Big Duke Energy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Big Author Energy!

“”Body, heart, and soul. I give myself to you freely and without reservation, to do with whatever you wish.”
Her heart sputtered, stalled, and then kicked over in her ribs twice as fast as before. Surely she was misunderstanding. “But…you have often said you are not a man who wants to be tied down.”
He shrugged. “Historically-metaphorically-that’s been true, but in the strictest sense of the word, I very much like to be tied–“” – from THE EARL ON THE TRAIN, BY KERRIGAN BYRNE

Wow! Even if Kerrigan Byrne’s The Earl on the Train had been the only story, this anthology would have been worth the read (5 stars all the way). It’s short but man, does it pack a steamy, heart-wrenching punch! Due to length constraints and my tendency to ramble, I’ll focus on just some of the stories in this collection, but all five were fantastic–steamy AND gripping.

Kerrigan Byrne’s contribution clearly picks up with some unfinished side character business but even without having read the book with the characters’ first appearances, I was able to follow their back-story–and what a fascinating one it was. The story opens with Sebastian, our alpha villain/hero, about to commit murder. As he’s about to plunge his knife into the chest of his victim, he realizes he’s mistaken his man and finds himself face to face with the only woman who has ever managed to tug at his heart, Veronica. What follows is an action-romance movie that speeds the reader through a bevy of emotions, and includes some laugh-out-loud bits like the one I’ve quoted above. For a novella, this story was sizzling–awkwardly steamy if you are trying to read around your family, so be warned! But what really got to me by the end was how adept Byrne is at blending attraction and emotion effortlessly. By the end of the novella, short though it is, you are convinced of Sebastian and Veronica’s passionate love for one another and the reasons why they fit so well together have been demonstrated with absolute conviction.

Loved and Found by Christi Caldwell (4 stars) has some fairytale vibes to it! The story opens in a idyllic duke’s manor where a working class boy comes across a pretty girl hiding from her parents. Their meeting is the start of a lifelong connection. From childhood friends they move to lovers, but of course, fate tears them apart. The girl, Edie, can do nothing to prevent her separation from the hero, Thaddeus, when it happens–and the reasons given are convincing and realistic when the reader finally learns them.

Put Up Your Dukes by Janna MacGregor has a highly original premise. Amelia is estranged from her husband, the publisher of a gossip rag. Her marriage to him resulted in her expulsion from good society. His publishing of a piece damaging to her friend resulted in the collapse of their marriage. But despite their official estrangement, the couple still sees one another once a week and their physical desire for one another remains strong. I loved the fact that the hero and heroine were already married and somewhat older than the typical romance couple when the story began, and that the story addresses a marriage in crisis!

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Steam Level: Very Steamy!

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