The True Cowboy of Sunset Ridge by Maisey Yates

Author: Maisey Yates
ISBN: 9781335620965
Publication Date: December 28, 2021
Publisher: HQN Books

Where to Buy:
Barnes & Noble

Contact Maisey:

Author Website:
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Instagram: @MaiseyYates –

About the Author:

Maisey Yates is a New York Times bestselling author of over one hundred romance novels. Whether she’s writing strong, hard working cowboys, dissolute princes or multigenerational family stories, she loves getting lost in fictional worlds. An avid knitter with a dangerous yarn addiction and an aversion to housework, Maisey lives with her husband and three kids in rural Oregon. Check out her website, or find her on Facebook.

About the Book:

When a bull-riding champion is left holding his friend’s baby, could it be time to put down roots in Gold Valley?
Midwife Mallory Chance is ready for a fresh start in Gold Valley. And when she locks eyes with a handsome cowboy across the saloon, it feels like fate. After too many years wasted on her cheating ex, good girl Mallory is read to cut loose and prioritize herself. But when the dust settles on their hot night, it turns out that her mysterious one-night cowboy is none other than her new landlord – and someone she’ll be seeing very regularly around Gold Valley…
Bull rider Colt Daniels has a wild reputation, but after losing his friend on the rodeo circuit, he’s left it all behind. If only he could walk away from his guilt as easily…or the temptation of Mallory! He can’t offer her the future she deserves – what does a cowboy with a heart as damaged as his know about forever? Then his friend’s tiny daughter ends up in Colt’s care, and he’s in over his head. Colt has never wanted to rely on anyone, but he needs Mallory’s help taking care of the baby he’s beginning to love as his own. But is it all still temporary, or is it their chance at a forever family?



It was him. The man. The fantasy man. The one who had haunted her dreams for the past six months.
And he was just like Mallory Chance remembered him.
Tall, broad shoulders, broad chest. Tight black T-shirt and black cowboy hat. His midsection looked hard and solid, and so did his thighs.
He was the sort of man who would have terrified her when she was a teenager. Far too much masculinity to cope with—and why bother?—when there were soft, gentle boy band members to fantasize about from the safe distance of a bedroom wall poster.
The sort of man she’d never had the chance to lust after because she’d made her choices about men at fifteen—again, when she’d been more into boy bands than bad boys and had proclaimed chest hair “gross”—and had therefore been stuck with her teenage sensibilities even as she’d transitioned into adulthood.
He looked like danger. The kind you ran from when you were a girl and wanted to run to when you were a woman.
The hardest-looking man in the room.
The one who would win the bar fight.
The one whose muscles looked like they could carry the weight of the whole world. Or possibly just handily beat up her trifling ex.
But it wasn’t enough that the man had the most incredible body she’d ever seen.
He had dark blond hair, dark stubble covering a square jaw. His mouth was perfectly formed, and while she’d never given much thought to what constituted a perfectly formed mouth, it turned out she knew it when she saw it.
But his eyes…
That night in the Gold Valley Saloon, six months ago, while she’d been seated next to her boyfriend, they’d locked eyes.
And she’d felt it all the way down to her core.
Like a bolt of lightning.
An electric current that had run beneath her skin and down to her bones and had left her feeling changed.
It had been a moment. A brief moment. But she hadn’t been sure how she would breathe through it, let alone carry on like it hadn’t happened.
She’d never experienced anything like it before.
Like she was staring down fate in cowboy boots.
But that had to be ridiculous because she didn’t believe in things like that, and if she did, she’d have to claim Jared as her fate, not some random guy in a bar.
Jared, the man she’d been with since she was fifteen years old.
What was that if not fate?
At least, that was what she told herself. For a long time. Too long.
The word whispered over her skin, the concept like firecrackers going off in her stomach.
It was why she had come here tonight, and she would be lying if she said that wasn’t true.
All the whole way from San Francisco she had played the music as loud as she could, had rolled the windows down and shouted Taylor Swift lyrics into the wind. Because her world had been broken open, and because Jared had hated that music.
And it didn’t matter what he liked or didn’t like.
Not anymore.
So she’d done it, because she could. And she had ignored the ten times her cell phone had rung with his number flashing across the screen.
She wasn’t taking him back. Not this time. Not ever again.
In the past he’d left her, and she was the one who felt lost. And every time, she’d just get used to him being gone, he’d call and she’d pick up. She’d tell him to come home. Because she needed him.
She hadn’t known how not to need him. And she’d done her best to make sure he needed her. Because it was in that space where she felt right. Like she was doing the right thing, and like she mattered.
That sweet spot of contentedness and a little bit of penance.
Not this time. This time she’d done the leaving.
With very little forethought, and nothing more than a couple of haphazard emails, she had decided to uproot her entire life and go to the town of Gold Valley.
Mallory had been enchanted by Gold Valley from the first time she had come to visit her brother, Griffin.
She and her parents had come six months ago, along with Jared. It had been wonderful. And he had been horrible. And all of the doubts that bubbled up on occasion had come roaring to the surface during that week.
He’d been bored at dinner; he’d been completely uninterested in all of the quaint brick buildings in town. He’d overslept and missed family breakfasts.
In general, every single one of his bad qualities, every single thing that Griffin hated about him had been on full display.
Your brother already hates me. I’m not going to perform.
He’d said that while lounging in the passenger seat of her car, his sunglasses on, holding his phone up, paying it more attention than he did her, as usual. In the years since they’d started dating, his blond hair had transitioned from floppy boy band to man bun, which was the only way he’d transitioned from boy to man, really. He was still handsome in that smooth way, slim and… Well she’d always found him… Cute.
But he was much less cute when bored and slumped in her car, texting on a phone she’d paid for while he acted aggrieved by the vacation she’d also paid for.
He’d said that her brother hated him. And it was true. Griffin did hate him. But it was based on things like that, not on nothing.
Griffin had never been shy about his feelings for Jared, and it had always hurt Mallory.
She’d idolized Griffin all her life. Her older brother was her hero and always had been. A shining beacon of everything good and successful. Her parents had always been so proud of him. And so had she.
Eight years older than her, she’d been ten when Griffin had moved out, and it had devastated her. Even though it was the natural order of things. It had changed her world, and she felt unspeakably lonely with him gone.
He’d gone off and gotten his own life. Fallen in love, gotten married.
And then he lost his wife and little girl, and Mallory had lost her beloved sister-in-law and cherished niece.
Even though Griffin had survived, in many ways she’d felt like she’d lost him too.
It was only since he’d met Iris that Mallory felt like she really had them back.
Which, other than the natural pull she felt to the town, had been the reason that she’d come to Gold Valley.
She wanted to be near her brother.
And she needed, desperately, to be very far away from Jared.
Her rental wouldn’t be ready for a couple of days, but she just… She hadn’t been able to stay. Not anymore.
And there were a whole lot of conversations that she was due to have. Mostly because Griffin didn’t even know that she was moving to Gold Valley.
Her parents didn’t even know what she was doing.
Par for the course, isn’t it?
Maybe. But there were just… There were some things she just wanted to keep to herself. So she didn’t have to feel the sting of their disappointment. Her own failures mixed together with disapproval from the two people who mattered so much to her.
She’d always tried to cover for Jared too. Every time he’d left and hurt her, she’d tried to minimize it. Every time he’d spent three weeks or a month apart sleeping at another woman’s house, only to come home, she’d tried to hide that.
And she’d tried to forget it.
Her relationship with Jared was fifteen years long. They’d grown up together. Well, he’d grown up less, she’d grown up more. But they’d shaped their lives around each other and she’d felt like…
Like he was the only person who knew everything about her. Things she’d never shared with her parents, never with her brother… He’d been there for.
And in the darkest time, he had been there. And she’d clung to that through every bump in their road.
But this time, he’d cheated. They hadn’t been separated before he’d found his way into another woman’s bed. She’d thought everything was fine. Great. Better than it had been for a long while, in fact.
And that was what hurt the most.
She gritted her teeth. Feeling angry. And she looked back over at her mystery cowboy.
Yeah, the thing was, he had probably cheated on her before. He had probably been cheating for their entire relationship, and she had just believed him every time he ever said that the only times he’d touched another person had been when they were on a break.
That had hurt. It always had. Because she had never…
He was her one and only.
And of all the silly things that had enraged her, the one that had fueled her down I-5 the whole way here, was… That.
Was the fact that she had seen a man that had made her feel things just with one look that no one, not even Jared, had ever made her feel before.
She’d felt that deep connection back then. Sitting there with a man who was tipsy off his sixth beer, which she’d paid for, while she looked at another man who incited some kind of fire in her stomach—it felt unfair. And in that period of time when she’d been in that house she used to share with Jared in a town that she wanted to leave desperately, she just decided she needed to… Go.
And she could stay in a motel until the rental date.
But she needed to be gone. And she had told herself that it wasn’t the vision of that man’s eyes that had propelled her. She had told herself that it wasn’t why, after she checked into the little Wine Country Motel on the edge of Gold Valley, she’d taken a shower and freshened up, put on some makeup for the first time in three weeks and a light, summer dress.
No, she had told herself that none of those things had anything to do with her mystery man.
And then, when she was bored and hungry and had bypassed any number of actual restaurants on the main street of town, walking to the Gold Valley Saloon, she had decided that there was no way she had any hope of seeing that man. Because what were the chances?
But then, in the back of her mind it was there. How people did like their regular bars. How it was possible.
But so not likely that, six months from the first time she had seen him, he would be there. Just happened to be there.
When she was free and unattached, angry and needing desperately to reclaim something… Or rather, claim it for the first time.
But there he was. There he was. And she was frozen to the spot in that Western bar, her feet grounded to the rustic wood floor. People were talking and laughing and dancing all around her. Country music was playing over the jukebox, and there was tension filling the air. Couples were everywhere. New and old, she imagined. Some who had forever. Some who were looking for a night.
But he was alone. Standing there at the back of the bar with the neon light from a beer sign shining over him like an unholy sign from the heavens. She knew it was him. Because she could never have confused him with anyone else. Sure, there were other handsome men in the room. But none of them made her feel like fire.
None of them made her feel like everything she’d ever known before was a pale, cardboard construct, and he might be the only thing that was real.
The only thing that could make her real.
She swallowed hard, walking over to the bar. The bartender was a handsome man, broad chested with a quick smile, tattoos up his brown forearms, a bright gold wedding band and a twinkle in his eye. “Can I help you?”
“Yeah. I… Whiskey. Please.”
“All right. Any particular kind?”
She didn’t know anything about whiskey. “Do you have a special kind that makes you brave?”
He grinned. “Even cheap stuff will do that. Just comes with a headache.”
“It’s my experience that just about everything in life comes with the headache,” she said, trying to smile. And then she felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Goose bumps broke out over her arms.
And the fire inside her flared.
That happened a split second before she heard a low, husky voice just behind her.
“It’s you, isn’t it?”
She turned, and there he was.

