Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Available Now: Redemption Lake by Susan Clayton-Goldner

Winston Radhauser Series, #1
Susan Clayton-Goldner


(99c/99p through21 May)
Tucson, Arizona – Eighteen-year-old Matt Garrison is harboring two terrible secrets: his involvement in the drowning death of his 12-year-old cousin, and a night of drunken sex with his best friend’s mother, Crystal, whom he finds dead in a bathtub of blood. Guilt forces Matt to act on impulse and hide his involvement with Crystal.

Detective Winston Radhauser knows Matt is hiding something. But as the investigation progresses, Radhauser’s attention is focused on Matt’s father. Matt’s world closes in when his father is arrested for Crystal’s murder, and Travis breaks off their friendship.

Despite his father’s guilty plea, Matt knows his dad is innocent and only trying to protect his son. Devastated and bent on self-destruction, Matt heads for the lake where his cousin died—the only place he believes can truly free him. Are some secrets better left buried?

• • •

For the next hour and a half, he drifted in and out of sleep. Cradled by the night sounds of the desert outside the open window, each time a memory emerged, his thoughts thickened and folded back into sleep. At one point, he heard water running for a bath. A little later, he heard a car outside. Oh God, please don’t let it be Travis. He stumbled to the window and opened the curtains. In the street, two long rectangular taillights moved away, turning south onto Oracle Road.

Matt leaned against the wall, staring at the sunflower sheets on Crystal’s bed. The same bed he and Travis had jumped up and down on when they were eight. The digital clock read 10:38pm. His head throbbed. He needed to close his eyes. Crystal would wake him in time to leave before Travis got home. He fell back onto the bed.

When he woke up again, the room was very dark. He wore only his boxers and a white T-shirt his mother had insisted upon—claiming his usual dark one would show through his tuxedo shirt. As if the color of his T-shirt could ruin her perfect wedding. But he’d been ingenious and found another way to ruin things for his mother. He turned toward the empty space beside him. It took a few moments for him to realize where he was. He closed his eyes, shook his aching head to clear it. Crystal was his best friend’s mother. What the hell was he doing in her bed?

He thought he heard the sound of the front door open, then close again. Oh God, please don’t let it be Travis. His eyes adjusted to the darkness. One event at a time, he remembered everything.

Fully awake now, he shot from the bed, rocking for a few seconds before he achieved balance, then hurried to the window. The moon hung over the mountaintop, its light silver and unforgiving. Crystal’s driveway was empty. Whoever he’d heard, it wasn’t Travis. On the other side of the street, an engine started. This time the taillights were round. Definitely not Crystal’s Escort. The car turned north on Oracle Road.

Matt let out the breath he’d been holding and glanced at the digital clock—its red letters told him it was 11:20pm. He needed to get dressed and leave. The dance ended in forty minutes and Travis would head home. He grabbed his tuxedo pants and shirt from the chair. His hands shook so hard he could barely work the fly and the button on his trousers. He slipped into his shirt, then sat on the edge of the bed. As if he had the flu, his head throbbed and his stomach felt queasy.

He rushed down the hallway toward the bathroom. And when he did, he saw the puddle of blood on the floor beside the bathtub.

He hurried across the room, jerked open the pale green shower curtain.

Crystal lay naked in a bathtub filled with blood-colored water. Her hair, her beautiful blonde curls, had been chopped off, shorter in some places than others, as if a small child had done it. Some of the curls were floating on top of the water.

For a strange moment, everything remained calm and slow.

Her head was propped against one of those blow-up pillows attached to the back of the tub with suction cups. The tint of her skin was pale and slightly blue. Crystal’s eyes were open and staring straight ahead—looking at something he couldn’t see. Blood splattered the white tiles that surrounded the tub. It dripped down them like wet paint. One of her hands flopped over the side of the tub. A single thick drop fell from her index finger into the crimson pond congealing on the linoleum floor. It covered her neck and shoulders. Tiny bubbles of frothy blood still oozed from the gash in her neck.

An empty Smirnoff bottle sat in a puddle of blood on the tub’s rim, beside a straight-edged razor blade.

The bathroom was so quiet. Nothing but the sound of his own breathing. He clenched and unclenched his hands. His body grew numb. “Oh no. Oh God, no,” he said, the words thickening in the air in front of him. His head filled with strange sounds—the drone of insects humming, violinists tuning their strings. “What have I done?”

• • •

Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program and has been writing most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-line Contest. Susan won the National Writers' Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and her poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings. A collection of her poems, A Question of Mortality was released in 2014 by Wellstone Press. Prior to writing full time, Susan worked as the Director of Corporate Relations for University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona.

Susan shares a life in Grants Pass, Oregon with her husband, Andreas, her fictional characters, and more books than one person could count.

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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Available Now: Cleaved by Sue Coletta

Grafton County Series, #2
Sue Grafton


(99c/99p through 7 May)
Author Sage Quintano writes about crime. Her husband Niko investigates it. Together they make an unstoppable team. But no one counted on a twisted serial killer, who stalks their sleepy community, uproots their happy home, and splits the threads that bonds their family unit.

Darkness swallows the Quintanos whole—ensnared by a ruthless killer out for blood. Why he focused on Sage remains a mystery, but he won’t stop till she dies like the others.

Women impaled by deer antlers, bodies encased in oil drums, nursery rhymes, and the Suicide King. What connects these cryptic clues? For Sage and Niko, the truth may be more terrifying than they ever imagined.

• • •

Bloodied and battered, suspended between this world and hell, I could barely catch my breath. Cool air struck my face and my eyelids fluttered open. Pure blackness enveloped my body, stuffed inside a steel drum. Metal scraped my bare back. Sharp pain shot to my knees, ankles, and neck, bent at such an angle moving was not an option. No longer did I control my breathing, my chest heaving much faster than I could regulate. Within this sinister trap, the oxygen thinned with every patter, patter, patter of my heart.

Animals shrieked outside the barrel. A throaty rattle shuffled in the trees. Croaks and crickets. A far off screech owl’s predatory cry increased the blood coursing through my veins.

Where am I?

A throb pulsed at my forehead. I reached to assess the damage, but pulled back. Part of me didn’t dare. With a deep inhale—not too deep or I’d deplete what little oxygen I had left—I allowed my fingertips to brush my eyebrow, now flopped over one eye. The bridge of my nose seemed off-kilter, shoved over to the right. Tiny bits of bone swam under my cheekbone and my lips swelled to the size of the wax candy Chloe and I played with as children.

With an open hand, I banged the metal wall. A clang from my wedding band echoed in return. “Help.” My voice coiled against the steel. Water lapped against my unforgiving grave—rocking, swaying me from side to side. “Help,” I called out, louder this time, tears flooding my throat. I couldn’t die like this, trapped, no one to discover my remains. If I couldn’t escape, I’d never see my family again. Our thirteen-month-old son hadn’t matured enough to understand death. He’d grow up without a mother, without a crucial piece of his life. Niko would starve. During our nineteen-year marriage, all he ever made were reservations.

Above all else, I must survive. If not for me, then for my family.

Tears warmed my frigid cheeks. Colt and Ruger would never understand why I didn’t come home. Who’d walk them? Who’d keep their coats silky smooth? Did my family know—inherently grasp, deep in their soul—how much I loved them? They’re my whole world, my everything. Their unconditional devotion enhanced the very breath I breathed.

Had I prepared them for the day I stopped walking through the door? No. I’d taken my life for granted, maybe theirs too. How many “I love you’s” did it take to last a lifetime?

