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Hunter Gray the first hero in the twelve dancing princesses series. Meet Hunter in the book that started it all. Hunter is the bastard son of an English earl. He has made his fortune as a mercenary. Settling down and finding an idyllic life with a woman and an estate of his own, is his dream.
Author: Christine Young
Reviewer: Chrissy Dionne
Reviewer Email: RJChrissyDionne@yahoo.com
Publisher: Awe-struck E-Books
Release Date: May 2009
Author Website: http://www.christineyoung.bz/
Author Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rating: 4.5 blue ribbons (if it wasn’t for the issue with Hunter’s father it’d get a 5)
Eddington, Scotland 1815
Allura McClellan is horrified by her father’s decision to take out an ad in the Times awarding her to the man strong enough and smart enough to win her hand and uncover her secrets. She’s an intelligent young woman who takes great delight in the freedom allotted to her by her father. She’s well aware that marriage would effectively curtail the adventures she’s shared with her sisters and cousins.
Hunter Gray is nothing like the other men who’ve arrived to vie for Allura’s hand in marriage and everything that goes along with it. However, he is the first to refuse to concede defeat and pursue her despite her attempts to disguise her true appearance. It’s her temperament that is of more concern to him than her looks. Hunter has worked all his life with the hope of someday owning his own land. Now that it looks like there’s a very real possibility that everything he’s ever wanted is within reach nothing is going to deter him – including Miss Allura’s disagreeable disposition.
Allura is not at all happy with her father’s dictates and decision to marry her off to the man who can uncover her secrets and prove himself worthy of possessing his land, her hand and the title Laird. What she finds most disturbing is the intensity with which Hunter pursues his goal and goes about ensuring her safety – even from herself. He’s making it impossible for her to pursue her own pleasures and any adventures to the island the girls all love could result in him discovering the secret, thus he’d win her hand in marriage. Despite Allura’s discontent with Hunter’s constant presence she’s attracted to him and soon discovers that his kisses are addicting and while she longs for the freedom she treasures there’s a certain amount of pleasure in knowing he truly cares for her wellbeing. That doesn’t make her any happier about being ‘forced’ into marriage and there’s the little issue that Hunter is rigid and refuses to allow any woman any leeway with him. As if that isn’t enough one of the previous ‘suitors’ has returned and Guy makes Allura’s skin crawl and oozes an evilness that Hunter has dealt with for most of his life.
Christine Young’s ALLURA is a delightful historical novel full of suspense, lovable characters, humor and a budding romance between two characters determined not to fall in love. Allura and Hunter’s stubborn, determined natures allowed for some interesting scenes as they attempted to get one up on each other. As a modern day woman I felt bad for Allura because technically her husband would dictate every aspect of her life and the freedom she loves would be a thing of the past. Hunter is unbending as far as to how he believes a wife should behave but falling in love changes him and his perception of Allura. Hunter and Allura are the main focus of this story but there are secondary characters whom I absolutely adored and would love to revisit in future novels (hint, hint). Especially the youngest sister Aiden and Hunter’s trusted friend Blade. He doesn’t believe in love and she’s determined to do whatever’s necessary to get him to notice her.
Allura has come to treasure her freedom and the adventures she shares with her sisters and her cousins but her father’s decision to find her a husband threatens that freedom. He’s placed an ad in the times in search of a man strong and smart enough to discover where exactly it is that the girls venture when they leave the safety of the castle.
Meet Damian Andrews a smuggler of French brandy and political refugees. Damian has made enemies that he must deal with before he can find happiness. The Wager is a story of courage and trials no one should have to undergo.
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4
Buy at: www.roguephoenixpress.com
Coast of England 1816
"It's a bloody cursed day." Damian Andrews swept the child into his arms and waded through the pounding surf to the beach. He braced himself against the out-going current then sloshed through the crashing waves. Salt spray clung to the wind, stinging his nostrils.
Damian turned. Beneath his ribs, his heart pounded the cadence hard and fast. He swore again as he watched the captain shout orders to his crew. The French brandy that was supposed to have arrived this night would have to wait.
