Friday, July 31, 2020

Review - - Hit and Run

Hit and Run
by Lori Matthews
Callahan Security - Book 3
Publisher: Wild Coyote Press
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Dani Pierce is a master of the dark web - but now trouble has arrived at her front door.

The self-reliant, fiercely independent hacker knows she’ll need help if she’s going to survive her latest contract to build cutting-edge facial recognition software.

And despite the fact the aggravating, yet handsome man hired to protect her makes it clear he’s just there to do a job... it doesn’t stop her from appreciating how ruggedly sexy he is.

Gage Callahan knew his latest assignment for Callahan Security would be a disaster.

He scoured all of Europe trying to locate the computer programmer he was hired to protect only to discover she’s actually a hacker hiding in Alaska.

It will take all his ingenuity to focus on the primary objective of getting her and the prototype software safely to New York…especially with a growing fatal attraction he’s developed for the spunky woman.

PJ's Thoughts:

Lori Matthews brings readers another fast-paced, suspense-filled, and action-packed novel in this third installment of her Callahan Security, romantic suspense series. From the initial pages of the book, I knew I was in for another wild ride. The stakes were high, keeping me on the edge of my seat as Dani and Gage did their best to outwit and outrun the bad guys who seemed to be outmaneuvering them at every turn. Obviously, there was a mastermind with more information than was good for Dani and Gage's peace of mind...or health. 

Matthews created a tightly-woven story with intertwining threads of mystery that kept me flipping pages, and trying to guess how it would all play out in the end. I figured out the mastermind's identity early on but even after that was confirmed, there were still plenty of threads to be tied, and questions to be answered right up to the dramatic life and death conclusion.

Dani and Gage were both interesting characters with backgrounds and baggage that influenced their attitudes - and actions - after they teamed up. I found them both intriguing, especially Dani, and enjoyed their verbal sparring. What I wanted more of was romantic chemistry between them, something that was palpable between the couples in the first two books. While that lessened my enjoyment of their romantic relationship a bit, the rest of the book was spot on. 

A highlight of the book for me was the group of intrepid seniors Dani encountered on the cruise ship. These ladies, especially Dottie, practically leaped from the pages of this book and came to the rescue in more ways than one. I loved them! 

Hit and Run is written to be enjoyed on its own and can certainly be done so. However, I think reading the books in order will give readers a better understanding of the dynamic among the Callahan brothers as well as the mystery thread that runs through the three books. I've enjoyed getting to know the Callahan family and can't wait to find out what Matthews has in store for readers next. 


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Tour Review - - The Hero of Hope Springs

The Hero of Hope Springs
by Maisey Yates
A Gold Valley Novel
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: July 21, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

For as long as brooding cowboy Ryder Daniels has known Sammy Marshall, she has been his sunshine. Her free spirit and bright smile saved him after the devastating loss of his parents and gave him the strength to care for his orphaned family. Only Ryder knows how vulnerable Sammy is, so he’s kept his attraction for his best friend under wraps for years. But what Sammy’s asking for now might be a step too far…

Something has been missing from Sammy’s life, and she thinks she knows what it is. Deciding she wants a baby is easy; realizing she wants her best friend to be the father is…complicated. Especially when a new heat between them sparks to life! When Sammy discovers she’s pregnant, Ryder makes it clear he wants it all. But having suffered the fallout of her parents’ disastrous relationship, Sammy is wary of letting Ryder too close. This cowboy will have to prove he’s proposing out of more than just honor…

PJ's Thoughts:

Two of the things I most enjoy about Maisey Yates' books are her character development and dialogue. The two typically combine to create a deep connection with her characters and it isn't long before I become fully engaged with them and their journey. In The Hero of Hope Springs, the potential for that type of connection is strong. Ryder and Sammy have both been impacted by traumatic events which altered the course of their lives at young, impressionable ages. Because of those traumas, their ages, and their stages of emotional well-being at the time they met, roles were assumed by each of them and decisions made that defined them individually, as well as their friendship, and have carried with them into adulthood. When Sammy makes a decision that shifts that dynamic, it throws their well-established roles into disarray, causing each of them to reassess their lives and face flaws within themselves as well as the emotional barriers they've erected, creating wonderful opportunities for both growth as well as the emotional dialogue between characters that I enjoy so much in a Maisey Yates story. 