Dear God, don’t let me die this way.

With my last unbroken fingernail, I picked at the curved metal walls, clawed at the lid, and scratched the bottom of the steel drum that trapped me from my life, death, or whatever cruel cosmic joke. Nothing worked.

How did I get here? The memory blurred.

A woman’s whispering shriek sliced the crisp evening air. “Help me!”

Hope soared like an unexpected burst of energy on a never-ending hike. “Hello? Can you hear me?”

She pleaded with me to free her.

“You’re trapped too? Do you know where we are? Who did this to us?” I fired off questions faster than bullets left a fully automatic pistol.

She said, “The man.”

Water trickled on my bare shoulder, and my gaze shot to the right. A streak of moonlight lasered through a tiny crack, metal shavings shimmying onto my bent knees. Little by little, inch by inch, I peeled back the layers while my chest constricted like a boa firmed his grasp.

“Are you still there?”

“Yes.” Where else would I be?

“I’m Lisa.”

“Sage, Sage Quintano.”

“The author?”

“Yes, but we need to conserve oxygen.” As much as I adored my fans, talking about my books was the last thing we should do. “Can you find a way out?”

Think, Sage, think. If an average oil drum held fifty-five gallons, then I had about seven-point-three-five cubic feet of air, but with each expelled breath I traded one molecule of oxygen for one of carbon dioxide. I didn’t have long before the confined space won this battle. If only I could widen the crack. Or maybe, if I wedged my fingers under the lid, I might be able to pop it loose. That is, if the metal bung wasn’t secured.

With the back of my head and flat hands against the cold steel, I thrust against the lid, and it moved. Not much, but enough to define my chances of survival. Fortunately, whoever trapped me forgot to lock the clasp. Perhaps he intended for me to escape. Did he lurk outside, ready to ambush me?



“I wanna go home,” she cried, her words laced with panic. “I’m so scared.”

“I know. Me too.”

“The man said he’d be back.”

“Man?” For a moment, I stopped fighting to free myself. “Did you see his face?”

“Not really. He wore some sort of mask. I only caught a quick peek before he blindfolded me.”

“Did you say mask?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Oh. My. God. Where’s Noah?”

• • •

Sue Coletta is a member of Mystery Writers Of America and Sisters In Crime. She lives in northern New Hampshire with her husband and four-legged baby. If you catch her strolling on the beach or roaming the rural backroads don't be surprised if she stops to chat with you about her books or her two beautiful granddaughters. Just don't ever call her Grandma.

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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Available Now: One Night in Minneapolis by Margie Church

City Nights #29
Margie Church


(99c/99p through 30 April)
Marine Major Skylar Landis doesn’t resemble the demure Catholic high school girl Vince Andersen once knew. They’d dated briefly until she'd patch things up with his nemesis, Ethan Standfeld. After school, she joined the Marines and they’d lost touch.

Their ten year class reunion in Minneapolis brings Skylar face-to-face with Vince, awakening her memories of the past. She asks him to plan a hot, no-strings-attached hook-up to sustain her sexual fantasies while her intelligence unit is deployed to the Middle East. As their adventure unfolds, and he gives her exactly what she needs, Skylar wonders whether she can forget the man who put her desires first and asked for nothing in return.

• • •

He checked his watch, wondering what was keeping her. The days, hours and minutes until their reunion had passed at a snail’s pace. When he glanced up, a rumble of appreciation formed in his throat. He smiled, yet resisted the urge to go to her. This was her grand entrance.

Skylar walked toward him, the picture of confidence and seduction in a black and white sheath dress that clung to her curves. Her coppery-red hair rested on her right shoulder.

Vince couldn’t wait to run his fingers through the thick, luxurious tresses and over every inch of Ms. Landis.

She stood in front of him, a demure smile on her lips. “Vince. Finally.”

He took her hands, drawing her into an embrace. “Welcome home.”

“I can’t believe the day is finally here. We’re here.” Her voice held a gentle North Carolina drawl she’d picked up after years living at the U.S. Marine Corps base there.

When he kissed her cheek, citrus and spice scents grabbed his attention. He whispered into her ear, “You look even more gorgeous than I imagined, and you smell good enough to eat.”

“One can only hope.”

He winked at her. Though it had been ten years since they’d seen each other, the intimate exchanges they’d had and the plans they’d made for this weekend removed the usual dating preliminaries. He brushed the tip of his nose against hers.

Passion smoldered in her green eyes. She didn’t move from his embrace.

He kissed her lips softly, hoping to invoke the same desire unfurling in the pit of his stomach. He noted a slowness in her breathing. Anticipation?

She brought her hand to the back of his head, and slowly moved her fingers in the short hairs there.

Vince held her a little tighter. He teased her lips with the tip of his tongue, silently inviting her to taste him. The sounds of shoppers quieted as only her soft moan reached his ears. He kissed her with strengthening desire, but didn’t rush this first time. Pent-up emotions made his body react like any red-blooded man’s would, especially since she responded with equal passion. If he didn’t end the kiss soon, anyone would be able to see the physical effect she’d had on him. Vince cupped her cheek and gave her one more gentle kiss before stepping back.

He cleared his throat. “You’re lucky we’re in public.”

She glanced down his body, then back to his eyes. A satisfied grin curled her glistening lips. “A little bit of patience is all you need.”

“Patience?” He snorted. “You’ve driven me half out of my mind with wanting you. I think we should continue this reunion in the privacy of your hotel room.”

She reached for his shirt collar, pulling him close again. “I want to enjoy every second of the adventures we’ve planned.”

She’s right. He stuffed away his natural desire to get naked and wreck the bed in every way possible. He pointed toward the hallway while gliding his other hand down her back to rest on her hip. “Our first stop is there. Macy’s is never going to be the same in my book.”

She gave him a flirty grin. “Oh, I like the way you think.”

Skylar had challenged him to organize their weekend together. Of course, they had to attend at least some of the reunion activities. That was half the fun. He’d asked a hundred questions to learn about her sexual comfort zones and expectations. She’d given him few guidelines about what was off-limits. If things went the way he planned, the next twenty-four hours would be some of the most memorable of his life. A long night of lovemaking in a romantic setting such as the Blu was totally in his wheelhouse. The rest of it? Not so much.

• • •

Margie Church writes erotic romance novels with a strong suspense element, in keeping with her moniker: Romance with SASS (Suspense Angst Seductive Sizzle). Never expect the same thing twice in one of her books. She tackles subjects and conflicts that aren't typical in romances. Life is complicated. People are, too. Marrying those concepts makes her work fascinating to read. Margie was 2011 GLBT Author of the Year, and her book, Hard as Teak, was named 2011 GLBT Book of the Year at Loves Romances Café. She is well-known for her BDSM erotic romances as well.

Margie lives in Minnesota, is married, and has two children. Some of her passions are music, biking, walking on moonlit nights, fishing, and making people laugh.

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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Available Now: A Rose Named Vengeance by Stella Whitelaw

Stella Whitelaw


(99c/99p through 23 April)
Ashley Rivers is living a turbulent life. As a young girl, she protected her frail Irish stepmother, Colleen, from the sexual violence of Delbert Rivers, whom she'd married to escape from the Troubles in Ireland, and to protect her son, Ryan. Ashley quickly grew fond of Ryan and allowed him to seduce her. Ultimately, she'd been forced to bury her secret in the parkland of Kerran Hall.

