Tricky Times TAMING HIS HELLION COUNTESS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m reviewing a sexy new historical romance just released from Sorcha Mowbray. I know I just shared the deets on its release yesterday, but this is how it goes in schedule-land. TAMING HIS HELLION COUNTESS is the second book in her Lustful Lords series and it’s chock full of both the lust and the lords. I loved HIS HAND-ME-DOWN COUNTESS and I’m happy to say this was no let-down.

About the book:
A duty bound earl and a jewel thief might find forever if he can steal her heart…
Robert Cooper, the Earl of Brougham must marry in order to fulfill his duty to the title. He’s decided on a rather mild mannered, biddable woman who most considered firmly on the shelf. But, her family is on solid financial ground and has no scandals attached to their name.

Lady Emily Winterburn, sister of the Earl of Dunmere, is not what she seems. With a heart as big as her wild streak she finds herself prepared to protect her brother from his bad choices, even if it means stealing from the Ton. But marrying their way out of trouble is simply out of the question. What woman in her right mind would shackle herself to a man, let alone one of the notorious Lustful Lords?

Cooper’s carefully laid plans are ruined once he must decide between courting his unwilling bride-to-be and taming the wild woman he caught stealing–until he discovers they are one and the same. And when love sinks it’s relentless talons into his heart? He’ll do anything to possess the wanton who fires his blood and touches his soul.

My Review:
The series is titles “Lustful Lords” for a reason y’all.

Robert Cooper, aka Lord Brougham, isn’t specifically needing a wife, but he must produce an heir. Seeing his best friend, the earl of Stonemere from the first book in this series, so happily settled with a loving wife has put Cooper’s mind to thought. While he never plans to give up his lustful ways with his mates and the willing wenches of The Market, and upscale brothel, he could find a biddable woman who’d bear his children, run his household and not mind if he disappears on the regular for some debauched revelry. It’s therefore crucial to find he right lady of the ton.

Emily Winterburn is a spinster, and not going to trouble herself over it. She has a disastrous first season thanks to a rake who besmirched her, and she’s been “on the shelf,” considered unmarriageable, in the years since then. Accustomed to the wallflower role, Emily uses it to her advantage when she discovers the disastrous state of her elder brother’s accounts. He owes thousands in gaming debts and keeping ahead of his creditors requires some creativity. All right, it’s downright theft. But, Emily only steals from the wealthy who can afford it, and those who humiliated her way back when. What’s a few baubles or a ruby necklace compared to impoverishment?

Cooper has decided Lady Winterburn is attractive enough, and her family isn’t destitute or racked by scandal. Her parents died in a fire, and her brother seems respectable. He plans to get to know her better, in the hope that she will suit as his wife. No one’s planning a love match, after all. She ought to be thankful anyone would have her, truly. Yet, he see her, the true Emily, as a spitfire and independent thinker the more time he spends with her. Cooper isn’t prepared to be intrigued, but his forays into more bring him even more unexpected new: she’s the Waltzing Thief! While the hunt is on for the dastardly criminal stealing at each big houseparty, Cooper had not entertained the idea that a lady could be the culprit. And this revelation brings Emily and Cooper together in unexpected ways. He immediately offers for her hand–and she…well, it doesn’t go to Cooper’s original plan.

Turns out Emily is more hellion than biddable lass, and that’s even more intriguing. If she’s eager to seek thrills.. Cooper’s got thrills baby. Emily, let down by men her whole life is not eager to tie herself to one in marriage. Sex, however? That she’s has some curiosity regarding. If Cooper’s willing to lavish his no-doubt well-schooled experience on her that would be delightful. Perhaps. But she won’t fall for his charms, and she absolutely will pay her brother’s debts.

I liked this one a lot. Cooper’s got some issues to work through, mostly his notions regarding marriage. It’s good that he has an example of a truly happy, lustful, marriage to observe: Theodora and Stone are borderline lascivious and head-over-heels two years into their nuptials. Theo serves as a confidante and friend to Emily, which helps to smooth over some rough patches as Emily and Cooper navigate their unconventional relations. The sexytimes are yummy, with Cooper being a man prone to feast on Emily…until she’s delirious with pleasure. They play some bondage games, and Emily learns to submit to his domination, which is more than Cooper could have dreamed in his wildest fantasies. To find a love match was beyond his expectations, yet, getting there is not smooth sailing, buy any stretch. Emily is a hellion, headstrong and determined to never need a man, even if one happens to want her around. It takes some creativity, but Cooper wins her heart, and he never has to lament leaving his mates to The Market’s filthy pleasures. Not that Cooper tames his hellion…because she’s just as freaky as he is.

Interested? You can find TAMING HIS HELLION COUNTESS on Goodreads, Amazon (US, UK, CA, and AU) Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and GooglePlay.

You can also find HIS HAND-ME-DOWN COUNTESS on Amazon (US, UK, CA and AU) Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and GooglePlay.

About the Author:
Sorcha Mowbray is a mild mannered office worker by day…okay, so she is actually a mouthy, opinionated, take charge kind of gal who bosses everyone around; but she definitely works in an office. At night she writes romance so hot she sets the sheets on fire! Just ask her slightly singed husband.

She is a longtime lover of historical romance, having grown up reading Johanna Lindsey and Judith McNaught. Then she discovered Thea Devine and Susan Johnson. Holy cow! Heroes and heroines could do THAT? From there, things devolved into trying her hand at writing a little smexy. Needless to say, she liked it and she hopes you do too!

For more information about Sorcha, please visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads. Join Sorcha’s newsletter to be the first to hear about upcoming releases. She’s loves hearing from her readers.

Happy Book Birthday to TAMING HIS HELLION COUNTESS!

Hi there! Today I’m spreading the word on a sexy new historical romance out today from Sorcha Mowbray. TAMING HIS HELLION COUNTESS is the second book in her Lustful Lords series. I adored HIS HAND-ME-DOWN COUNTESS so I jumped at the chance to read this one.

About the book:
A duty bound earl and a jewel thief might find forever if he can steal her heart…
Robert Cooper, the Earl of Brougham must marry in order to fulfill his duty to the title. He’s decided on a rather mild mannered, biddable woman who most considered firmly on the shelf. But, her family is on solid financial ground and has no scandals attached to their name.

Lady Emily Winterburn, sister of the Earl of Dunmere, is not what she seems. With a heart as big as her wild streak she finds herself prepared to protect her brother from his bad choices, even if it means stealing from the Ton. But marrying their way out of trouble is simply out of the question. What woman in her right mind would shackle herself to a man, let alone one of the notorious Lustful Lords?

Cooper’s carefully laid plans are ruined once he must decide between courting his unwilling bride-to-be and taming the wild woman he caught stealing–until he discovers they are one and the same. And when love sinks it’s relentless talons into his heart? He’ll do anything to possess the wanton who fires his blood and touches his soul.

This looks like another sexy-fun one! Look for a review from me SOON!

