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Never Trust a Duke

Dear Reader,

It has come to this author’s attention that the frosty, ever-so-proper Duke of Faircliffe is in possession of stolen artwork!

This salacious detail has also come to the attention of London’s most scandalous family: the Wild Wynchesters. Rumor has it, the painting rightfully belongs to them!

One cannot begin to guess what acts of revenge the motley family of vigilantes might wreak upon His Grace, the Duke of Icy, Yet Maddeningly Sexy Hauteur.

Graham Wynchester has been spied climbing the Palace of Westminster. Elizabeth, purchasing a deadly new swordstick. Tommy, looking disreputable and rakish. Marjorie, with paint under her fingernails. Jacob, amassing an army of highly trained… ferrets?

And as for Miss Chloe Wynchester… er… where did that girl disappear to? She is perhaps the most underestimated of all the Wynchesters. The unassuming wallflower of the bunch and yet, I suspect, the one who poses the greatest danger to the Duke of the Finely Clenched Jaw and Smoldering Gaze…

About the Book: The Duke Heist

A secret identities, forbidden love, opposites attract romance from a New York Times bestselling author: Why seduce a duke the normal way, when you can accidentally kidnap one in an elaborately planned heist?

Chloe Wynchester is completely forgettable—a curse that gives her the ability to blend into any crowd. When the only father she’s ever known makes a dying wish for his adopted family of orphans to recover a missing painting, she’s the first one her siblings turn to for stealing it back. No one expects that in doing so, she’ll also abduct a handsome duke.

Lawrence Gosling, the Duke of Faircliffe, is tortured by his father’s mistakes. To repair his estate’s ruined reputation, he must wed a highborn heiress. Yet when he finds himself in a carriage being driven hell-for-leather down the cobblestone streets of London by a beautiful woman who refuses to heed his commands, he fears his heart is hers. But how can he sacrifice his family’s legacy to follow true love?

“Erica Ridley is a delight!”

—Julia Quinn

“Irresistible romance and a family of delightful scoundrels… I want to be a Wynchester!”

—Eloisa James

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An Excerpt from The Duke Heist

Chloe folded her hands in her lap and did her best not to glare a hole right through the handsome, haughty Duke of Faircliffe. His frigid blue gaze had looked right at her—and slid away just as quickly, having glimpsed nothing to attract his interest.

How many times had she and Faircliffe been in the same room? Eight? Ten? Every disdainful glance in her direction as indifferent as the last. She lifted her chin. Her father had taught her that to the right person, she would be visible and memorable. Faircliffe was clearly the wrong person.

Not that she wanted him to notice her, Chloe reminded herself. The continued success of “Jane Brown” hinged on her uncanny ability to be wholly unremarkable under any circumstances. She gripped the soft muslin of her skirt and took in all the other ladies in the parlor.

Mrs. York clapped her hands together. “And now… a celebratory tea!”

The duke’s face displayed a comical look of alarm. “I don’t think—”

“You must join us!” Mrs. York’s hands flapped like frightened birds. “The girls were about to have oatcakes and cucumber sandwiches before you arrived.”

“We were about to discuss epistolary structure in eighteenth-century French novels,” Philippa murmured.

“I never meant to interrupt,” Faircliffe said with haste. “I mustn’t stay, and in fact—”

“Nonsense! Come, come, all of you.” Mrs. York waved her arms about the room, driving her guests into the dining room like a shepherd herding sheep.

Chloe and Faircliffe were both caught in the flow.

Once they reached the door, however, Chloe stepped to one side. She could not take a seat at the table, or she would be stuck there for the next hour.

While everyone else was occupied, this was her chance to liberate the painting. But first, she needed an excuse to disappear. An adorable, furry reason.

She released Tiglet from the large wicker basket. The calico kitten darted between boots and beneath petticoats with a formidable rawr.

Mrs. York gave a dramatic shriek in response.

Tiglet scaled several curtains in search of an open window before darting out of the dining room and flying off down the corridor as though his tail were afire.

Chloe gasped, as if shocked that her homing kitten was attempting to dash home. “How embarrassing! I’ll run and find the naughty little scamp at once. Go on ahead. Please don’t wait for me.”

