Bound to Her Blood Enemy by Tora Williams

Bound To Her Blood Enemy
Bound to Her Blood Enemy
Norman heiress, Matilda Comyn is desperate to escape her grasping guardian and reclaim her inheritance. After a lifetime of being let down by men, she wants to rule her lands on her own terms. She can’t escape without help and battles her mistrust when compelled to join forces with a Welsh spy.
Huw Ap Goronwy has a rival claim to Matilda’s castle and has sworn a blood oath against the Comyns. When his king rules they must marry, he struggles to reconcile his attraction with his need for revenge. But they must form a truce if they are to seize their castle.
Risking capture and death, they will only succeed if Matilda learns to trust, and Huw allows his love for Matilda to overcome his need for revenge.
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Author Bio –
Tora lives in Shropshire in the United Kingdom. On childhood holidays her interest in history was fired by exploring castles in Wales and the Welsh borders, and she would make up stories about characters living there. When she started writing, it seemed only natural to turn to the settings that inspired her as a child. In her free time, when she can drag herself away from reading, she enjoys walking and cycling.

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Tracy’s Review:

Bound to Her Blood EnemyBound to Her Blood Enemy by Tora Williams
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Matilda Comyn is a Norman heiress who wants nothing more than to be in charge of her own fate and not dependent on a man. The men in life have all let her down, starting with her father and currently with her guardian, Sir Reginald Fitzjohn. Matilda knows that he has been syphoning funds from her inheritance, Coed Bedwen on the Welsh border and had made no effort to find her a husband. His wife is gravely ill and she knows once she dies, Fitzjohn intends to marry her and steal her inheritance! She has tried to escape, but Fitzjohn watches her like a hawk. But all that might change with the appearance of Huw ap Goronwy.

Huw has two goals in life, to reclaim Coed Bedwen and fullfil the blood oath against the Comyns who stole it from his family and killed his grandfather. Huw joined Owain, the king of Gwynedd when he was young and has been one of his best spies. He has been tasked with bringing Matilda to him. He hopes the reward will be Coed Bedwen and that he will finally get a chance to complete his oath. He is taken by Matilda from the first, she is nothing like he expected a Comyn to be and when he learns she is half Welsh, he questions if he will be able to harm her and keep his oath.

They easily escape her guardian and travel together to the king, but fear causes Matilda to act rashly and she attempts to drug Huw. Before he succumbs to the poppy she used to lace his wine, he grabs her and ties her up. The next day he is furious and regrets being kind to her, a Comyn – he should have known better. So when the king’s solution is for him to marry her – he is outraged and refuses. But when he learns it is the only way he will gain Coed Bedwen, he agrees.

Plans are made to retake the castle, which Matilda insists on being part of. They marry and leave to scout out the castle. As they spend time together, they form a truce and a friendship. He wonders how he will manage to keep the oath that has been his driving force for years. But he finally accepts that Matilda is not responsible for the sins of her grandfather. He wants a life with her and hopes she feels the same.

Matilda is falling for Huw, he may be the first man in her life to not let her down. But when the plan begins to fall apart and her life is in peril, Huw does what he must to save her and in doing so, crushes her heart.

Huw tries to convince her of his love, but Matilda refuses to let go of old hurts and may cost them both the love of a lifetime.

I thought this was a very good debut novel, the writing was good, but personally, I thought Matilda’s actions in the last 10% of the book seemed overly contrived and unnecessary. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it was annoying enough to make it a 4 star read when it had been at least 4.5 up until that point. I found the story interesting, it had a fair bit of action, tepid-warm love scenes, wonderful secondary characters, a couple of twists and turns, as well as a couple of jaw dropping moments. Overall, I was happy with the book and would recommend it to medieval fans.

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by the publisher*

The Duke’s Distraction by Maggie Dallen

A Duke's Distraction (Devilish Lords Book 2)A Duke’s Distraction by Maggie Dallen
Tracy’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: Devilish Lords, #2

Release Date: June 20, 2018

Rhys Galwin, the Duke of Roxborough needs to find a bride, in fact he has a list and Georgette “Georgie” Cleveland is NOT on it!

