Monday, April 30, 2018

Book Review: Miss Wilton's Waltz

I really enjoyed Josi Kilpack's novel, The Vicar's Daughter, and was hoping that Lenora would get her own story and she did! Miss Wilton's Waltz is a standalone book, but you do get more of Lenora's background if you've read The Vicar's Daughter. (You can read my review of The Vicar's Daughter here)

After a failed engagement, Lenora decides to go to Bath and start fresh. She lives with her Aunt Gwen, who loves to socialize and draws Lenora into her circles. Lenora also teaches music at an all-girls boarding school and loves her job---until Catherine arrives. Catherine is a student who loves to cause trouble and she upends Lenora's life in cruel and shocking ways. I felt awful for Lenora and wondered how she would deal with this obviously troubled girl. Catherine does have one thing going for her, and that's her Uncle Aiden. He loves her and would do anything to help her, but he is often at a loss himself. When Aiden meets Lenora, he's sure she can help his niece, if only she'll find the motivation to try. Lenora is willing and she starts to develop feelings for Aiden, only to find out he's been hiding something from her that will alter all of their lives. Can she ever trust Aiden again?

I loved the depth and richness to these characters. Lenora is trying so hard to overcome her shyness and put herself out there again, that when Catherine and Aiden end up hurting her, you can't help but feel all the hurt along with Lenora. Yet, at the same time, Aiden is sympathetic as a man just trying to do right by his niece who is struggling to overcome a terrible childhood. Everyone is multi-faceted and there are no easy answers to any of their problems. I thought the author did an amazing job with the setting, the plot was tight and believable, and though there are some twists and turns where I wondered if a happy ending was even possible, the author made sure we all closed the book with a satisfied smile.

This is a romance that is realistic and relatable and reminds us all why Josi Kilpack should be on everyone's auto-buy list.

You can get your copy here


Here's the back copy:

Lenora Wilton has spent her life hiding behind the keys of her beloved pianoforte and the vibrancy of her younger sister, Cassie. But Lenora is ready for a change and travels to Bath to live with her Aunt Gwen and teach music at an all-girls boarding school. She is different in Bath more comfortable with herself and enjoys the freedom and independence of her new life there.

When Lenora meets Aiden Asher, she finds herself attracted to him, but her unexpected feelings become more complicated when she learns that Catherine Lenora s newest and most troublesome student in the school is Mr. Asher's niece. Catherine is a difficult student, and Lenora works hard to make progress with the girl.

When the chemistry between Lenora and Aiden increases, they share a passionate kiss by the River Avon, and Lenora feels it is the beginning of a new forever until she learns that Aiden has withheld an important detail about his life that changes everything.

Lenora closes her heart to him, and Aiden, caught between his obligation and his heart, must do what he can to make amends. And Lenora, after years of hiding from everyone and everything, faces a decision only she can make.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Hawaii Five-O Recap & Review: Another Ho-Hum Kidnapping

Well, the previews for this one looked interesting, but once again it was another kidnapping. My husband and I were trying to count up how many times people on the task force have been kidnapped as well as people associated with the task force. It's definitely one of the most overused storylines on the show, but, here we go.

The previouslies remind us that Tani's bro is a drug addict that nearly OD'd and had to go to rehab.

We start with Jerry in a mental health facility dispensing meds as an orderly named Hector. A really gross scene of a resident stabbing himself with a fork and making his arm bloody greets "Hector" on his rounds. When Jerry tries to intervene, the resident attacks him, so Jerry has to hold him down and yell for help. Poor HectorJerry.

Steve meets up with Jerry who looks fairly verklempt. Steve gives him an out, that field work isn't for everyone, but Jerry says he volunteered and doesn't want to let Steve down. They show a flashback to the Chatting Table where Junior and Tani really didn't want the undercover op and were trying to foist it on each other before Jerry volunteered. It seems a resident of the facility was found murdered and dumped in a ravine with a skull fracture. Staff have circled the wagons and just say he wandered away, but the guy hadn't wandered in all eight years he lived there. The HopelessHPD didn't get anywhere with their interviews and search of the victim's room (do they ever?) and since there's an opening for an orderly, someone can get on the inside. Back to the present where Steve tells Jerry to be resourceful and starting thinking like him. Evidence is degrading and people's recollection can get hazy. They need intel, but hey, HectorJerry, just call if you need something.

Tani visits her bro in rehab thinking he's coming home, but he's decided to be a counselor there now. *yawn*

Duke is in the evidence room heading to look at a box from an open murder case. He's shooting the breeze with another officer when he suddenly tazes the guy and walks down the aisle with a determined and cranky look on his face. Cut to the team trying to track Duke down, but he's turned off his phone so they get things going by ordering the HopelessHPD to dust for fingerprints and look at security footage. Because no one at HPD knows how to run an investigation.

Jerry borrows some empty boxes from a dumpster so he can look the part when he tells the receptionist that he's supposed to pack up Ben Pollack, the murder victim's, room. He finds a chess clock and asks the receptionist who played with Ben and heads over to that guy's room.

Back to trying to find Duke. HPD is sitting on Duke's house and his financials are clear. Tani says his wife and daughter claim they haven't spoken to him, but the phone records show he talked to his daughter several times that morning. They bring her in and she lies again while she's trying to cover bruises on her wrist. They finally tell her that they know she talked to her dad three times. Steve appeals to her to let him help her and for her to tell them what she knows. He's really convincing here, reminding her that she knows him and can trust him. She finally caves and says that men burst in and snatched her daughter, Akela. (We also see a flashback of it.) They contacted Duke and said if he got anyone else involved they'd kill her. Oh, and they'll be in touch soon. They even sent him a burner phone in a package at work! So efficient. They called Duke while he was at his daughter's house and said they wanted him to get a certain key. He told her to stay home and act like everything's okay so she did. But she's sorry she lied. Steve brushes that away and tells her to forget about it, she was doing what her father wanted. But if Duke calls, tell him to call one of us, you're ohana and we look after each other. Awww. Steve goes into action, telling her they'll process her house discreetly with plainclothes officers coming through the back door. Then they'll go through the evidence locker and try to figure out what the key was for. Oh and he'll tell everyone else to stand down that Duke is no longer a person of interest. Tani seems surprised at McG's reaction, but Lou tells her that McG will never turn his back on family no matter what.

Jerry talks to Harris, Ben's chess pal and he tells Jerry their routine. Chess every day for two hours, then lunch, then watch game shows, then group, dinner, and lights out. Only, one day, Ben didn't show up for group after lunch. Jerry asks the receptionist about where Ben's TV went and apparently the TV broke and Ben had to watch his shows in the common room. Jerry goes there and tries to change the channel, but a resident changes it back. He warns Jerry not to change the channel since he doesn't want to make Kusaki angry. They pan over to him and that guy already looks angry. It comes out that Ben put on the Price is Right and Kusaki got mad and pushed him. Ben got upset and was going to call the doctors or the police. Kusaki got angry, but then the orderlies came and said to stop fighting. Ben left, but hasn't been back since. Dun, dun, dun. Jerry follows Kusaki down some stairs and the guy turns and confronts him. He gets in Jerry's face and tells him to mind his own business.

Junior got a lock on Duke's phone and Steve and Danny head to the location. They find his car, but no one is inside. They hear banging from the trunk and Duke is gagged and zip-tied. Lucky they found him when they did! He's sorry, had felt like he no other choice. The key he took was to one of the lockers behind them (who has lockers in an alley?) He opened the locker and there was a bag inside with a million dollars, but when he took it to the car and was putting it in the trunk, he got jumped. The kidnappers call just then and Duke tries to keep them on the line so they can get a trace. No dice. He has an hour to get them the money. That he no longer has. Well, who else knew there was money in that locker? They got the key from a drug dealer that was picked up on a hit and run. Duke went to talk to him first thing, but he said he didn't know anything. Well, obviously Duke tipped the drug dealer off so someone else knew there was money in the locker. Who did the drug dealer call?

