Tuesday, June 30, 2020

#TellTaleTuesday #Amorica'sSecreet

Christine Young
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4

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BLURB: Amorica's Wager

Amorica Hepburn was sent to London to find a husband. However, finding a man was the last item on her agenda. With her two cousins, Amorica wagers she can dissuade her suitor before the others. Despite her efforts she discovers a chemistry that cannot be denied. Suddenly she is the arrogant man's wife, pledged to a marriage neither desire. But swept off to his ancestral home above the Dover cliffs and into his strong embrace, Amorica is soon possessed by a raging passion for the husband she had vowed to despise…

Damian Andrews couldn't afford to trust the emerald-eyed spitfire who happened upon his secret. Amorica's hatred of all men of his kind only inflames the war that rages between them. Still, he can not control the intense desire his stubborn bride inspires, or make her surrender to his will until he has conquered the headstrong beauty on the battlefield of love…

EXCERPT: Amorica's Wager

The very essence of Amorica filled his head.

She turned to him, smiling, then gazed toward the fire once again. For a moment, he watched the flames dance in the grate. Her hair smelled of roses. His gut tightened. He swore softly beneath his breath, suddenly realizing this would be the longest night of his life.

Amorica leaned into him. His hands followed the comb's path. She sighed, and he was sure she had no idea what she did and how her slightest gesture affected him. Her eyes closed. Dark lashes swept across alabaster flesh. The storm had not been planned, and yet the isolation, the night alone, all served the sinister purpose he was destined to fulfill. Silence her. Bind her so thoroughly to him she could never leave. After tonight, no matter what he did or did not do, she was his. She would be ostracized by those with influence--and shamed.

His heart wrenched into two pieces.

Her cheek touched upon his chest. Her hand rested on his abdomen.

He sucked air.

She pushed away from him, her eyes open now and shining with trust.

Her innocence and courage always unmanned him.

"You have so many secrets," she said. "And I have the feeling you distrust me."

Trust was so very elusive.

Now, he trusted her to betray him.

"I trust few people." He pulled her close, letting her rest against him and reveling in the feel of her so close, yet so very distant. He could not have her, he reminded himself.

Because he did not want to hurt her.

Bloody hell, he had already hurt her irreparably. She would have to go home.

Unless he wed her.

He could not. He could never put her in danger or condemn her to a life of misery with a man she loathed. Damaging her reputation was nothing compared to her life--which would be in jeopardy everyday if they wed.

Her fingertips lightly traced his collarbone. His body shuddered at the sensation. She followed her fingertips with her lips, kissing him lightly.

She set a blaze within him, her every touch mercuric. She seduced him with every gesture, every look. Her hands ran across his chest, touching him everywhere.

"Amorica," his voice rasped. He could barely breathe, could not think. "This is not wise."

She stopped, her fingertip resting on his chest and gazed at him wide eyed. Then she touched him--with her lips--her tongue.

With one finger, he touched her beneath her chin, lifting her face gently. He needed to see into her eyes. Then he framed her face with his hands. For the longest time, he watched her.

"Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?" How very treacherous you would be if you knew the truth of my mission.

She started to shake her head, but his lips met hers, melded sweetly with her warmth. He traced the seam of her lips, and she opened for him.

Her nails bit into his skin. She made a low sound in the back of her throat.

Her urgency amazed him.

"Did you know you appear the braw handsome highlander?" she asked in return, pushing away from him then moistening her lips, her eyes wide, the centers dark with passion.

He kissed her again and pushed her back on the fur in front of the fire.

Embers crackled and then he heard nothing but the roar of his blood pounding in his veins.

He rolled so she lay atop him, straddling his hips. "You should tell me to stop."

She settled her hair behind her. "I don't want you to stop," she sighed, her smile lighting his heart.

"It does not matter. Tell me to act the gentleman and walk away."

"I like you the way you are." She bent low, her breasts softly pushing against his chest, her lips seeking his own.

He groaned, knowing he was damned.

Lord, but he could not stop himself and she made no effort to tell him no. He kissed her again, running his hands down her legs. They were long and soft. He turned her again, his leg resting between her thighs, his hands smoothing her cascading hair from her face. One fingertip traced the seam of her lips. His mind fantasized in directions it should not wander.

He had to stop.

Excerpt: The Wager

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.

Monday, June 29, 2020

#MysteryMonday #Allura'sSecret

Christine Young
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4

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.

