Tag Archives: Avon Romance

Girl with the Make-Believe Husband

When the truth comes out, Edward may have a few surprises of his own for the new Mrs. Rokesby.

 

THE GIRL WITH THE MAKE-BELIEVE HUSBAND
Rokesbys #2
Julia Quinn
Releasing May 30, 2017
Avon Books

 

While you were sleeping…
With her brother Thomas injured on the battlefront in the Colonies, orphaned Cecilia Harcourt has two unbearable choices: move in with a maiden aunt or marry a scheming cousin. Instead, she chooses option three and travels across the Atlantic, determined to nurse her brother back to health. But after a week of searching, she finds not her brother but his best friend, the handsome officer Edward Rokesby. He’s unconscious and in desperate need of her care, and Cecilia vows that she will save this soldier’s life, even if staying by his side means telling one little lie…
 
I told everyone I was your wife
When Edward comes to, he’s more than a little confused. The blow to his head knocked out six months of his memory, but surely he would recall getting married. He knows who Cecilia Harcourt is—even if he does not recall her face—and with everyone calling her his wife, he decides it must be true, even though he’d always assumed he’d marry his neighbor back in England.
 
If only it were true…
Cecilia risks her entire future by giving herself—completely—to the man she loves. But when the truth comes out, Edward may have a few surprises of his own for the new Mrs. Rokesby.
 
Julia Quinn is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-five novels for Avon Books, and one of only sixteen authors ever to be inducted in the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family.


 

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Excerpt

Manhattan Island

July 1779

 

His head hurt.

Correction, his head really hurt.

It was hard to tell, though, just what sort of pain it was. He might have been shot through the head with a musket ball. That seemed plausible, given his current location in New York (or was it Connecticut?) and his current occupation as a captain in His Majesty’s army.

There was a war going on, in case one hadn’t noticed.

But this particular pounding—the one that felt more like someone was bashing his skull with a cannon (not a cannonball, mind you, but an actual cannon) seemed to indicate that he had been attacked with a blunter instrument than a bullet.

An anvil, perhaps. Dropped from a second-story window.

But if one cared to look on the bright side, a pain such as this did seem to indicate that he wasn’t dead, which was also a plausible fate, given all the same facts that had led him to believe he might have been shot.

That war he’d mentioned… people did die.

With alarming regularity.

So he wasn’t dead. That was good. But he also wasn’t sure where he was, precisely. The obvious next step would be to open his eyes, but his eyelids were translucent enough for him to realize that it was the middle of the day, and while he did like to look on the metaphorical bright side, he was fairly certain that the literal one would prove blinding.

So he kept his eyes closed.

But he listened.

He wasn’t alone. He couldn’t make out any actual conversation, but a low buzz of words and activity filtered through the air. People were moving about, setting objects on tables, maybe pulling a chair across the floor.

Someone was moaning in pain.

Most of the voices were male, but there was at least one lady nearby. She was close enough that he could hear her breathing. She made little noises as she went about her business, which he soon realized included tucking blankets around him and touching his forehead with the back of her hand.

He liked these little noises, the tiny little mmms and sighs she probably had no idea she was making. And she smelled nice, a bit like lemons, a bit like soap.

And a bit like hard work.

He knew that smell. He’d worn it himself, albeit usually only briefly until it turned into a full-fledged stink.

On her, though, it was more than pleasant. Perhaps a little earthy. And he wondered who she was, to be tending to him so diligently.

“How is he today?”

Edward held himself still. This male voice was new, and he wasn’t sure he wanted anyone to know he was awake yet.

Although he wasn’t sure why he felt this hesitancy.

“The same,” came the woman’s reply.

“I am concerned. If he doesn’t wake up soon…”

“I know,” the woman said. There was a touch of irritation in her voice, which Edward found curious.

“Have you been able to get him to take broth?”

“Just a few spoonfuls. I was afraid he would choke if I attempted any more than that.”

The man made a vague noise of approval. “Remind me how long he has been like this?”

“A week, sir. Four days before I arrived, and three since.”

A week. Edward thought about this. A week meant it must be… March? April?

