Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Historical, romance, Spotlight on December 13, 2016

last-chance-cowboysTitle: Last Chance Cowboys: The Lawman

Author: Anna Schmidt

Series: Where the Trail Ends, #2

ISBN: 9781492612995

Pubdate: December 6, 2016

Genre: Historical Western Romance

Synopsis 

From acclaimed author Anna Schmidt comes a sweeping historical Western romance about the unbreakable bonds of family, second chances, and a whole lot of heart in the Wild West.

“This is me, Addie,” Jess murmured. “You and me, the way we always were.”

But it wasn’t, no matter how much she wished it were true. They were different now. She would always love him…

But can she trust him not to break her heart?

Jess Porterfield fled to the big city after his father’s sudden death, leaving behind his family ranch-and his childhood sweetheart. Now Jess has returned as the local lawman, determined to prove his worth…and win back the one woman he could never live without.

Young frontier doctor Addie Wilcox was devastated when Jess left her behind. Now he’s back and it’s difficult to remember why she should keep her distance. But with the town’s richest man set to see her hang for a crime she didn’t commit, Addie must put her faith in the lawman who broke her heart-and trust that together they’ll find their second chance at love.

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Sometimes characters I think are minor speak up. (Sometimes they pretty much grab me by the shoulders and shout, “I want to tell my story!”) That was the case with Dr. Addie Wilcox. So when her childhood sweetheart and love-of-her-life Jess Porterfield returns at the end of The Drifter, I knew what the second book in the series would be. In The Lawman, Addie has to fight her lifelong attraction to Jess, determined that he won’t break her heart again. Trouble is, once he gets appointed to serve as the town marshal and is pretty much living down the street from Addie and her family, avoiding his good looks, charming smile and determination to win her heart becomes pretty much impossible.

The story of Addie and Jess is all about first love and second chances. Here’s an excerpt that I hope sends you running to the store or your computer to read more…

Excerpt

Addie could not for the life of her figure out why she continued to allow that man to get to her. Why couldn’t she be more like Jess’s younger sister and her good friend, Amanda—calm and sophisticated?  She searched the gathering for Amanda, but hesitated when she saw her friend surrounded by the usual trio of admirers.  Amanda had been planning this party for weeks now. She certainly deserved to enjoy herself and not have to sympathize with Addie. Besides, Jess was Amanda’s brother, newly returned to the fold from his travels following his father’s death—a death everyone now knew had not been the accident they’d first thought.

Addie stopped dead in her tracks. Her hand flew to her mouth. What was she thinking?

Poor Jess. Did he know? Had anyone told him? Of course not. Jess had a temper, and if he knew what everyone now knew—that his father’s death was not the accident they’d first thought–he’d likely be off trying to track down the killer.

Maybe Jess had overheard some of the talk. Maybe that was why he was talking about applying for the marshal’s position. After all, Jasper Tipton had built that big house in town to please his bride, Pearl, and his brother, Buck, lived there as well. While the local marshal had no jurisdiction outside the town limits, Jess might just think the fact the Tiptons resided in town opened the door for him to go after them. More than likely he would get himself killed in the bargain. Her head was spinning as she tried to think the issue through from every side.

“This is not one of your medical cases,” she muttered to herself. “This is Jess.” And when it came to figuring out what Jess Porterfield might be thinking, she fully appreciated that logic was not part of the process.  She was still mad at him for leaving all those months ago but that didn’t mean she didn’t care about him and, knowing his temper, he was bound to get into trouble.  With a sigh, she headed off to find her father. Maybe he could talk some sense into the man—the man she had fallen in love with, planned a future, with and then rejected.  But as she moved through the throng of party guests pausing now and then to exchange a greeting, it wasn’t her father she saw—it was Jess.

He wasn’t spoiling for a fight at all. No, he was laughing and flirting with Sybil Sinclair. Sybil with her blonde curls and her bright blue eyes and a cupid’s bow of a mouth that made her look like a porcelain doll. Sybil with her tiny waist and her flawless skin and giddy laugh that actually came out as Tee-hee-hee.

“My brother is trying to make you jealous,” Amanda murmured, coming to stand next to her. “Do not let him know that it’s working.”

“It’s not,” Addie insisted, pushing her glasses more firmly onto the bridge of her nose. She straightened to her full height, which was still a good three inches shorter than Sybil’s willowy five foot four.  She brushed back a lock of hair that had come loose from the practical bun she preferred and tried not to think about how her stick-straight locks would look worn down like Sybil’s long curls. “I really couldn’t care less if your brother wants to make an utter fool of himself with that…”

“Good to know you aren’t affected,” Amanda said wryly.

Thoughts from Anna

When authors aren’t hard at work crafting books readers can fall in love with, like readers, they enjoy unwinding with a good book, movie or television program. Maybe the writing is inspiring, or maybe it’s just nice to escape the real world for a little bit. I asked Anna about her favorite stories, ones from popular books, movies, and television shows that many of us probably know too. Read on to see what she had to say!

AS TIME GOES BY (vintage PBS Series that thankfully enjoys reruns!)

Anna: My late husband and I so loved this series, and frankly, I want to be Judi Dench in my next life!

Interestingly enough, Anna takes inspiration, not just from other books, but from film and television most of all. She says:

That’s the way I write. My characters are actors on a stage or in a movie, and they walk around doing whatever they please while I try to get it all down!

About the Author

Award-winning author Anna Schmidt delights in creating stories where her characters must wrestle with the challenges of their times. Critics have consistently praised Schmidt for her ability to seamlessly integrate actual events with her fictional characters to produce strong tales of hope and love in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. She resides in Wisconsin. 

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Historical, romance, Spotlight on December 11, 2016

highlander-cover

Title: How to Train Your Highlander

Series: Broadswords and Ballrooms, #3

Author: Christy English

Pub Date: December 6, 2016

ISBN: 9781492612933

Synopsis

She’s the Hellion of Hyde Park…

A foolproof plan to avoid marriage:

  1. Always carry at least three blades.
  2. Ride circles around any man.
  3. Never get caught in a handsome duke’s arms.

Wild Highlander Mary Elizabeth Waters is living on borrowed time. She’s managed to dodge the marriage banns up to now, but even Englishmen can only be put off for so long…and there’s one in particular who has her in his sights.

Harold Percy, Duke of Northumberland, is enchanted by the beautiful hellion who outrides every man on his estate and dances Scottish reels while the ton looks on in horror. The more he sees Mary, the more he knows he has to have her, tradition and good sense be damned. But what’s a powerful man to do when the Highland spitfire of his dreams has no desire to be tamed…

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Excerpt

In which Harry proposes for the first time, then kisses Mary Elizabeth on a roof after a tot of the whisky:

“Harry, what did you want to ask me?”

