Monday, March 20, 2017

#REVIEW: The Countess Refuses by Katy Walters

Thecountessrefuses


countessrefusesKaty Walters is a USA TODAY Best-Selling Author selling thousands of books and pages read, of her work. Her two Regency Romances series, The Lords of Rhonan and the Lords of Sussex proved hugely popular. She also enjoys writing across the genres, Time Travel, Sci Fi and the paranormal.

After her parents' fatal carriage accident, Miss Cassandra Whitney is left to raise her siblings alone. As there was no will and very little funds, the small family are thrown into abject  poverty. To Cassandra's horror, their odious landlord, Baron Scudder, threatens to evict them from the Manse, unless her younger sister Belle moves to the Manor House as his mistress.
As the quarrel rages, Cassandra inherits a title, a castle albeit a ruin and a derelict estate. To her joy, she also inherits a generous allowance of £6,000 per annum. The family are now safe, and Belle is free from the lustful demands of the baron. Enter a wily dowager duchess who is desperate for her son the renowned rakehell Maximillian,6th Duke of Taunton to wed a suitable heiress. On hearing of Cassandra's inheritance of a fortune and a castle, she schemes by fair means or foul to manipulate Cassandra into marrying her son, and hence gain complete control of the castle.
Max has no plan to wed, being well satisfied with his single status and his mistresses.  However, on their first meeting, Max, mesmerised with Cassandra's beauty and character, plans to seduce her, making her his favorite mistress. Cassandra at first rejects the Duke's ardent advances, but is soon fighting an overwhelming passion for him. The more she resists him, the more her desire rises for this devil-may-care rogue.
Max's ardour flares into love, as he wishes to own not only her body but her heart. However, marriage is not an option.
Meanwhile, Belle meets an enthralling Marquess who is enchanted with her loveliness and sweet nature.   But, she harbours a secret; one which if revealed could ruin their budding relationship.The lovers are unaware of the vicious plans of the licentious baron who dogs their path.
Can Cassandra outwit the wily dowager? Will she succumb to Max's passion? Will Belle fall into the baron's foul clutches?

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I found this book to be easy to read, and fun. It is a very light read, nothing too heavy, and the story line went quickly. On the other hand, I'm not sure it was well done overall. On the surface, the storyline is about a young woman, raising her sisters and brother, and coming into an enormous fortune. She meets the duke, who of course is expected to find a wife, marry and produce the heir and the spare. Romance ensues, and the storyline goes on with the typical HEA.
Digging a little deeper though, and there are things that don't quite add up in the details. The Regency timeline doesn't feel quite authentic. The idea that a young woman would be brought into this massive fortune but that they live hand to mouth in a castle that is falling down around them with lands that haven't been taken care of for years, it just makes any of the story kind of tangle in on itself.
The best part of the entire book though was a side plot line that happened with the main character's sister. That ended up well, though I'm not quite sure how believable it is historically.
As long as you don't look into the details, the story is a great, quick enjoyable read.

Buy on Amazon or read for free with Kindle Unlimited

About the author:

katy My main loves are writing, painting and singing. I began work as a PA but to my joy was spotted by an agent in London and had an exciting career as a singer, meeting and singing with some wonderful people. Singing meant a lot of travelling both in the UK and abroad. At one time, I toured Germany and Turkey singing for the American troops, which was a fantastic experience. But then, my husband and I wanted a family, so I said good-bye to the singing career, although I did the occasional gig. Having children is such a precious time, and I would say to anyone, treasure it, it goes so quickly and before you know it, you’re waving them off to Uni or pursuing their own dreams and their own homes. I have always had a deep interest in psychology for various reasons, and especially the area of neurosis arising from abuse. Later, I was to study how we could use our body, mind and spirit to relieve pain and overcome some life-threatening diseases. One important thing here is, I always told my patients to continue with medical treatment along with the complementary and spiritual methods, for I believe medical research and medication is also a gift from God, Spirit or the Universe, as each of us wishes to name it. I have loved writing from a child and during the years of study, research and treating some wonderful people, whom I called my friends, I would write at night, mainly short stories, and reams of poetry. I wanted to learn how to write self-help books for my clients, so I took creative writing courses at university, which led to writing a novel. So self-help novels turned to fiction but even so, I hope the novels help the reader through their own challenges, as the characters experience love, loss, passion, jealousy, illness, joy and conflict, even the threat of death.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

#REVIEW and #GIVEAWAY: Beauty of the Beast by Rachel L Demeter

Beauty of the Beast

by Rachel L. Demeter Fairy Tale Retellings, #1 Publication Date: March 15, 2017 Genres: Historical Romance, Fairy Tale Retelling, Gothic Romance, Adult

🌹 Special $2.99 sale price through March 19th 🌹





🌹 Book Blurb 🌹

Experience the world’s most enchanting and timeless love story—retold with a dark and realistic twist. A BEAST LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF HIS PAST Reclusive and severely scarred Prince Adam Delacroix has remained hidden inside a secluded, decrepit castle ever since he witnessed his family’s brutal massacre. Cloaked in shadow, with only the lamentations of past ghosts for company, he has abandoned all hope, allowing the world to believe he died on that tragic eve twenty-five years ago. A BEAUTY IN PURSUIT OF A BETTER FUTURE Caught in a fierce snowstorm, beautiful and strong-willed Isabelle Rose seeks shelter at a castle—unaware that its beastly and disfigured master is much more than he appears to be. When he imprisons her gravely ill and blind father, she bravely offers herself in his place. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Stripped of his emotional defenses, Adam’s humanity reawakens as he encounters a kindred soul in Isabelle. Together they will wade through darkness and discover beauty and passion in the most unlikely of places. But when a monster from Isabelle’s former life threatens their new love, Demrov’s forgotten prince must emerge from his shadows and face the world once more… Perfect for fans of Beauty and the Beast and The Phantom of the Opera, Beauty of the Beast brings a familiar and well-loved fairy tale to life with a rich setting in the kingdom of Demrov and a captivating, Gothic voice. Beauty of the Beast is the first standalone installment in a series of classic fairy tales reimagined with a dark and realistic twist. Disclaimer: This is an edgy retelling of the classic fairy tale. Due to strong sexual content, profanity, and dark subject matter, including an instance of sexual assault committed by the villain, Beauty of the Beast is not intended for readers under the age of 18.

