An Interview with Maggie Cox

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I am delighted to welcome to Bookish Jottings best-selling Mills and Boon Modern Romance/Harlequin Presents author Maggie Cox for a chat about her wonderful books, romantic fiction and her writing secrets!

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Thank you so much for joining me here at Bookish Jottings, Maggie. It’s lovely to have you here. Could you please start by telling us something about yourself and the books you write?

I’ve always been a seeker and have been asking the important questions about life since I was a child. ‘Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? Why do so many people suffer?

I can’t profess to have found the answers but there are some things I’ve learned along the way. For instance, I knew from early on that life was a challenge and if I didn’t experience the gamut of heartache and pain, then I wouldn’t learn so much and might possibly take things for granted. I don’t want to be a person who isn’t aware. I believe that to be aware is the only way we can experience true compassion. My intention in my stories is always to try and reflect hope, forgiveness and redemption because that’s what I hold in my heart and I hope I’ve gone some way to achieving that.

 You’ve written many wonderful category romances for Harlequin Presents. What originally attracted you to series romance and to the Harlequin Presents line in particular?

To be honest, I never aimed for a specific category. All I ever wanted to do was to write stories about falling in love and all the joy and heartache in between but ultimately for them to have a happy ending! It was the editor who bought my first title (Tessa Shapcott) that thought the ‘Modern’ line would be best for me. Having realised it was the perfect fit for my stories and in the USA Harlequin Presents, of course I had to agree!

What are the challenges of writing books for Harlequin Presents?

It’s funny, but it’s not coming up with the ideas! Life is full of inspiration and it’s just about honing in initially on a kernel of an idea. I might get it from an article I read in a newspaper or magazine or the lyrics of a song I’ve heard that speaks to my emotions. It might even be a conversation I overheard in the coffee shop I frequent. For example, imagining why a particular well-dressed young couple I’ve spotted keep on arguing!

That’s where a vivid imagination comes in handy. The main challenge is to keep the topics as current as I can and to write about a situation that will appeal. But to also make readers wonder how the Hero and Heroine in the story will resolve any difficulties that come up. One thing is guaranteed. There’ll definitely be lots of twists and turns along the way but isn’t that true of all relationships?

Harlequin Presents is the best-selling category romance line in the world. What do you think accounts for its success?

I think that people are fascinated by romantic relationships and in their heart of hearts fantasise about being the heroine or hero of the stories they love. I think the romances at their best, give people hope that if their own relationship isn’t idyllic (or they don’t have one yet) then perhaps there’s something they can learn that will help them to achieve that. I think that we all hope for a better world and one of my favourite pieces of advice is from Gandhi when he said ‘Be the Peace you want in the world’. That is, don’t look for peace outside because all peace comes from within. If you have hate in your heart then that’s what you’re likely to attract… not love!

Your latest book, Required to Wear the Tycoon’s Ring, has just been published. What inspired this book?

I live in Kent which is considered to be ‘The Garden of England and there is a lot of beautiful scenery to enjoy and be inspired by. Along with this, there are many beautiful houses of historical note that can’t help but lend themselves to the imagination. First of all I think about the main characters. In this particular story I asked myself, what if the hero didn’t just inherit a very grand house by dint of his family connections, but decided to buy it because he had become rich after a childhood of poverty and his past love had come from the wealthy family that once lived there. But her father had despised him as not being ‘good enough’ for her. The girl he loved and her autocratic father have long since died and our hero decides to somehow ‘right the wrongs of his past’ by purchasing the house. One day when he is looking over the property, he sees a young woman staring interestedly through the gates and that’s where my story begins….

How would you sum up Required to Wear the Tycoon’s Ring in a single sentence?

True love doesn’t happen just once in a lifetime!

What is Required to Wear the Tycoon’s Ring about?

It is about second chances and that second chance becoming the love of your life that you never looked for. My hero believed he would never love again after he lost his first love but thankfully, life showed him that it had other ideas!

