Review & Giveaway: The Tacksman's Daughter by Donna Scott

The Tacksman's Daughter by Donna Scott

Publication Date: December 27, 2021
Atlantic Publishing

Scotland, 1692. To escape a brutal winter storm, King William’s regiments descend on the small village of Glencoe. Caitriona Cameron, the tacksman’s daughter, cannot forget her unpleasant encounter the last time English troops appeared. She senses the army’s arrival might not be as innocent as it seems, but her warnings go unheeded. Not even MacIain, the MacDonald clan chief, listens. After twelve days of billeting in the villagers’ homes, the soldiers attack, committing one of the greatest atrocities in Highland history.

Cait escapes the assault with the help of Sergeant Edward Gage who is accused of being a traitor for not taking up arms against the MacDonalds. Edward is hunted by his debauched half-brother, Alexander, who stands to lose everything if King William attaints their father for his treasonous past deeds. With bad blood between them, Alexander sets out to capture Edward to prove his loyalty and save himself from ruin.

Cait and Edward travel to Edinburgh to confront the men they suspect are behind the attack, unaware that Alexander is headed there as well. Although Cait is convinced the chief of Clan Campbell is responsible, Edward suspects something much more sinister—that the orders came from higher up, possibly even from the king himself.

As accusations of betrayal, deceit, and treason abound, they are all trapped in a web of intrigue and danger, but not everyone will escape.


"The Tacksman's Daughter is a fascinating read, at the heart of which is a truly horrifying historical massacre. The author brings the times alive in vivid detail, skillfully (and often humorously) weaving in ancient Gaelic language. Readers will be riveted!"—KD Alden, author of A Mother's Promise

". . . it's a gripping read, and the author has a real skill for keeping the reader turning pages." --SS, Penguin RH

"[Scott] does an excellent job of transporting her reader back to the seventeenth century Highlands. The dialogue felt so authentic, and the characters and Scottish landscape really jumped off the page." -KK, Simon and Schuster



You know when you love an author and their writing so much that you don't even have to read the description of their novel to know that you are going to buy it immediately and love it? That's Donna Scott for me. I've read all 3 of her books and with each new release, she just gets better and better!

Her latest, The Tacksman's Daughter, is just as amazing as her previous two releases. I seriously could not choose a favorite - that's like someone asking you to choose your favorite kid :) Though the answer is always the one that's annoying you the least at the moment..ha!

The Tacksman's Daughter is set in Glencoe, Scotland in the late 1600s. Caitriona Cameron is the daughter of the clan's Chief's Tacksman, which is an esteemed role at the time. When English soldiers arrive and ask for shelter and food they agree and welcome them. However, Cait is not convinced that they are safe and senses danger. When her sixth sense proves correct the entire clan is wiped out by the Englishmen based on orders sent from higher up.

Dear readers, be sure to have kleenex at the ready for this scene. The way the author writes never fails to bring the emotions out!

One of the English soldiers, Edward, is appalled by the orders and refuses to slaughter the very people who housed and fed them for weeks. He has fallen for Cait as well and doesn't want anything to happen to her. His refusal to fight makes him an enemy of his men, most especially his awful brother, Alexander, who is now trying to find him and bring him to the King for betrayal and to be hanged.

Edward, Cait, and others set out to find a new home and to exact revenge upon the people who ordered and perpetrated the massacre. There is adventure, romance, betrayal, danger, friendship, and family. It's a captivating story and one that I will think about for some time to come.

If you haven't read a Donna Scott novel please do yourself a favor and pick one up. I absolutely adore her writing and once I start a new book of hers it's hard to stop. You just want to devour it in one setting! I highly recommend The Tacksman's Daughter and cannot wait for the next release!

