Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Available Now: One Night in Oxford by Clarice Clique

City Nights, #28
Clarice Clique

Length: Novella
Genre: Erotic Romance

Price: $2.99 (99c/99p through 20 Novmber)


Alice is an exceptionally gifted student with predictions of a bright and glittering career ahead of her. But on her last day in Oxford, all she really cares about is whether the handsome, charming figure of Harry will be any part of her future. For three years she’s been too scared to confess her true feelings to the man who has been her friend and confidante through all her ups and downs. Should she tell him now, or is it already too late?

Against the backdrop of the beautiful, historical city, Alice has one final day to make a decision which the rest of her life may depend upon.

• • •

Now, on her final day in Oxford, she watched Harry walk down the street and didn’t call out to him.

In the crowds of students all dressed in the same sub fusc of black clothes, mortarboard and white shirt, he stood out as if he was the only man in the whole town. Her eyes widened as she admired the familiarity of his figure. But she hadn’t wanted to see him today.

She didn’t want to say goodbye. Didn’t want to listen to promises about staying in touch and to desperately hope for them to be true. The reality of eternal friendship really meant the odd ‘liked’ photo on Facebook.

She looked up at the sky, tried to appreciate the beauty of the spires of Oxford. It was a sight that she might never see again. Her immediate future involved an education at Harvard. She had relatives in Massachusetts, there was research at Harvard in her main area of interest, and she had had lots of positive contact with the professor leading it. It was already half settled that if things went well, she would stay in the USA. When would she ever have enough time, opportunity, or luck to see Oxford in all its majesty on a clear, warm day like today?

Still her gaze returned to Harry, no matter how much she told her heart to let go of him. The more permanent beauties of the city were nothing to her when Harry was near. Or rather, they were integrated in his charms. Oxford was special because it was the perfect setting for all the time she spent with Harry. The city proudly possessed an intoxicating mix of standard high street shops, ramshackle student hangouts that changed their name every couple of months, bookshops that hosted Shakespeare productions, and cinemas with late night showings of subtitled films boasting unpronounceable names. Then there were the smells of the covered markets, with the dead eyes of pig heads in butcher’s shops, staring at boutique handcrafted jewellery. All of it dominated by the grand century-old colleges.

Alice would miss it. But as she stared at Harry’s back, it was clear what she’d miss most about her university life.

Then Harry turned and saw her.

• • •

Clarice Clique has had stories featured in many anthologies, including several Xcite ones.  Through her erotic writing she likes exploring relationships, the good the bad and the fantastically beautiful. Her BDSM novel, Switch, focuses on the intimate love and trust between a sub and dom. With her latest work, The Kindness of Strangers, she plays with the idea of what happens when couples experience the sexual intensity of a swingers weekend.When not writing, she’s thinking about writing.

Find Clarice Online:

Website -
Facebook -
Twitter -
Tirgearr Publishing -

Monday, 14 November 2016

Available Now in Print: Lady of the Two Lands by Elizabeth Delisi

Elizabeth Delisi

Length: Novel
Genre: Time Travel/Paranormal Romance

Digital Price: $3.99
Print Price: $/£


One minute, Hattie Williams is in a museum, sketching a gold necklace that belonged to Hatshepsut, first female Pharaoh of Egypt; and the next, she's lying in a room too archaic to be the museum, with a breathtakingly handsome, half-naked man named Senemut bending over her.

Hattie soon discovers she's been thrust into the body and life of Hatshepsut, with no way back to her own time. Tuthmosis, the heir to the throne, hates her; the High Priest of Amun and the commander of the army want to kill her and Tuthmosis; and the best bathroom facilities in the country are the equivalent of a cat-box.

To make matters more difficult, she's falling helplessly in love with Senemut, and soon, she's not sure she even wants to return home. To protect Tuthmosis from assassination, the lovers arrange to put Hattie on the throne. But, what should she do when she suddenly finds herself, an obscure artist from Chicago, crowned ruler of all Egypt?

