Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Available Now: The Fountain of Youth by Margaret Pearce

Margaret Pearce



(99c through Sunday the 10th of June)
45 year old widow, Amelia Martin, finds her life has fallen to pieces. Worse, she’s one of three hostages kidnapped by bandits while holidaying in the Amazon jungle.

When her children refuse to pay the ransom, Amelia acquires a ruthless willpower to survive, and unexpected cold and deadly determination awakens in her to aid in her escape.

Months later when she emerges from the jungle, youth and wealth on her side, did she find the legendary fountain of youth, or did she discover the woman she’d always been deep inside?

• • •

Mrs Amelia Martin had coped with her marriage and the grumpy, miserly, complaining years of her husband’s good health like a saint. She had also coped with the grumpy, miserly, and complaining months of his last illness with the same saintly attitude.

Her saintly attitude vanished shortly after his death. She sold the gloomy family home in their newly gentrified inner suburb for a very inflated price. She downsized to a small flat, and fled. She had been to Europe twice, Ireland once, and Hong Kong and Singapore once.

“His half of the family house should have been left to us,” her daughter Angelina had accused. “Daddy knew how we needed a decent stake in Bert’s new business.”

“He had promised to help out with my overdraft on the new house,” her son Brad grumbled. “He knew how important a good address is for my public image.”

“But when he made that will, the house was worth very little.” Which was why I inherited, Mrs Martin reminded herself.

“But he would have left us his half share of the house if he had realized how much it was going to be worth,” her son snapped.

“But he didn’t,” Mrs Martin pointed out. “He left both of you all of his shares and his stamp collection, which was the equivalent price of the full house. The house, paid for with most of my earnings, was mine to sell.”

“But the house value rose to a lot more than the stamp collection and shares,” Brad grumbled.

“Wasting Daddy’s money,” her daughter sneered.

“Your father and I always intended to travel when he retired,” Mrs Martin defended.

“Only to the seaside for his fishing,” her son pointed out. “Not around the world all the time.”

“And with that dreadful woman,” her daughter accused.

“Widowed because her husband was a gangster and got himself shot,” her son said.

“Betty Drakeford is a lovely woman, and as we are both widows, we have so much in common,” their mother defended.

They didn’t seem to have that much in common on first acquaintance. They both owned to being forty-five, but Betty Drakeford fought the onset of age with bright, trendy clothes, and was an eye-catching figure with blonded hair.

Mrs Martin’s clothes were sombre and the acme of good taste for a grieving widow. As their friendship deepened, however, she had taken Mrs Drakeford’s advice, donated her dowdy good taste wardrobe to the Op. shop, and bought clothes with more flattering lines and more cheerful colours.

The united disapproval of Mrs Martin’s two children of her new friend and lifestyle intensified when Mrs Drakeford sabotaged Mrs Martin’s meek and uncomplaining babysitting of her three grandchildren.

“Both your son and daughter can easily afford pre-school and after-school programs for their kids,” she had pointed out. “You are entitled to start having some fun.”

“We’re leaving for Brazil tomorrow.” Mrs Martin rose and opened the front door for them to leave.

“Don’t expect us to rescue you if you get picked up for drug trafficking,” her son sneered.

“Or expect us to fund you when you finish off Daddy’s money,” her daughter warned.

Mrs Martin shut the door on their disapproving faces with relief. South America sounded exciting.

• • •

Margaret Pearce was launched on an unsuspecting commercial world as stenographer and ended up copywriting in an advertising department. She took to writing instead of drink when raising children and was surprised to be published. She completed an Arts Degree at Monash University as a mature age student and lurks in an underground flat in the Dandenongs still writing.

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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Available now: Gumshoe Girl by Andi Ramos

Andi Ramos



(99c through Sunday, 3 June)
Sheagan O’Hare got more than she bargained for when her newly inherited detective agency lands its first case; a missing person, embezzlement, and murder. Sheagan’s out to prove she can hang with the pro's, despite the constant reminder of her amateur status from an annoyingly attractive FBI agent, Colin 'Mac' MacEvine, who’s forced himself into her life.

How does she feel when an old high school friend hopes to ignite a new romance?

Will she be able to discover if detective work and love can mingle before someone gets hurt?

• • •

Sheagan blinked back the sting in her eyes as sweat drizzled from her forehead. Her shoulders and forearms cried out as determination inched her body forward through the tin walls that framed her slender figure. The narrow shaft rendered her legs useless as they dragged behind her like dead weight. She made a vow to start working out as she approached her destination, the metal grate that looked down into the sweetheart suite of the Eliot Hotel.

She shimmied her binoculars out of her bag and clutched them in her sweaty palms as she readied herself to delve into the world of private investigating. The friction of her movements caused her mahogany mane to cling to all the surfaces of her temporary confinement. Perched behind the filigree frame, peering like a caged animal, she was a mere 20 feet from her target. Her target? The Rat Bastard, who up until this very moment she’d called boyfriend.

She wasn’t there to kill him, even though the thought had crossed her mind; no, she was there to catch him in the act. She suspected he had been cheating on her for some time, so proof would end her suspicion or the relationship. Spying on her significant other through an air-vent of a swanky hotel room was hardly a promising start to her so-called glamorous career as a private detective. But it snapped her back into the reality that her new chosen profession would often be messy and difficult.

She peered through the grate and envied the spacious room below, but her viewing angle was no good for the task at hand. She could feel the heat in her cheeks rise along with her anger as she scanned the room and soaked in the extravagance–the hardwood tables, the Italian marble fireplace, the opulent sheen of the fabric on the overstuffed furniture that glimmered in the soft candlelight. The Rat Bastard was not known to overindulge on frivolous expenses, unless it was on her dime. Thoughts of killing him resurfaced.

What is wrong with me? Why did I wait so long?

She immediately regretted the fleeting question. She knew why. The answer brought back the pain and significance of her father’s sudden death. He had been the only family she had left, and he was gone. All that was left behind was his detective agency. She had thought about giving it up, but she couldn’t; it was her only connection to him, to her family.

She closed her eyes briefly, realizing that now she was facing more loss–even if he was a lying, cheating Rat Bastard.

No! It’s better this way, stay focused.

She choked in a breath and turned her attention back to the room. His secret love nest was finished with soothing tones on the walls and thick, plush carpeting.

What is that on the end table?

Her gaze was drawn to the bottle label as it bobbed upside down in the melting ice. She sharpened the focus of her binoculars, and her eyes widened in recognition.

Her cheeks flushed. Cristal, she scoffed. Who is this Bimbo, anyway?

