Book Review of Never Dare a Wicked Earl by Renee Ann Miller

Never Dare a Wicked Earl (Infamous Lords, #1)Never Dare a Wicked Earl by Renee Ann Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a great way to kick off a holiday in a good mood!

I loved Hayden and Sophia (and also Lady Olivia) and their romance was fraught with enough delicious tension to keep me flicking the pages on my Kindle like a junkie.

The part of Miller’s writing that impressed me the most (okay, there are 2 parts) was her ability to evoke the era (or certainly what felt like a “bygone” era, to me) and also her delightful turn of phrase (GREAT similes which made me alternately smile or move to the edge of my seat). Miller does an excellent job of injecting historical fact into the story without beating the reader over the head with it.

Great sensuality and tension throughout, with lots of secondary characters to bring depth to the story and make you care what happened to the H&h.

The author also did a fantastic job engaging my sense of smell, something I don’t often experience reading books. From the seamier smells of London’s impoverished back alleys to a gourmet breakfast that made me get out of bed and ransack the kitchen at 10 o’clock at night.

This book is a Victorian adventure that will engage and satisfy all your senses.

View all my reviews

March 24-26, 2017: Los Angeles RWA California Dreamin’ Conference

The conference was the ostensible reason for the bike journey (but really it was to meet George and Marla, my fabulous beta readers!!)

After collecting my name tag and bag-o-swag I headed off to find and meet my internet pal, Marla.

Here I am with a goodie bag:


Marla and I finally met that first night and she was just as wonderful as I’d suspected she’d be! Sorry, no pictures of that emotional first meeting…

Anyhow, she brought her wonderful husband Murph along with her and I’m already trying to figure out ways to get them to move to New Mexico!

Here we are Saturday morning drinking coffee and discussing our plans for the day (Brantly is the camera man):



I finally got to wear the skirt that took 400 hours of my life to crochet, so here is a close up below…


The question I was asked most often was where I bought it. Right after that came, “What are you wearing under it?”

Yoga pants. Nothing more exciting than yoga pants.

The conference had a lot of interesting speakers and workshops, but my two favorite parts, hands down, were California Readin’ and getting to dress up in period clothing!

Marla scored tickets to the California Readin’ event, which was apparently a first at the conference. Both attendees and fans purchased tickets and were seated at tables with seven others, two of whom were published authors.

The event was billed as reader appreciation and they weren’t kidding. There were 60 authors total and each gave out a gift basket. The tables themselves were loaded with cool swag and we got to play. . . BINGO!

No, I didn’t win, but Marla scored a huge basket of romance novels and an ice cream maker. Also lots of candy and desserts everywhere. . . Tons of fun.

Not only that, but afterward was a monster book signing sponsored by the Ripped Bodice book store. I got to meet one of my favorite historical romance authors, Tessa Dare, as well as contemporary romance queen, Robin Carr. Lots of fun meeting and chatting with authors.

Marla went to an afternoon session and I went to play dress up. The people offering hair/makeup/costumes were in the business of shooting book covers but on Saturday they were beautifying the contest attendees and taking cover shots, as well as dress up, fun shots.

I had a blast. My only complaint is that it didn’t last all day and I didn’t get to try on every dress.

Here is a shot of me in one of their masterpiece creations:



This was a photo Brantly took before the photographer stepped in and posed, moved, and generally made me look far better.

The dress was 8 layers of skirt in addition to the top, which was another two pieces. This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but I’m hoping the photographer shots will show the colors and craftsmanship.

After I took off my 10 layers of clothing I was off to the banquet hall for dinner, where NYT bestseller Robin Carr was our keynote speaker.

Sunday’s highlight was our lunchtime speaker, Sarah MacLean, who gave a wonderful keynote speech on the place romance novels hold in modern life.

By the time lunch was over I was beginning to suffer from conference fatigue and ready to head over to Marla and Murphy’s house for a couple days of R&R LA style. Here we are ready to take off:


LA is a huge city. And I mean huge. One of the favorite topics of conversation is the state of the freeways. Getting anywhere takes 2 hours. Even with all that traffic, the Los Angeleans are almost scarily happy. In fact, everyone in that part of the state seems really happy.

