Under the Surface

Under the Surface (An Alpha Ops Novel) by Anne Calhoun

under the surface

Overview by Publisher:

Eve Webber, the gorgeous and savvy owner of Eye Candy, knows better than anyone that growing up on the wrong side of the tracks comes with certain complications. Determined to run a clean business and fix up the East Side, Eve’s plans get temporarily stalled when a potential new hire walks into her bar. The sexual chemistry crackling between them is a potent distraction…even if she refuses to mix business with the promise of pleasure.
Detective Matt Dorchester lives by strict rules that have kept him alive in impossible situations. When his latest undercover assignment has him playing a bartender, his desire for the passionate owner has him breaking every single one. Eve is in danger and her life depends on his secrecy. But once their attraction reaches a climactic conclusion, Matt must make a desperate choice: Tell her the truth about who he really is—or risk a once-in-a-lifetime love to save her life?

This contemporary romance has it all – sex, secrets and danger!  Eve owns a hot new nightclub in the troubled East end of town.  She has been asked by a dangerous gangster to launder money for him.  She agrees, but then goes to the police to help bring him down.  If you didn’t love her from that descprition, you’d love her for her sassy attitude and forthright nature.  Eve is confident and smart, which I really loved about her.  She was nobody’s fool and the fact that she loves her part of town so much really spoke to me as the reader.

Enter Matt, or as Eve knows him, Chad.  Matt is undercover to keep an eye on their most important break in the case and their witness, Eve.  While Eve is an open book, Matt is very closed off.  He has deep secrets and emotions, not including that he is lying to Eve about who he really is.  While she thinks he is her new hot bartender, Matt is there to protect her.  I loved his struggles to separate his identities when the chemistry and action between the two ramps up.

The mobster is out to get Eve and Matt has to protect her.  While Eve sees nothing wrong with having some physical release with each other, Matt really struggles with his ethics as a police officer.  Usually it’s the man tempting the woman to be bad!  Things are really hot between the two of them and the sex scenes are worth an indecision on Matt’s part.

The action component of the book is really well developed.  As a life-long East ender, Eve has deep connections to the community.  She also brings a lot of danger to her doorstop.  What blew me away was that the hottest cocktail waitress in the city is the daughter of a pastor.  The family interactions were amusing and brought an honesty to the story.

I recommend checking out this book.  The characters are great and the story line was really interesting!

Laird of the Highlands

Laird of the Highlands (International Billionaires IX:  The Scots) by Caro LeFever

laird of the highlands

Overview by Publisher:

A virgin geek. A seductive thief. A haunted castle they both demand to own.
Lorne Ross never loved his family’s castle and lands, but he can’t abide the thought of a scheming gold-digger inheriting. His father might have been fooled, but he won’t be. His aim? To not only seize back what’s his, but punish the woman who stole from him.
Ceri Olwen loves everything to do with Castle Ross. She loves the ancient castle, the Caledonia Forest that surrounds it, and more than anything, she loves the fact that she’s found her place. A place where she can make her dreams come true.
So when a fierce Highlander marches into her life, intent on grabbing everything she loves, Ceri battles with all of her weapons for the win. How could she know that beneath her enemy’s dangerous facade lies a shy, gentle man? A man who quickly finds a way to break down her formidable armor and expose her heart. A heart she had no intention of offering.

So.  Things didn’t start out well for me with this book.  I was super intrigued to read it by the description.  Once I started, I was not sure that I was going to like it. So I did something I haven’t done in a very long time.  I went to Goodreads and looked it up.  The book had two glowing reviews up and the reviewers had great things to say, so I went back and got serious.

The story starts with Ceri (that’s a Welsh name so it’s pronounced Keri) who has been willed an ancient castle in the Highlands of Scotland.  She has a simple life that is about to get very complicated.  The son of the former Laird has come back to his home and wants her gone.  He is a billionaire computer game business man and he has the resources to make Ceri’s life hell.

What was so different about this book was that Lorne has social issues.  He is different.  He has difficulty relating to people and coding on his computer is his escape.  He never really felt like he belonged at Castle Ross, but he’s determined to get rid of Ceri. The author never comes out and labels Lorne, but it seems like he has a form of autism.   He has difficulty reading people and responding appropriately to them.  Therefore, friends are hard to make for him and he has had zero luck with the ladies.  He prefers order in his life and his schedule is paramount.

