on the cover
Interview and excerpt from
contents March/April 2016
columns 33 Addicted to Romance RIDE ‘EM COWBOY
59 Young at Heart
73 The Scrying Eye
COPS, COMICS, AND SPIRITS!
features 44 P.H. Turner 46 Book Buzz 48 Michelle Levigne 52 Jim Cangany 66 Carlyle Labuschagne 68 Fire Quill 80 Ann Charles
82 Bernard DeLeo 104 Joanna Grace 106 Taryn Kincaid 110 Kathy Bryson 118 Rachel Brimble 122 Anabelle Bryant 134 Loose ID
89 Ali B & The Forty Spaceships THE DESERT, THE EMPTY SPACE, AND GREAT BOOKS . . .
113 The Hot Hunks of History ARE KILT’S HOT?
127 The Heat Diva
genres 31 CONTEMPORARY & ROMANCE 57 YOUNG ADULT 71 MYSTERY & SUSPENSE
special report from:
87 SCI-FI/FANTASY & PARANORMAL 111 HISTORICAL & WESTERN 125 EROTIC & SENSUAL
on the website Blogging 101 with Heather Powers Karen’s Writing Detours with Karen Albright Lin Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
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Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
From the Desk of
Babs Hightower BTS CEO
Welcome to my official start of the March/April issue.
Our debut issue will be April/May 2016. Ad deadline March 1st!!!
A big thank you to Myra Nour for all her hard work and sweat to produce BTS Magazine. It is an honor to be the new CEO/Owner of the magazine. For those that do not know I met Myra at a conference three years ago and started working with her right after we both went home. I started out as the promotions coordinator and then also review coordinator and as Myra calls me her Girl Friday. When she talked about retiring I got nervous about who would take over. After talking I agreed to do my best to take over and I am loving it.
You can find more information here in this issue on page 13.
I am a work from home mom to four boys ranging from 5 to 18, 11 Siberian huskies and one cat. Throw in a great husband and it rounds out our family. I am an avid reader and love promoting authors. I enjoy cooking, crafts and gardening. My personal book review blog Babs Book Bistro will be turning 6 years old later this year. You will find cozy mysteries and more over there. New Magazine for BTS: We are starting a new softer side Magazine, The Heartwarming HEARTH.
We will be catering to these specialty book niches: Children’s books, Cooking/Recipes, Sweet Christian Romance, Amish Romance, Homeschooling, DIY.
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I’d also like to welcome new staff to the BTS Family: Amber Marr - Review Assistant Julie Nicholls - Junior Designer J.R White - Newsletter Editor Barbara Bradley - Babs’s Executive Assistant Heather Powers - Babs’s Research Assistant Alisha Wilson - Erotic/Heat Diva columnist Cheryl Yeko - Yahoo Promotions
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BTSeMag is proud to introduce a new magazine to the BTS Family. Heartwarming HEARTH This magazine will cater to: Children’s books, Cooking/Recipes, Christian, Sweet Christian Romance, Amish Romance, Homeschooling, Do-It-Yourself and Crafts.
At BTSeMag, we always felt there were areas that we couldn’t cater to in the regular issue of BTS Book Reviews. So the Heartwarming HEARTH was born, as a way to feature authors and publishers that were left out of the regular issue. We hope you enjoy the new issue, and we will work hard to grow this new magazine in strength and popularity as the regular issue!
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Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
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Find your next smart and sexy book at Evernight Publishing, a premier publisher of Romance, Erotic Romance and Urban Fantasy. With new titles releasing daily, readers will find a large selection of contemporary, paranormal, gay, interracial, historical, sweet romance, ménage and everything in between at evernightpublishing. com We are currently accepting submissions for our next anthology, DARK CAPTIVE, a collection of dark erotic romance stories featuring alpha men with fierce sexual appetites. They’ll stop at nothing to get what they want. And they have their sights on one woman. Possessive and bold, these heroes give their conquests exactly what they crave—to be taken … to be owned. Any resistance offered will be tested, but in the end love rules. Find submission guidelines here: http://www.evernightpublishing.com/ pages/Submissions.html Young Adult fans will love our fresh, real and raw teen fiction line at Evernight Teen. Find something new by today’s hottest Young Adult authors at evernightteen.com!
dustry Insider |
ou Can Use SoulMate Publishing soulmatepublishing.com For Authors: We are actively seeking authors who can tell an exciting story and aren’t afraid to venture into new territory. We encourage novels that are original and blur the genre lines. For Readers: Soul Mate Publishing welcomes you to romance, where two become one. We offer high-quality romantic fiction for readers around the world. Our novels are available both electronically and in paperback. Whether you enjoy traditional romance or are searching for stories that push the limits, you’ll find what you’re looking for. We are NOT the same old thing!
5 Prince Publishing 5princebooks.com 5 Prince Publishing is currently accepting new submissions in the Romance genre. All sub-genres of romance accepted. (Erotic/Erotica will be considered for the Private Moments imprint.) Full length titles over 50,000 words. Complete manuscripts only. Please see the submissions guidelines on our website. http://www.5princebooks.com/submissions.html
Loose ID loose-id.com Check out the wide variety of genres from the great authors at Loose Id Publishing! BDSM & Fetish, Contemporary, Cowboy & Western, Crossdressing, Fantasy & Paranormal, Full-figured Heroines, Historical, Holidays, LGBTTQ, Menage & Polyamory, Multicultural, Mystery & Suspense, New Adult,Science Fiction & Space Opera, Series, Shapeshifters, Steampunk, Supernatural, Time Travel, Urban Fantasy, Vampires
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
| Industry Insider |
BDSM WRITERS CON Everett, WA March 31-April 3, 2016 New York City, NY August 18-21, 2016 http://bdsmwriterscon.com/
WEEKEND WITH THE AUTHORS Nashville, TN May 13-15, 2016 https://www.eventbrite.com/e/weekend-with-theauthors-formerly-known-as-a-day-with-the-authorstickets-16789480789
BOOK OBESSED BABE AUTHOR SIGNING EVENT Jacksonville, FL April 9, 2016 http://bookobsessedbabes.wix.com/book-obsessed-babes
THE 2016 ROMANCE NOVEL CONVENTION Las Vegas, NV June 1-5, 2016 http://www.romancenovelconvention.com
PIKE’S PEAK WRITER’S CONFERENCE Colorado Springs, CO April 15-17, 2016 http://www.pikespeakwriters.com/ppwc
READERS AND WRITERS UNITE Houston, TX August 5-7, 2016 http://bookrhythm.com/readers-and-writers-unite-2016/
BTS RED CARPET AWARDS AND NOVEL EXPERIENCE CONVENTION-THE NOVEL EXPERIENCE EVENT Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, Atlanta, GA April 6-10, 2016 http://www.btsemag.com/redcarpet/awards-2016-at-novelexperience
KALLYPSO CON Casper, WY August 26-28, 2016 http://kallypsomasters.com/kallypsocon/kallypsocon-2016/
RT BOOKLOVERS CONVENTION Las Vegas, Nevada April 12-17, 2016 http://www.rtconvention.com RICHMOND’S READER REHAD Richmond, VA April 30, 2016 http://richmondsreadersrehab.weebly.com/ BOOK EXPO AMERICA McCormick Place, Chicago, IL May 11-13, 2016 http://www.bookexpoamerica.com/Show-Info/Event-At-AGlance-Hours/#page=Event-Hours
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ROMCON Denver, CO September 30-October 1, 2016 http://www.romcon.com/romcon-2016 IMAGINARIUM CONVENTION Louisville, KY October 7-9, 2016 http://www.entertheimaginarium.com/ SHAMELESS BOOK CON Orlando, FL October 22, 2016 http://shamelessbookclub.com/shameless-book-con/ MIDWESTERN BOOK LOVERS UNITE READER AND AUTHOR CONFERENCE Bloomington, MN October 20-23, 2016 http://www.midwesternbookloversunite.com/
COVER AUTHOR Showcase
Read an excerpt from:
An Interview with:
| COVER AUTHOR | NEW YORK TIMES & USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR
DONNA MICHAELS Donna Michaels is addicted to cowboys and military heroes. A New York Times & USA Today Award Winning Author of Romaginative fiction, she writes hot, humorous, and heartwarming books as an indie, but also through AmazonEncore, Kindle Worlds, The Wild Rose Press, Whimsical Publications, and recently signed with Entangled Publications. To keep up with Donna’s news, releases, and exclusive subscriber giveaways, sign up for her Newsletter:
Donna Michaels Newsletter DonnaMichaelsAuthor.com
BTS: Where is the coolest place you have gotten to visit in relation to being an author or as a military family? The coolest place I’ve gotten to visit so far, was the WWII Museum in New Orleans when I was at the ARC NOLA conference. I spent the whole day there, and it still wasn’t enough time to see and read about every exhibit and aircraft. I’m definitely going back. BTS: What’s your favorite thing about being an author? My favorite thing about being an author is the chance to give readers an escape from their lives, to entertain, and hopefully, put a good feeling in their hearts. BTS: Where do you get your inspiration for your books? I get the inspiration for my books from everyday life. I live in a household of 9 (my husband of nearly 30 years; 4 children plus a daughter-in-law; and my parents live with us, too), plus several rescued cats. Never a dull moment. All my characters, including the ones in my Harland County, Citizen Soldier, and Dangerous Curves Series, always have real-life issues to deal with and overcome. BTS: What do you think readers would be surprised to know about you? My readers may be surprised to know I suffer from Hashimoto Thyroiditus like my character Brandi Wyne/Dalton from Her Uniform Cowboy. Every health and self-image issue I gave her came from my own experiences. My readers may also be surprised to learn I had twin brothers, but also twin boys of my own. That’s why writing the Brennan twins from Cowboy-Fiancé (currently being hand-drawn into a Japanese Manga) and Cowboy Payback was a hoot. I experienced twins as a sibling and a mother. BTS: What kinds of books do you enjoy reading? I enjoy all kinds of books, especially romance, of course, but my absolute favorite books are…yep,
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| DONNA MICHAELS | hot, humorous, and heartwarming like Jill Shalvis! BTS: Do you have a street team? Yes, I do have a street team: Donna Michaels’ Minion Division. There are details about it on my website: www.donnamichaelsauthor.com BTS: Will you be making any appearances or attending any book events any time soon? Yes, I have several appearances coming up. The first is the Romantic Times Book Convention in Las Vegas, April 12-17. I’ll also be at A Weekend with the Authors in Nashville from May, 13-15. Please, stop by and say, hi!! BTS: What advice would you give your readers who are thinking about becoming authors themselves? I would advise two things. First, read. Never stop reading, especially in the genre you want to write. Second, network. I was blessed to become part of the Cowboy 12-Pack with past and present authors: Becky McGraw, Elle James, Beth Williamson, Randi Alexander, Lindsay McKenna, Sable Hunter, Cynthia D’Alba, Lexi Post, Sabrina York, Delilah Devlin, Paige Tyler, and Susan Stoker. COWBOY JUSTICE is our third set, and currently up for PreOrder for .99cents. The exposure to new readers, and lifelong friendships I’ve made is worth the low price. Networking also helped when Cat Johnson invited me to write in her Hot SEALs Kindle Worlds with some fabulous authors, and we’re gearing up for a third launch this April! Both of my SEAL books have hit, and stayed, in the #1 spot in Action/ Adventure for months. What a thrill! None of it would be possible without the exposure from fellow authors. The friendships, opportunities, and collective wisdoms from networking are priceless!
Enjoy an excerpt from: In order to keep close to an alpha cowboy her boss wants protected, Knight agent Tara Lynch draws on her acting skills to play a scared schoolteacher who witnessed the murder of a hitman, and on her restraint to resist falling for the sexy cowboy. Former SEAL Callahan ‘Rooke’ Lawe agrees to help his old commander, but with his hands already full investigating accidents on his training ranch that put his brother in the hospital, his attraction to the beautiful woman is a distraction he doesn’t need. As the Gulfstream taxied to a stop, Tarah glanced out the window at the private north Texas airstrip. Clear blue sky, desert, tumbleweeds, a small, but decent hanger, and one building in the middle of nowhere. Perfect. Just the sort of location one would expect an agent to hand over a witness. Brooke emerged from the cockpit with an arched brow. “Ready to play damsel in distress?” Tarah smirked as she rose from her seat and stretched. “Yes, although, it’s not exactly my favorite persona to assume. Still, as far as assignments go, I’ve drawn worse.” By far the deadliest and prettiest of all Knight agents, her dark-haired friend strolled closer and grinned. “Guarding a former Navy SEAL? Yeah, I’d say you could do a lot worse. They put the S in stamina. And from what little Nikki divulged of her time with him, Rook has it in spades.” She had to admit, she was quite curious to meet the man who’d helped one of their fellow agents through some tough times last year. He had to be special for Nikki to befriend him. “Whatever he has, I’m just glad the guy helped her overcome her past and move on to reunite with Cage.” Brooke’s dark pony-tail bobbed with her curt nod. “She deserves to be happy.” “True.” Nikki was now re-engaged to her former fiancé, and Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
| COVER AUTHOR | starting up a satellite office in Florida. Knight Agency was spreading out. “Same goes for Rook.” A fleeting smile ghosted her friend’s lips. Unease whispered down Tarah’s spine. She shook it off. Brooke Hudson didn’t do secrets. The lethal beauty was a black and white, up front, hard-nosed agent. This business with the damn shooting last week was making Tarah paranoid. She straightened the hem of her blue floral blouse and smoothed the creases from her white capris. “That may be, but I’m not here to get to know Rook in that capacity. I’m here to keep him and his brother safe, and to find and eliminate the threat to their training ranch.” “Without either of them knowing.” She grabbed her suitcase and the carryon containing her weapons from the small cabin closet. “I know. That’s why this suitcase is loaded with frillier clothes. Rook thinks I’m a school teacher targeted by the mob for witnessing a hit.” Brooke snickered. “Yeah, you look like the poster child for Sears. He’d never suspect you were the one who took out Serrano.” She recoiled. “I had no choice. Bastard turned his gun on me.” Not her finest moment, but kill or be killed, she’d followed protocol. Their boss hadn’t been happy, but he hadn’t chewed her out over it, either. “Hey, I’m not judging.” Derision tugged her friend’s lips. “In fact, if it had been me, I would’ve taken them all out.” Tarah slung her purse over her shoulder and laughed. “If it had been you, there’d be nothing left of the whole Serrano family.” “True.” Brooke opened the exit door and lowered the steps before grabbing the big suitcase. “Looks like Rook just pulled up. You ready?” To investigate the threat to a ranch were agents trained? Yes. To finally meet Rook? Yes. To pretend she was afraid and needed protection? No. “As ready as I’ll ever be.” She adjusted the strap of her carryon and followed her friend from the plane. Careful to remove traces of confidence from her stance, she fell into character with a hunch of her shoulders, slight furrow to her brow and huddled close to Brooke on the tarmac. A lean, broad man unfolded from the truck and shoved a black Stetson on his head. Holy Texans. Her pulse leapt in an unprofessional manor. The epitome of a cowboy, the tall man lumbering toward them with broad shoulders and a strong jaw covered in a delicious five-o’clock shadow was born to wear a cowboy hat. And he wore it well. Tan, no doubt from hours under the unforgiving Texas sun, he approached in well-worn cowboy boots and jeans with creases in the most delectable spots.
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Even more mouthwatering was the SEAL in him. Powerful and confident, he strode with an underlying lethal refinement that bespoke of a past full of adversity and triumph. She understood why Nikki had trusted him. Envy pierced her chest. He was magnificent. A gray T-shirt stretched across a muscled torso that rippled as he walked. Wave after wave of awareness skittered down her body and grew stronger as he neared. This wasn’t good. In fact, it was bad. How was she supposed to remain detached and unmoved when she could literally feel his presence like invisible fingers caressing her skin? In a good way. Dammit. Talking her body out of this unwanted attraction was essential. A lot of yoga was in her near future. “Brooke. So nice to see you again.” He stopped and leaned in to kiss her friend on the cheek. Of course he’d have a sexy voice to match the persona. Low, with a deep rumble she felt clear to her toes. Meditation. Meditation was in her future, too. “You, too, Rook.” Brooke smiled a genuine smile she reserved for only a select few. Another indication this man was exceptional. Not only had he touched Brooke without permission, he lived to tell about it. No one dared get near the deadly agent without her consent, unless they had a death wish. He turned his attention to her, and two seconds under his intense blue gaze she felt naked, sized up…confused. “You must be, Ms. Swanson. I’m Callahan Lawe, but my friends call me Rook.” He thrust out his hand and the instant his warm, strong fingers curled around hers the strangest thing happened. All her misgivings disappeared. “You’ll be safe here.” No. She was beginning to realize safe was the last thing she was around this potent cowboy. She cleared her throat and tugged free to brush her tingling palm down her hip. “Th-thanks, Rook. I hope so.” At least the stupid quiver in her voice lent credence to her character, and seemed to remove some of the reservation from his gaze. “I know Swanson isn’t your real name.” He continued to scrutinize her. “But the commander never told me your first name.” “Tarah,” Brooke offered. “It’s her real first name, but we feel it’s safe to use, especially since you two are supposed to be engaged.” “What?” She reeled back, her heart thudding loud in her ears. Knight never told her that. “Relax.” Her friend grabbed her left hand and shoved a ring on her finger. Where’d the rock come from? Brook grinned. “How else would poor Rook explain your sudden appearance at his ranch?” Tarah blinked at the large diamond gleaming on her finger. It felt foreign and strange…just like her. “I hadn’t thought about it, but surely he could’ve said I was the new cook or something.” “Sorry, ma’am.” He smiled and tipped his head. “Already have one. Old Burly has been with us for two decades. He’s more like
| DONNA MICHAELS | family, and he’d be right upset if we sent him away to bring in a beautiful woman.” He thought she was beautiful? An unexpected warmth spread to her extremities and seeped into her face. Shoot. She had absolutely zero control over her body in his presence. Which explained why she allowed him to take the carryon from her hand. A good agent never let her weapons leave her side. She reached for her suitcase, but the damn man grabbed that too. “Safe travels,” he told her friend. “Tell Commander Knight we’re good here.” Brook nodded, then turned to her. “You’ll be safe with Rook. Just do whatever he tells you.” “I won’t let anything happen to you, ma’am. I promise.” It wasn’t that she didn’t believe him. Somehow she knew he’d keep her safe with his last breath. But what about her heart? Overexposure to this man and the strange chemistry zinging between them was a huge problem. But, dammit, she was a professional assigned to keep the former SEAL safe. Playing the role of his girlfriend would place her in close proximity and allow her to do her job without his knowledge. She nodded to Brooke, then followed the cowboy to his truck. Pretending to be his fiancé was a good set up, considering Rook had refused help from her boss, even though the threat to his ranch was real enough to send his brother to the hospital with a broken shoulder and concussion. During the first few quiet miles of their drive, Tarah used the time to study her surroundings. More desert and tumbleweeds. Nothing new or threatening. A second later, the cowboy pulled to the side of the deserted road and cut the engine. She twisted to stare into a hard, intense gaze. All traces of the friendly cowboy were gone. Her heart rocked. “What’s wrong?” “You,” the SEAL replied. “Something is off. What are you hiding?”
Enjoy these other titles:
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
For the last four years, the first weekend of February has brought together authors, bloggers, and readers of Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, and Romance. They have come together in Daytona Beach, Florida for the Coastal Magic Convention. This year, over 50 authors and 10 featured bloggers presented in panels and participated along with over 200 attendees.
| Coastal Magic Convention | While this was not my blog’s first year of attending, as my co-blogger not only lives in Central Florida, but she has been a featured blogger, it was my first year, and boy was it an experience. Things started Thursday evening with an author/blogger meet and greet which represented a form of Speed Dating which allowed for bloggers to meet multiple authors. I should have known not to start taking the swag, but one thing that this small group allowed was for authors to give extra special swag, like Kiernan Kelly who knitted bags that held hand-made soaps. That evening moved right from the author/blogger mingle to Cinema Craptastique. I was not going to go, but I figured that I could go for a little while to see how it was and then if I didn’t like it, I would go back to our room and read. Let’s just say that after I met Damon Suede and his commentary on the movie “Abduction” with some well-known actors, I knew that I was going to be there for the remainder of the film. Everything was tweeted, so if you were unable to attend you can check out Twitter under the hashtag cmcc16. You can pretty much understand the entire film by the tweets, and there is a reason it is called Cinema Craptastique.
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That next morning, bright and early there were numerous panels that ran all day. In total there were 16 panels before dinner time. Since this year they invited more romance authors, many of the panels spotlighted these genres. Panels such as “Are Boys in Books Always Better?” and “Romantic Men” were among other panels that spotlighted Alpha Men and Strong women in Uniform, and a discussion on is two more fun in bed. Overall, it was really interesting to hear the authors themselves speak as to why they decide to include or exclude a specific element.
