Barbara Bettis: The Heart of the Phoenix


One lucky commenter will win an e-copy of The Heart of the Phoenix . All comments also qualify as entries for Susana’s September Giveaway, a necklace from London’s National Gallery (see photo at right).

About The Heart of the Phoenix

Some call him a ruthless mercenary; she calls him the knight of her heart.


Lady Evelynn’s childhood hero is home—bitter, hard, tempting as sin. And haunted by secrets. A now-grown Evie offers friendship, but Sir Stephen’s cruel rejection crushes her, and she resolves to forget him. Yet when an unexpected war throws them together, she finds love isn’t so easy to dismiss. If only the king hadn’t betrothed her to another.

Can Be Cruel

Sir Stephen lives a double life while he seeks the treacherous outlaws who murdered his friends. Driven by revenge he thinks his heart is closed to love. His childhood shadow, Lady Evie, unexpectedly challenges that belief. He rebuffs her, but he can’t forget her, although he knows she’s to wed the king’s favorite.

And Deadly

When his drive for vengeance leads to Evie’s kidnapping, Stephen must choose between retribution and the loved he’s denied too long. Surely King John will see reason. Convict the murderers; convince the king. Simple. Until a startling revelation threatens everything.

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Evie could tell Stephen was angry now by the way he glowered and roared in that whispery sort of way no one else could hear, but left her with no doubt of his displeasure.

THOP COVER copy“Your betrothed.” He bent and scooped her off the floor.

“What? What about him?”

“That’s the identity of the illustrious lord who’s sharing passage with us.”

“You’re drunk. And put me down. I’m perfectly capable of getting up on my own.”

“Be quiet. You have blood on your leg.”

“Of course I do. I tripped and fell trying to answer your pounding when you could easily have opened—” His words finally penetrated her throbbing head. “I’m bleeding?”

Oh, blast. The contents of her—empty—stomach churned. She attended the villagers’ hurts, bound the cuts and scrapes of servants and their children. The sight of their blood bothered her not a whit. But her own? Black spots danced at the corners of her vision, becoming larger and larger until she heard Stephen’s voice.

“Evie, Evie. What the hell?”

His voice echoed so far away. If she didn’t know better, she’d vow he sounded alarmed. Perhaps she’d close her eyes for a moment. As the ringing in her ears crescendoed, she recalled his words. Betrothed.

Her betrothed was on board?

Dear Lord, just let me die.

About the Author

Barb-4Award winning author Barbara Bettis has always loved history and English. As a college freshman, she briefly considered becoming an archeologist until she realized there likely would be bugs and snakes involved. And math.

She now lives in Missouri, where by day she’s a mild-mannered English teacher, and by night she’s an intrepid plotter of tales featuring heroines to die for—and heroes to live for.

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Historical Tidbit: Dover

Most of us are used to reading of Dover as the port closest to the continent and the one used most frequently. However, in the Middle Ages, it wasn’t always the port of choice. When King John left Normandy for England where he was to be crowned on Ascension Thursday, 1199, he landed at Shoreham on the country’s southern coast. Evidently, Shoreham was a popular port during those years. According to one source, one of the first things John did when he landed in Shoreham two days before his coronation was visit the church of St. Nicholas.

Here’s a modern photo of St. Nicholas’ Church, although one can see some of the medieval touches at the top.

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Marlow Kelly: A Woman of Honour

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Marlow will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click on the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

About A Woman of Honour

Duncan Campbell wakes to discover he is imprisoned with a woman in his enemy’s dungeon in the Highlands of Scotland. The disenchanted warrior hopes his last few moments on earth will be spent in the arms of the sweet-voiced Isabel. If only she will cooperate.

Isabel Douglas has no intention of obliging the crude captive. The penniless noblewoman considers herself too tall and thin to be desirable. She intends to become a nun. But first, disguised as a boy, she must deliver an important letter to Scotland’s hero in hiding, King Robert the Bruce.

Together, the pair make a daring escape that plunges them into the bleak countryside in the middle of winter. In the struggle to survive, they learn the true strength of their feelings for each other. But when Duncan’s animosity towards the king becomes evident, Isabel must decide between her heart and her country.


