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May 1, 2014

Cheryl Holt’s RELUCTANT BRIDES Blog Tour!

Reluctant Brides

Today Novels Alive TV hosts New York Times Bestselling author Cheryl Holt’s final day of her RELUCTANT BRIDES blog tour! Read on for an exclusive chapter snippet from WICKED, the first book in the Reluctant Brides series!  Don’t forget to sign up for Cheryl’s book giveaway as well!

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Reluctant Brides

Wicked Chapter Snippet

James had observed plenty when he’d barged into Rose’s bedchamber, but he was hesitant to share his views with Stanley.

When Stanley had lured him home from the army, when he’d made the hilarious announcement that he was marrying again, James had been greatly humored. Now that he’d met Miss Ralston, he was simply confused.

With that wild auburn hair and those expressive green eyes, she was stunning. He felt she deserved much more than a cold, unhappy union with Stanley, but James didn’t know her at all. How could he judge what she truly sought from the match?

No matter what her situation, though, he hardly thought Stanley should be the cure. Then again, if she could deliver the desperately needed heir, she’d be set at Summerfield forever. Wasn’t such a boon worth it? Any female in the world would likely leap at the chance.

James didn’t think Miss Ralston should sacrifice herself, but then, he loathed the estate.

He’d been brought to Summerfield, rescued from an orphanage in London, by Stanley’s first wife, Edwina. Supposedly, she’d been lonely and had yearned for a child to keep her company. But why James? Of all the orphans in the kingdom, why had he been chosen?

Stanley had been maddening in his refusal to explain, so James occupied a strange position at Summerfield. He wasn’t acknowledged as kin, but everyone assumed him to be.

Rumors abounded that he was Stanley’s by-blow from a secret affair, but Stanley had never affirmed or dispelled the gossip, and James couldn’t figure out what to believe. He and Stanley didn’t look anything alike, not in facial features or stature, so there was no physical resemblance to provide any clues. And there was certainly no similarity of personality.

Stanley had welcomed James into his life, had paid for James’s education, had bought his commission in the army. James viewed Summerfield as his home, but what did that mean?

He had no genuine bond with Stanley. Not one that Stanley would admit anyway. He constantly teased James with sly innuendo about James’s past, about his parents’ identities, about how Stanley knew precisely what James was dying to know.

As a boy, James had been frantic to learn who he was, so Stanley had manipulated him in a thousand small ways, but as the years had sped by, Stanley’s power and influence had waned. Especially with James having been in the army for so long.

His ties to Summerfield and to Stanley had worn thin to the point of snapping. The least little incident could sever them. That’s what James liked to tell himself. The reality was more complicated than that.

“She’s very bright,” James ultimately said of Miss Ralston, remembering her refined speech and gracious manners. “You’ll never be able to trick her.”

“Leave it to me.”

“I wish you’d reconsider.”

“Well, I’m not going to. What is your answer? Will you help me or not?”

“There has to be some other way.”

“You think I haven’t reflected? You think I haven’t dithered and debated and torn out my hair?”

“Is that where it all went? You tore it out?”

“Don’t be smart,” Stanley said again as he had to Lucas.

James sighed. “It would be so much easier if she was stupid.”

“Stupid! If she was, she’d pass on her insipid traits to my child, and I’d wind up with a dunce for a son. Why would I want that?”

“Why would you want any of this? It can’t be worth it to deceive her as you’re planning.”

“I can’t let Oscar inherit.”

Oscar was Stanley’s only brother, a pious, cruel, and sanctimonious vicar whom Stanley couldn’t abide and whom James detested. There were hundreds of people who relied on Summerfield for their income and employment, and Oscar was pompous and unbending. If he eventually became the owner of Summerfield, it would be a tragedy for all.

“It’s too bad you couldn’t have been a tad more fertile,” James said.

“And it’s too bad I’ve lowered myself to have you as an ally.”

James shrugged. “You have to pick your partners where you find them.”

“I certainly do.” Stanley sipped his drink, watching James with those shrewd, cutting eyes of his. James could barely resist squirming. Finally, Stanley asked, “What is your reply? Are you in or out?”

“Must I decide now?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know what’s best.”

“I told you: If you assist me, I’ll give you a thousand pounds. More importantly, I’ll give you all the information I have about your parents.”

