Review: The Christmas Wishing Tree

Title: The Christmas Wishing Tree
Author: Emily March
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: September 2018
Length: 320 pages
Series?: Eternity Springs #15
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

A man who loves adventure and the open sea, Devin Murphy returns for a short Christmas trip to his small hometown of Eternity Springs. Immersed in the joy and magic of the holiday season all around him, he doesn’t hesitate to play along when a young boy phones Santa to ask for a very special wish. Devin never guesses that a wrong number has the potential to make everything in his life so right.

Jenna Stockton adopted Reilly when he needed a mother and she intends to keep him safe. A small town across the country called Eternity Springs seems like a good place to hide from their past without any complications –until sexy Santa himself discovers her secrets. When Devin proposes a daring plan to face down the danger together and defeat it once and for all, she is tempted. Maybe Devin really is capable of making wishes come true? Perhaps in a Christmas wish they’ll both find the miracle they’ve been looking for all along…

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Jenna, a sweet but hard-worked mother, has been plagued by a stalker. And it’s not stopping, despite moves to other states, changed phone numbers, and other precautions.

Her son, though, is also hurting. But in a different way. His most feverent Christmas wish is to get a father for Christmas. After receiving a card at an outing, he calls the number to reach Santa Claus. Devin, from Australia, answers. They have a great little talk, and at that moment I was so endeared by Devin. He does try to get in tough with Reilly’s mom multiple times, but she never returns his calls.

But Reilly keeps calling “Santa”.

Devin is given a phone by the mystical and magical Celeste in Eternity Springs while he’s visiting his family for the holidays. It is the number that Reilly is calling. Devin has his own family struggles, torn between coming home to Eternity Springs where his family is and returning to his life in Australia and his sea-faring ways.

Finally, Devin is able to connect with Jenna. They set up a plan for future phone calls and one final call before he returns to Australia, when the phone will no longer work.

Except the call never comes. The stalker isn’t relenting, and this time law enforcement is involved – and not to assist Jenna.

Jenna and Reilly decide to go “off grid”. They travel the national and state parks and by happenstance wind up in Eternity Springs. It wasn’t the plan. They weren’t going to stay. They weren’t going to connect with anyone. But Eternity Springs is a little bit of a different place, full of loving, welcoming, and helpful characters.

I loved Devin’s character. He has such heart and genuine concern and care for Reilly, a kid he had never met. Reilly is also a little cutie! He and Jenna experience Celeste’s “Wishing Tree” tradition and carry it on for themselves. I loved that part!

This was a great angsty and suspenseful, but feel-good read. I also found out after reading that it was a series, but it reads like a stand alone.

Review: Two Hearts Healing

Title: Two Healing Hearts
Author: Renee Dahlia
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: January 2020
Length: 251 pages
Series?: Merindah Park #3
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Serena Bassett

Home. It’s been a long journey to recovery after the horse racing accident that nearly killed me, and now I’m ready to embrace life. Yes, I have a head injury, but that’s not going to stop me creating a survival list of all the things I was too polite to do before. Number one on the list is to ride again. Also on the list: kiss Lee Edwards, my former boss and hot-as-hell neighbour. Not that I’m going to write that one down where anyone might see it.

Lee Edwards

The last six months have been hell. Not only did one of my horses nearly kill my stable jockey, Serena, but the accident wrecked my friendship with her brother and reminded me that I’m a failure. Just like my father said I’d be. I moved to Australia, the other side of the world, to get away from his negative voice and create a new life as a horse trainer. And now Serena is on my doorstep, demanding to learn to ride again. I can’t do it. I won’t be responsible for hurting her again. So why is it so hard to say no?

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After 6 months in rehab, Serena is finally able to come home. She isn’t out of the woods, yet, though. She is still recovering from a traumatic brain injury sustained while she was riding in a horse race. While the accident has greatly affected her physically and mentally, she has come out stronger. She finds her own footing and makes decisions for herself. For example, her two biggest goals are to ride again and kiss Lee, her boss.

Lee blames himself for Serena’s accident. He’s basically cut all of his friends (ahem, Serena’s family) from his life. He’s never even gone to see Serena.

But she shows up on his doorstep seeking his help in riding again. Lee is drowning in a sea of emotions and has had walls up since Serena started working for him. Slowly, he starts letting those walls down as Serena reveals her own struggles with TBI. It’s almost like Serena has come to depend on Lee in her recovery. Not in a negative, co-dependent way, but in a new friendship, changing relationship, supportive way.

