My Lady Captor by Hannah Howell

My Lady CaptorMy Lady Captor by Hannah Howell

Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Release Date: March 27, 2018 (Re-issue)

Someway, somehow I missed this gem when it originally released in 1996 AND when it was re-issued in 2009 – This book is classic Hannah Howell and I am so glad I finally got to read it!

Lady Sorcha Hay finds Sir Ruari Kerr injured on the battlefield while she is searching for her brother Dougal. She learns from Ruari that Dougal was taken by the English and will be ransomed back. While she is talking to him, her cousin Margaret finds another survivor, who turns out to be Ruari’s cousin Beatham.

Sorcha is dismayed, her clan has no coin to pay the ransom and her brother is Laird, they need him! So being the smart, resourceful girl she is, Sorcha hatches a plan, she will raise the ransom by holding Ruari and Beatham for ransom! She takes them back to her keep and hopes she can keep them from learning the secrets of the Hay clan. She tends Ruari’s wounds and tells him that he is her prisoner, Ruari is beyond angry and vows revenge.

Once they are back at her keep, Sorcha waits for the ransom demand from the English and tries to ignore the attraction she feels towards Ruari all while attempting to keep him from learning that most of the Hay clan are women, that she has the power to see and speak to spirits, that her cousin Euphemia is transitioning into womanhood and all the trouble that comes with that for a Hay woman. Not to mention trying to keep her cousin Margaret and Beatham from forming an impossible attachment and thwarting Ruari’s escape attempts.

Sorcha meets with the English and becomes the object of Sir Simon Treacher’s unwanted attention, she manages to negotiate a ransom and hopes to never see Sir Simon again. She sends the ransom demand to the Kerrs and informs Ruari. Ruari is still angry, but he wants Sorcha with a desire stronger than any he has ever felt. He proposes that they become lovers, no promises, no commitments. At first Sorcha is opposed, but she is attracted to him and will probably never marry, so she agrees. They share three incredible nights together before his family comes for him. They part and words are exchanged. But as he rides away, Sorcha knows that he is taking her heart with him.

She gets her brother back and is again subjected to Sir Simon, the man is obsessed! They manage to evade him and make it back to their keep. Six months pass and it finally seems like he has given up, so when Dougal suggests they attend the market fair, she looks forward to the chance to get out of the keep, she is still nursing a broken heart, but is not nearly as dramatic about it as Margaret is. She convinces Margaret to attend and even with a warning of trouble given by Effie, they set out.

Trouble finds them almost as soon as they reach the fair, Ruari is there and when he sees her, he is ready to take his revenge.

This book is great, there is a lot going on, but it never seems busy and all the various characters and story lines all tie neatly together in the end. The love scenes are steamy, the dialogue is amusing, the villain is vile, the problems keeping them apart seem unsurmountable, the declaration scene is very sweet and the epilogue is completely delightful.

I have no idea how I missed this book years ago, but I am so delighted to have found it! I would highly recommend this book and will be looking to see if there are any other books I missed!

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

It Happened In The Highlands by May McGoldrick

It Happened in the Highlands (The Pennington Family, #2)It Happened in the Highlands by May McGoldrick

Barbara’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: The Pennington Family #2
Publication Date: 3/27/18

This exciting and interesting tale is the second installment in May McGoldrick’s Pennington Family series. It is well paced, well written, and well plotted. Don’t let the book blurb fool you, he didn’t exactly walk away from the betrothal because of the gossip. So, if that description puts you off – as it did me – I’d say give it a chance – because it isn’t exactly accurate. I won’t give you his reasons because you need to read the book to find out. Now, I WILL say that I understand his reasoning, but NOT his timing. He was a very smart and capable man and should have recognized his dilemma long before he did. So, as I said – if that trope bothers you and you are thinking of not reading it because of it – give it a chance, I think you’ll like it.

We met Josephine Pennington (Jo) in the first book of the series – Romancing the Scot. You couldn’t help but like her in that one. She’s no less likable in this one, but I did feel she was a bit of a doormat. I really did enjoy watching her grow a spine. It wasn’t that she wasn’t smart and decisive, she just couldn’t stand conflict – especially when that conflict involved her. She allowed others to gossip viciously about her without any confrontation at all – she’d just run away. That forced everyone who loved her, especially the males, to be more and more protective of her. I was so very happy to see her grow a spine – and use it toward the end of the book. There is a scene with Lady Nithsdale at around the 95-96% mark that you will absolutely LOVE!

