I have updated my review and giveaway policies page (now just titled Policies above). If you are entering a giveaway, please read and abide by the applicable policy.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Cover Crush: All She Left Behind

cover crush

We can all say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but I guarantee that we all have done so at least once! Cover Crush is designed to feature some of those covers that have caught the eye as a standout on the bookshelf.

all she left behind

This cover is in this series more for a nod to continuity of sorts of this author’s books; it is very similar to her covers for The Memory Weaver and A Light in the Wilderness.  The ladies are of course missing a portion of their heads…which I’m sort of over…but the combination of a woman juxtaposed against the wilderness is pretty and I think in this cover I like how it ghosts through the woman’s dress.

What are your thoughts on this cover?

I wonder what my friends are crushing on this week? Let’s check it out: (updated as they go live).

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Audiobook Review: Leonardo the Florentine by Catherine McGrew Jaime

leonardo the florentine
Leonardo the Florentine
by Catherine McGrew Jaime
Book 1 in The Life and Travels of Leonardo da Vinci
Unabridged, 2 hr. 55 min.
Catherine Jaime
David Winograd (Narrator)
May 3, 2017
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Genre: Historical Fiction; Young Adult

Source: Received audio download via Audible from author for review

Who are the Medici brothers? And who is trying to assassinate them? Why was the Pitti Palace never completed? And what part did Leonardo play in all of this? Leonardo da Vinci is remembered as an artist and inventor. But who was he before anyone knew his name? This family-friendly novel explores the history and the legends of his early years in Florence. It also weaves a mystery of politics and power. This novel is the first in the series of historically based novels

I love that this book introduces a younger audience to the world of Renaissance Italy and a younger Leonardo da Vinci when he was apprenticed to the great Verrocchio. First of all, this is not a da Vinci that many adult novels even explore and novels that explore the life of an apprentice in an art studio are few and far between. Jaime does a fabulous job of creating a breathing world of Florence that feels real. Young Leonardo in his role as an apprentice to Verrocchio is able to be all over Florence and explore so many different areas of the world it is believable that he could experience all these different areas of Renaissance life. The novel touches on politics, humanism, art, architecture, and more in ways that are accessible to a younger audience, but also adults that are not familiar with that time and place. It can certainly be enjoyed by both age audiences. There were times where the novel occasionally felt dense. There was a lot of information that the author offers and it sometimes slowed down the pace of the plot. I do think that this will make a fascinating series for young readers, I just hope that the plot moves a little faster and doesn’t get weighed down by the details.



It took a lot of getting used to this narrator to become comfortable with him. He has a sort of strange cadence to his speech. That being said, however, he has a very steady pacing to his narration. For an adult it might feel a touch on the slower side, but as this is aimed at a younger audience, the pacing might be proper so that they can digest all the information presented. I am unsure if this pacing might contribute to my feeling of the text being slightly dense.

You can check out a sample of the audiobook below:

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Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Find Catherine McGrew Jaime: Website | Blog

Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

New Book Alert: The Duke Knows Best by Jane Ashford & Tour Wide Giveaway

CVR The Duke Knows Best

The Duke Knows Best by Jane Ashford
Book 5 in The Duke’s Sons series
e-Book & Mass Market Paperback; 386 pages
Sourcebooks Casablanca
December 5, 2017
Genre: Historical Romance
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Book Blurb:

They're wrong for each other, for all the right reasons...

Lord Randolph Gresham has come to London for one reason only-to find a suitable wife. Verity Sinclair may be intelligent, beautiful, and full of spirit, but her father knows a secret about Randolph that makes her entirely unsuitable as his bride. Not right for him at all, never, not a chance.

Verity knows that Lord Randolph lives in a country parish, and she wants nothing more than to escape to town. He may be fascinating, attractive, rich, and the son of a duke, but she'll never marry him, nor will she talk to him, flirt with him, walk with him, or dine with him. She'll sing a duet with him, but only this one time, and only because everyone insists.

But one duet invariably leads to another.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Google | IndieBound

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I have a scrumptious excerpt for you all from The Duke Knows Best!

Looking around the front hall of Langford House, with its soaring stair and rich marble floor, Verity judged it the grandest house she’d ever entered. Light poured down from high windows, glittered in a huge crystal chandelier, and gleamed in the gold stripes of the wallpaper. A hint of potpourri scented the air, along with beeswax and lemon. The clatter of the London streets didn’t penetrate the gracious silence. “Goodness,” murmured her mother. Verity was determined not to be intimidated.