About the Author

Donna Scott is an award-winning author of 17th and 18th century historical fiction. Before embarking on a writing career, she spent her time in the world of academia. She earned her BA in English from the University of Miami and her MS and EdD (ABD) from Florida International University. She has two sons and lives in sunny South Florida with her husband. Her first novel, Shame the Devil, received the first place Chaucer Award for historical fiction and a Best Book designation from Chanticleer International Book Reviews. Her newest novel, The London Monster, was released in November 2020. To learn about new releases and special offers, please sign up for Donna's newsletter.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, March 14
Review at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, March 15
Review at Gwendalyn's Books

Thursday, March 17
Review at A Girl Reads Bookss

Friday, March 18
Review at Novels Alive

Monday, March 21
Excerpt at Bookworlder
Review at Chicks, Rogues, and Scandals

Tuesday, March 22
Excerpt at Books & Benches

Wednesday, March 23
Guest Post at Novels Alive
Review & Excerpt at Impressions In Ink


During the blog tour, we have one copy of The Tacksman's Daughter up for grabs! To enter, please leave a comment below with your email address. Disclaimer: By entering this giveaway, your email will be added to Donna Scott's newsletter.

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on March 23rd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Review & Giveaway: Madam in Lace by Gini Grossenbacher

Madam in Lace by Gini Grossenbacher

Publication Date: November 29, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction
Series, The American Madams, Book 3

They could be walking into a trap. The authorities made it their business to lie in wait for smugglers and thieves. Celeste wondered which tree could conceal them. With each question, her temperature rose. She no longer cared about whether anyone heard or saw her. Let the guards come. How dare she be used as a pawn in this game.

Montmartre, Paris, 1857. Unable to move on with her life until she finds her missing mother, twenty-year-old Celeste Bazin arrives from San Francisco in her native France. She takes up with the charming Carlo di Rudio and a band of Italian and French revolutionaries who wish to overthrow Emperor Napoleon III. If Celeste agrees to act as a courier to the Court of Compiègne, revolutionary Odéon de la Mere will provide her transportation where rumor says her mother has been living.

She embarks on a journey through France with the ruggedly handsome Odéon through checkpoints thick with imperial guards, secret agents, and devious spies. Celeste ignores the warnings and persists in her search despite growing fear that her mother might be a murderer. Only when she joins the plot to assassinate the emperor does she realize the power of her mother’s secrets and the depth of a love that transcends time.

Based on historical events and the author’s on-site research in France.

Available on Amazon



Madam in Lace is the 3rd book in Gini Grossenbacher's American Madams series, yet each title can be read as a stand-alone. This title focuses on Celeste and is set in 1850's Paris.

As the novel starts, Celeste's father is dead and her mother who ran a brothel has been arrested. Her mother tells Celeste to go to America to find a better life. Her cousin runs a brothel in New Orleans and she is sent there to work at the age of 14. Fast forward some years and Celeste has made some money and is back in Paris with friends Brianna and Edward. She is determined to find out what happened to her mother and sets out to do just that. Along the way, she meets with a group of resistance fighters including Carlo and Odeon who help her and keep her safe.

I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that it's an exciting and page-turning read! Celeste is a strong and determined young woman and it will require all of that and then some to find her mother.

It's apparent that the author did a lot of research and used her travels to Paris to help set the scene, which she does masterfully. I greatly enjoyed my time with this book and am looking forward to the others in the series. The author is also working on a new series that feature more incredible women from the past so be sure to keep an ear out for that. I know I will!

About the Author


California author Gini Grossenbacher was a successful high school English teacher until she abandoned grades and term papers, choosing to write historical novels instead. Now she leads small writing groups and coaches other writers. She loves researching the history behind her novels, and enjoys traveling to the setting where they take place. Her hobbies include needlepoint, nature walks, and Scrabble. She lives in the Sacramento Valley where she grew up, east of San Francisco.

For more information, please visit Gini's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.


Enter to win a copy of Madam in Lace by Gini Grossenbacher!

The giveaway is open internationally and ends on April 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Madam in Lace

Review, Interview & Giveaway: The Secret Eye by Brad Hanson

The Secret Eye by Brad Hanson

Publication Date: September 2, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction

Charlie Brand, barely 17, enters World War II where he protects the fleet from Japanese threats in this new novel about the history of radar in World War II.