Excerpted from The True Cowboy of Sunset Ridge by Maisey Yates. Copyright © 2021 by Maisey Yates. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Summer in Andalucía by Lucy Coleman

About the Book:

Lainey Summers feels blessed to have her dream job writing for a renowned foodie magazine. And the day she goes to interview chef Rick Oliver at his new restaurant—Aleatory—in London’s popular Piccadilly, is the start of an unexpected journey.
When Rick is offered the opportunity to jet off to a monastery in Andalucía, to film a cookery competition for Spanish TV, Lainey goes too, to cover the story.
Spending a month filming in the stunning Spanish countryside, soaking up the sights, sounds, smells and of course the cuisine, Lainey and Rick start to enjoy each other’s company. But their time together flies by too quickly, and before they know it, Rick and Lainey have to face going their separate ways.
With both their worlds shifting beneath them, the call of Andalucia and the call of happiness grows ever stronger. But with everything at stake, will they be able to take the chance of a happy-ever-after…
Let Lucy Coleman whisk you off on a sun-baked, life-affirming, total escape to beautiful Andalucia.  

Where to Buy:

About the Author:

Lucy Coleman is a #1 bestselling romance writer, whose recent novels include Snowflakes over Holly Cove. She also writes under the name Linn B. Halton. She won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award and lives in the Welsh Valleys. Lucy’s first title with Boldwood was A Springtime to Remember, published in December 2019.

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My Review:

Anyone just needs to mention the word “Spain” to me and I am right there wanting to know what has them so excited. I have been hooked on anything Spanish-related since I spoke my first word of Spanish at school, and was SO wanting Lucy Coleman to write a book set in Spain.

Rick and Lainey were such well fleshed-out characters and I really wanted to be on this journey with them.

Summer in Andalucía is a big warm hug of a book with real characters and realistic settings. Lucy Coleman’s books are my go-to for traveling without leaving home (and they were way before the Pandemic, too).

Thanks to Lucy Coleman, Rachel’s Random Resources and Boldwood Books for my my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

5 stars.

Blog Tour: One Day in Winter by Shari Low

About the Book: 


On a cold December’s morning…

Caro sets off to find the truth: has her relationship with her father been based on a lifetime of lies?
Cammy can’t wait to surprise the woman he loves with a proposal. All he needs is the perfect ring.
Lila can no longer hide her secret. She has to tell her lover’s wife about their affair.
After thirty years, Bernadette knows it’s time. She’s ready to leave her controlling husband… and never look back.
Over the course of twenty-four hours, four lives are about to change forever…


About the Author: 


Shari Low is the No1 best-selling author of over 20 novels, including One Day In Winter, A Life Without You, The Story Of Our Life, With Or Without You, Another Day In Winter and her latest release, This Is Me. 
And because she likes to over-share toe-curling moments and hapless disasters, she is also the shameless mother behind a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. 
Once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, a labradoodle, and two teenagers who think she’s fairly embarrassing except when they need a lift. 

My Review:

One Day in Winter (previously published as One Day in December) is the first novel in Shari Low’s Winter Day series. 
It is set in Glasgow near Christmas. Glasgow is somewhere I have never been on so I liked the descriptions of the city.
 The story follows a series of characters over the course of one day . Caro, Llia Bernadette and cameron all lead very different lives.
 Not to spoil the story as it has a lot of plotlines and is intricately woven but suffice it to say that over the course of this novel we learn about each character’s love loss thoughts fears dreams and see them grow and change to different extents.
 I was drawn in at the beginning by Caro’s quest to find her father and felt that was a good way to start the book with some action.
 I found Lila was too self-absorbed but did like Bernadette.
 The book has funny sad and tragic moments but is also realistic.
 The dialogue kept me interested and the book is fast paced.
 After having reviewed some of Shari Low’s books (With or Without You, Another Day in Winter This is Me and Because Mummy Said So) and having liked them all I was pleased to be able to take part in the blog tour for this book.
 Huge thanks to Shari Low and Aria for my ARC of this book in exchange for an honest and voluntary review .

As well as the eARC, Head of Zeus were kind enough to send me a physical paperback copy of this book which I am very grateful for.

Shari Low – One Day in Winter Q&A with Just Katherine


Who is your favourite character and why?

That’s an easy one. Josie is a seventy-something, fearless, straight talking outrageous character who pops up in almost all of my books. She is based on someone I loved very much, so writing Josie is my way of keeping them around me.  
Who is your least favourite character and why? 

Oooh, in this book it has to be Lila, who is vain, self centred and everything that makes my skin bristle in a human being. That said, the fact that she’s unapologetically appalling makes her great fun to write.
What was the best part of writing One Day in Winter?

The best bit is the same with all my novels – it’s seeing what the characters will do. There are a few new ones in this book, and a few familiar faces from past novels pop up too. I love living in their world and because I don’t plan my storylines before I write them, it’s always a surprise to find out where life takes them. 
What do you like most (and least) about winter? 

Most – Baggy jumpers, boots and Christmas! Strappy summer fashion does me no favours, so every Autumn I can’t wait to break out the chunky knits and cosy footwear. Add family, friends, festivities and a flashing penguin on my roof, and my life’s just about perfect.

Least – I live in Scotland and it’s flipping freezing over the winter months – thermal underwear is often my friend.
What inspired the plot behind One Day in Winter? 

I’m obsessed by the notion of life changing in a heartbeat. Over the course of my life, there have been several times when I’ve woken in the morning to a familiar world, and by night time my whole future has changed – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. That was the starting point for One Day In Winter – four strangers begin the day with absolutely no idea that by nightfall their lives will have intertwined and their destinies will be forever altered.
What do you like most about being an author? Can you tell me more about your journey as an author?

I’ve been doing this for twenty years now (I’m currently writing book number 26) and I love that I still get just as excited, terrified, panicked and thrilled with each new book. You’d really think I’d have the hang of it by now, but each one is genuinely like starting all over again.

I was lucky enough to get a book deal on the first 10 000 words I ever wrote. Over the years since then, there have been brilliant highs, awful lows and around 3234 rejections, but I wouldn’t change a thing. 
Do you have any advice for me in my writing journey? 

I always say the same thing – just write. Don’t get hung up on technicalities, or preparations, or finding the right place and time, because it may not come. Just keep putting the words on the page. It also helps to be madly in love with at least one character in every book – makes getting started every morning so much easier.


Which is your favourite scene in the book? 

I don’t want to give away a spoiler, but there’s a scene near the end at Bernadette’s house, where a lifetime of wrongs get righted. There was a very loud “Yaassssss!” at several points in that chapter.
Did you face difficulties when writing this book and how were they overcome? 

I always face difficulties. My standard writing process is type, type, panic, type, type, panic, type, type, panic. Repeated for approximately 350 pages. But I just keep going, push through it and by some absolute miracle, it all comes good in the end. 
I’ve reviewed many of your titles and like them all. Do you have a personal favourite? 

The Story Of Our Life will always have a special place in my heart as it was inspired by a very personal journey. And in non-fiction, I adore Because Mummy Said So because it’s a collection of columns I wrote over 15 years and pretty much documents my family’s laughter, tears, dramas and way too may disasters (most of which involve cooking or pants).
Which of your books was the most enjoyable and also challenging to write? 

The most enjoyable was actually One Day In Winter. I loved every minute of this one – so much so that I decided to make it a trilogy. Another Day In Winter and The Last Day In Winter are the next two books in the series.

I found The Story Of Our Life the most challenging – I cried so often when I was writing it that I had an open box of tissues at my side at all times.
What do you love to do when you’re not writing? 

I’m ridiculously low maintenance. Happiness to me is hanging out with my husband, drinking tea at the kitchen table with my pals, and being the kind of overbearing, frequently disastrous mother that makes my sons roll their eyes a lot. I’m up for laughter wherever I can find it and I’m lucky to be surrounded by a lot of people who make me smile.

Are you planning another book for the future? 

I’ve just started book 26. Type, type, panic, type, type, panic….
Thanks Shari! 

  The thought was squashed by the sight of the old man struggling to put a leather holdall into the overhead rack. Caro stepped in. ‘Shall I do that for you?’
He gratefully accepted.