My Rating: 4 1/2 stars
My Review: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I came into this book not knowing really what to expect. I have never heard of the author, and Beauty and the Beast is my all-time favorite Disney movie (yes I even loved the Broadway version with Susan Egan). This can go either way with me, it can go either really bad if this author screws up the story, or really good if she gets it right. No pressure at all, Rachel Demeter.
I was pleasantly surprised when it went really well. With a gothic, historic feel to it, the story had a dark, realistic edginess you would find in a Grimm Brothers' tale. At the same time, the author stuck pretty close to the storyline we are all familiar with (except for the dancing enchanted silverware of course).
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this new retelling of a very well-known story.

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🎬 Book Trailer 🎬







🌹 Excerpt 🌹

~ Isabelle bravely takes her papa’s place ~

Quite a while later, as Isabelle relaxed and soaked in the hearth’s warmth, she found herself nodding off to sleep. Her mind detached from the stress of the past few days and receded to another time and place. She recalled her journeys with Papa when she’d been little more than a girl. All the villages they’d passed through; all the faces they’d seen. She thought of reading fairy tales beneath a bejeweled sky, of leaning against a mountain of crates as Papa pointed out the constellations and their eternal stories— Rattling seized her attention and ruptured her thoughts. She peered at Papa, who was carefully examining his teacup. Not with his sightless eyes, of course—but with wandering fingertips. The same impressive coat of arms engraved the fine proclaim; Papa ran his weathered fingers over its surface, clearly in awe of the raised gold decorations and studded gems. The thing must have cost a small fortune. Indeed, she’d never beheld such finery. Even the wares Papa had once sold paled in comparison. The faded brim of his top hat hung low and covered his glassy eyes. Then her mouth went dry as he slipped the teacup inside his coat. Has he gone mad—or simply grown that desperate? It was completely unlike Papa to steal. How could he—and after being shown hospitality? Her outcry startled him. He half leapt from the chair—and Isabelle watched in horror as the teacup tumbled out from the coat. It rattled and rolled onto the stone ground, shattering into a million pieces. A gloved hand broke through the darkness, quicker than a lightning strike. The hooded figure emerged from the shadows and seized Papa by his cravat. His other hand clasped a branch of flickering candles. The illumination flashed across the dark folds of his cloak, soaking him in a pool of light. “Stealing from me, are you? Breaking my family’s keepsakes?” A sharp jerk forced Papa to his feet. The rough movement sent the top hat tumbling from his head and onto the stone floor. Papa’s waxen features melted into an expression of horror and confusion. Her heart pounding, Isabelle lunged forward and frantically cried out, “Let him alone! It was an accident. Don’t you see that you’re frightening him?” “Good.” The simple declaration threw Isabelle into stunned silence. Papa called out for her as the man strode from the sitting room, his solid legs eating up the ground in swift, decisive strides. Mon Dieu, he was physically dragging Papa through the castle. This isn’t happening. It cannot be… “Stop it! Stop it now—you monster!” Isabelle picked up her skirts and frantically chased after them. Parts of the castle were dark and unkempt, causing her to trip several times over wayward pieces of furniture. Her heart violently pounded in her ears. The man moved impressively fast; between his agile stride and sweeping cloak, he almost appeared to float through the corridors. Plopping onto the stone floor, his dog gave up trying to keep pace. Dust motes rose and fell in midair like ashes, obscuring her vision. She followed the branch’s illumination, watching as the candlelight threw prisms along the walls and floor. “Please, monsieur. Have mercy, I beg you! He didn’t know any better. He's not in his right mind. He would never—” “No one steals from me.” His low voice echoed in the darkness, steady as a war drum. Isabelle felt herself descending. She ducked as she crossed a low archway, where she was met with a steep flight of stairs. A mouth into Hell. The ceiling lurked unusually low and was strung with cobwebs. Isabelle hiked up her skirts, which were now a filthy mess, and raced down the decayed steps. The hooded figure kept a swift pace while she desperately pursued Papa’s frightened cries. Plagued by the darkness, Isabelle tripped and crashed down the stone steps. Pain cascaded through her body, knocking the breath from her lungs. Her skinned knees and elbows throbbed, her heart pounded, her head burned. She spared a moment to catch her breath as she struggled to her feet and resumed her vain quest. Papa’s muffled pleas and the sound of slamming bars ripped at her very soul. The dank dungeon was nearly black. She slowed her pace, moving toward a beam of light at the far end. Rats the size of kittens scurried across the stone floor and filled the darkness with their terrible squeaking. Her heart thudding, Isabelle rushed through the maze of cells, following Papa’s voice and that flickering light. Chains and crude-looking objects littered the ground—torture devices from a past age, she realized with a shudder. She found them. Papa was grasping the rusted bars; disoriented and frightened, he was murmuring incoherent pleas. Tears fell from his sightless eyes, though Isabelle knew he fought to restrain them. The branch of candles sat in front of the cell, its wavering light illuminating his terrified expression. “Forgive me. I have wronged you when you showed my daughter and me hospitality and mercy. Please, monsieur!” The man towered before him, silent and still. His long arms remaining crossed, he stood with his lean torso straighter than a broadsword. His hood was drawn back, though Isabelle couldn’t see his face from her angle. “Papa, I’m here,” she said