“You liar. You never would. If you came clean, your hold over me would be broken.”

“Yes, it would, but you’d have what you crave: your past, your history, your kin. You’ve always claimed you’d jump any hurdle to discover the details. Will you?”

James stared and stared, eager to get up and walk out, eager to tell Stanley to use some other sap for his dirty work. But the sad fact was that he needed the money, and he was anxious to unravel the secrets only Stanley could provide. Those secrets were the only thing Stanley possessed that could force James to acquiesce. And there was Miss Ralston to consider.

She was remarkable, but naïve and trusting, and she’d journeyed to Summerfield with good intentions. She was extremely brave, traveling so far merely to wed an elderly ingrate. James was amazed by her courage. He wouldn’t have dared, but she was ready and willing to proceed.

Stanley was cruel and manipulative and driven to have his own way. If James refused to help, Stanley would bribe someone else. Who might it be?

The notion of what might happen to Miss Ralston, of what Stanley might let happen to her, was too disconcerting.

Wasn’t it best if James agreed? If he participated, he’d know the outcome. If he didn’t, the possibility of a catastrophic conclusion was enormous, and the damage to Miss Ralston would be incalculable.

“All right,” he muttered. “I’ll do it.”

“I knew I could convince you.”

“I’ll do it for her, though. Not for you. For her.”

“Aren’t you a bloody knight in shining armor?” Stanley snorted. “Persuade yourself in any fashion you wish. We’ll start tomorrow.”

“I can’t wait.”

“Neither can I.”

Stanley stood and strutted out. He was smug, cocksure, positive that he controlled the whole world and could render any ending that suited his purposes.

“Poor Miss Ralston,” James murmured to himself. “The poor, poor woman.”

Suddenly, he felt as if he was choking. On Stanley’s spite. On Stanley’s malice. On his own idiotic complicity.

He leapt up and headed for the stables to saddle a horse. Hopefully, Lucas was in the tavern in the village, and they could drink themselves silly until dawn. Perhaps by then, James would forget the entire sordid, disgusting arrangement.

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Cheryl Holt
Cheryl Holt
is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thirty-nine novels. She’s also an Amazon “Top 100? author.

She’s also a lawyer and mom, and at age 40, with two babies at home, she started a new career as a commercial fiction writer. She’d hoped to be a suspense novelist, but couldn’t sell any of her manuscripts, so she ended up taking a detour into romance, where she was stunned to discover that she has an incredible knack for writing some of the world’s greatest love stories.

Her books have been released to wide acclaim, and she has won or been nominated for many national awards. She is particularly proud to have been named “Best Storyteller of the Year,” by the trade magazine, Romantic Times BOOK Reviews.

Her hot, sexy, dramatic stories of passion and illicit love have captivated fans around the world, and she’s celebrated as the Queen of Erotic Romance, which is currently the fastest selling subgenre of women’s fiction. Due to the ferociousness of some of her characters, she’s also known as the International Queen of Villains.

She received degrees in music, languages, and education, from South Dakota State University, and her juris doctorate was obtained at the University of Wyoming. Her colorful and chaotic employment history includes such variety as public school teacher, cook, bartender, lobbyist, and political activist. She also did brief stints in metro-Denver as a deputy district attorney and administrative law judge.

Cheryl lives and writes in Hollywood, California.

Please support the author by purchasing her book:
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Short URL: http://tinyurl.com/hl7p6pw
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Dayna Linton
Dayna Linton - Dayna is the very busy divorced mother of four "exceptional" children. She spends her time running not only this website but is also the founder and President of Rising Phoenix Charitable Foundation (www.rpcf.org) - a charitable organization which benefits women and children's causes. Dayna is a firm believer in the worth and value of individuals and hopes to help all embrace who they are, nourish themselves and then "pay it forward" by helping others around them to do the same. In her spare time, Dayna enjoys reading anything she can get her hands on and hopes to someday have the time to write a book herself. Dayna is also an avid lover of film and the process that goes into making them. From an early age, she remembers watching the Academy Awards with her mom and cheering on her favorites. When Dayna was little, she just knew she was going to be a big star someday and she would practice in front of a mirror accepting her Oscar. Dayna took four years of drama, which she loved, but found her true passion was dancing. Even today you can catch Dayna dancing just about everywhere she goes, including beaches in the moonlight ...

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