Georgie has come to stay with her sister and brother-in-law for the season. She has high hopes for finding her own love match this season and may have already found him! Lord Malcolm Reynolds is the man of her dreams, he is handsome, charming and a poet! He hasn’t noticed her yet, but he will.

When Rhys accompanies Georgie and the family to a ball, Georgie spots her rival Mary with Lord Malcolm. She decides that Rhys is the perfect man to make Mary jealous, she commands Rhys to dance with her. Shocked by her forwardness, Rhys complies and is a bit annoyed, this dance will but a kink in his bride hunting! He scoffs when Georgie offers to help him find a bride – she is the LAST person he would ever ask for help, she is frivolous and doesn’t have any clue what is required of a duchess. But despite that, he feels oddly protective of her.

Her dance with Rhys did make Lord Malcolm take notice and he asks her to dance, but instead of feeling elated, she feels unsettled by him and when he asks her to meet him in secret, she is shocked. She wonders what she did to give him the impression that she was that type of girl. Later Rhys overhears Malcolm boasting to his friends that he will seduce Georgie, he intervenes and implies that he is interested in her and is glad that Malcolm isn’t considering her as a wife. He finds Georgie and forbids her to meet Malcolm, she didn’t plan on it and when he goes further and insults her family, she slaps him. They bicker and he kisses her!

Her friend Mary comes to visit and tells her of the gossip – Rhys wants to court her! WHAT?? She needs answers, she finds Rhys and confronts him, he is just about to kiss her again when his mother bursts in, she has heard the rumors and wants to do damage control. Georgie is confused by her feelings and wonders if she should give up on finding a love match.

Rhys tries to apologize about the kiss, but Georgie brushes it off and again offers to help him with his “list”. Georgie makes him laugh and he feels lighter than he has in years. Days later, the duchess tells her that she noticed her connection with Rhys and approves, Georgie pretends to misunderstand and the duchess doesn’t fall for it – she says she won’t tell Rhys of Georgie’s feelings – Georgie is overwhelmed, she isn’t falling in love with him! It was the kiss – yes, she needs to kiss him again! When Rhys happens upon her, she throws herself at him, he kisses her back, but then tells her he can’t marry her – she babbles and runs off.

Later that night, Rhys escapes the bride choosing soirée – he finds Lord Malcolm in his study and sends him away, Nic comes in and offers him some advice. Rhys realizes, that Georgie is the bride he wants and needs, but how can he convince her?? That is when he notices the “list” is missing. But he no longer needs a list – he has made his decision!

This is a delightful story with very likable leads, some heated kisses, wonderful secondary characters, a dash of humor and a very wonderful declaration scene. This is the second book in the series (third if you count the Wicked Earl’s book), but it can easily be read as a stand-alone title.

Tempting the Laird by Julia London

Tempting the Laird (Highland Grooms, #5)Tempting the Laird by Julia London
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Highland Grooms, #5

Release Date: June 26, 2018

Catriona “Cat” MacKenzie is mourning the loss of her beloved Aunt Zelda when a representative of the crown arrives and informs her father that the abbey Zelda used to house homeless women and children is being seized by the crown. Zelda was accused of treason for sheltering rebels after the battle of Culloden and therefore the abbey is being forfeited to England. Cat is furious, she had planned on continuing her aunt’s work and will not accept the loss of the abbey. Her mother suggests going to visit her uncle Knox, the Earl of Norwood, he knows everyone and might be able to help her.

Hamlin Graham, the Duke of Montrose is a murderer, if gossip is to be believed. Cat is fascinated by the tale of his marriage and the disappearance of his wife and decides to learn the truth. She doesn’t really believe he killed his wife, but the woman is missing, so something happened! She meets Hamlin and his delightful ward Eula when they pay a call to invite him to dine. Hamlin is taken aback by this vivacious woman, she is lovely and very bold, a combination that he is unwillingly drawn to.

