Tag Archives: HISTORICAL ROMANCE

TO THE DUKE, WITH LOVE – Release Blitz

NEW RELEASE !!
The next lush, romantic novel in the Regency romance series, The Rakes of St. James, from New York Times bestselling author Amelia Grey!
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TO THE DUKE, WITH LOVE
Amelia Grey
Series: The Rakes of St. James Book 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Once destined to marry a peer, Loretta is now forced to be a recluse—until she meets the Duke of Hawksthorn—He never walks away from a challenge.
To the Duke, With Love book cover
There may be times when a gentleman is desperate to gain a lady’s attention, but a gentleman would never resort to desperate measures to obtain it.
–A Proper Gentleman’s Guide to Wooing the Perfect Lady
Sloane Knox, the Duke of Hawksthorn, is guardian for his sweet, younger sister. Due to his misguided past as one of the infamous Rakes of St. James, Hawk is hoping to avoid the Season by securing a match for her before it begins. He has the perfect gentleman in mind, but for one infuriating—and unexpectedly intoxicating—obstacle: The intended groom’s own sister, Miss Loretta Quick.
Having narrowly avoided her own arranged marriage to an unacceptable nobleman, Loretta is determined that her dear brother—a gentle, good-natured soul—should marry for love. Matching wits with Hawk may be her greatest challenge yet…until she realizes it may also be her greatest pleasure. For the young duke’s irresistible charm has not only begun to crumble her stubborn resolve, it has claimed her heart in true love as well…
“A master storyteller.”
– Affaire de Coeur
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“The latest sterling addition to Grey’s the Rakes of St. James series is another irresistible combination of skillfully nuanced characters, graceful writing imbued with a deliciously dry sense of wit, and lushly sensual romance.”
– Booklist
To the Duke, With Love Teaser
“Lively dialogue and stubborn protagonists make this story work…. Romance fans will enjoy Hawk and Loretta’s low-key courtship.”
– Publisher’s Weekly

Other Books by Amelia Grey

Be sure to check Book One in the The Rakes of St. James series.
Last Night with the Duke cover
Last Night with the Duke (Book One)
Griffin, one of the Rakes of St. James, needs a chaperone for his sisters. Esmeralda is the one he wants. She arouses more than his curiosity. As a chaperone, Esmeralda considered herself too sensible to fall for a scoundrel, but that was before she met London’s most notorious rakes.
Buy Link: Amazon.com
“Grey charms readers with the first in her Rakes of St. James series, a tale filled with romance, fun and enchantment. A quick, charming read from a shining voice of the genre.”
– RT Book Reviews

Giveaway

WIN $25 GIFT CARD AND MORE
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Prizes up for grabs:
$25 winner’s choice of Amazon or Barnes & Noble Gift Card
Winner’s choice of any title from Amelia Grey’s backlist
Hurry! Join now!
Contest runs from December 6 – 12, 2017.

About Amelia Grey

Amelia Grey

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty books, Amelia Grey read her first romance when she was thirteen. She’s been a devoted reader of love stories ever since.
Amelia has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over thirty-five years and she lives on the beautiful gulf coast of Northwest Florida.
She is a two-time winner of the prestigious Booksellers Best Award, and she has also won the Aspen Gold, and Golden Quill awards. Writing as Gloria Dale Skinner, she won the coveted Romantic Times Award for Love and Laughter and the Maggie Award. Amelia’s books have been published in Europe, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia, and Japan. Several of her books have been featured in Doubleday and Rhapsody Book Clubs.Coming December 5, 2017 Amelia’s second book in her new Rakes of St. James trilogy, To the Duke, With Love. If you missed the first one, it’s still available at your local bookstore or e-retailer.
Watch for Amelia’s third book, It’s All About the Duke, coming May 29, 2018. You can email Amelia at AmeliaGrey@Comcast.net
Follow her on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/AmeliaGreybooks, or visit her website at http://www.AmeliaGrey.com.

