To Tempt A Scandalous Lord by Liana De La Rosa

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The first thing I look for in a book is something in the plot that makes the book have that added spark.  This romance, surrounded by political intrigue, is unique and memorable.  The political history in the novel gave it credibility.  The lush love story exceeded my expectations and captivated me!

Niall and Alicia’s unconventional relationship is the centerpiece of the story.  The couple enjoys verbally sparring with one another.  When Alicia is accidentally compromised at a ball, the couple is forced to marry.  It is then when things start to get interesting.  The couple navigated a plethora of emotions, including being frigid to being friendly to falling in love.  Although practically strangers, their mutual attraction is undeniable.  Their relationship builds at a reasonable pace, going through stages rather than jumping instantly to being in love.  There is a lot of dishonesty and betrayal.  However, this adds to the story rather than detract.  I feel the author does an excellent job conveying both of the couple’s points of view evenly.  Niall and Alicia made a lovely, passionate couple.  I enjoyed reading everything about them.

Alicia has been delegated to a decorative accessory, discarded when not useful.  She has used her widowhood to gain independence and a voice.  She has a secret that could destroy her relationship with Niall before it begins.  Alicia has a firm backbone.  She lets nothing detract her from enlightening others on social injustices.  I admire Alicia because she demands action rather than empty words.  Alicia is vulnerable and can be destructive; this made her all the more realistic.

Niall seems like a stuffy politician when we first meet him.  His career consumes him.  He sees nothing but his lofty goals until Alicia crosses his path.  Although ambitious, Niall is passionate about his proposals in government.  He has fought to overcome the prejudice of being a Scot.  Although single-minded, Niall has admirable aspirations and can also, like Alicia, be vulnerable and self-destructive.

I adored this plot!  I have never read a political, historical romance before.  The issues discussed and the machinations of the government were fascinating.  At the end of the book, the author explains the political atmosphere during this period.  This was interesting and gave more closure to the book.  The plot moved well, and the connection between the characters was spot-on.

This book was a gamble for me.  I went back and forth on whether to read it.  I am so delighted I did!  The novel was an all-encompassing love story surrounded by political intrigue.  I was mesmerized from the very start!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book via Netgalley and the publisher.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

To Tempt A Scandalous Lord is the fourth book in the Once Upon A Scandal series.  The book focuses on a man with lofty political goals and a woman desperate to have her views heard.  They make an unlikely couple, but together they create a passionate love that burns bright.  I cannot recommend this book too much.  Liana De la Rosa is a new author to me; I am so ecstatic I found her!

May BOM And June Preview

Hello fellow historical romance lovers! May came and went too quickly! I read several excellent books this past month. I had a large amount of ARC books again. I read a total of fourteen books this month.

May Book List

Below are the books I reviewed this month with my review links

  1. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A Harlot At The Highland Court, book twelve in the Highland Ladies series by Celeste Barclay

– My Review

2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Clad In Midnight, book eight in the Colors Of Scandal series by Sandra Sookoo

– My Review

3. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Tempting Fate, book four in the Goode Girls series by Kerrigan Byrne

– My Review

4. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ To Dare A Rogue, book four in the Rogue Chronicles by Lana Williams

– My Review

5. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Undercover Duke, book four in the Duke Dynasty series by Sabrina Jefferies

-My Review

6. ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 Her Scottish Scoundrel, book seven in the Diamonds In The Rough series by Sophie Barnes

– My Review

7. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ How To Survive A Scandal, book one in the Rebels With A Cause series by Samantha Parish

– My Review

8. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Jewel Of An Earl’s Heir, book five in the Heirs Of The Aristocracy series by Linda Rae Sande

– My Review

9. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Courtship Of Convenience, book one of the Observations Of A Wallflower by Jane Charles

– My Review

10. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Lord Ares, book three in the Lords Of The Masquerade series by Jade Lee

– My Review

Book Of The Month

I read several outstanding books this month, however The Jewel Of An Earl’s Heir shone a little brighter. This heartwarming tale is exquisitely written. It is an intertwining story of established, rekindled love in comparison with burgeoning love. Some of these characters have physical challenges that enhance thier lives when the perfect partner is found. There is a push and pull between experienced passion and the spark of innocent infactuation. My review says it all. A deserving novel that draws the reader in and doesn’t let go.