Hamlin is basically an outcast, everyone believes he killed his wife Glenna, who was universally adored, but only a couple of people know the truth about her and her disappearance. Hamlin desperately wants to gain a seat in the House of Lords, a feat that seems almost impossible with the rumors of murder floating around. So when he is invited to dinner, his secretary insists that he attend, he needs to convince the voting members of the house, that he should be voted in. He reluctantly goes and is mesmerized by Cat – she is incredible!

They end up spending more and more time together and finally become lovers. Both know that theirs is not a happily ever after love story. He can’t marry someone with her tainted background if he wants to get a seat in the Lords and she has the abbey to manage. But neither can seem to walk away. They are so happy together and they begin to contemplate how they can stay together and what they are willing to give up for their love, when the truth of Hamlin’s first marriage comes roaring into his life.

Both Cat and Hamlin are heartbroken, but there is no way they can be together without hurting someone. They part and in a surprising moment of compassion, Cat makes an offer that will ensure they are never together, but will guarantee him a seat in the Lords. Hamlin is overwhelmed by Cat’s generosity and vows that she will never regret him – he will spend the rest of his life making sure she doesn’t.

I really enjoyed this book, but it will rip your heart out and stomp on it – it is entertaining, steamy, witty and heartbreaking. The love between Hamlin and Cat is a beautiful soulmate type love and your heart will break right along with theirs, the secondary characters are delightful, especially Hamlin’s ward Eula, the ending is completely breathtaking and sigh worthy! And if that was not enough, there is a wonderful epilogue as well as very informative Author notes and a glossary! While this is the fifth book in the series, but it can absolutely be read as a stand-alone title and I am happy to recommend it.

*REVIEWED FOR BURIED UNDER ROMANCE*

Dauntless by Lynne Connolly

Dauntless (The Shaws, #2)Dauntless by Lynne Connolly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: The Shaws #2
Publication Date: 6/26/18

If you love historical accuracy rather than historical fantasy, then you might want to try this author. The Shaws is a spin-off series from The Emperors of London series and while it doesn’t have the panache and excitement of the Emperors, it is still a very good series and is very well done. I wonder if the difference might be that this series is missing the over-arching theme that was present in Emperors.

Lady Drusilla Shaw isn’t shy, but she is a bit of an introvert and at five and twenty, she is pretty much on-the-shelf. Her parents have told her that this is the last season they will actively support her on the marriage mart. She must either choose from one of the suitors who has asked to court her or become a full-fledged spinster. Dru isn’t excited about any of the candidates on the list, but she has sorta-kinda resigned herself to choose among the suitors on her mother’s list. Then, she has a dance with Oliver and is entranced – until he turns and leaves her mid-dance at her aunt’s ball. She’s not entranced any longer – she dislikes him thoroughly. How does she display that anger? Well, Dru is a bit of a writer – not for publication, but for her own enjoyment. So, she writes a story with Oliver as the villain. Her vivid imagination invents some scenarios that hit too close to the reality in Oliver’s life.

Oliver, Duke of Mountsorrel, is being pressured by his mother to marry and, to be honest, he feels that he needs to marry as well. He needs to produce an heir since his brother is unable to step into that role should the need arise. So, while he is in London on other business, he will just find himself a bride. His plan? Well, he’ll attend balls and dance with all of the debutants until he decides on one. Then, he dances with one of the older unmarried ladies and finds himself enchanted – until – she teasingly starts throwing out potential answers to a question. Some of those answers are dreadfully close to his real life and his anger flares. He spins around and walks off the dance floor leaving her standing.

Oliver comes by Dru’s home the following morning to apologize and he’s even more entranced by her. Then, accidents start to happen to them. Their curricle crashes and it could have killed them both – then a horse with a stone that could have thrown Dru and caused her harm. What is behind all of these accidents? Who would want to harm Dru? Or, is it Oliver who is the target? Well – the answer is that there is a real snake-in-the-grass with a deadly plot and you’ll just have to read the book to find out who it is and why they are doing it.