Ceri is so complex.  I loved that she unravels like an apple peel in the story.  Her thoughts and history are unveiled as each situation demands her response.

Lorne and Ceri are at war with each other.  He wants her gone.  She wants to stay and keep the tourism going.  He wins over the locals, she maintains her ownership.  Their battles create some excellent exchanges.  Ceri is having an effect on Lorne that is new and uncomfortable to him.  He has never been attracted to a woman before.  His fumbling attempts at seduction were charming, sad and highly amusing.  I loved that the author created Lorne with such complexities.  He is not an easy man to understand and comprehend his actions.  Yet, I fell for him hook, line and sinker.  He is definitely not a braw warrior storming around his castle, but intelligent, thoughtful and in some cases very naïve.

There are no loud explosions or death plots in this book.  There is a highly engaging battle over an aging castle and a battle for hearts.  Ceri and Lorne have to deal with their pasts before they can move forward.  What I enjoyed was that the reader may have known the events of the past, but the emotions were revealed slowly.  You got to see how they impact their relationship and how they work though them.

The Scottish Highlands are seen through Ceri and Lorne’s appreciative eyes.  They embrace the beautiful country side and you feel like you are there on the grounds of this magnificent castle with them.

I am SO very glad I didn’t give up on this book.  It was well worth reading and I found myself intrigued by the story and the characters.

 

Winning the Billionaire

Winning the Billionaire by JM Stewart

winning the billionaire

Overview by Publisher:

Software mogul Christina McKenzie has loved billionaire Sebastian Blake since they were kids. So when Seattle’s most famous bachelor-and perennial playboy-finally asks Christina out, her fantasies kick into overdrive. Things become hot and heavy . . . but what’s she supposed to do when she starts to fall for him? Sebastian’s never been one to settle down, and Christina knows she’s just another notch in his bedpost.

Sebastian knows that smart, kind Christina deserves better than him. But after the mind-blowing night they just shared, he’s ready to turn a sexy fling into the real deal. Keeping his freedom is one thing, yet keeping Christina in his bed-and in his life-is all Sebastian can think about . . .

Christina and Sebastian have known each other all their lives.  He is her twin brother’s best friend.  While he’s living the playboy lifestyle, Christina has secretly pined for him for years.

Sebastian has a death in the family and it is the turning point for these two.  He kisses her and opens up the possibility of a relationship.  Suddenly, nothing is the same between them.   It’s funny how being on the same page actually pushes them away from each other.  It’s almost like being offered what you want most in the world and not actually believing it’s real.

Christina is so concerned that Sebastian is going to break her heart.  That he isn’t serious about her and she just can’t be a fling for him – which has been his record to date.  The story spends most of the time exploring the push and pull between them.  I understand that Christina was wary, but she did a lot of running away from her feelings and Sebastian.  She needs more girlfriends.

The twist in the plot is that Sebastian’s father has stipulated that he must marry within three months or he will lose the company he built up.  Christina didn’t spend much time contemplating that, but rather whether his feelings were real.  The ultimatum weighs heavily on Sebastian as he navigates a new relationship where his motives are constantly questioned.

Sebastian has great game.  He is romantic and sexy.  The moves he puts on Christina are panty melting.  I really enjoyed the bedroom scenes as Christina wasn’t running away and Sebastian was working his ass off to show her a great time.

I liked the book – if you enjoy the struggles of trust and developing a new relationship then give this book a try.

To Love a Libertine

To Love a Libertine by Liana LeFey

to love a libertine

Overview by Publisher:

London, 1727

When Miss Eden Lowther catches the eye of Lord Percival Falloure, Marquess of Tavistoke, she’s delighted, for his wicked lordship is anything but boring. The canny coquette who declined five suitors the season prior sets out to capture the infamous “Terror of the Ton” for keeps, but the man she finds behind the façade isn’t at all what she expects.

