Posted in 4 paws, Children, excerpt, Review on July 12, 2017

Title: SCRIBBLE & AUTHOR
Author: Miri Leshem-Pelly
Publisher: Kane Miller Books
Pages: 32
Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Scribble & Author is written as a dialogue between the main character, Scribble, and the author who created her.

Scribble’s journey starts on a peaceful shore called THE BEGINNING, continues to the rough, adventurous MIDDLE, and leads finally to the gate of THE ENDING, but it’s not at all what Scribble expected… Scribble is a scribble and Author is an author, but who really gets to tell the tale?

A picture book about finding your own voice, making your own decisions, and writing your own story.

Watch the book trailer at Vimeo.

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Excerpt

A color spot,

some pencil lines,

and here you are… Scribble!

Hi, who are you?

Hello Scribble.

I’m the author, and I’m here to help you create your journey.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Wow, Author, you’ve created a beautiful beginning!

Where do I go next?

Well, it’s your journey, so it’s up to you.

What would you like to do?

Review

Scribble is a character in this story that helps guide us on how to write a story. Scribble helps set up each phase of the story and how it might be written or things to think about for that part of the story.

The book has a quirky side to it in how Scribble approaches each section of the book – will it be scary? happy? sad? Anything is possible as long as the writer doesn’t let challenges or problems stand in the way.

I thought this was a good way to help new writers create their story and is good for anyone whether they are young or old.

We give it 4 paws up.

About the Author

Miri Leshem-Pelly is the author-illustrator of 14 children’s books. She’s also illustrated 14 books for other writers. When Miri isn’t writing she can be found speaking at schools, kindergartens and libraries. She is invited to do more than 200 presentations with her books per year. Miri is also a Regional Advisor for SCBWI (Society of Children’s book writers & illustrators).

Miri is represented by Olswanger Literary Agency.

Miri’s works have won awards and her illustrations have been shown on several exhibitions.

Miri lives in Israel with her husband and two children, and loves reading books and going on nature hikes.

Her latest book is Scribble & Author.

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Posted in excerpt, romance, women on July 9, 2017

THE CORNER OFFICE

by Katerina Baker

Publication Date: 23 Jun 2017

Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Issues

Synopsis

Tara Johnson’s sacrifices are about to pay off: a senior executive at thirty-five at a Fortune 500 company, she’s one of the two finalists in line for a Managing Director position. Unfortunately, her rival of fifteen years, the charming, infuriating Richard Boyd, is just as qualified, and unlike her, he’s willing to cross pretty much every line to get what he wants.

Of all the things Tara stored in the attic to make it to the top, it’s her personal life she misses the most. That is, until she starts a steamy affair with sex god Aidan, her direct report. Interoffice relationships with a subordinate can mean the end of a career, and when Richard finds out, it’s the perfect opportunity to take his high-heeled nemesis out, especially since he’s still nursing a grudge against Tara for rejecting him years ago.

But Tara’s increasingly domineering lover has his own dark secrets, endangering more than just her career. As her liaison spirals out of control, salvation will come from the man she always thought she hated, and perhaps the only one to truly understand her.

Excerpt

I sauntered to the elevator with my well-practiced “confident” walk, stretched my arm to push the button—

And my high-heeled sandal slipped.

My knee gave in, and I grabbed onto the first thing I could reach to prevent me from the total embarrassment of ending up on the floor in front of everyone. I turned to thank the helpful soul…and came face-to-face with Richard and a lazy twist of his lips settled in the corner of his mouth. I continued to squeeze his arm and my chest brushed his side. But it was more than that; he placed his other arm on my lower back to support me, and I felt a slight tug. The bastard pulled me closer to him in front of everyone watching and my space was suddenly invaded by the scent of his cologne. By Richard.

My insides tightened, and my lips pained as I was still trying to keep them in a semblance of a smile in front of everyone.

“You okay there?” he asked, his expression no less mocking than it was earlier. “You seem flustered. I understand. You finally get to see my place.”

The following moment was the testament to the long road that got me to that point in my career. All the brutal hours I’d slaved in the office, the hard work, missing friends’ events because of last-minute urgent assignments, working through my own birthdays—it all came down to that. My self-control to not kill Richard when every inch of my body believed spending the next twenty years in prison would be well worth it.

I smiled into his snake-green eyes, pushed his arm away and stepped into the elevator. Just as the doors closed separating us, as he thankfully decided to stay with the next group, I managed to think of an appropriate response. But it was too late.

About the Author

Katerina Baker is a lucky gal who still attempts to have it all: full-time project management job that she enjoys, crazy family of four (with the ongoing threats of getting a pet to upset the family equilibrium) and writing.

Although on some days she is much more successful at managing her life than on the others, she still claims that she doesn’t want it any other way.

Katerina is represented by Sharon Belcastro from Belcastro Agency, and has a contract with Lachesis Publishing, who will be publishing her Romantic Suspense novel Under the Scrubs.

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Posted in excerpt, fiction, Historical on July 7, 2017

The Velvet Prison Synopsis

Against the pulsating back drop of a New York City in social and economic change, young Travis Kane struggles with his passion to be an artist painter, and the conservative demands of his strict grandfather, Barclay Kane.

His mother, unable to come to terms with tragedy, has taken Travis’s infant sister and abandons him, leaving their house in Gramercy Park, and Travis to be raised by the grandfather he adores.

Travis enters a New York speakeasy, with a unique idea, that will change his life, leading him on an exciting journey, meeting Manhattan’s privileged, studying in art in Paris and, finding his way to Broadway.

Meanwhile, Lindsay Wayne’s mother, seamstress, has a secret, and a passion. Her daughter will become a famous stage actress, and this is her focus.

Lindsay and Travis’s worlds collide.

Their lives will never be the same again.

Excerpt

One week before his tenth birthday, Travis Kane felt safe and secure for the first time since his father’s death.  He stared at the burning logs, crackling and popping in the huge fireplace.  The warmth from the hearth wrapped around him like his mother’s arms.  He sat cross legged not able to take his eyes away from the dancing flames as the sound of rain pelted the library windows of the house on Gramercy Park.

Different aromas came from the kitchen, competing with the fire’s heat for Travis’s attention.  Hannah Kane, his mother, was cooking supper.  He reached to the floor and picked up his box of crayons. As usual he had been drawing and coloring.  Today he sketched houses, with pointed roof tops and small facades. His lines were long where they should be short, but the images and shapes were easy to identify. He feared the warmth from the fire would melt his colored sticks, which were in short supply. He gazed through the large library window which faced the park.

He could hardly make out the sharp outlines of the spreading trees bordering the square, its branches a cover from the sun, the leaves rich and green. They sagged under the heavy rain and dripped, like wet clothes on his mother’s clothes line. He remembered when the weather was bad, his father was late for supper. Travis pushed his legs out in front of him. Sitting back on his hands he looked up at his grandfather sitting in a large overstuffed chair at the fireside. Barclay Kane had his face buried in the evening newspaper.

He was always reading something. Travis watches his gray beard twitch back and forth in time with the movement of Barclay’s lips. He would nod his head from time to time but mostly he shook it from side to side. Travis knew he would hear the news that made his grandfather cranky at the supper table.

He caught glimpses of his mother, bobbing in and out of the dining room, carrying in food in hot steaming plates. She did not appear happy, smiling infrequently. Something had upset her, and he rolled over in his mind things he had done the last few days that might have irritated her. He was sure he would think of something, but his grandfather needed attention.

