Monday, 27 July 2015

Free today (July 27th): Phoenix Contract by Melissa Thomas

Title: Phoenix Contract
Author: Melissa Thomas
Genre: A New Adult paranormal fantasy
Published on:  June 15, 2015

Blurb:
Centuries after the fallen angels left heaven to live among humans, their Nephilim descendants dwell in secret, hidden from the modern world. Once, a charismatic leader known as the Phoenix led their people, but he vanished centuries ago. The few surviving Great Houses are in decline, bickering over petty rivalries while a handful of faithful warriors battle to keep the forces of evil at bay.
Eighteen-year-old Aiden McLachlan devotes her life to her studies and pursues her lifelong goal to become a full-fledged Watcher. But everything she knows of her life is a lie and everyone a liar. Through a strange twist of fate, she finds herself caught up in an ancient prophecy.
The stars predict the rebirth of the Nephilim leader, but the mystery must be unraveled or the Phoenix cannot rise. With a soul-eating demon, a coven of ancient vampires, and a hardheaded Celtic warrior competing to subvert the Phoenix, Aiden doesn't know where to turn or who she can trust.

Excerpt:
“I won’t help you,” Matthew said, “no matter what you do to me.”
“Oh, but I think you will,” Daniel disagreed. “Once I turn you, then you’ll be more than happy to help.” Lightning swift, the vampire lashed out and seized Matthew’s wrist, forcing the priest’s arm down.
Matthew cried out in pain as Daniel squeezed his wrist until his hand opened and the crucifix dropped to the ground.
Aiden shouted and swung her crucifix around to protect Matthew, but she was too slow. Daniel dragged Matthew away and thrust the priest toward his minions.
“Hold him,” Daniel said.
Immediately, the carrot-topped boy and the policewoman caught hold of the priest.
Aiden expected Daniel’s attack, but that didn’t prepare her for the vampire’s speed. Daniel rushed her, progressing so fast his contorted face filled her vision. She kept the crucifix level and aimed for the vampire’s eyes, but Daniel caught hold of her wrist with disturbing ease. Then he twisted her arm, causing a wrenching pain in her shoulder. Against her will, Aiden bent over to avoid having her arm torn from the socket. She lost her grip on her crucifix.
“Let her go!” Matthew shouted. “She’s done nothing.”
Daniel immobilized Aiden, ignoring her struggles. He forced her head to the side and exposed her throat. “Oh, I don’t think so. I want you to suffer, Matt,” he said. “As a self-styled Lord of the Night, I’m rather pleased with the revenge I’ve concocted. So I’m going to eat your pretty daughter and make you watch.”

All of the serial parts of Phoenix Contract (Parts 1-5) are FREE on Amazon Kindle on July 27th.


Links to individual parts:
Phoenix Contract Part One:  http://goo.gl/6XkZ5P
Phoenix Contract Part Two:  http://goo.gl/Xc0nQg
Phoenix Contract Part Three:  http://goo.gl/0aJaOC
Phoenix Contract Part Four:  http://goo.gl/S3CTf7
Phoenix Contract Part Five:  http://goo.gl/cJSxsk

Link to Boxed Set (Parts 1-5):
$2.99 on Amazon  Kindle:  http://goo.gl/nEBP8o



Author Bio and Links:
Melissa Thomas breathes life into her dreams, bringing imaginary characters and fantasy worlds into our reality. She loves her characters so much they become her alter-egos, enacting the exciting adventures she envisions for them. She is a resident of San Francisco, California and adores the picturesque city by the bay. Her hobbies include surfing and scuba diving.

Phoenix Contract is her debut novel.

You can learn more about Melissa at http://thephoenixascending.blogspot.com/

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Book Review: The Boleyn King

The Boleyn King (Boleyn Trilogy, #1)The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautiful piece of historical fiction following from a clever premise: what if Anne Boleyn had a son who lived? The story follows that son, William, and others of his court including his friend Dominic, and royal ward Minuette. Surrounded by the struggles of power, can the three retain their integrity and friendship?
The details of the Court are beautifully drawn, and the invented history blends seamlessly with the true past to create this compelling first instalment in a trilogy. I look forward to reading the other two books - my only annoyance was the feeling that the ending was just a little too inconclusive in order to leave the way open for the sequel.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Skin Deep (Flash Fiction)


This story was written in response to Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenge.  The random phrase generator gave me 'pencilled collarbone' and 'Skin Deep' was the result. 

