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Welcome to The Romance Book Club!

Entries in Romance Previews (8)

Thursday
Jul032014

(Day 4) Special Edition Romance Previews: MY REBEL HIGHLANDER by Vonda Sinclair

 

  

 

 Order now from

 Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks

 

ABOUT THE BOOK: Known for his wicked wit, fierce loyalty, and skills in battle, Robert "Rebbie" MacInnis, the Earl of Rebbinglen, loves freedom and has no plans of marrying anytime soon. But when his father, a powerful Scottish marquess, signs a contract betrothing Rebbie to an earl's young daughter, he is furious. If he has to marry, he's determined to choose his own bride, though he has no inkling who he would wish to wed until fate intervenes to remind him of one fair-haired, nameless beauty and the passionate night they spent together years ago. A night forever etched in his memory.

Lady Calla Ferguson, a penniless widow with a young son, is forced to seek employment as her cousin's companion in order to pay her late husband's massive gambling debt. Having been ignored or mistreated most of her life, Calla has become a resourceful survivor who will stop at nothing to get what she wants—safety and security for her son and herself. Wealthy merchant, Claybourne cares little for the money the Earl of Stanbury owed him; he simply wants the earl's beautiful, voluptuous widow and he'll do whatever it takes to get his hands on her, even kidnapping and blackmail.

When Rebbie happens upon Claybourne abducting Calla, he rescues her and hides her in a secluded castle deep in the wild Scottish Highlands. Calla conceals her passionate spirit beneath reserve and duty, along with closely-guarded secrets which, if exposed, could ruin both her life and her son's. Years ago, she lost her heart to a dark-eyed stranger she never thought to see again, but now he's her protector. Rebbie craves another pleasurable night like the one they shared in the past, and she cannot resist the fiery passion that echoes deep in her heart and soul. Soft but strong, Calla sparks within Rebbie a desperate hunger and a need to protect her. But will her secrets tear them apart?

Learn more at:

 

Day 4:

Though Calla delays as long as possible, she finally meets Rebbie again. Up to this point, they've had no opportunity to talk about the past or the night they shared. Rebbie is determined to change that.

The céilidh was underway and Calla sat at the high table while most of the others danced to the sprightly music. Angelique was dancing with Lachlan, although not as boisterously as some of the others. Their dance more resembled a moving embrace. Very romantic. She marveled at the love-match they shared.

"'Tis a lively céilidh, is it not?" Rebbie asked, seating himself in the chair beside her.

Heavens! Calla's whole body heated. "Aye," she responded, surprised she got the word out. Wondering where Elena was, she glanced back over the great hall and found her dancing with one of the young Drummagan clansmen.

"A lovely lady such as yourself… why are you not dancing?" Rebbie's deep brown eyes sparkled. "Surely a dozen men have asked you already."

She shook her head. "Nay." Was that all she could utter? One word responses? "I haven't danced in… ages."

"Ha. Don't expect me to believe that, but 'haps you would honor me with a dance?"

She swallowed hard, her heart pounding. "Oh." How could she get out of this without him thinking she was daft? "I'm certain Elena would be jealous if I took you up on that generous offer."

"I don't see why. She's danced with every male in the room. Besides—" He cleared his throat.

Calla peered at him, wondering if he was going to finish the sentence. But he looked annoyed and glared at the young lady in question. "You are her cousin?" he asked, his gaze turning friendlier when it met hers.

"Aye, and her chaperone."

"I see." He glanced around the room again, then faced her and said in a low voice. "I need to speak to you in private."

Panic rampaged through Calla and she could scarce breathe as she assessed Rebbie's obsidian gaze. Then, unable to withstand the force of it, she glanced away. How could this be happening to her? She should have known… any dishonesty on her part was bound to come back to nip at her heels.

"Please." Rebbie's voice was barely audible above the loud music.

She darted a quick glance at him to try to discern his thoughts, but his eyes were near impossible to read. He did not appear angry. Merely… interested? And intense.

"Very well," she said.

"Do you ken where the solar is?"

She nodded.

He stood and bowed, then headed toward the stairs.