With her basket hanging from her arm, she ducked into the parlor and closed the door behind her. She hurried to lift the painting from the wall and carried it behind a chinoiserie folding screen in the corner. Up came the frame’s grips, off came the backing, out came Bean’s painting. She rolled it carefully and tucked it into the basket before stretching the forgery she’d brought over the wooden frame.

She ran to open the parlor door before anyone noticed it had been shut and hurried past the dining room to the front door without taking her leave from the guests. Would anyone notice she failed to return? Doubtful. If anything, the ladies would assume Jane Brown had slunk off in mortification.

Still, there was no time to waste. Any caper’s success depended upon a timely exit.

Keeping her head down, she headed down the front walk toward the first carriage in the queue. Only when she glimpsed the red curtains and a pair of leather gloves on the box did she lift her head toward the driver’s perch.

It was empty.

Her lungs caught. Where was Graham?

Distant shouts reached her ears, and her tight muscles relaxed. Something unexpected must have occurred, and her siblings’ distraction was underway.

This was her cue to flee.

Chloe pushed the basket inside, unhooked the carriage from its post, and leapt onto the coachman’s seat. Female drivers weren’t unheard of, but all the same, she was glad she never went outside without garbing herself in the plainest, dullest, dowdiest clothes in her wardrobe. No one who glanced her way would bother looking for long.

She set the horses on a swift path out of Mayfair.

Only when Grosvenor Square was no longer visible behind her did she allow herself a small smile of victory.

“Did we escape?” came a low, velvet voice from within the carriage.

Chloe’s skin went cold. Who was that? Graham wouldn’t be hiding in the back of the carriage. A stranger was in the coach! She twisted about and wrenched the privacy curtain to one side.

A handsome visage with soft brown hair and sculpted cheekbones stared back at her, glacial blue eyes wide with surprise.

Faircliffe?” she blurted in disbelief.

“Miss… er… you?” he spluttered when he found his voice. “What the devil are you doing driving my carriage?”

About the Series

The Wild Wynchesters are a uniquely talented family of caper-committing siblings who don’t let High Society’s rules stop them from righting wrongs.

You can grab a FREE prequel: The Governess Gambit!

Meet the Wild Wynchesters: This fun-loving, caper-committing family of tight-knit siblings can’t help but find love and adventure!

Years ago, Chloe Wynchester and five other uniquely talented orphans were adopted by a wealthy baron with a secret mission: The motley Wynchester family fights for justice from the margins of high society. And the handsome, clever duke Chloe has long admired proves to be her worst enemy…

An unscrupulous boarding school is exploiting orphans in a secret workhouse. Baron Vanderbean plots a daring rescue. When illness befalls him, Chloe must take the reins. But how can a lifelong wallflower lead the charge to save the children?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ERICA RIDLEY

Erica Ridley is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of witty, feel-good historical romance novels, including the upcoming THE DUKE HEIST, featuring the Wild Wynchesters. Why seduce a duke the normal way, when you can accidentally kidnap one in an elaborately planned heist?

In the 12 Dukes of Christmas series, enjoy witty, heartwarming Regency romps nestled in a picturesque snow-covered village. After all, nothing heats up a winter night quite like finding oneself in the arms of a duke!

Two popular series, the Dukes of War and Rogues to Riches, feature roguish peers and dashing war heroes who find love amongst the splendor and madness of Regency England.

When not reading or writing romances, Erica can be found riding camels in Africa, zip-lining through rainforests in Central America, or getting hopelessly lost in the middle of Budapest.

FRIEND ERICA

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Scandal in Venice

Baden, Baden 1818

My Dear Mr. Clemens,

I have another tidbit that may be of interest, you darling man. This one is a bit more explosive than some of the other bits I’ve gathered in my travels. I count on you to mask the lady’s name when you publish in your delicious newssheet, for she is young and may yet require the tattered remnants of her reputation.

I reached Geneva in September and to my delight encountered my dear friend Lady Florence Tyree. She fell on me, relieved to have a sensible companion in which to confide. The poor woman had been dragooned into accompanying her niece, Lady Charlotte Tyree when the girl imposed herself on her brother, the Earl of Ambler who by rights ought to be completing his Grand Tour accompanied only by his tutor free to do whatever it is young men get up to on the continent (I don’t need to be explicit with you, dear friend!).