The first time I saw Lydia, I thought she had tattoos. A dragon snaked down her left arm, its tail disappearing under the sleeve of her surprisingly ladylike summer blouse. On her right forearm, a sailing ship danced over the waves, and a fairy forest grew up her calves.
“That'll be four ninety-five.” Her voice was as delicate as her wrists.
I handed over a fiver, then smiled my thanks as she returned my change. I took my tray to the nearest table and listened as the next five customers complimented the designs. She smiled at each one as if it was the first time she'd heard the comment.
The Copper Cauldron wasn't the kind of place people went back to. On the road from somewhere to nowhere in particular, it scraped by on passing trade, while the occupants of the few local offices ate their brown bag lunches on the bench outside in summer, and at their desks in winter.
I'd been enticed in one morning when I was running too late to make sandwiches on my way to the office. A week later, I was enticed back by the memory of Lydia's gentle smile.
This time, her left arm was encircled by a complex band of Celtic knotwork. A snake swallowed its tail around her neck, and a butterfly perched on the rose which grew on her right forearm.
For a moment, I let myself entertain the notion that I'd misremembered the pictures, but I knew that wasn't the case.
I took my tray to the counter, handed over the right money, and walked to what had already become 'my table.'
During the time it took me to finish eating my plate of lasagne, six people went through the till. Four of them commented on the tattoos. She smiled at each of them, and never corrected them. Maybe it didn't matter. They were just passing through.
When I finished eating, I checked my watch. I had seventeen minutes before I was due back at the office. I pulled out my pen and sketchpad, and sketched the rough forms of a dragon, a sailing ship and a fairy curled in the branches of a tree. I took my pad to the counter and showed it to Lydia. She knew exactly what I was asking.
“They're drawn with pen,” she explained. “I give art a chance to live, to be seen. It takes about a week to wash off.”
I thought about this, and she looked at me as if she, too, was thinking.
I smiled. I liked the idea of giving art a home and I was fascinated by the pictures' impermanence. Each drawing was fresh and new, like sand sculptures which you knew would be washed away by the tide.
“Would you like to draw for me?” she asked.
I wanted to say, “You're beautiful,” but my tongue locked up. I nodded. Perhaps I could draw it instead.
“On Saturday?”
I nodded again. She pushed a piece of paper into my hand.
“Come to this address. Bring a sketch of what you want to draw.”
I looked the address up on the street plan when I got home that night. It was a few streets away from the café. I left early for work the next day and detoured by Lydia's address to make sure I wouldn't get lost on Saturday. Even if I hadn't had the house number, I'd have known which was Lydia's house. Coloured butterflies fluttered up the windowpane and metal flowers crammed the terracotta pots on the balcony.
I thought about her butterflies and flowers all day at work, and that evening I began sketching Lydia's slender figure, the way I imagined it looked without the prim blouse and skirt. I filled her body with mountains and rivers and trees. Foliage twined down her arms, with bees and butterflies feeding from their nectar. Quicksilver fish flitted through the silken waves of her seas, and a hummingbird hovered in the delicate hollow of her neck.
When I arrived on Saturday and showed her the picture, she smiled.
“It's beautiful,” she said. “But you can't do that.”
I lifted her hand and traced the blue vein from her wrist up her slim, translucent arm. Once again, she knew what I was saying, without words. And she answered me without words. She closed the curtains, and in the glimmer of a dozen tea-lights, she unbuttoned her blouse and dropped it to the floor, revealing her small, perfect breasts. Then she unfastened her skirt and pulled it away to display the angry patchwork of scars criss-crossing her stomach.
“You can't make this beautiful,” she said.
I reached for the pen and showed her that I didn't need to. When I finished, each silvery scar was a branch or a vine, and the forest of her ravaged body became home to a multitude of living things. My pictures told her that, while they lasted, she was the whole world.
When I finished, she stood in front of the mirror and looked at them for a long time. Then she turned to me and drew my hand to her, and I traced the lines of the breeze along her pencilled collarbone and kissed the rose that nestled in the curve of her hip.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “For making me beautiful.”
I shook my head, denying her praise.
That was the moment I always remembered, after the tide turned, when the butterflies and the metal flowers appeared in the window of the charity shop and a plump brunette took her place at The Copper Cauldron: my sudden fierce anger at the world for letting her believe that because of her pain, she wasn't beautiful.


Monday, 20 July 2015

One Giant Leap for a Writer?

Who doesn't love a good robot story?  I wonder if anyone else remembers those yellow-jacketed Gollancz editions of Asimov's short stories?  I used to borrow piles of them from the school library along with my Chalet School and Sweet Valley High books (I was always an eclectic reader).  So when I saw the call for short stories for Darkhouse Books' anthology of science fiction stories based on the future imagined at the 1939 World's Fair, I knew I had to have a go.  The result was 'The Robot who Smoked', my homage to 'I, Robot', 'AI' and all the other robot stories that have made me think hard about what it means to be human. 