Cover_A Woman of Honour copyDuncan Campbell drifted into consciousness and opened his eyes to absolute blackness. He lay perfectly still on the cold, dirt floor listening. A small rustle of fabric echoed in the darkness. He cocked his head, getting a sense of the sound’s location, then rose to his feet.

“Tell me who you are before I tear you apart,” he roared, seizing his opponent. Whoever it was didn’t answer, just silence. A fist punched him on the nose. Pain ricocheted through him, and he grabbed his face. In the dark, he lost his balance and fell in the dirt, cradling his head in his hands.

“Oh my, are you all right?” asked a small voice.

“No, I’m not.”

“You threatened me, and I wanted to give you fair warning I will fight back if you touch me.”

The lyrical voice stunned him. A woman? She spoke Gaelic with a strong, lowland accent. He shook off the pain and asked, “Where am I?”

“Dunstaffnage Castle. Don’t you remember your capture? I’ve heard of people getting a bump on the head and not remembering their own name. Is that what happened to you? Did you bump your head?”

Lord, she was talkative.

“Is it?”

“I remember I was hit from behind scouting the bast….Are we in the dungeon?” He rose to his feet.


He grunted. On the bright side he hadn’t gone blind. On the other hand they were in a dank, windowless cell with no hope of escape. There wasn’t even a sliver of light coming through the door.

About the Author

After being thrown out of England for refusing to drink tea, Marlow Kelly made her way to Canada where she found love, a home and a pug named Max. She also discovered her love of storytelling. Encouraged by her husband, children and let’s not forget Max, she started putting her ideas to paper. Her need to write about strong women in crisis drives her stories and her curiosity regarding the lives and loves of historical figures are the inspiration for her characters.

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Monica McCarty and “The Raider”

About The Raider (Highland Guard)

After consolidating his gains against the enemy English, King Robert the Bruce of Scotland sends his best soldiers to fortify the lawless borders. These legendary warriors of the Highland Guard let nothing come before king and country—except the calling of their heart.

81sJ6I4ehDL._SL1500_Of all Bruce’s elite warriors, Robert “Raider” Boyd is the most formidable. A true patriot whose bare hands are a deadly weapon, Robbie is the fierce enforcer of the Guard, and his hatred of the English has been honed to a razor-sharp edge. But vengeance proves bittersweet when his enemy’s beautiful sister falls into his hands and he finds himself fighting temptation—a battle he badly wants to lose.

Lady Rosalin Clifford barely recognizes the rebel prisoner she saved from execution six years ago. Though her girlish ideals for fairness have matured into a passion for justice, Rosalin believes she betrayed her brother when she helped this dangerous man escape.  Now her traitorous act has come back to haunt her. But she can’t deny the longing this tormented warrior ignites in her, or deny the passion that turns sworn enemies into lovers. Is the gentle love of a true English Rose enough to free Scotland’s most brutal warrior from a path of vengeance—before it’s too late?


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About the Author

Monica McCarty is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than ten Scottish historical romance novels, including the Campbell series, the MacLeods of Skye series, and the Highland Guard novels.


SUSANA SAYS: Scots rebel meets his match in an English heiress: 5/5 stars

SusanaSays3Rosalin never forgot her first kiss, at sixteen, when she saved a handsome Scots rebel from being hanged at the hands of her powerful English brother, Earl Clifford. She always wondered what happened to him and secretly felt guilty about betraying her beloved brother.

Six years later, when she and her young nephew are captured and held for ransom by a band of Scots brigands, she discovers that he has become an angry savage bound for revenge against atrocities committed against his family by the English.

And yet…there is something about him that convinces Rosalin that he is worth saving…and loving. But surely there is no hope for a happy ending between them, not with her brother being his bitter enemy.

The Raider is the first Monica McCarty book I have read, since I tend to favor Regencies. But after traveling to Scotland this past year and meeting Monica in person at the RWA Conference, I was eager to sample some of her books. I’m so glad I did! I can’t wait to read the stories of the other members of the Highland Guard, and I have obtained some of her previous novels as well.

Anyone who enjoys learning about history via engaging stories and captivating characters will absolutely love this one.


B.J. Scott and “Highland Homecoming”


B.J. will be awarding a $50 Amazon gift card, Scottish shortbread cookies, can cooler and mouse pad (US/CANADA ONLY) to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

Since this is a historical romance, I was given the option to discuss something interesting about Scottish history. One of things I found interesting was the reason the thistle is considered the emblem of Scotland over the sweet smelling heather.

