Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Available Now: One Knight in Muiden by Elizabeth Coldwell

City Knights, #2
Elizabeth Coldwell



(99c/99p through Sunday 2 December)
Cautious of being given in marriage to a man with a reputation for coldness and cruelty, Lady Swaneke agrees to swap places with her maid, Mette for the night. In disguise, she can watch her potential husband from a distance, and learn more about him.

Count Reynold is not what Swaneke expected, and neither is his man-at-arms, Sir Alwin. What started as a simple game of deception turns to unforgettable passion as finds herself falling for the handsome, brooding knight.

What will happen if Sir Alwin discovers her true identity?

• • •

Muiden, The Netherlands, 1388

Sometimes, the nicest part of living in a castle was stepping outside its gates. For the last couple of days, high winds and heavy rain had kept Swaneke within the thick stone walls. At last, the storm had blown itself out, and she had ventured from the great hall that smelled of wood smoke, roasting meat, and dirty straw to walk in the woods and breathe clean, fresh air.

Ahead of her, Jop snuffled in the undergrowth, wagging his tail at something he’d discovered. Although her father was no longer able to hunt, he couldn’t bear to get rid of his beloved hounds, and Jop had always been his favourite.

She stopped in her tracks and turned around to look at the castle, its conical turrets silhouetted against the cloudless sky. Her home, her sanctuary, and her father’s, too. But so many things had changed since his accident, not least her father himself. He had grown increasingly shrunken and frail and had all but lost the sight in one eye. Swaneke’s heart ached for the man he had once been—tall and well built, with a booming voice that commanded the respect of everyone in Muiden. He still ruled the city, and the lands around it, and his people remained loyal to him. But for how much longer?

In the last few months, he’d grown anxious to ensure Swaneke was settled with a husband before he died. He wanted a marriage for her that would be a strategic alliance, strengthening his fading grip on power. It was no accident that Muiden Castle had been built at the mouth of the Vecht, where it flowed out into the sea surrounding North Holland. Whoever controlled the river controlled the trade route down to the great city of Utrecht. They could charge tolls and set the conditions under which merchants might pass by. Those tolls had made her father a rich man, albeit one resented by many of those who were forced to pay to travel through his fiefdom, and he didn’t want to see that wealth fall into the wrong hands.

In his mind, the ideal suitor for his daughter was Count Reynold of Utrecht. Reynold had lost his first wife to a fever before she could give him an heir, and by all accounts was keen to marry again. Even now he was on his way to Muiden to make the arrangements for the betrothal. Given the improvement in the weather, he should arrive before nightfall.

• • •

Elizabeth Coldwell is the former editor of Forum magazine in the UK and a multi-published author with writing credits for imprints including Black Lace, Headline Liaison, Xcite Books, Totally Bound and Cleis Press.

She has also worked as a senior editor for Xcite Books, winning an International Leather Award for the anthology Lipstick Lovers.

In her spare time, she’s an avid supporter of Rotherham United, and bakes the best brownies in East London.

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Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Available Now: Between Magic and Mayhem by JM Robison

The Last Wizard Series, #2
J.M. Robison


(99c through Sunday, 25 November)
Freed from his three-century-long incarceration, Zadicayn hopes to merge himself and his magic back into society. But the Church is still on the hunt to stop him, and the three families want him locked back up.

Jaicom Whaerin—whose ancestors originally incarcerated the wizard—is working in the background trying to keep Zadicayn and Brynn safe. But when his father starts suspecting him, Jaicom must also find ways to keep himself safe.

When the three families and the church both get hold of the wizard, will everything Jaicom has done be in vain?

• • •


I hang a clean sock in my window, hoping to summon the thief like Joseara promised it would.

It does. While I lay in bed the window whispers open so silently I don’t know the thief has entered until the black mass blocks out the moonlight.

“Good evening.” Joseara closes the window. “To the lucky girl getting married to the richest, most handsome man in Valemorren, I hear.”

I sit up and toss the covers off my legs, changing topics in haste with, “Zadicayn needs help recovering his amulet.” I’ve been betrothed two days so far, yet I have not decided how I should feel about that. A small voice of reason forced into a dank, dark, avoided corner of my brain says it’s not up to me how I should feel, that feelings just are and all you need to do is feel them. So, if it’s not excitement I’m feeling about this betrothal, what is it?

The thief sits at my vanity. “I’m listening.”

I fish Zadicayn’s note out of my secret box and hand it over. Her pretty eyes scan it.

“I’m going to do it,” I say. “I would ask for your help so we have more eyes I trust looking for it. And in case we have to . . . pick a lock or something.”

Joseara hands the note back. “Glad to hear our friendship is linked purely by my usefulness.” Her tone balances between sarcasm and seriousness, so I have no idea how to respond. “When?”

I wanted to see Zadicayn right after the ball, but he vanished sometime during Jaicom’s proposal to me which shows too clearly that the proposal upset Zadicayn. I have one, massive, suspicious guess why, and, I think, that is the sticky feeling in my chest occupying the space where my excitement over my betrothal should be. The note Zadicayn left: . . . I shall tarry at the edge of the roade where the animal trail takes ye to the big rock 2 days from now at moon rise. i shall be at that spot for 3 days in a row . . . prevented me from seeing him sooner.

“Can we do it right now?” I ask her.

Despite her mask, I know she’s raised one eyebrow. “That sounded like a plea.”

I know it sounded like a plea. Because my secret life with Zadicayn is screwing up my soon-to-be-new-life with Jaicom and my heart going through constant epileptic episodes over it all tears at my wall separating both. Joseara’s constant analytical gaze on my face tears it down further.

I inhale deeply to retain control. “I’m just not sure what to do with Zadicayn now that I’m betrothed to his enemy. Has my emotions kind of . . . whacked.”

“Uh huh.”

“You sound like you don’t care whether or not you meet him.”

“Oh, I want to meet the reason my family felt they needed to die for it, it’s just . . .” She blinks slowly at me and looks away. “I forget you’ve met with Zadicayn many times already and have developed a relationship I know nothing about yet, so I’m making judgments I have no business making. Will he know I’m coming along?”

I have a good guess about the judgment she’s making. My jaw locks tight when I think about setting her straight. “No. But I’ve explained to him how you helped find the pieces of the key which is what freed him. I know he won’t mind.”

“All right, we can go tonight. It’s not like I have any other illegal activities pending right now.”

I want to hug her. Instead, I rifle through my wardrobe and find my canary yellow, un-tiable dress with white bird patterns. It’s atrocious. I put it on. Minus the corset and petticoats, it hangs limply off my hips.


My voice matches narrowed eyes. “I don’t get the option of choosing what utensil to eat my bread pudding with. What makes you think I get to choose what dresses I own?”

She makes a face I see despite the mask. “At least take off your nightcap. Your brown hair doesn’t glow as badly as the white. And I suppose I can’t blame you. Sometimes I wish I could participate in society and wear nice dresses, to share dinner with family and friends, to be betrothed to a rich man. But then I look at you and think . . . bloody hell no!”