Originally I thought the anthology was coming out in June, so I've been twitching with impatience since then to see the other stories.  (Believe me, those I've read so far were worth the wait).  Editor Andrew MacRae has been a pleasure to deal with, and has finally picked the best possible launch date for our leap into a hypothetical future: the 45th anniversary of the moon landing. I'm delighted because I like to imagine that being a writer is like being an astronaut: constantly pushing new boundaries to explore places you've never been before.  

This anthology certainly takes its readers to some dramatic places.   My favourite so far is Wenda Morrone's dark, beautiful story 'The King Contest', which takes the reader to a future in which radiation poisoning is destroying humanity's ability to reproduce, leaving the King and his cloned First Minister with some difficult choices.  With a troubled teenager at its heart, this short story gives The Hunger Games a run for its money.  And that's my favourite only from the first three stories, so I can't wait to see what the rest of the book has in store.  If you're curious too, buy links are below for US and UK readers.    

Amazon.com paperback and kindle
Amazon.co.uk paperback and kindle

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Book Review: The Paper Magician

The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1)The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I downloaded The Paper Magician on a whim for no better reason than that I was short on fantasy reads and liked the title. I started reading and was instantly addicted. Ceony is a wonderfully kind, funny, likeable heroine. She's feisty and independent (traits which cause her no small difficulties) yet with plenty to learn from magician Thane, to whom she is apprenticed. Being forced to be a Folder (paper magician) when she wants to be a Smelter (iron magician) is maddening, and her attempts to make the best of the situation are both endearing and humorous.

As Ceony gets to know magician Thane and becomes more involved in his life, the secrets which emerge lead to some thrilling adventures, as she quite literally explores Thane's heart. I found those scenes the least convincing of the book, but then Charlie Holmberg set herself a huge challenge with them and I still thoroughly enjoyed this very strong first novel of the trilogy. The human characters, both heroes and villains, are convincing, but the character who really captured my heart was Fennel, the animated paper dog. I want to see this book filmed - I mean, this stuff is what CGI was invented for!

View all my reviews

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Book Review: Silk for Susannah

Silk for Susannah is a delightful short romance, which would be sweet even if it were entirely fictional, but is given an added dimension by the knowledge that it’s based on the real life of Shakespeare’s daughter.  Like the film Shakespeare in Love, it plays off our endless fascination with the Bard of Avon, and evokes a strong sense of time and place. 
Silk For Susannah: Shakespeare's Daughter (Quick Summer Reads Book 1) 
From the first page, we are transported back to Stratford in the summer when Susannah first makes the acquaintance of the young doctor John Hall, and has to persuade her father, the famous playwright, to support the match.  Evocative and charming, this is a light, quick read but demonstrates the same strength of historical detail as Victoria Lamb’s powerful young adult novel, Witchstruck. 

Free on kindle unlimited, and currently only 99p to purchase, what better way to try out a new historical novelist if you've not yet got to know Victoria Lamb's books? 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Book Review: Girl Friday

Girl FridayGirl Friday by Jane Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s ages since I’ve read anything by Jane Green but when a copy of Girl Friday crossed my path and I read the blurb I was instantly hooked. I’ll read anything that features a writer as one of the heroes, and I wasn’t disappointed by Robert McClore, thriller writer extraordinaire and boss to Kit, the recently divorced heroine who is currently rediscovering the worlds of working and dating after too long focusing exclusively on her role as wife and mother.

The bond between Kit and her two friends, Wall Street wife Charlie and yoga teacher Tracy, is brilliantly drawn, and the book has a lot to say about the dynamics of female friendship, as well as post-divorce dating.

So far so predictable, but the secrets kept by Kit’s family and friends ensure that the story develops in a way that’s anything but obvious. Is Steve the romantic computer entrepreneur the answer to Kit’s prayers, or is Kit’s friend and mother figure Edie right to suspect he’s too good to be true? What’s really going on in Charlie and Tracy’s lives, and who’s the mysterious woman who appears outside Kit’s window one day?

All in all, Girl Friday is an easy, fun read which definitely lives up to my memories of the early Jane Green books and makes me wonder why I haven’t read more of the books in between.


View all my reviews

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Wild Rose Press to publish 'Djinn and Tonic'

There are few better moments for a writer than finding out that an editor has enjoyed your story enough to want to share it with the world. Maybe one day it'll get old, but after two novellas and one novel, it certainly hasn't yet. I've just signed my third contract with The Wild Rose Press, which I'm delighted about because I think they did a great job with my first two novellas, 'Desperate Bid' and 'A Santa Next Door.'