The growth is there for both of the main characters in this book though it's a long and often painful process (be prepared for a whole lot of angst and emotion). Sammy, in particular, has a difficult time dealing with the physical and emotional trauma of her childhood and the impact it had, and still has, on her life. It takes pretty much the entire book for her to reach a point where she can confront her demons and finally begin the process of healing.  

The book is well-written, and the main characters fully formed, but I still struggled to establish the connection with them that I've come to expect in a Yates book. I think one of the key reasons for that may be the lack of direct dialogue between Ryder and Sammy. Not that they don't have any, they do, but each spends an inordinate amount of time alone with their own (frequently repetitive) thoughts or in conversation with others. I understand the need for that, but I needed to see more conversation between the two of them, see them more actively working together to grow as a couple, in order to have that deep investment in their relationship that I so enjoy in Yates' other books.

That's not to say this isn't a good book. While it's not among my Gold Valley favorites, it's a solid read with layered characters, deep wells of emotion, and intriguing secondary characters that have me looking forward to more Gold Valley stories.   


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit. Maisey divides her writing time between dark, passionate category romances set just about everywhere on earth and light sexy contemporary romances set practically in her back yard. She believes that she clearly has the best job in the world.



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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Review - - The Quest

The Quest 
by Pam Binder
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Release Date: July 29, 2020 (reissue w/ revisions)
Reviewed by PJ

Medieval Highland apprentice witch Ana de Dannon is desperate to free her imprisoned mother and needs a champion. Her evil stepbrother has offered her mother's freedom in exchange for his defeat at the tournament. Knowing it's a trap, she still summons a legendary warrior. But instead of Cuchulainn, a famous 21st century quarterback appears.

Kenneth MacKinnon (Mac) is stunned he has traveled to 14th century Scotland but agrees to help Ana free her mother if she will return him to the future. Fighting their mutual attraction, Ana trains Mac for the competition. He is a fast learner, with a kind heart buried under his arrogance, but he has much to learn. Ana fears their chances of escaping with her mother—and their lives—diminish by the day.

PJ's Thoughts: 

I enjoyed Binder's realistic depiction of 14th century Scotland, the heart-tugging romance between Mac and Ana, the action and danger, and the touch of otherworldly magic. Ana and Mac were both likable, relatable characters in whose happiness I quickly became invested. Their romance is a slow burn and I liked that the author gave Mac plenty of time to adjust to the reality of his situation before advancing their relationship. All of the characters, including the supporting cast, were fully formed, true to their time and position in society, and moved the plot forward. The touch of magic was well placed, keeping me guessing as to where the author would take that particular thread and the ultimate impact it would have on the overall story. 

Without getting into spoiler territory, there were a few issues relating to Mac where I wanted closure and didn't get it. It didn't ruin the HEA for me (I was happy with Mac and Ana's relationship and where they ended up) but it did put an asterisk on it for me. Since this is time travel where you pretty much have to check your disbelief at the door, there's a good chance most readers wouldn't even notice my quibbles. 

I was intrigued by Ana's parents and would love to know more about her father and mother, their past, and what happens to them following the end of The Quest. I don't know if Binder plans to write that story but if she does, I'll definitely be reading it. 

If you enjoy slow burn, fish-out-of-water, time travel romance with action, a bit of humor, and plenty of heart, give this one a try. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Review - - Man Down

Man Down
by Kate Meader
A Rookie Rebels Novel
Publisher: Kate Meader LLC
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

I've been texting the wife I lost, the woman I loved beyond measure . . . Now someone else has answered back.

Gunnar Bond is broken.
Three years ago, he lived through the car crash that took his wife and twins away from him--though "lived" barely describes his current state. Giving up professional hockey, going off grid, and drinking himself into oblivion are his coping mechanisms. Another is texting his dead wife about his days without her. Therapeutic? Doubtful. Crazy? Definitely. But those messages into the ether are virtually the only thing stopping him from spiraling to even darker places.

Until someone texts back ...