‘Idiot!’ Barclay shouted. ‘Oh, that idiot!’

Travis stiffened, his heart beat rapidly. He looked up at his grandfather’s face, now a bright red. ‘What…what?’ he stammered.

His own thoughts of misbehavior vanished. He waited to hear what Barclay was about to say, because Travis knew his grandfather always told him the truth. Barclay did not treat him like a child. Through small, wire-rimmed glasses, twinkling, blue eyes mixed with flashes of amusement, Barclay peeked over the top of the paper, and Travis felt his grandfather’s love, just as he used to feel the warmth and love of his father, before he died.

‘Our president is a coward, my boy.’

‘What’s a coward?’ Travis asked, his neck prickling with embarrassment.

Barclay sat back, dropped his newspaper in his lap. ‘A coward is our President, my boy.’ His eyebrows arched as he smiled.

Travis didn’t respond.’Well,’ Barclay said impatiently, ‘President Wilson is afraid to fight… to take sides. Instead of rising up against injustice, he has stepped back. He refuses to interfere.’

‘A coward doesn’t interfere?’ Travis asked. ‘Does that make him a dummy…an idiot?’ He reached to the floor and moved his sketches, further away from the fireplace. His hands moved across the first sketch and lightly touched waxy marks left by his colored crayons.

‘Oh, leave the boy alone, Barclay,’ Hannah said from the dining room. She stood with her hands on her hips. ‘You’re always filling him with such…stuff.’

‘How am I supposed to learn, Mama? Grandfather knows everything.’

Hannah’s eyes rolled upward as she went about her chores.

When he looked back at Barclay, he saw he was picking up his pipe from a side-table. Barclay struck a match against the bottom of the table, and lit it. He looked up at the ceiling and down at Travis before he said, “You could be right, my boy. Yes, you could be. There may be a difference.’

A flash of warmth swirled through Travis. He had ideas, too, but his grandfather rarely gave him credit for them.

‘I suppose we should draw a distinction between being afraid to fight, and not wanting to interfere.’

Travis relaxed, having made his point, he smiled.

‘A coward is the former, a pacifist the latter.’ Barclay puffed at his pipe, in obvious satisfaction with his answer. ‘Of course, the combination of two makes an idiot! Our President is an idiot!’

Travis giggled.

The Satin Sash Synopsis

After the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in 1941, American lives change dramatically. The Satin Sash continues the breathtaking lives of Travis Kane, Lindsay Wayne and Jean-Paul Renault with all the inherent dangers of the French Resistance, President Roosevelt’s live or die missions, and death defying action when German spies secretly enter the US through it’s ports. A wedding reception and the lives of Travis Kane and his family are thrown into chaos as America enters World War II.

The Satin Sash is set against the explosive backgrounds of New York, France, London and Ireland. Travis Kane becomes President Roosevelt’s tool in bringing one of the world’s most famous paintings to New York. Racial tensions surface. A famous black activist enters politics and an actress makes choices in the face of heartbreaking tragedy. A public enemy serves his country in wartime and a black artist becomes famous. When a baby is born the future shows promise.

With tension, suspense and surprising plot twists, we continue to follow the lives of the people we loved in The Velvet Prison.

Excerpt

When Travis Kane hung his painting of Trinity Church in Nick’s speakeasy many years ago, he had no idea he’d be married in the same church in December of 1941. The Monday following Thanksgiving, Travis and Maggie were bundled in heavy coats after they left their meeting with Father Christi. Travis saw his breath as they walked down Wall Street.

Travis unhooked Maggie’s arm from his and kissed her on the cheek. Her face was cool like a chilled white wine. ‘I know it’s freezing cold,’ he said.

The decided on a small wedding since extravagence was on neither of their minds and Maggie wanted to be married in a church. Travis raised no objection.

‘Give me a moment,’ Travis said.

He turned and faced the front of the church. Even in the frigid air his eyes filled with moisture staring at the Gothic Revival structure remembering the difficulty he had in his original sketch of the 280 foot spire. It seemed to lean a bit to the left and when he adjusted the lines, it favored the right. His frustration eased when he hit the right pitch. He felt the balance even when closing his eyes which dropped to the three bronze doors designed by Richard Morris. Contrary to the harshness of the facade, the inside was warm and graceful, lighted by the elegance of the stained-glass wall behind the altar. He was fascinated by the replica of the Hamilton-Burr duel pistols in the small museum at the end of one of the aisles.

‘I don’t know about you, Darling,’ Maggie said interrupting his reverie, ‘but I’m freezing my…’

‘…Me, too,’ he said putting his arm around her. ‘What kind of people get married in December?’

‘Eskimos?’

She snuggled close to him as they began to walk.

‘Well who else?’ he said.

‘Us,’ she answered.

He threw his arm around her shoulders.

‘Oh, for God’s sake!’

Jean-Paul laughed. ‘All right. All right. Pack warm clothes for a warm climate, ocean views and sandy beaches.’

Travis sat in thought for a few seconds. ‘Well, that narrows it down.’

About the Author

Sheldon Friedman was born in St. Joseph Missouri. He lives in Denver, Colorado. He is a University of Denver graduate and practiced law in Denver until 2008. He taught legal courses at the University of Colorado Law School, University of Denver Law School and Daniels School of Business at the University of Denver. After leaving his law firm he joined a national mediation and arbitration firm until January, 2016. He is also an accomplished playwright, having a number of local readings and productions. His play The Long Goodbye was staged at Denver’s Crossroad’s Theater in 2010. His book, The Velvet Prison was named as a 2017 fiction award finalist by the Colorado Author’s League.

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Posted in excerpt, romance on July 6, 2017

Synopsis

From New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis comes her first women’s fiction novel—an unforgettable story of friendship, love, family, and sisterhood—perfect for fans of Colleen Hoover, Susan Mallery, and Kristan Higgins.

They say life can change in an instant…

After losing her sister in a devastating car accident, chef Quinn Weller is finally getting her life back on track. She appears to have it all: a loving family, a dream job in one of L.A.’s hottest eateries, and a gorgeous boyfriend dying to slip an engagement ring on her finger. So why does she feel so empty, like she’s looking for a missing piece she can’t find?

The answer comes when a lawyer tracks down Quinn and reveals a bombshell secret and a mysterious inheritance that only she can claim. This shocking revelation washes over Quinn like a tidal wave. Her whole life has been a lie.

On impulse, Quinn gives up her job, home, and boyfriend. She heads up the coast to the small hometown of Wildstone, California, which is just a few hours north, but feels worlds apart from Los Angeles. Though she doesn’t quite fit in right away, she can’t help but be drawn to the town’s simple pleasures…and the handsome, dark-haired stranger who offers friendship with no questions asked.

As Quinn settles into Wildstone, she discovers there’s another surprise in store for her. The inheritance isn’t a house or money, but rather something earthshattering, something that will make her question everything she thought she knew about herself, about her family. Now with a world of possibilities opening up to Quinn, she must decide if this new life is the one she was always meant to have—and the one that could finally give her the fulfillment she’s searched so long for.

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Excerpt

To Mick’s relief, he caught Quinn in the parking lot, leaning against her car, her thumbs moving furiously over the screen of her phone. When she saw him, she grimaced.

He lifted his hands and stayed out of her personal space. “Thought you could use a ride back to the B and B,” he said.

“I’m not driving.” She lifted her phone. “I’m trying to get an Uber.”

He smiled. “How’s that going?”

She sighed and slipped her phone into her pocket. “So Wildstone doesn’t have drive-throughs, Thai takeout, or Uber? Seriously?”

