Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Available Now: Heart of the Highlander by Kate Robbins

Highland Chiefs Series, #5
Kate Robbins


(99c through 29 September)
Devastated to learn the betrothal to her beloved Rorie has been broken, Muren Grey vows to take control of her life once and for all. But independence is not an easy path in a world dominated by men. Can she love a man who wants to control her? Muren must gather her strength and find the essence of who she truly is—even if it means losing the only man she will ever love.

Rorie Mackenzie has inherited a clan he will do anything to protect. Drawn into the king’s schemes involving Muren, diplomacy will only take him so far before he must make a stand, for her and for the Highlands.

Facing impossible odds from their world and beyond, Muren and Rorie seek the one power that can obliterate any barrier.

• • •

Dunrobin Castle, Scotland 1435

Toes curling over the outer window-ledge, Muren Grey gripped the shutters tight as she stared into the murky depths below. Her mind raced with images of the torment she would soon face if she did not find a way out of the situation in which her brother, Ronan, had placed her. She raised her head to the sky. Perhaps God would send one of his fastest angels down to carry her away from this mess. A light drizzle kissed her face and, yet again, her silent plea went unanswered.

Her demise was surely predestined.

Muren turned back toward her chamber and stepped off the ledge back onto the cold stone floor. She wrapped her arms around herself for comfort, but nothing would help. In less than an hour she would meet, and be betrothed to, one of the cruellest men in all of Scotland, and no amount of prayer or pleading could prevent it.

No matter how hard she tried, she could not find sense in Ronan’s decision. He had always been kind to her, ever since childhood. But to break her betrothal to Rorie MacKenzie, whom she had come to love, and then promise her to the Black Douglas, who was surely Satan’s spawn, brought Ronan’s motives and his sanity into question.

A loud knock sounded at the door causing her to her jump. Her heavy crimson and gold brocade gown lay on the bed. She had not the stomach to don it, and so now stood in the middle of her chamber with her hair unkempt wearing only her shift. How would the Douglas feel if he saw her in such a state? Perhaps he might cancel the entire arrangement if he was not pleased with her. Muren would not credit the man with empathy for she had heard of all the atrocities bestowed upon new brides at the hands of his clan. She swallowed hard.

Her hand shook as she reached for the door’s latch. Lifting it slowly, she whispered, “Who is there?”

“Someone who will give her life to protect you.”

Muren swung the door open and let her breath out slowly when her brother’s wife, Freya, came into view. Her frown shattered any hope Muren possessed for good news.

Freya stepped into the chamber and closed the door behind her. Pulling Muren into an embrace, she said, “He has arrived.”

Icicles of dread clawed at Muren’s insides until she was certain she would lose her wits and her consciousness. “Why is he doing this, Freya? What have I done to vex him so that he must punish me like this?”

“Would you believe me if I told you that it has nothing to do with you?”

Muren pulled back so she could see her sister-in-law’s eyes. “No. Considering my life is the coveted prize in these barterings of his. Does he not realize who this man is?’

“I am on your side in this, Muren. You must believe me when I say that I have ranted and raved at him for days since he told me of this madness.”

“And what did he tell you?”

“He said only that he is caught in a position which does not afford him any other option but to comply with this demand.”

“Demand from whom?”

“From King James.”

“But why?” Muren raised her arms in the air. “How did I manage to become ensnarled in the king’s business? Who am I to him?”

Freya shook her head. “Like so many of us, unfortunately, we are too often used as barter to increase the position of the men around us.”

“But you changed your fate, Freya. I recall it was originally you who were to marry my Rorie.”

“Aye, but mine and Ronan’s need for the other could not be denied. Marrying another surely would have killed me.”

A lump formed in Muren’s throat and she swallowed hard. “That is how I feel.”

Freya frowned. “You’re right. How can I expect you to accept that which I could not?” Freya’s brows knit. “I am certain there must be a logical way out of this.”

“Freya, if there was, do you not think we would have found it by now? I must either present myself to the Douglas or leave, and considering the fact that he is already here, it would not be easy for that to happen, would it?”

Shouts from outside drew Muren’s attention to the window. “Do you think Ronan has refused him entry after all?”

“I do not know, but from the sound of it, someone is vexed.”

From her chamber at the back of the third floor of Dunrobin, Muren could only see the ocean. But the din of men shouting from another side of the castle was unmistakable. “Should we go below to see what passes?”

