Review: The Master of Strathburn


Title: The Master of Strathburn
Author: Amy Rose Bennett
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: May 2017
Length: 260 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

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

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

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

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my review

Jessie Munroe has had a fall from nobility. For years her uncle ruthlessly whiled away the family fortune while her father tried to save it. Despite the delays, the day came when they were homeless. Her father has accepted a position at Lochrose Castle. Jessie takes a liking to the elderly Earl of Strathburn, although his wife and half-son, Simon, are not cut from the same cloth. They are snobbish and devious. The Earl pines for his long-lost son, Robert, who took part in the Jacobite uprising. With a price on his head, a near fatal injury, and his brother hounding the Dragoons to steal him away to the gaol, Robert was secreted away to a ship and never seen again. 

After a decade during which he is presumed dead, word makes it halfway ’round the world of the troubles of his father and the estate. Robert plots to return to have a clandestine meeting with his father. He is a different man now and is pained by the lives lost following him into battle. He regrets his hot-headed ways, but fears there is no redemption for a man like him. After all, he is a wanted man. The castle is filled with caring, helpful servants who understand the bounds of their duties and follow the Earl at all cost. It is how Robert escaped with his life, and it is why hiding out in the Highlands, awaiting the right moment, Jessie flees the castle to protect herself against the wretched and lecherous Simon Grant. He is an ugly, vengeful, borderline demented young man. He will not let Jessie, his Jezebel, get away. He hunts her to the ends of the earth, which is how she winds up with a foot injury traipsing to the Earl’s abandoned hunting lodge. Her plan is to get to the nearby coach station and travel to a relative’s home for safety.

The castle is filled with caring, helpful servants who understand the bounds of their duties and follow the Earl at all cost. It is how Robert escaped with his life, and it is why hiding out in the Highlands, awaiting the right moment, Jessie flees the castle to protect herself against the wretched and lecherous Simon Grant. He is an ugly, vengeful, borderline demented, young man. He will not let Jessie, his Jezebel, get away. He hunts her to the ends of the earth, which is how she winds up with a foot injury traipsing to the Earl’s abandoned hunting lodge. She plans to get to the nearby coach station and travel to a relative’s home for safety.

Her plan is quickly foiled when she awakens to a searing pain in her arm, and soon a strange man presiding over her. While transported here and there, she quickly gathers he is not quite who he says he is. To protect her virtue, she fictionalizes an engagement to Simon. Beautiful as a siren Jessie may be, but anything attached to Simon is tainted in Robert’s eyes. As Jessie helps Robert accomplish his task of reuniting, Robert promises to help her escape.

Once inside the castle, all bets are off. A series of unfortunate events occur, leading Robert and Jessie down an entirely different path while they both struggle with the unquestionable attraction to one another and their desire to protect each other.

Despite her moments of indecision and innocence, Jessie is a strong, determined young woman. She uses her quick wit and intelligence to get out of a scrape or two, and Robert’s warrior instinct vows to shield her. He has grown since that young man he was, and is a stark contrast to his villainous brother, Simon. He and his mother play large parts in moving the plot onward,  and it is utterly despicable. The gooseflesh will rise on your arms. I wanted to wrap Jessie up in bubble wrap and hide her away somewhere.

I loved the Earl. He is wise beyond his semi-senile appearance. The servants served as a supporting cast of characters and were an asset to the family name. Heart and loyalty abound within the walls of Lochrose Castle, and it was wonderful to see all of these individuals cheering Robert on from the sidelines.

I thought the ending would lead into another book, and I was disappointed that there was an epilogue, considering the events that had just transpired. In the writing world, it was the easy way out to slither out of truly unfolding that final event. I could have done without the epilogue entirely in exchange for a well-crafted chapter that brings all the pieces to a proper ending.


Amy Rose Bennett has always wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. An avid reader with a particular love for historical romance, it seemed only natural to write stories in her favorite genre. She has a passion for creating emotion-packed—and sometimes a little racy—stories set in the Georgian and Regency periods. Of course, her strong-willed heroines and rakish heroes always find their happily ever after.

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Audiobook Review: The Hiding Place


Title: The Hiding Place
Author: Corrie ten Boom, John Sherill, Elizabeth Sherill Dunne
Publisher: Bantam Books
Release Date: October 1974
Length: 242 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Christian

At one time Corrie ten Boom would have laughed at the idea that there would ever be a story to tell. For the first fifty years of her life nothing at all out of the ordinary had ever happened to her. She was an old-maid watchmaker living contentedly with her spinster sister and their elderly father in the tiny Dutch house over their shop. Their uneventful days, as regulated as their own watches, revolved around their abiding love for one another. However, with the Nazi invasion and occupation of Holland, a story did ensue.

Corrie ten Boom and her family became leaders in the Dutch Underground, hiding Jewish people in their home in a specially built room and aiding their escape from the Nazis. For their help, all but Corrie found death in a concentration camp. The Hiding Place is their story.

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my review

The Narration

**Unabridged Audiobook

Narrated By: Bernadette Dunn
Release Date: July 2009
Length: 9 hrs and 22 mins

The narration was beautiful. It was easy to follow and Dunn has a pleasing voice with a slightly husky tone.

Corrie ten Boom lives in Holland with her elderly father and spinster sister. Corrie herself is approaching 50, and all three of the ten Booms are watchmakers, working in the family store. They are kind and compassionate people with their lives steeped in their strong faith, which are the foundations of their life.

When the war breaks out, they soon find their Jewish friends in desperate need. The ten Booms do all in their power to assist them. They have a secret room in their house constructed to conceal a hiding space. They get connected with others out in the countryside to funnel Jews through and away from their oppression and imminent arrest. Soon the ten Boom’s storefront becomes Grand Central Station of the Underground in Holland. Not only do the ten Booms board and care for their friends, and soon complete strangers, they also find them safe passage, send messages on their behalf, obtain new identity papers for them, and set them up with ration books for when they are on their own in the future. Through their hard work and efforts smuggling Jews out of the country and Nazi occupation, the ten Booms save over 800 Jewish men, women, and children.