As if she had room to criticize this girl’s intelligence, when Sheagan was the one sweating her makeup off in a four-by-four-foot air-duct.

Yeah, who’s the stupid one?

She heard passionate sounds coming from the right of the room and recognized his tone. Leaning sideways, Sheagan pressed her face to the grate, but her limited view revealed only a portion of the bed and unable to make out major details, like faces.

Crap, I can’t see anything. Damn! She needed to get a better look

As she shifted her weight, the metal walls started to reverberate and Sheagan stifled a gasp, willing the rumbling to cease. Her breathing became labored as the musty air stole the aroma of the sweet perfume wafting up waft from the suite below. She stilled her movements and did the only thing she could think of… nothing. Nothing but stare at the heap of blankets and wait.

Come on, bimbo, come up for air. I know he doesn’t last that long.

Her discomfort increased as the noise from their passion became more intense.

Ugh, that’s it, I’ve had it!

She mashed her cheek and upper body against the grate.

I just need a peek to confirm.

She pressed harder, ogling the bed. Finally, she caught a tiny glimpse.

Just a little further.

She pushed and heard a chirring sound, then a scraping. She froze in place, but the grate gave way with a creaking groan and crashed to the ground. Time stood still as Sheagan realized there was nothing between her and the floor except air.

• • •

Andi Ramos grew up in central Massachusetts where she still lives today with her family, goat, and Boston Terriers. Her love for reading grew into a passion for writing. She dabbled with pen and paper for a long time and eventually stopped pushing her amusements aside and started developing those stories into novels. One of her favorite things to do is to hop into her motorhome with her family and write while traveling down the road as they journey to various destinations.

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Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Available now: Her Only Option by Paula Martin

Paula Martin



(99c through Sunday, 27 May)
Neve Dalton loves her job as a tour guide on a River Nile cruise ship as much as she values her independence. She isn’t ready to settle down with her Egyptian boyfriend, despite his repeated proposals and his father’s desire to see him married.

Nor is she ready to meet Ross McAllister, a compelling and fascinating archaeologist. She struggles against her growing attraction to him until she can no longer ignore what her heart is telling her.

When she starts receiving cryptic messages, and Ross’s work in the famous Valley of the Kings is threatened, Neve has to make a heart-breaking and life-changing decision which she feels is her only option.

Can they discover whose enmity is forcing them apart before it’s too late?

• • •

Neve Dalton smiled as she changed into her white bikini. Five hours of freedom, and she intended to spend at least four of them relaxing. And woe betide anyone who disturbed her.

Clutching a towel and a canvas bag with her sunscreen, e-reader, and bottle of water, she sprinted up three flights of curved stairs from her staff cabin to the sundeck of the Lady Nadia cruise ship.

The only person there was the barman, who was restocking the large fridges at the stern, and she nodded in satisfaction at the sight of the deserted decks of the cruise ships moored on each side of the Nadia. Although she loved her job, she always enjoyed this peaceful interlude between the departure of one tour group and the arrival of the next.

She chose a sun lounger near the rail, from where she could see across the deck of the neighbouring ship to her favourite view. The blue Nile and the white Theban hills on the far side of the river shimmered in Egypt’s furnace-like afternoon heat.

After daubing herself liberally with sunscreen, she adjusted the large parasol to give some protection from the burning sun, and opened her e-reader to catch up with the latest articles in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. Once she’d done that, she leaned back, relaxed, and closed her eyes.

Less than ten minutes later, conscious of something she couldn’t quite define, she half-opened one eye. A broad chest, partly hidden by an unbuttoned blue shirt, filled her line of vision.

Squinting against the brightness, she saw strong arms and well-formed hands, which curved over the top rail of the neighbouring Lady Amirah’s sundeck. Her gaze travelled down, taking in the chest with its smattering of dark hair, the curve of slim hips in well-fitting red swimming trunks, and long, muscular legs.

Mmm, rather nice.

‘Good afternoon,’ he said.

Embarrassed by her survey of his body, she looked up at his face. Even though he wore sunglasses, she knew he was staring at her.

‘Oh – hello.’ She sat upright and wished she could pull her large towel around her as a shield against his scrutiny.

He slid his sunglasses to the top of his head, flattening his thick, dark hair, and her breath hitched at the sight of his amazing blue eyes. They reminded her of the shimmering ultramarine water of the ship’s swimming pool. His tanned features were as impressive as his strong physique – broad forehead, high cheekbones, the slight indent of dimples in his cheeks, a wide mouth, and a finely chiselled jaw.

Some primeval response stirred inside her.

‘I was admiring your beautiful figure.’ His deep voice held the faint trace of a Scottish accent. ‘I hope you don’t object?’

A shaft of disappointment quenched her initial spark of interest. For some reason, she’d expected him to be different from the smooth-talking posers who sometimes tried to chat her up. Instead, it seemed he was simply another cruise ship Casanova who thought flattering words in a deep, honey-rich voice would make women fall at his feet.

Politeness to guests was rule number one, however, since he was on the Amirah, one of Nadia’s sister ships. Her professional persona surfaced. ‘Not at all.’ She kept her voice casual while giving what she hoped was her best I know your type and you don’t impress me one bit smile.

‘You look lonely,’ he said.

Since her coolness hadn’t put him off, she reached for the bottle of sunscreen from the small table next to her lounger. ‘I’m enjoying the solitude. It doesn’t happen very often.’ Maybe he’d take the hint from that.

He didn’t. ‘Where’s everyone else?’

‘If you mean the guests, they’ve gone to the airport. The next group is due to arrive about five o’clock.’

‘Ah, you’re staff, are you? What do you do? No, don’t tell me—’ His glance slid down her body again. ‘With a figure like yours, you have to be with the Health and Fitness Club.’

‘I’m a tour guide,’ she replied, with as much dignity as she could muster.

‘Oh, one of those.’

She bristled with indignation. Not just a cruise ship Casanova, but a rude one, too. ‘One of those? What’s that supposed to mean?’

He shrugged. ‘You hear them everywhere you go. Churning out half-baked facts from poorly written and often inaccurate guidebooks.’

Her indignation flared into annoyance. ‘And that’s what you think tour guides do?’

‘Most of them, yes.’

The man was insufferable. If she wasn’t so annoyed by his condescending dismissal, she’d tell him she held a degree in Egyptology. But he wasn’t worth the effort. Anyway, he’d probably make another derogatory comment in response.

‘And what do you do?’ she asked with sugar-coated politeness.

‘I’m an archaeologist.’

‘Oh, one of those.’

• • •

Paula Martin lives near Manchester in North West England and has two daughters and two grandsons. She had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years.