The prickly, green leafed weed, with the purple floral crown is seen on almost anything associated with Scotland. The legend is that in 1263, during the reign of King Alexander III, Vikings, led by their king Haakon IV landed on the shore of Scotland. Had they come to invade Scotland, were they raiding villages along the coast or had they been forced ashore by a storm?  The answer may never be known, but it castles on the coast were on guard for an attack, because it had been attempted in the past. When the Vikings came ashore, the cries of the barefooted warriors, as they stepped on the thistles served as a warning, allowing the Scots to prepare for the invasion and thwart the attempt. The first use of the thistle as an emblem was recorded in 1470 when it appeared on a silver coin issued by King James III.

The thistle in ancient times was thought to be a symbol of nobility of character and birth. To do harm to the thistle would result in punishment.  Because of this belief when the ancient chivalric, noble Order of the Thistle was founded by James II, the thistle was chosen as the symbol in 1687.  Their motto   “Nemo me impune lacessit” (no one harms me without punishment.) In Scots  “Wha daurs meddle wi me”

The order still exists today, the motto used on many things associated with Scotland.

About Highland Homecoming

Cover_HighlandHomecomingThe last thing Alasdair Fraser expects to find on an isolated beach in Northern Scotland is a beautiful, unconscious lass. Unable to turn his back on someone in need, he delays his journey and tends to her injuries–an act that has him questioning his destiny and his plans to rejoin the fight for Scotland’s independence.

Will he drop the shield that guards his heart or will the secrets she fails to reveal and his own stubbornness keep them apart forever?



Soul Mate Publishing


Perched on a stool by the fire, he watched her sleep, wondering how he was going to ever let her go. She was by far the loveliest woman he had ever seen, and she did not seem to be put off by his size, awkwardness, or lack of manners. But duty dictated that they part ways.

After tossing a log on the fire, he spread a pelt on the floor in front of the hearth, then lowered himself to the ground. He pulled the tunic over his head and tossed it on the stool, then did the same with his trews and boots, before settling beneath a length of plaid

The last thing he wanted to do was lie on the floor and go to sleep. If truth be known, he wanted to slip beneath the covers, take Lauren in his arms, and make her his own. But that would not be right or proper. They were not betrothed and despite what people might think of him, he was a man of honor.

The women he’d bedded in the past had all been of questionable repute and none had been untried maidens. If Lauren was not already married or spoken for, he held enough respect for her that he would wait until their wedding night. But then again, if she did not get her memory back, he might never know for certain.

He slammed his fist on the floor. What the hell was he thinking? He was never going to take a bride. Especially one with no past. He was a warrior. There was no future for them, something he best not forget. He tucked the plaid around his shoulders and dozed off.

An ear-piercing scream disturbed his slumber and Alasdair jolted up with a start. Wasting no time, he climbed to his feet and raced to the pallet.

About the Author

AuthorPicWith a passion for historical romance, history in general, and anything Celtic, B.J. always has an exciting work in progress. Each story offers a blend of romance, adventure, suspense, and, where appropriate, a dab of comic relief. Carefully researched historical facts are woven into each manuscript, providing a backdrop from which steamy romance, gripping plots, and vivid characters—dashing alpha heroes and resourceful, beguiling heroines you can’t help but admire—spring to life. A member of RWA, World Romance Writers, Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, and Savvy Authors, B.J. also writes contemporary, paranormal, time travel, and romantic suspense.

C.S. Lewis first captivated B. J.’s imagination in the fourth grade, and her desire to write sprang from there. Following a career in nursing and child and youth work, B.J. married her knight-in-shining-armor, and he whisked her away to his castle by the sea. In reality, they share their century-old home in a small Canadian town on the shore of Lake Erie with three dogs and a cat. When she is not working at her childcare job, on her small business, or writing, you will find her reading, camping, or antique hunting.


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Rue Allyn and “A True and Perfect Knight”

“When life hands you lemons. . .”

Susana, thank you very much for inviting me back to share with your readers. I recently suffered a serious setback (sorry, the details involve others, and I respect their privacy) and am still trying to regain my balance. I know all that stuff about making lemonade and closing doors that cause windows to open. However, in the moment of receiving a life blow, I can’t say that I feel like doing much of anything, let alone writing a blog. Nonetheless, I made a commitment, so here I am, typing madly away to make my deadline. And luckily enough, I have a readymade use for even the worst experience. I give it, or some part of it, to my characters.