Lee is shrouded in his own black cloak of issues, which is what drove him to Australia and into the horse racing business. His background was interesting, and I would have liked to have seen a little more of him delving into that with Serena beyond just the fact that his dad is a major jerkhole.

What I LOVED about this book is it promotes mental health awareness and therapy. Not in a shove in your face way. In a “hey, that’s a lot you need to unpack” way. I love that Lee takes Serena’s advice and starts going to therapy. He says its for her, but it’s also for him. It does good for them both.

I really liked the connection between Serena and Lee, and the hometown feel of the setting.

Review: Looking for a Cowboy

Title: Looking for a Cowboy
Author: Donna Grant
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 2020
Length: 368 pages
Series?: Heart of Texas #5
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Crime


A beautiful stranger has come to Clearview, asking questions that are nobody’s business. Cooper Owens also wasn’t born yesterday. He knows that this out-of-towner is hiding a dark secret of her own. Much as he knows he should head in the other direction, he can’t make himself turn away. . .

P.I. Marlee Frampton always wanted to lead a nice quiet life, working as a cop in her local police department. But that dream came to an end when her sister was murdered―and her baby kidnapped. Now Marlee’s come to Texas to investigate the Harpers, who may be linked to shady adoption agencies. Cooper can’t believe that his friends could be involved in anything so sinister…and soon he makes it his mission to help Marlee discover the truth―and keep her safe in his arms. 

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WARNING: The cover does not match the story. This is more of a suspense/thriller with tough subject matter. The book contains some hard things to read about: killing, kidnapping, cutting babies from the womb. It gets intense.

Cooper Owens has come to a fork in the road in his life. All of his friends are married and settling down. He hangs out and helps out, but he doesn’t have a true job and he isn’t sure what he wants to do.

Marlee Frampton is a P.I. brought to Clearview on a new case. She is driven, stressed, and deals in danger daily. Marlee is investigating Cooper – and all of his friends in town. She is on the hunt for a kidnapped baby – cut right from the womb of its mother, who was left to die. It is not the first. In fact, it happened to Marlee’s twin ten years ago in California. There has been an increase in this particularly heinous crime, and Marlee’s goal is to reunite families with their taken babies. Her current case revolves around two of Cooper’s friends and their sudden adoption of a 5-day old baby boy. A baby she suspects was cut from the womb and sold in this adoption black market.

Cooper and his gang eventually welcome Marlee in with open arms and become her own entourage. They work together to pull pieces together and investigate new intel.

While they’re busy at work, they’re busy at play, too. Cooper and Marlee have insta-lust. It wasn’t even anything that was striking about each of them that created a spark. It came off as “Hey, you’re hot AF, let’s go do the S.E.X.” Not typical Grant style, and I didn’t like it in her writing. It was a little tough to get on board that there was an actual relationship building, but as all of the various plot lines continued to progress, they develop a friendship as well as a working relationship. Marlee is able to share things about herself and her life (even if Cooper finds out about some of those things from others). I did enjoy seeing these developments.

I had some major beefs with the story, though. There are SO MANY situations Marlee (and Cooper) get into and they don’t have a damn gun! I don’t know any former police officer that doesn’t carry. It’s second-nature. And especially in Marlee’s particular line of work.

I also found quite a bit of the book implausible, but the suspense is what kept me interested in this story. While it is one of the last books in the series and you don’t have to have read any of the previous books, it was a little hard for me to keep up with such a large cast of characters with how fast-paced the book was.

Review: The Inheritance of Lion Hall

Title: The Inheritance of Lion Hall
Author: Corina Bomann
Publisher: Ullstein
Release Date: May 2018
Length: 736 pages
Series?: Löwenhof Saga #1
Genre: Historical Fiction


Sweden, 1913. Having petitioned the court for independence from her aristocratic family, the young and vibrant Agneta Lejongård takes control of her destiny. In Stockholm, she explores her bohemian passions in art and free love, joins the suffragette movement with her best friend, and defiantly resists the expectations of women in high society. Then comes news of a tragic accident and an urgent summons to return to the family’s manor house in the country. As for Agneta’s forward path in life, she must now follow it back home.