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Let your heart guide you as to what you want to write about and get to know intimately the feelings that drive that impulse. So intimately do you know them, that you can almost taste them! Don’t be dictated by what you think will earn you the most money or what subjects will make you popular. It can’t just be about what things look like. It has to be more important than that. Always write because you can’t imagine doing anything else. That drive will percolate into your stories and make them ones that not only you will treasure but your readers will too.

Who are your favourite authors?

Juliet Marillier and Winston Graham. Juliet Marillier for her Seven Waters trilogy and for everything else she has ever written! Her storytelling is nothing less than sublime. They’re full of great passion and the power of love to heal and transform as well as bringing to readers scenes that make you wish you were there, they are so evocative. I think the genre of fantasy really opens the doors to examining the ‘fairy tales’ that we grew up with and teaches us that wisdom is ageless and timeless and not just for the princes and princesses of the world!

I read the first ‘Poldark’ novel by Winston Graham and was so bowled over by it that I went straight out and bought the rest of them. I have never read a male author that knew the intricacies of the female heart so well that he makes every response and nuance seem so utterly natural. He also writes great male heroes. Not least, Ross Poldark himself.

What’s next for Maggie Cox?

I’ve always wanted to write a full-length fantasy novel but it’s a little bit daunting when there are terrific authors of the calibre of Julier Marillier around! However, she always inspires me to return to that desire and write a fantasy novel of my own. I wrote to her once expressing my feelings and to thank her for the amazing work she’s created. To my surprise she answered my letter and sent me some priceless advice. Her generosity of spirit is amazing. I will always treasure that advice and keep her letter. As to what else is next for me, I honestly don’t know! I’ve learnt that the future is unknowable and that things rarely go to plan. But the important thing is to stay open to possibilities and not get too fixed about outcomes. The most important thing of all I’d say is to just try and enjoy your life and take pleasure in the small things as well as the big! It’s the small things that often turn out to be the most valuable….

Required to Wear The Tycoon’s Ring – Maggie Cox

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When it comes to writing emotional, heartfelt and wonderfully compelling contemporary romances, best-selling author Maggie Cox simply cannot be beaten and in her latest Modern Romance, Required to Wear The Tycoon’s Ring, she has penned another sensational tale you will not be able to put down!

Imogen Hayes had turned her back on love after she had been jilted at the altar by her callous fiance. Determined to keep her heart under lock and key and to keep emotions at bay, Imogen is doing her utmost to focus on herself and to move on with her life after having her heart completely and utterly ripped into pieces. Despite being adamant that relationships are strictly not on the agenda for her, Imogen cannot help but be moved by romantic poetry and prose dripping with feeling and emotion and when an impulse purchase at a charity shop leads her straight into the path of handsome tycoon Seth Broden, little does she realise that her life is going to be turned upside down!

To the outside world, Seth Broden looks like the kind of man who has the world at his feet: good-looking, wealthy and with his career going from strength to strength; he seems to have everything anyone could want in life, but despite all of his success, Seth still cannot shake off this feeling that he’s still an outsider from the wrong side of the tracks who will never be good enough. As a teenager, he had fallen head over heels in love with the daughter of the town’s richest man, however, his plans to spend the rest of his life with Louisa had been shattered when she had died in a tragic accident. Having thrown himself into his work, Seth has worked hard to become the huge success he is today, but after having endured such a horrible loss, he had vowed never to get emotionally involved with anyone ever again. Seth has never been short of female company, but relationships are strictly off limits for him. But will the beautiful Imogen Hayes manage to change his mind?

In desperate need of a bride, Seth realises that he cannot bear the thought of spending another moment without Imogen by his side. When he proposes to her, Seth thinks that theirs will be a marriage in name only, but will virginal Imogen make him realise that happiness can be within reach if only they are willing to give their love a chance? Or will the two of them always be haunted by the past?

A wonderful contemporary romance that ticks all the right boxes, Required to Wear the Tycoon’s Ring is a first class tale about healing, second chances and the power of love that will tug at your heartstrings and keep you enthralled from beginning to end. Maggie Cox takes her readers on an emotional roller coaster ride they will not easily forget and she makes them fall in love with gorgeous Alpha male Seth and determined and resilient Imogen.

A fantastic story that I absolutely adored, Required to Wear the Tycoon’s Ring is the latest winner by Maggie Cox!