No, maybe it was only February. And this was probably New York, not Connecticut.

But that still didn’t explain why his head hurt so bloody much. Clearly he’d been in some sort of an accident. Or had he been attacked?

“There has been no change at all?” the man asked, even though the lady had just said as much.

But she must have had far more patience than Edward, because she replied in a quiet, clear voice, “No, sir. None.”

The man made a noise that wasn’t quite a grunt. Edward found it impossible to interpret.

“Er…” The woman cleared her throat. “Have you any news of my brother?”

Her brother? Who was her brother?

“I am afraid not, Mrs. Rokesby.”

Mrs. Rokesby?

            “It has been nearly two months,” she said quietly.

Mrs. Rokesby? Edward really wanted them to get back to that point. There was only one Rokesby in North America as far as he knew, and that was him. So if she was Mrs. Rokesby…

“I think,” the male voice said, “that your energies would be better spent tending to your husband.”

Husband?

“I assure you,” she said, and there was that touch of irritation again, “that I have been caring for him most faithfully.”

Husband? They were calling him her husband? Was he married? He couldn’t be married. How could he be married and not remember it?

            Who was this woman?

Edward’s heart began to pound. What the devil was happening to him?

“Did he just make a noise?” the man asked.

“I… I don’t think so.”

She moved then, quickly. Hands touched him, his cheek, then his chest, and even through her obvious concern, there was something soothing in her motions, something undeniably right.

“Edward?” she asked, taking his hand. She stroked it several times, her fingers brushing lightly over his skin. “Can you hear me?”

He ought to respond. She was worried. What kind of gentleman did not act to relieve a lady’s distress?

“I fear he may be lost to us,” the man said, with far less gentleness than Edward thought appropriate.

“He still breathes,” the woman said in a steely voice.

The man said nothing, but his expression must have been one of pity, because she said it again, more loudly this time.

He still breathes.”

“Mrs. Rokesby…”

Edward felt her hand tighten around his. Then she placed her other on top, her fingers resting lightly on his knuckles. It was the smallest sort of embrace, but Edward felt it down to his soul.

“He still breathes, Colonel,” she said with quiet resolve. “And while he does, I will be here. I may not be able to help Thomas, but—”

Thomas. Thomas Harcourt. That was the connection. This must be his sister. Cecilia. He knew her well.

Or not. He’d never actually met the lady, he felt like he knew her. She wrote to her brother with a diligence that was unmatched in the regiment. Thomas received twice as much mail as Edward, and Edward had four siblings to Thomas’s one.

Cecilia Harcourt. What on earth was she doing in North America? She was supposed to be in Derbyshire, in that little town Thomas had been so eager to leave. The one with the hot springs. Matlock. No, Matlock Bath.

Edward had never been, but he thought it sounded charming. Not the way Thomas described it, of course; he liked the bustle of city life and couldn’t wait to take a commission and depart his village. But Cecilia was different. In her letters, the small Derbyshire town came alive, and Edward almost felt that he would recognize her neighbors if he ever went to visit.

She was witty. Lord, she was witty. Thomas used to laugh so much at her missives that Edward finally made him read them out loud.

Then one day, when Thomas was penning his response, Edward interrupted so many times that Thomas finally shoved out his chair and held forth his quill.

“You write to her,” he’d said.

So he did.

Not on his own, of course. Edward could never have written to her directly. It would have been the worst sort of impropriety, and he would not have insulted her in such a manner. But he took to scribbling a few lines at the end of Thomas’s letters, and whenever she replied, she had a few lines for him.

Thomas carried a miniature of her, and even though he said it was several years old, Edward had found himself staring at it, studying the small portrait of the young woman, wondering if her hair really was that remarkable golden color, or if she really did smile that way, lips closed and mysterious.

Somehow he thought not. She did not strike him as a woman with secrets. Her smile would be sunny and free. Edward had even thought he’d like to meet her once this godforsaken war was over. He’d never said anything to Thomas, though.

That would have been strange.

