Monday, August 24, 2020

Review, Q&A, and Giveaway - - Brazen in Blue


Brazen in Blue 
by Rachael Miles 
The Muses' Salon - Book 5  
Publisher: Zebra  
Release Date: August 25, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Lady Emmeline Hartley has overcome every obstacle life has thrown her way. A spinster, disappointed in love, Em is on the brink of a marriage of convenience, when the man who rejected her heart reappears in need of her help. It gives Em a chance to escape, put to use one her most unusual talents—and perhaps convince him once and for all to risk his heart . . .

Adam Montclair--one of the most successful agents at the Home Office--rubs elbows with the highest levels of society. Even so, he wasn’t to the manor born. No matter how much he desires Em, as a match he is completely unsuitable. While it pains him to be near her, it’s a punishment he richly deserves. Now on a mission to uncover a plot against the government, Adam knows Em's uncanny ability to recall voices will be essential. Yet as the two thwart the dangers in their path, it may become impossible to deny that Em is essential to happiness itself . . .

PJ's Thoughts:

I love second-chance romances and this one pulled me in with high emotional stakes from the get-go. Em is on the brink of a marriage to her childhood best friend, a marriage that is set to move forward the day this book opens even though both the bride and the groom are in love with other people. When Adam, the undercover Home Office agent Em believes is a criminal, is unable to stay away from watching the woman he loves marry his best friend, the sight of him outside the chapel gives the nervous bride the courage she needs to do the right thing. With Adam's help, Em runs, setting the groom free to marry the woman he loves. But while Em's heart still belongs to Adam, she's a long way from trusting him enough to put her feelings on the line again and Adam knows full well he's not worthy of her love. Especially with those secrets he's still keeping...

One of the things I most enjoy about Miles' books are her multi-layered, complex characters. Fully formed and vibrantly depicted, they leap from the page, pulling me into their emotions, their fears, their hopes, and love. The passionate push and pull between Adam and Em is visceral, immersing me in their adventure, and their relationship, almost immediately. I liked them individually and I loved them together. Em is a character to respect and admire (I love how she stands her ground, going toe to toe with Adam as well as his Home Office superiors) and Adam is her heart and mind match, if only he's able to put his class worries aside long enough to realize it, and if Em's willing to forgive him once all his secrets are revealed. 

Another aspect of this series that I've enjoyed is the ongoing search for the devious criminal known as Charters. The mystery continues in this book, with new leads to Charters' real identity and Em taking a pivotal role in the search. This is one nasty villain who keeps escaping the net of the Home Office. I am gleefully looking forward to him being caught and justice finally being served. 

The secondary cast in this book are much more than window dressing, propelling the story forward in a variety of ways. Adam's Home Office superior continues to pull strings in his agents' lives while maintaining anonymity. His story has been gradually unveiled over the course of the series and I am very curious to see what Miles has in store for him as revealing himself would cause ripple effects far and wide. Miles also introduces a group of new characters, six women, relatives of Adam's, who live a secluded life on a piece of property surrounded by water and with whom I am very intrigued. They have me hoping for more stories. I adored Em's majordomo, Mr. Jeffreys, who has been more father than employee to her since she was a child. And I fell head over heels in love with Em's faithful canine companion, Queen Bess. How she discovers the puppy, Persis who joins their little entourage had me in tears. In fact, Bess had me in tears multiple times. She is one special dog.

If you enjoy well-paced and impeccably researched historical romance with witty dialog, a mystery thread, cross-class romance, and plenty of adventure, give Brazen in Blue a try. Keep in mind, however, that this is the fifth book in a series that has a large cast of characters and a continually evolving mystery. For that reason, there may be some confusion jumping into the series in the middle. 


Q&A with Rachael Miles

Welcome to the blog, Rachael, and congratulations on tomorrows release of the newest book in your The Muses' Salon series. What should readers expect from Brazen in Blue

A runaway bride, a dangerous criminal, a retreat to an almost magical island, and a great big faithful dog.

Second-chance romance is one of my favorite tropes. What is it about this trope that you enjoy as an author?

In terms of plotting, second-chance romance gives me so much to work with. The characters have already been in a relationship before, and for whatever reason it didn’t work out. So immediately there’s a tension that it could fail again. This also solves the problem of making the attraction believable. When characters meet for the first time at the beginning of a book, I have to work really hard to convince the reader that their attraction is real or justified. But if the characters already know each other, if they have a history, then it also sets up a bit of a mystery: why didn’t it work out? who or what was at fault? And the reader can enjoy piecing that together as the plot progresses. As an author, it helps create tension if the characters have already wounded each other in some way, and part of the progress of the romance, then, is to heal that wound so that the characters can move forward.