Something Old, Something New by Darcie Boleyn blog tour review

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Sophie Kinsella and Jill Mansell fans are in for a treat with Darcie Boleyn‘s second fabulously fun, flirty and feel-good contemporary romance, Something Old, Something New.

Annie Thomas never imagined she would have two failed marriages behind her before she even turned forty. But Annie refuses to be bitter or despondent – even if she spends most of her days mired in dog poo and her kids’ constant melodramas. Life might not exactly be a bed of roses for her, but she wouldn’t have it any other way! Even when her ex-husband announces that he’s getting married to another man, Annie puts a great big smile on her face and agrees to give him away at his wedding. With her kids by her side, Annie knows that she can get through absolutely anything – until she finds out that her other ex husband, Evan Llewellyn, is flying in from his glamorous life in New York for the wedding!

Growing up, Annie had her whole future mapped out in front of her. She was going to be a world-famous photographer jetting from one exotic location to the next, attending fabulous parties with gorgeous Evan by her side- she certainly never thought she’d end up a divorced single mum with two mad bulldogs for company! Evan had been the man of her dreams – charismatic, intelligent and handsome, he had been all set to conquer the world of music journalism. But when Annie discovered that she was pregnant with his baby, their plans for the future had to be quickly amended!

Travelling, partying and career aspirations quickly gave way to dirty nappies, night-time feeds and constant juggling and when parenthood had taken its tool upon their relationship, Annie and Evan had no other choice but to part company. But when they clap eyes on one another again, the old spark which they had thought long-buried comes back with a vengeance! Could it be second-time lucky for the two of them?

Are Annie and Evan ready to open themselves up to love again? Or has too much water flown under the bridge for the two of them to ever be happy again?

Something Old, Something New is a wonderful story about second chances, families and the ties that bind that I just found absolutely impossible to put down. Darcie Boleyn is a spectacular talent and she exquisitely blends warmth, pathos, humour and heart in an irresistible tale that will have you laughing out loud on many an occasion! Hilarious, heart-warming and hard to resist, Something Old, Something New has got it all: a wonderful heroine you will adore, a gorgeous hero, adorable pets, chaotic family members and lashings of love and laughter that kept me turning the pages late into the night.

A fabulous romantic comedy that should not be missed, Something Old, Something New is one of the summer’s must-read titles!

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City of Shadows by MJ Lee blog tour review

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Crime fiction fans are in for a treat with the second installment of MJ Lee‘s compulsively readable and wonderfully addictive Inspector Danilov series set in 1920s Shanghai, City of Shadows.

Inspector Danilov has always been a bit of a maverick. Having always been the kind of man to march to the beat of his own drum and not blindly follow the herd, Inspector Danilov takes a unique approach to solving  his cases. With conventional policing being thrown out the door, Danilov prefers to follow his instincts to nail his suspects and lock the perpetrator of violent crimes behind bars. With unconventionality being his middle name, when Danilov is asked to investigate the sadistic murder of a fellow police officer killed in action, nobody is surprised when he turns his attention to another case entirely. A case that is baffling, frightening and that has everybody in the city puzzled: the shocking murder of the Lee family, who have been found massacred in their own home. The question on everyone’s lips is what on earth possessed them to open the door to an evil killer who had completely and utterly annihilated the entire family?

As Danilov’s investigation takes him deep into the city’s evil underbelly, he finds himself embroiled in a den of corruption, malice and skulduggery. He can feel himself getting closer and closer to finding the killer, but each time he thinks he is close to nailing his perpetrator, a spanner is thrown into the works by shocking revelations that throw him off-kilter.

Will Danilov ever manage to arrest the person who has wreaked such destruction? Or will he be forced to commit the ultimate sacrifice: walk away from his investigation to keep the people he loves with all of his heart safe from evil?

MJ Lee’s City of Shadows should come with warning: don’t start this book late at night because you are sure to still be up at three o clock in the morning unable to put down this first class tale of murder, intrigue, secrets and lies. A fantastic crime novel packed with heart-pounding suspense, nail biting mystery and jaw dropping twists and turns, City of Shadows is a densely plotted, wonderfully layered and highly atmospheric yarn that has keeper written all over it!