Sadie Yates is losing it.
Suddenly guardian to a little sister she doesn't know and a misbehaving hound she'd rather not know at all, she's had to upend her (sort of) glamorous life in LA and move back to Chicago. The nanny has quit, the money's running out, and her job is on the line. The last thing she needs is her sister's hockey camp counselor, a judgmental Viking type, telling her she sucks at this parenting lark. Thank the goddess for her sweet, sensitive, and--fingers crossed--sexy text buddy who always knows the right thing to say. In the same city at last, they can finally see if their online chemistry is mirrored in real life. She just needs to set up a meeting ...

A ruined man who claims to have used up all his love is surely a bad bet, but Sadie's never been afraid of a challenge ... even if this one might shatter her heart into a million pieces.

PJ's Thoughts:

Kate Meader has never let me down. One of my favorite contemporary romance authors, Meader infuses her books with steamy romance, complicated relationships, sharp banter, perfectly-timed humor, and a whole lot of heart. She brings her characters to life and is not the least bit hesitant to delve deeply into their emotions, and my own. Man Down is the newest story in her Rookie Rebels hockey world and, for me, one of the best she's ever written.

Grief is a difficult subject to write about without allowing its darkness to overwhelm the story, while still giving it its due. Meader doesn't soft pedal Gunnar's unimaginable grief in this book, especially in his texts, as well as the series of flashbacks leading up to the accident three years ago that claimed his family's lives (keep the tissues handy). But while parts of the book are very sad, Meader expertly tempers that sadness with humor, hope, and a whole lot of sizzle, as Gunnar is dragged back into the light...and life.

I adored Sadie. I loved her spirit, her kindness, her determination to do the right thing (even to her own detriment). She's a very relatable character and I was in her corner, cheering her on, the whole way. I enjoyed the female friendships she made within the Rebels family and the strength and support she unexpectedly discovered within this circle of women. I loved the fiery chemistry between Sadie and Gunnar. Whether engaged in verbal combat over misunderstandings about Sadie's young, hockey-playing, half-sister or sneaking away for hot, secret, hockey-rink sex, these two never failed to create fireworks. But I also enjoyed the quiet times between them. Meader uses those initial, anonymous texts to expertly weave a heart connection between these two and set the foundation for what follows. 

Man Down stands on its own and readers new to Kate Meader's Rebels world will be able to enjoy it on its own merits. Fans of the Rookie Rebels and Chicago Rebels books will no doubt enjoy the numerous appearances by other characters from the earlier books, including one of my favorites, Theo Kershaw (InstaCrush). His outrageous humor and endearing sweetness are always fun and I really enjoyed his friendship with Gunnar. 

If you enjoy sexy, sassy contemporary romance with emotional depth and sigh-worthy, happy endings, check out Kate Meader's Man Down. I loved it! 

Have you discovered Kate Meader's hockey romances yet?

What's the last book that made you ugly cry?

Monday, July 27, 2020

Sneak Peek Excerpt - - The Ultimate Betrayal

The Ultimate Betrayal
by Kat Martin
Maximum Security - Book 3
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: July 28, 2020

To prove her father’s innocence, she’ll have to turn a killer's sights on herself

When journalist Jessie Kegan’s father is accused of espionage and treason, Jessie has no doubt the man she looked up to her entire life is innocent. Worse yet, before Colonel Kegan can stand trial, he’s found dead of a heart attack…but Jessie knows it was murder. Forcing down her grief, she’s determined to use her investigative skills and resources to clear her father’s name. But going after the truth means Jessie soon finds herself in the crosshairs of a killer who wants that truth to stay buried with her father.

Protecting Jessie Kegan is a job bodyguard Brandon Garrett can’t refuse. Jessie isn’t just a client at Maximum Security—she’s the sister of his best friend, Danny, killed in Afghanistan. With dangerous forces gunning for Jessie from every angle, keeping her safe will mean keeping her close and Bran finds their mutual attraction growing, though being Danny’s sister puts Jessie out of bounds.

With their backs against the wall, Jessie and Bran will have to risk everything to expose her father’s killer—before his legacy dies with his daughter.