As a woman, Ashley is carving out a career as England's first female professional rose-grower. When Ryan is killed in a horrific car crash, she seeks to find the truth behind his death. Rally car designer and driver, Cameron Ross, is the man she blames for the accident, but when they meet, Ashley falls in love with him, and their love affair quickly ignites in a passionate clash. Despite finally finding love, Ashley still needs to discover what happened to her own mother, and the truth behind Ryan's death.

“And who is that little fairy hiding at the top of the stairs?” a sweet Irish voice asks. Ashley is about to meet the woman who becomes her enduring angel.

• • •

The white car slewed off the hot tarmac, the painted slogans on its doors blurring into a disordered graffiti of words. It veered out of control, ploughing through bales of straw, kicking them out like a mule, screaming a thin protest at the violent distortion of bodywork.

Ashley Rivers barely heard the gasp from the crowd, though she drew in her own breath on a sharp rise of fear. The noise gathered her up into stiff arms, bore her forwards on unfamiliar legs through the spectators. Helplessly, she watched the car roll over and somersault across a subsidiary road into undergrowth.

For a moment, Ashley thought she was watching a film. But the crunching of metal was real, so was the blast of fuel igniting. The heat seared her eyeballs and she couldn’t see, believing the sheet of hot orange across her lenses was a scalding blindness.

As the car turned into a rushing, glittering ball of flame, Ashley began to scream, but did not recognise the sound coming from her throat. None of this was happening. She would wake up soon and find herself in her cool apple-green bedroom at Kerran Hall.

She did not know if the roaring sound was from the burning car or the crowds or the firefighters racing along the tarmac. The men seemed to run slowly, weighed down by equipment, defying gravity. Ashley broke through the barrier, running towards the blazing car, stumbling, her ragged breath gathering into a hard knot in her breast, her dark hair escaping from under her baker’s boy cap.

“No, no! Please God, no…”

The windscreen went wavy then shattered and the glass blew out in streaks of arrowed light. Inside the car glowed, and she saw the outline of the driver’s shoulders. He wore fireproof overalls and a helmet. He was struggling to unfasten the safety belt, moving in slow motion.

“Get him out!” she screamed. “Get him out. . .”

The firefighters had reached the car and were activating their foam extinguishers. People were running from all directions. A tall man in crumpled black overalls, his tanned face ashen, flung his helmet to the ground. He tore at the door handles, the searing heat sending him crashing to the ground, the burnt flesh of his hands escalating the shock.
Somehow Ashley got through the crowds. The image was the worst of all sights. The face within the helmet was Ryan — carbon black, no features, his arms flailing the air, flames licking at his suit.

“For God’s sake, somebody do something!” Ashley shouted, pushing forward. She fought anyone who was in her way.

“Get that woman out of here.” The tall man broke out of the horrified crowd and, despite his hands, caught Ashley’s arms in a vicious grip. “You can’t help, you fool. You’re getting in the way. These people know what they are doing.”

“Leave me alone,” she stormed, prising off his hold with her nails. He flinched, biting on the pain.

“Mr. Ross. . . it’s Ryan O’Hara in the GT3000,” said a mechanic.

“Think I don’t know my own car?” the man said.

The firefighters managed to wrench open the door and Ryan fell to the ground, rolling over, trying to put out the flames devouring his suit. They pulled him away from the car before the reserve fuel tanks exploded. He was howling in agony.

Ashley could smell the sweet scent of burning flesh, and went cold. Her body shrank, repulsed, even though she loved him. A hot dry wind blew across the tarmac like a breath of fire. Her nostrils filled with charred fragments, and ash rose like black snow. She felt the world revolve slowly, and scenes of years ago came back with a clarity that she thought time had long since dimmed.

Meadows, river banks, a barn with hay smelling of wild flowers and herbs, the sun on her bare limbs, and a day that was all sweetness and light as her young body appeared for his gaze and touch. She had moved instinctively beneath him with sensual ease. Their love was a wondrous surprise, new for both of them. Time sailed through layers of sleep and loving, laced with the exhaustion of torn butterfly wings.

Ashley remembered it all while Ryan smouldered and burned in a writhing heap on the ground. Then she heard his voice.

“It doesn’t hurt. I’m all right,” he croaked through a ghastly grin.

He doesn’t know, she thought. He doesn’t know. He can’t feel anything.

The stench of death lingered in the air. What percentage burns killed? Ashley tried to remember. Third degree burns involved the whole thickness of the skin. Rule of nines for the area… fluid loss, plasma loss, strain on the heart. What was the minimum for survival? Were the fireproof overalls efficient? That’s why drivers wore them in events. She wore them.

“Get back!” the firefighters shouted.

Ashley was crushed in the turmoil of retreating bodies. The growling cars came to a halt as word spread round the track. She found herself flung against the tall man in the black overalls. He was like a wall, blocking her escape, looking over her head.

“It’s going up,” he said, without hope.

The reserve fuel tanks ignited and a great arc of flame lit the blue of the sky. Birds flew up from the singed hedges in alarm, pale wings flapping helplessly in the scorching air.

Ashley watched in a kind of stunned acceptance. Somehow, she had always known that their love had no future.

But then, Ryan had often told her so, hadn’t he?

• • •

Stella Whitelaw began writing seriously at the age of nine. She was ill with measles when her father gave her an Imperial Portable typewriter. Covered in spots, she sat up in bed and taught herself to type.

At sixteen, she became a cub reporter and worked her way up to Chief Reporter. She was the first woman Chief Reporter, the youngest, and the only one who was pregnant.

After producing a family, she became Secretary of the Parliamentary Press Gallery at the House of Commons. Secretary then meant the original meaning, Secretariat, the keeper of secrets. She was awarded an MBE in 2001 but is not sure why.

Like Trollope, she wrote books on the train and in the recesses. The Jordan Lacey PI series is her favourite and the cruise crime books. Her big romances, No Darker Heaven and Sweet Seduction, were a marathon adventure.

Stella has won a woman’s magazine national short story competition and the London Magazine’s Art of Writing competition judged by Sheridan Morley. The Elizabeth Goudge Cup was presented to her at Guildford University.

Homeless cats find their way to Stella’s lifelong hospitality and she has written eight books of cat stories for the 7 – 70 plus

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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Available Now: Gray Places by Julia Byrd

Julia Byrd


(99c/99p through 9 April)
1790s Yorkshire, England - Katherine Gilbert sets out for Wainforth Manor in North Yorkshire to fulfill her father’s last request. The master of Wainforth, Thomas Norcliffe, does not welcome her unannounced arrival, so Katherine must tread carefully around his dark moods while attempting to unlock the history buried in his ancestral home.

After she receives more than one whispered warning from the townspeople in Wainforth Village, Katherine’s initial audacity begins to waver. Deadly secrets from the Norcliffe family’s past are resurfacing, and Katherine begins to realize that the biggest danger lies within herself—the wisest course is to leave, but she wants to stay at Wainforth Manor and uncover the truth about Thomas Norcliffe.

• • •

Rattling down the road in a musty carriage toward a strange man’s home with the intention of introducing oneself and securing an invitation to stay awhile is a good moment to discard concern for societal approbation. So when I heard a female voice holler out from the hedges along the country thoroughfare, I did not hesitate to scramble hastily across the width of the carriage bench in order to trace the source of the noise. I had just stuck my head through the small window when I heard her again.

“Whoa!” she cried, and I craned my neck behind us to catch a glimpse. “Whoa, driver!”