A liveried footman led them through two beautiful reception rooms to the back of the house. He opened a door and stood back. Verity and her mother stepped over the threshold into a perfectly splendid music room. For a moment Verity forgot everything else as she took in the fine instruments waiting to be played, the older ones adorning the walls, and the piles of expensive sheet music. She could spend hours in a place like this and be blissfully happy, she thought.

And then a tall, stately woman came forward to greet them, and Verity was making her curtsy to the duchess, as well as wondering where Lord Randolph could be.

He hurried in on the heels of that thought. “I beg your pardon,” he said. “I was just... Mama, this is Mrs. Sinclair and Miss Verity Sinclair. Ladies, my mother.”

“Your Grace,” they murmured.

The duchess said, “Welcome to Langford House.” And with the warmth in her blue eyes and the ease of her smile, Verity felt the atmosphere in the room change from grandiose to relaxed. Or perhaps it was simply her own mood that had shifted, she thought. As they sat down and exchanged remarks about the weather and the season, she found she could talk to Lord Randolph’s mother with surprising ease.

“I know you have musical matters to discuss,” said the duchess after a while. She rose. “I will leave you to it. But I wanted to make sure you have all you need, Mrs. Sinclair.”

“You’re very kind.”

“I’ve seen to the arrangements, Mama,” said Lord Randolph.

“Sponge cakes and macaroons?” she asked.

“What else?”

The humorous look they exchanged gave Verity a glimpse into the Gresham family, which seemed a pleasant place. The door opened, and a maid came in with several sturdy working candles. “You said you’d bring some embroidery,” said Lord Randolph to Verity’s mother. “I wanted to make certain you had good light.”

The duchess gave him an approving nod and went out. Lord Randolph made a great production of getting Verity’s mother settled with the candles set just so and a cushion for her back and offers of tea or other refreshment. “So kind,” she murmured as she was settled in the front corner of the room.

Verity noticed that it was the corner farthest from the pianoforte. And that the special candles and cushions—which a less observant person might dismiss as finicky items for a man to consider—effectively rooted Mama at a distance. It was unlikely that she would overhear much of what they said, unless they started shouting. Which she might, if Lord Randolph tried to maneuver her in a similar way. And where had he acquired such skill at diverting chaperones?

“I’ve pulled out piles of music,” he said when they were at last free to begin. He led the way over to the table where the sheets were displayed. “I was thinking we should choose popular pieces rather than anything too complicated. Perhaps even repeat the song we did at Lady Tolland’s.”

Their eyes met, mirroring memories of that astonishing experience. Verity’s cheeks grew hot. A self-conscious silence stretched out. She could actually hear her mother’s needle prick the embroidery canvas.

Lord Randolph cleared his throat. “Ah, our audience at Carleton House will be varied,” he went on. “Not all will be particularly musical. But I’m eager to hear your opinion about the program, of course.”

He stopped and waited for her to speak. He gazed at her as if he actually wanted to know her views, and wasn’t just pausing to give the appearance of listening before telling her what to do. It was a point in his favor. “What about some Italian songs, varied with Scots or Irish ballads?” she suggested. “How long need we sing, do you think?”

“Long enough to satisfy the prince’s wounded vanity,” he responded wryly.

Verity looked down to hide a smile. “That sounds rather difficult to measure. An hour?”

“No more, certainly. We are doing a favor, not putting on a full concert. Shall we say six pieces? With one in reserve in case they insist on more?”

Verity agreed, and they looked through Mozart’s and Haydn’s arrangements of popular tunes and sheets of songs by Robert Burns and Thomas Moore. Langford House appeared to possess any piece one could desire, and Verity envied the bounty. She had to ration her purchases of sheet music on her allowance. The money her grandfather had left her was in trust until she married. And why was she thinking of that now? “‘Robin Adair’ would make a lovely base for a set of variations,” she said.

They bent over the music together. “It would indeed,” said Lord Randolph. He sat at the pianoforte and began to play the simple melody, and then to embellish it. Verity hummed along, following his elaborations. “Just here,” he said, playing intricate series of notes. She caught the idea at once. Spontaneously they sang a verse with the new adornments, their voices blending in a twining harmony. By the end they were staring at each other, mutually astonished.

“Very pretty,” said Verity’s mother from the corner.

It was as if he could predict exactly what she meant to sing, Verity thought. Or, perhaps, his musical impulses ran in precisely the same direction. The phrase in tune took on a whole new meaning as they ran through the entire song, consulted briefly, and then tried it again. The result was equally lovely and interesting, but different with the varying choices of the moment. This must be what it was like to be intoxicated, she thought, as she fell into the music and a give and take with this man she barely knew— somehow they vibrated to the same pitch.

jane ashford

Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. That delight was part of what led her to study English literature and travel widely in Britain and Europe. She has written historical and contemporary romances, and her books have been published in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Spain, as well as the United States. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. She lives in Beverly Hills, CA.