Charlie Brand joined the Navy to avenge Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and he has the best eyes and ears in the US Pacific Fleet. In Japan, Hadaki Yamatsumi journeys to determine his ancestor's will for his life. The two men are thrust on a collision course with history where only one man will survive.

In Great Britain, a gift to the United States will change the direction of the war and change the life of Charlie Brand forever. While Charlie struggles through loss, a chance meeting on a train propels him to a new life he never dreamed he could have.

As America prepares her response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, a new secret technology, Radar, will begin to turn the tide of the war. America's Secret Eye peering over the horizon, detecting and directing attacks before anyone knows they are there. However, a new Japanese weapon, the Kamikaze, will threaten America's technological advantage.

Does Charlie have the skill to detect these attacks before they can destroy the USS Lexington and the Pacific Fleet? Can America find a way to defeat this new threat, and will the Secret Eye save American lives and finally win the war?

"Readers who enjoy both military and historical fiction novels will enjoy The Secret Eye. Brad Hanson delivers a fast-paced, action-filled story with The Secret Eye that is recommended to those who enjoy learning mixed with entertainment. Hanson provides both." - Tom Gauthier, Readers' Favorite

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound



Inspired by stories told to the Author from his step-father Charlie who fought in WWII, The Secret Eye is a wonderfully unique historical novel. Charlie is only 16 when he hears President Roosevelt speak about the tragedy of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After hearing the infamous speech he feels that he has been called upon to help and serve his country. As a young man he loves to tinker with electronics and taking things apart and putting them abck together again so he's technically skilled. A skill that will ultimately serve him well when he joins the Navy. His training offivers soon see his talent and task him with learning a top secret new radar detection machine. He excels at this and impresses his commanding officers. With his help they can spot friendly planes and help guide them, as well as track enemy planes for defense attacks. It's so new and secretive that Charlie is unable to tell his family or his new sweetheart, Lilly, about where he is located or what he is doing on the ship.

The other aspect of the book features insight into the planning on the bombing of Pearl Harbor from the Japanese side, as well as the US plans on how to thwart another attack. President Roosevelt, Alfred Loomis, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, US Secretary Hull and Winston Churchill play key roles, among many others.

The book covers the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Battle at Midway, also the Marianas Turkey Shoot (which was all new to me), and ending after the US nuclear bombing on Japan.

This book is more technical than I am used to reading but it was very interesting to learn about radar and how officers on the ship are able to guide the pilots. The use of radar no doubt helped tremendously in winning the war, and men like Charlie were invaluable in that mission.

Fans of military history, naval history, and WWII buffs woudl definitely enjoy this read. I really liked how the author told the story from all sides of the conflict. The way that each country thought they were mightier, better, morally, and ethically superior to others is still so true to this day and Hanson captured that perfectly. It's apparent that the author did a crazy amount of research to write this book, and I was quite impressed by that.

I look forward to the next book and to catch up with Charlie and Lilly again.

Interview with Brad Hanson

Hello Brad and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about The Secret Eye!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

I am a first-time author and worked on this novel for 3 years. I grew up in the Midwest, surrounded by people who served. My Grandfather on my mother’s side served in World War I and my mother’s brother served during World War II as did the man who inspired me to write this story, Charlie Stainer. I always knew I wanted to write and tried many times to write scripts for plays I would have in my basement. I have had many opportunities to write while working in high tech having written articles for trade magazines and authoring training material for fortune 100 companies. While completing my MBA many years ago, I wrote a 10-to-15-page paper every week for 2 years. I found that I had the ability to turn out large volumes of words, but I needed a story that captured my attention.

Through the stories told to me by my stepfather Charlie, the seeds of the story began to grow. Entertaining as Charlie’s stories were for our family, the elements for creating a strong story were not there. I needed to have a protagonist to provide the tension needed to create an exciting story, one that would draw the reader in and not let go until the end. Here is the hook I use when talking to people about my book. The Secret Eye is the story of a young man who joins the US Navy at the age of 17 right after Pearl Harbor and becomes the best Radar operator in the US fleet. It is also about another young man from Japan who joins his military and through a series of events, becomes the Kamikaze pilot who hits the USS Lexington in November 1944.