Reviewer: Chrissy Dionne Reviewer Email: RJChrissyDionne@yahoo.com 

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. SNIPPET— 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.

EXCERPT: Allura's Secret

He turned her in his arms. Her hands rested on his chest and she gazed into his eyes. Their crystal-blue clarity never ceased to surprise him. More beautiful than any woman he’d ever gazed on, she stole Hunter’s breath. He wondered how he could have been such a fool to have fallen, even for a moment, for her ugly duckling ploy. Blade had seen through her game, too. Hunter’s hands tightened around her waist. She lowered her lashes then looked back into his eyes. Within his chest his heart thundered. Lightly, he brushed his lips across her forehead. The sanctity of the moment surprised him. Emotions flew like wildfire between them, and he felt the magic of Allura deep in his soul.

As if he needed to share a part of him he pulled back, watching the waves lapping against the shoreline. "I worked all my life to prove myself." He paused, tenderly tracing the line of her hair across her forehead. "As children, Guy would taunt me, but I didn’t let his words change my plans. I knew what I was and what I wasn’t. I understood what would and would not be given to me. The world doesn’t give much to men who are born bastards." He smiled at her, traced the line of her jaw. "I don’t want your sympathy."

"I know," she said, her voice soft, almost admiring. 

She moistened her lips, her lashes fluttered across alabaster cheeks. Slowly, he lowered his head. Their lips brushed tentatively. It was a sweet, languid kiss, a kiss that promised so much more. 

Yet he forced himself to stop.

"I sold myself to armies. I stepped into the boxing ring letting the rich bet on my prowess, and I’ve saved everything I have earned. Blade found a failing estate in the north of England. I had enough money to buy it, but then we saw the ad in the times your father posted.

In his arms she stiffened.

"I thought heaven sent me a miracle. I didn’t know what this land and this castle would be like. I knew I had to find out. I had to try."

"For the heiress," she said, her fingers weaving into his hair.

"But I’ve been pleasantly surprised."

"Why did you stay?"

"Enough," he said, unwilling to waste another moment in useless talk. Measure by measure he brought his mouth down until his breath mixed with hers. With a care that cost him dearly, Hunter touched his lips to Allura’s in a feather-light caress that stung his skin exquisitely. He traced the seam there, urging her to open for him. She rose on her toes, pulling him closer. Despite the animosity between them, she was so very passionate, so willing. Her response to him was so innocent. She made a small, whimpering sound and her eyes flickered shut. Irresistible magic flowed between them when they touched.

Yet in other ways, she fought him so hard. Hunter drew back and studied her heartbreakingly lovely face. The lines were drawn tense, her lips moist and slightly parted. Tendrils of her hair moved softly around her face, encouraged by a sea breeze.

"I would know more about you," she whispered.

"You would?" He wanted to win her heart, to hold it so tightly she would see everything his way. Yet he knew deep inside she would always have an opinion of her own, and he would have to learn to deal with that.

A sigh raised her breasts, and Hunter clenched his hands more tightly around her waist. 

"Yes," she said.

"There is little of interest to tell."

She appeared startled. "I don’t believe you, Sir." But then her attention suddenly settled on his mouth, and she leaned ever so slightly even closer.

"Your disbelief does not bode well for our marriage. I would have your trust if not your love," he told her, challenging her, knowing in his heart he’d just given her opportunity to swear her love--knowing too she would not do so.

Hunter felt sweat break out on his brow as they slowly drew together.

He knew what he would do, what he must do. He would work his way into Allura’s life until she thought only of him, obeyed only him. He would become the center of everything for her, then he would get her with child. She would be so immersed in her life with him and a new babe she would never think of the island sanctuary again. He’d wasted too much time discovering her secret. 

Now he must win her heart as well as her trust.

She pressed against him innocently, moving more and more insistently. Hunter shifted his hands to her neck and stroked her there, touched his fingertips to the sensitive hollows behind her collarbones, found the delicate spots beneath her ears. Her breathing grew faster. He bent to kiss the places his hands had just explored and saw the rapid rise and fall of her breasts.

Allura moaned softly against his throat, and he realized that following his example, she was tentatively kissing his neck. Her hands had found a way beneath his shirt, and she kneaded his chest with feverish intensity.