beneath the weight of a strained breath. “I-Isabelle?” Not sparing a moment, she dashed over to the cell—and the man slowly rotated into sight. Except he resembled more of a beast than any man she’d ever seen. Isabelle clamped both hands over her mouth and forced her eyes away. The sight burned—and the inferno in his gaze only kindled that fire. Half of his face looked monstrously twisted; charred mounds of puckered flesh distorted the features beyond any recognition, draining him of all traces of humanity. Those heaps of burned, leather-like skin gleamed and glistened in the candlelight. His hairline receded on the left side of his face and slanted high above a shriveled ear. Under the severe scarring, his age was more or less indistinguishable—though Isabelle guessed he wasn’t a day under thirty-five. But his eyes were breathtaking. Two brilliant sapphires. There was also a great sadness and anger in those eyes, as if he’d suffered more than his share of original sin. Alas, as she gazed into his eyes, all she saw was blue ice—an endless, arctic landscape of cold desolation. The man turned away, appearing greatly affected by her stare, and hastily rearranged the hood. His scarred hands trembled as he smoothed down the cloak’s thick folds. “Release him,” she demanded. “He didn’t mean any harm. I—” “No one meddles with my family’s possessions. He can rot down here as my prisoner. He ought to count himself fortunate that I haven’t taken his hand.” “Your prisoner? This... this is a mistake! You must believe me. He’d never—” A deep, husky chuckle cut through her plea. “Even so.” “Please. Just let him out.” “It’s too late for that.” Those words seemed to speak volumes. He exhaled a long breath, and Isabelle watched as it unfurled against the darkness in a cloud. Silence. “Why... why are you so angry? Why must you be so hateful? So cruel?” “If I let him go,” he said at length, “what can you offer in return?” Isabelle couldn’t find her tongue. She wandered directly in front of the cell, almost in a lucid trance, and clasped the cold bars. Papa was huddled in the corner now, coughing and shivering. Guilt, unlike anything she’d known before, pulsated through her. I’m to blame for this. And if Papa stays here, he’ll die well within a fortnight, likely much sooner… “Get out of my sight.” The man’s voice jarred Isabelle from her inward stupor. She turned to him and stepped forward, raising her chin at a defiant angle. I am not so easily broken or frightened. I am a survivor. She scanned her empty, dank surroundings: the cold stone walls, sweeping cobwebs, and blazing branch of candles. Despair encased her. Stark emptiness. She dared to step closer while a faint trace of pity bloomed inside her heart. They stood centimeters apart. Heat radiated from the man’s body, surrounding her, immersing her. Isabelle vainly searched for softness him, but only a dark, embittered spirit reached her. She stared up at his towering frame and gestured for him to bow forward. He hesitated, then did as she commanded. Her hands shook, damn her, as she peeled back his hood and met that piercing gaze again. Half of his face was handsome—devastatingly so. In her twenty-two years of life, she’d never beheld such haunting beauty. Jet‑black waves, rich and flowing, framed the chiseled lines of his startling features. Stubble peppered the strong curve of his jawline and shadowed a smooth, sculpted cheekbone. The right side of his face was striking, beautiful—a stark contrast to its wrecked counterpart. And within those patrician angles and intense eyes, she encountered his humanity. His was a face of inconsistencies. Complex. Damaged. Predatory. And more than a bit intriguing. “I will stay with you,” she heard herself whisper. “In my father’s place.” “Isabelle—no! I forbid it!” The man folded long, strong arms across his broad chest. His gaze crawled down her face and settled on the rise of her breasts—planting directly on her silver cross. “I demand he’s seen by the finest of physicians.” “Isabelle! Listen to me! I’m an old man. I’m dying. I—” The man’s dark, strangely erotic voice cut through the cellar, and his eyes whipped back to her own with a startling force. “As my mistress.” “What?” “You must stay here as my mistress. For as long as I demand. Perhaps forever.” Forever. The word rang with a note of finality. “Please, Isabelle! I beg you. Don’t do this!” How could I endure it? “Do as I say and your father shall safely return home.” He waved his cloaked arms with a magician’s delicate grace. “Your father—whatever family you may have—shall want for nothing. A house, clothing, anything they require. You only need to say the word. Your father will be under my protection—under the care of nurses and physicians—until his last breath.” Isabelle briefly recalled what—and who—was waiting for her back in Ruillé. This fate wouldn’t be much worse. This desolate castle could serve as the perfect hideout. Papa would live in France, free from Raphael’s clutches and in the hands of the world’s greatest physicians… “How... how can I trust you?” And does he even have the wealth to uphold such a promise? “You cannot.” She had faith Papa would send help once his health recovered. Or she’d find a way out, means of escape. In the interim, she would survive this grim castle and whatever horrors it concealed. Papa would not. The castle would crush him beneath its dark heel in a matter of days. Isabelle glanced at Papa again, then stared into the man’s brilliant eyes. There, lurking within those expressive depths, she found the softness she’d pursued minutes before.   She sucked in her breath and nodded her agreement. “It is done.” The man swept backward. “He’s to remain down here till first light. Then our agreement shall be carried out. In the meantime, I will bring blankets and food—” “But it’s so cold! He—” “Stole from me while he was a guest in my castle.” He would not compromise. That much was certain. “I demand to stay with him.” “As you please.” He unlocked the cell. “Beyond the dungeon lies a labyrinth. Try to escape, and you’ll be lost forever.” He tapped the wall with his booted heel. It swiveled, spun, and rotated, sweeping her captor to the other side...