Friday Night is when the fun really started happening. Starting with 1001 Dark Nights Sparkler which was essentially a meet and greet with the authors of the 1001 Dark Nights Series including the always wonderful Christopher Rice, super cute Rebecca Zanetti, and pushing the social topics and doing it with purple streaks Lorelei James. There was sparkling champagne and cider which I am assuming the “Sparkler” in the title came from. After that there was a two hour break before the Mixer started. The mixer this year was Day of the Dead and some people went all out not only on the dance floor
| Melanie & Andi from Fang-tastic | but with their costumes as well. Kieran Kelly was there doing some face painting which I partook in. Who doesn’t need some fangs to scare the non-convention hotel guests. So after drinking, and there was a lot of drinking, and dancing the night away, Saturday morning required everyone to be up before 9 so we could make our way down to the first panels of the day. With this convention moving more towards the Romance Genre, this day was filled with panels that ranged from Saddle Up, obviously regarding westerns in contemporary romance, to Loving to Laugh, about finding humor in the most ordinary things. I went to Loving to Laugh, and let me tell you, getting Jade Lee, Kristen Painter, Boone Brux, and Rebecca Zanetti on one panel was one of the best decisions. Mouse pads flew, lady parts were discussed, it was a really good time. There were also panels about HEA and if they were needed to make a story complete, and how to bridge the gap between YA books and the adults who read them. Saturday was also an opportunity to have lunch with an author of your choice. It was a good time to relax and talk to the authors about real life, not their books specifically. Saturday was also the night of the Charity book signing and it was a huge success, many authors selling out their books in less than an hour. There were also a lot of conversations and fun in between signing books and other memorabilia. It was hectic, but it was also a lot of fun. That evening saw
the last big event with game night. Since it was after the book signing and dinner, a lot of people didn’t attend, but I had a great time just hanging out talking to authors and readers who enjoy talking as much as I do. This night was also filled with hugging and laughing since many people were leaving early in the morning. Facebook pages were exchanged, text messages were sent. A lot of bonding happened this evening. Sunday the events started a little later and were not as populated since packing and checking out consumed the morning. T.C. Blue’s tribble contest winner was called and the winner of the Charity baskets was drawn. With 46 baskets, all of them filled with books, drinks, swag, and the occasional blanket, there were a lot of people waiting to see if they won. While I would have liked to, I did not, nor did I have any more room in my suitcase. Everyone was exhausted by the end of the four days, with maybe the exception of energizer bunny Damon Suede who hopped from Cinema Craptastique to panels early in the morning to dancing the night away during the Day of the Dead party. So while the weather wasn’t perfect, the conversations were. Networking, Friendships, and relationships were formed at this event that will carry on much longer than the 4 days spent sitting in somewhat comfortable chairs, getting free swag, and dealing with atrocious internet connectivity. All images ©Graceful Art & Photography Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
Contemporary | Romance | Mainstream | Literary Fiction
CONTEMPORARY & ROMANCE
the HAPPILY ever AFTER
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
trends reading trends in romance
Addicted Romance to
Sandra Renee Pesso
Ride ’Em Cowboy! Welcome to the first column of my new regular BTS feature, “Addicted to Romance” I’m ringing in 2016 with a fresh approach to this column, writing as Sandra Renee Pesso.
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
| Addicted To Romance | Why Addicted to Romance? It sums up everything I love about reading fiction. Sure, I enjoy other genres, but *sigh* you can’t beat reading full steam into a gorgeous HEA. Because it’s all about the happily ever after, isn’t it? Romance is the only genre where you know how a story will end, but you can’t wait to read it anyway. It’s as much about the journey as the destination, maybe more.
him that. Luckily he’s not interested in learning her story any more than he is in sharing his. Both have secrets they don’t want to share . . . It’s the perfect arrangement. No personal details. No talking at all. Just two strangers sharing the cab of a truck heading the direction they both need to go . . . until they decide to share a bed, too.
To celebrate my new column, there’s a fun giveaway at the end. But first sit back and enjoy this month’s addiction . . . Contemporary Westerns!
Texas Hustle by Cynthia D’Alba (Texas Montgomery Mavericks, #6, Samhain Publishing—available now)
That’s right—cowboys! What’s there to love about an untamed hero in a well-worn pair of jeans? I asked New York Times best-selling author Cat Johnson what she likes about writing Contemporary Westerns. Cat replied: “I write about cowboy heroes because they work hard and love harder. They can be polite in public, but passionate in private. They are fiercely loyal and love their animals and their women and their country with fervor. It’s an enticing combination.” Enticing indeed! Check out Cat’s newest release and other sexy Westerns to heat up your e-reader. Midnight Heat by Cat Johnson (Midnight Cowboys, #3, Zebra— available now) He needs to escape . . . Justin Skaggs is on the road to anywhere—as long as it’s far from home—when fate throws a kindred spirit across his path. She needs to get to Oklahoma . . . Phoenix Montagno can’t believe her luck when she runs into the hottie from the bar. He’s the key to her getting everything she’s always wanted, but she can’t tell 34 | btsemag.com
They’re different as night and day . . . but it’s the right time for love. Porchia Summers was born into a family who gave her everything except affection. She acted out until her parents sent her to Whispering Springs before their high-society friends found out about her arrest record. She builds a good life in Texas, but then the old boyfriend who got her in trouble tracks her down. Desperate to find a way to keep her past and present separate, she places a bid at a bachelor auction on the one man who’ll get her out of town for a few days. Darren Montgomery is thrilled when Porchia wins him and a week of camping with his entire family in a charity bachelor auction. He’s also curious. He’s been flirting with the town’s sweet, sexy baker for years. Sometimes she flirts back, but she’s never let things go further than that. Darren’s not complaining, but he wonders just what’s going on behind Porchia’s pretty eyes. Warning: Watch out for chigger bites, love bites, and secrets that bite.
| Sandra Renee Pesso | Cash by Vanessa Devereaux (Big Sky County, #7, Evernight Publishing—available now) Cash Doyle can describe himself in one word— broken. Broken psyche and broken body. There’s nothing he wants more than to get to know Katy Nolan-Delaney on a more intimate level, but there’s one thing stopping him and that’s fear. Katy knows there’s something mysterious about Cash and that’s part of the attraction. What she can’t figure out is why he’s wanted to do nothing more than kiss her on the cheek each time they’ve been on a date. Does he want to be just friends? Is he really a married man? And why does he insist on separate rooms on their trip to Vegas? Is Katy wasting her time on another man who’s going to break her heart? And for Cash, will Katy be patient enough with him to let him heal before he springs his secret on her? Or will this seemingly perfect pair never get a chance to fall in love?
I hope you found a cowboy (or three) to feed your romance addiction! I’m giving away an EAT SLEEP READ mug to a lucky column reader. To enter for the chance to win, go to my Facebook page (https://www.facebook. com/SandraRPesso/) and describe your ideal romance hero in the comment section of the pinned contest post. Like my page to stay up-to-date on new release and contest news! Until next time, romance on!
ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Sandra Renee Pesso is a romance author, columnist, and business professional who puts her MBA degree to good use dreaming up sexy heroes. As a social media junkie, Sandra loves to chat with readers and formed the Bookalicious Babes Facebook group where members share their love of books. Follow Sandra on Twitter (@ SandraRPesso) where she covers most things romance and all things books.
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
reviews contemporary | romance | mainstream
Because I Love Him Christina OW Contemporary Heat Rating: 3
Rafael DeLuca and Talia McKenna fall in love when the Italian business mogul goes to Boston to visit one of his family’s companies international offices and she is assigned to be his guide. But Rafe is already engaged and his marriage is also meant to merge his father’s and future father-in-law’s companies. He calls off the wedding and just days later, he finds Talia in bed with his brother. Months later Rafe is ready to fulfill his obligation by marrying his fiance and commit to his family responsibility but Talia crushes his wedding. She isn’t ready to let go of him just yet.
Review: Talia McKenna can’t believe she’s sitting in the church waiting for the man she loves to marry someone else. Rafael DeLuca is just as shocked to see her in the church with a lawyer who, on behalf of Talia, just objected to the marriage. When she steps into the aisle in front of him, the world shifts, and will never be the same – for either of them. Because I Love Him is a great novella with captivating characters and well thought out plot. The story begins a few months after a hot and steamy romance in Boston. Talia still doesn’t understand what caused Rafe to flee, leaving her alone and pregnant (this is not a spoiler if you looked closely at the cover of the book). After Talia crashes Rafe’s wedding, secrets slowly start unraveling, events unfold, and Rafe discovers that sometimes family cannot be trusted. The interactions between Talia and Rafe were written quite well. The entire story is realistic and full of descriptive content, like the reader is actually in the book with the characters. Beginning the story with such an explosive scene in the church will definitely grab the reader. The entire book is engaging and I was unable to put it down until I finished. There isn’t anything in this book that detracted from the story. Reviewed by Amber Marr
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Crazy For Her Sandra Owens Contemporary Heat Rating: 3
When his best friend and fellow Navy SEAL, Evan Prescott, died in his arms on the battlefield, Logan Kincaid gave his word to watch over Evan’s widow. But for two years he kept his distance…torn between honoring his solemn vow and succumbing to his secret love for his fallen comrade’s wife. But when Dani Prescott desperately reaches out to Logan for the help only he can give, he rushes to her side—determined to fight for her safety as fiercely as he fights against his own buried desire. Someone claiming to be her husband is stalking Dani and her infant daughter, making them virtually prisoners in their remote country home. Logan’s elite military training and highrisk security expertise have outmatched more dangerous enemies. But the real challenge will be the burning temptation that threatens to overcome Logan whenever Dani is near… especially when she reveals her own hidden passion.
Review: What happens when the woman you’ve always loved marries your best friend? What if he dies and she’s free to love again? These are the questions asked in Sandra Owens book, Crazy For Her, featuring a widowed mother and her husband’s best friend with a side of suspense. Part of her K2 Team series, characterizations are well done in the story, and predictability was nil. It’s a complicated tale involving motherhood, the military and death of a loved one but is easy to follow with its contemporary issues that draw the reader in. If you love military heroes who save your heart as well as your country, Crazy For Her will make you crazy to read.
A Biker’s Kiss, Vince & Tory Tracey Cramer-Kelly Contemporary Heat Rating: 3
Kissing is overrated. At least in Vince’s mind. The fact that he avoids kissing hasn’t stopped him from getting what he wants from women. But now he’s shared a little too much with his co-worker, Tori—and she’s made it her personal mission to change his opinion. After all, what happens in Sturgis, stays in Sturgis. Or does it?
Review: Sturgis, South Dakota is host to one of of the largest motorcycle rallies in the United States. Thousands of people attend as participants, vendors, or both. Vince and some of his co-workers are in Sturgis running a booth during the rally. After revealing a secret concerning his aversion to kissing, Tori, one of Vince’s coworkers, tries to reset his views. A Biker’s Kiss is a short novella that brings together two unlikely characters. Vince fits the image of a bad boy biker and Tori as a women that doesn’t get involved in the biker scene beyond her shift at the booth. When Vince divulges his reasons behind never kissing a woman, Tori is both horrified and determined to help him move beyond the issues. The novel contains limited backstory, really just providing what the reader needs to know about Vince. The development occurs in the present with Tori. The situation unfolds respectfully instead of Tori taking Vince’s secret and waving it around in public. I really feel that the relationship building between Vince and Tori is executed well and is written in a believable way. I enjoyed A Biker’s Kiss. Reviewed by Amber Marr
Reviewed by Heather
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
reviews contemporary | romance | mainstream
Begin Again Brien Michaels Contemporary Heat Rating: 3
Ever since her husband left her, Anna Pearson has devoted her entire life to her children, leaving little time for anything else. It’s a quiet, sexless life, but one Anna has grown used to over the last decade. But now that her sexy neighbor is back in town for Spring Break, all of that is about to change. Wyatt McCray has wanted to sleep with Anna since high school. The problem has always been that she was too old for him, and what woman wants a younger man? But everything about her--from her impressive height down to the way she can take control of practically any situation-turns him on. He can’t help it.
Review: Anna Pearson is a 30-something divorcee with three children. Wyatt McCray is 24 and currently pursuing a Master’s degree. Put them across the road from each other and things begin to turn spicy hot. Wyatt has been head-over-heels for Anna since he was 16. The small town of Hummingbird Springs, it seems, has a problem with the cougar approach to relationships. Wyatt’s interest in Anna has been mostly ignored – but not anymore. He wants her and he wants her bad! Now he just has to convince Anna that they can make a relationship work. Begin Again is a fun story about an older woman and a younger man. Wyatt has been in love with Anna for many years and his attracting grows every time he sees her. Anna is a bit gunshy in the relationship department after being left by her husband. Their mutual attraction is undeniable and with some meddling from Anna’s best friend Norma, sparks fly. The characters are developed as best they can with the story being short. We learn pertinent information – nothing more, nothing. If you’re looking for a quicky, make sure to grab a copy of Begin Again. It’s a fun, fast, flirty read that will have you rooting for Wyatt. This book has adult themes – very, very spicy adult scenes. Reviewed by Amber Marr
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First Comes Love Karen Wiesner Contemporary Heat Rating: 2
Book Four Friendship Heirloom: Responsibility At the age of fifteen, Chad Feldmann and Winnie McBride made an impulsive choice that led to pregnancy. Now, years later, they have a precious little girl, they’ve both graduated high school, and they’re married. But all is not well in paradise. As much as Winnie loves her daughter, she can’t forget the life she’d expected to be living. Her dreams were pushed aside ruthlessly, kicked in the dirt and all but buried with pregnancy and motherhood. While they were both caring for their daughter and trying to finish high school before they got married, she and Chad lived platonically and it’d seemed to her that they were both struggling and making sacrifices to move forward wisely with their lives. Once they’re married, she discovers that Chad has used the college fund his father set aside for him to pursue the dreams he’d always imagined for his life. She’s working two jobs and taking care of their child. She can’t see that Chad is doing his part, sacrificing for their life together, anymore. The less he’s there for them, the more her resentment grows.
Review: Reading Winnie and Chad’s story was a nice pleasant read. Their story was full of doubt, loss, and ultimately love reaffirmed. Something about two people in love separated by doubt and then brought back together is heartwarming. I felt this was a story that anyone in this day and age could experience. Their journey of discovery and self-awareness amidst love and longing reeled me in and I couldn’t put the book down until I had finished it. If you like to read about the human experience and of love strengthened and renewed, please pick up this book and sit down and read it. You won’t be disappointed. Reviewed by Heather P
Poplar Place Ellen Butler Contemporary Heat Rating: 4
The sleepy, small town of Denton, South Carolina, possesses the tranquil life Cara Baker craves, but will her reclusive tenant shake up her newfound serenity? Newly minted librarian Cara Baker effectively cuts ties with her tumultuous life in Pittsburgh and moves down to South Carolina, where she embraces the peaceful, laid-back style of small town living. Everything seems to be falling into place when Cara finds the perfect house to round out her new plans. Well … perfect except for the immovable hermit living on the top floor. She throws caution to the wind and buys the fabulous house—hermit and all—without meeting him. Eventually, by wooing her reclusive renter with notes and mouthwatering meals, he caves and invites her up to the apartment. Preconceived notions are blown out of the water, when she finds Danny isn’t the Mr. Mole she envisioned. Sparks fly as the two begin spending time together. Unfortunately, phone calls from her past bring Cara’s summer idyll to an abrupt halt. Will demons from a former life destroy her tranquility? As well as his own.
Review: A nice intriguing well written tale about a librarian named Cara Baker who moves to a new town to start a new job as the town’s new librarian. She craves peace and tranquility of the small town life, but that not what she ends up getting. It had a few shady characters and a guy who may or may not be for her. It also had a few harrowing moments and you rooted for her to overcome whatever obstacle managed to fall into her path. Some of the things that happen don’t always happen in her favor, but she manages to cope the best way she knew how. It had likeable characters and was a story that drew you in and you liked the characters that needed to be liked and felt for some others. It would make a good tv movie should it ever be turned into one. So if you get a chance, take a trip to Poplar Place and enjoy. Reviewed by Cass
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
reviews contemporary | romance | mainstream
VEGAS Follows You Home Sadie Grubor Contemporary Heat Rating: 4
“We are going to Vegas. We are going to Vegas!” They used the damn Blue’s Clues theme music to their lyrics. Olivia Harlow It’s a trip with friends. A single girl’s celebratory getaway. Olivia Harlow finishes the biggest job she’s been offered since starting Harlow Cakes, her custom and specialty cake shop and bakery. So, it’s a Vegas weekend for Olivia, the level headed, single mother, with her life scheduled. There is no way she could guess what would happen and who would follow her home. Damon Knyght His search is over. After rising up from the ashes of his life and the pain, he found them. Now that he has them, there is no letting go.
Review: Olivia has a wild time in Vegas to celebrate a huge job. It culminates into something she didn’t expect. Damon didn’t expect she’d take off the way she did and he’d have to track her down, by any way necessary, just to get her back into his life. He’d do just about anything within reason to do so. Olivia needed some convincing to come around to his way of thinking, so he definitely had an uphill battle to climb. His journey and Olivia’s was quite entertaining and when you throw in a feisty, fiery and a somewhat finicky toddler in the mix you’re in for a treat and all sorts of trouble and fun. It had charm, extremely likeable characters and a great supporting cast. You even rooted for Damon and Olivia to actually make it as a couple. You understood where Olivia was coming from, but you really wanted them to be a couple and they really did make a great couple. So if you like sweet things, take a chance on Olivia and Damon and the rest of the cast and pick up a copy and enjoy. Reviewed by Cass
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Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy Victoria Vane Contemporary Heat Rating: 4
TAKE YOUR COWBOY...
Weary warrior... After eight years as a Marine sniper, war-scarred Reid Everett is back in his native Wyoming. He knows and loves this rugged land, so working for wildlife services to reduce the booming wolf population suits him to a T. Caring crusader... Wildlife biologist Haley Cooper is desperate to make a difference. Leaving the world of academia behind, she accepts a position as a wolf advocate to protect the animals she loves. Raw attraction... Their jobs set them on a collision course, but chemistry sparks like wildfire between Reid and Haley. They’ll have to brave some rough territory if they hope to reconcile their polarizing views with a passion that won’t be denied.
Review: Opposites attract with explosive results in Victoria Vane’s contemporary cowboy/military novel. Marine sniper scout Reid heats up biologist Haley on one passionate night that neither can forget but philosophical differences could tear them apart before they can ever get started. While a military tale, Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy doesn’t stay one, an unusual and welcome plot twist. Centering around the highly charged issue of wolf reintroduction and recovery, it brings to light many concerns about how the Western environment is managed all while heating up our main characters’ lives in and out of bed. Predictability was moderate and the HEA is satisfying. Characters were well-written and add much. All in all, it’s a good read! Reviewed by Heather Lewis
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
feature sneak peek
P.H. Turner Desert Heat Navajo Witchery. Human Treachery. Social worker Jordan Bia finds a child who escaped her captors and a life in the sex trade, but four other girls from her small Mexican village were not so lucky. Smugglers hide their human cargo in the hoodoos of a remote canyon on the reservation—a place the Navajo shun, fearful of the witches who practice their black rituals and feast on the dark energy of evil. Mysterious rites, omens of death, and bodies litter the canyon. When she meets Navajo police officer Sam Tohee, sparks fly fueled by the danger of hunting men who buy and sell little girls. Techno savvy Jordan plots to trap the smugglers and free the rest of the children, but unless she and Sam can find the power to defeat the witches she may not live long enough to save the girls.
I walked down the center of the shadowy street, far away from men who might slither out of alleys and doorways and grab me, a lone female. The woman whose child I had come to check on lived over a bar when she functioned well enough to remember where she lived. She and the child were nowhere to be found. I had tarried too long, and the night hovered under the thin crescent of moonlight that marked the time between the dark moon and the new moon. Clouds scuttled across the moon, darkening the sky. The puny glow from the single streetlight outlined two men slouched between boarded-up buildings, smoking and swigging from bottles sheathed in tattered brown bags. They catcalled and hooted, “We got whatcha want, girlie.” I scurried faster to my old Honda Civic, parked a block away. My heart pounded and my calves burned from the effort to put distance between me and their drunken lewdness. Soft crying, a sound more like a wounded kitten than a person, stopped me in the middle of the street. I cocked my head toward the dim alley but only saw shadows. The pitiful sound drifted out, forlorn and frightened. I scanned the street for movement. No one was there. I walked on my toes to the mouth of the alley. Nothing stirred. Tiny fingers of light trickled into the alley from the streetlight. “Who’s there?” The crying became snuffling, and then silence. Footsteps rustled. I called into the darkness, asking if anyone needed help. “Si,” the voice whimpered. “Come out into the street.” I backed up two steps toward the middle of the road and waited for someone to join me. A small bag of rags shuffled to the mouth of the alley. The waif was poised to run. “Hide! Hide!” she begged.
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Her English was heavily accented, and I wasn’t sure I had understood her. “Hide you from whom?” “No,” she shrieked and took a step back into the alley. “Are you by yourself?” I was hyperalert the girl might not be alone. “Si.” “Come out under the light,” I demanded. I walked to the center of the street into a yellow pool of light, well away from the dark mouth of the alley. She obediently shuffled to within an arm’s reach of me. Thin dirty arms stuck out of a shirt that sagged below her knees, and her hair was filthy and matted. She wiped her nose on her sleeve, leaving a trail of bloody mucus. Rain washed her dirty, bare feet clean, and oh how she stunk of unwashed body and fetid clothes. She clung to the knotted cord tied around the ratty sweat pants that swallowed her small frame. She stared at me, chin up, and poised for flight.
I call Austin, Texas home now after working on the East and West coasts, the Rocky Mountains, and an island in the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve come full circle to live and work close to the farm my family settled in the 1850’s.
feature 3 -book showcase
Katherine Barclift had it all: the perfect job, perfect car, and what she thought was the perfect marriage. But when her entire world collapses in one stomachchurning instant, she hits the road and keeps driving until that so-called “perfect life” is just a dot in her rearview mirror. A pit stop in Boot Creek, a drowsy little North Carolina town, offers a chance encounter with the local doctor, Derek Hansen. Both Katy and Derek are wary about giving romance another shot, but are learning to never pass up a chance at true love…no matter how wounded your heart may be.