One push and it was sorted.

Caro slid into one of the empty seats, put her leather satchel on the one beside her. She’d move it if anyone else needed the place. Couldn’t stand those selfish gits that blocked off a seat with their bag so they didn’t have to share a space with a stranger. Her new acquaintance, still standing in the aisle, removed his hat and scarf and gestured to the two empty seats facing her across a Formica table.

‘Do you mind?’ he asked.

‘Not at all,’ she replied, smiling.

He lowered his aching frame into the seat, placed his possessions – hat, scarf, paper – on the table between them. Normally, Caro would take out her Kindle, lose herself in a book, hope that no one would strike up a conversation, but not today. Today, she’d be grateful for any distraction, especially if it was the company of an elderly gent with a kind face.

‘Going to Glasgow?’ the old man asked, with a Doric lilt in a voice that was stronger than his physical appearance would suggest.

‘Yes. And you?’

‘Getting off at Perth. Going to stay with my daughter and grandchildren for Christmas.’ His pride was evident.

‘That’ll be lovely,’ Caro said, watching as he picked up his newspaper and laid it out in front of him. Going to see his daughter. A few years ago, she’d have automatically pictured her dad, Jack, there, a couple of decades down the line, saying the same thing to a stranger on a train. In fact, maybe even this train. It was the one he’d travelled on every month, for as long as she could remember, when his work took him down to Glasgow. It was all she’d ever been used to. When she was a kid, she always knew when he was about to leave. Her mum, Yvonne, would be just a little quieter, a little sadder, because he was leaving the next day. Off he’d go, all hugs and kisses, and Caro would look forward to him returning because Mum’s face would light up again and she’d be truly happy, singing to the radio in the mornings, brushing her hair and spraying perfume just before he was due to walk in the door.

It was all because Dad had a Very Important Job. A management consultant in the oil business. Caro had never been entirely sure what that meant. She’d asked a few times over the years and he’d given her spiels about development strategies, man-management, personnel restructures, performance optimisation. As far as Caro could grasp, what it all boiled down to was that his company worked with oil corporations to make the divisions within each organisation work as efficiently as possible. If they needed to expand, he helped them structure the new department, hire the best people and implement training programs. If they needed to cut costs, he showed them where. He travelled a lot, sometimes faraway places like China, Abu Dhabi and Oman, but usually just down to the company office in Glasgow. He was a cavalier guy in a cavalier industry.

‘Got to go where the money is,’ he’d tell her, before the door banged behind him. In hindsight, Caro wondered where the money had gone. She and her mother had never seen much of it. There had never been any lavish holidays. No designer clothes. Yvonne didn’t have a fancy car. They’d always lived in the house that her mum had been left by her parents, a perfectly nice semi-detached granite home on a perfectly nice street, that had been worth very little when Gran and Granda had bought it in the fifties, but had a couple more zeros added to the value by the arrival of the oil industry.


Follow Shari:  

Facebook: @ShariLow

Twitter: @sharilow


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Blog Tour: Last of the Summer Moët by Wendy Holden

About the Book: 


Top reporter Laura Lake has struck journalistic gold.


She’s discovered a super-exclusive English village where the rich and famous own weekend retreats. Where film stars, Turner-prize winners and Cabinet ministers park their helicopters outside the gastropub and buy £100 sourdough loaves from the deli.


Outsiders are strictly forbidden. But luckily Laura’s best friend Lulu, a logo-obsessed socialite with a heart as huge as her sunglasses, suddenly fancies a quiet life in the country. The door to this enchanted rural idyll opens for Laura. Revealing a great professional opportunity.


Can Laura write an exposé before the snobbish villagers suss her true identity? And before the world’s poshest pub quiz triggers a political scandal not seen since Profumo?

About the Author:

Number-one bestselling author Wendy Holden was a journalist on Tatler, The Sunday Times, and the Mail on Sunday before becoming an author. She has since written ten consecutive Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers. She lives in Derbyshire.         

 Follow Wendy:



Facebook: @wendyholdenauthor

Twitter: @Wendy_Holden


My Review:

I had never read anything by Wendy Holden before, and so when I was sent an email about this book by publisher Aria, I KNEW I had to have a listen on my Kindle app. Of course, I had heard of Wendy Holden, and had heard she wrote fun books. This book is right up my street- glamour, fun and “summer” in the title! A perfect read/ listen for a cold January day or night. 
I was even happier when I saw it was part of a series. I still have to find (and listen to) a copy of book #1 somehow as whenever I listen to a series of books, I like to try and listen to every book. 
Laura Lake is the deputy editor of Society, a high-end glossy fashion magazine. She is in charge after her boss is off work with stress and exhaustion. The book oozes with glamour. Laura finds herself in Great Hording, a village for the most elite people in society when she has to help her BFF Lulu. I really liked Laura right through the book and the way she handled everything that happened to her. 
Her boss (Corinthia) reminded me of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. In fact, the scenes at Society HQ at the beginning of the book really captured the atmosphere in the offices of a high end magazine. I liked this touch. 

 I was really looking forward to seeing what Great Hording would be like. The descriptions in this book are good, and Laura’s character is well fleshed out, but we don’t get to know too much about Lulu. What  does come across is how wealthy she is due to being a billionaire. I was a bit wary of  Kiki Cavendish at times. I liked Caspar and was hopeful for love between him and Laura. 
All in all, there’s certainly an ecclectic mix of characters in Great  Hording. 
The real downside of this book was that I felt there were too many characters who were not developed enough. I did debate as to whether that many characters were even needed in fact. 

Finishing on a positive note, Great Hording and the surrounding area and atmosphere were well-represented. As expected of a wealthy village. there are high-powered people: judges and a MI6 member to name a few, amongst  others. 
Last of the Summer Moët had me laughing out loud and I finished the book in a day. This is a quick read/ listen, and the pace really keeps the book interesting. 
Huge thanks to Wendy Holden and Head of Zeus  for my ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. As well as a review, I was pleased to take part in the blog tour for the title.

My Q& A with Wendy Holden:

​1.​How did you come up with the title?


Credit where it’s due, it was my editor who came up with Last of the Summer Moet! It’s brilliant though, I love it. It’s launched a whole series of adapted film/TV titles; in the next comedy Laura goes to Scotland and it’s called A View To A Kilt.


​2.​ Where did the idea for the plot come from?


Last of the Summer Moet has Laura, a glossy magazine editor, researching an article on Britain’s Poshest Village. I’d noticed that there are villages where vast numbers of celebrities live, and it’s about one of those. I’ve called it Great Hording and it has a gastropub complete with helipad and a deli where sourdough costs £100 a loaf. Locals include a Hollywood director, a Cabinet minister, a Russian oligarch, a Turner prizewinning artist and so on. I have them

taking part in the ultimate posh pub quiz (it’s a scandal when somebody cheats!)s and acting in Britain’s ultimate power pantomime.


​3.​ Who is your favourite character? Why?


I absolutely love Caspar, who’s an incredibly vain actor. His brain is the size of a pea but he’s very well-endowed in other departments. He’s Laura’s on-off lover, and he’s really funny. We meet him in the first novel of the series, Three Weddings And A Scandal. He’s down on his luck, and making his living as a Prince Harry impersonator. But by an incredible twist of fate he becomes the new James Bond.


​4.​Who is your least favourite character? Why?


I don’t have a least favourite, I love them all. Some of them are baddies, such as Clemency Makepeace, who’s Laura’s nemesis. She was the school bully when Laura was little, and she’s turned up again in her professional life as the most ruthless, backstabbing journalist imaginable. Laura’s always having to fight Clemency off, but she always comes back and makes yet more trouble for her. I love a good villain, and you need them in a comedy.


​5.​Which is your favourite scene in the book? Why?


There’s a great scene at the beginning when Laura has to interview a very famous film star. To make it more interesting, the star wants the interview to take place while she’s doing something else. So Laura ends up trying to talk to her as she tours Buckingham Palace. It ends with the appearance of an even greater female celebrity, bet you can’t guess who?! It’s an incredibly silly scene, but like all my craziest scenarios, it’s just about possible.


​6. What do you most like to do when you are not writing?


Travel. Writing is so stationary, you basically just sit on your bum. So movement of any sort is a treat. My favourite holiday destinations are Venice and the South of France, but I’m happy just going down to M&S.


​7.​What’s the story behind why and how you became an author?


I worked as a journalist for many years and wanted to write a novel, but I didn’t have a subject. One job was as deputy editor of the Sunday Times Style section, where my responsibilities included ghost-writing a column for the late socialite Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. I ended up inventing most of it which was wonderful training. The column appeared every week, so I was in effect writing a serial novel. Tara became very famous on the back of it, which was slightly exasperating as no-one realised it was me who was writing it. But then I realised that here, staring me in the face, was my plot. The novel was Simply Divine, a comedy about a downtrodden hack ghostwriting a celebrity socialite’s newspaper column. It was a kind of newspaper Cinderella story. It became an instant bestseller and was even optioned by Hollywood. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson launched my writing career, in other words, and I never looked back.



8. What is your favourite movie? Why?


I’ve got so many favourites and it changes all the time. Lawrence of Arabia is an old favourite because of the wonderful music and because Peter O’Toole is so dishy. But recently my kids introduced me to Hot Fuzz which has to be one of the funniest films I have ever seen.




Laura Lake, heroine of Three Weddings And A Scandal and Last of the Summer Moet, works on a magazine called Society. It’s an upmarket glossy, a bit like Tatler, and I have to admit that there might be a tiny weeny connection.