“We have other things.”

“Yes,” she said. “Ghosts. Big bugs. Cute dogs. And girlfriends, apparently.”

“Lena’s not my girlfriend,” he said. “She’s Boomer’s. Sort of.” He shook his head. “It’s complicated.”

She didn’t take her eyes off him. “But you’ve slept together.”

He arched a brow.

“I’m sorry,” she said, closing her eyes. “That was rude. There’s a chemistry there, and a familiarity, that’s all. You know what? Don’t listen to me. My tongue’s running the show and I think I’m just jealous at how everyone else seems to take life’s shit in stride and keep going. I haven’t learned that trick and I need to. And how to keep going, that is. Like the Energizer Bunny. Or my electric toothbrush. God.” She pressed her hands to her face. “I really need to stop talking. Make me stop talking!”

He took her hand and tugged her to his truck.

“Wait,” she said, putting a hand to his chest and fisting it in his shirt to hold him to her. “You’re not a murderer or a rapist or anything like that, right?”

He lifted a hand. “Scout’s honor.”

“Were you a Boy Scout?”

Laughing a little at that because he’d been just about the furthest thing from a Boy Scout, he gently pushed her into the passenger seat and leaned in to buckle her seat belt, and suddenly their faces were an inch from each other. He heard her suck in a breath and he did the same.

Talk about chemistry.

“Mick?” she whispered.

“Yeah?”

“Are you feeling something?”

“You could say that,” he murmured. “You?”

She licked her lips and he nearly groaned. “I think so,” she whispered.

“That’s good.”

“Are you going to kiss me?”

He cupped her face, let his thumbs trace her jawbone, his fingers sinking into her silky waves. “No,” he said quietly. “And not because I don’t want to, but because when I do, I want to know you’re ready. That you’ll feel it.”

She sighed. “Guys do whatever they want all the time, no emotions necessary. I want that skill.” Another shaky breath escaped her, and since they were literally an inch apart, they shared air for a single heartbeat during which neither of them moved.

Her gaze dropped to his mouth. “Okay, so I’m definitely feeling things.” She hesitated and then her hands came up to his chest. “Maybe we should test it out to be sure.”

God, she was the sweetest temptation he’d ever met, and he wanted nothing more than to cover her mouth with his. Instead, he brushed his mouth to her cheek.

“Please, Mick,” she whispered, her exhale warming his throat. He loved the “please,” and he wanted to do just that more than anything. But when she tried to turn her head into his, to line up their mouths, he gently tightened his grip, dragging his mouth along her smooth skin instead, making his way to her ear.

“Not yet,” he whispered, letting his lips brush over her earlobe and the sensitive skin beneath it.

She moaned and clutched him. “Why not?”

It took every ounce of control he had to lift his head and meet her gaze. “Because I want to make sure you’re really with me, that you’re feeling everything I’m feeling. That there’ll be no doubt, no regrets.”

“You sure have a lot of requirements.”

He laughed. And she was right, it was all big talk for a guy who didn’t do relationships anymore. Still, he forced himself to step back and shut the passenger door.

As he rounded the hood to the driver’s side, he tried to remind himself of all the reasons she was a bad idea. He lived two hundred miles away and he was hoping to move his mom up by him and never come back here. Not to mention that Quinn lived an equal two hundred miles in the opposite direction and she was in a deeply vulnerable place. No way would he even think about taking advantage of that.

But when he slid behind the wheel and their eyes locked, he realized that while his mind could stand firm, the rest of his body wasn’t on board with the in-control program.

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

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Posted in excerpt, Fantasy, Historical on July 4, 2017

Synopsis

Visions of a Dream, published by Turtle Shell Publishing, is a story about Alexander the Great from a spiritual perspective.

The backdrop is Alexander’s world conquests, though Visions of a Dream focuses on the spiritual fire that ignites his actions as he learns from the other cultures he comes into contact with, for rather than attempting to assimilate them, he was inclusive of all people, all cultures, and all religions and he lived that belief…a timely message for the divisiveness in the world today. His closest relationships vie for his love but they also provide the steel he needs to be sharpened spiritually and emotionally. Before he conquers the world, he must first conquer his own mind. The first three parts of Visions of a Dream are in Alexander’s point of view to highlight his character, his resilience, his emotional depth, and his PTSD (The ancient Greek historian Herodotus first wrote about the emotional strain of war in his account of the Battle of Marathon over a century before Alexander’s time). The fourth and final part of the book is written in the point of view of one of Alexander’s closest companions, Baphomet (who is fictional and whose name means the absorption of knowledge in ancient times) – she contrasts his detachment even when he doesn’t realize he is emotionally detached and helps him to realize his destiny.

Excerpt

Alexander awoke to Hephaestion, seated on the bed beside him. Slowly and without words, he felt his plush bedding with his hands. His eyebrows twisted with confusion, he looked toward the sheer tent material behind Hephaestion. Panels of dark scarlet and gold complimented the purple.

He pushed off the bed and tried to stand, his sore leg barely tolerable. Staggering nearer to the lavish material, he reached out, running his fingers along a silky gold cord that streamed down beside. “What is all of this?” he asked.

“The lap of Persian luxury,” Hephaestion answered, walking across the carpet to stand beside Alexander.

“This is Darius’ tent?”

“No, this is only an officer’s tent.”

Alexander chuckled. He stepped forth, sliding his bare feet over the lush rug. “Is the dirt of God’s earth not good enough for them?”

“Apparently not.”

He continued to stroke the golden cord, for it was so tender to his skin and his hands were rough from constant work. Then he brushed his fingers over the sheer tent material again. “What is that smell?” he asked. “It is sweet.”

“Cinnamon,” Hephaestion informed, “you smell cinnamon.”

“And there is more…but what?” More so than asking Hephaestion a direct question, Alexander was contemplating to himself. He felt as though he had been thrown into the midst of a dream and only peace of spirit was missing. Alas, peace was everything, but so was investigation. After another silent moment, he noticed the candles burning throughout and inhaled deeply.

“Alexander,” Hephaestion called, beckoning Alexander’s thoughts out of the sublime and into the present. “Leonnatus requests an audience.”

Alexander turned toward the two men, both darkly-toned, though Hephaestion was by far the taller. “Sire,” Leonnatus spoke, “allow me to show you what I have discovered in King Darius’ tent.”

“You have already been through it?”

“No, Sire, but I did hear noise which demanded my attention.”

Alexander was now more confused than he had been since he had awoken. “Lead us on,” he said, ready to follow with Hephaestion by his side.

The morning sun was bright, for the clouds had all but entirely disappeared. Father, be with me, he pleaded in his mind…but why he could not be sure. For some reason, loneliness and vulnerability struck him. Even as countless soldiers cheered him as he passed. But he was not lonely, for he had Hephaestion beside him. He would always have Hephaestion. He could speak by spirit, he could be held by flesh, whenever he wished, with Hephaestion’s love.

As Leonnatus stopped, Alexander peered away from his beloved and turned his head – it was the grandest thing he had ever seen. A sheer purple tent stood before him, larger than any tent he had seen in his life, even his father’s. He touched the silks as he traveled further inside.

Tapestries of the deepest richest colors adorned every cushion, every blanket. Short tables beside the cushions were of the highest polish of wood and decorated with golden rims and designs. And he had not even seen the separate bedrooms yet.

Golden decanters and goblets were still situated upon the tables. Alexander wondered which one Darius himself had drunk from. As he breathed, the scents of roasted meat and spices filled his nostrils. He looked around in an effort to locate the food.