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Daredevils – Blitz

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Daredevils cover
Historical Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date Published: January 2017
Publisher: Forget Me Not Romances, Winged Publications
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What happens in the roaring twenties when a daredevil barnstormer falls in love with a wing-walking flapper threatened by dangerous men out to exploit her?
Orphan and wing-walker Gloria needs a job when her boss dies in a barnstorming accident. With no other jobs available, she sweet-talks Rand into letting her walk his wing. Flying Ace Rand fights wartime injuries that hamper his flying even as he works to gain the world-record for solo flight across the Atlantic. He bucks his wealthy dad’s plans for him to settle down, join the company, and marry a socialite.
Rand falls in love with the courageous, fun-loving, and  daring Gloria. But Orphan Gloria’s experienced too many men who promise love and marriage and instead take advantage of her being alone in the world. She holds Rand at arm’s length. Without her knowledge, Rand protects her and makes sure she doesn’t starve. When Gloria’s offered a movie contract Rand knows he must intervene.
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Excerpt
Kill Devil Hills, 1925
Gloria plodded from the bathroom into the bedroom. “Daisy, we’ve no food in the cottage, so I need to have a heart-to-heart chat with Mr. Rand Maitland. He’s exactly the type of older man I prefer to work with.” She bent to pat the blonde puppy’s head. No more fending off amorous bosses. “I need to find another partner like Buzz.” A tear slipped from her eye and wiggled down her cheek. “I miss you, Buzz. If you were still alive, I wouldn’t be in this mess. Thanks to Vincent and his lies, no other pilot will hire me.”
Gloria swiped a fist across her cheek to wipe the tears and snagged her only dress from a hanger, leaving the small closet empty. “I’ll force myself to be amusing and cheerful. Older men like that.” Anything to improve her chance of getting a job. According to Annie, Rand Maitland had been an ace fly boy during the war. She could trust his acrobatics.
She perched on the edge of the sagging bed, pulled shiny, silk stockings just above her knees and rolled in the garters. She stood and slid into the white dress that ended in a shocking way just below her knees. Well, older men liked that too. She’d need every advantage to capture this job.
Suited her just fine she didn’t need to flatten her bosom because God hadn’t overly endowed her. In her line of work a voluptuous bust got in the way. She reached behind her back to zip up her dress. Easy, because the fabric draped open to below her shoulder blades in the rear. Scandalous in the daytime, but she only had this one gown or her trousers. “Trousers won’t impress the old man, Daisy, and I can’t wear my costume. Being broke is just tedious.”  She smoothed the drop-waist dress and settled on the edge of the bed to slip on red, high-heeled shoes. She stood and pivoted in front of her blonde puppy. “How do I look, Daisy?”
Though her might-be-new boss lived close, she’d borrow Annie’s Model T roadster. “Rand Maitland’s bound to have his Jenny tied-down near the sand runway, and I don’t want to get grit inside my only pair of dress shoes.”
Daisy raised a paw to be shaken. Gloria smiled, bent and shook the furry offering.  She didn’t need the auto since Kitty Hawk wasn’t more than five hundred yards or so from Annie’s cottage near Kill Devil Hills, but Mr. Maitland would be more impressed if she drove. He mustn’t know how desperately she needed this job or he wouldn’t hire her. Her high heels tapped a determined rhythm on the uneven linoleum as she crossed the living room. She shut the door behind her and marched down the rickety wooden stairs to the beach. Stepping carefully to keep loose sand out of her shoes, she tiptoed around the cottage to where Annie had parked her Model T before she left for Europe.  Gloria bent, cupped the crank handle on the front of the car in her palm, pulled the choke wire with her left hand and gave the crank a quick half-turn. The engine sputtered to life. Her shoes slipped on the sandy driveway as she minced on tip-toes around to the driver’s seat and climbed inside.
She drove close to the three bi-planes tied down just beyond a cluster of larger cottages on stilts. Too late to turn back. She’d forgotten to apply that new chalk-white face powder that was all the rage. Nor had she painted her lips red. She’d wanted that color to bolster her confidence and hide her pain. She shook her head and shrugged. Well, she had a stiff spine and didn’t need to paint on courage.  She pulled up next to the closest home, stopped the automobile, turned off the ignition, set the brake, and slipped out the door. Just off the road, her red high-heels sank into loose sand. “Ain’t we got fun?” she murmured dryly. Her shoes had survived worse obstacles. These red high heels would outlast this setback too.
In the slanting morning light, three visiting biplanes cast long shadows. All the other planes, snug inside hangars, waited for tomorrow’s barnstorming show. A man wearing blue coveralls with his back to her, bent over the engine casing of the middle Jenny. Annie had mentioned Mr. Maitland named his plane Jazzman, so that big fella had to be the man himself, right where she thought she’d find him. Taking giant steps through the sifting sand between her and the hard-packed sand beneath the Jennies, she stopped directly behind him. She tugged her red cloche hat low over one eyebrow, held down the silky skirt flapping in the breeze, and straightened her shoulders.
“Hello!” She highlighted her voice to sound perky. Older men liked perky.  The man grunted, tightened a bolt on the engine with a large wrench and then turned. She started, her hands flew up, and she almost lost her footing. Annie hadn’t mentioned her husband’s youngest brother was gorgeous. He flashed a smile. Dimples played around that dazzling grin and found an immediate place in her heart. He stared at her with eyes bluer than the bluest lapis. And he was no older man.
Too bad for her. She pressed her lips together. She’d so counted on Mr. Maitland being older. She’d learned her lesson about handsome men.
And she better make sure she remembered it.
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About the Author
ANNE GREENE’s home is in the quaint antiquing town of McKinney, Texas, just a few miles north of Dallas.
Her husband is a retired Colonel, Army Special Forces. Her little brown and white Shih Tzu, Lily Valentine, shares her writing space, curled at her feet. She has four beautiful, talented children who keep her on her toes.
She’s traveled to every location of each book she’s written, and each book is a book of her heart. Besides her first love, writing, she enjoys travel, art, sports, reading, sailing, snorkeling, movies, and way too many other things to mention. Life is good.
Contact Links
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BRANDED TRILOGY – Pre Order Blitz