Now Cecilia was here. In the colonies. Which made absolutely no sense, but then again, what did? Edward’s head was injured, and Thomas seemed to be missing, and…

Edward thought hard.

…and he seemed to have married Cecilia Harcourt.

He opened his eyes and tried to focus on the green-eyed woman peering down at him.

“Cecilia?”

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Review: 

In her first story outside of England, Julia Quinn takes the reader to Revolutionary New York. Without getting too bogged down in the conflict, she presents her hero, Edward as a British officer who lost his memory. Upon awakening from an injury, he discovers his best friend’s sister by his bedside. Cecilia had claimed to be his wife and Edward believes her. Their relationship had previously been built on notes through letters between Cecilia and her brother. In addition to that past, the best part of their relationship was the support between Cecilia and Edward. While he is injured, she cares for him and when Cecilia is given bad news, he supports her tenderly. This was a heartwarming book to read and Julia Quinn has excelled at creating likable and relatable characters. In the story she’s created, it actually makes sense for Cecilia to claim to be Edward’s wife. Quinn does an excellent job of pulling off one of the most unbelievable tropes- the amnesic hero.

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My Fair Duchess

 
An unexpected duchess proves that behaving  badly isn’t exclusive to the Dukedom.

 

MY FAIR DUCHESS
Dukes Behaving Badly #5
Megan Frampton
Releasing Feb 28, 2017
Avon Books
In Megan Frampton’s most recent installment of The Dukes Behaving Badly series, an
unexpected duchess proves that behaving badly isn’t exclusive to the Dukedom.
 
The Unexpected Duchess
 
Archibald Salisbury, son of a viscount, war hero, and proficient in the proper ways of aristocratic society, has received orders for his most challenging mission: Genevieve, Duchess of Blakesley. How she inherited a duchy isn’t his problem. Turning her into a perfect duchess is. But how can he keep his mind on business when her beauty entices him toward pleasure?
It was impossible, unprecedented…and undeniably true. Genevieve is now a “duke”, or, rather, a duchess. So what is she to do when the ton eyes her every move, hoping she’ll make a mistake? Genevieve knows she has brains and has sometimes been told she has beauty, but, out of her depth, she calls on an expert. And what an expert, with shoulders broad enough to lean on, and a wit that matches her own. Archie is supposed to teach her to be a lady and run her estate, but what she really wants to do is unladylike—run into his arms.
 
Megan Frampton writes historical romance under her own name and romantic women’s fiction as Megan Caldwell. She likes the color black, gin, dark-haired British men, and huge earrings, not in that order. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and son. You can visit her on her website@meganf, and at Facebook.
 

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1845, Lady Sophia’s Drawing Room

 

“There’s only one solution,” Lady Sophia said, passing the letter to Archie as he felt his stomach drop. And his carefully ordered life teeter on the verge of change. “You’ll have to go to London to sort my goddaughter out.” She embellished her point by squeezing her tiny dog Truffles, who emitted a squeak and glared at Archie. As if it was his fault.

He resisted the urge to crumple the paper in his hand. “But the festival is in a few weeks,” Archie said, hearing the desperate tone in his voice. He did not want to ever return to London. That was the purpose of taking a position out here in the country after leaving the Queen’s Own Hussars a year prior. His family was there, and his father, at least, had made it clear he never wanted to see him again. What’s more, he did not want to assist a helpless aristocrat in some sort of desperate attempt to bring order to their lives. Even though that was what he was doing in Lady Sophia’s employ. But working for her had come to have its own kind of satisfactory order, one he did not want to disrupt.

“There is work to be done,” Archie continued, hoping to appeal to his employer’s sensible side.

Although in the course of working for her he had come to realize his employer didn’t really have a sensible side, so what was he hoping to accomplish?

“Didn’t you tell me Mr. McCready could do everything you could?” Lady Sophia asked. “You pointed out that if you were to get ill, or busy with other matters, your assistant steward could handle things just as well as you.”

That was when I was trying to get one of my men work, Archie thought in frustration. To help him get back on his feet after the rigors of war. And Bob had proven himself to be a remarkably able assistant, allowing Archie to dive into Lady Sophia’s woefully neglected accounts and see into her investments, neither of which she paid any attention to.