• • •

Tom laughed, then left her alone. As soon as his footsteps died away, she flipped open her sketch pad to a clean page and set it on the table next to the necklace. Before she tried again to imagine Hatshepsut’s features, she wanted to make a detailed drawing of the collar.

Within half an hour, she had the broad outlines of the necklace faithfully reproduced on the paper. Yawning, she laid her pencil beside the tablet. Even the beauty of the necklace couldn’t keep her awake forever. Maybe it was time to call it a day. She could duplicate the intricate hieroglyphs tomorrow.

No sooner had she decided to quit than the back of her neck prickled, and a warm breeze stroked her cheek. Not again! She whipped around, determined to catch the furtive watcher this time. Her left arm hit the partially open door, which promptly slammed shut.

Hattie reached for the doorknob and turned it, giving the door a jerk. It remained firmly closed. She jiggled the knob and pulled on it, but it was quite obviously locked. “Great!” she muttered. “Just what I need. I wonder how long that meeting of Tom’s will last?”

Her mouth dropped open as a horrible thought occurred to her. What if Tom didn’t return after the meeting? What if he went straight home? “Tomorrow’s Sunday,” she reminded herself grimly. “I might be stuck here in this…this broom closet for two days!” There was no one at her apartment to miss her or report her absence—not even a dog to bark and alert the neighbors.

Hattie banged on the door. “Is anyone there? Let me out!” She shouted and beat on the door with her palms, but all was ominously silent. If someone had been watching her, they had no intention of helping her out of her dilemma.

At last, resigned to her fate, she returned to her sketchpad. “If I’m going to be stuck in here, I might as well finish my work,” she murmured. “Tom’s bound to come back—I’m sure he will.” Her voice echoed unconvincingly in the dusty, claustrophobic room.

Picking up her pencil, she focused deliberately on copying the tiny hieroglyphics with extreme precision. Gradually, she became absorbed in her work and forgot her predicament. Minutes flowed by with the only sound in the room the scratching of her pencil on the paper.

At last, she completed the final symbol on her detailed drawing and set down her pencil with a twinge of disappointment. She was curiously drawn to the glittering possession of the ancient, yet strangely modern woman. Hatshepsut had ruled Egypt fifteen hundred years before Christ, at a time when women were considered no more important than servants or dogs. How had she managed it?

The vagrant breeze whispered past her face again, leaving a whiff of exquisite perfume in its wake. A rustle, like the caress of costly linen against bare skin, drew her attention. She felt a strong presence, though she knew she was alone in the tiny room.

“Touch it.”

The words were so faint, Hattie wasn’t sure she’d actually heard them.

“Who’s there?” she asked, though she didn’t expect to get a response. The room was too small to hide anyone.

“Touch the necklace.”

Hattie spun around, searching for the source of the barely audible words. “Tom, is that you? If it’s you, I don’t think this is funny! Open the door right now.” She thumped it with her fist for emphasis.

There was no response.

Hattie turned back to the exquisitely fashioned falcon. Maybe it was her overworked imagination playing a trick on her, but the advice seemed sound. Perhaps if she touched the necklace, she could make a connection—psychic, empathic?—with the long-dead monarch. The necklace was strangely compelling, like a long forgotten yet treasured memory.

She reached out slowly, cautiously. As her fingertips gently grazed the golden bird, an electric shock pulsed through her and a sudden wave of dizziness sapped her strength.

“Come to me,” the ghostly voice whispered, stronger now. “Come to me. I have need of you.”

The sweet, cloying scent of incense filled Hattie’s nostrils, and flashes of light exploded behind her eyes. Her vision blurred; she felt as if she were reeling, falling down a long, dark tunnel. Gasping, she reached out blindly for something, anything, to steady herself. Her fingers skimmed across the surface of the table and fastened around the necklace. Clutching it, she fell heavily to the floor as everything went black.