I adored the dogs in this book, especially Queen Bess. Do you have pets? Are they your writing partners or writing distractions?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have animals—and all of my books have a critter of one sort or another in them. Since our ancient cat died, we have just the dogs now, a sweet pack of three, all rescues. The eldest, a terrier mix, is quite old and mostly deaf, so unless one of the other dogs alerts to her to something interesting outside, she sleeps on a bed next to my desk. The youngest—an incredibly smart (and devious) black lab mix—positions herself in the room outside my office where she can watch all the movement in the house. My middle dog—a gentle vizscla/hound mix—stays close by me, and she has a pretty infallible sense of when I need a break. She will stick her nose inside the bend of my elbow as I type and refuse to move until I stop and do what she wants. Though they are sometimes distractions (especially when they spot a chipmunk outside the window), they are more often lovely companions in a process that is by its nature solitary. I can’t imagine writing without them near.

I love the life philosophy of Adams female relatives. Do you have a skill (other than writing) that brings you pleasure?

I have a number of interests that give me pleasure, but which I wouldn’t call skills per se. This year, I dug a small pond outside my office and put koi and water plants in it, and I delight in watching them (and the several kind of frogs that now hang out there). I’ve been (slowly) learning how to identify birds and their songs, and I love listening and watching. I also have a garden every year, and for the last several seasons, I’ve been planting more intentionally for bees, birds, and butterflies. I can grow a pot of herbs (which —other than tarragon—are fairly indestructible), but this year, like many other people, I added vegetables. But that wasn’t much of a success. Other than a nice crop of potatoes and shallots, I mostly created a banquet for all the critters in my neighborhood. This week, I’ve been watching a baby groundhog eat an enormous gourd vine that has flowered too late to bear, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to stop her.

Speaking of Adams relatives, will we be seeing more of them in the future? In, perhaps, their own books (she begged, entreatingly)?  

I’m so glad you enjoyed them! It’s an interesting situation: six cousins (2 sets of 3 sisters) all living on a piece of land cut off by the tides. And they are all artists in some way—whether painting, or weaving, or embroidery, or cooking. And there’s a hint of magic surrounding their island. As I was writing, I kept discovering snippets of their individual stories (one even involving pirates!), and I’d like to pursue those. So, yes, I do think they deserve their own books.

Whats next for The Muses' Salon?

There’s one more book in this contract. Wicked in White picks up several months after Brazen in Blue.  Cecily, Duchess of Rokeby, recently widowed, has returned to London to settle her brother’s estate and to solve a puzzle he sent her shortly before his death. An antiquarian, her brother owned a vast collection of ancient artifacts, but when she arrives at his London home, they are gone, sold, she assumes, but there’s no record of when, why, or to whom. And without the artifacts she has little hope of solving his puzzle. For help, she turns to her brother’s best friend, Simon Worsham, a man who had, long ago, rejected her advances. The attraction still arcs between them. But shortly after she renews her acquaintance with Simon, Cecily is approached by her old teacher, Mrs. Flint and school chum Lady Olivia Walgrave (both from Tempting the Earl) who believe the man arrested for being the master criminal Charters has been framed. And who was the lead investigator in that case?  Simon. It’s a delicious conflict that leads to all sorts of misunderstandings…and opportunities for attraction.

Lets play a quick round of complete this sentence.

On warm, summer days, I want to…dig in my garden.

When I need to quench my thirst, I reach for… a cool glass of water or an herbal iced tea. I’m particularly fond of a particular Peach Fruit tea—which is just chopped-up dried peaches. Yum.

The book Im most eager to read is…Julia Spencer Fleming’s Hid from our Eyes, which came out a few months ago and is on the top of my to-be-read pile. It’s been seven years since Spencer-Fleming’s last Clare Fergusson mystery, and I’ve reread the series in anticipation.

My favorite summer treat is…a tie between peaches and blackberries.

The musical artist (or song) that can always get me dancing is…Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. My Daddy, a Fort Worth native, loved Texas swing, and I grew up listening to it. So while many other songs or artists pull me to my feet, I can’t resist a little two-step around the living room when I hear Bob Wills.

The characteristic a hero must have to win my heart is…kindness. For me, the hero must at some point set aside their own interests to care for another person’s.

Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Rachael. Would you like to add anything else or ask the readers a question?

I would love to know either about your readers’ animal companions or the books they love that have animals as characters.

One randomly chosen person who comments on this post before 11:00 PM (Eastern), August 25, will receive an e-book copy of Brazen in Blue.

*Must be 18 or older

*U.S. only


  1. I have a very sweet pit bull puppy! I love books with animals in them and don't really have a favorite! If it has animals of any kind in it, I will read it. Thanks for the giveaway.

    1. My cousin just posted a photo of their new pit puppy and she's so adorable. I just want to scoop her up and snuggle her all day.