They bring his lawyer to the Blue Room of Doom and explain the situation. He's pretty arrogant and goes with the "I don't know what you're talking about, you can't prove anything" spiel. Lou gets in his face that a cop's granddaughter has been kidnapped and he'll be an accessory to whatever happens to the girl. The lawyer must have caved because Lou and Tani go to some guy's house where he jumps out the window. Tani punches him out and finds the money.

Jerry uses a tutorial to pick the lock to the records room and finds out that Kusaki is actually dead and the guy impersonating him is Dylan Shu. He calls Lou and tells him Dylan Shu is a fugitive hiding out in the mental hospital and the guy is bad news. Lou sends units down, but before Jerry can leave the records room another orderly catches him. Jerry confesses he's actually with Five-O and found out that Shu is a fugitive. The other orderly pulls out a gun and says he's going to stay that way. (Oh Jerry. Never blow your cover!) He forces Jerry into a van and FakeKusaki is in the back seat. Jerry buckles up and starts rambling about how clever it was to hide out in mental hospital and how it must have happened when Ben said he might report FakeKusaki. Since they cracked Ben on the head, is that what they're going to do to Jerry? FakeKusaki says this time they won't find body, so Jerry guns it and rams into a dumpster. He's bleeding and gets out of the van. A worried Lou calls since no one can find him, but he says he's good. (I'm guessing the EvilOrderly and FakeKusaki are knocked out? We never really see.)

Junior and Steve are set in sniper positions as Duke pulls up to the meeting place with the money duffel. Three masked men ask if he came alone and they're pointing their guns at Duke. It doesn't seem to faze him and Duke asks where his granddaughter is.  He's walking toward them, his voice raised, so one of the masked men shoots him. Junior shoots two of them, then the next thing we know Steve and Junior must have teleported or something and are there near Duke, joined by Lou and Tani. There's a good gun fight inside and we find out that Duke was only shot in the shoulder. Tani finds the little girl and she's okay and she brings her outside. Duke's daughter comes in to hug him and then runs to her daughter. It's another slo-mo scene where everyone is smiling and happy. (Which we also saw with the kidnapped college kids, kidnapped SEAL's daughter, you get the picture.)

Back in Jerry's hospital room the team is chatting with him and catching him up that Duke will be fine and his wound was a through and through. HPD might fire him, though, since stealing evidence and assaulting a fellow officer has consequences. McG says they'll explain the extenuating circumstances to everybody, though. Awww. The receptionist comes in with HarristheChessPlayer and the team leaves. Oddly, Danny hugs the receptionist he was just introduced to before he goes. Hmm. Weird.

The ep ends with Koa's group talking about change and having someone who sticks by you. Koa has Tani stand up and say a few words. She starts with, "I'm a sister of an addict." She didn't give up or turn her back and there's someone out there that loves and supports you, too. They show Akela and her mom in Duke's hospital room, while Jerry plays chess in his room with Harris, and Steve and Danny are staining the restaurant counter. We end with Tani's words of "you have my bro, and he's special. Mahalo."

The kidnapping part was a little boring because we've done that story so many times. Jerry's arc had a few twists and turns so that kept it interesting for me. Did you watch? What did you think?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Mother's Day Giveaway for $250!


  2018 Mother’s Day Kindle Fire Giveaway ($250 Value) Mother’s Day is just 3 weeks away! Do you have a great gift for your mom yet? Or how about a gift for yourself? Here’s your chance to win $250 to get a gift for mom, a gift for yourself or to just score some cash for a much-needed purchase. The price of a Kindle Fire has come way down in the past few years but this giveaway is still valued at $250. That’s plenty of cash to buy a Kindle Fire HD10 AND load it full of books. The winner will have their choice of a $250 Gift Card or $250 in Paypal Cash!  


 Thanks to this awesome group of authors, bloggers, and publishers for making this giveaway possible.

I Am A Reader
Aubrey Wynne: Timeless Love
My Life. One Story at a Time.
Cynthia Luhrs Author
Caroline Clemmons
Jo Noelle
Krysten Lindsay
 Hager author
Lori's Reading Corner
Helen Smith
Author Joyce DiPastena
A. Gardner - Author
Heather Boyd Romance Author
Perfectly Tolerable
Simple Wyrdings
Dawn Malone, Author
Glistering: B's Blog
S.A. Larsen
Koops Konclusions
Our Book Confessions
P. Creeden, Author
Author Kim Cresswell
Julie Coulter Bellon
The Eco Lifestyle
Tia Souders, author
Bound 4 Escape Alina 
Snow Romance Author


  Giveaway Details $250 in Paypal Cash or a $250 eGift Card Ends 5/12/18 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use money sent via Paypal or gift codes via Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. This giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the authors, bloggers, and publishers on the sponsor list. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Hawaii Five-O Recap & Review: The One With Harry

It's been a while since we've seen Harry and I was excited for Five-O's very own 007 to hang out with the team again!

We start out with the mail room where an old beta max tape has been delivered to Five-O. Tunior watch it and see an old murder in a hotel room. We are treated to a chat between them of how far society has come since now we don't have to jump in the car and hope the video we want to watch isn't rented already and we can just stream it from the comfort of our own toilet. (Yikes. Toilet humor just isn't that funny unless you're in junior high.)

Cut to Steve and Danny in the car talking about Adam and asking if it's coincidence that the moment they find Noriko's body he skips town. Steve says that until he has clear evidence that implicates Adam, there's nothing more to discuss. (Poor Steve. You know he wants to give Adam the benefit of the doubt. ) They knock on a hotel door and Harry answers. He introduces them to Lady Sophie and her mother Lady Helen Mortimer. (Fun fact: 34 people have to die before Lady Helen becomes queen!) Harry used to run security for them and he popped in for a visit when he heard they were in Hawaii. Paparazzi are all over downstairs because Sophie is a favorite tabloid subject. It's easy to see she's spoiled and bratty and wants Harry, Steve, and Danny to escort her to go shopping before they head to lunch. We're all forced to watch her try on hideous outfits while Danny is munching on Charlie's animal crackers and refusing to share with a hungry Steve. (Why do they make him seem like a jerk all the time?) Danny gives Sophie fashion advice and when it takes her a long time to change, Harry goes to check on her, and she's gone.

Tunior is looking at the vid and explaining to Lou that it's 20 to 30 years old, and they can't really identify much. No return address on the envelope, no prints. Lou uses this as a teaching moment for the newbies and tells them to establish a crime scene first thing. It's a local motel, but generic enough that they can't pinpoint a location. They do know from Noelani that the heavy breathing is actually COPD a chronic respiratory condition. Maybe they could find some employees with it? Lou finishes by telling them to go do old-fashioned police work and analyze every clue off the vid. After some more analyzing Tunior get a bit of audio where the killer says he never promised her anything. Headlights sweep the room so it's on the first floor. The phone on the table was manufactured in 1994 through 1997, so they can start looking for missing persons during that time period. Oh and the room key is number 13 and not many motels have that for superstitious reasons, so they have something to go on.

Harry and the boys track down a driver who Sophie hired to lead them on a goose chase. He does have a letter from her for Harry that says Don't wait up for me. S. (Yeah, bratty.) Harry tells Sophie's mother, and everyone just wants her back safe. Steve tells Harry that HPD has her description and they're looking too, but Harry wishes he found that more comforting. (Poor HPD. No one has faith in them anymore.) She wiped her phone and didn't leave any clues so the boys call her best friend, Carlotta. She's not helpful until Steve gets on and then she suddenly cooperates. Sophie met a boy and Carlotta sends them a picture.

Tunior is calling around looking for room 13, and find one. The room interiors are the same so they head over there. Lou is ever the master teacher and tells them they need to get in the attic. When Tunior get up there, they find the old A/C vent the videographer used and Tani cuts through it while Master Lou and the hotel manager watch. (Yeah, who cares if they trash the room, right?) But it looks like they found crime scene. Unfortunately, the previous owner died three years ago, so that's a dead end.