Good heavens! What did he wish to talk about? That night they'd shared? She inhaled deeply, trying to dispel the jitters that had suddenly overtaken her entire body. Even her knees shook as she rose from her seat.

All will be well. He is not a cruel man. And he doesn't know…

At least, she hoped he wasn't cruel and vindictive like her late husband. Would Rebbie keep their secret if she asked him to?

After watching the dancers for a few moments to make certain Elena didn't notice her following Rebbie, she sedately strolled toward the stairs. Hopefully, they would think she was merely retiring for the night.

Her heart pounding, she ascended the steps and started down the dim corridor, lit here and there by a candle sconce. Walking as slowly as she could, she tried to calm herself as she approached the solar. The door was open and, inside, several candles burned along with a low fire in the hearth. A dark form in his black clothing, Rebbie stood before it, gazing into the flames, his hand propped on the mantel.

She stepped across the threshold and halted, knowing not what to say.

He turned. "Lady Stanbury, thank you for agreeing to meet with me. Please, come in." His businesslike tone helped her relax marginally. Maybe he wouldn't get too personal after all. Moving toward her, he motioned to the hearth, then bypassed her and closed the door. "You don't mind, do you?"

"Nay." Saints! Her heart-rate doubled. Was it fear or excitement? Maybe a little of both.

"Come. Have a seat." He took her hand and drew her to the chairs near the hearth. He wore no gloves, and she perversely wished she didn't either. From somewhere deep in her soul, she craved the warm touch of his skin—something she hadn't felt in a very long time.

Once they were seated, she thought he would speak, but he didn't. Instead, he picked up the poker and stirred the fire's coals, then added two pieces of wood. The fire popped and crackled, burning a bit brighter.

Her stomach ached with frayed nerves.

He set the metal poker aside and glanced at her briefly. "I remember that night," he said in a low, deep voice.

Her breath stopped and heat rushed over her. "Pray pardon, I—"

"Nay." He held up a hand. "Why on earth would you apologize? 'Twas me who was a rogue and a scoundrel."

"Nay, you were not." She knew he'd said that because he was a charming gentleman, for she was the one who'd approached him.

She'd told him she was a widow back then. A lie. She squeezed her eyes shut. He could easily learn her husband died a mere five months ago.

"Anyway. 'Tis our secret," he murmured.

She glanced at him. A hint of a sincere smile softened his sensual mouth. Was it too much to hope for… that he would keep their secret? With fathomless eyes, he studied her, waiting for her response. He could've easily taken advantage of her, forcing her to warm his bed in exchange for his silence, but thankfully he didn't appear to be that sort of man.

"I thank you," she said. "I never imagined… that I would see you again."

"You hoped you wouldn't, aye?" He lifted a brow, looking none too pleased about that.

It wasn't that she didn't want to see him again, for she certainly did, dreamed of it every night, but…. She shrugged. "Under the circumstances—"

"And what were the circumstances?"

She bit her lip. Could she tell him the truth, that she had been married at the time? And that she was an adulteress? Although, not by her own choice. Shame consumed her.

"You don't wish to say." His voice gentled. "I understand. 'Tis far different for a woman than for a man."

"Indeed."

"So, 'twas not something you did often?"

Calla's shocked gaze flew to Rebbie. "Nay. Of course not."

"I meant no offense." He could easily tell by her words and actions she was not very experienced at seducing men, then or now. She blushed almost as much as a virgin, for heaven's sake. If she were a practiced seductress, she would be all over him now, wouldn't she? Instead, she would rarely meet his gaze. 'Twas obvious she was mortified that he remembered the night they'd spent together.

He almost wished she would do something. Smile at him, touch his arm. Anything. He wanted to see a glimpse of the lass he'd shared a pleasurable night of unbridled passion with. He remembered the joy in her eyes and her smile.

Memories from that night had taunted him all day and now they flooded his mind. He recalled that her actions had told him she wasn't very experienced. Of course, she hadn't been a virgin. No widows were, unless their elderly husbands had been unable to perform. But 'twas obvious to him Calla had never experienced a bedding like the one he gave her. She had not truly even known how to kiss before he'd shown her.