Life After Perfect
June days in Georgia were mostly spectacular and sunny, if not a little too darn hot, and on this particular one, the weather wasn’t a match for the mood. Katherine Barclift and her husband, Ron, walked hand in hand up the landscaped path leading to the huge church where the funeral service was being held for their neighbor, Donald O’Connor. A large crowd had gathered already. As folks filed through the tall arched front doors of the chapel, Katherine spotted Peggy Allen and Shaleigh Wright waiting near the entrance. She made a beeline for her two friends. “It’s so sad.” She reached out to hug Peggy. “Poor Bertie. I can’t believe Donald died like that. No warning at all,” Peggy said. “I mean, if he were a type A guy I could totally see it happening, but all Donald did was golf and fish. How hard can that be on the heart?” “I know.” Katherine shook her head. “So sad, and he wasn’t that old.” He was the same age her parents were, and the news of his death had made Katherine worry about them for the first time. Ron placed his hand on Katherine’s arm. “I’ll go ahead and sign the guest book and get us seats while you talk.” “Sure, honey. Thanks.” Katherine watched as her husband walked up the stairs to the chapel. He still had
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a way of making her swoon. “Is it just me or is this the biggest chapel you’ve ever seen?” “I think it’s just you,” Shaleigh said. “In your little pretend world everything is charming and perfect.” “Perfect is good. Or perfect. Whatever it is, I like my world that way, thank you very much,” Katherine teased, but it was only a half-joke. Shaleigh raised a heavily penciled brow. “Well, someone’s life ought to be perfect. May as well be you.” Surviving a harsh upbringing, Corinne Treyton’s new life, comes courtesy of the Angels Warriors MC. No one will ever use her body again, unless she wants them to. Cori, a party girl, doesn’t believe in relationships, but she’d be willing to try if only Blake, her boss, could really see her for who she is. She hides her lifestyle from him; afraid he would think less of her. Blake Lexington has crushed on Cori since the day she started working for him. He knows a bit about her past, living with the Angels Warriors, and he doesn’t care. He refuses to make a move, thinking it will scare off his shy assistant. For years he thought she wouldn’t be attracted to someone like him. Finally realizing that he needs to take action, her reaction surprises him. Cori believes he sees her as a slut and wants to use her. Secrets from the past will be revealed causing everything to unravel. Will real love bring them together or is Cori too damaged to give true love a chance?
Twisted Up In You
“Corinne Treyton?” I hear an intimidating voice shouting my name. I hold Melissa’s hand and walk slowly down the steps, coming face to face with the scariest looking man I’ve ever seen – tall, fully bearded, tattoos covering his arms and neck, and a leather vest that says Angels Warriors
on it. Instantly, I sag in relief and let go of Melly’s hands. I rush forward, wrapping my arms around this big guy’s waist and sobbing. “You came,” I choke out. “Darlin’,” he says gruffly, holding me tight to him. “Reaper, you check the house, find whatever you can, if you can. These f***ers are slimy. Zippo, get the sister. We’re outta here.” “You can’t take these kids!” my foster father shouts at him. I stiffen, scared that I’m going to have to stay here. “That’s funny, because we are,” the man holding me says calmly.
Integrity Taylor should have been a magically Gifted Clan Princess. Instead she’s an outcast from her own kind. When a heist to steal a magnificent jewel goes wrong, however, she will need to plunge herself back into the world she tried to forget...
You have to do bad shit to get ahead. Taylor had told me that a million times and for a long time I’d bought into it. After tonight, however, things were going to be different. A new leaf and a new me. That was what I was planning. I’d been thinking about it for a long time but since I’d received the letter in elegant, handwritten script demanding my appearance at the Sidhe court, I felt I had no choice but to step up my plans to vamoose out of the city. I didn’t want anything to do with those bastards. Not unless it meant ripping them off. Frankly, I’d rather head down to the Lowlands – and the Veil – than venture near the Clanlands. At least Taylor had promised that my final hurrah was going to be a straightforward job. ‘In and out,’ he’d said. ‘The place will be empty.’ ‘You know I’m leaving after this one,’ I reminded him. Not that it was likely it would have slipped his mind but with Taylor sometimes certain points bore repeating. ‘Of course, of course! As if I could forget.’ His eyes took on a knowing look that I chose to ignore. ‘You’ll miss it though. You won’t get many thrills from tramping around the countryside.’ ‘It’s not tramping around the countryside. It’s mountain rescue. I think saving lives will be thrilling enough.’ He grimaced at that. ‘You’ll be bored.’ I simply smiled back. We’d had this conversation often enough in recent weeks. My mind was made up and even he couldn’t change it.
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BookBuzz.net Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
feature sneak peek
Michelle Levigne Nikki’s Test Nikki’s first courier job included picking up Brooklyn from vacation and bringing her home to Quarry Hall. Before she got there, Brooklyn called, speaking in code, hinting at mysteries and danger. When Nikki arrived in Harper’s Point, Brooklyn was nowhere to be found. Staying in town to search for Brooklyn while pretending not to suspect anything was harder than it sounded. Her questions never got the same answer twice, and it wasn’t long before she decided people were lying to her, and then spying on her. A letter from Brooklyn provided some answers and Quarry Hall got to work. Joan hurried to Harper’s Point, fearing for Nikki’s safety. Before she could arrive, the enemy struck. Now the question was if Nikki’s training would keep her and Brooklyn alive until rescue came.
“Uh… I haven’t checked in to the hotel. Yet.” Nikki wondered just how helpful Chester could be. Why did he assume she was staying somewhere when she had stated clearly she was passing through? She had a sudden image of Chester coming into the office, finding the note from the sheriff, and losing it, then blaming someone else. Maybe even more likely, Chester was the only one here when the sheriff took off to start looking for the little girl, and he messed up the instructions to send people to join the sheriff, or look somewhere else. So he blamed the deputies. Suddenly, the feeling of being in a revised Mayberry popped and shriveled up like a shredded balloon. If Chester, who looked so jolly and friendly, could be a liar and untrustworthy, what did that say about other people here? Who could she trust if Brooklyn and the sheriff could both vanish, especially when Brooklyn was expecting Nikki to come get her? “I’ll go check into the hotel and come back, check if there’s any news,” she said. “Thanks.” “No problem, darling.” Chester winked at her and nodded like a genial old grandfather. Nikki felt like his eyes were digging holes in her back until she had stepped outside and moved beyond the glass doors. She shuddered. Maybe Chester was mental, or just slow but functional? Shouldn’t he have at least asked for her name, since she was looking for the sheriff and Brooklyn? Shouldn’t he have figured that she would have a cell phone, so she wouldn’t need a hotel room number where she could be reached? Besides, no matter how small this town was, Nikki seriously doubted anyone could check into a hotel room at barely nine in the morning.
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Gray whined and leaped ahead of her, tugging her down the sidewalk. He led her to a telephone pole, where a man was using a manual staple gun to attach a legal-size sheet of neon pink paper to the pole. Nikki stayed a few steps back from him, waiting until he finished, glanced at her, then headed down the sidewalk. He had a sheaf of those pink sheets tucked under his arm. Nikki stepped up to the pole to see what was on the sheet. The color sparked a sense that she should know what was on the poster already. The picture was of a little girl, with “Lost” in big letters that spanned the entire width of the paper, above and below the picture. A chill washed over her, then her heart skipped a few beats and started racing. That was the little girl she had seen just a few hours ago, wandering through the meadow by the side of the road. She was positive.
Michelle started writing in fandom, earning degrees in theater/English and film/writing. She will have 70+ books published in 2016, in SF/fantasy, and sub-genres of romance. Awards include the EPIC Award and Writers of the Future. She freelance edits for a living, but only enough to get time to write.
feature book showcase
Jim Cangany On the Rebound
Sabotaged by scandal, basketball coach Greg Miller can’t find work in the men’s division. Humble and defeated, he takes a job as an assistant coach for a women’s college team. Deciding that he’s going to make the best of it and clear his name of any wrongdoing, Greg sets out to make a difference and prove himself to everyone who doubted him. When circumstances arise and a valuable player needs some help, the coach begins working alongside elegant and determined academic advisor Ciara Monaghan. Soon, Greg finds he needs more than just a victory on the court. Disgusted by his immoral reputation, Ciara steers clear of the basketball coach’s full court press. However, as they are forced together and the truth comes out, Ciara realizes there is more to Greg than she ever realized. With the season coming to an end and the clock running out, will one of them take the shot and finally change the game?
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Ciara settled into her chair and shuffled some papers around while she collected her thoughts. Despite his involvement in the Goods for Grades scandal, which repulsed Ciara to no end, she couldn’t deny the man was easy on the eyes. His head was bald. With a strong chin and high cheekbones, he evoked images of Sean Connery or Patrick Stewart—very handsome and potentially dangerous. “Thank you for coming, Coach. As the academic advisor to the women’s basketball team, I think it’s critical you understand how important genuine academic success is to our student athletes.” She’d rehearsed this little introduction a half dozen times this morning. It was vital she set the ground rules here. “I’m not a cheater.” Ciara blinked, the bluntness of Greg’s words catching her off guard. “I didn’t say you were.” “You implied it when you used the words ‘genuine academic success.’“ “I…I was merely trying to impart how highly we value our student-athletes’ performance in the classroom. I didn’t mean—” “Didn’t mean what?” Greg’s nostrils flared as he gripped the chair. “Why don’t you just cut to the chase and tell me what’s really on your mind?” Irritation niggled at Ciara. The nerve of this man, trying to impose his will on her. All right, you asked for it, pretty boy. Ciara stood and leaned forward, her knuckles on the desktop. “Fine. I don’t trust you. I’ve read your bio and find it simply impossible to believe that among all the mischief going on at State, you alone, among the coaching staff, were guilt-free. Further, you’ve never coached women’s basketball. And—and—” “What can I do to earn your trust?” Ciara shook her head. “What?” “I get it. You don’t trust me. And you’re right, I’ve never coached women in a formal setting. Please hear me out on this. Think about Coach Leonard. Sharon and I go back a long way. We went to school together, and I would never do anything to hurt her or her career.” “But this isn’t about her. This is about you.” “She gave me this chance. Now I’m asking you to give me a chance. What can I do? Please.” Ciara sat, and her mind went back to a scene in the not-too-distant past when another handsome man stood across this very desk. That no-good schmuck had said please, too. She’d answered by throwing the flowers he’d brought as a peace offering. That had proven to be the start of another nightmare. Now was not the time to go there.
Ciara straightened her spine and took a deep breath. “What can you do? You will meet with me here, every Friday at eight, to provide me with an update on the academic progress of the student-athletes to whom you are assigned. You will provide me with something in writing that I will verify with the appropriate professors.” She gave him a moment to let the words sink in. His eyes were wide, but one corner of his mouth was twitching. God help the S.O.B. if he thought this was funny. She wasn’t interested in fun and games. “Our practices are at five this semester, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Coach Leonard hasn’t given me my student assignments yet, though.” Ciara made a note of that. “I’ll send her an email as soon as we’re finished, asking for your assignments. I’ll copy you. Along that line, you will copy me on all email correspondence you have with your players.” The twitch disappeared. “Isn’t that a bit much? I mean—” “Our students are here to get an education, Coach. Our women’s basketball program has had a one hundred percent graduation rate over the six years I’ve been in this position. The team’s GPA over that same span is a three point one. You will not screw that up. Are we clear?” Greg scratched his chin. His fingers were long with perfectly trimmed nails. They were probably the kind of fingers that could make a woman purr like a kitten. She blinked and brushed the thought away. “How long?” “How long, what?” God, she needed to get this man out of her office before she fell under the spell of his well-known charm and charisma. Or maybe, fell further, that was. “How long do I have to copy you on all emails with my players?” “For as long as it takes.” “For as long as what takes?” Greg was gripping the arms of the chair hard enough his knuckles had turned white. “For you to earn my trust.” “Yes, of course. Is there anything else, Ms. Monaghan?” She took a look at her calendar. Other than lunch with Marie, nothing was on her schedule. He didn’t need to know that. “Not at this time. I have a phone conference in fifteen minutes I need to prepare for.” She got up and went to the door. “Thank you, Coach.” She opened it. “I’ll see you on Friday.” Greg blinked and rose from his chair. He cleared his throat like he was going to say something but evidently decided not to bother. Instead, he smoothed his tie and strode out of Ciara’s office without a word. As soon as he was gone, she shut the door and leaned against it. She closed her eyes and started counting in a soft voice. This man was not what she expected, in ways both good and bad. She was at twenty-eight when there were three sharp
raps on the door. “Ciara? I brought you some tea.” She opened the door and waved Marie into the seat Greg has just vacated. Her assistant tiptoed in, a steaming mug of what smelled like some sort of herbal blend in her hands. Marie started in before Ciara could even close the door. “How’d it go, Sheriff?” “Okay, I think.” “Did you lay down the law like you promised?” “I did, and I think I put him in his place. He tried to tell me he didn’t do anything wrong, and that’s when I set down the ground rules. In no uncertain terms.” Marie sipped the tea. The old Bringing Ciara Some Tea ploy was kind of juvenile, but it made Marie happy. “He’s cute.” “Please, Marie. Really?” “No. On second thought, he’s drop dead gorgeous.” “Then why don’t you ask him out?” Marie sighed. “Ah, if only. Someday perhaps. So, give me the dirt. Now.” Ciara filled her in on Coach Miller’s visit. She focused on her concerns about his character and tried not to think about how he was rather attractive. Okay, fine, he was hot. But Ciara would rather be dragged naked through the patch of rose bushes in the middle of Irving’s Central Quad than admit that little nugget.
Jim Cangany was forty pages into his first manuscript when he realized it was a romance. He went with it and has great joy writing sweet, contemporary love stories. A lover of things that go fast, when Jim’s not writing, you can probably find him checking into the latest from IndyCar or pro bike racing. He lives in Indianapolis with his saint of a wife Nancy, his sons Seamus and Aidan, and the princess of the house, kitty cat Maria.
jimcangany.com Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
Young Adult | New Adult
YOUNG & NEW ADULT
BEYOND the fairy TALE
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
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reading trends in young adult
Young HEART at
One thing sure to steal your heart is a thief—better yet, stories about criminal masterminds, slick tricksters, and impossible heists. This new trend’s cracked the code to break into the mainstream, and there’s a wonderful new crop of young adult books to appeal to those of you who love to lose yourself in the thrill of a caper.
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
| Young at Heart | Many who’ve lived responsible or restrictive lives have found an alluring escape in reading about those criminals who defy the law in spectacular ways, and I can imagine this would particularly appeal to teenagers. After all, they’re stuck in school and following rules day in and out while they’re just beginning to explore the world, creating the perfect recipe to yearn for something daring. And many of these stories are chock full of intrepid brilliance beyond the average person. Which brings us to another reason for the surge in popularity nowadays—intelligence is in. Certainly there are the brawny characters involved in a heist, but there’s also a great level of skill and smarts that play into these sorts of stories, and oftentimes, when a protagonist is pulling off something spectacular, the plan involves outsmarting protective measures already set in place, leading to brilliant twists and turns. Based on the rampant popularity shows like Doctor Who and Sherlock have with teenagers, it’s obvious they can appreciate smart and witty characters. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey (The Girl at Midnight, #1, Delacorte Press—available now) offers the perspective of a female pickpocket, Echo, whose allegiance lies with an ancient magical race called the Avicen. But what turns her from an average pickpocket to a thief of extraordinary proportions is the goal she sets her sights on—to hunt down and nab a mythical entity, the Firebird. Forget your average bank robberies because this book plunges into pure fantasy. So if you’re looking for variety in your young adult fantasy lineup, this might be a winner. However, what’s been positively abuzz in the YA community has been Leigh Bardugo’s latest release, Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1, Henry Holt & Co.—available now). This book promises a more cynical edge that’s sure to appeal to the modern teenager, and the tone seems to fit the more traditional sort of heist story. In typical fashion, there’s a set group of skilled individuals all field savvy and distrustful, but all coming together under the inspiring promise of crime and one hell of a payout. If it gets half of the buzz that her prior books did, like the Grisha trilogy, I’m sure it’ll be a read that everyone’s discussing for some time to come. If you’re looking for a more dystopian take on the criminal element, Rook by Sharon Cameron (Scholastic Press— available now) takes on a different spin. Rather than the heist story, this book examines a mysterious renegade, Red Rook, who is lifting prisoners from their cells before they can be claimed by the sentencing blade. The setting of the Sunken City being formerly Paris seems perfect for revolutionaries, and the mystery of the identity of the Red Rook fits with the tense atmosphere we love in books about crooks.
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| Katherine McIntyre | While I hadn’t heard much buzz about this story, Lies I Told by Michelle Zink (Lies I Told, #1, HarperTeen— available now) offers the thrill of thieves combined with romance. This one examines another brilliant aspect to criminal sub-culture: crime families. Grace Fontaine was adopted by a family of thieves who con from the rich, which already starts the audience off with a competent and skilled character. And the hook for the romance sounds fantastic—after all, when the biggest rule is to “never fall for your mark,” that just begs to be defied. For those who are looking for a magical realism take of thieves, look no further than Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly (Saga Press—available now). This unique version of the 1920s has a prohibition of a very different sort: sorcery. Of course, this leads to a thriving magical underworld, which breeds syndicates and crime families. This story follows Joan and Alex, each one on a very different side of the law. With high stakes riding for each of the characters and set in the perfect mobster era, the 1920s, Criminal Magic looks to be an excellent addition to the thieving tales in young adult this year.
Whether you’re looking for Vegas-slick heists or mobster tales, the young adult industry is booming right now with wonderful reads for you to escape into. For those who’re attracted to the lure of the intelligent bad boy, a capable guy smart enough to outwit the law, many of these books have compelling romantic subplots as well, leaving the reader plenty of variety to enjoy. The theme of thievery spans over genres, and I’m more than a little intrigued to see how the tales differ based on setting, whether it be the high fantasy elements in Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows or the dystopian setting of the Rook. With plenty to choose from, let one of these books steal you away!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR A modern-day Renaissance woman, Katherine McIntyre has learned soapmaking, beer brewing, tea blending, and most recently, coffee roasting. Most of which make sure she’s hydrated and bathed while she spends the rest of her time writing. With a desire to travel and more imagination than she knows what to do with, all the stories jumping around in her head led to the logical route of jotting them down on paper. Not only can her poetry and prose be found in different magazines, but she’s had an array of novels and novellas published through Decadent Publishing, Boroughs Publishing, Hazardous Press, and Jupiter Gardens Press. For more casual content, she’s a regular contributor on CaffeineCrew.com, a geek news website. Visit her at http://www.katherine-mcintyre.com.
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
reviews young adult | new adult | childrens Magic Brew
T. Rae Mitchell Young Adult Heat Rating: 1
They call me Edge, and I’m the only supernatural in New York City with Djinn powers. My gang is known as the Forsaken. We’re the throwaways of our kind, despised by purebloods for being mixed breeds. Banishment, rejection and abandonment bind us. Yet our differences are what make us powerful, and close to unstoppable. Until today. Review: This was a really different book. Leapt along on a fast track, and didn’t slow down. Gangs of different supernaturals with territories in New York, living along side of “gullies” or humans. If you ever saw the old gang movie of The Warriors, then imagine the same sort of plot line with supernaturals. When a group of a mixed gang called The Forsaken, because of their mixed heritages, are called to a meeting of supernaturals, all hell breaks loose, and they need to fight their way back home to Coney Island. This is the story of Edge, who is part Djinn, part Highborn Seelie – and the gang he’s in. When he’s betrayed by his leader, a vampire/warlock, they need to escape and get back home, but with a price on his head from the warlocks who want to use his powers, it will be a fight to get back home. This is a non-stop action story, and once it hits the gas, it doesn’t slow down. I would definitely recommend this one for anyone who likes a good paranormal with a lot of action. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Sapphire Elayne Griffith Young Adult Heat Rating: 1
When there is darkness in our lives, and the path is not always clear, all we need to do is believe. Sixteen is supposed to be a special day for most young girls, but Shawna’s sweet sixteen turns into a night of terror. After she overhears her parents having a strange and chilling conversation about “things” coming for her, she plans to run away, but before she can monstrous creatures come scratching at the door. In her last desperate moments, a powerful black unicorn comes to her aid, taking her away to a fantastical realm of magic, danger, and mystery. Review: What a great fantasy story. The author weaves a very intricate fantasy, with Shawna, an awkward girl who on her 16th birthday, overhears her always-strange parents talking about getting “rid of her.” Deciding she needs to leave, she is suddenly snatched away from her home and wakes in a world of fantasy, which she comes to discover, is her true world. As she journeys through the book, she discovers who she really is. A wonderful tale of coming of age and self-discovery, all woven within the fantasy realm of dark unicorns, quirky fairies and trickster dragons. An adventure with humor, suspense, drama, a bit of romance and a lot of action – fantasy lovers will enjoy this book. Reviewed by Cyrene
The Monster Inn Koos Verkaik Young Adult Heat Rating: 1
Dream Weaver Su Williams Young Adult Heat Rating: 1
Never trust a wolpertinger! For wolpertingers only give you troubles! Still, once, a long time ago, there was a boy who made friends with a wolpertinger. That was Alex, the boy from the Alps, who lived in the land of the giant king Clover and travelled through the Downhills – together with Ludo the wolpertinger. They had many wonder adventures, and this is how they met...
Emari Sweet understands waking up in a cold sweat, heart pounding and screaming in fear. Night terrors plague her after the death of her parents, and she strives for control over the darkness that threatens to engulf her. But a monster lurks in the shadows, and his subtle hints of brutality explode in a violent attack that plunges her back into the depths of fear.
Review: This is a fun loving, middle school aged book that has adult topics, but is just a fun, confusing, good read. Alex is a boy from the Alps, a small boy at that. He decides that he wants to explore and finds himself in Ruff Rumbles portion of the kingdom, and in the kitchen cooking. But Ruff is no ordinary nobleman, no he is a giant to Alex and as the story goes, Alex must learn to avoid circumstances that could put him in arms way, OR as he usually does, think quickly and hope he doesn’t get eaten. I mean it worked a couple of times, so why not continue the trend.