Steve runs a background check on the boy's picture that Carlotta sent and find out he has no criminal record or driver's license. They finally track him down after he posts a pic of him on Facebook at a party with Sophie in the background. They're anxious to pick her up before the wrong people realize she has no security. They go to the beach club and split up to look for Sophie. Can't find her, but they find the boy and Harry throws his bodyguard in the pool and yanks the kid to his feet (he was making out with a girl on a lounge chair) Harry slaps the kid and asks him where Sophie is. He claims not to know, but when Harry threatens to break his arm and Steve and Danny will look away while he does it, the kid cooperates. He picked Sophie up at the store and brought her to the party. When he went to get her a drink, she decided to party with someone else and last he saw her she was leaving with two other blonde girls. Harry seems annoyed and upset, but they find a paparazzi who has pics of Sophie getting into a car. Harry notes the license plates and deletes the guy's pics. 

Tani was looking at missing persons and thinks she found the victim. Her name was Lara Leavey. After she disappeared, her roommate told police she was in secret relationship with a guy from out of town, but they couldn't find him. Tani is sad that no one was fighting for justice for her and since she was an orphan and not married, she didn't have anyone and was forgotten. Master Lou tells her that cases don't always end with closure or healing, that justice for the victim is all they get sometimes. Fortunately, they get another clue with DNA from the soda can in the attic. Arthur Dubbins, a former employee at the motel who had a record for theft and assault. Of course he's currently in a coma at the hospital, so they call in his wife. Her handwriting matched what was on the Betamax package. She confesses that Arthur was affected by the murder he'd witnessed and knew the killer since he had access to guest logs, but when his wife asked him about it, he'd hit her and said he would kill her if she told. She takes them to her house and opens a cupboard with hundreds of tapes from the hotel. Tunior get to watch all the vids and while it's awkward, (like them) they find nine recordings of Lara with her killer and all they could get audio-wise was that his name was Paul. He did have a pin on his jacket, however, that tells them he's an airline pilot.

Sophie has been taken to a boat harbor where there are some sketchy people staring at her. The girls reassure her that the party is going to be lit, so she goes with them and boards the boat. Steve, Danny, and Harry are tracking the car using the vehicle recovery system, but will they be too late? Sophie refuses a drink and wants to leave, but the sketchy guy tells her to sit down, keep her mouth shut and do what she's told. She knees him and gives a speech about how they could just let her go and she'll let bygones be bygones, but the head sketchy guy says he's going to sell her to the highest bidder since a bonafide princess will fetch top dollar. 

Danny doesn't come along, but Steve and Harry are at the harbor where they find the car Sophie was in. After Harry breaks the window, he finds that Sophie left the name of the boat in lipstick on the back seat. Clever girl. Head Sketchy Guy is taking pictures of her and talking about how she'll join a harem. She's crying and spits on him when touches her face. Head Sketchy Guy doesn't like that and gets out a baton, but before he can hit her with it, Harry saunters on like he's just a bloke late for a party. Head Sketchy Guy is so confused and is all, "Who are you? Where did you come from?" Somehow Harry found a very quiet jetski or something, and got out to the boat. Harry says he's here to make sure Sophie gets home safely and Head Sketchy Guy wants to know who will make sure Harry gets home safe. Harry says he should be along any minute to help him beat all the imbeciles to death. They watch a guy go overboard from the level above them and Steve comes down with a "What'd I miss? Hi, Soph." (Best part of the whole show.) Head Sketchy Guy threatens to shoot them in the head, but Harry engages him, Steve gets the guards, and they take care of them pretty quickly. Time to go home.

Tunior is in Bakersfield California, looking for PilotPaul the Killer. They find him with his mom (maybe wife, it was hard to tell) and a little girl. They give him a perp walk to the car, then we see a guy digging up remains in a forest reserve and finding a skull.

Final scene is Sophie reuniting with her parents. Everyone is relieved, Steve, Danny, and Harry get thank yous. Sophie's dad comes in and hugs them both while Harry and boys watch awkwardly for a minute, then leave. Danny asks Harry if Sophie knows Harry is her real dad. He guessed by the look on Harry's face when thought she was in danger, how similar Sophie is to him, and when she ran into her dad's arms, Harry looked like he wanted to throw up. Harry confesses that Helen was separated when they were together and when she found out she was pregnant, he wanted to do right thing, but that ended up being accepting her decision to go back to her husband. Steve asks if the kid has a right to know who her real father is and Harry assures him that if she ever asks he won't lie. In the meantime he'll be there for her. Everyone looks stoic and that's the end.

Well, Steve on the boat was the best part of the show. Master Lou teaching Tunior what they would have learned at the police academy was a little slow, but at least we only had two storylines instead of three.

Did you watch? What did you think? 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Book Review & GIveaway!

Traci Abramson's new book, Tripwire, combines a Hollywood couple quadrangle with a terrorist plot, but the Saint Squad is on the case to get it all sorted out.

When the book opens, the team is working toward a terrorist hideout---or so they think. It's booby-trapped and that sets off a chain of events that affects a member of their team back home. Craig is planning to marry his actress girlfriend Sienna at the end of the year, but since he works undercover as a SEAL, they've decided to have her pretend to be dating her costar, Reed. To add a little more to the mix, Sienna's assistant Jane starts to fall in love with the Reed the pretend costar boyfriend. Whew! Did you keep that all straight? On top of all of that, Jane and Sienna take a picture in an airport that two terrorists decide can't ever be shown on the internet. They're going to do whatever it takes to destroy it. And what are the chances that incident will merge with the terrorist situation the SEALs are working on? I'll bet you can guess.

I really enjoyed the action scenes in the story and seeing old faces from previous Saint Squad books.  The romance provides a nice breather from the tension as the couples try to figure out what the terrorists are really after and how they can stop them. Fans of Abramson's will definitely love this Saint Squad addition.

You can get your copy here

Be sure to scroll down and enter the giveaway!


Here's the back copy:

Jane Napierski is back at work at the job she loves—being a personal assistant to her friend Sienna Blake, a rising star actress. The duo is on location in Virginia Beach to film Sienna’s new TV series, along with costar Reed Forrester—the man with whom the world thinks Sienna is in love. Wrong.

Sienna’s heart actually belongs to her fiancĂ©, Craig, a Navy Seal with the Saint Squad. Craig must fly under the radar if he is to keep Sienna safe from his world of terrorists and toxic bombs. And Reed has no problem pretending to date his old friend Sienna simply because it means he can spend time learning more about Jane. Making a TV series is grueling work but not nearly as difficult as the treacherous adventure that is about to begin with a simple photo taken in the wrong place at the wrong time—an image worth killing for.

When Craig returns to the United States to spend time with Sienna, he’s not expecting to spend that time protecting her and Jane. Frightening incidents targeting the two women rapidly escalate, and as Craig and his Saint Squad investigate a tangled conspiracy, they find themselves tracking, here at home, the terrorists they have searched for across the globe. But can they shut the terrorists down in time to save Jane, Reed, and Sienna?

Here's the blog tour schedule:

*April 23rd:,,

*April 24th:,

*April 25th:,,

*April 26th:,,,

*April 27th:,,,,

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

It's Release Day for A Highlander's Hidden Heart! And a Giveaway!

It feels like I've waited so long for this day! A Highlander's Hidden Heart is finally out! This is my very first regency romance and I'm so excited to hear what you think of it. I hope you love Alec and Elizabeth as much as I do.

Also, don't forget about the Facebook launch party this Thursday! You'll be able to chat with me as well as authors Jennifer Moore and Rachael Anderson and win some prizes! You can join the Facebook group for the launch here

You can download your copy of A Highlander's Hidden Heart here

And don't forget to scroll all the way down to enter the giveaway!