Having suffered heartbreak and humiliation two years ago, Lord Tavistoke is wary of love. But once on the market, always on the market until wed or dead. Desperate to throw London’s single ladies off the scent, Percy looks to reestablish his rotten reputation with a rousing scandal. His mark: Miss Eden Lowther, a tearing beauty reported to have left devastation in her wake last Season. If anyone has asked for ruination, it is the heartless “Hellion of Holker Hall”…

Eden and Percy soon find themselves falling dangerously in love, despite their fears and her family’s objections. But will love alone save them when a ruthless rival forces her hand?

I thought this book was going to be about the ruination of Eden, but instead it turned into a beautiful love story.  Percy has turned his life around after experiencing a loss, he supports orphans and works to better the lives of the working class and poor.  He wants to remain anonymous for his good deeds and needs a scandal to keep from anyone guessing what he has been up to.  He is steered toward Eden by an acquaintance as a woman who needs to be brought down a peg or two.

Eden has turned down six proposals last season.  Her forthright manner makes the men of the ton angry and resentful.  Men have fragile egos and Eden has definitely learned this lesson.  She has always had eyes for Percy, but he was never in her league and not a part of her debutante world.  When he seeks her out, the fun and games begin.

Percy quickly realizes that Eden is a diamond.  She has grit and attitude and he can’t help himself – he is totally charmed.  Once Eden realizes that Percy is serious and not playing with her, things get interesting.  Eden’s forceful step mother is dead set against the courtship and does everything in her power to put a stop to the relationship.  Of course, this brings out the devil in Percy and the rebellion in Eden.  It was almost like Romeo and Juliet defying their families to be with the one they want.

The stolen moments between Eden and Percy were the fuel for the story.  Their interludes kept the plot moving along and also added a lot of conflict.  Once their intentions were declared, it seemed like the world was conspiring to keep them apart.

I really related to Eden’s dilemma.  If she followed her heart and went with Percy, she would be harming her family.  The frustration and despair came clearly through the pages.  There is great emotional depth to this story and the repercussions of their love affair.

I also really enjoyed that this story is set in the early 1700s, so it’s a different time and space than most historical romances that are set in the Regency era.  The clothing and politics were new and interesting to read about.

This book has a great plot and some fantastic characters.

Duke of Sin

Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt

duke of sin

Overview by Publisher:

A MAN OF SIN

Devastatingly handsome. Vain. Unscrupulous. Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery, is the man London whispers about in boudoirs and back alleys. A notorious rake and blackmailer, Montgomery has returned from exile, intent on seeking revenge on those who have wronged him. But what he finds in his own bedroom may lay waste to all his plans.

A WOMAN OF HONOR

Born a bastard, housekeeper Bridget Crumb is clever, bold, and fiercely loyal. When her aristocratic mother becomes the target of extortion, Bridget joins the Duke of Montgomery’s household to search for the incriminating evidence-and uncovers something far more dangerous.

A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY THEM BOTH

Astonished by the deceptively prim-and surprisingly witty-domestic spy in his chambers, Montgomery is intrigued. And try as she might, Bridget can’t resist the slyly charming duke. Now as the two begin their treacherous game of cat and mouse, they soon realize that they both have secrets-and neither may be as nefarious-or as innocent-as they appear . . .

It took me a while to read this book.  I wasn’t sure whether I liked it or disliked it as I was reading it.

This book is really well written.  Elizabeth Hoyt is a fantastic writer.  The prose, the emotions all come across eloquently and efficiently to the reader.  I usually don’t pay a lot of attention to the quotes at the start of a chapter, but she pulls passages from “The Heartless King” and I found those just as interesting as the story.

What was so challenging in this story is the main character Valentine.  Elizabeth Hoyt dedicated this book to anyone who has loved a villain.  That is an appropriate description for the duke.  He is childish in his glee at blackmailing people.  It was hard to read about such a vain and distasteful man.  His ignorance at the lives of the people around him and their feelings was astounding to read.  He was so hard to find anything redeemable about that it made it so hard to read the story.

Bridget was a fascinating character.  I liked that she was not the normal debutante or widow that was trying to change Val.  She accepted him as he was and fell in love with him anyway.  This story not only explores a true devil, but the life of a bastard housekeeper.  I liked reading about Bridget’s duties and responsibilities and how the serving staff viewed the nobility they serve.