Now, I have something that captures my attention. The Navy Radarman against the Kamikaze pilot who wants to destroy his ship. The juxtaposition of following a Japanese and an American soldier through the war helps the reader see the war from both perspectives.

What inspired you to write The Secret Eye?

After the loss of Charlie in 2013 at the age of 88, I wanted to do something that would honor his memory. Service to others has been a bedrock foundation for my life and I felt called to write a story that would honor the young men who left everything they knew to go somewhere they had never heard of with no guarantee they would return alive. The story of our greatest generation needs to be remembered by those 30 and above but especially by our youngest generations.

There are not many stories written about the Pacific Theater during World War II and none that I could find about how Radar played an instrumental part in winning the war. Writing a story about the motivations of men to join the war and the human cost those decisions take both on the battlefield and the Homefront excited me.

What research did you undertake when writing The Secret Eye?

I spent 3 years researching all aspects of Radar and its use in the Pacific Theater during World War II. I watched many documentaries where I heard stories from brave men faced with impossible odds but still finding the will to come back alive. I had the privilege of knowing Charlie for over 50 years, but it was not until he was interviewed for a documentary on US Carriers that we truly began to hear the true stories of his bravery and service. During the war, Charlie also served on the USS Yorktown and several years before his death, he was interviewed by the staff historian where he recounted his World War II service. Fortunately, I have this recording as well.

I was able to view now declassified documents from World War II including after action reports from Pearl Harbor and every major Pacific Theater battle. I also subscribed to Fold3, an site, where I could view documents from the Lexington including muster reports (who is on the ship) and intelligence debriefs from every engagement they had with the enemy. The reports even included the number of bullets expended and ordinances dropped. Way too much detail for an Historical Fiction novel.

What would you like readers to take away from reading The Secret Eye?

I hope that people will see how special that generation of men was to the soul of America. Young men, barely able to vote leaving everything they knew to fight somewhere they never heard of should impress everyone. The influence of Radar in the outcome of the war has not been well documented in other books and movies about the war. When the war began, we would be lucky if we could see 5 to 10 miles away from a ship leaving our forces completely vulnerable. As the tide of the war turned for America, we could see almost 100 miles (over the horizon), farther than any ship in the Japanese navy. All thanks to our best ally, Great Britain. Because of our technological innovations and our industrial might, we were able to defeat a formidable enemy. Through the innovations of Radar, every person in the United States enjoys a better life. Your microwave popcorn, the medical radiology scans, and of course our ability to track and forecast weather are all because of a gift from Great Britain.

What was your favorite scene to write?

I guess there were actually 2. The first is the introduction of Charlie Brand who is a mischievous young man, determined to have some fun at the expense of a streetcar in Little Rock Arkansas. He pulls a prank with his best friend Ed where they soap the rails of the streetcar line at the bottom of a sizeable hill. No one was hurt but he did get in trouble for his prank.

The second scene is the attack of the Kamikaze on the USS Lexington. My real-life Charlie told us about this attack many times and it was my honor to recall this for my readers. The toll on the Lexington and Charlie Brand were great and I remember feeling the emotion of the results of the attack. I was surprised to find myself crying while I completed the scene. I believe if you allow yourself to feel the emotions of your character while writing, your readers will react in kind.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

The attack on Pearl Harbor took the most time to research and to write. Although it was fascinating to learn more about the Japanese attack on Pearl, creating a story out of the hundreds of researched facts about Japan and our response was very difficult. Trying to describe Pearl Harbor and the locations of our ships to my readers presented the greatest challenge of the entire story.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I felt I wanted to write something as early as 7 or 8 years old, but I did not have any stories wanting to come out. Over the years, I tried to write technical manuals and stories about my life but nothing stuck. It was not until the death of my stepfather Charlie in 2013 that I knew I had a topic I could write about. When the juxtaposition of the Japanese Kamikaze and the US Radarman came to mind, the story laid out before me.

