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ISSUE 31 | February 2019

from the

editor’s desk

Welcome to Issue 31, February 2019 - Uncaged Book Reviews! Our Feature Authors this month are Linda Rae Sande, Lisa Borne Graves, AM Scott, Kait Gamble, L.D. Blakeley, Diana Bold & Elizabeth Rue.

FangFreakinTastic is also bringing us a feature with author A.H. Gilbert. Catch Up with author Lynda J. Cox and read an excerpt from her upcoming release, Controlled Burn. We have two short stories this month, A Fair Trade by AM Scott and MacDougal Street from Myrtle Brooks. We have plenty of reviews for you to look over from Uncaged, Fang-Freakin-Tastic, Myra’s Horror Blog & Amy’s Bookshelf.

in the magazine, and on the site. Please see the Advertising tab on the site for more information on how you can advertise in the magazine and support the Uncaged mission to promote authors. Tier 2 review submissions in Uncaged are now open to new submissions. Because of an ongoing backlog, books that are reviewed for feature authors will be placed in the Uncaged review section of the magazine, and although the author needs to be willing to allow Uncaged to review a book to become featured, the review is not a requirement within the feature itself. This is to attempt to clear up the long review submission lists.

All inquiries: or Some changes to Uncaged for 2019 are already in effect, so stay tuned as improvements are made all year long. Until next month - keep reading!

Thanks to all the affiliates for the wonderful devotion to reading. Uncaged is now in a review collaboration with Aurora Publicity. Uncaged and Aurora reviewers will review for Uncaged and you’ll see more Aurora author’s books being reviewed through Uncaged. Authors can now submit a Short Story, and in return, I’ll give space for either a full page ad, or a 1-page Sneak Peek of a book for an approved story. You can read more about that here. The Featured Authors that are promoted in Uncaged, is a FREE service to authors. The only requirements being that Uncaged has read at least one of the author’s books, (can be read right before the feature) and that I ask that the authors share the magazine with their networks. Read about that HERE. Uncaged is supported through advertising, both 2|



Issue 31 | February 2019


10 18 30 44 48 60 66

Linda Rae Sande

Lisa Borne Graves AM Scott

Kait Gamble

L.D. Blakeley Diana Bold

Elizabeth Rue


37 A Fair Trade

AM Scott


53 MacDougal Street

Myrtle Brooks


featureauthors 72 A.H. Gilbert


24 Lynda J. Cox

promospecials 4

2019 Promotion Special


Reviewer Bonus

2 5 82 102 106 110

Editor’s Desk Blog Roll Call Uncaged Reviews Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

upcomingconventions a convention near you and meet 6 Find your favorite authors. Issue 31 | February 2019 |


2019 Promotion Special “Buy 2, Get 1� *Buy $40 worth of advertising for the magazine, get a FREE Standard Full Page ad the following month FREE. For example: Buy an Inside Cover, Premium or Splash ad in January, get a Standard Full Page ad in February FREE. Buy a Standard Full Size Ad two months in a row, get the third month FREE. *This does not include Half Page ads or website advertising. This promotion is open-ended and will stay in effect for 2019.

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Wild Wicked Weekend February 21-24, 2019 San Antonio, Texas

Coastal Magic Convention February 28-March 3, 2019 Daytona Beach, Florida

Southwest Florida Reading Festival March 2, Ft Myers, FL

Tucson Festival of Books March 2-3, Tucson, AZ

Dayton Book Expo April 27, Dayton, OH

Apollycon March 21-24, 2019 Washington, D.C. Southern Kentucky Book Fest April 26-27, Bowling Green, KY

Virginia Festival of the Book March 20-24, Charlottesville, VA 6| |

Join our team! Reviewer Bonuses! Become a reviewer for Uncaged and be entered in a drawing each month for a chance to win a $30 first draw bonus, or a $20 second draw bonus! For each accepted review turned in, you will receive an entry ticket! It’s that easy. The more you read, the more tickets you receive! Rules: 1) Uncaged will supply the book 2) Turn in an acceptable review 3) Receive an entry in the raffle bonus 4) Payout is PayPal only, sorry no conversions. Join our team!

feature authors

historical fantasy | dystopian | science fiction

Linda Rae Sande

Lisa Borne Graves

AM Scott

feature author A self-described nerd and lover of science, Linda Rae spent many years as a published technical writer specializing in 3D graphics workstations, software and 3D animation (her movie credits include SHREK and SHREK 2). An interest in genealogy led to years of research on the Regency era and a desire to write fiction based in that time. A fan of action-adventure movies, she can frequently be found at the local cinema. Although she no longer has any tropical fish, she does follow the San Jose Sharks. A member of Novelists, Inc., (NINC), she makes her home in Cody, Wyoming. For more information about her books, go to her website: www.

Stay Connected

Please welcome Linda Rae Sande Uncaged: It’s so nice to talk to you again. You’ve had a few new releases since we last spoke, and your newest release is Stella of Akrotiri: Deminon, a little bit of a departure from your normal writing. Can you tell us more about this book? The characters of Stella and Darius have been with us for more than twenty years. These two Immortals met on the island of Thera just before a cataclysmic earthquake and volcanic eruption occurred in 1600 BC. Over the first thousand or so years they are together, they live in various locations around the Mediterranean. We’ve written several stories featuring them and finally decided it was time to introduce them to my current readers and hopefully some new ones. Uncaged: Are you planning on this becoming a series? Yes! In fact, Stella of Akrotiri: Origins is in the works and will release in late spring. Uncaged: Like me, you also love the superhero movies. Who is your favorite superhero and why? 10 |

Captain America! We love his ideals but really feel for how his moral compass has to adapt to real world situations. He’s conflicted and not ashamed to admit it.

Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? I scheduled some free Kindle days for “Stella” in late January. When we did the same for “The Conundrum of a Clerk,” we scheduled email promotions with a number of sites to coincide with the free days. We had massive downloads and a huge increase in Kindle Unlimited page reads, and we garnered some great reviews. We’re hoping the same happens for “Stella.” Uncaged: What was the least successful? Facebook ads. They used to work so well, but we find their effectiveness has dropped off. The ROI just isn’t what it used to be. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? “Did you know your first book has thirty-five pages of sex in it?” This was said by a librarian. Since that book was 350 pages in print, we figured it was an acceptable amount (it was less than ten percent). All our books are sensual and advertised as such, so readers expect 3-4 flames on the heat scale. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Go to the cinema or attend a hockey game. We enjoy traveling for book conventions and research, too. Uncaged: Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? Sussex, England, and not just because it was home to a branch of my family tree. We spent several days there in early May 2017 doing research, and we can’t wait to go back (although nothing is planned at this point). We’ll be heading for Italy and Greece in March to do research for both Regency era books as well as the “Origins” book for Stella. We’ll be at the dig site at Akrotiri for at least a day, hopefully more as we have sevIssue 31 | February 2019 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | eral days scheduled on Santorini. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? Although we have our degree in physics (with an emphasis in astronomy), we enjoy the creative arts. That left brain/right brain tendency had our mother claiming we were either going to work for NASA or for Disney. In reality, we worked in technical documentation in Silicon Valley for two decades (although four years of that was spent at PDI/DreamWorks). Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? We love our readers! We love to hear from our readers! We love to meet our readers at book conventions! They can follow us on BookBub, or on Amazon, lindaraesande