Anyhow, the next three days of relaxation were blissful after the chaos of the conference and road trip.

We hung out, chatted, went to see a magic show at the Magic Castle, checked out Santa Monica Pier and the neighboring beach, and beaded! Yes, I got to savage Marla’s fabulous bead collection and make myself a lovely bracelet.

Here we are getting ready to enter the Magic Castle:



The Castle is a members and guests only establishment and it felt like we’d entered a secret world. From the moment you say “Open Sesame” to the bookcase to enter the house, to the ghostly piano playing of Irma, to the wonderful prestidigitation of LA luminaries such as Pop Hayden, the experience was a one-of-a-kind.

Here I am destroying Marla’s pristine living room:


This was a wonderful trip and WAY too short.

Here is a photo of my long-suffering photographer and SAG wagon driver with his new friend:


Thanks to both Marla and Murphy for being such lovely, generous hosts. We’re coming back next week…



March 23, 2017: Day 13-The Last Day! Alpine, CA to San Diego, CA

Not much happened last night except losing $40 at the craps table. We’re not even sure how or why that loss happened, either. Craps is hard-like, calculus hard. So, even though we didn’t know what the hell was going on we couldn’t resist getting involved. Chatting with Robert and Mark, two of the craps dealers, was very entertaining, so that was worth the forty bucks.

Map from Alpine, California to San Diego, California

Anyhow, the next morning I woke up before first light and was the rain coming down pretty heavily on the well-lighted parking lot outside our window. Went back to bed and woke up at a decent hour.

The trip down the mountain was short (less than 30 miles) and almost all down hill. It was also a bit terrifying in spots because of the slick roads. According to Zach, my bike guru, my bike was not the best performing in ice, snow, or rain. After breaking on a particularly steep hill and skittering to the left, I finally knew what he meant.

The good news? I finally got to wear a lot of that expensive rain gear I bought in preparation for the trip.

Here I am coming down the hill from Alpine:


What d’ya think? Too much gear?

Hey, it’s the last day, I had to wear it all. Cars were swerving and retinas got burned, but I got to wear every damned piece of biker garb I purchased.

Here’s another:



At the bottom I got my reward:


Yes, I took a wrong turn somewhere along the line and ended up back in New York, or maybe Phoenix? Anyhow, look who was waiting for me…


Yeah, we hung out.

So, after a bit of a carb extravaganza I got back on the bike and onto Ye Olde Hwy 80 (that’s really what the signs say!)

Most cyclists keep going through the city and stop at the water’s edge to dip a bike tire into the Pacific Ocean. Snoopy put the kibosh on that idea as he’s not overly fond of water. Also, it was time to get our butts to Los Angeles.

This was the end of the road for me:


I got lost multiple times on my way to this park entrance. I kept following the bike lane, thinking it was THE bike lane. It took me a while to figure out San Diego has a whole pile of bike lanes,  not just the one. Huh.

I flipped a coin with Snoopy to see which of us got to ride shotgun and who got to ride on the rack.

Guess who won? (I tried not to gloat. . . )


For whatever reason Brantly thought this photo was hilarious:


I really had no idea that my normal smile looked so . . . demented.

Anyhow, after loading up we got on our way and headed north to LA. After a quick stop for fish and chips in Oceanside I got to meet the first of two people I came to see: my fantastic beta reader George!!

Here are Snoopy and me with George and his wife Bette, who kindly put us up for the night before the conference began:


Brantly and I had a great time with George and Bette and took an evening lake cruise graciously provided by George’s brother Bob and his wife Deb.

Thanks so much Bette and George for having us at your house!

Onward to the conference, where I get to meet Marla! My other fabulous beta reader . . .



March 22, 2017: Day 12. A day of rainy, cool, chocolate-filled rest!

Today I did nothing and there are no pictures of me doing it, either.

Brantly took a day trip into San Diego to ferret out a stamp shop while I lounged and ate junk food and watched it rain.