She returned to writing fiction after retiring from teaching, and is thrilled to have found publishing success again with her contemporary romances.

Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places and has travelled extensively in Britain and Ireland, mainland Europe, the Middle East, USA and Canada. Her other interests include musical theatre and tracing her family history.

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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Available now: The Foes Between Us by JM Robison

The Last Wizard Series, #1
J.M. Robison



(99c through Sunday, 20 May)
In 1842 England, Brynn suspects Reuben's "natural death" had actually been murder. Reuben has left cryptic clues for Brynn to find to help her locate Zadicayn, an imprisoned young man claiming to be a wizard from the Middle Ages.

When Brynn frees Zadicayn, Reuben's murderers now turn their sights on her. Her life grows exceptionally harder when Zadicayn enlists her help him find his magical amulet, stolen by Reuben's murderers. But they know where to find Brynn.

Will Zadicayn's magic be enough to protect her?

• • •

30 October 1518, England

I drop my armful of wood into the closet next to the kitchen. I should have done so more quietly because the clatter alerts Mother to my presence and before I can scurry away, she hollers, “Zadicayn? Would ye go down to the larder and bring up the cheese wheel?”

My shoulders ache from chopping wood for the past two hours. I almost pawn off the chore on my sister who’s sitting at the kitchen table, except Mother keeps the cheeses on the top shelf where my sister can’t reach. Most things are on the top shelf. I think on purpose.

I smother my grumble. “Yea, Mother. I shall.”

I flex my shoulders back as I walk down the corridor, passing the scullery maid who isn’t shy about eyeing me with fluttering eyelashes. I don’t return her hopeful stare. I aspire higher than to marry a servant in Father’s castle, so I’m not about to entertain her fantasies by even so much as nodding a greeting in her direction.

The temperature drops as I descend the curving stone staircase into the larder. The remains of the last hunt hang from hooks driven through its hind legs, the blood congealed in the pan beneath. With how little meat is left on its bones, I foresee tomorrow’s chore.

Two hooks driven into the stone directly above the half cheese wheel make it look like a monstrous grin. I flex my fingers back and forth. I could use magic to relocate that cheese into my hands. Father would never know.

Ye must never use magic to replace manual labor. His past lectures surface. For ye will become weak in the arms because ye no longer chop wood.

I debate long enough that I could’ve already pushed the ladder under the shelf, grabbed the cheese, and been on my way upstairs. I kick the floor with a grumble and grab the ladder.

A flurry of echoing steps on stone reaches me from the stairwell descending down from the larder. I set the ladder in place and wait.

Philowynd flies around the corner, red-faced and puffing, cloak thrown off his head and shoulders so the clasp presses into his throat, his red amulet swinging side to side wildly across his chest. He rolls his eyes back like a spooked horse.


He sprints into the larder, but stops as I call his name as if he just now noticed me. “Where is thy father?” His voice is raspy, as if he’d been screaming.

His panic-laced question spikes fear through me. “In the village. He should have been back before sundown. I do not know what is keeping him. Mother was going to send me after dinner–”

“Where is thy mother?”

“In the kitchen.”

Philowynd shoots for the stairs faster than a bolt out of a crossbow. I abandon the cheese and follow him.

“Philowynd,” I say, “what is the matter?”

He doesn’t respond. I don’t think he’s sparing any breath for himself. He cuts corners as closely as he can without smashing into them. He darts into the kitchen.

Mother’s head rises in alarm, hand paused in mid-stir over the cauldron. “Philowynd?”

Awdrie pauses her game of knucklebones with Wybir. Wybir turns around. Wood pops in the hearth.

Philowynd inhales a massive breath. “Makrick has not returned from Valemorren?”

Her gaze shifts from him to me. “Zadicayn told ye correct. I was going to send him after dinner to look for him.”

“They took me son, Havannah.”

Mother releases her hold on the ladle and covers her mouth.

“If thy husband has not returned, then I fear they have him, too,” Philowynd says.

Mother’s habit used to be signing herself with the cross at the declaration of bad news, but her devotion soured when the church started hunting wizards.

I swallow the bile rising in my throat.

“I shall take Zadicayn with me and make sure the worst has not happened.” Philowynd’s cloak catches the door frame as he turns and sprints down the corridor. I follow. He’s faster, but he waits for me at the double doors on the other side of the Grand Hall, beckoning.

I reach him, panting, and he grabs my arm, stares across the bridge, and relocates us instantly to the other side. The October night buzzes with chilled anxiety, the half-moon spreading a white sheen across the frosted stones of the bridge. Even the night larks warble in distressed tones. I’m panting. Our breath fogs around our heads. I’m so stressed, I don’t feel the chill through my thin tunic.

He looks up the trail, focusing along with me on the white circle glowing in the half- moonlight, pressed against the side of the mountain. We use magic to instantaneously relocate across the distance to the Fae Gate, which responds to the presence of our amulets and dissolves, revealing a tunnel beyond. He lets go of me, and I sprint into the tunnel behind his whirling cloak.

Panic thunders in my chest, making it harder to breath while I run. Wizard killings started a year ago, just after Martin Luther tacked his Theses to the Wittenberg church door. The killings were only rumors from farther up north, so far north they were almost myth. If the church took Philowynd’s son in Nottingham, that myth has dived south into my reality.

We emerge on the other side of the tunnel into the canyon. He latches onto my arm again and uses magic to instantly relocate us farther down the road. It takes six relocations before we arrive in the Village Center. We walk behind the blacksmith, crouching behind his wagon, looking across to the parish.

Philowynd covers his mouth.

I stop breathing.

• • •

Born in small town Bennington, Idaho, J.M. wanted to be just like her big, story writer sister. Big sister paints now, but that initial role model was all the springboard J.M. needed to fearlessly leap into writing the novels of her heart. Getting around the world as a soldier has helped broaden J.M.'s views on cultures and personalities, and settling down as a Deputy Sheriff in Nevada for a time has helped her maintain all the fine intricacies humans are capable of which has helped define her characters into something realistic and believable. Without any prior claims to fame, J.M. is proud to showcase that hard work, even from rock bottom, DOES pay off.

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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Available now: The Black Hand by Jonathan Dunne

Jonathan Dunne


(99c through 13 May)
In the aftermath of Ireland’s most deadly gang war, Dublin’s ruling family has scattered to the wind.

Into the void steps a criminal genius known only as The Black Hand. His organisation’s powerful grip is ruthless, bloody and barbaric.