This was a very interesting book.  I wouldn’t say that Val is redeemed, even with Bridget in the picture.  It has been a long time since a book challenged me the way this one did.  Even though I struggled to like the characters at times, I never abandoned it because it was so interesting and unique.  If you are looking for something new to read that is not cookie cutter and formulaic, give this book a try!

Stacked Up

Stacked Up (Worth the Fight Series) by Sidney Halston

stacked up

Overview by Publisher:

Opposites attract in this seductive novel from the author of Against the Cage (“Funny, steamy, scorching.”—Toni Aleo), with a chiseled MMA fighter falling for a single mom who could use a real man in her corner.
 
Working two jobs to support her infant daughter is harder than anything Penny Richards has ever done, but it sure beats living under the rules of her stepfather, a television preacher who demands a picture-perfect family. And if Penny hadn’t struck out on her own, she never would have met Travis Calhoun. The intensely physical heavyweight brawler has a way of drawing out her wild side. But Travis lives fast, with no responsibilities—and that just isn’t for Penny.
 
Most of the women in Travis’s circle wear tight clothes, high heels, and tons of makeup—not pearls or plaid headbands. But once he works past Penny’s inhibitions, Travis discovers a kindred spirit who longs to trust someone with her body, and her secrets. Still, Travis can’t help but wonder if this rich girl is just slumming it before she returns to her privileged life. Now it’s up to Penny to prove that she wants her hard-edged, hard-loving fighter just the way he is.

This was a really interesting contemporary romance novel.  It features the usual components you would expect, but what was different was the lead female character Penny.  She has run away from a strict religious family with her infant daughter.  What was different was the inclusion of her religious beliefs in the story.

Penny has run away to protect her daughter and keep her.  She is the daughter of a television preacher who is very popular.  She went off script when she got pregnant by one of her step-father’s workers and then forced into an unwed mother’s home.  When pushed to give up her daughter for adoption to keep the secret of her ‘unmoral’ behaviour, she flees to Tarpon Springs in Florida.

Penny grew up wealthy, but thankfully she isn’t afraid of hard work and poverty.  She works at two restaurants and leaves her daughter with a neighbour to be watched.  While this is the reality of many, many women and families, it has to change for the romance formula to work.

Enter Texas.  Travis is a MMA cage fighter who frequents the restaurant, The Pier, where Penny works.  He is a natural flirt who enjoys the company of ladies, but one night he ends up with a sobbing Penny in his arms.  This is the turning point for these two.  While Penny is friends with his sister, he really knows nothing about her – including that she is a young mom.

Penny needs help and Travis wants to help her, but throws up walls as fast as he offers the help.  He isn’t ready to have a child in his life.  He just wants a casual, sexual relationship with Penny, but that is not reality.  Speaking of reality, Travis’ life is just as complicated as Penny’s.  He is the star of an HBO reality show on MMA fighters and is preparing for the fight of his life in Vegas.  There is a lot going on in these characters’ lives.

But they seem to realize that underneath all the complications there is something genuine and real between them.  Travis has fallen under little Belle’s spell and wants Penny in his bed on a regular basis.  Penny’s troubles become Travis’ and he wants to help her when his innocent kiss for the paparazzi leads her step-father and baby daddy to Tarpon Springs to pressure her into returning to the family fold.

What was different about this book was the transformation of Penny.  While she never loses her faith, she learns that the world is not black and white like she was taught.  There are shades of grey and her new life has exposed her to the realities of how the world really is.  She comes into her own and makes choices to support her family.  She is naïve as a virgin when she meets Travis and her sexual education was just as exciting as her navigation into the real world.  Travis is a lusty lover who brings out the needs Penny never knew she had.   It’s very hot and sexy as these two spend time educating Penny on the pleasures of the flesh.

For those fans of MMA, there is quite a bit of time spent training at the gym.  I found it interesting how Travis came to be in the place he is in.  His story is just an interesting and engaging as Penny’s.  This was an interesting and engaging contemporary romance.  While Penny is saved by Travis in the end, she was so strong and I loved that message.