Now Available for PRE-ORDER
from award-winning author Kat Flannery
Check out the Special Promotion below!
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BRANDED TRILOGY
Kat Flannery
Genre: Historical Romance, Suspense, Western, Paranormal
Publisher: Imajin Books
Publication Date: October 1, 2017
Branded Trilogy COVER
Will courage, love and honor be enough?
LAKOTA HONOR (book 1): In the small town of Willow Creek, Colorado, Nora Rushton spends most of her days locked up in her home with a father who resents her and fighting off unwanted marriage proposals from the wealthy Elwood Calhoun. Marked as a witch, Nora must hide her healing powers from those who wish to destroy all the witkowin—crazy women. What she doesn’t know is that a bounty hunter is hot on her trail.
Lakota native Otakatay has an obligation to fulfill. He has been hired to kill the witkowin. In a time when race and difference are a threat and innocence holds no ground, courage, love and honor will bring Nora and Otakatay together as they fight for their freedom. Will the desire to fulfill his promise drive Otakatay to kill Nora? Or will the kindness he sees in her blue eyes push him to be the man he once was?
BLOOD CURSE (book 2): Four years after the Blood Curse, Pril of the Peddlers vows to protect her child against the evil men who hunt her. With her clan unaware of the branded girl among them, Pril has to keep the identity of her daughter a secret. When her child is kidnapped, she is forced to ask Merchant runner, Kade Walker, for his help.
Kade Walker needs to find the gypsy child. Blackmailed and pushed beyond his own moral code, he is determined to do whatever it takes. When he comes across the Peddler clan, he is sure the girl is there, however all hope is lost when the gypsies capture him. Time is running out—until Pril makes him an offer he cannot refuse.
Amidst greed, lust, revenge and love, Pril will need to trust Kade. But as the evil nears and doubt creeps in, will she discover that the enemy has been standing next to her all along?
SACRED LEGACY (book 3): Desperate to escape the memories that haunt her, Tsura Harris returns to Jamestown, the very place her mother forbade her to go. A gifted Chuvani, Tsura has sworn off all magick, thus making her vulnerable to the Renoldi clan, who wish to kill her and take the pendant that is the key to her power.
Red Wolf is hell-bent on living his life on the sea, until he runs into Tsura on the docks. His pride wounded from her rejection years before, he hoped to never see her again. But when the evil Corsair, Romulus Black, demands to know where she is, Red Wolf must protect her, as is his duty.
But is duty and honor his only reason, or does Red Wolf still carry a flame of love in his heart? And will Tsura finally discover her destiny?
Kat Flannery is a very powerful storyteller and this series is a testament to her skills as a writer.
– Jan Baldocchi, Goodreads Reviewer
Ms. Flannery has crafted a deeply heartrending tale.
– Kristy McCaffrey, Goodreads Reviewer

Purchase Links

SPECIAL PRE-ORDER PROMOTION!!!
With every pre-order of the Branded Trilogy:
– You will receive 3 novellas for FREE, courtesy of Imajin Books
– Your name will be entered into a draw for a ruby necklace (similar to the one in Blood Curse and Sacred Legacy) and author swag. (Drawing of winner will be on Oct 1.)
To collect your free eBooks, email your proof of purchase to kflannerybooks@gmail.com.
Pre-order your copy now now. Releasing on October 1, 2017.
Branded Trilogy Teaser

Giveaway

WIN $25 AMAZON GIFT CARD
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Contest runs from September 20 – 30, 2017.

About Kat Flannery

Kat Flannery

Kat Flannery’s love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. She has her Certificate in Freelance and Business Writing.
A member of many writing groups, Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. Kat loves to teach writing classes and give back to other aspiring authors. She volunteers her time at the local library facilitating their writing group. She’s been published in numerous periodicals throughout her career.
Her debut novel CHASING CLOVERS has been an Amazon Top 100 Paid bestseller twice. LAKOTA HONOR, BLOOD CURSE, and SACRED LEGACY (Branded Trilogy) are Kat’s three award-winning novels and HAZARDOUS UNIONS is Kat’s first novella. Kat is currently hard at work on her next series, THE MONTGOMERY SISTERS.
Connect with Kat Flannery on social media:

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UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER – Release Blitz

NEW BOOK RELEASE
from award-winning author Gina Danna
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UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER
Gina Danna
Series: Hearts Touched by Fire Book 2
Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction, Victorian Romance, Civil War
Publisher: To The Bitter End Publishing
Publication Date: September 4, 2017
She’s the best Union spy and he is a Confederate officer, thrown together during a war where love stands little chance of winning, except by an unconditional surrender….
Unconditional Surrender
Confederate Major Charles Silvers has had enough war. After two years of fighting, his view of a glorious Southern victory over the North has lost its luster and been replaced by a burning desire to return home to Virginia and life as it used to be, before the war. When he meets Sarah Lawrence during the siege on Vicksburg, Mississippi, he is convinced the blond-haired beauty could fill the void in his life—but what he does not know is that this Southern belle isn’t what she appears to be…
Tortured by memories of the night in 1860 when masked bushwackers torched her Mississippi home and killed her father, Sarah escaped the South. Now, however, she’s back and seeking revenge. As one of the best spies in the Union Army, she’s in a unique position to get her wish. For her, a Confederate Major, even a devastatingly handsome one, is just the tool to obtain the information the Union needs—even at the cost of her heart.
Loved this book! The plot offers the perfect conflict between Southern folk–one, the heroine, who is fighting on behalf of the Union, and the hero, who’s an officer in the Confederate Army.
– Elf, Amazon.com Reviewer

Purchase Links

Available now for $4.99 only. Grab your copy today.