 The Ultimate Betrayal, by Kat Martin
Excerpt 1
Too much downtime always made him nervous, kind of edgy as he waited for the other shoe to drop.  It had been a week since his last client had headed back to Nashville, a week of peace and quiet he should have enjoyed.
Instead, he had this nagging feeling that something bad was coming down the line.
Lounging back in the chair behind his desk at Maximum Security, Brandon Garrett looked up at the sound of the front door swinging open.  A gust of cool, late October winds swept in, along with a petite, whirlwind of a woman with the prettiest strawberry blond hair Bran had ever seen.
She had a sweet little body to match her fiery curls, he noticed, outlined by the dark blue stretch jeans curving over her sexy little ass and the peach knit top that hugged her breasts. 
It wasn’t tough to read the anxiety in her big green eyes as she surveyed the room, but instead of heading for the receptionist’s desk, those big green eyes landed on Bran and as she started toward him, there was something about her that rang a distant bell.  Interest piqued, he rose from his chair.  “Can I help you?”
“You’re Brandon Garrett, right?  You were a friend of my brother’s.  Danny Kegan?  I recognize you from the photos Danny sent home.”
The mention of his best friend’s name hit him like a blow, and the muscles across his stomach clenched.  Daniel Kegan had been a member of his spec ops team, a brother, not just a friend.  Danny had saved Bran’s life at the cost of his own.  He was KIA in Afghanistan.
Bran stared down at the girl, who was maybe five-foot-four.  “You’re Jessie,” he said, remembering the younger sister Daniel Kegan had talked so much about.  “You look like him.  Same color hair and eyes.”
She nervously wet her lips, which were plump and pink and fit her delicate features perfectly. 
“My brother said if I ever needed help, I should come to you.  He said you’d help me no matter what.”  She glanced back toward the door and his mind shifted away from the physical jolt he felt as he looked at her to the worry in her eyes.
“I’ll help you.  Danny was my closest friend.  Whatever you need, I’ll help.  Come on.  Let’s go into the conference room and you can tell me what’s going on.”  When her gaze shot back to the door, his senses went on alert. 
“I didn’t mean I needed your help later,” Jessie said nervously.  “I meant I need your help right now.”
Gunshots exploded through the windows.  “Get down!”  Bran shouted to the other guys in the office as he shoved Jessie down behind his desk and covered her with his body.  Glass shattered and a stream of bullets sprayed across the room.
Jaxon Ryker popped up, gun drawn, and ran for the door.  Hawk Maddox and Lissa Blayne were shuffling through their desks, arming themselves.  Jonas Wolfe drew his ankle gun and ran for the rear entrance, ready for any threat that might come from there.     
“Black SUV with tinted windows,” Ryker reported.  Six feet of solid muscle, dark hair and eyes, Jax was a former Navy SEAL, currently a PI and occasional bounty hunter.  “Couldn’t get a plate number.”  Jax’s gaze swung to the front of the room.  “Mindy, you okay?”
The little receptionist eased up from beneath her desk.  “I-I’m okay.  Should I call the police?”  Around here, it was never good to jump to conclusions.
Bran hauled Jessie to her feet.  He could feel her trembling.  Her eyes looked even bigger and greener than they had before.  “Are they coming back?” he asked.
“I-I don’t know.  It could have just been a warning.”
Bran turned to Mindy.  “Unless someone’s already phoned it in, let’s wait to call the cops till we know what’s going on.”  His attention returned to Jessie.  “We need to talk.” 
She just nodded.  Her face had gone pale, making a fine line of freckles stand out across her forehead and the bridge of her nose.
Bran took her arm and urged her toward the conference room.  “Keep a sharp eye,” he said to The Max crew.  “Just in case.”