Enjoy an excerpt from Stella of Akrotiri: Deminon Stella of Akrotiri: Deminon Linda Rae Sande Historical Fantasy Love can last a thousand lifetimes when you’re an Immortal... or so they thought. What’s become of the Immortal Darius? His wife, Stella, worries about his fate as she rules over their city-state of Deminon, especially when she learns he’s been the victim of treachery. She’ll do anything to get him back. Enslaved as a traitor to Rome, Darius is forced to fight gladiators as part of the funeral rites of powerful Romans. His years of experience on the battlefield serve him well in the arena—until he’s forced to fight Marcus—a younger, stronger gladiator who is unaware of his own immortality. Sure he’s about to suffer a defeat by the hand of Marcus, Darius is forced to make a decision that will change his future and Stella’s—preserve his essence by allowing his body to die so that he can live on in Marcus. His two-thousand years of memories and life experiences should be powerful enough to overcome the essence of the untested Immortal. Allow him to return to Stella and resume their life together, even if she won’t immediately recognize him. But Marcus isn’t giving up so easily. Especially when he meets Stella. Will Marcus help Darius take revenge on the one whose deceit led to his arrest on charges of treason? Or will Darius’ essence slowly be subsumed, the memories of his nearly two-thousand-year lifespan—

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and of Stella—fading away in the mind of Marcus? These Immortals once had all the time in the world. Now time is suddenly of the essence. Excerpt Stella regarded Marcus Ortelius from where she stood just outside her chambers. Candlelight cast the silhouette of her body in the opening left by the secret door, the shape made eerie by the filmy dressing gown that still hung from her shoulders. If she hadn’t been so angry with the gladiator, she would have simply closed the door, barred it, and allowed him to find out the hard way that, short of falling to his death on the rocks below, there was no easy escape from where he stood. But she wanted a word with the thick man. Wanted to be sure he understood his only chance at freedom wasn’t going to come from Augustus of Assyria. And besides all of that, he was Darius. Although why the older Immortal hadn’t seen to stopping the younger Immortal from learning first-hand she couldn’t die, Stella didn’t know.

Perhaps it was time she find out.

She was about to demand an explanation, but another possibility entered her mind. Had his attempt on her life been done as a means of proof? The younger Immortal had vanquished Darius in the arena. Perhaps he didn’t believe in immortality for that very reason. By allowing Marcus to kill her, Darius was merely teaching his host a lesson.

At her expense.

She lifted a hand to her throat. Although it no longer hurt, the memory of how his weight had crushed it was hard to shake. Especially as he stared at her in disbelief and then slowly dropped to his knees. Had he a sword in hand, she was sure he would have fallen on it.

|LINDA RAE SANDE | Stella moved to stand before him, a hand reaching out to touch the top of his head. The gold ring wrapped around her fourth finger glittered in the dim light as her fingers splayed through his hair. Marcus was so unlike Darius! “I have lived for over fourteen-hundred years,” she said in a hoarse whisper. “As I told you earlier, I am an Immortal.” Marcus raised his face then, a tear escaping from the corner of one eye. “I only wanted my freedom, my queen,” he murmured. “Perhaps I may have that in death.” Stella dropped to her knees and gave her head a shake. “Not in death,” she replied. “For you, too, are an Immortal.” She watched as a myriad of emotions crossed the young man’s face. Watched as he considered her words against what he had paid witness to that day in the arena. Watched as disbelief turned to anger and then to despair. “No,” he said finally. “I cannot live as a slave forever—” “You will not,” she countered. “I must do his bidding,” he argued. “Which is impossible, since I cannot die. Do you not see? The owner of your ludus has sent you on an impossible mission. One he knew you could not complete because he also knows that I cannot die.” She stopped then, suddenly curious as why Augustus would send him with such a mission. Surely the senator knew Marcus was an Immortal. It was probably why he had sent this particular gladiator to kill her. To kill her and bring her body back to Veii. But why would he do such a thing? He had sent Trevius and Antony on such a mission, and later, Aurelius. Why, when he knew she couldn’t be Issue 31 | February 2019 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | killed?

hadn’t even lived a thousand years at the time.

Or did he think that because Darius’ body was dead by the hand of Marcus, she might be vulnerable, too?

Am I a goddess?

But that’s not why he chose Marcus, she reminded herself. I asked that he be sent. I begged he be sent, even with another who might ensure Marcus would be returned to the ludus. She had even gone to the temple and spoken to Athena. Perhaps she had been thinking of this all wrong. Augustus hadn’t mentioned knowing Marcus was an Immortal. In fact, he seemed oblivious to the possibility. And yet Darius knew. He had always been able to sense other Immortals. Even if they hadn’t yet died for the first time. Darius was older, though—much older than any of them. An Ancient. A god, perhaps? Not for the first time, Stella wondered if her husband was indeed a god. If so, who had fathered him? Zeus? Or one of the younger gods? Ares, perhaps. It would certainly explain his penchant for war. For his need to participate in every battle in which he thought he could make a difference. Then who had given birth to him? Athena, of course. He was always his best when he was at war. His days of peace never lasted long before he sought another war in which to fight. He was rarely the aggressor, though. Always the defender. Darius had called her an Ancient once, and she 14 |

Perhaps she had been looking at this all wrong. She thought of the others who had been sent to Deminon over the years. Trevius, Antony, Aurelius, and now Marcus and Leonidis. All sent on a mission they could not accomplish, by an Immortal who had said he would take her to wife if he wasn’t wed to another. Oh, Augustus. What have you been plotting?

feature author Lisa Borne Graves is a YA author, English Lecturer, wife, and supermom of one wild child. Originally from the Philadelphia area, she relocated to the Deep South and found her true place of inspiration. Lisa has a voracious appetite for books, British television, and pizza. Her inability to sit still makes her enjoy life to its fullest, and she can be found at the beach, pool, on some crazy adventure.

Uncaged welcomes Lisa Borne Graves Uncaged: Your debut novel Apidae, is out now, can you tell readers more about this book and what inspired you to write it? Apidae is an upper YA dystopian romance centered around the premise of bees nearing extinction. The inspiration came from two places. First, I had a student decide to do a research paper on bees and he needed my help. I found out fascinating and alarming facts—they pollinate 1/3 of our food supply (the healthy stuff), and they are endangered for a few reasons. A year later, I was reminded the honey bee was endangered by a woman at our neighborhood pool, and my brain started plotting. When I got home that day, I immediately started writing. Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about?