An Excerpt from the Book

Take an inside look at Unconditional Surrender. Read this sizzling excerpt from the book.
Charles wiped his lips with the linen napkin, placing it on the table as he pushed his chair back. “The meal was greatly appreciated. But, if you’ll excuse us, we do have to continue.” He held his hand out to Sarah.
As she placed her hand in his and rose, she saw through the window behind him the pinking sky outside. Sunset. A lump formed in her throat, one she desperately tried to swallow as ice raced down her spine.
Night was coming, and all the demons would be loose.
“Major, please.” Kavanaugh sat back in his chair. “To take a lady into the hazards of the night in this area is not a good choice. I invite you to stay here. There are more than enough bedrooms upstairs, and we will catch up with the general tomorrow, I am sure.”
Charles’s grip tightened. “While we appreciate the offer, I believe we must move on. I must get my darling wife to safety.”
This time, the Irishman stood. “All the more reason to stay. We are safe here. My man Bentley will keep an eye out for any mischief. And I assure you, General Johnston will arrive.”
“How can you be so sure, sir?” Charles challenged.
With that, all fear of the growing darkness dissipated. Sarah wanted to know as well.
“I have received word. He will meet us tomorrow.”
As a spy, opportunity here blossomed with each hour. Her mind raced. One thing was certain: she needed more information, but she remained firmly quiet, like a good Southern belle. Ladies were not supposed to be versed in politics or the war. Many she knew had more knowledge than men ever gave them credit for.
Charles frowned. “Sir, General Johnston is very high in command. I fail to see how he could take time from the war to ride here for a meeting with a foreign visiting politician.” He was gripping the back of the chair, his knuckles turning white. “If you wanted to view the workings of this conflict, why are you not with General Pemberton at Vicksburg? Or General Forrest, or Lee, or a multitude of others? Why here, in Mississippi?”
The politeness that had cloaked the evening came to an icy halt with the anger in Charles’s voice. His demeanor took on the edge of civility mixed with the animosity of frustration and futility.
Kavanaugh, though, did not react right away, aside from sitting straighter and toying absently with his cuffs.
“Major, I am well aware that you’ve been a loyal soldier to your cause. Your country can be proud to have you as her defender. Yet strong will and abilities, at this point, are not the winners. The Confederacy needs help, needs recognition by the queen of England and the rest of Europe. Other methods must be taken to pursue the win and gain the long-term right to be a nation.” He scooted his chair back. “Come, let me show you why I know your general will make it here.”

Other Books by Gina Danna

Don’t miss the other books in the Hearts Touched by Fire series:
The Wicked North
THE WICKED NORTH
Series: Hearts Touched by Fire Book 1
Bound by duty and honor to wear the Union blue, a Southern-born West Point officer fights his own desires and the need to protect the woman he abandoned, he disobeys his orders to find her, as the Army of the Potomac marches toward her family’s home near Richmond.
A fascinating tale of life and love during the American Civil War. Fast paced and superbly written it humanizes one of the darkest periods in American History. You’ll need to block enough time to read it cover to cover because once you start reading you won’t be able to stop.
– j j jennings, Amazon.com reviewer

Giveaway

WIN $10 GIFT CARD AND MORE!
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Prizes up for grabs:
$10 Amazon Gift Card
eBook Copy of The Wicked North
Contest runs from September 18 – 24, 2017.

About Gina Danna

Gina Danna

A USA Today Bestselling author, Gina Danna was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and has spent the better part of her life reading. History has always been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, always dreaming of writing one of her own. After years of writing historical academic papers to achieve her undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, and then for museum programs and exhibits, she found the time to write her own historical romantic fiction novels.
Now, under the Texas sun and with the supervision of her three dogs, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break away is to spend time with her other life long dream – her Arabian horse – with him, her muse can play.
Official website: http://www.ginadanna.com
Connect with Gina Danna on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Melisande – Blitz