Lady Sophia placed Truffles on the rug before lifting her head to look at Archie. Who knew, in that moment, that he was doomed. Doomed to return to London to help out a likely far-too- indulged female in the very difficult position of being a powerful and wealthy aristocrat.

Perhaps it would have been easier to just get shot on the battlefield. It certainly would have been quicker.

“It’s settled.” She punctuated her words with a nod of her head, sending a few gray curls flying in the air. “You will go see to the new duchess and take care of her as ably as you do me. Mr. Mc-Cready will assist me while you are away.”

Archie looked at the letter again. “This duchess is your relative?” he asked. That would explain the new duchess’s equally silly mode of communication. An “unexpected duchess,” indeed. What kind of idiot wouldn’t have foreseen this circumstance? And done something to prepare for it?

“She calls me aunt, but she is not my actual niece, you understand,” Lady Sophia explained. “She is my goddaughter; her mother married the duke, the duchess’s father. It is quite unusual for a woman to inherit the duchy.”

“Quite,” Archie echoed.

“But it happened, somehow, and since I don’t know anything about being a duchess . . .” Because I do? Archie wondered. But there wasn’t anybody else. She wouldn’t have asked Lady Sophia, of all people, unless there was nobody else.

Or if she was as flighty and confident as her faux-aunt. A scenario that seemed more and more likely.

“The only thing Mr. McCready can’t do is attract as much feminine interest as you do, Mr. Salisbury.” She sat back up and regarded him. “Which might make him more productive,” she added. She leaned over to offer Truffles the end of her biscuit.

Archie opened his mouth to object, but closed it when he realized she was right. He wasn’t vain, but he did recognize that ladies tended to find his appearance attractive. Lady Sophia received many more visitors, she’d told him in an irritated tone, now that he’d been hired.

Bob, damn his eyes, smirked knowingly every time Archie was summoned to Lady Sophia’s drawing room to answer yet another question about estate management posed by a lady who’d likely never had such a question in her life.

Archie responded by making Bob personally in charge of the fertilizer. It didn’t stop Bob’s smirking, but it did make Archie feel better.

“And you will return in a month’s time so you can be here for the festival.”

“Sooner if I can, my lady.” If this duchess needed more time than a month, there would be no hope for her anyway. Country life suited him; he liked its quiet and regularity. It was a vast change from life in battle, or even being just on duty, but it was far more interesting than being the third son from a viscount’s family. A viscount who disowned his third boy when said boy was determined to join the army.

Meanwhile, however, he had to pack to head off to a new kind of battle—that of preparing a completely unprepared woman, likely a woman as flighty and often confused as Lady Sophia, to hold a position that she was entirely unsuited for.

Very much like working with raw recruits, in fact.

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I really enjoyed this book and Megan Frampton’s take on My Fair Lady. The relationship between Archie and Genevieve was enduring and it was great to watch them fall in love as they navigate the responsibilities of the duchy. Overall, a terrific read!

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Salvaged Cover Reveal

 

About SALVAGED

Hudson Wheeler is a nice guy. Everyone knows it, including his fiancée who left him with a canceled wedding and a baby on the way. He’s tired of finishing last and is ready to start living in the moment with nights soaked in whiskey, fast cars, and even faster girls. He’s set to start living on the edge, but when he meets Poppy Cruz, her sad eyes in the most gorgeous face he’s ever seen hook him in right away. Wheeler can see Poppy’s pain and all he wants to do is take care of her and make her smile, whatever it takes.

Poppy can’t remember a time when she didn’t see strangers as the enemy. After a lifetime of being hurt from the men who swore to protect her, Poppy’s determined to keep herself safe by keeping everyone else at arm’s length. Wheeler’s sexy grin and rough hands from hours restoring classic cars shouldn’t captivate her, but every time she’s with him, she can’t help being pulled closer to him. Though she’s terrified to trust again, Poppy soon realizes it might hurt even more to shut Wheeler out—and the intense feelings pulsing through her are making it near impossible to resist him.