With Europe’s biggest crime in play, The Devil needs a distraction. And The Black Hand needs Jacob Boylan to return to Irish shores. He will stop at nothing to provoke Dublin’s most lethal criminal out of hiding.

But has the wily genius misstepped? As all eyes are on Jacob, the Dublin exile carefully plans a gangland wipeout, for he is nobody’s pawn.

• • •

The Hit

The Glaswegian sat sipping his coffee as the St Patrick’s Day parade rolled on by. It always amazed him that the Irish celebrated a man who unleashed Catholicism and all its ills on Ireland. They should be burning the effigies instead of celebrating them. He let the thought linger for a few seconds, then cleared his mind of all distractions. He had a job to do.

It was just after midday and he wouldn’t move until the band marched down O’Connell Street. The Glaswegian needed the noise to disguise the carnage he was about to let loose. Half of his contract had been paid. The other half would be transferred upon completion of the assignment. Fifteen more minutes passed as he calmly ran his thumb over the edge of his cup. The coffee was good; not great, just good.

The band began their journey into the heart of Dublin as the Glaswegian ran a crisp white cloth over every surface he touched. Nothing was left to chance. He slipped off the main street and carefully shielded his appearance from every form of surveillance. His black beard, dark eyes, and protruding teeth were all false. The chances of being identified were negligible, but he was meticulous in that respect.

The old structure rested halfway down a urine-soaked back street. It had a fire escape leading to several windows. He knew the window, the layout, and the schematics of this building intimately. Quietly and deliberately, he made his way into the building and followed the carefully constructed holes that led to the basement. When he reached it, he found an old lift shaft with a long ladder leading down into the vault. From this point onwards, he listened intently as the drumming of the bands outside got louder and louder. Perfect, he thought, as he began his downward climb. The insulation confused him until he realised it was sound-proof—an extra precaution to further disguise the noise of the ongoing construction.

The Glaswegian allowed himself a rare smile. This was a team he admired. They were, like him, professional in their approach to criminality. Slowly, he unsheathed a blade and cut a section of the insulation, large enough to crawl through. As he crept into the vault, he noticed the team of four men working in perfect harmony. One was bagging the goods, another was manning the scanners, and two were emptying the strong-room. The timer was running down, and they were set to leave in exactly five minutes.

Once more he shook his head in admiration. This was like running a blade across the canvass of a masterpiece. He was momentarily saddened as he pulled the pin of the grenade and threw it into the vault. He stood left of the wide hole that had been drilled in the wall. There were slight muffles as the crack of the grenade silenced the team. He threw one more in, just to be sure.

He caught his breath, steadying his pulse before crawling into the vault. This was messy. Nevertheless, he had his instructions. He checked the vitals of each of his victims and the first three were dead. He was happy. Jimmy Boylan, whom he knew well, had a pulse, of sorts. He pulled out a snub-nose gun and pressed it against Jimmy’s temple. Judging by his injuries, Jimmy had borne the brunt of the explosions.

The Glaswegian rarely saw that type of loyalty amongst criminals. It unsettled him. Jimmy was a bloody rag. The odds were stacked against him living the next ten minutes, let alone the next three days when the bank would reopen. He placed the gun back in his holster.

The executioner stepped away from Jimmy before taking two black duffel bags. It was all he could manage, and he wasn’t about to jeopardise his assignment by being greedy. His contract stipulated two bags. He would deliver two bags.

He looked back at Jimmy once more, wondering if he should put a bullet in the man’s head. No, he thought, he’s finished.

Today was a day of rarities for The Glaswegian. He stood in front of the vault entrance with the bags resting across his wide shoulders.

‘You’re dying because of a woman, Jimmy. I owe you that much. Now, let go.’

The Glaswegian doubted the other man heard one word.

Jimmy had heard every word.

• • •

Jonathan Dunne is a native of Dublin’s north inner city. This is his second novel in the crime genre. He is also an avid sports journalist who has penned articles for some of Ireland’s biggest publications. He holds a Degree from the Dublin Institute of Technology and is a strong advocate of lifelong learning and education. Jonathan also holds a 1st Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwondo and is currently a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu student. He lives in Dublin with his wife and two children.

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Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Available now: Tormented by Susan Clayton-Goldner

Susan Clayton-Goldner



(99c through Sunday, 6 May)
Father's Anthony's devotion to God and His Church begins to unravel the moment Rita Wittier steps inside St. Catherine’s Cathedral in San Francisco. He struggles to control his feelings, but two years later, he is a man obsessed.

In an attempt to rediscover the priest he intended to become, Anthony flies back to Delaware to visit Father Timothy. If redemption can be found anywhere, surely it can be found in the church of his childhood and in the soothing Irish brogue of his former mentor.

The months pass, 60 Minutes does a special on Father Anthony and the Shepherd Academy—a school he started for disadvantaged children. He’s become a national hero— nicknamed the Good Shepherd. But he can’t get Rita out of his mind. He wants her more than anything—even God—and can no longer deny it. Six hours after he tell her how he feels, Rita is found dead in her car from an apparent suicide. Or is it murder?

• • •

San Francisco – April 1971

Tormented by thoughts no priest should ever have, Father Anthony rose from his nightly Bible reading and fastened the buttons on his cassock. Behind the dark and rain-streaked window of his ten-by-ten bedroom at the rectory, night closed in on him. He was lonelier than he’d ever been. Anthony prided himself on being a man of principles. But nothing in his world felt principled anymore. It was as if he, the one who knew from boyhood visions he was destined to be a priest, had switched lives with an ordinary man or, worse yet, a lovesick teenager.

It was 8:30 p.m. He didn’t know why he’d agreed to meet her so late. Or, God help him, maybe he did know. There was still time to cancel. He could tell her to come during the day on Wednesday after the regular confessional hours. He hurried down the hallway to his office.

When he flipped on the overhead light, he found her sitting in front of his desk, her head resting in her hands. Dozens of frantic moths flapped their wings inside his chest. He took a step back. He always left the rectory door unlocked when he expected a parishioner to visit. But how long had she been here, and why hadn’t he sensed her presence?

She glanced up at him, her eyes wide, and bluer than any eyes he’d ever seen. “I know I’m early, but it’s urgent. I can’t go another night without…”

He looked away. Seeing her sitting in his office was terrifying and marvelous at the same time. He glanced back again. Her bottom lip was full; the top one thinner, but shaped like a perfect Cupid’s bow. He wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to kiss her. She wore black slacks and a blue silk blouse that gave her eyes a deep sapphire color like Crater Lake in the sunlight. He wanted to dive into them and never resurface.