My first two Wild Rose Press novellas were straightforward contemporary romances, but this one is a bit of a departure, because although it's set in the present day, it also contains a paranormal element, in the form of a djinn, or genie, who appears in response to the photographer heroine's wish for the perfect model for her photo shoot. What would you do, I wonder, if a perfect man materialised out of thin air - literally - in your studio? If you've followed along with my occasional Sunday snippets, you might remember Sally's reaction. If not, you can find it here.

Sally soon discovers that she'll have to be careful what she wishes for, as a momentary impulse to take off for the beach on a sunny day results in a dizzying experience in this snippet, and comes to terms with the discovery here.

The next steps are to work on edits and a marketing plan, so it'll be a while before I have a release date.  And there will be at least one major difference in the final version - so, sorry to all my friends who have fallen in love with 'Wulf', because he's about to have a name change to something  more fitting for a genie, probably of Persian origin!  Oh well.  I'll just have to keep Wulf in reserve until I find a suitable story for a Nordic hero... watch this space!


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Book Review: Ascend

Ascend (Trylle, #3)Ascend by Amanda Hocking
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Ascend' is a fantastic conclusion to the Trylle trilogy, and brings together all the threads that were tangling messily at the end of 'Torn'. Wendy's planned wedding, her lingering feelings for Finn and growing attraction to Loki, the looming death of her mother Elora, Queen of the Trylle, and the ongoing quest of her father, King of the Vittra, to take over the Trylle kingdom. Of you've read and enjoyed the rest of the trilogy you won't be able to resist this exciting, dramatic and fast-paced finale.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Torn

Torn (Trylle, #2)Torn by Amanda Hocking
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's some time since I read 'Switched' but it was easy to slip back into the believable world of the Trylle.  The book certainly opens with a bang, as Wendy is kidnapped by the Vittra in an exciting sequence. She escapes surprisingly easily, although the reason for this later becomes apparent.

Perhaps the rest of the story doesn't quite live up to the excitement of the opening, but there are twists and turns aplenty and I was kept reading on to see how Wendy will manage to balance love and duty in what rapidly becomes more than a love triangle: there's Finn, the handsome tracker to whom she's always been attracted; Tove, the kindly Markis she's supposed to marry to save her kingdom; and finally, Loki, the dangerously attractive Vittra who was instrumental in her escape.

I loved the magical world of the Trylle, and the Princess-diary-ish strand of Wendy learning to adapt from being an ordinary teenager to livnig as the heir to a kingdom. My only complaint was that we're kept hanging until book 3 for so many of the conclusions, but that's not uncommon for the second in a trilogy.

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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Book Review: The Scandalous Duchess

The Scandalous DuchessThe Scandalous Duchess by Anne O'Brien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't tend to think of myself as a fan of historical fiction, but lately every time I pick up a historical read, I love the escapism and the intensity of the story. Anne O'Brien's 'The Scandalous Duchess' is no exception. Lady Katherine is a fabulously strong, scrupulous heroine, so it's surprising to find her lured into an ongoing affair with the powerful, seductive Duke of Lancaster. More surprising still are the twists and turns in their longstanding relationship. I loved the historical detail and most of all the sense of a very private love constantly challenged by public standards and scrutiny. Still very much relevant today.

View all my reviews

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Sneak Peek Sunday: Cameron

Following on from the last few Sundays, here's another snippet from the futuristic dystopian world of Love by the Book.  This novella was my NaNoWriMo effort from a few years back, and as I still love it, I'm finally getting around to polishing it up. Last week I introduced the heroine, Susan.  This week, we get our first glimpse of the hero, Cameron.

Finally Susan opened her mouth to let out the admission she’d always known she’d have to make: she didn’t know what was happening, or where the Elders were.  But before she could answer, the doors from the courtyard opened and Mother led the usual train into the dining room: first the other Parents, then the Aunts and Uncles, and finally the Managers, until all the Elders were in place.  
But where the procession would normally have stopped, there was a new face.  
As the young man paused at the door, the chatter, which had already begun to subside, fell silent. 
Susan stared at his vivid blue eyes and sweeping blond fringe and his solid frame and sturdy hands.  He was as different from the tall, swarthy Jack as Susan could imagine, and when he followed the Elders to the table, his walk was swift and assured.  
Susan forgot to stop staring as the chatter around her resumed.  All her thoughts were on the young man, the first stranger any of them had seen in… who knew how long? 
Where had he come from?