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 Melisande cover
Châteaux and Shadows, Book 5
Historical Romance
Date Published: July 19, 2017
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Lucas de Granville—pious, respectable, impoverished, lonely—will do nearly anything for the godfather who raised him, even though his godfather doesn’t seem to want to do anything for him.
Melisande—mundane, illegitimate, dirt poor, lonely—will do nearly anything to make sure her mother and brother have shelter and food, even though they are critical of her lack of magical talent.
When Melisande’s father, a pious comte, sends his godson Lucas to bring her to Versailles and help him train her to be a fine, staunchly religious lady, their attraction is immediate, but so is their distrust.
Her eagerness to get as much money as she can as quickly as possible gradually changes into a wish for something higher, better, and holier. Something that Lucas can help her achieve: love.
Other Books by Philippa Lodge:
The Indispensable Wife
Châteaux and Shadows, Book One
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Published: October 2015
Aurore was delighted when a marriage was arranged with the boy she loved, her older brother’s friend Dominique, Comte de Bures. But in a few years the first rush of joy has worn off, and their promising life seems ruined by loss, betrayal, and misunderstanding. One terrifying morning mercenaries overrun their château and usurpers take Aurore hostage. Miles away at Versailles, where he is required to dance attendance on Louis XIV, Dominique is nearly killed by a crossbow bolt. Escaping, Aurore travels with a troupe of itinerant musicians, hiding in the open while discovering hidden resources within herself. Dom sets out to find his wife. He needs his old life back. He needs revenge. But his lands, his title, and his honor mean nothing unless he can win back the love of his indispensable wife.
The Honorable Officer
Châteaux and Shadows, Book Two
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Published: April 2016
France, 1668
Hélène de Bonnefoi’s spirit has been squashed by the ever-critical aunt and uncle who raised her. Serving as nanny and stand-in mother to her cousin’s child has saved her from the convent, especially after her cousin’s death. When suspicious accidents threaten the toddler, Hélène overcomes her near-blindness to seek the help of the child’s father, a colonel in Louis XIV’s army.
Jean-Louis, Colonel de Cantière, has spent his life proving his worth, integrity, and honor, first to his family and now in the army. When his daughter’s caretaker appears in his camp during a siege, claiming someone is trying to kill the girl, his loyalties are sorely tested.
Hélène must convince Jean-Louis the threat is real. But the true danger is to the heart of a shy young woman who has always loved her cousin’s husband from afar and to the colonel’s desire to resist complicated emotions.
The Chevalier
Châteaux and Shadows, Book Three
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Published: September 2016
Emmanuel, Chevalier de Cantière, youngest son of a baron, is happiest raising horses far from his complicated family. When news comes his mother is deathly ill, he races to her side only to find she has apparently recovered and moved on, leaving behind her companion, Catherine.
Catherine de Fouet blends into the background, saving up so she’ll never have to wait on waspish, scheming old ladies like the baronesse again. She has no interest in a resentful gentleman, estranged from his mother, no matter how broad his shoulders or intriguing the wounded soul behind his handsome face. She just needs someone to escort her back to Versailles.
But Catherine is suspected of poisoning the baronesse. She rebuffs a pushy courtier who tries to use blackmail to make her his mistress, and her reputation hangs by a thread.
The chevalier wants more than anything to protect this woman whose prickly exterior hides sweetness and passion. They need his family to help him through court intrigues—almost as much as they need each other.
Henri et Marcel
Châteaux and Shadows, Book 4
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Published: January 2017
Henri de Cantière has been surly since he returned from visiting his family at Versailles, but he doesn’t want to burden Marcel Fourbier, his longtime lover, with his problems. He can’t sleep and hurts all over at exactly the time when everything else seems to be falling apart.
Marcel can barely keep up with his usual duties of running their household and creating beautiful furniture in the de Cantière factory when more burdens fall on his shoulders. His estranged Huguenot family condemns him to hell but wants his help, a stranger attacks him in a dark street, an arsonist tries to destroy the factory, and Henri’s beloved sister-in-law, who has been like a sister to Marcel, is weakening after being in labor for several days.
Most of all, Marcel wants to find a cure for Henri, the man who holds his heart.
Excerpt
Chapter One
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago in France, there was a witch with no magic.
“Mélisande!”
The stranger’s shout echoed inside the damp walls of the tiny house she shared with her mother and her younger brother. If it were the house’s owner, who didn’t know they were squatting there, he wouldn’t have known her name. It didn’t mean the voice wasn’t trouble.
Her gut whispered unease. Well, who wouldn’t have a whisper of unease about a strange man shouting one’s name? In one’s home? After being the target of more than one lecherous oaf in the streets? And the target of religious people?
She leaned her scrubby straw broom in the corner and peeked up the hall, glad to be shrouded in darkness, grateful for the first time that there was no window except for the tiny, grimy one looking onto the narrow, dark street.
The front door stood open, letting in cold wind, the reek of filth, and weak evening light which left the man as nothing but a silhouette. Even so, Mélisande had another frisson of what her mother would have called premonition but was probably just fear. She was trapped in her house by a large, faceless man with a booming voice. What was not to frisson about?