He'd been in his early twenties at the time and bedsport had been one of his favorite pastimes. There was no way in hades he would've refused such a beautiful lady. Aye, he'd known she was a lady, but a countess? He hadn't imagined.

"I know what you must think of me," she whispered, refusing to look at him. "But, nay, I had not done that before." She shook her head. "You have no idea how embarrassed I am right now."

"There's no need to be. I won't be telling anyone." Of course, he'd already told Lachlan, but he wouldn't breathe a word about it. "I would never think badly of you. 'Twas just one of those things that happens when two lonely people get together." Or in his case, sotted on whisky. He was rarely lonely, but mayhap she had been. And if so, he was glad he'd been there for her. "I don't regret it. And I hope you don't."

She studied him for a longer moment. "Nay."

"Good." He observed her, unsure what was going through her mind, but feeling somehow that maybe she was starting to trust him a wee bit. "I hope you don't feel I took advantage of you in a… fragile state."

"Nay. Of course not. I blame myself."

"There is no blame. 'Twas a memorable night and I have to admit, I think of it sometimes."

The color of her face deepened in the firelight and she again refused to look at him.

"Do you?"

(excerpt continued on Friday)

 

Wednesday
Jul022014

(Day 3) Special Edition Romance Previews: MY REBEL HIGHLANDER by Vonda Sinclair

 

  

 

 Order now from

 Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks

 

ABOUT THE BOOK: Known for his wicked wit, fierce loyalty, and skills in battle, Robert "Rebbie" MacInnis, the Earl of Rebbinglen, loves freedom and has no plans of marrying anytime soon. But when his father, a powerful Scottish marquess, signs a contract betrothing Rebbie to an earl's young daughter, he is furious. If he has to marry, he's determined to choose his own bride, though he has no inkling who he would wish to wed until fate intervenes to remind him of one fair-haired, nameless beauty and the passionate night they spent together years ago. A night forever etched in his memory.

Lady Calla Ferguson, a penniless widow with a young son, is forced to seek employment as her cousin's companion in order to pay her late husband's massive gambling debt. Having been ignored or mistreated most of her life, Calla has become a resourceful survivor who will stop at nothing to get what she wants—safety and security for her son and herself. Wealthy merchant, Claybourne cares little for the money the Earl of Stanbury owed him; he simply wants the earl's beautiful, voluptuous widow and he'll do whatever it takes to get his hands on her, even kidnapping and blackmail.

When Rebbie happens upon Claybourne abducting Calla, he rescues her and hides her in a secluded castle deep in the wild Scottish Highlands. Calla conceals her passionate spirit beneath reserve and duty, along with closely-guarded secrets which, if exposed, could ruin both her life and her son's. Years ago, she lost her heart to a dark-eyed stranger she never thought to see again, but now he's her protector. Rebbie craves another pleasurable night like the one they shared in the past, and she cannot resist the fiery passion that echoes deep in her heart and soul. Soft but strong, Calla sparks within Rebbie a desperate hunger and a need to protect her. But will her secrets tear them apart?

Learn more at:

 

Day 3:

We meet Rebbie, the hero, and discover the trap his father has set for him.

 

Robert "Rebbie" MacInnis, the Earl of Rebbinglen, rode toward Draughon Castle with his plaid flying. He grinned, wondering what his friend, Lachlan MacGrath-Drummagan, the Earl of Draughon, would say about his fine Highland garb which he'd grown to love. While staying in Durness with their friend, Dirk, Rebbie had taken to wearing a belted plaid more often. He was, after all, a Highlander, though because he'd spent much of his time in the Lowlands, England, or on the continent, he did not always dress as such. When he'd needed new clothing in Durness, plaids were far more plentiful than breeches or trews, and he found he loved the sense of freedom a plaid gave him.

"Wait, m'laird!"

Rebbie glanced back along the muddy, rutted coach road, green bushes encroaching on either side, to see his manservant, George Sweeny, trying to keep up on the smaller horse, while he led the pack horse carrying Rebbie's belongings. Rebbie slowed his mount to give George time to catch up. It had taken them a fortnight to travel from Durness to Perth. Fortunately, most of his journey had been by galley.

Soon, massive iron gates and high stone walls loomed before him, and beyond them, the impressive Draughon Castle with its four round towers. He drew up and his spirited black stallion reared. "Whoa, Devil!"