“I want you to marry me.”

Mary Elizabeth did not seem impressed with the moment, momentous as it was. She looked at him with a squint of suspicion, and then she said, “You’ve no head at all for whisky, do you?”

“I do not, but that does not signify. I asked you a question, and I would like an answer.”

“Harry, you asked a daft question, and I will not answer it. Only yesterday you told me in the picture gallery of this very hall that you could not marry me, nor even kiss me. And now you are on a roof, asking me to wed. Are you mad, then?”

“I am,” Harry said. “I am mad for you.” He knew he was making a botch of it, and he wondered if he should start over, begin again by telling her that he was the duke, lord of all he surveyed, a man who could keep her happy and warm and set up with fine whisky and sharp blades for the rest of her life.

“Harry, we had better go in. You’re not in a fit state of mind to be speaking with a lady.”

“I am in the best state of mind to be speaking to you. You’re the only lady I want to speak with. I love you. You are wonderful and funny and filled with life. Marry me, and make me the happiest man ever to walk these halls.”

Mary Elizabeth sighed and moved to the window. He caught her by the skirt to hold her with him and she glared at him over her shoulder. “Let go, Harry. You’re foxed from two tots, and I am going in.”

“No,” he said. “I’m not foxed. I swear.”

They both slipped a little then, down the slanting roof. Harry caught himself with his slippered foot against the gable rim, and caught her to him so that she would not slide any farther. The heat of his body seemed to speak better for him than his words did, for Mary Elizabeth raised her arms over his shoulders and clasped her hands behind the back of his neck, burying her fingers in his hair.

“You’re talking daft, and I won’t hold you to it come sunrise, if you won’t hold me to my promise until then either,” she said.

He was not sure what she meant until her lips were on his, her luscious breasts pressed against the front of his dress coat. He could feel the heat of her body through the layers of clothes that separated them and knew that if they had been in a bed, or even safe on a rug somewhere, he would have drawn her skirt up and taken her right there. As it was, his foot lost its purchase, and they slid a little farther down the roofline.

Harry would not have cared, but Mary Elizabeth was pulling away from him.

“Harry, you daft man. Let me go before we fall.”

He obeyed her at once, though his body was screaming to touch her again. Separated from her, he looked down and saw that, indeed, they were actually in peril. He turned his mind from his lust to try and figure a way to get them both safely off that roof without sliding down it any farther when he saw Mary draw out a knife from God alone knew where and slice off the gold sash that had displayed her breasts all evening.

It seemed there was a good deal more material than just the section that made her breasts stand out so beautifully. At least six feet of cloth of gold was in her hands, which she deftly secured to the roof with her dagger, placing the blade between two shingles and burying it deep in the wood beneath.

“This is what comes of canoodling on a roof,” she said almost to herself as she cut away the ribbons on her dancing slippers with a second blade and kicked them off, so that they went sliding down the roofline and into the garden below.

Harry expected her to cry a little at their loss, as any other woman might have done, or perhaps simply to cry from fright at the danger they were in, but Mary Elizabeth Waters did not cry. She shimmied carefully out of her stockings, letting both stockings and garters fall down the same path as her shoes.

“Is that a yes, then?” Harry asked.

“Shut your fool mouth, Harry, and let me work.”

She used her now-bare feet to gain purchase on the roof’s slippery surface. She took hold of the gold sash and yanked it hard twice, as if to test its strength.

She spoke to him then as to a simpleton, slowly and clearly. “Harry, I am going to climb back up to the window. I need you to stay here and not move. At all. Do you understand me?”

He found himself smiling back at her. “Yes, ma’am.” He snuck a hand toward her supple calf and ran his fingertips along it, almost meditatively, reveling in the softness of her skin.

“Harry, I swear, if we live to get off this roof and tell this tale, I may very well kill you.”

 

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About the Author

 

Ever since Christy English picked up a fake sword in stage combat class at the age of fourteen, she has lived vicariously through the sword-wielding women of her imagination. A banker by day and a writer by night, she loves to eat chocolate, drink too many soft drinks, and walk the mountain trails of her home in North Carolina.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Spotlight on December 9, 2016

soul-of-a-seal-cover

Title: The Soul of a Seal

Series: West Coast Navy SEALs, #4

Author: Anne Elizabeth

Pub Date: December 6, 2016

ISBN: 9781492622246

Synopsis

Love may be the toughest battle of all

Captain Bennett Oscar Sheraton Navy SEAL, the best of the best

Dr. Kimberly Warren Brilliant engineer, founder of secret space program

When scientists on Dr. Warren’s super-secret space mission start dying, Navy SEAL Captain Sheraton is sent in as an astronaut candidate with a hidden agenda—find the person sabotaging the program.

Kimberly and Bennett’s instant attraction may prove to be a major distraction—or it might be the key to both of their dreams coming true…

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Interesting Seal Fact

FAKE SEALS don’t know the history of the Teams from Scouts and Raiders thru to SEALs or the year that SEAL Team was founded. FAKE SEALS cannot GIVE you information about their time in the Team, because if they did…they’d have to KILL you. That’s not true. This person is FAKE.

Excerpt

Her eyes lifted to his. She had no words as a flush that began in her toes rose to the top of her head. If she were to walk four feet to the mirror and look, she knew she would see herself as red as a cherry tomato. “Uh…s-s-sorry…” she finally said. What a time to stutter! Rubbing her hands together, she walked to the glass-enclosed shower, opened the door, turned on the water, and then took off her silk teddy and matching silk panties. It was time to be bold.

Glancing over her shoulder, it was her turn to smile. His jaw was practically on the floor.

“Can you hand me my loofah?” She turned toward him and pointed to the shelf next to the sink. “The fluffy pink one.”

He nodded his head, but it was several seconds before he turned and complied with her request. As he closed the distance between, she congratulated herself on being courageous…for changing the rules and making the playing field between them level. She’d seen his, and now he’d seen hers. That was out of the way, and they could move forward.

She put out her hand for the loofah, her smile smug and delighted. What she hadn’t prepared for…was him pulling her gently, and oh, so tenderly, against him so the heat of his body seared hers, and then kissing her until she was gasping for air as her hands held on to his biceps for dear life.

Time froze and the kiss lasted forever, or maybe it was only several seconds. It was hard to tell, because all thought had fled from her mind. When he urged her against the shower wall and slowly pulled away, she saw his smile—one of such male satisfaction that anger bloomed inside of her.

