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#BookReview Heart and Hand by Rebel Carter #historicalromance #kindleunlimited @Siren_Press

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Anyone who was absolutely anyone knew the story of how Julie Anne Baptiste’s parents met: the blue-blood Union cavalry officer and the freed woman on her way North fell madly in love at first sight, all in the midst of the Civil War. It was legendary within New York City's Four Hundred, and from girlhood, Julie daydreamed of her finding own true love match. But now, as a well-seasoned debutante of twenty-one years, Julie only dreams of teaching and much prefers the vibrant world of her books over the company of society’s most eligible bachelors.

Julie is content to perform the role of affluent debutante until she realizes all of her tomorrows have horrifyingly become occupied by a gamut of social engagements, and they will remain so until she marries. Desperate and knowing only a wedding will put a stop to the madness of living as a debutante, Julie does the unthinkable: she responds to a mail order advert in the Heart and Hand Matrimonial Times. No longer a girl fantasizing of love, Julie did not anticipate forming a genuine romantic connection with the man she corresponds with, but when ex-Union soldier Forrest Wickes writes her, Julie loses her heart.

All seems well with Julie’s plan to leave the city and marry, until the society pages intercept one of her letters and within the hour all of New York knows of Julie’s decision to become a mail-order bride. However, the New York City society pages don’t know they only reported half the truth about Julie Baptiste. The debutante intends to marry not only Forrest Wickes but also his best friend, William Barnes. Her secret of taking two husbands safe, Julie sets out for the Montana Territory before the papers can learn the truth. But how will a debutante-turned-teacher manage frontier life with two husbands?


BOOK REVIEW

I was intrigued by the premise of this story--an heiress of mixed ancestry travels from New York City out into wild Montana to become a mail-order bride after corresponding an falling in love with her husband-to-be. Except it isn't just one man she'd going to marry but two.

Julie is a bold character for travelling across country to meet two men. But Forrest for his part was a man worth falling in love with. I was less enamored by Will and even less convinced that Julie would be truly happy with him in the picture.

I expected more smexiness than what was actually between the pages. But there's plenty of drama as Julie contends with competition for her men. All in all, a lovely and fun western historical romance. 

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Excerpt

“God, woman, where are you in all this lace?” he huffed, making sure to get the entirety of her train safely up on the bench next to her.
“It’s the height of fashion,” she informed him primly.
Will snorted, still shoving swaths of silk satin up next to her. “Seems like a waste.”
Julie stiffened at his casual comment and looked down at her hands, even though she knew he couldn’t see the hurt in her eyes, not with the near darkness they were in, relieved only by the bright light of the moon.
Noticing that she’d gone still, Will sighed, “I didn’t mean—Julie, you looked beautiful today.”
“Thank you,” she said, her voice small. She kept her eyes on her lap and, working to keep her voice even, began to ask about Forrest when Will spoke.
“Darlin’,” he tried, one of his hands coming to rest over both of hers, which were tightly clasped in her lap. “I’m sorry. Sometimes I speak before I think. Y-you were the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life today.” He picked up a fistful of her skirt and gave it a gentle shake. “This wasn’t a waste. Not an inch of it.” He was whispering now, voice low and husky. She could hear the sincerity in his voice and she swallowed hard at the raw emotion she heard.
“Will,” she whispered, touched at his words. She opened her mouth to say more but Will surprised her when he surged forward and caught her lips in a kiss. For a moment, Julie didn’t move, far too stunned by the kiss to think, but then, under his adept and coaxing lips, she relaxed. A little moan caught in her throat, her mouth finally parting under Will’s ministrations. Their kiss deepened, his hands tightening on her as he tentatively explored her mouth. When Julie reached out to run her fingers through his hair, he pulled back to swing himself up beside her on the wooden bench of the wagon. He pulled her into his lap with eager hands and kissed her again once she was settled against this chest. The kisses were a soothing balm to the early sting of his dance with Rosemary, and were a step in the right direction at looking past his inattention.
“So sweet,” he whispered against her lips. The soft tone in his voice prompted Julie to whimper and wiggle in his lap in search of more contact. The firm planes of his body could be felt despite the layers of lace and silk between them. Her corset, already a troublesome garment, was suddenly more constraining than normal and she cursed the item’s designer. Her fingers slid down to brush against the buttons of Will’s shirt, which prompted her to decide she also hated buttons. Damn the little monsters for keeping her husband’s skin from her touch during their little rendezvous.
When Will’s fingertips brushed the top of her neckline she squirmed. All of this was new and heady to her, the passionate kisses, the heated touches and breathy gasps. She was frantic to feel his calloused fingers on her body in far more intimate places. Her friends at finishing school and again at Vassar had told her numerous stories about their stolen moments and trysts with their beaus, but until this moment Julie had never been in such a scandalous or compromising position in her life. Yet, how compromising was her perch in Will’s lap when they had married not an hour before? Wasn’t this how they were intended to enjoy the other’s body? After his perceived coldness during the reception, Julie found the closeness soothed her nerves. She wondered suddenly if that was Will’s intention, but Julie barely had time to consider the fleeting thought before a sudden cough broke the frenzied embrace the pair had been locked in.
Will lifted his head up with deliberate slowness. “Forrest,” he grunted out, sounding annoyed, though his hands were still gentle on Julie’s sides.
“Should have known I would come back to this,” Forrest’s voice floated to them from the dark. Julie pushed at her hair, which had started to come loose from the pins Alice had used to secure her curls.
“I-I,” she stammered, already pushing herself off of Will’s lap, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—”
“What? Didn’t mean to enjoy a moment with your husband?” Forrest asked, swinging himself up on the bench next to them. Now that he was closer to her, Julie could see his features in the moonlight. And there wasn’t one thing about him that didn’t scream arousal. He bit his lip before darting forward to press a kiss to her lips. “Nothing wrong with what you were doing, Julie.”
She gave him a quick nod, breathless at being kissed by not one but two men in the span of so many minutes. Before tonight her romantic history had consisted of nothing more than a few rides in a caleche to park outings and socials. There had been a picnic here and there but always with a chaperone, never alone, and not once had Julie allowed any of the gentlemen to take liberties. So small was their social circle that Julie knew better than to fall for the besotted fanciful words men spewed in order for a few moments of pleasure. She almost laughed at the thought, because before now, there had hardly been a handful of words spoken between them other than ‘I do.’ Though Julie supposed in the grand scheme of things, those two simple words were the ones that mattered the most.

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