– My Review

A Look Ahead

So far I have twelve ARCs planned for June. I am hoping to get more, I have applied for a few that I haven’t heard from yet.

6/1/21 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Virgin Who Humbled Lord Haslemere, book three in the Swooning Virgin Society by Anna Bradley

– My Review

6/1/21 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Tender Blackguard, book three in the Peril & Persuasion series by Amy Sandas

– My Review

6/14/21 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Highland Hero, book two in the Children Of The Mist series by Cynthia Breeding

– My Review

6/21/21 – To Tempt A Scandalous Lord, book four in the Once Upon A Scandal series by Lana De la Rosa

6/22/21 – The Rogue And The Jewel, book four in the Rogues Of The Road series by Sasha Cottman

6/22/21 – Hello, Rogue, anthology by Sasha Cottman, Lauren Smith, Amanda Mariel, Dawn Brower, Nadine Millard, and Anna St. Claire

6/29/21 – A Duke In Time, book one in the Widow Rules series by Janna MacGregor

6/29/21 – Never Mix Sin With Pleasure, book five in the Infamous Lords series by Renee Ann Miller

6/29/21 – An Extraordinary Lord, book three in the Lords Of The Armory series by Anna Harrington

6/29/21 – The Princess Stakes, by Amalie Howard

6/29/21 – The Importance Of Being Wanton, book two of the Wantons Of Waverton series by Christi Caldwell

6/29/21 – The Devil And The Heiress, book two in the Gilded Age Heiresses series by Harper St. George

Ideally, I would like to get caught up on some of my series and start new ones this month, just for fun. Here is what I am planning on reading.

  • The Theory Of Earls, book one in the Beautiful Barringtons series by Kathleen Ayers
  • This Earl Of Mine, book one in the Bow Street Bachelors series by Kate Bateman
  • Their Highland Beginning, book one in the Clan Sinclair series by Celeste Barclay
  • The Duke And The Enchantress, book two in the Enchantesses series by Paullett Golden
  • The Rogue, book one in the Rogues and Gentlemen series by Emma Leech
  • The Angel Of An Astonomer, book one in the Heirs Of The Aristocracy series, by Linda Rae Sande

It looks like a pretty lofty goal, but I believe I will achieve it! On the 21st there will be a special feature on the Heirs Of The Aristocracy series, don’t miss it! I am hoping to have other features as well. I enjoyed May, it brought excellent books! As always, thank you for supporting my blog! If you like my blog, please tell your freinds and fellow authors about me, it really helps! Thanks for visiting, I love to hear your thoughts and comments about my reviews. Until next time, stay safe, be kind, and keep reading!

Highland Hero by Cynthia Breeding

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a heart-warming adventurous ride that brings a couple who start as enemies to a loving, healing happily-ever-after.  The slow-burn, steady pace kept it interesting.  Juliana and her family are at the MacGregor’s to celebrate her sister’s wedding to the eldest MacGregor and Rory’s brother.  Juliana’s sister’s story is told in the first book of this series.  Another clan kidnaps Juliana; Rory, their best tracker is sent to rescue her.  Juliana is a survivor of rape.  There is a trigger warning concerning this at the beginning of the novel, which was appreciated.

Juliana is a rape survivor that is haunted by the trauma.  She is sharp-tongued and skittish to all males, vowing never to marry.  Although wary of the opposite sex, she slowly learns she can trust Rory.  That trust and respect slowly build into deeper emotions.  I loved Juliana’s inner strength and resourcefulness.  She steps up when situations are dire when Rory is either incapable of assisting or is incapacitated.  I enjoyed everything about Rory.  His character stood out.  He is an excellent match to Juliana.  He can verbally spar as well as Juliana.  He is the ultimate highlander.  Although possessing charm and strength, he is so gentle and understanding with Juliana.  Rory’s personality and actions shone throughout the book.