I did not stop to think about whether she might have had ill intentions or been working on behalf of a gang of highwaymen. I pounded on the roof of the carriage interior to alert the driver, Mr. Brown. I had hired him that morning in Peterborough to take me to Wainforth Village, and his courtesy was buffed to a shine by a substantial fare.

Mr. Brown brought the horses up sharply. I had unwisely failed to renegotiate my center of gravity prior to this deceleration and thus slid to my knees on the carriage floor. While giving thanks for the privacy of a hired hack, I clambered back to the bench and untangled my skirts. Mr. Brown was responding to the woman’s hail.

“Yes, sister? What’s this fuss?” he called back as the vehicle jerked to a halt. I decided the situation was safe enough, and curious enough, for me to emerge, especially in my new independent incarnation. To my considerable surprise, our delay was created by a nun in a black-and-white habit who scurried toward us at a swaying trot. Before I could say a word, she resumed her shouting.

“Did you see him? Did you see our lord and master? We must follow his lead, we must not stray from his path!”

She had already trotted past the carriage in the narrow space between it and the hedge, but then she suddenly halted and reversed course. She swung around to face me. Her skin was damp and hectic, her expression desperate. I hung half out of the carriage, clinging with my left hand to a strap just inside the door. The muscle in my upper arm began to quiver as the holy woman hissed at me.

“Cease this delay immediately. You must come with me now, and we will find him together. He cannot elude me much longer.”

I gaped at her for a moment, then fell naturally into my most well-trod mental pathway, which was calm and factual. “Sister, you appear to be overexerted. I am headed to Wainforth Village. Would you care to accompany me these last few miles?”

The nun reached out as if to clutch at me, then recoiled. Her mouth twisted to a sneer. “Foolish woman! We all have only limited hope in this world or the next, and you are too blind to see when hope must be chased.”

With that cryptic pronouncement, she turned and angled for a stile in the stone fence that bordered the road. I caught a glimpse of a sturdy black shoe and pale ankle as she clambered over the gate and off toward a copse of trees between the fields.

Mr. Brown craned his head around the side of the carriage from his perch on the front bench. “Do you want me to go after her, Miss Gilbert?”

I considered the question. On the one hand, clearly the nun should not be left alone overlong in the countryside, even fairly close to the village. It would be dark in another few hours, and the air would surely be much colder overnight. She did not seem, at the moment, capable of undertaking rational thought. On the other hand, I knew neither her name nor anything else about her. She was hardly my business. Finally I shook my head. “No, Mr. Brown, please drive on. That woman is long gone now.”

It was true, I could no longer see her black habit. Maybe she went to pray at a secluded altar hidden in the trees, I told myself, not believing it for a moment.

• • •

Julia Byrd lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York, with her handsome dog, and scruffy husband, although a large piece of her heart remains in her native Illinois. She tells people she enjoys books, wine, dogs, trees, and architecture as plausible cover for her secret double life.

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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Available Now: Unholy Alliance by Kathleen Rowland

Donahue Cousins series, #2
Kathleen Rowland


(99c/99p through 2 April)
A decade ago, Tori Rourke, and her cousin, Vivienne, ran from the Irish mob after witnessing a brutal murder. Tori was framed by the mob, and while she served time in prison, she worried that the killer, Seamus McGinn, had kidnapped her missing cousin.

Attorney Grady D. Fletcher, defender of the wrongly condemned, appeals Tori’s case and wins her release. Now, going by Victoria Morningstar, she runs a food truck from a seedy waterfront neighborhood, hoping to find her cousin's kidnapper.

When Grady agrees to defend a new client, Samuel Peterson, who’s been accused of beating to death the wife of a noted professor, the evidence mounts. The professor is missing, as well as his laptop that contains data dangerous to national security.

And Seamus McGinn is back, and rumors of a massive annihilation is about to begin. As they race to assist the FBI, the bonds between Grady and Tori are about to be tested. It becomes clear Grady and Tori are falling fast for each other, but what to do about it is a different story. He’s a divorced dad who wants more time with his kid. She brings danger to his front door.

Grady has questions of his own; Is Vivienne at the center of the mob’s operation? How much will it cost Tori before she learns the truth? All Grady knows is the biggest danger is the one standing right behind you.

• • •

Grady stepped out of his Jeep, smoothed down his grey-striped tie and adjusted the cuffs of his white shirt. He let out a breath, spotted Drew Barker of the Los Angeles Globe, and waved to the reporter who was instrumental in sharing his discoveries of fraud and illegal testimony. Other reporters and cameramen shifted and rolled like an ocean of tipsy goodwill. Grady scanned over the waves for Tori Morningstar.

She stood stiffly at the high security entrance and hugged a leather moto jacket wrapped over crossed arms. Dressed in her pre-incarceration style, her defined muscles created a perfect fit for her silk blouse, In prison, she worked the heavy bag, labored hard so that she could protect herself in the yard.

Grady slipped papers into the hands of a guard. “Good morning, sir,” he said without another word, signed his clipboard, and rushed to her side. “Tori. It’s okay to speak to reporters.” The whoop-whoop of a hovering helicopter drew attention, and cameramen angled their equipment upward.

Beside him, she swallowed hard and took a deep breath. “These reporters helped. I’ll answer questions, but the publicity worries me.” She froze where she stood, aware of the potential dangers ahead.

“I know.” Their gazes collided. Her eyes resembled honey-brown gems. Fine cheekbones, a firm chin, and a mouth he found disturbingly inviting. In the sunlight, her dark hair glowed chestnut. She’d skinned her hair back from her face so tightly it had to hurt.

Drew Barker pushed his way in front of the others. “Victoria Morningstar.” The reporter was in his sixties, with a round, open face; wide eyes lent an expression of constant surprise. “Can you tell us what happened the night you were arrested?” He held a microphone close to her face.

“Go ahead. Talk to him, Tori,” Grady whispered.

She stood like a brittle statue. "My cousin and I were having dinner on the Long Beach waterfront. Rhubarb and Ginger, we went there a lot. Seamus McGinn and Timothy Noonan must have tailed us. They’re from Cobh, County Cork." Her words came out in a robotic rush.

“That’s in Ireland.” Grady chuckled for the camera. "For once, Ireland was lucky. Lucky to be rid of them.” He took her ice-cold hand and stepped around Barker, a reporter familiar with McGinn’s government-agro kidnappings. Recovered victims had broken collarbones, fractured limbs, cigarette burns, stab wounds, shattered eye sockets and facial bones, accomplished with a blunt instrument. Casualties had been alive at the time of beatings, with foreign objects jammed down throats. Teeth were found in their stomachs.

“Excuse me.” Another reporter, a tall woman from the Long Beach Beacon, swarmed down on Tori. "So, you saw McGinn and Noonan?"

"Correct." Tori lifted her chin, her vibrant eyes filling with the raw memory. “A half-dozen more stormed in. Carried automatics, ripped through the place. Found the owner, Irene Brennan. Dragged her out."

"The owner refused to pay them for protection,” Barker chimed.

Tori nodded, rubbed her forehead. “Same old deal, a mob upping the ante.”

And then what?" The earnest reporter from the Beacon leaned forward.

"My cousin Viv ran out the back. I was arrested."

“Make room, everybody.” Grady headed for his car, dragging Tori behind him.

Tori shuffled in slow, measured movements, as if shackled.

“One last question, Tori,” Barker called from behind. “You tried to leave the mob. What did they want you to do?"