“Mrs. Wittier,” he said, unable to form any other words. Even as a boy, he’d been afraid of loving a woman, afraid of the wildness it might release in him.

“Please, call me Rita.” She stared straight at him and her eyes caught a spark of light from the ceiling lamp. “I have to confess tonight, before something awful happens to my daughter.”

The fear in her voice unsettled him. “I’m really sorry,” he said. “But we hold confessions on Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons. The sacraments are scheduled by the parish.” He was tempted to add, not by the whims of parishioners, but couldn’t make himself say those harsh words to Rita. She’d attended Mass at St. Catherine’s for nearly two years, but this was the first time she had asked for confession. How could he deny her so sincere a request?

Her face darkened. “This can’t wait, Father. God is going to punish me by hurting my daughter. Connie is only a little girl. What I did wasn’t her fault.”

He pulled a chair in front her and sat, their knees nearly touching. “God doesn’t punish children for their parents’ shortcomings.”

“Losing Connie would be my punishment, not my daughter’s,” she said. “Please, you have to help me. God is already tormenting me with nightmares.”

“Have you considered talking with a psychiatrist?” He knew psychiatrists could be helpful. His social worker took him to see one as a teenager when his divine visions first called him to the priesthood.

She shook her head. “This is between me and God.”

What was he thinking? Rita was his parishioner. She was suffering and needed her priest. But he had to obey the tenth commandment that he not covet his neighbor’s wife. He had to keep his vow to the church and to God. He would do what Hebrews 12:1 directed. He heard Father Timothy O’Brien’s voice, the voice of his childhood priest—the one voice he trusted above all others: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.”

He was a priest. The race marked out for him was clearly defined. And he must finish it. “Follow me,” he said. “I’m going to make an exception.”

• • •

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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Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Tirgearr partners with TumbleBooks

πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰ Join with us in congratulating TumbleBooks with the launch of their new service, Romance Book CloudπŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰

RBC is a service primarily for libraries and schools, but is also offering a subscription service for readers.

As the name says, RBC stocks only the best in the romance genre, including but not limited to contemporary, historical, paranormal, erotic, suspense, etc.

This includes Tirgearr Publishing romances!

Check out their website. And encourage your local libraries and school libraries to sign up for this service.

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Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Available now: Asta and the Barbarians by Becca Fox

Becca Fox


Buy Here

(99c through Sunday, 29 April)
On the day the Holgarians attack her town, twenty-year-old Asta is blessed by a warrior god and is empowered with the heightened senses and unnatural healing abilities these foreign invaders possess. Grief-stricken and paralyzed by terror, she’s hauled onto the conquering general’s ship and taken to the island of Holger across the sea.

One year later, Asta graduates from warrior academy with honors and is chosen as one of the king’s personal defenders. She will finally have the opportunity to kill the man who gave the general his orders, and avenge her family. She doesn’t expect the king to be young or kind, or completely oblivious of what his men are doing overseas. He has been told peaceful negotiations are going well, and the natural resources and ambassadors from the mainland seem to support this report. But Asta knows better.

Asta must find proof of the general’s treachery and bring it before the king so that she can save unconquered provinces from meeting the same fate as her hometown. But the king’s counselors suddenly start dying, and the king himself is hounded by foreign assassins. Revenge will have to wait if Asta’s going to keep the king, the mainland’s only hope, alive.

• • •

General Halvar placed a hand on my shoulder as the ship pulled into the harbor. “Welcome home, Asta.”

I winced at his touch.

“Do you remember why I brought you here?” he asked.

I looked up at the land mass before us.

Holger, the Island of Spears. I knew only rumors about this country. Their warriors couldn’t be defeated in battle, their population was larger than any other nation, and their schools offered the best curriculums. I used to think of it as a massive piece of land floating in the middle of the ocean, with foreboding clouds constantly roiling above. I used to have such an active imagination.

The actual island was far smaller than I pictured. I could see the whole of it with a turn of my head. Food vendors along the pier called out to passersby, women shopped, children played and weaved around horse-drawn carriages. Laughter drew my gaze to a couple attempting to take a schooner out to open waters. Fishing ships heavily laden with full nets pulled in beside us. I could smell the dead fish from my place on the poop deck.

I swallowed the bile traveling up my throat. “I’ve been chosen for a special task.”

“That’s right.” The general finally released my shoulder and stepped around me. His mismatched eyes, one misty white and the other gleaming like liquid copper, bored into mine. “Are you ready?”

I cowered out of habit, but straightened when I realized what I was doing. “Yes, sir.”

A grin stretched the burned side of the general’s face. “Praise be to Dotharr.”

“Praise be to Dotharr,” I said.

“Shall we?”

I stared at the elbow he offered me for a moment, entertaining fantasies about grabbing it and tossing the general overboard. I forced myself to take the elbow and follow him across the main deck instead. He waited patiently while I lifted the skirt of my dress and stepped onto the gangplank. After two weeks of suffering in men’s clothing, I had been given a bath and a new dress this morning. It didn’t make up for what had been done to me, but I couldn’t help feeling slightly grateful. Suddenly, I was a lady again and not a prisoner. Letters along the ship’s hull caught my eye: The Great Disaster.

I remembered everything then with a sudden clarity that made me gasp. My family. My home in Kenshore. The raid. The fires. Being dragged, kicking and screaming, out of the ruins of my town and onto this vessel. I tore my gaze from the hull and blinked away tears.

“Something wrong?” the general asked.

I swallowed hard. “I was simply admiring the ship from this new vantage point, sir.”

The double-masted ship was painted red-brown, with cream-colored sails and a single red flag. A wooden carving of a scantily-clad woman with a devilish smile and an outstretched sword clung to the bow. The seamen scurried up the ratlines to secure the sails while the copper-eyed warriors clamored down the gangplank. I shied away from them as they passed.

The noises of the city and the light of the sun made my head pound. I kept my sensitive eyes half-lidded and fixed on the planks of wood that made up the pier. I had gotten into the habit of breathing through my mouth to avoid overwhelming my nose on the ship, but the open air helped minimize the potency of the different odors wafting toward me.

“Dotharr’s blessings might seem even more burdensome the deeper into the city we go,” General Halvar said. “But you’ll learn to better control your abilities at Dotharr’s Academy.”

I nodded. “Yes, sir.”

The last two men to disembark from the ship stopped beside us.

“Asta, you remember Tarben and Manning?” the general said, gesturing to each as he named them. “They will be your personal guards while I’m away.”

“D-Do I need protecting, sir?”

General Halvar chuckled. “You’re the first woman and outsider to be chosen by our Heavenly Master of Warriors. Until you’ve learned how to use your new abilities to properly defend yourself, you will most definitely need protecting. Come along now.”