Review: First off, this is a very well written book, but you have to hang in there, and slog through the very depressing first EIGHT chapters. The first part of the book is very “emo” and maybe drawn out a bit too much. But things start making more sense once you get past that initial emotional onslaught. This is a series book, and it leaves you with, not so much as a scary cliffhanger, but the ending is not for someone looking for a standalone book, as this one will not wrap up storylines, you will have to get the next volumes, which I actually want to read. The book follows the lives of Emari and her friends, and Nick and Sabre – who are known as Dream Weavers – with the ability to sooth nightmares from people that have been hurt so badly in life. Nick tries to sooth Emari – but when she wakes suddenly, feeling someone near her, she actually sees Nick, whom is not supposed to be seen by a human. This is where the story comes to life. So pick it up, get through the beginning, and you’ll find a pretty good book.
When a wizard comes a calling, Ruff realizes that he could capture the entire kingdom and the only way that the wizard can be set free is if Alex, with the help of his adopted cat, travel to the underworld, full of creatures both large and small. Of course the first creature that he meets is a lazy, yet friendly at times wolpertinger. Alex worries a lot about friends, and making sure that his friends continue to like him, so he helps friends out. While a wonderful asset most times, these times it sets him up to take on workloads that may be beyond him. I rated this a 4.5 because the story is wonderful and fun. The language is at times childlike, but it is for children so it makes sense. Just stay out of kitchens Alex.
Reviewed by Cyrene
Reviewed by Andi
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
reviews young adult | new adult | childrens
Young Adult Heat Rating: 2
Young Adult Heat Rating: 1
Julie Anne Lindsey
On the other side of death, is destiny. Callie Ingram is spending her senior year focused on one thing: swimming. Her skill as a competitive swimmer is going to secure a scholarship and her future, or so she hopes. She has big plans, and Liam Hale, her gorgeous new neighbor, isn’t going to affect them. But when Callie sees Liam beheading someone, she learns his family has a secret that will change everything. The Hales are Vikings, demi-gods who’ve been charged by The Fates to find their new destined leader. Callie’s caught in the middle of a budding Norse apocalypse, in love with Liam Hale and desperate to protect her best friend. . .who the Hales believe is marked for transformation. Putting the clues together as fast as she can, Callie discovers she has the power to rewrite destiny, for herself and all humankind. Review:This book was a nice read. I liked the mythology, which began to entwine Norse and Greek together. Callie is an awkward senior in high school, who dumped her high school jock boyfriend of two years, which made it worse. Her best friend, Justin and her quirky friend Allison, are the only friends she has. Until the Hales move in next door, in the creepiest house in the town. But Callie is drawn to the brooding Liam Hale, and all kinds of weird things begin happening. No spoilers from me, but it was a different type of fantasy book, and being a lover of mythology, it grabbed ahold. Was it perfect? No, but it was an entertaining read. A nice YA book with a sprinkle of romance, suspense, danger, humor and mythology rolled in. Reviewed by Cyrene
It has been many lifetimes since the cycle began. The cycle that still haunts Annisa Lawson. A spell cast in desperation to help, which only caused heartache. Now, Annisa has found her way out of the varying repeats of her past; only to bring more danger to herself, and those around her. Now she must learn to survive with the help of her friends: Chase, Penelope, and Landon have all gone through each life cycle with Annisa. Sometimes helping, sometimes hindering. Now that Annisa has broken the cycle of their collective punishment, she finds that she needs her friends more than ever to keep their enemies, known, and unknown, at bay. As the group of friends learn of their souls’ journeys through their many life cycles, they must also learn to control the magick they have discovered within themselves and each other, in order to defeat the most feared assassin in their world. Review:This book has a great concept and I enjoyed that part of it. Four teenagers learning on their 16th birthday that they were witches and their powers will start to come in, and if they find their correct soul mates, then they can reach their full potential. I liked the imagination, but the story felt a bit rushed. The teens find out they are witches and a couple chapters later, they are at full power, without seeing how they learned – they just “knew.” And this book is written in the first person perspective, but then a sentence would crop up like it was written in a third part narrative, so that would disengage my reading a bit. There was also a lot of repetitive paragraphs and the expressive verbs were basically the same throughout the book, so it felt sluggish at times. All in all, I did enjoy the book, and I think with some tweaking it could be a much easier read. I think there is a lot of potential in the story with some better character and world building. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
feature book showcase
Carlyle Labuschagne Evanescent
Her fall has just begun. Only his touch can save her from the shift that could destroy it all. Within my blood runs a thing our kind calls the Shadowing Disease. It shadows over, and bends everything to its will. When the first blood- shift came, it tore through flesh and blood, threatening to bend me, break bone, shatter my mind and entrap my heart with its honeyed, seductive poison. It came with vicious intent, moving my thoughts and altering me forever. The shift has caused a rift within me. No one was safe when it entrapped me in its claws of foul lust. But I have the only antidote against the evil that becomes me - his touch alone has the power to release the spurs of sweet darkness that clung on for dear life. I knew what I had to do; the desperation pulled my mind with the deep determination of a hungry predator. By the time the revelation raised me from the dark dungeon of my bounds - it might have been too late.
A body is fragile; it breaks, it tears, and it bleeds. It is also tangible and real, beautiful and rare. A soul is an ever-fighting, ever-growing entity. It has a mind of its own. But, a mind is a curse; it can corrupt, be corrupted, thinks too much, or not enough. When body meets soul, it’s perfect. It knows the truth, but it cannot live without a mind. The mind activates the power from the soul to the body. The balance is never perfect. This is the curse of being broken. One exasperating breath at a time my haunting memories came swamping back, threatening to choke me with their horrid reality. When I opened my eyes on the day that changed me forever – my day of reckoning – my mind was assaulted with knowledge that was not my own. Had I been pushed? Was it even real? Yet, as every flash and every thought of those
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false memories reeled through me, there was a message there. Sometimes I wonder, if not for the false state of existence, the knowledge I had gained in those fabricated moments… would I ever have known? What matters now is that I do know, and I want what is rightfully mine. I wanted it all. I wanted revenge. And as I opened my eyes, a dark world swirled above me, and then the fuzzy outlines of geometric shapes came in to view. I had been captured. I didn’t want to get up and carry on, wanted to close my eyes and wish it all away. I let the guilt slide away. But like a spider, it crawled its way back in, and slowly the doubt and the disappointment spun its web. And suddenly I remembered how it all took place how my hate and anger of my past had become my poison, and so I gave in to the blood-shift. After shifting I can’t recall. My world became black once more, as I closed my eyes trying to decipher why I have memories of a time I had not lived yet. I lay there, suspended in my thoughts.. I knew the battle of my mind and soul all too well, the familiarity nipped at my veins so that the feeling of remorse was lost on me. You know what you have to do. Get up and do it! The voice came again. It was my own, but my body would not move. I didn’t care that the girl in my memories was not me laying in his arms, and that his touch and his tender kisses had not found my hands or my lips. Even if losing him was entirely of my own doing, I would fight. More memories hit, the powerful kind that break your breath, steal your mind, and eclipse your heart. And when you think you can’t take it anymore, it all slowly flutters back to the horrid truth. I had lost him. I had lost all that was me. That’s when I felt it, the dark magic that lingered on the air around me. I have come to know his brand quite well.
“I know you are there. I can feel you,” I groaned through the darkness. Silence filled the gloomy room, expanded through the cracks, pushed through thick, gray stone walls, and penetrated the blackness outside. “You are wasting your time,” my words escaped in a whisper, my throat so dry it seared. I felt bruised, inside and out. I tried to lift my body, which seemed to be glued by gravity itself to a cold, hard surface. My wrist stung as I pulled against what felt like barbed wire restraints laced with a poison that left me dizzy. I lay my head back down, trying to catch my breath, sweat clinging to my entire body. A stifling heat choking my vision, my thoughts. The throbbing in my head exploded and rippled through my entire frame. I clenched my teeth, but the pain was too insane to contain. I screamed, and the aching that echoed through my bones left me icy and shivering. My back lifted and slammed back onto the surface of a metal bed as my breath hit me again. I swore. “It gets easier with time.” His words filtered through the nothingness inside of me as my heart slowly came back to life. I swallowed against coals trapped in my throat. It happened again. The shift was taking me, it ripped and raked over my body, and I choked on its blackness. “Oh, the sin of guilt is an unpleasant thing,” he said from right beside me. I turned my head toward where his voice was coming from, a tear escaped me. My emotions confined in my esophagus. “He is going to kill you,” is all I got out, before my eyes closed and I fell into its beckoning midnight.
Carlyle Labuschagne is an award winning YA author from South Africa who fell in love with science fiction stories at the age of four. Since then, and to this day she can still be found wondering off into the deepest, colourful parts of her imagination. Her love for Japanese anime sparked her fascination into the limitless possibilities of the SFF genre and the infinity of space. Labuschagne is not a one genre kind of girl, within all her YA books the reader will find action, adventure, philosophy, romance, fantasy and a little of the supernatural. What she loves most of all in this genre is to make up new planets and species of humans. At heart she’s a dreamer, and in life she follows those dreams and encourages everyone she meets to do the same. If she wasn’t a writer, she’d would have loved to be directing music videos. In her next life she’s coming back as a female rock star like Florence + machine, or Sia. But in this life she won’t let het total lack of carrying a note stop her from signing at the top of her lungs even if her kids make fun of her and threaten to post the silliness on Youtube. Carlyle is bubbly and big hearted and inviting.
carlylelabuschagne.com Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
feature 3 -book showcase
In a dark and desolated After Earth, love still does exist, but the cost of bearing such a flaw is death. World War III has left Earth in utter turmoil. People’s beliefs are said to be the cause of the worldwide destruction. After The Clearing new laws are set about - to show certitude in anything besides the law is weak and chargeable as mutiny. To be illogical and have faith in religion is illegal, to be limitless is dangerous. And Illness is seen as a defect – all flaws that are inexcusable.
Dead of Night
HIS VOICE ECHOES THROUGHOUT THE VAST room. It’s a voice I feel I could know, one that is as familiar to me as his handsome face. When he moves, the bunk’s springs squeak like a little rodent that is desperate to scurry away. I don’t mean to stare—but those soft gorgeous lips and strong jaw, the warm smile that brings sparkle to his honey-colored eyes, carries forth a loud voice in my head, telling me this boy can be trusted. Lingering beneath his gentle stare I can see something else, the embers of concern. They drown out the spark in his stare as he waits for my answer. Why would he show me this consideration? I don’t know who this beautiful stranger is. I look around, realizing that I don’t even know who I am. Or, if the blue cotton uniform I am wearing is even mine. I glance back down at the green tin cup I hold in my hands, and the sweet and salty aroma of corn soup fills my nostrils. “Are you sure you’re okay?” His voice is calm, but the quickening thump of his pulse and the tight set in his jaw relays something else entirely. He inches closer, beads of sweat darkening his dusty blond hair, giving away the secret he is trying so hard to hide. He is upset. Nervous. Maybe both. Is he withholding something? Unknowingly, my head tilts to the side, trying to figure out what happened to me, and who this perfect stranger
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might be. And why I think I might know him. The stabbing sensation in my head throbs with each breath I take, making it hard for me to think clearly. I feel wrapped up in a thick fog, and just beyond it lives some useable memory.
It’s the worst day of Charlie Everson’s life. Not only can she no longer fit into her clothes— disaster for any public relations director—but also her first love, the sexy super-successful Brian Tendai, is her new CEO, the last person she ever expected to run into. Seeing him again tumbles Charlie back into her past. There are still so many unanswered questions: he’s convinced she left him, she’s convinced he left her. Charlie minimizes the ‘ex’ factor. Tell that to her emotions that are running wild. But Brian’s not there to rekindle their romance. He’s overseeing Queenswood Communications’ recent merger after a hostile takeover. Guess whose name is at the top of the list? They agree to one night together, just the one, then it’s back to business as normal. Or is it?
Excerpt from The Joy of Comfort Eating Welcome to the worst day of my life. What the hell do I wear? Charlie Everson surveyed her closthes closet—a three-sided cubicle—with two sections of hanging space, and row upon row of wooden shelves harboring multi-colored garments. Unwearable. The wrong size. Or were once the right size. Back then. But that was then. Now her clothes needed to be bigger, roomier, like marshmallows blown up in the microwave. One size up. No, two sizes up. Even three sizes. Sizes less revealing
of the flesh that lay beneath. It’s not like he’d remember her. Besides, plenty of people were called Brian Tendai. Weren’t they? It was probably a coincidence. Charlie rooted through a pile of casual shirts slumped against the side of the closet. They smelled of wet wood and Angel by Thierry Mugler. Extracting a crumpled, black tank top with white deodorant marks staining the underarms, she sniffed the fabric before throwing it onto her bed. Then, from another pile that had given up the fight, she found a matching black short sweater— wrinkled. The sweater landed on the tank top with a soft plop, not unlike the sound of a soft serve vanilla, molding into a sugar cone. Fate wouldn’t drag him back to her in the form of her new boss, now would it? No one had such a sick sense of humor.
At 24 years old, Holly Scallanger has the perfect life. Everything a girl could want; a beautiful man, a stunning home, as well as being in the midst of preparing for the wedding of her dreams. This all vanishes the night she catches her fiancé, Brandon Morgan, in bed with her worst nightmare, Donna Sinclair, just a week before Holly is set to walk down the aisle. Attempting to recover from his betrayal, Holly swears off the affections of men in order to pick up the pieces of her crumbling life.
HOLLY SCALLANGER LOOKED AT THE EMAIL IN HER hands. That son of a bitch. How could he do this to me, and only a week prior to our wedding? She had given him everything. Had stood by him in his time of need, having fulfilled the vows she hadn’t yet made before God. And what had he done? Her fiancé had slept with the woman he’d promised never to speak to ever again; Donna Sinclair. That little stunt had ripped her heart out and tore it into a million pieces, like a wolf with a fresh kill. He had decimated her without a second thought. Their relationship was the price demanded of one tramp in a push-up bra, and paid with the wink of an eye. Donna had always been a thorn in her side, the kind that wedged in deep like a tick, burrowing in deeper and deeper the more you tried to remove it. She should have left him when that bitch first made her appearance in their lives, but she had innocently believed his rotten tongue. ‘I’ll always be here,’ he said. ‘If you do want to come back, that is.’ I hugged him impulsively. ‘I might not come back to work but I’ll always come back. You’re my family.’ I meant every word. We’d had a few rough times over the years but who hadn’t? Taylor had been there for me when no-one else was, even if his motives weren’t always pure. I worried about him more than he’d ever know. He looked abashed at my heartfelt words and ran an awkward hand through his hair. It was no longer the carroty mop he had when I first met him all those years ago. then keep them or return them, as you wish.”
Fire Quill Publishing is located in sunny South Africa. We strive to only publish and distribute pre-eminent novels to our audience, and work to offer superb marketing services to our authors. Each division is run by a team of experts in their respective fields in order to make your experience in the publishing industry as fun and exciting as possible, whilst still offering the highest quality and professionalism.
firequillpublishing.com Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
Mystery | Suspense | Thriller | Horrror
BEYOND the EXPECTED
MYSTERY & SUSPENSE
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
reading trends in mystery & more
Scrying EYE The
Cops, Comics, and Spirits! Another frightful winter slides away behind us as a delightful spring bursts into view. There is a new world spreading out before us, full of wondrous tales of romance, happiness, and joy. But if you enter this tent, if you peel back the door and step into the parlor, the Eye will open, and it will show you tales that are equally wonderful and full of love. But these stories are also full of suspense, mystery, and pure terror. The Scrying Eye has opened, and you have been beckoned to come within and see what sights it has to show you . . .
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
| The Scrying Eye |
Suspense/Mystery The Whites: A Novel by Richard Price—writing as Harry Brandt—(Picador—available now!) features the gritty tale of a New York City cop named Billy Graves, once a member of the anti-crime unit known as the Wild Geese, now shamed and barely hanging on to his job. His duty begins at one a.m. every night and ends at eight a.m., where he leads a new group of police known as the Night Watch. Their job is simply to respond to all the felonies called in between Wall Street and Harlem during their shift. Easy job, right? Routine, right? Hardly, because one night at four a.m., a man is fatally slashed in Penn Station, and this murder leads Billy down a twisted path that will take him right back to his glory days as a member of the Wild Geese, and back to that terrible moment when his life changed forever. The bad old days are back, and Billy has to face them, or die trying . . .
The Fade Out Volume 3 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image Comics—available now) is the concluding chapter of the fabulous Fade Out graphic novel saga. An epic noir set in the world of Hollywood at the end of its Golden Era, Fade Out is a story of a movie stuck in endless reshoots, an alcoholic writer with horrible flashbacks to the war, and a dead movie star and the lookalike hired to replace her. Murder is afoot and nothing appears to be what it seems on its surface. Valerie Sommers is dead, and only our heroes can find the culprits and put them behind bars. Or can they? Gritty storytelling, amazing visuals, a cast of characters at once familiar and repellant, and a throbbing plot that threatens to out-noir even the darkest of noir
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stories, Fade Out has it all. This is the conclusion of the story, and it is here where all the high-stakes gambles pay off or fail, and the truth is known, as much as the truth can be in such a godforsaken world . . .
Horror! Harrow County Volume 2: Twice Told by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook (Dark Horse Books—available April 26, 2016) is the newest collection of the fantastic Southern gothic horror graphic novel. Emmy has uncovered many of Harrow County’s secrets and forged new friendships with the land itself and the monsters that roam it. But evil lurks just over the county lines, a presence at once familiar and horrifying. With brilliant writing and gorgeous drawing, Harrow County packs quite the punch. Not only are the stories disturbing and original, but the characters are unique, and the artwork brings out all the inimitable and quirky horror that lies in everyday rural life. Absolutely the best new horror comic of the last year! Do yourself a favor and check it out . . . End of Watch: A Novel by Stephen King (The Bill Hodges Trilogy, #3, Scribner—available June 7, 2016) is the last chapter of the Bill Hodges story by Mr. King. The first two volumes were featured as mysteries, but this one, my friends, brings the circle to closure, and it is just as horrific as anything King has ever written. Brady Hartsfield, the killer known as Mr. Mercedes, beaten to a pulp at the conclusion of that story, has been in a vegetative state for five years while being taken care of at a local clinic. But during those five years, a malevolent force has risen in Hartsfield, giving him a deadly power that enables him to wreak unholy havoc on the lives of innocents. Hodges, the detective who put the clamps on Hartsfield, investigates a strange suicide with connections to Mr. Mercedes. In doing so, he uncovers evidence that Hartsfield is not only not a vegetable, but actively planning vengeance. And this revenge isn’t just aimed at Hodges, but at his friends and allies, and at the entire city that was once held in the terrifying embrace of Mr. Mercedes. King combines the mystery and suspense of the first two novels with his trademarked supernatural leanings in this explosive finale. Will Hodges win the day one last time, or will Mr. Mercedes glide the night streets, striking terror into the hearts of everyone? You’ll have to open the book and find out . . .
| Kelly Hudson |
And with that, the Eye winks shut and goes once more into hibernation. Only instead of chilly winter nights, the Eye will sleep and dream under warm stars and clear skies. It will rest and return soon enough, when the days stretch out and the nights shrink farther and farther back. But there will always be darkness, and there will always be a Scrying Eye, eager to show the most intrepid of readers a spine-tingling assortment of tales that will make their pulses race, their brains fry, and their hearts explode. So now go! Leave this place, and head out to discover these amazing treasures that you have been given a glimpse of. Depart and read in peace, but beware . . . your nights will be forever haunted!
ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Kelly M Hudson is the author of two horror novels and dozens of short stories, including his latest short story collection, The Cemetery Job: Tales of the Living Dead. You can find links to all of his works by visiting www.kellymhudson.com if you dare!