You can read more Sunday snippets at: http://sneak-peek-sunday.blogspot.co.uk/

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Sneak Peek Sunday: Susan

Here's something different for Sneak Peek Sunday - a glimpse into the futuristic dystopian world of Love by the Book.  This novella was my NaNoWriMo effort from a few years back, and as I still love it, I'm finally getting around to polishing it up. Last week I shared the opening.  This week, 6 paragraphs which introduce Susan's role in the House.

Sometimes Susan dreamed of being far away, in a world she’d never encountered where nobody told you how to live your life or who you could love or be friends with. 
Sometimes she woke from a dream where the table was empty, the precious book having vanished along with its thick glass covering, and she was responsible. 
“It’s not my fault!” she would plead to the assembled masses.  Sometimes they were faceless.   Other times it was her mother, or her father, or her teachers, or the gardeners, whose faces stared back at her sorrowfully. 
That was worse.
“But you’re the Guardian,” their voices would echo, “Of course you’re responsible.”
Then she’d wake up and see the slim volume lying on its solid plinth, yellowed pages open at the day’s reading, and she wouldn’t know whether to be glad or sorry.  It was such a small and simple object to rule all their lives with its strange ideas of love and life that had nothing to do with the House and its cold stone walls and strict patterns.  

You can read more Sunday snippets at: http://sneak-peek-sunday.blogspot.co.uk/

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Writer Wednesday Interview: Melinda Dozier

Today I'm talking with Melinda Dozier, whose new book 'New York Minute' I featured on the blog last week. She's back to talk two of my favourite topics: writing and globe-trotting. Thanks for being here, Melinda!



When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was in highschool, I used to fill up notebooks with stories-- usually young adult stuff with The Brat-Pack as my inspiration (I’m aging myself here). Though it was only a hobby, I wanted to become a writer way back then.


How did you come to start writing romance?
I’ve been an avid romance reader since I was a teen and one day I said, “Hey, I could do that.” So I did! On a whim, I entered my first novel into a pitch contest a few years ago, and the editor signed my book right away! That’s when I really felt like a “real” romance writer, when I held that contract in my hand.  


You teach as well - how on earth do you fit it all in?  What are your biggest distractions?
Yes and to be honest I don’t know how I fit it all in. One rule I have is not to bring teaching home. No grading papers, no answering school related emails, nothing (which is a big deal, because ask any teacher...work always gets done at home.) This makes me focus at school and use up all the time I have AT SCHOOL, and writing is only done AT HOME. My biggest distraction is social media, because I love love love Facebook and Twitter. I have to turn it off when I’m in the middle of a story or it’d never get done. Also, Christmas and Summer break are big writing gaps for me. One of the perks of a teaching schedule.


Your website describes your books as 'Love and Amor around the globe'.  How much of a part do the settings play in your stories, and do you have a setting you've never written about but would love to?
I live in Central America and travel is a big part of my life. I haven’t written about Central America yet, but I know it’ll happen. Setting is crucial to my stories. New York Minute takes place in my dream city -- NEW YORK. Also, the hero, Diego is from Argentina and shares his world with, the heroine, Veronica. 


My last release, Time Out, Valentine takes place in Portland, Oregon, which stemmed from a business trip a few years ago. I loved the city and culture. So, of course, the iconic places, like Voodoo Donuts or the International Rose Garden star in the story.


Last year, a few authors and I teamed up to write a Winter Olympics themed anthology which takes place in Switzerland.  As you can see, Love and Amor Around the Globe is what it’s all about.



What research did you do for New York Minute?  
My father-in-law is a New Yorker and has so many stories to tell. In fact, my inlaws have such a beautiful romance story that I’m going to have to write it one day. They met at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. His stories were the best research. I also watched lots and lots of Youtube videos, even though I think it’s kind of pathetic.. My dream is to visit NYC one day soon. I’ll make it happen!

Are you working on another book right now, and if so, can you give us a hint of what’s to come?
I’m currently writing a story that takes place in France called French Connection. It’s loosely based on something that happened to me when I was sixteen living in Paris for the summer.


And finally, where can we find out more about New York Minute and your other books?
You can find my book information at my website: www.melindadozier.com
And like I said, I’m a social media nut, so find me there too: www.facebook.com/melindadoz or www.twitter.com/melindadozier

Thanks so much for having me, Stephanie! I loved your personalized questions.

Book Review: New York Minute

New York Minute immediately appealed to me because it involves my favourite combination of business and music. 