“That’s why they call me…Boss. Well, one of the reasons.” He waited, as if he wanted her to respond.

She couldn’t believe the idiot was just standing there. Why did he have to speak? Why doesn’t the male species know when to leave well enough alone? That kiss had been amazing! If only he’d chosen to be a gentleman, and mute. She sighed as she gave in to her emotion.

“Out!” she said indignantly. Men! She’d get him back in less than half an hour, when his first duty of the morning would be regurgitating his breakfast onto his lap.

the-soul-of-a-seal-graphic

About the Author

Anne Elizabeth is a romance author, comic creator, and a monthly columnist for RT Book Reviews magazine. With a BS in Business and MS in Communications from Boston University, she is a regular presenter at conventions as well as a member of The Author’s Guild and Romance Writers of America. Anne lives with her husband, a retired Navy SEAL, in the mountains above San Diego.

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Posted in Cozy, excerpt, Giveaway, mystery, Spotlight on December 8, 2016

literally-dead-large-banner640

literally-dead-cover

Literally Dead (An Empty Nest Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Self Published (September 30, 2016)
Paperback: 218 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1940795386
E-Book ASIN: B01LWCW5C1

Synopsis

After her last disastrous episode as an amateur sleuth, Gracie Elliott is back. The budding romance writer has spent the past year crafting her first novel. Her hard work and determination pay off when her manuscript wins the Cream of the Crop award, a contest for unpublished writers, sponsored by the Society of American Romance Authors. First place entitles her to attend the organization’s annual conference, normally open only to published authors.

With husband Blake in tow, a starry-eyed Gracie experiences the ultimate fan-girl moment upon entering the hotel. Her favorite authors are everywhere. However, within minutes she learns Lovinia Darling, the Queen of Romance, is hardly the embodiment of the sweet heroines she creates. Gracie realizes she’s stepped into a romance vipers’ den of backstabbing, deceit, and plagiarism, but she finds a friend and mentor in bestselling author Paisley Prentiss.

Hours later, when Gracie discovers Lovinia’s body in the hotel stairwell, a victim of an apparent fall, Gracie is not convinced her death was an accident. Too many other authors had reason to want Lovinia dead. Ignoring Blake’s advice to “let the police handle it,” Gracie, aided by Paisley, begins her own investigation into the death. Romance has never been so deadly.

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Excerpt

The wheels of my suitcase couldn’t spin fast enough as I pushed through the revolving door of the Crown Jewel Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Once inside the lobby, I stopped short and gazed awestruck, soaking in the writerly atmosphere. My heart pounded so fast I could hear it reverberating in my ears. Or maybe that was the din of the voices from hundreds of romance authors filling the forty-story marble and glass atrium.

My eyes bugged out as I scoped the room. “Oh my God, Blake!” I reached for my husband’s hand and squeezed it. “That’s Liz Phillips,” I released my grip on my suitcase handle and pointed in the direction of the bar off to my right. “And Elise Robertson.”

“Friends of yours?” asked my husband.

“I wish! They’re two of the most successful romance writers in the world. I can’t believe I’m standing only a few yards away from them!” Talk about a fan girl moment! One more superstar sighting and I just might need a brown paper bag to ward off imminent hyperventilation.

“Hurry!” I pulled him along, nearly tripping over my Kate Spades as I race-walked toward the shortest of several lines that serpentined from the hotel registration desk around the chic silver, white, and gray lobby.

Blake grabbed me, preventing me from executing a face plant. Then he spun me around and settled his hands on my shoulders. Lowering his head until our foreheads nearly touched, he said, “I know you’re excited, Gracie, but take a deep breath. Slow down. The conference doesn’t start for several hours. You’re not going to miss anything.”

I humored him by continuing at a jog instead of a sprint until I reached the back of the line. “I can’t believe I’m here!” I squealed, bouncing on the balls of my feet.

A year of slaving over my manuscript had finally paid off. “Just think, by this time next year I’ll probably be returning as Gracie Elliott, published romance author.”

“Don’t you mean Emma Carlyle?”

“Right. Sorry.” Since Blake didn’t think the stuffy old academics of the university governing board would take too kindly to a faculty wife writing sensuous romances—not that my writing rose anywhere near Fifty Shades level—I’d promised to publish under a pseudonym. Thus, Gracie Elliott would become Emma Carlyle on bookstore shelves.

“Besides, aren’t you forgetting something?”

“Like what?”

“You need to sell your book first.”

Leave it to Mr. Logical to burst my bubble. “Yes, of course, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty of offers here at the conference. After all, I’m the winner of the Society of American Romance Author’s Cream of the Crop writing competition. That’s a huge award. You should be excited for me, Blake. And proud of my accomplishment.”

“I am excited for you, sweetheart, and I’ve always been proud of you. You’re the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. You set yourself a goal, and you work until you accomplish it.” He pecked my cheek. “I just don’t want to see you disappointed.”

“Why would I be disappointed? You just said I always accomplish my goals, didn’t you?”

“Yes, but some goals take longer than others. Did winning this contest guarantee you a publishing contract?”

“No, but—”

“The win gives you the opportunity to attend this writing conference, nothing more. Let’s keep everything in perspective, okay?”

“Fine. But you’re going to eat those practical words of yours by the end of these three days.”

“I’d love nothing better than to see you prove me wrong.”

We inched our way up in line. “Notice anything odd?” he asked above the cacophony of conversations around us.

I glanced up at my husband, then around the massive lobby. “Odd?” Although this was my first writing conference, I’d attended my share of business conferences and conventions over the years. Prior to the industry downsizing that outsourced my job as a fabric designer overseas and left me jobless and pension-less, I’d spent many hours cooling my Kate Spades and Christian Louboutins in long, slow-moving hotel check-in lines. “Not really.”

“It’s a veritable estrogen brigade here, Gracie!”  My normally unflappable husband suddenly looked like the clueless hero of a fish-out-of-water romance novel.

About The Author

lois-winstonUSA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. newsletter at

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check out the other great blogs on this tour

December 1 – A Date with a Book – REVIEW

December 2 – Author Annette Drake’s blog – INTERVIEW

December 3 – Brooke Blogs – CHARACTER GUEST POST

December 4 – Queen of All She Reads – REVIEW

December 4 – Community Bookstop – INTERVIEW

December 5 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too! – SPOTLIGHT

December 5 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW

December 6 – Cozy Up With Kathy – INTERVIEW

December 7 – Texas Book-aholic – REVIEW

December 8 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

December 9 – Island Confidential – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

December 10 – A Holland Reads – CHARACTER GUEST POST, SPOTLIGHT

December 10 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance on December 7, 2016

this-is-our-song-cover

Synopsis

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Samantha Chase crafts a tender, hopeful family-centered romance

She knows him by reputation

Riley Shaughnessy knew that to stand out in his large family, he’d have to go big. Making a name for himself as a musician wasn’t easy, but he followed his dreams to rock-star success. But the relentless expectations of fans is not helping the slump he’s in now. So of course the person who attracts him is the woman who is not impressed by fame.