Captain Wynne Melfort is the younger son of a hateful, vindictive, spiteful, bigoted Baron – and his mother is as bad as his father. It would take a lot for a very young man to go against them and society. I was glad to learn that he found his bravery and was an accomplished leader in the Royal Navy. I think it took him a while, but he did get there. I believe my main reservation about him is his timing. I do sort of understand his reasoning for jilting Jo, what I question is his timing. Early on in the relationship, he knew ALL of the things he used as an excuse – he could have just skipped the proposal altogether or given her a choice to jilt him earlier. Instead, he made the decision for both of them. Then, he tells her in a letter! Granted, he called on her, but when she was out he left a letter breaking their engagement – say what! Talk about cowardice.

Sixteen years after the broken betrothal, Wynne is retired from the navy and has gone into partnership with his ship’s surgeon. They have opened an innovative hospital for people with mental illness. Wynne is the director of the hospital and the surgeon, of course, is the doctor. (BTW – you’ll love the doctor and I’m sure we will see him in his own story later). Wynne is also a widower with a son, Cuffe (wish I knew how to pronounce that). They are in the Highlands and Cuffe is having a hard time adjusting to the changes in his life.

They have a patient in their hospital who is uncommunicative – but he keeps sketching pictures of the same woman. Once Wynne sees the sketches, he recognizes the woman immediately – it is Jo. Wynne knows how important it is to Jo that she find her origins and Wynne thinks maybe this patient might hold a clue to those origins. So, he has Dr. McKendry write to Jo and include a copy of the sketch. Wynne knows that Jo will come to the hospital to see the patient, and he plans to be away while she is there – except she shows up earlier than expected.

The story leads the two of them into discoveries of many kinds. Discoveries about themselves, discoveries about their feelings for each other, discoveries about how strong they really are – so many things. As they search for Jo’s origins, they have to deal with villains, love and a lonely, unhappy little boy.

While I liked the first book better, this one is still a great read and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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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.”

Lost to a Spy by Sharon Cullen

Lost to a Spy (All the Queen's Spies, #3)Lost to a Spy by Sharon Cullen
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: All the Queen’s Spies, #3

Release Date: March 13, 2018

Sharon Cullen delivers another fast paced, intrigue filled installment of All the Queen’s Spies with Lost to a Spy!

Lady Emma Hamilton is pulled into the world of espionage when she is injured and left for dead after witnessing a murder and is knocked unconscious by the explosion of Kirk o’ Fields.

Tristian Fitzherbert hears the explosion and goes to investigate, what he finds is an unconscious woman lying in the street. He takes her back to his print shop and tends her injuries. Tristian is a spy for Queen Elizabeth, his primary mission in Scotland has been to incite dissention against Queen Mary, he does this by printing and distributing suggestive placards about the queen, her consort and advisors. He is not sure what to do about the woman he has found, she is obviously well born, but she was alone when he found her, so he is not sure if she was an innocent bystander or if she was part of the plot to blow up Kirk o’ Fields.

He has even more questions later when she wakes, he has had a visit from LaGrange and knows that the king is dead and that Lady Emma Hamilton, is missing from the palace and is most likely his mystery guest. Emma doesn’t trust men, her marriage to Angus Hamilton was awful and when he died, Queen Mary invited her to live at the palace and restored her dowry to her, giving her the means to live independently. Emma is wary of Tristian at first and doesn’t tell him her real name or the whole truth about what she witnessed.

Tristian is kind and attentive to Emma and soon she feels comfortable with him in a way she has never felt with a man. She confides in him about her past and finally about what she witnessed the night of the explosion. She is upset when he tells her the king is dead and wants to return to the palace to comfort Mary. But she is too weak from her injuries and Tristian urges her to wait.

Emma and Tristian become close, she is amazed how he makes her feel safe and she asks him to be her lover. Hesitant at first, Tristian gives in and soon they both know that what they share is rare, but any relationship between them is impossible.

When Emma learns that Tristian is responsible for the inflammatory placards, she is hurt and returns to the castle. But with fresh eyes Emma begins to realize that maybe Mary is not as innocent as Emma believed and when she overhears Bothwell demanding that the town’s printers be brought in for questioning, she knows Tristian is in danger.

Emma doesn’t know what to believe or who to trust, but she knows that she has to warn Tristian. But will she convince him to leave? And can she return to her former life now that she has found love and learned that all she believed to be true is wrong? Can a highborn Lady and a lowborn Spy have a future?

