Libertine's Kiss

( 21 )

Overview

"Fueled by sizzling sensuality and sharp wit, James' refreshingly different historical deftly re-creates the glittering, colorful court of Charles II while also delivering an unforgettable love story."
~John Charles Booklist starred review

"Every once in a great while, there are books I love to the point of wanting everybody I know to go out and buy a copy. Libertine's Kiss is one of those rare books. This angsty historical is heartrendingly beautiful featuring beautiful language and a fantastic setting with a ...

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Overview

"Fueled by sizzling sensuality and sharp wit, James' refreshingly different historical deftly re-creates the glittering, colorful court of Charles II while also delivering an unforgettable love story."
~John Charles Booklist starred review

"Every once in a great while, there are books I love to the point of wanting everybody I know to go out and buy a copy. Libertine's Kiss is one of those rare books. This angsty historical is heartrendingly beautiful featuring beautiful language and a fantastic setting with a smart heroine and a deeply tortured, flawed hero. Judith James juggles poetry, Restoration court culture, and fairytale references with an almost perfect sense of timing, and the result is a world that springs vividly to life. Rather than simplifying the historical details of the day, the author weaves their many threads into her story, letting readers see her world in its many layers of light and dark just as her characters would have. The result is a story that is sweeping and epic...I find myself wanting to compare it to something, but there is really nothing out there quite like this." ~ Lynn Spenser All About Romance.

Nominated as Best British Isles Historical by Romantic Times, Libertine's Kiss, the first book in the Rakes and Rogues of the Restoration series features a hero based on John Wilmot, the notorious libertine, poet, and friend of King Charles II.

Abandoned by his cavalier father at a young age, William de Veres grew up knowing precious little happiness. But William has put the past firmly behind him and as a friend of the king, military hero and noted rake, he rises swiftly in the ranks of the hedonistic Restoration court. Though not before he is forced to seek shelter from a charming young puritan woman.

The Civil war has cost the once high spirited Elizabeth Walters her best friend and her father, leaving her unprotected and alone. She flees an unwanted marriage, seeking safe haven, but what she finds there is something she never expected. Can a promise made in the past help two childhood friends find each other and themselves? Can a debauched court poet and notorious libertine convince the wary Elizabeth he is capable of love?

"Historical details, poetic quotations and fictional characters based on real individuals blend perfectly in Libertine's Kiss. William and Elizabeth's story is compelling, sexy as can be and expertly told...Libertine's Kiss is everything a historical romance should be and more. Don't miss this one! ~Joyce Greenfield, ReaderToReader

Winner of IPPY Gold for the critically acclaimed Broken Wing and author of Highland Rebel, a Barnes@Noble book of the year, award winning author Judith James' Rakes and Rogues of the Restoration series transports you to the thrilling days of highwaymen, cavaliers, courtiers, and spies. Rich with history and sizzling with passion, these are love stories you won't soon forget!

Don't miss the other books in this series
Soldier of Fortune (The King's Courtesan)
The Highwayman September 2014

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780992050436
  • Publisher: Halfpenny House
  • Publication date: 8/1/2010
  • Pages: 346
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Award-winning author Judith James is an avid reader and history buff. She is also a bit of an adventure junkie and has travelled, worked and lived in many places, including the Arctic, Ireland, London and France.

Variously employed as a trail guide, horse trainer, and clinical psychologist, she's had the opportunity to live out many of her dreams. She has found the perfect place to write on the East Coast, with a view of the ocean from her window. Judith's writing combines her love of history, romance and adventure with her keen interest in the complexities of human nature, and the heart's capacity to heal. She is currently in service to a cranky elderly cat who thinks she can type and delights in teaching her lessons about backing up files.

Winner of IPPY Gold for Broken Wing, and a Barnes and Noble Book of the Year for Highland Rebel, she is currently getting ready to publish her Rakes and Rogues of the Restoration series. If you haven't met them yet, catch up with the libertine, William de Veres and his childhood sweetheart Elizabeth Walters in Libertine's Kiss. Meet the soldier and the courtesan in Soldier of Fortune, previously known as The King's Courtesan, and prepare to be swept away by The Highwayman, a story based on the real highwayman Swift Nick and inspired by the intrepid 17th century traveler and journalist Celia Fiennes.