Here's the back copy:

Despite being the daughter of a duke, shy Elizabeth Barrington becomes a target for the cruel whisperings of the ton. She would rather stay at home with her sketchbook indefinitely than give them more to gossip about, but when a dashing new earl arrives, everything changes. His Scottish brogue and easy acceptance draw her in and she finds herself falling in love. Before she can act on her feelings, however, her father promises her to a man who hides his cruel behavior behind a mask of civility. With her future at stake, Elizabeth must make a choice—do her duty or choose a love that could cost her everything.

Alec Ramsay never expected to inherit an earldom or settle in England, but he leaves behind his life in the Scottish Highlands and comes to London. After meeting his new neighbor, the beautiful and soft-spoken Lady Elizabeth, Alec can’t wait to further their acquaintance. It doesn’t take long in her company, however, for Alec to see he’s in danger of losing his heart. But when long-held prejudices rear their ugly head, Alec is caught between doing what is right and his new role as an English gentleman. Has he finally found the love he’s waited his whole life for, only to lose her in the web of unfair judgments and proper English traditions?

If you haven't connected with me on social media, you can find me here:

Amazon author page:

Here's the Blog Tour schedule so you can read what everyone else is saying!

April 23rd: Katie’s Clean Book Collection / Heidi Reads
April 24th - LDS and Lovin’ It / The Bibliophile Files
April 25th - LDS Writer Mom / My Book a Day / Singing Librarian Books / Getting Your Read On
April 26th - Peggy Urry / Min Reads and Reviews (spotlight)
April 27th - Among the Reads / Joy in the Moments / Literary Time Out / Wishful Endings

Monday, April 23, 2018

The First Chapter of My Novella Truth or Dare!

The expanded version of my novella, Truth or Dare, is coming out May 1st! It originally appeared in the Under the Mistletoe Anthology, but I can't wait for you to read my Author's Cut. Here's the first chapter.