She drew back into the room, hoping he hadn’t seen her. The front door scraped and thumped shut, leaving her in complete darkness. She waited, pressed against the wall much like the plaster: crumbling away from the inside. She held her breath and listened.
Maybe he’d left.
A footstep. Of course he hadn’t left; that would be too simple. This was more than her everyday fear: fear the other witches would discover she wasn’t one of them, fear they would starve, fear they would be arrested, fear a man would pull her into a dark room and rape her. Everything could go wrong in a heartbeat.
Footsteps in the front room, where her mother read palms and sold the potions her uncle —her half-brother’s uncle—made. She hoped the yelling man hadn’t tracked anything foul in, as she had just scrubbed those rotting floorboards. A pause as the man listened. At least there was only one man and Mélisande had a sharp pair of scissors, which rattled against the tabletop as she picked them up.
“Mélisande?”
The voice was softer now. Kinder. Lilting. Tempting. The man was going to try to lure her from her hiding place. She hoped he meant her no harm.
A scuff and heavier step as the man tripped on the uneven floor. He halted at the head of the hall, only a few feet from her.
“Ecoutez.” He cleared his throat, waiting for her to say she was listening.
Oh, she was listening, but she was hoping he would leave.
He cleared his throat again. She should offer him a tisane of ginger and honey. She shook her head at her rambling thoughts, swishing her hair against the wall.
“Right. I was told you were here. Your mother said you would welcome my news. I’m sorry, but… Well, my shouting is unforgiveable. Your brother and mother angered me on purpose, I believe. They said I wouldn’t find you unless you wanted to be found. I suppose it’s true, what with witchcraft…”
He paused, listening. Probably expecting her to blast him with a curse. Too bad the worst curse she had ever doled out was when she was ten and made her brother’s nose bleed. Of course, she’d hurled a cup at him at the same time.
“Your father wishes to claim you. I’m to take you to Versailles.”
****
Once upon a time, there was a French nobleman who didn’t belong anywhere: a younger son with no portion, fostered with his godfather.
Someone gasped softly in the dark room to Lucas de Granville’s left. She really was there. Or someone was, anyway. Some woman.
If it was the right woman, the bastard witch daughter of the Comte d’Yquelon, and she came with him, the count had promised Luc a reward. He needed new breeches and a new hat for Easter and was counting on the supplement to his tiny allowance to buy the fabric.
Of course, the girl would get a larger reward, eventually. If she could be trained and refined and her soul purged of evil, d’Yquelon would give her a large dowry. Luc smiled sourly, sure the woman would be a hag and thoroughly wrapped in satanic rituals. Her mother had been positively deranged and her brother snide and crude.
Three feet from him, a girl slipped out of dark gloom into the slightly lighter gloom, her footsteps silent and her pale bodice picking up just enough light so she appeared to float like a ghost, her face a skull in the shadow. Only by the way she raised her arm did he notice she was holding something – a knife? He staggered back, flinging out his hands to hold her off.
He really hadn’t meant to die in a dirty, smelly back alley of Paris while running an errand for his godfather. He stumbled over the uneven floor again, catching himself on the wall beside the door. She stepped into the feeble light from the oilcloth-covered window and he caught his breath.
She was pretty. Beautiful. Regal. From death’s head to beauty? Magic. He crossed himself.
He had seen her in a dream the night before as he tossed and turned and dozed intermittently in the rundown inn on the edge of this slum. Dark hair, pale skin, and irises so light they appeared almost white. In his dream, he had been fascinated and frightened. He shook his head to clear his mind.
She sighed and lowered her hand slightly to reveal a pair of pointed scissors.
Then her chin came up, and she was beautiful in spite of pallor and gauntness. It didn’t stop him being wary of her, though the fear was dissipating.
“I am Mélisande.” Her voice was low and soothing. Another witch’s trick, probably, to lull him. “I don’t approve of intruders in my home.” She raised her eyebrows imperiously, and he couldn’t stop himself from smiling at this bit of bravado. “And yet, if my mother invited you here, I suppose you are meant to be a guest.”
He was afraid his curled lip betrayed his disgust at the pitiful room and stench of semi-frozen rot and sewage seeping in from the street. At least he hoped the rot and sewage weren’t inside the hovel. He shuddered.
She scowled. “What, exactly, did my mother say to you?”
Luc shuddered again. He had cornered her mother in a different dark room off an alley, off a small street that led to a dirty little market. “She laughed at me and told me about a premonition she had about the Comte d’Yquelon. She said I should pick my friends more carefully.”
He hadn’t picked the comte so much as been abandoned in the comte’s household at the age of three. His parents’ money had run out and all the boys except the heir had been dropped off with their various godparents.
Mélisande’s lips pursed as if she were trying not to laugh at him. “What brought about this desire to seek me out?”
“His son died.” Even after six months, Lucas felt the weight of Charles’ death.
“Oh.” Her face fell. “I am sorry to hear it. I wish I had known him.”
Was she mourning her half-brother?
When Charles died suddenly from a fever, the count raged about witchcraft and curses. Six months later, the comte recalled Luc from Normandy and told him where to find this bastard daughter, child of the witch who had cursed his son. None of those words had made any sense at all to Lucas, who had known the comte only as a fierce, strictly pious gentleman.
I’ve never seen her. Her mother was a beauty. I told the comtesse she used a spell or potion on me, but, of course, it was just normal lust.
Just normal lust certainly described the feeling growing inside Luc. This girl might be using a spell on him, but he was fairly sure she was tempting enough without it.