Lady Florence had reached utter weariness with the boy’s behavior, it being as wild as may be expected, abetted by his tutor no doubt. The dear woman fears for the girl who seems to have attempted to absorb every work of art or culture to be found on the continent, in an excess of learning that we all know can only bring feverish distress to a young lady’s mind, causing who knows what enfeeblement of her faculties.

No amount of begging on the part of dear Lady Florence convinced the girl to take her ease at some of the more pleasant gardens or porticoes of the city. When the young people announced they were preparing to move on over those daunting mountains into Italy, Florence reached the end of her patience. She and I decided we needed the restorative spa at Baden, which we are entirely in agreement is precisely what Lady Charlotte needs.

Alas the young woman prove intractable in this matter as well. When Lady Florence forbade her Italy and announce she herself would accompany me to Baden, Lady Charlotte informed her she would leave for Venice with her brother.

Venice! I need not tell you Bryon himself is there. Who knows what sort of immorality goes on, and the young woman insisted she would travel there without a chaperone. Lady Florence declared she would report this to the guardians of this pair of young people who would undoubtedly demand she return to London (leaving the boy on his own to continue his tour, of course). What did Lady Charlotte declare but that she didn’t care. By the time any such demands from the guardians reached her she would be in Rome at last. She has some notion that her life will be poorer forever if she doesn’t see Rome.

I tremble to tell you, good sir, that the following morning we awoke to find the young people gone. My beloved Lady Florence was prostrate. She came to this lovely spa with me to recover. Word reached us yesterday via friends traveling north from there that Lady Charlotte is indeed in Venice, and that the young earl is running with the wildest of crowds exposing his sister to no end of debauchery. We disregarded hints she has taken residence with an Italian gentleman.

Be kind in your publication. She is young.

Your good friend and supporter, Lady Horsham

About the Book: Lady Charlotte’s Christmas Vigil

Love is the best medicine and the sweetest things in life are worth the wait, especially at Christmastime in Venice for a stranded English Lady and a handsome physician.

Lady Charlotte clings to one dream—to see the splendor of Rome before settling for life as the spinster sister of an earl. But now her feckless brother forces her to wait again, stranded in Venice when he falls ill, halfway to the place of her dreams. She finds the city damp, moldy, and riddled with disease.
As a physician, Salvatore Caresini well knows the danger of putrid fever. He lost his young wife to it, leaving him alone to care for their rambunctious children. He isn’t about to let the lovely English lady risk her life nursing her brother.
But Christmas is coming, that season of miracles, and with it, perhaps, lessons for two lonely people: that love heals the deepest wounds and sometimes the deepest dreams aren’t what we expect.

https://www.amazon.com/Charlottes-Christmas-Vigil-Caroline-Warfield-ebook/dp/B0758NLYV2/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lady-charlottes-christmas-vigil-caroline-warfield/1127062287

and for other formats:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/745607

About the Author

Award winning author of family centered romance set in the Regency and Victorian eras, Caroline Warfield has been many things—including a Bluestocking Belle. She reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

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An Officer & an Art-lover

December, 1814

Since Miss B’s sudden visit to Prussia, our fair maiden has all but disappeared. All that remains are some excellent likenesses gracing the walls of Clayford House, and several risqué sketches of her old friend Major M.

Despite this author’s best efforts, we can find no one willing to discuss the lady’s whereabouts, nor can we find any suitable explanation for her old friend Major M’s sudden desire to visit Paris. (True, the Christmas art exhibition is exciting – but how much companionship can be found in art? This author believes it is really past time our handsome Major settled down, don’t you?)

His talents are sorely needed at the Congress of Vienna, for he dances well and improves the dullness of the assemblies immeasurably. One cannot expect English ladies to waltz with the French, can one? After all, the wars have only just ended – haven’t they?

While our dashing Major M is an acknowledged collector of neo-classical artworks, we cannot fathom only any reason for a man of his divine looks to spend an unaccompanied Christmas in Paris. Not when there are so many ladies in Vienna to oblige him – though perhaps it is not these fine ladies who attract him?

We have heard on dubious authority that Major M consorts with artists’ models. Indeed, he has recently been seen in the company of a notorious French artist, the one who paints such scandalous nudes.

