Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: For Love & Liberty

FOR LOVE & LIBERTY: Untold Love Stories of the American Revolution is an anthology that looks at historical romance through a more colorful lens. Four romance authors have come together to present tales of passion and patriotism that reveal the truly diverse threads that run through the tapestry of American history.

In BE NOT AFRAID by Alyssa Cole, a black Patriot captured by the British falls in love with a headstrong runaway determined to leave the colonies...while a wounded British soldier discovers the healing power of love in the arms of a gentle native woman in A SWEET SURRENDER by Lena REBELS AT HEART by Kate McMurray, two men must make hard choices if they are to stay together when war arrives on the shores of their home in New York last, in HOME by Stacey Agdern, a young Jewish couple must decide what can hold them together before war and geography tear them apart.

Be Not Afraid by Alyssa Cole
Brooklyn, 1776

Elijah Sutton is no fool, despite his love of a country that enslaves people like him. When he's offered land, livestock, and—most importantly—his freedom if he fights in his Patriot owner's stead, Elijah believes he'll soon have everything he ever wanted...and then he meets Kate.

The Crown has promised freedom to slaves who escape their Patriot masters and join the British side, and Kate intends to take them up on it. She's eager to leave America—and the painful memories it holds for her—far behind...and then she meets Elijah.

Their attraction is undeniable, but their goals couldn’t be further apart. When Elijah is captured by the British while helping Kate, they're thrown into close proximity and forced to choose between their hopes for the future and their hearts

A Sweet Surrender by Lena Hart
New York, 1777…

​Siaragowaeh of the Onyota’aka tribe has a love for all things living and when a fallen British soldier becomes severely wounded, Siara secretly nurtures the officer back to health, putting her own position in her tribe at risk.

Sergeant James Blake of His Majesty’s elite assault troops vaguely remembers the ambush that left him at the mercy of a beautiful native woman…a woman he isn’t yet certain he can trust. When a narrow escape from Siara’s village forces them on the trail together, desire soon flares even brighter between them.

Yet in a journey driven by duty and complicated by loyalty, Siara and James must determine if they will follow their predestined paths or surrender to their hearts and chart anew…

Rebels at Heart by Kate McMurray
Charles Foxworth is among New York City’s most fashionable men, though he is only pretending to be a dashing British aristocrat. Still, he is content with his role and has little interest in the war. His companion, Isaac Ward, has more invested in the coming conflict; Isaac was born a slave, and though he is now free, that freedom could be guaranteed if he chose to pick up arms. Then war arrives on the shores of the city and Charles’s idyll is over. He quickly realizes that the war could take from him the very thing he holds most dear: Isaac.

Home by Stacey Agdern
A young Jewish couple must decide what can hold them together before war and geography tear them apart.

A Sweet Surrender by Lena Hart
She carried a flint knife with her as she ventured into the condemned woods alone, refusing to stay away as Etu had undoubtedly expected her to.

When she entered the makeshift shelter, it took her a moment to realize the blankets were empty. She froze as panic set in.

Had someone taken him?

A shadow fell over her from behind and she sucked in her breath. Before she could spin around, a hard hand clasped over her mouth, smothering her scream. The small bowl of broth she’d carried slipped from her fingers and crashed to the ground.

“I would hate to have to hurt you, love,” a strong, male voice said close to her ear. “But I will if you provoke me.”

Siara knew with every fiber in her being that it was the stranger. His nakedness pressed firmly along her backside, though his voice was stronger and clearer than she would have expected it to be. She reached up to peel his hand away from her mouth. She had to let him know that she meant him no harm.

His hand only tightened, jerking her head back against his bare chest. She reached for the flint knife, but he was quick, grabbing it before she could get to it.

“Don’t make me hurt you,” he said harshly, tightening his arms around her.

Panicked from the hard grip he had around her mouth, Siara swung her arm back. Her fist landed on his bandaged thigh and he drew in a sharp breath.

“Bloody hell.”