Freya went to Muren’s chest and pulled out a plain grey woolen gown Muren had not worn since coming to Dunrobin years earlier. Freya threw it at her and then pulled out her old black cloak. “Put these on, and we will use the passageways to get as close as we can.”

Muren slipped the gown over her head and while Freya fastened the ties, straightened up her long braid. Her heart beat wildly in her chest as the shouting from outside grew louder and was now accompanied by the clang of metal on metal. Was Ronan fighting the Douglas? If so, Freya was right. They needed to find out exactly what was going on and the last place she should be was in her chamber. If the Douglas won, she did not want to be anywhere he could find 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.

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Available Now: Warwick's Mermaid by Ellie Gray

Ellie Gray


(99c through15 October)
Having escaped an abusive relationship, Chloe MacGregor is determined to put the past behind her. The little cottage high up on the cliffs overlooking the beautiful North Yorkshire town of Whitby is her safe haven, somewhere she is free to be herself.

When the arrival of her new neighbour and boss, Luke Warwick, threatens her peaceful, sheltered life, Chloe is forced to confront her past and to re-evaluate who she really is. Falling in love with Luke is not part of her plan but, to her surprise, Luke is falling for her too. The only thing preventing their happy ever after is Chloe herself. Will she ever truly learn to leave the past where it belongs?

• • •

Chloe stared at the bright blue front door, not quite sure if she was willing it to open or remain shut. Cerulean Bliss. She had been drawn to the name, conjuring up images of crystal clear Mediterranean Sea, sandy beaches, and cloudless skies. Chris had appeared amused by her decision to choose the paint based on the name rather than the colour.

‘‘Babe, if you want Cerulean Bliss for the front door, Cerulean Bliss is what we’ll go for.’’

But when he’d returned from a boys’ weekend away to find Chloe had painted the door, it had been a different story. He had flown into a rage, claiming she hadn’t consulted with him on the colour and had gone behind his back, waiting until he was away to make changes to his house. That was the first time she had been on the receiving end of his anger; the first time she had been frightened and confused by his apparent about-turn on something he had previously agreed to. It hadn’t been the last time.

Chloe glanced at her watch, frowning when it showed only a minute had passed since she had last looked. The frown deepened when she lifted a hand to rub her eyebrow and saw how much her fingers were trembling. A gentle hand touched her forearm and she looked up to meet her friend’s calm gaze.
‘Don’t worry. It’s going to be fine.’

Chloe shook her head, unable to prevent her gaze from returning to the front door only twenty or so metres from where they were sitting in her car. What if he glanced around and saw her? What if he didn’t?

‘What am I doing, Bekah?’ She dropped her head in her hands, squeezing her eyes shut and immediately wincing as that small movement resulted in more pain than it should.

‘The right thing, that’s what.’ Rebekah rubbed her friend’s forearm. ‘Come on, Chloe. We talked about this.’

‘I know, I know we did.’ Chloe lifted her chin, but didn’t remove her gaze from the door. ‘I just…I keep thinking about it, over and over. He’s not always that bad, not really, and I think…I think maybe it was my fault.’

Chloe didn’t have to see her friend’s face to know she was angry; she could feel it radiating from her in waves. Rebekah remained silent and reached across to pull down the sun visor in front of Chloe, lifting up the small flap covering the vanity mirror.

‘There is nothing you could have done that would ever justify what he did to you. Nothing.’

Chloe stared at her reflection, taking in the dark purple bruise circling her left eye—now bloodshot and half-closed—the ugly graze reaching across her cheekbone and further down to the swollen and split bottom lip. Without thinking, she licked her lip. The tip of her tongue slipped over the injury, and she drew in a sharp breath at the sting it produced.

She met her gaze in the mirror once more, noting the confusion and uncertainty dulling their green hue. ‘I know. But it’s not usually this bad. He pushes me around a bit sometimes, nothing major, and he says things…you know, usually when he’s had a drink.’

‘That doesn’t make it right. You know that.’ Rebekah blew out a long breath. ‘I can’t believe you never told me.’

Chloe avoided her friend’s accusing gaze. What could she have told her? That Chris was proving her mother right? That she wasn’t woman enough for any man?

‘It doesn’t matter now anyway. I—’ She drew in a strangled breath as the front door opened and, shrinking down a little in her seat, Chloe prayed he wouldn’t glance down the street and recognise her car among all the others parked along the kerb.

As she watched, Chris locked the door before turning and sauntering along the path, tossing his keys in the air and catching them, his lips pursed as he whistled. Chloe couldn’t hear from this distance, but she knew he would be whistling the tune to whichever song had been on the radio before he left the house. She glanced at her watch once more; 8.15am on the dot. Chris was a creature of habit.