Interested? You can find TAMING HIS HELLION COUNTESS on Goodreads, Amazon (US, UK, CA, and AU) Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and GooglePlay.

You can also find HIS HAND-ME-DOWN COUNTESS on Amazon (US, UK, CA and AU) Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and GooglePlay.

About the Author:
Sorcha Mowbray is a mild mannered office worker by day…okay, so she is actually a mouthy, opinionated, take charge kind of gal who bosses everyone around; but she definitely works in an office. At night she writes romance so hot she sets the sheets on fire! Just ask her slightly singed husband.

She is a longtime lover of historical romance, having grown up reading Johanna Lindsey and Judith McNaught. Then she discovered Thea Devine and Susan Johnson. Holy cow! Heroes and heroines could do THAT? From there, things devolved into trying her hand at writing a little smexy. Needless to say, she liked it and she hopes you do too!

For more information about Sorcha, please visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads. Join Sorcha’s newsletter to be the first to hear about upcoming releases. She’s loves hearing from her readers.

Strange Old World–ROBBY RIVERTON: MAIL ORDER BRIDE–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a new M/M romance from Eli Easton. Most of my reads for this week are supposed to have been released at least several months ago, if not longer, but ROBBY RIVERTON: MAIL ORDER BRIDE is a historical romance set in 1850s New Mexico which is still way back. I have loved all the Eli Easton books I’ve read, including MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES, her HOWL AT MOON books, SECOND HARVEST and FIVE DARES. ROBBY RIVERTON is a fun and suspenseful romp through the truly wild west–and hijinks abound.

Scroll down to catch my review and enter the $25 GC and books giveaway!
About the book:
Being a fugitive in the old west shouldn’t be this much fun.
The year is 1860. Robby Riverton is a rising star on the New York stage. But he witnesses a murder by a famous crime boss and is forced to go on the run–all the way to Santa Fe. When he still hasn’t ditched his pursuers, he disguises himself as a mail order bride he meets on the wagon train. Caught between gangsters that want to kill him, and the crazy, uncouth family of his “intended”, Robby’s only ally is a lazy sheriff who sees exactly who Robby is — and can’t resist him.

Trace Crabtree took the job as sheriff of Flat Bottom because there was never a thing going on. And then Robby Riverton showed up. Disguised as a woman. And betrothed to Trace’s brother. If that wasn’t complication enough, Trace had to find the man as appealing as blueberry pie. He urges Robby to stay undercover until the danger has passed. But a few weeks of having Robby-Rowena at the ranch, and the Crabtree family will never be the same again.

Damn, what a kerfuffle. If only Trace can get rid of the fugitive while hanging on to his own stupid heart.

My Review:
Robby Riverton is on top of his world, acting on the New York stage and being paid to do it! One night, however, he leaves the theater late and becomes an eyewitness to a murder committed by a notorious mob boss. Now his fame could be his downfall. Fleeing New York for less gentile areas, he hops a wagon train west. His hope is to re-settle in San Francisco and join an acting troupe there.

While en route, Robby makes the acquaintance of a flighty young gal, Rowena, who’s sold herself as a mail-order bride to hide the fact that she’s in a family way. She plans to have the babe on the journey west and claim it was an orphan she adopted when the mother died in childbirth. Robby thinks it’s unlikely her story will fly, but it becomes moot when Rowena meets a young banker who’s willing to make an honest woman of her. Rowena entrusts Robbie with a letter to her fiance, Clovis Crabtree. Robbie thinks getting to Santa Fe would be far enough to start over, but the mob boss’ minions are on the trail and his only means of escape is to don Rowena’s left-behind clothing and assume her identity.

Trace Crabtree thought he’d left Flat Bottom, New Mexico, in his dust. Being injured in the Army, however, sent him back to his family’s ranch. Now he’s the sheriff of the town he ran away from, and can’t figure out how to get out. Well, he ducks into Santa Fe to meet with a man who scratches his itch once a month or so–but it’s nothing permanent. On one of these trips Trace unexpectedly meets his younger brother’s intended–and saves her from some east-coast ruffians. It’s not until his elder brother takes “Rowena” back toward Flat Bottom that Trace recognizes tall, elegant Rowena isn’t who she claims to be. And who he really is turns all Trace’s cranks…

This is a charming historical romance. There are fun elements, like how “Rowena” schools the uncouth Crabtrees into better manners and shares her clothes with her soon-to-be inlaws. Trace is more than attracted, he can barely contain himself, meanwhile, Robby’s struggling to maintain his charade, at risk of public embarrassment and death. He’s playing the role of his life, and the mobsters aren’t planning on leaving any witnesses alive. Robby actually falls hard for the quirky Crabtrees and his influence helps Trace appreciate his own family better. Poor Clovis has a tendresse for a local gal, and Rooby’s subtle ways help Clovis find his true happiness–even if it won’t be with Rowena. I really enjoyed this one, and highly recommend it to fans of historical M/M romance.

Interested? You can find ROBBY RIVERTON: MAIL ORDER BRIDE on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****
Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 GC or own of three ebooks.
Good luck, and keep reading my friends!

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Eli Easton has been at various times and under different names a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer, and a long-distance walker. She began writing m/m romance in 2013 and has published 27 books since then. She hopes to write many more.

As an avid reader of such, she is tickled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, bulldogs, cows, a cat, and lots of groundhogs.

In romance, Eli is best known for her Christmas stories because she’s a total Christmas sap. These include “Blame it on the Mistletoe”, “Unwrapping Hank” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles”. Her “Howl at the Moon” series of paranormal romances featuring the town of Mad Creek and its dog shifters has been popular with readers. And her series of Amish-themed romances, Men of Lancaster County, has won genre awards.

In 2018 Eli hopes to do more of the same, assuming they reschedule the apocalypse.

Catch up with Eli on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Surviving With OF HOPE AND ANGUISH–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! I know I’ve been spotty with the posts, of late. I’m more than halfway finished with my student teaching as I finish a Masters of Education to get my teaching license…so life is hectic. That said, I’ll post as often as I can, while writing lesson plans, curriculum and teaching full-time. Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for an historical M/M romance out now from Sylvia Violet. OF HOPE AND ANGUISH is the sequel to REVOLUTIONARY TEMPTATION imagines a clandestine romance between a Continental officer and the dandy who risks his life for his country and General Washington.

Don’t forget to drop down and enter the book giveaway below!
About the book:
1777 Philadelphia and enviorns…
Jack and Eli have been separated for months while Jack gathers intelligence in Philadelphia and Eli spies on British officers in New York. When Jack has to take on the role of spymaster and work behind-the-scenes, Eli offers to insinuate himself in Philadelphia’s loyalist circles, taking Jack’s place.

As Eli works to uncover traitorous negotiations between a high-ranking American officer and the British, he cozies up to British spymaster John Andre. Jack doesn’t like Eli putting himself at risk, nor does he like seeing him fawning over a beautiful, charming man.