Addictive, engrossing and stunning from beginning to end, crime fiction does not get any better than this!

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City of Shadows by MJ Lee Blog Tour Interview

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Thank you so much for joining us here at Bookish Jottings, MJ. It’s lovely to have you here. Could you please start by telling us something about yourself and the books you write?

Hi there, it’s great to be here, thanks for having me. A little bit about myself. I did a degree and a postgrad in history and then went into writing but in the commercial field. I worked for major international advertising agencies for over 25 years as a creative director involved in making TV, print and integrated communications. A job I still do on a freelance basis as we speak. I enjoyed it immensely and kept writing novels as I worked. I wrote three which are still in my desk upstairs.The fourth was taken up by Carina/Harper Collins and became the Danilov series.

What attracted you to writing crime fiction?

I write historical crime rather than police procedurals or the incredibly popular, griplit. I think I’ve always be attracted to the moral element of crime fiction. In an increasingly grey world there’s a wonderful sense of right and wrong that we can return to in crime fiction. Plus I think it’s able to tackle some of the outstanding issues of the day – child abuse, violence against women, guilt, despair, rage, alienation in our society – in a way that doesn’t talk down to people but engages them in a story.

I write about the past but I have one eye on the present and the future. Writing about crime allows one to do this in a way that is impossible in any other genre.

What drew you to setting your Inspector Danilov books in 1920s Shanghai?

I was out strolling one evening in Shanghai (we were living in the city at that time). It was around dusk in October, one of the best times of the year in the city. Perfect walking weather. I reached the crossroads at Jiangxi Middle Road and Fuzhou Road, just opposite the Metropole Hotel. A square where four Art Deco buildings built in the 1930s meet. For a moment, there was no traffic and no people, a strange occurrence in a city of over twenty million people. I closed my eyes and was suddenly transported back to the 1920s, imagining old Dodges, Packards and Chevrolets
rolling up to the hotel, discharging carloads of flappers and elegant men wearing tuxedos. A lovely moment, trapped in time.

The Inspector Danilov books were born. And what a time to write about. Back then, the city of ‘joy, gin and jazz’ was an amazing melting pot of adventurers, spies, triads, opium smugglers, merchants, con-men, communists, criminals, fascists, Japanese miltarists, gamblers and refugees.

With such a witches cauldron of deceit and double-dealing, happiness and despair, wealth and poverty, it soon became obvious that only a crime novel, with its strong moral compass, could explore the depths of the abyss that was Shanghai.

How did the character of Inspector Danilov come about?

The two main characters, Detective Inspector Danilov and Detective Sergeant Strachan, are both outsiders, in a society full of outsiders. They are employed by the Shanghai Municipal Police but distanced and separate from the rest of their colleagues, and from the society of the time.

Mavericks are always so much more interesting to read about and to write. The choice of Danilov as the lead in the books actually came from a line in a policeman’s memoir of the time. He mentioned that when they had a problem, both the French and Shanghai police turned to White Russian members of their forces to solve it for them.

At last, my two passions, history and crime, can now both co-exist together. So far, two books in the series have been published, Death in Shanghai and City of Shadows, with a third on the way in October. Given the wonderful cesspit of characters who lived in the original ‘Pearl of the Orient’ there’s no shortage of wonderful material for the future.

Your latest novel, City of Shadows, has just been published. How would you sum up the book in a single sentence?

That’s quite easy. All families have problems. Most don’t lead to murder.

What is City of Shadows about?

Essentially, it’s about families and how the different forms of this most important relationship in our lives, work on different levels.

A family has been found murdered in the heart of 1920s Shanghai. But what could have compelled them to open the door to their killer?

Inspector Danilov has always taken a unique approach to solving his cases. So, when he’s asked to investigate the violent death of a fellow police officer, killed in action, he doesn’t think twice about turning his attention to a different case altogether: the brutal murder of the Lee family, found massacred in their own home.