The Major is a well known art lover, dear reader, but there are many sides to art – are there not?

We weep for Major M, spending Christmas alone, or at least surrounded by Frenchwomen. Come home, Sir, and choose a companion from among your own countrywomen. We assure you, the English ladies are desolate at your desertion.

About the Book: Le Salon de Noël

Since his oldest friend disappeared during her confinement, Major Henry Musgrave has used his time at The Congress of Vienna to learn all he can regarding the whereabouts of Miss Louisa Beresford.

A series of paintings draws Henry to Paris for the first Salon de Noël (Christmas Salon) since the wars ended. Could the model in the paintings be Louisa? As rumours swirl through the city that France is not yet safe, Henry grows more determined to find the only woman he’s ever loved, and give her a Christmas to remember.

Le Salon de Noël is a Regency holiday reunion novella set among the art salons of Paris and Montmartre in 1814. It contains some of the characters from Always a Princess.
Release date: 19 November

Click here for preorder information

About the Author

Clyve Rose is an award-winning author of historical fiction both in Australia and the US. She has been writing historical romance fiction for the best part of two decades. She works in the Regency and Georgian periods, with occasional detours into Ancient Greece.

Here There Be Pirates

Dear Mr. Clemens,

I write with a warning for all who may consider a journey to the West Indies. The British Government wishes us to believe that Pirates no longer rule the waters of the Carribbean. That the so called ‘golden age of piracy’ ended with the captures and deaths of Edward Teach–commonly known as Blackbeard and Bartholomew Roberts. However, this is far from the case.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

I know from my own experience that Piracy is alive and thriving in the Carribean and the coastal waters of the former Colonies. Our government calls it ‘privateering,’ and claims that such persons as Mr. LaFitte of New Orleans and the infamous Irish Red–supposedly of Jamaica have letters of marque placing them under the protection of legitimate governments and preventing our Navy from summarily executing them when captured.

This is a deception most foul and it must stop. I recently embarked on the merchant ship Tally Ho, returning to England from a visit to my sister who lives in St. Martin. We were three days out of port when sails were sighted on the horizon. Soon enough, it became obvious that the approaching ship was The Dragon’s Rest, flag ship, if you will, in the flotilla led by the pirate–I refuse to dignify this rapscallion with the title privateer, Irish Red.

The Tally Ho was out gunned and its Captain, poor man, unable to outrun or out manuever The Dragon’s Rest. We were boarded and subjected to a most humiliating search. All valuables were seized and our lives threatened, lest we refuse to give over all money, jewels and important papers. Thought what a pirate wants with bonds, certificates and government documents is beyond me.

As a last humiliation we were all assembled on the main deck and forced to kneel, heads bowed for that scum of the oceans Irish Red to inspect each of us personally. I thank heaven he chose to pass me by, though the woman next to me had her chin lifted and was forced to look the heathen in the face.

We were told that because of our cooperation our lives would be spared and the Tally Ho would not be confiscated. The pirate crew returned to their ship and departed. Thankfully no passenger was seriously hurt, although several of our valiant crew suffered wounds in attempting to prevent the pirates from boarding.

Frankly I was astonished that we escaped so easily. However, I was even more astonished to learn from the woman who was forced to face Captain Irish Red that the man is no man at all. It is an insult to the British Navy that it has allowed this renegade female to rule the Carribean for so many years. I call upon our government to do its utmost to capture this woman, and I most emphatically warn all my fellow citizens not to sail in Carribbean waters without well armed naval escort. Heed this warning or you will certainly lose your fortunes and may well lose your lives.

Sincerely yours,

She who shall never again leave England.

A word about this post. This week I will begin my next story, which centers around the character known as the pirate Irish Red. The article above lays some of the preliminary ground work for Irish Red’s book. You can expect to see more about her and her adventures in the next few months. Thank you all for reading and sharing.

About Rue Allyn:  Award winning author, Rue Allyn, learned story telling at her grandfather’s knee. (Well it was really more like on his knee—I was two.) She’s been weaving her own tales ever since. She has worked as an instructor, mother, sailor, clerk, sales associate, and painter, along with a variety of other types of employment. She has lived and traveled in places all over the globe from Keflavik Iceland (I did not care much for the long nights of winter.) and Fairbanks Alaska to Panama City and the streets of London England to a large number of places in between. Now that her two sons have left the nest, Rue and her husband of more than four decades (Try living with the same person for more than forty years—that’s a true adventure.) have retired and moved south.