Standing in the longboat, the captain of the ship that brought the brandy as well as the political refugees from the Germanies held a torch aloft--the only light in the vast darkness. "Hurry, laddie. We have human cargo tonight and the tide is changing."
A little girl whimpered.
Damian pulled her into his arms, bent on protecting her at all cost.
"It's all right. You will all be together soon." The smuggling of French brandy was a cover for the cause that meant so much to him. Religious and political refugees--at times it seemed they came in droves. All were seeking a better life. A life of freedom. "Your mother is coming as well as your baby brother. You will all be safe."
Damian looked to the captain. "The father?" he queried.
"He didn't come with his family. He said he had one more thing to do. You must hurry."
The child leaned into Damian, her little face nuzzling his shoulder, her silent sobs gut-wrenching. He pulled her closer, cursing at the elements as well as mankind and wishing he could find a way to shield the tiny child from all harm. He knew the feat to be impossible. The little girl touched a place in his heart and for a moment filled that broken space with light. Yes, the mother would be with her children, but why had the father stayed where his life was in peril? He had learned long ago one could come to regret rash actions. And he'd also learned one could lose all chance at love in one instant.
Lord, but he'd lost his concentration and in losing that, he could well lose his edge.
No secrets-- no lies. The thought haunted him.
His life was a lie, but he would change nothing until his penance was paid. A constant drizzle soaked him to the skin. The wind sent goose bumps rising on his arms. He reached shore and handed the girl over to Aric Lakeland, a trusted friend and accomplice in this night's work, then turned and walked back to the longboat. Her baby brother as well as her mother waited.
He had never meant to get involved. It was the greatest of ironies that he was here now. He'd been a man who loved his family and his home.
He'd been content but that seemed years ago--a life time.
It felt like centuries.
The captain spoke, his voice hushed. "Hurry, now, Master Damian.
It's the watch. They are due to ride by here any time now. The patrols have doubled these last few weeks. I fear it's not as safe as it used to be." The captain handed over the baby wrapped in blankets. Damian stared at the child. The babe couldn't be a year old. The child didn't make a sound, not even a whimper.
This was injustice, a travesty. He looked at the mother. "Can you make it on your own?" He prayed the fragile lady standing before him had more courage than she appeared to have. She nodded and with the captain's help, she stepped into the ocean, struggling for balance. Yet her shoulders were squared and her spine stiff.
As soon as the captain placed the babe in Damian's arms and the three of them were headed for land, he gave orders. Two sailors rowed out to sea, moving toward the black ship that rose and fell on the distant waves.
On a cliff above, the dark silhouette of a third man, Ryder McClaren, could be seen for a brief moment. He waved his arms then disappeared into the shadows once more.
"Hurry," Damian bade the mother, his hand resting on the small of her back, urging her forward.
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Title: A Marriage of Inconvenience
Author: Christine Young
Genre: Historical Romance
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4
Buy at: www.roguephoenixpress.com
A regal beauty declares her engagement to a devil-may-care smuggler who has far different plans than the English heiress.
A REGAL BEAUTY
When the duchess decides to wed her to a wastrel and a fop, Ravyn Grahm takes matters into her own hands and declares her engagement to another man. Instead of fessing up and telling her great aunt what she has done, she goes through with the pretense. Aric Lakeland is the bastard son of an earl and has a dangerous reputation. But Ravyn is willing to do most anything to keep the duchess from discovering the lie.
A DEVIL-MAY-CARE SMUGGLER
He'd bought land in America, looking to put down roots and end his life of adventure, but Aric Lakeland got more than he bargained for when he encountered a beautiful heiress who made a promise she didn't want to keep. But the promise could not be undone and standing between them were more obstacles than either ever dreamed. Aric had made plans to spend the rest of his life in America and that was at odds with Ravyn's plan of living in England and running her father's estate. Now, he'll have to choose between his dreams and the woman he loves more than life.