“Darius’ servants were preparing a celebration meal when we arrived last night. He was anticipating victory.”

“As well he would have,” Alexander reasoned. “He has never come to any other battle against us, therefore how could he know that he would never taste victory?”

Leonnatus pushed the curtain aside to enter another room, a room with a golden bath. Alexander smiled widely. “Take Darius’ servants and have them fill the bath with water. I am muddy, and blood is dried on my body and matted in my hair.”

“Hephaestion laughed. “So this,” he said, “is to be a king. Alexander, if only we had known sooner!”

“Shhh…” Alexander whispered. “Silence – I hear something.” He looked around to distinguish from wince the sobbing noises arose.

“That sounds like the cry of women,” Hephaestion said.

Alexander moved as though he were led by an unseen hand. “Over there,” he said, and pointed toward the far side of the tent.

Leonnatus broke in the appointed direction, but Hephaestion remained by Alexander’s side as the two followed at leisure, Alexander plucking a grape from the bath side table.

He passed through sheer curtain after sheer curtain before seeing Leonnatus again, in the room furthest to the back of the tent without any lit candles. It was the sun itself that illuminated the tent through the sheer curtain.

He took a breath upon seeing three grown women and several children. The women were veiled, though their eyes shone with tears – except the woman on the end, who covered her face in her hands as she sobbed.

“Uncover yourself,” Hephaestion told her in Persian. She lowered her hands, slowly, and rather reluctantly. Her dark, almond-shaped eyes gleamed. “Who are you women, and are those your children?”

The old woman, her eyes accentuated by deep brown creases, fell to Hephaestion’s feet and cried, “My King, may I have the body of my son so that I may bury him?” Alexander laughed; the woman raised her head, bewildered. Sheer terror seemed to besiege her face when she realized the mistake she had made.

“Do not be alarmed, woman,” Alexander said. “He is Alexander, too. What I want to know is – who is your son?”

“The Great King,” she answered.

Alexander’s eyebrows lifted in astonishment as his jaw fell. “You are his mother? He has left behind his mother?”

She lowered her head. “We are Persia’s sacrifice.”

“What makes you think that I have killed your son?”

“We heard that you returned with his bow and mantel. He would never have given those up while there was still breath in him.”

Alexander would have laughed at Darius’ impudence, if only this woman had not been so sorrowful. “Your son is not dead, Great Mother, only fled.”

The women sighed in relief. She bowed to Alexander. “My Lord,” she acknowledged. “Darius has abandoned us.”

“No, Great Mother, I am certain your son did as he thought he should, even when I do not understand it.”

But the woman’s tears became unmanageable. “No…”

“Come, Great Mother,” he said tenderly. “No harm will come to you here. I will see to your well-being, and the well-being of those with you.” He embraced her but glanced to the other two, younger women. “And who is this with you?”

“This is my son’s first wife and their servant.”

Alexander peered more intently toward the servant girl, for her dark eyes were stunningly familiar. “What is your servant‘s name?” he questioned.

“Baphomet,” the old woman said, “my grandchildren are also in her charge.”

“Baphomet,” he toyed, walking toward her. “That is a beautiful name…and so familiar.” He pulled her dark veil off…not angrily, but methodically, as though he had won the great prize he expected all along. “Baphomet…” he whispered.

“You told me once that you needed an interpreter, but you do well with the language,” she said with downcast eyes.

“I do need an interpreter,” he said, “an interpreter called Baphomet.”

Trailer

About the Author

Justine Johnston Hemmestad lives in Iowa with her husband and their seven kids (three of them are young adults now). She became interested in Alexander the Great’s story in the mid 1990’s after watching a documentary about him and admiring his persistence and perseverance. In 1990, when she was 19, her car was hit by a city bus in San Diego – she sustained a severe brain injury, was in a coma, paralyzed, and the doctors thought she wouldn’t recover (her story is in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries). Within a few months she was walking again and moved with her husband to Iowa where they started their family, and Justine began writing to cope with her recovery as well as severe PTSD. She began college part time in the mid-2000’s, as she continued to research and write Visions of a Dream. She has earned her BLS from The University of Iowa, and is now working on a Master’s Degree in Literature through Northern Arizona University. She will be participating in the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature Book Fair on October 14th of 2017.

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Posted in excerpt, suspense, Thriller on July 3, 2017

Synopsis

Robin Fox, peace-loving professor of world religions, wants only to leave his dark past as a military interrogator behind him. But when an unknown suspect tries to disperse a deadly virus in downtown Washington, Fox is unwillingly drawn back into the shadowy world of intelligence.

The FBI and CIA automatically suspect Islamic terrorists, but Fox digs deeper to discover the far more frightening truth: a global conspiracy to eradicate all religion from the face of the earth.

From Washington to Jerusalem, from Rome to London, Fox must use all his wits in a perilous race to stop a psychopathic mastermind from unleashing worldwide devastation.

Purchase through his Publisher

Excerpt

The coroner’s report confirmed that Thom had died of cyanide poisoning. The news claimed the top spot on all the networks, and even the BBC gave it airtime, right after a fire in the chapel of Windsor Castle. Thom’s name had clearly been known far beyond the Oberlin College campus.

The president of USAtheists called a press conference. “The murder of Thom DiDio is a tragedy and an outrage. Whether he was killed because of what he believed, or because of whom he loved, is irrelevant. What matters is that the world has lost a great intellect and a great humanitarian, and his blood is on the hands of religious fanatics.”

Fox flinched at the incendiary last line. That’s not how Thom would talk. But if the man needed to lash out, Fox could scarcely blame him.

He and Emily had worked with the FBI to help create a composite sketch, which was now being broadcast regularly on television. But so far, it had yet to yield any leads.

“Any progress with Harpo?” Fox asked once he was back in the incident room at FBI headquarters.

Adler shook his head. “We kept him under observation last night. Gave him a box of books, as you suggested, but he didn’t read any.”

“What did he do?”

“Just lay on his bed.”

“The whole time? You never saw him perform salat?”

“Sorry?”

“Say his prayers facing Mecca?”

“Well, he’s been in a cell without windows. He has no way of knowing what time it is, or which way Mecca is.”

“John, even at Gitmo, we showed the detainees at least that much courtesy. We gave them copies of the Qur’an, a qibla sign to point the way to Mecca, and even played a recording of the adhaan at the proper times.”

Adler shrugged. “If you want, you can take it up with the FBI; this is their turf. Now, the technician has him all hooked up, and they’re waiting for you in the interview room.”

The room held Harpo, Kato, Malika, the technician, Fox, and the extra guard he had requested. The polygraph apparatus, the projector, and a tripod-mounted video camera were crammed into the little space that remained. There was barely room to take a deep breath.

Fox kept a close eye on Harpo, and the readout from the polygraph. Harpo’s breathing was very steady and regular, three seconds in, five seconds out. Fox suspected that he had been trained in ways to “beat the box,” to fool a lie detector.

“Do you speak English?”

Fox watched the readout. It showed no variation in his blood pressure, heart rate, or galvanic skin response, either then or when Malika tried him in Russian and Chechen.

“Are there six people in this room?” This was a control question, to show what his vital signs looked like at baseline, after he was over his initial nervousness.

“Are you an American citizen?” No change in his vitals for that either, nor for the Eastern European equivalents.

“Can you hear me? Testing? One, two, three? Four, five? Six, seven?” Then, with a little extra emphasis: “Eight, eight?”