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
reviews mystery | suspense | horror
Throw a Monkey Wrench
Mystery/Suspense Heat Rating: 3
Mystery/Suspense Heat Rating: 1
She’s searching for a sign . . . Hannah Halloran has always believed in her gift. The things she sees through her psychic touch have never led her wrong before. Not when they led her to an unforgettable night with a sexy marine at a bar. Not when she felt a need to leave her home and find the sisters she barely knows. And not now, when she is an unwilling witness to a brutal murder . . . He’s ready to show her . . . All Niall Graham wants is some peace. He’s recovering from the horrors of war, struggling to save his family’s restaurant, and desperate to forget Hannah, the beautiful woman who left him with memories of a mind-blowing night together and a bogus phone number. But a quiet life is hard to manage—especially when Hannah strides back into his restaurant with the news that a serial killer is on the loose and lurking closer than anyone could have guessed . . . Review: This is an excellent read. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a suspenseful book that kept me guessing – and even surprise me many times over. This is the story of Hannah and Niall – the marine she meets when she’s tending bar at her adoptive parents place, never expecting to hear from him after their one night. Hannah wants to go back to her hometown of Tidewater to meet her two sisters, and guess whose brother hires her for a week? All the sisters have a “crift,” or a gift of some type. Hannah can touch metal and see a vision of the person who handled the object before her. When she touches a knife in the restaurant, she sees the vision of a serial killer and their victim. This story twisted a few times, and kept me guessing, a couple things I guessed, but a couple things really threw me off, perfect. I won’t give anything away, but the story is smart, well written and hard to put down. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Event planner Emma Cassidy has returned to her hometown to rebuild her life. She’s hired to throw a housewarming party for the brash and arrogant Tony Barnet, who’s eager to impress the big end of town. But when the party ends in disaster, Tony is quick to blame Emma, and the subsequent rumors spell doom for Emma’s business. Thank goodness she still has the job of planning Sean and Madison’s wedding. Sean, one of the notorious McCluskey clan, is about to marry Madison, the beautiful daughter of the rich and powerful Whites. But when Tony Barnet is killed, the police swiftly arrest Sean McCluskey. Though the evidence is damning, Emma is convinced her friend is innocent. With Sean facing prison, the wedding in jeopardy, and her fledgling business in danger of tanking, Emma must unravel the mystery and expose the real killer before it’s too late. Review: Sean and Maddison are due to be married and Emma is their wedding party planner. When Tony is found murdered and a wrench is left with the body. Who could have done such a thing? Emma starts to investigate on her own. A great cozy that will amaze you and keep you on your toes. Emma never gets boring like some other sleuths. She works well with the police and things happen. The characters work well together and the story makes you want to keep turning the pages. Reviewed by Babs
reviews mystery | suspense | horror
Mystery/Suspense Heat Rating: 3
Thriller Heat Rating: 2
Psychiatrist Henley Elliott fled her quiet life in Cleveland for a gypsy lifestyle, trying to stay one step ahead of her painful memories. When she breaks down in quirky little Trappers’ Cove, Minnesota, she meets Sheriff Carter McAlister - a man healing from his own share of hidden heartbreaks. At the request of a friend, Carter offers Henley a job to help her get back on her feet... but soon he can’t resist trying to sweep the intriguing woman off them. Breaking through her carefully built shell proves to be a nearimpossible task, and to make matters worse, a dangerous new presence in the Cove seems to be targeting Henley. They must learn to trust in each other in order to keep her safe. Can Henley and Carter leave their secrets and scars in the past to get a second chance at happily ever after? Review: I enjoyed this story, and it had suspense on more than one level. Henley is a woman broken by her own demons, and is constantly on the run, until her car breaks down in a small town of Trapper Cove. There she meets some people that start to anchor her, her neighbors, and the big city cop turned small town sheriff – Carter, with a past of his own. The author doesn’t make it easy for these two, but it’s a nice read with characters you can care about. Just as Henley and Carter are beginning to trust each other, a series of events are targeting Henley, and it seems her past is coming back to haunt her, right when she decides she wants a new life in Trapper Cove, and to quit running. Good development of the characters and it clicked along at a good pace. Highly recommended for romantic suspense lovers. Reviewed by Cyrene
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They call him the Pope on Dope. Danny Fisk has a secret no one outside his family would believe. Danny sees things others can’t: like ghosts and the future. In his teens, he used drugs to escape his gifts, but with help from his family, Danny cleaned up his life. For fifteen years, he lived the American Dream. He had a loving wife, kids, a great job, and proud parents. That ended when renewed pressure from his abilities drove him back to drug abuse. Now, Danny’s on a mission to save as many as he can from the streets that would destroy them all. Pursued by corrupt cops, drug cartels and his own inner demons, Danny must find a way to survive his gifts. If not, he’ll continue a downward spiral that could cost him the lives of those he’s trying to save. As well as his own. Review: Innocent Blood is a Paranormal Crime Thriller that follows Danny, who is a recovering meth addict who also hears the voice of God, among other things. He is a man on a mission who is determined to expose the dirty cops in his area who are set on getting more and more kids hooked on drugs. Danny’s psychic abilities are something he struggles with along with his addiction. This book gives the reader good insight as to the life of an addict and how it also affects those who are close to the person suffering from the addiction. Not many books can do a good job of this and only touch the surface, but Innocent Blood really gives the reader good information. This was a really good book for someone looking for a thrilling read about something other than the usual paranormal tropes. Reviewed by Melanie
Beauty of the Beast Viktoria Faust Dark Thriller Heat Rating: 1
Viktoria, a young and not particularly talented painter, comes across war vampires in the middle of war torn Croatia in 1992. She becomes obsessed with them but socializing with vampires is dangerous. One of them attacks her and infects her with what she believes is AIDS. To save herself she leaves with Damian, the oldest of the vampires, on an adventure that will prolong her life forever ... or end it. Review: Let me preface this by stating this is not a ‘Beauty and The Beast’ re-telling. Beauty of The Beast was a dark psychological read. It’s not fast paced, but rather the author takes time in weaving a clever, thrilling tale together. I enjoyed the flaws and depth of the female protagonist, Viktoria. This was unlike any vampire novel I’ve ever read. The author did an incredible job with her descriptive scenery … war torn Croatia … Europe … how the characters were feeling and relating to one another. The contrast was so vivid and at times had me scared. There are tender moments in this, but make no mistake … this is not a romance novel, but the ideas and scenery are romantic. Ultimately, Beauty of The Beast was a captivating, beautifully tragic and enthralling read! Reviewed by Sasha
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
feature book showcase
The Rowdy Coyote Rumble A dust devil of mystery and mayhem pulls Claire into a storm full of rowdy sisters, ominous threats, relationship snafus, and a dangerous mine that could be a treasure trove of trouble. It’s only a matter of time before this rumble turns into an all-out calamity!
Jail. Again. Twice in one month’s time. Claire wasn’t talking to Kate anymore. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not for the rest of the year, darn it. Sitting in that piss-stinking holding cell was the final straw. That’s what she got for letting her little sister play the poor-pregnant-me ploy, landing Claire in yet another altercation with the law. “I’m telling you it’s not Katie’s fault,” Ronnie said. She stood in the kitchen archway dipping a banana in a container of yogurt while watching Claire thread electrical cable through the holes in the rec room wall studs. “Oh, really?” Claire pulled yellow cable through another hole with more force than necessary. “So whose fault was it that she tried to run from Deputy Dipshit when he pulled up next to Mabel and then proceeded to poke him repeatedly in his doughnut belly when he threatened to take her into the station for questioning?” Claire should’ve known better than to let her nutty sister talk her into driving to Yuccaville for some mint chocolate chip ice cream to appease her late-night cravings. Then she was foolish enough to take the shortcut Kate suggested on the way to the grocery store. That was no shortcut. The Rowdy Coyote Motel was several blocks out of their way. That’s what Claire got for trying to make Kate feel better after facing off with Butch. She yanked on the cable, cursing under her breath. “Ease up there, Incredible Hulk,” Chester said from the other end of the rec
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room where he was feeding her the cable. “You about dragged me through the hole on that last pull.” “Sorry, Chester.” Claire let go of the cable for a moment and shook the stress out of her hands, rolling her shoulders a couple of times. “I’m just sick and tired of having my personal effects analyzed by Deputy Dipshit while I sit on a pee-stained cot behind cell bars.” Ronnie swallowed a spoonful of yogurt. “What were you doing with a condom in your jacket pocket anyway?” Chester snickered. “I’m bettin’ it had nothing to do with protecting your firearm in the water.” “If you remember,” Claire grabbed the cable and poked it through another stud hole, “you had my jacket, so I had to borrow one.” “From whom?” “Mom.” “Ewwww!” Ronnie made a gagging face. “Why would she have a condom?” “You’re lucky it wasn’t used.” Chester took the disgusting factor to the next level. “Chester!” Claire shot him a glare. “We’re talking about my mother here.” “Yeah, well you don’t have to listen to Carrera go on and on about her bazookas like I do. That’s Ford’s daughter! I’ve known her since she was in diapers.” Claire pulled the cable through the last hole and lined it up with where Chester had the junction box nailed to the stud. “There, that’s the last one.” She pulled off her gloves and stuck them in her back pocket. Chester joined her at the junction box. “Ford is gonna be pissed when he sees this wire.” “Why? We’re just replacing the old stuff, plus an extra outlet or two per wall.” “You paid too much for the wire.” Here they went again, round and round about money, and it wasn’t even his she was spending. Chester seemed to have been channeling Gramps since this construction project started. “What was I supposed to do? Run into Tucson? I had to pay what Creekside Supply Company wanted.” Jackrabbit Junction’s hardware store was pricey, but a hell of a lot closer than the big box stores in the city. “You could’ve driven to Yuccaville.” “It’s not much cheaper there.” “And you should’ve bought the 14/2 cable. I told you we didn’t need the 12/2 for in here.” “And I told you that if Ruby’s going to run an air conditioner, flat-screen television, and multiple fans and other electronic gadgets in the rec room, it’s better to be safe and get the wire rated for 20 amp circuits. I’ll cover the extra cost.” “With what money? You haven’t held down a full-time job in months. Did the tooth fairy stop by and leave you a
mint under your pillow?” Correction—Chester was channeling her mother. “I have some money, dang it.” Not much, but enough if Gramps squawked. “You could always try bartering with condoms if you run short of cash,” the peanut gallery said from the kitchen doorway. “Butch has a bunch stocked up in the supply room at The Shaft.” Claire hit her sister with a smirk. “You would know.” With her cheeks pink, Ronnie backed into the kitchen and out of sight. “Why would she know?” Chester asked. “Because she works there?” No, because Ronnie and Grady had been caught screwing around in the supply room by Butch. “Something like that.” She tapped on the junction box. “Now quit giving me crap about the wire and get to work on this, or I’ll tell Mom you want to hear all about how Manny proposed to her again.” “Damn. That’s blackmail. You’ve been hanging around your grandfather too much.” He got out his wire strippers and got to work. Claire joined Ronnie in the kitchen, taking in how clean and tidy the place was. “You cleaned again,” she said, filling a glass with water from the tap and gulping it down. “A little here and there, that’s all.” Ronnie had a fetish for tidiness and organization that reared its ugly head whenever she was stressed about something. She must be worrying about the men her ex had sicced on her through his stupidity and selfishness. “So, what were you two doing last night in front of The Rowdy Coyote Motel?” Ronnie spoke quietly next to Claire. “Did it have anything to do with Room 9?” Claire set the empty glass on the counter and frowned at her sister. “What do you know about Room 9?” “Katie told me that the Polar Bear is staying there. We took a gander through a spyglass at his big snake.” Claire tried to process that last line. “His what?” “Big snake.” “Jeez, Ronnie. Were you spying on him while he was in the shower?” Her sister made a horrified face that was almost comical. “Not that snake.” She smacked Claire’s shoulder. “You need to stop spending so much time with Chester. He’s rubbing off on you.” Claire covered her eyes. “I know. I can’t look at a woman now without hearing his voice spouting some dirty comment in my head about her hooters or her sweet cheeks. I think I need someone to strip my brain down to the studs and rewire it with 20 amp wire.” “The snake I’m talking about is a rattlesnake.” “Who keeps a rattlesnake as a pet?” “That’s what Katie and I were wondering.” “I don’t want to even think about your sister right now.” “Katie feels horrible about you getting dragged to jail.” “Blah blah blah jail. That’s what I just heard.” “Stop being such a baby, Claire.” Ronnie moved closer again, her
voice a whisper. “Grady told me last night that he got word from a friend in the sheriff’s department in Albuquerque that they found a body that had the Polar Bear’s calling card on it.” “The Polar Bear carries business cards?” “You’ve been sniffing too much plaster dust. Not business card, nitwit. The person was squeezed to death.” Ronnie glanced at the doorway then back. “Grady’s friend thinks the Polar Bear might be on his way here, taking care of business along the way.” Claire grimaced. “So, you think Kate’s loony-toon theory about that guy is right?” “I don’t know.” “Did you tell Grady about the guy in the bar?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because what if Katie’s guy is innocent? Just some biker dude who looks like he could have that nickname? I can’t condemn someone without some sort of proof. I know how it feels to get the rubber glove treatment. I won’t put another innocent bystander through that.” Good point. They needed more proof. “So what really happened last night? And don’t try to sell me that story you told Grady about trying to rescue a stray kitten from behind The Rowdy Coyote.” “Ask your sister.” “Katie was gone this morning when I woke up. She left a note on the fridge saying she got a call to substitute again today.” Wouldn’t the school principal just love to hear that their new substitute teacher was in the sheriff’s holding tank last night? “Kate was creeping around behind the motel, peeking in windows.” “You let our pregnant baby sister sneak behind a seedy motel in the middle of the night?”
Ann Charles is a USA Today BestSelling author who writes spicy, awardwinning mysteries full of mayhem, adventure, comedy, and suspense. She writes the Deadwood, Jackrabbit Junction, and Dig Site Mystery Series. Her Deadwood series has won multiple national awards, including the Daphne du Maurier for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.
anncharles.com Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
feature book showcase
Bernard Lee DeLeo Cold Blooded, Book 1
Rachel Hunter witnessed her husband being murdered a year ago and since then, her and her 7 year old daughter, Jean, are in the Witness Protection Program. Rachel works as a waitress, and is at work when she first meets Nick McCarthy, a New York Best Selling Author of an Assassin book series. However, his writing is a cover for his real profession, an Assassin. His next assignment take out Rachel Hunter, but Nick can’t do it, and instead, helps protect Rachel and her daughter in what becomes a crosscountry killing spree to eliminate the people who ordered her hit.
Rachel let go of Nick’s wrist. “You think this is funny?” “I write fiction for a living. That means I’m a paid liar. Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a computer security guy, married to a beautiful blonde haired, blue-eyed woman and they had a beautiful little blonde haired, blueeyed daughter. The computer security guy tells his wife all about some of the very strange dealings the company he’s working for is into. Wifey suggests digitizing the strange dealings for a rainy day, just in case they run across something they need. The computer guy’s a little uncomfortable with this idea but it sounds like a nice insurance policy. “Computer guy copies the company’s strange dealings. He and wifey then take the daughter down to Florida on a nice vacation, where they set up their emergency nest egg. Low and behold the day arrives when wifey thinks they’re not living quite the way she thinks they should and talks computer guy into cashing in on their insurance policy.” Nick paused, watching Rachel’s shoulders slump as she turned
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in the chair, picked up her glass and drained the wine. She poured another glass out of the bottle on the table with a shaking hand. “How’d I do?” “On a scale of one to ten on my annoyance meter, you’ve blown the top cap on the tube,” Rachel stated tiredly, keeping her eyes on the fog. “That good, huh?” “I killed Rick as sure as if I had put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. He…he was a good man. Jean idolized him. He created computer games for her, and…and taught her how to play softball.” Rachel’s lower lip trembled as she took another gulp of wine. “He didn’t want to do it.” “And he died without revealing your part in the nest egg,” Nick added quietly. Rachel nodded, unable to speak without bursting into tears. “Rick stepped up,” Nick continued. “What are you willing to do?” Rachel turned to him, setting her wine glass aside. “What do you mean?” “I mean it appears you’ve figured out what matters in life now, and dangerous games can and will get you killed. You want to make sure nothing happens to Jean. What would you do to keep her safe?” “Who do I have to kill?” Rachel asked, without a hint of tremor in her voice. “That’s the spirit.” Nick poured himself another glass of wine. “Who the hell are you, Nick?” “I’m what they call a ‘Jack of all Trades’. I think I can help you and Jean.” “You’re already helping us.” “You’re going to need more help than a place to hide out in for a couple weeks.” “How would you be able to help with that?” “I have contacts but I don’t plan to get on the wrong side of the US Marshalls Service. I will make a few calls tonight and do some bargaining. Something I’ve been working on in a peripheral way is the leak in the Witness Protection Program. Our friends Grace and Tim may be on their way to closing it. Whoever jumped the gun and sent US Marshalls to follow us tonight either is the leak or knows exactly who the leak is. I’m thinking one of my contacts has already closed the leak. What took place tonight did not go unnoticed.” “That would mean we’re safe here.” Rachel
wondered where the conversation was headed. Who is this guy? Is he delusional? “Not a hundred percent but probably around ninetyfive percent. If I manage to help you work things out, I might have a proposition for you.” “Damn it, Nick! Who the hell are you?” Rachel demanded again in frustration. “I’m a cold-blooded psychopath with just a tiny thread of humanity left,” Nick answered, patting her hand. “Oh, c’mon, Nick, I’ve seen you with Jean and Deke.” “I killed a woman once while I petted her dog. I blew Tanus’s head off with a fifty caliber sniper rifle and had brunch in Pennsylvania later in the day. Tanus hired me to kill you.” “Oh my God!” Rachel pulled her hand away. She stared into Nick’s unblinking eyes and knew the truth. “You’re Diego?” “Diego’s a campfire girl compared to what I am,” Nick replied bluntly. “Now that we know a little about each other, what say we work out a way to keep you and Jean in one piece?” “How…I mean…I don’t know any more than I already told you.” “I figure it this way, if the leak is plugged, my boss will get the hell off my back. It will make him more amenable to my taking on a team. We’re going to visit your safety deposit box and I’ll get a name or possibly a couple names. I’m going to trade the flash drives to my boss for an okay to sanction the top of the Tanus ladder.” “What do you mean take on a team?” Rachel whispered, with sudden dawning realization of what team Nick meant. “As you said, I have a nice place here. After ten years in this business, I’m getting a bit frayed around the edges and in a position to pick and choose what I want to do. Business takes me all over the world and –” “…and you need a cover,” Rachel continued for him with growing horror. “You think your novelist persona is wearing thin. With a family, no one would suspect what you are.” “I knew you were smart.” Nick smiled. “The only way this works is if I make it safe for you and Jean to get famous and photographed. Being a best-selling novelist’s wife will mean a lot of exposure, so naturally, all the people who want you dead are going to have to die first.” “And if I refuse?” “I return you to Grace and Tim. You and Jean hit the outlaw trail again with Deke. Maybe everything will be okay once the leak in the program is patched.” “What if I go with Grace and Tim and trade your ass for something nice?” Rachel continued to stare directly
into Nick’s eyes. Rachel shivered slightly as a cold smile wavered and spread outwards on Nick’s mouth. The smile did not stretch to his eyes. “Why don’t you sleep on it, and let me know what you decide when we walk to the beach tomorrow morning?” “Does this proposition involve partnering up with you in the biblical sense?” “You can sleep on that too.” “When I saw you the first time at the restaurant, were you staking me out?” “No, I was deciding whether to take Tanus out or not. The picture I had of you reminded me of someone from long ago. You still reminded me of her when I saw you in person.” “And if I hadn’t?” “Then I wouldn’t have been there to pull you out of the way last night.” “Is this what they mean by being caught between a rock and a hard place?” Rachel nodded with a smile at Nick’s admission. “No, this is between a rock and a cold, hard place,” Nick replied, smiling back. “Nick.” Rachel looked up as Nick stood and gathered the glasses and wine bottle. “The woman you killed, she was bad…right?” “She was to someone.”
Bernard Lee DeLeo from Warren, Ohio writes pulp fiction. Amazon carries his thirty novels, free for Kindle Unlimited. Mr. DeLeo served aboard the USS Ranger from 1969 to 1972. He holds degrees in Automotive Technology and English from Chabot and Cal State, Hayward. He plays basketball, backpacks, and scuba dives.
Amazon Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
Science Fiction | Fantasy | Paranormal | Urban Fantasy
SCI FI / FANTASY OUT of this WORLD
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
reading trends in sci fi & fantasy
AliB FORTY and the
Spaceships Alex Bardy
The Desert, The Empty Space, and Great Books . . . “Tavern is either in a cellar or open to the street, and mostly serves only bad cheap drink and very greasy STEW. MERCENARIES love Taverns. Avoid Taverns unless you really want a terrible hangover or a bout of unarmed combat. Stick to INNS.” —The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Diana Wynne Jones
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
| Ali B and the Forty Spaceships| Last time round, I was waxing lyrical about the movies, and citing Spectre, Mockingjay 2, and especially Star Wars: The Force Awakens as on the verge of making for an exciting festive period at the movies for us over here in the UK. Needless to say, at time of writing Star Wars is still hoovering up all those record-breaking statistics and spitting them out t’other side with force (see what I did there?). The irony, of course, in line with this issue’s theme of contemporary western, is that many believe the original Star Wars: A New Hope is actually just another western in space (damsel in distress, good guys vs. bad guys, the usual thing). Things have moved on a little plotwise since then, o’course, but the key concept of good vs. evil is never really far away from most modern entertainment, I think, be that in movies, on the telly, or through comics and/ or books, or indeed, any good yarn. This column usually focuses on fantasy, science fiction, and horror, but I’d like to detour a little today because I recently read The Homesman (Simon & Schuster, 2014—originally published in 1988) by Glendon Swarthout and found it both refreshingly different and, in parts, still quite the horror story. Most will better know the story through the 2004 movie of the same name, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank. Here’s a brief summary: it’s set in the American West of the 1850s, three women have lost their marbles (according to male-skewed popular opinion) and need to be escorted back east across the desert to a sanitorium and/or sanctity with their families. When none of the local men steps up to the plate, it’s left to Mary Bee Cuddy (a resourceful and successful spinster) to undertake the job, but she enlists the services of a low-life claim jumper to assist her (by sparing him a hanging) and sets off on a journey, both memorable and at times, truly terrifying. As a God-fearing woman, Mary Bee’s character is portrayed marvellously, which makes what happens en route all the more shocking, but it does also give low-life George Briggs the
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chance to “redeem himself,” so to speak. My point being that there is no good vs. bad here, just some great storytelling and a struggle against time and the elements. ’Tis a good story, though, so seek out the book if you want to enjoy the writing, although no doubt the film of the same name will cover most bases. It’ll come as no surprise to many that Sarah Pinborough happens to be quite high on my “I love her stuff” list (if you didn’t know already, where have you been for the last two years?), so her latest release, 13 Minutes (Gollancz, Feb 2016) was bound to be a hit with me. It’s being marketed as her first YA thriller and tells the story of Natasha Howland, a girl who was rescued from a river by a passerby after having already been dead in the water for thirteen minutes. Written for the most part in first person, it’s a cracking tale of a young lady who is fighting to remember what happened prior to her “accident” while still dealing with all the angst and peer pressure of college life, best friends, etc. A beautiful and swift read, there are numerous major twists and turns (something of a Pinborough mainstay) that lead inexorably to a shocking finale. Some will find it unsatisfying, but they obviously haven’t read enough of Sarah’s work to know better. Highly recommended reading. And now for something completely different . . . The Falconer (Gollancz, 2014) and The Vanishing Throne (Gollancz, 2015) by Elizabeth May are a pair of books starring faery-hunter Lady Aileana Kameron on a quest to avenge the death of her mother at the hands of a particularly nasty strain of faery-kind. Set in a steampunk-style Edinburgh with lightning guns, flying ’thopters, and social etiquette all competing for Aileana’s attention, these books mark the debut of an author whose photographic work is already highly respected. And she evidently demonstrates a good eye for visual storytelling, since this shines through in a lot of the descriptive sections of the books, immersing the reader into a
| Alex Bardy | rather violent world of nasty faeries and top-notch action sequences. Good reads, both, and part of a trilogy, the third volume of which, The Fallen Kingdom, should hopefully be out next year (2017), it’s somewhat too easy to recommend these as well.