🌹 Excerpt 🌹

~ Adam gives Isabelle his library ~

“Close your eyes, ma belle.” Strong hands cupped either side of her face. She felt as Adam’s thumbs tentatively brushed back and forth, stroking her cheeks in reverent caresses. Isabelle shut her eyes and slipped beneath his spell... leaned closer in the darkness until they stood heartbeat to heartbeat. The warmth of his breaths teased her hairline, bringing with them a minty scent. His thumbs descended to just below her chin. She lowered her face... felt a featherlight kiss land on her brow. It happened so subtly and gently—Isabelle wasn’t sure whether she’d imagined it. She was allowing herself to feel too much. A stab of guilt penetrated her chest as her thoughts crept inward. Yet instincts told her to trust in her gut—to allow her heart to speak over her tumultuous thoughts. So she shoved away her guilt and allowed herself to simply feel. Pounding footfalls echoed in the room, attesting to its sheer size. Isabelle waited in anticipation under the veil of darkness, her small hands knotted in Stranger’s wiry coat. The steady beat of Adam’s boots floated away from her. A loud whipping noise and a burst of light illuminated the room as he tugged a heavy damask curtain aside. “Open your eyes, Isabelle.” She did as he commanded. Shafts of sunlight tore inside, dancing across the marble floor in blaring prisms—though the darkness still obstructed the room’s contents. Isabelle’s imagination soared as she fantasized about what lay in those clotted shadows. Pale light fringed Adam’s formidable shape, contrasting his silhouette against the dim atmosphere. He paused in front of the opened window and folded both arms behind his ramrod-straight back. Isabelle gazed at the line of his body, unable to tear her eyes away. Indeed, light from the window set him aglow, shrouding him in a cloak of gold. He wore black trousers and a white silk shirt, which fluttered lightly when he moved. Over the past several days, he’d made a habit of abandoning the cloak and hood. Isabelle had become accustomed to the mismatched sides of his face; where she once felt horror and revulsion, she now tingled with curiosity and budding admiration. Alas, the only true revulsion that remained was the memory of that night… Adam was an undeniably prideful man, and she knew he’d only scorn her pity. Even his stance exuded a sense of importance and authority. Strange, how he was so often shy and almost childlike; then, as if by a flip of a coin, he’d turn regal, confident. It was as though he was battling two separate halves... as if an intricate part of himself kept fighting to emerge. Not unlike the two contrasting sides of his face, Isabelle mused. For a suspended moment, he stood in front of the conservatory window, his scarred hands planted on his lean hips as he surveyed the distant gardens. Then he crossed the room, his footfalls amplified by the medallion flooring, and thrust open another curtain. Whoosh. Light flooded the space and chased away the shadows, and the room’s contents were ushered into view. Isabelle nearly lost her breath at the sight. It was a beautiful library—the most stunning sight she’d ever beheld. Ornate, intricately carved shelves towered against the painted walls and reached for a gilded ceiling. A baroque chandelier hung in the heart of the room; its crystals sparkled like diamonds as they drank in morning’s light. Isabelle fought to temper her racing heart as she gaped at the sweeping shelves. An intimate reading nook lined a curved window; lush pillows decorated the chaise, and a brass candelabra towered beside it. In all her life, she’d never seen so many books. There were far too many to count. Too many books to read in one lifetime. Isabelle couldn’t help but think of the little storekeeper from Ruillé’s bookshop; she imagined his astonishment, how his bushy white brows would rise at the sight of Adam’s vast library. He’d run his wrinkled fingertips over the bindings and spines, reverently caressing each one. Her heart twisted with nostalgia at the thought of her former home. Once Raphael had entered her life, however, Ruillé had transformed into a prison. This castle should have been just that. A jail cell. Yet she’d never felt more free than in that moment. The library was larger than her whole cottage; several book-filled rooms connected to it, each one built with floor-to-ceiling shelves. Three sliding ladders were nestled against the circular walls, soaring to the very top of the domed ceiling. She spun on her heels, twirling in place—watching as the immense collection flurried by in a fantastic mosaic of colorful spines and intricate woodwork. Her eyes planted on Adam, who stood in front of the large row of glowing, arched windows. His arms were still folded behind his body, his sleek back straighter than an arrow. She couldn’t find her voice, couldn’t move forward, although she ached to reach out and embrace his solid body. How would it feel to be enveloped inside that commanding strength? A devastating smile spread across his misshapen features and cut her thought short. He ran a shaky hand through his hair, which was highlighted by the sun’s rays, and then hesitantly strode toward her. His boots rapped against the floor, and the sound swelled through the library. Stranger barked as he approached, the loud noise echoing in the room and jarring Isabelle from her trance. “Do... do you like it?” Finally he stood before her, silent and still. Isabelle inhaled a long breath, then laid her palm on the left side of his face. Her fingertips danced over the raised ridges and welts, the reddish scars and shriveled ear. His eyes shuttered closed, and she felt a shudder rake through his tense body. “Yes. I love it.” And I'm starting to fall in love with you, too...