Jessie sank unsteadily down in one of the rolling chairs around the long oak conference table.  The man she had come to see, Brandon Garrett, sat down beside her.
“Okay, let’s hear it,” he said.  “What’s going on?”
She thought of the men who had just shot up his office and her pulse started thumping again.  “Danny said if I ever needed help--“
“Yeah, I get that.  Your brother knew he could count on me.  Like I said, I’ll help you any way I can, but I need to know what’s going on.”
Bran was taller than Danny, around six-three, with a soldier’s lean, hard body, vee-shaped, with broad shoulders and narrow hips.  Powerful biceps bulged beneath the sleeve of his dark blue T-shirt.  With his slightly too-long mink brown hair, straight nose and masculine features, he was ridiculously handsome, except for the hard line of his jaw and the darkness in his eyes that contrasted sharply with their beautiful shade of cobalt blue. 
“Start at the beginning,” he demanded. 
Since she wasn’t sure exactly where to begin, Jessie dragged in a shaky breath and slowly released it.
“I’m here because of my father--Colonel James Kegan, Commander U.S. Army Alamo Chemical Depot.  Just before he died a little over two months ago, my father was removed from active duty.  He was charged with larceny--specifically the theft of chemical weapons stored at the Depot.  Because the Army believed he was selling the weapons to a foreign entity, he was also charged with espionage and treason.  I need you to help me prove his innocence.”


Are you reading Kat Martin's Maximum Security series? I just finished The Ultimate Betrayal and it's another winner, hooking me from the beginning and keeping me reading way past my bedtime. Watch for my review, coming August 10. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Excerpt Tour - - The Friendship List

The Friendship List
by Susan Mallery
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: August 4, 2020

[ ] Dance till dawn
[ ] Go skydiving
[ ] Wear a bikini in public
[ ] Start living

Two best friends jump-start their lives in a summer that will change them forever…

Single mom Ellen Fox couldn’t be more content—until she overhears her son saying he can’t go to his dream college because she needs him too much. If she wants him to live his best life, she has to convince him she’s living hers.

So Unity Leandre, her best friend since forever, creates a list of challenges to push Ellen out of her comfort zone. Unity will complete the list, too, but not because she needs to change. What’s wrong with a thirtysomething widow still sleeping in her late husband’s childhood bed?

The Friendship List begins as a way to make others believe they’re just fine. But somewhere between “wear three-inch heels” and “have sex with a gorgeous guy,” Ellen and Unity discover that life is meant to be lived with joy and abandon, in a story filled with humor, heartache and regrettable tattoos.


Coach Keith Kinne and his daughter had moved to Willowbrook five years ago. He’d joined the faculty of Birchly High as the football coach and athletic director. Washington State might not have the religious fever of Texas when it came to high school football, but there was still a lot of enthusiasm and the six-foot-two-inch, good-looking, dark-haired former NFL player had caught a lot of ladies’ attention.

Not hers, though. Mostly because she didn’t date—there wasn’t time and no one she met was ever that interesting. So when she’d found him cornered by a slightly aggressive novice teacher from the English department, Ellen had stepped in to save him and their friendship had been born. They hung out together because it was easy and they complemented each other. He’d helped her when she’d bought a new-to-her car a couple of years ago and she went Christmas shopping with him for his daughter.

“Why are you smiling?” he asked, picking up his beer.

“Just thinking that it’s nice we’re friends. Imagine how awkward things would have been if I’d gone after you when you first moved here.”

He frowned. “Don’t say that. If you had, we might not be friends now. I was fresh off a divorce and I wasn’t looking for trouble.”

“I’m not trouble.”

“You would have been if we’d dated.”

What on earth did he mean? “Trouble how?”

“You know. Boy-girl trouble.” He put down his beer. “Speaking of dating, Lissa got on me about my internet relationships.”

“You don’t have internet relationships. You find women to have sex with.”

He winced. “That’s what she said. Have you two been talking about me behind my back?”

“Oh, please. We have so many more interesting things to talk about.” She’d never understood the appeal of casual sex. It seemed so impersonal. Shouldn’t that level of intimacy be part of a relationship? Otherwise sex was just as romantic as passing gas.

“She told me to find someone I wasn’t embarrassed by so she could meet her.”

“That’s nice.”

“It freaked me out.”

Ellen grinned. “That’s because there are emotions attached to relationships and you don’t like emotions.”

“I like some of them. I like winning.”

“Winning isn’t an emotion.”

“Fine. I like how winning makes me feel.” His expression turned smug. “I get emotions.”

“You’re faking it.” She let her smile fade. “Cooper wants to go to UCLA.”

“Are you sure? He told me Stanford.”

She heard a ringing in her ears as her whole world tilted. “W-what? Stanford? No. He can’t.”

“Why not? They have a better wrestling program. I’ve spoken to the coach there and he’s really interested. I’m working on getting Coop a one-on-one meeting when we visit the school. With his skills and grades, he’s got a good shot at getting in.”