No variation. That diminished the likelihood that he was a white supremacist. The number 88, if letters were substituted for the numerals, became “HH”—a code for “Heil Hitler.”

“All right, let’s try some names. Do you know A.J. Muste? George Fox? Gene Hoffman?” These were control questions. All those names were peace philosophers, whom Fox thought it highly unlikely that he had ever heard of.

“Venera Goridze?”

No change in the readout. No flicker of recognition on his face.

“Do you realize that if you answer our questions, the prosecutors will be much less likely to ask for the death penalty?”

That finally got to him. The readout showed a slight increase in his vital signs. A normal fear reaction to the threat of death? Or excitement at the prospect of martyrdom?

And they had also established that he understood English. They would have no further need of Malika’s services. It was just as well; the smell of her perfume in that confined space had been a little overpowering.

“You know, it must be awfully boring for you, cooped up in a cell all that time,” Fox continued. “I’ve put together a little video for you. I’m curious to see how you’ll like it.”

He put in a DVD that he had made, a montage of various clips garnered from the Internet. It began with innocuous natural scenes—flowers, mountains, waterfalls—with a background of soothing classical music.

Then came the scenes meant to show his reaction at times of emotional arousal. A battle scene from a movie, with loud explosions and bursts of gunfire. There was a slight rise in his vitals—the startle reflex—but he soon reverted to baseline, and stayed there as the video switched back to the control images.

A clip of a shapely blonde model sliding a gossamer silk robe off her shoulders to reveal her lingerie, and then reaching behind her back to unfasten her brassiere. Fox kept his eyes fixed on the readout, ignoring the stern look he got from Kato and the blush on Malika’s face.

Such an image would usually provoke an involuntary response in any red-blooded young male, but Harpo showed no more reaction than at baseline. Clearly, he was very well trained.

The control images again, this time alternating with others meant to provoke an emotional response. A sermon by the Reverend Hill. A cross being set alight by white-robed Klansmen. A muezzin intoning the call to prayer from a minaret. The second plane crashing into the World Trade Center. A speech by Osama bin Laden. A speech by President Obama, announcing the death of Osama bin Laden.

Then came the part that Fox had wanted extra protection for: a clip from a back-alley YouTube video making a mockery of the prophet Mohammed. For this one, he stepped out of Harpo’s reach, anticipating that he might jump up and attack even if he had to drag the entire polygraph apparatus behind him.

Harpo showed no inclination to move. The readout showed no reaction. If he was indeed a fanatical Muslim, he had a level of mental discipline worthy of a Zen master.

Fox stepped out of Harpo’s field of view again. “All right, we’re done. You can turn it off now,” he told the technician, while gesturing that he should keep it going. “Very interesting, don’t you think? These results indicate…” He put in a dramatic pause, then looked at Harpo and enunciated ominously: “N-S-R.”

Harpo’s shoulders relaxed slightly, and he let out a long breath. It was barely visible when you looked at him, but it showed up on the readout. A well-concealed sigh of relief.

Fox’s suspicions were confirmed. “NSR” meant “No Significant Response,” but there was no way Harpo could know that unless he had studied polygraphy.

Even so, the results were remarkable. The most common technique for beating a lie detector involved focusing on some frightening or exciting image after every question, to cause an artificial jump in the vital signs. The goal was to bring up the baseline, creating so many false positives that the polygrapher would have trouble distinguishing them from significant responses. Harpo had done the opposite, bringing everything down to a level where hardly any reaction was perceptible. How much mental training had he had to undergo in order to do that?

About the Author

Charles Kowalski is almost as much a citizen of the world as his fictional character, Robin Fox, having lived abroad for over 15 years, visited over 30 countries, and studied over 10 languages. His unpublished debut novel, Mind Virus, won the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Award and was a finalist for the Adventure Writers’ Competition, the Killer Nashville Claymore Award, and the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association literary award.

Charles currently divides his time between Japan, where he teaches English at a university, and his family home in Maine.

Mind Virus is scheduled for publication by Literary Wanderlust on July 1, 2017.

Other novels and short stories by Charles Kowalski:

“Let This Cup Pass From Me”

“Arise, My Love”

“The Evil I Do Not Mean To Do”

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Historical, romance on July 2, 2017

Title: Lord of Lies

Author: Amy Sandas

Series: Fallen Ladies, #3

ISBN: 9781492618782

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

Genre: Historical Romance

Synopsis

“You do strange things to me, Dell Turner. Tell me I am not alone in what I feel.”

His voice was low and rough. His eyes burned. “You are not alone,” he said.

Portia Chadwick longs for a life of adventure. When a dangerous moneylender kidnaps her sister, she dares to seek help from a man known only as Nightshade. Soon she finds herself charging headfirst into his world of intrigue and danger—and unexpected passion.

Dell Turner grew up in London’s back alleys and gin lanes. Vowing to escape his low beginnings, he hires himself out to society’s elite. When he accepts a job from a beautiful debutante, he doesn’t anticipate her relentless determination to join his mad occupation…or her unnerving ability to inspire emotions he thought long buried. She’s as dangerous to him as his world is to her, and yet Dell can’t bring himself to turn Portia away—even if it means risking her life.

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Excerpt

He was home for only a few short minutes—not even long enough to shed the guise of Robert French—before there was a sharp knock at the front door. Morley was still taking care of the carriage and horses so wasn’t available to answer.
With a growl at being disturbed so blasted early in the day after being up all night, Dell lumbered from his study where he had been organizing a plan for his next steps in the Chadwick abduction. He opened the door just as the caller was about to knock again.

The disturbing slate-gray gaze of the precocious Miss Chadwick widened with a start before she low­ered her arm.

Dell’s immediate instinctive response was to slam the door shut. This woman triggered far too many distractions in his mind, as well as his body. She set him on edge, made him feel less in control.

He didn’t slam the door because his next thought was the realization that such a reaction would only pique her curiosity even more. He would need to employ another tactic to get rid of her.

Altering his voice to the smooth, unassuming, lilt­ing tones of Robert French, Dell asked, “Can I help you, miss?”

She tilted her head beneath the wide fall of her cloak hood, and her striking eyes narrowed dangerously. He was suddenly intensely aware of his appearance. French’s look often drew interested gazes from bold young women. Women who understood his jaunty swagger and the overt sensuality in his movement and expression.

Dell felt Portia Chadwick’s gaze like a stream of concentrated interest shooting straight to the center of his chest.

Then she smiled.

His body instantly reacted.

What the hell?

Dell straightened his spine and tried to look down his—or rather French’s—nose at her. Not that he thought any kind of intimidation would work on the chit, but he needed some way to distract from his unwelcome and wholly disturbing reaction.

“I believe you can,” she answered before she boldly strode across the threshold.

At any other time and with anyone else, Dell would never have allowed a person to just enter his home in such a way. But his current physical sensitivity to this woman had him stepping back on instinct to avoid direct contact, which gave her just enough room to sweep the rest of the way into the house.

Damn and blast.

Closing the door with a hard click, he turned to face her and saw that she had already crossed the small hall to the parlor. Dell gritted his teeth so hard his jaw ached. Following her into the front room, he watched with a further tightening in his loins as she swept her voluminous cloak from her shoulders to toss it care­lessly to the sofa.

She was still clothed in the same evening gown from the night before. Dell couldn’t stop his gaze from dropping briefly down her narrow back to the suggestive curve of her hips and buttocks before she spun around again to face him.