TrueAndPerfectKnight-A300The concept for A True and Perfect Knight—a widow suspected of pushing her spouse (now dead by hanging) into treason falls for his best friend and a knight ordered to marry the woman he believes caused his best friend’s death—required that I show immediately how difficult my heroine’s life had become. She’d been bombarded with setbacks and tragedy, and there was more to come before she would see her HEA. As a sample take a look at the opening of A True and Perfect Knight.

Pre-order A True and Perfect Knight here.

Please leave a comment and share with me how you handle setbacks or sorrows.

“Rumor says that the bottom of a privy is more attractive than Roger’s widow.”  Privately, Sir Haven De Sessions wished the widow to the devil along with the incessant rain.

“No noble woman could be that ugly, especially one from the court in Paris,” protested Soames, Haven’s second in command.

Haven thought of the execution he’d witnessed and felt his jaw clench.  “If God is just, Genvieve Dreyford’s face will expose every coil and stain in her black soul.  ’Tis only right that the true nature of the woman who led my best friend to treason show on her face.”

Soames shook his head at his commander’s remarks.  “Do you suppose that is her?”  He slanted his head in the direction of six sodden figures huddled some distance from the by-way.

Haven followed Soames’ glance.  “Possibly.  We have come almost a league from the castle.  That is the distance the bailiff claimed he had taken the widow and her entourage when the new lord threw her out.  But, I doubt…” His words trailed off as he peered through the downpour at the figure that stepped to the front of the pitiful group.

The woman stood tall and straight.  Shoulders back, legs braced.   She anchored herself, as if by sheer will alone she could defend the others.  A young boy clung to her skirts.

Could this be the suspected traitoress who caused the downfall of his best friend, Roger Dreyford?  Haven wanted to see her face, to see if she appeared as evil as he believed her to be.  Distance and the obscuring rain defeated him.

“But what, Sir?”

Soames question shook Haven from his musings.  “But I doubt a woman like Roger’s widow would stand out in the rain or tolerate such a humble abode.”

About Rue Allyn

HPIM0613.JPGAuthor of historical, contemporary, and erotic romances, Rue Allyn fell in love with happily ever after the day she heard her first story. She is deliriously married to her sweetheart of many years and loves to hear from readers about their favorite books and real life adventures.  Learn more about Rue at

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Tanya Anne Crosby and “The MacKinnon’s Bride”

mackinnonbride-vbtbanner copy

The MacKinnon’s Bride (The Highland Brides #1)

by Tanya Anne Crosby

About The MacKinnon’s Bride

Scotland 1118

mackinnonbride-coverDescended of the legendary sons of MacAlpin, Iain MacKinnon refuses to bow to the English. When his young son is captured by a minion of the English king, the fierce Scottish chieftain vows to stop at nothing to secure the lad’s return. Retaliating in kind, he captures the daughter of his enemy, planning to bargain with the devil.

FitzSimon’s daughter has lived her entire life in the shadow of the man she called father–yet never would she have imagined he would forsake his only daughter. Even as Page blames her captor for welching on a contract with her father, she suspects the truth. But the shadows hold secrets … now only the love of her reluctant champion can save the MacKinnon’s Bride.

Warning: This title is intended for readers over the age of 18 as it contains adult sexual situations and/or adult language, and may be considered offensive to some readers.


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Of all Page wasn’t certain which was worse to bear: the presence of the irksome giant beside her… the gruesome foot waving at her from under the blanket on the horse before her… or the sight of the MacKinnon riding at their lead.

Like some heathen idol he sat his mount, tall and magnificent in the saddle, his dark, wavy hair blowing softly at his back. In the afternoon sunlight, the streaks of silver at his temples seemed almost a pagan ornament, for the metallic gleam of his braid was almost startling against his youthful features. The sinewy strength evident in the wide set of his shoulders and solid breadth of his back only served to emphasize the fact that he might have killed her any time he’d wished, with no more than a swat of his hand—that same hand that caressed his son so tenderly now.

In truth, he’d not even spoken to her harshly. He’d been naught but gentle, and it mightily confused her.