This is an enemies-to-lovers, slow-burn novel.  I categorize this as slow-burn, referring to the dynamic between the couple.  Their feelings slowly develop throughout the storyline.  This felt realistic due to their situation and Juliana’s past.  What wasn’t slow-burn is the adventure the couple is on throughout the entirety of the book.   Their journey home from Juliana’s escape from the rival clan is the center of the entire plot.  The couple faces every obstacle that could occur.  It was how they handled the troubles that made them unstoppable as a unit.  Their relationship builds and builds to a fiery revelation.  Through Rory’s thoughts and actions, Juliana discovers passion, belonging, and eventually love.

I loved the journey of this novel.  This is a sweet, adventurous treasure of a book!  I cannot wait until the other stories which will feature the other sisters and brothers.  The ending gave me a feeling of contentment and completion.  The epilogue introduces the reader to the next installment in the series.  I love a sexy, strong highlander, and Rory didn’t disappoint.  I also love an independent, strong female lead, and Juliana was the epitome.  At times heart-wrenching, ultimately, it is a love story of discovery and healing.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance copy of this book via Netgalley and the publisher.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Highland Hero is the second novel in the Children Of The Mist series.  This saga follows the highland bothers of the MacGregor clan and the Caldwell sisters that claim their hearts.  I was a little concerned at the beginning as the entirety of the book is the dialogue and discovery of the couple, the action coming in second.  However, my worries were dispelled.  The strength of the dynamic of the couple carried the story.  The locations the couple travels to and through were a perfect backdrop to the couple’s burgeoning relationship.  The characters were strong and stood out. Their love story is adventurous and sweet.  A delightful read!

Cocky Baron by Annabelle Anders

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I always look forward to reading the books in this sparkling, vibrant series.  Cocky Baron was an excellent addition.  I think that whichever book I am reading in this series is my favorite!  This book had heart and humor.  The depth of the emotions was exquisite.

Bethany has loved Chase forever.  Chase sees Bethany as his best friend’s sister.  After an embarrassing situation leads to Bethany being compromised, the two must marry and face the future together.  Chase’s character had so many intricate layers.  I loved how he was so much more than the rake society made him.  He was a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders.  Bethany became his salvation.  Bethany had insecurities and eccentricities.  However, she had an inner strength that made her shine.  I love Bethany’s journey.  She starts as this people pleaser, but with the help of Chase, she develops into this desirable, self-assured woman.  The couple’s journey, both individually and together, forge an unbreakable union.  The couple’s connection was off the charts!

The plot exceeded all my expectations.  I was captured on page one, and the book flew by.  There were many facets to the story that captured my heart and gave me a visceral longing to see these two happy!  The book was an overall joy to read.  I didn’t want it to end!

Cocky Baron is book two in the Regency Cocky Gents series.  This series is fantastic and a delight to read.  I have, out of necessity, read these books out of order, and I am now going back to the books I missed.  These books get better the longer the series goes.  The characters are lovable, captivating, and relatable.  The backdrops are so vivid; I can see the ballrooms and gardens.  Annabelle’s books keep getting exponentially better and better.  She has earned her spot as one of my favorite authors, and I eagerly anticipate reading more of her works!

Lord Ares by Jade Lee

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I look forward to the Lords Of The Masquerade books.  Jade always delivers a brilliant, sexy, exciting love story.  This book didn’t just meet the expectations of an excellent series; it excelled.  Ever since the second book, I have been looking forward to Aaron and Lilah’s story.  The couple’s journey exceeded expectations; it took me on a rocky journey to undeniable love.

Lilah has been balancing between two worlds her entire life.  She is an illegitimate daughter of a nobleman and an actress.  Raised in the home of her aristocratic father and his wife, she is trained to be a lady.  However, she cannot escape her mother’s past.  Lilah is a people pleaser, never able to go after what she wants.  She was so relatable.  I empathize with her situation.  We all have moments where we feel we don’t belong and lose our way.  The novel had an uncanny way of making the reader feel what it is like to survive in two different worlds, never belonging to either.  I was so happy that during the book, Lilah finds her voice and goes about forging the future she wants.  

Aaron, Earl of Kittrel, is the epitome of an aristocratic politician.   He makes no waves, always making the right, expected decision.  Aaron buries his emotions in duty.  He denies himself the gift of all-consuming love with Lilah due to his inability to see past all society’s traps.  He would rather dictate to others than to listen.  Aaron’s character was unbendable yet held a particular quiet vulnerability that I enjoyed.