“I do not believe it is proper manners to so rudely force your way into someone’s home,” he said almost plaintively. “Especially when they are not at home.”

She laughed then, a full-bodied sound accompanied by a knowing flash in her eyes. She arched her winged black brows and placed her hands on her hips. “Do not bother with the theatrics. I know it is you, Mr. Turner,” she declared.

How the hell had she known?

The first time anyone had ever seen through one of his disguises, and it had to be she.

Dell considered denying it, but figured the truth would likely get her out of there faster.

“Fine,” he said in his natural voice, which carried more than a hint of his annoyance. “Mind telling me what the hell you are doing back here? I told you I would let you know when I learned something.”

“And did you? Learn something?” she asked, her tone hopeful.

“Not yet,” he replied stiffly, expecting her to press him further or demand he do more.

“Well, the situation has changed.”

Dell narrowed his gaze. “How?”

“My sister returned home safely less than two hours ago.”

It was not what he’d expected to hear. But it would do. “You have come to pay the remainder of my fee, then?”

She tipped her head, allowing the black ringlets falling from her coiffure to gently graze her col­larbone. “Not exactly.” Turning away, she strolled toward the front window.

“Then what? Exactly?” he asked, fighting the inex­plicable desire to follow her across the room.

She glanced back over her shoulder with a chal­lenging light in her gaze. “You were hired to find my sister and bring her home. Since she obviously managed to do that on her own, I have decided to give you another chance to earn your full fee.”

Crossing his arms over his chest, Dell asked, “What would you have me do now?”

About the Author

Amy Sandas’ love of romance began one summer when she stumbled across one of her mother’s Barbara Cartland books. Her affinity for writing began with sappy pre-teen poems and led to a Bachelor’s degree with an emphasis on Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She lives with her husband and children in Wisconsin.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance on June 30, 2017

Synopsis

A FLING MIGHT BE JUST THE THING…

Gavin Donnigan left the Marine Corps a shell of a man, hounded by guilt for deaths he couldn’t prevent. But teaching a self-defense class at the local gym brings some stability to his life—along with a gorgeous leggy woman who won’t give him the time of day.

Zoe York lost her twin sister to a freak car accident a few months ago. She’s been struggling to bury her grief, but it isn’t until she signs up for a self-defense class with its distractingly hot instructor that she begins to come out of her shell again. With the memory of her sister telling her to live a little, Zoe decides a fling with buns-of-steel Gavin Donnigan might be just the thing.

Soon they’re sparring both in and out of the gym. And for the first time in a long time, each is looking forward to tomorrow.

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Excerpt

“Tell me more about the Donnigans. You were pretty close-mouthed yesterday.”

“Only because you wouldn’t stop talking about dirt.” He ate some pizza, disturbed to find his appetite off. Being so close to Zoe, all he could taste was the memory of her lips. Man, what a crock. Had he told Ava he didn’t want sex with Zoe? Right now he had a difficult time concentrating on anything but her fine, fine body. Her scent, the sound of her strong voice. The mouthwatering breasts pressed against the thin T-shirt she wore.

Zoe put the pizza back down on her plate. “Is that right? As I recall, you wouldn’t stop asking me stupid questions about what to do with that dirt. I mean, who doesn’t know what a trowel is?”

“It’s a mini shovel. Why make things complicated?”

“Because they just come that way.”

“Huh?”

“Complicated.” She shrugged and ate, so he continued talking before she blasted him for being ignorant about zone types.

“What about your family?”

“We’re not done with yours yet.”

“What else do you want to know?”

She crossed her eyes, and even purposefully looking goofy, she was beautiful. “Okay, it’s like this. Example: Well, Gavin, my family is pretty tight. My mom and dad live in Portland, and I see them once a month at least. Mom is an artist. Dad owns a natural foods shop. My mom and aunt are twins, which explains how Aubrey and I are twins. I mean, were twins.”

She swallowed but forced herself to look him straight in the eye. He could see so much pain in hers. “Aubrey was in a car accident back in January, and she didn’t make it.”

Hell. When she’d told him there had been a death in the family, he hadn’t made the connection to her twin. That seriously sucked.

“I’m sorry.”

She nodded, seemed to shake it off, and continued. “I work for a major medical group, where I train users on the software the medical staff uses. It’s fun. I’m good at it, and life is great.”

“Well. That was concise.”

She grinned, showing a lot of teeth. “Yes, it was.” She took a large swallow of beer, which physically hurt Gavin to see—her lips wrapped around a phallic-looking object.

He glanced down at his pizza and forced himself to take another bite.

“Now it’s your turn.”

He swallowed and chased the pizza with half his bottle of root beer. “Nice brew. Tastes great.”

“Thank you.”

“Now that I’ve been properly schooled in how to respond to your question—and see, I can totally tell you’re an educator—my family is filled with driven people. My mom is a real estate agent who hates to lose. She’s damn good at her job too. My dad works at a pharmaceutical company. Did twenty years in the Navy, retired, then went to work in the civilian sector and is a bigwig at his firm. I give it another five years until he retires, then spends all his time cooking or playing golf.”

“Cooking?”

“He’s an amazing cook. Always makes our dinners, or did when we were kids. He still dotes on my mom, which is nice. God knows Linda can be a handful.”

She stared, all that feminine energy focused on him, and it made him warm inside. Like, freakin’ hot. He reconsidered his option about bending her over the couch…

“Go on.”

Head out of the gutter, Gavin! “Landon you know. He works out to stay in shape. Medically retired from the Marine Corps after a bullet hit him in the knee and messed him up. Now he’s a manager at some logistics firm bossing people around.”

“That would suit him.”

He shared a grin with her. The kitchen felt intimate, just the two of them standing at the counter and eating. “Hope works for my cousin at his private finance company. Cam is smart and obnoxious, but he takes care of my baby sister. Plus he’s the easiest of my cousins to tolerate.”

“Your cousins?”

“Yeah, my mom’s sister and her husband live in town. She’s got four boys. I spent my childhood with Landon competing to be better than Aunt Beth’s crew. Well, technically only three are Aunt Beth’s, but they took Brody in when he was little. He’s just as annoying as the others. A real McCauley.”

“Wow. Big family.”

He nodded. “So where was I? Oh right. Theo. My poor baby brother isn’t sure what he wants to do now that he’s out of high school. I think he wants to join the Corps, but with Landon and me coming back kind of screwed up, he’s not sure.”

She studied him. “You’re screwed up?”

She had no idea. And he wanted to keep it that way. “I was shot and medically retired from the Marine Corps too. Saw some shit overseas. Not good. Anyhow, it’s done. So I’m back here, trying to figure out what to do. I work at the gym because it de-stresses me and I’m good at it. Being physical, I mean.”

Before he could fall into the memories, Zoe distracted him. “Oh, I bet you’re good at being physical. Or so I’ve heard from Michelle and Megan. And a few others.”

He flushed. “Yeah, well, I made some dumb choices when I first got back. I drank a little too much, so I don’t like to drink anymore.”

“Are you an alcoholic?”

“Didn’t you just minutes ago yell at me for asking your aunt blunt questions?”

“I didn’t yell.”

“It felt like it.”

“Yeah, but I’m mean and aggressive, remember?”

“There is that.” He took another swig of root beer, grinning. “No, I’m not an alcoholic. But the fact I was starting to drink too much scared the crap out of me. Now I stay away from it. I don’t want my thinking impaired. So yeah, no drugs either. And no cigarettes. I have no vices.”

“Except your poor taste in women.” She paused. “Present company excluded.”