Truth or Dare 

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Copyrighted Material

Chapter One
The spot where Jonah’s foot should have been¾ had been until a year ago¾ was hurting again. The phantom pains from the amputation came mostly in the evenings now, which always made it hard to sleep. Jonah sat in the darkness of the family room, enjoying its black comfort, how it hid the display of track and field medals and trophies he’d won in high school. With the snowstorm that had been threatening all day finally unleashing itself, it was as if Mother Nature was commiserating with him. The howling wind outside perfectly matched his mood.
Good thing his parents weren’t home to see this. His mother would frown and turn the lights on and offer to watch TV with him. Or she’d bustle around, getting him something to eat or wanting to know how he was feeling. That was the most dreaded question of all. He didn’t know how he was feeling, but he did know he needed some peace and quiet.
Since coming home from rehab three days ago, this was the first evening he’d been alone. His friends and neighbors meant well, but there had been a steady stream of visitors to the house, coming to tell him how sorry they were for his “accident.” As if losing his foot to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan was equivalent to a fender bender or something. But it was the pity in their eyes that bothered him the most. He didn’t want anyone to pity him.
He leaned back in his father’s recliner. His mother had instilled manners in him, so he’d smiled at everyone who came and tried to make it okay for them, but he’d never felt more alone. No one would ever understand what it was like to try to buy one shoe or have to put your pants on sitting down.
He flexed his good leg, careful not to hit the dog sleeping at his feet. Or really, just his foot. Jonah grimaced. Would he ever get used to only having one foot? Even after a year of rehab it didn’t feel natural. Maybe it never would. His thoughts turned to the wine in the fridge. It would be so easy to numb himself, but going down that road never led anywhere good. He’d tried. It was time to get up and turn the lights on. Stop feeling sorry for himself and read a book or grab a movie to watch. Anything except more sitting in the dark.
Bending down to get his prosthetic foot, he pulled up the pant leg on his sweatpants, put the liner and sock over his stump, then strapped the prosthetic foot on and ratcheted it tight. “Wake up, Magnus.” The golden retriever didn’t even move. Jonah poked him gently in the side. “Hey.”
Magnus’s ears perked up, and he turned his face toward the door as if someone were there. “Just the wind, boy,” Jonah assured him. “It’s getting bad out there.” But then he heard it, too. Something or someone was scratching at the back door.
Glad now that the lights were off, Jonah stood. If someone thought they could break into his house, they could think again. His military training kicked in, and he crept to the window. With the barest movement of the blinds, Jonah squinted to see the back porch through the swirling snow. It wasn’t a human trying to break in, but a dog that wanted to come in.
He let out a breath, trying to calm the adrenaline running through his veins. “It’s for you, Mag,” he said, before he turned to flip on the lights.
His dog was standing in front of the door, pawing it. He obviously knew his visitor. Jonah walked over and opened it, letting in some snow and a smaller golden retriever who was obviously happy to see Magnus. She shook out the ice and snow from her fur, and Jonah watched, amused, as they greeted each other. “You’ve been holding out on me, buddy.” He bent down to scratch her behind her ears. “And who do you belong to?”
She gave him a cursory glance before turning her attention back to Magnus. Jonah watched the dogs for a moment longer and then headed back to the recliner. They followed him and flopped down next to his chair when he sat down. The pair got comfortable lying next to each other. “A girl who likes a quiet evening at home? You’re a lucky dog, Magnus.”
The quiet didn’t last long before the doorbell echoed through the house. Since he knew his parents had a key and he didn’t expect them for another hour or so, Jonah thought about not answering it. But with the storm raging outside, he knew he had to let whoever it was in.
“Probably someone looking for your girlfriend,” he said to Magnus as he got up from the chair. “At least I hope it is. Please don’t let it be Ms. Davis.” His mother’s friend meant well, but when she’d come by earlier today she couldn’t stop saying “you poor boy.” It was enough to make any soldier want to go AWOL.
He walked slowly down the hall, grateful his parents didn’t have stairs, or the person at the door would be waiting a lot longer. He opened it with both dogs at his heels. A woman stood in front of him, bundled in a parka, hat, and scarf so only her eyes were visible. She pulled her scarf down. “Hey, Jonah, I’m looking for my dog, Lola. Did she come over here?” She craned her neck, trying to get a look at the dogs who were hiding behind him.
Jonah was battling to hold the door with the wind and snow slamming into them so hard he could barely see the porch stairs. He motioned her inside. Once she was in, she pulled off her hat and scarf. Her short brown hair was sticking up at odd angles, but she didn’t seem to care about anything except her dog.
“Lola, honey! You scared me! Never do that again.” She hugged her dog while she scolded her. Magnus was trying to nose in on the hugging action, too, and got a scratch behind the ears for his trouble.
Jonah looked down at the reunion. She’d started to peel off her coat and gloves, while her dog danced around her. The woman’s heart-shaped face dredged up memories from a lifetime ago.
Kami Jackson. A little zing of awareness skittered up his spine. Her smile was entwined with so many of his happiest high school memories. Being on the track team together. Star-gazing. Best friends for life. Or so he’d promised her. She’d matched him in humor, goals, and ambition, and he’d even allowed himself to imagine what it would be like to marry her. But after graduation, he’d joined the service, she’d fallen off the grid, and he’d had no choice but to let her go.
He swallowed, knowing he had to say something. “Hey, Kami.”
She managed to look up at him while her dog finished bathing her chin. “We haven’t seen each other in nearly six years, and all I get is a ‘Hey, Kami?’ Come on, you can do better than that.”
Part of him wanted to smile at her sass, but he gave her an impassive stare instead. It would never been the same between them, so why try to go back? Besides, what did she want him to say? “Okay. How about, it looks like you need to get a leash for your dog.”
She frowned up at him, and he saw the shadows under her eyes. She looked exhausted, and in that moment, he wished he’d said something to make her smile.
“I can see we’re bothering you. I’ll just take Lola and head home.” She stood, and both dogs zigzagged around her legs, begging for more attention. “Just give me a second.”
She tried to bend down and grab her gloves and got some more wet doggie kisses. Magnus was totally focused on her, but looked back at Jonah every now and then as if he couldn’t understand why Jonah wasn’t joining in on the fun. Would he even come to Jonah’s side if he called? He wasn’t sure. Magnus was giving Lola and Kami some pretty adoring looks, and it was obvious he knew them well. Jonah hadn’t been a part of Magnus’s life for a while. 
He folded his arms, watching how easy it was for Kami to stay balanced while two dogs jumped on her. He’d always taken the ability to stand upright for granted. Watching her stand on two feet didn’t hurt like it might have months ago, though. He’d worked really hard in rehab to deal with his feelings of loss and resentment, and he was grateful for that effort now.
Taking a breath, he watched her try to put her things back on and was surprised at how different she looked. The thin girl he remembered from high school was still trim, but her jeans and sweater now had curves in all the right places. Yet, her eyes that had always been laughing in high school, weren’t laughing anymore. She had a hollow look in her face, like the people he’d seen visiting their loved ones at the rehab center. Did that have to do with losing her dog? Or seeing him? Probably the latter. Who wouldn’t look like that, seeing him now?
He didn’t wait to see the pity in her eyes or hear how sorry she was. Reaching for the handle, he opened the door and immediately felt a blast of cold. “I’m glad you found your dog.”
Kami didn’t say a word to Jonah, just snapped a leash on Lola’s collar. The dog immediately sat down on her haunches in the doorway and began to whine when she looked outside. It did look pretty bad out there. The frigid wind effortlessly pushed the snow into drifts, blasting it sideways across the yard. Jonah turned in time to see Kami square her shoulders, her mouth pulled into a tight line.
He sighed inwardly. Okay, his mom had raised him better than this. He was out of line and that wasn’t like him. The old him, anyway. “Hey, that storm’s really picked up. Do you want to wait a bit and warm up at least?”
Even to him, his voice didn’t sound very welcoming, and Kami’s look of misgiving confirmed it. He was out of practice. Magnus stared up at him, clearly unimpressed at his attempt. The dog darted a glance at Kami as if to say, yeah, my human’s a little rusty at this. Sorry.
Jonah straightened. His dog was not going to be embarrassed by his lack of manners. He could fix this.
Kami pulled on the leash. “No, thanks. We’ve bothered you enough. Come on, girl.” She ducked her head, but not before he saw the hurt in her eyes. Guilt welled in him.
Jonah grabbed her arm as she squeezed by. “Hey, I’m sorry about what I said. Give me a chance to make it up to you.” He bent down so she’d be forced to look at him. “I was just about to eat some of my mom’s stew and that would definitely warm you up. Are you hungry?”
She hesitated, pinning him with her gaze as if to gauge his sincerity before she finally relented. “Okay, that would be great, actually.” She didn’t exactly look convinced as she took off her coat and gloves for the second time, but at least she’d agreed to stay.
When she turned, he could see her jeans were soaking wet. How long was she looking for her dog? “You’ll never get warm wearing that. I have some sweatpants you could borrow, and we could throw your jeans in the dryer.”
She shivered and looked down. “Thanks. I’m freezing.”
He was about to turn down the hall to his room, but his prosthetic foot caught on the rug in the entryway, and he stumbled. Biting back a curse, he put his hand on the wall to anchor himself and find his balance. He stood there for a moment, unwilling to meet her gaze. How could he limp along in front of the girl who remembered him as a confident track star? He didn’t want her to see what he was now.
When he didn’t move, she stepped forward. “Jonah?” Her cold fingers on his arm jolted him out of his thoughts.  
He forced his feet to step forward, hoping all the gait training he’d suffered through to make his walk look normal had worked. “I’ll be right back. You can wait in the kitchen. It’s right through there.”
She nodded and dropped her hand, as if she knew he didn’t want to talk about it.
“Did you think I forgot where your kitchen is?” Kami gave him a small smile. Her voice was warmer now which helped Jonah to relax a bit. “It felt like we were either here at your house or at the track all through high school.” She looked around and for just a second the exhaustion on her face melted away. “Don’t you wish you could go back sometimes? Everything was so much simpler then.”
Every day. Jonah still struggled to accept his new reality sometimes. It was too easy to wish for his life before the pain and rehab and managing a prosthetic.  “We had some good times.”
The brightness in her eyes faded. “Yeah, we did.”
He waited until she’d started toward the kitchen before he walked down the hall to get the dry clothing for her. Magnus stood beside him and licked his hand. That dog still read him like a book. Jonah touched his silky head. “I’m all right, boy.”
When he walked into the kitchen, Kami was on a stool, hunched over the island, her head in her hands. She looked small and defeated, something he’d never seen on her before. “You okay?” he asked as he joined her.
“Just tired.” She tried to muster up a smile, but it looked more like a grimace.
“You still staying up late star-gazing?” He wanted to see a real smile on her face, one that reached her eyes.
“I wish.” She looked down at her hands, folded in front of her. “Remember how hard I tried to teach you the constellations? You claimed you could never see them, but I always thought you could.”
“I just wanted an excuse to stay out late.” And to be near her. Even with her struggles in her home life she was light and fun, intelligent and driven, and that had drawn him to her. There had been so many times in their last year of high school that he’d thought about what it would be like if she were his girlfriend, but he didn’t want to ruin the friendship if it didn’t work out. In the end, he’d settled for staying best friends, but a part of him still wished he’d been braver and tried for something more. And if his reaction when he first saw her tonight was any clue, even after six years, those old feelings were still there for him. But so much had changed. Even if they did rekindle their relationship, what could he offer her now?
His tried and true friend-zone tactics he’d mastered when he was around her in high school kicked in and he stood to put some distance between them. “I’ll warm up the stew and get the sugar cookies for dessert.” He put his lead foot down carefully and walked slowly to the fridge.
“I love your mom’s cookies. Did you decorate them?”
“She tried to get me to.” It was a Christmas tradition at their house, and his reluctance had put a damper on it for his mom. His conscience twinged with guilt, remembering how he’d claimed he was tired and retreated to his room. He should have humored her.
“You were just trying to make sure they all stayed edible, I’m sure. You always did use way too much icing.” Her sassy tone was coming back and he glanced back at her to see if she was smiling. From the way her lips were pressed together, Kami was barely holding back a grin. A little corner of his heart warmed to see it.
After carefully setting down the container of stew, he rested his palms on the counter, facing her. “Hey, I’m an expert at decorating those. And you can never have too much icing.”
“When you can’t tell if the cookie is supposed to be Santa or a stocking, there’s too much icing.” She quirked an eyebrow in challenge.
He shook his head. This was too easy. “Who cares what it’s supposed to look like as long as it tastes good?”
She didn’t admit defeat gracefully and merely rolled her eyes. “Because it’s a sugar cookie, and decorating it to look like something is half of the fun.”
“Mine look like something. Something good to eat.” He leaned toward her. “You have to admit, I’ve got you there. I mean, what can you say to that? You know it’s true because you finished off every cookie I ever brought you.”
“How do you know I didn’t give them to my dog?” Kami laughed and Lola pricked up her ears at her mistress, as if she was hoping for that very thing.
Jonah narrowed his eyes and pointed his finger toward her. “My cookies are a work of art. You just don’t want to admit it.”
She held up her hands in mock surrender. “Okay, okay, I’ll plead the Fifth.” She looked up at him and, for a moment, it was as if they were back in high school again with nothing more to worry about than next week’s math test or tomorrow’s track meet. But Kami dropped her eyes quickly and the moment was gone. She picked up the folded sweatpants from the counter. “Thanks again for letting me borrow these. I’ll just go change out of my wet clothes before I say something that might incriminate me.”
He chuckled as she disappeared into the guest bathroom. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d joked around like that with someone. He’d missed it.
Turning toward the task at hand, he got things ready for their meal, getting out bowls and spoons. Before long, Jonah heard the bathroom door open and the dryer next to the mudroom start running.
When she came back into the kitchen, he noticed she’d smoothed her hair. It was strange not seeing her in the ponytail she’d worn through high school, but he could definitely get used to her short hair and how it drew attention to her eyes. As his gaze traveled downward to the sweatpants she’d borrowed, though, he could hardly smother a laugh. The waistband was pulled above her waist, and she’d rolled up the pant leg bottoms until it looked like she was wearing fat ankle weights.
“Let me guess. The pants didn’t fit?” 
She gave him her best are-you-kidding-me look. “Yeah, you’re a bit taller than me.” She turned her ankle to model the uneven rolls for him. “I might start a new fashion, though. Winter Storm Chic. What do you think?”
“It could work.” He gestured to the rolls. “And there’s the feature of being able to pull the excess material down over your cold feet, which could be a selling point.”
She shook her head. “I think someone already invented something for that. Called socks.” She wiggled her bare toes.
“Do you need some? I’ve got extra.” He inwardly winced. Of course with only one foot he’d have lots of extra socks, but he didn’t want to call any attention to his injury if he could help it. Kami didn’t even glance at his feet, though.
“I think I’m good, thanks.” She moved past him and sat down on her stool at the kitchen island again. “So, is it weird being home?”
Here it comes. He’d wanted her to be different, but no one could resist fishing for gossip on how the town’s amputee was doing. He glanced over at her, disappointed. “Not really.”
But her face was still open and smiling. “It’s all your dad was able to talk about. He’s so glad you’re here.”
Jonah resisted the urge to stare at her. She didn’t seem to be looking for gossip; she was just happy for him and his family. When did I get so suspicious of people’s motives? “My dad loves to talk. Probably because his patients are captive audiences.”
She laughed. “The perk of being a dentist, I guess.”
“Is that where you saw my dad? At his office?” He rubbed his hand over his jaw. He wasn’t surprised his dad had talked about him. His parents had been there for him through every step of his recovery, spending as much time with him as they could while he was at Walter Reed in Bethesda. When they’d asked him to come home to Hill Spring for Christmas, he couldn’t say no.
“No.” She shifted in her stool. “He came by the high school the other day with his sponsorship banner and we got to talk a bit.” Then, as if she couldn’t sit still, she slid off the stool and came to help him dish up the stew.
“He’s sponsoring something?”
“Harrison Dental proudly supports the Hill Spring Huskies.” She took the smaller bowl and headed for the microwave.
“Are you a sponsor, too?” He was trying to connect the dots, but something wasn’t clicking. She’d always wanted to be an Olympic runner. What was she doing back in Hill Spring, anyway?
“I’m the new track coach at Hill Spring High.”
“You replaced Coach Stubbs?” he asked.
She leaned in and he caught the faint, flowery scent of her shampoo. “Yeah, can you believe it? After thirty years of coaching, though, he can’t leave it alone and still comes out to watch my practices.”
Jonah had never thought that man would retire. Coach Stubbs lived and breathed the track team. He was the most intense man Jonah had ever met before he joined the Marines. Even then, he could only think of one or two drill sergeants that were more intense than Coach Stubbs. “That’s got to be intimidating, having your old coach watch you be the coach.”
“I keep thinking he’s going to give me critique notes or something, but so far, he hasn’t said a word. In a way, that’s kind of worse. I mean, what if he hasn’t said anything because he thinks I’m doing it all wrong?” She took the second bowl of stew from him and queued it up for the microwave.
“I’m sure you’re doing great.” And he meant it. She would be a great track coach.
He leaned against the counter and watched her punch in some numbers and press start to warm up the stew. Since the accident he’d always felt tense when he was in public or around people who weren’t family, but that had evaporated with Kami. Their easy camaraderie had returned, as if they’d never been apart, and for the first time since he’d woken up in the hospital, he felt normal. But the best part was, there wasn’t a trace of pity in her eyes when she talked to him.
He hadn’t expected that, but he liked it. A lot.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Interview with Stephanie Black!