Seduced

Seduced by Jess Michaels

seduced

Overview by Publisher:

Criminal Jack Blackwood has plenty of problems, from his complicated relationship with his brother to the plethora of men coming to dethrone him as king of the underground. What he doesn’t need is a rich, bored gentleman showing up to try to join his gang. Worse, he doesn’t need that gentleman’s sister, Lady Letitia Seagate, chasing after him demanding he keep her brother safe. If only the lady weren’t so damned intriguing.

Widowed Letty is desperate to protect her younger brother, even if it means matching wits with the notorious, charismatic Captain Jack. Only the man has far more to him than she ever expected, and his tempting kisses and smoldering promises leave her wanting more than she has ever dared before. Can Jack uncover the truth behind Letty’s darkest lies? And will they both survive the storm about to strike at the very heart of their passion?

Jess Michaels writes great historical romance stories.  What sets her apart from her peers is that you know when you pick up her books that you are going to be swept away by a very, very sexy story.  Not quite erotica, the bedroom scenes explode with passionate embraces that are highlighted by the emotional connection to the character’s stories.

Not only do you get a sexy romp, it gets better because of the excellent story that Jess Michaels weaves.  You care about the characters, it’s not just great sex.  As the reader you become emotionally invested in the story and the well being of the characters.  This book features characters from previous stories.  I always like when intriguing secondary characters get their own book.

Jack is brother to War, who just married into the Woodsley family.  Letty is the cousin to the family and in the last book she was tricked by the evil Jonathan Ashton.

Jack notices Letty at the wedding and the two definitely have sparks flying.  Jack is a criminal warlord and not at all suitable for the Lady Seagate, even though she is widowed.  They share common friends and run into each other enough that the unexplored passion between the two is evident.  The reader is left to anxiously wonder how and when they will act upon it!

Turns out that Letty has a pretty interesting secret that she has to keep.  No other man but Jack can help her with her problem AND keep her secret.  This is the beginning of a sexy and heated romance.  Jack is an amazing lover and Letty is on the ride of her life.  She has been so sheltered in many ways, yet knows harsh realities.  Her relationship with Jack is equal parts physical and emotional as she is able to tell him the truth of her life.  This is where Jess Michaels shows what a great author she is – she weaves emotional connection with striking physical attraction.

There is more plot to this story than Jack and Letty’s relationship.  Jack runs a criminal enterprise that requires a lot of attention and focus.  The dangerous side of London shadows the salons and parlours of the Woodsley family which makes for a great adventure to go along with the romance.

You can’t go wrong with a Jess Michaels book and this is another great addition to her historical romance books!

 

Lana and the Laird

Lana and the Laird by Sabrina York

lana and the laird

Overview by Publisher:

Lachlan Sinclair cannot escape his accursed heritage in his Highlands homeland. Somewhat resigned to the fate that destroyed his ancestors, he is prepared to live his life without an heir, without a wife—without love. But when he meets the woman of his dreams in the flesh, the bewitching lass makes him want to throw away his cursed, restrained existence…and unleash the highlander within…

Lana Dounreay has only seen the Duke of Caithness in her dreams as a wild, rugged man, while in reality, his life has been cramped by curses and cravats. He may have forgone his kilt and lost his brogue, but Lana knows that the heart of a true Scotsman beats within his broad, muscular chest. But what plans does the mysterious, passionate Lachlan have in mind for her—and can she convince him that love is stronger than all else?

I love this series!  It started with Hannah and the Highlander and continued with Susana and the Scot.  Finally, Lana the third sister gets her story told.  You know that you have really enjoyed a series when you want to go back and re-read the other stories so that you can absorb the subtle facts and plot again.

Lana is the sister of Hannah and Susana.  She has a gift that many would see as a curse.  She can speak with and see the dead.  I don’t know why, but her gentleness and views reminded me somewhat of Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter.  Lana is a lot more sexy than Luna, but I loved her self-possession and outlook on life.

Lana has been having dreams for years of the men who have come into their lives.  First, Hannah’s husband Alexander, then Andrew who was meant for Susana and finally a braw Scottish man.  He is a mystery to her, except she knows their fates are intertwined and he is important to her.