House Atreides within these pages. I haven’t yet read the other Prelude books—Volume 1: House Atreides and Volume 3: House Corrino—but after enjoying House Harkonnen, I don’t think I’ll be quite so quick to turn my nose up should the opportunity come along to read them. I’ve already outstayed my welcome, so “That’s all for now, folks!” Take care, and I hope 2016 brings you a multitude of good reading.
Many readers will know that 2015 saw Frank Herbert’s Dune celebrating fifty years since its first publication, and I recently had cause to read Prelude to Dune: House Harkonnen (New English Library, 2004) by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Now although there is a lot of controversy (especially among fans of the original) over Frank’s son continuing to expand the Dune universe,
and the writing itself seems to come under fire quite regularly, I must say I enjoyed this foray back into the world of Dune even if, despite the title, there does seem to be a lot of time and focus spent on
ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Alex Bardy lives in a very dark place, below a small dank stairwell, beneath a dark step, under a speck of dirt, tucked away in a cold, dark emptiness, somewhere on the fringes of the charming, historical city of York, in the North Yorkshire area of the UK. He also writes as DenizenOfTheUniverse under his Twitter moniker: @mangozoid. He is a contributor, reviewer, and word-lender to the British Fantasy Society, and an active member on the board of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA), mainly responsible for the design/layout of their publications, coupled with an occasional foray into writing/interviewing. He has finally taken the plunge and committed bloggery under the working title “Mangoblogalicious” and is in the process of uploading his many reviews and opinions even now. You can find out more at www.mangoblogalicious.com.
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
science fiction | fantasy | paranormal
His Witch to Keep
Hunted by the Past
Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4
Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4
Wanting her was one thing. Keeping her was another... Serenity Danssaert was already in way over her head. Not even her MI6 training or her powers as one of the seven Pleiades witches is going to save her sister. Then Alexi Jovec shows up. A secret operative working for unknown forces, he’s impossibly sexy and dangerous...and the guy who bailed on Serenity after a red-hot, racy night. So bonding to him as her destined—the One— is so very wrong. While Alexi’s need to own Serenity—body, soul, and beyond—is nearly unbearable, it’s also forbidden. He’s the last man who could ever be her destined. Besides, Hades’s right-hand man cannot bond with a chosen Pleiades witch. He may be the one man who can protect her, but she can never be his to keep. time comes? Review: I loved this book. This was a book that really packed a punch. Serenity is a witch who was trained as an operative, and is fated by the Goddesss to be mated to a Druid, the sentries that protect the Witches. Alexi, is a Death Reaper, who works for Hades, and has been protecting Serenity since he first met her. Their deep attraction to each other has to be short lived, they are fated to be with others from the Gods themselves, those are the rules. Or are they? With high level contracts on Serenity’s life, they will work together to try and get to the bottom of who is ordering the hits. Lots of action, never a dull moment. Characters are well developed, with a strong heroine and a very dominating male, and a tinged with humor and wit. Clever plot and storyline. Kept a great pace, and I only wished it hadn’t ended so soon. Reviewed by Cyrene
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A reluctant psychic who can relive the past, a man well versed in keeping secrets, and a psychopathic killer enter a deadly game where the past determines the future.Changing the past is an impossibility ex-Marine, Cynthia “Cyn” Arden, understands all too well. Struggling in the aftermath of a botched mission, which cost her two teammates, her military career, and a fledging relationship, she’s brought home by a panicked phone call. The psychic killer behind her nightmares has escaped military custody to hunt down the remaining teammates, one by one. Next on his murderous list—Cyn. Her only chance at survival is to master the psychic ability she’s spent years denying.The killer’s game brings her face to face with the one person guaranteed to throw her off kilter—the unsettling and distracting man she left behind, Kayden Shaw. Once she believed he’d stand by her side, until he chose his job and his secrets over her. A choice that’s left the scars of the past etched deep on her mind and heart.To survive this twisted game, Cyn must risk trusting her heart and accepting who and what she is, or lose not only her life, but the man she loves. Review: This book comes screeching out of the gate in the first pages, and doesn’t slow down. Cyn Arden is an ex-marine, who’s last mission went horribly wrong. She also has a psy ability, to be able to see the past. When the villian from the fateful mission escapes, Cyn must embrace her ability, and her former team to hunt him down. The characters are vulnerable, strong, and likable. The villian is deplorable. The story is suspenseful, well written and action packed. The paranormal part of this story is not majorly in your face like a lot of the genre is, it’s used well. This story had me reading way later than I should have been near the back part of the story, always a good sign.. Reviewed by Cyrene
A Wish Across Time C.R. Moss
Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 3
A woman once shunned. A man now changed. There’s a thin line between love and hate. When Wiccan practitioner Cassandra VanAlder encounters a man from her past who’d broken her heart, she casts some spells to help herself while wishing karma would deal out some payback. The spells turn against her, and before she knows it, she finds herself falling for him again. Review: While sitting at a wedding Cassandra and her friend were deep in conversation, much to the chagrin of the ladies sitting in front of her. While looking at the bridal party, she recognized someone who was not only from her past, but could stay there forever, if Cassandra had her way. Ryan, a former fling was standing as the best man during the wedding. Alas, Cassandra did not get her way and Ryan owned the contracting firm that Debi and Cassandra had hired to fix up their Wiccan based store. With Ryan having not a clue who Cassandra is, but having the feeling that he knew her, and probably knew her well, his interest was definitely peaked. Still hurting from their previous encounters, Cassandra absent-mindedly performs some magic in preparation for the date that she had somehow agreed upon, well technically three dates. However, things go wrong and her desires did not play out the way that she originally intended them to. However, for Cassandra she may not have gotten what she wished for, but she did get what she needed which I think the story really is here. It isn’t about what you want, or what you think you need, but the cosmos have a plan, and fate will intervene. I rated this a 4.5 because while it is really good book, and funny in places, it just leaves me hanging and wanting more. Also the title doesn’t really fit the story. Reviewed by Andi
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
science fiction | fantasy | paranormal
Shadow’s Edge Jami Gray
Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 2
Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows…especially the monsters. It takes a monster to hunt one, and for Raine McCord, forged in the maelstrom of magic and science, she’s the one for the job. In a world where the supernatural live in a shadowy existence with the mundane, a series of disappearances and deaths threatens the secrecy of her kind and indicates someone knows the monsters are alive and kicking. Partnering up with the sexy and tantalizing Gavin Durand proves to be a challenge as dangerous as the prey she hunts. When the trail points back to the foundation which warped Raine’s magic as a child, her torturous past raises its ugly head. Gavin and Raine sift through a maze of lies, murder and betrayal to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community. Review: Fast paced action, with suspense a touch of romance. Raine is a Kyn, something other than human that make up the world, and also known as a Wraith, an elite special black forces op for an agency that protects the Kyn. After Raine is kidnapped when she was 15 yrs old, and experimented on for three months from humans she escapes and dedicates her life to protecting Kyn. When the agency pairs her with Gavin, another Wraith for a job, sparks fly. Bringing down the people that are again experimenting on Kyn, tears into Raine’s broken mind and magic and will test her own strength. Very well written with a tight storyline in this urban fantasy. If you like a strong, kick-butt heroine and a action-packed storyline, you will enjoy this book. I’m looking forward to book two. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Wicked by Nature
Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 3
Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 3
SELENA BARNES HAS HAD ONE HELL OF A DAY Running into her sexy ex-boyfriend and finding out the man she’s about to marry is much more than he appears to be--is just the tip of the broom for his witch. A WEB OF DECEIT IS REVEALED AND THINGS REALLY GET HAIRY With her hunky, slightly delusional former flame believing he’s a werewolf who’s destined to be her MATE, combined with knowing her entire town’s safety is at risk, Selena must find a way to kick some demon ass, accept her fate and save her friends before it’s too late. AN ANCIENT EVIL RUNS THROUGH HER VEINS She’ll fight tooth and nail to get rid of the demonic hold on her beloved town. Even if it means sacrificing herself to save the very people who’ve lied to her for twenty-five years. Review: This is a fun book. Selena is a witch, who has been shunned by the small town people in Salem Ridge where she lives, because she’s engaged to a local man named Shawn and turned her back on her craft for him. Her only friend, is her cat familiar Sterling, whom she can talk to and hear him in her mind. When she finds out that there is a demon after her, all hell breaks loose. And I mean that literally. This is a fun, original story, with humor, romance and a sassy, kick-butt witch. This book did not disappoint and it wraps up nicely. It kept a good pace and I found myself smiling quite a bit with this one. If you like paranormal with a lot of humor, you’ll like this one. Reviewed by Cyrene
Dr. Dora Adler’s life has been in disarray since the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, but when she gets bitten by one of the undead, her whole world is turned upside down. Held captive in a secret underground lab, the tall, muscular hunk in the next cell is her only hope for salvation. Unfortunately, he claims to be a werewolf. Yeah, and she’s supposedly a witch. Dirk Gunderson is an alpha Arbor pack werewolf. Captured and collared, he’s sold to the zombie lab in hopes his blood serum can create a vaccine. He needs to escape, but not without the hot little brunette witch. In the midst of enemy werewolves and the hordes of undead, Dirk and Dora’s sexual tension ignites a blaze hotter than the desert highway. Along their journey, they battle the inevitable: a werewolf must never take a witch as a mate. Review: A couple months ago, I read Raven Moon, which is the 2nd book to this After the Bane series. I liked that one, but I liked this even more. Dr. Dora Adler lives in the post-apocalyptic world, treating patients at a hospital and detecting infected. The normal, shuffling and moaning zombie world is ever present, and when she gets bit, she’s taken to a quarantined area. When the insane doctor in charge of the underground area, finds out she’s immune, he tortures her by having her bit by zombies to try and find a way to a cure for his daughter. Here Dora meets Dirk, an alpha werewolf, and her world is thrown into chaos, and into a world she never knew existed. Dora and Dirk team up, to rescue her brother and niece and then to get to the werewolf compound where they will be safe all while contemplating their “illegal” attraction to each other. This book has a lot of action, romance, humor and wit. It’s a fun read, and introduces you to an array of shifters, bad and good alike. I enjoyed this story and I hope the author continues the series. Reviewed by Cyrene
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
science fiction | fantasy | paranormal Assassin
Nicola Cameron Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4
When raiders steal a desperately needed power cell from a refugee camp, Duncan Shea and other members of the New Black Watch set out on their trail. After a deadly ambush kills his fellow watchmen, Duncan vows to find the raiders and bring them to justice. His search leads him to a grounded shuttle carrying an Alphan warrior named Taric and a mysterious Xyran named Zhan. The handsome aliens agree to help Duncan, but he quickly learns they also have a plan of their own—to claim him as their mate. Review: So in an alternate reality on Earth there are three main species, the humans, the Alphans, and the Xyrans. The Alphans are not bad, but not necessarily good, the Xyrans want nothing more than to get human females for their own devilish purposes, such as slavery, and forced reproduction. It is not common for these species to get along, let alone talk to one another outside the confines of diplomatic channels. Well for Duncan Shea who is trying to find who killed his fellow Black Watchmen, he runs straight into an Alphan and a Xyran who are mysterious, and attractive. When an Alphan knows the individual is their mate, they feel a specific pull, so regardless of the species that Xyran is, the Alphan knew that this was his mate. When the feeling starts to appear towards the human, the Alphan comes clean to his mate, the Xyran. The human unsure of what is going on, and struggling to understand why there are conflicting species in the same plane, is offered mating, which translated to English is hot, steamy, alien/human/alien sex. I have this book a 4.0 because while the story was good, for a novella the world building was good, it was a little unbelievable that the human would be like hey, sworn enemies, let me jump your kibbles because your hot, maybe, but I don’t see it happening. I also think that mating is probably serious, not a whim, hey I knew you for a day, let’s mate. Reviewed by Andi
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Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 3
Destiny calls them. Duty binds them. Her heart yearned for a purpose that would shake the boredom away from her mundane life at Bridgerton. After her father returns home married to Lady Caterina, it only gets worse by the moment. A mysterious amulet makes her suspicious of her stepmother’s intent, so much so that she finds herself spending her days spying on her. If Brieanna had known that following her new stepmother to her secret rendezvous would lead to a deadly werewolf bite, perhaps she would have thought twice about dealing with the deadly viper. When she unexpectedly survives, destiny continues to lead her down the winding road to a life covered in powerful secrets that are hers alone to bear. Review: I would classify this as a historical paranormal. And it was a good one too. Although this is the third book in a series, I was able to get caught up to speed fine. The author did a great job with the story to let it stand on it’s own within a series without leaving a new reader to the series behind. Brieanna always felt her life held more meaning, and when her marriage to Lord Kent was arranged by her stepmother, she had no choice but to follow through. Little did she know of the fight between darkness and light, and how she would be tossed into the middle of it, and how the love that grew between Brieanna and her husband would be threatened because of it. I won’t give more away, but this book has a lot of action, and some great mythology combined, and seldom slows it’s pace. Reviewed by Cyrene
Jace’s Justice Sydney Presley
Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4
Wolf shifters live peacefully alongside humans in a world where different species are the norm. The Highgate shifters are a friendly, happy pack—unless outsiders threaten to upset their quiet idyll. With the arrival of a stranger, their lives change and each pack member must learn to adapt. Follow the prominent men of Highgate through their ups and downs, their highs and lows, and watch their love unfurl. Review: Jace is a 25 year old wolf shifter who is the adopted son of the alpha and his male mate. He also has feelings for another wolf shifter, but Jace is so worried that Louie will not feel the same, so Jace doesn’t say anything. When Jace’s life is in danger by a stranger, Louie realizes that the time is now or never to tell Jace how he feels, just hoping that Jace feels the same way. When the stranger revels some news that rocks Jace’s world, it is up to Jace and Louie along with the Alpha and his mate to figure out what to do. During this time Jace and Louie are trying to determine how this whole mating thing works and Jace is dealing with a multitude of emotions due to his assholey attitude towards the pack for the first 25 years of his life. This is a really interesting take on shifters, but my main concern is that this book focuses on three mated pairs, all male/male. I am sure that there are baby shifters, so how does that work? I get that this book is focused on Jace’s attitude, emotions, Louie, and the Alpha, but I would have liked to see a sentence about a female/male mated pair. This is a really good story, however at the end I was trying to continue the story, so while I really enjoyed it, I was also upset and wanted to immediately start the second book. Reviewed by Andi
Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4
When the fate of Earth is in the hands of a half-breed demon, all Hell could break loose. Beltaine is half-demon, half-mortal and all badass. She doesn’t answer to anyone, especially not an obnoxious, self-righteous warrior angel. After killing her father, she’s never been interested in any kind of relationship that might tie her down. Unfortunately, circumstances are quickly spinning out of her control, and she might find herself forced to work with an angel who’d rather kill her than love her. Review: The Veil was different from most of the books I’ve read lately. I tend to shy away from books about angels or demons, but this one sounded better than many of the others out there. It’s full of action, the main characters are likeable, and the sexual tension is thick. The one thing that skeeved me out a bit is how quickly Beltaine and Kalan were all over each other. It was just kind of creepy to me. I loved Beltaine’s personality. The halfdemon/half-human is snarky and violent and I thought she was great. I felt bad for her in some ways, but she’s not the kind of character that will be a damsel in distress or need anyone’s sympathy. Overall an enjoyable read. This book will appeal to anyone who likes action and adventure along with a little bit of romance. Reviewed by Melanie
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
science fiction | fantasy | paranormal To Tame His Mate Serena Pettus
Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4
Sarah has spent the last six years running from some pretty determined wolves. A born Alpha, and a fierce fighter, she has managed to thwart the best efforts of the neighboring packs in their attempts to force a mating with their current Alphas. She is determined to live her life the way she wants—free—and has fought her way to freedom more times than she should have had to. All she’s ever wanted was the chance to find her one true mate and settle down outside of the hierarchy bullshit of Pack life. If that means she has to do so by staying one step ahead of her pursuers, until she finds that man, then that’s just what she’ll do. The only problem now is that her years of running have forced her to trust no one… until she meets Erik. Review: This was a pretty good read. It felt a bit rushed in the beginning, and the characters could have used a little more development, but within a chapter or two, the two main characters already knew they were soul mates. But with that said, the story was lively, full of great banter and went a long at a good pace. I think that the action sequence was a bit short, and the suspense part could have been drawn out a bit more, but I really enjoyed the book, and am looking forward to continuing with the series. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Ashlyn Mathews Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 3
A destiny they can’t deny... Determined to save her kind from the brink of extinction, demon hunter December Raine agrees to get real personal with the human ex-special agent who could be the answer to unlocking her ability to grant supernatural powers to her kind’s descendants. Unable to control her feelings when around him, she shows him the supernatural side of her, further putting his life in danger from her kind. When she offers an unconventional and far-out permanent arrangement that can save his life, will he accept or reject her? She has everything to lose. Including her heart and soul. Review: Apart from being confused for the first part of the book, it took awhile to become invested in the book. Reading book one in this series may have prevented that, although it’s marketed as each book in the series can be read as a standalone. It kept me in the dark too long, without any type of explanation of what the paranormal element was that made up December’s DNA. With all said, this is December and Nick’s story, and it had a lot of humor, and some nice action when it got going and quite a bit of suspense. I enjoyed the story, specially after I hit the halfway point. It was very original in a cluttered genre but I would still like to read the first book in the series and see if that would have helped me understand this one faster.
Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 4
Welcome to the Scarlet Manor, where your every desire is provided for. Our establishment caters to those who desire what goes bump in the night. Scarlet Ties tells the connection between Deiwalker vampires, humans and Companions, and other members of the occult elite. The Scarlet Manor is the erotic resort of choice for those who dabble in passions that intertwine with multi-species alliances. Review: Tempted is very steamy, very sexy quick and easy read. The characters get right down to…business. Noely is trying to live up to family obligations and become the Queen of the Companions, a race of women intended to mate with Deiwalkers. She’s supposed to mate with Cyrus but he’s no longer on the market and Noely can’t keep his twin brother Coye out of her head. There is tons of sexual tension between Noely and Coye and that pretty much makes the story. Their banter is entertaining and the reader is kept wondering exactly what, or who will come next. I would have been happier with a little more story to go with the copious amounts of sex. Tempted is just as high on the sex scene scale as Tasted was. If you enjoyed Tasted, you won’t be disappointed in Tempted. They are both filled with more sex scenes than you can shake a stick at. Reviewed by Melanie
Reviewed by Cyrene
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
teaming up to bring yo
J. Nichole Parkins
Brilliant and beautiful, Arabella Anthony has it all. Money. Power. Love. At least, she thought she did. When her carefully constructed life begins to unravel around her, she realizes that nothing is how it seems. And that sometimes the easiest person to lie to is yourself. Review: Deceived by J. Nichole Parkins completely gutted me emotionally. I’ve had a book hangover for 3 days because of it. There are very few books I can honestly say ripped me a part the way Deceived did. Well written, emotional, and unique, Deceived gives the reader the story from Arabella’s point of view. One thing I really liked about this book is how the sex scenes are written. The scenes where characters are about to get it on are passionate, and give just enough detail to let us know what is about to happen or just happened without going into detail. I very much appreciate that. I highly recommend this book and this series to anyone looking for something that’s not your typical paranormal book. Deceived can be read as a standalone, but it will ruin the cliffhanger in the first book, Burned.
Free-spirited musician Letty Dillinger adheres to a strict, “no strings attached” policy when it comes to men. After a wild night of unabashed sex in a fancy hotel room, she never expects to see the adventurous stud she dubs “Shades” again. When her all-girl rock trio books a tour at the last minute as the opening act for their archenemies, Letty’s shocked to discover she knows the competition’s new lead singer. Intimately. Shades is no longer a one-night stand. Now he’s the guy she has to one-up on stage every night for the sake of her career. Review: This book is NOT for everyone. There is a disclaimer for a very real reason. Read the disclaimer before you read this book. If you fail to read the disclaimer, and you are offended by this book, then you deserve to be offended. This book is about music and sex, not necessarily in that order. If you don’t want to read about dirty hard core sex, then don’t read this book. Kendall Grey has quite the imagination and does a good job of including some pretty funny dialog. Her characters have a sense of humor and adventure and I really enjoyed them. Her sex scenes are very descriptive and you really get the full picture of what is going on. She really does have a way with words. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an open mind, can take a joke, and likes to read about someone else’s sex life.
ou more reviews
The Life & Death of Jorja Graham Brynn Myers
The Bathory Curse Renee Lake Paranormal
All my life I’ve been referred to as the quintessential southern bell: blonde, stunningly beautiful, and overtly enchanting, but that was only the face I shared with the world; no one ever knew the hell I truly endured. After returning to Savannah, I had everything I ever wanted: a new home, a handsome suitor, and the job of my dreams as an antique dealer. Little did I know that the choice to move on with my life would be the last decision I’d ever make. My name is Jorja Graham and my story is proof that not every romance has a happy ending. Review: What a great read. The Life and Death of Jorja Graham was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down. I just had to see what was going to happen next! I think it only took me about 4 hours to read it, but I ignored everything else in the world for those 4 hours! It was a wonderful world to escape to. I think that Myers did a great job in describing the world that she has built. I’ve never been to Savannah, but I could see everything she wrote about. From the coffee shop, to Jorja’s townhouse, to the gates outside of the estate, I could see it all. I enjoyed the way Myers brought magical myth and history into the story as well. I give this book a solid 5 stars despite the fact that I wasn’t 100% happy with the ending. The ending had to end the way it did and I understand that even though I didn’t like it.