“I’m going to faint.”

“Why? You should be happy.”

She glared at him. “Happy? Are you insane? I can’t afford UCLA and it’s a state school. How on earth would I pay for Stanford? Plus, why isn’t Cooper telling me about things like meeting a coach? I should know that.”

“Breathe,” Keith told her. “If he goes to Stanford, you’ll be fine. With what you make, his tuition will be covered. If he gets a partial scholarship, it could go toward room and board. Stanford would be a lot cheaper for you than UCLA.”

Her panic faded. “Are you sure?”

He looked at her. “You have to ask me that?”

“Sorry. Of course you’re sure. You do this all the time.” She picked up her chicken. “Yay, Stanford. Go team.”

“You don’t have any contact with his dad, do you? Because his income would count.”

“No contact,” she said cheerfully. “Jeremy disappeared before Coop was born. I hear from him every five or six years for five seconds and then he’s gone again. He signed his rights away and he’s never given me a penny.” She smiled. “I say that without bitterness because I’m loving the Stanford dream.”

Keith grinned. “You’re saying you can be bought for the price of tuition?”

She smiled back at him. “I can be bought for a whole lot less than that. So why didn’t he tell me about wanting to go to Stanford? Why is he keeping secrets?”

“He’s becoming a man. He needs his own dreams and plans.”

“But I’m his mom and he’s my baby boy. Make him stop growing up.”

“Sorry. Not my superpower.”

She remembered what it had been like when Coop had been younger. It had been the two of them against the world. “I miss being the most important person in his life, but you’re right. He needs to make his own way. What are the Stanford colors? Will they look good on me?”

Purchase Links

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Spotlight on Valerie Bowman's The Footmen's Club

I really enjoyed the first book in Valerie Bowman's new The Footmen's Club, historical romance trilogy and am eagerly looking forward to book two. Duke Looks Like a Groomsman is a second chance, enemies to lovers story with the added fun of forced proximity and a duke hero disguised as a groomsman. I can't wait to dive into this one.  

by Valerie Bowman
The Footmen's Club - Book 2
Publisher: June Third Enterprises
Release Date: July 28, 2020

He's posing as a groomsman.

Rhys Sheffield, the Duke of Worthington, has bet his friends an ungodly sum of money that despite his loftiness, he can pass himself off as a servant at the house party of the Season. But when his clever ex-flame arrives and recognizes Rhys in the stables pretending to be a groomsman, she realizes it’s the perfect opportunity to pay him back for breaking off their engagement.

She’s the bride-to-be.

The lovely Lady Julianna Montgomery may be the only young woman at the house party who’s not in the market for a husband. She’s quite happily engaged to a marquess, thank you very much, and scarcely remembers the pain of being callously tossed over by the Duke of Worthington nearly two long years ago—till now.

All bets are off.

Rhys seems to be everywhere, flexing his muscles, laboring in the sun—and Julianna has never found him more appealing. With his signature charm, he persuades her to keep his secret. But when she learns he’s determined to win a bet of honor, she can’t resist playing a game of her own. She’ll spend the next fortnight tempting Rhys at every turn and making him lose his precious wager. Even if it means she must lose her heart in the process…

Doesn't that sound delicious? In the meantime, while we're waiting for Duke Looks Like a Groomsman to be released next week, let's take a look back at book one with an excerpt from The Footman and I

by Valerie Bowman
The Footmen's Club - Book 1
Publisher: Valerie Bowman Books
Release Date: May 23, 2020

Let the games begin . . .

Every fortune-hunting female in London is after the newly titled Earl of Kendall, but he’s intent on finding a wife whose heart is true. So, while drunkenly jesting with his friends in a pub one night, he has an idea—what if the ladies of the ton didn’t know he was a wealthy earl? All he has to do is pose as a servant at his friend’s summer country house party and make sure the guest list is full of beautiful, eligible debutantes. What could possibly go wrong?

May the best footman win.