Ms James is always pleased to hear from fellow readers and writers and invites you to visit her on Facebook, her webpage or on twitter.

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Read an Excerpt


1658

Night had descended hours ago. He wandered a dark wilderness that was almost void of form. The sound of musket fire and the shouts of his pursuers had faded in the gathering storm. Now a mounting wind moaned and whistled, snapping off branches and rattling trees as thunder rumbled in the distance. The ice-cold rain, driven by angry gusts, fell in stinging sheets that raked his cheeks and turned the ground beneath him slick and treacherous. Thick oily mud squelched under his feet, gulping greedily at his ankles and clutching at his boots, and the torn bits of cloth wrapped tight around gashes in his arm and thigh were heavy with water, mud and blood.

He labored forward, fighting the elements and his own fatigue. His ragged breath strained in his ears. He clasped his injured arm tight against his chest, protecting it and the battered leather pouch strapped snug beneath his shirt. It was an unconscious act. For the past hour, all his attention had been fixed on a lonely flicker of light, wavering in the distance. Friend or foe, for now it was his only beacon. His exertions had opened his wounds. He was losing blood and heat and soon he would lose consciousness.

He limped to a halt at the edge of a small clearing. The rain had eased a bit, though the wind still battered in sudden whooping squalls. The feeble light had resolved itself into a warm glow that cast just enough illumination to coax shape and substance from the shadows. It emanated from the windows of a substantial cottage. His eyes flit here and there, coolly assessing. Isolated, two stories tall, built of brick and tidy stone; it was fitted with a solid slate roof and bay windows, and was too fine to belong to a simple farmer. A wealthy merchant or a gentleman's hunting retreat perhaps, and potentially dangerous depending on who was at home.

He listened intently. The house was quiet. No shouts, no laughter, no sounds of brawling or signs of horses, supplies or armed men. No signs it had been commandeered by Cromwell's forces. His teeth flashed in a predatory grin and the fingers of his good hand twitched, then reached to caress the hilt of his saber. He needed shelter. Weapon drawn, keeping to the shadows, he crept forward.

There was no watchman, not even a mutt to raise an alarm. The only thing guarding the place was its solitude and a heavy wooden door. The latch seemed simple enough. He tried it with his free hand, but there was no strength in his arm and his numb fingers could barely feel to lift it. Cursing under his breath, he sheathed his sword and began working the latch with both hands as he pushed with his shoulder. The damned thing would not budge. His exertions were taking their toll. A wave of dizziness assailed him and he leaned back, letting the door take his weight as he waited for it to pass.

He lost his balance anyway, whirling to right himself, scrambling for his sword and fighting to stay on his feet as the door swung open suddenly on its own.

"Most people use the knocker or pull on the bell."

He gaped in astonishment. Her voice was calm with a hint of irony, her demeanor self-possessed, but her fine gray eyes were as wide and startled as if she had just seen a ghost. Straightening and swallowing his own surprise, he looked carefully about the room as his heart steadied.

"Other than a handful of servants, I am here alone."

Leaning against the doorjamb for support, he examined her as thoroughly as he had the room. She was a tiny thing, dressed in drab woolens and wrapped in a shawl she hugged close to her breast. Her hair was drawn into a severe bun hidden tight beneath a linen cap, accentuating a pale face that looked worn and tired. Her gaze was probing and wary. She reminded him of a brave little bird, torn between curiosity and the impulse to take flight. Collecting himself, he removed a wide-brimmed hat with a rain-soaked plume, and performed a courtly bow. "Good evening to you, madam. My apologies for the rude intrusion, but I've traveled as far as I may this day, and 'tis wicked cold outside."

She noted his height, his disheveled appearance, his sodden bandages, and his cavalier's clothes. Her eyes met his…searching…and then looked pointedly at his sword.

He sheathed it as if at her command.

A gust of wind slammed the door against the wall and sent a sheet of water spattering across the flagstone floor. She took another step back and motioned with her hand. "Come inside. I'll give you shelter from the storm." He let go of the doorjamb, took one step, then another, and toppled into her arms.