• • •

Becca Fox was that strange girl in high school who always seemed to have her nose in a book. She didn’t talk much because, more often than not, she was daydreaming about the different worlds in her books. Instead of doodling on the corners of her notes, she wrote scenes for her works in progress while the teacher lectured. She preferred quiet weekends at home with family or with Netflix over parties and large crowds.

Becca talks a bit more now, but not much else has changed. She still enjoys reading, writing, daydreaming, and watching TV, although, she’s gotten a lot better at socializing…over Twitter.

She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, a fat orange tabby cat, and a forever-puppy.

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Friday, 20 April 2018

Available Now in Print: What the Future Holds by Joan Fleming

Magic of Mull Series, #1
Joan Fleming


Columb Cottage on Mull has long been in Amy Wilson's family. Instead of the relaxing holiday she expected, she's now pitted against Sandy McFarlane, a boy she once loved, who intends on building a holiday village on a site beside her cottage. Having just lost her job, Amy is moving to Mull. She'll fight Sandy if she has to, to prevent the project, but finds she's falling in love all over again.
• • •
It was early evening by the time Amy Wilson opened the bulky envelope. Sitting by the fire, with a glass of red wine in her hand, she drew a deep breath of sheer contentment. This was what relaxation was all about—the scent of burning peat, silence except for the faint whisper of the waves lapping over the rocks in the bay, and the view of the island of Iona no picture postcard image could ever reproduce.
Pure heaven. That was until she saw the contents of the envelope.

Flicking her dark brown hair behind her ears, she straightened in her armchair.

At first, she stared at the papers, trying to work out what they meant. Log cabins? Holiday homes? Leisure facility? What had all this to do with her? She looked again at the envelope.

Miss A. Wilson
Columb Cottage
Isle of Mull

There was no doubt it was meant for her. But why was it delivered here at the cottage in Mull when she had arranged to forward her mail to her Glasgow address? Then she realised there was no stamp on the envelope and in a corner were the words “Hand Delivered”.

Closer examination revealed the paperwork had been prepared by a firm of solicitors. The covering letter explained the purpose of the communication—a proposal had been submitted to build twelve log cabins—a ‘holiday village’ to be named Oceanview—on a piece of ground by the sea shore on the edge of Amy’s land. Enclosed was a plan of the holiday facility.

The more she read, the faster Amy’s heart beat. Build on the shoreline! What a preposterous idea! There was no way anyone could be allowed to ruin the natural beauty of this spot on the island. Jumping up from her comfortable armchair, she ran over to the window to look out at the bay. With the plan of the proposed holiday village in her hand, she glanced from the plan to the bay itself, trying to visualise where the cabins would be, how they would look. Would they interfere with her view? Would she still be able to see the abbey on the island of Iona? Or the sea? No—this was unacceptable. It was out of the question. She would not allow it to happen!
• • •
Joan Fleming was born and educated in Edinburgh, Scotland. After university there, she became a teacher of French and German for a short period in the London area, then in the West of Scotland.

Since leaving education, she now concentrates on creative writing. She has had short stories and articles published in magazines in both the UK and America, and has won a number of awards for her writing.

Joan is a member of Erskine Writers, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors.

Her interests include: reading, walking, travel, islands (anywhere!) and the life and work of Robert Burns.

She now lives in a flat on the outskirts of Glasgow overlooking the West Highland Way.

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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Available Now: Festival Fireworks by Ann Burnett

Anne Burnett



(99c through 22 April)
Twenty-seven year old Aussie, Jill Kennedy, has arrived in Edinburgh during the festival and staying in her aunt's empty flat. Immediately, she crosses swords with her new neighbour, Andrew MacCallum-Blair. To make things worse, she discovers he’s her boss in the temporary job she’s taken so she can afford to see Scotland.

For his part, Andrew has decided to harden his heart against falling in love again but Jill's fresh and frank approach to life threaten to break down the barricades he’s erected around his heart.

Jill can't understand Andrew’s changing moods, and even more, her own confused feelings for 'Mr Bossy', as she has nicknamed him.

As fireworks burst over Edinburgh Castle, Jill and Andrew must decide whether the fireworks sparking between them will lead to love or a parting of the ways.

• • •

‘Is that your car?’ he shouted up at her.

‘Yes,’ she called back.

‘You can’t park there!’ he yelled. ‘That’s my space.’

‘OK, I’m sorry,’ Jill called down to him. ‘I didn’t know. I’m new here.’

‘Aren’t you going to move it then?’ His face glared up at her, and even from two storeys up, she could make out the flash in his dark eyes. His stance reinforced his mood, hands on hips, long legs set apart, gripping the pot-holed tarmac of the parking area with a ferocity she couldn’t miss.

‘I’ve just washed my hair. Can you give me ten minutes while I dry it?’

‘No!’ The bellow reverberated around the buildings. Jill could well imagine numerous faces half hidden behind twitching curtains watching and listening to the contretemps. She sighed, closed the window, and gave her wet hair another rub with the towel, then slipped on a jacket and headed for the door.


The natives don’t seem all that friendly, she said to herself, as she flip-flopped her way down two flights of tenement stairs. The stairs wound round and round in an open spiral, and Jill held onto the brass balustrade as she descended. Wrought iron banisters coiled in fanciful flowers below the balustrade. Someone, many years ago, had taken a lot of time and care in fashioning them, she thought.

All the way down she tried to think of smart put-downs for Mr. Bossy outside, but her brain still wasn’t up to speed after her flight. At the landing window, she glimpsed him pacing up and down beside Linda’s car. His Mercedes still had its engine running.

Waster, she thought, more money than sense. Using up his fuel and polluting the atmosphere. No green credentials, him.

When she opened the door into the back court, he turned towards her. She could see how tall he was now; upstairs, the height had foreshortened him.

‘Thank goodness!’ he exclaimed. ‘Now shift your car and let me in.’

‘What’s the magic word?’ It was out before she could think. Jill’s infamous ‘open mouth before engaging brain’ syndrome.


‘No, not that but at least it’s a start.’

He glowered at Jill while she tried to stand as tall and straight and important as her five feet four inches, wet hair, and flip-flops would allow. She met his eye and held his gaze.

‘Don’t be so childish,’ he said, ‘and hurry up and move your car.’

Glaring at him, Jill climbed into the driver’s seat of Linda’s Yaris and attempted to start it.