Miss Frances Wharton is far more interested in fighting for the rights of the poor than in marriage, but her mother insists she attend a summer house party—and find herself a husband. Frances would rather wed a goat than the pompous man her mother has in mind, so in order to dissuade the would-be suitor, she vows to behave like a shrew. The only person she can be herself with is the kind, handsome footman she runs into at every turn. Their connection is undeniable, and the divide between them is no match for the passion they feel. But what will happen when Frances learns that the footman she adores is actually the earl she despises? In a game where everything is false, can they convince each other that their love is true?


The Footman and I
Chapter Three

Viscount Clayton's Country Estate, Devon
August 1814

Frances stepped out of the carriage at Clayton Manor and breathed a sigh of relief. No one else was in the vicinity. She might be able to make it to her rooms without an uncomfortable encounter with Sir Reginald. Albina, their maid, had already been carted away to join the other lady's maids. Poor Albina was serving as a cook's helper, a housemaid, and a lady's maid at this point. The money to pay for a full staff of servants had long ago been gambled away by Papa.

"Lady Winfield," said Lady Clayton, their beautiful hostess, who stood by the front door to greet them. "I'm so pleased you and your lovely daughter could join us."

Frances smiled at Lady Clayton and executed a short curtsy for the woman. Lady Clayton was young and lovely and seemed ever so nice. They'd met during the events of the Season and developed an instant liking.

"We're both ever so pleased to be here," Mama replied. "Thank you so much for your kind invitation, Lady Clayton."

"Wasn't Lord Winfield able to make it?" Lady Clayton asked, frowning.

Mama winced. "Uh. He had some business to attend to in London, I'm afraid. But we do hope he'll join us next week."

They hadn't employed a footman in an age. Thankfully two footmen from the Clayton residence were busy pulling the trunks from the top of the carriage, while Frances glanced around nervously. The longer they remained out in the open, the greater the chance Sir Reginald might spot them.

To Frances's immense relief, Lady Clayton soon led them into the manor house's large, gorgeous foyer. It smelled like lemon wax and Frances marveled at how very clean and well-kept everything looked. In addition to being far smaller, Papa's country house was dingy these days, ever since they'd had to dismiss most of the servants and sell the artwork and furniture. But there were plenty of servants here at Clayton Manor, including the two footmen who carried their trunks behind them and the formidable-looking housekeeper who stood near the bannister staring at them. Apparently, she'd returned from depositing Albina in the servants' quarters. 

"Mrs. Cotswold will show you to your rooms," Lady Clayton said, gesturing toward the housekeeper. 

"Thank you," Mama replied. She made to follow the housekeeper, who had already turned toward the grand sweeping staircase, before turning back to Lady Clayton. "Oh, one more thing. Has Sir Reginald Francis arrived yet?" She made it seem as if it were an afterthought, but Frances knew better. 

Frances held her breath while Lady Clayton blinked as if perplexed by the question. The poor woman's brow furrowed next. "Why..." The lady tilted her head to the side thoughtfully. "Why, yes. I do believe Sir Reginald arrived early this morning." 

A wide grin spread across Mama's face. "Excellent," she said, her eyes sparkling. She gave Frances a knowing grin.

Trying to keep her expression perfectly blank, Frances expelled her breath and lifted her skirts. If Sir Reginald was already here, she'd best ascend to the safety of her bedchamber as quickly as possible.

She darted across the foyer, nearly tackling one of the poor footmen who was headed toward the back of the house with her trunk. No doubt he was on his way to the servant's staircase. "Please," she said in a loud whisper to the man. "Please won't you bring the trunk directly up?" She nodded hastily toward the staircase in the foyer.

The footman's face was obscured by the trunk hoisted on his shoulder, but he quickly turned his frame toward the double-sided staircase and said, "As you wish, my lady."

Frances nearly wept with relief. She was being entirely inappropriate, of course, but at the moment, she couldn't summon a care. She should also wait for her mother and the housekeeper, but instead, she plowed ahead of the footman. She pointed up the staircase in front of them. "This way?" she asked as if it were a perfectly normal occurrence for a guest to ask for directions from footmen.