He awoke sometime later resting precariously on a dainty settee that was all but dwarfed by his length. Covered in warm blankets and settled in front of a cheerful fire, he was no longer cold, but his arm throbbed in time with his pulse. His leg burned like the fires of hell, and he ached all over. Grimacing, he tugged at his coverings, pulling them back to survey the damage, only to find he had been stripped of breeches and shirt, and other than a clean dressing and his boots, he was naked underneath. His lips quirked in amusement and he scanned the room, searching for his nurse.

She sat in the corner in a well-appointed chair, haloed by candlelight, frowning in concentration as she stitched his shirt. He watched her unobserved, smiling when she bent her head, lips parted, and snipped the thread with sharp little teeth. Though her hair and clothing made her appear severe, that unguarded gesture made her seem younger than he had first imagined. I doubt she's any older than I am.

She was not so plain as that, either. Long a veteran campaigner in the lists of love as well as the field of battle, he was somewhat of a connoisseur. Sometimes the quiet ones burned brightest. The little abbess had full lips, a becoming pout, and a mouth that begged to be kissed. Fine cheekbones would serve her well in old age, and he was fascinated by her eyes, intent now on her sewing. They changed in the light when he tilted his head, from a smoky gray to hints of stormy blue. Sirens' eyes. A daughter of the sea. He smiled, wondering what she would look like with her hair unbound.

His sex stirred and he grinned, forgetting for a moment the gnawing pain in his bicep and the angry stinging in his leg. What is she doing here by herself? No father. No husband. She can't be married. No man would be so foolish as to leave her unprotected in these dangerous times. Perhaps she's been widowed by the wars. Perhaps he should release her stays, loosen her hair and pull her down for a tumble. How long had she been alone? What depths of fire and passion simmered beneath that prim exterior, just waiting to ignite? He chuckled to himself and shook his head. He must be jaded indeed to imagine a houri from his tight-bound little wren. Still…there was something about her—

His heart lurched in his chest as he suddenly remembered his mission. Tossing blankets and pillows aside, he began a frenzied search for the pouch that could mean so much to his king. He subsided in relief as suddenly as he had started, when he found it still strapped to his side, but his movements alerted the little wren, who looked up curiously from her stitching.

"I am not in the habit of rifling the belongings of sleeping guests. Your secrets are your own."

His secrets. She had no idea. He thought back to the chaos and fury of the young King Charles's stand at Worcester nearly seven years ago and the mad scramble as Charles's loyal cavaliers and Scots strove to defend him, then fought to give him time to escape. The king was amiable, informal and an easy man to love, but at six foot three he had not been an easy one to hide. Dependant on the help of royalist supporters and a network of Catholic sympathizers versed in moving wanted men, they had lived as commoners for six weeks, eluding Cromwell's ferocious grip. They had experienced life in a way kings and courtiers never did, and grown close in a way only those who shared adventure and danger ever could.

He had bonded with Charles, not only as king to subject, but man to man. There was nothing he wouldn't do for him and no task more important than seeing him safe to France, but none of them had expected their exile to last for years. When they had crossed the channel to France he had been filled with hope and pride. He would help his king fulfill his destiny. They would reclaim the throne that Cromwell and his ilk had stolen from him in an unimaginable act of regicide. But when they had arrived in Rouen, bedraggled and spent, they had to borrow money and clothes before an innkeeper would rent them a room. It was a theme that had characterized their years in exile.

Despite his charms and graces, Charles had become the poor relation who embarrassed everyone, and no one knew what to do with. He lived on credit, charity and promises, until the goal was no longer to raise an army, but simply to pay for their bread. William had been sent repeatedly to different places in halfhearted efforts to gain support. It was a humiliating and dispiriting task, one for which he was ill suited. So when he tired of being kept waiting in the great halls of Europe, or seducing women and playing cards, he left for England and took to the roads. It was a welcome distraction at first. One that provided himself and his grateful king with some much-needed funds, but lately he had grown as weary of it as he had of everything else. The sense of purpose he'd felt as a fugitive cavalier protecting his outlawed king was with him still, but the idealism and sense of exhilaration had long since waned.