• • •

Elizabeth Delisi wanted to be a writer since she was in first grade, and probably would have written in the womb if she could have convinced her mother to swallow a pencil. But life hasn't always gone the way she planned, and on her road to publication she worked as a motel maid, waitress, secretary, administrative aide, substitute teacher, and newspaper reporter.

Elizabeth is a multi-published, award-winning author of romance, mystery and suspense. Her time-travel romance set in ancient Egypt, Lady of the Two Lands, won a Bloody Dagger Award and was a Golden Rose Award nominee. Her romantic suspense novel, Since All is Passing, was an EPPIE Award finalist and Bloody Dagger Award finalist. Fatal Fortune was a Word Museum Reviewer’s Choice Masterpiece. Elizabeth's contemporary romance novella The Heart of the Matter is featured in the Valentine's Day-themed anthology Cupid's Capers and was an EPPIE Award finalist. A Carol of Love is part of Holiday Hearts anthology and an EPPIE Award finalist. A Cup of Christmas Charm is part of Holiday Hearts 2 anthology and was also an EPPIE Award finalist. Elizabeth is also the author of the newly released speculative short fiction collection, The Midnight Zone.

Elizabeth is an instructor for Writer’s Digest University. She has taught Creative Writing at the community college level, has worked as a copyeditor for several small publishers, and edits for individuals. She holds a B.A. in English with a Creative Writing major from St. Leo University.

Elizabeth is currently at work on Deadly Destiny and Perilous Prediction, the sequels to Fatal Fortune, and Knit A Spell, a paranormal romance.

Elizabeth lives in New Hampshire with her husband and feisty parakeet. She enjoys hearing from her readers.

Find Elizabeth online:

Website -
Facebook -
Twitter -
Tirgearr Publishing -

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Available Now: Prisoner of the Highlander by Kate Robbins

Highland Chiefs series, #4
Kate Robbins

Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance

Digital Price: $4.99 (99c/99p through 13 Novmber)
Print Price: $/£


Annabella Beaufort, cousin to the Queen Consort of Scotland, visits court in Edinburgh upon the queen’s urging. She has little interest in this wild and rugged land and is pleasantly surprised to find Linlithgow Palace and King James’ court quite refined. An attack on Edinburgh Castle by a savage Highlander results in her capture. This flaxen haired giant is like nothing she’s encountered before, but her fear of him quickly turns to lust and she prays he will not also claim her heart.

Son of the great Alexander MacDonald, beloved Lord of the Isles, Angus MacDonald refuses to bend to King James’ tyrannical rule. After his father is imprisoned, he becomes acting chief. Unlike his father and his schemes, Angus will attack and bring this king to his knees. His attempt to release his father is thwarted and instead he abducts the Queen’s cousin. His desire for her is intense and immediate, despite her flawed Sassenach ways. But he must keep her at arm’s length regardless of the raging passion she evokes in him. She is his pawn—his prisoner—and he must always remember that.

Though they fight on opposite sides of the battle for power over Scotland, Angus and Annabella discover a fire that will not be ignored or denied. Will their loyalties to their families tear them apart? If he sets her free, will she return to him? Or will she in turn imprison his heart for all eternity?

• • •

“No! You must not open that door. We do not know who is outside,” Joan warned. “If we stay here out of sight, the danger will surely pass us by.”

“I will not allow your child to come into this world on a cold stone floor. I am no midwife, and you need help. I shall peek out and see if there is a way to acquire a guard’s attention.”

“Please be careful. I do not want to give birth here, either, but I would rather live to do so wherever it may be.”

Annabella could not argue with that. She turned her head and leaned toward the door again. This time there was no sound for her to decipher. She carefully lifted the round metal latch on the wooden door and pulled just enough to peep through. There did not appear to be anyone near the cannons nor along the main cobblestone walkway.

She pulled the door open and stuck her head out. The sun shone so bright she had to squint to see the battlements. She could almost find humour in how she might appear to anyone who might be looking her way. But there was no one about.

Annabella swung the door wide and stepped out onto the stairs. The walkway leading to the portcullis appeared abandoned. Where could everyone have gone in such a short time? The air was warm, and a gentle breeze lifted her unbound hair.