Stay Connected

I have an upper YA/adult fantasy romance called Fyr coming out this July which is the first novel of my Celestial Spheres series. A girl is thrown into a fire realm where magic is power, a prince’s love is deadly, and female autonomy is a dream. The prince realizes she can break his curse and save his people, but Earth girls aren’t so easy. Uncaged: You have a post on your blog about Book Launch parties. Can you tell us more about your experience with this type of promotion? I’ve thrown two book launch parties and thoroughly enjoyed them. It seems to remind those who know me to buy the book right away and their friends see about

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it as well. It’s an inexpensive way to get the word out there about a book. People are obsessed with the prizes as well. I attend a lot of them as well and enjoy participating. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? The best or worst marketing seems to lie in the author’s ability to master it. I think I’m doing best with posts on twitter, particularly a commercial I made playing around on PowerPoint. This received hundreds of views twice on Twitter, and other places such as Facebook, my blog, and Instagram. The worst marketing was posting book ads and the cover on Pinterest. I just can’t get the engagement there. I do think features, interviews, and blogs help as well, but it is hard to measure the effects from my side. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? “Do the bees sting anyone?” No, they don’t.

since we visited. Everything is so vibrant and alive, the people down to earth, and it has a rich history that inspires me. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I’m excessively hyper and short, but as they say, “big things come in small packages.” Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Never stop reading anything and everything you can get your hands on. Thank you for your support. You can follow me through my website http:// and the following links:

Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading or cleaning. I can be found by the pool, beach, or on some outing with my family. I’m not one to stay idle and a neat freak. One of my favorite places on Earth would be Wales where my husband is from, but it has been too long Issue 31 | February 2019 |



Enjoy an excerpt from Apidae Apidae Lisa Borne Graves YA/Dystopian What happens if bees go extinct?

In the not so distant future, scientifically modified Emlyn and Ace find themselves thrown into the role of saviors on a perilous mission where their tenuous relationship could save or destroy mankind. As the war between rebels and the corrupt government reaches a fever pitch, Ace is bent on self-sacrifice and revenge, while Emlyn must choose between her heart and the future of mankind. Excerpt “Would you like me to enlighten you?” The gruff man combed his greasy beard with his fingers. A smile lit up his features due to her question. The kind of smile when one thought something was so cute and helpless but had fake bravado. A kitten. He stared at Emlyn how one would a domesticated kitten, but she was more like the feral kind, the kind that came up to someone with sad little eyes and when his or her guard was down, pounced. “Please do.” “First, you guys always underestimate me. I get away every time.” She spoke in a condescending tone as one would a child. “You always have help.” He amended quite incorrectly. “Once, I did, but the other two times I escaped myself. I fully intend to do it again.” 20 |

He laughed wholeheartedly at her comment. “Pretty dumb of you to camp so close to MICE headquarters.” He changed the subject. She agreed. She was going to strangle Huck, but really, it was the elusive Ace’s fault. He had to be found and he was somewhere in this building, she hoped. “Pretty dumb of you to walk into my trap as well,” she fired back. “What trap is that?” He suddenly lost his commandeering gaze. Worry flitted across his features. It should. She had her hands free now. The man was right. Something on a huge level was done by her mother and it was done to Emlyn herself. Her blood had eaten through the titanester fibers enough to make it brittle and break in her last attempt to free them. “You just told me where I am, and I do know how to get out of here.” He swallowed hard, so Emlyn knew she was right. She was in the MICE’s northeast headquarters. The worst possible place. The smell of ammunition meant she was in the basement of the building, much harder to get out of. “Yes, but you have to get through me first and then you probably already know how many are waiting between this door and freedom. You’re ours this time.” “I belong to no one,” Emlyn said with restrained anger and then let the wild kitten in her pounce. She gripped the chair, jumped up, and folded it closed. She swung the chair all before the man could even move. All he could do was flinch as she made sure the metal edge came smashing into the side of his head. His hands shot up protectively just as it was too late and a nauseating crack echoed in the tiny room. The man slouched over and moaned, so she knew he wasn’t dead. She searched his pockets for a key because it was one of those old locks. Finding a chain of swipe cards with two old-fashioned keys on it, she smiled ruefully. So stupid, these MICE agents. Well, he could’ve been kinder and had a better weapon on him than a set of fingernail pliers. She tried the first key and it worked. Racing into the poorly lit hallway, she heard people

| LISA BORNE GRAVES | talking in rushed whispers. She ducked into the shadow of a doorway and tried the knob behind her. It was locked. Out of options, she froze, listening. The two voices continued. “You sure she’s down here?” “Yes.” “I’d rather just get you out of here to safety first.” “We need her, Ace.” Emlyn froze, her mind whirling. The man they had been looking for for over ten years was suddenly here and most likely trying to find her? She wasn’t sure what he wanted with her or if he was safe. Part of her wanted to make herself known and the other wanted to eliminate any threat. She had to make her decision fast because they were approaching. Then, as they drew near, she smelled it. Honey, grass, and all that was Huck, but it was tainted with something, the smell of death. Her heart lurched and her fury peaked. Ace killed Huck, her guardian, her protector, her teacher, her friend, her crush, her world. She leaped out and tackled the closest man with an unquenchable bloodlust. **** Suddenly, someone launched themselves at him. His hyper-perceptive senses realized this a beat before contact and he braced himself for the impact. What he wasn’t ready for was the buzzing sensation when said assailant came into contact with him. It was a pleasing oscillation under his flesh that made him think of his childhood on the farm with his grandparents, mother, and sister when they were all alive and well. He had been so young he hardly remembered the farm, but knew that only his father, he, and his sister survived the plague and famine. They lost his sister six years ago, which spurned on their desire to defy MICE. When they hit the ground with a thud, him on top, he was yanked back to the present and out of his reveries. He was pinning down the wrists of his assailant when he realized she was female and that in the fall, the way

their bodies splayed out was a bit intimate, to say the least. She was a hell-cat, as Huck foretold. Ace knew from her menacing stare and her writhing that she wouldn’t go with them easily. But goodness, even in the dim light he could see she was beautiful. All he could discern were intense eyes, light hair and skin, and a supple chest that pressed against him and made his mind muddled. “Where’s Huck? What have you done to him?” She writhed and began to buck, trying to knock him off. It gave him the opposite desire than her intentions. He wanted to stay this way forever, holding her as close as possible. “Shhhh!” His father warned him to silence her. “Emlyn, listen. We’re trying to get you out of here. Just stop fighting,” he whispered. She stopped moving. “Huck is meeting us in the infirmary.” They heard the guard moan in the cell. Ace looked at his father, who rushed into the cell to silence him. After leaping up, Ace felt utterly bereft when no longer in contact with her. He didn’t know how he could feel this way right away. He clutched her hand and the pleasant buzzing resumed. Bees, he thought, like when he was little and he’d go into the hive barn to collect honey and they’d circle him and land on him as if he was part of the colony.