I wish I could say I won big at the tables but all I managed to do was throw away $5 on a video poker game. After underachieving at the all-you-can-eat buffet yesterday we decided to give it a wide berth today.

See you bright and early in the morning.

March 21, 2017: Day 11, Brawley, CA to Alpine, CA

Today started out being my day off this week, but once we got past the hideous Brawley/El Centro/Plaster City area I decided to take Snoopy for a spin.

Pictures of this part of the trip are trapped inside my Samsung camera, which I hate more than sand and wind, but not heat.

Brantly took no photos as he was disgusted by the agribusiness of the first part of the day and busy trying to keep the Cube on the road for most of the second part.

I biked a mere 29 miles before calling it quits. The wind was beyond brutal. Brantly said it was (and this is a direct quote) the worst wind he’d ever driven through. I made him repeat that, just because.

Anyhow, the high wind warning signs were permanent fixtures that threatened treacherous gusts for 77 miles.We haven’t gone the full 77 miles, yet, but I can honestly say the signs delivered on the first 50 miles.

Seriously? 77 miles of killing winds accompanied by a 4000 foot elevation change??  Uncle, already. Uncle!!

After about 10 miles I felt I could have made better progress using a pair of spoons to claw my way up the sheer cliff face. Here is a map, for what it’s worth. It doesn’t do justice to the steepness of the ride. If I had a functioning camera or Xerox machine I would include the elevation profile that is printed on the back of my American Cycling Southern Tier map. It reminded me of the first day of this trip and Emory Pass, except with wind.

Map from Plaster City, California to Alpine, California

We saw a sign for a “luxury” casino in Alpine, CA and rapidly adjusted our plans-plans which had involved me continuing to cycle.

Instead, we stopped at the Las Viejas Casino (old ladies in Spanish).

I gave Brantly $20 and sent him off to the poker tables to have a good time while I checked into our room and did a face plant into the bed.

I awoke in time to join Brantly at an all-you-can-eat buffet and then go back to bed.

Approximately 35 miles remain to get to the beginning of the Southern Tier in San Diego. I made an executive decision that tomorrow would be an official day of rest–for Snoopy, you know…

Here is a picture of Sparky and Shmoo to make up for the lack of other visual aids. All the critters back in Taos are in the gentle, caring hands of Marjorie and Andy, who dandle each animal individually on a daily basis.

Sparky and Shmoo being so cute it is downright painful!


Sparky and Shmoo


March 20, 2017 Day 10: A Quint-fecta of pain…

Today began at the Hampton Inn in Blythe, CA. Not much to say about the town of Blythe itself, but the people at the motel were very nice.

Here are Snoopy and I considering what fascinating items we will include in the day’s blog…


Notice I have the pepper spray handy beside my multiple beverages and bell pepper, just in case Brantly gets out of hand.

The destination is Brawley, CA. The maps I’ve found on Google don’t reflect the actual route as bicycles are frequently shunted off onto other, smaller less-traffic laden roads but it will give you an idea of the general conditions and area.

Map from Blythe, California to Brawley, California


About half of today’s ride went through heavy agricultural. There is a mind boggling array of stuff growing around here. I identified onions, citrus, wheat, broccoli (at least it sure looked like it), alfalfa, dates, and possibly Brussels sprouts.

I wish I could show you pictures of the fascinating sites I saw today but my camera has stopped functioning. But that is another long (and curse word filled) story.

One of the things I noticed, unfortunately, were the number of pesticide spraying vehicles everywhere. Apparently toxic pesticide/dust storms in the area are not unusual.

It took a lot longer to get out of Blyth than we expected and by the time I approached the tiny town of Palo Verde (Pop. 170– the ‘0’ on the sign was a regular store-bought house number so somebody must have just left…) it was already warming up outside.

Oh, FYI, absolutely nothing was going on in Palo Verde on a Monday morning.

Everything was hunky dory up until Palo Verde. But then I entered the Marquis de Sade Highway…

The asphalt on this road was the first part of the Quint-fecta. I swear it felt like it was composed of broken glass and boulders. Most of my fillings had fallen out after the first mile, which is when the shoulder disappeared (part two of the Quint-fecta).