The reason that this is my least favorite of the Shaws/Emperor’s series is that the characters are both pretty milquetoast. I loved them, but neither of them was an alpha. Each of them gets intensely angry at times, but neither of them really does anything about it. He just gives her the cold shoulder and she writes nasty things about him in a story. Neither of those solves anything. They don’t talk. If either of them had talked to the other or even to someone else, most of the problems could have been smoothed over. Also, both of them are perfectly willing to believe the worst of the other with absolutely no evidence. She is too easily the ‘poor pitiful me’, wallow in self-pity type and he is not one who takes the bull by the horns, stands up for himself and Dru, and solves whatever issues they have. While Beta heroes can be wonderful and interesting leads if done well, Oliver seems to have missed the mark just a bit.

All-in-all this was a lovely read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Dangerous by Minerva Spencer

Dangerous (The Outcasts, #1)Dangerous by Minerva Spencer
Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The Outcasts, #1

Release Date: June 26, 2018

WOW – This book was amazing and the blurb does not do it justice.

Lady Euphemia “Mia” Marlington spent 17 years as a concubine in Sultan Baba Hassan’s palace. She was captured as a young girl by barbary pirates while enroute to a convent school. But with the death of the sultan, she was able to escape and has returned to England. At the age of 32, she is no simpering debutante, but her father is determined to marry her off. Mia goes along with his plan, because she has secrets and plans of her own, which necessitate a husband.

Adam de Courtney, Marquess of Exley, is not in the market for another wife. After the mysterious death of his first two wives, he has been labeled the Murderous Marquess by the ton and is basically a pariah. He has 3 young daughters and does need an heir, but what family would marry their daughter off to a man who may have killed his first two wives? The Duke of Carlisle! Mia’s father invites Adam to a dinner to meet his daughter. Adam is at first not interested, but his curiosity is peaked. When he meets Mia, he is shocked, she is definitely not the ugly crone he was expecting and the brief conversation he shared with her has only increased his interest.

He calls on her two days later and proposes, she accepts. They marry and Adam totally botches their wedding night. Mia needs to get things going between them, she promised him an heir and she intends to keep that promise, but she also plans to leave him. When Adam asks her to attend the theater, she gladly accepts and is delighted by his friends. She also has a confrontation with his former mistress and I loved not only Mia’s reaction, but Adam’s as well. Too often, authors have the hero treat the heroine badly and defend the “other woman” even if he is no longer with her and that annoys the heck out of me but thankfully that is not the case in this book! As they ride home, he is expecting her to confront him about the mistress, but she doesn’t say a word. He is relieved and asks her to join him for a drink. They play cards and eventually make their way to the bedroom.

They spend the next few days getting to know one another and delight in each other’s company. It is clear that they are falling in love, but they are both keeping secrets and Mia still plans to leave. They finally retire to his estate and she meets his daughters. Adam is happy for the first time in years, Mia is everything he could ever want. When they discover that she is pregnant, he is over the moon. Mia realizes she cannot leave, she is in love with Adam, but she can’t desert her son. She decides that she will send him money and recruits a handsome footman to help her. But Adam walks in and misunderstands the scene. He is heartbroken and angry, he has been duped again. Mia tries to bluff her way out of the awkward scene, but only makes things worse. Adam shuts her out completely. She doesn’t know how to make things right and then learns distressing news about her son. She believes she has no choice and leaves Adam.

When Adam learns she left, he immediately follows and when he learns the truth is hurt all over again that she didn’t trust him. With so many secrets and so much distrust is there anyway these two can find their way back to each other?

This was an incredible story, with likable leads, steamy love scenes, secrets, lies, wonderful secondary characters, some action and adventure and finally an emotional and beautiful ending AND an epilogue set years later. There are a couple of little title/address errors, but I assume those will be corrected before publication and really didn’t distract me from the story. I loved this story and cannot wait for the next book featuring Hugh! Highly Recommended!