A noise behind her made her turn to the left and look out toward the end of the battlements. Three guards ran toward her. Thank God! She had not wanted to encounter a Highlander. She’d been told of their savage ways and how they were wont to rape and pillage. Surely God would judge them harshly when their time came.

When the men had almost reached her, they stopped. All three were large men; the Scottish guards were each impressive, but these were larger still. And one in particular was even more so. He turned in her direction and walked toward her.

“Will you assist us?” she asked him.

“Us assist you?” he asked with raised eyebrows and a smirk. His hair was flaxen and his green eyes sparkled like gemstones.

“Yes. My cousin, the queen, is with child and needs a midwife.”

The man’s smile disappeared. As if on cue, Joan let out a mighty cry from within the chapel. She stumbled out through the door. “I can ride. I want to return to the palace now.”

“But that is a long ride, and in your condition we should go to the infirmary here,” Annabella said, wrapping her arms around her cousin.

Joan leaned forward. “You there. Can you secure a carriage? You will escort me to the palace immediately.”

The man scrubbed his beard as he considered them. “Hamish,” he said over his shoulder, “do you think you can secure a carriage for the queen and her cousin?”

“Aye, Angus. I can.”

“Do it then, man.” He stood at the base of the stairs and swept his hand toward the narrow cobblestone walkway leading out through the gates and onto the esplanade of the castle grounds. “Graham and I will accompany you out through the gates.”

Annabella nodded and linked arms with her cousin, helping her along as swiftly as possible. Someone needed to teach these men some manners. They were in the presence of a queen and yet had not bowed to her. Had she not been so concerned for Joan’s wellbeing, she would have taken the time to chastise them.

“Did you help overpower the filthy Highlanders?” she asked, hoping the answer would be a resounding “aye”. It was an affirmation to which she was not well accustomed, though this part of the kingdom used it frequently.

The two men exchanged a glance and grinned. “Aye, we have dealt with the filthy Highlanders. They will not be bothering anyone here again,” the one called Angus said.

“I am relieved to hear it. Do you know what they wanted?”

“They wanted their laird returned.”

“Their laird? Is he imprisoned here?”

“Aye, he was.”

“He was released, then?” Talking to him was like pulling teeth! He did not appear to want to offer up any information freely.

When they were almost through the gates, Annabella risked a glance behind her. It was very odd that there were no other guards about.

The sound of two horses and a carriage drew her attention back to the esplanade.

“How did you manage that so quickly?” Angus asked.

“Her carriage was already waiting for her. I relieved the drivers and told them we would see her safely to the palace ourselves.”

Annabella could not imagine why the guard, Angus, found this funny. But laugh he did as he lifted the canvas flap at the back and pulled out the stepping stool to help them inside.

Once she settled Joan onto the long padded bench and wrapped her legs in blankets, Annabella turned to the man.

“Thank you for assisting us. Please make haste, but have a care. That is, unless you want to bring a babe into the world with your own hands.”

His eyes grew wide for a moment, then he nodded and let the canvas flap fall back into place. A few moments later, the carriage rattled along the muddy streets. It would take them a few hours to return to the palace this way, but as long as the babe stayed put in his mama’s belly, Annabella was happy enough to leave Edinburgh Castle behind her.

• • •

Kate Robbins writes historical romance novels out of pure escapism and a love for all things Scottish, not to mention a life-long enjoyment of reading romance.

Kate loves the research process and delving into secondary sources in order to blend authentic historical fact into her stories. She has travelled to Scotland twice and visited the sites described in her Highland Chiefs series.

Her debut award winning novel, Bound to the Highlander, is the first of three books set in the early fifteenth century during the reign of James Stewart, first of his name.

Kate is the pen name of Debbie Robbins who lives in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

See Debbie here on Canada's Back Stage Pass TV program, aired 4 March 2014.