The shoulder disappeared right around the time the hills started (yes, part 3). I kept wondering why I was peddling and peddling and dodging semis and Canadian motor homes and getting nowhere when the fourth part kicked in. . . the wind.

Oh, the fifth part? (Come on, I know you all know this by now!) Yes, the heat.

Just as I was looking for a cool place to burrow into the solid rock beside the road I got to the top of the hill and saw my chase car waiting at the bottom. Yay!

I was stuffing my face and bitching non-stop when the squad car pulled up along side me.

Because I’m Catholic, I immediately wondered what I’d done wrong and began to slide down in my seat. Luckily the other occupant of the car was raised Episcopalian and more normal. Brantly ordered me to roll down the window and that’s when we met Officer Boudreaux, surely the most helpful (and nice!) California highway patrolman there is.

I immediately introduced him to Snoopy and then told him my PB&J joke.

Here we are, having a good time in the blazing heat.


Officer Boudreaux told us a little about the area and also said the temperature right then (before 10 am) was around 86 degrees. He then informed me the road was a shoulder-less, ragged-assed death trap for the next 16 miles.

Based on his recommendation I loaded up Snoopy and allowed my SAG wagon driver to chauffeur me to a spot where there was shoulder (but still poor asphalt conditions and WIND). There were also some lovely cacti and here are some pictures Brantly took:


Here is another cactus that is very common in the area. My mother says they are called “Buggy Whip” cacti.


And here are their blooms close up:


Here I am smearing on yet more sunblock and getting ready to hit the road again…



It seems I left my Union Jack cycling jersey in a motel bathroom somewhere along the way so I’m down to one jersey and 4 pairs of shorts. I guess I didn’t pack effectively for the trip.

Not long after the cacti photos were taken my cycling companions drove up with their bikes loaded on the back of their truck. They were (quite sensibly) fed up with the scorching weather, lousy road conditions, relentless headwinds, and insanely heavy traffic. They were done with the Southern Tier and I couldn’t really blame them. The road was extremely poor for most of yesterday and today and when the roads were decent the weather was brutal.

Anyway, so long Leslie and Lynda, it was fun while it lasted!

Onward to the town of Glamis, CA, one of the weirdest towns on the trip. The only thing going on out here was driving on sand dunes with off-road vehicles. This leisure activity was (luckily) only permitted in one (vegetation-less, animal-less) area. The air was rich with blowing sand and petroleum fumes for about 3 miles around the dunes. It seems there is a season for this kind of thing and it was nearing its end for the year.

The wind was positively howling as I cycled through the dunes and I could see sand moving across the roadway in piles as I fought my way to the top of each hill.

By the end of the day there was sand in everything. I was encrusted with sand and so was Snoopy.

The really good pictures of the dunes are trapped inside my camera but here are some Brantly took from the safety of the car:IMG_1023


Quite a crack in the windshield, isn’t it?

The trip ended in Brawley. I was so sand-blasted, filthy, wind-burnt, and tired I fell asleep at 5:30 and slept all the way until 5 the next morning.


March 19, 2017 Day 9: A Good Day to be a Cactus.

Map from Wickenburg, Arizona to Salome, Arizona

Today was an easy ride of just a little over 50 miles, mostly gentle downhill slope after the initial hilly bits around Wickenburg. Last night we met my new traveling companions, Lynda and Leslie and this morning we were all up an about before it was light.

Here we are getting our gear together. . .


And here is the leader of my own pit crew, bright-eyed and brushy-tailed:


What do you think he is describing?

The ride out of Wickenburg was hilly but very quiet early on a Sunday morning. There was quite a nice bike/walking path that led out of town along HWY 60. I only saw a handful of walkers (one smoking while walking! Yay! An exercise fanatic after my own heart) and nary a cyclist for the first few miles.

Just in case you did not know, Wickenburg, AZ is known as the Dude Ranch Capital of the Universe. Naturally, I kept thinking about Jeff Bridges, but it’s not that kind of Dude.