This time, though, there was news. The Old Pretender Cromwell was rumored to be gravely ill and his son ill equipped to grip the reins of power. There was talk of rebellion, offers of support, and a very important missive from a man who could help put Charles back on his throne. His pursuers thought they were chasing another of the hundreds of disgruntled cavaliers turned highwaymen who bloomed like wildflowers along England's roads since the end of the civil wars. If they had known what he carried they would have—

"Here. Take this." Gentle fingers brushed back his hair.

He blinked up at her in surprise and reached out to accept a tumbler full of brandy. She had snuck up next to him, bearing gifts, and her casual touch suggested she might offer more. I need to rest and regain my strength. I'll stay the night, and be on my way by morning. He grinned and nodded his thanks, then tossed back the sweet liquor. It tasted of apples and warmed his insides, spreading through him like liquid heat, and he handed her the glass, motioning for more. She refilled it and watched in silence as he emptied most of it in one swallow.

His gaze quickened with interest and his lips curved in a slight smile as he noted a stray tendril of hair that had escaped its bonds to tumble down her cheek. It gleamed in the lamplight in fiery hues. Something stirred within him, akin to faint remembrance. Mesmerized, he reached a finger to tuck it back but she stepped abruptly away. His smile widened to a grin. Fire and ice, bound tight in a plain brown wrapper. How intriguing! I wonder what she'd look like clothed only in jewels. I am grown fanciful. It must be loss of blood.

He tugged the blanket aside, baring his leg, and she lifted the dressing, probing gently, her fingertips brushing his naked flesh as she checked the wound. He hissed on indrawn breath and she looked up, concerned.

"I am sorry. Am I hurting you?"

He reached for her hand and held it a moment, his fingers stroking her palm as his thumb caressed her knuckles. "I am swollen and aching, little bird, but I feel certain your touch can relieve me."

She looked at him uncertainly, tugging her hand to free it.

With a knowing smile, he let it slide from his grasp.

"That is some very fine stitch work. You are skilled at nursing, madam. You did it while I lay sleeping?"

"I tended the sword wound while you were unconscious, yes. You were very lucky. You've lost a fair bit of blood but 'tis not as bad as I feared. The cut missed any major arteries and it appears to have bled clean. Provided there's no infection, you should be fine. I will tend to the swelling soon."

He choked on what remained of his drink, covering it with a cough. When he had recovered himself, he raised his empty glass and gave her a charming grin. "Won't you join me in a toast first, to my speedy recovery and your formidable skills?"

"I don't think that would be wise," she said primly.

"Come, lass. Share a drink with me. It's a bitter night and just the two of us here, cozy by the fire. There's no one to know," he coaxed.

She snatched his glass away and set it on the mantel. "I've seen to your leg. I've yet to attend to your arm. There's a bullet to be removed and more stitches, I'm afraid. Surely you would prefer I attend to it with a steady hand."

"Yes, actually, I would. But one wonders why you didn't complete the task whilst I slept…instead of darning my shirt."

She pursed her lips, a little put out by his ingratitude, but managed a patient reply. "Attending to your leg took longer than expected, and I was afraid you would regain consciousness while I worked on your arm. Any sudden move would be…well…best avoided. Now that you are awake, we can start. This may sting a bit, but I need you to cooperate and stay very still."

He nodded, holding out his hand for his glass. She refilled it and waited while he took another swallow. He closed his eyes and offered her his arm, nodding again for her to begin. She knelt beside him, the soft curve of her breast brushing his shoulder, and his lips curled in a smile as he settled his head against her bosom. He could feel her heart beating, slow and steady beneath his cheek, and he thought he detected a faint scent of lavender. Perhaps it was her soap. She stiffened, and he opened one eye to see her regarding him suspiciously.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 21 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 21, 2010

    Interesting, complex characters and an unusual time period make for a refreshing read.

    In twenty-first century terms, William de Veres would probably be labeled an alcoholic and a sex addict. Fortunately for him, he inhabits the seventeenth century where he is known to Charles II's court as a libertine. In Libertine's Kiss, Judith James has turned him into a romance hero.

    And damn, if she doesn't make it work.