Tori turned halfway around. "Act as a lure. I refused." She shrugged. “I paid for that decision.”

The woman reporter elbowed Barker out of the way. “Tori. Your lawyer, Daniel McMahon. Didn’t he serve as the mob's lawyer?”

Tori nodded. “Just great for me.” She paused for a few seconds. “I didn’t anticipate a setup.”

The reporter touched her arm. “You’re a fighter. How will you bounce back?”

Tori looked up, her face bleached of color. “I’ll try to accomplish small things. This will help. Little by little, I’ll let go of fear.”

“We’ve got to go, folks.” Grady reached to shake hands with several surrounding him.

Barker popped his thick eyebrows up. “Glad things worked out.”

“Thank you for following the case.” Grady placed a hand on Tori’s trembling back and walked her to the passenger side of his Jeep.

She halted mid-motion. “Where to?”

• • •

Book Buyers Best finalist, Kathleen Rowland, is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes suspense with a sizzling love story sure to melt their hearts. Kathleen used to write computer programs but now writes novels.She grew up in Iowa, where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and raced her sailboat on Lake Okoboji. Kathleen now happily exists with her witty CPA husband, Gerry, in their 70’s poolside retreat in Southern California, where she adores time spent with visiting grandchildren, dogs, one bunny, and noisy neighbors. While proud of their five children who’ve flown the coop, she appreciates the luxury of time to write while listening to characters’ demanding voices in her head.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Available Now: A Vampire's Tale by Maya Tyler

Maya Tyler


(99c/99p through 26 March)
The best laid plans…

Marisa Clements was never satisfied writing the ‘gossip column’ in the local paper and she quit her job to follow her dream of writing fiction. Floundering in an unforgiving industry, she wrote about vampires, a popular subject she considered fascinating but as real as unicorns, to pay the rent.

Corgan was tired of human misconceptions about vampires and ‘living’ as a vampire. He planned to tell Marisa his story and end his existence. It was no coincidence Corgan selected Marisa to write his story. With the ability to see the future, he knew she would be a major part of it. He knew if they met, she would help him die, but in doing so, she’d be doomed to the same fate. Once they met, their futures would be irrevocably intertwined.

Corgan began to care for Marisa and finally revealed the truth to her. He admitted his quest to atone for his past sins had put her in grave danger from a nest of revenge-seeking vampires. Corgan must claim her for her own protection. But claiming her is not enough, he must ask for help from his wizard friends and his maker in order to destroy his enemy or Marisa will never be safe.

• • •

Under the cover of dusk, the city lights came alive. Her view, slightly obstructed by the rickety fire escape, did not keep her from seeing the flashing neon signs lining the street below.

That’s it. She’d wasted hours on this novel, immediately deleting every word she typed. The cursor blinked mockingly on the otherwise blank page of her document. Write something. Anything.

With her apartment now shrouded in darkness, intermittently illuminated by the street lights, Marisa Clements lit the white pillar candle on her desk. Its orange flame cast long shadows against the wall. So I can see what I’m not writing. An eclectic mix of music serenaded her from the neighborhood, a reminder of Lincoln Park’s active nightlife, a distinct contrast to her quiet Friday night at home.

The candle flickered and a cold shiver travelled down her spine. Then it came to her. Fingers poised over the keyboard, she typed.

And his eyes glowed with unholy flames.

She squirmed in her chair. Marisa could see the dark stranger, clad in black, standing before her like a real being. He blended with the shadows, the dim room serving as apt camouflage, except for his eyes. They bore straight through her.

What do you mean “like a real being”?

She jumped in her seat. Yikes. A little too real. Alone in her apartment, the voice could only be a figment of her imagination. She shivered with anticipation as her fingers flew over the keys of her beloved laptop. This would be her best story yet. To hell with all the non-believers—her wealthy, socialite parents who’d disowned her when she’d left business school, and the “so-called” friends who told her to get a real job. This was a real job… It paid the bills, after all. Sort of. It paid the minimum balance on her credit card.

Why did people choose the mundane office job—she shuddered—plastering themselves to a desk from nine-to-five? Sitting at a desk to write was completely different. No boss, no stress… No money, if she didn't get her head out of the clouds and back to her latest vamp.

He didn't have a name yet, but he had a face. A dark, mysterious face with a century's worth of secrets. Secrets he would tell her, only her, if she would listen.

Marisa took a deep, calming breath. “I’m listening.” She closed her eyes, waiting. A cool breeze shifted her hair and her eyes popped open. The old floorboards creaked, and she spun her chair around. “Who's there?” The candle blew out. “What the—”

Time—and her heartbeat—stood still. Paranoia set in, the consequence of writing too many vampire stories. She must've left a window open. Or something. She re-lit the candle and turned her attention back to her laptop, staring at the last words she'd typed.

Corgan Halton.

She didn't remember typing that.

“Corgan Halton.” She said the name slowly. “I like that.” She'd written a dozen vampire stories and this would be her best name yet. It had an old-worldly feel to it. Like a real name. She'd better look it up to make sure it wasn't a real name; she didn’t need a lawsuit. Did people sue for name infringement?

“Okay, Corgan Halton. Are you real?” She typed the name into a search engine.

“As real as you are.” The distinctive male voice resonated in the otherwise quiet room.

Marisa froze. She didn't dare turn around. It was her overactive imagination at play. There was no one there. She hoped. Maybe one of her friends? Is this a joke?

“Not a joke, Marisa.”

Gasping, she stood and spun around toward the sound of his voice.

As he stepped out of the shadows, she took in the man before her. Pale with black, curly hair, dressed in an impeccable suit. Dark and intimidating, he stood in her living room, shrinking the already small space.

Exactly as she’d imagined. She conjured him from her imagination? No… This is not happening.

She rubbed her unbelieving eyes. There couldn't actually be anyone there. When did she last eat? Did low blood sugar cause hallucinations?

He smiled at her, and the temperature in the room dropped several degrees.

“Who are you?” she demanded.

“Corgan Halton.” He gave a courtly bow. “At your service.”

No… She stared at him in shocked silence. It isn't possible.

“I assure you, my dear, it's entirely possible.”

“Do you read minds, too?” She held her breath and waited for his reply.

“You tell me. You're the vampire expert.”

Vampire? He’s a vampire?

• • •

Maya Tyler believes in happily ever afters and enjoys writing paranormal romances with an unexpected twist. She's been writing since 2010.

She was first published in August 2012 with her short story "Just For Tonight", part of the anthology With Love from Val and Tyne, published by Breathless Press.

She released her debut paranormal romance novella Dream Hunter, published by Just Ink Press, in December 2014.

As well as her own weekly blog Maya's Musings and monthly Newsletter, she is a regular contributor to The Nuthouse Scribblers blog and #SexySnippets.

She enjoys writing, drinking Starbucks French Roast coffee, and, especially, writing while drinking Starbucks French Roast coffee!

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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Available Now: Leading the Pack by David J O'Brien

Silver Nights Trilogy, #2
David J. O'Brien


(99c/99p through Sunday 19 March)
Alphas aren't elected; they're self-selected.

Life has been good since Paul McHew left his werewolf pack twenty years ago and married Susan. Patrick is the eldest of their four children and feels the pull of the full moon earlier than his father had.

Patrick itches for the city, but things have changed since his father's time. The economy is booming and everyone has a smart phone. But in a post 9-11 world, where security cameras abound, everyone is being watched.