In fact, he might have done anything he’d wished to her, and no one could have stopped him. Scarce a handful of men present were even as big as the MacKinnon, and only two were taller—the man at her side being one of them. She cast him an irritated glance. And yet she knew Broc would no more prevail against his laird than he would consider rising up against him in the first place.

None of them would.

Her gaze swept the lot of them. It was evident that each and every man wholly embraced the MacKinnon as their leader. Jesu, but it was almost comical the way they allowed him the lead of their party. Like dogs, they followed wherever he went—and if one man chanced to pass him by, Page was struck with wonder that that man would unconsciously look to his laird, and then slow his gait to allow Iain to pass once more.

The MacKinnon, on the other hand, seemed oblivious to this ritual. He forged onward, his attention fixed only upon his son, who sat before him in the saddle.

There was an undeniable air of authority about him, one he wore with unaffected ease, and an air of total acceptance from his men

And yet, he obviously did not oppress them, else the giant beside her would never be aiding her as he was. ’Twas evident by the way that he looked at his laird that he did so only because he meant to do him a favor. He seemed to think he was protecting the MacKinnon—and did so rather vehemently, Page thought.

Well, who would protect her from the MacKinnon? she wondered irritably.

Aye, she’d already determined that he’d not harm her, but what of her heart, and her soul, and her body?

She was drawn to him in a way she couldn’t comprehend, though she knew it was a dangerous longing. And still she couldn’t stop herself from yearning.

For what? The sweet promise of his whisper? The gentle touch of his hand?

His love? she thought with self-disdain.

She stole a glance at the MacKinnon, just as the wind whipped, lifting his breacan and tunic. Her breath caught, and her body betrayed her then. Her heart began to thump against her ribs.

Like warm spiced mead, heat slid through her, burning her flesh, and making her mouth go drier than sun-dried leather. The movement of the horse between her thighs quickened her breath, even as the sight of the MacKinnon awakened her body to life. Her hand fluttered to her throat, and then slid down the front of her gown; she paused at her breast, marveling at the sensations that stirred there.

Sweet Jesu. He was the only man who had ever made her feel…

She closed her eyes and lifted her hand, caressing the bared flesh at her throat, imagining his hand there instead…

He was the first man ever to have awakened her body to life… the first whose touch she’d ever craved… the first man who’d ever wanted her…

Aye, and she wanted him to want her, but it wasn’t his love she yearned for, she told herself. She was no dog to go begging for affection, but a woman whose body was not made of cold steel.

She wanted him, she admitted wantonly.

And she wanted him to want her.

Her enemy.

Her eyes flew open, and her breath caught as she looked about anxiously, praying no one had spied her at her wicked musings. Her cheeks flamed with mortification.

Her gaze settled upon the man who had so easily and without trying invaded her every thought.

He was wholly unaware of her.

He rode with his son, oblivious to the reactions of Page’s treacherous body. Her brows drew together, and she nibbled the inside of her lip. What a fool she was!

He didn’t want her, she berated herself.

Whatever had possessed her to believe him when he’d said he did? The man riding before her could have any woman he so chose. And Page was no man’s choice.

Not even her own father’s.

Which brought her to wonder … whatever had Broc meant when he’d said that the MacKinnon felt compelled to save her from her da? She stole a glance at the behemoth riding beside her. But he willna be rid o’ ye so easily, I swear by the stone, she heard him say to her again, and she blinked. Her father? Her father wouldn’t be rid of her so easily? A feeling of unease sidled through her.

The one thing she knew for certain was that somehow, she needed to find a way back home.

She was desperate to find a way to escape.

About the Author

tcrosby-authorphotoTanya has written seventeen novels, all of which have graced numerous bestseller lists including the New York Times and USA Today. Best known for stories charged with emotion and humor, and filled with flawed characters, her novels have garnered reader praise and glowing critical reviews. She lives with her husband, two dogs and two cats in northern Michigan.


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Berengaria Brown Presents Her “Elinor’s Stronghold” Series

Last week, Berengaria presented her Regency series, Virgins No More. Today she’s focusing on her medieval series, Elinor’s Stronghold. Welcome back, Berengaria.

  • What inspired you to write the “Elinor’s Stronghold” series?