What does your daily writing routine look like?

My full-time job is working for a fortune 100 technology company, so I write only on weekends and vacations. Writing in the Historical Fiction genre, I used the arch of history to guide the story line, inserting my characters to explain the military strategy and technology used by each side.

I researched well known historical figures and gave them voice through their dialog. I would listen, if possible, to the speaking cadence of a character and craft dialog that would remind the reader of the historical figure. For example, many recordings still survive of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and they guided me while writing his dialog. Try to imagine Roosevelt say these words.

“Gentlemen,” began Roosevelt, “these are tragic days we are in with much grievous news to endure. However, I am confident that we will soon turn the tide of this horrible war and drive our enemies into submission. The American people are sturdy, and we have proven we can fight if the cause is just. Japan attacked us, and the American people want justice. You, the men of the Joint Chiefs, will be the weight behind the spear that will guide and direct our forces to victory. Your vision and planning will light our path to victory.”

Instead of researching every part of the Pacific Theater during World War 2, I chose to break the war down into major sections. The development in England of Radar and the Cavity Magnetron and how the United States mass produced the technology, pre-World War 2 preparations by Japan and the United States, and each major battle from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As a natural procrastinator, breaking down the story into manageable sections reduced the anxiety I felt tackling the entirety of World War 2.

After researching a section, I would sit down to write about a battle sequence or important technology. Using character dialog to describe technology or the environment of the scene, prevented overly dense text blocks enhancing the readability and enjoyment for my reader. Switching scenes (chapters) between the Japanese and United States perspective helped the reader understand the motivations and decisions of each side, creating a complete understanding of the Pacific Theater.

Through the backstory of Charlie and Hadaki, I was able to give context to the decisions and motivations of each character. Humanizing both men, the reader could dispassionately follow their role in this historical drama while creating empathy for each man as he experiences loss through life changing decisions.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

I am a procrastinator which inhibits my ability to be productive during my writing sessions. I will find many reasons to avoid researching or writing. Over many years, I have learned to break down tasks into more manageable sections making it easier to power through the entirety of the Pacific Theater during World War II. My book is not intended to be a complete history lesson about the war but an overview of the major events of the war told through the dialog of the characters. Using short chapters, five to six pages, progressed the story forward enticing the reader to continue. It also helped me to feel a sense of accomplishment as I was not trying to write 40-page chapters in 1 sitting.

Who are your writing inspirations?

Early in my technical career, I began traveling from Sunday to Friday almost every week. I grew tired of watching TV on the plane and decided I would try to read during flight. One of my favorite movies is The Hunt for Red October so Tom Clancy become my first author who inspired my writing. Clancy is known for his technical detail and storytelling. I am told that my technical descriptions is like Clancy.

Another of my favorite films was The Firm so I began reading John Grisham novels. His ability to create empathetic characters influenced my ability to connect with my readers through dialog and their backstories. Finally, James Patterson taught me that shorter chapters made his novels read faster and I felt my story would feel less like a history book if I borrowed his technique.

What was the first historical novel you read?

Strangely, I have never read an historical novel. I love history but most of my historical consumption has been through TV and films.

What is the last historical novel you read?

Same as above.

What are three things people may not know about you?

First, I have had 3 distinct careers in my life. I started out as a Band Director teaching in Oklahoma and Texas for 5 years. I moved into the IT and Telecommunications field first as a teacher and then supporting customers through technical sales and finally professional services. I moved into Program and Project management later in life which is what I do for a fortune 100 company.

Next, my mother and father divorced when I was 14. Shortly after that, my neighbor and his wife divorced. Shortly after that, my mother married my neighbor. Shortly after that, my father married my neighbor’s (now my stepfather’s) ex-wife! To top all of that, my new stepmother taught at the high school I attended.