Lachlan is a Scottish duke who has been living in London all his life.  Orphaned at a young age, his cousin has raised him and kept him from Scotland where he is overlord of many barons.  Lachlan is a Sinclair and that means he has inherited the curse on his family.  All male heirs die at the age of 30.  Lachlan doesn’t have much longer and he is being haunted by his father to return to Caithness and rebuild the crumbling castle.  While London is all that he has known, he leaves the inhospitable drawing rooms for the moors of Scotland.  While Lachlan is a duke – the holy grail for matchmaking mamas – a Scot is not.  I remember when I read Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught and the character Ian reveals he is half Scottish and Elizabeth is horrified.  The deep prejudice against the Scottish is a realistic element added to the plot.

Another historical aspect is the clearances in the Highlands.  Lachlan approves of the clearances and orders his barons to begin.  I loved how the author showed Lachlan to be an honourable and conscientious lord by having him examine the impact of the clearances.

The love story between Lachlan and Lana was wonderful.  It was like fate pushed the two of them together – as they had both been dreaming about each other for years.  But Lachlan fears for his future as he is soon to turn thirty.  He can’t commit to a life with Lana when he is so uncertain about his own.  This dialed up the passion between the two.  Lana was absolutely certain that Lachlan was for her that she embarks on a siege of seduction that Lachlan can’t withstand!

Lachlan’s family history comes into play and dangerous plots are afoot.  It wouldn’t be a Scottish story without some murder and mayhem!  Blood thirsty Isobel stole the show – as she should at only five years old!

I loved this series and if you are in the mood to spend time with some sexy Scots – this is a series you must pick up!

Within A Captain’s Treasure

Within A Captain’s Treasure by Lisa Olech

within a captains treasure

Overview by Publisher:

With a single pistol shot and the swing of a cutlass, Alice Tupper saves her mistress’s life. But no lady’s maid in polite society has ever killed a duke–at least, not on purpose. So Alice sets sail for America and her new destiny–only to find herself battling pirates on the high seas. Aboard her rescue ship, The Scarlet Night, she is hailed a hero and earns her place among the crew…as well as the ire of Captain Gavin Quinn. 

Gavin chose this pirate’s life, but he knows it’s no place for a woman, especially one as exasperating–and beautiful–as Alice. Despite his desire for her, Gavin is determined to do the right thing and deliver her to the new world. But Alice’s deepest wish is a life by Gavin’s side. Will his heart overrule his sense, and will he risk everything to pursue his greatest treasure of all?

I LOVE books that feature pirates!  This is the second book I have read by Lisa Olech.  I adore books that feature amazing Captains who fight the sea and the win the ladies heart!

We met Alice in the previous book and this time she is heading to a new life in Virginia.  She has to flee from England because she killed a Duke to save her friend.  She will be a governess for a wealthy plantation owner, but getting there is the challenge.

Her ship is over run by pirates.  These are not the Pirates of the Caribbean who board her vessel.  These are the kinds that give you nightmares and are the worst.  Murder, mayhem and rape is on the agenda and Alice is lucky to escape when another pirate ship intervenes.  They save Alice and a few of the slaves from the pirate ship they have captured.

Alice has a reputation from her time with the former captain of the Scarlett Witch.  While he is safely in England with her best friend, Alice has to forge her own way in life.  She realizes that she must find her way in life and if she is to survive, she must become a part of the pirate way of life.

It doesn’t hurt that Captain Gavin Quinn is all that and a bag of chips.  He’s the quintessential pirate captain.  Capable, confident and hot!  Alice feels the attraction between the two of them right away, but he makes no effort to act on the interest.  Gavin feels a wicked lust toward Alice, but his past keeps him from making her his.

I loved the secondary characters in the book.  The crew members were just amazing and they added authenticity to the story.  Not everyone is happy that Alice is on board and the complications add great depth to the story and move the story along between Gavin and Alice.

They can’t stay away from one another and in time their relationship becomes searingly physical.  Gavin knows that Alice can’t stay on board the Scarlett Witch, but for the first time Alice feels like she has found where she belongs.  Their separation made me SO crazy, but I had to trust that the author had a master plan for these two!