They stick their necks out, make their home a safe haven, and risk everything. Eventually, they are betrayed, and the ten Booms wind up in prison for a few months. She is separated from her father and her sister Betsy. Later she is transferred to the Vught Concentration Camp, and finally, lands in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. She also falls quite ill during her imprisonment.

This is a recounting of Corrie’s of her days during the war. It is written decades afterward with the assistance of John and Elizabeth Sherrill. Corrie’s entrenchment in faith in the Lord is what she testifies her strength, deliverance, and life upon. It is a moving and heartfelt story. Despite the highly religious tones, it wasn’t preachy. However, I did listen to Corrie’s accounts with a grain of salt. While this is her first-hand accounting, it is 20 some-odd years later and written with the aid of two individuals not present at the time. Further, the logic of the book is that all of Corrie’s courage and bravery and strength are only gifts from God, which are later taken back and she is left without any strength of character. In times of great fear is when we falter and find it an insurmountable mountain to scrounge up strength, courage, or bravery. I don’t believe Corrie ever had hers “gifted” by God, but simply gave in to the natural depths of humanity.

A read everyone should share in, Corrie’s story of faith, forgiveness, humility, and loyalty are hallmarks the world is needing today.


Born: April 15, 1892 in Amsterdam
Died: April 15, 1983

Corrie ten Boom and her family were Christians who were active in social work in their home town of Haarlem, the Netherlands. During the Nazi occupation, they chose to act out their faith through peaceful resistance to the Nazis by active participation in the Dutch underground. They were hiding, feeding and transporting Jews and underground members hunted by the Gestapo out of the country. It is estimated they were able to save the lives of 800 Jews, in addition to protecting underground workers.

On Feb. 28, 1944, they were betrayed and Corrie and several relatives were arrested. The four Jews and two underground workers in the house at the time of the arrest were not located by the Nazis and were extricated by the underground 47 hours after they fled to the tiny hiding place (located in Corrie’s room).

The ten Boom family members were separated and transferred to concentration camps. Corrie was allowed to stay with her precious sister, Betsy. Corrie’s father (Casper), her sister (Betsy) and one grandchild (Kik) perished. Corrie was released in December of 1944.

These acts of heroism and sacrifice became the foundation for Corrie ten Boom’s global writing and speaking career which began after she was released.

Ten Boom has received numerous awards for her writing and speaking. Notably, she was honored by the State of Israel for her work in aid of the Jewish people by being invited to plant a tree in the famous Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, near Jerusalem. She was also knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands in recognition of her work during the war, and a museum in the Dutch city of Haarlem is dedicated to her and her family.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite 

Review: Blue Like Elvis


Title: Blue Like Elvis
Author: Diane Moody
Publisher: Green Darner Press
Release Date: March 2012
Length: 370 pages
Series?: Moody Blue #2
Genre: Historical, Christian, Romance

Do you remember where you were the day Elvis died?
I do. I know exactly where I was.
I was there.

In the spring of 1977, Shelby Colter moved back to Memphis, Tennessee hoping to make a fresh start after breaking off her engagement. Working as a patient representative hostess at Baptist Memorial Hospital–the world’s largest private hospital–she’s thrilled with her new job, assisting patients with their non-medical needs. She has to laugh at her colorful co-workers who constantly chat about Elvis-sightings. After all, Baptist Memorial was “Elvis’s hospital.”

Shelby hits the ground running, taking care of her patients, getting to know her new friends, and bumping into . . . Dr. Tucker Thompson? Who knew that annoying kid who used to hang out with her big brother was now a resident at Baptist Memorial Hospital? Little Chubby Tucker–a compassionate, handsome doctor?

As the summer rolls along, three people she loves face life-threatening situations, drawing Shelby back to her faith. And then one night, in a hospital prayer room, she pours out her heart to a most unexpected visitor . . .

Blue Like Elvis is loosely based on the author’s real-life experiences while working at Baptist Memorial Hospital in the summer of 1977. While most of the novel is fiction, the setting of Shelby’s adventures are based on the author’s memories of those days in Memphis leading up to that unforgettable day . . . the day Elvis died

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my review

The Skinny

After graduating college, Shelby moves back to Memphis to start over after breaking off her engagement. It’s the summer of 1977 and her college roommate helps her land a job at Baptist Memorial Hospital as a “hostess.” The hostess team operates similarly to stewardesses. They attend to non-medical needs of the patients by visiting them, running errands, and anything else the patients may need. Shelby is particularly good at what she does and has a few constant patients whose stories impact her greatly.

The thing about BMH is that is the world’s largest private hospital. It is also Elvis’s hospital, Shelby soon learns. Whenever needed, Elvis takes over the 16th floor for one of his two-week “stays.” Shelby has had a few sightings of Elvis, but it isn’t until she grasps that he is in her hospital that she takes a particular interest in him, even sneaking her patient friend Donnie to see him, ending in a hilarous and heart-beating episode.

Her coworkers on the hostess team are young, Christian girls who like to chatter and flounder when the boss isn’t around. They are an interesting mix and fun-loving and playful. The contrast to their setting didn’t go unnoticed, and when Dr. Tucker Thompson takes an interest in striking a frienship with Shelby, there is nothing but talk. And confusion. This is Chubby Tucker – her brother’s best friend and boy from her childhood that picked on her. He was annoying and obnoxious. Now he’s handsome and kind. As all the girls try to push Shelby into a match, she must work things out on her own, take things slow, and focus on her faith.


The Players

Shelby Colter – a young girl fresh out of college; hired by Baptist Memorial Hospital as a “hostess”

Tucker Thompson – the chubby kid who was friend to Shelby’s brother; he is now a doctor at BMH


Sandra Garcia – the feisty Puerto Rican in the hostess program with Shelby; they become friends and roommates

The Quote

 “That shy little girl I had to coax to sit on my knee? That was you?” His smile grew bigger.