Finally, my brother and sister in-law were famous Christian entertainers during the 80’s and 90’s.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

Because I love history, there are endless canvases for me to paint my stories. With so many interesting times in history, the amount and variety of stories are endless. Charlie Brand has many interesting historical events headed his way and I look forward to writing about them in the future.

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

I love American history, especially reading about the founding of America and about the Civil War.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

I am an avid woodworker and golfer. I built 13 feet of bookshelves for my office and recently, I built a crib for my first grandson.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

Charlie Brand is now married and has children. Expect to see Charlie come back to service his country during the early 1960’s in another Historical Fiction novel. After that, Charlie’s oldest son will follow in his father’s footsteps.

About the Author


Brad Hanson loves military history which prompted his desire to write this story. Inspired by experiences shared by a family member and those of our Greatest Generation, Brad is proud to bring this story to readers everywhere. When not working on writing projects, he works for a fortune 100 company as an operational leader of technology programs.

He is an avid woodworker and golfer and has two grown children. He and his wife share their Texas home with their British Shorthair cats.

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Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 7
Tour Kick-Off at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, February 8
Interview at Jathan and Heather

Friday, February 11
Excerpt at Books, Ramblings, and Tea

Monday, February 14
Interview at Mythical Books

Wednesday, February 16
Excerpt at Chicks, Rogues, and Scandals

Friday, February 18
Feature at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, February 21
Interview at The Writing Desk

Friday, March 4
Review & Interview at Passages to the Past


Enter to win a copy of The Secret Eye by Brad Hanson!

The Secret Eye

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on March 4th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Excerpt & Giveaway: Designing His Duchess by Gabrielle Carr

Designing his Duchess by Gabrielle Carr

Publication Date: January 21, 2022
Brown Lady Publishing, LLC

Series: Regency in Color, #3
Genre: Historical Romance

Marry or find herself penniless and ousted from her aunt and uncle's home. Those are Miss Juliana Drake's current options. Having never felt the need to know how long she could survive without basic provisions, she chooses the latter. Only she knows as much about charming a suitor as she does about charming a snake.


The solution? Colin Lewis Francis Latham, Duke of Herstshire. The man who offered her marriage years ago, then vanished without as much as a by your leave. When he returns to London and offers to instruct her in the art of husband hunting, Juliana is both insulted and desperate enough to accept his offer.

She's no longer the gullible young woman of her youth. She can handle being near him without losing her head. Although, it would be much easier if she could finally expel him from her heart.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo


June 1817

To take Lord Emsbury’s money, or not to take Lord Emsbury’s money? That was the question Colin Francis Latham, Duke of Herstshire, contemplated as he glanced across the card table at the young earl, through eyes half-cast from too much drink and a fair bit of indifference.

At some point during the game of faro they’d been playing with the three other gentlemen whose names now escaped Colin, the conversation had turned to who would win in a bare-knuckle fight between Tom Molineaux and Tom Belcher. From there, it had spiraled into a boasting match between each gentleman about their sporting prowess, and finally into Lord Emsbury wagering ten pounds that he could withstand the hardest blow to the chin Colin had to offer.

The scrawny man’s skeletal face begged to differ.

Pearls of sweat glistened on Lord Emsbury’s forehead, subverting his weak performance of confidence. He discreetly dabbed at the offending moisture with the cuff of his dress coat, no doubt hoping Colin’s inebriated brain would keep him from noticing the slight act of apprehension.

Colin did notice.

Which was why he currently deliberated whether or not to hold the young man to his foolhardy wager. Plus, he rather enjoyed his membership to Brooks. He could very well imagine having it revoked after boxing the future Duke of Willfolk. Then again, Colin was no longer a second son. He was the bearer of a title many generations older than Lord Emsbury’s and possessed a fortune many times larger. For that reason alone, his membership would remain secure.

That settled it.

Colin emptied the remainder of his fourth—or was it his fifth—glass of brandy in one gulp. If the young man wanted to squander his inheritance on frivolous gambling, who was he to deny him the privilege?