The couple had sparks at their first encounter.  Lilah embraced emotions where Aaron suppressed them.  Their connection was bone-deep; it resonated from the page.  The passion was ravenous, but the couple had to decide if that love was enough.  Often, the main couple in a story falls in love, and the book ends.   However, love is complicated and messy.  Here, the two have to decide if love is worth giving up a piece of yourself- your freedom.  That freedom is the ability to choose your fate.

This book was imaginative and heart-wrenching.  There was a push and pull between Aaron and Lilah that kept me on the edge of my seat.  The plot had layers of depth and raw emotion.  It moved at a steady pace.  I read this book in one night!  It was an easy read yet contained an intricate plot.  My only wish was that these books would have an epilogue; they tend to stop abruptly.  Overall, I was enthralled and delighted with this love story.  

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance copy of this book via Netgalley and the publisher.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Lord Ares is the third book in the Lord Of The Masquerade series by Jade Lee.  I reviewed the second novel, Lord Satyr, earlier in the year.  It was a five-star review.  I loved Lord Satyr so much I made it my book of the Month!  Lord Ares is the conclusion of this series…at least, I think it is.  Aaron has a sister in this book whose story is hinted at, and I would love to read.  Aaron and Lilah are a class difference story, almost to the point of star-crossed lovers.  I was frustrated at times when the couple’s social status dominated the scene. However, it was an incredible frustration!  Those scenes built the tension and made the happily ever after that much sweeter.  I wish the author wrote epilogues, each book of this series seems to come just up to the happy ending and stops before you can enjoy the triumph.  That is my only critique.  I would start at the first book in this series, Lord Lucifer.  Each book takes on one of the three friends.  It is worth reading all three in order, I loved these books!

Tender Blackguard by Amy Sandas

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I have been impatiently waiting the second installment of this wonderful, exciting series.  I started reading the Fallen Ladies series, the previous, connected series.  All these books engaged my imagination from page one; this book was no exception.  The plot was intricate, sexy, dark and haunting at times yet always held the promise of love and redemption.  The love story was authentic.  I desperately wanted these characters to find love and peace both from within themselves and each other.  I feel the currant underneath this fantastic story is that we are more than the sum of what made us.  No matter what our background, we choose our futures.  That was a lesson I desperately wanted our couple to learn.  Through this enthralling, rich plot, our couple makes hard choices that earn them their happily ever after.

These characters were lovingly written.  Alastair’s past is dark and twisted through no fault of his own.  His young life was destroyed by the vile dynasty his father created.  Lark is a product of the rookery.  She has brought her station up to a respectable house servant.  She enters Alastair’s household, looking for answers that turn out to be similar to Alastair’s own goals.  My heart ached for Alastair.  His past was inconceivably horrible.  He was a tragically noble character.  Lark was confident and had an elegant, silent strength.  She was a perfect match to Alastair.  The couple’s connection and passion were off the charts.  They captured my interest, and their plight resonated with me.

The plot captures you from the start.  There are a plethora of emotions I went through while reading this book.  It showcased a gambit of malevolence and depravity to hope and fierce love.  At times the plot was all-encompassing; it took my breath away.  This story moved!  The pages flew by.  It was a wild rollercoaster that left me wanting more.

The books in these series get stronger and stronger as they evolve.  This book was hauntingly, achingly beautiful.  Amy’s writing and character development are effortless and outstanding.  I believe this could be read alone. However, I advise starting with the Fallen Ladies series and proceed to this book.  Some recurring characters and plotlines enrich each story.  I was excited to read this book, and it exceeded all my expectations!

I received this ARC through the author.  This is my honest, voluntary opinion.

This is the second book in the Peril & Persuasion series.  However, there is also a novella; The Secrets He Keeps, that belongs in this series.  I advise reading the novella after the first book, Her Noble Scoundrel.  They all interconnect with the Fallen Ladies series to build a deliciously enticing world.  Amy is on my list of must-read authors.  I know I will never be disappointed in one of her books.

The Virgin Who Humbled Lord Haslemere by Anna Bradley

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book was a fun, engaging enemies to lovers mystery.  It was a perfect balance of romance and intrigue.  My attention was captured at the beginning and kept me urgently turning the pages.  I had been in a reading slump, and this book pulled me out of it.  I loved everything about this book.