Which gives Riley Shaughnessy a lot to prove

Entertainment reporter Savannah Daly is completely unfazed by pretty-boy rock stars. She’s just here to get her interview and write her story. But spending an entire month with the Shaughnessys is going to show Savannah a side of Riley she never could have guessed.

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Thoughts from Samantha/Playlist

I’m one of those people who can multi-task.  To a point.  I do like almost complete silence while I write with the exception of my Sounds of the Ocean soundtrack playing.  I can have twenty tabs open online and be on social media while I’m writing, but please don’t make me listen to anything!  But amazingly enough, on most of my books I do end up with a playlist that helps me get the job done.

I just don’t listen to it while I’m writing.

I turn to it when I’m blocked – when I’m stuck in a scene and need to get hyper-focused on my characters.  This is Our Song was kind of easy to have a playlist to because Riley is a musician.  There were songs that I felt like I could imagine him singing or that the lyrics really applied to him.

So what was on my list and why?  Here’s just one of the songs that was on my This is Our Song playlist!

Our Song by Matchbox Twenty:

This was the song that was inspiration for the title of the book.  I love the song and it makes me happy and when I was trying to think of something fun for Riley and Savannah, this was my obvious choice!

Favorite line:  I don’t know if someone else could handle me
I don’t know what I’m suppose to be
You’re the only one who really sees
You get me

I was lucky with This is Our Song because of Riley’s career.  Some books it will just be a single (as in one) song that is on my playlist to help me over the humps.  And sometimes I’ll have to listen to that song like five times in a row to get me in the proper mindset to write what I need to write.

Happy listening and I hope you enjoy This is Our Song!!

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Excerpt

He didn’t just beat her in the best of three.

Oh, no. That would have been too easy.

No, Savannah—who realized too late that she was a very sore loser—kept egging him on until he finally put the paddle down after beating her in twelve games. Twelve! Why did she have to keep taunting him? Even while they were playing she couldn’t make herself ask him anything important. They talked about useless stuff—favorite bands, favorite foods—hell, at one point she’d even asked him his favorite color.

She hung her head low in defeat and put her paddle on the table. Riley had excused himself and went to get them each a drink. She prayed it was vodka. Something to make her forget this humiliation.

His prize at the end of the first three games was that she’d stay and have dinner with him.

After the next three she’d stay for a movie.

She really thought she was going to beat him in the third round. Unfortunately, it had been her biggest loss, and he’d simply chuckled and said he’d have to think about his reward. And he’d repeated that after the fourth and final win.

Riley cleared his throat when he walked back into the room and handed her a glass of ice water. They drank in silence for a few minutes. “That was fun,” he finally said, and Savannah realized he wasn’t being obnoxious and he wasn’t gloating. He genuinely looked like he’d had a good time.

And despite all the losing, Savannah would have to agree. It was fun.

“How do you feel about salmon for dinner?”

“It’s one of my favorites,” she said and was relieved he wasn’t gloating.

“It’s kind of early yet. Maybe we can watch a movie first?”

That was a reasonable request, and she agreed. Together they picked out a classic Neil Simon movie from 1967, Barefoot in the Park. “Ooo…Robert Redford.” She sighed. “Another favorite.”

Tucked away in a corner was one of the biggest flat-screen TVs Savannah had ever seen. Riley noticed her stunned look. “It’s one hundred ten inches. They don’t come any bigger than this right now. The picture’s great too.”

Two oversized recliners were centered in front of the screen and they each sat down. Riley started the movie and within minutes Savannah was more relaxed and they were both laughing along with the story.

She kicked her sandals off and tucked her feet up on the chair beside her. Next she pulled the clip out of her hair so she could relax her head against the back of the comfortable chair. Looking to her right, she saw Riley was watching her. His expression was intense and for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out what was wrong. “Is everything okay?”

He didn’t answer right away.

“Riley?”

“I still have to decide what I get for winning those last two rounds,” he said, his voice low and gravelly.

Savannah nodded, hypnotized by the way his eyes had gone so dark.

“I’m going to combine them into one request,” he said, and it sounded more like a warning than a statement.

“Okay.” Her own voice was almost a breathy whisper.

Leaning closer, Riley’s eyes zeroed in on her lips before meeting her eyes. “Savannah?”

“Hmm?”

“I’m going to kiss you. Twice.”

“Oh.”

His hand snaked out and around her nape and slowly drew her closer to him. And then his lips touched hers and Savannah’s brain simply stopped functioning.

About the Author

Samantha Chase, a creative writing teacher, released her debut novel, Jordan’s Return, in November 2011. Since then, she has published seventeen more titles and has become a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She lives with her husband of twenty-four years and their two sons in North Carolina.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Spotlight on December 6, 2016

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Synopsis

It’s been two years since Cason McPherson watched his best friend die in his arms. With shrapnel in his hip and a war behind him, he keeps focused on building a civilian life and not on what he wants most: the woman of his dreams, Savannah. If only she’d stop bringing up topics he has to keep secrets about.

Savannah Sparling has no time for baggage, and Cason McPherson brought home a matching set in scathing green—with a carry-on duffel bag full of lies. He’s the childhood friend who enlisted with her brother. He came home, and her brother didn’t.

Balancing work with demanding clients while fulfilling a personal vendetta against Cason consumes Savannah’s already full schedule—until a series of unstoppable events leads to a collision between Savannah’s work and personal lives. Her carefully structured path in the world is crushed, her own blood is spilled, and passion between her and an unlikely bedfellow ignite.

Cason and Savannah find the only the people strong enough to save them from themselves is each other. But will either one of them accept the help—and the love—that’s offered?

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Scene setup: Cason has an attack of conscience and needs to apologize to Savannah for his behavior the day before. He goes to Savannah’s posh condo before work and to his surprise catches her in the midst of her morning routine.

When it didn’t open after a few minutes, he knocked again and called her name. Cason looked down as he waited. There on her step, damp from morning dew, was a package from her cell company. He bent over, grimaced at his hip, and picked it up just as the muffled padding of footsteps sounded inside.

The door yanked open, slamming against its chain. “What?” she asked.