Find Kate Online:

Website -
Facebook -
Twitter -
Goodreads -
Amazon -
Tirgearr Publishing -

Friday, 4 November 2016

Available Now in Print: Finding My Highlander by Aleigha Siron

Aleigha Siron

Length: Novel
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Digital Price: $4.99
Print Price: $/£


On a windswept cliff above San Francisco Bay in 2013, 27 year-old Andra Cameron, the last member of her family, prepares to scatter her family's ashes to the wind. An earthquake catapults her to the Scottish Highlands in 1705. She wakes, aching and bloody, to the sound of horses thundering through the trees. Terrified and with no other options, Andra accompanies these rugged warriors. She can't deny the undeniable attraction that ignites between herself and the handsome but gruff Kendrick. Will she trust him to provide protection in the harsh reality of 18th century Scotland and with her secret, or will she find a way to return home to the 21st century?

Laird Kendrick MacLean and his men, escaping a recent skirmish with their worst nemeses, clan Cameron and their Sassenach allies, are shocked to find an injured, unprotected female in their path. How could she not know her kin and how had she landed in the middle of the wilderness alone? His men suspect she's a spy or a witch. Still, Kendrick will not abandon an injured woman, even if she speaks unusually accented English, and her name is Cameron. Will he ransom her to others or will their closed hearts open to each other? Although he questions her every utterance, this feisty, outspoken woman inflames his desire like no other.

• • •

“Lass, can I help you?” His voice was softer than the others, his stance relaxed, composed, despite the dirt and blood splattered over his massive arms and clothing. He seemed to be a quiet, gentle man, though physically as imposing as the others.

“You could bring me my bag.”

He moved his hand from behind him and cautiously extended her mother’s old carpetbag. “Do I need to check it for weapons?” A slight crinkle lifted the corner of his mouth. A piece of leather cord tied wavy, light-brown hair at the nape of his neck and tight braids spilled alongside sharp, scruffy checks. His eyes were dark and shadowed.

“Thank you…it’s Rabbie, correct?”

“Aye,” he nodded.

Andra granted him a guarded smile. “I’ll pull no further weapons if you promise to be kind.” The slight attempt at humor from both of them eased the tension coiled in her gut.

He swept an arm gracefully in front of him and bowed, “Always, m’lady, as I learned at me mother’s knee.” Then he left her to tend the horses.

She searched her bag for the washcloth, hand towel, and first aid kit she always carried when traveling. The washcloth came to hand first. She dipped it into the cold water and wiped the dried and clotted blood from her face and hair. Then she dunked her head in the pool several more times.

“I seem to be awake,” she whispered, just for the comfort on her own voice. “My surroundings feel solid enough,” she pounded her fist on the dirt, “so it must be real. Accept it, Andra, and decide what to do next.”

She could hear the men speaking Gaelic, hushed yet clearly distraught about the condition of their clansman. They gathered near another pool of water several yards from where she knelt. She watched them over her shoulder for a few minutes struggling to fit the scene into her new reality. A million questions rose in her throat.

“Not now. Patience and observation are what’s required. All will be revealed in time.” What a stupid cliché.

Should she offer her help with their friend; would they accept it? She could not sit here and do nothing when one of them was seriously injured. Besides, anxiety always spurred her to take action. Her father had always said, “Move, keep busy, and don’t let dust gather under your feet.” With her father’s words ringing in her ears, she approached the men cautiously, keeping her eye on the mean one, Struan.

“May I be of assistance?” She stood with her feet firmly planted on the hard-packed, dirt floor, her head held high, one hand pressed flat against her side, the other rested on the cross dangling on her chest. It took an extreme effort to control her trembling body. Her palms moistened with sweat. She steadied her focus on Kendrick. His strong hands moved carefully over his brother’s body. The mean one harrumphed and growled.

A growl? Really?

Kendrick looked up, concern etched on his face. His dark, probing eyes bore through her. “Are you a healer, then?” he asked.

“Not a healer exactly, but I have cared for ill and injured persons and have some training in first aid. I wish to help if you’ll permit me.”