I was deputy editor at Tatler some years ago, under an editor who had a fearsome reputation. To be her number two was a bit like being one of the six wives of Henry VIII. You knew your number would be up sooner or later. But hopefully the fun and glamour would make it all worthwhile.


I joined the magazine from The Sunday Times, which had a few fearsome characters of its own. And so I was fairly relaxed about what might await me. All the same, the Tatler office did not disappoint. It made Absolutely Fabulous look positively pedestrian.


Take the travel editor. She would sit at her computer saying things like ‘Darlings! Only three more weeks until fun fur!” (this would be in mid-autumn). She was passionately fond of her dogs (pugs, as I recall) and when one of them fell ill, the entire office had to write it a get-well card as it reclined in its private clinic on its own water bed under the care of its personal nurse.


The editor tended to hire people according to the strength of their address books and so there were various minor aristocrats about the place. My assistant’s family home was a famous stately pile complete with butler and ancestral carriage with nodding plumes. She wasn’t the sort of person you felt you could send out for coffee.


No-one was really. Another person on my desk once rang in to say she’d be late because she’d missed the train. At least that was what I thought she’d said. In fact she’d missed the plane – from Nice. Yet another couldn’t come in because she was trying out lots of different shades of white paint on the wall of her flat. Like a less racy version of E L James, I suppose.


Despite being not the least bit posh myself, I got on well with the editor. She was very good at what she did and if she occasionally treated her staff rather brusquely, that was all part of the fun. She always had an interesting take on things. As I joined the magazine Princess Diana had just died and the editor’s idea of a tribute was to put together a piece on Di’s famous sense of humour (as I remember, it involved ringing up lots of gym instructors).


The Tatler I worked on also relaunched the It Girl phenomenon and made Tara Palmer-Tomkinson famous. Yes, I know. But we were never in Large Hadron Collider territory at Tatler. I remember rather desperately trying to persuade a bunch of peers to take part in an ‘Earls In Pearls’ feature. They didn’t buy it, unfortunately.  


One day the editor called me into her office and asked me if I knew the difference between upper and lower class legs. Confessing my ignorance, I was instructed that upper class legs are thin and have a kneebone equidistant between the hipbone and anklebone. Lower class legs, by contrast, were thick with a long thigh and short calf. It’s a Tatler lesson that has stayed with me ever since, along with the folly of wearing flowing silk outfits at parties on Cap Ferrat in summer (much too hot).


The editor could be generous, too, once passing on to me a vast floral arrangement someone had sent her. A good six feet tall, it was made up of thick-stemmed exotic blooms lashed around with thick, kerosene-scented rope. Going back home with it on the 73 bus was quite the challenge.


Tatler was a positive cornucopia of freebies. If the loos themselves were often occupied by weeping staffers that the editor had offended, the basins in those loos were permanently crammed with bouquets sent to the fashion girls. And all manner of the usual glossy-mag largesse rained down on the other departments, plus a barbecued turkey that one restaurant sent every Christmas. I may have had a bit of that, but everything else passed me by. Despite being deputy ed, the only freebie I ever actually got sent myself was a small black-handled knife which was part of a Eat British Apples promotion. I treasure it all the same, and try to eat British apples whenever possible.


Tatler was a brilliant place to work if you had a sense of the absurd, possibly because none of the other staff members had. The annual Black Book List, in various young privileged types about town are lauded for talents like eating Fruit And Nut bars with a knife and fork or singing Happy Birthday in Chinese, was particularly hard to put together without laughing. Most of these incidents have made their way into Laura’s world. She too works for a dragon of an editor – Carinthia Gold, who suffers from a rare affliction known as ‘editor’s spine’ thanks to the weight of the designer tote bags she receives as freebies. Actually, I made that up. But in Glossy Magazine World it could easily be true!


Last of the Summer Moet by Wendy Holden is published by Head of Zeus is out now.

Read an extract from the book! 

Umbra, the fashionable new restaurant where Lulu had chosen to meet, seemed to have had a power cut. Or so Laura assumed, entering from the brightly sunlit street outside into an interior of intense black. As the door behind her clicked shut, the last slice of daylight disappeared. Darkness pressed in all around. It was like being in the deepest of caves; nothing at all was visible. There were sounds, however; the murmur of conversation, the clink of cutlery on china, even the occasional tinkle of laughter.

‘Hello?’ Laura called, disconcerted.

A small point of light now came towards her, like a torch beam. It was a torch beam, and above it was a face. The face was young, male and smiling as if the situation could not have been more natural. ‘Madam has booked?’

‘My friend has,’ Laura told him. ‘But she won’t be here yet.’ Lulu was always half an hour late for everything. ‘And actually, I think I’ll wait outside for her. Hopefully when she gets here the lights will be back on.’

‘Lights?’ The smiling face above the torch beams looked puzzled. ‘But, madam, Umbra does not have lights. That is the point. It is dark on purpose.’

Laura laughed. There was surprise in her laughter; London waiters, in her experience, were not great exponents of irony. But as the torchlit face changed from puzzled to irritated, she realised the assertion was serious. Her own amusement gave way to astonishment. ‘Dark? But why?’

‘To heighten our clients’ sense of taste, madam. To give them the ultimate flavour experience.’

‘You serve people in the pitch blackness and that makes the food taste better?’

‘And the wine, madam.’

‘I suppose,’ Laura allowed, ‘it brings a whole new meaning to “blind tastings”.’

The waiter did not bat an eyelid. Not so far as Laura could see, anyway. ‘Absolutely, madam. Shall I show you to your table?’

Laura followed the torch beam as it shone along a length of hideous swirled carpet. But of course there was no need to fit out a blacked-out restaurant in the latest expensive designer style. The proprietors of Umbra could well be on to something. She felt her way to her seat. The invisible chair and table felt light and plastic, like very cheap garden furniture.

She sat there for what seemed like a very long time. Behind her and around her, the conversation flowed as it might in any high-end Mayfair eaterie at lunchtime.

‘Everyone who’s anyone lives there,’ a woman behind her was saying. ‘But no one’s ever heard of it.’

Laura was instantly on the alert. She was desperate to find a new lead for Selina the travel editor, who, encouraged by the new crazed Carinthia, was currently putting together a piece about trekking in the Arctic whilst living on reindeer blubber and lining your clothes with tinfoil. This luxury enclave being discussed was far more the thing. Where was it? Connecticut? Puglia?

The woman’s companion was speaking. ‘They say Great Hording’s the most expensive village in the UK.’

Village? The UK? Laura was so surprised she wobbled the table and a number of unseen things fell to the floor where, fortunately, the briefly glimpsed hideous carpet cushioned the impact. She was memorising the name of this fortunate place – Great Hording, Great Hording – as a small point of light flashed on her accompanied by an excitable voice with a strong foreign accent.

Buy Last of the Summer Moët here! 




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Blog Tour: Scandal by Sasha Morgan

About  the Book:


For all fans of Jilly Cooper and Tilly Bagshawe. Sex, scandal, horses and aristocrats, the perfect recipe for the perfect escapist read…


As the new custodian of the ancestral home, Treweham Hall, Tobias Cavendish-Blake soon discovers exactly what he’s inherited. Instant financial action is needed if the Hall is to survive the mounting debts it’s racking up. Adding insult to injury the family is forced to sell the Gate House on the estate to lottery winners Gary and Tracy Belcher – not the kind of neighbours Tobias was hoping for.


Megan Taylor inherits her grandmother’s country cottage in the village of Treweham and decides to make a fresh start there, taking a job at the local country pub.


When Megan meets Tobias, the attraction is clear, but she is determined to resist his charms, put off by his reputation and that of his best friends – the rakish Seamus Fox, son of a millionaire racehorse trainer and dastardly jockey Dylan Delany. But Tobias is a hard man to resist…


Scandal is the perfect rip-roaring, bonk-busting horsey escapist read for fans of Jilly Cooper and Tilly Bagshawe.

 About the Author:

Sasha lives in a rural, coastal village in Lancashire with her husband and Labrador dog. She has always written stories from a very young age and finds her fictional world so much more exciting than the real one.

My Review: 

I was blown away by this book and so it HAD to be one of my 5 star books. When I first saw the title, I thought it would be all about hot and steamy sex, or a story about falling in and out of love. Believe me, there IS some of that, but there is a lot, lot more to this book! 
Tobias Cavendish- Blake is wealthy and lives in Treweham Hall in the picturesque Cotswolds, but economic problems mean he has to find a solution to be able to save the family’s finances and preserve the historic home. His father spent a lot of money on maintaining the building and his mother is disinterested about solving the Hall’s economic situation, so the task is left to Tobias. 
The grandeur of the Hall is well portrayed and it is very realistically described. I have visited many a stately home with my family and have also watched a lot of period dramas and films set in them. For people who are not from England as I am, the book will give a glimpse into English country houses and the Cotswold area. Having been bought up near Oxford, I visited the Cotswolds a few times and the picture postcard village feel is very accurate and strong in this book. 
Megan arrives after her Gran’s death She spent many a happy time at her Gran’s during her kchildhood, and is amazed to find she was left the cottage.