The heroine, Veronica or Vero, is an accountant who decides to break out of her boring life by putting on the persona of an outgoing fashion buyer and having a one-night stand with Diego, a gorgeous guy she meets at a wedding.  When she bumps into Diego again at a speed dating event she’s dragged to by a more outgoing friend, their brief flame is rekindled and the one-night stand rapidly starts turning into a real relationship. 

Diego is a fabulously hot hero, with a successful – and fascinating - career as a musician and a deep devotion to his family.  As Vero learns more about Diego’s apparently perfect life, she feels less and less able to tell him the truth about her career, but of course the secrets she is keeping soon become a threat to their relationship.  Not only that, but it turns out that she’s not the only one keeping secrets, and we’re left wondering what he’s keeping from her, and what will happen when they both find out the truth. 

There were plenty of questions to keep me turning pages; the characters were convincing; and I thoroughly enjoyed the New York setting.  Occasionally things seemed to move a bit too fast between Vero and Diego, but that might just be me, because I’m not a city girl, and as the title suggests, this is a book set at the speed of city life!

I also wanted to shake Vero occasionally for not realising that Diego wanted the real her, not some fantasy figure she’d concocted.  But if she had, there wouldn’t have been much of a story, so it’s probably a good thing that Vero’s perfectionist mother made her feel that her real self was inadequate, so that she could appreciate Diego turning up to show her otherwise!

Altogether this was a sweet and sensual read and a fun story, beautifully told.   

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Sneak Peek Sunday: Love by the Book

Here's something different for Sneak Peek Sunday - a glimpse into the futuristic dystopian world of Love by the Book.  This novella was my NaNoWriMo effort from a few years back, and as I still love it, I'm finally getting around to polishing it up. These 6 paragraphs appear at the very beginning, so shouldn't need too much introduction.

Something had changed.  Susan felt it instantly.  The darkness was as dark and the stillness as still as the night before, yet she woke knowing, without knowing why, that everything was different. 
Things had changed a little when she joined the main House, and a great deal when she became the Guardian, but she was used to those changes.  They had to do with where she lived and what she did and how people treated her.  This change went deeper.  It crackled like radioactivity around the edges of her awareness and vibrated somewhere inside her with an excited hum. 
She lay in silence, feeling out the change, as dawn broke through the dusty air and settled onto the grey stone walls and floor like a rosy blanket.  Around her, the usual morning sounds began. 
In the kitchen across the courtyard, the staff were preparing a breakfast of toast and dandelion coffee, with much clattering of plates and humming of kettles.  No voices, though.  There would not be conversation until Susan and Jack put in their appearances.  Now there was only the sound of the well-practiced routine of moving around the kitchen, and Emma stirring in the ante-room. 
“Breakfast?” As if on cue, Emma’s sickly-sweet enquiry floated through from the side room.
“Sure.” Susan made her voice match it in sugariness.  “Just give me two ticks to get ready.”


You can read more Sunday snippets at: http://sneak-peek-sunday.blogspot.co.uk/

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Book Review: An Autumn Crush

An Autumn CrushAn Autumn Crush by Milly Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The four seasons books are my favourite Milly Johnson books and although I didn’t love ‘An Autumn Crush’ quite as much as ‘A Spring Affair’, it was still a great read. Juliet is a strong, funny heroine and her new flatmate Florence (Floz) is the perfect sidekick to her, as kind and private as Juliet is noisy and outgoing, but just as appealing in her own way.

The men in the story are perfect too – Steve is a wrestler and Juliet’s brother Guy is a chef who also wrestles. At first it appears that Steve is all brawn and no brain (that’s certainly how Juliet sees him) but as time goes on we see his softer side, and learn about the mystery in Guy’s past that has made him wary of women, even ones as sweet as Floz.

There are some wonderfully funny moments and the humour never felt forced to me. Like most of Milly Johnson’s books, ‘An Autumn Crush’ envelopes the reader in a blanket of warm Northern friendliness, and like ‘A Spring Affair’, it’s a book I can imagine going back to again and again.


View all my reviews

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Just Out: Melinda Dozier's New York Minute

It's always a pleasure to welcome a fellow Crimson Romance author to my blog, especially when they've got something to celebrate!  Here's Melinda Dozier with her brand new release, New York Minute!


Title: New York Minute
Author: Melinda Dozier
Release Day: March 9, 2015
Publisher: Crimson Romance


Blurb:
Shy accountant Veronica Bass is determined to live it up a little before settling down with a perfectly respectable man to live a perfectly respectable life, just the way her mother wants.


So when rock star Diego Diaz flashes his bedroom eyes at her during a wedding reception, Veronica swallows her shyness and leads him to the nearest hotel room. Now this total sex god keeps popping up in her life, and she finds herself telling some not-so-little white lies to keep him interested.