When not writing, enjoying the nearby beach or working jigsaw puzzles, Rue travels the world and surfs the internet in search of background material and inspiration for her next heart melting romance. She loves to hear from readers, and you may contact her at  <a href=”mailto:contact@RueAllyn.com” title=”Contact Rue Allyn” target=”_blank”>contact@RueAllyn.com</a>. She can’t wait to hear from you.

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An Earl Scandalously Kisses an Innocent Miss

Dear Lovely Readers:

A most scandalous display of courtship occurred yesterday on the stoop of Lady R’s townhome. The dashing Lord B swept the innocent debutante Lady D into his embrace for a scorching kiss. The neighbor’s windows steamed over from the passionate heat. It was said that the lady did not protest the affectionate gesture, but wrapped her arms around the gentleman pulling him closer. The kiss was soon broken-up by the reformed rakes The Duke of S and Lord W.

Earls and Scandal

As Lord B was dragged away by Lord W, he drunkenly declared his apologies. While The Duke of S offered an explanation for his friend’s actions to Lady D. (Who I might add had also courted the lady himself before he wed the lovely Lady S.) A smile of pleasure graced the lady’s face before she closed the door.

But wait, there is more to this story readers. My sources tell me that earlier in the day while at his club, Lord B laid Lord P to the floor with a planter. He threatened him with more punches if he ever approached Lady D and his sister again. It leaves me wondering who the Earl tried protecting more, his sister or the red-haired beauty, Lady D.

Earls and Scandal

Well readers, does the impoverished Earl mean to ruin Lady D for financial gain? Or is he smitten with her charms? While most ladies would have slapped a gentleman stepping over the bounds of propriety, Lady D did not. Which leads me to believe that she welcomes this scandalous courtship. I for one, will enjoy watching this scandal unfold.

About the Book: I Shall Love the Earl (Tricking the Scoundrels #3)

How many times must a gentleman ruin a lady before he offers for her hand….

She waited for the temptation held in his gaze. He refused to give into his desire to court her. Can a ruination of a lady lead toward a love to last a lifetime?

Every ball Dallis MacPherson attended, she saved a spot on her dance card for a certain gentleman. Many balls later and still no offer, prompts her to pursue the earl. When she encounters him on a darkened balcony, he steals a kiss and warns her away. His stolen kiss promises a passion she wants to explore. At every occasion he attends, she tempts him with her own promise. Soon the earl falls for her charms and sends her down a path of ruination with one incident after another. Can Dallis overcome the scandal of the earl’s pursuit?

Roderick Beckwith watched the Scottish beauty from afar. He lost his heart the moment he set eyes upon her. Throughout the season every gentleman offered her a dance, but him. With his financial affairs on the brink of disaster, he couldn’t provide her with the life she deserved. When his mother introduces his sworn enemy to his heart’s desire, he must set aside his pride. However, his courtship is less than ideal. At every opportunity he brings scandal to her name. Can Rory redeem himself and prove to Dallis that he is a gentleman worth loving?

With every glance, Dallis pulls Rory in deeper. His stolen kisses forces him to make her an offer of marriage. As they prepare for their wedding, he acts as the perfect gentleman. However, the proper gentleman was not who Dallis desired. Will her scoundrel show himself before they say I do?

I Shall Love the Earl is the third book in Laura A. Barnes’s romantic historical romance series. If you love a novel filled with a scandalous courtship set in Regency England, then you will enjoy Rory enticing Dallis with promises of love.

Devour I Shall Love the Earl, the third novel in Laura’s Tricking the Scoundrel series today.

Excerpt:

Dallis heard the pounding on the door and realized that for some reason Shaw wasn’t going to answer the caller. Even though it was highly improper, Dallis opened the door herself. She stood in surprise at who stood on her doorstep. Lord Roderick Beckwith swayed back and forth, trying to fight for his balance. His eyes glazed over as his lips pulled into a lopsided smile.

      “Yous is sooooo betiful.”