"Yes, milady," the footman who carried her trunk replied in a voice that sounded as if he were slightly amused. When Frances reached the first landing, she tried to wait for the footman to join her, but her anxiety got the better of her and she continued on up. The poor man was carrying a fortnight's worth of her clothing and unmentionables on his shoulder, she could hardly blame him for not being as speedy as she was. "I'll you at the top of the staircase," she blurted, grabbing her skirts and practically running up the final set of stairs. Once she reached the top, she glanced around in a panic. The hall was unconscionably long and filled with what seemed like dozens of closed doors that all looked alike. Terribly inconvenient.

"To the right?" she called in a voice that cracked as the footman steadfastly made his way up the steps behind her. Below Mama was still talking to Lady Clayton. Oh, what was keeping her? No doubt more prying questions about Sir Reginald.

"To the left, Miss," the footman responded. She still couldn't see his face, but Frances was once again aware of a bit of humor in the young man's tone. She did not stop to dwell upon it, however. Instead, she dutifully raced off toward the left. She'd made her way halfway down the hall when she realized that for all she knew, she'd passed her room. 

"The end of the hall," came the footman's helpful voice. He'd made it to the second floor promptly for someone weighed down by such a heavy trunk.

The second footman was having a much worse time of it. He was still struggling up the staircase with Mother's trunk. Frances glanced toward him and winced. Mama did tend to hideously over pack.

Turning back to face the hall, Frances continued her flight all the way to the end of the space, before stopping to wait for the footman. She had no choice. She had no idea which room was hers. She stood near the window, tapping her foot and biting her lip.

The footman had nearly caught up to her when a door she'd already passed opened and Sir Reginald of all people came out. Frances froze and held her breath as if that simple act alone would keep the man from noticing her should he happen to glance in her direction. Thankfully, he did not. Instead, he turned away from her and made his way toward the staircase. Even with his back toward her, she was certain it was him. She recognized his bald spot and sloping shoulders. 

There was no more time to waste. Sir Reginald might turn around at any moment. 

"In here?" she called to the footman in a loud whisper. She did not wait for a reply. Instead, she yanked open the very last door and darted inside. If she'd made the wrong choice, the footman would just have to come in and tell her so. A few moments later, the footman pushed open the door and followed her in.

"I'm terribly sorry if I've made a mistake with the room," she said, hurrying over and shutting the door soundly behind him. "It's just that I..." Hmm. What could she possibly tell this poor chap that would made any sense of her odd behavior?

"No mistake," the footman replied, hoisting her trunk off his shoulder and onto the floor near the window. "This is the correct room. You do seem to be in quite a hurry, however."

Frances, who'd been standing with her ear to the door to listen for Sir Reginald's receding footsteps, blinked. First, she had the fleeting thought that the footman's speech sounded quite cultured. Second, had a footman just commented upon her behavior? Well, that was certainly impertinent. Did the lad want a coin or didn't he?

Upon further reflection, however, she supposed she couldn't blame him for acting oddly after the way she'd behaved. At any rate, Mama would be here soon, and no doubt would be seriously displeased to find Frances alone in the room with a footman.

She needed to pay the chap and send him on his way. Still listening at the door, her back turned away from the servant, she fumbled for her reticule that dangled from her wrist. The reticule contained a bit of pin money that might tide him over.

She stuck her gloved hand into the small bag until she felt the outline of a coin. She pulled it out to look at it. A half-pound. Good enough. Clutching the coin, she turned to look at the footman who stood not two lengths behind her and...sucked in her breath.

Good heavens. This was no lad, but a full-grown man, and perhaps one of the tallest and certainly most handsome she'd ever seen. He had intelligent dark-green eyes, and a face that looked as if it had been carved into marble. Dark eyebrows, a perfect nose, wide shoulders, and full, masculine lips. Unconsciously, she pulled the coin up to her lips and exhaled, staring at him as if he were a statue come to life. Good heavens. Seems somehow she'd managed to close herself into a bedchamber alone with God's gift to footmen. 


Have you read The Footman and I? Are you as excited to read Duke Looks Like a Groomsman as I am? 

Have you ever been struck speechless by the sight of a handsome man? 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Winner - - Sunshine on Silver Lake

The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of

Sunshine on Silver Lake by Annie Rains is:

Linda Herold


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winners - - The Quest

The randomly chosen winners of a copy of

The Quest by Pam Binder are



Annette N


Please send your full name, mailing address, and 

choice of print or e-book to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com