Patrick must make the city streets his own as the eldest of a new generation. To do that, he must learn to control his own impulses, and those of his pack mates, if he hopes to become their leader.

Encountering a potential mate and facing a definite rival, can Patrick be the alpha everyone expects him to be?

• • •

The man watched the hare graze calmly across the closely-cropped paddock. In the silver light of the full moon, he saw its nose twitch as it scented the wind. Crouching low, he stalked closer.

Off to the left, cattle snuffled; somewhere beyond he heard the click of a deer stepping on a dry twig in the woods. Right of the hare, a badger dug for worms and grubs. He ignored them. He could not easily take down a cow alone. The bull would make it difficult, would come to the cow’s defence, and the herd would mill about him. While he could avoid their horns, he would not be able to suffocate the cow, or bleed it out unaided.

And the man did not want company; not that kind.

The hare would be sufficient to satiate his hunger. For now.

His quarry just ahead, its eyes reflecting the bright moonlight, the man crept forward. His long hair swept over his forehead, closing off much of his peripheral vision. Though naked, the thick hair that covered his chest and extended over his back and shoulders insulated him from the breeze.

He felt the soft grass stems between his toes, digging into them for a greater grip on the soil beneath.

The hare turned away from him. The vision that might have helped warn it of the naked human’s approach was at its weakest, and the man took advantage of that.

He pounced.

The next thing he was aware of was kneeling on the ground, the dead animal in his hands. Its neck was broken, its ribs crushed. A small trickle of blood dripped from its nostrils.

The man could not remember how it happened. It had taken place too quickly for him to have time to think about it, for it to register in his consciousness.

There was only action; automatic and reflexive.

The hand and the body, were, indeed, quicker than the eye. The information had reached his brain, but not the part involved in conscious thought. It looped through the cerebellum and brain stem back to his muscles as they powered him forward upon the unsuspecting animal.

Only when the body’s work was complete and the prey caught, did the brain once more return to the luxury of thinking, allowing the man to surmise the events. He had run four yards faster than his thoughts could keep up and grabbed the animal as it started to flee. He’d dived upon it and pinned it to the ground with the full weight of his body. Death had been instantaneous.

The man lifted himself up and held the limp animal by the ears. He exposed the throat. With his two left canines he ripped a hole through the soft skin. Blood started to drip. He put the opening to his mouth and sucked up the flowing liquid. Then he lifted the body up over his head and raised his mouth to drink it all, taking the legs between his fingers and pulling, to push the blood through the limbs and torso.

When the corpse ceased dripping, he put his fingers through the hole and ripped off the head, tossing it aside. Then he pulled the skin back off the muscles in one piece. The animal skinned, he bit into the muscular back legs and tore off strips of raw meat. Barely chewing, he swallowed hard on the flesh and walked through the paddock under the moonlight.

He caught the scent of the cattle and deer on the wind and, coming from the other side of a hill, heard the neigh of a horse, then a long, drawn out howl. He grinned to himself. The blood still on his lips dripped to his chin.
The animal consumed and his stomach filled, the man wondered what to do now that particular desire had been satiated.

A voice whispered to him.

• • •

David J O'Brien was born and raised in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland. He studied environmental biology and later studied deer biology for his PhD, at University College Dublin. Instead of pursuing his life-long interest in wolves and predator-prey interactions, after completing his doctorate, he taught English in Madrid, Spain, for four years while his girlfriend finished her doctorate in molecular biology. They married and moved to Boston, USA, so his wife could pursue her career and David decided that teaching was a vocation he was happy to continue. After seven great years teaching Biology at Boston's Cathedral High School and Zoology at Bridgewater State College, he returned to Spain three years ago so his wife could set up her new research group in her hometown of Pamplona shortly before their daughter was born. He currently teaches English and science in Pamplona in addition to writing and looking after his children.

David has loved writing since his teens. He began with poetry and had one of his first poems published in Cadenza, a small Dublin poetry magazine at the age of fourteen. Since then several more have been published in journals and anthologies such as Albatross, The Tennessee State Poetry League, Poems of Nature and various anthologies of Forward Press imprint in Britain. He began writing fiction soon after and wrote the novella that would later become Leaving The Pack at the age of seventeen. Though his academic writing took precedence for a number of years, and he is still involved in deer biology and management, he kept writing other things in his spare time and has always dreamt of one day being able to do it full time. While living in Madrid, he wrote some non-fiction articles for the magazine Hot English and while in Boston for the newspaper Dig.

An avid wildlife enthusiast and ecologist, much of David's non-academic writing, especially poetry, is inspired by wildlife and science, and he sometimes seeks to describe the science behind the supernatural.

His Young Adult paranormal novel The Soul of Adam Short and children's novel, Peter and the Little People. He has also published three novellas under the pseudonym JD Martins.

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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Available Now: The Enchanted Swan by Christy Nicholas

Christy Nicholas


(99c/99p through Sunday 12 March)
In pre-Celtic Ireland, Fionnuala was a fae princess, born to a life of luxury. She knew her duty and loved her family. She missed her mother, who died in childbirth when Fionnuala was but ten years old. Still, she had hopes and dreams of love and a full life.

All her dreams were stolen from her, ripped away in a torrent of envy and magic.

Now she must care for her three brothers while learning to live under an evil curse. Will she find a way to break the spell, or would they remain swans, tethered to three places for nine hundred years?

• • •

460 BCE

Mother screeched in pain as she gripped my hand. The blood dripped on the soaked floor, splashing the midwife’s skirts. I hummed and pushed my healing will through my hand into hers as the ravens taught us, but she blocked it.

“No, Fionnuala, my special child,” Mother’s voice was raw but firm. “You must stay… stay and guard the children.”

The dank dimness of the round room closed in on me as she screamed again. The rough flesh of her throat had little power left after two days of labor. Heat and sweat battled in that small space and the urge to flee was almost irresistible. Yet I couldn’t leave. Mother needed me.

Another scream raked my ears, the wattle and daub walls and the very air around us. The pain and regret of a lifetime echoed in that scream.

Her hand grew flaccid in my own. My eyes grew misty as her life force escaped and faded into the Otherworld.

In my grief, the room faded into a cloud of pain. The candlelight fled, and I heard a strangled keening sound which ululated in a haunting rhythm. Belatedly, I recognized my own voice, wordless in its sorrow.

Despite my wails, I heard a small voice lifted to join my cries. The cry of a child. No, not just one. There were two squalling infants. Mother had given us twins with her last dying breath.

My cry cut off into a wretched sob and a hiccup of hysterical laughter. In the end, she won one last victory. My mother, the shining one. Aobh Bán, delight of my father’s eyes. She of the pale skin and white-blond hair, famed for her splendor and grace. Oh, how I ached for her to be alive again. My throat closed, and my eyes soon followed suit.

Our nanny, Saoirse, bundled the children and made small clucking noises with her tongue as the midwife cleaned Mother. No one else was allowed in the birth room. Father should be downstairs, still drunk. My brother Aed should be asleep as the night grew deep. I searched in my mind for my teacher, my anam cara, my raven, Hawlen. A drowsy answer came with a flutter of wings.

I stood and stared at what had been my mother. Her body was drained of color, pale as the full moon. There remained no spark of life, and yet, I lifted my hand to her cheek. It was warm, and I shivered.

How could the gods have taken her from me now? I was but ten winters old, still a child, barely ready to embark on the wonders of womanhood. I needed her now. Aed remained eight and the babies… how would they thrive without their mother?