The Highs and Lows

  • The Plot. The story is told as a flashback of memories. It opens with a young man seeking out the elderly Shelby to research the hostess program that was at Baptist Memorial Hospital, the largest private hospital in the world at its time. The hostess program worked very similar to attending stewardesses at the time. The young man wants to implement a similar program at his own hospital and gets swept up in Shelby’s stories that he wants to hear them all. Her past and Elvis’s final day unfold.
  • Elvis. You don’t have to be an Elvis fan to enjoy this story. I happen to be one thanks to the love my grandmother had for him. Growing up, when a certain aunt and uncle would come to visit, they would bring her an Elvis record. Elvis brought a change to the music industry and was an insane success. While the book never directly speaks to drug use, it only hints to that being rumors and what people said, and disregarded it as factual, but several times pointed out that Baptist Memorial was “Elvis’s hospital” for his “stays” to get back right with the world, like it is a retreat and not a hospital.  Elvis appeared a few times throughout the book, and I loved the way he would talk to the other characters. He wasn’t a big star, he was another person. It only increased my wish that I could have met Elvis, but that was another lifetime. Shelby really didn’t get the big Elvis draw, despite meeting him as a child and her father being “Cadillac Jack,” Elvis’s Caddy dealer. After working at the hospital for a time, she becomes interested in Elvis. His costumes to hide in plain sight were slightly comical, especially the final one toward the end.
  • Christian Overtones. I have made it a point before that I don’t read pushy religious material. While this is a very conscientious Christian book, it didn’t feel pushy. It just felt right for Shelby and her friends. Seeing the shaken foundation and the strength of their faith was rewarding and reassuring. The Singles Club is a group of young professionals at the church that host get-togethers and fellowship. There are some comedic moments with Pedro the Yellow Headed Amazon, the Killer Bs who are socially awkward, hit on all the girls, and have a spectacular fireworks display.
  • Quick and Fun. This is such a quick read. The writing immersed me in the stories Shelby told and I felt like I was there. The retelling of her memories was sweet, sentimental, funny, but they didn’t leave out the bad, either. It wasn’t a rose-colored glasses retelling, and I appreciated that.
  • Heavy. I won’t say it’s light. When Shelby comes up against some trials, they test her trust. This is how she first meets the Reverand. Later this is how she first meets a man wearing a turquoise bracelet in a hospital prayer room. It is none other than Elvis, and they are both there to pray for the same man. They share an incredible few moments wrapped in love and faith, and Elvis leaves a memento for Shelby. Shelby’s brother also finally comes home from Vietnam. He is not the same despite what he shows to his family. His behavior breaks her trust in Tucker, who only tries to help.
  • The Ending. This was such a twist! Even when retelling, the young man doesn’t believe Shelby’s story of her 10-year anniversary trip to Hawaii. It isn’t until she shows him a stack of Christmas cards that he believes the unimaginable. The ending gave me hope that perhaps something like that did happen and no one is the wiser.


Born in Texas and raised in Oklahoma, Diane Hale Moody is a graduate of Oklahoma State University. She lives with her husband Ken in the rolling hills just outside of Nashville. They are the proud parents of two grown and extraordinary children, Hannah and Ben.

Just after moving to Tennessee in 1999, Diane felt the tug of a long-neglected passion to write again. Since then, she’s written a column for her local newspaper, feature articles for various magazines and curriculum, and several novels with a dozen more stories eagerly vying for her attention.

When she’s not reading or writing, Diane enjoys an eclectic taste in music and movies, great coffee, the company of good friends, and the adoration of a peculiar little pooch named Darby.

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Review: The Unwanted Heiress


Title: The Unwanted Heiress
Author: Amy Corwin
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: July 2013
Length: 328 pages
Series?: The Archer Family #1
Genre: Historical Romance

An American heiress nobody wants; a Duke every woman is after, and a murder no one expects. 

When Nathaniel, Duke of Peckham, meets Charlotte, he’s suspicious of her indifference. Too many women have sought—and failed—to catch him. However, Charlotte is more interested in dead pharaohs than English dukes.

Unfortunately, a debutante seeking to entrap Nathaniel gets murdered, and his reputation as a misogynist makes him a suspect. On impulse, Charlotte comes to his aid, not realizing that her actions may place her in danger, too.

Both are unaware that a highwayman interested in rich heiresses is following Charlotte, and that another debutante lies dead in Nathaniel’s carriage.

Some nights just don’t go as planned.

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my review

The Skinny

Charlotte Haywood is an unfortunate American in England. She has bounced from relative to relative who have cast her off, waiting until she is of age to take control of her inheritance and properties. She is extremely intelligent, a bluestocking, and she is outlandishly out of place in England as a tall, red-headed woman who stands out and above the crowd. She is passed over time and time again. It is a lonely, dejected life of misery for Charlotte, knowing her relatives don’t want her – despite her wealth. Her guardian, Westover, uses her heiress and wealth factor to use as ante in a card game, and when John Archer wins the pot with all aces (despite his nephew holding an ace in his hand). When Charlotte arrives, she is sure she will be sent away.

John Archer and his wife are an adorable couple, but he seems to have a little meddling on his hands when it comes to his nephew, Nathaniel, who recently came into a dukedom. They hatch some incredible schemes together. The Duke has so many women throwing themselves at him, hiding in his bedchamber or coach, that he is at risk for being roped into an unwanted marriage. He is dodging and hiding out from women. Then debutantes start dropping like flies around the Duke – and a murderer is on the loose.