The only thing Poppy is sure of is that her heart is in need of some serious repair, and the more time she spends with Wheeler, the more she’s convinced he’s the only man with the tools to fix it.

 

About Jay Crownover

Jay Crownover is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men, Welcome to the Point, and Saints of Denver series. Like her characters, she is a big fan of tattoos. She loves music and wishes she could be a rock star, but since she has no aptitude for singing or instrument playing, she’ll settle for writing stories with interesting characters and make the reader feel something.

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The Scottish Duke

a new series about dashing, charismatic dukes—

and the women who tame them…

THE SCOTTISH DUKE
The Duke Trilogy #1
Karen Ranney
Releasing Nov 29th, 2016
Avon Books

 

New York Times bestselling
author Karen Ranney returns with the first novel in a new series about dashing,
charismatic dukes—and the women who tame them…
Though raised as a gentleman’s daughter, Lorna Gordon is obliged to take a position as an upstairs maid at Blackhall Castle when her father dies. Alex Russell, the Duke of Kinross, is the most tempting man she’s ever seen—and completely unattainable—until, at a fancy dress ball, Lorna disguises herself as Marie Antoinette and pursues an illicit tryst…with scandalous consequences. Months after his mysterious seductress disappears, Alex encounters her again. Far from the schemer the distrustful duke assumed her to be, Lorna is fiercely independent and resourceful. She’s the one woman capable of piercing his defenses. But when danger threatens Lorna, Alex must prove himself not just the lover of her fantasies, but the man who will fight to protect her.
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The last thing Alexander Russell, the 9th Duke of Kinross, wanted to do was mingle with his guests. He could put the time to better use. Nor did he have friends among the throng. Acquaintances, perhaps, but few could be called more than that, especially after this afternoon when he’d been subjected to a humiliating rout.

Nevertheless, Alex forced himself to enter the ballroom, pasting a smile on his face that hid his true feelings.

The ballroom had been polished like a seldom worn crown. The three rows of four brass and crystal chandeliers illuminated every inch of the massive room, reflecting light off the windows and making the floor shine.

The jewels in the crown were the women, most of whom had taken to the idea of a fancy dress ball with enthusiasm, choosing costumes ranging from stunning to amusing with a few ridiculous examples in between. A half dozen hapless husbands were dressed to compliment their wives’ choices, but most men were attired in black evening dress.

At least twenty-five of them had witnessed his drubbing this afternoon.

Tonight’s entertainment was the last time he’d have to stand here and smile fatuously. He couldn’t wait for them all to be driven back to the train station tomorrow morning, en route to their various homes. The Scottish Society for Scientific Achievement could go to hell and with it their annual medal.

Someone in this room was a traitor. Not to country, even though they might well stoop to that. Someone here, being feted and entertained, had betrayed him. That was the only reason Simons had won the damn medal. Alex’s research was nearly word for word with the other man’s. His subjects were more numerous, however, numbering in the thousands to Simons’ hundreds. Even Simons’ conclusions, enumerated on the last page of his paper, had sounded too close to his own words. But his findings had been submitted to the Society a good three months before Simon’s. Three months, yet Simons had been the one critically acclaimed.

Someone had leaked the results of his research. Either a member of the Society attending this ball, the last event of a torturous week of hosting at Blackhall Castle, or someone to whom he’d confided about his work.

“You must learn to trust people, Alex,” his mother had once said to him.

He couldn’t remember why she’d offered up the sentiment, but he could remember the occasion. They’d been standing in Blackhall’s chapel and watching as the bronze plaque had been affixed to his wife’s last resting place.

He could also recall his response. He’d turned to her and said, “Why?”

She hadn’t an answer, which was a pity. Perhaps her words could have softened his emotion. Ruth, the late Duchess of Kinross, hadn’t been faithful, a fact that had been tearfully admitted by her sister.

“You mustn’t hate her, Alex. Ruth always wanted admiration. When you were too busy to give it to her, she sought it elsewhere.”