 

🌹 Meet the Author 🌹

Rachel L. Demeter lives in the beautiful hills of Anaheim, California with Teddy, her goofy lowland sheepdog, and her high school sweetheart of fourteen years. She enjoys writing poignant romances that challenge the reader’s emotions and explore the redeeming power of love. Imagining dynamic worlds and characters has been Rachel’s passion for longer than she can remember. Before learning how to read or write, she would dictate stories while her mother would record them for her. She holds a special affinity for the tortured hero and unconventional romances. Whether crafting the protagonist or antagonist, she ensures every character is given a soul. Rachel endeavors to defy conventions by blending elements of romance, suspense, and horror. Some themes her stories never stray too far from: forbidden romance, soul mates, the power of love to redeem, mend all wounds, and triumph over darkness. Her dream is to move readers and leave an emotional impact through her words. Don’t be a stranger! Rachel loves to connect and interact with her readers:

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Monday, March 13, 2017

#EXCERPT and #GIVEAWAY: A Minger's Tale By RBN Bookmark

Minger`s Tale by R.B.N. Bookmark

Minger`s Tale by R.B.N. Bookmark

Publisher: Create Space (Mar 18, 2016)
Category: Satirical Biography, Humor, Memoir
Tour Date: Mar & Apr, 2017
ISBN: 978-1517428396
ASIN: B01DJAXURM
Available in: Print & ebook,  278 Pages
A Minger's Tale

GIVEAWAY:


a Rafflecopter giveaway


British slang definition: “ A minger is a male or female who fell out of the ugly tree at birth and hit every branch on the way down.” A Minger`s Tale is not so much of a biography, but more of a “Boyography”. It is a humorous account of growing up in the back streets of Manchester, England during the 1960`s and 70`s. “Do pastures greener exist for the colour blind –and how would they ever know? This is the conundrum Bookmark is faced with and the results are akin to a dog looking for a lamp post in a blackout. Bookmark does indeed find some of lifes lamp posts, but more often than not he just winds up getting his feet wet.

EXCERPT:


Ribban recalls the changing face of post-war Manchester
…..& how not to  milk a cow!


Changes Afoot

We were still living in Ardwick Green. Our house was now one of only a couple on the street that were lived in. The demolition crews were in full swing, and it felt as if we were living in the blitz whenever we stepped outside or looked out the window—just rubble and desolation where once there was a street and a flourishing community. It was a very depressing environment.
Each day children who lived in the nearby streets that were also earmarked for demolition would get into stone fights. The whole environment had a Mad Max feel about it. Our daily weather forecast was one of scattered showers, making way for bricks, and stones later in the day. Not the sort of weather prognosis you get on the BBC. A steady stream of stolen and burnt-out cars were dumped in the area. It had become a squalid place to live. Manchester City Council and the city developers did more peacetime damage than the German War Machine could ever have achieved.
Every morning I’d empty out the beetles and cockroaches before putting my shoes on. It was impossible to keep the vermin out when our house ended up the only inhabited one that was left on the street. While I was emptying the beetles out of my shoe, I’d play a game. I’d call them names in a fake Liverpool accent: “There goes John; out you come, Paul; don’t be shy, George; and c’mon, Ringo.” But these beetles never really split up—it was more like they splat up.
Water often leaked in from the empty houses on either side of us, but what we were most afraid of was the scrap metal thieves stealing lead piping from the gas mains.
My time at Holy Name R.C. Infants School was at an end, and after the summer holidays I would be starting at my new school, this would be St. Ignatius secondary modern school for boys—I chose the school because I thought Ignatius was a wicked name. Ignorance I find is the perfect year-round holiday destination. I’ve been there many times.
That summer of August 1969, my parents sent me on holiday with my mum’s two sisters Aileen and Bernadette to the west coast of Ireland to visit relatives. We took the boat over from Holyhead to Dun Laoghrie. It was quite late at night when we arrived by train in Dublin, and the only place we could find to stay was a ramshackle sleazy but cheap hotel hidden away in one of Dublin’s backstreets. The room was large, with four beds. I had my own bed, while my aunties shared one. The other two beds were occupied by two women, total strangers! My aunties slept lightly that night, not knowing who or what was in the next bed.
At breakfast, I could see the cook through the open kitchen hatch frying bacon and eggs with a cigarette in his mouth—“I like my egg over and easy, yes, I take milk in my tea. One lump of ash for me, please!”
As we left the hotel and walked into town, I was able to see Dublin in the light of day. It’s a big city with a lot of history, but back then it always struck me as such a sad place. In the city centre, it was hustle and bustle. I had been told to watch out for the Dublin buses when crossing the road. “They stop for nothing,” I had been warned, so every crossing felt like we were dicing with certain death.
Outside, it was teeming with rain. We had stopped off at the General Post Office on O’Connell Street to send a postcard to England: “Having a great time, weather is lovely, see you soon,” etc etc. The post office is an impressive Georgian building in the heart of Dublin and was the scene of the Easter Rising of 1916.
“Ribban, mind you don’t get rain water on the card and smudge the writing,” said Aunty Aileen as she handed me a pen to sign my name at the bottom of it.
We passed by Nelson’s Pillar, or what was left of it. It had been blown up some months previously, so all that remained was rubble, and the site was now cordoned off awaiting demolition. That was one in the good eye for Nelson, I suppose you could say.
Before leaving Dublin my aunties stopped off at a pub to buy a bottle of whiskey as a present for my grandfather. Little did they know, I would later make inroads into that bottle of whiskey during my stay.