Benedict Harcourt, the Earl of Haslemere, is an infamous rake.  Georgiana Harley was rescued from the streets and raised in a home for girls in unfortunate circumstances.  She works cases for clients that need discretion.  Georgiana had an acerbic tongue and loved order over emotion.  She was feisty and naïve at the same time.  I loved her independent spirit.  Benedict is perceived as a shallow, selfish rake.  As the book progresses, Benedict’s true nature is revealed.  He is a loving, responsible, thoughtful man.  I love the gentleness he has with his family.  Together, Benedict and Georgiana had combustive chemistry.  Their relationship started with distrust and aggravation.  The couple’s banter was written with sharp wit and cunning barbs.  Their relationship was so much fun to read as they slowly go from untrusting to mutual attraction and eventually love.  I loved how their relationship unfolded.  It was perfectly paced and highly romantic.  I genuinely cared about these characters.  Their undeniable attraction and passion were captivating.

The mystery in the novel was well thought out and kept me guessing until the end.  The plot was edgy and urgent.  The pages flew by.  The story went at a relentless pace keeping me engaged and wanting more.  The secondary characters were as strong as the main couple.  They supported the mystery and enlivened the entire story.  I cared for and was invested in the welfare of the characters.  I can usually guess the solution to the puzzle halfway into the novel, but I could not in this case.  It was an intricate mystery that unfolded perfectly.  The resolution was not discovered until the final chapters.  There was a perfect balance between romance and mystery.  The passion and romance grew to a fever pitch through the entire book. 

I love when a plot comes together seamlessly.  The couple was captivating.  The storyline was a perfect combination of passion and endless questions.  It isn’t easy to marry romance and mystery to a satisfying culmination.  The couple’s connection was sizzling from the very beginning.  I have no critique.  This was an excellent marriage of a passionate love story and a challenging puzzle.  I unconditionally recommend this novel, it is a sharp, clever, loving experience.

I received this ARC through Netgalley and Kensington Books.  This is my honest, voluntary opinion. 

This book is the third in the Swooning Virgin’s Society.  This is my first journey with this author and I found the novels engaging.  The characters and plot shone and stood out.  Romantic mysteries are hard to get the right balance.  That balance is what endeared me to this book.  A wonderful journey!

To Dare A Rogue by Lana Williams

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I enjoyed the slow burn love story of James and Charlotte.  James is a returning soldier, a tortured soul struggling to reintegrate into society.  He wastes his nights away with women, gambling, and drinking.  He is lost until he connects with his best friend’s sister, Charlotte.  Charlotte is chaffing at her overbearing, cruel father and his plans for her future.  She yearns for adventure before she is forced into a miserable marriage.  Slowly, James and Charlotte find solace and love with each other.  The couple’s connection is pure and passionate.  I felt for James and his difficulties after the war.  I was so frustrated with Charlotte’s father, an uncaring beast of a man who lived to make others miserable.  All the secondary characters were well written and contributed brilliantly to the plot.  

As a slow burn, the plot moved at a steady, unhurried pace.  The connection the couple forged kept my attention to the page.  The portrayal of their struggles and the struggles of those around them gave the plot many layers.  There are many unhappy characters in this story; they all found a resolution that brought peace.  There were many hurdles to happiness for this couple; they were forced through many trials.  Ultimately, all these struggles generate a love that could withstand any obstacle.  This was a character-driven story.  The characters were resilient and showcased the plot.  This was an enticing, entertaining read.

I received this ARC through the author.  This is my honest, voluntary opinion.

To Dare A Rogue is the sixth book in the Rogue Chronicles series.  I am hesitant with slow burn novels.  I usually prefer a faster-paced plot.   However, the slower pace of this book allowed for extensive primary and secondary character development.  The story was built around the vibrancy of the characters.  It was an enjoyable, well-executed read.

New Release Spotlight! A Harlot At The Highland Court by Celeste Barclay

She trusted the wrong man…He trusted the wrong woman…Do they dare trust each other?

Hello readers! Today we are celebrating the release of A Harlot At The Highland Court. I loved this book! Look below for excerpts, author bio, buy links and much more! If you haven’t read my review, please click below.