“He had no other children?” She sounded wistful. Not at all lusty.
“Just me.” He grimaced. “I’m not related by blood.”
Her eyebrows went up.
“He’s my godfather. He raised me. I’m the seventh son of a duke’s seventh son, and there were far too many mouths to feed.”
Her face lit up with her smile. “Seventh son of a seventh son? And you’re not a warlock?”
Luc jerked back and crossed himself to ward off the evil eye.
“Sorry.” She dropped her head. “It’s a rather coveted place in a family of witches, you know. Though I guess if you’re strictly religious…”
Luc cleared his throat. He had to bring Mélisande back. He needed the reward the comte promised, if just to have something to tide him over as he looked for employment.
“You wish to take me to my father?”
She looked around the room, presenting her profile, and he caught his breath at the sight of the huge knot of dark hair, braided, pinned, and tied at her nape. There was probably enough there to hang past her waist when she let it down. If it were styled properly, she could wear it on top of her head in a rich swirl. Her nose was a touch too large. In fact, it was much like the beak the late Charles had inherited from his father. Luc had still to see her in better light to know if her eyes were her father’s pale, icy blue, but he was sure he had the right woman.
“It’s the task I was assigned, yes.”
“You do not wish to accomplish the task? I suppose he’s paying you well.” She sounded like she was laughing.
Luc stiffened. “I wish to please my godfather, the man who was a father to me, whose son was like my brother.”
“Yet you don’t particularly wish to take me.” It was a statement, not a question. Her lips quirked up wryly.
No, he thought it was a fool’s mission for his godfather to try to civilize her. Luc let his eyes travel around the room, taking in the single, rickety table with two stools; the chimney with a few chunks of charred wood; the damp, crumbling plaster; the uneven, rotting floorboards. He wanted to take Mélisande away from here. He would want to take anyone away from here.
He shrugged. “I will be rewarded, but not as much as you. I won’t kidnap you. I won’t drag you bodily to Versailles. You will need to say goodbye to your family. When the comte gives you gold and fine clothing, you will have to decide if you wish to share with your mother or keep it to yourself.”
She sighed, her narrowed eyes never leaving his, her face wary. “I wish I knew what to do.”
The door flew open beside him, and Luc spun to face the threat. As the man moved away from the backlit doorway, Luc saw it was Mélisande’s brother, who had needled and taunted him in the marketplace before leading him to their mother.
“Of course she’ll share with us,” the young man announced, strolling in, bringing the odor of muck from the street with him.
Lucas coughed, trying to force the stench from his nose and mouth. He wished he had adopted the affectation of carrying a perfumed handkerchief as so many nobles did.
“We’ve supported her all these years, and she’s not good for much more than carrying messages and cleaning. Since she refuses to marry or take a rich lover, we’ll look to her father to make our fortune.”
Luc clenched his jaw at the mention of a lover, relieved she was not a prostitute. Or her brother said she wasn’t a prostitute, which could be a lie. At least she had one fewer sin than he expected. He immediately wondered why she wasn’t good for more than carrying messages.
As if answering his thoughts, Mélisande’s mother swept into the hovel, leaving the door wide open.
“Well, Mélisande! Your father has finally sought you out. He certainly sent a handsome enough little lord to do it. Are you sure you don’t want me to read your palm, little lord?”
Luc pulled himself up straight and stuck his chin out. “My godfather frowns on any of the witch’s arts. Palm reading reeks of the devil.”
The old witch cackled, just as he thought witches should. Her hair was as thick as her daughter’s, though light brown threaded with gray instead of dark. Their faces were the same shape, with full lips. She would have been seductive twenty years before. “Oh, you pious prigs are so easy to tease.”
“Maman, would you please…” Mélisande looked embarrassed.
“That wasn’t always the Comte d’Yquelon’s attitude, you know. How do you think he got me with child? He was quite adventurous when he was younger. I heard he turned prudish and preachy.” The older witch strode across the room and dropped a cloth bag on a box in the corner. “Well, at least you have nothing to worry about from Mélisande. We’ve kept it secret around here, but she has no special powers. Weak premonitions, sometimes, but those don’t count for much. Healing skill, but not healing power.”
Mélisande looked down at her hands, her cheeks pink.
“And like Thomas said, she doesn’t want to be a whore. She does deliveries, cleaning, and cooking. She’d make some merchant a good wife, if we knew any merchants who wanted a bastard witch. Bunch of prudes they are, too, probably worse than you nobles.”
Her brother shoved Mélisande’s shoulder. “Go get your things. The sooner you get your inheritance, the sooner we can live someplace nice.”
“If you go, daughter”—the witch spread her arms—“don’t bother to come back without enough for all of us to live on. Better yet, just send us some gold.”
Mélisande’s mouth fell open in shock. “Maman…”
“You won’t wish to come back, and you’re no use to us here.” Her mother turned away.
No, Mélisande wouldn’t want to come back once she had a taste of a better life, but Lucas felt a pang of sympathy anyway. He didn’t remember his parents leaving him behind when he was three, but he had grown up separated from his family and without much contact with children his age. “The comte will make sure you have all you need. He will find you a husband. You’re his only surviving child.”
The witch looked him over. “The heir died? I foresaw it years ago. D’Yquelon thought I was cursing him, which would have been different magic, of a type I don’t approve of. What was your name, again, little lord?”
“Lucas de Gran—”
“Lucas, I foresaw the heir would die. I told your count he should recognize the child he would leave me with and raise her alongside his doomed son.”