“Oh,” he said, taken aback, looking at her from bare foot to robe to towel on her head.

“Yeah, I’m getting dressed, but nothing you haven’t seen before. What do you want?”

Cason knew then, looking at her, that he was kidding himself on why he was there and felt instantly grateful for the bargaining chip he had just picked up. “I’ve got something to say,” he said, holding up her package, “in exchange for your cell.”

Her eyes narrowed in irritation. “You can put that back down and leave. I don’t need another demeaning lecture this morning on how to be a better person from Mr. Military Hero McPherson, so buzz off.”

“I know,” he said, believing he had earned that comment.

She looked at him, and there was a brief second when he was optimistic she’d not slam the door in his face.

“Can I come in? I’ll be nice,” he added for good measure.

After a long pause, she shut the door in his face. He heard the chain being removed, and then the door cracked open. The padding of her footsteps sounded on the polished hardwoods, walking away from the door.

Cason slowly opened the door, feeling the tenuous truce between them, and then closed it behind him. He scanned the room as he took his boots off. The floors were dark polished wood. Huge white leather couches in the middle of the room looked out over the golf course woods. There was a white fur rug on the floor, and on the far side of the room a metal-and-clear-plastic dining set with a whacked-out ruffled white chandelier thing hanging over it. The kitchen was open to his left; a white marble-topped bar ran the length of it. Polished stainless-steel appliances dominated; the rest of the condo was all windows and black-and-white photographs. It was icy cold compared to Savannah’s mother’s house, which felt like a warm, straight-from-the-oven cookie.

He saw her across the condo go back into the bathroom and begin putting on her makeup; she’d changed into one of her starched white collared shirts that fit her snugly. He felt a tug in his belly when he realized she’d hastily buttoned it, but only halfway. It was untucked over one of her kneelength black skirts. He was definitely interrupting her morning routine, and it felt like just because he was there she wasn’t going to alter it one iota. And he didn’t blame her; if it were him, he would have already punched himself in the face.

She turned her head to look at him. “You can put that on the counter and go,” she said and then turned back to the mirror.

Cason did put the package on the counter, but he wasn’t going; he still had something on his mind. Instead, he busied himself. She had a fancy coffeemaker, but it hadn’t been programmed to make coffee that morning. He spotted the coffee grounds next to the machine and set to work. As he dumped grounds into the filter and added water, he felt his palms begin to sweat.

What am I doing?

A few moments later, Savannah, her hair wet but her shirt now buttoned and a black knee-length skirt on, came out to the kitchen. She tore open the cell phone box. “You’re still here. So, what is it that you wanted to tell me?” She powered the phone on.

Cason wanted to start with an apology but couldn’t. “Did you know your mom is dating?” he asked, resting his good hip against the counter and crossing his arms. As he looked at her, he remembered the way they were before he’d been discharged. They’d been friends. Good friends. Maybe even best friends. Being friends, high-fiving good platonic friends wouldn’t break the promise. Before he could think better of it, Savannah responded, eyebrows raised as she looked up at him, making his gut do that thing again.

“Are you kidding me?”

“Last night I got back to the house—she was doing the crossword with some guy.”

Savannah’s warm-chocolate gaze studied his face. He felt himself swallow, as if gulping down words that would get him into hot water of the non-platonic kind.

About the Author

beckybanksBecky Banks grew up, like the generations of Bankses before her, in the Hawaiian Islands. With the islands as her roots, Becky was raised within the time-honored tradition of “talking story” before a backdrop of grassy fields, blue waters, and cloud-clad mountains. She moved to the mainland after high school to attend Oregon State University, where she studied forestry, natural resources, and science education. One fateful day she realized that her decades of scribblings promised the makings of a romance writer. Becky’s first novel, The Legend of Lady MacLaoch, achieved the Night Owl Reviews Top Pick Award and Amazon’s Best Seller for Historical Romanc

Becky lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Keith, and their wild toddler, Sammy.

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Posted in Book Blast, Christian, excerpt, romance on December 5, 2016

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Title: Sight Unseen
Author: Erin Leigh Crisp
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 198
Genre: Christian Romance

Synopsis

Emilia Phillips is looking for a career and a way out of her day job. She is not looking for a man to rescue her heart.

Asher Mason wants his life back. He lost his sight and the hero-life he loved in a millisecond. He no longer trusts his instincts, especially about women. But the sweet-smelling waitress in his favorite café tempts him to trust. As Emilia helps Asher relearn everyday activities, the two find themselves falling faster than either expected.

Can a woman love a blind soldier? Will she want a man who doesn’t recognize himself anymore? As Asher’s shortcomings become more apparent to him, the wedge forced between he and Emilia widens. Can Asher trust the same God that took his sight to direct his future?

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“How long has it been?” Emilia could have bitten off her own tongue.

His eyes glanced over again, but they didn’t see her. He gave one huge breath and shrugged, like it wasn’t important. “Three months.”

Only three months? And he was walking around town and ordering coffee? No seeing-eye dog, no dark glasses? She wanted to compliment him, but she figured he wasn’t the type of man to take it for what it was. Instead, she eased her hand onto his shoulder for a split second and went for humor instead.

“I should have noticed when you didn’t wink back at me earlier.”

His head shot up, and his cheeks tinged the darkest pink.

Emilia covered her giggle and shook her head. “I swear I’m kidding. I wasn’t flirting with you, but I really should have noticed earlier. My brother was born blind. He’s seventeen.”

The man looked curious, but he was still blushing and she decided not to press him. “Anyway, if you need anything, my name is Emilia. I’ll be here all week.”

His lips turned up in the smallest smile. She reminded herself that she wasn’t looking for a man. She took three steps away before he called her name.

Her feet stopped. “Yeah?”

He swallowed hard, his fingers linking on the tabletop. His eyes searched for her face. “I’m Asher Mason. Thank you, again.”

“It was my pleasure.” She turned and walked away, but the damage was already done. Her heart thumped crazily. Her cheeks heated. Her teeth bit down to stop the smile that threatened. And I’m in a load of trouble, she thought.

About the Author

Erin was born and raised on the Florida/Alabama state line in a small farming community which has served as inspiration for her novels. She believes the heart of a happy ending is God and His plan for the lives of His people.

In 2014, Erin published her first novels for sale.  She currently has eight full-length novels and one novella for sale on Amazon. Erin makes her home in Northeast Georgia with her husband, four children and two fish. Erin has a bachelor degree in Christian Counseling and enjoys photography in her spare time.