 In an effort to settle into the area, she takes a job at the local pub. 
Ted is an elderly man and her next door neighbour, but hides secrets. When Megan finds some letters between her Gran and a mysterious man written during the War when her Gran was a land girl. she finds she wants to know more…..What happened to bring them together? 
Dylan is a succesful jockey and a bit of a ladies’ man. I found him the least likeable character of all those in the book, but this mix of characters really helped to display the demographic in this small village. 
In Lancashire, a couple who live in a small terraced house, are unaware what life has in store for them, and live life as best they can by working in a supermarket and care home. Is a new start on the cards for them, too? 
Scandal is a very fun read with highly detailed descriptions, and a pace which is very quick but punctuated by short chapters. Despite this, the attention to detail and plot is of a very high standard throughout the book, and the pace never lagged or meant the story lacked interest for me.
 It is also a story about how circumstance throws strangers from all walks of life together, and about how change can happen when, and how, you least expect it. It’s a story of hope, friendship love embracing life and being brave enough to take a chance and of being happy with what you have. 
It could also be a good read for Downton Abbey fans or equally for those who love the close-knit feel of village life. It’s definitely for anyone who loves a good dramatic story with people making life-changing decisions. Finally, of course, it is one for all the romantics out there! 
Thanks to Sasha Morgan and Aria, an imprint of Head of Zeus, for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review

Want more? Read an extract from the book! 

It was day break. A rosy, warm sunrise glowed over the valley. Galloping through the early morning mist, Tobias Cavendish-Blake finally slowed his horse to survey the sight before him. Treweham Hall stood proud and majestic against the smooth, rolling hills. The imposing building was made of sandstone with four corner turrets and sturdy buttresses that gave it a castle-like appearance. Gothic windows with stained glass twinkled in the sunlight. He sighed heavily: would it always remain so resilient, the fortress of his family?

That seemed dubious, going through the estate accounts. His father, the late Lord Richard Cavendish-Blake, had looked after the place well – too well. All the contingency funds had haemorrhaged, bled completely dry relentlessly maintaining the upkeep of the Hall. The outgoings far outweighed the incomings. The payroll of the staff alone made Tobias’ eyes water, not to mention the colossal energy bills. Tobias had suggested shutting down the many vast unused rooms, but his mother wouldn’t hear of it. Lady Cavendish-Blake had been sheltered by her late husband, leaving her totally oblivious to the fact that her home was a money pit and the current state of affairs could only be described as dire. As the new custodian, it was down to Tobias to keep the place running. He was responsible not only for the staff, but the village tenants too. Feeling the burden weighing down on his broad shoulders, he realised it was time to grow up. Time to settle down. The future meant kissing goodbye to the wild parties for which he was notorious.

His thoughts turned back to his thirtieth birthday bash, making him wince. It hadn’t been so much a party, more a two-week brawl around Europe with a few friends, including his oldest childhood chum, Seamus Fox, son of a millionaire racehorse trainer. The two of them together had been a lethal combination, each egging the other on, the more daring and outrageous the exploits the better, resulting in the occasional brush with the tabloids. The picture of him and Seamus plastered over the front page of a newspaper showing them tumbling out of a St Tropez nightclub, legless (and trouserless) with a beauty on each arm, was one he couldn’t forget. His father wouldn’t let him. They’d been dubbed ‘the Heir and the Fox’. Ironically, Tobias wasn’t a natural wild child, the opposite in fact.

His one true love, Carrie, had been a local girl from the village. They’d always been close. Even when he had been sent to Eton they’d written, phoned and constantly made arrangements to meet. When Tobias had turned twenty-one he had proposed, claiming she was the only thing he wanted. Both families had been happy with the arrangement. Carrie’s parents were glad that being married to Tobias meant she would stay in the village close to them and obviously be well looked after. Tobias’ parents were just plain relieved he wanted to settle down with a sensible, local girl, instead of turning to drink and drugs like so many of his peers. Then one year after their spectacular engagement celebration, Carrie had been hit by a drunken driver and killed instantly. Tobias had been inconsolable; not even the Fox could calm him. He turned his back on society and locked himself away, refusing to talk or open up to anyone. His mother had been sick with worry, every attempt to reach him futile. Then, as if overnight, he completely changed. After twelve months of grieving, Tobias stopped being angry with the world and everyone in it and decided to rip the hell out of it instead. He forced himself to live life to the max, which meant spending his considerable allowance on any substance necessary to get the highs he craved, not to mention a string of stunning girlfriends who were more than happy to be showcased on the arm of a lord.

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The French Adventure by Lucy Coleman

About the Book: 

Suddenly unemployed and single, Anna escapes to her parents’ beautiful house in France for a much needed recharge – and to work out what she wants to do next with her life now her carefully mapped out plan has gone out the window.
Anna gives herself 6 months to recuperate, all the while helping renovate her parents’ adjoining Gites into picturesque b&b’s. But working alongside the ruggedly handsome Sam on the renovation project, she didn’t expect for life to take an unexpected, if not unwelcome, twist…
Perfect for all fans of Milly Johnson, Lucy Diamond and Debbie Johnson.

 About the Author:

Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean in the UK with her lovely husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Lucy won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award.

My Review:

Sometimes, life doesn’t work out as planned. Anna realises this when suddenly she finds herself single and unemployed. She’s not one to feel bad and sorry for herself for long and soon devises a way to move on in her life. Her parents moved out to France sometime before her problems start, and she decides to join them. She promised herself it’ll only be for 6 months and that by the end of that time, she’ll be able to return to the UK and pick up where she left off in life. 
I loved Anna’s character, and her parents seemed caring, welcoming and hospitable as well as understanding and sensitive to her situation. She automatically struck me as brave and adventurous to make the decision to go to France, and I was happy for her that she had the support of family there. Her parents are in France because they are living the dream of many Brits and run a B& B in a small rural village. They are renovating the adjoining gites into B& Bs too, so there’s plenty of work to be done. 
From the moment Anna got into her car and started her drive to France, I was rooting for her. Her journey sparked powerful memories in me of my own holidays in France and visits to the home of a family member who had the same enthusiasm to live the French dream as Anna’s parents. Reading this was an emotional journey for me. The French landscape, as well as the descriptions of the buildings and food are perfect and very atmospheric. 
When she met Sam. I was happy for her and I was really curious to see how the relationship developed between them. He is very hard working and I thought there were times when they had good rapport. 
The pace of this book is spot on. I have never read anything by Lucy Coleman, but I adored this book. It’s a wonderful escapist read about learning to move on in life no matter how hard it is, appreciating the small things in life and finding new passions. For me, it’s a 5 star read! 
Thanks to Lucy Coleman and Aria, an imprint of Head of Zeus,  for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.


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Review Tour: When The Stars Come Out (Cottonbloom #5) by Laura Trentham 

 About the Book: 

Cottonbloom. A beautiful, faraway place where a woman can escape her past—and find reason to stay forever. . .
Willa Brown never planned to stay in Cottonbloom. She was on the way to somewhere else when she landed there and found work at the Abbot brothers’ garage. . .and a sense of comfort and safety that she had never known. The same holds true for Jackson Abbott himself. With one glance in her direction, he can make Willa’s heart melt. But what begins as an unrequited crush turns into something far more powerful than Willa could have ever imagined. . .
Jackson’s most meaningful relationship has always been with his car—and he’s not afraid to admit it. Still, he can’t help but become emotionally entangled with his new star mechanic Willa, who is definitely hiding some dark secrets of her own beneath the hood. Jackson desperately wants Willa to trust him, and to seek protection in his arms. But even as the two slowly surrender to their shared attraction, the danger lurking in Willa’s past remains a stubborn obstacle. Can she open up enough to give them both a chance at having real and lasting love? 

My Review: 

After having read and reviewed Leave the Night On (Cottonbloom #4 ) awhile ago which was my first ever Laura Trentham book, I was very happy to get to read and review book 5 in the series. 
In When the Stars Come Out (Cottonbloom #5) we learn more about Willa and Jackson. Willa is the only female mechanic at the Abbot Brothers’ Garage in Cottonbloom. 
I’ve liked Jackson since book #4 which is so far the only other Laura Trentham ARC I have read and reviewed, His twin Wyatt features a little here, as does Sutton Mize, who were main characters in book #4.
As always with Laura Trentham’s books, there are secrets and truths. There’s also and lots and lots of romance.
These things make a great book for me: well-fleshed out characters, realistic storylines and emotionally charged plots. I just love Cottonbloom and am really taken with Laura Trentham’s writing which has a wonderful pace as well as all the above. 
I can’t wait for the next book! 

I was delighted to participate in the blog tour for the fifth book in the series, When the Stars Come Out. Thanks to Laura Trentham and St Martin’s Press for my ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Here are my questions for Laura:


1) Great cover and title! What were the inspiration for these?

I take no credit for the covers; St. Martin’s Press has an amazing art department! And, usually, I can take no credit for the titles, but I did come up with When the Stars Come Out and Set the Night on Fire. The first book in this trilogy, Leave the Night On, is the title of a Sam Hunt song. Once we chose it, we took off with the “night” theme. By the way, if you are traditionally published, then the publishing house has final say over your covers and titles, but my editor is great about asking me to brainstorm titles with her. I’ve been very lucky!

2) What was your inspiration for the plot of this book? Having read and reviewed book #4 on a blog tour also, this would be great to know. I love Cottonbloom already and am hooked on the place and characters you create!

This Cottonbloom trilogy (books 4-6) follow three brothers who own a car repair and restoration garage. My husband is a gear-head, and I’ve watched many hours of car shows on TV. Fast and Loud is a reality show following a garage that was a loose inspiration for this trilogy. I get ideas from the news, music, and even commercials. My current project was inspired by a car commercial and wondering what happened after they drove away.

3) I myself am attempting to write novels and my dream is becoming published some day. What advice would you give me to aid me in my writing journey?

First of all, yay on following your dream of writing!! Joining Romance Writers of America (RWA) was a turning point for me. The path I took was to enter writing contests for unpublished writers. I targeted contests that gave unbiased (anonymous) feedback. It was sometimes harsh, but that feedback let me know what I needed to work on. I read craft books and practiced. A lot! I re-wrote my first manuscript four or five times. But, it eventually got me an agent and was the first book I sold to a publisher! I still read and practice, by the way. I read a craft book on plotting over Christmas break. Also, keep in mind, there are as many paths to publication as there are writers. Good luck!

Thanks so much, Laura! 

Praise for When the Stars Come Out:


“The fifth installment in the Cottonbloom series, following Leave the Light On (2017) is hot and sweet, and readers will cheer for Willa and Jackson. Fans of Kristan Higgins and Susan Mallery will love the immersive world that Trentham has created in Cottonbloom, a small southern town divided by the Mississippi River.” Booklist


“When the Stars Come Out is a tender and sexy small-town tale of blossoming love.” BookPage


Returning to Cottonbloom has never been sweeter, When The Stars Come Out is pure literary magic, it’s sure to have readers mesmerized from start to finish!! Red’s Romance Reviews, 5 stars



About the Author:

An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although, she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.

She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. KISS ME THAT WAY, Cottonbloom Book 1, won the Stiletto Contest for Best Long Contemporary and finaled in the National Readers Choice Award. THEN HE KISSED ME, Cottonbloom Book 2, was named an Amazon Best Romance of 2016 and was a finalist for the National Excellence for Romance Fiction. TILL I KISSED YOU, Cottonbloom Book 3, is a finalist in the Maggie contest. LEAVE THE NIGHT ON, the latest Cottonbloom book, was named an iBooks Best Book of the Month and a Recommended Read from NPR.

When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.


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Like the sound of the book? Read on for an extract! 
Willa glanced down and back up at Jackson through her lashes. The gentle, flirtatious look hit him like a punch. This time his heart kicked like he might require someone to call 911. “Do I clean up good?”He knew what she wanted to hear and later, in the dark solitude of his bed, he’d tell her and, even better, show her. But, for now, he tempered his response, hoping to get a rise out of her. “Not bad.”

She stepped forward and punched his arm. It might have stung if she hadn’t tipped to the side as her fist made contact. Her eyes popped wide and a little huff escaped. With reaction times honed on the racetrack, he wrapped his arm around her waist, bringing her flush with his body.

“You sure you know how to operate those shoes?” This time he couldn’t keep the smile off his face.

“They don’t require a license. And I was doing fine until you showed up.”

Her admission made him feel slightly better. He wasn’t the only one who was off balance. Her body notched into his perfectly with the added inches the heels lent her. His focus dropped from her sparking eyes to her mouth. Maybe he’d kiss the gloss off them right now. His lips hovered an inch from hers. So close he could feel the ramp-up of her breathing. Or was that his breathing spinning out of control?

As this is such a great book, I have  FOUR (yes, FOUR) of the books in the Cottonbloom series to give away. They are the books which come before When The Stars Come Out, and if you win, you will be able to read all of them and see how Laura Trentham began the excellent Cottonbloom series! 


Enter to win the first four (4) books in the Cottonbloom series!

Kiss Me That Way, Book 1

Then He Kissed Me, Book 2

Till I Kissed You, Book 3

Leave the Night On, Book 4 (SEE MY REVIEW HERE)

Interested? ENTER HERE!
Too late for the giveaway? When The Stars Come Out will always be available here at these links: 

Release Blitz: When The Stars Come Out (Cottonbloom #5) by Laura Trentham

After having previously been contacted by St Martin’s Press to review Laura Trentham’s novel,  Cottonbloom #4 (Leave The Night On) last year, I was thrilled to be invited by them  again. NOTE: TO SEE MY REVIEW OF LEAVE THE NIGHT ON (Cottonbloom #4) GO TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST.

 This time, the invitation  was to take part    in the Release Blitz for Laura Trentham’s new novel When The Stars Come Out, which is number 5 in the Cottonbloom series. You’ll be able to see and read a full review of the book in my  Review post for the book, which will be published here on this blog on February 4th .

 I’m so excited that When The Stars Come Out has finally been released! 

Click on the banner at the top of this post to find the blog tour schedule! 

About the Book: 

When the Stars Come Out

A Cottonbloom Novel

By Laura Trentham


Cottonbloom. A beautiful, faraway place where a woman can escape her past—and find reason to stay forever in Laura Trentham’s When the Stars Come Out. . .


Willa Brown never planned to stay in Cottonbloom. She was on the way to somewhere else when she landed there and found work at the Abbot brothers’ garage. . .and a sense of comfort and safety that she had never known. The same holds true for Jackson Abbott himself. With one glance in her direction, he can make Willa’s heart melt. But what begins as an unrequited crush turns into something far more powerful than Willa could have ever imagined. . .


Jackson’s most meaningful relationship has always been with his car—and he’s not afraid to admit it. Still, he can’t help but become emotionally entangled with his new star mechanic Willa, who is definitely hiding some dark secrets of her own beneath the hood. Jackson desperately wants Willa to trust him, and to seek protection in his arms. But even as the two slowly surrender to their shared attraction, the danger lurking in Willa’s past remains a stubborn obstacle. Can she open up enough to give them both a chance at having real and lasting love?


Praise for When The Stars Come Out: 


“The fifth installment in the Cottonbloom series, following Leave the Light On (2017) is hot and sweet, and readers will cheer for Willa and Jackson. Fans of Kristan Higgins and Susan Mallery will love the immersive world that Trentham has created in Cottonbloom, a small southern town divided by the Mississippi River.” Booklist


“When the Stars Come Out is a tender and sexy small-town tale of blossoming love.” BookPage


Returning to Cottonbloom has never been sweeter, When The Stars Come Out is pure literary magic, it’s sure to have readers mesmerized from start to finish!! Red’s Romance Reviews, 5 stars



About the Author:

An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although, she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.

She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. KISS ME THAT WAY, Cottonbloom Book 1, won the Stiletto Contest for Best Long Contemporary and finaled in the National Readers Choice Award. THEN HE KISSED ME, Cottonbloom Book 2, was named an Amazon Best Romance of 2016 and was a finalist for the National Excellence for Romance Fiction. TILL I KISSED YOU, Cottonbloom Book 3, is a finalist in the Maggie contest. LEAVE THE NIGHT ON, the latest Cottonbloom book, was named an iBooks Best Book of the Month and a Recommended Read from NPR.

When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.

  I have a special giveaway for the FIRST 4 BOOKS in the Cottonbloom series.

Giveaway Details:

to win the first four (4) books in the Cottonbloom series!

Kiss Me That Way, Book 1

Then He Kissed Me, Book 2

Till I Kissed You, Book 3

Leave the Night On, Book 4

Good luck! 

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Other Books By Laura Trentham I Have Reviewed On My Blog: 

Laura Trentham has become one of my favourite small town romance authors ever  since I read and reviewed Leave The Night On. I’m hoping I’ll get to review more of her work here soon. 

The Little French Bistro by Nina George 

About the Book: 

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Little Paris Bookshop, an extraordinary novel about self-discovery and new beginnings.
Marianne is stuck in a loveless, unhappy marriage. After forty-one years, she has reached her limit, and one evening in Paris she decides to take action. Following a dramatic moment on the banks of the Seine, Marianne leaves her life behind and sets out for the coast of Brittany, also known as the end of the world.
Here she meets a cast of colorful and unforgettable locals who surprise her with their warm welcome, and the natural ease they all seem to have, taking pleasure in life s small moments. And, as the parts of herself she had long forgotten return to her in this new world, Marianne learns it s never too late to begin the search for what life should have been all along. 
With all the buoyant charm that made The Little Paris Bookshop a beloved bestseller, The Little French Bistro is a tale of second chances and a delightful embrace of the joys of life in France.

About the Author: 

Born 1973 in Bielefeld, Germany, Nina George is a prize-winning and bestselling author (“Das Lavendelzimmer” – “The Little Paris Bookshop”) and freelance journalist since 1992, who has published 26 books (novels, mysteries and non-fiction) as well as over hundred short stories and more than 600 columns. George has worked as a cop reporter, columnist and managing editor for a wide range of publications, including Hamburger Abendblatt, Die Welt, Der Hamburger, “politik und kultur” as well as TV Movie and Federwelt. Georges writes also under three pen-names, for ex “Jean Bagnol”, a double-andronym for provence-based mystery novels. 
In 2012 and 2013 she won the DeLiA and the Glauser-Prize. In 2013 she had her first bestselling book “Das Lavendelzimmer”, translated in 27 langues and sold more than 500.000 copies. 
In November 2011, Nina George established the “JA zum Urheberrecht” (YES on Author’s Rights) initiative, which supports the rights of authors, artists and entertainers and is dedicated to resolving issues within the literary community as well as establishing fair and practical rights-license models for the web-distribution. 14 writers’ associations and 27 publishing partners have since joined the JA…-Initiative. George supports the “Initiative Urheberrecht” (Author’s Rights Initiative— as well as the “gib 8 aufs Wort”-campaign of the VG Wort. 
In August 2014 George initiated the Amazon-protest in Germany, where overs 2000 germanspeaking authors – Nobelprizewinnig Elfriede Jelinek or Bestsellingauthor Nele Neuhaus – sign an open letter to Jeff Bezos and Amazon, protesting against the banned-book-methods of the giant retailer in the Hachette/Bonnier-dispute. 
In 2015 George is the founder of the Initiative Fairer Buchmarkt e.V., which supports questions of law in daily business of authors – for ex in contracts, fees or author’s rights and e-Business. 
George is Member to PEN, Das Syndikat (association of German-language crime writers), the Association of German Authors (VS), the Hamburg Authors’ Association (HAV), BücherFrauen (Women in Publishing), the IACW/AIEP (International Association of Crime Writers), the GEDOK (Association of female artists in Germany), PRO QUOTE and Lean In. Nina George sits on the board of the Three Seas Writers’ and Translaters’ Council (TSWTC), whose members come from 16 different countries. 
Nina George teaches writing at Literaturbüro Unna, Alsterdamm Kunstschule, Wilhelmsburger Honigfabrik, where she coaches young people, adults and professional authors. 

George also moderates (bilingual) readings and works as a speaker.
find me also on Facebook:…
My Review

The way in which this started was different to how I thought it would, but that turned out to be a great thing. The Little Breton Bistro is a story that will keep you reading if you love France and stories about personal discovery and tragic events with some humour and romance thrown in. The story is a great mix of themes and transported me to the small idyllic villages of northern France and the dramatic and beautiful Brittany coast. I was rooting for the main character and was engrossed by the book. Every scene in the book was captivating and the amount of detail was just right to help the reader visualise each scene. I am looking forward to reading more by Nina George. 

Blog Tour: Robin Hood’s Dawn (Robin Hood Trilogy Book 1) by Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer

 My Review: 

I remember seeing Robin Hood films. I also watched a cartoon series about Robin Hood when I was very young. 

This is the first retelling of Robin Hood I have read, and it was action from start to end. The title of the book is just perfect! It automatically mentions Robin Hood, but got me interested as to find out what his origins were and how he came to be.

The attention to detail is amazing and the book is very atmospheric. There’s bloodshead and disagreements as well as romance.
 We are introduced to the characters well and they are well fleshed-out. 

I felt I was immediately transported into the era. Every detail is so real. 
I was a little confused by some of the language used at first, but luckily there’s a dictionary at the back of the book (which I thought would have been better placed at the front to avoid having to go to the end). The book begins with a helpful chart and a family tree so the reader gets a sense of who’s who right before they read/ listen to the first sentence. There’s also a handy graphic showing the shields. This was a nice touch. 

The cover was mysterious despite Robin Hood’s name and after finishing it, I was happy that I had a greater understanding of how Robin Hood came to be Robin Hood and quite a detailed idea of his background as well as that of the characters who are household names when we think of Robin Hood. 
Some parts did get a little wordy at times, but the upside of that was that the descriptions of both the surroundings and people as well as the culture and customs of the time were made even more visual and realistic. Short chapters really helped the pace along and kept me listening to my Kindle ARC on my iPad! 

I’m looking forward to book two! 

Thanks to Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

Author Q&A with Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer

Robin Hood’s Dawn: Book One in the Robin Hood Trilogy


Robin Hood has been featured in many books, movies, and television shows. How is your story different?

We have taken a fresh approach to the Robin Hood story, and we’re excited to share our vision with fans of the legendary hero.  

We have creatively reimagined the origins of the Robin Hood legend, which includes exploring the complexity of his family dynamics – an aloof, proud father loyal to King Henry II, and a kind-hearted, generous mother devoted to ministering to the poor with her gift for healing. One theme is that the consequences of immoral actions and secret sins can reverberate across generations, and this is part of the legacy that Robin receives from his father.

We wanted to cast him as a hero fighting against the tyranny of a lawless government official instead of a bandit redistributing wealth. When Robin is falsely accused of a shocking crime by the new Sheriff of Nottingham, he could have simply retreated to a safe place beyond the reach of the sheriff. However, he feels a responsibility to the people – he believes in the intrinsic value of every human being – so he takes a stand to defend the people from the actions of the sheriff. And this points to another theme: one person can make a difference by taking a stand for what is right.

Robin also feels great admiration for the newly crowned King Richard the Lionhearted. His loyalty to the king will create a number of conflicts and unexpected consequences in the story.

Lastly, we wanted to set our Robin Hood story in a fascinating time period: the 12th century. In our humble opinion, the 12th century has much to offer fans of sweeping tales of political, social, and spiritual upheaval.

We have carefully constructed our story within the framework of real history. We hope that this realism and devotion to actual history will add to the enjoyment of the story and encourage people to learn more about this time.


You’ve emphasized how your Robin Hood story has been reimagined. Will fans of the traditional ballads still recognize this as a Robin Hood story?

There is a lot of variety in the many books and screen adaptations of the Robin Hood legend. We wanted to create a story that was respectful towards fans of the original ballads and legends without necessarily adhering to the same storylines that have been previously written. It is our hope that all Robin Hood fans will enjoy this fresh retelling of the story.

For example, we feel that Marian is a character who deserves more attention. All too often she is a background character with little to do. With this in mind, we have focused on creating a Lady Marian who will figure more prominently in the story, especially in book 2.  

Our Marian is more than a love interest for Robin. Over the course of Robin Hood’s Dawn, Marian transforms from a sheltered, somewhat pampered, girl into a brave woman who continuously strives to overcome both her fears and the obstacles that she faces. We also wanted her to be feminine and remain believable as a woman of the 12th century. Of course, keep in mind that the most prominent woman of the 12th century was the indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine, an inspiration to any woman living in a male-dominated society.  

Fans of the Robin Hood legend will find many familiar characters: Maid Marian, Little John, Allan-a-dale, Will Scarlet, Much the Miller’s son, Guy of Gisborne, and the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Readers will also meet real historical figures such as King Stephen, King Henry II, Richard the Lionhearted, King Philippe II of France, Prince John “the Lackland”, and many others, including Ranulphus Besace. Who was he? Well, he was a real person who was King Richard’s personal physician!


This book is advertised as the first in a trilogy. Will the first two books end in cliff-hangers? Will any of the books be stand-alone?  

Although the final mysteries and conflicts will not be resolved until book 3, we have structured the trilogy so that books 1 and 2 do not end in cliffhangers.

The readers will not be left wondering whether the main characters will live or die, and we have endeavored to create a sense of completion in each of the first two books. Some story threads will be resolved, and some of the mysteries surrounding the main characters will be revealed in each of the first two books.

We think readers will be excited and eager for the next installment without suffering undue frustration at the endings of books 1 and 2.  

The books will not be stand-alone.


How did each of you become interested in writing this story and working together as co-authors?


I love to tell stories with multi-dimensional characters. I speak several languages, and I found that I enjoyed not only writing stories but also writing them in different languages. My favorite legendary hero is Robin Hood, and my favorite historical figure is Anne Boleyn. My first novel is an English-language re-imagining of the story of Anne Boleyn.

In 2015, I met Coleen (J.C.) on the Internet and we decided to co-author a Robin Hood Trilogy.  

It is amazing that Coleen and I have managed to successfully work together on our project despite the fact that we have never met each other in real life. We talk on the phone and frequently exchange skype messages as well as emails. We have been working together long-distance despite living in very different time zones.

Coleen (J.C.)

I began writing about three years ago. I had previously done editing work for other authors, but I had never thought about writing my own stories until one day when I was suddenly inspired to start writing, and I’ve been writing nearly non-stop ever since.

I wanted to write a book that would honor the legend of Robin Hood as a man who stood against the tyranny of a powerful government official; a man who fought for justice and fairness because he recognized the intrinsic value rooted in the humanity of all people.  


So, you’ve never actually met, you come from different countries, different cultures, and speak different languages. How can you co-author a book? Is it because you have similar writing styles?


Fortunately, Olivia is fluent in English, because that’s the only language I know!


We have found that we have a lot in common – especially our love of writing and of history. We have to work hard to merge our writing styles, but we have successfully done this.


That’s very true. Oliva and I have very different “voices” and writing styles. You might even say they are nearly opposite styles.  

I tend to write in a straightforward, expository style, with a minimum of descriptive elements and metaphorical flourishes. I am good at explaining things, organizing ideas, and creating natural sounding dialogue.


My writing is characterized by lush romanticism and passionate lyricism. I love to create metaphors and descriptions which excite the imagination of the reader in a vivid and dramatic way.


In some respects, Olivia’s words are the emotional heart of the story, and my words represent the rational intellect. Of course, it’s not quite that cut-and-dried, but it is one way to describe how two people with such different styles have come together to create Robin Hood’s Dawn.

 I have not 1, but two excerpts to share with you of two different genres. 

Romantic  Excerpt

Chapter 3: The Earl of Huntingdon

22 August 1188, Sherwood Forest

Marian was laughing so hard that she was gasping for breath. She admonished, “You cannot put a hole in that cloud with an arrow.”

“Why do you have so little faith in my abilities?” queried Robin with mock offense. “You are not even giving me a chance. Very well. Pick a leaf, any leaf, and I will pierce the center in one try.”

Marian wiped a stray tear that had leaked from her eye during her unrestrained mirth. “How do you expect me to choose one leaf? The tree is thick with them. It does not matter which leaf I select; you will always claim that you pierced the correct one.”

She beheld him as he stood there, bow in hand, his pale blue eyes sparkling with mischief, his boyishly handsome face sporting an impish smile, and his wheat-colored hair slightly ruffled owing to their spirited ride from the Locksley stables to their favorite meadow. Marian liked to imagine that it was an enchanted corner of the forest – a refuge dominated by a massive oak, one of the largest trees in this part of the greenwood.    