Stephanie Black was the guest author at book club last night and we had so much fun! She's hilarious and kept us all laughing. She writes mysteries, though, the kind that are spine-tingling with just enough thrills and chills that I never read her books when I'm by myself!

She was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us like, where do you get your ideas? Here's her answer:

And have you ever scared yourself while writing?

And then we asked her if she'd ever been involved in a real-life mystery and she revealed that she once tried to trap a burglar!

See what happened here:

If you haven't read any Stephanie Black books, (her newest release is Mind Games and you can get your copy here) but you really need to pick one up. They are as amazing as she is!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Romantic Suspense Sale & A $25 Giveaway!

A deadly vendetta, a country music singer on the rise, and the hot-tempered Navy SEAL who could either wreck or save everything …

Corbin Spencer’s made his share of mistakes and would give anything to have a do-over. When he gets the opportunity to join an elite security task force of ex-Navy SEALs, he jumps at the chance. Too bad the woman he’s supposed to protect just gave him the brush-off, then sicked her knuckle-headed security detail on him.

Delaney Mitchell is on the verge of hitting it big in the country music industry. At the very time when she should be flying high and enjoying life, she finds herself fleeing from a ruthless man who’s out for revenge. Just when she thinks things can’t get worse, she realizes that the jerk she met at the party—the one with the chiseled body, intense green eyes, and rebel-without-a-cause attitude is her new bodyguard. In order to protect Delaney, Corbin finds himself taking her back to his hometown, teaching her how to ski, and, unexpectedly, dancing with her in his arms. Sparks fly as their mutual attraction kindles to something deeper and they question if they can put aside the heartaches of the past and learn to trust each other. What will Corbin and Delaney find around the next bend? Retribution or redemption?

Jennifer grew up in rural Alabama and loved living in a town where “everybody knows everybody.” Her love for writing began as a young teenager when she wrote stories for her high school English teacher to critique. While Jennifer enjoys writing in many genres, she has settled comfortably into the world of clean contemporary romance and is loving every minute of it! Jennifer has B.A. in English and Social Sciences from Brigham Young University where she served as Miss BYU Hawaii in 1989. Before becoming an author, she worked as the owner and editor of a monthly newspaper named The Senior Times. In addition to her love for writing, Jennifer enjoys working in the home design industry. She and her husband owned an interior design gallery where she specialized in custom window treatments and floral arrangements. As far as Jennifer is concerned, there are few of the world's problems that can't be solved with a warm brownie and vanilla bean ice cream. She loves romantic movies, roller blading, clogging, and jogging. She now lives in the Rocky Mountains with her family and spends her time writing and doing all of the wonderful things that make up the life of a busy wife and mother.

  Giveaway Details $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Giveaway Ends 5/2/18 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Book Review and Giveaway!

I was so excited to see that Jennifer Moore had a new book coming out. I love her stories! This one was a little different than her others, but every bit as good.

Abigail Tidwell is working the family farm herself while her father and brother are away fighting the war. Her father is a doctor and has passed along his knowledge to Abigail, but she doesn't get many chances to use her skills---until a wounded American soldier ends up in her barn. Abigail works hard to heal him, but is soon drawn into a web of intrigue that causes her to question everything she thought she knew about the war and the men fighting it. Loyalties are tested and Abigail must make a choice that could cost her everything.

I loved this book and could hardly put it down. Abigail is such a relatable character, with her unique skills as a doctor drawing her into a set of circumstances that tests her resolve and her heart. I love the way she connected with Emmett, the American captain who is so swoon-worthy! Emmett is so well-rounded, with family issues, worry over his men, and what to do about the compassionate woman doctor who occupies all his thoughts. He was so easy to love. When circumstances between them become dangerous because of Emmett being an "enemy" I loved how the author kept the tension tight. The secondary cast added a lot of depth and the setting was phenomenal (it was Canada, and since I'm Canadian, I loved that even more!) I could hardly wait to see how it all ends. My only complaint was that it was over too soon. The story was just that good. It will definitely go on my keeper shelf!

You can get your copy here

Don't forget to scroll all the way down and enter the giveaway!


Here's the back copy:

Struggling alone on the family farm, Abigail Tidwell knows exactly who to blame for her hardships: the Americans. If it weren’t for their part in the war, her father and brothers would be home rather than fighting abroad. But no amount of antipathy could have prepared her for the shocking sight of a wounded American soldier on her property, a man in dire need of her help. Grudgingly, Abigail tends to the soldier’s injuries and anticipates the satisfaction of turning him over to the authorities once he is healed. But fate has other plans. Captain Emmett Prescott remembers little of the ambush on his men by a group of Shawnee Indians and even less about how he arrived in the unfamiliar barn.