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Posted in Cozy, excerpt, Giveaway, mystery on December 4, 2016

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mudder

First Degree Mudder (A Pacific Northwest Mystery)

Cozy Mystery
4th in Series
Kensington (November 29, 2016)
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages

Synopsis

When a mud marathon champion bites the dust, Meg Reed has to go the distance to make sure a killer comes clean . . .

Back home in Portland, Oregon, Meg is ready to take her career as an outdoor writer for Extreme magazine to the next level. Lesser journalists sling mud—Meg plans to run through it. To train hard for Mud, Sweat & Beers, an extreme 5K mud run, she’s signed on with the Mind Over Mudder team, run by ten-time mud marathon champ—and former drill sergeant—Billy the Tank. But when Meg finds her tenacious trainer dead in the locker room, she has a sinking feeling someone may have been pushed too far. Digging through the hidden secrets at Mind Over Mudder is a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. Meg will have to tread carefully, though—or she may soon be running for her life . . .
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FIRST DEGREE MUDDER EXCERPT

Fort Vancouver National Park

Old Army Barracks

My feet squished inside my drenched kicks as I limped through the damp grass. I’d like to give Billy a swift kick in the shins, I thought cranking the volume on my phone to high. Maybe Dean Martin’s “King of the Road” would give me a final boost. Doubtful. I didn’t feel like the king or queen of the road. Quite the opposite.

The rest of my Mind Over Mudder teammates were nowhere in sight. Thank God. I checked behind me twice, just to make sure. I probably could have taken the shortcut straight to the barracks, but I didn’t want to risk being seen. That might have been a mistake. The historic grounds gave off an eerie aura, especially the dilapidated army hospital Building 614, to my left. It was rumored to be haunted. I understood why. Built in 1904 during an influenza outbreak, the three-story brick building had served hundreds of infantry men over the decades.

I shuddered to imagine the torture some of them must have endured. Was that a moan? A prickly feeling ran down my spine.

I think that’s a moan, I said aloud as I glanced up at the broken top story windows. Something ghoulish floated past.

Run, Meg!

I willed myself forward, ignoring the blisters on my heels or the chafing under my sports bra. It felt like I was breathing under water. I didn’t care. I crested the hill and turned onto Evergreen Boulevard.

Relax, Meg. It’s just your mind playing tricks on you. I had read one too many ghost stories when researching the history of Fort Vancouver and its surrounding grounds. The hospital had been abandoned for years, but people swore that things were amiss. Faucets were said to turn on in the middle of the night, bathroom doors banged shut for no reason, faces, like the one I’d just seen, appeared out of nowhere in the windows. The place was haunted. Definitely haunted.

You’re fine now, I told myself, slowing my pace.

I followed the flour on the sidewalk that marked the route of our pre-dawn run. It took us past the Fort’s parade grounds complete with an old-fashioned bandstand and Officer’s Row—a row of stately Victorian officer’s houses. That’s when I saw the creepy old lady again. I’d seen her watching us from her ground floor apartment before. The twenty-two stately mansions that make up Officer’s Row were now used for a variety of purposes. The Grant House had become one of Vancouver’s premier restaurants and the Marshall House a favorite spot for weddings. The remaining properties had been converted into commercial and residential space.

Yesterday when I jogged past the creepy old lady’s apartment she peeled back one lace curtain and watched me and my teammates. It was unsettling to say the very least.

I stopped to tie my shoe under an ancient oak. Its leaves looked parched from summer’s endless sun. My throat commiserated with the tree. I could use an ice-cold glass of water right about now. Pushing myself to standing all the hairs on my arms stood at attention as a creaking sound came from the creepy old lady’s front door. She appeared out of nowhere on the wraparound porch.

Were my eyes playing tricks on me? Where had she come from? I jumped back in surprise. Her glassy eyes bore into me. She wore a faded pink bathrobe and appeared to have been old enough to be one of the original members of the Hudson Bay Company.

“Hi.” I offered a tentative wave.

She didn’t move.

I tried again. “Good morning.”

Her eyes remained locked on me, but she gave no indication that she’d heard my greeting.

Was she a ghost?

I had no intention of waiting around to find out. I plowed ahead, crossing Evergreen Boulevard, and practically hurdling the waist-high wooden fence that ran the length of the grassy parade grounds. My feet revolted as I stumbled down the hill. It felt like someone was sanding my heels with sandpaper.

Pick up the pace, Meg.

The only thing that kept me upright was the promise of a hot shower and the fact that a ghost might be in hot pursuit. I needed to get to the barracks and get out of these shoes. Mud and sweat oozed from every pore. Thankfully, I’d learned my lesson after the first day on the training course and ditched my cute pink tank top and capris for old raggedy sweats and a t-shirt. Everything ended up discolored from the mud. There was no point in trying to look cute while under Billy the Tank’s watchful eye and blaring bullhorn.

I cut through the grass, something Billy definitely frowned on. “Reed!” he bellowed in his bullhorn when he caught me sneaking around the back of the barracks last week. “When you take a shortcut you’re only cheating yourself.”

That was fine by me. I happily owned cheating on myself.

There was a single light on in the otherwise deserted collection of buildings down the hill. The reserve encompassed three hundred and sixty-six acres of land. It included Fort Vancouver, Pearson Airfield and Museum, the barracks, Army hospital, Red Cross building, Officer’s Row, an old chapel, stables, and non-commissioned officer’s houses. The grounds are considered the Pacific Northwest’s most important historical site. And this morning I couldn’t shake the feeling that there were whispers from the past surrounding me.

My target was the barracks’ building where the single light glowing golden yellow looked like a welcoming beacon. Billy and his business partner Dylan had leased the barracks to use as base camp for their three-week intensive training class Mind Over Mudder. They promised that by the end of the session (If you survived, which at the moment looked doubtful for me) that not only would you be in “fighting shape” to finish a mud run, but that you’d also drop pounds and pant sizes. So far the scale hadn’t budged when I stepped on it, and I was so exhausted at the end of the day that I felt like dropping dead.

Using the wooden railing, I placed one hand over the other and slowly hauled my body up the ramp. The rotting wooden slats buckled. Please hold, I said a silent prayer to the Universe. The last thing I needed was to crash through the ramp.

Compared with the other buildings the barracks were in great shape. Everything had sat empty since the army abandoned its post in Vancouver decades earlier. The National Park, along with a trust, had begun renovations on the massive site. The barracks were first on the list, and Mind Over Mudder the first and only tenant at the moment. A sharp splinter lodged itself in my palm. It protruded from my mud-chapped skin. I stopped and yanked it free. Ouch!