His wife would have enjoyed this ball. She would have purchased something ruinously expensive to wear, and no doubt a little shocking. She would have flitted among the guests, charming everyone. He could almost see her golden hair bobbing as she turned to greet one person then another. The noise level was intense in the ballroom and his memory furnished her laughter. Those who’d never come to Blackhall would leave with praises for her on their lips.

            She made us feel so welcome.

            What a gracious person the duchess is.

            How beautiful she is and that gown!

Ruth had a bright and receptive approach to life. If it was interesting or exciting, Ruth wanted to experience it. Her blond beauty was only enhanced by her trilling laugh, a smile that she used to great advantage and a skilled, almost manipulative way, she had of making any man feel as if he were the most important person in a room.

Ruth collected people the way other women collected gloves. She had dozens of friends, each one of whom thought she was the most important person in Ruth’s life. They never figured out that Ruth didn’t care about them individually. She only wanted the adulation such friends brought to her. The more important, titled, or wealthy the better. He had come to believe it was the same reason she’d married him.

By the second month of his marriage he realized she didn’t give a flying farthing for him. He was just a mark on a mental scorecard, an item no more important than a scarf from her dresser or a gown from her armoire.

After her death he’d been approached by one poor sod who’d openly wept about her passing. He’d wanted to ask the man if he genuinely believed Ruth had loved him, then realized that the truth wouldn’t serve any purpose.

As far as he was concerned, Ruth wasn’t capable of loving anyone other than herself.

He had no doubt that, given the passage of years, she would have still charmed people. They would have said things like: she hasn’t changed, has she? She’s still one of the most beautiful women in Scotland, isn’t she?

Ruth would have gloried in their comments. She would have draped herself in diamonds whose sparkle matched that in her eyes. Did you hear that, Alex? They did enjoy themselves, didn’t they? We should entertain again soon, I think.

Even perched in the middle of the Highlands, Blackhall Castle had once been known for its hospitality, its entertainments, and its beauty.

The beauty had never faded even though it took a fortune to maintain. The entertainments were fewer lately; he hadn’t the inclination to invite hoards of people to his home. And the hospitality? At the moment, he wished them all to perdition, including the men from the Society in their evening attire, clustered in small groups around the ballroom.

Who would Ruth have dressed as tonight? He suspected she would prefer to come as herself, the Duchess of Kinross. Or perhaps she would have stolen her sister’s costume. Mary was Cleopatra, her long, white tunnel like dress adorned with an intricate gold necklace. His mother was Queen Elizabeth, if he didn’t miss his guess, complete with a bright curly red wig.

Why was Ruth at the forefront of his mind tonight? Because he felt betrayed again? Because this was the first ball they’d held since her death three years ago? Because he’d been made raw with this feeling that he’d been a fool?

The orchestra his mother had hired was excellent. They were playing a waltz and a great many people were dancing. He should be a good host and greet his guests, but he had neither the will nor the ability to mask his emotions that well. He was furious, the rage building with each moment he stood there.

He waited until a footman was near, then gave him an order in a low voice. In moments the young man returned with a tumbler filled with whiskey.

“Watch me,” he said. “When it’s empty, I want you to bring me another one.”

“Yes, Your Grace.”

He didn’t drink often, but tonight he was going to with the single minded pursuit of drunkenness. He could only remember two times he’d done something similar in recent memory: the day he’d learned his wife had been unfaithful and the day she’d died in childbirth, taking his heir with her. Or perhaps the child hadn’t been his after all, a question he’d never have answered.

Tonight seemed an excellent occasion as well. He was facing the destruction of a dream, one brought about by someone he’d trusted.

“You must learn to trust people, Alex.”

The echo of his mother’s voice intruded into his thoughts.

            Why seemed as good a word as any in response. Or perhaps a resounding no would suffice.



Karen Ranney wanted to be a writer from the time she was five years old and filled her Big Chief tablet with stories. People in stories did amazing things and she was too shy to do anything amazing. Years spent in Japan, Paris, and Italy, however, not only fueled her imagination but proved she wasn’t that shy after all.
 

Now a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, she prefers to keep her adventures between the covers of her books. Karen lives in San Antonio, Texas.

 

 

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