    Deep inside, William is actually a romantic, idealistic man, but he hides it beneath a veneer of cynicism. He shows his true self to only one person, Elizabeth Walters. As children, they spent an idyllic year and a half acting as each other's escape from the harsh realities of their world. They pretend to be characters from Spenser's "Faerie Queene" while William teaches Elizabeth to defend herself from bullies. Their friendship comes to a poignant end when William is sent away to school.

    Years pass before they see each other again, and on that occasion, William does not recognize his childhood friend. Taking him in one night, when he arrives, wounded, on her doorstep, she heals his physical wounds and offers him comfort of a more baser sort. In the morning, she sends him on, and as a result of this one night, she loses all her properties.

    William, it turns out, is a proponent of Charles II, at this point in exile in Europe, and he is hunted by Cromwell's men. They miss William but arrest Elizabeth, who stands trial and pays a heavy price.

    The pair do not find each other again until Cromwell is overthrown, and Elizabeth goes to King Charles' court to petition for the restoration of her lands. William has progressed from the "tax collector," a highway man whose proceeds go maintaining the exiled king's lifestyle, to court poet, whose pointed verses insult the king as often as they flatter.

    He drinks to excess and beds women at random in an effort to forget his past. This time, when he meets Elizabeth, he recognizes her instantly, both as his childhood friend and the woman who took him in three years previously. He makes her his mistress while he teaches her the ways of the court so she can successfully petition the king.

    Their road to happily ever after is paved with twists and turns as each must learn to have faith in the other.

    I greatly enjoyed this book for its rich, evocative setting, well rounded characters--and thank goodness for a story set in an unusual time period.

    I will warn against two things: if having the hero and heroine spend lengthy periods of time apart or reading about the hero having relations with someone other than the heroine are deal-breakers for you, you might want to give this book a pass. Neither scenario bothered me, as I felt they were well motivated within the story.

    If you're willing to cut a highly damaged man a little slack, enjoy the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 28, 2014

    Libertine¿s Kiss is an erotic, captivating and tragically romant

    Libertine’s Kiss is an erotic, captivating and tragically romantic story. Author Judith James has created unforgettable characters (loosely based on real people) that capture your heart and your imagination. Her descriptive writing transports you effortlessly into her world. Here you feel every emotion, every tragedy, and every pleasure. William, a poet (among other things) uses his anger as his muse. There is no shortage of anger after what he has suffered in his life. Lizzy retains her positive nature even through the adversity she has faced. Together their love becomes something more, something pure. Though with the challenges they face it is unclear whether their love is something that can flourish and thrive. James does an excellent job of developing her characters. Their strengths, weaknesses and flaws are visible and endearing. Every real and raw emotion is brought fully to life as the suspense mounts and we wonder if William and Lizzy will overcome the obstacles and face life together. There is tragedy, suffering, longing, suspense, mystery, motivation, sex, and love. This is one story you won’t want to miss. Be prepared to laugh, cry and yearn for more. I highly recommend it!

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  • Posted May 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Judith James does it again! If you enjoy historical romance, grab this book!

    Set in England during turbulent times - from Cromwell's bloody reign through the return of King Charles II - Libertine's Kiss captures the political uncertainty and violence of the period and places each romantic lead firmly in different camps.

    The story begins with William de Veres, a loyal subject of Charles Stuart, who has entered England to raise funds for the Stuart's return. With the royal funds practically depleted, de Veres has to resort to highway robbery and other dangerous methods. As things go awry, de Veres is injured and in his escape comes across an isolated cottage and pleads for help. He doesn't recognize his old friend, Elizabeth Walters, who takes him in, cares for him, and aids his journey. He isn't aware of the extreme danger that he puts her in.

    In contrast, Elizabeth is a solid Republican, the daughter of a general who lost his life supporting Cromwell. Elizabeth and William de Veres had been neighbors and best friends as children even as their parents were on opposite sides politically. While de Veres fails to recognize her, Elizabeth immediately knows her best friend. She keeps their old friendship a secret and when he leaves, Elizabeth Walters is caught and punished for aiding an enemy. She loses her property and nearly loses her life. The punishment drastically changes Elizabeth's situation and it's with some desperation that she decides to go to court to seek redress upon King Charles II's return to England. Though a stroke of luck, de Veres sees his old friend as she reaches court. Elizabeth's presence recalls a gentler, nobler side to de Veres and he tries to protect her from the court, King Charles II, and himself. It's here that the love story really begins.