Yet another reason to love this training program, I sighed as I opened the front door and stumbled inside. Every muscle in my body quaked. Billy had promised us that muscle pain was a sign that our metabolism was revving up and we were replacing fat with muscles. “Embrace the quakes” was his motto. Easy for him to say. Billy aka “the Tank” was the fittest person I’d ever met. That was saying a lot given that I write for Northwest Extreme Magazine and am constantly surrounded by hard bodied adventure junkies.

Billy instructed us to call him Tank on the first day of training. He looked like a tank. His stout body bulged with muscle mass. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on his body. Let’s just say that he was a bit intimidating when he sounded the whistle around his neck, wearing skin tight army shorts and a sleeveless shirt specifically designed to show off his enormous muscles.

I scanned the dimly lit hallway to make sure the Tank wasn’t there. By my estimate the rest of my teammates should be on the course for another thirty minutes. That should give me ample time to shower, soak my aching soles, and hightail it out of here before anyone was the wiser. I clicked off my music, tugged my earbuds out, and clutched my phone in the hand without the splinter.

The barracks have an ominous vibe even when they’re packed with my teammates and coaches. Shuffling down the long empty hallway made it feel even creepier. Like the army hospital the barracks are said to be haunted. The top floor was used for gun testing. There are still bullet holes in the walls upstairs, and it was said that you could hear phantom gun shots.

A loud thud sounded below.

I jumped and let out a scream.

My heart pounded in my chest. Relax, Meg. Maybe one of my teammates had the same idea.

I continued on, checking over my shoulder to make sure no one was behind me. The locker rooms were located in the basement. Not exactly where I wanted to be at the moment, but I hobbled down the hardwood stairs anyway.

When I was a few feet away from the locker room doors, they swung open nearly smacking me in the face.

I jumped again.

Was it the ghost? How were the doors opening? One of the rumors that I’d heard about the haunted buildings was that doors were known to open and close at will.

I backed up.

At that moment someone barreled through the doors and knocked me off my feet.

“Hey!” I caught myself on the wall.

The guy leaped over me and raced down the hallway before I could get a look at his face. I had a pretty good guess who it was. Tim Baxter, one of my fellow teammates. I recognized his bulk and black hooded sweatshirt. What was he doing in the locker room and why was he in such a hurry?

I pushed to standing. “Tim, where are you going?”

He paused at the front doors.

I noticed a package under his right arm. “Tim!” I called again. “What’s going on?”

He froze. I thought maybe I’d made a mistake. My contacts were thick with sludge. I don’t see distances very well even when my contacts are perfectly clear. Dirt had formed a thick filmy layer, making my vision blurry. I blinked twice.

The door slammed shut. Tim, or whoever had run into me, was gone

Weird.

I brushed myself off and continued into the locker room. Steam enveloped the front area where three massage tables sat empty. Long mirrors stretching the length of the room were completely fogged over. It smelled like stale sweat, moldy wood, and eucalyptus. Someone, probably Tim, must have left the steam room doors open.

Using my hands as I shield to avoid tripping over a bench I made my way past the massage tables and into the shared steam, sauna, and whirlpool room. Doors on either side of the room lead to the men’s and women’s changing rooms and showers. Originally the barracks only housed men, so when Mind Over Mudder renovated the basement locker room they’d had to get creative with the design. The actual changing areas and showers were private and on opposite sides of each other, but the steam room and hot tub were coed, which meant that bathing suits were always required.

My cheeks burned with heat. Muddy sweat dripped onto the floor. The wet air filled my lungs, making me cough.

I fumbled through the dense layer of steam. My hands landed on the cedar steam room door, which was indeed wide open. Someone had propped it open with one of the locker room benches. Really weird. I pushed the bench away. It made a sound like nails on a chalkboard on the tile floor.

My feet slid across the wet floor. I landed on my tailbone as the steam room door swung shut. Awesome. Two falls in a matter of a few minutes. That had to be a new record for me. At least my phone was safely secured to my arm. I just got a new phone after a little accident with my old phone. Smart phones aren’t cheap, especially for a girl on a tight budget. I couldn’t risk damaging this one, so I undid the Velcro strap around my arm and placed my phone and earbuds on a bench nearby.

Steam billowed from underneath the door. It reminded me of dry ice on Halloween. Whoever turned it on must have cranked the heat to full blast. I braced myself as I opened the door to shut it off.

I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, but I knew where the dials controlling the heat and steam were. The steam room and I had become besties over the past few days. Nothing soothed my training aches and pains like the moist warm air.

I found the thermostat and switched it off. I know I shouldn’t have, but I climbed onto the cedar slatted bottom bench and drank in the steam. Billy would be furious if he caught me wearing my muddy clothes in the hot humid room, but I couldn’t help it. I was freezing. Just five minutes, Meg, I told myself as my breathing steadied and I sunk onto warm bench. This is exactly what I needed, I could almost feel my muscles begin to relax.

Within minutes the steam began to evaporate and the air began to thin. I opened my eyes. My contacts were like glue. Blinking as hard as I could, I tried to loosen their grip. It didn’t work. They felt like sand. I might have to ditch them, I thought as I stood up.

The small cedar room came into soft focus. Someone else was in here with me. I blinked again. “Billy?”

Billy was laying on his back on the top bench with his eyes closed. Why hadn’t he said anything? He must be pissed that I snuck out early.

“Listen, Tank, I’m really sorry I took the shortcut. My feet are killing me this morning. I have like a thousand blisters.”

Billy didn’t respond.

“Tank, I’m a reporter, remember. I’m here for a story. It’s not like the rest of my teammates.” I stood. Spots danced in my vision.

Again Billy didn’t respond. I moved closer. Suddenly, I knew why he wasn’t responding. Billy wasn’t resting.

As I came closer, a horrific sense of dread came over my entire body. Billy was dead.

About the Author

Kate Dyer-Seeley writes the Pacific Northwest Mystery Series for Kensington Publishing, featuring a young journalist, Meg Reed, who bills herself as an intrepid adventurer in order to land a gig writing for Northwest Extreme. Only Meg’s idea of sport is climbing onto the couch without spilling her latte.

She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and son, where you can find her hitting the trail, at an artisan coffee shop, or at her favorite pub. Better yet—at all three.

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Posted in excerpt, paranormal, romance on December 4, 2016

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Synopsis

A Divine Grace has been kidnapped…Words that send terror rushing through the heart of another Divine Grace, Avery McClain.

Now she’s rising up, taking her place as a warrior, and standing beside the Elite Thracians, protectors of the Olympians. Banding together, they have a sole mission–to find the woman who is destined to be a Queen. The massacre at the Ralpha Clinic and a deadline from the gods force them to use every asset in their arsenal–including one who literally fell at their feet.