“Help me tie sheets together,” I snip, chaffed by her statement, “so I can get out of the window.”


“Unless you can teach me how to fly, I have no other way to get out of my room.”

She must have taken my tone of irritation for urgency because she climbs off the sill and tosses the blankets off my bed. I assist in tying my sheets together, and only when I’m certain I’m going to fall this time do we bless them done and throw them out the window as if tossing an anchor off a ship.

She bows elaborately to me, indicating I’m to go first.

• • •

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, 14 November 2018

Available Now: Slaughtered by KA Lugo

A Jack Slaughter Thriller
K.A. Lugo



99c through 16 October
The Texter

Fallen homicide detective, Jack Slaughter, closes the door on the home where his perfect family has been brutally snatched from him. Moving across the city, he works as a private investigator to fund his own investigation into what happened to his family—who killed his little girl, Zoë, and where is his wife, Leah?

Every three month for the last three years, Jack receives a simple text telling him where he can find his missing wife. There’s a body at each location, but none of them are Leah.

Jack hates missing person’s cases, but they’re his bread and butter. He only takes the case to find Carl Boyd's missing wife because the details of her disappearance closely match Leah’s. He hopes by finding Bonnie Boyd, he'll find his own wife.

The Butcher

Following the leads in the Bonnie Boyd case, Jack discovers someone has been killing women all over the city for the last three years, a fact Jack’s ex-partner and still best friend, Ray Navarro, has neglected to tell him. The city has a serial killer and officials haven’t been able to find a single lead on the person they’ve dubbed The Butcher.

Could Bonnie Boyd’s disappearance be linked to The Butcher? More important, was Leah one of The Butcher’s victims? Could he have gone so far as to murder a child? With every clue Jack weaves together, his own life unravels even more.

• • •

San Francisco, California


“Is it her? Is it Leah?”

Jack Slaughter’s heart hammered a hole in his chest as he watched the rail-thin form of the newly-made detective, Paul Travers, stride toward him. If he could read the man’s expression and body language, Travers seemed more amused by Jack’s presence than annoyed.

When Jack started lifting the crime scene tape to duck under it, Travers pushed him back with a firm hand on his shoulder.

“You gotta stop turning up like this, Jackie.” Travers’ flippant voice grated on Jack, almost as much as the man’s ruddy complexion and brassy hair. His voice edged on being just a bit too high and too nasal to want to listen to for long. Jack didn’t know how his best friend and former partner, Ray Navarro, could stand it.

With a hand still on his shoulder, Travers nudged Jack back. He made a shooing motion with his other hand. “Why don’t you just go on home and let the professionals do their jobs?”

Travers’ condescending tone made Jack want to punch him in the throat.

“Where’s Ray?” He followed Travers’ gaze over the man’s shoulder and saw Ray standing over the victim’s body several yards away. It appeared to have been positioned at the foot of a tall pine at the dead-end of the road. “I want to talk to him.”

Travers caught his gaze and looked back. “Go home, Jackie. You don’t belong here.” He emphasized the word you. They both knew why Jack was no longer Ray’s partner, nor on the force.

Ignoring the little pissant, Jack shouted over the man’s shoulder. “Ray!” His friend looked up and gave a quick wave to acknowledge he’d seen Jack. He finished up with a CSI, then made his way over.

“What are you doing here, Jack?” When Ray reached up to shake hands, Jack palmed his cell phone into Ray’s.

“I told him to go home . . . partner.”

In Jack’s opinion, Travers seemed to take every opportunity to rub it in that he now occupied Jack’s former position. It didn’t escape his notice that Ray also cringed at the word partner. Jack knew his leaving the force had been a blow to his friend too.

He gazed directly into Ray’s eyes, trying to keep the anxiety he felt from his voice. “I got another one.”

“Jack—” Ray sighed, gazing down at the phone’s screen to the open text—Spreckels Lake.

Since the very first text he’d received—You’ll find your wife in the Panhandle—there had never been anything more than the next location. The texts came every three months, as if on schedule. Every one of them led Jack to a body, but none of them were Leah. If the texter was trying to drive him crazy, it was working. But he couldn’t risk that the guy was crying wolf. Even after three years, Jack still showed up . . . just in case.

Ray handed back the phone then threw his hands onto his hips. Jack could almost hear the gears working in his friend’s head as he gazed around Spreckels Lake with obvious concentration.

This was a beautiful location. Jack remembered bringing his family here, but pushed the memory from his mind. He gazed away from the water, trying to breathe. He knew the answer, but he had to ask it anyway. “Is it her?” Even he heard the waver in his voice.

“You gotta let me do my job, man. You gotta trust me. If this was Leah, you know I’d tell you.”

“I know, but—”

“No buts, Jackie,” Travers cut in, edging up closer to him as if posturing. “You’re not a cop anymore. You don’t belong here. Go home.”

Jack starred at Travers with a look he hoped said, go ahead and touch me again, pissant, I dare you. He must have got his point across because Travers hesitated before stepping away, his back noticeably erect.

“I’m sorry. Paul’s right. You don’t need to be here. It’s not her.” Ray’s voice remained calm. Jack knew the tone, as he often used it to try defusing situations with suspects and distraught families.

“You’re just a distraction, Jackie.”

“Paul!” Ray’s warning tone made Travers jump, as it did those around them.

In his heart, Jack knew when a victim’s family turned up on a crime scene, or tried insinuating themselves into an investigation, it only disrupted the process. More times than he could count, the time he’d spent dealing with the family would have been better served on the investigation.

Jack shrank away from the crime scene tape, his energy evaporating. “You’re right, Ray. I’m sorry. I just can’t risk that the one time I don’t respond to the text, it really will be Leah.”

“I know, Jack. I know.” Ray put his hand on Jack’s shoulder this time, drawing Jack’s attention. “But this isn’t her. Go ho—” Ray stopped short, both knowing Jack hadn’t been home since that night three years ago. “Go back to your place. I’ll stop by after my shift. We’ll talk then, okay?”

Jack looked past Ray’s shoulder to the lifeless body. He watched as technicians carefully placed a protective tarp over the victim, telling him the CSIs had retrieved all the scene evidence they needed and now waited for the coroner’s removal.

Dumping the body at the lake had been a bold move. Even at this dead-end in the road, Golden Gate Park attracted a huge number of people, homeless and visitors alike. Someone had to have seen something.

“Can you use an extra hand?”

“Sorry, Jack. You know I can’t. I gotta get back. I’ll see you later, at your place.”

“Don’t bother.” Jack didn’t have to look back to know Ray watched to make sure he was leaving.

From behind him, he heard Travers ask, “What’s with that guy?”

“Lay off, Paul,” Ray said. “You’d react the same way if your daughter had been murdered and your wife was still missing.”

• • •

K.A Lugo is a native of Northern California who grew up on the Central Coast, with San Francisco just a stone's throw away. Llike most writers, Kem has been writing from a young age, sampling many genres before falling into thrillers, mystery, and suspense.

Kem. loves hearing from readers and promises to reply to each message. Please visit Kem's socials to stay up-to-date on this exciting new series.