The Players

Miss Charlotte Haywood – an American colonial heiress who requires a guardian until she is of-age

Lord Nathaniel Archer – the Duke of Peckham, recently inherited; Archer’s nephew

John Archer – Nathaniel’s uncle; aka Archer

Lady Victoria Archer – John’s husband


The Quote

“Then let me clarify my position, Your Grace. I would rather get down on my hands and knees and scrub the floors for eternity in Hades than marry you.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Charlotte. Poor girl. Her physical characteristics make her off-putting and overlooked in London society. She is a tall woman with red hair. Not what a man is seeking in a darling debutante. She is a bluestocking and wants to pursue an Egyptian excavation – not just fund it, either. She wants to be on site! Charlotte is a woman out of depth in her time, but she is extremely wealthy. Unfortunately for her in London society, she’s an American colonial heiress. It’s a blackmark against her already, in addition to her features and intelligence. The stark contrast only furthers the notion of how alone Charlotte is in the world as an orphan. She has been booted from family member to family member as her guardians until the time comes when she is eligible to take hold of her inheritance.
  • The Archers. The couple is adorable! They obviously love one another, and wife is looking out for her husband. I could see why with some of his hair-brained schemes! Archer has a gambling problem and apparently cheats at cards, so it brings into question the state of the Archer finances if he has to resort to cheating.
  • The Winnings. Charlotte’s current guardian has had enough of her, so he includes her in his ante. He will be rid of her and her disreputable antics and someone else will be left to manage her property and finances. While her wealth seems like a coup, her manners will have Londoners seeing red. The Archers gain Charlotte by “winning” a game of cards. Unexpected, but they are determined she not find out how she came under their guardianship. It would be humiliating and devastating. Not to mention they’re not even related.
  • The Murders. London ladies start popping up expired in the most unusual circumstances – and the Duke of Peckham is always around. He is a self-proclaimed misogynist and hates women. He has not interested in marrying, despite the dozens of women throwing themselves at him, hiding in his bedchamber to compromise her, forcing a marriage. When the first woman is found dead in the gardens, there are a few who staunchly point fingers at the Duke and continue to do so when the second lady is found murdered in his own coach. While the murders themselves are gruesome and sad, there was something odd about them. As I said, it seemed only a finger pointing game. One individual kept dogging Scotland Yard and the scandal sheets, who didn’t seem to have any real evidence besides witness testimonies and hearsay. There didn’t seem to be much of a true investigation, but I suppose they were different in the days of nobility. The Duke repeatedly commented that SY would not dare arrest a duke. Once was enough, but the repetition only brought out the disconnect he had with the gravity of the murders and highlighted how his sudden dukedom had gone to his head. It didn’t seem anyone was really taking the murdered women seriously aside from their families. The murders do motivate the Duke to become engaged, though. If he’s engaged, he can’t be a misogynist and therefore not the murderer.
  • Lady Beatrice. When Charlotte was sent to boarding school, she met Lady Beatrice, who was the ugliest person ever. She makes a wonderful villain. She is evil to her core, stamping a footman’s hand into broken glass, and as a child throwing ice water out the window onto Charlotte in the freezing cold. She has her sights set on the Duke and has an unnatural hatred for Charlotte.
  • Downfall. After doing his job as guardian, Archer discovers some major discrepancies with Charlotte’s inheritance and colonial property. What was once a lucrative inheritance and holdings, over the years gross oversight and impropriety and sticky fingers have left Charlotte with only a third or so of what her inheritance and holdings were. It is a devastating blow that cripples her dreams of an Egyptian archaeological dig. She is also kidnapped and held for ransom. After it is all over, it seemed very staged – as the investigator thought as well. Where she was held was very interesting. That idea backfired and had the opposite result of what was desired.

I found this to be an odd mix of character and plot lines. It seemed like things were off to a good start and then the tracks were secretly switched. Things started spiraling in too many directions at times. I thought Charlotte’s character was unique and fresh. Her feeling of displacement is a little heartbreaking. I’d want to go on an Egyptian dig, too! Nathaniel, on the other hand, was a narcissistic snob. An eligible duke is always going to garner more attention than the lower gentry, but I found it highly out of place that young women of the ton would be hiding in his bedroom. Perhaps once it could happen with a brazen and bold lady, but not every night. There were some inconsistencies that caused a bit of confusion as I read, and I would have liked to have seen the kidnapping more fleshed out. Archer intrigued me, though. He could have his own book! I can’t imagine what else he could get up to without supervision.



Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and recently joined Mystery Writers of America. She has been writing for the last ten years and managing a career as an enterprise systems administrator in the computer industry. She writes Regencies/historicals, mysteries, and contemporary paranormals. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Never Trust a Pirate


Title: Never Trust a Pirate
Author: Valerie Bowman
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: May 2017
Length: 309 pages
Series?: Playful Brides #7
Genre: Historical Romance

The rules of engagement were never so scandalous. . .

A rumored pirate and the scurrilous black sheep of his well-to- do family, Cade Cavendish relishes his world of rebellion, deception, and seduction. Nothing and no one can hold him to be the duty-bound, honorable man he is expected to be. But when an unexpected run-in at his twin brother’s estate with a ravishing, raven-haired maid leads her to believe he’s actually a viscount, Cade’s renegade life is thrown wildly off-kilter. And even though a case of mistaken identity can be quickly set to rights, matters of the heart are quite different…

Miss Danielle LaCrosse is startled to learn that the handsome gentleman who radiates sin and has the devil in his eyes is not her employer the Viscount, but rather his infamous brother. A former heiress, orphaned and left penniless, Danielle has more than a few secrets of her own. Cade may be skilled at coaxing even the most hidden desires out of Danielle but can he earn her trust–and win her heart–as they embark on an adventure to confront a dangerous enemy from both of their pasts . . . and uncover the identity of the so-called Black Fox along the way?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon


my review

The Skinny

Frenchwoman Danielle feels out of her element entirely as she undergoes her last undercover mission. After this, she’ll be able to purchase a cottage by the sea and care for her mother until her final days. But first she must successfully infiltrate the Cavendish home as Lady Daphne’s new lady’s maid. Danielle’s a spy, she doesn’t know how to coif women’s hair! Let alone the latest fashions. After a crash course, she is sent on her way.

What Danielle didn’t expect in her new position was incredible kindness and friendship from Daphne Cavendish and her husband, a former spy himself. The stakes are high, and it tears Daphne to deceive them. When a drunken Rafe makes improper advances upon Daphne, she’s in a terrible position…until she learns it is not Rafe at all. It is his twin brother Cade, long thought dead even by Rafe.

Cade’s return to London is no coincidence. And neither is the Black Fox’s. While living under Rafe’s roof, it is crucial that Cade keep the true facts of his mission to himself. He can’t have Rafe suspecting anything is awry, but after reappearing in London using an alias, there are a lot of questions.