Keona Nadal must find her twin. Piper is in the hands of the enemy and they show no mercy. This leaves Keona in a position where she must trust the very people whom she has feared her entire life. Her rare and coveted gift as a teleporter will be tested and her loyalty shaken, both leaving her to ask what is more important: serving the greater good or saving her sister?

Can they rescue Piper before she disappears forever?

Start your journey with Divine Awakening!

Divine Awakening #1

Divine Destiny #2

Divine Judgement #3

Divine Encounter #4

 

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Excerpt

from Chapter One

Ryse Castille, son of the Grand Deities, Troy and Dynasty Castille, Master of the Thracians armies and heir to the throne of North America, raised his sword. The blade shone under the watchful eyes of the gods. Zeus and all the gods of Olympia witnessed the blade fall from the sky and slice through the neck of Princess Salina Avondale, daughter of Charles and Filene Avondale, Deities of Europe.

Hayden’s hand stopped in his writing. He studied his words carefully. Zeus commanded him to record the events of the day and he wanted to do it while it was fresh on his mind. Based on the shaking in his knees and hands, it might be too fresh. It was his duty to record the events of the last few months, and as a trained historian, he enjoyed it. But this was, by far, the hardest period of Olympian history to record. Every time he closed his eyes, he could see Salina’s blond hair stained with the deep red of her blood. Bile rose in his throat when he remembered the way her head rolled across the stage and landed at the feet of her parents. Filene Avondale’s screams haunted his soul. Auras of the Olympians who filled the arena flared with anger, anguish, and fear, assaulting Hayden with the battering waves of their emotions and energies.

More than any of these things, burned deeper into his brain than the color of the blood, the sound of the screams, or the waves of auras, Hayden could recall every detail about his brother, Ryse

From the moment the Master Thracian stepped out onto the stage, the crowd quieted. Mothers pulled their children closer and ducked into the safety of their husbands’ arms. Awe-filled eyes tracked his every movement and faces went slack. Ryse Castille was larger than life; he was legend made of flesh. Blessed by both Zeus and Ares, he held not only the power of Olympian royalty, but of Thracian warfare. He was part king, part killer.

Hayden inhaled deeply and let out a shaky breath. He tossed his pen aside and ran his fingers through his hair.

Not now. He couldn’t relive everything just yet.

About the Author

JoAnna Grace lives in a world of alpha males and strong females where true love conquers all–at least in her mind!

From the time she started holding a crayon she began to create magical worlds. Her first book was a series of pictures about a puppy princess. The story changed each time she told it, but there was always a happy ending! Her first written story was about girls who changed into tigers.

Hmmm… Guess some concepts stick around even into adulthood. Now those stories have become a bit more complex!

JoAnna’s tales are spun at her home in East Texas where she lives with her husband, three kids, a couple dogs and a few fish. When not hiding behind the computer screen you can find her camping, boating, and shopping.

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Posted in excerpt, Historical, Spotlight, Thriller, WW II on December 3, 2016

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Synopsis

In a bombed-out Polish village during World War II, a young resistance fighter finds that he is suddenly alone and trapped between two opposing armies. He is one of Poland’s “Devil’s Rebels” fighting desperately to save his homeland, but an injury has erased his memory and his only possession is a torn photograph of a couple he assumes are his parents. The woman appears to be holding the hand of a young child whose image has been ripped off. Could this be him?

Caught in the crosshairs of the retreating German army and the advancing Russian forces, the village holds nothing but destruction and despair until a mysterious young woman offers a small glimmer of hope that may represent his last chance – news of a refugee train departing from a nearby town, headed for American installations at the border.

But complications arise when the resistance fighter is betrayed by his own countryman and hunted by German SS officers who are determined to kill him before they retreat. Desperately searching for a home and family he can’t remember, he is persuaded to rescue two children who are doomed to die without his help. But as time runs out, the former rebel is faced with an impossible choice. Standing at the crossroads of saving himself or risking his life for strangers, what would motivate a young man at the brink of salvation to make one more sacrifice?

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Excerpt

Outside of Gorndask, Poland
December 20, 1944

The train swayed abruptly as it lurched along the poorly repaired tracks. Rail lines were the lifeblood of the war effort, and for six years the line, like every other in the war zone, had fallen under relentless bombing attack. Indeed, the track had been bombed and rebuilt so many times it was a miracle that it could carry any rail traffic at all. So the train engineer kept it slow, knowing that every bridge was an adventure, every crossing a potential derailing point. At one junction he looked briefly for oncoming traffic, though he suspected his was the only train running within two hundred miles. Who else would have the courage, or desperation, or defiance, or whatever combination of such things it might take to put another train upon the track?

The railroad track was a thread of black weaving through a white and green landscape of rolling hills, thick forests, farming cottages, and small towns. Black smoke billowed from the engine and floated back to coat the train in gray soot. The countryside was white with fresh snow. The storm had started out as rain a couple of days before and then turned to heavy snow, thick and wet. The train was surrounded by tall pines, their boughs drooping under the snow’s weight, seeming to reach for the ground. The sky was cloudy still, gray with soft wisps of fog drifting over the hills.  Winter had come, and it might be weeks before the sun would break through the overcast to sparkle on the snow.

The train consisted of five troop transport cars. All the seats had long before been ripped out, leaving the desperate passengers to stand chest-to-chest or back-to-back as they swayed together with each lurch of the train. A few of the weakest among them huddled on the floor, too exhausted, sick, or wounded to stand.

The cars were packed with terrified civilians, mostly women and their scarce belongings: piles of clothing held together with rope, a few bags, an occasional suitcase. One of the women held a small sewing machine, another a wooden cage stuffed with three chickens. In the corner of the compartment, a young mother stood alone. Her long hair framed a beautiful oval face that was so vacant it looked lifeless. In her arms, she held a tiny bundle tightly wrapped from head to toe in a light blue baby blanket. Her child. No longer living. Taking him home. It was a pitiful sight, and the other passengers gave her as much space as they could muster, but no one spoke to her. The death of a child was as common as the falling of the snow, and no one had the ability to offer any comfort anymore.

Trailer

About the Author

Chris Stewart is a New York Times bestselling author who has published more than a dozen books, has been selected by the Book of the Month Club, and has released titles in multiple languages in seven countries. He has also been a guest editorial list for the Detroit News, among other publications, commenting on matters of military readiness and national security concerns. He is a world-record-setting Air Force pilot (fastest nonstop flight around the world) and president and CEO of The Shipley Group, a nationally recognized consulting and training company.

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