    2. How can anyone resist cuddling a puppy!!! Thanks for commenting Martha!

  2. I have have had cats and dogs during my lifetime so I love them all. Currently, we have 3 adorable kitties whom we love. They rule! I love it when a book includes a cat or a dog because it makes the plot so real. It's especially touching when the hero shows compassion for animals because that makes me melt.

    Cannot wait to read and review "Brazen in Blue" as it sounds delightful. Thanks for the chance to win an e-book.

    1. It's especially touching when the hero shows compassion for animals because that makes me melt.

      In that case, you're going to LOVE Adam!

    2. Connie, I do miss having a cat around the house, though both my husband and I think we catch glimpses of her. I suppose there are worse things than being haunted by a tortoise shell! :) I hope you like Brazen in Blue--and the hero who can't resist a puppy!

  3. I don't have pets due to allergies.

    I can't think of a current book with a pet offhand.


    1. Oh, Denise, I understand! We had a cat though both of us were allergic to her (for 17 years).

  4. Right now, I live with Sonny....he is a Pekingese. I grew up with Boxers and Cockers. I had 2 Boxer girl rescues....they both carried the cancer gene and after quite a few surgries for both, the cancer took them within a few months of one another.

    My heart was broken and I did not want another dog. My kids kept saying get a dog. OK - If I got one - medium sized, short haired female.

    Nextdoor, the web site, over a period of several weeks showed this little dog who had been abandoned by his owner, thrown out of a truck, caught in a fence and generally was in a terrible situation.

    I started making phone calls. I simply could not allow this to continue.

    Cockers and Boxers are athletic and active. Sonny is cute but his life's work is to look cute. He does not do toys. He does not play. He would not be dumb enough to fetch anything except a treat. And he has enough hair to build an entire other dog.

    He is perfect and perfect for me. I have back issues, so walking distances are no longer an option. I am older than dirt, so playing is not a big loss in my life. He is learning to be a real dog. He even sits up like a chipmunk when he wants me to hold him. That is huge. He is my perfect dog.

    Many of us like inanimate objects with lots of fur.

    1. Oh how lovely! And boy do I understand brushing a dog and ending up with enough hair for another one. I'm so glad Sonny has you, and you him.

  5. I forgot to say, thanks for the review and the interview. A new to me author who obviously writes a good story.

    I hope everyone is taking care and staying safe.

  6. Thanks so much for the comment about Julia Spencer Fleming's new book. I love this series and had lost track of it.
    We have had many animal companions. At one point we were up to 4 dogs, 2 cats, peacocks (I think about a dozen at the time), and a ball python. All were rescues. Right now we are down to one dog who is supposed to be our son's but has been with us for about 10 years. My favorites of all our dogs were our first, a beagle, and our second, a black lab mix from the first litter we fostered for the animal shelter. We had each of them for 17 years. The lab was such a sweet dog and adored my husband. I would love to have another lab and beagle, but our current dog doesn't always get along well with others, so that will have to wait. She was badly beaten and dumped in a ditch before she was found. She is a sweet dog, but will not leave our property when we try to take her for a walk and is just now willing to go for a ride. I think she is still afraid she will get dumped again. Since our other dog died before Christmas, she has been very sedentary. I think a companion dog would do her good, but we don't want to get one and not have it work out.
    I look forward to reading this series. I will have to wait until I have them all and then have a good binge read.
    Take good care of yourself. Stay safe and healthy.

    1. Patricia, I'm glad to find another Clare Fergusson fan! Wow, that's quite a list--I just keep thinking of all the different sorts of food you had to keep on hand! We used to live in a neighborhood where people dumped unwanted pets (which explains my current three). There was a lovely old chow/shepherd mix that was dumped right on the corner of our lot. He paced back and forth for three days, waiting for that car to return. Eventually I was able to coax him to eat and come inside--he was the best dog, but he hated car rides too...I think for the same reason. I hope you enjoy them--there's birds and a cat in Jilting the Duke--and animals in all the others as well.

  7. There's only been a few months of my life when I didn't have at least one animal companion - I can't imagine not having pets in my life! Right now we only have 2 cats who are 10 year old bottle fed littermates. We've had them since they were about 2 days old. It's been 2 months since we had to say goodbye to our 16 year old golden retriever and even the cats still miss him. At some point we will likely get another pup. I do regularly threaten my husband with starting to foster kittens. It is a threat because he and I both know that once they come into the house they will not leave except for vet visits.

    1. I would be a terrible foster parent for the very same reason. My husband has limited us to only as many animals as we have hands to pet them--which I think means another pet is coming my way! :)

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  9. Troublemaker by Linda Howard had a golden retriever that was definitely a character in her own right. The antics made me laugh.

    1. I'll have to check my shelf of Linda Howard to see if I have that one! I love stories that include you can tell! :)

  10. Thanks to all of you for answering my question! Please let me know what you think of Brazen! you can find me on facebook or at my website!