    Judith James succeeds in creating a historical romance of the best sort. Historical events are critical to the plot and somehow it seems that the main characters meet and befriend the important figures of the time. While both de Veres and Elizabeth Walters are shaped by the events around them, they've modern temperaments and are clearly characters that we care about, sympathize with. Even their worst acts make them more likable. Once again, Judith James has delivered an engrossing and wonderful read!

    ISBN-10: 0373775059 -Mass Market Paperback
    Publisher: HQN Books (August 1, 2010), 384pages.
    Review copy courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher.

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  • Posted October 26, 2010

    Beautiful Read

    William's father abandoned him as a young boy, leaving him to grow up without really knowing what happiness is. As a grown man he dutifully puts his past behind him and rises in the ranks of the Restorations court. Along his journey he is forced to seek shelter from a young Puritan woman.

    William has no idea what her act of kindness has caused her family. Once Cromwell's men realize Elizabeth helped one of Charles' men, they take her family's estates, then force her into a marriage she doesn't want, but only for survival does she accept.

    Once a widow, Elizabeth seeks Merry Monarch's court in hopes of restoring her family lands. William, who is now Earl Rivers and the court's official poet, knows he must do what he can to help her.

    I must say that Elizabeth "Lizzy" isn't a true Puritan at heart, at least that's not what I got from the story. I also like the fact that Ms. James didn't make her out to be some naïve woman. She catches on quickly. She realizes there are things expected of her from the King and the court if she is going to get her land and her security back. She also knows that William owes her, because of him, she lost everything. In her mind he owes her dearly. Which causes a stubborn butting of heads or two, especially since she decides not to listen to his advice.

    I think these two are a great match, they both realize the truth, neither of them wear rose colored-glasses or decide to look the other way. However, they do go through many emotional stages in their relationship. Their relationship begins as friendship, then quickly enters into pleasure.

    This book is full of sharp wit, Ms. James has a refreshing romance voice that I can't wait to read more of. I think readers will be enthralled by this story. It truly is an unforgettable, classic romance for the ages.

    Originally posted at The Long and Short of It Romance Reviews

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  • Posted July 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This is an entertaining restoration romance

    They were friends and neighbors as children, but their avaricious fathers insured each had an unhappy life. William de Veres was exiled to school and Elizabeth Walters "sold" to the highest bidder. William joined the military to escape his father's gluttony while Elizabeth got married to an abuser. Years later he became a hero; he deployed his new fame status into being a rake while she remained a victim.

    Years pass with both remaining unhappy. When they meet for the first time as adults, neither appears to recognize the other. Two more years pass before Elizabeth asks King Charles for a favor as she has fled her marriage; William as a friend to the recently restored monarch and as his bard helps her get a royal appointment. They begin to fall in love all over again, but she has issues with her beloved for his work for the King that was part of the destruction of her family.

    This is an entertaining restoration romance that occurs just after Charles returns from exile to sit on the throne. The rich historical background enhances the reading experience as at times the romance lingers in the background. Fast-paced with a strong cast and filled with intrigue as betrayal is a way of life at court, historical romance readers will relish this exiting late seventeenth century tale.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted June 15, 2010

    Exciting. A story of love, hope and healing!

    LIBERTINE'S KISS by Judith James is a Historical romance set in the 1800 England. It it well written with depth and detail. It has romance, sensuality, history,healing wounded hearts and souls, foregiveness,finding home and love. The heroine is brave, strong,beautiful and determined. She has been in love with the hero since her childhood.When he falls into her door wounded she helps him survive his wounds,and helps heal his heart and soul.The hero is handsome, fearsome and has a wounded soul and heart. He has also been in love with our heroine since childhood, which has been a lifetime ago. They are reunited when our heroine decides to go to the newly appointed king who was in exile, but is now reinstated. She is trying to get her lands back, which was taken from her by the former king for helping our hero. They embark on an adventure of love,healing and hope. This is a must read. A keeper. It is fast paced page turning love story. I would highly recommend this story. This book was received for review by Net Galleyand details can be found at My Book Addiction and More and HQN.

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    Posted July 21, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2010

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