"That be you, Laird Rebbinglen?" the guard called down from the gate house.

"Aye."

"I hardly recognize you in all that plaid."

"Ha." Rebbie grinned.

When the gates opened, Rebbie and George proceeded through. In the stone-paved courtyard, they dismounted. Rebbie handed the reins to George, then sprinted up the keep's front steps. The two guards on either side of the door bowed. "Laird Rebbinglen," they greeted, while one opened the door. Aye, they remembered him from his stay here last autumn.

Upon entering the two-story great hall, he paused until his eyes adjusted to the dimness, lit here and there by candles.

"Rebbie?" Lachlan's voice echoed from the other end of the huge room. "Welcome." His fair-haired friend met him in the middle of the great hall, shook his hand and gave him a rough, back-slapping embrace. "'Tis good to see you again, my friend."

"Likewise. Married life appears to be agreeing with you." Aye, his friend looked as fit and happy as the last time he'd seen him.

Lachlan's grin widened. "Angelique and I have a wee new daughter. She's the loveliest angel you'll ever set eyes upon."

Rebbie smiled at his friend's obvious delight. "I'm certain she is. Congratulations."

Lachlan's gaze dropped to Rebbie's belted plaid, much like his own, and he laughed. "What the devil are you wearing? I've never seen you wear a breacan-an-fheilidh."

"Does it suit me?"

"Aye. Finally, you're a Highlander, as you've always claimed to be. Do I have Dirk to thank for this?"

"'Haps. Or maybe 'twas the cold weather up north."

"'Tis about time you arrived, Robert," someone at the other end of the room called out. He was half hidden behind a screen. The voice was older, urbane, and a bit stodgy.

"Who is that?" Rebbie muttered low, but he had a sinking feeling he already knew. Not many people called him Robert. Frowning, he strode forward.

God's teeth. Nay! His father, William MacInnis, the Marquess of Kilverntay, sat near the hearth with another man.

"Da, what in blazes are you doing here?" Rebbie asked.

"Ha!" His father got to his feet, looking a wee bit older than the last time Rebbie had seen him. His long dark hair now showed a few strands of gray. "That's a fine way to greet your own da, whom you haven't visited in over a year."

Well, aye. 'Haps he should feel guilty about that, but he'd stayed away because his father's obsessively controlling nature drove Rebbie mad. "A good day to you, sir," he said, giving in to good manners. He shook his father's hand, then embraced him. He indeed loved his father; he simply had a difficult time living near him.

His father pulled back and motioned to the man with short gray hair next to him. "This is a good friend of mine, the Earl of Barclay."

The man stood, casting Rebbie a speculative, distrustful look from his keen blue eyes.

Rebbie shook his hand. "A pleasure, Barclay."

"Rebbinglen."

"Why haven't you been to visit?" his father asked.

"I was planning to in September." Aye, a very brief visit of a day or two. 'Twas all he could take.

"Do you think I believe that?" His father raised a dark brow.

"How are the lasses?" Rebbie asked of his four sisters. He rarely visited them because his stepmother was intolerable. Considering that his father lived on a different estate, he must have found her intolerable, too.

"Fine, fine. Lily is eighteen summers now and I'll have to start searching out a husband for her… as soon as you're married." His father smiled.

Damnation, Rebbie shouldn't have sent his father the missive, telling him where he was headed when he'd left Glasgow. But he always tried to keep his father abreast of where he was, since he traveled so much. His father had never followed him before. Why was he here now?

"If you weren't always trying to force me to marry some aristocrat's daughter, I would visit more often."

His father sent him a calculating look. "Naught to fash yourself over, Robert. You will find no fault with the bride I've found for you. She is the most beautiful young lady you will ever catch sight of."

Just like the dozen others he'd introduced Rebbie to in years past. He released a tired breath. "When I'm ready to marry, I'll inform you."

"Well, you are twenty-eight summers! 'Tis high time you've married and sired me some grandsons. I want to meet the lad who will one day succeed me as the Marquess of Kilverntay."