My Review

She trusted the wrong man…

Lady Emelie Dunbar has made the gravest error an unmarried lady-in-waiting can make. The man she believes will be a bridegroom who loves, honors, and cherishes her turns out to be a duplicitous lover. Left with few choices, Emelie struggles to make a decision that will protect not only her reputation but her younger sister Blythe’s. When rescue comes from an unexpected Highlander, Emelie must decide whether she’s finally found the right man to trust. Can Emelie believe an offer that seems too good to be true? Are her instincts right this time?

He trusted the wrong woman…

Dominic Campbell, Laird Brodie Campbell’s younger brother, is still reeling from the humiliation and shame his dead wife left in her wake. Sent to court in his brother’s stead, Dominic intended to conduct his clan’s business and leave, not discover a troubled young woman in dire need of help. When he offers the protection of not only his sword but his name, Dominic wonders if he’s found his redemption. Can Dominic make good on his promise that Emelie’s secret’s safe with him? Can love bloom from this marriage of convenience?

Dominic and Emelie believe they’ve reached an understanding that provides Emelie the security she needs and brings Dominic a sense of purpose. But when the very source of Emelie’s troubles decides he will not let another man raise his child, the couple discovers to what lengths their nemesis will go to ensure Emelie never tells her secret to another person. Can their burgeoning love survive the looming scandal? Is their trust strong enough to protect them?

Welcome to Robert the Bruce’s Highland Court, where the ladies-in-waiting are a mixture of fire and ice. The Highland Ladies, the STEAMY spinoff series from Celeste Barclay’s The Clan Sinclair series, returns to the Medieval royal court for love and intrigue.

Links:

Buy or download from KU: www.books2read.com/harlothighland

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57128165-a-harlot-at-the-highland-court

Praise for Celeste Barclay: 

“Number 12 in The Highland Court series and it does not disappoint!!! Celeste has delivered yet another story chocked full of wonderful scene depictions, there is betrayal, strong characters and twists and turns you never saw coming.” Goodreads, Diane

“The Highland Court novels have become one of my favorite series, with each book bringing adventure, romance and heroes to warm one’s heart.” Bookbub, Margaret

Excerpt:

Copyright 2021 Celeste Barclay

“You’re a fixer.”

“I’m a what?” Emelie’s declaration confused him.

“You want to make things better. You wanted to fix things between you and Colina, so you catered to her whims. You wanted to fix things between you and your clan, so you carried out her sentence. You wanted to fix me, so you offered to marry me.”

“I don’t want to fix you. You’re perfect as you are,” Dominic argued.

“I wouldn’t go that far. But you wanted to make things better for me, to take care of me. You’re a mon with an enormous heart who cares aboot others and wants to see the best in them. I find no fault in that, Dom. You believe it’s your duty.”

“Roundabout as it is, you’re back to calling yourself my duty. I wanted—want—to help you. I don’t feel obligated, and I never did.”

“Mayhap. But you wanted to rescue me.” Emelie bit her bottom lip again. “Why?”

“Because you were naive and alone. I saw the opportunity to help you.”

“But why did you even feel compelled to help me?”

“I don’t know. I thought I could—” Dominic broke off. Emelie’s eyes locked with his, and he feared she felt everything he thought. He knew what he felt, but he didn’t want to say it aloud, to admit that his motives had been selfish.

“You thought you had a second chance. A second chance that would redeem yourself. You’d feel better by taking me in and rescuing me, and you thought your clan would approve of me after what Colina did.” Emelie stood up, and Dominic followed. “Regardless of whether you grieve your dead wife, you want me as a substitute.”

“I do not,” Dominic hissed as he grabbed Emelie’s arms.

“Ow,” Emelie whimpered.

“Dear God. I’m sorry, Emelie. I didn’t mean to be rough with you, I swear. I didn’t realize.” Dominic took a broad step back, and Emelie could see the shame written across his face. It crushed him to think he’d done her any harm. As she looked at Dominic, she realized that he was a man in pain. A pain soul deep, and eating him alive. She took a step toward him, and she feared he would be the one crying. She took another, tentative as if she approached a wounded animal.