Alice makes her way to Virginia and politics comes into the story.  The English are in control and pirates are a bounty that most Officers cannot resist going after.  Alice and Gavin’s futures are in jeopardy and I was on the edge of my seat to see how they would be reunited and fight against the world.

The slave issue comes up frequently in the story.  Gavin cares for the slaves captured from the pirate ship that attacked Alice.  They return the slaves that lived to Africa.  I really appreciated the inclusion of this in the story line.  It wasn’t necessary, but it added to the character of Gavin and Alice, as well as shone a light on the realities of the times and that not everyone was supportive of slavery.

I think what I love so much about pirate books is that there is a forced intimacy as the characters are stuck on a ship together.  The captain’s cabin has always been a source of great fascination for me.  This story has all the elements that make a sweeping historical romance so amazing.  I adored Gavin and Alice and imagining the adventures they are having on the high seas was the perfect way to pass the time!

Master of Strathburn

The Master of Strathburn by Amy Rose Bennett

the master of strathburn

Overview by Publisher:

Robert Grant has returned home to Lochrose Castle in the Highlands to reconcile with his long-estranged father, the Earl of Strathburn. But there is a price on Robert’s head, and his avaricious younger half-brother, Simon, doesn’t want him reclaiming his birthright. And it’s not only Simon and the redcoats that threaten to destroy Robert’s plans after a flame-haired complication of the feminine kind enters the scene…

Jessie Munroe is forced to flee Lochrose Castle after the dissolute Simon Grant tries to coerce her into becoming his mistress. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious and handsome hunter, Robert, in a remote Highland glen, she throws her lot in with the stranger—even though she suspects he is a fugitive. She soon realises that this man is dangerous in an entirely different way to Simon…

Despite their searing attraction, Robert and Jessie struggle to trust each other as they both seek a place to call home. The stakes are high and only one thing is certain: Simon Grant is in pursuit of them both…

Oooohhh…this book is just delicious!  Wicked, wicked villain with a race to address injustice are the elements that kept me on the edge of my seat!

Robert was the heir to the Earldom when he foolish joined the charge at Culloden.  He was the only one of his father’s contingent that survived and ran away for ten years to escape the law.  Rumblings about the state of his home Lochrose reach him in Jamaica and he decides it’s time to go back and face the past.

Robert has made his own mistakes, but his half brother Simon has played a very large role in his disappearance.  Simon is the perfect villain.  He is evil and nasty, yet also a mommy’s boy and snivelling.  It was SO easy to hate him and the author wielded him so well as the antagonist.   He has caused many of the problems for Robert, from turning him in after Culloden to pushing to have him declared dead after many years away.  His greed for the title of Master of Strathburn knows no ends.

Simon and his mother have been bleeding the coffers dry.  Simon is also a sexual predator and has the lovely Jessie in his sights.  Jessie must escape Lochrose to save herself from Simon’s threats.  When she runs to hide in the hunting cabin, she meets Robert in the most unexpected manner.

Robert shoots Jessie thinking she is a deer.  He takes her to the hunting lodge where he had been hiding out himself.  And so begins the romance between the two.  Jessie is afraid of Robert’s intentions towards her, even though she can sense that he isn’t like Simon, so she lies about her relationship to Simon.  I was cringing when I read this and I wondered what possible reason the author had for creating conflict in this manner.  However, it was effective in heightening the passion between the two.

At about the halfway mark, Jessie and Robert become true partners in the quest to free Robert from the law and Simon.  I loved how they worked together to beat Simon and his mother at their horrid games.  The mix of politics, passion and family drama kept this story moving quickly.  I really enjoyed the relationship between Robert and Jessie.  While things move quickly, I loved how the centre of the story was the life that Robert and Jessie were building with each other.

Robert was a fantastic character and he could be such a bad ass when protecting Jessie from Simon.  I actually cheered when Robert faced Simon and got the upper hand!  It is a real balance to craft such a devious character as Simon – the author has to make his substantially evil enough, without doing lasting harm that the reader can’t get past.  Amy Rose Bennett has succeeded at doing that!  While Simon isn’t a Black Jack Randall, he is a spoiled brat who gets what is coming to him and that was just as satisfying as the romance between Robert and Jessie.