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher*

One for the Rogue by Manda Collins

One for the Rogue (Studies in Scandal, #4)One for the Rogue by Manda Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Studies in Scandal #4
Publication Date: 6/26/18

I have been on pins and needles waiting for this book ever since Cam and Gemma met in the last book. WOW! What fireworks between them – it was an epic battle – he was rude, abrupt and condescending and she was highly insulted and stubborn. Oil and water – they just don’t mix. But you knew that they would and it was so much fun to see them blend together so seamlessly. No, it wasn’t easy, but they did it.

The book is a fun read with fun characters and, I hope, the epilogue left a tiny crack for further books in the series or perhaps a new series with Special Appearances by the characters from this series. I’d love to see Lady Serena get her HEA. Did we maybe see a set-up for that? Perhaps, but we’ll have to wait and see what Ms. Collins decides to do.

In case you don’t know the premise behind the series, I’ll give you the short version. In her will, Lady Celeste Beauchamp chose four young ladies for their intellectual capabilities to spend a year in residence at her house, Beauchamp House. It boasted one of the most impressive libraries in England, a much-envied fossil collection, painting studio, etc. Each young lady was given complete freedom and the tools to continue her education in her chosen field. Each young lady was also bequeathed a letter and a task/puzzle from Lady Celeste. At the end of the year, any young lady who was still unmarried and still living in the house would inherit the entire estate. If all of them married or if all of them remained unmarried, then they would all share the inheritance equally. The first three books saw Ivy (classics scholar), Daphne (mathematician), and Sophia (painter) solve their puzzles and find their HEA. This book deals with Gemma Hastings, a geologist, and sister to Sophia.

What an exciting beginning – Gemma is a bit of an insomniac and she’s gotten up in the wee hours of the morning and crept from her bedchamber to go on a midnight ramble about the house. Outside, she sees what appears to be a lantern bobbing along in the night. Heedless of the consequences, she dashes out to confront whoever is on their private property. As she observes, she sees that it is her brother-in-law – Lord Cameron Lisle. Cam’s brother is married to Gemma’s sister Sophia, but Gemma doesn’t like him even a little bit and is indignant that he’s roaming around on their property. After she calls out to him, and he shushes her, she realizes that there is someone else with another lantern further ahead of Cam. Cam is exasperated that Gemma has alerted the man he was following and who has now disappeared. What was Sir Everard Healy doing on that beach? Now, neither Cam nor Gemma would learn any time soon.

A couple of days later, Sir Everard is found dead at the base of the cliffs below Beauchamp House. He was murdered while trying to steal a geological find of Gemma’s. Gemma didn’t murder him, Cam didn’t murder him – so, who did and are they still skulking around? Gemma’s artifact is missing, so whoever murdered Sir Everard stole the artifact. Cam and Gemma must work together to find the artifact and also solve the murder. Of course, as they work together, they are attracted to each other and that grows – until they are discovered in a compromising position and have to become betrothed.

Somehow, between compromising positions, ‘temporary’ betrothals, unchaperoned road trips, pretending to be married and spending the night together at an inn as man and wife, they manage to solve the murder and find the artifact.

It was a lovely, interesting, well-written read and I’m sorry to see the series end. However, it did have a lovely epilogue with future plans for Beauchamp house and Lady Serena. So, that is what gives me hope that we might get to visit with all of these lovely ladies in a future series or additional books in this series.

I have seen several two and three-star reviews for this book and they all talk about the same issues. I actually agree with much of what they say, but I just thought the book, as a whole, was good enough that it offset those issues for me. The first thing is that there weren’t enough fireworks between Gemma and Cam given the argument from the previous book and Gemma’s continued dislike of Cam. I would have liked to see a few more epic battles before they came to a meeting in the middle. The second was the lack of character development for Gemma and Cam. I thought Cam grew and changed a lot – he actually did most of the changing and adapting to Gemma’s ways rather than the other way around. However, Gemma did grow and she had to learn that she could have love and her choice of vocation IF she chose the right man.