"Aye, and at twenty-eight, I'm plenty old enough to choose my own bride. I will only marry a woman to my liking." Rebbie would not back down in this, especially since he'd seen how happy his friends were with their respective brides. Lachlan's marriage had been arranged by the king, but fortunately he and Angelique had quickly discovered they were mad for each other.

"This lass is not only beautiful, but sweet… and spirited too." His father turned to a nearby female servant. "When are the ladies due back from the dressmaker?"

"Any time now, m'laird."

"She's here?" Rebbie asked, annoyance simmering in his blood. "You've brought some lass here to my friend's home that you wish to leg-shackle me to?"

"Aye. How else was I going to introduce the two of you?" He motioned to the man next to him. "The Earl of Barclay is her father."

Rebbie clenched his teeth so tightly he feared they would crack, barely holding his temper in check. Barclay met his glare with one of his own.

"Da, I would have a word with you in private." Rebbie tilted his head toward the exit door.

"Very well." His father murmured something to Barclay before following him.

Ready to throttle someone, Rebbie strode across the great hall, his boot heels striking the smooth stone floor and echoing from the ceiling. He shoved the door open and emerged into the sunshine.

His father came out and closed the door behind him. They proceeded into the courtyard a short distance from the guards. "Why the devil are you wearing that belted plaid? You look like a wild Scot in that garb."

"'Tis the dress of Highlanders, which we are rumored to be," Rebbie said dryly.

"'Tis the dress of peasants and barbarians. Not earls."

"You're insulting your host. Lachlan is certainly no peasant or barbarian."

"Never mind that. You'll be lucky if you haven't insulted the lady's father."

"I don't give a damn," Rebbie grumbled, low.

"Well, you'd best because the contract has been signed."

"What! Are you mad?" Rebbie demanded. "Last time I saw you, you agreed that we would talk before you signed any contract, and I would choose my own bride."

"You will never choose," his father said in a calm, wise manner that only grated on Rebbie's nerves.

"I will. When I meet the right lady, I will know. Then, I will choose."

His father shook his head doubtfully and gave a faint grin.

Rebbie ground his teeth.

"You haven't even met Lady Elena yet. She may be the one you wish to choose."

Rebbie narrowed his eyes. "And if she isn't? What if we don't suit at all and you've already signed a damnable contract?"

 

(excerpt continued on Thursday)

 

Monday
Jun172013

Day 1: Special Edition Romance Previews featuring CHANGING LANES by Kathleen Long

Featured Book

Excerpt 1

There are times in life when a woman thinks to herself, My plans are working beautifully.

I pulled into the gravel drive of my parents’ home, looked in the rearview mirror to the suitcase and boxes of personal belongings piled on the rear seat of my car, and sighed.

This was not one of those times.

“Pond-sucking bugs,” I muttered.

My plans for the day had included moving from my cookie-cutter condo in South Jersey to the fixer-upper Victorian my fiancé, Fred Newton, and I had purchased on Second Avenue in Paris, New Jersey.

They had not included being chased off by a swarm of termites and my exterminator’s warning about structural damage.

I may not be a builder, Abby, but I know termites.

There was only one thing to do with temporarily derailed plans. Fix them.

Step one was telling Fred we wouldn’t be meeting at our new house.

I glanced at the time on my cell phone. Fred had promised to be in Paris by four o’clock, and it was now four forty-five and I still hadn’t heard a word. Even though the lease on his Hoboken apartment wasn’t up for another month, we’d planned to use this weekend to celebrate the beginning of our new life together, starting with dinner tonight. I frowned.

Fred was never late. Never. His punctuality happened to be one of the things I loved about him.

I pulled up his number and waited patiently as his voice mail kicked in.

“Hey, honey,” I said, raising my voice over the sound of hammering coming from my parents’ roof. “I’m at Mom and Dad’s instead of our house. I’ll explain later. Call me back.”

I disconnected, tucked the phone in my pocket, and pushed open the driver’s-side door to step outside. I wrangled my suitcase out of the backseat and fought with the button to release the handle.

The afternoon had grown warm, one of those spring days that stuns you with its brightness, lightness, and fragrances—flowers in bloom, freshly cut grass—as if all was right with the world, when, in fact, it wasn’t.