As the chances of the American army surviving the winter decline, tensions mount between Jack and Eli, threatening to tear them apart. They will have to rely on their love and trust for one another to make it through these harrowing months.

My Review:
Major Jack West never thought his most important role in the Continental army would be as General Washington’s newest spymaster. He’s been out in Philadelphia nearly the whole winter, gathering intelligence that can be passed to his command at Valley Forge, but the winter is only more bitter without his love, fellow spy and book seller, Eli Ashfield. They had met in the summer when Jack recuperated an injury in New York through the acquaintance of Mrs. Constance Stephens–a presumed Loyalist but actual Revolutionary spy.

Constance and Eli have bided their time in New York, but the British army has moved on, and their ability to make useful inquests has dried up. Eli had been in the confidence of a new British spy, John Andre, and is eager to push on to Philadelphia where he could continue his surveillance…and meet up with Jack. Jack isn’t best pleased to see Eli and Constance out in Philadephia–he’d been grateful they were out of the line of fire–but he can’t resist their skills as spies, or Eli’s charms. Both men had known they might not make it past the war, and they make the most of their opportunities.

Naturally, Jack is frustrated to be the handler for Eli, and even more so when they both recognize that Andre has more than a passing interest in Eli. Expect jealousy to rage, and Jack to suffer greatly in silence. Tempers run hot and cold, and the game is very much stacked against both them. Adnre is wily, and unscrupulous. He’s brash and a formidable match against Eli, who is remaining monogamous to Jack–a first for the confirmed hedonist. Circumstances are not in Eli’s favor when Jack discovers what he thinks are traitorous communiques from Eli, and it looks as if Andre has succeeded in seducing Eli.

Expect it to get complicated, and the bonds of love to stretch to the breaking point. Jack knows Eli is his soul-mate, and will gladly sacrifice himself to keep Eli safe. Good thing they still have allies who are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty, and with honor. This one is a whirlwind, at times, with deception a constant. The love between Eli and Jack continues to grow, even as absence and the threat of death are nearly commonplace for them. I’m still loving these books, and look forward to more harrowing adventures.

Interested? You can find OF HOPE AND ANGUISH on Goodreads and Amazon.

Also, REVOLUTIONARY TEMPTATION is on sale for $.99. Pick it up on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a backlist book from Silvia Violet.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Silvia Violet writes fun, sexy stories that will leave you smiling and satisfied. She has a thing for characters who are in need of comfort and enjoys helping them surrender to love even when they doubt it exists. Silvia’s stories include sizzling contemporaries, paranormals, and historicals. When she needs a break from listening to the voices in her head, she spends time baking, taking long walks, curling up with her favorite books, and spending time with her family.

Catch up with Sylvia on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or sign up for her Newsletter.
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Starting Over: COUNT THE SHELLS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m wrapping up the spotlight on historical reads with a review for a recently published M/M historical romance from Charlie Cochrane. COUNT THE SHELLS is a bittersweet story of a WWI veteran coming to terms with his losses, and finding new love unexpectedly.

About the book:
Michael Gray returned from World War One injured, but at least he returned. Others were not so fortunate, including his first and greatest love, Thomas Carter-Clemence, with whom Michael had parted bitterly before the conflict began.

Broch, the Carter-Clemence home in Porthkennack, was an integral part of pre-war holidays for the Grays, the two families drawn together in the wake of their sons’ friendship. Returning to the once-beloved Cornish coast for a break with his sister and her family, Michael has to find the courage to face old memories . . . and dare new relationships.

When Thomas’s brother Harry makes an unexpected appearance, Michael is surprised to find himself deeply attracted to Harry for his own sake. But as their relationship heats up, it unearths startling revelations and bitter truths. Michael must decide whether Harry is the answer to his prayers or the last straw to break an old soldier’s back.

My Review:
Michael Gray has had precisely five lovers in his short life, and he’s outlived them all. This is the time just after the Great War, and Michael is still plagued by memories of combat in Flanders and France. He’s come to holiday on the Cornish coast, with his sister’s family. There he relishes long days by the seaside with his young nephew, Richard, and pondering why he survived when all his lovers perished in the war times. His most dear memories are of Thomas Carter-Clemence, his first and only true love, and he’s anguished that they parted on bad terms, never having made up the fight that caused their rift.

While out walking with Richard when motorbike nearly hits them. Michale’s rocked to his core when he confronts the driver and feels as if he’s seeing Thomas’ ghost. Not far from the mark, Thoma’s younger brother, Harry, has taken possession of the family estate, Broch, and is happy to establish their previous friendship; their families were close, and Harry, four years younger, always wanted to tag along with Thomas and Michael on their adventures. As Thomas and Michael were spending their alone time in fast and furious sex, the annoying little brother was often brushed aside, but now he’s eager to establish an acquaintance.

Invitations are made for luncheons and visits, and Michael struggles to reconcile the guilt he feels over losing Thomas to the attraction he feels for Harry–and attraction that seems more than returned. As the days pass, Harry reveals his secret crush on Michael, from their childhood days, and more…secrets. And, Michael reveals his own secret surrounding his “friendship” with Thomas. Both men are astounded and hurt by the new information, and it causes a great deal of tension in their lives, not just their budding relationship.

I really loved the setting and characters in this one. I could see the old world charm, and feel Michael and Harry’s pain regarding their service, because Harry was in the naval service during the war, too. The issues that drive them apart aren’t discussed in malice, neither man expects the other didn’t already know. And that’s a pickle, indeed. It turns out the deepest secrets of their families aren’t actual secrets after all–that the main players already have the information they need, but aren’t sharing it with others openly. Still, it’s awkward, and tense. Michael and Harry seem to make the best of the difficult situation, recognizing that the past cann’t be changed and life is fleeting. If nothing else, Michael’s sixth lover may be his last. At least, if Harry has his way. Expect maudlin moments, and steamy encounters. Michael has a wry sense of humor and he and Harry engage in some rather fun banter laced with cricket innuendoes that made me smirk. The resolution is as good as one could expect, given the family skeletons that get aired out, but I’d expect that Harry and Michael find their new lives very much more satisfying than before.

Interested? You can find COUNT THE SHELLS on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I read a review copy through NetGalley.

About the Author:
Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, series, and the contemporary Best Corpse for the Job. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Samhain, Riptide and Bold Strokes, among others.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.

Catch up with Charlie on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Out Today! Dangerous Times for THE STATION–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today, I’m sharing a review for a new historical M/M romance from author Keira Andrews. THE STATION takes us back to England in the early 1800s when buggery was a crime punishable by death. Why, then, would a young gentleman incriminate himself to spare the life of his accused stable master? I have loved other period pieces by Ms. Andrew’s including KIDNAPPED BY THE PIRATE as well as more contemporary (A FORBIDDEN RUMSPRINGA) and even paranormal (KICK AT THE DARKNESS) titles.