Though the grand horse-breeding estate of Lion Hall stirs some warm memories, what lies ahead tests Agneta’s independent spirit: a disapproving mother locked in the traditions of a woman’s proper place, two men vying for Agneta’s heart, and a twist of fate that upends her life once again. Torn between a daughter’s duty and the freedom she pines for, Agneta struggles not only to rebuild her future, but also to protect the future of Lion Hall itself. Forging a new path brings challenges, rewards, and a true purpose that she never could have imagined. 

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When I first started reading, everything seemed a little stilted. The language was just a tad…off. I couldn’t figure out if it was the author, the writing style, or what. After some time into the book, I discovered it was translated from Swedish. One mystery solved!

This is the first book in a series about Lion Hall. The estate is located in southern Sweden in 1913, with the last vestiges of the aristocracy clawing to keep hold on their ways.

Agneta Lejongård has finally had it and cut ties with her family – mainly, her parents. She has returned to Stockholm as an art student. It was a feat she didn’t think possible, where in her classes she is the only female and is resented vehemently by her classmates as well as her professors. She is mid-twenties and bucks the patriarchy and aristocracy. She is a feminist, and fights for the right for women to vote alongside her friends. While she never wanted to be on the marriage mart, she is madly in love with Michael.

Her life has finally settled and is going along swell until a telegram arrives from her mother. She rushes off to Lion Hall, unsure what will meet her there with the scrap of information her mother put in the telegram.

Ultimately, she is now the heir. She has to make a decision to take control of the estate as the heir or return to her world of dreams in Stockholm. This isn’t the only decision that tears at her. Her brother died never knowing their father had died. She made a promise to him. She near hates her mother. Being constantly criticized. Feeling forced into a marriage. She does, indeed though, come to remember that she loves Lion Hall.

There are a series of events that happen at the estate involving various staff members in and out of the great house. Agneta treats them all unlike the rest of the aristocracy. They are people to her. She works to gain their trust and confidence, and takes an interest in some of their lives, at least those closer to her.

When their stable master can no longer fulfill the position to Agneta’s satisfaction (guys – SO much drama around that!), Max is then charged with the job as well as assisting her in managing the estate. He is a young man from Germany, a younger child like Agneta, but he will not inherit his family estate. Agneta plans to learn alongside him so that she can run the estate on her own.

There is instant connection – not insta love, but insta connection. They have what becomes a full-blown, no-bars hold affair in the small little cottage he has taken up residence in on the property. However, the silent snake in the grass is always there: she is aristocratic and he is not, lacking a title and estate. It is a plague to Agneta a few times, but is always a subject that Max will not discuss.

As their affair progressed, I was sure I could fairly well predict what would come next. Not quite! I think I was shocked when she learns of Max’s true identity.

With as strong-willed and modern as Agneta is, I was sure she would find some way forward that was acceptable and she could live with. Things played out in a typical aristocratic fashion, and I felt Agneta’s pain. I rooted for her at this stage in her life and I even hurt at how coldly she was treated. Despite the tone and vibes of the entire novel, it does have a HEA.

One of the things I couldn’t really get past was just how trusting and naive Agneta was. For a woman who has been living on her own in Stockholm for a while, entrenched in women’s rights, and a clear disdain for marriage, I feel like both of her first relationships in the book are merely lust that she’s fairytaled into love.

I did enjoy reading this twisty story. I was surprised but happy that Agneta’s relationship with her mother grows and the cold around their hearts melts. There were several who-dunn-it situations and other ordeals that Agenta chose to be a part of (all in the name of good!) that definitely add drama to the story.

Review: The Unworthy Duke

Title: The Unworthy Duke
Author: Charlotte Anne
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: February 2021
Length: 336 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical Romance

Miss Ellen Burney doesn’t have a penny to her name. Determined to escape scandal, she flees to London and becomes Miss Smith: spinster and lady’s companion. London offers security in anonymity. So long as Ellen can rein in her overactive imagination and become the perfect picture of propriety.

Calum Callaghan spent ten years in the Royal Navy fighting Napoleon and has the scars to prove it. Now he’s a duke, but all of London thinks he murdered his brother. Heartbroken and battle weary, he’s locked himself away for four long years, a prisoner in his own townhouse.

That is, until Cal’s grandmother comes to stay with him for the London Season, her new lady’s companion in tow. A lady’s companion with a passion for life and love that can hardly be contained by even the most spinsterish of lace caps. She’s fooling nobody, especially not this grumpy duke.