Diego's world evolves around music, women throwing themselves at him, and having fun. His lifestyle hasn't allowed him to find the right girl to settle down with until now, but his own secret stands in the way of forming a lasting relationship with Veronica.


Is their love destined to last for only a New York minute?


Sensuality Level: Sensual


Book Links:


Testimonials:
"They have the connection, physical and emotion … However, they left out some things from each other and that's the real dilemma here. It's all good because it ends nicely!" — Bookaholic Fairies


Every time I was away from this book, I couldn't wait to get back to it. This is an amazing read...” Reader


“Melinda has done it again!!! I absolutely love the way that she makes us all swoon for her characters in her stories and not be able to put it down until we are done.” Reader


Excerpt:

Time to focus on the Cosmo article she read two days before about flirting. She sipped her citrus martini, and as she brought the glass down, she licked her lips and glanced at her target. He actually flinched, the hunger in his eyes darkening. Barely enough for anyone to notice, but she did. She ran her hand up and down her neck, closing her eyes for a minute. When she opened them to look his way again, he had already started to walk in her direction. No, he didn’t walk; he actually strutted like a man on a mission.


She was his mission. Shit. Shit. Shit. Play it cool, Veronica. You’re a strong, sensual woman. You can do this.


She sipped her yellow drink again to calm herself, and if she was lucky, he wouldn’t notice her shaking. Calm. Sensual. Like a boss.


He positioned himself in front of her, one hand in his pocket and the other holding a tumbler of brown liquid, and rocked on the heels of his dark Dolce & Gabbana brogues.


“Hello.” His voice reverberated down to her core.


She gulped her martini to gain more liquid courage, but rather than bravery, the unthinkable happened. She swallowed the cherry that swam in her drink and the tickle in her throat drove her into a coughing frenzy.


She tried to smile through it, to let him know all was fine and she could still be the sexy seductress. As his large, firm hand patted her back, she fanned the air and grabbed his tumbler, downing the thick liquid.


After a last cough, she cleared her throat one more time. “Whoa. What was that?”


“Whiskey. Neat.” He grinned, his gorgeous caramel eyes lit with an inner glow. “You okay?”


A warmth spread over her cheeks. Holy freaking embarrassment. “It was strong.”


“I could’ve warned you, I guess, but you were busy.” He grinned and squeezed her shoulder with his large hand.


Was that an accent? Damn, could he be more perfect? Immediately, she glanced at his hand that revealed several tattoos peeking out of his jacket hem, from his wrist all the way down to his fingers. No ring. Thank God.


“Can we forget that happened? I’m not usually like that.” She waved her hand in the air and winced inwardly.


God, she wanted to erase that doomed first impression. She was confident, dammit. She didn’t want this dreamy man to know she could be less than sophisticated. Her act was more difficult than she imagined.


“It’s a shame. I kind of liked the unusual first encounter. Not that I want you to choke, but I was ready to save you.” He braced his tattooed hand against the wall behind her, moving closer. His manly smell was soapy, with a hint of wood.


Save her he might. “Who are you?”


He squinted his glowing eyes and turned his head to the side. He didn’t say anything for a long time, just studied her and then rolled on the heels of his feet. “Who are you?”


His “r” rolled off his tongue with a Spanish accent of some kind.


“When someone answers a question with a question, it’s one of two things. Either the person doesn’t have anything interesting to say or he’s hiding something. Are you hiding something?”
He lowered his voice and ran a hand up her arm. “I think we all do. Why are you hiding in the corner?”


Damned if the man’s touch sent shivers all the way to her toes. “So someone like you would find me.”


“Like me? How am I?”


“A man with questions … and a devious grin.”


As suspected, his smile grew and his gaze sought hers. “Well, I came over to tell you how stunning you look, but being a woman of such deep insight, you might take that the wrong way, no?”

“I’ll take it any way you want.” Yep. The alcohol had definitely gotten to her.

Trailer:



Author Bio:

Melinda is a multi-published contemporary romance author with books from Crimson Romance, Swoon Romance and The Wild Rose Press represented by Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency. She lives in Guatemala, Central America with her husband/college sweetheart who brings "mucho amor" to her life. Melinda enjoys being the queen of her household and dreams of being pampered fully by her three boys once they are grown. Melinda's guilty pleasures include reality t.v., traveling, blogging and playing Farmville.

Author Links:

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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Writer Wednesday Interview: J Arlene Culiner

It’s a pleasure today to welcome J Arlene Culiner, whose latest book is A Swan’s Sweet Song, from The Wild Rose Press, although like me, she’s also had a book published by Crimson Romance.  Welcome, Arlene.
It’s a pleasure being invited by you, Stephanie. Thanks.