Scroll down to read my review and enter to win a backlist book for Keira Andrews in the giveaway!
About the book:
Ever since Cambridge-bound Colin Lancaster spied on stable master Patrick Callahan mastering another man, he’s longed for Patrick to do the same to him. When Patrick is caught with his pants down and threatened with death for his crime, Colin speaks up in his defense and confesses his own sinful nature. They’re soon banished to the faraway prison colony of Australia.

Patrick never asked for Colin’s help, and now he’s stuck with the pampered fool. While it’s true that being transported to Australia is a far cry from the luxury Colin is accustomed to, he’s determined to make the best of it and prove himself. Although Patrick learned long ago that love is a fairy tale, he’s inexorably drawn to sweet, optimistic Colin.

From the miserable depths of a prison ship to the vast, untamed Australian outback, Colin and Patrick must rely on each other. Danger lurks everywhere, and when they unexpectedly get the chance to escape to a new life as cowboys, they’ll need each other more than ever.

This historical gay romance from Keira Andrews features an age difference, an eager virgin, hurt/comfort, and of course a happy ending.

How about a little taste?

Waiting only a moment after knocking, Colin’s mother, Elizabeth, entered his room. Colin glanced over from the window seat. He’d been watching Patrick in the meadow exercising the young colt born several days before. “Yes, Mother?”

Elizabeth was forty-two and quite beautiful, with a regal nose and posture and the same thick, chestnut brown hair as Colin. “You haven’t bathed yet? Guests will be arriving within the hour.”

“I was about to, if you’d leave me to my privacy.”

When he wasn’t studying or walking the grounds, Colin whiled away the hours sitting by his window reading novels of thrilling adventures in faraway lands. Sometimes Patrick would appear in the meadow, training the horses. Colin’s book would lie forgotten on his lap as he watched Patrick at work. He seemed as if he belonged in one of the fictional tales Colin devoured. Colin could easily imagine him with sword in hand.

“Of course, dear. I had Charles press your jacket. It’s hanging there.” She pointed across the room, where, sure enough, his formal wear waited. “Katherine was partial to that one, if I do recall.”

Colin couldn’t hold back a sigh. “Yes.”

“Darling, you gave up on Katherine far too easily. Tonight will be another chance for you to win her hand. You’re quite a catch, you know. Off to Cambridge soon. Katherine will want to ensnare you now.”

“Mother, Katherine Crawford has turned her favor elsewhere. She’s moved on.” So had he. Most definitely.

Elizabeth’s pretty face pinched into a frown. “It’s an honor that the Crawfords are attending this evening. You will be on your best behavior. I don’t know what exactly you did to ruin things with Katherine, but tonight you will do your utmost to undo it.”

“Yes, Mother.” He would attempt no such thing, but Colin had learned years before that arguing with his parents got him nowhere. Soon he’d be at Cambridge and he would be able to make his own decisions. Soon he’d have a new life.

Mollified, Elizabeth closed the door behind her. Flopping down on his bed, Colin thought of Katherine and cringed. It wasn’t until a most ill-fated outing with Katherine Crawford several months ago that Colin had admitted to himself that his interest in Patrick was far from intellectual.

Katherine was a beauty, all glossy blonde hair and moist, pink lips. For some reason Colin couldn’t fathom, she had shown an interest in him at a holiday gathering down the road. The courting had begun soon thereafter, with Colin escorting Katherine on various activities. Unlike William, who railed against the inconveniences of chaperones, Colin was grateful for the matrons’ presence.

He liked Katherine well enough. She was intelligent and kind and pleasing to look at. But Colin knew something was missing. Katherine didn’t set his blood on fire, and he rarely thought of her when she was absent.

The absences were as long as Colin could manage while still maintaining the guise of courting. He was a perfect gentleman at all times with Katherine, which he found a simple feat. William and his school chums all needled him in private and made winking suggestions of what was actually going on between him and Katherine, and Colin let them believe what they wanted.

The Lancasters and Crawfords had both been guests at a country estate for an Easter celebration. Colin’s sister, Rebecca, was delighted. On the ride over, she had chattered constantly about the beautiful Katherine and how she might one day be her sister-in-law. Colin loved his sister dearly but wished she’d find a new interest.

Colin had been fast asleep the first night at the country estate when Katherine crept into his room. Despite his protests about the impropriety, she’d insisted he dress and accompany her for a moonlight stroll. He hadn’t really a choice.

It went badly.

Despite Katherine’s obvious beauty and heaving bosom, Colin had remained utterly uninterested. He’d tried. Truly, he did. Under a large willow tree, Colin had kissed Katherine and caressed her soft skin under her skirt, her hand firm on his wrist, guiding him. He had been unable to get excited, and when she’d reached for him to find him flaccid, Katherine Crawford had had quite enough.

She’d stomped back to her room and avoided Colin for the remainder of the weekend. Colin could hardly meet anyone’s eyes. His family had obviously required an explanation, and he’d had none.

When they returned home after a torturous journey, Colin had jumped from the carriage, eager to be away from his inquiring parents and sister, who’d demanded to know how Colin had made such a mess of things. Colin had almost barreled straight into Patrick, who had come to take the horses. At the sight of him, his lean muscles, his maleness, Colin had been struck with the vivid memories of what he’d witnessed in the stable that day long ago. He had to bite his tongue to stop himself from begging Patrick to take him into some dark corner and have his way with him.

That was what he wanted. He would never want the Katherine Crawfords of the world. No matter how beautiful, how rich, how ideal for a wife. Colin wanted a man. Oh, God, did he want a man.

Can I be of assistance?” Patrick had affected a guileless expression, and Colin had realized he’d been staring dumbly.

Awkward and ready to crawl out of his own skin, Colin had mumbled something and hurried off. All the denials he’d repeated to himself had finally been silenced. He’d locked himself in his room, took himself in hand, and, muffling his face in a pillow as he thought of Patrick, attained the most satisfying release he’d experienced since that day at sixteen years old, hiding in the stable.

Remembering now, Colin stroked himself quickly, careful not to muss himself too much before the party. He thought of Patrick, of his Gaelic lullaby and of his grunts as he’d penetrated the man in the stable years before. As he rubbed himself with one hand, legs spread, Colin caressed his lips with his fingertips, imagining what it would be like to be kissed—really kissed. He didn’t even know if men kissed each other, but he would like to try it.

Sometime later, Colin straightened his navy tie and vest under his dark jacket and peered into the full-length mirror in the corner of his bedroom. His large eyes were a deep brown that matched his hair, and his jaw was narrow. His nose was straight and unremarkable. Katherine had once told him that his smile turned her knees to jelly and his eyes were bottomless pools she could stare into for eternity.

Colin doubted it, somehow.

He decided he looked as presentable as he was able to and went to join the party. Naturally, the first person he saw was Katherine. Dressed to the nines in an ornate, yellow, bell-shaped gown and looking lovely, she was laughing gaily at something William had said. Her hand was placed just so on his arm, and Colin saw the flash of her eyes as she spotted him. She laughed again, even louder.