How could the deaths of an ordinary family account for a shooting halfway across the city? And what clues lie with the letter found clasped in the dead girl’s hand? Inspector Danilov’s instincts tell him he’s close. But when the investigation reveals deep corruption at Shanghai’s core, Danilov faces a choice: probe further, and expose the evil underbelly of the city? Or shy from duty…and keep the few people he loves safe?

What kind of research do you do for your books?

I’m a stickler for historical accuracy. It annoys me when I pick up a book set in the past and the language or the settings are incorrect. Recently, I only managed to read two pages of quite a well known book before flinging it away in disgust, there were just too many mistakes in the language.

So it means I do lots of research about locations, attitudes, speech and manners. Hopefully, readers won’t see this on the page. It’s to help me get into the mindset of the period and of the people.

What in your opinion are the ingredients for a perfect crime novel?

Well obviously one needs a crime to begin with. Murder being the most obvious one to use. But I would also add a dash of conflict, a pinch of tension, a grating of deadline and just a soupçon of intelligence to make the whole dish worth spending a few hours eating…I mean reading.

 

Who are your favourite crime writers?

I’m afraid I like the classics – Conan Doyle for Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hamnett, Umberto Eco and Josephine Tey come to mind. Of the modern writers I’ll read anything by Val McDermid, Steven Dunne, Peter May, and Peter James. I think these writers have created the classics of the future.

What’s next for MJ Lee?

I’ve got a new book coming out on June 15th. It’s something different for me – a genealogical crime thriller – set in the modern day and Ireland during the War of Independence. It has a female lead character, Jayne Sinclair, and is called The Irish Inheritance. I had a blast writing it as it mixes history, genealogy and crime, three of my passions in life.

I’m presently writing the next Danilov which puts the detective in a precarious situation as he battles the Character Killer once more.I love writing. For me it’s a form of relaxation. Hours can go by as I return to the past in my head, building up my imaginary world. What a lovely job!!!

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The Trouble with Seduction by Victoria Hanlen blog tour interview

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Thank you so much for joining me here at Bookish Jottings, Victoria. It’s wonderful to have you here. Could you please start by telling me something about yourself and the books you write?

I am a lifelong writer. Many of the jobs I had required strong writing skills. Before I became published, I wrote stories in a number of different genres. Eventually I found my voice most suited historical. Since my stories always included elements of Romance, I finally decided to go all in and write romance.

My stories now generally include danger and mystery and sexual and emotional tension.

Some things did not come easily for me, though…like writing a kiss. Just a kiss. What’s so hard about that? I had to write and rewrite. And then there are the even more intimate things. Yowza! I had to work really hard on those.

In February I published my first novel, The Trouble With Misbehaving. Publication day for my second book, The Trouble With Seduction was April 25th. Both books took a lot of research but I totally enjoyed it. You can see some of the places I visited on my website: victoriahanlen.com

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You write Victorian Romances. What attracted you to writing historical romances?

I’ve always enjoyed reading about history. At the very impressionable age of twelve, our teacher assigned us to read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. I fell in love with poor Heathcliff.  It’s probably why I tend to write tortured heros.

I’ve probably read hundreds of historical romances. I like the familiar but slightly foreign aspect of the world in the eighteen hundreds. When I started writing fiction, I frequently included flashbacks into the past. Now my stories are set in the past.

What drew you to setting your books in Victorian England?

So much was happening during that time. England ruled the seas and was a major world power. New discoveries and major conveniences elevated the standard of living for the populace. The culture was going through rapid changes as well. All of this brought about lots of tension and conflict—marvelous ingredients for a great stories.

What kind of research do you do for your books?

I totally enjoy the research: the history books and biographies, internet research, watching documentaries and history programs, visiting the historical places that have been preserved, exploring museums, talking to experts about my topic, you name it. It’s all an adventure. I sometimes have to set a time limit because I so enjoy investigating the past when I should be writing my story.

Your latest novel, The Trouble with Seduction, has just been published. What is the book about?

After more than two years, Sarah, Lady Strathford, emerges from mourning to start renovations on her deceased husband’s burned laboratory. Workmen soon find incriminating devices in the rubble. Instead of an accident as originally ruled, her husband’s death now appears deliberate. Suspicion is thrown onto Sarah.