She pulled away from him and he released her, bracing his weight on his other leg. She struggled internally with her concern for him and fear of potential retaliation. Though she hadn’t meant to hurt him, he’d left her no choice.

She made a move for the knife in his hands, but he tossed it away and tackled her to the ground. Everything moved in a blur as she tried to push past him, but he grabbed her by the waist and forced her to the hard earth. He fell over her with a grunt, gripping her wrists and forcing them over her head.

He was stronger than she would have expected. Too strong for someone who had just come from a lengthy recovery.

“Stop fighting me,” he growled, his face just inches from hers.

Their breathing came out in harsh pants as they glared at each other. He was sweating and looked a bit wan, and she realized he had over exerted himself. She was suddenly angry that he would undo so much of the progress his body had made these past few days.

“It’s you who asks for fight,” she snapped, tugging at her arms. “I help you. I save you.”

Rebels at Heart by Kate McMurray
“Pink, Mr. Foxworth?”

Charles looked down at his frock coat, carefully chosen for its fine weave and the pattern of embroidered irises climbing the edges of the lapels. The color was bright, yes, but didn’t strike him as being especially noteworthy, particularly in comparison to the rest of his wardrobe. Besides, ‘pink’ was such a pedestrian descriptor. The color was more like that of a rose at twilight.

“What of it?” Charles asked.

Isaac raised an eyebrow. “This color is a bit ostentatious, even for you. Last week’s ruffles were one thing, but—”

“I’ll have you know, Monsieur du Rochelle ordered this fabric especially for me from a little shop in London.”

“Yes, but perhaps we could limit ourselves to one affectation at a time. The coat is lovely, but paired with those breeches and the striped stockings, it is all a bit much, no?”

“It is perfect.”

Isaac let out an exasperated breath. He tugged on the lapels of the coat, forcing it to fit tightly across Charles’s shoulders.

“You are perhaps the worst valet a man ever had,” Charles said. “I should punish you for such insubordination.”

Isaac smoothed his hands down the front of the coat. “But you won’t.”

“Perhaps not.”

Isaac smiled slowly. “You seem to forget sometimes that I am not actually your servant.”

Charles smiled back. “You will never let me forget.”

Isaac took a step back and ran his gaze up and down Charles, as if he were admiring his own artwork. “You seem to forget, too, that we are at war. Perhaps a bit of austerity is in order.”

Charles waved his hand. “Austerity? Bah. Nay, the toll of war is perhaps an even greater reason to celebrate life. Do you not agree?”

Isaac did look skeptical, although he’d always dressed modestly. Presently, he wore a faded red waistcoat and shirtsleeves, and Charles knew he’d don the dull blue frock coat before they went outside. His clothes were usually plain, woolen things in somber colors. Isaac’s long, dark hair was pulled back from his smooth, brown face and tied with a simple black ribbon at the base of his neck; he never wore wigs or hair powder. He never wore any sort of ornamentation, save occasionally buckles on his shoes. And even now, he stared at Charles with those startling blue eyes of his and that seemed ornamentation enough.

“Do you think me excessive?” Charles asked, turning toward the mirror. “’Tis merely a dinner party at Colonel Bradon’s house I’m forced to attend. I suppose I could wear the green coat. Or the dark red one.”

Isaac gave Charles a half-smile. “You look fine, Mr. Foxworth.”

“You do think me foolish, though, I suspect.” Charles waved his hand dismissively. “No matter. I shall go attend the soirée as my old ridiculous self, and all the ladies will wonder why I have not yet succumbed to the charms of matrimony, because isn’t my new coat just dear, and oh, you know how it is, sweet lady, I merely have yet to find the right woman to warm my heart.”

Isaac looked on while Charles nattered on with a frown on his face. “Charles, I know—”

“Oh, pish, ’tis fine for you to stand there frowning. You do not have to converse with these people.”

Isaac rolled his eyes and stepped forward. He ran his hands over Charles’s shoulders one last time, smoothing out any stray wrinkles or imperfections in the new coat. Charles relished the touch, the warmth of Isaac’s palms, even through all the fancy fabric. Charles liked the affectations, the fine clothes, the carefully cultivated mannerisms, but he liked being naked with Isaac as well, perhaps more so.