This was a very well written, well paced novel with wonderful characters, steamy love scenes, lots of intrigue and suspense. I personally felt that there was a little too much modern verbiage and that Tristian and Emma love happened too fast and was not as believable as I would have liked. But overall, it was a good read and I enjoyed the story. This is the third book in the series, but it could be read as a stand alone title with no problems. I am happy to recommend this book and can’t wait to see what Ms. Cullen has in store for LaGrange and Margaret!!

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

The Earl of Benton by Madeline Martin

Earl of Benton (Wicked Earls' Club, #9)Earl of Benton by Madeline Martin
Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The Wicked Earls’ Club, #9

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Alistair Johnstone is the reluctant Earl of Benton, raised Scottish, he wants nothing to do with his English heritage, but when his grandfather dies, he has no choice, much to his mother’s dismay (and rage). He is attending a house party hosted by the Wicked Earl’s Club when he learns that his mother is in trouble and he needs to return to Scotland right away. While discussing his mother’s dilemma with his valet, he spies Emma hiding in a stall with his dog Beast.

Emma is running for her life, she is a month away from inheriting her father’s vast fortune and ceasing to be under her uncle’s guardianship. Her uncle has tried to force her to marry his son Conrad, but she refuses, so now it appears that her uncle has a new plan. Emma finds her maid Jenny dead and her servants urge her to go, pointing out that Jenny was wearing one of her dresses and looks like her from the back – Jenny was not the intended victim, Emma was. Emma takes off and knows they are following her, she heads for the nearby estate and lets her horse go, she hides in the stables and overheads Alistair and his valet McKenzie talking. He spots her just as her uncle arrives and he covers for her. After her uncle leaves, he says he will help her, but wants some answers.

Alistair sneaks her into the house and there is a comical scene with Emma trying on disguises, they settle on a shocking gown and will pretend that she is his lover. They leave and successfully fool her uncle before they make their escape. Once in the carriage, Emma tells Alistair to leave her in the next village – he assures her he will not hurt her and goes as far as to give her a dagger to “protect” herself. He offers to take her to Scotland and ensures that he will give her safe passage back to London. Emma agrees. They travel together and let the innkeepers assume that they are married, for the sake of her reputation (and to throw her uncle off her trail). They arrive in Scotland and he sees his cousin Hamish, Hamish sees Emma and makes a comment, but Emma tells him they are married. A statement that Alistair agrees to, but what Emma doesn’t realize is they are in Scotland and by declaring themselves married in front of witnesses – they are in fact married. Alistair decides to keep this from her and figures he will sort it out later. They share a room and finally give into the desire they have both been denying.

They travel to his castle and Alistair is dismayed when he sees that nothing has been repaired. Emma begins to have doubts about Alistair – maybe he is just after her money and all his compliments and sweet words were just a ruse to trick her into falling for him. If this revelation wasn’t bad enough, she then meets Madge, Alistair’s English-hating mother. Madge is livid that Alistair has brought Emma to her home. She spits at Emma’s feet, demands Alistair make her leave and refuses to leave her room until she is gone.

Emma has had enough and asks to be taken to her room. Alistair takes her and explains why Madge is so hateful and he says he will go talk to Madge. As he leaves, Emma realizes that she is falling in love with him. He talks to Madge and learns why the repairs haven’t’ been made, she is still angry, but it is clear she loves him and misses him, which is why she forced him to come home.

Emma spends a restless night and when she hears someone at her door, she thinks it is Alistair – but it is Madge – a raging, screaming Madge who charges at Emma. Emma grabs the dagger Alistair gave her – she is tired of being the victim and will not go down without a fight!

Alistair goes looking for Emma and finds her in the great hall with Madge – they are both drunk. Alistair helps Emma back to her room and she finally explains why she doesn’t believe Alistair’s compliments are sincere. Alistair tells her she is wrong, what she believes are flaws are what he likes best.

The next day, Alistair meets with Hamish, they are preparing to smuggle whisky to England for Madge. This was the great emergency that brought him to Scotland, she made promises to some very shady people and there was no way she could deliver the whisky. Alistair has to save her, but if he is caught smuggling Scots whisky into England, he will be tried for treason. He also doesn’t want Emma to know, because it will only further her belief that men only want her for her money. He makes the final preparations with Hamish and they enter the hall. Emma and Madge are together and Hamish addresses her as Lady Benton. Emma is embarrassed and says it was a lie, but Madge points out that because they declared themselves in front of witnesses, they are in fact married. Emma is stunned and then angry – why didn’t Alistair tell her? And when Madge mentions her fortune, she feels betrayed, she loved him and believed that he was sincere, but now she knows she was a fool.