My grandfather owned a large farm in County Mayo stocked with dairy cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, and sheep. For me this was a new universe awaiting exploration, the overwhelming smell of grassy fields scattered with cow pats and the sound of animals. No doubt about it, I loved it.
When I got up for breakfast in the morning, one of my aunties would make me porridge. I hate porridge with an unbridled devotion, but then she added sugar and the special ingredient—a spoonful of whiskey. “I love porridge,” said the red-faced eleven-year old sat at the breakfast table.
My day started with egg hunting. Straight after breakfast I’d be in the hen house lifting up the hens to see if there was an egg. I did this every twenty minutes or so until I either lost interest or the hens barricaded the hen house door. Somehow I doubt if I was good for production.
Then it was on to the pigs. I could never work out why pigs have a curly tail, so I would chase after the smaller ones and attempt to straighten out theirs. I met with no success in that department. By the time I’d finished, my grandfather had the only piglets in Ireland sporting reef knots.
Grandfather was very old back then, and it was his children who ran the place for him. My uncles even let me have a go at milking a cow by hand. The cow (and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way) was a disaster, and I narrowly missed a flying hoof. Maybe my hands were a bit cold, even sticky from all the sweets I’d eaten. From that day on, whenever she saw me, she’d give me a leery look when walking past, as if to say “hands off” while swinging her udders to and fro—almost taunting me to “come and have another go, you little fecker.”
“No way, José,” I whispered to myself.
My uncles had a peculiar but effective way to stop grown calves suckling milk from their mothers. They would locate the nearest cow pat (no GPS needed there, just follow your nose, or better still, look under your shoes), take a stick, cover the end of it with dung and then smear the poor calf’s mouth with it. It worked a treat. They were saving money on milk and recycling crap in the process.
The farmhouse was an old thatched cottage with a big open fireplace, which was for cooking and hot water. Bedding arrangements were cramped, so it was a case of me sharing a bed with one of my uncles. He’d be up at the crack of dawn to go to work, and then be back later to start working on the farm.
On Sundays it was church time, and no exceptions, everyone had to attend.
As bad as people claimed I was and given that my soul must be as black as the devil’s arse, one would have thought I’d burst into flames upon entering a church.
But no, not even a case of sunburn?
Oh and one can forget about bribing the priest into saying a quicker mass. Everything was done by the book—the good book.
We cycled some four miles into the village. The church was quite modern, but there was a very obvious pecking order once inside. The women and children sat in the pews at the very front of the church, the first five or so. The men sat right at the back. The reason for this became apparent when Mass was over. The men had disappeared across the road to the post office that doubled as the village pub and supermarket. My aunties and I would cycle back to the cottage on our own.
Back on the farm, my aunties were worried about me going out into the fields alone. They thought this little figure with bright red hair would scare the cattle and maybe even provoke them into an attack. So whenever I went out, Butch the sheepdog would be by my side to ward off the cattle, especially the one I mentioned earlier. The farm had two dogs, Butch and Tiny. Tiny was not a sheepdog like Butch, but something in between. I was never able to make out what the breed was, but he was called Tiny after Tiny Tim (“Tiptoe through the Tulips” and all that). The two dogs didn’t see eye to eye, and the only way round it was for them to take it in turns locked up in the barn—Tiny by day and Butch by night.
Butch was an old dog and a little vindictive. I realised this when he stretched out his paw to me on one occasion to shake hands, only for him to lunge forward and attempt to bite my hand. To bite the hand that shakes the paw isn’t a good sign.
The cottage was over a hundred years old, so there were no mod cons apart from the radio. There weren’t any toilets. When Mother Nature called, one had to go out into the fields, find a nice secluded spot, and do the business. Coming from the city, I was very inept at this, and one day my uncles gave me a telling-off because I’d dumped under some steps to an adjoining field and one of them had found it the hard way. They were not pleased at all! After that, an old garden shed was used as an improvised toilet for us city dwellers. It had a nonflush bucket in the middle of the floor.
The farm had a small pond with a white duck. One day the duck was nowhere to be seen. It’s hard to explain to a child the ways of the real world, and it was upsetting to find out I had probably eaten the poor thing and never realised it. But I’ve never forgotten one of my aunties killing a chicken, breaking its neck, and the chicken running around for a minute or so before dying. It horrified me, and certainly put me on the road to being a vegetarian in later life—although it took a while, as I’ve always liked my mum’s burnt steak. No one burns steak like my mum.
The cottage’s open fireplace was kept lit by burning turf, cut from a peat bog some miles away. My uncles took me out one day to the peat bog in the horse and cart (that and bicycles were the mode of transport at the time). They even let me drive the horse and cart out onto the road. I almost took out a gatepost while manoeuvering the horse out of the farm—there was no servo steering! My uncle let fly with a few Gaelic expletives before taking back the reins.
After we’d cut the turf and loaded up the cart, my uncle made us a cup of bog tea, which is tea made from peat water. A better cup of tea you will never taste. It’s funny how small things stick in your mind even after so many years.
Very early on during my time there, I was told not to speak to strangers—my uncles or aunts would speak to them in my place. The Troubles were in full swing, and even a child with an English accent might warrant some unwanted attention. How do you explain that to an eleven-year-old?
My time in Ireland was drawing to a close, and it would soon be time to return to England and start at my new school. This would be my last visit to Ireland as a child; the next time I would be back would be under unhappier circumstances some thirty years later.


Praise Minger`s Tale by R.B.N. Bookmark

“Have you ever had a “bad” day, I mean a day where the world seems to be lining up to give you a swift kick, or maybe toss a pie in your face? Welcome to Ribban’s life. R.B.N. Bookmark’s tongue-in-cheek, witty and sometimes painful, A Minger’s Tale.  Everything in Ribban’s life is NOT one big joke or one-liner, far from it, but it is in the manner in which this author uses his light-hearted hindsight that we find humor in the painful moments of self-doubt, self-recrimination and even the sense of knowing he does not fit in. Feel the frustration, and be amazed at the resiliency of one boy who keeps trying to move forward through the maze that is life. One of the most purely entertaining books I have read, because everyone has a story to tell, some are just quirkier than others.”-Dianne, Tome Tender Book Blog
“Bold is how I would describe this book in one word. It is the voice of a man who felt he needed to be heard and that his story was every bit as valuable as that of any celebrity. Honesty shines through in abundance, along with a lack of apology for the tone of the book, which is every bit the way a bloke down the pub would talk to you, fusing nostalgia with humour.  A Minger’s Tale a refreshing read, and a story well-worth hearing.”- Benjamin Francis Cassidy, Humanity Hallows
“Even from the title you get an idea that this book leans on the side of deadpan during an underdog story, in essence it is a deliciously honest and positively told autobiography lit by hilarious anecdotes and dazzling insight. A Minger's tale is an insight into the frustratingly mundane and difficult side of the trials of one man desperately seeking improvement through tough times on the breadline of England 1970s. It is amazing to see that this is Bookmark’s first book, there is undoubtedly much more to come, and after reading this awesome first book I’ll be the first in line. A Minger’s Tale is an honest account, from an honest gentleman, who has lived. I guarantee this is a star who will shine bright in the near future.”- Martin Skate, Author of ‘Start Right Here’ & ‘The Spike Collection’