It coughed and died. She tried again, and the same thing happened. What had Linda said about the car? ‘It was a great bargain, though it is a wee bit tetchy about starting. A touch temperamental, in fact.’ Sounds like Mr. Bossy here, she thought. ‘But just jolly it along a bit and it will get going.’ Well, that was something she wasn’t going to try with Mr. Bossy, though the sooner he got going the better. But she decided to try it on the car.

‘Come on now,’ she said out loud. ‘Try your best. You know you can do it.’ The engine coughed and spluttered. ‘That’s it. That’s the job. Come on, just a bit more.’

The engine caught, and she revved it up to make sure. ‘Wonderful! See, I told you that you could do it.’

She glanced round to see Mr. Bossy staring bemusedly at her. She wound down the window, gave him a wink, and shouted, ‘No worries!’ before reversing out of the space and parking in her designated bay.

She watched as he swung the sleek, black Mercedes into the spot she’d occupied. He jumped out, clicked the lock, and hurried into the entrance of the apartments.

• • •

Ann Burnett was born in Scotland where she now lives but has travelled extensively and lived in Canada and Australia.

She has published short stories, articles and children’s stories, as well as writing a novel, Loving Mother, as part of her Masters in Creative Writing. She is an experienced Creative Writing tutor and adjudicator for the Scottish Association of Writers.

Her short stories have been published in New Writing Scotland, Glasgow University Creative Writing anthologies, My Weekly, That’s Life (Australia), Woman's Weekly and the Weekly News. Her collection of short stories, Take a Leaf out of My Book, is available on Amazon.

Her memoir, illustrated with her father's photos, A Scottish Childhood, Growing up a Baby Boomer has just been published.

But perhaps she is best remembered for writing Postman Pat stories for a children's comic every week for five years. A labour of love indeed!

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Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Available Now: Misfortune of Song by Christy Nicholas

Druid's Brooch, #5
Christy Nicholas



(99c through 8 April)
Even a soldier cannot fight love

In 12th century Ireland, all Maelan wants is to do his duty to his Chief and maintain his family’s good name. However, his granddaughter Orlagh, is hell bent on wreaking havoc, with no care for the consequences.

When Orlagh falls in love with an itinerant bard, Maelan must rule with an iron fist to keep her from running away. However, her rebellion against his strictures results in disaster and he almost loses her in the same way he lost his beloved wife.

Maelan must make some difficult decisions and bargains with the Fae to save his granddaughter’s life and future. Can he save her happiness as well?

• • •

1114 AD Ceann-Coradh, near Cill Dalua, Hibernia

“I cannot do what you ask, my chief.” Maelan kept his back stiff and his gaze forward. He couldn't bring himself to look Diarmait Ua Briain in the eye, not after the command he'd just been given. Not only did it leave a bitter taste in Maelan’s mouth, but such an act would break his code of honor as a Christian.

The chieftain stopped mid-stride. “What did you say, Maelan?”

Concentrating on the wall tapestry in the large royal chamber, Maelan remained still. “I said I cannot kill Murtough Ua Briain.”

Diarmait growled and spun, his thin frame hidden by the enormous multi-colored cloak he loved wearing. His face darkened, and he picked up a metal platter. The remains of his meal dropped to the floor as he flung the platter against the wooden walls. The harsh clang made Maelan flinch, and he did not flinch easily.

He stepped so close to Maelan their noses almost touched. Maelan could smell mead and onions on his breath. “How many winters have you been a warrior, Maelan?”

“Almost fifty winters, my chief.”

Diarmait cocked his head and raised his eyebrows. “In fifty winters’ time, you never killed anyone?”

“Of course. A warrior kills many enemies, my chief.”

“Yet you refuse to kill my enemy now.”

“You haven’t asked me to kill an enemy. You’ve asked me to kill your own brother. You do not ask for an honorable killing. You ask for a kin assassination, my chief.”

Diarmait threw his hands in the air. “Stop saying ‘my chief’ every other word, Maelan! By the power of the sun and the moon, we’ve known each other too long for such formalities. I don’t understand your reluctance. The man is a warrior just as you are. Why would you scruple to kill another warrior?”

“A warrior in battle is honorable. A helpless kinsman on his sickbed is murder.”

He spun, pacing several times as he spoke. “You and your stupid Christian morals. Why are you so blind to necessity, Maelan? When he recovers, he’ll take the tΓΊath from me again. You’ll be just as dispossessed as I if that happens.”

Maelan could think of nothing to say. Either he argued with Diarmait or betrayed his beliefs. He chose neither option.

Chief Diarmait closed his eyes and let out a weary sigh. “Time was you would do as your chief commanded, Maelan. When did you change?”

Maelan clenched his teeth against the memory of that battle —a day which still haunted him.

Diarmait crossed his arms and frowned. “Sometimes I just don’t understand you, Maelan. You are my warchief, my best warrior and one of my oldest friends. You’ve stood by me through war, raids, and celebrations. Your wife, may she rest in the Summer Lands, was my own dear cousin.”

“That is all true, my chief. Nothing changed.”

“Yet you won’t kill for me.”

Maelan swallowed. “I cannot justify such an act to my God. Such an act is dishonorable.”

“Dishonorable? How in the name of all things holy is killing dishonorable? Battle is an ancient tradition for all Gaels.”

“Not for Christians, my chief. I mean, Diarmait.”

Diarmait growled. “Codswallop! A bunch of stammering weaklings. You and my brother both love them for some unknown reason. Go, Maelan. Leave me now. Do send me someone with the skills I need. You must have one warrior in your command unweakened by your Christian morals.”

“Yes, my… yes, Diarmait.”

Maelan almost smiled, but restrained himself.

Once he safely escaped the royal rooms, he breathed a sigh of relief. It didn’t really matter who he sent in his stead. No one else would have his own advantage. Murtough Ua Briain, his own chief’s brother and rival for the Chiefdom of an Mhumhain, would live another day—unless his illness took him.

Maelan had a good group of warriors under him, with various skills and specialties. Maelan could be an excellent assassin, thanks to his magical talent, but he’d never use his magic for such a task.

As Diarmait had pointed out, not every Gaelic warrior believed secret killing was dishonest. In Gaelic culture, killing became a logical part of the constant warfare between tribes and clans. Maelan was raised, however, in a strict Christian household. His grandfather had been a priest, and such sins are unforgivable.

His chief still cleaved onto most of his pagan Gaelic beliefs, though Diarmait certainly gave lip service to the Christian God and their priests. He could hardly do less these days, with the amount of sheer power the Church now held. Many winters ago, perhaps in his great-grandfather’s time, more pagans lived, but they’d been hunted and destroyed with alarming violence. Violence wasn’t common on their own island, but crucifixions, even burnings, were not unheard of in other lands.