The next day before she leaves, Madge talks to her and tells her that she thinks that Emma and Alistair can be happy and that Emma is welcome at the castle. Emma is touched, but is not sure Madge is correct about her and Alistair. When they finally set off, he tries to talk to her, but she is not having it. And when she asks about the carriage and the cart, he lies. She calls him on his lie and he finally tells her everything. She is still upset and heartbroken, but even worse – still in love with him. Alistair doesn’t want to lose her, but he has no idea how to right the wrongs he has done.

Can Alistair convince Emma he loves her? What about her uncle? And the whisky? Is there anyway for these two to overcome the hurt and betrayal? You’ll just have to read the book to find out!!

This was a well written, fully fleshed out novella, it has amusing moments, steamy love scenes, lies, betrayals, crazy mothers and evil relatives, a sweet dog and very hard won HEA.

This is the ninth installment of the Wicked Earls’ Club, but like the previous books, it is a stand alone title. I highly recommend this book and the entire series!

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

Death of an Honest Man by M.C. Beaton

Death of an Honest Man (Hamish Macbeth #33)Death of an Honest Man by M.C. Beaton

Barbara’s rating: 3.5/4 of 5 stars

Series: Hamish Macbeth #33
Publication Date: 2/20/18

I have read all thirty-three of the Hamish Macbeth books and I always love to visit the Scottish Highlands and the tiny village of Lochdubh, located in the northwest of Scotland. It is fun to see what is going on at Tommel Castle Hotel, and the vile village of Cnothan. Then, there is always the adventure of seeing how many side-kicks Hamish will go through – and I think this one wins with four. Sadly though, I have been disappointed in books thirty-two and thirty-three – they have become a bit dull and formulaic. I’m sure the author has written so many by now that she could almost write them in her sleep. Maybe that will change with the next book because apparently Blair will be gone and Hamish’s latest side-kick is a tall, nice looking young lady copper. If you are new to the series, you probably aren’t tired of Priscilla, Blair, Jimmy, Elspeth and even Hamish – but – if you’ve read from the first, they are probably getting a bit tiresome. I will try one more book to see what happens with the addition of Constable Dorothy McIver as Hamish’s new side-kick and also the addition of Johnny Southern because he sounds like he could be a new Blair. Hamish has also gotten Sonsie back from Ardnamurchan and it will be interesting to see how that goes.

Paul English is a retired banker who has moved to Cnothan. It doesn’t take long for him to alienate the entire population of Hamish’s territory. The man prides himself on being honest, but he is really judgmental, cruel and insulting. Is it any surprise that he turns up dead – in the bog? Not at all.

There are lots of suspects, so how will Hamish manage to track down the murderer – and not take credit for it. That is always a challenge for poor Hamish. He has a fine mind as a detective, but he doesn’t want to take credit for his solutions because he doesn’t want to be promoted out of his beloved village. As Hamish digs deeper, he finds there is more to some of the relationships in the area than you’d suspect.

Hamish is a very busy man – people are dying and being injured right and left and he has to solve the case and keep Blair off his back. When the solution finally presents itself, you’ll be surprised at how the end happens.

M. C. Beaton writes well, plots well and creates interesting characters. Her books are very, very busy though and sometimes you have to work a little to keep all of the side stories straight.

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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.”

How to Ensnare a Highlander by Michele McLean

How to Ensnare a Highlander (The MacGregor Lairds, #2)How to Ensnare a Highlander by Michelle McLean
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: The MacGregor Lairds, #2

Release Date: February 12, 2018

I loved this book right up until the last few chapters and then I couldn’t believe how it ended.

Lady Elizabet Harding is distraught, she had just learned that her father has betrothed her to a man that she cannot stand, Fergus Ramsay. In an effort to collect her thoughts, she goes out for a ride, but when a storm blows up and her horse is spooked, she is sure she is going to die, but she is plucked from the runaway horse by a masked man. At first she is scared, but he is kind and sees that she is sheltered from the storm. She knows who he is, the infamous Highland Highwayman. They talk and just as it seems he will kiss her, Fergus arrives.

John MacGregor hates Fergus Campbell or Ramsay as he is calling himself these days. John has one purpose and that is to destroy the men responsible for his brother’s death. He knows Fergus and Lord Dawsey (Elizabet’s father) are responsible and just as soon as he has enough evidence, he will see them pay for their crimes. He cannot imagine someone as lovely as Elizabet with Fergus, but he can’t be detracted from his goal.