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


CatchUp with

Lynda J. Cox

Lynda J. Cox was a Feature Author in February 2018. This month she is back to tell us about her new book, Controlled Burn. Uncaged: You were a Feature Author in Uncaged in February 2018. How was your experience with Uncaged? Dealing with Uncaged was a delight. The professionalism was top notch, and I would recommend Uncaged to any author looking for more exposure. Winning the Raven Award for historical romance with West of Forgotten was one of the best days of my life. Uncaged: What have you been up to since you were a Feature Author? Can you tell us more about your latest book, Controlled Burn which releases February 20th? Since I was featured last February, I’ve been busy writing. I have co-authored a self-published book which is the lead in to a series of chaste romances set in the fictional town of Brokken, Texas in the aftermath of the American Civil War, called This Brokken Road. I also wrote another book, Brokken Knight, in that series and am finishing up a third book, Brokken Yesterdays, in the Brokken Road Romance Series. (I really dislike the term “clean” because of the manner we insist on dichotomies and if one romance is “clean” because it doesn’t depict sexual situations, that makes the others “dirty”.) Controlled Burn is published through the Wild Rose Press (and I have to brag on WRP here—for the 11th time in 13 years, they’ve been voted the best small/e-publisher by readers, authors, and industry professionals. I LOVE WRP!) Anyway, Controlled Burn is a sequel to Smolder on a Slow Burn. It is a standalone. No one needs to read Smolder to enjoy 24 |

Controlled Burn. I pick A.J. and Allison Adams’s story up a good decade after Smolder ended. They’re happily married, two kids, the equivalent of the white picket fence…and they’ve been slowly drifting apart, until a specter from their shared past threatens everything they love. I have to blame both my street team and my readers for this book because I was told that I let the villain in Smolder on a Slow Burn off too easy. Another reader actually wrote and said, “Evil like that doesn’t just go away.” That being said, I didn’t want the villain to be the focus of this book. I wanted the rediscovery of that deep love and commitment to one another that A.J. and Allison had to be the focus. The villain was just the catalyst who set off the cascade of events that leads to that rediscovery. Uncaged: You attended Wild Deadwood Reads last year. Are you planning on attending again in 2019? What is your favorite part about conventions? Wild horses would have to drag me away to keep me from attending WDR. I only attend three book signings/ author and reader events a year. I make that decision based on a couple of things—the charities the event supports and the amount of author/reader interaction. For author/reader interaction, WDR tops the list. The other two reader/author events attend annually are Writers on the River in Peoria, IL and Penned Con in St. Louis, MO. All three support charities near to my heart—wild horse rescue and medical assistance for professional bull riders; a battered women’s shelter and resource center called Thistle Farms; and a scholarship program to assist children on the autism spectrum. My favorite part of these conventions is the reader/ author interaction. I love talking to readers. Even if I don’t sell a single book, I love talking to people about what they like to read, the best book they’ve read in the last month or so (I’ve found so many new authors that way!). Inevitably, we end up talking pets because now that he’s retired, Vander travels with me everywhere and people want to see him. When I posted on the WDR reader page that I was bringing Vander with me again to Deadwood, I got so much positive response I joked with my husband the dog is more popular than me. And, you know what? I’m okay with that. He’s

much better looking than me. Uncaged: Tell us something unique about you. When I’m not writing or showing dogs, I make “bling” leads to sell. I have to support my dog show addiction somehow. I was born on the south side of Chicago into a family of staunch liberals and White Sox fans. Much to my family’s dismay, I refuse to discuss politics and I bleed Cubbie blue. I’m not sure which is more disturbing to them, frankly. I grew up watching syndicated Westerns, John Wayne movies, and the Sunday night staple of Lassie. I point to all three for justification of my better life choices—being in love with the American West, writing western historical romance, and having collies. Controlled Burn Lynda J. Cox Historical Western Romance A freak accident takes away every memory of Allison Adams’s life for the past decade. It also leaves her sightless. She isn’t sure of anything, not even who she has been for the past ten years, but when the man claiming to be her husband holds her, it feels familiar and right. How can she be certain this is where she belongs?

| LYNDA J. COX | Sharing his life with the woman he adores and their two children has given A.J. Adams the strength to keep his demons buried. When a murderous specter from the past rises, igniting new challenges, everything A.J. cherishes hangs in the balance. To win Allison’s love again, he’ll battle those demons. Fortunately, surrender has never been in his vocabulary. Is there any chance to regain sight of their past and see a way to a shared future? Excerpt “My pa fought in the war?” Without waiting for an answer, James said, “I’ll bet my pa killed a lot of rebels.” A malicious smile twisted Oakten’s face. “On one hand, the boy is right about the rebels your husband killed. Shall I disabuse him of his misconceptions about which side his father took, or will you, Mrs. Adams?” Allison sat up straighter and turned to look at her son. If anyone was going to tell him which side A.J. fought on in that damnable war, it wasn’t going to be Gene Oakten. “Jamie, I want you to listen very carefully to me. The last two years of that war, your father was held in a Union prisoner of war camp. No matter what your father did, the camp commander found excuses to hurt him. Your father has to use a cane because of the torture he endured. He could have been taken out of that prisoner camp but he wouldn’t leave his men and he did everything he could to keep almost a thousand of those ‘rebels’ alive. I am proud of what your father did.” James’s brows lowered and his nose wrinkled. “Pa was a rebel?” “Yes.” Allison frowned at her son’s expression. Discussing the nuances of a war that had torn the country in two was not a subject she had ever intended to broach with an eight-year-old and she certainly did not want to have that discussion with Oakten’s vile input. “I want you to remember one thing about that war. The men who fought in it, Issue 31 | February 2019 |


| CATCH UP | for the most part were brave and honorable men, regardless of the uniform they wore. Your father was no exception.” “Your father was a traitor, young Mr. Adams. He was a traitor to this country when he took up arms against her and he turned traitor to the Confederacy in that prisoner of war camp,” Oakten said, his voice harsh. “Most egregious of all, your father betrayed the trust and confidence of the Confederate soldiers with him in that camp. In the end, he told me everything I wanted to know and his price for that treachery came cheaply. He allowed a child to be shot in his place.” Allison shot to her feet and launched herself at Oakten. She clawed at his cadaverous figure. A.J. still carried a burden of unrelenting guilt for that child’s death, even though there had been nothing he could have done to prevent it. “You lying son of a bitch. A.J. did nothing of the sort.” The sound of footfalls, one set uneven, silenced any response Oakten may have had for her. She turned to the opening of the subterranean room. Relying heavily on his cane, A.J. entered, followed closely by Thompson. The relief that flooded her died with the dread that overwhelmed her. “Pa!” In one voice, both Pamela and James called to him, then bolted to their feet and rushed to the side of the enclosure. Allison sucked her breath in when Thompson halted A.J.’s approach to the cell with a sharp jab to his back with the muzzle of his revolver. Without turning to the gunman, A.J. asked in a voice full of disdain, “Just what do you think I could do at this moment? I’m unarmed and I have no intention of giving you the slightest excuse to aim that gun at them.” He met Allison’s gaze across the distance and his tone softened. “Are you all right?” She couldn’t force a single word out. All she could do was nod. Her heart lodged firmly in her throat when he turned to Oakten. He pulled himself fully erect, his shoulders drawing back. She had never seen any man facing his own end, but she was certain A.J.’s posture would be common 26 |