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Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Available Now: Saving Maggie by Glenys O'Connell

Maggie is just the sort of person Detective Joshua Tyler hates the most. He’s been hounded by reporters and fake psychics for two years, since his emotionally disturbed wife disappeared. When he meets Maggie, he can’t help being attracted to her, but becomes distrustful when she claims to have a message from his wife.

Her ability incites a serial killer to play games with her; he sends her an invitation in a pink envelope every time he kills, daring her to find his victims. The killer believes Maggie is that one special person he’s been searching for—someone who can read his mind. And only her death can bind them together forever.

When the body of brutally murdered victim is identified as a reporter who wants to write a "Whatever Happened To..." piece about her, Maggie’s name jumps to the top of the suspect list.

How can she make Tyler believe her when he discovers her entire identity is a lie?

Will finding his wife prove once and for all that she’s who she claims to be, and innocent of murder?

And will he join her in a race against an experienced and determined killer if he’s to save her life?

• • •

The woman in the sexy little red convertible looked perky from behind. Her glossy long hair was pulled up in a careless pony tail and swayed from side to side like a cobra charmed by an Indian flute, as she bopped to the music from the car radio.

Even at a car's length away, the driver behind her thought this was the sort of hair a man could run his fingers through and grasp playfully… He wished now he was piloting his own expensive roadster, rather than the sedate brown sedan he'd rented especially for this trip. His own car was the sort that would impress the kind of girl who drove a bright red convertible with the top down on a windy spring day.

He imagined himself overtaking her, seeing her look over at him, her eyes widening in admiration as she took in his expensive ride and wealthy, groomed good looks.

Then she'd remember him and smile…

He gunned the accelerator, and with a disdainful purr the rental spurted forward, pulling alongside her. He glanced over, hoping to catch her eye. But she stared straight ahead, singing along to some mindless muzak and oblivious to his look of longing.

He didn't matter to her. She didn't remember. She didn't smile.

Irritated now, he jabbed the accelerator and zoomed past her. He knew that soon they'd meet again.

Then he'd refresh her memory.

* * *

Maggie Kendall was just leaving Fried Heaven, two cups of the café’s delicious coffee balanced in her hands, when a tall, dark-haired stranger pushed open the door so suddenly that it caught her and hot coffee sloshed wetly down the front of her white silk shirt.

“I am so sorry!” His handsome face flushed with embarrassment as he grabbed a wad of paper napkins from a dispenser on the nearest table and began to mop at the spill. His touch on her upper breasts was electric—it sizzled all the way down to her toes, leaving her breathless.

Brushing his hands away, she snapped, “It's okay, really, I'm fine. My office is just across the road and I can clean up there.”

The man snatched back his hand as he realised the inappropriate intimacy of his touch. Blushing, he jammed the offending hands into his suit pants pockets. “I—at least let me pay for your dry cleaning,” he stammered, but Maggie was already halfway out the door.

“It's nothing, don’t worry about it,” she muttered, avoiding his gaze. A second later, she was gone.

* * *

Josh Tyler blinked, staring as the door slammed behind her. He'd been intent on cleaning up the spilled coffee mess and had acted without thinking. Now his fingers telegraphed the sensation of the warm, soft femininity, and his embarrassment deepened. He hadn't felt this awkward since high school.

“Don't pay any attention to her,” a plump teenager behind the counter said. “That's Maggie Kendall, she's from the city.” She made the words sound like an accusation rather than a statement, and Tyler bit back a smile.

“Now, Alicia, Ms. Kendall's a nice enough woman and she's worked wonders with The Gazette since she bought out old Dan Warrington,” an older woman sitting by the electronic till said in a warning voice.

“Yes, but she's strange. People say she sees things…like, a second sight.”

“Alicia! That's enough. Now, serve the gentleman and then get back into the kitchen and help Sam with the clean-up.”

Tyler wanted to ask more questions but was pretty sure the eagle-eyed cashier would slap him down, so he ordered coffee and a Danish to go, paid, and left the store.

Outside on the broad sidewalk, his eye was caught by the large sign on one of the offices across the road: The Woeful Creek Gazette. Maggie Kendall was an attractive woman, even if maybe a bit highly strung. But he'd no wish to get close to any member of the Press—and certainly not to someone with a reputation for 'seeing things'.

Reporters and psychics were, in his experience, about equal in the charlatan stakes.

• • •

Picture of Glenys O'Connell
Glenys O'Connell writes romantic suspense and comedy. She became interested in crime & criminal psychology when covering the crime beat as a journalist for a large daily newspaper. This led to a degree in psychology and qualifications as a counselor - but writing is her first love and she says romantic suspense satisfies her cravings for both romance and crime! She is also the author of two books on mental health issues, several childrens’ books, and is an award winning playwright. She was born in Lancashire, England, and has lived and worked in the UK, Ireland, and currently in rural Canada.

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Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Available Now: Goetia by Sam Poling

The Oldenrai Archives, #2
Sam Poling



99c through Sunday, 4 November
After imposing a controversial quarantine, Adelstadt Mayoress Mirabel Fairfax finds herself in the crosshairs with vengeful highwaymen. When they target her family and the vital shipments her village desperately needs, she turns to witchcraft to restore order herself. But something is wrong: her magic becomes unreliable, and monstrous images torment her mind's eye.

When gruesome murders terrorize Adelstadt, she suspects the highwaymen have turned to the occult, allying with a demonic entity. A Goetia. The hallucinations become all-too-real, and Mirabel must rely on her cunning, wrath, and what few friends she has left if she hopes to rescue her valley, her beloved, and her mind.

Felix Fairfax does the best he can as the husband of a controversial mayoress witch, but his life is once again turned into a fight for survival when he’s kidnapped by the highwaymen. They force him to help investigate his wife’s hidden lair, where they become trapped with creatures of unspeakable horror. Whatever Mirabel had locked away hunts indiscriminately—it hunts him—and if it gets out, plagues and highwaymen won’t be Adelstadt’s problems any longer.

• • •

Mirabel’s boots clicked down a stone, spiral stairway, blowing past the half-melted candles lining the steps. The candles provided the only light, at times leaving her to fumble for footing on the disrepair of the steps. The descent into darkness went on longer than she’d ever recalled experiencing before. What a time for metaphysical nonsense. An echo of raspy, hollow screams chased her, reverberating within the stairwell, challenging her to keep up speed.

She stumbled off the final steps, at last on the ground floor, and clawed her wild, deep red hair from her face. Archaic, religious candle racks illuminated the chamber. Nothing had changed down here. At least, not yet.

She sped past rows of dilapidated tables and pews, reached a laboratory-style workbench, and threw her arms against a stack of journals, scattering the research. Upon snaring a specific handful of pages, she sprinted for the tower entrance.

A bony tusk punched through a nearby wall, knocking candles from their altar. They struck silver offering plates on the floor, crashing like cymbals. Mirabel leaped back, one hand clutching her research against her body, the other gripping the handle of her rapier.