He ducked his head and pressed his lips against Isaac’s. Isaac sighed into his mouth and snaked those warm hands up the back of his neck to the edge of his wig.

Isaac pulled back. “I wish to run my fingers through your hair. Without the wig.”

“I know, darling. I wish that, too, but Colonel Bradon and obligation call.”

“You look fine, as always. A bit like a peacock, perhaps, but devastating in your charms, and so very handsome.”

Charles smiled. “Thank you, dearest Isaac. I do appreciate a compliment. You are looking quite rugged today. Perhaps you are a mere beaver hat away from throwing that musket over your shoulder and marching off to war without me.”

“I swore I would not.”

“Yes. I am glad for it. I know not quite what I would do without you.”

Isaac stepped back and crossed his arms over his chest. “You would have to put on your peacock-colored clothes all on your own, I expect.”

“Where would the joy be in that?”


Charles tugged on his coat and examined himself in the mirror. He looked passable. A bit tired. Perhaps the rose-colored coat was making his skin look a bit sallow. It was too late to worry about that, however, because he would be late if he dallied any longer.

No matter that he would rather spend the evening with Isaac than with Colonel Bradon and his band of merry Loyalists, even with the new coat.

Alyssa Cole
Alyssa Cole is a science editor, pop culture nerd, and romance junkie who splits her time between fast-paced NYC and island-paced life in the Caribbean.

In addition to writing, she has hosted a romance book club and taught romance writing at the Jefferson Market Library in NYC. When she’s not busy writing, traveling, and learning French, she can be found watching cat videos on the Internet with her real-life romance hero.

Lena Hart
Lena Hart is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her passionate, heartfelt love stories of second chance romances. In 2012, she published her first romance and has been publishing contemporary, suspense, and historical happily ever afters since. A Florida-native, Lena currently lives in New York City with her spoiled calico cat Duchess. When Lena's not writing, she can be found reading, researching, or conferring with her muse.

Kate McMurray
Kate McMurray is a nonfiction editor. Also, she is crafty (mostly knitting and sewing, but she also wields power tools), she plays the violin, and she dabbles in various other pursuits. She’s maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with a presumptuous cat.

Stacey Agdern
Stacey Agdern has written for : ‘HEA’ USA today’s online romance blog, Heroes and Heartbreakers, Criminal Element, Romance at Random, Romantic Times Magazine and Barbara Vey’s Beyond Her Book’ Column at Publishers Weekly Online Site.  She has been interviewed by the New York Times.  She has also given presentations on the effective use of booksellers at regional and national conferences (and is a two time award winner for her bookselling).

She is a very proud member of both LIRW and RWA NYC (where she is the secretary). She lives in New York, not very far from her favorite hockey team’s practice facility.

Alyssa Cole

Lena Hart

Kate McMurray

Stacey Agdern

Break of Another Day by Jay Lewis Taylor

The Great War is over. Jack Townsend, no longer a hospital orderly, is back at work in his photographer’s shop in Lewisham. But there is no peace yet; his blackmailer is still in business, and Celia Vavasour seems determined to manage his life. All his life; even his love-life ...

Meanwhile in Sussex, David Lewry, former army officer, is still holding off from a closer relationship with Alan Kershaw, once in the Navy and now the village’s GP. Lew knows how much Alan wants him, but this last step is one he cannot take - not yet, unless something changes ...

What a lovely surprise to find a sequel to one of my favorite reads of 2016.  When you find a book with characters that you just don't want to let go of, it's a treasure and that was what Across Your Dreams was for me.  So even as a novella, getting to see the fates of Jack, David, and Alan was something I truly enjoyed.  I still hated to let go of the boys when the last page opened but at least their future was more set for me.

With Break of Another Day, the war is over but the author shows us that just because the battle is done, the effects left on that generation didn't just disappear.  Jack's tale holds more of the story than David and Alan in this sequel which I appreciated greatly because in the first book he was more of a secondary character but I felt him to be a bit more complex than what we were initially seeing.