About R.B.N. Bookmark

Minger`s Tale by R.B.N. Bookmark
"Hindsight & perforated toilet paper are what sets us apart from the apes": rbn bookmark Originally from Manchester in the UK, R.B.N. Bookmark left the damp north of England behind him and exiled himself to the frozen north of Scandinavia where he has remained these last 25 years. He began writing 3 years ago, urged on by family and friends A Minger`s Tale-Beginnings eventually saw the light of day in March 2016. The books quirky humour portrays the flipside of life in northern England during the 1970`s through to the mid 1980`s.
Website: http://www.rbnbookmark.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RBN-Bookmark-988776994541136/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rbnbookmark

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Minger`s Tale by R.B.N. Bookmark

Friday, March 10, 2017

#SALE: Bend-Bite-Shift Collection by Olivia Hardin

Copy of The Collection

Get the first volume of the Bend-Bite-Shift Collection for just 99 cents!

That's 5 books for 99 pennies, but its only available for a short time!

AMAZON

And, if you're a Kindle Unlimited Reader you can get all 10 stories of the Bend-Bite-Shift Series FREE!  Not in Kindle Unlimited?  No problem.  Just click HERE to try it at no cost!

kindlefire_600x1024Magic divides the human and faery realms, yet love may be a power strong enough to break any bonds... but in the process it could destroy them all. Pain, joy, death,life, magic. All of it fits…

In this collection you'll get:
Witch Way Bends
Devan Stowe has only one thing on her mind: shutting down her father's child trafficking business. Her determination sets her on a journey to discover her true strength and the one man she was destined to love.  In his arms, she'll unlock an amazing gift that will free her from her past and open up a future full of magic, faeries and more things than she ever imagined possible.
But no good deed goes unpunished, and Devan's quest may have deadly consequences not only for her, but for those she cares most about.
Bitten Shame
Jill Prescott returned from self-imposed seclusion to help save her best friend Devan's life. Throwing herself into Devan's problems and bringing an evil organization to its knees might just be the distraction she needs to keep living without the only man she's ever loved.  Her life changed forever when she was hired to spend a week with Doc Massey. On the day she became a vampire her youthful innocence ended, but Doc's love rescued her from being consumed by the darkness. The shadow of that former life continues to loom over her, keeping her from realizing her own self-worth. Running from her past only brings her closer to a destiny that is inextricably connected to what she is trying to escape...
Every gift has both a reward and a price, because All of it fits. . .
Tell A Soul
He's the dependable one. The strong and steadfast one. Still, there's one woman who has always turned his firm resolve on end. Langston is surprised beyond belief to find Kristana again, and this time without a husband. Has fate finally given them the chance to be together? Kristana can't escape her intense attraction for the strange giant Langston, but the murmuring voices in her head are threatening to drive her mad.
Can she find a way to trade one torment for another and thereby find true love?
Shifty Business
Gerry Hinton thought she had the perfect career as an operative for the Company. Her next assignment should have been another "mission accomplished", but hell was delivering hand baskets that day.  When a little girl gives a mysterious silver box to Gerry, her world self-destructs. Suddenly under constant mental attacks, the only person who can save her is her partner, Nicky--but nothing comes without a cost.
Secrets buried deep in the past begin to rise, threatening everything she holds dear.
By Blood and Benevolence
Viktor has battled the darkness his entire vampire existence. His wife and the life they made together manage to keep him from the brink of despair, but it's always near the surface.  A strange and dark encounter at a party unleashes his repressed past, overwhelming him with memories of his cruel maker and lost love.
His sanity is challenged when a mysterious dhampir arrives on his doorstep with information that will cause him to question everything he thought he knew.

About the Author

olivia hardin pic b&w.jpg When Olivia Hardin began having strange movie-like dreams in her teens, she had no choice but to begin putting them to paper. Before long the writing bug had her and she knew she wanted to be a published author. Several rejections plus a little bit of life later, and she was temporarily “cured” of the urge to write. That is until she met a group of talented and fabulous writers who gave her the direction and encouragement she needed to get lost in the words again. Olivia’s attended three different universities over the years and toyed with majors in Computer Technology, English, History and Geology. Then one day she heard the term road scholar and she knew that was what she wanted to be. Now she “studies” anything and everything just for the joy of learning. She's also an insatiable crafter who only completes about 1 out of 5 projects, a jogger who hates to run, and she’s sometimes accused of being artistic. A native Texas girl, Olivia lives in the beautiful Lone Star state with her husband, Danny and their puppy, Bonnie. Get a free gift just for signing up for Olivia's Newsletter! Follow Tawdra: Newsletter/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Website Amazon/BookBub
And if you love her books, join Team OH!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