Flashes of memory burned in my swollen eyes. Mother rocking me on her lap when I skinned my knees, brushing my hair and arranging it in complex braids for a formal dinner. Wiping tears from my eyes after a fight with Aed. She wasn’t there to wipe these tears away

The midwife put her hand on my shoulder, and I spun. She backed up with a sad nod, full of understanding and resolve.

“Fionnuala, go. It must be you who tells your father.”

“Why must it be me? You’re the midwife. It should be part of your service!”

The woman said nothing. She didn’t need to. I was simply a child, but I was a royal daughter and understood my duty.

Hawlen arrived and landed on my shoulder. She squawked. “I shall be with you, Fionnuala, let’s go.”

With a deep breath, I squared my shoulders, determined to deliver the news to my father.

• • •

Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon, has her hands in many crafts, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing, and photography. In real life, she's a CPA, but having grown up with art all around her (her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected her, as it were. She loves to draw and to create things. She says it's more of an obsession than a hobby. She likes looking up into the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset, or seeing a fragrant blossom or a dramatic seaside. She takes a picture or creates a piece of jewelry as her way of sharing this serenity, this joy, this beauty with others. Sometimes this sharing requires explanation – and thus she writes. Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. She does local art and craft shows, as well as sending her art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.

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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Available Now: To Capture the Sky by Jennie Marsland

Choices of the Heart series, #2
Jennie Marsland

(99c/99p through Sunday 5 March)
Trey McShannon survived the carnage of the War Between the States, only to discover that the deepest wounds are those to the heart. A traitor to his home state of Georgia, Trey has built a new life for himself in the untamed Colorado Territory. Now it’s time to find a wife to share the future he’s worked so hard for–but can he free himself from his past?

Beth Underhill is looking for choices. Needing to marry to escape being sent back east, she prefers Trey’s honest business proposal to false promises of love.

Can a union between a man who doesn’t think he can still feel love, and a woman who no longer believes it exists, blossom into more than a marriage of convenience?

• • •

Denver, Colorado Territory - 1871

“Elizabeth, have you taken leave of your senses? You could have married Jason Pembroke!”

Beth Underhill winced when her cousin Graham’s fist hit the polished mahogany dining table, but she held his gaze without faltering. “Jason Pembroke doesn’t care for me any more than Trey McShannon does.”

Graham sneered at the letter lying on the table. “The man’s a dirt farmer. You have no idea what kind of an animal he is or what kind of a shack he lives in. You know nothing about him at all.”

Beth held tight to her hope that Mr. McShannon’s letters had given her a true impression of the man and his home. In the face of Graham’s doubts and hers, she had nothing else to cling to.

“I know he expresses himself like a civilized man.” What more could she ask of a stranger? The Matheson Matrimonial Agency didn’t concern itself with emotions. In the months since her Aunt Abigail’s death, Beth had come to believe she’d be wise to do the same. “And whatever else Mr. McShannon might be, I doubt he’s a fraud and a cheat like Jason Pembroke. I told you what I found out about his railroad contracts. If you don’t believe me, ask some questions yourself.”

No doubt Graham already knew everything there was to know about Mr. Pembroke’s business affairs. As long as the man stayed on the right side of the law, he’d be satisfied. This was Colorado Territory, not Philadelphia. Here, a man might be hanged for stealing a horse, but not for supplying food to railroad navvies at ridiculously inflated prices.

“Jason is a smart businessman. He’s not doing anything illegal. And what do you know about railroad contracts?”

You’d be surprised, cousin. The process of settling her uncle’s estate, and then her aunt’s, had taught Beth more than she’d ever wanted to know about the vagaries of railroad and mining investments. “I know Mr. Pembroke is greedy and unscrupulous. And even if he weren’t, I wouldn’t marry him. He wants a wife with breeding and all the social graces he doesn’t have himself, and he thinks I’d look good enough on his arm to outweigh my lack of money. That’s as much as he cares for me. He didn’t even bother to propose to me before he approached you.”

Hands in his trouser pockets, Graham paced the length of the room and back. He stopped in the patch of spring sunshine that poured through the window overlooking the street – a relatively quiet street, a good distance from the raucous activity of downtown Denver. Here, it was easy for Beth to imagine she was back in the old home in Philadelphia where she and Graham had both grown up, twenty years apart. The home Graham had never truly left in any way that mattered – just like Aunt Abigail and Uncle Robert.

ncial situation, your choices are going to be limited. You found that out with Daniel Hunter. If you’d agree to go back to Philadelphia, you’d stand a better chance–”

Of what? Meeting more men like Mr. Pembroke, willing to take Beth at a discount for her looks? Or like Daniel Hunter, who’d courted her for a year and made her think he honestly cared for her, then backed away when he learned that she had no significant settlement to bring to their marriage?

“No. I’m tired of being a commodity, Graham, and I’m tired of boys who pretend to be men. That’s why I wrote to the Matheson Agency. I’m going to Wallace Flats, and I’m going to marry Trey McShannon. And if I’m not happy with him, I’ll go to Isobel James in New York and try to make a living from my art.”

Graham put on a pitying smile. Beth had long ago given up expecting anyone in the family to take her painting ‘hobby’ seriously, even though Aunt Abigail had continued to indulge her with lessons until Uncle Robert’s death. A lady needed something to fill her time.

“Your art? You really are living in a dream world. Well, you’re of age and what money you have is your own. I can’t stop you from doing as you wish, but don’t expect me to pick up the pieces when it all falls apart.”

“Understood. I’m leaving on Friday.”

Graham stalked out without replying. Legs suddenly shaky, Beth pulled out a chair and sat at the table, in the middle of the elegant dining room – the kind of room that could still be hers if she used her head instead of her heart and let Graham find her a husband.

Was she out of her mind? Or just desperate to escape the trap she’d felt closing around her since the end of the War Between the States, when she’d been officially put up for sale in the marriage market? She picked up Mr. McShannon’s last letter and read it again, though she knew every word by memory.

Dear Miss Underhill,

Thank you for explaining your position so honestly. I will be honest with you in return.

For the last four years I have been living outside of Wallace Flats, a day’s stage ride south of Denver. My homestead is ten miles from town. I built the house to meet my own requirements, which are simple, but it is weather-tight and clean. I have no idea if you are the kind of woman who could be content with a dirt floor, but if you are, you might find it comfortable enough.

My nearest neighbors are two miles away, and I go to town no more than twice a week. If you are very fond of social life you’ll find it dull here, but if you enjoy solitude, there is no lack of it. I find the countryside beautiful, but many find it bleak and of little interest.

What I can offer you is this: if you think you could be satisfied with my situation here, I will pay your way to Wallace Flats. I think a one-year trial period, as husband and wife in name only, would be wise. Next spring, if we decide we aren’t mutually suited, we can separate with no questions asked, and I will pay you a hundred dollars for your time. If this is agreeable to you, please let me know through the agency.


Trey McShannon

A straightforward business proposal. Wasn’t that more palatable than the offers Beth had received from the men Cousin Graham sent her way? Mr. McShannon’s proposition – a more accurate word than ‘proposal’, really – held just as much affection, and a lot more honesty.

Be grateful for that, Beth. It’s a rare commodity. But a homesteader? She could hardly blame Graham for thinking her crazy.