Find Jane Ashford: Website | Facebook

Tour Wide Giveaway!

As part of this tour, I am happy to be able to present the tour wide giveaway.  This giveaway is for 5 copies of Nothing Like a Duke, book 4 of The Duke’s Sons.  If you have any questions please contact the tour coordinator.  Entries are made via the Rafflecopter below.  Good luck!

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Review: Isabella Unashamed by Helen R. Davis and Carolina Casas

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Isabella Unashamed: An Alternative History by Helen R. Davis and Carolina Casas
ARC, e-Book, 147 pages
Editorial Caliope
September 7, 2017
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Genre: Alternate Historical Fiction

Source: Received for tour with HFVBT

Isabella of Castile is known as Europe's first great queen. Renowned for her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon and birthing of modern day Spain, Isabella is also known as the queen who launched the Inquisition, completed the Reconquista and expelled the Jews from her nation. Not long after her triumph in 1492, her dynasty came apart and unraveled, and it was whispered by many that the Trastamara line was cursed.

But, What if Isabella had been wiser and not expelled the Jews, some of the very people who ironically helped put her on the throne of Castile? What if Isabella had had more foresight and had her successor be Catalina, who, although the youngest, was the most like her and the wisest of her children? How would the power balance of 15th and 16th century Europe shifted if Catalina had been the powerful queen regnant of Spain and not one of the 'merry wives' of Windsor?

A joint effort, Isabella Unashamed is written by two authors from very different cultural backgrounds who have nonetheless joined together to create a haunting portrait of Spain's most famous queen, as well as a glimpse of what might have been had Isabella been wiser.

I can count on one hand how many alternative fiction novels I have read. I am extremely selective when it comes to this subgenre of historical fiction because I find them to be more believable when small, but important changes occur rather than sweeping historical changes. I was drawn to Isabella Unashamed because of just these reasons. The changes to the historical timeline include Isabella’s choice to not expel the Jews and to not leave the dynasty in the hands of her daughter Juana (la loca), but instead chose Catalina. I feel that the choices here made complete sense to these historical characters. The rationale that is used for the decisions Isabella makes could have absolutely been considerations that she would have contemplated. My favorite change was watching Catalina grow into a future Spanish queen rather than a fated English queen. It wasn’t a huge leap to have to make to get on board with this new, revised timeline. For those reasons, I really appreciated this piece within the genre.

I did have some struggles with this novel. The writing felt dense and heavy. When this is combined with how the majority of the events that occur are sad/complex/or less than positive, it slowed down the narrative and it took me longer to read this novel that the page length would suggest. There were not any lighter notes to lift the narrative. I also feel that there was an expectation that the reader is already familiar with the actual history as it occurred, which I can sort of understand as why would a reader be interested in the alternative if they don’t know what actually occurred. That being said, I am familiar with the actual history and I found myself being lost in the context sometimes.

I did enjoy this novel and I still look at this genre in the same light in which I did before, I think it just needed a little tightening up of the narrative.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book:

Also by Helen R. Davis:

Evita: My Argentina

cleopatra unconquered
Cleopatra Unconquered

the most happy
The Most Happy

This is Carolina Casas’ debut novel.

Find Helen R. Davis:
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Find Carolina Casas: Blog | Twitter | Goodreads


As part of the blog tour there is a tour-wide giveaway of an eBook of Isabella Unashamed! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.  If you have questions, please contact the tour coordinator.  Good luck!

Giveaway Rules

  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 7th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Isabella Unashamed

Follow the Tour!

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On the HFVBT website or on Twitter: #IsabellaUnashamedBlogTour

Monday, November 27
Kick Off at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, November 28
Feature at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Wednesday, November 29
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, November 30
Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Friday, December 1
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Interview at Author Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Saturday, December 2
Feature at WS Momma Readers Nook

Monday, December 4
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books

Tuesday, December 5
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Feature at The Hungry Bookworm

Wednesday, December 6
Feature at Mello & June, It’s a Book Thang!

Thursday, December 7
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

New Book Alert: New From Entangled Publishing

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I am excited to help Entangled Publishing celebrate the November release of five brand new, scintillating historical romances! Read on for all of the details and a little sneak peek excerpt from titles by Lori Ann Bailey, Tara Kingston, Alyssa Alexander, E. Elizabeth Watson, and Jennifer Trethewey.