He removed his coat and draped it over the back of his chair. “This won’t be pleasant, but you look like a weeper, so I’ll give you half strength,” he said, his voice slightly slurred. His bleary gaze took in Lord Emsbury once more. “Maybe half of half strength,” he amended.

Lord Emsbury stood. A cherry hue crept from beneath his cravat up over his pale face. “You wound me, sir.” He held his head high. “I have more strength of character than to sob after taking a measly wallop to the face.”

The corner of Colin’s mouth curled in a wicked grin. He hadn’t missed Lord Emsbury’s emphasis on the word measly, and for it, his respect for the young earl grew. A man who maintained such a haughty bearing even as he quaked in his boots was either brave or a fool. Although one could argue those were two ways of describing the same attribute.

Colin unbuttoned the cuffs of his shirt and rolled up his sleeves. He inclined his head to Lord Emsbury. “Apologies. Then let us prove your rugged constitution so that we can return to our card game.”

“Yes, let’s.”

Lord Emsbury marched around the table. He drew to attention in front of Colin, arms stiff at his side, back fire-iron straight. He angled his head to the right, presenting the left side of his face for its impending punishment.

Men left their tables, and others poured into the gaming room, gathering around to watch the spectacle. They pushed close until Colin barely had room to cock back his arm.

“I have two that Lord Emsbury goes down,” someone in the crowd shouted.

“Three for me,” another added.

“Four that he loses consciousness.”

A stifled collective laugh rolled through the gathered men. More bets poured in, shouted from every direction. If he weren’t so far in his cups, Colin might have felt a twinge of sympathy on Lord Emsbury’s behalf.

Unfortunately, the brandy did what it was supposed to do—numb his soul and shut off his humanity.

Colin rolled his shoulders then lifted his fists, ready to get on with it. He squinted, attempting to turn the three blurry Lord Emsburys into a single, more solid one. His target a little more in focus, he drew back his right fist and swung, using what his drunken brain gaged to be much-reduced force—although whether his perception mirrored reality was debatable.

“How odd,” Colin mumbled to himself.

Instead of pain emanating from his knuckles, there was a constricting, dull ache in his forearm. Colin looked at the pained area. A brawny hand latched onto his arm in a grip so tight its fine, black hairs stood out against the contrasting milky-white knuckles. Colin followed the line of the arm up to the face of its owner.

His lips spread into a wide, lopsided grin. “Ah, Hamon, my old friend.”

Richard Clarke, the Earl of Hamon, had been one of Colin’s closest friends since their time at Eaton.

Hamon returned the greeting with a scowl that usually made most delicate young ladies wilt, and most men shrivel into mousy versions of their formerly lionhearted selves. But Colin had known Hamon since the time the imposing earl’s adolescent bladder couldn’t hold its contents through the night, thus nullifying his fear. Even the portion of it he’d be wise to maintain during moments such as this.

Colin used his free hand to pat Hamon on the shoulder. “I was in the middle of winning a few pounds. How rude of you to interrupt.”

Hamon shook his head at Colin, disappointment hewn into each crease in his brow. He released Colin’s arm but kept his hands poised at his side, ready to intervene again if necessary. “More like saving you from your idiocy. Come along. It’s time to go.”

The gathered men grumbled amongst themselves, not appreciating the thwarting of their entertainment. They dispersed, many complaining about all the ways they could have spent the assured winnings they would have received from Lord Emsbury’s defeat.

Lord Emsbury’s shoulders slackened, his entire body nearly convulsing as he sighed in relief. He quickly scurried back to his seat, collected his chips, and relocated to another card table.

“Go?” Colin pulled a peevish face, sloppily shaking his head. “Nonsense. I still have several more hours of gambling left before retiring for the evening. It is still evening, is it not?”

Colin stepped around Hamon, heading back to his table. The large quantities of alcohol he’d consumed slowed his movements, giving his friend the advantage. Hamon quickly blocked his escape. He retrieved Colin’s discarded coat, hat, and gloves then held them out to him.