“I dinnae ken your meaning. What’s the first aid of which you speak? As you can see, we give him aid, but if you can do anything to help save my brother’s life, I will gladly accept your offer.”

The mean one growled again. “Don’t trust her, she’s the enemy and will just as soon slit his throat.”

Ignoring the slur, she continued, “Have you determined the extent of his injuries?”

“Aye, his shoulder is dislocated, several fingers broken, which we have straightened and bound as best we’re able. We need to stitch multiple, deep wounds, and he’s lost a lot of blood, though blood no longer flows freely.”

The injured man lay on a plaid, stripped completely naked, his kilt torn away from his battered body. Mud, blood, and all manner of vile debris caked the hard planes of his bronzed chest. Andra couldn’t identify the severity or location of all his injuries. He moaned but appeared unconscious, or so she assumed, since he hadn’t opened his eyes. Clumps of dried blood crusted over wounds on one leg and foot. Dark, matted refuse covered the entire other leg.

His manhood lay flaccid against his thigh, and none of the men seemed concerned about his state of undress in front of a strange female. She stood quietly, waiting for several breaths.

• • •

Following an accident several years ago, Aleigha's road to recovery was paved with the adventures and excitement of romance novels, inspiring the creation of her own tales. Recently learning about distant Scottish ancestors, she traveled to the land of craggy peaks, mists, bogs, and the ubiquitous heather, where she fell in love with the setting for her first full-length time-travel romance novel.

In her lengthy business career, Aleigha wrote and derived an array of management and other technical training programs until she turned her writing efforts to her true loves: fiction, and poetry. Her poetry has been published in numerous anthologies and university presses. Most recently, her poetry was included in an Escondido Municipal Art Gallery collection, merging art and poetry, a form known as ekphrastic poetry. The San Diego Poetry Society also selected a poem for publication in their 2015-16 Annual Anthology.

Currently, Aleigha is busy working on two new novels and plans to revisit a Children's Book written years ago for her many nieces and nephews. When not writing, reading, or attending poetry workshops, she often walks along the shore at sunset with her husband and her trusty Labrador helper, Strider, breathing in the ion charged air while seeking inspiration.

Find Aleigha Online:

Website -
Facebook -
Twitter -
Tirgearr Publishing -

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Available Now: A Hundred Hands by Dianne Noble

Dianne Noble

Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Price: $4.99 (99c/99p through 4 November)


When Polly’s husband is jailed for paedophilia, she flees the village where her grandmother raised her and travels to India where she stays with her friend, Amanda.

Polly is appalled by the poverty, and what her husband had done, and her guilt drives her to help the street children of Kolkata. It’s while working she meets other volunteers, Liam and Finlay. Her days are divided between teaching the children and helping with their health needs. But when Liam’s successor refuses to let Polly continue working, she’s devastated to think the children will feel she’s abandoned them.

After a health scare of her own, she discovers her friend, Amanda, is pregnant. Amanda leaves India to have her child. At this time Polly and Finlay fall in love and work together helping the children. Tragedy strikes when one child is found beaten and another dead. Polly feels history repeating itself when Finlay becomes emotionally attached to a young girl.

Can Polly recover from her broken heart and continue to help the children, or will she give up and return home?

• • •

Bhubaneswar, India

Polly noticed the smell first. Naked apart from a loincloth, his tiny body caked in dirt, a boy danced and keened a song in a reedy falsetto. His mother stood beside him, eyes pleading, clutching a baby and a tin begging bowl.

‘The poor little soul, just look at him!’

‘Come away. There’s nothing you can do.’

Distressed, Polly watched the child. His voice became ever more shrill as he sensed a few rupees. ‘But he’s so thin, he—’

Amanda grasped her wrist, pulled her away. ‘This is India. They’re everywhere. Get used to it.’

The child’s mother followed them, touching Polly’s arm, pulling at her shirt, only dropping back when they reached the platform.