Black, viscous slime poured from the hole around the horn, crept over the altar, and dripped onto the floor. Small, misshapen hands sprouted from the goop like blooming black-fingered flowers, grasping at the stone tiles. A reek like sweet, rotting fruit flooded the air.

She closed her gaping mouth, turned away, and continued running down the hall. Her burned-orange cape fluttered and whipped, a nuisance, rescinding its value.

The entire tower quaked, followed by more disembodied shrieking. A spiny, gray tentacle as thick as a branch smashed through the wall ahead in a deafening boom, lashing and twisting like an eel out of water. She drew her rapier and severed the tip with the sharpened, distal edge of her weapon. The piece of otherworldly flesh fell away, but several more tentacles punched through imperfections in the surrounding walls, blocking her path. Each unique arm contorted at varied rates, some more aggressive than others.

Still holding her sword, she extended her arm and channeled magic through it with a rush of heat. Upon releasing her focus, the heat fled her body and flames burst in front of her, engulfing the tentacles and transforming them into crackling ash.

Vertigo crashed over her in waves as penalty for her sudden, great expenditure of soul energy. With inhuman moans drifting on the air, she shook off her fatigue and proceeded to the iron double doors ahead, ramming her shoulder against them. They opened a crack, blasting her face with freezing air from outside.

She pushed against the door, and it ground open, scraping through a layer of fresh snow. She slipped her thin frame through, dropped her research and rapier, and shoved the door closed.


She spun and straightened her posture. “Under no circumstances is anyone to approach the tower.”

Two guardsmen clad in vermillion red, double-breasted uniforms stood at the base of the tower steps, shoulders dusted with snow. They possessed several weapons: muskets with bayonets, sabers, and crossbow pistols. All useless.

“Aye,” said the leading guard. “We thought we heard some rumbling from our post. Another quake?”

She knelt, sheathing her rapier and collecting her papers. And then she saw the ooze. Not much, but strands of it slithered under the door. She backed away and marched down the steps.


“Excuse me, Mayoress?”

She stopped between the guards and faced the shift lead. “Evacuate. It’s a simple concept. Do it now.”

“Evacuate what? Ironsnow?”

“Yes, the entire hamlet. Get everyone to Adelstadt at once.” She looked past him at dozens of wood-framed homes at the base of the tower’s hill, billowing smoke from their chimneys. “No one goes near the tower. Get everyone out now.”

The other guard spoke. “But why? Minor quakes happen all the time. My family lives here.”

The three marched down the hill. Mirabel said nothing.


“Miasma. I’ve discovered the tower is the source of plague-infested miasma. Likely the cause of other outbreaks around Adelstadt. Deadly strains. None can reside here any longer. I’m sorry.”

“Tordin’s mercy,” said the guard. “I’ll have my family pack right away.”

“Nay. Full evacuation. Immediately. Have the citizens take only what they can carry on their way out.”

“It’s that urgent?”

“I am the Mayoress and a syndicate-certified disease specialist. You think I give this order lightly?”

“Of course not, Mayoress Fairfax,” said the lead guard. “We’ll get everyone out within the hour.”

“Faster if you are able. Much faster.”

• • •

Sam Poling has been writing fantasy and science fiction for the thrill of it his entire life, from short stories to screenplays. His love for each of the subgenres led to dedication to writing genre-skirting fiction with all the elements that make up the human condition. He holds a strong enthusiasm for medical studies and currently works as a medical assistant in a large clinic while taking classing for nursing. He also serves on a health and safety committee, including disaster preparedness and infection control. His interest in epidemiology and medical science tends to spill over into his writing endeavors.

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Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Available Now: One Knight in Stirling by Kate Robbins

Sir William MacPherson is honoured by the queen mother's invitation to protect her from her enemies. The only catch: he must reside at Stirling Castle where he will encounter Coira MacLaren; the one woman who can bring him to his knees and keep him there. Her refusal of his marriage proposal a year ago hit him hard and he has not seen her since. Can he harden himself against her, or will their insatiable lust for one another burn them to cinders this time?

• • •

Stirling, September, 1438

William MacPherson galloped hard toward Stirling Castle with the missive he’d received still crumpled in his hand. Christ. After all this time, why did it have to come now? A year ago, even two, he would have been thrilled with the news, but now the offer filled him with trepidation. Still, as a knight and member of the king’s guard, he could hardly refuse his queen.

Riding across the flat expanse with the blooming, heather-splashed mountains on his right, his heartbeat picked up once Stirling Castle came into view. Jutting up from the flat land all around it, the craggy rock on which the castle was built commanded attention and obedience. Those who had erected it long ago gave strategic thought to it as a vantage point. Soon, William would employ that same strategy without and within its stone walls.

He’d worked hard to earn his place among the guard and this opportunity was to be his reward. And rightly so. He’d been loyal to the Stewarts all through the Highland upheavals and constant challenges among the various chiefs. Long ago, he’d sought the counsel of James MacIntosh, Earl of Moray, and his advice had been sound. Stand with the Stewarts and you will be rewarded.

But then the king was assassinated. The Highland nobles had had enough. King James Stewart, first of his name, was betrayed. He hid in the sewers, leaving his queen and her ladies to fend for themselves, and was then stabbed to death once found. The queen barely escaped with her life, but that did not curb her thirst for revenge. It was a nasty business. For a time, William wondered what would become of the dynasty the Stewarts had fought hard to forge. But prevail they had. The eight-year-old King James, second of his name, now resided at Stirling Castle with the queen mother and his other siblings, and stewardship of the country had fallen to the Earl of Douglas until the king came of age.

But neither the view nor the prospect of becoming personal guard to the widowed queen was the cause of William’s apprehension.

Coira MacLaren.

Images of her heavy breasts and full hips flooded his mind, making him squirm in his saddle. Try as he might, he could not get that woman out of his head. By his estimation, he shouldn’t have to. She was his and no one, not even she, could deny it. But she had refused his proposal of marriage. That was a year ago, and she’d not left his thoughts either day or night since. From her silky black hair and crystal-blue eyes to her dainty feet, William had explored every inch of her body and knew every curve. God, how he ached to drive his cock into her one more time.

But he would resist. He’d wanted to spend the rest of his life with her and could not stand by knowing she would not have him. A wonderful lover, she’d called him. And then she tore his heart to shreds by refusing him.

Damned woman.

As one of the queen mother’s personal maids, she would be present and he would no doubt see her, though hopefully not often. He’d steel his heart against her—if only he could restrain his lust.

William rode into the courtyard and dismounted. He tossed the horse’s reins at a stable hand then made his way to the great hall. A page met him in the doorway. He took the missive and went straight to the stairs away from the hall, straight toward the queen mother’s lodgings.

William entered the long hall to await her grace. Once inside, he poured himself a goblet of ale from a sideboard and stood by the window, gazing out over the courtyard. Dozens of ladies had gathered to watch some noblemen spar with wooden swords; their manner was much like a dance. William was certain they’d topple over if they ever held a real broadsword. How dainty they were in their hose and doublets.