Aric Lakeland dodged foot-traffic along the boulevard in a crazy attempt to keep up with the bouncing erratic carriage he followed. The day was intolerably hot and his mood was no better. He resented this mission. He’d left a cool pub and a cold brew to sweat beneath the hot sun.
His idea of fun was not traipsing after a notorious gambler and womanizer. Nor did he want to baby sit a spoiled debutante.
Yet, he’d promised. A wave of guilt washed through him.
Sweat beaded on his forehead, dripping down his face. He swiped it with the back of his hand and sidestepped, nearly knocking packages from a lady just exiting a dressmaker’s shop.
“You owe me, my friend. When this is done, I will collect,” he swore beneath his breath and began thinking of all the favors he might ask of his half brother.
The carriage he followed turned a corner and disappeared from sight. He plowed into a lamppost, swore again and raced through the crowds. Richy Richmond did not deserve this absurd protection. Richy could deal with his own affairs. The other part of his half brother’s request bothered Aric. He did not want anything to happen to the lady he followed. His half brother had reason to believe Richy might do something to compromise her. His gut instincts had never been wrong. Ravyn Grahm, cousin to his half brother’s wife, was in serious trouble.
Richy’s carriage came to an abrupt halt. Richy jumped from the vehicle. His cane in hand, he strode toward a dress shop Aric had reason to visit on occasion.
Aric watched, fascinated as the scene unfolded. He started forward but noticed Richy race to protect the women Aric followed.
“You ruffians! Get your hands off me!” The white-haried Duchess shrieked, her age-lined face mottled with rage, pushing at two little guttersnipes who seemed more intent on shoving the elderly woman around than stealing the packages she carried.
Ravyn swiped her parasol across a boy’s head and turned to the other, her eyes blazing, shooting violet blue sparks.
“Stop it!” she cried out, raising her parasol again and again. “Take that! And that!”
Amused, Aric leaned against a lamppost similar to the one he had run into earlier in his race to keep Richy’s carriage in view.
He crossed his arms over his chest, grinning as he watched Ravyn batter the boys who had had the audacity to try and harm the Duchess.
He chuckled, prepared to step in if needed but it appeared the two women had the situation under control. Ravyn, he mused, the regal, classy lady who seldom had a hair on her gorgeous head out of place was decidedly disheveled. Her cheeks were flushed, her hair flowed beautifully from its perfectly coiffed hairdo. Her jacket sleeve was torn and to his amazement, she grinned as if she were having the time of her life.
“Go on, get,” Richy stepped in, shooing the two boys away. He grabbed hold of one of the boy’s arms and shook him. “Patrol,” he yelled, looking around for help. The boy stomped on Richy’s foot. Surprised, Richy let go. “Bloody hell! Come back here. Little brat,” he yelled as the boy ran off.
Aric cocked an eyebrow, watching and wondering what would happen next, knowing Richy had a card up his sleeve. He had not forgotten he was supposed to be watching Richy, nor had he forgotten the man had suffered innumerable losses at the gaming tables and the racetrack the last few days and he might do something to Ravyn.
Aric pushed away from the lamppost and strode toward the women and Richy. He watched Richy change demeanor. Suddenly instead of rescuer, he was attacker. Aric’s heart stopped for a moment then raced.
Richy wrenched Ravyn against him, pulling her close, her arm behind her back, his mouth close to her ear as if he whispered something to Ravyn.
“Let go,” Ravyn cried out, twisting and thrashing her arms. It seemed to be the opposite scenario as moments before. The crowds that had previously closed around the women had now dissipated.
“Let go,” Ravyn cried again.
“You’re mine, Ravyn,” Richy said in a low well-modulated voice. “You should have realized it months ago and I’d have won the wager. But instead, you ignored me. You taunted me and sometimes you pretended to care while other times you turned up your pert little nose when I walked by.”
“What do you think you are doing? Let go of me!” Ravyn cried out, hatred now in her stormy violet eyes.
To Aric, she sounded incredulous, perhaps confused. But strangely, not afraid.
“We--“he paused a moment--“are going to Gretna Green. We are getting married and I will inherit your estate. You will be mine.”