A chance meeting puts her in the path of the mysterious and handsome Mr. Cornelius Ravenhill causing sparks to fly. He is intent on finding the men who brutally attacked him. He and Sarah discover her late husband’s plans for a unique engine may be key to solving both their difficulties.

While Sarah falls increasingly under his spell, an ever-changing flock of villains descend to threaten all she holds dear, including her life. Additionally, she begins to recognize strange inconsistencies in Mr. Ravenhill.

Soon she must make a decision. Should she follow her heart and trust this man who makes everything in her come alive or run away from him as fast as she can?

Who is your favourite character in the book?

I actually have two favourite characters, my heroine—Lady Strathford and my hero—Mr. Cornelius Ravenhill. Both are so unique and different with problems and strengths all their own. They’ve lived lives at the edges of the bell-shaped curve.

What are the challenges of writing historical romances?

In a word…many. There’s a lot to know about the world of the past. There’s the language, laws, culture, clothing, communication, mode of transportation, medicine, entertainments, recent discoveries, the major conflicts of the day, and on and on. I find it fascinating to discover what they had vs. what they didn’t have. Sometimes it’s quite surprising.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Practice, practice, practice and don’t give up. Surround yourself with positive people who support your efforts, and keep writing. When things look the worst, that’s when something good is about to happen. Rejections are a badge of honor. Hang them on a nail in a prominent place in your home. Consider each as merely one more ‘No’ toward a ‘Yes’.

What is your all-time favourite historical romance?

Oh, tough question. There are so many. Well, I already mentioned Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, but I also love Judith McNaught’s Kingdom of Dreams.

What’s next for Victoria Hanlen?

I’m researching and working on book #3 in “The Trouble With” books. It will tell the story of several secondary characters from my previous books.

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The Trouble with Seduction by Victoria Hanlen blog tour review

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Wickedly witty, gloriously sensual and wonderfully compelling, The Trouble with Seduction is a dazzling historical romance from award-winning author Victoria Hanlen!

The twice widowed Lady Sarah Strathmore is ready for some fun. Having spent most of her life doing somebody else’s bidding, Sarah has decided to become the mistress of her own destiny and to start pleasing herself for a change instead of bending over backwards trying to make somebody else happy. After burying two husbands who were much older than her, Sarah decides to inject some much needed excitement into her staid and lonely life and to have a no-strings affair with a man of her own age whose appetites match her own…

Unfortunately for Sarah, men who fit that description seem to be rather thin on the ground. With her brother insisting on marrying her off to a man who is distinctly average at best and wholly unsuitable at worst, Sarah realises that if she wants her heart’s desire to become a reality, she must be a little bit creative – and as luck would have it, she bumps into Mr Cornelius Ravenhill again after a disastrous first meeting. Could the dashing Mr Ravenhill be the answer to all of her prayers?

Ravenhill has got his own problems to contend with. Thrust into a corrupt and dangerous world where enemies are plentiful and allies in very short supply, Ravenhill needs all his wits about him if he is to uncover the culprit of a vicious attack on a member of his family. He needs to keep a cool head and not to get distracted – so the last thing he wants or needs is to find himself mooning over the notorious Lady Strathmore!

Plunged into a world of secrets and skulduggery, Sarah and Ravenhill must work together to get to the bottom of this frightening mystery, but seduction is never far from both of their minds! However, with so many obstacles standing in their way, does their passion stand a chance of surviving? Or will they secrets end up tearing them apart…forever?

Writing with all the warmth and humour of Julia Quinn and the sensuality of Elizabeth Hoyt, fast rising star Victoria Hanlen has penned a wonderful historical romantic suspense that will grab you from the very first page and hold you in thrall until the final satisfying denouement. Hilarious, heart-warming and hard to put down, The Trouble with Seduction has at its heart a deliciously dashing and daring hero you cannot help but swoon over and a terrific heroine who is smart, intelligent, intrepid and absolutely wonderful!

A fabulous read that I highly recommend to readers of historical romance the world over, I cannot wait to read more exciting tales of passion, danger and desire from Victoria Hanlen’s talented pen!

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