I’ve always loved historical romance and have published half a dozen Regency-set romances. But then I got to thinking about castles, women in flowing gowns, and half-naked warriors with long swords. What’s not to like about medieval days? It all started as the story of a young woman who’s left alone to care for her people when her father and two brothers are killed in battle. Then another woman arrived on the scene, the villain refused to be defeated, and, just when I thought the series was finished, I remembered my love of Robin Hood stories and realized one hero still didn’t have his happily-ever-after.

Of course, I was named after Richard the Lionheart’s wife, Berengaria of Navarre, so I’ve had a link to medieval history ever since I was born.

  • Which element of story creation is your favorite and why?

When the ideas flow, the characters are talking to me, and I can’t type fast enough for all I want to say.

  • What is your writing process?

I don’t begin writing until the characters are clear in my head and I know what they want. I need a beginning and an end, and some midpoints to reach on the way through. Then I begin typing.

  • What do you enjoy the most about writing?

When the book is finished and I know I’ve done my best.

  • Is there a certain type of character or theme that you find yourself coming back to again and again?

Summer, vacations, and water seem to recur in my books. Even in the middle of winter in the “Elinor’s Stronghold” series, the river has its part to play in the plot.

  • What’s the first book you remember loving?

My father taught me to read before I started school and I always loved my books but I don’t know the first book. I do know that it was Georgette Heyer who addicted me to romance, when I was a young teenager.

  • Do you read the same genre that you write?

Yes and no. I read anything and everything, and I write across multiple genres: contemporary, paranormal, historical. When I’m actually in the midst of writing a book, I only read nonfiction because I don’t want to lose my train of thought.

  • What’s your advice to new writers?

Never give up. Keep reading, keep writing, keep polishing your craft.

  • What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

Reading, hanging out with friends, eating chocolate.

Berengaria’s Bio:

Berengaria is a multi-published author of erotic romance: contemporary, paranormal (magic, ghosts, vampires, fairies, dragons, and werewolves), futuristic, medieval, and Regency-set historical. She loves to read all different kinds of romance so that is what she writes: one man/one woman; two women; two men; two men/one woman; three men, two women/one man, three men/one woman…. Whatever the characters need for their very hot happily-ever-after, Berengaria makes sure they get it.

The Elinor’s Stronghold series: medieval historical MMF and MFM.

Book 1: Pillaging Elinor’s Castle

Lady Elinor’s father and two brothers are killed in battle, and Lord Rhys loses his demesne. To protect her people Elinor decides she will marry Lord Rhys, but only if he agrees the Captain of the Guard, Hammond, will share their bed and the decision-making from now on. They agree and seal their contract in blood. Rhys and his people move into the stronghold.

After the wedding they begin to plan for how to survive the attack that will inevitably come. The stronghold is a wealthy one, and many will consider it an easy target with its lord and his sons dead. They also have to blend the two households together and prepare for the coming winter. At night Hammond and Rhys work hard in bed, learning to share Elinor, finding out what pleases her best, and arousing each other to new heights along the way.

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Book 2: Defending Rhyannon’s Inheritance

Hated and incompetent Lord Jeffrey wants to marry Rhyannon, and her bad-tempered cousin, Coll, wants to steal her jewels. She needs a good protector.

Alistair has loved her faithfully for years, but he has no assets and can’t support them both. Lord Devon is a suitable husband, but does he even like Rhyannon? It’s a big challenge, but maybe together Alistair and Lord Devon can protect her and her jewels from Lord Jeffrey and Cousin Coll.

Meanwhile, winter is settling on the stronghold and Lord Jeffrey is attacking the people once again. And Cousin Coll is determined to get her jewels any way he can. Surviving the winter is hard enough to do without all these other things happening as well. Everyone in the stronghold is living on a knife edge. Alistair and Lord Devon focus on Rhyannon. They’ll love her and protect her—and each other as well.

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Book 3: Restoring Garnet’s Heart

Tragically widowed, Garnet is loved by two men. If a noble lady can have two men, why can’t a mere sewing woman? Garnet decides she’ll marry them both! Then she adopts two orphaned, starving little girls.

Garnet, Byram, and Carlysle are sent to repair the demesne. Can they achieve this huge task before the harvest is gathered in? First, a high stone wall needs to be built to protect them from attackers. The buildings must be cleaned and repaired, the crops sown, weeded, cared for, and hopefully reaped. Is it possible to complete such a huge undertaking before the next vicious winter arrives? Will the peasants help them?