The Players

Danielle LaCrosse – a Frenchwoman working as a spy for General Grimaldi; she is determined to provide for her continuing ailing mother

Rafe Cavendish – a former spy for the War Office, now know as the Viscount Spy

Lady Daphne – Rafe’s wife; she is a kind and friendly woman

Cade Cavendish – a rakish rogue thought long-dead; he returns to London on personal mission

General Mark Grimaldi – the tall, broad, dark giant of a man with secrets; an English General; Danielle’s boss

The Quote

If it was the last thing Cade did, he would avenge his brother’s treatment at the hands of the French. But he’d die before admitting that purpose to Rafe. Cade’s role as the black sheep of the family was important to him. Mustn’t disrupt the natural order of things.

The Highs and Lows

  • Espionage. Rafe Cavendish was a spy for the War Office. He was the white sheep of their family, and was awarded a viscount title, dubbed the “Viscount Spy.” While he was doing everything to charm the ton, his twin brother Cade was doing everything to earn a disgraceful reputation. While Rafe has retired after a bungled mission that nearly took his life – and did take Daphne’s brother’s – Cade wonders if he really is done. While Cade suspects Rafe, he also fears Rafe suspects he is the notorious Black Fox. Whenever Cade comes into town, it appears so does the Black Fox. This time he has struck a French vessel in the harbor and stolen incriminating documents for Napoleon’s rescue from St. Helena. Cade has come back to England for a reason, and it raises suspicions with General Grimaldi.
  • Danielle. She is a Frenchwoman in English territory. Even though it has been a few years, there is still a vein of deep-seated hatred in some. When her French father was murdered, her English mother was condemned and imprisoned in England. Now she is old, ailing, and very ill and Danielle is a woman wanting revenge. Whereas she should have been making a debut to society, Danielle could not afford that luxury. She is desperately in need for consistent income to provide for her ailing mother. At age 13, Danielle was on her own. She was an enterprising smuggler and now a spy. Her home is on a ship, but her new mission lands her as a new lady’s maid to Lady Daphne Cavendish. This should be the last mission she needs to take before being able to purchase the cottage by the sea for her mother. Despite having no experience in the lady’s maid field, she is trained by the best of lady’s maids and impresses Lady Daphne. Danielle strives to do the best of jobs above and beyond Lady Daphne’s satisfaction. She is very confident in her personal capabilities, but it is soon realized she does not have her own network of supports. It has been her forever. When Daphne and Rafe and their household show her kindness, she is surprised by the offers of help. Friendship is new territory for her.
  • Cade. He has set his cover up well to be known as a disreputable rogue. He is the black sheep, letting his brother lead the way doing everything right. Like his brother, Cade is a man of his own. Unlike his brother, he still has secrets. Depending on what part of town he is in depends on which alias he uses. Cade does not want to raise Rafe surmising suspicions about what he has been up to over the years when he shocked Rafe by showing up the previous year at a townhouse party and introducing himself as Daffin Oakleaf. Rafe – like everyone – had thought him dead! Cade is back for one reason and he is not cluing his brother in. In fact, he wants his brother to never know even the barest hint of anything. He – like Grim and Danielle – is lying in wait for Lafayette Baptiste.
  • Secrets Revealed. Danielle and Cade are thrown together under the same roof, and while Danielle is trying to keep everything above board for her job’s sake, Cade has a different agenda. Slowly each of them reveals their own vulnerabilities and secrets to one another. It is a spicy and sweet build up. The dance in the moonlight was such a tender and sweet moment. Cade has long suffered under the guise of being the black sheep, stemming from his inability to protect his mother growing up. Danielle has dedicated everything to her mother and her care. Their quips and small talks help develop their
  • The Trail. With all three trailing Baptiste, Danielle is assigned a new mission. To be a cook’s assistant on board a ship keeping tabs on Baptiste. Little does she know whose ship it is. Well underway, she is brought to the captain’s quarters – and comes face to face with none other than Cade Cavendish. Their mission takes on a new element and keeps them ensconced in the captain’s quarters for several days. There is a steamy tub scene!

The pirate and espionage factors heightened my interest and the suspense threaded throughout that kept me wondering how and when the two subplots of Danielle and Cade would cross. They both shoulder burdens from their pasts, and despite how they appear, they both want the adoring love and support that Rafe and Daphne have for one another. Ultimately, these spies want someone constant and stable in their lives they can trust. Who better than another spy? The irony of Rafe and Cade being identical twins yet having drastically different reputations was a stark contrast, but after delving deeper Cade’s aliases were as make-believe as his black sheep persona. They are both honorable, upstanding men. I found Cade’s ability to truly see Danielle beyond a lady’s maid to be a testament to his true character. The fact that both Danielle and Cade are notorious spies in their own rights only made things that much more interesting with the plot line. I was waiting until one found the other out! The quick pace of the storyline kept me turning pages.



Valerie Bowman is an award-winning author who writes Regency-set historical romance novels aka Racy Regency Romps!

Valerie’s debut novel was published in 2012. Since then, her books have received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus. She’s been an RT Reviewers’ Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance and Best Historical Romance Love and Laughter. Two of her books have been nominated for the Kirkus Prize for fiction.

Valerie grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English Language and Literature with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her rascally dogs. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS.

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Review: Duke with Benefits


Title: Duke with Benefits
Author: Manda Collins
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: June 2017
Length: 320 pages
Series?: Studies in Scandal #2
Genre: Historical Romance


Lady Daphne Forsyth is a brilliant mathematician with a burning passion for puzzles. When she learns that the library belonging to her benefactress houses the legendary Cameron Cipher―an encrypted message that, once solved, holds the key to great riches―Daphne is on the case. Unfortunately, her race to unlock the cipher’s code is continually thwarted by a deliciously handsome distraction she hadn’t counted on. . .and cannot resist.

Dalton Beauchamp, the Duke of Maitland, is curious as to why Daphne is spending so much time snooping around his aunt’s bookshelves. He’s even more intrigued by her bold yet calculating manner: She is unapologetic about her secret quest. . .and the fiery attraction that develops between them both. But how can they concentrate on solving a perplexing enigma once the prospect of true love enters the equation?