“Oh, that was a nice add-on.”

“I thought so.” She smirked.

He couldn’t help it. He put down his root beer, took her beer from her hand, and caged her against the counter.

“Gavin, what are you doing?” she sounded breathy. Aroused.

Lord knew he was.

“I just need one kiss. Then we can go watch the movie. Okay?”

“O-one. I guess.” She licked her lips.

He leaned down, feathered his breath over her mouth, and kissed her. The taste of warm beer and woman went right to his head, making him drunk on her in a way he’d only ever felt with Zoe. The kiss last night hadn’t done them justice. This one just…

He slanted his mouth over hers, deepening the kiss when she put her hands on his waist and tugged him closer. She had to be feeling him hard and thick against her, but she only gripped his belt loops and refused to let go.

Zoe participated in everything. She followed his lead, stroked his tongue with hers, and shoved those amazing breasts against his chest. Nothing with her was tentative or half done. She gave him a full-body kiss that threatened to undo him the longer it lasted.

Gavin yanked his head back and leaned his forehead against hers, trying to regain his control. Right now, his body screamed at him to satisfy his needs by sinking inside her. She’d be hot, tight, wet.

But his brain warned him to slow down. To not rush or scare her, because they had so much more to share.

And his heart…the damn thing did nothing but race in his chest and ache for a woman he still barely knew. Except he felt like he knew everything about her. Which made no sense.

He pulled back and met her gaze. She seemed as bewildered and turned on as he was.

He had to do something, or he feared listening all too well to his baser instincts.

“So no sex tonight, right?” His thick voice attested to his desire. “Bending you over the couch is a no-no?”

She blinked, blushed, and scowled. Instead of berating him for being crude, she yanked him back for a kiss that about blew his mind—and his balls clean off. “Nope. Not even close.”

She was breathing hard, her eyes straying to his mouth time and again, her hands still clutching his sweater. She stroked his chest, brushing her hands over his tight nipples.

“Not even close,” he agreed. “Not thinking about it at all.”

“Not at all.”

And they both knew they were lying.

About the Author

Caffeine addict, boy referee, and romance aficionado, MARIE HARTE is a confessed bibliophile and devotee of action movies. Whether hiking in Central Oregon, biking around town, or hanging at the local tea shop, she’s constantly plotting to give everyone a happily ever after.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Historical, romance, Spotlight on June 29, 2017

Title: Scandalous Ever After

Series: Romance of the Turf #2

Author: Theresa Romain

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 9781492649021

Synopsis

Does love really heal all wounds?

After being widowed by a steeplechase accident in Ireland, Lady Kate Whelan abandons the turf. But once her mourning is complete, her late husband’s debts drive her to seek help in Newmarket amidst the whirl of a race meet. There she encounters antiquities expert Evan Rhys, her late husband’s roguish friend—whom she hasn’t seen since the day of his lordship’s mysterious death.

Now that fate has reunited them, Evan seizes the chance to win over the woman he’s always loved. But once back within the old stone walls of Whelan House, long-held secrets come to light that shake up everything Kate thought she knew about her marriage. Now she wonders who she can trust with her heart—and Evan must decide between love and a truth that will separate him from all his heart desires.

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Two of Theresa’s favorite summer activities

If I were creating the sort of profile I admire, I’d tell you that my favorite summer activities include splashing in the ocean, or camping in the backyard after having a barbecue. But the truth is that I’m hundreds of miles from the nearest beach, and my favorite thing to do there was always to make a giant dolphin out of sand. And I can’t bear to be outside in 100+ heat, especially when the mosquitos are biting.

However, there are so many lovely little things about summer that I do enjoy. Specifically…

  1. Having more time to read. I might not be on a beach relaxing to the sound of waves, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have a book in my hand. The pace is a little slower in summer, and I love taking time to sprawl out on the couch and whittle down my TBR pile. (Just kidding. The TBR pile never gets smaller, because I never stop buying books.)
  2. More flexibility in the schedule. Yes, my husband and I are still working, and sure, Little Miss R is still in school activities. But we can be more lax about her schedule, and there’s never any homework. That’s good news for the mom who wrangles all of the papers, as well as the kid who does the work.

In SCANDALOUS EVER AFTER, there are no frozen treats or backyard campfires—but there *is* a sea, and Lady Kate Whelan and Evan Rhys find themselves on a road trip of a lifetime. Between ferries and floods, treats and horses and races, sickness and health and more than one scandalous interlude, these two old friends will find a love they never expected—and unearth secrets they never dreamed of. I hope you’ll enjoy this romantic summer read!

Excerpt

“Kate, is all this for my benefit?”

“Why, what do you mean?” Seating herself on the red velvet settee, she hitched one leg up and spread the dressing robe about it. Then she lowered her leg again, crossing it over the other. Each time, pale flesh shone new and enticing through the shifting fabric.

The more she fidgeted, the more he wanted to gather her up in his arms and hold her. Settle her. Kiss her into calm and pleasure.

Lord. He was going to die in this room.

Already it had been a long day; agonizingly, sweetly long. They had stayed at the Rowley Mile’s rail for the day’s remaining races, though Evan couldn’t have sworn whether horses or dogs or monkeys ran the course.

No one else fell. He knew that much. One fall was bad enough.

Or had it been a blessing in disguise? Kate had been shaken, badly, at the sight of a prone body on a racecourse. But Evan could recall nothing so determined as the way she lifted her chin and decided to stick out the rest of the schedule.

Perhaps she saw nothing when she looked at the track. Perhaps she was in the Ireland of two years ago, remembering Con’s fall. But she had stood beside Evan and let him hold her, and he helped her not to be alone. Whether or not she knew it, she did the same for him.

“I was thinking”—she spoke again, still wildly rearranging herself on the settee—“that this could be the perfect arrangement. Two friends who care for each other very much, giving each other pleasure.”

The breezy explanation was perfunctory, so much so that it took him aback. From the end of the settee, he peered down at her. “Is that what this invitation meant to you?”

“What else should it have meant?”

“I don’t know that it should mean anything at all.” He sighed, tucking himself beside her at the end of the settee. “Kate. If you want comfort, I’ll comfort you, as innocently as you like. I’m good at brushing hair.”

Thunk. Her just-hoisted foot slid to the floor. “I don’t need my hair brushed.”

“I could let you hold my hand, then. It can be comforting, holding a hand.”

Her shoulders hunched. “I don’t need my hand held either.”

“Good, good. As delightful as that can be, it loses its savor after a while.” He trembled on the edge of honesty, then tipped. “You seem—is this—are you trying to recapture some old closeness? Because I don’t think we—”

“God, no.” She laughed, a shaky, startled burst. “I don’t want to recapture anything, Evan. If I did, you’d be eating porridge, and I’d be sipping whisky, and… well. The whole day would have gone differently.” Her whole body seemed to flush. She was pink and cream, warm colors all over.

Not unaffected, then. He could draw her out. “The day of races?”

“The day of…everything. Today, I decided I was ready for a change.”

“You were thinking of this sort of change,” he said. “Us. Alone. Tonight.”

“I was.” She tied her dressing robe about her more tightly. “I could not stop, once the idea seized me. Damn propriety and all that sort of thing.”

“Then why not untie the robe instead?”

“Well…about that. Now that you are here, I have started to…to think about what we might do.”

“That sounds delightful.” He grappled with the weighty bolster at his side, tugging it free and flinging it over the arm of the settee. “Though from the mil- lion pauses in your speech, I wonder if it strikes you the same way.”