After being nursed back to health by beautiful, if reluctant, Abigail, Emmett would do anything to save the men he left behind—including forcibly enlisting Abigail’s help. Soon, Abigail finds herself caught between two countries at war. And as her attraction for Emmett grows, her conflicted heart engages in its own silent battle. But when she is accused of treason for her actions, her survival rests in the hands of the very man she once considered her enemy.

Blog Tour Schedule:

*April 16th:,,,

*April 17th:,,

*April 18th:,,

*April 19th:,,,

*April 20th:,,,,,,

First Chapter of The Marquess Meets His Match!

I am so excited to share the first chapter with you for my new book, The Marquess Meets His Match

Let me know what you think of this one!

The Marquess Meets His Match
By Julie Coulter Bellon

Copyrighted Material

Chapter One

Lady Alice Huntingdon scanned the ballroom again as she moved through the steps of the quadrille, her gaze quickly flicking over the flower arrangements and ice sculptures her mother, the Duchess of Huntingdon, had ordered for the ball tonight. The white lilies and blush roses were beautiful and fragrant, contrasting with the kaleidoscope of ball gowns that swirled around her. Alice wasn’t looking at the women, however. Her eyes searched the gentlemen who had assembled, needing to find Lord David Pembroke. Had he arrived and not been announced? She was determined to have his name on her dance card for the supper dance. Then she’d be guaranteed to have some time to speak with him as he led her into supper.

Her current partner took her gloved hand as they came back together in the dance. “The weather is exceedingly fine tonight, don’t you agree?” Lord Huntley squeezed her fingers, a hopeful smile on his face.

Alice sighed inwardly. She didn’t want to give him any reason to think she’d welcome his attentions as a suitor. He had the right pedigree and was someone her father might ask her to consider if he made an offer, but she’d come to the conclusion she wasn’t suited for marriage. To anyone. “Why, yes, it is. The breeze from the terrace doors is quite refreshing.”

She used the mention of the terrace doors as an excuse to discreetly glance around the room again just as Lord Pembroke was announced. He’d finally arrived. She let out a sigh of relief. He was the last person who had talked to Thomas Norwich and she needed to know what their reportedly heated conversation had entailed. Thomas hadn’t been seen alive again and his body was pulled from the Thames this morning. She hadn’t let herself think too hard on his murder yet. This was the first time someone she knew personally had been killed and while her emotions were involved, she needed to stay professional. When she’d found his killer, then there would be time to remember him properly.

Unfortunately for her, her intelligence-gathering this evening had had limited results. She’d gotten all the details she could want about the latest on-dit that Lady Jane Wakefield had been betrothed to Viscount Farleigh. The viscount was old enough to be her father, and had been married twice already. He had no heir, however, and was anxious to produce one. Sympathy had filled Alice at the news, but it was not the information she’d been looking for. Tonight, she needed to know who had killed Thomas and why.

The dance ended and Alice smiled prettily at Lord Huntley. “A pleasure, my lord.”

He patted her hand that she’d placed on his sleeve as they made their way back to her mother. “The pleasure is mine, my lady.”

They made their way slowly through the throng of people to the edges of the ballroom and Alice leaned into him just enough that their conversation wouldn’t carry. “Did you hear the unfortunate news about the Earl of Moreland’s third son? Some think he was accosted on his way home from his club early this morning.”

Lord Huntley frowned. “A terrible business.” He tapped her on the nose, as if she were a girl fresh from the schoolroom. “And not something for a lady’s ears,” he lightly admonished her. “Shall I get you some refreshment?”

Alice gritted her teeth, but smiled up at him. “That would be lovely.”

Once they reached her mother’s side, Lord Huntley bowed over her hand. “I will return shortly with your lemonade.”

Alice dipped her chin, watching him for a moment before turning to her mother. The duchess looked regal this evening in her turquoise gown and turban. The ensemble made her stand out in any crowd. “Mother, I—”

But her mother cut her off, tilting her head toward the impeccably dressed man beside her. “Lord Wolverton, while we are waiting for the duke to return, may I make known to you my daughter, Lady Alice Huntingdon.”

Alice almost started with surprise, but held her reaction in. Lord Wolverton hadn’t been seen at any society events since he’d been called home from war three months ago. His elder brother had been killed in a horseback riding accident and his father, the duke, had suffered a severe apoplectic fit soon after. Lord Wolverton had been given the title of marquess that his brother had held, but would soon be the new Duke of Colborne when his father passed. He had understandably been in near seclusion since his return, but that fact had fanned the gossip.

Some said the new marquess was hideously scarred from the war and couldn’t be seen in public. Others said he locked himself in his father’s study and had been in a constant state of drunkenness since he’d returned, barely able to stand. Obviously neither of those things was true. He was standing in front of her, presumably sober since her mother had deemed him fit for introduction, and definitely wasn’t hideously scarred, though there were two small white scars near his left ear and eyebrow. The edges looked ragged, and if Alice had to guess, they were from a small, dagger-like knife wound. Whoever had treated him, though, had known what they were doing. The scars were barely noticeable unless one was looking very close.

Alice dropped her eyes and dipped into a low curtsy. “My lord.”

When Lord Wolverton didn’t respond, she rose with surprise. He was looking behind her, obviously distracted by something. A flush crept up her neck as her mother cleared her throat.

The sound snapped Lord Wolverton’s gaze back to them. He hastily took Alice’s gloved hand and kissed the back of it. “My lady,” he murmured. When he straightened, he stole another quick glance around the room. Was he looking for someone in particular? Another lady, perhaps?

“Am I keeping you, Lord Wolverton?” Alice asked sweetly, barely able to hide her annoyance. She didn’t have time to deal with an arrogant marquess. She needed to get to Lord Pembroke and make sure his name was on her dance card.

Then Lord Wolverton’s deep blue eyes fixed on hers and for a moment she forgot why she was out of sorts with him. “Please excuse me, Lady Alice. I’ve behaved intolerably. Would you grant me this dance and allow me to make amends?”

His velvety voice stirred something deep within her, a prickly awareness stealing over her shoulders and down her spine. His eyes searched hers, as if he knew his effect on her and his lips curved slightly. Alice’s pulse started to pound.

Her mother’s sharp elbow in her side brought her back to the present, reminding her of his invitation. “I'd be delighted, my lord," she murmured. Placing her hand on his arm, she looked up at him, but he wasn’t paying her or her mother the least bit of attention. His eyes were searching the crowd again. Her heart sank a little. Who could he be looking for and why did it matter so much?

They were nearing the dance floor when Wolverton’s hand tightened over hers. “Lady Alice,” he said, turning to look down at her. “Would you mind terribly if we took a turn about the terrace instead?”

He had an odd tone to his voice, with an anxious edge to it. Perhaps the person he was looking for was outside. If so, she would happily leave him to his search and finally be able to seek out Lord Pembroke. “Very well.”

He practically pulled her through the terrace doors, as if in a great hurry. Alice walked as fast as she could without tripping over her skirts. What was going on? Lord Wolverton was acting very strangely. But all of that was forgotten when she spotted Lord Pembroke on the terrace. Now was her chance. She only needed to get rid of the man by her side.

“My lord,” she said, breathlessly. “There is a bench just over there. May I sit for a moment?”

He looked in the direction she’d indicated, before he let out what sounded like a sigh of relief. “Yes, that’s a brilliant idea.” He led her to the bench where she sat down and arranged her skirts.

Out of the corner of her eye, Alice could see Lord Pembroke standing alone near the corner of the house. What was he doing? Was he waiting for someone? She needed to stay out on the terrace and see. “I miss the country where you can see the stars,” she said, softly, raising her face to the darkened sky, careful to keep Pembroke on the periphery of her vision.