This is a lovely addition to my historical shelf and if you haven't read Across Your Dreams yet, I highly recommend both of these beautiful tales.  Personally, I would recommend these Jay Lewis Taylor stories even if you are not a history reader because the journey these characters take is complex but very heartwarming and truth is, they made me appreciate my journey in life even more.


October 1919
He was huddled on the studio side of the partition, trying to cough up whatever clogged his throat and lungs. Let it be a bad day in the shop. Please, let it be a bad day in the shop. Jack’s mouth twisted. When else have I prayed for a bad day?

The shop door opened with a clang of the bell as a customer stepped on the mat. Reluctantly, Jack hauled himself, hand over hand on a mock garden trellis, to a standing position. His chest hurt, and the dreadful half-breathing, half-coughing paroxysm threatened to come on again as he walked round the screen.

“Good aftern – oh.” Jack pulled himself together. I don’t have to call him ‘sir’ any more. “Good afternoon, Doctor Kershaw.” He noted, dispassionately, that his hands were shaking.

“Mr Townsend.” The cool voice sharpened a little. “You’re ill.”

“Unfit for service. Grade 3. Remember? Asthma. You never asked about it. At the time.” Jack leaned on the counter, snatched in a breath, and said, “What can I do for you?”

Kershaw hung up his hat, and set down a package that he was holding. “We’ll talk business later. Has your doctor given you nothing for that?” He pulled off his gloves and took Jack’s pulse.

“Can’t afford the doctor. It’ll pass. Not – not usually this bad.” He looked up as the warm touch left his wrist. “What are you doing?”

“Closing the shop,” Kershaw said, shutting the door and turning the Open sign to Closed. “You’re not fit to be up, and I can see you’ve a black eye too.”

Jack pushed himself away from the counter. “I have a living to make. You leave my shop alone.”

“You need to be alive to make it,” Kershaw said. “Where’s the nearest pharmacy?” He picked up a chair. “Sit down.”

“I can’t – “

“Sit down. Pharmacy.” Kershaw nudged the chair hard against Jack’s knees, and perforce he sat down.

“Hospital. Turn right. Six minutes’ walk. I can’t afford it.”

“Never mind that for now.” Kershaw was gone.

Gritting his teeth, Jack got to his feet, took an uncertain step forward, and then let his shoulders sag. Why are the virtuous always so bloody right?

Across Your Dreams #1
“I hope we’ll meet again on the other side of fear, but should this damn war choose otherwise then all we can do is bear it …“

Lew and Russ, Grant and Alan have been caught up in the Great War, which governs their coming together and their moving apart; which has sucked them into the machine and seems reluctant to spit them out. When at last the Armistice comes, three out of the four survive; but how many will survive the peace?

Original Review November 2016:
This is the first time I have read Jay Lewis Taylor but it won't be the last.  I loved the way two separate storylines, two individual stories of love converge into one. You have Alan and Grant who's story quickly turns from happy to heartbreak and then you have Lew and Russ who also does not remain cheery for long but seems more hopeful until it no longer does.  There are secondary characters that blend the stories together, sometimes you aren't sure whether to trust those characters but they are no less important to the overall canvas of the tale.  I truly loved the detail to the time frame as well as how the characters continued to develop throughout the entire book, that doesn't always happen but as the war progresses and the Armistice is signed, we see them continue on to face life after war.  A true blend of war, love, drama showing that sometimes no amount of planning can replace just living. A really great addition to my historical shelf.


Author Bio:
Despite having spent most of my life in Surrey and Oxfordshire, I now live in Somerset, within an hour’s drive of the villages where two of my great-great-great-grandparents were born. Although I work as a rare-books librarian in an abstruse area of medical history, I am in fact a thwarted medievalist with a strong arts background.

I have been writing fiction for over thirty years, exploring the lives of people who are on the margins in one way or another, and how the power of love and language can break down the walls that we build round ourselves.


Break of Another Day #2

Across Your Dreams #1