He smirked. Mayhap a spar could help him temper his ache for Coira. After his meeting, he’d seek out his brother, Thomas, and work off some of his frustration.

“You came straight away.”

• • •

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, 17 October 2018

Available Now in Audio: Promised to the Highlander by Kate Robbins

Nessia Stephenson's world was safe until a threat from a neighbouring clan forces her to accept a betrothal to a man whose family can offer her the protection she needs. The real threat lies in her intense attraction to the man who arranged the match—the clan's chief and her intended’s brother, Fergus MacKay.

When powerful warlord Fergus MacKay arranges a marriage for his younger brother, William, he has no idea the price will be his own heart. Fergus is captivated by the wildly beautiful Nessia, a woman he can never have.

When the feud between the MacKay and Sutherland clans escalates, Nessia, William, and Fergus all must make sacrifices for their future. Longing and loss, honour and duty. How can love triumph under such desperate circumstances?

• • •

“For a man who isn’t eager to meet his future wife, you’ve got quite a set of nerves there lad,” Fergus said to William.

William straightened his linen shirt and smoothed his tunic as he glared at Fergus. Yet, the comment was absorbed and William ceased his pacing to sit on a chair near the fire. Fergus watched his brother adjust his belt again. The young man wore his usual dress but had taken greater pains today to perfect his appearance. Fergus glanced down at his linen shirt and sleeveless leather tunic. William’s long hair was tied at his nape while Fergus’s was left hanging loose. He recalled having to take extra pains upon his betrothal. Thankfully those days had passed and he needn’t worry overly anymore. A young lass would surely find William’s neat, respectable appearance appealing. He hoped so, but before he could dwell on it further, a servant entered and announced the arrival of Thomas Stephenson, his daughter Nessia and several of their clansmen.

William sprang to his feet and crossed the floor in a few quick strides to greet them. He continued to fidget as Fergus sauntered up from behind.

“Thomas! Welcome. We thought we’d have to send out a search party soon,” Fergus said as the stout man turned the corner leading into the great hall.

“Aye, the road was a bit rough with a wagon in tow,” Thomas said. The man’s brow was streaked with sweat and he looked weary from his travels.

“We’ve had a lot of rains this harvest there’s no doubting that,” Fergus said.

In truth he would have gone searching himself had another hour passed. Earlier that day he’d heard more rumours about Ronan Sutherland. Apparently, the lad had agreed to his father’s suggestion and would commence his campaign in the coming days. Fergus sensed William stiffen beside him as Thomas began the introductions.

“Fergus, William, this is my brother Neville and these three are my sons, Colin, Robert, and Camden my youngest. And this is my daughter, Nessia.”

Fergus acknowledged each man in turn. When the introduction came to the girl and his gaze fell on her, his breath caught in his throat. With black hair and bright blue eyes she stood proud before him with her chin lifted and all the regal confidence of a noblewoman. She displayed no fear or reservation at all, something which was unusual in most men he met, but more so in a woman. The gentler sex usually cowered before him—not this lass.

Fergus stared at the girl, his heart drumming. His guts clenched as if he’d been punched. He had to force himself from moving toward her to touch her hair which looked like spun silk, for surely it could not be real. Fergus remembered his brother then and tore his gaze from her to find William’s eyes wide and his jaw slacked. An unexpected pang ran through him.

When he turned back it was to find her still staring at him, seemingly unabashed for staring openly at a man. A bold one, then. Fergus’s drew his brows together. What did she want?

• • •

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, 26 September 2018

Available Now: Murder in Retreat by Noreen Wainwright

Edith Horton Mysteries, #5
Noreen Wainwright



99c through 30 Sept
After settling in to married life in Ellbeck. Edith is happy when Henry goes on retreat to Staffordshire, knowing that spiritual renewal is an essential part of a busy vicar’s life. However, after meeting fellow priests, Henry soon realizes most have their own secrets and deep troubles to reflect upon. His sense of unease is vindicated when he discovers there is a murderer in St. Chad’s House, and he is reluctantly drawn into the mystery.

At home, Edith is plunged into a crisis when the son of her housekeeper, and friend, disappears. A figure from the past has been in contact with the boy, and both women fear for his safety. Adding to Edith’s distress, she worries about Henry and is unable to dismiss the deep concern she feels about him and what is happening at St. Chad’s.

Will Edith and Henry's involvement in the troubles affect their relationship? Can they survive the seemingly endless struggles and find their way back to each other?

• • •

July 1937

My Dear Edith,

The first thing to say is that I am missing you terribly and questioning my sanity in putting such distance between us so soon into our marriage. I hope all is well in Ellbeck. I am missing the village too, my parishioners, Julia and Peter, Archie and Hannah; oh, everybody. You, most of all, my dear Edith. One good thing has come out of my retreat (apart from, I hope, some spiritual reinvigoration); it has reminded me of what I have. My life was good and fulfilling before but it has been blessed so much more for having you in it.

I’d better give you a brief account of life here at St Chad’s. The house is four miles outside of Lichfield, so almost striking distance of the great Cathedral. I don’t know if you’ve been to Lichfield Cathedral, dark and Gothic and towering on the outside, inside warmer, filled with wood, lots of wood, and marble and everywhere you look, signs of the craftsmanship of those previous centuries, where today’s mechanisation wasn’t even a dream but I suppose labour was freely available and boys spent years in apprenticeship to stone-masons and carpenters.

It reminded me, funnily enough, of our trip to Whitby, last month, when we said much the same thing about the abbey there.

There are eight of us on the retreat and we remain silent during the day apart from when we take part in services. After supper at six, we have the opportunity to socialise.

I will tell you about the two characters who interest me most. The first is a young curate, Roland Weston. He makes me feel old and dull, Edith. I like him but he has the light of the zealot in his eyes and he can be rather hard work, at times. He works amongst the poor of Birmingham and I think he must feel that the rest of us are little more than Anglican parasites, lolling about conducting a few services here and there and opening village fetes. I suppose he has a point. However, I am little more tolerant of his youth and idealism than some of the others are, especially, Stephen Bird, a chap about my own age who had a bad war and has woken us up on one occasion with his night terrors. Poor chap. He was telling me that this is now an unusual occurrence and that he was treated most successfully by a nerve specialist based in Edinburgh. He is a vicar in a small church in Scotland and I would imagine, has found his niche after some difficult years. He does not always have a great tolerance of young Roland’s sermonising. I hope I have acted the peacemaker.

There is a very good-looking chap, by the name of David Fallon—the type women find attractive. I haven’t taken to him and that’s nothing to do with his looks. There are two chaps from Derbyshire with whom I have exchanged no more than a few sentences. Then there is the elderly Canon Richardson and I’ll tell you more about him when I next write.

I look forward to hearing from you and I will write again tomorrow. Thankfully, we have our own small bedrooms and it is a pleasure actually, to escape here for an hour and write to you.