#EXCERPT: The Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini


Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini

Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini

Publisher: Mill City Press (Nov 17, 2015) 
Category: Historical Fiction, Romance, Pioneer Woman, Strong Female Character, Western 
Tour date Mar/Apr, 2017 
ISBN: 978-1634138291 
Available in Print & ebook, 
560 pages
  The Blue Hour

Description of Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini

IN THIS EPIC TALE of love, loss, and redemption, the year is 1861, a time when women are expected to be married by a certain age. At 26, spinster Emily Wainwright has no reason to believe her sheltered life will ever change—until the charming Samuel Todd unexpectedly crosses her path. Samuel yearns to homestead and start a family in Oregon, but he first needs to find a wife. Blinded by Samuel’s good looks, and grasping at her final chance to have a husband and children, Emily accepts his marriage proposal. However, Samuel is not the man she thought he was, and her marriage becomes a cold, cruel prison, offering her no solace amidst the hardships of farm life. When Samuel dies and a second chance at love and happiness arrives in the form of farmhand Cole Walker, Emily must overcome her bitter past—or risk losing Cole and the life she has always dreamed of having.

EXCERPT

Oregon
1864

Emily Wainwright Todd stood facing the rough doorway of the little cabin, willing herself to go inside. Behind her, the world huddled, gray and still, under the cold hard dome of winter. She could hear the ring of pickaxes from mines in the nearby mountains, the sound carrying for miles in the crystalline air. She rested her forehead against the cold doorframe and wished she could go back in time. She wouldn’t repeat the mistakes that had brought her here. If only she knew what to do. In the three days since Samuel’s death, she had been carried on the momentum of the funeral preparations. Now he was buried in the hard winter ground, and the neighbors were gone, returned to their unaltered lives. She was left to navigate hers without benefit of compass or map.
Her hands were numb from the cold: as numb as she felt inside. She would freeze if she stood out here any longer. But she couldn’t make herself take that step. It was too monumental. If only there were a ritual for such moments, when something as ordinary as entering a room seemed charged with meaning. But the time had come. Unless she wanted the neighbors to find her frozen body, she couldn’t put it off any longer. She took a deep breath, opened the door, and stepped inside. She was twenty-eight years old, and, for the first time in her life, utterly alone.
She closed the door behind her and looked around, unsure of what to do next. The cabin was frigid – she could see her breath coming in white puffs. She went to the cast iron stove and peered inside: weak embers flickered in a pile of spent cinders. If she worked quickly she could revive them. She pulled the three-legged stool under her and carefully blew on the embers. They glowed beneath fluttering grey ash.
She fed kindling into the stove’s belly, grateful to have the next few moments decided for her. On any other day she’d have been preparing the mid-day meal for Samuel when he came in from the fields. She’d be spared that chore for a while: her table groaned under the weight of covered dishes brought by her neighbors, more than enough to see her through the next few rugged days. Like her, most of them were scraping by, even more so in winter. She knew well what their generosity had cost them.
She also knew that the few souls who had braved the bitter February wind at Auburn Cemetery had come out of respect for her. Samuel had made few friends in the short time they’d lived in the Blue Mountains of Oregon: he’d kept to himself and preferred that she do the same. She’d rewarded the mourners with a brief service. Why make them stand in the cold and sing hymns for someone they barely knew? She’d watched impassively as the men strained to dig Samuel’s grave in the frozen earth: their efforts would soon be over, while her struggle was just beginning. Few could survive alone in this harsh land, let alone a woman. They must assume it was only a matter of time before she packed up and returned to her family in Illinois.
She laid a small log on the fire and watched the clinging lichens burst into flame. The woodsy fragrance embraced her like an old friend as the crackling fire grew, magical and alive.
Fool! You’re wasting the flame.
She clamped her hands over her ears in despair: it was Samuel’s voice, lodged forever in her mind. She had instinctively braced herself for it. His harsh judgment would live in her head for all eternity. She would never be free.

Praise for Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini

“All of Righettini’s characters are well-rounded, in particular Emily herself, whose personal growth throughout the novel is richly detailed and memorable.”-Historical Novel Society
 “This novel is about second chances and the courage needed to take them. The most compelling aspects of The Blue Hour are not the vivid, expansive descriptions of life on the vast (and seemingly never-ending) Oregon Trail or the well-drawn characters who dance (and often trudge) between hardship and hope. Instead, the brightest lights burst forth from nuanced moments tucked throughout the story. Read this book if you want to immerse yourself in the wilds of western America in the 1860s or get lost in the even denser wilderness of love and loss. Maybe this recommendation needs to be simplified even further – read this book. It’s exhilarating to root for a character who is trying to navigate uncharted territory and make the greatest discovery of all.”-Underground Book Reviews
“The Blue Hour is one of the finest historical novels I've ever read. You will love the author's writing and the detailed historical references. The characters are vividly portrayed, and I felt as if I knew them well. Long after I'd finished reading, I still thought about the story. It's part adventure, part love story, and part survival. Highly recommended.”-Ann Creel, Author

About Vicki Righettini

Blue Hour by Vicki RighettiniVicki Righettini is an award-winning, nationally produced playwright, and her recently-published historical novel, The Blue Hour, was a badge winner and Pitch Perfect Pick at Underground Books. Originally from Los Angeles, Vicki lived in Oregon for over twenty years, where she developed an abiding love of the land and the Oregon way of life. Before turning to full-time writing, she worked for forty years as a singer/actress and performing arts instructor.
Her blog, Between a Book and a Hard Place, focuses on the ups and downs of the creative process (http://www.vickirighettini.com).
 Vicki lives in San Diego with her software-developer, Jeopardy!-champion husband, and the world's shyest cat.
 Facebook: http://bit.ly/2h2UZGy
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VRighettini

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  Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini