“Do not be frightened of what love will cost you, be frightened of what you might lose if you deny your love.”
They could not be more inappropriate or unsuitable for one another– but the heart wants what it wants.
His first appearance before the Dowager Duchess is delayed by a shirtless dowse under an outdoor spigot the laundry women cannot stop swooning over. And as much as she disapproves of him, Philippa Kirkpatrick wishes she’d gotten a glimpse of William Montclair’s bare chest as well.
The new steward is not the stodgy stick in the mud everyone expected. He is a brash, strikingly handsome American who whispers sweet nothings with the aplomb of a French courtier. He is brimming with both ideas and competency, despite his lack of experience managing an estate.
Philippa has managed her adopted grandmother’s affairs with a deft hand since she turned eighteen. She has tracked the correspondence and the accounts and resents the intrusion of someone who appears to be a cavalier interloper.
William and Philippa are thrown together so that he has a guide to the tenants, the estate’s concerns and the reparations to be made. The more time they spend with one another, the greater their feelings become.
But William has secrets he cannot share, and Pippa needs the safety and security of marriage to a landed gentleman. Any future seems doomed before it begins.
I loved this story of the loss and obstinacy that has shaped the lives of this couple. They cling to the expectations of others until they realize nothing matters if you do not have love.
She’s finally getting the promotion she’s been working for. But her success hinges on her ability to guard one of the biggest secrets in the publishing world.
Their meet cute is not cute. As far as she’s concerned, he’s arrogant and condescending and aloof. And whether or not she finds him attractive is immaterial. She’s already engaged. And he’s a liar.
But he writes books that are things of beauty. Books that speak to her heart and have shaped her life. But now the one writer who will make or sink her career has writer’s block. Even though she is hurt enough, and angry enough, to cast him into purgatory, she knows she has to thrust her feelings of betrayal aside and get him to deliver a manuscript.
Lanie and Noah have messy lives and loose ends. They have the weight of a monumental deception between them. But they also have tulips. And walks in the rain. And train rides with odiferous lunches.
I absolutely adored this sweet, sassy rom-com! It features a complex hero who is in touch with his feelings, and able to articulate them. It features a heroine who finally empowers herself to seek out and fight for the life and the sense of personhood that she wants and deserves. It features two unforgettable characters navigating the challenges and losses that have shaped them.
How many times, and in how many different ways, can a heart be broken?
A duke in disguise broke Fiona’s heart one glorious summer. She thought they would have a forever -until she found out who he was, and that a future between them was impossible.
Fiona’s life since that cataclysmic summer has been a constant struggle to survive. She is finally ready to unveil an invention that will change the lives of people everywhere. But she cannot find a way to distribute her creation. She travels to London to find financial backing and becomes embroiled in a conspiracy against the Crown.
The Duke who crushed her girlhood dreams posts her bail when she is thrown in prison for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Years later they still hold each other’s hearts, and even though every obstacle on earth seems to launch into their path, he is determined to spend his life with her. Even though his arms are the safest place she has ever known, Fiona is determined to resist him because she knows that her ignominy and notorious family will ruin his reputation.
He broke her heart once. Her family has broken her heart countless times. The world breaks her heart and her spirit every single day.
Fiona has learned that she must go her own way. Everything she has worked for comes of her blood and tears, her desperation and perseverance. She can depend on no one but herself because her journey is full of peril and hardship no one has been willing to share or look beyond.
Just some of the reasons I loved this book:
It is a second chance romance with a couple who mean everything to each other, and are separated by a chasm of expectations and doubt.
It features two strong personalities who complement and encourage one another. Theirs is a full partnership and all the hero wants to do is ensure the woman he loves and believes in gets all of the success she deserves. Even if that means he is only in a supporting role.
A fierce STEM heroine with the courage and fortitude to banish her past and seize her future.
Plot & Setting: 5 Stars
Characters: 5 Stars
Some of my favorite quotes:
“She was stubborn, immovable, and impassioned, and if he let himself spend too much time with her, there was every chance he’d weaken and toss decades’ worth of reputation management to the wind.”
“That journey taught me an important lesson. That if I wanted security, I would have to create it for myself.”
“She was barely steady before he had both sides of her face cupped in his palms, and he bent his head to capture her mouth in a kiss. It was like a burning fire after a freezing walk, a good meal after too long without food. It nourished her body and soul in a way she hadn’t known she was lacking.”
“She could stay like this forever, with nothing between them. Not even clothes. Not even space. But she didn’t have forever, and the salt of his sweat mixed with the salt of her tears until she didn’t know where she ended and he began.”
OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned—it is a death sentence.
At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor—Owen—bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared secrets. But when Owen’s French ancestry finds him at odds with a violent English commander, the turmoil becomes life-or-death for the sailor, the headstrong Ruth, and the cast of Quakers, Pequot Indians, soldiers, highwaymen, and townsfolk dragged into the fray. Now Ruth must choose between sending Owen to the gallows or keeping her own neck from the noose.
Steeped in historical events and culminating in a little-known war on pre-American soil, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a story of early feminism, misogyny, arbitrary rulings, persecution, and the treatment of outcasts, with parallels still mirrored and echoed in today’s society. The debut novel will appeal to readers of Paulette Jiles, Alexander Chee, Hilary Mantel, James Clavell, Bernard Cornwell, TaraShea Nesbit, Geraldine Brooks, Stephanie Dray, Patrick O’Brian, and E. L. Doctorow.
Owen looked toward the woods to Ruth’s grandmother’s halfhouse tucked out of sight, and felt Ruth’s eyes follow his lead. “I must be off to the marketplace to pick up a barrel of oats from Willemszoon’s. Then, quick to the dock to rally deserters.” “I have to go back to the carts, too, much as I dread it. Copernicus is hobbled there.” “You rode him into town? Sakes, you really don’t want friends, do you. Walk with me, then.” He splayed his hand in the direction of the marketplace as they left the marshy meadow that connected the harbor dock to the edge of town. The row of Dutch houses loomed, and the slow churning of the mill wheel made a grinding whine, followed by a clunk at the end of each rotation. He felt his breaths synchronize with it. A young woman, too close to the harbor for modesty’s sake, stared hard at him beneath her starched, triangle-flapped bonnet, until an elder scolded her loudly and dragged her back to the row of houses. The mill wheel continued its whine-clunk, whine-clunk. “Have you thought on what you’ll do if I can’t come back?” he said quietly. “How have I had time to think on it? This is the first I’ve heard of it.” “Well, then, have you thought of what you’ll do if this winter is too hard? How much longer can we keep meeting like this before your reputation is questioned and we’re not just a couple kids getting reacquainted anymore?” “My reputation? Questioned?” She rubbed her swollen knuckles and gasped deeply. “Heavens, no. What will they think of me? Do you think there will be rumors? Perhaps wooden rods? My, what if they prejudge my character?” He smirked. “You should go get married, Ruth.” She stopped.
“Find a warm house to move Grand-maman into, get some of the burden of providing off my shoulders.” He didn’t notice that she’d stopped. “Who else would marry me?” she retorted too loudly behind him, not caring that the Dutch women of the vegetable carts could hear every word. She marched up to him. “Don’t tell me to go get married as if it’s that easy.” Her arms flailed like an injured bird. “Look at me!” He did look at her, always did. Mud didn’t hide her. “I can’t trade a parsnip! Or shall I remind you of that day when you—” “Cease.” His eyes flashed, then darkened. He didn’t need to remember what never left his mind. “I didn’t come here for that. Let the past have the past.” He had the good grace to look away. “You’re a stubborn one, Ruthie. It’s no wonder no man’ll have you. I’d be like to find his body floating facedown at sea, closer to me than he ever got to you.” “Hmph, go get married. No one in this town would have me.” “Then get out of this town.” He ignored the hollowness of his advice as he entered Mr. Willemszoon’s shop. He focused instead on oats. A load much easier to lift.
“The frailty of thought against the obstinance of time. I wish…I wish I could hold it. But it goes before I can reach it. “
Colonial New England was brutal and unforgiving for those who challenged tradition or questioned their roles or the social yokes that bound them.
Ruth refuses to be bound. She has known nothing but heartache, loss and sorrow in her short life. She suffers constant cruelties, both petty and large, in her struggles to feed and clothe she and her elderly grandmother. Orphaned at a young age and branded as a witch, the townsfolk show her no mercy or kindness, but instead constantly demonize and chastise her.
Ruth is resilient. Though she rails at the injustice of her situation, she finds solace in her friendship with Owen. He brings her cherished books from his sea travels, and they expand her world and her mind. He becomes her port in the storm when she narrowly escapes death.
But there are terrible secrets between them. There is a legacy of shame and guilt they must overcome. Circumstances continuously conspire to separate them, and toss them about like victims in the midst of a tempest.
They must hang onto the fragility of their love against all odds, and hope for a future together.
Ruth and Owen’s story paints a stark picture of the capacity for human compassion when it is pitted against a thirst for survival. It is an unforgettable glimpse into the strength of one woman’s spirit in the face of adversity, and a not-to-be-missed, meticulously researched story about life on the fringes of colonial America.
Highly recommended if you love Nancy E. Turner’s My Name is Resolute, Sara Donati’s Into the Wilderness series or Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
1. What inspired you to use this particular setting for ‘Out Front the Following Sea’?
I have always been fascinated by the 1600s in early America, especially as it’s a time that’s so often overlooked and forgotten. People are obsessed with the American Revolution and the American War of Independence, but they seem to forget that there was a lot of time before that, building up to it, and they have many preconceived notions about what the “Before Times” were like. As an avid researcher of this time period, with a particular affinity for the wildness and uncertainty of the 1600s, I’m here to bust myths about what you think you know.
2. What parts of the story were the most fun and the most challenging to write?
Val, my not-what-you’d-expect Quaker, was probably my favorite to write. He bucks the norm, is fun in and of himself, and really forced me to think about hypocrites in a softer sense—people who are just human and are far from perfect, even when they espouse a set of rules to live by that they, themselves, are not following. The most challenging part to write, I’d say, was the scene of the ship in the storm. I love ships, but I’m not a nautical expert, so I had to learn a ton, study a bunch of illustrations, and tiptoe around the areas that weren’t comfortably within my research wheelhouse.
3. Which character is your favorite and why?
Everyone who’s read the book will balk at this answer, but Sam is my favorite. He’s the antagonist, but he’s very gray-area, with some goodness in him. He’s very much a product of his time, and in some other timeline, he might have been the hero of his own story, but he gets pushed too far out of his comfort zone in Ruth’s story, and he can’t quite contain his own hubris. While some of the characters are able to redirect their emotions into other endeavors and healthier outcomes, Sam lets his emotions entirely consume him.
4. Are there any further readings you would recommend to readers interested in reading more about this historical period?
I read extremely “boring” stuff to the non-researcher, but what I would recommend would be nonfiction: ‘King William’s War: The First Contest for North America, 1689-1697’ by Michael G. Laramie will tell you a little bit about the background war going on in my book. As for fiction, perhaps ‘The Heretic’s Daughter’ by Kathleen Kent, ‘Beheld’ by TaraShea Nesbit, or classics like ‘The Crucible’ and ‘The Scarlet Letter’ might be a good place to start.
5. What are the top 3 things you hope readers take away from your story?
1.) You don’t know everything you think you know about the past. 2.) Times were not “simpler” at any other point in history than they are now, despite what folks with rose-colored glasses would like to think—nor were historical times “romantic,” unless perhaps you were some rich king’s firstborn son (though, if that’s the case, you were probably actually very bored and had to marry someone you didn’t really love, in order to join kingdoms). 3.) Don’t time-travel back to the 1600s for fun—you won’t make it through your first winter.
6. Do you have anything else in the works?
My second novel, ‘Falcon in the Dive,’ a story of survival during the French Revolution, has just been picked up by Regal House for a spring 2024 release, and I’m currently frantically researching the War of 1812, in order to finish an alternate-history trilogy that I’ve started, giving “the forgotten war” a new ending. Writing alternate (or alternative) histories is entirely new to me, as a staunch researcher working within the parameters of what actually happened in history, so … we’ll see how it goes!
Enter to win a copy of Out Front the Following Sea by Leah Angstman!
The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on February 4th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
I absolutely devoured this unconventional historical romance.
Maddy is the queen of committees and the linchpin of her community’s social calendar. She is also trying to keep the business her parents left her afloat. She’s juggling so many things – and her carefully constructed world can’t handle finding room for the temptation that is the implacable Duke of Ashmore. Her determination to keep her distance proves futile, as circumstances throw them together. She discovers the wry humor that lurks beneath his steely demeanor, the love of kittens that he disguises with his ducal propriety, warm encouragement and incomparable hugs, and an incredible ability to listen to her thoughts and fears and offer sound, caring advice.
Will is a man who knows what his responsibilities are. His father’s peccadilloes and penchant for destruction wrecked the family’s reputation and coffers. He has to keep an iron rein on his emotions, and remain constantly attuned to any rumors that will skew his sisters’ chances for successful marriages. He has been called cold, haughty, arrogant and untouchable. But the capable, insightful botanist he exchanged banter with in a conservatory utterly decimates his defenses.
Rowing lessons, walks in the rain, and baring their deepest fears to each other lead to a feetfirst plunge into the shark-infested waters of an affair that has a time limit. They know that what is between them cannot last — they have separate lives in completely different parts of the country, and a long-term connection isn’t something they can consider.
But love always finds a way to bloom and prosper, and this happily-ever-after stole my heart.
“You’re wrong.” He moved his hand to caress the soft curls gathered at the back of her neck, and she pressed into his touch. “I’ve been avoiding you these last few days. I told myself it was for your protection. That it wouldn’t do you any good if people thought I was paying you particular attention. But I was also protecting myself,” he added softly.
She’s in hiding. He’s undercover.
It should be a match made in heaven. But it feels more like a headfirst dive into bad decisions and decadence. Neither one of them can afford to blow their cover.
Sylvia endeavors to be inconspicuous. Her colorful past has left her with few choices, and her current position as personal secretary to an overly perceptive employer, means she has no choice but to blend into the woodwork. Despite her concerted efforts to escape notice, she immediately catches the eye of the notorious womanizer and rakehell Rafe Davies.
Rafe is at this houseparty for one specific reason. He’s here to ferret out secrets and plots against the Crown. His devil-may-care, studied nonchalance, is the perfect way to throw the scent off his trail and cloak his true intentions. But the inobtrusive secretary unfailingly draws his gaze every time they are in a room together. It’s a dangerously combustible compulsion he needs to quell before she becomes too big of a distraction.
Despite his determination to avoid Ms. Sparrow, Rafe finds himself sharing confidences with her that reveal he is a multi-faceted man, with more on his mind than parlor games and boudoir assignations. She is intrigued, but wary of his intentions. And then like a besotted fool, she gives him a glimpse into her distrust of the male half of the species. And then she is at pains to avoid his gaze, as it seems he is irrevocably drawn to her.
They begin to seek out each other’s company at every opportunity. They are irreverent of the danger their connection poses, and the fact that their true selves are revealed one painstaking layer at a time. Their first kiss happens in the quiet of the library. And the flame is ignited.
I absolutely adored the second book in the League of Scoundrels series!
The past doesn’t really stay in the past. It influences everything we are…..
When Nessa and her orphaned teenage half sister head to Rose Bend courtesy of a posthumous legacy from their father, their relationship is rocky and full of landmines. Nessa is trying to pick up the shattered pieces of her life — her career is a fractured mess and she feels rudderless. And even though she wants to run her hands over Wolf’s sexy scruff and broad shoulders when she meets him, any relationships are taking a backseat to her self-imposed hiatus.
Wolf is captivated by Nessa’s confidence, curves, and the sadness he can see in her eyes. She tries to hide her struggles from the world, but he has demons of his own, and feels an immediate connection.
Wolf is determined to give Nessa a glimpse of the magic that is Christmas in Rose Bend. They bond over sleigh rides, cookie decorating and tree lightings. And every moment they spend together emphasizes their inability to stay away from each other.
As Wolf tells her, they are the same – two people desperately pushing others away, afraid to let others see beneath the surface, dirty street fighters who find each other irresistible.
I absolutely adored this contemporary holiday romance about two people who have been battered by the world finding their way back with each other.
This made me laugh out loud like a hyena, swoon over all the lumberjack vibes, and tearily connect with the characters’ struggles. This was my first book from this author – but it definitely won’t be my last!
“I know. My man bun and my Yoda-like tendencies annoy you.”
“We’re two people finding ways to push others away, so we’re not hurt. So they don’t dig below the surface and glimpse who we try so f***** hard to hide, afraid they might not like who they see. We’re dirty street fighters, you and me.”
“It’s all a case of mind over matter. You shouldn’t mind because they don’t matter.”
“Hope can be a dangerous thing, can’t it? Sweet and beautiful one moment, cruel and ugly the next.”
“War is … hell. On the men and women who serve and put their lives on the line for us, for our country. On their families, who sacrifice and have to wait at home not knowing if they will ever see their husbands, wives, daughters, sons, mothers or fathers again. They’re heroes, too, and it’s unfair that those soldiers are sometimes the martyrs, as well.”
Must Love Cowboys features a librarian heroine- one of my fave tropes😍😍😍- and a dyslexic hero who seeks her out for reading lessons.
Beau has muddled through his entire life. He avoids things like text messages and contracts and anything that will reveal his learning disability. When his brother decides to move away, Beau is forced to address the issue he has buried for so long.
Alice agrees to tutor Beau if he’ll tutor her in return. She needs to learn to flirt so she can find her HEA. All of her friends are settling down with their sweethearts and starting families and she feels like her life is on eternal hold.
Beau and Alice’s mutual lessons quickly spiral out of control and their fake dating arrangement becomes all too real.
Plot: 4⭐️ Characters: 4⭐️ Steam: 🔥🔥🔥🔥
Big Bad Cowboy is a rivals to lovers, fake dating live story that will make your toes curl!
Maggie is always just one of the guys. But she has always had a crush on JD- the town’s golden boy and one of her best friends. Tired of trying to get his attention she decides to change tactics. She dresses up for the Halloween party like Red Riding Hood on the prowl and ensnares a hungry wolf. When the heat between them on the dance floor leads to a HAH rendezvous in a tool shed, she is both embarrassed and mystified. They keep their masks on the entire time.
Travis can’t stop thinking about Little Red Riding Hood. He can’t afford distractions- he’s trying to pay the back taxes on the family ranch, take care of his newly orphaned nephew and clean up the mess left behind by his incarcerated brother.
Maggie and Travis are thrown together when they land the same landscaping job. Maggie is drawn to him even though they are business rivals. He is drawn to her even though his time in town has an expiration date. But they are both in another relationship that has off the charts sexting.
The snafus get sorted once secret identities are revealed.
Features: A HAH mind- blowing sex in a tool shed meet cute.
Jonathan and Gabby’s story is the You’ve Got Mail/ Hating Game mash-up holiday romance I didn’t even know I needed. I suspected their secret identities early on and was so happy my suspicions proved to be true.
Gabby loves Christmas. And she’s convinced her surly co-worker is the Grinch incarnate. She doesn’t trust him, or his motives. She’s convinced his chief objectives in life are to antagonize and sabotage her.
But attitudes can be deceiving – and they can hide a multitude of insecurities, deeply personal struggles, and heartfelt wishes. When a kiss in the snow upsets everything they thought they knew, and looses them from their moorings, it’s impossible to take a step backward.
They are in the middle before they even know they’ve begun. Watching them tumble into complete, incandescent happiness was wonderful.
This anthology featuring stories by Eloisa James, Janna Macgregor, Christy Caldwell and Erica Ridley is fantastic.
The stories are all intertwined vignettes that feature couples just trying to muddle their way through the house party of the year – the Duke of Greystoke’s annual holiday revel. A house party that has the well-earned reputation of making the matches of the year between the unlikeliest of couples. A house party with well-earned accolades for scandal and daring assignations.
In Eloisa James’ A Mistletoe Kiss, Cressida is trying to reconcile herself to the fate that waits for her when her father dies. For years, she has manipulated events behind the scenes. She manages the household and plans the incomparable annual party, down to every minute detail of the guest list and the stunning ice sculpture. Her father doesn’t acknowledge her efforts, and constantly disparages her for her spinster status. When her father reveals that she is giving his heir the Scottish estate that she has been depending upon as her forever home, she loses all hope.
When Elias realizes that Cressida is the mastermind behind the revelry, he is incensed on her behalf. He is even more incensed when his best friend, and the heir to the dukedom, offers Cressida to him on a silver platter. She has the reputation of a retiring mouse, blending into the woodwork. Accommodating and subtle and inobtrusive. But the real Cressie is none of those things. The more they are drawn together, the more Elias appreciates the diamond that has glittered beneath the notice of society for years.
In Christy Caldwell’s Wishing Under the Mistletoe, an engagement long severed brings a once affianced couple into close proximity. Cyrus has long regretted the loss of Isabel. Isabel still mourns the way Cyrus buried himself in his obligations, to the exclusion of anything that was not adding to his coffers.
When Cyrus and Isabelle are tasked with arranging the annual Christmas play, long ignored resentment comes to the forefront. Isabelle needs this production to be successful. It will be the star in her crown so she can launch her own career. She can’t allow her former fiance to distract her with his solicitous behavior, and hot gaze and the silver streaks at his temples. The fire that has always been between them simmers to the surface, and a reckless embrace in the music room makes it obvious there is still something between them.
In Janna Macgregor’s Compromise Under the Mistletoe, an estranged marriage gets a chance at redemption. Caroline left her husband last year. She was tired of him ignoring her. She was tired of being the last person he thought of, of having no connection outside of the bedroom. She left him because he valued his prize cow more than he valued her.
Stephen doesn’t understand why his wife left him. He was doing everything he could to provide a safe and stable home for her. He gave her his undivided attention in the bedroom and gave her the space a woman needs to manage the household affairs. When they are thrown together at the annual revel and tasked with finding the perfect tree, they have nothing but disappointment and pain between them. They learn that the misunderstandings between them are because they both had assumptions about what a marriage should be and how they should behave toward one another. A serendipitous snowstorm reminds them why they fell in love, and gives them hope for the future.
In Erica Ridley’s Mischief and Mistletoe, Louisa struggles to maintain her social facade. She wants a family of her own, but is beyond weary of empty platitudes and hypocrisy. She is a dreamer and a poet. She wants a meaningful connection, not a typical society alliance.
Ewan is appears to be a brooding poet. But he will also be at the helm of the family business. Because of his lack of title and ready funds, women don’t seek him out. When Louisa approaches him, he is bewildered. He isn’t the usual object of pursuit for marriageable young women. And he has secrets that he can’t share. But he can help the woman who enchants and enthralls him pursue her dreams.
They are both defined by their duty to their families, but they let words and the opportunity to drop their shields with one another become both an escape and a home for their hearts.
Pick this wonderful anthology up if you need four perfect servings of steamy, decadent holiday cheer. Trust me — you can curl up with these pages!!!!