I liked the fact that A Swan’s Sweet Song has a very grown-up hero and heroine, who have both had some great life experiences.  Do you enjoy writing about mature characters?

Actually, I only write about mature characters. I really do think experience makes us more interesting. When we’re older, we have more to say, we’re not just guided by hormones or the desire to find a mate so we can reproduce. Mature characters can have great discussions; they know, finally, how to communicate — and, for me, that means their romance really does have a chance of lasting.


Sherry Valentine is a country singer and Carston Hewlett is a playwright.  What made you choose these jobs for your hero and heroine, and did you have to do a lot of research about the music and media worlds?

I certainly did — but that was a long time ago. I once worked for Radio France — I had a country music program — but my job wasn’t just to play music. I had to give the history of country music, tell about it’s origins. For that, I read enormously, talked to musicians, delved into archives, dug up the old country music recordings from the Library of Congress. So, the material was all there, sitting in the old folders in my house: all I needed was the funny, feisty character of Sherry Valentine to make all that research come alive. As for theatre, I have, off and on, been working as an actress all my life (I was in British filmmaker Andrew Rokita’s film, Sunflowers, last summer) so there was no great mystery there either — although I’ve never yet met a bachelor playwright as charming as my hero, Carston Hewlett. Sigh.


I loved the scene where Sherry and Carston get caught in the storm, because it's such a contrast to the shiny TV studio we see at the start of the book, and her glamorous stage persona.  What’s your favourite scene in the book?

I love that scene in the barn too. It gives us the first hint that Sherry and Carston are not really those glamorous glittery people most people think they are. There are other scenes that were a delight to write too: the cocktail party at the Midville Culture Festival, or the scene with the dreadful waitress in the Paradise Café. But maybe the most fun for me was the scene when Mrs. Brown gives birth to her piglets, after which we find out who the real Sherry and the real Carston are.


What’s your best piece of advice for newer writers? 

Write and re-write, and re-write, and re-write. Polish every paragraph; make sentences sing;  steer away from ALL name brands or designer labels (you can do better than that if you’re a writer; you’re not here to promote products). And never stop doubting.


Do you read books about writing, and if so, which would you recommend?

A wonderful writing classic from 1934 (I found my copy in a junk shop in Poole): Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande with John Braine’s introduction.


What about a favourite romance novel, or author, to read?

Another classic from 1932: Cold Comfort farm, by Stella Gibbons. It’s romance and satire along with humour.


Thanks for being on my blog today, and for allowing me to review A Swan’s Sweet Song.  I loved it, so hopefully some people who read this interview will be inspired to check it out.  Where can they find a copy, or find out more about your books?

Thanks so very much to you, Stephanie. Here are some links for buying a Swan’s Sweet Song:

http://authl.it/B00RVPIS88
http://www.wildrosepublishing.com
http://prod-www.kobobooks.com


A Swan’s Sweet Song
 A Contemporary Romance from The Wild Rose Press

The air sizzles when a country music star and renowned playwright meet, but can opposites fall in love?

The instant Sherry Valentine and Carston Hewlett meet, there’s desire and fascination in the air…but they’re complete opposites.
Smart-talking Sherry fought her way up from poverty to stardom as a country music singer. Now, she’s ever in the limelight, ever surrounded by clamoring fans, male admirers and paparazzi, and her spangled cowboy boots carry her all across the country, from one brightly lit stage to the next.
A renowned but reclusive playwright, Carston cherishes his freedom, the silence of his home in the woods and his solitary country walks.
Any long-term commitment is obviously out of the question: how about a quick and passionate fling?
But when their names are linked in the scandal press, Sherry’s plans to become an actress are revealed. And the budding relationship seems doomed.
Can you ignore a passionate attraction? Of course you can't. Carston soon decides he'll do anything in his power to bring Sherry into his orbit again. And that also means letting go of a few well-kept secrets...



Born in New York, raised in Toronto, J. Arlene Culiner has spent most of her life in England, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Hungary and the Sahara. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no real interest. Much to everyone's dismay, she protects all living creatures -- especially spiders and snakes -- and her wild (or wildlife) garden is a classified butterfly and bird reserve.
In her perfectly realistic contemporary romances, heroines are funny, and heroes are dashingly lovable. All are proudly over the age of forty.



http://www.j-arleneculiner.com
j-arleneculiner.over-blog.com
https://twitter.com/j-arleneculiner
https://www.facebook.com/pages/J-Arlene-Culiner