I have included a picture for veracity:


There were again many bird sounds, indicating there were many birds. I managed to get one photo:


I noticed some pretty insistent, repetitive bird calls, one of which sounded like somebody squeezing a dog’s squeaky toy. Another which sounded oddly like, “This is hot. This is hot. This is hot.”

The only excitement as I cruised out of town was an oncoming car containing what looked to be a standard poodle. Anyhow, the dog saw me (or sensed me, maybe, with that weird dog radar they have for UPS and FedEx drivers) and launched itself from the back seat into the driver’s lap. The woman swerved across the empty lane of road toward me while her dog attempted to claw its way out of the (thankfully) closed window. The last I saw of them both, the dog was wedged between the steering wheel and windshield while the driver fishtailed back and forth across two lanes. Bad dog, no bone.

I am prepared for dogs and always ride with this at hand:


That’s right, I have no qualms about deploying pepper spray against an aggressive canine.

Not far from The Dog Incident there was this sign:


That’s right, LA- watch out.

Anyhow, Lynda and Leslie leap-frogged and I got to cycle with both of them during the day. It was nice to have some company and I felt a lot safer knowing there was somebody else nearby while cars and trucks whizzed by us like maniacs. Most drivers were pretty courteous but things got more hectic as the day wore on and the temperature crept into the 90s.

Salome, our destination, is barely a dot on the map. There are three places to stay in the small town and the only one we all found acceptable was fully booked. We ate lunch at the Stanford Cafe while we discussed our options for tonight. I had pancakes and they were absolutely fantastic. This diner was a perfect place to experience “small town America” and the service was as friendly as the food was good.

If you are interested in seeing on of our rooming options for Salome it’s worth checking out the Trip Advisor photographs and reviews for this place. . .

After looking at the next stretch of road, which included a big stretch of Interstate 10, we decided to head to Blythe, CA- just across the border-to spend the night.

Local thermometers in Blythe got up to 99 degrees but I’m sure it was hotter out on the blacktop.

Tomorrow is a little over 70 miles to Brawley, CA. There is some talk about rain on either Tuesday or Wednesday but I’ll believe it when it happens.



March 18, 2018 Day 8: Did I mention it was hot?

Up at 5 a.m. hoping to get in every minute of daylight before temps headed into the 90s. I began my day at the intersection of HWY 51 and Glendale Avenue. The Arizona Canal Trail runs for miles and miles and miles. Early on a Saturday morning after St. Patrick’s day I pretty much had it to myself. Well, except for some ducks:


The trail is pretty cool and it is wonderful to cycle without worrying about cars. The only hair raising moments were the subterranean tunnels that ran beneath the busy streets. Not only were they dark, but they were also the only cool place to be found for Phoenix’s homeless. It was kind of a crapshoot as to whether somebody would be sleeping along one of the sides of the corridors or, in one instance, right in the middle. This became a bit dangerous when another cyclist was approaching from the other direction.

The canal is pretty murky and dotted with submerged shopping carts and other, unidentifiable, items. I couldn’t help thinking as I whizzed along side it how easy it would be to go over the side and into the water. Would I be able to unclip from my bike fast enough? Or would Snoopy and I sink into the vasty deep, never to be seen again?


Well, that didn’t happen, no matter how appealing the duck-pooh water began to look as the sun rose and the temperature along with it.

In any case, I took the path for about 16.5 miles, until it intersected with Grande Avenue, also known as HWY 60, which was my road to our next destination: Wickenburg, AZ.

Incidentally, this particular intersection is one to be avoided in either a car or a bike. It took me at least 20 minutes to get across the road. My reward, however, was this on the other side:



Yes, a real, honest-to-goodness bakery with Italian pastries that had names which sounded vaguely insulting.

I picked something a bit more pedestrian, a cherry cheese puff and 2 apple fritters.Hey, I earned them. Not only that, but I was going to burn them pretty quickly. . .