“It…does. But I am so aware that you have seen me only in clothes—”

“As opposed to what? Mermaid skins?”

She sputtered. “Is that even a real—never mind… No. You know what I mean. This will be different.”

“It will only be as different as you want it to be.”

“Maybe. That’s what I was hoping. I want different.” She swung her feet, bare toes tapping the floor before the hearth. “Evan, I thought it would be easy. Being different with you. But now…I’m nervous. Are you?”

“No.”

For the sake of graciousness, he probably should not have replied so swiftly. But nervous? Not in the least.

Nervous was waiting not once, but twice, to hear whether she would be safely delivered of a baby, or whether she would lose her life in childbed. Nervous was waiting, five years ago, for her ship to return her across the Irish Sea from her last trip to England.

Nervous was how he felt when her life was at stake. Now? He felt newly born, in all the frailty and triumph that the phrase implied.

“I’m not nervous at all,” he said.

About the Author

Historical romance author THERESA ROMAIN pursued an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. She then worked for universities and libraries, where she got to read even more. Eventually she started writing, too. She lives with her family in Wichita, Kansas.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Young Adult on June 29, 2017

Title: The Way It Hurts

Author: Patty Blount

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: August 1, 2017

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Pages: 352 pages

Synopsis

There may be two sides to every story, but sometimes there’s only one way to set things right…

Music is Elijah’s life. His band plays loud and hard, and he’ll do anything to get them a big break. He needs that success to help take care of his sister, who has special needs. So he’d rather be practicing when his friends drag him to a musical in the next town…until the lead starts to sing.

Kristen dreams of a career on stage like her grandmother’s. She knows she needs an edge to get into a competitive theater program–and being the star in her high school musical isn’t going to cut it. The applause and the attention only encourage her to work harder.

Elijah can’t take his eyes off of Kristen’s performance, and snaps a photo of her in costume that he posts online with a comment that everybody misunderstands. It goes viral. Suddenly, Elijah and Kristen are in a new spotlight as the online backlash spins out of control. And the consequences are bigger than they both could have ever imagined because these threats don’t stay online…they follow them into real life.

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Advanced Praise for The Way It Hurts

“Blount writes authentically; both protagonists’ voices are distinct. The author explores the rapidly consuming world of social media and how it affects relationships online and in real life. A relevant read and must-have for all YA collections.” – School Library Journal

“THE WAY IT HURTS draws our attention to the joy, heartache and confusing contradictions that arise as we try to find our place in the real world and the virtual one.” – Kimberly Sabatini

Elijah and Kristen’s personal evolutions through the novel, along with their chemistry, feel as authentic as the conflicts they face. A genuine plot filled with steady tension that will keep readers hooked.” RT Book Reviews

“This book sensitively covers topics such as sexism, handicapping conditions, communication, and ageism. Agency is also shown when Kristen says she wants to pursue studying in a conservatory rather than continue in the band and the three young men acknowledge her wish. Talking about what bothers us rather than trying to guess another person’s feelings is demonstrated through the actions of the characters. The characters’ issues are eventually resolved through hard work and understanding, making this an interesting and informative read. School Library Connection

Excerpt

I shifted in my broken seat, wondering how many more minutes of the hell that was Bear River High School North’s production of Cats I’d have to endure. My fingers itched for my guitar and notepad. Melodies played in my head, begging to be put down on paper, and there were a dozen other things we should have been doing to promote Ride Out so we could get the band some notice.

The music rose. Beside me, Nick sucked in a breath. I didn’t know Leah. Nick met her at a concert a few months back, and they’d been hanging out whenever they could because, Nick claimed, Leah was the One.

I hid half a laugh and shook my head. I didn’t get the whole concept of the One, but I’d help Nick get what he wanted.

Leah raised her face. When she opened her mouth, I sat up a little straighter. Her voice… Jesus, it was astounding. Clear. Strong. Powerful but sweet. I watched and listened, the audience around me fading away. Her voice swelled, and she attacked the high notes without hesitating, making goose bumps jump out of my skin. What was the top note of her range? She glided across the stage; she never struggled or stumbled. The audience waited for the crescendo, and when she reached it, holy God, it was like a…a promise kept. She blew me away. The notes faded out, and the rest of the production was a blur. I had no idea Leah could sing like that and couldn’t take my eyes off—

My best friend’s girl. Shit.

The lights came up, and everybody got to their feet, applauding like mad. Nick held up this lame poster board sign he’d made. I used that time to get my hormones under control and put Leah and her amazing voice out of my head. The rest of the cast assembled on the stage for their curtain call, and I locked eyes with one of the actors— the White Cat. She was incredibly hot—a solid body with an impressive rack. Her solo dance was the best part of the show up until Leah’s song. She looked amazing in that white cat suit. So freakin’ hot.

“Ladies and gentlemen, a moment please.” A teacher walked to the right of the stage and waved her hands. “Thank you all for attending our opening night performance! I am so proud of these kids. They made all their own costumes and designed the set themselves. And tonight, I want to share with you an amazing last-minute change-up to our program. Grizabella, played by Leah Russo, is ill and was unable to sing this evening. Her songs were actually sung by our White Cat, played by Kristen Cartwright.”

The teacher’s hand swung to my favorite cat, and my jaw dropped. That awesome voice was hers? Whoa. I stuck two fingers in my mouth and let loose with a shrill whistle while the audience roared their approval. The white cat’s eyes met mine, and I started to picture her in different clothes…maybe some black leather, studded bands on her wrists, hair long and wild down her back, strutting across a stage while I shredded the hell out of the guitar. If she could sing Broadway songs without breaking a sweat, what could she do with a hard metal rock track? I wondered—again—what her range was. Could she get low with some Halestorm or full-on mean with a Slipknot metal scream? I should put her in Ride Out right now. I grinned like a maniac because I knew that would really twist BroadwayBaby17 into a knot.

A brilliant idea struck. I pulled out my phone, snapped a photo of the white cat, and from the band’s Twitter account, posted this:

Ride_Out: This cat’s HAWT! And damn, can she sing.

It needed a hashtag. I tapped out “#CatCall.” Oh, this was awesome. My phone buzzed a minute later with a reply from a fan calling himself JJStix88.

Sweet! Get her to meow. #CatCall

I tapped out another post.

JJStix88: Make her arch that back! #CatCall

Ride_Out: Wanna hear her scream! #CatCall

Copyright © The Way It Hurts 2017 by Patty Blount

 

About the Author

Native New Yorker Patty Blount is the award-winning author of several critically acclaimed internet issues novels for teens as well as a few adult contemporary romances. She is inspired to write by such greats as Judy Blume, JK Rowling, and Gayle Forman. In fact, Judy Blume is the reason Patty elected to write under her real name…so she’d appear on shelves next to her idol. Patty adores writing; she’s written everything from technical manuals to song lyrics (see THE WAY IT HURTS, coming August 2017). Patty wants you to know she loves chocolate…really, really loves chocolate.

When not crushing on actors Gilles Marini or Sam Heughan, Patty can be found sitting in traffic somewhere on the Long Island Expressway, listening to audio books or talking wildly to herself about plots and characters. Prone to falling madly in love with fictional characters, Patty suffers frequent broken hearts when they all invariably prefer the heroine to her… go figure. When she’s not writing, Patty loves to watch bad sci-fi movies and live tweet the hilarity, and scour Pinterest for ideas on awesome bookcases. Patty lives on Long Island with her family in a house that, sadly, lacks bookcases.

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