With much love to you, Edith,


* * *


Edith folded the letter and put it into the envelope. She’d read it again, later. She hadn’t known what this would be like, their first time apart in almost a year of marriage. Missing Henry had swept in and surprised her. More than surprised. Wasn’t it strange, how you could change from a fairly self-sufficient person to one who felt unsettled without another being close? If they weren’t careful, they were in danger of turning into one of those smug couples who made others feel uncomfortable, those on their own, principally. No, she wouldn’t get like that because she had been on the outside looking in on those couples herself, for a long time.

“Lemonade,” Hannah put the tray down on the gate-legged, white trellis table.

“Thank you, Hannah. I’m glad you brought two glasses. Take the weight off your feet, for a minute and tell me again about John’s scholarship and Cathy’s teacher training.”

Hannah looked at her and frowned. “I will but I would have thought you’re far more taken up with what the doctor is planning to do, to be worrying about my two.” Hannah often mentioned her other employer, Edith’s brother Archie’s plans. Come to think of it, it must be unsettling for her not knowing whether she was going to lose part of her income. She had remained as Archie’s housekeeper also, when Edith had married Henry and moved across to the vicarage.

“I am, taken up with it, of course I am. But, maybe I need a bit of distraction. Maybe the build up to his leaving has gone on too long, you know, prolonging the agony.”

She was right. It was over a year since Archie had first brought up his plan of going to Canada. There were periods of time in the past twelve months when he had stopped talking about it and they all wondered if he was having second thoughts.

He’d been present at two weddings in that period, she and Henry and Julia and Peter. Julia…there was a time when it looked like she and Archie might end up together. But, that wasn’t destined to happen. If you took one look at Julia and Peter together now, it was clear that destiny, on this occasion, knew what she was doing.

“Cathy qualifies as a properly trained teacher in the not-too-distant future and she is keen to move, you know, Miss Horton…” Hannah put her hand over her mouth and smiled. “Sorry, Edith. I mean. she wants to work in a city school, if you please. Make a difference. I can’t fault her, I suppose but I’m going to miss her dreadfully.”

She put her glass to her lips, a shadow of sadness crossing her face, just for a second. Blink and you’d miss it.

“You’ll have John for a while longer though.”

Hannah smiled and chased away the shadows.

“I will. John won’t be going anywhere for at least the next year.”

• • •

Noreen is Irish and now lives in the Staffordshire Moorlands with her husband, a dairy farmer. She works part-time as a mentor at Staffordshire University and the rest of her time is spent writing. Many of her articles and short stories have been published and she has co-written a non-fiction book.

She loves crime fiction, particularly that of the “golden age” and that is what she wants to recreate with Edith Horton’s world.

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Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Available Now: The Dane Law by Garth Pettersen

The Atheling Chronicles, #2
Garth Pettersen



99c through Sunday, 30 September
After a peaceful year running their Frisian estate, Harald and Selia are called to Engla-lond.

Their return is marked by violence and intrigue. The king has vowed to Queen Emma that their son, Harthacnute, will inherit the throne, but the atheling is cruel and reckless. Many view Harald as the better choice, which makes him a target for the unseen supporters of his half-brother. King Cnute urges Harald to be prepared to assume the throne should Harthacnute prove inadequate. Harald resists being swept up by forces beyond his control, but doubts he will survive the reign of King Hartha.

And what of his older brother, Sweyn?

• • •

A.D. 1016, Sussax, Engla-lond

With the sun near setting, eventide mists rose and thickened, obscuring the way through the lowland. Bracken caressed their leggings and bramble thorns snagged their sleeves, as the five warriors sought to retrace their steps. No footprint appeared in the soft earth, no broken branch hung as marker.

“If we could find a stream,” one of Jarl Ulf’s men said, “‘twould lead us back to the shore.”

“If we were ravens we could fly there. Have you seen a cursed stream?” The jarl barely kept his anger in check. It had been his decision to lead the scouting mission––there was no other to blame. The big Dane took a deep breath. He raised an arm. “Hold up.”

His four companions stopped. Each man supported a round wooden shield on his left arm and carried an iron-tipped spear. Thick beards masked resolute faces. Unwashed tresses spilled from unadorned dome helmets crafted with eye and nose protection. Only Jarl Ulf bore a battle-æx at his waist.

“Darkness falls and the mists deepen,” the chieftain said. “We’ll do as when a fog enwraps us at sea––we’ll wait. In the morning light we’ll find our way back to the ships.”

From somewhere in the wood, the bark of a dog broke the stillness.

The Danes stood motionless, all knowing a yelping dog meant men not far off. The barking sounded again, closer.

“Spread yourselves and move with me,” Ulf commanded in a low voice, and immediately his men spaced themselves and moved into position. They advanced through the dark weald toward the cur-dog, the cool mist dampening their faces. Practiced in stealth, the Danes made little noise in their passing. The dog continued to proclaim his location and the Danish line curved and closed.

The cur’s bark changed to a low growl.

Spears lifted, and the warriors stood ready.

A piercing whistle penetrated the cold night air and the dog’s growls ceased. There was a scuffling of paws on leafmold and the attackers knew their prey had withdrawn.

On high alert, Ulf’s men waited for his command.

“Press on,” Ulf said, his voice no more than a grunt.

They passed farther into the dense woodland, keeping a steady and silent pace.

Appearing at first like a flickering eye haloed in the white vapors, the campfire blinked through the trees and vines. Drawing nearer, Ulf and his men perceived a lone figure sitting before the fire, stroking a large black-brindle dog that took to growling as they approached.

“Steady, Æadwulf,” said the dog’s master. The cur ceased its low, rumbling growl, and dropped to an at rest position. It watched the newcomers arrive, still ready to attack if so commanded.

“The night is cold,” the youth called out in poor Danish. “Come to my fire. My hand is empty.” And to signify, he lifted his arm, showing the palm of his hand.

Ulf stepped first from the dark of the night into the fire’s light. The swain rose to his feet, hand still raised. Ulf assessed the younger man: short-bearded, tall and solidly built, dressed for hunting rather than fashion, in tunic and braies. Though outnumbered, he stood his ground and met Ulf’s gaze without faltering. The arm came down, but the hand remained open.

“You are alone?” Ulf asked.

A nod in response.

Ulf motioned for his men to search the surrounding wood. He returned the battle-æx to his waistband and raised his hands to the heat of the fire.

“You could have taken your wolf-dog and run from us,” he said. “Why didn’t you?”

His host pondered the Danish words; then said in a mix of Saxon German and Danish, “I was curious as to who besides me would be in this wood at night. And I am not partial to running and hiding.”

Jarl Ulf gave a short laugh. “Perhaps not a wise decision, but one I can agree with. What are you called?”

“Godwin I am named. My father is thegn here.” The young man bent to stroke the dog, who began to settle.

“Why do you tend a fire here on this night?”

“For the pleasure of Æadwulf’s company and the taste of the mist. The dog likes to hunt at night. I listen to him and the night sounds. Is that strange to you?”

“Uncommon, perhaps,” Ulf replied, “not strange. Tell me, do you not take us for your enemy, invaders of your homeland?”