to condemned men. “So glad you could join us, Adams.” The jeer in Oakten’s voice could have shattered ice. Allison shivered. “You’re holding the three most precious things in my life.” A.J. tilted his head in their direction. “I’d walk through hell on Sunday for them.” “Pa, I want to go home. Please, take us home,” Pamela whispered. A pained expression crossed A.J.’s face and tears burned Allison’s eyes She pulled Pamela into her side and caught James’s hand into hers. He wouldn’t be taking them home, not if the madman holding them had his way. With a deliberation that bordered on melodramatic, Oakten closed the distance to A.J. “Your daughter informed me she was going to help your lovely wife bake a pecan pie for your birthday. Allow me to give you a gift.” He gestured to the shackles. “They go free once you’re wearing those. I will even give you a few moments to hold them once more.” The man was insane. He had to be. Even if it was purely revenge he wanted, this was insanity. Allison heard her own whimper. “A.J., no.” If he heard, A.J. did not respond. He never took his gaze from Oakten and merely dipped his head in a single, terse nod. A leering grin split Oakten’s face, settling a heavy, icy weight settled into Allison’s stomach. She turned Pamela into the folds of her riding skirt in an attempt to muffle the child’s sobs and protect her from this cruelty. James gripped her hand and she felt the tremors racing through him. Thompson shoved A.J. in the direction of the cell. Oakten made his way to the door and tossed a small, leather pouch to his cohort. He unlocked the cell. The revolver Oakten aimed at Allison held her in place. A.J. looked into the enclosed space and Allison knew the struggle he faced. Without a word to the man at her husband’s side, she walked from the cell, pulling the children with her. She released their hands to throw herself in A.J.’s arms. He dropped his head to hers and placed a lingering kiss full of bittersweet longing and loss on her lips. “I’m so sorry. Everything I said—”

| LYNDA J. COX | “You have nothing to apologize for. No regrets, Alli,” he whispered. “Just take the kids and go. Don’t look back.” He released her with a sharp intake of breath, then bent and scooped Pamela and James into his arms. Without relinquishing his hold of the children, he gathered Allison into his embrace again. When he released them, A.J. pressed her wedding band into her palm. She closed her fingers around the bauble. A.J.’s gaze slid over to Thompson and the man caught her arm. Allison shook her head and fought against Thompson’s restraint. She made no attempt to stem the flow of bitter tears sliding down her cheeks. “I won’t leave you.” He slid his hand along her cheek, brushed her tears with the pad of his thumb and gently cradled her head. “You have to take care of all of our children. Please, Alli, go.” Allison threw off Thompson’s hand and she caught A.J. for another hug. If she held tight to him, they couldn’t take him from her. “Before he changes his mind, go. I can face anything he has planned as long as I know you’re safe.” His whispered words stirred the loose strands that had escaped her braid over the intervening days. He pressed a light kiss to her temple, then pushed her away. “Go. Now.” Allison stumbled to the passageway, holding her children by the hand. She wasn’t more than a few feet away from the cavern when the sound of rattling metal reached her. She fell against the wall, choking back a scream. There had to be something she could do. Anything. Hit Thompson over the head with a rock, stun him, take his gun… Thompson caught her arm again. “You don’t want to be here. You don’t want them here,” he added, nodding down to Pamela and James.

Issue 31 | February 2019 |



feature author Anne Marie “AM” Scott writes space opera and contemporary military romantic suspense. AM spent 20 years in the United States Air Force. For the first half of her USAF career, she flew satellites, tracked all the junk in space and launched experimental missiles and high-altitude balloons. During the second half of her career, she wrote a lot of strategic plans and budget justifications– real documents that were actually incredibly boring science fiction. AM is married to The Amazing Sleeping Man (ASM)–25 years and counting! They usually have one (or more) rescued German Shepherd Dog fur babies. AM retired from active duty in 2008 and now hikes, backpacks, skis, reads (a lot) and volunteers as the Montana State Administrator for Team Rubicon (, a veteranled disaster response organization. She writes to escape the grim reality of disaster response. And because the voices in her head won’t let her sleep. Unsurprisingly, her writing tends to be full of disasters, but with lots of hope, just like life. 30 |

Uncaged welcomes AM Scott Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! Can you tell us more about your Lightwave series? Thank you, I’d love to! If you liked the TV Show Firefly, or adventure science fiction, I think you’ll like Lightwave. The Folding Space series follows the adventures of Saree of Jericho and the quirky crew of the fold transport Lightwave. Saree’s got a big secret. She tunes space fold clocks— the only thing allowing safe travel between star systems. She’s the only human Clocker. The security of trillions relies on Saree’s freedom. Despite her best efforts, rumors fly. With a bounty hunter on her heels, Saree jumps on Lightwave Fold Transport, the safest option. But she quickly regrets her snap decision. Lightwave’s crew are mercenaries she barely escaped as a child. Do they suspect who she’s become? Can Saree keep her secret life safe? She’d rather die than blockade and blackmail systems for a crime lord or evil corporation. And there’s worse out there… Uncaged: You spent 20 years in the USAF. First of all, thank you for your service. Some of your duties were tracking satellites and launching test missiles. Did the time you spent in the military influence you in wanting to write in the science fiction genre? It was truly my pleasure to serve. My career definitely influenced this series. I read a real tweet from NASA—they are launching a deep space atomic clock to give deep space probes a GPS-type

capability. I started my military career doing GPS satellite command and control, which includes ‘tuning’ the satellite’s atomic clocks, making them accurate for users. The tweet got me thinking about faster-thanlight travel. If we could ever ‘fold’ space—which some scientists think is possible—wouldn’t we need to know what time it was at our destination? How would we know that? GPS satellites actually take a lot of work to maintain—a crew of seven around the clock—so who would maintain those fold clocks? What if aliens were in charge and then a human figured out how to do it? From there, the story unfolded. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know any science for this story to make sense! Uncaged: What do you have coming out next that you can tell us about? Lightwave: Lost, Folding Space Series 4.0, is coming out at the end of January. I plan to release a series of related short stories shortly after that. I’ll release at least two more books in the series next year, maybe three. I might publish some military romantic suspense novels too! Uncaged: What are some of the advantages of joining your newsletter? First, you’ll get an exclusive-for-subscribers novella about Lightwave’s security officers. Tyron Phazeer meets Katryn of Cygnus on Nexus Station—she literally knocks him off his feet—and then they’re on the run, trying to get off-station safely. Second, you’ll get notified of special deals from me and other authors. Third, you’ll find out a few things about me personally. And

fourth, I promise not to spam—I generally send a newsletter twice a month, sometimes a couple more if there’s a great deal or big news, but your inbox won’t get jammed with junk. I’ll probably add more stuff in there as I get better at marketing. Uncaged: Who were some of your inspirations to become an author? You also listed as reading a lot as a hobby. What are some of your favorite genres as a reader? Reading is my favorite thing to do! I read a lot of space opera—the sub-genre I write—but I also read a lot of romance, urban fantasy, and steampunk. I love a good adventure story in almost any genre, especially if there’s a romantic element. My biggest author-inspirations are Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (Liaden Universe), Lois McMaster Bujold (Vorkosigan Saga), Tanya Huff (Confederation/Valor Series) and Lindsay Buroker (Fallen Stars). My writing chat room friends are also huge inspirations. Lou Cadle writes dystopian novels (Oil Apocalypse) and Eric T. Knight writes epic fantasy (Immortality and Chaos)—both of them are wonderful writers and generous people. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? I was at a Team Rubicon training event—Team Rubicon is a veteran-led disaster response nonprofit—and handed one of the guys my author business card. He said, “You wrote this? This is Issue 31 | February 2019 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | my favorite book!” I was so shocked, I couldn’t say more than, “Really? You’re kidding me!” It was really cool. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I love the outdoors! I ski in the winter and hike all summer. I love doing wilderness backpacking trips with volunteer organizations like the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation (trail maintenance) and the University of Montana’s Wilderness Institute (wilderness monitoring.) This winter, I’m helping maintain a camera site for the Defenders of Wilderness, looking for wolverines, fishers and other critters in the Bitterroot Mountains. I’m very fortunate to live in the foothills of the Bitterroots—definitely my favorite place, with wilderness and adventure practically in my backyard. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I’m a volunteer leader with Team Rubicon: Disasters are our Business, Veterans are our Passion. I travel nationwide for that and I organize events and disaster responses here in Montana. I also sing in my church choir and play guitar a little. I’ve been happily married for twenty-five years and don’t have kids—by choice. I’m truly fortunate that my military retirement allows me to write and volunteer so much. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? To any fans out there, a huge ‘Thank You!’ I was really surprised people were so excited about my writing and I truly appreciate it. My website is the best place to follow me: www.amscottwrites. com but I’m also active on Facebook (https:// and Twitter (@AM_Scottwrites). I post about my adventures 32 |