Colin felt like laughing himself. If she only knew. Before he could do anything, Rebecca towed him into the drawing room, her voice low and urgent, grip firm. “Honestly, I don’t know what William is thinking. You mustn’t pay them any mind, Colin. Are you very upset?” Her pretty face, very much like their mother’s, creased with worry.

Shaking his head, Colin kissed his dear sister’s cheek. “I won’t give it another thought. William is welcome to her. Perhaps Father will take some solace if the family is connected to the Crawfords in the end.”

Rebecca, fourteen and very dramatic, hugged him tightly. “Oh, Colin. You’re ever so brave.”

Biting back his mirth, Colin thanked her and pointed her toward her newly arriving friends from down the road. He made his rounds of the soiree, shaking hands and making polite conversation. Dinner was served, and Colin listened to a neighbor tell him about what a wonderful time he’d have at Cambridge. Colin hoped it would be true. The one thing dampening his excitement about finally getting away from home was that he’d also be leaving Patrick behind.

As he spooned his custard, Colin brooded. He knew it was deeply foolish, since the strange affection and desire he had for Patrick was certainly one-sided. He’d only been a child when they were friends. Even if by some miracle Patrick desired him now that he was grown, would Colin really have the nerve to lie with another man? His trousers tightened at the notion, and he was glad for the napkin across his lap.

After dinner, Colin endured the ladies’ singing and gentlemen’s card games. Unable to shake Patrick from his mind as the night wore on, he found himself walking to the stable, unable to stay away. He was almost there when a cry came up. A man burst out from the large wooden doors and fled across the meadow, barely visible in the darkness. In the lantern light from the stable, Patrick tumbled outside, followed by two men Colin recognized as shopkeepers in the next county. Brothers named Harris, he thought.

Colin realized he was running and skidded to a halt just as one of the brothers landed a vicious kick to Patrick’s ribs. “Stop!” Colin shoved the man aside. Blood already streamed from Patrick’s nose and mouth.

The man ignored Colin as if he were naught but a fly, and kicked Patrick again. “Unnatural piece of filth!”

Several other guests who heard the melee drew near. The other Harris brother called out to them. “We need the inspector. A crime’s been committed here.”

“What crime?” Colin demanded.

The man spit at the ground where Patrick lay beaten. “Buggery.”

The world tilted on its axis, and Colin’s stomach churned. He realized Patrick’s breeches were loose, and that the man he’d seen fleeing must have been…

Suddenly Colin’s father was there. In the lantern light, Colin could see the rage on his father’s face, and it chilled him. Edward was short and stout, yet an imposing presence. He issued a terse command to the Harris brothers to follow him and bring Patrick.

Patrick was dragged around the back of the manor house, a growing number of curious guests following. Several women were told to go back to the party, and the servants watched with wide eyes as the brothers hauled Patrick through the kitchen. Inside Edward’s study, a group of men gathered. Patrick was deposited on his knees in the middle of the room as Colin crowded inside with the others. They were soon joined by Colin’s mother.

“What’s going on?” she hissed to her husband. “There are whispers everywhere.”

Edward barely spared her a glance. “This is no place for a woman. An ungodly crime has been committed. Go see to the other guests and tell them everything is fine. We don’t want this getting out.”

“I’m not going anywhere. Tell me what’s happened!” Elizabeth’s cheeks flamed.

The man who’d kicked Patrick spoke. “My wife is feeling ill, so my brother and I went to the stable to ask for our carriage to be brought round.”

“Ill? Not from the food?” Elizabeth appeared horrified.

“For God’s sake, woman, forget the food!” A vein in Edward’s temple throbbed, and Colin feared his father might explode with rage.

“Where’s the other one?” Colin glanced behind him, surprised to hear William’s voice. Apparently the whispers were indeed spreading.

One of the Harris brothers answered. “Gone. I think it was the Nelsons’ carriage driver. Quick bastard, we couldn’t catch him. This one was still tangled up in his breeches. Caught him dead to rights.”

“No need to get the courts involved. Take him out back and hang him from his bollocks,” said one of the other guests.

There was a murmur of agreement, and Edward seemed to seriously be considering it. Colin’s panic increased exponentially as the tension simmered. Many of those present had long been into their cups, and a reckless air swirled through the room. He looked to Patrick, who knelt silently, blood dripping down his face, his hands now bound behind his back. Colin hadn’t seen who restrained him.

“Kill him,” agreed one of the Harrises. To Patrick, he said, “Wouldn’t you rather be put out of your misery now than rot in a jail cell knowing you’re going to the gallows? We’d be doing you a favor.”

The murmur of assent grew frighteningly loud. “Should have expected it from an Irishman,” someone shouted.

“Hang ’im! Save the courts some time and money.” The bookkeeper from the local village reached for Patrick, attempting to haul him to his feet as other men cried their agreement.

“No!” When all eyes turned to him, Colin realized he’d spoken aloud. “No. You can’t kill him.” He thought of that day six years before, when Patrick had raced after him and plucked him from the fleeing stallion. His heart hammered as it had that day.

Edward’s eyes narrowed. “Colin, the punishment for buggery is death. It’s what he deserves. This man—if you can call an animal a man—is a degenerate criminal.”

“Then so am I!”

Silence gripped the room in an instant, as if everyone held their breath collectively. Elizabeth went pale. “Colin, you have no idea what you’re saying.” She pulled his arm, urging him toward the door. “I’m sorry, everyone; he’s had far too much brandy this evening. He isn’t himself.”

Colin yanked his arm away. “No, Mother. I know what I’m saying.” He swallowed, his throat dry and thick. “I am myself.” Perhaps for the first time.

A shocked William spoke up, his eyes wide. “Colin, this is madness!”

Edward simply stared, stunned into silence for the first time in Colin’s memory. Elizabeth pulled at him again, but Colin shook free. “If you will kill this man for his crime, then you’ll have to kill me too. Shall you take me outside and string me up?”

“What in God’s name are you doing?” Patrick spoke for the first time, and all eyes turned to where he knelt. He stared at Colin with dazed astonishment.

The sound of Patrick’s voice seemed to spur Edward out of his daze. Edward turned a murderous gaze on Patrick. “If you’ve laid a finger on my son, I swear—”

“I’d sooner bed a horse,” Patrick sneered.

“And probably has!” a voice called out.

Colin felt a ridiculous stab of pain at Patrick’s words.

Patrick went on. “Sir, your son is clearly not in his right mind.”

William’s father, John, a lawyer, spoke next. He was tall and distinguished, the opposite of his brother, Edward. He seemed to be the only calm person left in the room. “Colin, are you saying you’ve committed acts of buggery?”

“Yes.” Even if it wasn’t true, Colin couldn’t let them kill Patrick. At least not tonight, not if he could help it.

Elizabeth shrieked and collapsed into a chair. “Oh, my son. What have you done? It can’t be true!”