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Book 2 in the Highland Pride series

While spying for Clan Cameron, Brodie Cameron rescues a lass, only to realize it’s Skye—the woman who’d broken his heart. He needs to get her to her uncle as quickly as possible to keep her safe, but every minute he’s distracted from his mission brings the clans that much closer to war. And having beautiful Skye anywhere near him is dangerous, because the price on his head is higher than the one on hers.

Upon being rescued from kidnappers, Skye finds herself staring into the eyes of the man she once loved—Brodie Cameron. She’s grateful to be freed, but has no idea how she’ll resist the lad who has become a braw man. Especially because she’s promised to another, in a political marriage forged to strengthen the Royalist clans against the Covenanters who plot to turn Scotland upside down.

Buy the Book: Entangled | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Excerpt from Highland Redemption:

Skye’s heart had clenched at the all-too-familiar thick Highland burr of the man who’d jumped into the back of the wagon.

Nae. It couldn’t be—it was the terror of being abducted by strangers playing tricks on her.

A broad shouldered man leaned closer and she let go of the breath she held, because she didn’t recognize the form. These shoulders were much wider and the girth was almost twice what she remembered from the man of her youth. Hoping to hide, she sank back into the depths of the cart, her entire body stiffening and her heartbeat increasing, pounding in her chest.

But then he reached for her, and a beam of moonlight hit his face. The intruder gave her the smile that had once brought her to her knees, the one she had spent her whole childhood trying to put on his face. Now, the sight only brought her pain.

She had spent the last five years of her life trying to forget that smile, trying to shake the memory of him, trying to become a whole person again. With that one cocksure smirk, he had just shredded all of her efforts, and damn him, she wanted to reach out and feel that he was real, that this was not one of those dreams she would wake from and he’d be gone, leaving her alone yet again.

Many times, he’d visited her at night in her fantasies, saving her from imaginary foes and then professing his undying love, promising to never leave her side again. In the delirious haze of sleep, she always forgave him, but this didn’t feel like a dream.

I’m an imbecile.

She had to remind herself she hated this man. He’d promised her the moon, made her dare to believe they could have the perfect life together. A home, a family, and love.

Then he had taken it all away. He had carelessly tossed her aside and left her with a gaping hole, a void that could never be filled. She had given her heart to him, and he had trampled all over it.

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Book 2 in the Highland Hearts series

A Highlander’s vow...Scottish spy Gerard MacMasters never expected to be playing bodyguard in his mission to catch a killer. Stunning English beauty, Lady Evelyn Hunt, has witnessed a merciless assassin’s escape—now, she’s in danger, and it’s up to him to keep her alive. Yet, he is drawn to the tempting woman. Passion flares, but he knows better than to fall for her. He’s already lost one woman he loved—never again will he put his heart on the line.

She shields her heart...After a crushing betrayal at the altar, Lady Evelyn wants nothing to do with love. Kissing a gorgeous rogue is one thing, but surrendering her heart is another matter. When she stumbles upon a mysterious crime, nothing prepares her for the dashing Scot who charges into her life. The hot-blooded Highlander may be her hero—or her undoing.

Buy the Book: Entangled | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Excerpt from Lady Evelyn’s Highland Promise

Inverness, Scotland

June, 1891

Truth be told, Lady Evelyn Hunt rather enjoyed being a fallen woman. While others might well wring their hands over such a dizzying tumble from grace, she’d discovered an unexpected benefit of scandal—the invisible scarlet letter she wore was the key to her independence. After all, with no good name to protect, she had nothing to lose.

As her traveling companions gushed over the wares in a milliner’s cramped and cluttered shop, she debated whether to put that freedom to good use and make her escape. She’d endured the noisy, pungent train ride from London to the Highlands with nary a whisper of complaint. After all, it wasn’t every day one embarks on a journey to stand as a bridesmaid while her dearest friend weds a dashing Scotsman. She would not have missed Sally’s wedding, not for all the quiet chambers in the world. But now, as the walls closed in and her friends’ voices blurred, she eyed the door with a keen longing.

Fanning herself with one hand, she pulled in a gulp of air, deep as her corset allowed. Drat, she should’ve loosened the stays. A fashionable silhouette was desirable, but then again, so was the ability to inhale.

Her pulse hammered a defiant beat against her eardrums. What harm would there be in leaving this little shop, if only for a few minutes? It wasn’t as if she required a chaperone. With her reputation damaged well beyond repair, she was free to explore the city without benefit of an escort. On the other hand, her dignity would suffer a devastating blow if she collapsed in an incoherent heap on the milliner’s floor.