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Ellen Burney is backed into a corner, with no options as an unmarried woman, despite her nobility. She does what any desperate woman would do living in an abusive situation: she assumes a new identity, procures a position as a lady’s companion, and flees to London. Meanwhile, she sends her little sister into hiding under the care and direction of dear friends of her late mother.

Ellen is a strong-willed, perhaps stubborn, young woman with a strong measure of intelligence. She’s not one of the feather-brained women of the nobility. She is going to do what she has to do to sustain, survive, and support her life as well as her sister’s.

Ellen (now Ms. Smith) follows things to a T, which is why she is shrouded in secrecy. If not, such horrible rumors will get out and compound the already existing trouble. With letter in hand, she arrives ready to assume her new life as Lady Faye’s companion.

Calum Callaghan, the Duke of Woodhal, spent a decade in the Royal Navy. During his service and on assignment together, his half-brother is lost to the vestiges of a fiery ship burning at sea. Calum, the first-born Callaghan but Scottish-raised, is eyed suspiciously by all. He is accused of murdering his brother. He is now a hermit in his own house, devoid of servants or staff, craving quiet and peace, which still only haunts him. He drowns his life in alcohol.

Upon her arrival to her post, Calum’s life is quickly turned upside down. Marching in comes his grandmother, Lady Faye, his dandy “cousin” Owen, and a scurry of servants for the Season. Lady F is a force to be reckoned with, which matches Ellen. She doesn’t necessarily err on the side of social graces. In fact, she was the one who demanded young Calum, living in Scotland, move to London and be raised by his father. His new stepmother was not on board, but it was an arrangement that her mother, Lady F, would not back down from. It continues to cause friction between the dowager and the Duke.

The friendship and relationship that builds between Ellen and Calum is sweet and sour, sugar and spice. We really get to see their flaws and live entrenched in their own living hells. It all seemed natural. One thing I was not expecting was the level of heat! This is a steamy read for sure!

I enjoyed this story with its fiery heroine, witty banter, and characters with hearts of gold.

Review: A Rake’s Reward

Title: A Rake’s Reward
Author: Meredith Bond
Publisher: Anessa Books
Release Date: October 2015
Length: 267 pages
Series?: Merry Men Quartet #2
Genre: Historical Romance


A treasure lost…

American Sara Whately came to England with a single goal: recover a long-lost family treasure. Her father had long ago renounced his title and abandoned his country, but desperate financial straits call for desperate measures. Gaining access won’t be easy. The jewels are hidden on an estate Sara’s grandfather lost long ago in an unlucky turn of the cards. And then there’s the vexing, villainous, valiant Viscount Reath…


A jewel of a woman…
Sinclair Stratton, Lord Reath has always gotten everything he wants—money, privilege, and woman. But after ten years in India, he’s returned to England, ready to make amends for his youthful follies. He plans to return his ill-gotten estate to its rightful owner, but the man is impossible to find. And despite still being one of the most sought after rakes in town, the bold American beauty he keeps encountering seems to be immune to his charms and dashing good looks.

While Sara has promised to not just search for her grandfather’s jewels, but make an attempt at fitting into society, it might just be that Viscount Reath is the treasure she actually needs.

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American-born Sara arrives in England for her coming-out season. She is out of place immediately. The arrogance of claiming things solely based on your family ties and background! Sara makes mistake after faux pau and is always needing to be saved from situations.

Enter the Viscount. Sara makes plenty of blunders, but Reath is understanding and helpful. He finds Sara amusing and different that the rest of society.

He is battling the restoration of his own honor and trying to return an estate he won in a game of cards. But the original owners seemed to have vanished into the wilds of America. Reath feels that Lord Wynsham should not have bet something he wasn’t prepared to lose. He seeks out Wynsham’s sister, Lady Darlington, who refuses to speak with him. Reath must investigate and find the man on his own.

Since a young age, Sara has run the household that she and her father shared in America. Americans are far more outspoken than the English. The two countries are moving toward the American Revolution, a war that will divide the countrymen. Sara came to England not for a debut, but to seek out a treasure hidden within the family estate, but this is a secret.

The romance is a sweet build and there is more that brings this Englishman and American hoyden together than just a ton debut.