• • •

Jennie Marsland lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s beautiful East Coast. She has had a lifelong love affair with words and history, starting with her family’s stories of life in Nova Scotia in earlier times. Jennie teaches English, science and history at a local private school, and when she isn’t writing, spends her free time cooking, gardening, playing guitar, and catering to the whims of her two very spoiled Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers.

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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Tirgearr Publishing's Big Birthday Bash

It's our birthday, but we're giving the presents!

Join us
22 February through 8 March
to help us celebrate our 5th birthday.

~ Wednesday, 22 February ~
The party starts with our annual birthday radio show:

1-3pm PST | 4-6pm EST | 9-11pm GMT

We'll chat about Tirgearr's first five years, and visit with some of our newest authors:
Susan Clayton-Goldner, Jennie Marsland, and Maya Tyler.

This is a live chat show, so tune in via the web,
and use the open chat room to post your questions.
Dellani will read them live on the air.

Our Big Birthday Bash begins Wednesday, 22 February and runs for two week.
Enter via Rafflecopter for your chance at one of these amazing prizes:

Grand Prize
All-New Kindle Fire HD8 Tablet
(winner's choice of color: black, magenta, blue, or tangerine)

Box Set Print Books
Highland Chiefs series by Kate Robbins (4 print books)
Chastity Flame series by KA Laity (3 print books)

Stand-Alone Print Books
Dublin's Fair City by Cathy Mansell
Sister Agatha: The World's Oldest Seriel Killer by Domhnall O'Donoghue
A Sure Thing by EH Ward
Lady of the Two Lands by Elizabeth Delisi
Murder in Mornington by Kemberlee Shortland
My Husband's Sin by Mary T Bradford
Stray Ally by Troy Lambert
The Mandarin Stakes by EH Ward

All print books will be personalized and autographed for each winner and posted directly to you!

Additional Prizes

House of Tirgearryen T-Shirts
Dozens of eBooks

If you can't wait for competition results, most of our books are available at just 99c/99p on Kindle.
Simply visit our website to browse titles, or log into

To enter our competition, simply visit Rafflecopter.
What are you waiting for?!

Terms and Conditions
** No purchases are necessary to enter our competition.
** One entry per person.
** Random winners will be selected soon after the closing date of the competition.
** Winners who do not respond within 30 days, or whose emails bounce, the prize will be awarded to someone else.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Available Now: Seeking Perfection by Caroline MacCallum

Caroline MacCallum

(99c/99p through Sunday 12 February)

Emily Beach has a passion for wedding dresses—not wearing them, but designing them. She’s hitched her wagon to the stars and has grand plans to become the brand brides rush to when seeking perfection on their big day.

Until that happens, she’s working at a swanky London boutique. Her days are a whirlwind of wealthy, eccentric customers, and crazy, sex-mad colleagues. When dashing yachting-mogul millionaire, Henry, sets his sights on her, she gets a taste of the finer things in life, as he sails straight into her heart.

But does Henry really understand her need for independence, and her fierce determination to make it on her own? And did he ever really know her if he thinks she wants him to pull strings to get her on the first rung of the ladder? With the meddling of her wacky, energetic friends, she soon finds the answers to all of these questions, but are they the answers she wants?

• • •

“You were brilliant,” Ralph said, dragging her forward.

“Did you see me?” she asked, aware of her hands shaking.

“Yes, of course.”

How could he have?

“Off, off,” Karen said, dragging the negligee from Emily.

Suddenly, she was naked apart from the small black knickers. “Hey.” She clasped her hands over her breasts.

Karen tugged the red dotty nightie from the hanger. “Much as I’d like to spend time admiring your tits, Emily, this isn’t the moment.”

But even as she’d spoken, Karen’s gaze drifted over Emily’s body.

Emily quickly grabbed the nightie and turned.

She needed a raise.

She dragged the nightie over her messy hairstyle and, like the black negligee, it floated over her body, caressing her curves in all the right places.

“Red heels,” Ralph said, bending and changing her shoes.

Emily pressed her hand on his shoulder for balance as Karen fiddled with the straps on the nightie.

The other models were moving around the changing area, their actions swift and professional.

“Hair.” Ralph again fussed wildly with her tousled mop.

“Stunning,” Karen said. “We’ll sell a ton of these. You were made for this style.”

“I don’t know about that, I—”

“Of course you were,” Ralph said. “You’ve got curves, not like that lot…” He jabbed his thumb in the direction of the other models. “I’ve seen more fat on a dirty fork than on them.”

Emily gulped.

“You’re on.” Ralph once again steered Emily towards the entrance of the runway. “Go.”

The new heels were even higher, but luckily felt more supportive. They almost fit, too. She checked her boobs—they’d been forced upward again and looked a whole size bigger than they really were.

The tallest model stepped past her, a haughty expression on her face.

Emily took a deep breath. She could do this. She’d done it once and nothing disastrous had happened. The sun hadn’t fallen from the sky and she hadn’t tripped and shown the world her knickers.

She flexed and unflexed her fingers, then stepped into the bright lights.

The floaty material pressed to her body as she walked to the end of the runway. Again she didn’t rush. She took her time, her concentration on Max. He was her point of vision.

When she reached the end, she put one hand on her waist, cocked her hip and risked a look at the customers.

They stared back at her, some sipping drinks, some making comments to their neighbours.

She forced a smile and swept her gaze from left to right.

It was then that she saw him.

He was studying her intently, his dark eyes slightly narrowed and a single crease on his brow.

Henry Smythe. Emily’s chest tightened. So did her stomach. She wondered if she might be sick. Or maybe even pee herself.

What the hell is he doing here?

Shouldn’t he be running his hugely successful global enterprise? Selling yachts to the rich and famous? Rushing around London being fabulous and busy?

With her heart pounding, she turned. Her feet were heavy, yet also she was floating. She stared at the On Trend logo at the end of the runway. She couldn’t get there quickly enough.

But as she walked, she felt the nightie swish and knew damn well it would be showing off the lower curve of her arse. The black lace knickers were on show for all—and Henry Smythe—to see.

Oh, God. In a moment he’d see the gorgeous models’ bums and compare them with her very average buttocks. And to think yesterday she’d been vain enough to think he’d actually sneaked a peek.

If he did, he’ll be wondering why he bothered, now.

She imagined her backside as two giant peaches wobbling as she paced. Her legs were elephant-like, pounding along, ground shaking, back to the relative safety of the changing room.

Once there, she practically fell against Ralph. “I can’t do any more. I just can’t.”

“What?” he asked, grabbing her upper arms to stop her from running away.

“I can’t.” She kicked off the shoes. “He’s out there.”


“Who?” Karen repeated.

“Henry. Henry-bloody-Smythe.”

Ralph’s face lit up. “Oh, is he? How interesting.”

“No, no, not interesting. Mortifying, embarrassing. I’ll never be able to consult with him again.” She stared heavenward and growled, clenching her fists.

How can this be happening?

“Honey.” Ralph nipped her chin between his thumb and forefinger and made her look at him. “After seeing you in this I can’t imagine he’ll ever want anyone other than you doing his consults.”

• • •

Caroline MacCallum loves stories, whether it’s reading or writing them. Add in a good does of romance, a sprinkle of humour, and heroes and heroines who bring the pages to life and she’s in her element.

Caroline writes full time, surrounded by her rescued animals and with a view of the beautiful Welsh countryside. When she’s not immersed in the adventures of love, she enjoys painting, horse-riding, and travelling with her husband. She also regularly gets involved in mentoring new authors, and always has time to talk about her passion for the written word.

• • •

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