A wall of sound and motion, a roaring cavern with smells of stale clothes, tobacco, diesel. On every side were heads—heads and hands and bundles.
Amanda hugged her. ‘Come back. Please come back. It’s been so good to see someone from home.’

Polly fought against the crush of passengers surging off the train, her last glimpse of her friend a small, white face in the crowd, looking sad. She hauled herself up into the carriage, handicapped by her backpack. With a jerk, the train pulled away. She peered around her with no clue as to coach numbers.

She showed her reservation docket to a guard whose body didn’t fill his uniform. He gestured, unsmiling, in the direction she should go. Clambering over parcels and baskets, battling her way past a hundred people and their curious eyes, she finally reached her seat out of breath. With a last spurt of energy, she lifted her backpack over her head and hefted it onto the luggage rack.

In the time it had taken Polly to find her place, the train and its passengers had left the town behind. She rubbed her shins, sore where she’d banged into sharp-edged boxes and watched the countryside unfolding outside the window. Vivid, green rice fields alternated with villages of dirt roads and brick shacks. An old man in a red turban and a long, white shirt leaned on a stick as he watched them pass. Behind him, the horizon wobbled in the heat, and laundry lay drying on the corrugated-iron roofs of shacks. They were no more than hovels, and her thoughts flew to the budget hotel she had booked on the internet. Please let it be okay. On her own now, the luxury of Amanda’s home left behind, excitement and fright battled for position.

Amanda. How sad she’d looked standing on the platform. Had she made a mistake all those years ago when she’d been bowled over by Salman’s obvious wealth and good looks?

Polly’s gran—who’d always been fond of Amanda—had tried to talk her out of it. ‘They have different ways in India, cariad,’ she’d said.

But Amanda had fallen in love, and that was all that mattered.

Polly shivered in the fierce air-conditioning. The carriage had large, reclining seats, three on one side, two on the other, all occupied and not another European in sight. Mosquito-like buzzing came from the earphones of the woman sitting next to her, loud snores from behind. She stiffened as another blast of frigid air hit the back of her neck. Her journey to Heathrow had been equally cold, with freezing fog hovering over the white fields. She rummaged in her bag for the shawl Gran had pressed on her, the faint smell of lavender and home making her throat ache. The bag had seen better days. It was the one she took swimming because of its waterproof interior. Its battered appearance shamed her, but she’d been too afraid of leaving the house to go shopping for anything better. After a while, lulled by the train’s motion, she slept.

‘Chai, chai.’

Polly woke with a start, heart racing. Where am I?

A boy in a ragged shirt pushed a tea-urn on wheels, his gaze darting around the carriage in search of customers.

Amanda’s words echoed in her head. ‘Disgusting stuff, chai. Loose tea leaves boiled in a bucket. Stunning amounts of sugar. Industrial quantities of buffalo milk. Don’t go there.’

The tea-urn trundled past, followed by a procession of people trying to sell bottles of water, crisps, and sweets. Poor things, they didn’t seem to sell much.

With a squeal of brakes, they made a short stop at a station—neat with cream and terracotta paint. Small spirit stoves had been set up on the platform. The smell of frying eggs wafted through the carriage as omelettes were cooked then wrapped in palm leaves, secured with a twig.

A child, struggling with a bucket almost as big as he was, washed the outside of Polly’s window. He rubbed away, his expression solemn. He could only reach halfway up and moved on to the next one, leaving her view obscured by grey rivulets of soapy water.

After a lunch of biryani—the stringy chicken suggesting the bird had led an active life—Polly went in search of a toilet.

‘Use the Indian one,’ Amanda had urged. ‘Your bum won’t have to come into contact with anything then. Unless you fall over.’

• • •

Dianne Noble was on a troopship sailing for Singapore at the age of seven and hasn’t stopped travelling since. Her last trip was to Moscow but her favourite place remains India. The atmospheric settings of her novels reflect her experiences.

Find Dianne Online:

Website -
Facebook -
Twitter -
LinkedIn -
Tirgearr Publishing -