with and without my husband, the Amazing Sleeping Man, on a fairly regular basis. If there’s anything you’d like to see, just let me know on one of those places, or email me at I’d love to hear from you!

Enjoy an excerpt from Lightwave: Clocker Lightwave: Clocker AM Scott SciFi/Space Opera Her secret frees trillions… Discovery risks them all. Saree’s got a secret. A big one. She tunes space fold clocks—the only thing allowing safe travel between star systems. She’s the only human Clocker. The security of trillions relies on Saree’s freedom. And they can never know. Despite her best efforts, rumors fly. With a bounty hunter on her heels, Saree jumps on Lightwave Fold Transport, the safest option. But she quickly regrets her snap decision. Lightwave’s crew are mercenaries she barely escaped as a child. Do they suspect who she’s become? Can Saree keep her secret life safe? She’d rather die than blockade and blackmail systems for a crime lord or evil corporation. And there’s worse out there… Race across the universe, one step ahead of danger with Saree and the crew of Lightwave. Get your copy of Lightwave: Clocker, Folding Space Series 1.0, before freedom ticks away, one nanosecond at a time…

| AM SCOTT | Excerpt Saree slid through the crowd, a double-time bass drum pounding in her chest. Bending her knees, she hid among the masses in the passageway, trying to reach her shuttle before the black-haired man caught up. The flashes of red in her rear-view holo increased, and she fought back the impulse to run. Thank all the suns she’d tagged the man right away. Outside her airlock, a crowd of people stood enthralled by a wailing busker banging away on an out-of-tune guitar. Saree slipped between them, thankful for the throng’s lack of taste. They must be truly desperate for entertainment. Covering her mouth with her hand, she murmured, “Hal, emergency ingress alpha-four-twouniform.” At the airlock, she reached out to enter her code on the worn, grimy keypad, but the hatch swung open in front of her. She ducked in, securing it and the next three. Collapsing against her inner shuttle hatch, she ignored the sharp struts pressing into her back. She was home, thank all the suns. That was just too close. She closed her eyes and breathed. Blanking her mind, she slowed and deepened her shallow panting, reveling in the quiet…no, not working. The whole slow-motion escape replayed in her head like a horror vid. Maintaining her carefully crafted persona was so rad-blasted hard. She’d done it; strolling the passages, gawking a bit, seemingly fascinated by every performer along the way. She didn’t waste any time on the awful one outside her shuttle airlock. She’d considered stunning the dark-haired man and hoping nobody noticed, but he was good, staying back and blending into the crowd. Stunning him meant taking down a lot of beings, innocents caught in the crossfire. And anyone stunned on this station would be robbed before the authorities reacted. If they reacted at all. Enough. She wasn’t out of danger, not until she left the system. Leaving the station might be tricky, depending on who was after her and why. Sucking in a big breath, Saree pushed off the chilly hatch, happy she no longer shook like a thruster on a loose pivot joint. Saree strode to the pilot’s seat, the worn, dark gray plas tiles beneath her feet popping a tiny bit with every

step, the cracking comfortingly normal. She patted Big Beige on her way. Saree paused mid-step, her hand hovering over the frequency standard maintenance case. Maybe it was time. She had no offense; she should maximize her defenses. Facing Big Beige, she planted her feet and put her hand on the case’s top-mounted security sensor. “Hal, implement Security Protocol Zeta.” Hal’s smooth, calm, human male voice replied. “Security Protocol Zeta initiated. Passphrase, please.” At Hal’s light tenor tones, her tight shoulder muscles unwound. “Hickory dickory dock, the Sa’sa ran up the tetrahedron.” She winced at the bite of the DNA sampler. “Security Protocol Zeta implemented. Please note, the additional security measures will add approximately thirteen point two seconds to maintenance case release. This could be fatal during an emergency evacuation.” “Noted, Hal, and risk accepted. Thank you.” “You are welcome, Saree.” She walked to the pilot’s seat and plopped down. Under her weight, the seat sighed and creaked, the seen-better-days padding almost flat. The smooth, light gray pleather under her hands was dark from decades of use. But she didn’t care if it looked old and worn—the shuttle systems were top-notch. And sitting here in the pilot’s seat meant escaping, control, safety. Well, no. Safety was an illusion. But she was safer. Finding a fold transport to take her and her shuttle far away from Dronteim was her first priority. A trustworthy one leaving soon—very soon. But there was no sense in escaping a black hole just to fold into a supernova. She had to find the right folder. Sweeping a hand across the main control area, Saree entered her security codes, the big shuttle screens lighting in her standard display. She brought up the station security vid outside her shuttle. The black-haired man was still there, using his holo in security mode, concealing his face. “Saree, you appear to be in some distress. Would you like a calmer?” Issue 31 | February 2019 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | “No, thank you, Hal.” She’d never bothered to change Hal’s programming to remove the default to mood-altering substances. One of these days, she’d have to do it herself or allow Hal to compile a personality profile. But allowing Hal to develop a profile meant more data available for exploitation if someone got through her net defenses. Better to leave the former inhabitant’s in place, and do a little more work herself, even if it meant putting up with some oddities. Besides, sometimes Hal’s predictability was strangely comforting, especially in his ultra-calm voice. “Some Jhinzer tea?” And sometimes, he was annoying. “Not now, Hal,” she bit out. She had to get out of here. Tea could wait. Maybe she would make those profile mods. “My apologies, Saree.” She scanned her shuttle status—everything ready—and relaxed in the chair a little more. Initiating external net access to Dronteim Station, she called up the departing interstellar space fold transport schedule. Even if the surveillance was her sometimes too-vivid imagination combined with her understandable paranoia—doubtful— she’d be better off leaving, fast. Saree pulled up the Guild priority list and set her standard match program running between the two. But wait—she needed to leave now. Inserting ‘departure time’ as the new number three criteria, Saree tried to relax while the program calculated. It shouldn’t take long out here on the rim. Dronteim was rated ‘frontier-safe’ by The Guide™ but it was still the frontier of human space; criminal organizations and pirates abounded. So, which one was after her on Dronteim Station? Saree knew the man with the black hair and olive skin was following—no, hunting—her, but she didn’t know why. There were a lot of reasons to target a young female human alone in the fringe. Was she a target of opportunity, or did they know who she was? A chime sounded, startling her. Saree frowned. Lost in her head again. A bad habit for a solo traveler—being in her shuttle didn’t equal safety, no matter how secure she felt at the moment. Glanc34 |