Wolverton was quiet for a moment. “When I was in Spain, the stars seemed so close at night, as if someone had dropped a million diamonds on a black velvet cloak.”

His words hung in the air and she turned to him in surprise. The thread of pain in his voice was hard to miss. Did his memories of the war haunt him like they did so many others? “How long were you in Spain?”

He stared at her for a moment as if debating his answer, then turned toward the garden path. “Too long. Are you cold, my lady? Should we return to the ballroom?”

Alice glanced at where she’d last seen Pembroke, but in the moments she’d focused on Wolverton, he’d disappeared. Drat. “Yes, my mother will probably be looking for me,” she agreed.

They’d just passed the hedges on the edge of the terrace when Pembroke appeared in front of them. “Wolverton,” he said with a nod. “Lady Alice.” He took her hand and bowed over it, giving her an appreciative smile and a wink. “A pleasure to see you again.”

Alice could feel the muscles in Wolverton’s arm stiffen at the wink, but he quickly relaxed. “Pembroke,” he said. “I’ve been looking for you. Now that I’m back in London, I wanted to talk to you about going to Tattersall’s. I find my stables don’t have anything like the horses I had in Spain and I’d like to see what England has to offer.”

Pembroke barely spared Wolverton a glance. “Of course, of course. But first, Lady Alice, if you are not already spoken for, may I have the next dance?” He tilted his head and raised a brow as if daring her to accept.

Alice smiled. She couldn’t have planned it any better. “I’d be delighted.” She lifted her hand from Wolverton’s arm. “Thank you for the turn on the terrace,” she said as she stepped away from him.

But Wolverton moved in front of her, a fleeting scowl on his face before he was able to mask it. “Ah, well, for propriety’s sake, Lady Alice should return to the ballroom with me, Pembroke. How would it look if she left with one gentleman and returned on another’s arm? It could damage her reputation.” He glanced at Alice and held out his arm to her before returning his gaze to Pembroke. “Once we’re finished with our obligations in the ballroom, perhaps we can leave the debutantes and chaperones behind and have some real entertainment in the card room.”

Alice nearly gasped at his audacity, implying she was merely a debutante and an obligation, but she pursed her lips to hold in any reaction. “This is to be the supper dance, Lord Wolverton, so I’m afraid Lord Pembroke will be quite busy with obligations.” She gave him her best society smile.

“An obligation I will enjoy, I assure you.” Pembroke stepped close enough that the toe of his shoe brushed the bottom of her skirt.

Wolverton swiftly captured her hand and guided it through the crook of his elbow, holding it there. “Shall we go inside, Lady Alice?”

She kept her eyes on Pembroke, stifling her annoyance with Wolverton’s high-handedness. “Yes. I wouldn’t want to miss a moment of my dance with you, Lord Pembroke.”

Lord Wolverton’s fingers tightened over her hand and she could feel his eyes on her. She glanced up and even in the low light his stormy blue eyes pinned her. “I’ll be waiting for you just inside the doors,” Pembroke said.

Hastily looking away from Wolverton, she fixed her gaze on Pembroke. “I shall join you momentarily,” she promised.

Pembroke gave her one last glance before he went inside. It might not be hard to get him to talk after all, Alice mused. If he was as taken with her as he seemed to be, he might give up the information she needed without a lot of prodding. Alice quickened her step so she wouldn’t be far behind him, but Lord Wolverton held her back.

“In a hurry, my lady?” he said, arching his eyebrows and slowing his step.

“I wouldn’t want to keep Lord Pembroke waiting,” she said, nearly pulling the man along with her.

But Wolverton stopped altogether. Since he still held her arm fast, she did, too, rather abruptly. Alice looked up in surprise.

“Why were you asking Huntley about the Earl of Moreland’s son?” His voice was soft, as if she was going to spook if he spoke too loudly.

Alice gaped. How had he overheard? “I met Thomas once and was shocked at his death, that’s all. There are so few details on what happened.” She gave Wolverton a demure smile, hoping to cover her earlier reaction. “But Lord Huntley reminded me that such things aren’t fit for a gently bred woman.”

“Since it was reported that Pembroke was the last person to see Thomas alive, is it reasonable to assume that is why you’re so anxious to talk to him? To find out more details? If so, I’d like to know why.” His blue eyes bored into hers. He wasn’t going to give up easily, that much was clear.

Alice pulled her hand away from his arm and straightened her spine. “Lord Wolverton, this conversation has become tiresome and I have promised this dance to another. If you will please escort me inside.” She turned toward the door and started toward the ballroom doors, but Wolverton caught up easily and blocked her way.

His hands were behind his back now, the picture of a gentleman, but his voice was edged with tension. “Be careful, my lady. Curiosity can be a dangerous thing.”

“Thank you for the advice,” Alice said coldly. He held out his arm, as a gentleman should, but Alice didn’t take it and moved past him. Before she reached the doors, however, a crack broke the silence of the night and a brick shattered into fragments to her right. Alice found herself being thrown to the ground, with Lord Wolverton's body surrounding hers, cushioning the fall.

Alice lay on the terrace looking up at the sky she’d admired earlier, trying to regain her breath. Had someone just taken a shot at her?

Lord Wolverton’s face hovered over hers as his eyes raked over her form. “Are you all right? Are you hit?”

She looked up at him, trying to gather her wits. “I’m fine.” Her hip hurt, but other than that she was unscathed. Pushing against his chest, she noted that he smelled of bergamot and mint. Resisting the urge to press into his warmth to stave off the cold seeping from the terrace stones to her silk gown, she slowly moved to a sitting position, peering into the shadows. Was the gunman still there?

He stood and reached down to help her stand. "We should get you inside. Quickly now."

She barely heard him. A shadow was moving toward the back garden gate. “You’re not getting away that easily," she murmured. Without a backward glance, she lifted her skirts and began to run after him. The shadow must have heard her footsteps because he began to run as well. Alice heard the clank of the back gate that led into the mews. If only she weren’t wearing slippers!

She slowed and finally stopped just before the gate. It was too late. He was gone.

Wolverton appeared at her side, his breath coming fast. He took her elbow and pulled her around to face him. “Are you trying to get yourself killed? We need to get you inside. Now.” He spoke as if she were a recalcitrant child escaping from her lessons.

“Go back inside, my lord,” she said, her tone icy. “I know my way.”

He stared down at her, his jaw clenched. “I can’t leave you out here alone. You were nearly killed a moment ago.”

“Not likely. He shot wide. It’s a wonder he even hit the house,” she scoffed. “Nearly killed is a bit of an exaggeration, don’t you think?”

“No.” He tugged her toward the house. “And I certainly never thought to be dodging bullets at a ball in London. We’re going inside.”

With one last look over her shoulder at the shadowy path that led to the mews, Alice allowed him to escort her back to the terrace. They walked in silence, his long strides shortened to keep pace with hers.

“You don't seem surprised," he said, staring at the terrace doors in front of them.

Alice glanced over at him. She probably owed him an explanation, but there wasn’t one she was authorized to give. “I’m very surprised, actually.” Surprised that someone had gotten through her father’s security precautions. Surprised that a gunman had been in the garden at all.

He gave her a brief nod before he opened the terrace door. “I’m glad you weren’t hurt, Lady Alice. I'm sorry if I put you in any danger.”

“Do you think the shot was meant for you, then?” Alice said, quietly, as she rubbed her now-throbbing hip. “Why would someone try to kill you?” She could be a target because of her work for the Falcon group. But why would anyone want Wolverton dead?

Wolverton lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles. “Ah, remember my advice about curiosity and questions, my lady.”

She stared into his blue eyes, their depths serious and secretive. Who was he, really?

Before she could ask anything else, he released her hand and opened the door. Once she was safely inside, he melted into the crowd surrounding the dance floor. Alice patted her hair and smoothed back the loose strands.

Someone had taken a shot tonight. But had it been for her as an agent or Lord Wolverton, as he suspected?

She meant to find out. Immediately.