“I’m sorry, Mother. They’ll have to kill us both.”

“Don’t listen to him! For God’s sake!” Patrick tried to stand but was shoved back down by Edward, whose face flamed with rage.

John spoke up. “No one’s killing anyone.” He turned to the Harris brothers. “Did you witness the act?”

One of them laughed tersely. “Didn’t have to. They heard us coming, and the other one was off and running. But we saw and heard enough to know what was going on.”

John pondered this, and everyone waited. He seemed to have quietly taken control of the proceedings, for which Colin was grateful. He hoped Patrick wouldn’t be harmed any further for the moment.

“No concrete evidence. None in regards to Colin either,” John said after a lengthy pause.

“Because it’s not true!” Elizabeth cried.

John ignored her and turned to Edward. “I have some friends in the magistrate’s office who should be able to help. I’ll go speak to George Crawford and get him on our side. But too many people have heard Colin’s confession. Something must be done.”

Edward nodded grimly, not looking at Colin. He pointed to Patrick. “We’ll keep this one locked in the pantry for the night. Colin will be in his room with a guard placed outside. William, take him upstairs.”

The shock of his actions slowly settling in, Colin didn’t resist as William led him away. They opened the door to the study to find the hallway crowded with party guests. Katherine was among them, her delicate face transformed into a hard mask. “Fiend!” She dashed down the hall, weeping.

Accusing eyes glared from all sides, and William led Colin to the servants’ back stairway, sparing him the spectacle of being marched up the grand staircase. In his room, Colin tried to speak. “Will, I…”

William raised a hand. “Don’t.” He shook his head sadly, his expression deeply wounded. “I don’t understand. I’ve always thought of you as a dear friend. A brother. Now I feel I’ve never known you at all.” He turned his back, closing the door behind him. A moment later, Colin heard the key turn in the lock, and his life as he knew it was over.

My Review:
Colin is the only son of a wealthy gentleman, growing up in England in the early 1800s. He knows he’s different from the other boys his age, including his strapping cousin Will, who is allowed to go to school with the local lads, while Colin must be kept home for private lessons with his tutor. He hates formal education, and struggles to endure the challenges, but his father will make a Cambridge man of him, yet. Colin’s also aware he shares a shameful secret with the stable master, Patrick, because he witnessed Patrick buggering a man int eh stable years ago, and it’s the single most arousing image of his youth. He’d been friendly with Patrick at the time, helping with the horses care and riding for hours on his own horse, but it’s left him with a terrifying crush and a need for space so he doesn’t reveal his unnatural attraction.

As things go, Colin’s family hosts a grand party and Patrick is discovered in the act of coupling with a guest’s coachman. The guests clamor to hang Patrick on the spot, and Colin won’t let this injustice go unspoken. When he can’t dissuade his father, he jumps full stop into the melee confessing that he himself (well maybe not yet physically but in his heart!) is also guilty of the crime. This confession cools the mob mentality, even as Patrick denies Colin’s assertions. Still, the blood fever breaks and Colin finds himself and Patrick transported to Australia as part of a prison work gang. The voyage is long and awful, and many don’t survive. Patrick doesn’t want to be indebted to Colin for saving his life, only to sent to the wilds of Australia, but they reach a rapprochement, with Patrick offering Colin some physical attention, for all his troubles. They do survive the typhoid epidemic, and disembark to learn they’ve been selected for a work program that will take them deep into the heart of the continent–as work men for a woman who is setting up her cattle ranch. Her husband didn’t survive the journey, but the plans were laid, and she can’t turn back. Patrick and Colin were chosen because the guards knew they’d not trouble the widow for sex…

Along the two month cattle run, Colin and Patrick turn to each other for comfort, but Patrick won’t let himself fall in love again, even as Colin’s head over heels for his first and only love. The widow, and their guide, are meant to be jailers, but they aren’t and they aren’t upset by Colin and Patrick’s private affairs; they expected to be at first, but knowing them as men, and seeing they aren’t depraved goes a long way to building relationships.

I really enjoyed the adventure of this novel. It felt so authentic to the emotion and situation of the time. Colin is a boy of pure heart, who only wants to be loved honestly.Patrick is a jaded man who’s been hurt before, and doens’t expect to have more than a passing acquaintance and mutual satisfaction. He puts Colin off time and again, but really does love him. The secondary characters are interesting, and the different settings: provincial England, the wide Atlantic, the barren outback of Australia, are unique and engaging. Colin is a reliable narrator and his desire for love is right out on the page. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough by the end, as cattle rustlers move in to make new trouble. I’d read on if a sequel comes out, for sure.

Interested? You can find THE STATION on Goodreads and Amazon (US and UK).

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a backlist book from Keira Andrews.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Keira AndrewsAbout the Author:
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

You can catch up with Keira on her website, Facebook, twitter, and Goodreads.

Now Available! THE FORTUNE HUNTER-Review and Giveaway!

Hi there, and welcome to 2018! I’ve been enjoying a “human holiday” and digital disconnect for much of the holidays with my kids. But, now I’m back, and eager to share some more books with all of you. Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new historical M/M romance from Bonnie Dee. THE FORTUNE HUNTER features a Great War veteran trying to make his fortune by marriage, and finding true love by mistake…with his fiance’s cousin. I really liked THE SHEPHERD AND THE SOLICITOR, so I couldn’t wait to step back in time once again.

Drop down and catch an excerpt and be sure to enter the book giveaway too!
About the book:
A man with nothing finds everything.
Abandoned at birth, WWI veteran Hal Stanton faces bleak employment prospects in post-war London. Desperation spurs him to reinvent himself to hook a wealthy wife, one he will be devoted to even if he feels no real passion. But when he meets his fiance’s cousin, Julian Needham, it’s all he can do to keep his heart in check and his eye on the prize.

From the moment he’s introduced to the charming stranger Margaret plans to marry, Julian suspects the man’s motives yet fights a relentless attraction. He’s determined to reveal Hal as a fraud but must handle the matter delicately to protect his sweet cousin’s feelings. A weekend at the family estate should allow time and opportunity for him to expose Halstead Wiley.

Even as the men match wits in a battle of attempted unmasking, powerful sexual attraction threatens to overcome them both and win the day. Can a true love connection possibly grow between these adversaries without destroying lives and loved ones?

How about a healthy tidbit?

Drawing up in front of the Needham house on the curved driveway, Hal felt as if he ought to be arriving in a carriage and four rather than Margaret’s Daimler motorcar. The sprawling limestone house was a convoluted collection of roof peaks, turrets, and wings added on over the years. It looked like a castle, proclaiming nobility dwelt within and an outsider like him would never belong.

Hal didn’t resent the upper class their wealth, power, and prestige. He merely wanted to become one of them. Was that so awful? A friend had once come to Hal’s flat begging a sanctuary to spend a night or two. The stay had turned into something more like two months. But Hal certainly understood that desire to lay down the burden of constant struggle to survive and find a quiet, comfortable resting spot.