The violence. Despite being a warrior all his life, Maelan detested and regretted unnecessary violence. Some of his memories…

Maelan found his own room and closed the door, thankful to be out of sight. He removed his simple brat from around his shoulders and sat at the simple wooden desk.

He had work to do. The supply lists were still unfinished, and he needed to assign mentors to the new trainees. Some of those boys were barely grown. One only counted seven winters. Certainly, training a warrior young helped get them used to the feel of a spear in their hands, but seven?

Maelan’s own training had officially started at age twelve. He’d had fighter practice since he aged ten winters. He fostered to his mother’s brother, a warrior in Corcaigh, after age ten. He’d been so proud of his wooden practice sword and leather helm. He smiled at the memory, but frowned as he remembered his grandmother. She’d left the winter before his fostering, disappearing in the night. He’d only found her once, many winters later.

When he turned thirty, she’d sought him out, though he’d believed her long dead. She’d gifted him with a family heirloom, passed down for generations untold. He still held his brooch, a magical artifact which granted him the ability to stay hidden in plain sight.

He wished she’d had a similar talent. Instead, her talent almost got her killed. Did she still live somewhere? Had she managed to reinvent herself? He hoped so. He suspected, however, after she relinquished the brooch, her talent of eternal youth had faded.

After swallowing hard and chiding himself for useless nostalgia, Maelan bent to the task of finishing his work for the day.

• • •

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, 28 March 2018

Available Now: One Night in Inverness by Charlotte Howard

City Nights Series, #35
Charlotte Howard


(99c through 1 April)
In order to save their marriage, Des and Frankie decide to mix business with pleasure when they attend a literary festival in Inverness. But once they arrive, Frankie soon discovers Des's long-kept secret, and has left her questioning whether she can ever trust him again. Des isn’t the only one with secrets, and Frankie wonders if it's all worth the heartache. As the night wears on, they are both forced to face the truth about their marriage.

Can Frankie accept the truth about Des?

Can Des forgive Frankie's past?

Can one night in Inverness fix their marriage?

• • •

The sound of my husband swearing snapped me out of the mouth-watering daydream, and back into the dullness of reality. I put my book, and the sinfully delicious Nathan Mathers contained within its pages, down on the hotel bed and glared at him. “What’s happened?” I asked, trying to sound concerned and not irritated that he had ruined my fantasy.

“They want Roberta Hathaway to attend the festival,” he said, pacing the room and running his hands over his head, raking his fingers through his light brown hair, which was in desperate need of a trim, I noticed. I’d started doing that – picking up on little things about him that grated on my nerves. I gave myself a mental chastising. This was supposed to be a weekend for us to rekindle our long-lost spark. And it hadn’t been that long, after all. Some couples go years without sex. What were a few months? My stomach knotted as unwanted memories began to swim towards the surface of a very deep lake.

I grazed my teeth along my bottom lip and glanced down at the name on the cover of the book I’d been reading. “Is that a problem?”

I was secretly giddy at the prospect of finally meeting my favourite author, and didn’t understand why he was so stressed. Roberta Hathaway was a prolific, and best selling, erotic romance author. She’d achieved the top spot on numerous sought-after lists. The Sunday Times, New York Times, USA Today, Amazon… They all raved about her novels. But she was also famously reclusive.

In the ten years that Des’s company had represented her, she had never once attended a signing, festival, or book launch, leaving all the publicity down to him and his business partner, Peggy. In fact, the only time anyone saw her was when they looked at the rather dated black and white photo on the back of her books. My husband had been her agent for a decade, and I’d never met her. The idea of her finally attending a literary festival was immense! I mentally played out the conversations I’d have on the playground when the other mums found out that I had met Roberta Hathaway. They’d be insanely jealous.

I’d first discovered her through Des a few years earlier, when he’d handed me a copy of her first novel Sinfully Yours to glance over. He’d called it an Advanced Reading Copy. It hadn’t even had a front cover then, and was full of typos. It had been a good read, but hadn’t really been my thing at the time. I’d glanced over it, more than read it. Before Roberta, the most erotic thing I’d ever read was an old Jilly Cooper novel, tucked away and gathering dust in the school library when I was a teenager. It had felt naughty at the time – I was sure it had been put there by mistake. Probably a prank by one of the sixth formers. When I look back, I realise how tame it was in comparison to what I read now. Especially when compared to Roberta Hathaway. She had certainly improved since that first book I’d scanned all those years ago.

“Think of the publicity,” I said, trying to keep my tone smooth and unexcited, although I suspect he heard the eagerness seeping through my words. I wondered if that made me a sad and lonely desperate housewife. I spent my free hours lost in so-called Mummy porn, supposedly written and designed for women whose sex lives were lacklustre and boring.

Des ignored me, as he always did when I dared to make a suggestion regarding his business, and picked up his mobile. He pressed a button and held it to his ear. “Peggy? Did you get the email? Shit… Yeah, I know… I know. What the hell is she playing at? How the hell does she expect us to pull that off with no notice whatsoever?” He cast a glance at me before checking his watch. “Half an hour? Yeah, I could do that.” He hung up. “I’m really sorry, hon, but I have to go and meet with Peggy to sort this shit-storm out. Get yourself some room service or something, and I’ll make it up to you another day. I promise.” He leaned down and pressed a kiss to my forehead – more action than I’d had in weeks.

I clucked my tongue and frowned. Our trip to Inverness was supposed to combine business with pleasure; a book festival for Des to mingle at, sell some of Roberta’s new books, and make new contacts, and a dirty weekend away for the both of us to try and relight a flame that had been long extinguished. It was the first time we’d had more than a day to ourselves since our eldest son had been born, almost twelve years ago. And now I was being abandoned, yet again, so that he could go and discuss my favourite author with his business partner. So much for stoking dwindling fires. The guilt of a certain dalliance started to feel unwarranted, and the suspicions I’d been flirting with began to stain my vision once more.

• • •

British author, Charlotte Howard, was born in Oman and spent much of the first part of her life flitting between Oman, Scotland, and England. Now settled in Somerset, Charlotte lives with her husband, two children, and growing menagerie of pets.

Her career as a writer began at an early age, with a poem being featured in an anthology for the East Midlands. Since then Charlotte has written many short stories and poems, and finally wrote her first full-length piece of fiction in 2010.

During what little spare time she has, Charlotte enjoys reading and writing (of course), spending time with her family, and watching action movies whilst eating curry and drinking tea.

Charlotte is an active member of Yeovil Creative Writers Group.

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