“I know you didn’t, Dom. You never would do it on purpose. You’re a wee stronger than me, and a good deal bigger. You didn’t realize it,” Emelie soothed as she ran her hands over Dominic’s chest.

“I just didn’t want you to walk away. I will never imprison you and use my size against you. I truly am sorry. I acted without thinking.”

“Dom, it’s all right. You’ve given me much to think aboot and much to digest. It’s a wee overwhelming to know the truth.”

“Emelie, I need you to know something else.”

Emelie braced herself for whatever was coming. She doubted she would appreciate whatever it was. “What else?”

“Yesterday, I couldn’t take you in my auld chamber because it reminded me of Colina. But not because I miss her. It felt as though her evil lurked within. I want you nowhere near that. You are too pure of heart to be dirtied by aught that was hers. I will never use that chamber again.”

Emelie was certain her lip would crack from how often she bit down on it during this conversation. She released the tortured skin before gaining her courage to ask, “What chamber will you use?”

Bio:

Celeste Barclay, a nom de plume, lives near the Southern California coast with her husband and sons. Growing up in the Midwest, Celeste enjoyed spending as much time in and on the water as she could. Now she lives near the beach. She’s an avid swimmer, a hopeful future surfer, and a former rower. Before becoming a full-time author, Celeste was a Social Studies and English teacher. She holds degrees in International Affairs (BA), Secondary Social Science (MAT), and Political Management (MPS). She channels that knowledge into creating rich historical romances that bring the steam.

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How To Survive A Scandal by Samara Parish

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There are several reasons why I gave this book four stars instead of five.  There were excellent sections, and there were themes that became tiresome.  This is a start to a new series, and I think it will improve with each installment.  The book had exceptional writing; it also had ideas that I wish would have been handled differently.

Benedict and Amelia are forced into marriage after a misunderstanding compromises Amelia.  The couple is night and day different.  Their clashing chemistry was electric.  Being so different, it is reasonable that they would fight.  This tension between the pair was believable. However, they fought every few pages.  I found the constant fighting and confrontation somewhat overwhelming at times. 

The separation between the aristocracy and working class is highlighted splendidly.  The growing affection between the couple is honest.  The love built slowly, which gave the relationship validity.  As different as they were, it would take time for the love to grow, and I felt this plot point reflected that concept.  The only negative point I felt was that the romance took second place to the action and backdrop of the plot.  Sometimes the couple’s dynamic got lost in turmoil around them.  The locations of the factory and house party kept the story moving quickly.  The unrest of the villagers and laborers gave a realistic feel.  The conundrum in the plot of who we are versus who we have the potential to be is well executed.

Amelia’s good qualities were buried deep, but she blooms into a self-sufficient person with purpose.  Benedict’s prejudices with the upper class run deep, but he slowly realizes nothing is set in stone.  The couple created strength within each other’s weaknesses.  The secondary characters were vividly written and carried the plot at times.  Amelia’s previous suitor was selfish on the surface but had hidden layers as the plot unfolded.  Benedict’s business partners had strong personalities.  Cassandra, Benedict’s younger sister, stole the scenes with her sweet spirit.  The aristocracy, which was the antagonist the majority of the book, still proved helpful at times.  Amelia was excellent at navigating between the two classes, which helped her achieve the desired outcome.  The secondary couple who are the focus of the second book is set up well, and I look forward to reading their story.

I enjoyed this book.  I would have loved this book if the confrontational aspect had been toned down a little.  That is a personal preference.  The plot was sharp and intelligent.  The dialogue could be both loving and vicious.  I think the novel conveyed its themes of class differences and the world’s expectations versus a person’s true worth superbly.  I desperately wanted the couple to succeed.  I cared about these characters, and the ending was excellent.  Overall this was a fun, thought-provoking, well-executed read.

I received this ARC through Netgalley and Forever (Grand Central Publishing).  This is my honest, voluntary opinion.

I couldn’t give this book an excellent rating because the constant bickering drove me crazy.  The fighting served its purpose to move the plot along.  It made the story fast and exciting.  I enjoyed the themes of the book, and they intertwined well.  The character development was the best part of the book.  I am very excited for the next book because I loved the secondary characters who become the leads in the next book.  This was a fun, energetic read.  I have found a new series!