Meanwhile, Lady Elinor gives birth to the heir of the stronghold, and Lord Rhys and Lady Rhyannon, with Alistair and Lord Devon, go to court to sort out her inheritance.

And what about Garnet’s threesome relationship? Will that be successful?

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Book 4: Bringing Home Claire

A year ago, Paul took his sister Claire away to escape Lord Jeffrey’s attacks on the hamlets. Mitchell and Claire were in love, but Mitchell hadn’t asked her to marry him before she left. Now he aches for her, and goes in search of her to bring her back to his home as his bride. But no one has seen or heard of her, and the hamlet where she was to go is empty.

Finally Mitchell meets Ivan, who takes him into the forest where Claire and Paul, and Ivan himself, have been living for the past year. But Ivan loves Claire, too, and Claire owes him her life. Mitchell suggests he and Ivan share Claire. Can this possibly work—two men with no tie to each other and the one woman they both love? And can they survive a dangerous journey home?

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Excerpt from Restoring Garnet’s Heart

Lady Elinor stared at the two children in front of her. One, a girl, looked to be about six years old and dragged a cooking pot with a few possessions inside it. Her arms and legs were stick-thin, her hair was falling out in clumps, and her belly was swollen.

The child had been eating bark and leaves to try to stem her hunger, and her belly was full of air, assumed Garnet, who was standing beside Lady Elinor among the other sewing women of the castle.

The younger child, which could be either a girl or boy, and was maybe three years old, clutched the older one’s tunic in one hand, and sucked hard on its other thumb. It, too, was painfully thin, though less bloated by starvation.

“You wish to become my slave?” Lady Elinor’s voice was even and mild, but Garnet knew she was shocked. Peasant men from the smallest of uncaring Lord Jeffrey’s hamlets had begged to become slaves of the castle in return for food during this terrible winter, but few females, and no one as young as this little child.

“Yes, Lady Elinor. I can scare birds from the crops when they’re planted, and clean for you. Ysabel will stay with me. I’ve always looked after her since Ma died, and she won’t touch the seedlings. She’s a good girl, and no trouble at all. And I will grow big, and learn to fight for you and Lord Rhys, and then I’ll kill the men who murdered our Pa and took all our hamlet’s food,” the child finished fiercely, almost in a shout.

Garnet felt her eyebrows rise and forced her face not to break into a grin. It was plain this tiny, starved child had the heart of a warrior indeed.

Lady Elinor rested her hand on her huge belly. It was almost time for the heir to the stronghold to be born.

“Well then, Nerida is already learning warrior skills, and if the heir to the stronghold is a girl, she will be a warrior, too. I see no reason why you can’t also be a warrior, if that is your desire. What is your name, and where are the other people from your hamlet?”

“I’m Ava, lady, and I promise to serve you forever. Most of the people left after the soldiers came raiding. Some have tried to help Ysabel and me, but I’d rather work for my food.”

Garnet watched Ava’s thin, little shoulders straighten as she spoke. At her age, Garnet would never have dared to approach the Lady of the Castle, and Garnet had never been a shy child. But this girl was truly a warrior born. She was that rare being who combined the ability to think of a solution to a problem with the courage to step outside any rules of society and do it, no matter what the consequences may turn out to be.

Without stopping to think, Garnet moved to stand where Lady Elinor could see her. “The two girls may share my room, lady, and I will supervise their activities.”

“It is decided then, Ava. You and Ysabel may join the stronghold. We will feed you, and you will work. You will obey Garnet in all things. Do you understand?”

“Yes, lady, thank you.”

Ava dropped to her knees and pressed her face to Lady Elinor’s feet. Ysabel copied her.

Garnet’s eyes flooded with tears. Peasants always died when there was trouble in the land, especially the very old and the very young. They weren’t strong enough to fight back or fast enough to run away. But this child deserved to live.

Garnet’s husband, Roldan, had been one of Lord Rhys’s soldiers, and was killed in the battle that took the lives of Lady Elinor’s father and brothers and caused Lord Rhys to lose his demesne to Lord Jeffrey. They had been married only six months, not long enough for her to worry about not getting pregnant, but now he was dead, the parents of these children were dead, and Ava was a daughter any woman would be proud to call her own.

Berengaria Brown

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