No one writes about New Orleans
with as much love and passion as Blake. The city comes to life through her charismatic characters, whose complicated lives add to the colorful customs, food, culture and vibrancy of the story. Each of her carefully researched novels evokes a long-ago time so beautifully that you are swept into every detail of her memorable story. This holds true for the Maitre des Armes --
or Masters at Arms -- series.
Nicholas Pasquale is the last unmarried fencing master, until he's caught in an encounter with Juliette Armant. Though pledged to the church, she's prayed to find a man to marry to help her save the family legacy, a marriage chest. When she rescues Nicholas' young ward, he casually remarks that the boy needs a mother and proposes. Shockingly, Juliette accepts, thrusting them into plans for a marriage of convenience that entangle them in the plan of Juliette's twin sister, Paulette, to grab the chest for herself.
The spoiled and devious Paulette does her best to push Juliette and Nicholas apart. When it becomes apparent that Juliette's life is in danger, Nicholas will risk anything to keep her safe. In turn, he uncovers the fascinating truth about the past. (Mira, Jan., 505 pp., $6.99)