Later that night, Elizabet’s parents return to London, they want to stop any gossip regarding her “escapade” so Fergus will not call off the marriage. On the way their coach is held up by John, who didn’t expect to see Elizabet. He robs her father and easily disarms her when she pulls a dagger on him. He asks for a kiss and doesn’t take it, instead he returns one bag of coins and kisses her hand before leaving. As he is riding away, she goes to pick up her dagger and one of John’s men shoots her. The horses are spooked and take off, leaving her laying in the road bleeding. John rushes back to her side. He takes her to his hideout and then to his home in Scotland. In all the time they are together, he is careful to disguise his voice and wear his mask. He nurses her back to health and falls a little more in love with her each day, but he knows that he has to return her to her family. They return to England and stop for the night in his hideout. He tells her he has a meeting and to stay in the cottage. She of course doesn’t, and ends up in danger, after observing her “betrothed” digging in the ruins of her dowry property. When she confronts John (whom she knows as Jack), he tells her that he is trying to stop him, but soldiers arrive and they are all in danger. She races back to the cottage and John follows her. He hides in the tub while she tries to get rid of the soldiers – but when one gets a little too friendly, she shoots at him, which brings more soldiers. When the soldiers finally leave, she learns the true reason John hate Fergus and her father. She doesn’t want to leave him, but she cannot help him destroy her father.

She returns home and it seems like the wedding will take place. She misses Jack and when she sees John at a ball – unmasked, she asks her friend Alice who he is, she puts two and two together and decides to try her hand at blackmail. She threatens to expose him as the highwayman if he doesn’t marry her. He agrees, but the King refuses to break her betrothal. He returns to his rooms and finds Elizabet waiting for him. He tells her of the King’s decision and kisses her. She knows it is hopeless, unless she is willing to turn on her father, there is no way they can be together. She asks him to make love to her, so she will at least have a happy memory. He can’t say no to her, when she is getting ready to leave, he asks her again if she would bear witness to her father’s crimes and she refuses. At that moment, her father bangs on John’s door and when he tries to slip her out through the courtyard, Fergus is there. From this moment on everything goes to hell. John is named as the highwayman and while trying to flee is shot.

Elizabet is inconsolable, until she learns he did not die. But John will have to make decisions that will change his life, a life he can’t ask Elizabeth to share.

I loved this book until the final chapters and then I was shocked at the twists and turns. I didn’t hate it, but I was not happy with the ending. The book is well written, flows nicely, has lots of action, angst and wonderful characters. There is one love scene, but it is not graphic and is barely lukewarm, the villain(s) are especially vile and the ending leaves a lot to be desired (IMO), but the epilogue was sweet and hinted that this story is not necessarily over, so I will definitely be reading the next book with high hopes for a more satisfactory outcome!

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

Worth of a Lady by Tarah Scott & Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Worth of a Lady (The Marriage Maker Book 1)Worth of a Lady by Tarah Scott
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: The Marriage Maker, #1)

Release Date: April 30, 2017

The Duke of Roxburgh has had enough, he has no male heir and his daughter Chastity will inherit, but he wants her to marry and have an heir before he dies, to date, she has managed to evade marriage for herself and her three sisters. So the duke threatens to marry her off to an old man if she doesn’t marry within two months. Chastity is angry, but knows her father is not bluffing, so she makes a deal, if her father can find a man who can find matches for her three sisters within a month, she will marry him.

Enter Sir James Stirling, he will find husbands for the sisters and then marry Lady Chastity, the reader is not privy to how the duke and Stirling meet, but Stirling is serious about marrying Chastity. He visits his friend and surrogate brother Quinn Ramsey, Baron Denly aka the Devil of Denly and reminds him of his promise to his dying father to marry. Quinn is a rake and happy to remain so, he tells Stirling he will marry when Stirling does. Stirling then announces that he will be marrying in five weeks and tells Quinn to prepare to meet his bride.

Lucy is the youngest daughter of the duke and the prettiest, she wants to marry, but is not sure that her father’s plan will work. She meets Quinn and is not overly impressed, but he is attractive and seems nice, until she learns he didn’t know about the plan with the duke and Stirling, she tells him and he laughs, he doesn’t plan to marry any time soon. But when he sees Lucy dancing with other men, he admits to being jealous and when another man claims her for a waltz, he announces to all that they are betrothed.

They marry days later and seem to be a perfect match. Chastity isn’t willing to concede defeat to Stirling and tells him that Lucy was the easiest to marry off, he baits her and she calls him a rogue, he says that just makes him interesting and that she will have the rest of her life to find out how interesting.

This was a very short story, but is was surprisingly good and fleshed out. I am now eager to find out who Stirling will pair the other sisters with and how he will win over Chastity.

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

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