Princess Cneajna of Transylvania didn’t expect to be brought back from death’s door by an ancient Pagan Goddess. Now she has a new life, and with it comes the impossible task of breaking a centuries old curse placed on the women of her family: The Bathory’s. Review: I really loved this book. Renee Lake has taken two of my favorite things and combined them into one big book of awesomeness. The intertwining of Dracula and the Bathory family is nothing short of genius. The author gives us important details about each character in a way that I became emotionally invested in this book right off the bat. Each character is interesting and well rounded. I really liked how Lake incorporated the Bram Stoker-ish version of the story of Dracula also. I thought it added another level of interest and excitement to the story. I honestly can’t think of one bad thing to say about this book. It seemed long at first but once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. The story spans several hundred years, but it really flies by. The idea of Strega and Strigoi is given a different twist than I have read before. A great read overall
teaming up to bring you more reviews
Summoning the Demon
Kelly D. Smith
Alyssa doesn’t like to ask for help, but when fighting zombies, sometimes a witch needs a little backup. So she summons a demon. Falan Farrelly, demon. Alyssa wouldn’t have survived the night without him, but is that the only reason she wants to summon him again? Review: Alyssa, a witch, finds herself in a whole heap of zombies, and calls for some hellfire help. The demon who appears to do her biding is an enticing Falen Farrelly, who finds himself pulled from his comfortable home to fight nasty, smelly, dead, zombies. But help he does, and he finds himself somewhat unable to resist Alyssa and he doesn’t know why, since he has obviously been summoned by witches in his life. Why Alyssa, and why now? Alyssa not only finds herself thinking the same things about Falen, but when she is called to rid a frequent client of some impish imps, she finds herself drawn to Falen. While he decided to hang around, and actually seemed to have a good time fighting off tiny imps, he finds himself growing closer and closer to Alyssa. This short story is hot, I mean it has some serious sexy time as part of the story, so be prepared. However it is not just random sexy time, there is a purpose to it, and while at first I kind of scoffed at the excuse, the more I think about it and the lore of witches, it actually makes sense. Although I have not seen it used in modern books, so it is kind of refreshing. Overall I give this a solid 4 stars for having some heat, but not really getting into the history of Alyssa and Falen that I was really hoping for, however, being a short story, it is hard.
Her kiss might save the world Unless his kiss kills her first. It’s been almost two thousand years since the mer-shifter Skyla walked the streets of Athens—not since her heart was broken by a human man and she exchanged the land and sky for the ocean depths. Ever since, she has lived in the underwater ruins of Atlantis, studying with the priestesses of the goddess Amphitrite, refining her mermaid powers and ignoring her human half. Review: After shooting a suspect, Clay is forced to take some time off while the investigation is finishing up. He decides that Athen’s, the home of the individual he killed would be a good place to go. At the same time, Skyla, who is a Siren is instructed to find out what is occurring in modern day Athen’s. For the last 2000 years, Skyla has been living in Atlantis, perfecting her mermaid skills, while learning from Amphitrite. So by happenstance, or fate, up to you, Clay and Skyla meet on the beach, and later near the pantheon. Since this is more of a short story than a full length novella, the ending leaves the reader wondering just what is going on and with a cliffhanger, why is a kiss a bad thing, whose kiss is worse? Will Skyla save or cripple the planet, what does she really want? Does she want Clay or is he just a toy to be used because well he is mortal and she has lived at least 2000 years. Other than all of the above questions, I felt that it was overall a good teaser to a set of novels that Margo Bond Collins eluded to writing. I gave this a 4 star because there were more questions than answers, and I wanted a little more to whet my appetite and make me want to read more of the series, if a series does come out of this novella/ short story.
Senior Year Bites J.A. Campbell Paranormal
Senior year is supposed to be fun: boys, dances and graduation. It’s significantly harder to enjoy it when
you’re dead. Thanks to an innocent game of Truth or Dare, I wound up sleeping in a graveyard. Probably not the brightest thing I’ve ever done, but thanks to a couple of well-placed fangs, I’m here to tell the tale. Vampires might stalk pop culture, but they’re just myths, right? Yeah. Not so much... Review: For Meg it was an innocent night of truth or dare. However, it quickly turned into much more when she was bitten by a vampire. Now a vampire without a sire, Meg needs to learn how to be a vampire, how to not kill people, and how to maintain her friendships and relationships with family. Not to mention she is a senior and has class, homework, and the occasional sleep over with friends. When deaths start occurring around town, Meg is conveniently thrown in the center of the deaths, and she must rely on her friends and brother to maintain her innocence while finding the real culprit. Of course it wasn’t going to be easy. I liked this novella, it was short, but it had some depth. Not a lot, but some. There were some points that made you wonder if friends would really stand behind a vampire like that, especially one who had been lying to them for months. Throwing in the boys made it a little cheesy because you knew what was going to happen, but adding them also added other elements to their group, which helped to “sell” the story a little more. Three girls seeking the truth, ehhh; but three boys and girls seeking the truth, I can see it. I give it a four star because it is good, but there are some parts that are a little too fantastical even for me.
feature book showcase
Joanna Grace Divine Encounter
Keona and Piper Nadal are twins with a last name and a past that carries an automatic death sentence if they are ever discovered hiding in the human world. The last person they wanted to run into was a man with ties to the Castille Clan. Olympian healer, Evander Castille, unearths the gift of a lifetime in Keona. She’s sexy, fierce, and she’s a teleporter, one of the rarest Olympians on the planet. The only thing more precious is a Divine Grace, an anointed princess, and he might’ve stumbled upon one of those, too. Only a Haven is safe enough for two such gems, where they can be protected by Deities and Thracian warriors. Or is it? When Evander is warned to keep the twins away from the Haven, he has to wonder where the real danger lies. Rogue Olympians are working with Demons and no one is safe anymore.
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“Be careful,” her sister warned sternly. “We don’t know this guy and I have no idea how he found us.” “I will. I promise. This interview is important. I won’t screw it up.” She smoothed down the navy dress she borrowed from their neighbor—who happened to be about four inches shorter and a few pounds thinner. The fabric fit like a second skin and showed a healthy dose of thigh. She didn’t own a dress. Neither sister did. They owned scrubs, a few pairs of second-hand jeans, and sweaters. That was the extent of their wardrobe. Her size eight feet were stuffed into size seven heels and she wore bargain bin lipstick. At least she looked decent. Her hair fell in a sleek ponytail down her back to the gold belt that strangled her waist. “You look beautiful. But if you don’t hurry, you’ll be late.” She winked at her sister. “I’m never late.” With her sister in a safe place, she walked to the cozy Italian café just off the bustling streets of Chicago. Immediately, she knew the man awaiting her arrival. Around him glowed a dim energy, his aura. And wasn’t it her lucky night. He was good looking beyond belief. Great hair, the short brown cut accentuated his jaw line. He wore an expensive suit, which she expected. What she didn’t expect was the tint of his eyes, two pools of ocean water blue that sparkled like sunlight hitting the waves. He was the only person in the place who appeared to be waiting on someone. She sauntered up to him. “You must be Paul Smith. I’m Piper Martinez.” She smiled at the dashing man who rose to greet her. She held out a hand and didn’t bother hiding the appreciative glance she gave his tall lean frame. “Piper.” He shook her hand and motioned for her to take a seat. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for meeting me on such short notice. And might I say, you look lovely.” She gave him her best shy smile. “Thank you. May I call you Paul?” “Absolutely. Everyone at the Ralpha Clinic is like family. We might as well be on a first name basis.” “Paul,” she smiled again. “I was very intrigued when you said you deal with specialty cases at your clinic. But I’m afraid I couldn’t find any advertising or contact information about you online. I have to say, that bothered me.” Paul grinned and leaned back in his seat,
resting his arm over the back of the wooden chair next to him. “You get right to it, don’t you, my dear.” He flagged a waitress. “Why don’t we order something to drink and then we can get to business.” Paul ordered a bottle of wine even after she told him she didn’t drink and asked for a glass of water. “You don’t have to follow typical interview protocol with me, Piper. If you wish a glass of wine, please do. As far as I’m concerned, you already have a place at Ralpha Clinic. All we’re here to discuss are the...” he searched for the word, “details.” After Paul’s first sip of wine she felt the courage to ask, “What kind of patients do you deal with?” Paul took a moment to study her face, the wheels turning in his head. “We deal with people who would stand out in a typical hospital. Our patients need special treatment that most hospitals would not offer. I believe you understand what I’m saying.” “And if I don’t?” No way in hell was she laying all her cards on the table this early. Hell, she’d just walked in and sat down. His eyes narrowed. “If you don’t understand then I’m afraid there has been a mistake and I shall leave you to your evening.” He moved to stand, his hands going to the buttons of his coat. Shit, if he left she was screwed. “And if I do?” He sat back down, a smug grin teased his face, but he quickly recovered. “Then I would be curious as to what skills you bring to the table.” “My skills are non-traditional, you could say.” She inched back her chair, relaxing as he did, and crossed her legs. His eyes traced the line of her thigh. He was definitely enjoying his view. “That’s why I was confused when your assistant called. You never mentioned who gave you my information.” “It’s not important. What is important, Piper, is that skills like mine and yours are unique and should be exercised with caution.” “I guess it isn’t something you can advertise online.” Heat crept up her cheeks and she pushed a strand of hair from her cheek. Paul was most definitely Olympian. But was he friend or foe? Her eyes darted around the room. Gods, what if this was a trap, what if they’d been found and this sexy man was a distraction? What if her sister was in danger? “I do have some questions,” he pulled a small notepad from his jacket pocket. “Naturally.” As he shot off typical questions, she answered swiftly. Where did she have her formal medical training? Where
has she worked? Why did she leave the last hospital? Most of which she could answer straightforward. The change in him was gradual. He began to ask increasingly personal questions. Finally, he came right out and asked if she was seeing anyone. Giving him her most demure, shy smile she looked at him from under her lashes. “Mr. Smith, I would advise you not to cross that line. You see, I’m most eager to work with you but I don’t get romantically involved with my coworkers, particularly those with the power to fire me.” He stared at her lips. Paul had luscious lips himself. She wanted nothing more than to see if they tasted as good as they look. “That’s a shame. You’re an extraordinarily beautiful woman. I’d like to get to know you better.” He took a deep breath and let it out with a long sigh. “But, in the best interest of my patients, I will respect your boundaries and your medical career. Indulge me in one more personal question and I will cease.” He held out a hand across the table. She slipped her hand over his willingly. The grip tightened and an electrical current traveled up her arm. Her muscles locked in place, paralyzing her. “When were you going to tell me that you’re not Piper Martinez?” Crap.
JoAnna Grace has never lived in the real world. Her mind has always drifted to the land of fiction, where magic, mystery, and love collide to entertain the masses. She has publishing her stories for the last three years and loves every minute of it!
authorjoannagrace.com Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
feature sneak peek
Taryn Kincaid Another Chance Chance Northridge left Los Lobos more than ten years ago, deserting his family and his young, unclaimed mate. Now he’s back, upsetting their world. But those he left behind don’t understand that the pack’s former insane Alpha threatened everything Chance cared about in the world. Still, he’s got some big-time groveling ahead of him. Julie Pembroke has struggled hard to forget her disloyal mate’s desertion and to gain acceptance in the pack as a woman on her own, and making a new life for herself. When disaster strikes his family and endangers Julie’s life, can Chance prove himself worthy of a place in the pack and in his mate’s heart?
He sniffed the air. The scent of cinnamon and vanilla filled his nose and shot straight to his brain—and points south. A fragrance he knew well. Would never forget. The scent pressed all his buttons, triggered every wolfy response. Mate. A scent now tinged by the iron whiff of blood…and the heavy acrid sting of fear. Find. Protect. “Julie’s in trouble,” he growled. “She needs me.” Pulse pounding and heart in his mouth, he shifted instantly and bounded off into the dark woods. A large figure blotted out the sun and crouched above her, growling. Another wolf, then. She could only hope someone from Los Lobos had chanced upon her, and not a feral wolf or some other predator. She wished she could see better, discern the animal’s color and markings. A thick muzzle nudged her side. It released a series of guttural growls and grunts, as if the beast tried to speak to her. Huge jaws opened and clamped around her belt. She held her breath. The beast’s long, sharp canines didn’t tear her to shreds. Instead, the other tugged on her belt, dragging, pulling, and lifting her out of the ravine. She screamed with excruciating pain. Nausea overwhelmed her. Gulping another breath of fresh air, she steeled herself to keep from blacking out.
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Suddenly the other wolf’s scent enveloped and overwhelmed her, awareness jackknifing through her. Not the least foreign. Totally familiar. Playing through all her memories and dreams. No, no. It couldn’t be. She squeezed her eyes closed. Smoke and white sage, pure masculine sex appeal. She’d know his scent anywhere. Her whole body awoke. Shook. Bringing with it a renewed surge of agony. A different kind of tension also took hold. In the midst of all her pain and horror…lust. The recognition stunned her. A ripple of silver-white energy shimmered in the air and a megawatt bolt of power surged into her. A hand appeared on her shoulder where the paw had been. She couldn’t deny her rescuer’s identity. Darkness began to claim her. “Damn it, stay with me, Jules. Don’t you fuckin’ leave me now.” Chance.
Taryn Kincaid writes sizzling romance with swoon-worthy heroes and heroines with backbone. Available wherever ebooks are sold. Get swept away! Visit with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Amazon, Goodreads and tsu.
feature sneak peek
Kathy Bryson Fighting Mad Laid off from her job, Carla turns to her friends only to find the one person she can count on is local bartender Murphy. But what kind of example is he for her daughters? Having learned the hard way, Carla’s not depending on any man, even if he is cute, thoughtful, and some kind of leprechaun? Murphy is used to sneers. Clurichauns are the redheaded stepchildren of the leprechaun world and then there are the late night fights at his bar. What he wants, however, is to protect the dainty, little mom who ogles him when she thinks no one’s looking. He knows she’s fighting overwhelming odds, but she’ll need more than bravery when the King and Queen of the Fairies head to war!
The door to Murphy’s bar burst open and several men ran out. One older guy circled to the front of the car and flapped his arms, his mouth open but unable to find the words to express his shock. The guy who yanked open my door and hauled me out had no such problem. Words poured from him in a furious tirade that was odd because Murphy was not a talkative man. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Are you completely daft? This isn’t a speedway.” Murphy, the owner, or at least chief bartender, shook me with every syllable, so my head flopped back and forth. He had the broad shoulders and long arms of a seasoned fighter, but stood quite a bit taller than me. I came up to his shoulders, which put him somewhere around six feet, maybe middle weight instead of heavy weight. It was hard to tell because I was short compared to everybody and because of those broad shoulders. I had a problem with Murphy and not just that I crashed in his parking lot. Murphy reduced me to every bit of the giggly teenager my own child wasn’t, a tongue-tied, stammering mess. It was ridiculous, but seriously, you’d have to be dead not to notice Murphy. He had a broad face with a high forehead and square jaw that was a perfect frame for a wisp of mustache over a thin upper lip and a full bottom lip. Usually he was solemn, but every once in a while, he smiled, a slow grin that lit up his entire face. At the moment though, he looked like he was gearing up for one of
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the regular dust-ups held in the bar’s parking lot, glaring at me angrily from beneath brows drawn tightly together and jaw clenched. I couldn’t help but notice the dark-blond stubble. And yes, I’d just spent a good ten minutes itemizing every feature of this man’s face. Maybe I could claim I bumped my head. “You could have been killed driving like that,” Murphy shouted. “You, you, you . . .” Words failed him, but he did stop shaking me. He didn’t let go though, his fingers flexing around my upper arms. “Here now.” The older man who’d been waving his arms in front of the car earlier recovered his voice. “Let go, Murphy. You’re going to hurt the lady.” Murphy stepped back, his nostrils flaring. He took a deep breath and dropped his hands. “I’m sorry,” he said, not quite looking at me. “Are you all right?” “Oh sure,” I mumbled. “I just T-boned my car in front of the cutest guy in town, no problem.” There was a moment’s silence. Then Murphy quirked one eyebrow and peered at me. “What did you say?” I could feel my face redden. “Nothing?” I suggested.
Kathy Bryson knew she wanted to be a writer when she read through her school and local children’s libraries. She practiced on marketing brochures, websites, and several unfinished manuscripts before going into teaching, but now has time to finish award-winning books and cater to the whims of spoiled cats
Historical | Western | Period Fiction
once UPON a TIME
HISTORICAL & WESTERN
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
more beyond the books
Hunks Hot HISTORY The
Are Kilts Hot? I think the real answer to this is, on the right man, absolutely. But letâ€™s explore this concept in depth, and answer the question of why, historically speaking, kilts on Scottish gentlemen are a marvelous thing.
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
| The Hot Hunks of History |
My mind turns first, not to history, but to Jamie Frasier from Outlander, that wonderful television series that has breathed new life into the novel that I have loved for ages. There is a lovely scene in which Jamie lays his long kilt on the floor of his bedroom and then proceeds to wrap himself up in it. A moment for the television ages.
to tall, broad-shouldered, fair-skinned, redhaired men. Throwing a kilt into that mix just adds to the fun. Historically, even the House of Hanover got into the kilt fun in 1822 when King George IV of England visited Edinburgh and wore the Stuart tartan, which had been outlawed along with all other tartans and plaids the previous century. As you see from the portrait below, King George made quite a statement in his Scottish regalia. Just imagine this outfit worn with pink hose, and youâ€™ll have an idea of what George looked like for the festivities. Of course, the artist left the hose out of the portrait you see here, and with good reason, the king abandoned good fashion sense altogether, and wore clashing pink hose with this Stuart tartan.
The modern kilt itself was not developed until the late seventeenth century, so the actors were out of historical step in the movie Braveheart. Sadly, Robert the Bruce never would have donned a kilt, which does hurt my romantic sensibilities. But history is about facts, not about romance. Of course, here we are concerned with both.
So as you can see, it isnâ€™t only modern romance writers and readers who love men in kilts . . . historically, we have to conclude that a man in a kilt is a very good thing indeed. I think one of the appealing things about a man in a kilt is the fact that the Highlanders who wore them were hunters and warriors. The men of the Highlands are descended in part from the Vikings of the past, which leads 114 | btsemag.com
| Christy English |
ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Ever since Christy English picked up a fake sword in stage combat class at the age of fourteen, she has lived vicariously through the sword-wielding women of her imagination. Sometimes an actor, always a storyteller, Christy works happily with Sourcebooks Casablanca to bring the knife-throwing women of her novels to life. A banker by day and a writer by night, she loves to eat chocolate, drink too many soft drinks, and walk the mountain trails of her home in western North Carolina. Please visit her on her blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook.
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
reviews historical | western | period fiction
Heartbreak and Honor Collette Cameron Historical Heat Rating: 3
Abducted by a band of renegade Scots, Highland gypsy Tasara Faas blackens her rescuer’s eye when the charming duke attempts to steal a kiss. Afterward, Tasara learns she’s the long-lost heiress Alexandra Atterberry and is expected to take her place among the elite society she’s always disdained. Lucan, the Duke of Harcourt, promised his gravely ill mother he’d procure a wife by Christmastide, but intrigued by the feisty lass he saved in Scotland, he finds the haut ton ladies lacking. Spying Alexa at a London ball, he impulsively decides to make the knife-wielding gypsy his bride despite her aversion to him and her determination to return to the Highlands. The adversary responsible for Alexa’s disappearance as a toddler still covets her fortune and joins forces with Harcourt’s arch nemesis. Amidst a series of suspicious misfortunes, Lucan endeavors to win Alexa’s love and expose the conspirators but only succeeds in reaffirming Alexa’s belief that she is inadequate to become his duchess. Review: This is a very fun historical. At first I thought it was going to be a Cinderella story, with a girl from the wrong side of the tracks kind of thing, but it surprised me, and I enjoyed it. The characters are well flushed out, and very likable. The story revolves around Alexa (Tasara) who is brought up thinking she’s a gypsy, when it turns out something quite different. We begin the book with her and her small brother and sister being held prisoner – being abused with Tasara protecting the little ones the best she can. Enter Lord Harcourt who not only saves her, but also begins a friendship and courtship. It’s a fun book with a snotty Society and enough suspense to keep you reading to learn the truth. This is a series book, but reads well as a standalone. Reviewed by Cyrene
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How to Marry Your Wife Stella Marie Alden Historical Heat Rating: 3
What foul devilry is this? They told her he was dead. After six long years without a word, her knight falls onto his knees and sings poetry. Then he denies their son? Heed this well. She’s no longer an innocent who’ll giggle and tarry on his every word. The sharp edge of her tongue and knife is the only welcome he’ll get. She’ll not marry him. Besides, the pain would be too much to bear should he ever leave again. Her attitude is beyond understanding. What voice did he have? The king commanded and he obeyed. Regardless of her hatred, the Templar knight weds. This time she will travel with him and he will win back her favor. It’s a long road from London to Hadrian’s Wall. Evil deeds weave a plot laced with castles, kidnappings, and missives. Will the treacherous journey split them asunder forever? Mayhap only in heaven will he rekindle the passion they once shared. Review: This was a good read, a lot of humor, and plenty of action, to keep the story moving along. I have to admit, the language, although proper for the era in which the book is set, did kind of get to me a bit. But it didn’t deter from the story. The book follows the story of Merry and Thomas, whom are separated for six years, which in that time, Merry believes Thomas is dead. When he returns, she’s angry, hurt and loathing that he never even tried to send word that he was alive. I loved the strong characters, and the growth I saw in Merry through the book. The book did wrap up the story of Merry and Thomas, but it also ended somewhat on a cliffhanger of a sorts, that would suggest another book with characters from this one taking over the spotlight. This is a part of a series, but it reads fine as a standalone. Reviewed by Cyrene
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
Rachel Brimble Rachel lives with her husband of 18 years and their two teenage daughters near the famous city of Bath, England – she writes Victorian romance for eKensington/ Lyrical press and romance and romantic suspense for Harlequin Superromance.
