two half brothers.
Perhaps it is the story of one brother and how the past he could not change built a future that he, at long last, was willing to claim.


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