ing at the top matches between available fold transports and Guild requirements, she grimaced. Maybe she needed the tea after all. At times like these, she missed Ia’asan and the clutch. Life was a lot simpler in the co-pilot’s chair. And having real, live backup, even if it wasn’t human? Priceless. Saree studied the fold transport match list again. Blast and rad. None of the choices were good. There weren’t many folders departing in the next thirty standard days and none of them were ideal. She snorted. Most were poor at best. Either they were fixed-route locals, quick but potentially criminal, or unknown and unrated. She removed two of the transports immediately— they had ties to Familia, and Familia was far too curious about her, both in general and specifically here. The black-haired, olive-skinned man had the ‘Familia look.’ She checked the station vid again. The man was gone, but did he give up? There was no way to know. The next possibility, Universe-Tera, was a good line known for their dependability and security, but this particular folder was ancient, slow and on a milk run. What was a milk run, anyway? She shook the thought away. A question for another time—she had more important orbits to achieve. The final folder on the list was a relatively new company, with little available on the net. Saree dug deeper, despite her instincts yelling, ‘Run!’ Lightwave Fold Transport appeared to be a single-ship company, with mixed reviews. She filtered out the obvious botgenerated reviews, but nothing cleared. Scrolling down, she read the individual entries, rather than relying on the aggregate. She tapped an impatient rhythm on the armrest. This was taking too much time, but folding into the unknown wasn’t smart. Some shuttles left bare-bones comments of ‘adequate,’ ‘sufficient,’ and similar condemning-with-faint-praise statements, but a few said more. The recent reviews raved about the food, a big surprise—often, folders barely fed you at all, and with the cheapest pre-made stuff they could find. One entry raved about the speed, precision, and security, but warned the captain put the wellbeing of his transport and shuttles above every other consideration. Which didn’t seem like a negative to her; the

| AM SCOTT | fringe was dangerous. And if the folder didn’t survive, none of the shuttles would. Many of the other comments said the captain was cold and all business, but that seemed like a plus. If he were all business, he wouldn’t be looking into her business, now would he? Just another set of strangers passing by—lonely, but safe. She thumped her fingers against the chair arms impatiently. Lightwave would get her to one of the higherpriority jobs, although that particular job didn’t pay the fold costs. But…Cygnus was light years away, on the fringes of known space. Getting away from Dronteim system was a very big plus—signs of Familia were everywhere. Bringing up The Guide™ listing for Cygnus, she scanned it. Not much Familia in Cygnus, another big plus, although there were plenty of other typical frontier dangers listed. Except for Cygnus Prime, but if she could afford planetfall on Deneb, she wouldn’t be doing this. Saree huffed out a laugh. Jittering in her chair, she initiated external net access again, and searched for more reviews, tracing Lightwave’s travels. Neither Lightwave nor its crew had much of a net signature, but there was no sign of criminal activity or behavior. Apparently, Lightwave kept their noses clean, doing their job and nothing more. Or someone was cleaning up after them. Not likely; not for a single ship in the fringes. Saree’s fingers drummed harder and faster on the thin pleather, echoing her impatience. Nothing but pressure from Gov Human raised Cygnus’s priority— whatever mega-corporation owned the system also owned someone in Gov Human. So, human-centric population and government, lots of high-priority, low-pay jobs, no Familia, fringe of nowhere frontier—the perfect place for her. Saree finished her chair-arm drum solo with a flourish. Lightwave Fold Transport was it. She sent a message to Lightwave, to confirm availability and price, and started the computer calculating the transfer orbit from the station to the fold transport pickup orbit, matching Lightwave’s parameters. Surprisingly, she got a reply from Lightwave before she’d finished double-checking the computer’s calculations. The price was as quoted, they had one slot available and

would depart after she docked. “Hal, is there anything unusual in this contract?” “Yes, Saree. This provision states: ‘Shuttle owner and pilot must contact Lightwave Fold Transport with human-spectrum vid and voice-enabled before contract confirmation.’” Hmm. Saree considered the provision. Unusual, but not unique. It might signal xenophobia, but it might not, and since her DNA was human, it didn’t matter. She may as well get it done. Lightwave would see nothing but slightly shabby gray plas behind her; they wouldn’t get any real intel from this vid except her face. Initiating the comm link, Saree wished again for Jhinzer tea while she waited. She cracked a smile. Despite not allowing a true personality profile, Hal knew her well. “Shuttle Centauri Kilo-Uniform-Tango-Six-Zero-One-Five-Four-Four, state the name of your vessel, owner, pilot, and other occupants,” a computer-generated voice announced. “Shuttle Centauri Kilo-Uniform-Tango-Six-Zero-One-Five-Four-Four, called Fortuna Lucia, absentee owner Centauri University, Pilot Candidate Scholar Cary Sessan, no other occupants.” The shuttle’s name came with it, but the Familiatinged designation had served her well as an initial cover and distraction in the past. Overall, it was fortunate indeed. A face appeared in the holo projected in front of her. Human, male, cinnamon-brown skin, thick black brows glowering above dark brown eyes. Pretty eyes, but cold like the outermost planet in a dying star system. A faint scar across the right side of his forehead, bisecting his eyebrow, showed through short dark brown hair. His nose, prominent and slightly hooked, presided over compressed lips in a square face. He was the definition of a man who’d seen bad things and was ready for more. Not a bad attitude for a fold transport pilot. If he was the pilot. Saree snickered inside. No matter his role on Lightwave, no one would ever mistake him for a vid star, so why smile? “Scholar Sessan, you may approach. Turn your controls over to Lightwave Issue 31 | February 2019 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | for docking as specified in your instructions. Do you have any questions?” “No, Pilot? Captain?” A name or a title would be nice… “Please transfer funds and initiate your release from the station now, Scholar. We will depart after you dock.” The screen blanked. Humph. Well, that explained the ‘cold, all business’ comments. ‘Rude’ might be a better term after insisting on a face-to-face, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. She wanted a quick departure, and she was getting one. And she wasn’t vidstar material either—why would he waste time staring at her unremarkable face, with the same tan skin and mud-brown eyes and hair shared by the vast majority of space-traveling humanity? Still, why not take a few seconds to introduce himself? Suns, why insist on the vid at all? He didn’t ask her anything. Just as well. More talking meant more chances to get in trouble, and she needed to leave Dronteim—immediately. Saree snorted out a laugh. Oh, the irony of being upset by rudeness, when she’d done so much worse to so many. Initiating the station undocking procedure, she waited for the station release. Thankfully, she didn’t have to talk to a live person, just transfer credits, a ridiculous number for her very short stay. The docking clamps released and the station pushed her away into the transit zone, and Saree sighed in relief. The man chasing her wasn’t well connected in Dronteim or hadn’t made the necessary bribes to hold her. Saree engaged the station-approved flight path, the shuttle thrusters shoving her back into her chair until the grav generators kicked in. While they flew to the rendezvous point, she confirmed her credit transfer to Lightwave. Confirmation complete, she set her controls using the codes specified in the contract, checked the transfer was to Lightwave, not some pirate, and disabled her meteor shielding. Reluctantly, Saree removed her hands from the controls. She hated not flying her ship, but this was standard procedure for interstellar folders—they were big credit 36 |

investments. The docking maneuver was smooth and uneventful. Relieved to be outbound, Saree completed the main engine shut-down procedures, the shuttle checks and made minimal net connections with Lightwave. She escaped Dronteim, and not a minute too soon. Safe. Sagging with sheer relief in the pilot’s chair, Saree blew out a breath and deliberated her options. Join the other travelers or stay here in her shuttle? She checked Lightwave’s local time; their standard day aligned with Dronteim Station. Unusual. They must have been in orbit for a long time. Indicators flashed on the main screen, drawing her attention back to C2—they were moving. Guess the glowering man—whoever he was—hadn’t been kidding about leaving when she docked. They wanted to leave this back-of-beyond system as badly as she did. Or someone was chasing them too.