Review: The Princess and the Rogue

Title: The Princess and the Rogue
Author: Kate Bateman
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: December 2020
Length: 3128 pages
Series?: Bow Street Bachelors #3
Genre: Historical Romance

A princess in disguise is forced to live with a rogue in order to protect her from danger in this fun, sexy regency romance.

Bow Street agent Sebastien Wolff, Earl of Mowbray, doesn’t believe in love―until a passionate kiss with a beautiful stranger in a brothel forces him to reconsider. When the mysterious woman is linked to an intrigue involving a missing Russian princess, however, Seb realizes her air of innocence was too good to be true.

Princess Anastasia Denisova has been hiding in London as plain ‘Anna Brown’. With a dangerous traitor hot on her trail, her best option is to accept Wolff’s offer of protection―and accommodation―at his gambling hell. But living in such close quarters, and aiding Wolff in his Bow Street cases, fans the flames of their mutual attraction. If Anya’s true identity is revealed, does their romance stand a chance? Could a princess ever marry a rogue?

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Princess Anastasia Denisova has fled to London and posing as the plain ‘Anna Brown.’ Favor was in her fortune when she secured a job as a companion to a the dowager duchess. She has been living for nearly two years as the dowager’s companion after running from a forced marriage to a man she learns is suspected of treason.

In addition to her work for the dowager, ‘Anna’ lives near a brothel. She befriends the Madame and girls. She works to teach the girls to read and write in hopes they will be able to make a better life.

Sebastian is an Earl and a Bow Street agent. He has enjoyed living the single life. His friends have been dropping hard hints that he needs to fall in love. To their unknowing credit, Sebastian does feel he is missing something in his life, which doesn’t make sense being the wealthy man that he is.

This leads Sebastian to a brothel. The brothel where Anastasia is tutoring the girls. He is instantly attracted to her, mistaking her for one of the working girls. They have an intense and heated conversation where Anastasia tries to correct Sebastian’s assumption. She is able to escape into the brothel, leaving Sebastian craving the intriguing working girl he bantered with.

Anastasia is facing difficulty outrunning her past, and the dowager whisks her off to the countryside. Except that doesn’t work out as planned and turns into a rescue. To keep his promise to his aunt, he must keep this wanted woman safe. Sebastian installs her in his own apartments above the gaming hall he owns with his friends.

Anna doesn’t reveal the truth about her identity. She provides veiled truths to Sebastian. The pair slowly develop a friendship of a sort, but Sebastian is suspicious and knows Anna is not telling him everything.

Over time and some schemes, the truth comes out. Sebastian is shocked and puts his duty to protect her above their relationship. They hatch a plan to catch the individual who committed treason and is after Anna.

The book has a strong pace with some twists. There was bickering banter, intrigue, passion, and good hearts. I thoroughly enjoyed this read!

Review: Love on Beach Avenue

Title: Love on Beach Avenue
Author: Jennifer Probst
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: May 2020
Length: 315 pages
Series?: The Sunshine Sisters #1
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Avery Sunshine might not have a soul mate of her own, but she still believes in happily ever after—for her clients. Making dreams come true is her business at Sunshine Bridal, which she runs with her two sisters. When her best friend announces her engagement, Avery is thrilled to take charge of the giddy bride-to-be’s big day. Less thrilling? Her best friend’s arrogant and demanding brother, who just so happens to be the man of honor.

Carter Ross’s first instinct: call 911. He promised to always take care of his impulsive little sister, and he honors that vow. Even if it means taking over her wedding, where he is sure Avery will fail. At best, Avery is unpredictable. At worst, if she’s anything like the spitfire of a college girl he remembers, the main event could run wild.

With Avery and Carter wrestling for control, tempers heat up. So does the spark of attraction they’re fighting with every kiss. As the wedding draws near, it’s time to reconcile a rocky past and make a decision that could change everyone’s lives. Because what they’re rebelling against looks a lot like love.

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The three Sunshine sisters run their own wedding planner business on the Jersey Shore.

Avery is bogged down going into the height of the wedding season. Her college friend comes to town asking for her wedding to be planned just three months out. She is staying in town for the summer and will be there to plan with Avery. Ally is also bringing her brother, Carter, whom Avery cannot stand. The feeling is mutual, but she is determined to make Ally’s dream wedding come to life.

Carter demands to be involved in every step of Ally’s wedding planning. Avery is stuck working with the overbearing, arrogant man. For Carter, Ally is his whole world after losing their parents when they were quite young. He has always wanted to provide the best for her, including whatever she wants.