Mélisande slipped from the room into the stygian hallway.
“He laughed at me. He didn’t believe I was pregnant. I knew, of course. When I had my Mélisande, I sent him word, but he replied I should leave him alone. He’s going to tell you I cursed him and his family. It was only later, when we realized Méli was hopeless in magic that I thought I should have cursed him when I had a chance. I still thought Méli would be worth something. And now maybe she will be.”
Luc pursed his lips. He wondered if the woman’s mercenary attitude toward the worth of her daughter was any worse than nobles paying a dowry to buy an influential husband.
The brother grunted. “Well, she’s a good sister, I have to say. It’s been hard to cover up her mundaneness, but she’s a good draw at fairs and such, as long as no one expects her to do any magic. Her sweet smile gets the gentlemen’s attention and the ladies trust her. They rush in to consult with me and Maman because she looks so wholesome.”
The sound of Mélisande stumbling made Luc turn. She had a kerchief in her hand, something rattling inside it. Probably those wicked scissors. For some reason, the thought reassured him. She was going to need protection in the coming weeks.
“Are you ready, Mademoiselle?”
She kissed her mother and brother goodbye. They responded perfunctorily and waved her off.
Luc led her off to her future.
****
Mélisande stumbled through the muddy streets, gripping the handsome young nobleman’s arm as he strode far too quickly up and down the streets. The neighbors stared. She spied her uncle bent double with mirth. She ignored them all as best she could.
“Finally found a protector, chérie?” an elderly man cackled as she passed by.
She stood up straighter. “I’m going to meet my father.”
The warlock pursed his lips, suddenly sober. “I guess we won’t be seeing you again.”
His hunchbacked wife made a sign of blessing with her claw-like, arthritic hands, bringing Mélisande to tears again. “Go with the goddess.”
Monsieur—What was his name? de Grandeur?—pulled on her arm as Mélisande made the same sign back.
They wove through the dirty streets and doubled back several times until they were a short walk from her house. In her shock at her mother and brother’s hard hearts, she hadn’t thought to point out that they were parading up and down seemingly at random.
“Monsieur de Gran…?”
His frowned ferociously. “De Granville.”
“I hate to question you, but where, precisely, are we going?”
He looked around. “I met your mother just over there.” He nodded toward the alley where her mother met with clients.
Mélisande nodded silently.
“From here, I believe I can backtrack my way out of here.”
“Or you could tell me where we’re going, since I know the quartier.”
De Granville went still. Mélisande ducked her head, afraid she had injured his pride. Her uncle or brother would have slapped her.
His chest expanded against her arm as he sighed. “I’m not really sure which way I came along this street.”
She risked a glance at him as he wrinkled his nose and stared down the street. He smiled just slightly. He was pleasant to look at when he smiled. His jaw became less sharp and his dark eyes squinted with amusement.
He told her at which inn he had left his carriage. Not a rich one, and Mélisande knew she wasn’t welcome inside, but she knew where it was.
When she resisted at the door, de Granville said, “I just need to ask them to summon the carriage.”
She shuffled in, head down, trying to look as if she belonged.
The innkeeper’s memory was long. “Witch!”
“I’ll wait outside.”
She darted toward the door, but de Granville caught her hand.
“She’s with me.” He faced the innkeeper, looking cool and confident.
“I will not rent you a room for a few hours. This isn’t that sort of inn.”
De Granville scowled, his eyes dangerous slits. Mélisande looked down at her feet, her heart pounding, Run, run, run.
“I paid you for last night. I only wish to reclaim my carriage and be off. I am taking the girl to her father. But it is not any of your affair.”
“Is her father a witch, too? And you? You looked respectable, but maybe you aren’t. Maybe you’ve stolen the fine carriage. Maybe I should call the guard.”
“The carriage belongs to the lady’s father.”
“The lady? What lady? All I see is a whoring witch.”
She stood up straighter. I am not a whore. I’m not even a witch.
De Granville banged his fist on the rickety table serving as a counter. His actions were fire, but his voice was ice. “Bring the carriage. I will pay the rate agreed on for stabling it and feeding the coachman. I am more respectable than you could comprehend.”
Mélisande sidestepped away from him as the innkeeper went out back, grumbling. Her brother would have taken out his anger on her. She stood in silence, waiting for the blow to come, but de Granville did nothing but cross his arms and breathe.
Several minutes later, when a boy came in and called his name, de Granville, jaw still clenched, held out his arm gallantly and led her out front to a small, dark carriage, an elderly man on the driver’s seat.
“That’s her, then, Monsieur Lucas?” The driver glared, taking in her stained, patched dress, not approving.
De Granville helped her up. “It will be night in only a few hours, Grosporc. Let’s get out of Paris and try to get to the usual inn before dark. It will be clean there. Unlike here.”
The innkeeper shouted his outrage from the doorway of his inn.
Mélisande wondered if this Lucas de Granville was really who he said he was and if she weren’t instead being kidnapped to be used, sold, and discarded. Her mother had not been worried, but there was very little that bothered her mother. Of course, her mother usually claimed she knew what was going to happen before it did.
De Granville held out his hand and helped her up.
About the Author

Philippa Lodge has a hundred stories in her head and a social media addiction.
She writes historical romance set in Louis XIV’s France; New Adult romantic women’s fiction set in small-town, small-college America; and contemporary romance with nerdy beta heroes and cranky heroines whose pasts can be healed with the love of a good man.
She lives with one husband, two cats, and three kids in the inland valley of California.
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