      He was drunk. The ever-proper, keeping his temper in a tight control, protective Rory Beckwith, was blazing drunk. He reached out to wrap his finger around a stray curl.

      “Soooo soft. Knew wods be.”

      Rory’s touch stilled Dallis from helping him stand. The gentle caress caught her unaware. His thumb brushed across the loose strand. Rory continued to sway and soon lost his balance. He fell into the doorjamb, where he decided to lean. When Dallis didn’t respond to Rory, he took his touch one step further and brushed his thumb across her lips. The jolt propelled Dallis closer to him, her mouth opening at his touch.

      “Soft engf to kiss.”

      Dallis didn’t know how to react. Rory was finally near and touching her. Her body took over, responding to his need. Her tongue slowly slid out to lick his thumb. At her reaction, he groaned and pulled her into his arms.

      “See, I tolds you I’s dangerous.”

      Rory’s lips devoured hers passionately, exploding her senses. His mouth pulling kiss after kiss from her soul, while his hands dived into her hair causing her hair pins to scatter across the foyer. As he sensed her desire, the kiss turned more urgent. Everything she ever read about was coming true at this moment. Still, Dallis held back from responding due to her naivety. Until he groaned and tightened his embrace, giving her the encouragement to return his kiss and match him stroke for stroke.

      “We thought this might be your next destination. C’mon mate, before the neighbors catch sight of your stupidity. I told you, Sheffield, that he would go to her.”

      Sheffield and Wildeburg pulled Rory away from Dallis. Her face flamed with embarrassment to be caught so intimately in Rory’s embrace. Dallis held her cheeks as Wildeburg led him away.

      “Sorrysss Dallis,” Rory called out.

      “For the kiss?” she whispered.

      Sheffield answered for him. “No, my dear, for another matter. I am working to quell that problem. But you should be aware that he defended your honor at the club today with Lord Phipps.”

      “Defended, how?”

      “By a bloody punch to the nose.”

      “Oh. More to add to my embarrassment.”

      “I am afraid so. Do you remember our conversation in the park?”

      “Yes.”

      “If it is any comfort, you are not the only one suffering from love.”

      “Then why does he ignore me?”

      “Pride, my dear Dallis. A man’s greatest downfall in life.”

      “Pshh.”

      “My sentiments exactly.”

      “Thank you, Sheffield.”

      “Anything for a friend. Will we see you at the Sambourne Ball?”

      “Yes, I am very excited. Lady Beckwith offered to introduce me to Lord Holdenburg.”

      “So I have heard. Another reason for our acquaintance’s inebriation.”

      Dallis smiled. Rory’s display of drunken affection proved he was jealous. Was he jealous enough to stop the courtship her grandmother proposed? If not, his actions this afternoon secured that he must court her or ruin her reputation. They could have explained away the punch, but the kiss held the most damage. Dallis knew her grandmother’s neighbors watched them. There wasn’t an activity in the neighborhood they didn’t observe.

      “Give Sophia my love.”

      “Will do. Please save me a dance this evening. We might as well make the bloke so bloody jealous that he will become a pup at your feet, begging for a treat.”

            Dallis closed the door as Sheffield entered his carriage. She leaned against the paneling, her smile growing wider, realizing she had Rory right where she wanted him. Her smile turned to astonishment as she remembered the taste of him on her lips. She pressed her fingers to her mouth. Would he recall their kiss after his drunkenness wore off? If not, she would be sure to refresh his memory.

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About the Author

International selling author Laura A. Barnes fell in love with writing in the second grade. After her first creative writing assignment, she knew what she wanted to become. Many years went by with Laura filling her head full of story ideas and some funny fish songs she wrote while fishing with her family. Thirty-seven years later, she made her dreams a reality. With her debut novel Rescued By the Captain, she has set out on the path she always dreamed about.

When not writing, Laura can be found devouring her favorite romance books. Laura is married to her own Prince Charming (who for some reason or another thinks the heroes in her books are about him) and they have three wonderful children and two sweet grandbabies. Besides her love of reading and writing, Laura loves to travel. With her passport stamped in England, Scotland, and Ireland; she hopes to add more countries to her list soon.

While Laura isn’t very good on the social media front, she loves to hear from her readers. You can find her on the following platforms:

Website: http://www.lauraabarnes.com

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