Margaret would be his safe place, and he would be hers, making certain she never wanted for companionship. In return, he’d have a nice house, good food, and a fine wardrobe. He would guard her fortune as if it were his own, spending wisely and increasing it shrewdly. He wouldn’t be a burden but a life companion in an easygoing, if chaste, arrangement.

He got out of the passenger side of the car, and Margaret came around to join him. “What do you think? The house may appear grand, but don’t let the battlements fool you. Inside, it’s quite shabby. Despite a respectable family name, my aunt and uncle aren’t wealthy by any means.”

Hal tucked her hand through the loop of his arm. “I’m not nervous. I’m quite ready to meet them and explain why I’ve fallen in love with their one-of-a-kind niece. This must have been a wonderful place to grow up with all those nooks and crannies to explore.”

“It truly was. Mother and I could have afforded to stay in our own home after Father died. But I’m so glad we came to live with Aunt Agnes and Uncle Harold; otherwise, I never would’ve had brothers like Julian and James.” She frowned. “After nearly two years, I still have trouble thinking of James in the past tense.”

Hal recalled James had survived France but died in the influenza epidemic almost immediately upon his return home. He put an arm around Margaret and hugged her. “You must miss him terribly.”

“His passing has been difficult for me but nearly killed my aunt and uncle. They’re still mourning. And Julian…” She shook her head.

“Misses his brother and perhaps blames himself for being alive,” Hal guessed. “I understand that feeling, having lost many comrades at the front.”

Margaret stopped at the doorstep and turned to him, eyes shining. “You survived because God had more for you to do in this life. He brought you to me, for which I am ever grateful.”

Hal hated himself just a little more at her declaration. When he’d begun this plan, he’d imagined landing a wealthy older widow who knew the score and didn’t mind so long as she had a handsome young husband to show off to her friends like a trophy. But then he’d met Margaret. He’d been so taken with her blend of sweetness and assertiveness that it had seemed possible to make a sham marriage work. Now he was stuck with the plan he’d devised.

The door opened before they knocked. A stooped older man with a paunch swelling his waistcoat greeted them. “Welcome home, Miss Margaret.”

“Hello, Grover. You’re looking very dapper today. I’m so glad to be back. I’ve missed home these past months. May I present my fiancé, Mr. Halstead Wiley.”

The butler bowed. “Good day, sir. Welcome to Barton Park.”

Hal almost returned the bow, then recalled his proper standing and nodded politely instead. “I’m happy to be here.”

Grover escorted them to the drawing room, where Mr. and Mrs. Needham and Julian were already gathered. Hal assessed the room before following Margaret inside. Pale blue walls and rug offered a sense of tranquility and the room was not overly cluttered. The dark, heavy pieces of furniture from an older century didn’t fit the pale color palette that suggested a more chic, modern décor.

Margaret’s aunt and uncle rose to greet him. The outdated style of Mrs. Needham’s gown didn’t detract from her aura of grace and refinement as she offered her hand. “Mr. Wiley, we’re pleased you could come. Darling Margaret is the daughter we never had, and we were eager to meet the man she’s chosen.”

“Quite so,” Mr. Needham said.

Hal wasn’t certain if he was meant to shake Mrs. Needham’s hand or kiss it. The customs of the gentry weren’t familiar to him. He gave a polite press before letting go, then turned to offer a hearty shake to Mr. Needham. “The pleasure is mine. Your niece is a prize.”

“Yes, she is.” Mr. Needham gave Hal an assessing look with gray eyes very much like his son’s.

Hal scanned the rest of the room to find Julian standing near the window. Sunlight burnished his brown hair with golden highlights. His well-cut profile with its straight nose and strong jawline was haloed in light. When he turned his stern gaze toward Hal, a little hum of anticipation awoke within him.

Hal squelched this reaction to a man he considered an adversary. Needham had invited him here to poke holes in his story, so he must be on guard every moment not to give himself away. If this wedding were to be called off, he’d be jobless and desperate again. One would expect work to be plentiful in the aftermath of the Great War with so few veterans returning, but the economy was in shambles. Odd jobs were all Hal had been able to find, spurring him to his mad scheme to land a wealthy woman.

He offered a bright smile. “Good to see you again, Mr. Needham.”

As much as it wasn’t, it actually was. Needham intrigued Hal, not only his physical demeanor but his affectionate manner with Margaret and his magnetic presence. Had they met under other circumstances, he and Julian might have been friends—or probably something more than friends, for Hal guessed “confirmed bachelor” Julian shared his attraction to men.

Hal dragged his thoughts away from the sorts of activities they might have gotten up to in another time and place, as he sat beside his betrothed on a sofa. “You have a lovely home,” he complimented his hosts. “Its history must be fascinating.”

“Thank you,” Mrs. Needham said. “Barton Park was built in 1640 and belonged to several families before the Needhams took possession.”

Her husband added dryly, “You may learn the entire history on every second Wednesday of the month, when the house is open. I daresay the tour guide is more educated on both the history and the architecture than we are.”

“Tours?” Julian abandoned his spot by the window to stride across the room with long-legged grace. “When did this begin?”

“Surely I mentioned this in one of my letters. A company that arranges tours approached us this past summer,” Mrs. Needham explained. “At first, your father refused to speak with their representative, but when we learned other owners of other estates were allowing tours, we decided to give it a go. It’s a respectable way to share one’s heritage and is little trouble at all. Thus far, the tourists, both domestic and foreign, have been orderly and respectful.”

“Not at all annoying having strangers troop through one’s home,” Mr. Needham continued in his sub-Saharan tone. “And you’d know about this if you paid the least attention to what your mother writes, or if you came for a visit every so often.”

Julian stood before his parents, scowling. “You did not mention this in any of your letters. I’d no idea you’d reached such a…” He glanced at Hal and seemed to reconsider airing his family’s financial business. “That you were considering such a thing.”

“It has become quite common these days for historical houses to be on display,” Mrs. Needham pointed out. “As you’ve said, times are changing.”

“More’s the pity,” the elder Needham growled.

Hal sat very still, wishing he were someplace else and not witnessing this family argument. He’d had no idea the Needhams were in such difficult straits until today. Apparently, their children hadn’t either. Surely Margaret would want to offer financial help, which would cut into the inheritance from her father’s side. He was a horrible person to immediately consider how the Needham family’s misfortune might affect him and his plans.

“Honestly, I think it’s rather brilliant to open the house to tours.” Margaret smoothed the folds of her modish knee-length dress. “Tourists enjoy seeing grand houses from a former century. The building should earn its maintenance at the very least. But if you require more financial assistance, please let me know. I want to do my part for the family.”

Julian Needham quickly added, “I can offer help as well. My investments are doing well enough.”

“We’re not quite destitute, although apparently our home has become a museum artifact to be gawked at by strangers,” Mr. Needham said.