While the planning pair fight over Ally’s dream wedding, there is an unsuspecting chemistry and passion that simmers to the surface. Quickly they find that they are more alike than what meets the eye.

I enjoyed reading this story set on Beach Avenue. It did give me a hankering for a sweet, summer vacation in a fabulous little town – and maybe an explosive summer romance!

Review: The Wrong Brother

Title: The Wrong Brother
Author: Bree Wolf
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Planform
Release Date: March 2016
Series?: Forbidden Love Novella #1
Genre: Historical Romance

She gave him her hand in marriage.
Her heart, however, was stolen by his brother.

Despite her parents’ deep love for one another, Isabella Carrington has always favoured her mind over her heart.
Meeting Charles Dashwood, she quickly decides that he is the one for her. After all, he has all the qualities she appreciates in a man; he is kind, honest, and most of all dependable.

At least until her wedding day, when Isabella suddenly desires someone entirely different, or doesn’t she?

In the very moment, Isabella whispers her ‘I do’, her eyes catch the glimpse of another man. A man whose eyes look unnervingly familiar, and yet stir a longing within her heart and soul she has never known.

Just as she gives her hand to Charles Dashwood, her heart is stolen by none other than her husband’s notorious twin, Robert.

When mind and heart do not go hand in hand, can there be a happily ever after?

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Isabella Carrington is a smart woman who is on the verge of moving forward in her relationship with Charles Dashwood, a man who respects her intelligence. He’s a steady and honest man. But then there’s a snag in all of that. There is no attraction. She can grow into love through the years, right?

The story is built on insta-love. The two fall in love at first sight. After taking her vows, she spots her “true” love…her husband’s brother, Robert, and the pair sneak around behind Charles’ back.

This novella was a quick read being a novella. It fell a little flat of a regency romance, lacking more of the historical background and subplots. It was clean and simple. Everything tied up with a nice, neat bow at the end that didn’t really make sense. Overall, outlandish and ridiculous.

Review: All Scot and Bothered

Title: All Scott and Bothered
Author: Kerrigan Byrne
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: September 2020
Length: 416 pages
Series?: Devil You Know #2
Genre: Historical Romance

He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who’s made his own way in the world through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London’s most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he’s ever met.

IN THIS GAME OF LOVE, THE RULES DO NOT APPLY

Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother’s scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips…Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment. Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women…and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?

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This series revolves around three women: Alexandra, Cecelia, and Francesca. The trio call themselves the Red Rogues. Each book in the series can act as a standalone. The first book is Alexandra’s story. The second is Cecilia’s and the final book is Francesca’s.

Cecelia is a heroine to marvel. She is utter kindness and brilliance, even though she has very real fears. She endured a harsh childhood but revels in life as an adult.

Cecelia inherits a gambling establishment and decides, with the help of the Red Rogues, to turn her new home into a school for young girls. A haven to the girls whose fathers and brothers died on her own late husband’s ship. Because of her own background, Cecelia is adamant about supporting women and their rights, and this is her first step to do that.

Upon beginning this process of establishing her school, Cecelia’s overbearing neighbor, Cassius Ramsay (a chief justice) blazes into her home. This is not one of those “put your best foot forward” times. Cassius grossly miscalculates Cecelia and her purpose, but he makes it well-known that he is determined to bring hell upon one of the most notorious gaming halls. He was intimidating and scary, but Cecelia doesn’t cower.

The writing brings flawed characters, witty banter, and heated controversies. Cassius is a hard man, skeptical and wary. He stands in conviction that he is a man without fault.

Cecelia is struggling to understand all that she’s inherited from her aunt, including her role as The Scarlet Lady. She doesn’t know the full breadth of her aunt’s business dealings or anything about the villainous Crimson Council.

While Cassius is not entirely convinced about Cecelia or her school exploit, he does begin to see beyond his career. He almost takes it upon himself to become the protector and helper for Cecelia and the girls. Slowly, the pair build a foundation of trust with an overpowering sexy chemistry.

With Cassius’s role as a chief justice and his drive to bring down certain entities in town, things get convoluted when Cecelia gets mixed up in her ignorance of her aunt’s previous dealings. Cassius is bent on ending the kidnapping and sex trafficking, and both wind up tangling with the Crimson Council.