“Well?” he demanded. “What shall I aim for next? I need a challenge, and you will not allow me to poke holes in the clouds, for fear that it will cause them to rain–”

“That is not what I said!”

Robin persisted, “And you refuse to choose a leaf, although there appears to be an abundance of leaves from which you could make a selection. I have already slain a brace of coneys and a pheasant. Elvina and the cook will be quite pleased with me.”

Marian huffed in mock exasperation. “Elvina and the cook are always pleased with you.” A sly twinkle brightened her eyes. “What about the pheasant you missed?”

“Missed!” he thundered. “No, no, I did not miss that pheasant. I never miss. Someone deliberately distracted me.”

“It was accidental,” she insisted with a grin.

Robin argued, “Sneaking up behind me and shouting, ‘Do not miss,’ just as I released the arrow was not accidental.”

Their laughter faded as he took her hands into his. Marian gazed deeply into his eyes, attempting to learn every shift in the emotions that he guarded so well.  

She believed that he revealed more of himself to her than anyone else, but he was still often a puzzle. At times, he was quiet and contemplative, obviously focusing his mind on some problem or issue, yet denying that he was thinking about anything important. On some occasions, she had seen him tense with anger, only to disguise his feelings by making a jest or laughing, even though he was clearly not amused. Marian knew that when he was truly battling his emotions, he would disappear into the embrace of Sherwood Forest, for Robin was a man who found comfort in the untamed beauty of nature.  

Once, in a surprisingly candid conversation, Robin had described to her what the forest meant to him. He spoke of how the forest made him feel alive, and how each of his senses experienced the greenwood: the fragrances of pine and wild blossoms, the sounds of a rushing river at his feet and the rustling of leaves overhead, the taste of freshly gathered berries, the feel of a gentle rain against his face, and the vistas that could only be viewed from tree limbs high above the forest floor. Robin had told her that the forest was both vast, as it stretched to the horizon, and intimate, as the sheltering trees sometimes seemed to be crowding around him.

Marian had frequently pondered his words, and she longed to hear him speak openly about himself again. Unfortunately, whenever she asked him about his feelings or his thoughts, he deflected her questions with either a joke or a change of topic.


Suspense/Mystery Excerpt

Chapter 6: The Earl of Sherwood Forest

25 August 1188, Sherwood Forest

Forcing himself to redirect his thoughts away from Marian’s perilous circumstances, Robin returned to his scrutiny of Gisborne’s weapon. He frowned at the sword and mumbled, “Interesting.”

“What is it, Lord Robin?” inquired Much.

Robin revealed, “This sword is quite distinctive.”

Will leaned closer for a better view. “It looks like any other sword, except for all those marks on the blade.”

Robin inspected the extravagant weapon as he described it. “This is an excellent sword, equal to the one I carry. It’s unlikely that a landless knight like Gisborne would own such a weapon, although sometimes a wealthy noble will award a superior sword to his favorite squire on the occasion of his knighthood, especially if the knight will be tasked with guarding the lord.”

Much felt confused. “Gisborne is Argentan’s captain; he was probably his squire too. Why does the quality of this sword surprise you?”

Robin countered, “Much, do you remember the Barony of Argentan from our travels through Normandy?” At the quick shake of Much’s head, he disclosed, “Well, I remember it. Argentan is not prosperous; it is small and insignificant. I wonder how Baron de Argentan could afford to give such an expensive weapon to his captain.”

Rising, the three men strolled to a nearby spot brightened by a shaft of light, and Robin held the blade where the sun’s rays could illuminate its elaborate designs. He continued to study it as Will and Much watched.  

Much commented, “Those marks look like letters.”

An amazed Will stared at Much. “You can read?”

Much’s ruddy complexion darkened slightly in self-consciousness. “I can read a little. I was allowed to listen to Lord Robin’s lessons, and his tutor kindly taught me many things.”

Robin pointed to the elegant etching on the blade. “Notice these two lions – I saw something similar on Argentan’s ring. Above the lions is a rising sun, and below them is a peculiar inscription.”

Much squinted at the blade and grumbled in frustration. “I know my reading is not as well-practiced as yours, but I cannot decipher any of those words.”

Robin smiled affectionately at his friend. “Be at ease, Much. It is not English; it is written in Latin. I’ve seen this style of inscribed sword in the past, but typically they are engraved with prayers, such as ‘In the Name of the Father.’”

“Do you know what it says?” asked Will.

Robin replied, “I can translate it, even though the letters are crowded together. It says, ‘From Shadows to Glory: I am Immortal, and My Kingdom Awaits.’” He harrumphed grimly, flustered by the unexpected phrase. He lowered the sword from the patch of sunlight as he became lost in his thoughts.

Robin blew out an exasperated breath. “Argentan mentioned shadows, but he was speaking in riddles. I must think on this more. For now, I will keep this sword; I want Gisborne to know that I have it.”  

Following Much and Will back to the campfire, Robin plotted Marian’s rescue.


Robin vs. the Sheriff Excerpt

Chapter 12: More Precious Than Silver

January 1189, South of Nottingham

Argentan goaded Robin. “Many times I have heard the story of how your father sent Hugh of Gisborne to the shadows. Yet, you are hesitating. Why is that, Robin? Are you the son of Duncan Fitzooth, or are you a maudlin woman?”

Guy felt the pressure of Robin’s knee vanish as the outlaw stood while still pointing his sword at Guy’s throat. Robin then reached down and reclaimed Gisborne’s weapon. “I will be keeping this sword, Gisborne. I’ve grown fond of it.” Closely watching Guy, Robin instructed his friend, “Much, tie Gisborne’s hands so that he cannot attempt another cowardly attack, if I turn my back again.”

An apparently disappointed sheriff sneered, “Showing Gisborne mercy demonstrates to me that you are weak. Gisborne is weak too. It is a fatal flaw that you both share, along with your lust for the same woman. I find it interesting that the two of you have so much in common. What do you think, Robin Hood?”

Intently studying the sheriff, Robin parried Argentan’s verbal thrust. “I think I’d like to know why you are communicating with King Philippe.” Robin inwardly cheered when he saw the sheriff blanch.  

Argentan was actually speechless for several moments, but he soon recovered and coolly replied, “I believe that life in the frozen forest has addled your mind. The King of France would never take notice of a humble baron from Normandy.” He frowned and feigned sadness. “You are like a man lost in the twilight of a wintry day; the clouds have obscured the sun, and the abundance of shadows has confused your sense of direction.”

Robin barked a short, humorless laugh. “Your riddles are absurd.”

Argentan resumed, seemingly unperturbed. “Someday, my young Earl of Huntingdon, the sun will break through the clouds and illuminate everything around you. The truth of the shadows will be revealed.”

“You have not answered me: why are you corresponding with the King of France?” Robin repeated while scrutinizing the sheriff’s reaction. “Does King Henry know that he sent a spy to Nottingham?”  


Action Excerpt

Chapter 17: The Lion Hunt

22 February 1192, City of Acre

As he led the royal procession, Robin worriedly looked back at the litter carrying Marian. Her flaxen hair was concealed beneath a Saracen-style headscarf, and her litter had a fabric canopy to hide her from view. Marian was oblivious to the perils she faced in this land, where great wealth could be obtained by selling such a fair-haired beauty to the highest bidder. Although she had scoffed at Robin’s orders that Much and Allan march beside her litter with their swords drawn, the two men had obeyed Robin’s stern directives without hesitation.

Next to Marian’s litter rode a sullen King Richard; he was still furious at Robin for his criticisms of their stalled Crusade. The fact that Robin was right had only fueled the king’s temper, which burned hotter than the accursed desert sun. André followed Richard, and there were eight mounted knights protectively situated around the king and Marian.

Robin sighed loudly as he resumed his forward scrutiny of the road. He didn’t have enough men to properly guard the king, but Richard, who was supremely confident in his fighting skills, had flatly refused to wait for reinforcements. Robin deeply resented the king’s willingness to expose Marian to danger. It was inexcusably selfish and thoughtless in Robin’s opinion, but he had no choice but to acquiesce to the king’s demands. Because of the threat to Richard, Robin had instructed his men to wear helmets and chainmail hauberks under their surcoats. Additionally, they carried Norman-style kite shields, which had both neck and arm straps.

Robin had traveled too far ahead of the group, so he stopped and examined his surroundings with care. They were on a road flanked by the Genoese and Venetian quarters, and the harbor was a short distance away. Like many areas in this war-torn city, the buildings were heavily damaged. Removing his helmet to wipe the sweat from his brow, Robin observed that the street was strangely deserted, and he felt a stirring in the pit of his stomach. He signaled for the procession to halt. In the resulting eerie stillness, Robin concentrated all his senses.

“What is the problem?” the king gruffly complained with unmistakable impatience.

Robin did not respond; something was wrong, and he could feel it. Suddenly, a small rock fell from the heavens and rolled across the street. At first, he gave it little consideration as he put his helmet back on, but then his mind was filled with the awareness that stones do not drop from the sky like rain.

His eyes darted upward, and fear seized him as he recognized the familiar shape of a bow. Urgently, he yelled over his shoulder, “Shields up, left!” The well-trained knights, including the king, promptly raised their shields as the archers released a volley of arrows.

Robin turned his horse and sped to the king. He had seen three archers, and they were clearly targeting King Richard. Rejoining the others, Robin saw ten men brandishing swords and riding towards the royal party from a forward position, while another eight were approaching from the rear. There was no avenue of escape, and the king’s elite guard arranged their horses in a defensive semi-circle around Richard and Marian, using the façade of an adjacent structure to prevent the enemy from completely surrounding them.