“There are many who wish to rule Sussax, and many high-born who switch allegiances. Since King Æthelred the Ill-advised died, it is unknown who will rule, be it Edmund Ironsides or your Cnute. Or perhaps they will divide up the rule. I wish to live and thrive––with the victor.”

Behind his beard, Ulf smiled. “And if you choose wrongly?”

“That would be unfortunate. Therefore, I put off choosing ‘til I must.”

“And your father, which way does he lean?”

“Toward Edmund Ironsides. But I am not my father.”

Ulf bellowed out a laugh. “You please me, young Godwin. You have spirit, and I can’t fault your wits.”

Ulf watched his men return to the fire, having found no one in the wood.

“Perhaps,” Ulf said, “we can be of service to each other this dark night.” Godwin watched the Viking chieftain but said nothing. “My men and I have been floundering in your forest like fish on a shoal. You could guide us back to our ships, no doubt.”

Godwin eyed Ulf as if he were bargaining for a favored weapon. “And how would you do me service?”

“Why, by not attacking this part of Sussax. And by leaving your head upon your shoulders!”

The Vikings all joined Ulf in the laughing. When the din died down, Godwin looked round at the armed warriors and said, “Then it would please me greatly to guide you to your ships.”

“Good lad. I am Ulf, jarl to Cnute, King of Danmark.” The Dane offered his open hand to Godwin.

The young Saxon took the extended hand and clasped it.

“When Cnute is King of Engla-lond, come find me at court.”

The fire’s light shone on the young Saxon’s slight smile and danced in the glister of his eyes.

Godwin looked up at Jarl Ulf. And nodded.

• • •

Garth Pettersen's short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies, and in journals such as Blank Spaces, The Spadina Literary Review, and The Opening Line Literary 'Zine. His story River's Rising was awarded an Honourable Mention for the Short Story America 2017 Prize, and his fantasy novella, River Born, was one of two runners-up in the Wundor Editions (UK) Short Fiction Prize. The Swan's Road is his debut novel. He is a Canadian writer who lives with his wife on a farm in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, British Columbia. When he's not writing, he's riding horses and working with young, disabled riders.

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Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Available Now: River of Shame by Susan Clayton-Goldner

A Winston Radhauser Mystery, #4
Susan Clayton-Goldner



99c through Sunday, 16 Sept
Something evil has taken root in Ashland, Oregon. And with it, an uneasy feeling sweeps down on Detective Winston Radhauser. If someone doesn’t intervene, that evil will continue to multiply until the unthinkable happens.

While on vacation with his wife and their newborn son, Detective Radhauser receives a call from Captain Murphy—a high school kid has been branded with a homophobic slur and is hospitalized in Ashland, a small town known for, and proud of, its diversity. And this is only the beginning. White supremacy, homophobia and racism are one thing. But murder is something else.

Radhauser will do whatever it takes to find the perpetrators and restore his town’s sense of safety. With such hostile opposition, can he succeed, and will justice be done?

• • •

Wednesday, January 12, 2000

Something evil had taken root in Ashland, Oregon. And with it, an uneasy feeling grabbed hold of Detective Winston Radhauser and wouldn’t let him go. If someone didn’t intervene, that evil would continue to multiply until the unthinkable happened.

He stood inside the twelve-by-twelve-foot stall of Mercedes, his wife’s mare, and dug his manure fork into the sawdust. Trying to ignore his uneasiness, he reminded himself he was on vacation. The only job he needed to worry about today was keeping his wife, Gracie, happy. And helping out with four-year-old Lizzie and their newborn son. But that didn’t change one basic fact. Radhauser was restless and eager to return to work.

From the juniper bushes on either side of the double barn doors, a mourning dove released its lonesome call. He grabbed the fork again. One thing he knew for certain, part of keeping Gracie happy involved a clean barn. He scooped up another load. It was a cool morning and the vapor from his breath rose in the air in front of him. He shook his fork, releasing the sawdust, then tossed the manure into his wheelbarrow. Before he’d spent any time around horses, Radhauser believed mucking out stalls would be a stinky job, but either he’d gotten used to it or there wasn’t any truth to that belief. The barn smelled, as it always did, like cedar, alfalfa and sweet feed laced with molasses.

When his cell phone rang, he dropped the fork, then pulled off his right glove, yanked the phone from his jacket pocket and answered.

“I need you to get down to the ER and check something out,” barked Captain Felix Murphy, his boss at the Ashland Police Department.

“It’s 8 o’clock in the morning, Murph. And I’m on vacation.” Technically, Radhauser was taking time off to be with Gracie as she recovered from the cesarean delivery of their son, Jonathan Lucas Radhauser, and started treatments for her breast cancer. Because it was diagnosed during the pregnancy, they’d done a radical mastectomy, then taken a chance and waited until after the birth to begin chemo and radiation. “Besides, you know Gracie is scheduled to start her chemotherapy treatments today.”

“Not until 2:30 this afternoon, right? You’ve got plenty of time to handle this.”

There was nothing he’d rather do, but there’d be hell to pay with his wife if he did. “Send Vernon. I’ve got my hands full here taking care of Gracie and the barn.”

“Look, I know I signed off on your three weeks, but Vernon’s out with a strep throat and we’ve got a real mess on our hands.”

Captain Murphy had been on edge ever since he found a hate flyer taped to the station window a couple weeks ago. The following day, two cars were reported vandalized—racist and anti-gay slogans had been painted in red on their windshields.

“A Doctor Landenberg called,” Murphy said. “He just admitted a high school boy, delirious with fever and a white cell count off the charts.”

“Sounds like a serious infection,” Radhauser said. “But what’s it got to do with us?”

“The doctor was suspicious. Said his mom brought him into the ER after she tried to get him into a tub of cool water to bring down the fever. That’s when she saw it. A brand singed into the skin of his abdomen. And the kid won’t tell anyone how or where he got it.”

“A brand? You mean like for cattle?” Radhauser struggled with disbelief, trying to make sense of what he just heard.

“Yeah,” Murphy said. “Branded, like a damn heifer. Doctor Landenberg thinks the kid was assaulted. A hate crime because the boy is gay. But the kid won’t talk.”

“What did the brand say? Was it initials? A logo of some sort? Something we can identify.”

“The doctor was pretty closed-mouth about the specifics, but he sounded upset. Come on, Radhauser. You know as well as I do, this could turn into our worst nightmare. You’re good with kids. I need you on this.”

He took a step back, then leaned against the barn wall and closed his eyes, the cell phone resting in the palm of his hand while Murphy babbled on.

Radhauser thought about the hate-filled messages he’d ripped from tree trunks near Lithia Park playground when he’d taken Lizzie last Saturday.

America Should Be White Again.

God Hates Faggots.

In The USA, Christians Rule.

His skin had gone clammy as the messages sunk in. What the hell was happening? In 1921 the Ku Klux Klan had planted itself in Oregon and its invasive roots spread out across the state. Cross burnings in Ashland and other larger cities were not uncommon. But times were different now. This was the beginning of the twenty-first century, not Selma, Alabama, in 1963.