This was a delightful read and I didn’t want to put it down once I’d read the first page. Well, actually, I didn’t put it down — I read it straight through and enjoyed every minute of it.

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“I requested and received this e-book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”

The Highlander’s Promise by Lynsay Sands

The Highlander's Promise (Highlanders #6)The Highlander’s Promise by Lynsay Sands
Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Highlanders, #6

Release Date: June 26, 2018

Laird Aulay Buchanan’s day is not going as expected. He felt a black mood coming and set out to his hunting lodge for some time alone, but his younger brother Alick has tagged along. Aulay reiterates that he is going fishing – nothing more. Alick is disappointed (he was hoping fishing meant drinking and wenching), but decides to stay for a couple of days anyway. They take a boat out on the ocean and Alick spots something – it looks like a ship mast. They get closer and discover a woman tied to the mast. They cut her free and are shocked that she is alive. She wakes and looks at Aulay, he prepares himself for the inevitable scream of horror when she sees his scarred visage. But she surprises him by asking if he is an angel. He asks if she has family they should notify and she gets upset and babbles about a cat, a white lady and betrotheds who are not her betrothed killing their first wife and now will kill her. Aulay promises to keep her safe and will not alert anyone until she is well. He asks her name, but she has passed out. That is when he sees the blood. They rush back to the lodge and he sends Alick to get Rory and a few of his other brothers.

She is wounded and Rory doesn’t expect her to live, he shaved part of her head to treat the wounds and leaves her in Aulay’s care. He spends the next few weeks nursing her back to health. He has been calling her Jetta, because of her beautiful black hair, but he longs to know who she is, because she is the first woman to look upon him without horror since he got the injury in the same battle that took his twin brother Ewan. She wakes and believes that Aulay is her husband, she has no memory of her past and when she tries to remember, it causes her extreme pain and she passes out. Rory tells Aulay to play along, he doesn’t want her to get upset or be frightened. Aulay agrees, but his attraction to her makes it hard to keep his distance. Especially when Jetta doesn’t understand why her “husband” won’t bed her.

Slowly, Jetta heals, but has not remembered much more than a few trifling bits of her previous life. She and Aulay spend a lot of time together and she tells him how lucky she is to have him for a husband. When he is called back to the castle to investigate the shooting of a maid, Jetta learns more about his past. Aulay longs to return to Jetta, but he owes Katie, the maid justice. His attempts to discover who Jetta really is have turned up nothing and he wonders what will happen if she learns they are not really married. Will she leave him? His uncle points out that his family has descended on the lodge and she will soon be brought to the keep – if she calls him husband and he calls her wife, they will be in fact married. But Aulay doesn’t want to trick her, he will have to tell her the truth.

Jetta and Mavis are at the lodge and are upset over the death of Robbie’s dog when Saidh, Edith, Murine and Jo all converge on the lodge. The ladies wanted to meet Jetta and they all love her – they want her to be married to “her sweet Aulay” and if Saidh has anything to do with it – she will. They take her back to the keep and Aulay is worried that she will inadvertently announce they are married and takes her right up to their room. He leaves her to rest and goes back to his family. They all think he should keep her and the ladies go up to get her dressed. When she finally comes down, she is pushed and tumbles down the stairs. They are unable to find the person who pushed her, so Aulay orders a guard on her. Later over dinner, she remembers more and Aulay’s secret is out. She is upset, but when he very sweetly proposes, she accepts.

They marry and when they slip away to consummate their vows, another attempt is made on her life. Worried for her, he confines her to their chamber. But later sees her sneaking into his brother Niels’ room and propositioning him – Aulay is devastated, he believed her words of love and feels like a fool. But soon he realizes, not all is as it seems but can he save her before the viper in their midst gets to her!

You just can’t go wrong with a Lynsay Sands Highlander novel, they are a perfect blend of humor, action and steamy love scenes. I loved this book and cannot wait for the next installment in the series. Even though this is the sixth book in the series, but it can absolutely be read as a stand alone title with no problems and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an UNCORRECTED eARC that was provided to me by Edelweiss and the publisher*

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