Raising her chin, he kissed her fully, passionately, holding nothing back this time. He opened her mouth with his lips and felt her shudder. Barely a second passed before she responded, imitating the thrusts of his tongue with hot little forays of her own.

"You are so sweet," he said against her cheek. "So absolutely exquisite."

"Hunter," was all she said and her voice broke on his name.

He had entered into a realm that very nearly overwhelmed all his senses. It was a world Hunter was not used to, but meant to explore. Control was the ultimate word, because he meant to take this seduction at least one step farther than before. A few kisses were all they had shared. This time he meant to show Allura just how much pleasure she would find with him and give her a hint of the marriage bed as well.

Excerpt: Allura's Secret

Eddington, Scotland 1815

From the boxing ring below, fist met flesh, the sound echoing throughout. Hunter Gray whirled and ducked. He guarded his face to block the stinging blows his opponent rained down upon him. He spun and ducked again. The man he fought countered the attack, but he did not move fast enough. Hunter’s next jab was so fast and so hard the other man didn’t block the punch. The man staggered backwards, blood running from his eye. Men yelled and cheered for the two combatants. Hunter paused and spoke to the man he practiced with before the match continued once more.

Allura saw her life as she had planned it slip away as if it was grains of sand in an hour glass. She stopped pacing and watched the men below. She turned on her father. "The ad in the Times--giving me away to any man--you have gone too far. A marriage of convenience is barbaric. You promised." For a moment, she closed her eyes. She did not want to acknowledge anything that went on here. It was not her fault she could not find a man she loved. What horrific bit of bad luck had found her? 

The laird cleared his throat. "Perhaps I have not gone far enough or soon enough. And the ad did not promise you to just any man. He must be strong enough and smart enough to win your hand."

It was not Allura’s nature to allow others to rule her fate. “These men,” she waved her hand in the air, frustration sweeping recklessly within. "They don’t want me. They come for one reason only. They are greedy and hungry for power. You have taught me everything I need to know. I can run your estate and all of your holdings. I’ve studied endless hours. I know the men who work for you. I swear I’ll defy your wishes. At the altar I will say no."

The McClellan’s grin faded as quickly as it had appeared and without further thought, he said, "Perhaps not, you are beautiful lass--one with rare promise. And," he stroked his chin, "no matter how much book learning a woman has she cannot dictate her own life. It is up to the men in her life to make sure she is happy and provided for."

A strained silence followed. She sagged against the stone wall. As if sensing her vulnerable position, she stiffened. Outraged and furious she looked upon her father. "They are money grubbers and want your land--our land. They have no right to any of your estate."

The McClellan held back for a moment, seemingly aware there was more than just a little truth in what Allura said. "How indeed?" he questioned her. Yet his smile was tight, forced. "I grow old. I only want this land secured and my daughters happy before I die. You are twenty-two. I have given you ample opportunity to fall in love. I thought it time to bring new blood to this land, a new man. I thought perhaps one would take your fancy."

"That man," she began. Her hand shook when she pointed at the man who danced and whirled avoiding each blow as if he dallied in child's play. She trembled so violently she could not speak. “Is an Englishman.”


ISBN # 978-1-58749-722-3
April 10, 2009
Rogue Phoenix Press
$4.99 US
239 Pages 
Historical Romance
Rating: 4 Cups

Allura McClellan’s father wants to see his daughters married before he passes on and has decided to run a contest to see who can reveal Allura’s secret and, if correct, the prize is her hand in marriage as well as her land and titles. She fights her father every step of the way, clinging to the reasoning that she does not want to submit to a man and give up who she is because she takes pride in all she has learned and who she has become without a husband.
All Hunter Gray's life, he has been treated horribly for being an English earl’s bastard son and as an adult, fought for his country and became a mighty warrior. Now, he sees a chance to get everything he feels he deserves, money and land, and all he has to do is seduce Allura into marrying him.
Even though a crackling fire rears itself every time Hunter and Allura are together, they truly try to fight the attraction, but for different reasons. As time goes by, feelings start to change and as they are in danger of losing themselves and more, can Allura and Hunter both get what they want?
I really enjoyed this book by Christine Young. It has mystery, humor and, whew, steamy love scenes! An awesome group of characters make this read very entertaining, from the tough as nails Allura to her meddlesome younger sister, Aiden. There is never a dull moment throughout this book and you will surely not be disappointed. I can only hope that some of my favorites get a story of their own. Well done Ms. Young.
Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More