Ashland was a picturesque town set in the foothills of the Siskiyou and Cascade mountain ranges, just north of the California border—a place known for, and proud of, its diversity and its world-renowned Shakespeare Festival. It was a little bit of England, set down in southern Oregon. A town where Radhauser and his wife, Gracie, planned to raise their growing family. A place four-year-old Lizzie, and two-week old Jonathan, could grow up safe and free of prejudice.

But behind the scenes there were factions who believed being white, Christian, and heterosexual were all that mattered. Radhauser had wadded up the flyers he’d found in the park and hurled them into the trash barrel, but hadn’t been able to erase them from his mind.
He put the cell phone back to his ear and told Murphy about the flyers.

Hard to believe this was the same Ashland that only a year and a half ago held candlelight vigils for the gay college boy, Matthew Shepherd, who’d been beaten and tied to a fence in Wyoming. Every night for a week, concerned residents had flocked to the park, stood quietly, sang and prayed, candles lit, while Shepherd fought for his life and lost.

Murphy didn’t give up. “And this kid might not be the only one. Doctor Landenberg said a girl came in about a week ago with something similar. He wasn’t on duty, but saw the chart.”

Radhauser’s eyes shot open. “What the hell’s going on here?”

“I wish I knew,” Murphy replied. “I don’t. But we need to find out. And fast. His name is Logan Caldwell. How soon can you get over to the hospital?”

Radhauser felt it surge up again—his need for justice. “Okay, I’ll do the initial interview, but I can’t take on a new case right now. Gracie would kill me. Give me an hour. I’ll call her mother and see if she can come early to help with the baby.” He wanted to be with his wife, knew she needed his help, but he also wanted to be on the job—to put a stop to what was happening in his town before it escalated into something worse.

Who was he kidding? It had already escalated. Flyers hung in other places, too, stapled to telephone poles along Main Street. And flyers were one thing—annoying, but not violent. Now, at least one kid, maybe another, was branded and too terrified, or ashamed, to talk about it.

• • •

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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Monday, 10 September 2018

Available Now in Audio: Bound to the Highlander by Kate Robbins

The Highland Chiefs Series, #1
Kate Robbins

$19.95 Audio
(also available in ebook and print)

Aileana Chattan suffers a devastating loss, then discovers she is to wed neighboring chief and baron, James MacIntosh -- a man she despises and whose loyalty deprived her of the father she loved. Despite him and his traitorous clan, Aileana will do her duty, but she doesn't have to like it or him. But when the MacIntosh awakens something inside her so absolute and consuming, she is forced to question everything.

James MacIntosh is a nobleman torn between tradition and progress. He must make a sacrifice if he is to help Scotland move forward as a unified country. Forced to sign a marriage contract years earlier binding Lady Aileana to him, James must find a way to break it, or risk losing all -- including his heart.

From the wild and rugged Highlands near Inverness to the dungeons of Edinburgh Castle, James and Aileana’s preconceptions of honor, duty and love are challenged at every adventurous turn.

• • •

Near Inverness, Scotland, April 1430

A horse’s scream pierced the air sending a chill down her spine. Brèagha. Aileana Chattan quit pacing and dashed to the window. Thank God, they were home at last.

She strained toward the eerie quiet below just as the procession crested the hill beyond the gatehouse. She was right, it was her uncle’s horse Brèagha, but the poor beast hobbled as three men grasped his leather reins and struggled to keep the distressed animal in check. Bile rose in her throat when she spied the body face down across its back.

She tore through the hallway, down the winding stairs and raced out into the courtyard. Cold mud soaked her feet and her heart pummeled as the somber hunters approached. She looked to Andrews, her steward, to confirm her fear.

“I’m sorry, lass.” He shifted his weight, but did not look up.

Her gaze returned to the body. Fiery red hair hung in tangles and pale, limp hands were red streaked. Shivers coursed through her as she beheld his unmoving form.

Her uncle, their chief, was dead.

A soundless ‘No’ faltered on her lips. Men and horses spun around her, threatening her balance. She reached out to cling to something. Anything. Air slipped through her fingers as she stumbled forward. Andrews caught her the moment her knees buckled.

“I’ve got you, Lady Aileana. Come, we must get him inside.”

He placed one strong arm around her shoulder and kept her moving forward, her feet skimming the ground.

No one spoke as they entered the large stone and wooden stable. The huntsmen pulled her uncle’s body from the horse’s back and laid him at her feet. She dropped to the ground beside him. The foul stench of manure filled her nostrils and she fought the urge to retch.

“Why did you bring him in here?” The stable was no place for their chief.

“He ordered us. We had no other way to get the laird’s body home and he wanted us to save Brèagha for you,” Andrews said.
Her gaze shifted between her uncle’s body and the horse’s wild eyes. She swallowed the thick knot which had lodged in her throat.

“What happened?”

“We were tracking deer when something spooked him.” Andrews’s voice was low and grim. “Your uncle’s sword was drawn. They were both injured when they fell.”

The horse snorted and bobbed his head up and down. Aileana stood to view his injuries better. A deep gash oozed jagged crimson lines down his flank, pooling at his hoof. She moved to Brèagha’s side and buried her fingers in his mane. His coat was covered with a sheen of sweat.

“Dear God, you won’t see week’s end.” She must save him. “Andrews?”

“Get Argyle’s surgeon,” Andrews said. The stable hand took off to do his bidding.

There wasn’t much she could do for the faithful beast, but she had to try. Uncle Iain had wanted it. Aileana returned to kneel by her uncle’s side and brushed a lock of red, matted hair from his brow. She gathered his limp hand into hers and searched for any remaining hint of life, but there was none. Aileana closed her eyes, spilling tears onto her cheeks.

She pictured the two of them walking through the glen with the heather splashed mountains all around. She had loved his tales of legends and victories and could feel warm air caressing her skin and fluttering her skirts. He smiled, giving her all the comfort she needed.

Brèagha’s grunt brought her back to the present and her eyes flew open. In this story, there was no victory. Her velvet gown was no protection from the cold, uncaring earth beneath her, and the image of Uncle Iain and the colorful mountains faded to gray.

The men, her men, encircled her. They waited for her signal to move the body to his room for cleansing. Blood pounded in her ears as she struggled to do what she must, though she hated to release his hands. She cried out when she tried to fold them across his breast, but they slipped to the ground.

“Let me help, m’lady.” Andrews’ strong, weathered fingers covered hers and together they laid her uncle’s hands across his chest. Andrews pulled her up and held her close. His strong arms tightened around her, reassuring her as she tried to contain her grief.

“Move him,” Andrews said. “Now.”

Thank God for Andrews. He didn’t want his chief laying in filth any more than she did. The men nodded and encircled him.

“What’s this?” The familiar voice boomed from the doorway. “What’s happened?”

Gawain Chattan scanned the stable until his gaze landed on the body. His tall, thin frame was a silhouette against the gray sky and his expression was masked, even as he lifted his eyes to meet hers.

“The laird is dead,” Andrews said.

His words pierced her. This was really happening.

• • •

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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