BTS: Was there a particular reason you chose to write about Historical Romance and Romance? The main reason is the lift is gives me, and hopefully my readers! Love transcends all time and would’ve had the same emotional impact in the 19th century as today. I just love…love! BTS: I visited Bath when I was a teenager and I absolutely loved it. What do you think are the best things about living in such a historically rich location? Having so much story inspiration on my doorstep – Bath was visited by royalty and the aristocracy for many years, but it was also filled with lower classes who worked and lived through hard conditions. I love giving those people their happy ever after. Setting is so important in historical romance and Bath has so many buildings, streets and shops that have stood for hundreds of years. BTS: What motivates you to keep writing when/if you hit a slump? Deadlines, lol! After writing eighteen novels, I have found the only way to get through the slumps is to keep writing. A filled page can be edited, a blank page can’t! BTS: What advice would you give up and coming writers? Read voraciously and write, if possible, every day – even 250 words a day is something. It will build into a full book sooner or
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later, you just have to believe and remain focused. BTS: What is something you think your readers would be surprised to know about you? My hair is so curly, I can get away with my husband or daughters giving it a quick trim now and then – the last time I had my hair professionally cut was in 1998…my wedding day!
She Can’t Forget Him… J a n e Charlotte Danes has loved the squire of her idyllic country town for as long as she can r e m e m b e r. He is good, kind, and alluring beyond words… and he chose to marry another. Tired of dwelling on her futile longings, Jane plans a move to Bath, where she dreams of a new beginning. But the man who has so imprisoned her heart is only a few steps behind… He Can’t Let Her Go… Until now, Matthew Cleaves has endeavored to meet the responsibilities of his position with dignity and good spirits--including his dutiful marriage. But when his wife leaves him for another man, Matthew is at last free to pursue his one true love. Only one vital question remains: will the captivating, stubborn, beautiful Jane allow him the challenge, and the pleasure, of winning her back?..
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
feature book showcase
Anabelle Bryant His Forbidden Debutante
Don’t miss His Forbidden Debutante by Anabelle Bryant, Book 4 in the ‘Regency Charms’ series. Available on 04/02/2016 pre-order your copy today!
She fought a wave of resurging expectation and clenched her eyes tight, confused by the complex rush of emotion. The heat of his palms against her skin and scent of his cologne worked to weaken her resistance and instigate the image of their glorious kiss at the opera. Her lips parted on the tiniest sigh and then she wasn’t remembering his kiss, but tasting it, feeling, reveling in the wondrous magic of his mouth upon hers. The feeble walls she’d used to surround her determination crumbled, her resolve crushed like a flower petal under heel. It was wrong, to fall further into his arms, toward an end that promised pain and heartache. She thought to pull back the slightest, recognizing the mistake, but the promise of his kiss coaxed her to ignore good sense. Nothing mattered beyond the hot press of his mouth, the intimate caress of his tongue, the heady joy and exhilarating rush of desire realized after waiting and wanting so long. He tore from her mouth and trailed kisses along her jaw.
He cupped her face with gentle caution and she didn’t move except to close her eyes against resurrected hope. But no, she must say her piece. Blinking into clarity, she began. “I always wondered what you looked like. I stared at your words, noting the strong slant of the letters, the elegant curve, intrigued by the man who produced such engaging conversation, commanded language and clever quips to perform no matter they were committed to ink and parchment. Your words held voice and emotion and how I burned to know your face and now…” She touched his cheek, smoothing her fingertips across his jaw, pausing when her thumb reached the peak at his upper lip. “I could never have imagined you better.” He smiled and she felt the curvature of his grin wrap around her heart. “This can’t be ironic happenstance. We will be together. I won’t have it any other way.” His words were a misplaced vow, but how easy to believe. 122 | btsemag.com
“I’ve dreamed of this. Envisioned you in my arms. You’re more beautiful than your letters, lovelier than any woman I dared envision.” The adoring profession tumbled out, intermingled with kisses, panted breaths of urgency and relief, unspoken promises of passion. Her heart pounded. Her intellect surrendered in kind. It was wrong, a mistake from start to finish. Yet it felt so good. Where lay the harm to engage in a few kisses? She would pay the price gladly for the exhilarating experience and then cherish the memory for the rest of her days, just as she’d kept his letters. Fool. Little fool, an inner voice warned. Perhaps…
The troubling quandary evaporated as his mouth advanced to her neck. She might have melted, her knees dissolving along with hesitation and when he guided her to the edge of the mattress without breaking their embrace, she knew there was no turning away in protest. Sure footed in her stockinged feet she settled on the cushions with Randolph beside her, his greedy kisses urgent and deep as if he wished to recapture past time and reclaim lost love. He murmured her name in a sensual tenor, again and again, the vibration of each syllable echoed in her soul as if he couldn’t say it enough, couldn’t believe they were united at last. What was she to do? If she agreed to forbidden temptation, an illicit moment of passion, there would be no forgiving the sin, no recovering from the decision, accepted in full knowing of its erroneous impact. Her fingers trembled as she skimmed his broad shoulders, tugging at his cravat to gain attention, the knot slipping through her fingers, the linen falling undone. “We shouldn’t do this. You can’t break your engagement. You’ll be vilified, slandered, sued… worse.” She untangled her fingers, taking his cravat with her. He paused, his lips near her ear, his words spoken directly to her soul. “I was meant to kiss you. This pleasure worth any cost. Trust me. I’ll sort it out.” His hands slid from her back upward to thread his fingers through her hair and remove the ribbon, allowing the length to fall through his hands. “Since our waltz in the hall and our heated quadrille at the masquerade, I’ve burned to taste your mouth. The evening at the opera proved nothing more than a tease to confirm what I’ve know so very long.” She shivered in his arms. Delicate minutes passed, ticks on the clock, beats of her heart. His confession, the sensation of his fingertips against her scalp, the press of his lips to the tender area below her ear, breath by breath he destroyed her resistance, convinced the world did not exist beyond the four walls of the room. And God help her, she believed it true.
Anabelle Bryant is the bestselling author of seven historical romances for Harlequin/ HarperCollins. Her love of writing keeps her busy in front of her laptop when not in front of a classroom. His Forbidden Debutante is the latest Regency Charms release where stories are linked by a charm bracelet. Visit AnabelleBryant.com.
anabellebryant.com Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
Sensual Romance and Erotics of all genres, shapes and sizes
see BEHIND closed DOORS
EROTIC & SENSUAL
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
trends reading trends in erotic
Heat DIVA The
Erotica Surprises I love to chat with writers all around the globe discussing the meaning of erotica. The answers from some of the worldâ€™s bestselling authors might surprise you. The number one thing I hear my fellow writers complain about is how misunderstood we all are, mostly by folks who have never picked up an erotic novel in their entire lives. They often label our books as beneath them and full of smut. Porns on paper they lovingly call them.
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
| The Heat Diva | This surprises me because all of us want to love and be loved. Every single one of us. The definition of erotica is literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire. For me, eroticism is best defined as a deep connection with another fellow human being. Touching something so deep within the other person that it makes you weep with pleasure from such euphoria. I know more than a few tears have passed over my cheeks when I get a tiny glimpse into the soul of my man. And the stuff that butters my cookie is found in everyday life, things that no one but me notices and revels in. Tiny, miniature things unique to him. Things I observe and breathe in and take into my heart forever. Things he’ll do until the day he dies. Things that will catch my breath when a memory whispers, flicking through my mind long after he is gone. I know everyone reading this can relate and in this very minute can close their eyes and smile when they reflect on their own lives and what makes their own little teapots sing. Here’s a handful of mine. • His hands. Sake’s alive. He can take my hand in his in while he’s driving, and my heart speeds up. So warm, so big, folding over mine in total protection. You’d think I’d died and gone to heaven. For me, this is erotic out the wahzoo. And I love it. I can’t believe I don’t burst out in song. I really can’t. Somehow I restrain myself. • His wink. We’ll be at some boring work Christmas party, and he’ll get stuck chatting with his boss and smoking cigars. I’m seated on a sofa, sipping wine, making small talk with strange women discussing an upcoming bake sale for another statue in the park where the city’s richest kids play. Give me a break. I’d rather donate to the homeless or less fortunate. Can we bake some cupcakes for them? My mind wanders, and I search for him. I look up and notice he’s looking for me too. And then he winks. My hand goes to my throat, and I swallow, smiling back. I blush like a little school girl. All is right in the world again. I imagine the ride home with more hand-holding. If I’m lucky, he’ll rub my knee and wink at me before he buckles my seat belt. • That smile. You know the one I’m talking about, the one where if you’re in the middle of a gigantic fight and you’re on one helluva roll, and he ends it all with that gorgeous smile. One smile. Easy as pie. It’s like his very own white flag. He
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flashes that thing, and it wraps around his face and strangles your heart in two seconds flat. When you finally get your breath back, you’re clawing at his shirt to get it off, bawling, and apologizing about the stupid fight. In fact, you don’t have the faintest idea what the fight was even about at this point. He has skills. Serious ninja love skills and he can karate chop a fight with one long smile. It always melts me like a popsicle in the summertime. Ridiculous and insanely erotic at the same time. • When I’m sick or just exhausted from staying up all night writing, doing ten loads of laundry and hours of housework, this man will very gently pull all the hair off my neck and fashion it into a very neat bun, run me a hot bath, pour in my favorite lavender bath salts, light a candle, undress me, take my hand, and help me step into a hot bath. He kisses me, hands me my glass of cabernet, and tiptoes out to feed the children. That’s got to be the most erotic thing a man has ever done, and this all happens before we climb into bed when he’ll light another candle and things really heat up. So you see, it’s the normal everyday little things he does to show his love that lead up to us finally expressing our love behind closed doors. All the love, all that buildup makes for one raging fire. Eroticism is all around us from the moment we wake up to the second we lay our heads on our pillows. Open your eyes and look. Watch, listen, and thrill in every second of the soul who chose to be with only you on that rainy Monday. Of all the millions of other lovers out there, this one is for you. That connection you have throughout all the ordinary days is more erotic than any far away island of white sands. Sharing time is dead sexy. Think about that next time you read a great erotic novel. Ask yourself what made these characters sexier than the book you read the week before. Don’t get me wrong. Love can happen fast and hit hard. Big, beautiful, and new. No doubt about it. Those stories will set you panting and dreaming, but when lovers evolve past that instant nose dive into the flames, we see special little snowflakes. Every lover’s story is different and so beautiful in its own way. Those lands of stories are woven from magic, from writers who take tiny glimpses of their own lives and weave them into stories we come back to time and time again.
| Alisha Paige | My wish is that you all have a very ordinary spring. The kind of spring where you take notice of the sexy you see each hour of the day in everyday life. I imagine your nights will snow with perfect snowflakes worth remembering forever.
ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Alisha Paige lives in the Deep South with her husband and children. Her favorite things in life are her children laughing, her kitty cat curled at her feet, candlelight, thunderstorms, nostalgic music, good books, dark chocolate, and red wine. She writes under the pen names Alisha Paige, Ruby Vines, and Wolfgang Pie. You can find her books at www.alishapaige.com and wolfgangpie.com
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
reviews erotic | senusal romance
Vanessa Devereaux Erotic Heat Rating: 3
her mind at ease.
Sheriff Alex Davis would rather do anything than go for his annual physical. However, his brother died of cancer and his mother is insisting he get checked out to put
Dr. Eva McQuire is in town just for the summer while she fills in for the regular doctor. Sheâ€™s been warned that some guys can be picky about having a female doctor, but Alex Davis is acting like a chauvinist. Once he gets a clean bill of health, his next goal is pursuing Eva. Problem is Evaâ€™s got her dream job waiting for her in Denver. Can their summer fling turn into something permanent or are the doctor and lawman destined only to be long distance lovers? Review: Alex was upset his usual routine was being disrupted by a stomach flu which had the normal cook and waitress at his local dinner in bed. The replacement cook was terrible and the waitress was well out of her depth. Always the gentleman he offered to help her out which she accepted graciously. Latter that day he found himself in her presence once again this time it was extremely awkward for him. After that it was a typical whirlwind romance filled with its ups and downs.This novel is as simple as the title it can be summed up like this boy meets girl and he helps her. Latter girl meets boy and rolls are reversed. Both fall madly for one another then girl leaves and they are sad. Girl decides to go to boy. Boy decides to go to girl they meet up in the middle and all live happily ever after. This novel is short sweet and the sex is hot and fast. I would not recommend this one if you are interested in plot development or deep characters but if a quick, wham bam thank you maâ€™am romance is what you are looking for then this is for you. If you want a more intellectual read then I would avoid this book. Over all the writing was decent and the characters while shallow were believable. Reviewed by Sasha
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feature 3 -book showcase
To Chuito the apartment was a self-imposed prison for a lifetime of sins. To Alaine, the girl next door, it was salvation from her overbearing, religious father. He was a devil. She was an angel. Two people who should’ve never met, let alone become friends, but it’s not until they give into the dangerous passion that’s been simmering under the surface for five
Alaine didn’t wait for Edward to make up his mind on the situation. She jerked her arm out of his hold when it loosened. She ducked underneath the ripped, corded muscles of Chuito’s biceps and then slipped her fingers in the belt loop at the back of his jeans. “Come on,” she whispered and then touched the Puerto Rican flag tattoo at the back of his neck reassuringly.
Master. Lover. Submissive. Muse. When Julianne Giroux, an aspiring artist with a dark secret, apprentices with Nicolai Stavros in his Paris gallery, she finds far more than a passion for art. She finds herself. The masterful artist with forbidden tastes strips away her reserved veneer to reveal the daring, darkly passionate woman beneath and introduces her to the erotic world of The
years that things go to hell.
Alaine decided to walk around the building, and she was to the back door before Edward caught up to her. He grabbed her arm again. “Look, I’m sorry.” There’s nothing to be sorry for,” she argued. “We’re just not well suited.” He snorted, as if he couldn’t believe what she was saying, and then gestured to the back door. “So what? You’re going up there to spread your legs for that spic instead of me?” Alaine gasped and turned around, smacking him before she could think better of it. She was so shocked she hardly put her thoughts together to tell him exactly what she thought about it. It turned out she didn’t have to. The back door jerked open, and then Chuito was standing there, barefoot and shirtless in just a pair of jeans, showing off all his tattoos without an ounce of shame. As reigning UFC Heavyweight world champion, Chuito had a body that was a work of art, cut, honed, and dangerous. All his muscles tightened as if he was ready for a fight. His dark eyes were narrowed, and the fury pulsed off him so strongly Alaine actually shivered from it. I suggest you leave.” Chuito’s voice was low with menace. “Before this spic loses his temper. Trust me, cabrón you don’t want that.” You can’t threaten me.” Edward huffed. I can,” Chuito assured him. “I just did.”
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By the time Julianne arrived at the gallery, the youthful glee was tucked behind her carefully crafted exterior. The lady reached for the handle on the door and grinned at Nicolai’s tacit dare. The sentinel marking the threshold to his world was a nude male in brass; his female counterpart graced the opposite door. They were lovers. Frozen in time. Separated by inches. Do you yearn for someone like that, Nicolai? She let her fingers linger discreetly as she entered. “Bonjour, monsieur.” Julianne raised her palms to her cheeks. Sculptures dotted a gleaming hardwood floor. Huge paintings hung on stark white walls. Her gaze snaked up the curved railing of a floating staircase to find photographs displayed in an upper gallery. Genius. There was no other word. “Come,” a man’s voice called from the back. Dabbing the sweat from her forehead and neck with the sleeve of her dress, Julianne hurried toward the voice. Her heels clacked; she cringed. Nicolai expected
an apprentice, not a horse. Sweating palms smoothed an already smooth skirt. She took a deep breath and went forward on her toes. Nicolai didn’t greet her or raise his eyes from the papers on his desk when she entered his office. Good thing or he would have seen the shudder. Mon Dieu. My God. The masculine beauty in front of her eclipsed every treasure in his gallery. He was Botticelli beautiful, more beautiful than most women, and he dressed better than them too. Oh, the allure of a man in a suit, especially one who wore it like a second skin. Wavy chestnut hair fell in loose tresses around the aristocratic planes of a stunning face. But what fixated her the most were his hands. Artist’s hands, long and elegant. Talented hands. Hands that create so much beauty.
A desire for status has brought Ondry and Liam to a human world to trade, but dealing with humans has brought up all the old pain in Liam’s heart. Even though Ondry would do anything to protect his beloved palteia, he doesn’t know how to protect Liam from himself. Worse, Ondry isn’t sure how to shield Liam from the shifting politics on the Rownt ship where the Calti Grandmothers are nothing like the ones they left behind on the planet
Affiliations, Aliens and other Profitable Pursuits
Ondry led them past several stalls, stopping to look at various cooking stations before he chose to sit at the table in front of one. A large male gave Ondry an amused look. “The traders are getting younger every year,” he said. Some develop talents earlier than others,” Ondry observed. The insults were bland by Rownt standards, but the server’s willingness to trade invectives meant the server was likely to offer food. Every once in a while they’d run into someone who, for one reason or another, didn’t want to have anything to do with Ondry and Liam, and the silence could get deadly. Liam sat on the bench next to Ondry, leaving Diallo to sit on the other side. “I find gassa berries that develop too quickly fail to hold their flavor,” the server said. Perhaps you harvest inferior gassa berries,” Ondry returned. The other Rownt studied Ondry for a time before he looked at Diallo. One should not expect one gassa bush to function differently from any other.” Ondry darkened some, so Liam assumed he was enjoying the trading of insults. “Sun and rain and good soil mean gassa bushes differ widely.” That was a score. The server paled some, but he whistled with laughter. True enough, youngling, but when your shell dries out, you might find gassa are more similar than you think.” Perhaps your view of them has been changed by your time away from the sun,” Ondry replied. The server gave another whistle and leaned on the tall rail dividing his cooking space from the area where people could eat. “KaOndry, you are too like your mother. I can see her in your insults.”
Loose Id is a leading publisher of erotic romance. The California-based company is an acknowledged industry leader with ten years in business, operating in the black since the end of our second quarter back in 2004. It publishes between 16 and 24 titles per month by more than 200 talented authors worldwide, unleashing readers’ fantasies with a full panoply of erotic romance subgenres, ranging from bdsm capture fantasy to yaoi, and including exceptional traditional favorites, contemporary and historical.
Issue 32 | March/April 2016 |
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from our website must read columns
Fiction Fixes: Push Your Character There’s nothing more yawn-worthy than a character who predicts every turn, runs into few obstacles, is surrounded by helpers instead of thwarters, and reaches his goals too easily. Why read on? Make it too easy, and we believe all the rose petals in the world will break his falls and your cast of characters will continue to sing in perfect pitch and eat caviar and chocolate truffles at a free buffet until they reach heaven and grow wings. That worked for Mr. Rogers but doesn’t usually work for novels.
Add a weakness to your main character. Back to the Future’s Marty McFly had a visceral response to being called a chicken. How much more fun it was to have that hot button catapult him into action we knew he had to take anyway. Have a sidekick suddenly take on new responsibility, showing another side of him. Sam Gamgee started out as a reluctant friend and ended up being hero of the story since he kept Frodo on track and saved him from Gollum and the power of the ring. First Frodo had to figure out if Sam was being helpful or power hungry. On the evil end of the spectrum, also from Lord of the Rings, Saruman ended up being someone different than Gandalf remembered him to be.
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A character should earn our respect and our concern. One way to do that is to force something upon your protagonist for which he’s not prepared. Ideally you dump several surprises onto her that push her to act in ways she otherwise wouldn’t or even push her to the brink. Let’s say you have a finished first draft, and it is lying there like a sick dog. You aren’t sure why, and your critique group can’t spot the problem. Maybe the fix is as simple as throwing something at your character and watching what happens to his evolution and your plot. A small addition to a scene can add spice. For example, you can add a level of embarrassment, like the neighbors who witness the antics in Fun with Dick and Jane. A new vulnerability may not change the plot, but it adds a fun layer to the scene. Sometimes nosy onlookers can up the threat. Think of Mrs. Kravitz peeking out her window in Bewitched, hoping to figure out what diabolical shenanigans were happening with Samantha. This applies not only to embarrassment and vulnerability. You can throw in a funny, memorable scene that may or may not change the trajectory of the story. The restaurant scene in When Harry Met Sally is a memorable climax to her character development. If you’ve seen it, you get the pun.
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ABOUT THE COLUMNIST
Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, pitch coach, speaker, awardwinning author of novels and cookbooks, and a produced screenwriter. She’s consulted on numerous projects and has written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons, and director Erich Toll); each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and Pikes Peak Writers Contest. Find out more at www.karenalbrightlin.com
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