Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cora Carmack's SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

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HERE’S THE SCOOP!

Fans of Cora Carmack’s Rusk University, we have a SUPER exciting announcement:


ALL CLOSED OFF Coming 2016

ALL CLOSED OFF, Book 4 in the Rusk University Series, is coming!!!


Check out this message from Cora!

*WARNING: This letter contains spoilers for All Broke Down. If you haven't yet read that book, read at your own peril. SECOND WARNING: this letter talks about fictional characters as if they are real people. Sorry I'm not sorry. THIRD WARNING: The letter below broaches a serious topic that could be a trigger for some people*

Hello beloved readers!

The first person who read one of my Rusk University books was my older sister. I gave her All Lined Up when I finished, and her first question was "Are Ryan and Stella going to be together?"

At the time, I told her no. I had plans for both of them that included their own storylines. I thought they were too much alike. They'd make great friends. They might even hook-up, but in the end... I couldn't envision anything serious for them. So I actually rewrote some of their scenes trying to make that aspect of their connection more obvious. And still, when All Lined Up released, amidst the chatter about sweet Carson and sassy Dallas, I had people asking if Stella and Ryan were next. I denied it again (and again and again).

But sometimes in writing, the stars align and a character will become bigger and more real than you could have possibly imagined. It's a wonderful experience, but in Stella's case it was also incredibly heartbreaking. While I was writing All Broke Down, the news was inundated with information about the Steubenville rape trial and other tragedies and injustices like it. Tragedies where women have been violated first by an attacker, then by judgmental and hateful people, and finally by a justice system that repeatedly fails survivors of sexual assault. Having grown up in Texas, where too often football stars are treated like gods and can get away with just about anything, it hit particularly close to home. And since All Broke Down featured a passionate activist heroine, I felt compelled to reference this chronic dark underbelly of elite sports.

I can remember vividly sitting on my couch, brainstorming how I would incorporate such an event into the book. I had thought the assault would happen to an unknown character, and maybe I would focus on the way it divided the team and the school and the town. But like I said... Sometimes a character will become bigger and more human than I anticipated. And it sounds crazy, but in my mind, I felt Stella push her way forward and say, "Mine. This is my story." I immediately began to cry. Sob, really. Because I loved her as a character. She was hilarious and strong and didn't take crap from anyone. She was everything I always hope to be. And I didn't want her to go through that. Even as I cried, my brain began to tell me that it made sense. Stella was vibrant and enjoyed a wild party. She was not afraid of her sexuality, and she had no problem with casual sex. She was the kind of girl that probably had a reputation. The kind of girl who could be heinously and violently taken advantage of, and people would STILL blame her. Because she was in the wrong place, wearing the wrong clothes, behaving in the wrong way. But just because it COULD happen to her, didn't mean I wanted it to. But once again, Stella was there in my head saying, "Someone needs to tell this story. And I'm strong enough to do it. Let me." And when Stella chose her story, she also chose the man I'd been adamant wasn't right for her. Because as it turns out... Those two characters who I thought were too alike aren't so alike anymore. And Stella needs Ryan to help her hold on to that vibrant and strong girl she was before.

So I let go of all the plans I had for her, and allowed her to tell me her story, which is about more than just sexual assault. It's about the aftermath. Depression. Shame. Guilt. Anger. Injustice. Victim-blaming. Slut-shaming. It's about the way that kind of event can change everything-- how you relate to people, how you think, how you dream, how you love. It's about the way the rest of the world moves on to the next big tragedy, and you're still left holding the broken pieces of who you used to be, with no idea how to put them together again or even if you want to. It will be the most difficult story I ever tell. And the most important. Because it’s a story that belongs not just to Stella, but to millions of people around the world. It’s a story that belongs to a new person every 107 seconds*. And that’s just in the United States. Think about that for a moment. 107 seconds. Stella’s story won’t be any easier to read than it will be to write. But I hope you’ll help me drag this story into the light.

So now I’ll step off my soapbox and just tell you about the book…


ALL CLOSED OFF:

Stella Santos is fine.

Maybe something terrible happened to her that she can’t even remember. And maybe it drives her crazy when her friends treat her like she’s on the verge of breaking because of it. Maybe it feels even worse when they do what she asks and pretend that it never happened at all. And maybe she’s been getting harassing emails and messages for months from people who don’t even know her, but hate her all the same.

But none of that matters because she’s just fine.

For Ryan Blake, Stella was always that girl. Vibrant and hilarious and beautiful. He wanted her as his best friend. His more than friends. His everything and anything that she would give him. Which these days is a whole lot of nothing. She gets angry when he’s there. Angry when he’s not there. Angry when he tries to talk and when he doesn’t.

When Stella devises an unconventional art project for one of her classes all about exploring intimacy—between both friends and strangers—Ryan finds himself stepping in as guinea pig after one of her subjects bails. What was supposed to be an objective and artistic look at emotion and secrets and sex suddenly becomes much more personal. When he hits it off with another girl from the project, Stella will have to decide if she’s willing to do more than make art about intimacy. To keep him, she’ll have to open up and let herself be the one thing she swore she’d never be again.

Vulnerable.

*****

ALL CLOSED OFF will be releasing sometime in early 2016. I don't have a date yet for several reasons. The first and most important, is that I want to do this story justice. And as such, I have no intentions of rushing the process. Secondly, I'll be returning to indie publishing for the remainder of the Rusk series. As you can probably tell, this story means a great deal to me. And by having the ultimate control over everything from timing to editing to price, I'll be able to ensure that I'm able to create exactly the story I envision. Unfortunately, that means you won't be seeing the paperback of ALL CLOSED OFF on the shelves in most stores. Nor is it currently available for pre-order. But I hope you'll add the book on goodreads, follow me on social media, and/or join my newsletter. I promise to shout it all over the place when I have a set release date or pre-order links.

Thank you for listening as I told you the evolution of Stella's story. When it's finished, I hope you will feel as passionately about it as I do.

All my best,

Cora Carmack

*Statistic from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network)

#WhenitHappened banner

And an opportunity to add your voice to Stella’s…

Stella’s experience is only one story of many. She was with someone she trusted when it happened, and the only memories she has are pieced together from her own blurred recollections and the things people have told her. Not everyone’s experience with sexual assault is the same. Each person reacts, copes, and overcomes differently. And while this book is about one specific character’s journey, I would like to tell as many sides of this story as possible. As Stella grapples with her thoughts and emotions she’ll be searching for advice, for comfort, for a place where people understand her and can identify with what she’s experiencing. There will be room for truth within the fiction, and if you’d like that truth to be yours, this is your chance.

If you have a story like Stella’s, and you want your voice to be heard….

If there’s something you wish more people understood about what you’ve gone through….

If there’s something you’d like to tell people struggling with a story like yours…

I’d like to give you the opportunity to add your voice to Stella’s. Use the hashtag #WhenItHappened and let your voice be heard on your own by posting on your own social media, or if you’d rather I share your words fill out this google document and tell me your story. You can fill out this form anonymously or not. I’d like to begin this discussion now because April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. But my hope is to include as many stories as possible within the book itself.

So many have stories of #WhenItHappened. Your voice and your story deserve to be heard. I’m listening.

#WhenItHappened Google Form: http://goo.gl/forms/4VRjWgZYSW

HeadshotABOUT Cora Carmack:

Cora Carmack is a twenty-something New York Times bestselling author who likes to write about twenty-something characters. She's done a multitude of things in her life-- boring jobs (like working retail), Fun jobs (like working in a theatre), stressful jobs (like teaching), and dream jobs (like writing). She now splits her time between Austin, TX and New York City and spends her days writing, traveling, and spending way too much time on the internet. In her books, you can expect to find humor, heart, and a whole lot of awkward. Because let’s face it . . . awkward people need love, too.

Website ** Twitter ** Facebook **Newsletter **Author Goodreads



z-InkSlinger Blogger

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

[Release Day Book Blitz] Excerpt & Giveaway: Dragons Are People, Too by Sarah Nicolas

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Dragons Are People, Too
Release Date: 04/28/15
Entangled Teen
Summary from Goodreads:
Never judge a dragon by her human cover...
Sixteen-year-old Kitty Lung has everyone convinced she’s a normal teen—not a secret government operative, not the one charged with protecting the president’s son, and certainly not a were-dragon. The only one she trusts with the truth is her best friend—and secret crush—the ├╝ber-hot Bulisani Mathe.

Then a junior operative breaks Rule Number One by changing into his dragon form in public—on Kitty’s watch—and suddenly, the world knows. About dragons. About the Draconic Intelligence Command (DIC) Kitty works for. About Kitty herself.

Now the government is hunting down and incarcerating dragons to stop a public panic, and a new shape-shifting enemy has kidnapped the president’s son. Kitty and Bulisani are the last free dragons, wanted by both their allies and their enemies. If they can’t rescue the president’s son and liberate their fellow dragons before getting caught themselves, dragons might never live free again.


Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today! I have a little excerpt for you. In this scene, Kitty has just realized there’s something a little off with the girl who just rode off with the President’s son, Jacob. 

"This is Draco Three. Probable threat."  
"What -" Sani begins. I cut him off with a glare and, within half of a heartbeat, a confused realization dawns on his face. 
"In Midday Sun's car. Now." I don't say much, but it's enough for my contact, whose name I don't actually know. 
He pauses for maybe three seconds. It feels like an eternity. "Communication with the agents in the car is down. Can you pursue on foot?" 
I start running at the word "down" and I'm already halfway down the driveway with Sani at my side when I say, "Pursuing." 
"Secure Midday Sun," my contact orders. "At all costs." 
"Understood." I don't bother hanging up before dropping both the phone and my backpack on the grass. Sani has already shed his pack. 
The car is gaining speed on the main road, but traffic is keeping it from escaping completely. I can run about twenty miles an hour for several miles. Sani is faster. He's holding back to stay with me. 
"Go!" I yell.  
I know he wants to argue, but I'm not his friend right now. I'm his superior. To his credit, he doesn't hesitate longer than the time it takes for a single step. His stride lengthens. It's a matter of seconds before he's halfway between me and the car.  
The front half of the black town car explodes in a fireball. My lungs are working overtime and I gulp in the acrid scent of burning rubber and gasoline. Tires all around us squeal as brakes are slammed. Somewhere to my left, a roaring crunch echoes the explosion, as two more cars collide in a less explosive way. 
Dominic pops out of the sun roof, somehow looking confused and focused at the same time. He has his side-arm in his right hand and I dare to hope the Secret Service has control of the situation. But, somewhere inside me, I know better. 
Dominic raises his gun and takes aim at Sani, who's fifty feet from the car. He fires four shots.  
I let loose a primal roar as a bullet rips through Sani's left bicep. His shoulder jerks back at the impact, but his steps don't even falter.  

About the Author
Sarah is a 30-something YA author who currently lives in Orlando, FL with a 60-lb mutt who thinks he's a chihuahua. She believes that some boys are worth trusting, all girls have power, and dragons are people too.

She's a proud member of the Gator Nation and has a BS in Mechanical Engineering, but has switched careers entirely. She now works as an Event Coordinator for a County Library and as a freelance book publicist and author's assistant. She also blogs at YAtopia and video blogs at the YA Rebels.


Author Links:
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GIVEAWAY:

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[Release Day Book Blitz] Giveaway & Guest Post: Life Unaware by Cole Gibsen

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Life Unaware
Release Date: 04/28/15
Entangled Teen

Book Summary:
Regan Flay has been talking about you. 

Regan Flay is on the cusp of achieving her control-freak mother's "plan" for high school success―cheerleading, student council, the Honor Society—until her life gets turned horribly, horribly upside down. Every bitchy text. Every bitchy email. Every lie, manipulation, and insult she's ever said have been printed out and taped to all the lockers in school. 

Now Regan has gone from popular princess to total pariah. 
The only person who even speaks to her is her former best friend's hot but socially miscreant brother, Nolan Letner. Nolan thinks he knows what Regan's going through, but whatnobody knows is that Regan isn't really Little Miss Perfect. In fact, she's barely holding it together under her mom's pressure. But the consequences of Regan's fall from grace are only just beginning. Once the chain reaction starts, no one will remain untouched... 

Especially Regan Flay.


Buy Links:

~ GUEST POST ~


About the Author
Cole Gibsen first realized she different when, in high school, she was still reading comic books while the other girls were reading fashion magazines.

It was her love of superheroes that first inspired her to pick up a pen. Her favorite things to write about are ordinary girls who find themselves in extraordinary situations.

Author Links:
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Monday, April 27, 2015

[Book Blitz] Giveaway: Compulsion (The Heirs of Watson Island #1) by Martina Boone

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Release Date: 10/28/14

Narrated
by: Joell
A. Jacob


Length: 11
hrs and 29 mins 
Simon Pulse/Tantor Audio
448 pages

Summary from Goodreads:
Three plantations. Two wishes. One ancient curse.

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead--a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family's twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

Buy Links:

Listen to an audiobook sample:


Praise
for Compulsion:
"Skillfully blends rich magic and folklore with
adventure, sweeping romance, and hidden treasure . . . An impressive start to
the Heirs of Watson Island series." —Publishers Weekly
     
"Eight Beaufort is so swoon-worthy that it's
ridiculous. Move over Four, Eight is here to stay!"  —RT Book
Reviews
, RT Editors Best Books of 2014

"Darkly romantic and steeped in Southern Gothic
charm, you'll be compelled to get lost in the Heirs of Watson Island
series." —JENNIFER L. ARMENTROUT, #1 New York Times bestselling
author

"A fresh twist on the Southern Gothic --
haunting, atmospheric, and absorbing." —CLAUDIA GRAY, New York
Times
bestselling author of A Thousand Pieces of You and
the Evernight and Spellcaster series 
    
"A stunningly magical debut with a delicious
slow burn to be savored. I want to live in this story world!" —WENDY
HIGGINS, USA Today and New York Times bestselling
author of the Sweet Evil trilogy

"Beautifully written, with vivid characters, a generations-old
feud, and romance that leaps off the page, this Southern ghost story left me
lingering over every word, and yet wanting to race to the compelling finish. Compulsion is
not to be missed." —MEGAN SHEPHERD, author of The Madman's
Daughter

Book Two:

PERSUASION (HEIRS
OF WATSON ISLAND,
BOOK 2) 
Beautiful
Creatures meets Gone With the Wind
As reporters
chasing rumors of a stolen shipment of Civil War gold descend on Watson Island,
Barrie Watson discovers more is buried at Colesworth Place than treasure. A
mysterious, magical man claims the key to the Watson and Beaufort gifts and the
Colesworth curse also lies beneath the mansion, and Barrie has no option but to
help him find it. While she and Eight Beaufort struggle to make sense of the
escalating danger and their growing feelings for each other, Barrie must decide
not only whom to trust, but which gift is more reliable—Eight
s or her own. With the fate of the founding families
at stake, she has to choose between what she feels deep in her heart and what
will keep her loved ones safe.

Pre-Order Links:

IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon |  Book Depository | Goodreads

About the Author
Martina Boone was born in Prague and spoke several languages before learning English. She fell in love with words and never stopped delighting in them.

She’s the founder of AdventuresInYAPublishing.com, a Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers site, and YASeriesInsiders.com, a site devoted to encouraging literacy and all this YA Series.
From her home in Virginia, where she lives with her husband, children, and Auggie the wonder dog, she enjoys writing contemporary fantasy set in the kinds of magical places she’d love to visit. When she isn’t writing, she’s addicted to travel, horses, skiing, chocolate flavored tea, and anything with Nutella on it.

Author Links:
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

[Blog Tour] Review & Giveaway: A Necklace of Souls (SoulNecklace Stories #1) by R.L. Stedman

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A Necklace of Souls
Release Date: 12/19/14
339 pages
Summary from Goodreads:
‘A true dream is when the events I see in my sleep have, or will happen. It’s a talent that runs in my family. I was thirteen when I had my first true dream.’

Will’s Aunt says the Kingdom of the Rose is the most fortunate of lands. But Will hates the place – his uncle and aunt are horrible, and he misses his parents. Oh, how he misses them.

Dana wishes she wasn’t a princess. She’s always being told how to behave, what to wear. There’s a strangeness in the castle – why will no one talk about the Guardian, or the necklace that protects the land? And why does her father look at her with such sorrow? The collier’s cart seems the perfect escape. Only she didn’t realize she’d become so dirty, or so lost. Fortunately this boy, Will, has a sense of direction. And next to the forbidding stranger, N’tombe, he seems reassuringly normal.

Welcome to A Necklace of Souls: a story of love and loss, of shattered lives and desperate hopes. In the Kingdom of the Rose, bravery is not always measured by strength and magic is real, if only one has the courage to dream.

Shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, A Necklace of Souls was awarded the Tessa Duder Award for Young Adult Fiction, Best First Book at the New Zealand Post Children and Young Adult Book Awards and is a Storylines Notable Book.

Buy Links:
AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo Books

~ REVIEW TO FOLLOW ASAP~
4 STARS 

I really enjoyed reading the journey of Dana and Will. The spacing of the story is slow and then there's the time skip.

Will's journey wasn't easy. In fact it was quite tragic. He used to live in a small village with his parents who were bakers and he seems to follow their footsteps but a plague came to their village and Will was sadly one of the few who survived. I already had an inkling how it would be with all the clues the author written. Luckily, he received an invitation from his aunt about living with them. The only thing is the kingdom where his aunt lives was supposed to be a legend and the only way to enter is one must have a token and such a ferryman will bring you to the entrance to the kingdom.

Then there's Dana who's the princess of that kingdom who dreams of things that supposedly happened. She has the same gift as her father at the same time there are secrets that are being kept from her which will change her life.

What I like about this was that the interaction between Dana and Will wasn't immediate. It took a few months before they met and another couple of months till they met once more due to certain events which I'm not going to spoil.

All I can say is that Dana and Will will journey together in order to stop the evil that's after the power in the kingdom. Luckily, they aren't alone. They will need all the help they can get especially after encountering the strength of their enemy's forces.

I felt sad for Will especially what he'd gone through but I liked how he's still the same and that he wasn't bitter but made the most of his situation. I really hate his aunt's family. I was happy when he was given better opportunities especially that led him to meeting Dana.

I'm not quite fangirling but I was elated every time Dana and Will have their moments especially when they both came to realize that their feelings for another grew. I loved the sense of humor in this book especially every time Dana and Will kiss, they are always being interrupted. Their romance was slow and very little actually but when they got together everything was worth the wait.

I liked how Dana isn't the typically spoiled princess and I loved her antics. She has an okay relationship with her family most especially her father. I felt sad for when that little secret was revealed to her and I hope there's a way around that. I really disliked her mother, she's kind of evil.

I'll definitely continue this series. I hope to see more Will and Dana's moments.

My name is Rachel Stedman. I’m a physiotherapist (physical therapist) by background, but now I work as a freelance contractor. I live in the wild and windy place of Dunedin, New Zealand, with my husband and two kids.

I write mostly for children and young adults. In 2012 I won the Tessa Duder Award for an unpublished YA work and my first novel, A Necklace of Souls, was published by HarperCollins in 2013 (available in the United Kingdom and on Book Depository from June 2015). This year, A Necklace of Souls was awarded Best First Book at the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards and won a Notable Book Award from Storylines. Inner Fire is my second novel.
Author Links:
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Cover Reveal: Pixelated by L.S. Murphy

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Pixelated
Release
Date: 06/30/15
Bloomsbury
Spark

Summary
from Goodreads:
Senior Year. 

Middle of nowhere. 


What's the new girl to do?


For Piper Marks, the answer is simple. She’s determined to have her photography
rock the cover of National Geographic someday, and moving to Clarkton, Iowa for
her last year of high school is not going to stop her. Even if her usual subjects
have changed from bright lights and skyscrapers to fields, cows…and more
fields. 

But when photographer at the local paper quits in a huff, she steps into his
spot. Her new job keeps Piper busy capturing tackles, and zooming in on first
downs and end zone dances, not to mention putting her directly in the path of
varsity football star Les Williams IV. Her new friends warn her off, but she
can’t resist the pull she feels toward this mysterious country boy. But this
small town is keeping a secret, and it’s one that could destroy any chance they
have to be together. 

It’s up to Piper to decide what to do with the distorted truth. Can she risk
exposing her heart? It might be worth it, 'cause Les is about to change her
world from black and white to fully saturated color. 

Praise
for Pixelated:


"In Pixelated, L.S. Murphy weaves a complex web of secrets and lies with a
‘will they or won’t they’ romance that kept me turning pages and holding my
breath!" ~ Julie Reece, author of The Artisans and Crux

"Beautifully written, with a full spectrum of emotion and complex
characters, Pixelated will tug at all your heartstrings. I easily lost myself
in the world L.S. Murphy created and couldn't stop reading because I needed to
see how the story ended." ~ Kelly Oram, author of Cinder & Ella

"L.S. Murphy brings something for every reader with Pixelated: romance,
secrets, mystery, and a main character torn between two choices. Murphy's
writing is sharp and steeped in emotions, deftly hooking her readers from the
first sentence to the last." ~ Sarah Bromley, author of A Murder Of
Magpies 

About
the Author
L.S.
Murphy obsesses about St. Louis Cardinals baseball, fangirls over her favorite
authors, and watches every episode of Doctor Who like it's the first time. When
she's not doing those time-consuming things, the former farm-girl turned city
slicker turned suburbanite writes sweet romances for teens and adults.



Author Links:

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

[Blog Tour] Excerpt & GIveaway: All's Fair in Love and Scandal (Scandalous #2.5) by Caroline Linden

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Blurb:
Nothing wagered…
Douglas Bennet can't resist a good wager, especially not one that involves a beautiful woman. When a friend proposes an audacious plan to expose the most notorious woman in England, Douglas agrees at once. After all, it would be quite a coup to discover the true identity of Lady Constance, author of the infamous erotic serial scandalizing the ton, 50 Ways to Sin.

Nothing won…
Madeline Wilde is used to being pursued. For years she's cultivated a reputation for being unattainable and mysterious, and for good reason: her livelihood depends on discretion. When Douglas turns his legendary charm on her, she dismisses him as just another rake. But he surprises her—instead of merely trying to seduce her, he becomes her friend…her confidant…and her lover. But can it really lead to happily-ever-after…or are they about to become the biggest scandal London has ever seen?

Buy Links




~ EXCERPT ~

Quite a crush, isn’t it?” He gave Mrs. Wilde his winning smile, the easy, friendly one that soothed anxious nerves and made women of every age and rank like him.
She turned at his voice behind her. Something like mirth glimmered in her eyes. “Indeed.”
“I hardly know a soul here tonight.” He lowered his voice but without leaning toward her. Leaning put women on guard. A low voice made them lean toward him, which he much preferred. “It’s rather intimidating, to tell the truth.”
“You?” She arched one golden brow. “You don’t seem the sort to be easily intimidated.”
Douglas grinned. He knew he was a big fellow. Women tended to like it once they got to know him. “Rubbish. I’m petrified just looking at the elegance of this assembly.”
Her lovely lips curved. Her head tipped toward him, just a little. Her dark eyes gleamed. “I don’t believe you.”
“It’s true,” he protested. “My heart is racing, my knees are unsteady. Look—see how my hand trembles.” He caught her hand in his, tensing his muscle to produce the tiniest tremor in his hand, and then relaxing it. “Ah. Your touch has healing power, I see.”
She left her hand in his, but that slight smile tugging at her mouth grew a bit wider. “It’s not flattering to a woman, to say her touch calms a man’s heart and body. Usually she wishes it were the other way around.”
His heart did skip a beat at that. She was a flirt; excellent. He adored flirts. Douglas stroked his thumb over the back of her hand. “It only stilled the terror, my dear. I suspect you could elicit an entirely different sort of tremor.” He lifted her hand and brushed the faintest kiss over her knuckles. “We must be introduced.”
“I fear there’s no one here in this quiet corner who will do it.” Her eyes seemed to grow darker as he drew one finger across her palm.
“Then I will risk being appallingly rude and present myself.” He bowed over her hand, his eyes never leaving her face. “Douglas Bennet, at your service.”
“Yes, I know.”
“You do?” He smiled in delight. “Then we should become acquainted…”
“Mr. Douglas Bennet,” she repeated, her voice changing just enough to freeze him in place. “Son and heir of Sir George Bennet, baronet. A very handsome title, an even handsomer fortune. An unrepentant rake, gambler, brawler, and sometime rogue. Your mother wants you to marry; you couldn’t be less interested. Your taste runs to tavern maids and opera dancers, preferably French. Your sister wed your bosom friend Lord Burke, much to your disgust, although no one quite knows if you pity your sister or your one-time friend more.” She tilted her head and smiled as he stared at her, blank-faced with shock that was rapidly turning to indignation. “What have I forgotten? Oh, yes—you love a good wager. What was the one that sent you over here: a wager to get me into your bed?” She slipped her fingers from his slackened grip. “If it was…you’ve already lost. I hope you didn’t stake a large amount.”
“It was merely for the pleasure of a dance,” he said, hiding his temper behind a flat tone.
She laughed. By God, she had a beautiful laugh, throaty and soft, the sort that made a man want to amuse her so he could hear it again. “I doubt it. But then, you’re also accustomed to losing, aren’t you?” She sank into a graceful curtsey, giving him one last view of her matchless bosom. “Good evening, sir.” She turned and walked away, unhurried, unaffected.
He was still standing there, pulsing with unexpected desire and insulted pride, when Spence slung an arm around his neck. “Rough luck,” he said, his voice brimming with amusement. “She’s a cold one.” He grinned and slapped Douglas’s shoulder. “Five quid, gone in a blink.”
Douglas turned a black look on the man. “You didn’t say when.”
Spence raised his eyebrows, still grinning like a cardsharp. Come to think of it, he usually looked like that, right before he took someone’s money. Douglas had won and lost to Spence with equanimity—for the most part—but tonight he wanted to punch his friend. Spence had deliberately dared him to an impossible task, sending him over to be humiliated and rejected. And now he wanted five pounds. “What do you mean?”
“You didn’t say when.” Douglas bit off each word. “She rejected me tonight, but there’s always tomorrow night, and the next, and the next after that.”
A scowl darkened Spence’s face for a split second before he threw up his hand. “You’re right! I didn’t. Let’s say…within a fortnight. That ought to be enough time to work up some charm and get between the fair widow’s legs.”
“You wagered for a dance, not a tupping.”
“Well.” Spence’s eyes glittered. “I thought I wagered for tonight. Allowances must be made.” When Douglas said nothing, Spence leaned closer. “You’re not afraid, are you? Not going soft in the head like Burke? The woman gutted you and denied you in front of all society, man. Look around.” He swept one arm toward the rest of the room. “Don’t you think half the people here guessed why you sought her out? And now they see her leaving alone, and you looking like she took your ballocks with her.”
Against his will, Douglas’s eyes caught on Madeline Wilde as she made her way toward the doors. Damn, she was beautiful. He had wanted to dance with her, and probably get her into bed as well, even though she was not, as she had so baldly pointed out, his usual type of woman. She was…something more.
As if she could hear his thoughts, she paused at the top of the short flight of stairs leading out of the ballroom. She glanced back over her shoulder, and her eyes met his. For a moment he felt again a bolt of lust—unwanted this time—and her lips curved, as if she knew. She lowered her chin and smiled in a coy, entrancing way, as if they shared secrets—or as if she dared him to uncover hers. With breathtaking nerve, she pursed up her lips as if in a kiss, and touched one finger to them.
He took a harsh breath as she turned and continued on her way, her emerald skirts swaying bewitchingly. “Why her?”
“Why not her?”
Douglas set his jaw. “You had her marked from the moment we stepped into this room. I saw you watching her, Spence. A former lover? Was I supposed to exact some revenge or retribution by asking the lady to dance?”
“The courtesan’s daughter?” The other man’s lip curled. “Hardly a former lover of mine. I have higher standards than that.”
Not really, in Douglas’s opinion. Spence liked married women who couldn’t impose on his freedom, and who often wished to keep their liaisons secret. That was hardly what one could call a refined requirement. Still, Douglas hadn’t known she was a courtesan’s daughter. He made a mental note to find out more about that.
“She appeared respectable enough to me,” he said.
“To you,” repeated Spence with an edge of condescension. “Compared to a tavern wench with rounded heels, she might be. To the rest of us…” He snapped his fingers at a passing footman and took a glass of wine from the man’s tray. “You really ought to improve your taste, Bennet.”
Douglas let that go. He did like tavern wenches. They were friendly and earthy, nothing delicate or prim about them. They were more willing to be adventurous in bed, and they demanded so much less of him—financially and emotionally—than any other woman would.
“But why her?” he asked again, circling back to his main question. “Just for the sport of it? Or did you simply want the pleasure of seeing me turned down flat?”
Spence didn’t reply for a moment. His eyes were sharp and calculating. “How plump are your pockets at the moment?” he finally asked.
“Reasonably,” said Douglas. He’d been gone from town for a month overseeing repairs at one of his father’s estates, to the great benefit of his purse. Still, it was a few weeks to quarter day, when his father paid out his allowance. He could always find a use for more money.
Spence lowered his voice. “I suspect our lovely Mrs. Wilde of being more than she appears. And if I’m right, there’s two thousand quid to be had.”
Douglas’s eyebrows shot up. “What is she, a spy?”
“Of some sort,” muttered Spence. “You aren’t acquainted with a little piece of rubbish called 50 Ways to Sin, are you?”
“No.”
“Get a copy. It’s a pamphlet of a most…intriguing nature.” A cunning smile split his face. “I suspect you’ll enjoy it.”
That smile put him on guard. Douglas might not be the most discerning fellow, but he wasn’t stupid, and he knew Spence too well. “If you insist—not that it answers my question about why you wanted me to charm my way into Mrs. Wilde’s good graces.”
“The authoress is unknown. I daresay even you’ll guess why when you read it. But she’s piqued more than one man’s pride with her scandalous pen, and there’s a bounty out for her name. Mrs. Wilde seems a very likely candidate.” He shrugged. “If you can unmask her, I’ll split the bounty with you.”
Douglas folded his arms and looked at Spence through narrowed eyes. “I should seduce the woman, gain her confidence, presumably enough to be admitted to her boudoir, where I would have to search for some proof that she writes this pamphlet. And for that, you’ll take half the money? Not so, Spence, not so.”
His friend’s hooded eyes flashed. “Very well. Forget I said anything.”
Douglas shrugged. “Hard to do that. Who staked the bounty?”
Spence hesitated.
“If the bloke’s serious about finding the author, he can’t be too secretive about it.”
“Lord Chesterton,” said Spence with obvious reluctance. “He felt she identified him too clearly in one story and he’s livid.”
“Identified? She didn’t use his name?”
Spence looked impatient. “No, she uses obviously false names.”
“Then how did he recognize himself?”
His friend smirked again. “Find a copy and see if you can deduce that yourself.”
Douglas wondered what on earth this story was, that would drive Lord Chesterton to such an action. The man was as correct and polite as anyone could be, distantly connected to the King and as stiff as a piece of kindling. Now he’d placed a public bounty on a woman’s head? What could Mrs. Wilde—if she was in fact the author—have written about him? Two thousand pounds was a small fortune, and certain to attract a fair amount of attention.
Of course, that also made it a much more interesting contest.
“Three to one,” he said after a moment’s thought.
“Eh?”
“Three to one split, if we take the bounty.” He glanced at Spence. “You’re the one, obviously.”
“Two to three,” countered the other man.
“Do it yourself, then.”
Spence muttered a few curses under his breath, but stuck out his hand. “Done.”
Douglas shook on it, already anticipating his next meeting with the wily widow. “Done.”

~ REVIEW ~
5 STARS 

I was looking forward to Douglas' HEA and I'm happy about it but I wish there was more.

I can't believe that in order for Douglas to find his heroine was through a wager. Although I shouldn't be surprised about it.

There first meeting let's just didn't go well. I find it funny to whom Douglas first inquired about 50 Ways to Sin. What I do like about him and I agree is that he honorable at heart and that he still wanted to pursue Madeline with or without the wager.

Spending time with Madeline, Douglas was first kind of confuse of himself because he likes to be with her the more time he spends with her at the same he thinks he is not ready for the next step. Luckily, he changed his mind but that road wasn't that easy because Madeline took the advice of her mother.

Although I am curious as to whom is Madeline's father and if her mother would also have her own HEA.

All I can say is like Douglas more now than ever and that Madeline is perfect for him.

I don't want to spoil anything but all I can is that the author got me there for a second. I kind of laugh with that little twist at the end at the same time it was frustrating. For those who've read this and will read it you will know what I mean.

Author Bio:
Caroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a math degree from Harvard University and wrote computer software before turning to writing fiction. Ten years, twelve books, three Red Sox championships, and one dog later, she has never been happier with her decision. Her books have won the NEC Reader’s Choice Beanpot Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, and RWA’s RITA Award. Since she never won any prizes in math, she takes this as a sign that her decision was also a smart one. Visit her online at www.carolinelinden.com