“Your grandmother awaits you at Torridune House. After returning from Lady Alborn’s ball and finding you not in residence, she sent a footman to my townhouse asking me to retrieve you. Needless to say, we both knew there were only two places you would be at this hour.”

Colin stepped back, pinching the bridge of his nose to ward off the impending headache that, as of late, always followed the mention of his grandmother. “If Lady Herstshire awaits me, I have many, many, many more hours of gambling left before I return home. And why do you still lack the ability to tell her no?” He shot Hamon a bleary-eyed, withering glare. “We’ve been friends for far too long for you not to have learned how to do so from me. It must be nearly midnight by now. Your excuse was built into the inappropriate hour for calling on a person to ask for favors.”

Hamon lifted a nonchalant shoulder. “Because unlike her ungrateful grandson—that would be you—I know the value of a caring maternal figure, seeing as how I grew up without one. Furthermore, I respect her and have no qualms assisting her plots to mold you into something resembling an upstanding gentleman, when and where I can.”

Colin made a noise somewhere between a grunt and a snort. Some friend he had. Hamon abandoned him in favor of becoming his grandmother’s champion. The treacherous lout. He should have never invited him to Torridune House over the holidays of their youth.

“Look at you. Using guilt to try to sway me. You grow more like her by the day. I forbid you from visiting my grandmother for at least a fortnight. Maybe two.”

“And I chose to ignore you. Now let’s go.” Hamon thrust Colin’s garments out with more force, his stony expression leaving no room for further argument.

Colin snatched the offered items and clumsily put them on. “I am coming with you only because you’ve ruined my mood. Now I must seek the company of a more agreeable, and preferably more buxom, companion to revive my spirits.”

Hamon didn’t reply. He stepped to the side, prompting Colin to precede him. Colin eyed his friend suspiciously as he passed. If his grandmother awaited him, there was no way Hamon would allow him to do anything other than go straight to her. Silence generally preceded a diabolical maneuver that forced him to do as Hamon bade.

It was no surprise to Colin that his carriage awaited him right behind Hamon’s when they stepped out onto the street. No doubt, his driver had been given strict instructions to bring Colin straight home. He didn’t economize when it came to paying his staff for this very reason. It had the marvelous effect of making them very loyal and swift to carry out his requests. Including swallowing their timidity and ignoring the threats against their lives that Hamon had a habit of issuing to deter disobedience.

Stepping up to the coach, Colin paused in front of the door held open by a footman and looked at Albert, his devoted and trustworthy driver. Albert inclined his head, a conspiratorial glint in his eyes. A devilish grin pulled at the corner of Colin’s mouth—he’d meet no opposition to overruling Hamon’s instructions. He’d be burying his face in the exquisite Miss Catherine Griffith’s Cupid’s kettle drums soon enough. Colin turned to Hamon, working to keep the glee of winning this clash of wills from his expression. “I believe this is where we part ways, old friend. Enjoy the remainder of your evening.” A hint of gloating entered his voice. “I know I shall.”

Hamon crossed his arms over his chest, his expression neutral. “You’ll go straight home then?”

“Not a chance,” Colin scoffed.

Hamon’s lips curled into a humorless smile, his visage turning fiendish. “I hoped you’d say that. This is for your own good.”

Before Colin could work past his inebriated confusion to form a coherent response, Hamon cocked back his fist and punched him in the face. Clearly, he’d learned a thing or two from his lessons at Gentleman Jackson’s boxing academy. Colin crumpled onto the floor of the coach. Hamon’s command to Albert to take him home followed him into the darkness.

About the Author

Gabrielle Carr is the author of Regency Romances featuring casts of diverse characters, that are full of heart, hope, and happily ever after. She has always enjoyed indulging in her imagination. At a very young age she had a thirst for reading and the many possibilities it helped bring to life in her mind’s eye. Ms. Carr can normally be found locked away with a good book in her home in Charlotte, NC or traveling the globe to places like India, Bali, Tokyo, or London.

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