Edging past the hatmaker’s dour-faced assistant, Evelyn slipped out the door. Relief rushed in. Fresh calm filled her. Free of the crush and the relentless chatter, she could once again focus her thoughts. She could breathe.

A shadow fell over her.

Strong, warm hands settled over her shoulders.

She gasped.

A stranger towered over her. A handsome man, dark-haired and broad-shouldered.

“Unhand me, sir.”

His hands fell away. A hint of a smile danced on his full mouth. “Is the devil nippin’ at yer heels, lass?”

Good heavens. In her rush to take her leave of the shop, she’d nearly collided with the fellow, hadn’t she? So much for avoiding damage to her dignity.

She was tall, too long-limbed to fit the feminine ideal, but she had to cock her chin to meet his intent golden-brown eyes. “My apologies.”

“’Tis no harm done.” A lock of dark hair dipped over his forehead, and he shoved it away. “Do take care. The next man ye run into might take advantage of the opportunity to find a lovely lass in his arms.”

The man certainly had cheek, didn’t he? A reply sprang to her lips, hovering there unspoken as his hint of a smile gave way to a ridiculously appealing grin.

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THE LADY AND MR. JONES by Alyssa Alexander
Book 4 in Spy in the Ton series

Born in the rookeries, the hard life is something Jones is all too familiar with. Saved as a young boy, he was trained to be a spy, one of the best--elite, in fact. He now spends his days serving His Majesty in espionage, hunting rogue spies. His latest assignment, though, has him tracking a fellow spy…

Cat Ashdown is a baroness. Nothing is more important than protecting five hundred years of heritage. She knows every detail of every estate that commands the largest income in Britain— yet her father placed her inheritance in trust to her uncle who is forcing her to marry a man she has no desire for. The baroness’s battle against law and convention leads her to Jones and results that are surprising … and possibly unwanted. 

Buy the Book: Entangled | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Excerpt from The Lady and Mr. Jones

Spring 1819

Jones rubbed a thumb along the faint line running the length of the pistol’s barrel. He couldn’t remember now the origin of the scratch, but he had never been able to polish it out to his satisfaction.

Nevertheless, he tried. A man took care of his weapons.

There was very little light in the hidden nook of his commander’s office. Curtains blocked the candlelight from the main room, so it fell just shy of the flintlock pistol. But Jones needed no light for this work, as he knew the feel and shape of the weapon, every ridge in the wood, every curve of the iron. Still, bringing out the small, soft linen square he kept in his pocket, he began the meticulous process of rubbing the iron and wood.

And he listened to the conversation occurring beyond the secret alcove he had been assigned to.

“The Flower is no longer yours to command, Lord Wycomb. Nor has she been this last half year.” Sir Charles Flint spoke carefully to the man standing on the other side of his desk. The light was bright near the two of them, from the fire and the windows and the candles. It shone on the broad, barrel chest of Sir Charles and the lean, elegantly clothed agent challenging him. “The Flower is now under my direct command.”

Ah. They were discussing Vivienne La Fleur, the opera dancer who had captivated London between visits to France and breaking into the homes of the ton at Wycomb’s direction. She excelled at thievery, with her quick fingers and elegant grace. She was also damned good at lock-picking, as her new husband, Maximilian Westwood, had become aware.

But Henry Taylor, Lord Wycomb—the bastard—had mistreated her and lost Sir Charles’s good will.

And Jones’s respect.

“I trained her.” Lord Wycomb’s voice was as cool and careful as the spymaster’s behind the desk. “I found her in the rookeries as a child, trained her for espionage, and commanded her assignments for a decade. She is my agent.”

From his hiding place, Jones glanced at Wycomb’s back, at the set of his shoulders and angle of his head. Jones couldn’t see his face from this vantage point, but there did not seem to be any sign of untoward anger.

Jones refolded the linen square and began to polish his pistol anew, focusing on that single scratch he could not smooth out.

“The Flower was your agent. I have reassigned her. Again, I now control her missions,” Sir Charles answered. There was no hint of his anger at Wycomb’s treatment of the Flower—but Jones knew, if Wycomb did not. Jones had seen Sir Charles months ago in this very office, had witnessed the mingled fury and pity. “Why is it that you require her expertise?”

“An assignment that is not under your command, Sir Charles.” Haughtiness. Presumption. Precedence. All echoed in the room.

From his hiding place, Jones narrowed his eyes. A man didn’t disrespect his superior officer, regardless of social titles. Tempted to stand and reveal his presence, Jones flattened his hand over the pistol to steady himself. He had his own assignment, and allowing his irritation free rein was not it.

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THE MAIDEN’S DEFENDER by E. Elizabeth Watson
Book 2 of the Ladies of Scotland series

Training men to be ruthless soldiers is a skill at which Highlander Teàrlach MacGregor excels. He can kill three men with nothing but a sword and a couple of daggers. After he rescues a ward of the king, the beautiful Lady Madeline Crawford, the fierce warrior begins to yearn for a cottage of his own in the Highlands, with the sweet, delicate Madeline as the mother of his bairns.

Madeline begins to see a side of Teàrlach that nobody else has witnessed. The strong silent Highlander takes her to her first fair, teaches her to read, and bestows upon her a passionate kiss—her very first. But Madeline is informed that she is betrothed to another with the blessing of the king, making her and Teàrlach’s love forbidden.

Teàrlach, the famed fighter, vows to make Madeline his even if that means bringing down her corrupt warden, and Madeline knows that she must defy the king if she hopes to claim her Highlander.

Buy the Book: Entangled | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Excerpt from The Maiden’s Defender

Anno Domini 1192. April

The spring insects buzzed peaceably, and the evening sun promised a glowing sunset. Madeline Crawford had watched many sunsets, hoping that the warm rays would heal her broken heart. Aye, her heart was finally healing, because in this moment, she could breathe in and out and appreciate the beauty without the sadness that had plagued her for so long, threatening to kill her simple joy. In this moment, she felt content. The first time she had felt so in many months. She looked down, smiled, and adjusted a blanket, then picked up her book of Aesop’s Fables again and continued reading.

“And so, the wise astrologer walked, gazing upward at the heavens”—how she also enjoyed looking at the night sky and contemplating the patterns of stars—“only to then fall into a well. The townsfolk gathered around him, hearing his calls of distress, only then to scold him. ‘Wise astrologer,’ they said. ‘Whilst you were staring upward at the sky, trying to divinate the meaning of the stars, you failed to see the very things here on earth that surround you…’”

The very earth beneath her began to rumble as she finished the sentence. Madeline paused. The guardsmen on the wall were clattering down the walk, their arms clanking and chain mail jingling. She looked out through the open gates, down the meandering path that led along the valley between the hills.

The beating of horse hooves was growing stronger, as if the army of England were descending upon her simple stone tower to raze her home. She saw two horsemen barreling down the road toward her, both dark haired. The one in the back, as wild as the Highlands from which he had come, wore his MacGregor great kilt proudly. The horseman in front wore a dirty Irish leine, the white of it having seen brighter days, with boots lacing up his legs. His hair was shaggy, longer, his beard unmanaged. Over his shoulder was a haphazardly pleated plaid, the same color as the other man’s tartan.

Madeline snatched up her bundle of blankets, allowing the book to tumble from her hands and splay open in the dirt. Two of her servants, Fingal and the young lass Joselyn, raced for the door of the tower to hustle Madeline within.

Yet a wary tingling was coursing through her blood. She knew the man propelling toward her gate. It didn’t seem real, didn’t seem possible. It couldn’t be him. After all this time. After so many months, after she had finally resigned herself to accept Rabbie MacGregor’s marriage offer. After she had given up hope that this man would ever return. It had to be a marauder, intent on rape and pillage.

It couldn’t be him.

“Madeline!” the man called in a voice with a rich timbre, galloping through the wooden gates and pulling back on the reins of his mount. “Madeline, stop!”

She whirled around in the doorway and finally saw him as he threw himself from the saddle. The sight was a shock. She froze. It was him. It was Teàrlach MacGregor, in the flesh, in an Irish leine and boots, as if he were the fabled Fionn incarnated. His hair had always been shaggy, but he could tie it back now, if he wanted. She remembered so vividly the feel of his curls as her fingers laced through them, combing them in gentle pets as he lay upon her breast by the nighttime campfire surrounded by insect cadences and silence. Her heart ached anew.

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TYING THE SCOTT by Jennifer Trethewey
Book 1 in The Highlanders of Balforss series

At age eleven, Alex Sinclair pledges an oath to the Duke of Chatham promising to serve and protect his illegitimate daughter, Lucy FitzHarris. Nine years later, the duke unexpectedly takes Alex up on his vow, offering the future Laird of Balforss his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Now a man, hotheaded Alex has difficulty convincing Lucy—who would rather starve to death than marry a vulgar Scot—to go through with the arranged marriage. Once Lucy arrives in Scotland, she cannot resist the magic of Balforss or the allure of her handsome Highland warrior. But when Alex seemingly betrays Lucy right before their wedding, she is tricked into running away. Alex must rein in his temper to rescue his lady from unforeseen danger and Lucy must swallow her pride if she hopes to wed the Highlander she has come to love.

Buy the Book: Entangled | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Excerpt from Tying the Scot

Without warning, Hercules hopped onto the cook’s lap, causing her to let out a whoop. He tickled her chin with dog kisses. Alex had never heard Mrs. Swenson giggle before.

“Do you want someone to feed you, my wee mannie?” she said, talking to him like he was a baby. She picked up the bowl and hand-fed the bits of meat to Hercules. He chewed and swallowed, all the while gazing adoringly at the cook.

“Looks like you have a new friend,” Alex said.

Mrs. Swenson feigned irritation with him. “Och, take a cake and be gone with you.”

He plucked a small raisin cake from a mound of baked goods, kissed her again, and crammed the entire thing into his mouth. On the way back to the house, he encountered Lucy. She had removed her bonnet and jacket as well as the lacy piece of clothing that covered her shoulders and chest. Some of her curly black locks of hair had come unpinned and bounced around on the swells of her breasts, leaving him spellbound.

“Where's Hercules?” she asked, as though accusing him of losing her dog. “I have been looking all over for him.”

Mouth still filled with cake, he struggled to swallow, but only succeeded in choking. Pointing at the kitchen door, Alex watched Lucy march off in a huff. At last, he swallowed a mass of cake the size of a crabapple, and wiped his mouth. He remained in the middle of the yard, waiting, half expecting to hear Mrs. Swenson and Lucy break into an argument over the dog. To his relief, Lucy exited the kitchen with Hercules and the cook, both women laughing. Mrs. Swenson pointed to the sky and Lucy nodded. Warning Lucy about the hawk?

She crossed the yard, smiling. The smile disappeared, however, when she met his eyes. She swept past him without a word, nose in the air. Some inexplicable force compelled him to follow her.

Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Cover Crush: A Dangerous Legacy

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We can all say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but I guarantee that we all have done so at least once! Cover Crush is designed to feature some of those covers that have caught the eye as a standout on the bookshelf.

a dangerous legacy

This cover immediately reminded me of another cover I featured previously, High as the Heavens – I think it’s the pearls and the side profile of the woman’s face.  Otherwise they are relatively different.  As with last weeks, I love the faded city skyline in the background that is almost an afterthought.  I’m not sure if the city represents the legacy that is in the title or not, but the fact that it is faded and in the background could be that it represents it is in the past. 

What are your thoughts on this cover?

I wonder what my friends are crushing on this week? Let’s check it out: A Literary Vacation; Layered Pages

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Audiobook Review: In the Shadow of Denali by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse


In the Shadow of Denali by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse
Unabridged, 8 hr. 28 min.
Recorded Books
Christina Moore (Narrator)
January 3, 2017
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Genre: Historical Fiction; Christian Fiction

Source: Received from the publisher for review

Cassidy Ivanoff and her father, John, work at the new and prestigious Curry Hotel outside Mt. McKinley. While John will be an expedition and wilderness exploration guide for the wealthy tourists, Cassidy has signed on as a cook's assistant. Both are busy as the hotel prepares to welcome the president of the United States on his way to drive in the golden spike to officially complete the railroad.

Allan Brennan travels to the Curry Hotel to be an apprentice of a seasoned Alaska mountain guide. Ever since his father's death climbing Mt. McKinley, he's worked to earn enough money to make the trek to the Alaska territory himself. His father's partner blames their guide for the death of his father, but Allan wants to find the truth for himself. He finds an unlikely ally in Cassidy, and as the two begin to look into the mystery, they suddenly find that things are much less clear, and much more dangerous, than either could ever imagine.

I was so excited to get my hands on this book because when I saw the opportunity to read it I was getting ready to head out on my adventure to Alaska with my own family. I wanted to see how much Alaska actually factored into the novel versus just being a backdrop. It is such a unique setting and truly brings a life of its own that you won’t experience elsewhere. So I was excited but also hesitant about diving into the novel.

I can happily say that the authors truly did their research, and I would hazard to guess that one or both of them have been to Alaska because it felt so true to my experience. The land of Alaska just vividly came to life, from the plants and animals to the way people would have encountered and engaged with a still relatively untouched environment. Denali had just become a National Park and the Curry Hotel was the only hotel in the area. There was also a great interplay between the native perspective and the perspective of outsiders streaming in to the area on the new railroad. But the one thing that I feel that they hit squarely on was the experience of climbing Denali. Of course, I haven’t done this myself, few have, but after having read Denali’s Howl, which explores in great detail the dangers of climbing that mountain, I feel comfortable saying they did an excellent job with that aspect of the story.

The plot here follows the death of Allan’s father early on and how it affects the main characters throughout and how they grow and change. It’s definitely a story of characters finding themselves in the wake of tragedy and it affects each of them differently. That being said, there is one character who really never changes and it very, very clearly, the bad guy and you will know that from the moment you meet him. It almost felt a little comical how explicitly evil he is, especially when compared with the other main characters who are complex and interesting. This is a work of Christian fiction, so the majority of the characters encounter religious evolution or crises of conscience and it was interesting to see how these moments affected their decisions. It didn’t feel heavy-handed at all, even for someone who isn’t all that religious.

While I loved the atmospheric nature of the novel and the character development, I did have a couple issues with it that affected my enjoyment. First was that there were a few obvious “info dumps”, even if some of them were interestingly concealed. There were clear details that the authors wanted to utilize that delineated the differences between life in Alaska and life in the lower US, and I appreciated that instead of literally just describing them, they had them be revealed while a character read a newspaper or magazine, but it still felt like minute details just being listed to me for the benefit of listing them. I don’t tend to notice these things unless they are strikingly obvious, so I feel the need to point it out. The other thing that was a little bit of an issue was that I felt the plot was a little long-winded. There was a lot crammed into this novel and I got a little lost from the objective about halfway through only to be brought back to the realization at the end. There were a few of the more minor storylines that I feel like could have been eliminated to make it flow better.



Christina Moore did an excellent job narrating this novel. She kept the pacing moving forward; even when I felt that the plot was bogged down a little bit, the narrator kept it from feeling slow, which I think would have been more obvious in print format. She imbued the characters with a patience and contemplation that they needed, especially when grappling with their faith. While she didn’t have a plethora of distinct voices for all the characters, there was enough differentiation that you were never confused while reading.

You can check out a sample of the audiobook below (links to Audible):

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Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse:

out of the ashes
Out of the Ashes
(Heart of Alaska #2)

Find Tracie Peterson:
Website | Facebook

Find Kimberley Woodhouse: Website | Facebook

Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Ethics of Blogging

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I’ve been blogging since 2009 and have always tried to maintain my own high standards of ethics in how I present myself and the material that I cover – and it drives me insane when others don’t do that themselves!  Here are a couple of the things that I hold close to my heart with regard to ethical blogging:

  • Indicating the source of my book when I share a review.  While for me, it doesn’t matter the source of the book as I’m still going to treat the material in the same manner and be objective and non-biased, it is important to me that everyone knows I’m being upfront and honest about it.  They can draw whatever conclusions they like about if the source of the book affected my review of it; although I will assure you that it has no bearing.  I have given both review copies and personally purchased books both glowing and scathing reviews.
  • I don’t charge or accept a fee to review.  I don’t advertise on my site and no longer have any affiliate links that result in money to me (I spent a bit of time removing them as I edited some old review formatting).  I have no issues with advertising/affiliate links or other bloggers doing this, it’s just not for me and my blog and I personally don’t show via other’s affiliate links; I go out of my way to shop around them.
  • No personal attacks – whether it’s on other bloggers or authors.  You should be discussing the material, not whether or not you like the person.  I will admit that I have a private list of authors/publishers that I will not work with based on interactions I have had in the past, but I’m not going to go posting about why or let that shade a review that I am writing.  If you leave an attacking comment toward myself, other commenter, or author I will remove the comment (luckily this hasn’t had to happen yet!)
  • I will not sell ARC/unfinished review copies.  I actually have kept all of my review copies of any type.  The only way I would get rid of them was to offer a giveaway or gift to a fellow review/blogger.  It drives me insane to see how many ARC copies are for sale on Ebay – at least Amazon has an explicit policy about when it is okay to sell an ARC, Ebay doesn’t directly address it.  There is a reason that these books say on them somewhere (first pages or front/back cover) that they are not for sale – the author and/or publisher do not make any money off of the sale of these as they are given away for publicity purposes.  There are plenty of people out there who do not care about this, and I cannot support those who do this.

Amazon’s sale policy for ARC copies is very limited

For me, blogging is and always has been about my love of reading and the hobby.  I didn’t start blogging as a way to get free books or make money.  I didn’t even know it was a possibility when I started!  I simply started as a way to share the books that I loved with others and give my husband (boyfriend at the time) an out so he didn’t have to listen to all this history talk.  I love the relationships I have formed through this blog and look forward to continuing them with you into the future.  I just needed to re-state my stance on my personal ethics on blogging based on some less-than-above-board stuff I’ve seen around elsewhere lately.

You can find the full details of all my blogging policies in the tab above titled Policies, or via this link.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the ethics of blogging!

Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court