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my review

The Skinny

Lady Daphne Forsyth is a mathematical genius of her time. She is incredibly intelligent but suffers severely in social situations. She and three other young women were named heirs of Lady Celeste, a woman known in her own right for own scholarly accomplishments. She wanted to leave her extensive library and Beauchamp House to female scholars who would put them to good use. Each lady is intelligent and independent and has their own subject of study. Combined, they are an incredible powerhouse of knowledge. Lady Celest left instructions for the women to reside at Beauchamp House for a year. She also left a letter for each woman.

Daphne’s letter contained a riddle she must work out. Puzzles and codes are one of the things Daphne is the best at. Lady Celest left Daphne to find the notorious Cameron Cipher, which Daphne believes is housed somewhere in the Beauchamp House library. Not only does she need to find the cipher, Daphne needs to solve it. The Cameron Cipher leads to gold the Cameron clan hid after the uprising.

Lady Celeste also encouraged Daphne to use the assistance of her nephew, Dalton Beauchamp, the Duke of Maitland, who is enamored of Daphne upon meeting her. Since Daphne has secrets of her own, she keeps her letter and challenge to herself. When Nigel Sommersby, her childhood tutor’s son, pops up nearby and makes mention of the Cameron Cipher, she must reveal the secret in Lady Celeste’s letter. Everyone at Beauchamp House is willing to help her, but Daphne wants to go it alone…until Sommersby is found dead in the library and someone takes a shot at Daphne there in the dark. Under the suspicion of murder, the Beauchamp House residents are all on the hunt for the murderer and the Cipher.


The Players

Lady Daphne Forsyth

Miss Sophia Hastings – one of the heiresses

Miss Gemma Hastings – one of the heiresses

Miss Ivy Wareham – one of the heiresses; affianced to Lord Kerr

Lady Serena – the chaperone for the ladies; she is Dalton’s sister

Dalton Beauchamp – the Duke of Maitland and Lady Celeste’s nephew

Lord Kerr –  the Marquess of Kerr and Ivy’s fiance

The Quote

 “As it was the first time I’d seen a dead body, sir,” she said with her usual forthrightness, “it was indeed most disturbing. I do not recommend it.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Beauchamp House. Lady Celest, a strong-willed female scholar, is determined to have her heirs follow her wishes. She has selected four young female scholars and left a letter for each of them. For Lady Daphne, hers included the challenge to find and solve the Cameron Cipher. All of the ladies are residing at Beauchamp House, which is rumored to house the cipher. The Cameron Cipher is not only known to Daphne. While she is on the hunt for it, so are others. That is when things begin to go drastically wrong and people from her past start popping up.
  • Daphne’s Background. Daphne is a highly intelligent woman, specifically with numbers and codes. Growing up her father used her abilities for his own gain to cheat at cards in the clubs and at other social events attended by the ton. Her father could not survive without her, so as a young teen, she uses that to her advantage to blackmail him for a tutor. She wanted to learn, she wanted to use her talents to their fullest extent. Given the time period, this was highly unusual for a female. In order to preserve his lifestyle and livelihood by exploiting his daughter, her lowlife father agrees to hire a tutor who can truly teach her and help her further her studies. The tutor brought his son with him.
  • Daphne’s Struggle. Always Daphne has been extremely smart but highly ineffective and awkward in social settings. The niceties and conventions of society are beyond comprehension to Daphne. She doesn’t know why you’d waste time talking about the weather just to be polite. She is never comfortable in social settings and will try to hedge or avoid them if possible. She is very forthright and forthcoming in conversation. Based on what Daphne shares with the other ladies and with Dalton, it is fairly obvious she suffers greatly from anxiety and seems like a classic case of the most high-functioning end of the Asperger’s spectrum. That’s why she propositions Dalton.
  • Dalton. He is an honorable man who has a strong ethical compass. He believes in what is right. Witnessing his father’s treatment of women throughout his life, Dalton chooses to live his life differently. He suddenly becomes protective of Daphne and wants to see her through the events unfolding. He understood and accepted Daphne just as she was, gaining Daphne’s trust. He respected Daphne as a woman, as an intelligent being, and with the anxiety and ineptitude she harbored for social settings.
  • Daphne’s Secret. When Sommersby’s body is found, leading to an investigation, Daphne reveals the secrets contained in her letter from Lady Celeste, but there are more secrets that she has been keeping for years. Ever since Sommersby and his father resided in her home. While the other ladies of the household don’t wish to push Daphne to fully reveal the extent of her shame. She does later reveal it to Dalton. Before the rest of the story comes out, it is just more kindling for the fire of Daphne being investigated for the murder. When Daphne’s wretched father makes a sudden appearance, demanding she return home with him, Dalton steps in and announces their engagement. Even though she is shocked by Dalton’s claim, it has the power to protect her. Never would her father make these ridiculous demands if she were to marry a duke.

The ladies of Beachump House have growing relationships and are darling. They are true friends and supporters, just as Lord Kerr and Dalton are. Together they all help Daphne realize her full potential as an individual and help her grow and learn more about herself. They care for her, trust her, and keep her safe. Daphne has a rich and unique history and as a result, she is a very flawed character. Her anxiety (and Asperger’s IMO) helps explain the consequence of her father’s treatment of her and her fear of people in general. I was fascinated with the treasure hunt for the Cameron Cipher (and the actual treasure, of course), but the death of Sommersby is what ratcheted the plot to a different level with more intensity.



Manda Collins spent her teen years wishing she’d been born a couple of centuries earlier, preferably in the English countryside. Time travel being what it is, she resigned herself to life with electricity and indoor plumbing, and read lots of books. An affinity for books led to a graduate degree in English, followed by another in Librarianship. By day, she works as an academic librarian at a small liberal arts college, where she teaches college students how to navigate the tangled world of academic research. A native of coastal Alabama, Manda lives in the house her mother grew up in with two cats, sometimes a dog, sometimes her sister, and always lots of books.

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Review: My One True Highlander


Title: My One True Highlander
Author: Suzanne Enoch
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: April 2017
Length: 320 pages
Series?: No Ordinary Hero #2
Genre: Historical Romance

Rugged highlander Graeme has one thing on his mind—take a stand against the horrible Englishman Lattimer and he will be rewarded with enough money to be set for life. But when his reckless younger brothers take it one step too far and kidnaps a young woman on her way to see Lattimer, Graeme has to intervene. He cannot send the lady back without his kin getting in trouble. And when a damsel this beautiful is dropped into your lap, it’s hard to let her go…

Marjorie should be terrified she’s been captured by Highland scoundrels, but it’s hard to live in terror when your captor is a devilishly handsome and sinfully tempting as Graeme is. She cannot stay by his side forever—no matter how her heart may pound at the thought—but Graeme seems to have other plans. This wicked Highlander is out to seduce her and doesn’t plan to stop until she’s in his arms…forever…

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my review

The Skinny

No one is more surprised than Marjorie Forrester when her older brother Gabriel, a soldier in the Royal military, is bequeathed a dukedom. Suddenly their whole lives change. Marjorie moves from the life of a servicewoman to the life of a lady in the London ton. Despite her new stature, she is not readily accepted – and if truth be told, not to be accepted at all. It takes it toll on Marjorie, who is also now suffering under the strict and nagging direction of her new lady’s companion, Mrs. Giswell. Hortensia has to set things right and clear her name; her previous charge suffered serious scandal that was irrecoverable. Stained by her failure, she is now determined that nothing shall go slightly astray with Lady Marjorie. When Marjorie receives word that her brother plans to marry soon, Marjorie resolutely decides to leave immediately for Scotland to surprise her brother for his nuptials.

What Marjorie didn’t know when Gabriel became a Duke and she set out on her journey is that she is traipsing around the Highlands right in the midst of a clan war – and her brother is embroiled in it to the hilt. When Lattimer came into the MacKitrrick property (a Maxwell chieftan), all of the tenants sided with the English Lattimer – and against the Maxwell, Duke of Dunncraigh. Thus they lost their presence in the Maxwell clan and claimed Lattimer as Laird MacKittrick, pledging allegiance to him.

When The Maxwell visits Graeme Maxwell, a viscount, it is not a pleasant visit. It is an ultimatum. Fix the Lattimer situation, or be fixed. Graeme is already working toward acquiring funds to build up his own clan, keep things running and keep himself out of Maxwell’s war with Lattimer. Graeme’s younger brothers overhear the threatening conversation and aim to save Garaidh nan Leomhann and their brother. When they discover Lady Marjorie Forrester, the Duke of Lattimer’s sister, traveling nearby, they kidnap her and bring her home to the Lion’s Den. Now Graeme has hell of a mess on his hands, and he only sees one solution to solve all of the potentially life-threatening problems surrounding Lady Marjorie’s presence in his home. Appearances are not as they would appear though. The rugged and rough Highlander has a lot more tenderness and compassion than meets the eye. Not long after being held captive, Marjorie finds

Not long after being held captive, Marjorie finds way to escape…right into the arms of Sir Hamish Paulk, the Maxwell’s lapdog. Explaining her way out of this unpredictable meeting earns Graeme’s trust and respect, but their acquaintance doesn’t end there. Soon Marjorie is also seeing things in a new light under the tenderness of her Highland captor. She must ultimately decide if she wants to spend her life returning to her miserable life in London, or remaining with the loving family in the Highlands.

Soon Marjorie is also seeing things in a new light under the tenderness of her Highland captor. She must ultimately decide if she wants to spend her life returning to her miserable life in London, or remaining with the loving family in the Highlands.


The Players

Lady Marjorie  Forrester – a ladies companion whose brother recently became a duke, skyrocketing her from servicewoman to nobility; now the Duke of Lattimer’s sister; she craves to be accepted by the harsh London society

Gabriel Forrester – Duke of Lattimer; Marjorie’s older brother; he is English (or Sassenach) and a former soldier

Mrs. Hortensia Giswell – Marjorie’s lady’s companion; she’s already had ruin with a previous charge; determined to redeem herself by keeping Marjorie in line

Graeme Maxton- Viscount Maxton; landowner of Garaidh nan Leomhann, also known as the Lion’s Den

Brendan – Graeme’s 16 year old brother; he is very hotheaded and intent on doing things his way

Dughlas – Graeme’s 14 year old brother; he is much more level-headed

Connell – Graeme’s 8 year old brother; often called duckling; sweet and kind

Raibeart Maxton – Graeme’s uncle

Artur Maxwell – aka the Maxwell; Duke of Dunncraigh and clan chief; he is displeased with losing tithes and tenants to the English Duke of Lattimer

Sir Hamish Paulk – The Maxwell’s henchman; a hateful and vengeful man

The Quotes

Marjorie didn’t feel at all triumphant or vindicated, though. She made a show of gathering the sheets around her and standing, anything to avoid his gaze. It didn’t matter a whit if she’d hurt his feelings; she wasn’t the villain of this piece. But it felt like it mattered, liked she’d…cheated or something.

He simply wanted her, and that had nothing to do with what an alliance with her could do for his corner of clan Maxwell. He wanted to know that a lovely duke’s sister desired a near destitute Scottish clan chieftan who mended fences and sheared sheep and delivered calves with his own two damned hands.

The Highs and Lows

  • Pacing. It took a long while for me to become invested in the storyline due to the pacing and some confusion about who was who and relationships in the very beginning with all the clan business. I had to go back and restart this book. For the first quarter or so of the book, it was slow going and I wanted to set it aside, but quickly picked up once Marjorie is kidnapped.
  • Marjorie’s Struggles. Marjorie has been elevated from the capacity of a servicewoman all of a sudden into not only the nobility but the cream of the crop of nobility. Now she’s the sister of a duke. However, her sudden change and elevation in stature do not open doors to the gentry or the London ton. No matter how hard Marjorie tries to be kind and make friends, it is made very clear to hear that she is not wanted. Short of buying friends, Marjorie won’t be accepted in London society. She is miserable, downtrodden, and depressed. Which is why when she learns of her brother’s sudden impending marriage, she immediately makes arrangements to travel to the Highlands.
  • High Stakes Hierarchy. The contention among the Maxton clan is increasing. Tempers are high and time is short. As chieftan, Graeme has more responsibilities on his plate than just his brothers. Graeme is trying to do the upright and honorable thing in two aspects: not killing Lattimer, but also supporting and providing safety for the families residing on his land. By not killing Lattimer, Graeme risks his people starving – and the angry, terroristic wrath of the Maxwell and have a lot more issues to handle and overcome. Or he could be generously rewarded if Lattimer meets an untimely death. The root of The Maxwell’s anger is over the English Gabriel Forrester becoming the Duke of Lattimer and now possessing the clan’s ancestral land. The Maxwell had high hopes of retaining Lattimer’s tenants and also receiving tithes from them for providing protection. It is a significant loss of loyalty and money when Gabriel inherits the duchy.
  • Graeme. He is loyal to a fault and works hard to support his family. He has been the sole caretaker for his brothers since Connell was two days old. For a young man who should have just been going out to start his life, it was unfortunate timing. And unfortunate circumstances followed. Soon he became the Viscount and was responsible for more than just caring, educating and raising three young boys; he now had near a hundred cotters to provide for and protect, as well as the Garaidh nan Leomhann land known as the Lion’s Den.
  • The Plan. Graeme’s brothers overhear the Maxwell and Sir Hamish’s threats, the boys take matters into their own hands. After going into town, they discover the Duke of Lattimer’s sister is traveling. They hatch a plan using Connell to lure her to kidnap her. If Brendan cannot kill the Duke of Lattimer as Graeme specifically outlined, they can hand her off to the Maxwell to use in bringing the Sassenach Lattimer to his knees. They’ll save the day and save the clan! There are just a few problems with their plan, which Graeme points out after they’ve brought Marjorie to their home: she knows their names and the Maxwell could make Graeme ransom Marjorie to her brother, causing either a prison or death sentence for Graeme. Not to mention the fact that Marjorie – an innocent in all of this – would be ruined. Who would marry a woman who had been kidnapped and held hostage in a male-dominated Highlander home? She would be forever ruined and never accepted in Society again. No matter what, Marjorie’s trail would lead back to them and the ramifications could be costly.
  • Graeme’s Idea. As Marjorie points out to Graeme, he has to do something with her. When she dares ask his grand plan, Graeme has been debating with himself over his idea. His plan is simple and it resolves all of the possible ramifications of her kidnapping. He is terrified Marjorie will come to a fatal end in the care of the Maxwell, and he is worried he will meet the same fate at the hands of Lattimer in the vendetta. Graeme is the only person to have interactions with Marjorie, who he locks in a bedroom with boarded windows. After an attempt to call attention to her captivity, Graeme shackles her to the bed. It is during all of their brief and biting meetings that Marjorie discovers a sense of consideration and tenderness from Graeme. It is through their interactions that each begins to feel a measure of compassion – and guilt. Their relationship starts to bloom. When an unfortunate meeting with Raibeart and Sir Hamish occur following Marjorie’s escape, she pretends to be Marjorie Giswell, there to tutor Connell. While a quick cover – someone is not believing it.
  • Connell. At only eight years old, he is indeed a little duckling. I found the endearment cute and fitting. Connell is a curious little kid with a big heart. He is characterized by taking in stray animals, especially orphaned animals because he is also an orphan. The more the merrier. He even tries to hide some from Graeme in his room, and Graeme pretends like he doesn’t know the little zoo exists. His character brought charm and innocence to the story and helped soften some of big brother’s hard edges. He also becomes allies, friends rather, with Marjorie in secret.
  • Marjorie’s Growth. Throughout her stay in Graeme’s household, Marjorie slowly undergoes a transformation. Everything she found harsh and unrefined about her Highland captors she begins to see in a new light. Her journey of self-discovery and realization of her true wants in life were made possible with Graeme’s help. She maintained she wanted to return to London where no one wanted her – and where no one knew even knew she had disappeared. Graeme tries to make his case for his solution by showing that she’s cared for in the Highlands. While it may not be everything she’d dreamed of and what she envisioned for her life, there was happiness in the Highlands.


What set this Highland story apart was the depth and complexity of the plot. The concept of captive falling for captor is nothing new, but the way in which the Graeme and the boys are characterized and treat Marjorie during her stay in the Lion’s Den made this “prisoner of war” story so sweet and lent authenticity to the Highland home and setting. I found Graeme to be an interesting mix of a man, so rough and rugged on the exterior but very logical, loyal, compassionate and kind. Not all qualities one would associate with a Scottish Highlander, so it made his roaring and gentle character that much more delightful. Connell’s sweetness and innocence and Brendan’s flaring temper only add to the element of fear and danger over the current situation between Lattimer and the Maxwell. I enjoyed this well-crafted story and look forward to future books from Enoch.


Suzanne was born in Southern California sometime in the latter half of the 20th century. In the way that some people are born knowing they want to be astronauts or cellists, Suzanne always knew she wanted to be a writer. Early dreams of becoming a zoologist and writing true stories about her adventures in Africa were crushed, however, after she viewed a television special about the world’s most poisonous snakes; she did NOT want to write about how she’d been bitten and lost a limb to a cobra. Thankfully at the same time the movie “Star Wars” premiered, and she realized that she could make up adventures and write about them, and not be eaten by deadly predators while doing research.

She dabbled in romantic fantasy writing for a year or two after graduating with a degree in English from the University of California, Irvine, until her affection for traditional Regency romances led her to write one for fun. After several encouraging rejections from publishers, she snared the interest of the world’s best and most patient literary agent, who advised her to revise the manuscript. This ultimately led to the publication of her first book, The Black Duke’s Prize, from Avon Books in the Spring of 1995.

Suzanne is known for her humorous characters, sexy bad boys, and whip-sharp, witty dialogue. She currently resides in Placentia, California with several hundred guppies and various other tropical fish, and handful of very loud, spinach-loving finches. And her collection of action figures and statues from “Star Wars”, “Lord of the Rings”, “X-Men”, and “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Everybody needs some inspiration, after all.

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