‘Bastard.’ Rebekah thumped the dashboard in obvious frustration as he got into his car without glancing left or right before driving off. ‘Look at him, acting as if he hasn’t a care in the world. You should have let Sean come round last night and hammer ten bells out of him, see how he liked it.’

Chloe gave a weak smile. ‘I don’t suppose that would have solved anything.’

They sat in silence for a few minutes before Rebekah finally opened her door.

‘So, come on then. Let’s do it.’

Chloe bit her lip and immediately winced in pain, wishing she hadn’t. Gingerly exploring her lip with her fingers, she saw they were stained with blood, and stifling a sigh, searched in her bag for a tissue.

‘What if he comes back? What if he’s forgotten something?’

‘He’s not coming back. He’s gone to work,’ said Rebekah, nodding her encouragement. ‘Come on, the sooner we get in, the sooner we get out. We’ll only be a few minutes.’

• • •

Ellie loves to write sweet romance and YA fiction, and is very proud to be a member of the Romantic Novelist Association. She lives in the beautiful East Riding of Yorkshire with her partner, David, two children, two cats and a chinchilla.

Currently working full-time in public services and studying for an MSc in Public Management, Ellie one day hopes to achieve her ambition of writing full time.

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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Available Now: A Love Restrained by Becky Flade

Becky Flade


(99c through 8 October)
Old secrets, new threats...What are they willing to sacrifice?

Philadelphia police officer Kylee Parker is dedicated to protecting and serving. She sees the work in absolutes: right and wrong, black and white, good guys and bad guys. That is, until she chases a drug dealer into a dead-end alley and finds the bad boy she had a painful crush on throughout her teen years has turned into a more dangerous and more attractive man.

Jayson Donovan knows he doesn’t deserve someone as good as Kylee Parker. As the right hand man to a local drug-pushing mobster, he’s solidly on the wrong side of Kylee’s moral compass. But he can’t help reaching for her time and again when he knows he shouldn’t.

Even when his secrets threaten them both.

• • •

Spring in the city brought people out of winter hibernation like a siren song, but as the temperature rose, so in turn, did the crime rate. Cops had to be sharp as they walked the streets of Philadelphia. In her ten years on the force, on these streets, she’d seen a lot of crazy and often stupid criminals do a lot of crazy and often stupid things. But to be so brazen, or so plain dumb, as to do a hand-to-hand drug buy right in front of two uniformed officers rode high on her list of top ten.

“Tell me you saw that?”

“Saw what?” Hunks of half chewed soft pretzel fell from Sherman’s mouth.

Pete Sherman’s not a bad cop, just not an observant one whose paunch portrayed his love of all things fried and his reupholstered recliner. He hadn’t seen a thing in the last six months. But he took direction well, despite the fact he had seniority.

“There, across the street.” She pointed. “The junkie walking east just scored off the guy in the leather bomber heading west. I swear the dealer looked right at us before the exchange. Call it in, Pete, and grab the junkie. I’m going after the dealer.”

Sherman didn’t argue. She took off into a quick lope, kept her footsteps light so as to not alert the man she pursued. The spring day had drawn people out and the complaints of the pedestrians she weaved through grew loud. The guy glanced over his shoulder, and the edge of his mouth tipped into a grin before he sprinted around the corner.

“Cocky jerk.” She turned the corner, and shouted, “Stop! Police.”

She ran clean and fast, closing the distance between them with little effort. The dealer ducked into an alley she knew to be a dead end. She slowed and put one hand on the butt of her service pistol as she approached. He had his back to her, his hands on his hips as he stared at the brick wall in front of him.

“Philly PD, you’re under arrest. Slowly put your hands above your head and against the wall to your left.” She closed the few feet between them, using her free hand to release the handcuffs from her belt, the other remaining on her weapon. She cuffed him, with practiced efficiency, and then read him his rights before leading him out of the alley, preferring to do the pat down with her partner present.

“Kylee Parker, I’ll admit I daydreamed a time or two about you cuffing me, but it was never in this context.”

• • •

Becky has been writing stories since kindergarten. But it wasn’t until she found her very own knight in slightly tarnished armor that she took the leap in to publishing. And hasn’t looked back once. In addition to being a wife, mother and grandmother, she works as a legal professional when she’s not writing, reading or dancing. And Becky’s proud to tell people she’s making her own dreams come true one happily ever after at a time.

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