The hammering noise came again, and I squinted up into the late-day sun to get a better look at the source. And there stood Mick O’Malley, the boy next door who hadn’t been the boy next door since partway through our senior year of high school.

“Mick?” I asked in disbelief. “What are you doing here?”

“Nice to see you, too,” he called out over the side of the roof. “Long time no see. You’re looking well. How’s your mother? Any of those more traditional greetings would do just fine, Halladay.”

My left eye twitched, and I pressed a finger against the offending lid while doing my best to pretend I was merely shielding my eyes from the sun.

Mick climbed down the ladder a man, a far cry from the eighteen-year-old boy he’d been when I’d last seen him. He’d been one of my closest friends back in school. Been being the key word in that sentence. “Seriously,” I asked, “what are you doing here?”

He stepped into my line of vision, and I stared at him, hoping my look would convey the fact that I’d forgotten nothing about the way he’d left Paris. The way he’d left me.

His features had aged even better than I’d imagined, and I found that more annoying than the fact I felt compelled to tell him everything about my day.

Old habits die hard.

“Your dad asked me to fix the roof.” Mick wiped a hand over his forehead and through his dark hair, leaving the strands in a state of utter disarray.

“So you came back to town for that?” I asked incredulously.

Mick looked like he wanted to laugh at me, but he didn’t. “No, Halladay. I’ve been back.”

“But…why didn’t he hire someone?”

Mick’s smile turned smug. “He did.”

“I thought you were some hotshot architect out west?”

I regretted the question the moment the impact of my words registered on Mick’s face. His grin faded. His features tightened. The light in his eyes vanished.

“No,” he said simply.

He’d never been one for explanation, and I knew better than to push.

“How about you?” His gaze shifted again, a small measure of light returning to his vivid blue eyes. “I hear you’ve been encouraging the world to be nice?”

I had been, until my editor’s early morning call had ended my eight-year stint as a syndicated advice columnist.

“You know me,” I lied, ignoring the pit in my stomach where my editor’s words echoed. Falling readership. Changing tastes. Sign of the times. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” I said with a forced smile.

Now visions of a rapidly disappearing savings account danced in my head.

Mortgage payments. Termite treatment. Unemployment.

Mick tipped his chin toward my suitcase. “You moving in?”

“Temporarily,” I answered. Very temporarily.

If I couldn’t move into the yellow Victorian in the morning, I’d stay with Fred at his apartment an hour north. After all, I wouldn’t be commuting to work anymore.

“Thought your new house was over on Second?”

As usual in Paris, everyone knew everything.

“Sadly, so are most of the termites in New Jersey,” I said.

Mick chuckled, and I ignored the warmth of familiarity the sound ignited in me.

He shook his head. “Only you, Halladay.”

“Good to see you’ve still got that whole empathy thing working for you.”

“Ouch.” He faked a shudder. “I always did bring out your bad side.”

No kidding. “You could bring out Tinker Bell’s bad side.”

Mick took a step toward me, and I held my ground, ignoring the urge to run inside. “Tinker Bell wouldn’t complain.” His voice had dropped low, dangerously low.

(excerpt continued on Tuesday)

 

Order from Amazon Now!

 

About CHASING LANES by Kathleen Long

Abby Halladay has the perfect life. Or, rather, she will...as long as everything goes exactly according to plan. Abby never leaves anything to chance—not her job as a syndicated columnist, not her engagement to her fiancé, Fred, and certainly not her impending wedding in Paris (New Jersey, that is).

Unfortunately for Abby, even the best-laid plans often go awry—like when Fred runs away to Paris (France, that is), her column is canned, and her dream home is diagnosed with termites. Forced to move back in with her parents and drive her dad's cab, Abby's perfect life has now officially become the perfect disaster.

Then a funny thing happens. Slowly but surely, Abby begins letting go of her dreams of perfection. As she does, the messy, imperfect life she thought she never wanted starts to feel exactly like the one she needs.

Poignant and heartfelt, Changing Lanes celebrates the unexpected joys of everyday life—and the enduring promise of second chances.

For more information:

www.kathleenlong.com

https://www.facebook.com/kathleenlong

https://twitter.com/KLWords

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