“Thank you, my dears, for your generous thought. But such a discussion is most inappropriate at this celebratory occasion.” Mrs. Needham turned her attention to Hal. “Tell us how you two met.”

“We were both browsing at a bookstore. I shared a recommendation with Hal, and we talked for hours. You can see how that conversation ended.” Margaret turned her beaming smile on Hal. “Or never ended, for we always find something to discuss.”

“I was taken with Margaret from the moment we met. She manages to be both imaginative and levelheaded at the same time. One doesn’t let a quality woman like Margaret slip away.”

“Your family approves the arrangement?” Mr. Needham probed.

Hal seized a quick breath before plunging into his embroidered history. He hadn’t tried to pretend to Margaret that he came from any sort of gentility, instead inventing middle-class parents of modest means.

“My parents have passed, and I have no extended family. But I’m certain both Father and Mother would have welcomed Margaret with open arms.”

“Tell us about your parents,” Needham senior pushed.

“My father owned several shipping concerns. But in one year, a freighter was lost at sea and another seized by pirates. This put a great strain on his fortune and took a toll on his health.” Hal patted his chest, indicating possible heart failure or a broken heart. Let them decide which. “He passed away within a year, and my dear mother followed soon after. I believe she couldn’t face life without him.”

Mrs. Needham gave a soft murmur, and Margaret reached to pat Hal’s hand. He bowed his head, hoping he wasn’t overdoing the drama.

“Were you left penniless then?” Julian’s tone was cool and less than sympathetic.

“Julian!” Mrs. Needham exclaimed at his shocking ill manners.

“It’s all right, Mrs. Needham. It is quite reasonable to wonder about the stranger your niece has brought home. I should have followed custom and asked permission for her hand.” Hal offered an apologetic smile, then continued trying to reassure them he had nothing to hide.

“I invested the small inheritance I received and have increased it over the years, so I live quite comfortably. I won’t pretend to be more than I am. I come from a middle-class background, and I’m in love with a woman who is clearly above me. But I care for Margaret very much.”

The last part at least was true. Hal took her hand, gazed into her eyes, and prayed his selfish intentions could be forgiven.

Margaret smiled. “As I care for you.”

Julian made a small sound that might have signaled either acceptance or disgust.

Hal darted a sharp glance at him.

“It’s a lovely afternoon. I should like to take you on a tour of the land before supper,” Margaret said.

“Perfect weather for an invigorating walk,” Hal agreed and blessed her for freeing him from the relentless questioning.

“I’ll go with you.” Julian had not taken a seat during the entire conversation, and now he started for the door. “I should like to see how the farms are doing.”

They bid their elders goodbye and entered the hallway. Margaret excused herself to change into proper attire.

Hal had brought no walking shoes and lingered awkwardly with Julian, who scanned him up and down.

“You’ll want a pair of Wellingtons. The fields and woods are muddy. And a drover’s coat to cover this fine wool.” He fingered the lapel of Hal’s jacket, tailored for a gentleman and discovered by Hal in a secondhand store.

Julian stood so near, Hal felt the heat of his body and inhaled the scent of his shaving lotion. Did Julian mean to be intimidating? Probably, because he stared at Hal with the assessing eyes of judge, jury, and executioner.

When Julian at last stepped back, Hal took a deep breath. Unfortunately, the man wasn’t only a barrier to breach, he also unleashed attraction such as Hal hadn’t felt in a long time. Perhaps Julian sensed his desire and was baiting him to make an impulsive move.

But Hal wouldn’t reveal himself so foolishly. Nothing could come between him and the quiet, calm, comfortable life he craved. He must convince this doubting Thomas before he derailed Hal’s matrimonial plan.

My Review:
Hal Stanton was an orphan who ran away from the orphanage, where he and his fellows were essentially workhouse slaves, to join the British forces in the Great War back in 1916. It’s now the early 1920s. The war is passed and Hal survived both that and the great influenza epidemic. He has a good education, gained on his own devices, and served several gentlemen as a personal…attendant? Well, not what polite company would call it. And, he’s not willing to continue in that line, because it’s not very stable. So, he’s decided to pose as a merchant-class man down on his fortune, assuming the name of Halstead Wiley and a fabricated history, in order to land a war widow, or spinster of good standing. He isn’t inclined to women but is willing to be a faithful, if chaste, companion. And that is how he comes to make the acquaintance of Margaret Needham.

Margaret is a suffragette with strong ideas about woman’s autonomy. She was raised by her aunt and uncle, but has her own fortune left from her father. Margaret is also rather plain, and a spinster at 28 years old. Shunned by eligible gentlemen, she’d nearly given up on finding a suitor, but Hal seems to suit. He’s willing to let Margaret have her own life, championing women’s issues, and is even willing to help build her fortune using his skills as an investor. All he must do is convince Margaret’s aunt, uncle and cousin, Julian, that he’s a honest man who loves her dearly.

Julian, suspicious and unwilling to let Margaret be shamed or spoiled, invites Halstead to their family home to meet his parents over a long weekend. Which, naturally, turns into far longer what with Julian and Margaret recognizing that Julian’s parents are having trouble maintaining their estate. Julian welcomes the extra time, because he want’s his solicitor to finish investigating this upstart Wiley. That, and he’s noticing that Hal seems to share his own shameful inclination toward men.

I liked this one. It’s a slow burn with interesting twists. Hal really is a decent guy, despite his subterfuge. He has a deep affection for the idea of family, even if he’s sure he won’t be able to manage much physical love with Margaret. That said, he loves being in the country with Margaret’s extended family, and is excited to make a strong friendship with Julian–except for that pesky attraction. The feelings are returned, on Julian’s side. It’s an uncomfortable visit for Julian, and not only because he recognizes the way he’s closed himself off from his family over the last several years. He almost wants to allow Margaret to marry Hal, just so he can have a friendly companion. But, he can’t betray his family any further. Julian has a lot of guilt over the way he’s neglected his duties–duties that were supposed to be taken by his elder brother, James, who survived the war only to die from influenza. James was Julian and Margaret’s hero, and Julian never felt he could live up to the family’s expectations–especially being queer, er, a “confirmed bachelor”…

The romance isn’t overt at first, and the story plays out over the extended weekend, and longer as their visit extends, and then Margaret makes choices that alter Hal’s fortunes yet again. When Hal and Julian meet again, they have the ability to make a new life together in a way that will keep them both happy for years to come. It’s a happy ending in the best way possible for the time period.

Interested? You can find THE FORTUNE HUNTER on Goodreads and Amazon (US and UK). I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a backlist book by Bonnie Dee.

Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Authors:
Bonnie Dee began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, she was the designated ghost tale teller. She still has a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat.

Writing childish stories for her own pleasure led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, she dreamed of writing a novel, but at that time in her life didn’t have the necessary focus and follow through. Then life happened. A husband and children occupied the next twenty years and it was only in 2000 that she began writing again.

Bonnie enjoys dabbling in many genres. You can find her online on her website, twitter and Facebook.