Highway 60 from Sun City, AZ is a 6 lane divided highway. About the only good thing I have to say for that stretch of road is it has been paved in the last few years. Otherwise, lots and lots of traffic and about 20 miles that look like this, with businesses on one side:


and suburbia on the other side of the highway:


I lasted about 5.5 hours before I began to notice my skin blistering on my left elbow and calf and decided to wimp out and thumb a ride. I rode around 45 miles and we drove the remaining distance into the town of Wickenburg.

Wickenburg is a cute “Ye Olde Weste” town that has attracted its fair share of Harley dudes and dudettes.

After changing out of my cycling gear (I wash my clothes in the sink every night. I have to say I could get used to doing so little laundry) we ambled into town and had lunch at the Horseshoe Cafe. A very amusing staff and excellent burgers and fries made this one of the better stops on the trip so far.

Here  I am whoopin’ it up with a few locals:


cowboy 3

This is everyone after I told them my PB&J joke:

cowboy 1

Okay, so I was the only one who found it funny.

Today we met up with my cycling companions from California, Linda and Leslie. Tomorrow we will hit the road early, our destination is Salome, CA. Right now it doesn’t seem like there is anyplace to stay in Salome, so plans could change…


March 17, 2017, Day 7: Phoenix: An Irish City

Today was a day of rest. Kind of.

We had two nights in the Phoenix area and stayed our first night in Chandler, AZ, a destination chosen in a less than lucid moment after a day of 90+ heat.

Anyhow, we needed to get across Phoenix to the Glendale, AZ area where I would begin cycling on March 18th. My plan was to begin at the intersection of HWY 51 and Glendale Avenue and take the Arizona Canal Trail out of town.

Naturally we had to hit a few Nordstrom’s, a couple stamp shops, an ice cream store, and a Trader Joe’s on the way.

I did manage to liberate a hat and a pair of shoes from a Nordstrom’s during the course of the day.

An early check-in at our newest motel and an early night to bed in prep for tomorrow. . .

March 16, 2017 Day 6: Tonto Basin, AZ to Phoenix, AZ. Are we there yet?

Map from Tonto Basin, Arizona to Phoenix, Arizona

I don’t remember much about today except it was HOT. Yes, it got hot and stayed hot. It was in the 90s at 7 o’clock tonight. Did I mention it was hot?

I started as soon as it was light enough to see, which is just before 7 a.m. (AZ doesn’t use Daylight Savings). Nice, easy peddling through to Jake’s Corner (that’s the odd “zag” you see on the map above) but all that changed once I reached HWY 87, or The Beeline Highway.

HWY 87 was not a pleasant stretch of road. The heat aside, the road is a major artery into Phoenix and traffic is very heavy. There are also some serious elevation changes.

More bluntly: Hills. Big, damned hills.

The heat, traffic, and hills combined to make it miserable. No doubt they could hear my whining at the International Space Station. I was ready to pack it in by noon.

I am inexpressibly grateful for my patient, kind, and helpful support team. I passed several people today who were packing their own gear and was glad I had an air conditioned car to get into when the weather got too brutal. And I’m glad for chocolate, too.

I only took one picture today (there appears to be an inverse relationship between pictures and misery) and it is of my SAG crew, Brantly and Gigi.



The greater Phoenix area is not one I would like to approach on a bicycle. We came in from the Tempe side and drove around aimlessly for a few hours while we tried to find a motel.

Finding accommodation proved to be unbelievably difficult, not to mention expensive. The first place we booked over the phone was horrific and we left before we even unpacked our bags. Even 1.5 star Quality Inns are over $250 for tonight and over $300 tomorrow night. (That’s where we are staying and grateful to get it!)

The city is besieged by people coming here to watch spring training. (And I thought football was over after the Super Bowl.)

The good news is there is a wide variety of food. We had excellent Greek food today and will go on a doughnut hunt in the morning.

I will meet up with my cycling buddy-Leslie- for the first time tomorrow and we will head out Saturday morning. I’m guessing Saturday will be a half-day as it is projected to be the hottest day before the heatwave breaks on Sunday.

The really, really good news? There are at least two Nordstroms here. . .