Short story A FAIR TRADE by AM Scott

| SHORT STORY | “You should have your airlock checked, Mom. I don’t think it’s emptying correctly.”


By AM Scott Her head still ringing from the loud music, Saree stopped at her favorite Antlia Station eatery, the QuickEatWell. At least, that’s how the owners translated it and she wasn’t familiar enough with Antlia languages to know better. Besides, the name fit. Despite the late off-shift hour, the proprietor, a mature neuter Antlia with the unlikely name of Mom, popped up in the window when Saree brushed her hand through the ‘Order’ holo floating in front of the kiosk. “Your order, Scholar?” She smiled with a closed mouth and bowed slightly. “One Puffer please, Mom.” Mom bobbed, the closest an Antlia could come to a bow and said, “Right away, Scholar.” A puff from a maneuvering valve, and the yellow, two-meter round bag of light gasses spun, the four long, skinny appendages darting to the counter to slap together her Puffer. A three-fingered hand pulled a dorad air fish from a tank floating above Mom’s gas bag, a knife hacked off the head of the fish, another hand pulled out the guts and disposed of them, while the third stuffed the air fish with air weed and other vegetable equivalents and the fourth added the special sauce, a spicy, creamy mixture native to Antlia Nine. Saree didn’t know what was in the sauce, and she’d been warned by other humans not to ask, just enjoy. The air fish was placed in a heating device for two minutes, pulled out and wrapped in veg plas, and then placed in the kiosk airlock. Saree waved credits from her holo to the kiosk, and pulled the Puffer out of the airlock, a faint hiss of light gasses accompanying it. 38 |

“Yes. Next twelvesday. Eat well, Scholar.” The Antlia bobbed again and sank out of Saree’s sight. She’d told the Antlian the same thing every time she got a Puffer, and got a different answer every time in return. The repair appointment was always some future time, always further away. No matter, a high, squeaky voice from the remaining helium was a small price to pay for a puffer. The scent of golden-brown toasty goodness, a hint of hot spice and salty seas wafted up, and Saree practically drooled with anticipation. She bit down. A crisp, crunchy crust gave way to the firm, delicious flesh of the air fish, then the crunch of vegetables coated in almost too spicy, but creamy goodness. Ah. Saree smiled as she chewed, wiping the corners of her mouth to prevent staining her Scholar robes. Scrumptious. She crunched through half the air fish and a bite or two more, full, but unwilling to stop. Puffer was so good, but it didn’t keep at all, and reheated Puffer was appalling. She’d been warned about that, too, but had to try it herself; it took four days to get the stink out of her shuttle. She smiled ruefully, remembering. Walking further down the quiet, empty station passageway, Saree took out her knife and carefully cut off the portions she eaten from, shoving them in her mouth, leaving half a Puffer in the wrapper. She kept walking until she reached the Mourner. When she’d first travelled this corridor, she’d thought the pile of rags was just garbage, refuse somehow missed by the auto-cleaners. But then she’d seen a being, a humanoid species she didn’t recognize, stop in front of the pile and bow. Curious, she watched the Gentle place a credit chip down just in front of the rags, step back and bow again. An appendage, completely covered in mottled, ragged brown material darted out and in, dragging the credit chip with it. A beautiful but sorrowful melody in wavering high tones and alien pitches came forth,

| AM SCOTT | a multi-toned drone below the melody, much like the drone of an Old Earth bagpipe. Saree hurriedly switched her vid recorder on. She listened, completely enthralled. After the music stopped and the pile of rags did nothing further, she returned to her shuttle. Saree found nothing in her records to match the sounds. She sent the recording to Centauri University, but her thesis advisors had never heard this music either. After she carefully questioned some of the vendors and workers on this passageway, she’d been told the being just appeared one day. The only understandable word anyone heard was, ‘home,’ in standard. Attempts to move the being by persuasion or force were useless—somehow, it remained anchored to the decking and avoided every force shield or tractor beam. The energy just passed through the being like it wasn’t there. Same with below the surface imaging attempts. No one knew what was under the pile of cloth. But since the song seemed sad, the station residents nicknamed the being ‘the Mourner’ and took pride in ensuring it was fed and protected. Saree’s cover as a poor Scholar of Ancient Music wouldn’t allow her to give credit chips away, but the Puffer she couldn’t finish? Why not try? The Gentle being evidently liked Puffer, because it disappeared and the gorgeous but slightly unsettling alien music rang out. Every time she indulged in a Puffer, she gave the uneaten part to the Gentle being. She did the same now, crouching to place the Puffer on the deck in front of the Mourner. Impulsively she asked, “Can I take you home?” Why had she asked that? She had a shuttle, not a folder. If she was going to take the Gentle somewhere, she’d have to contract with a fold transport first. Unless the being was Antlian and that didn’t seem likely. Saree straightened and turned on her recorder. The music this time was not only beautiful, but joyful. Saree took three quick steps back when the pile of rags rose. It rose a meter, then further, until it was level with her face.

“Home,” the being sang jubilantly. Saree blinked in astonishment. Had no one asked before? And where was home? How would she get the being there? A message pinged in her holo and she swept it up, bewildered. A set of coordinates from an unknown originator. This must be home, evidently. She brought up a connection to her virtual assistant. “Hal, where are these coordinates located?” “Hydrus, Saree. Hydri GeeJee Beta, specifically. There is a planet there, a gas giant, but no life has been found.” Saree shook her head in wonder. “Hal, please compile a list of folders going to Hydrus.” “Certainly, Saree.” “Thank you, Hal.” “You are welcome, Saree.” She swept off the connection and turned towards her shuttle. Without her saying a word, the pile of rags followed her. Good thing it was night-shift and this wasn’t a popular passageway. Even so, she was bound to attract attention soon. As she entered her shuttle bay codes, a whooshing, faintly wailing sound came from the passage behind her. The Mourner’s rise had finally been noticed by station authorities and they were alarmed. She hurried through the security protocols and led the Mourner inside. “Hal, did you find a folder out?” “Perhaps, Saree. The list is in your workspace.” She plopped down in the pilot’s seat, the worn cushion hissing air, and brought up the list. Three folders, none headed directly to Hydrus, one human, one Grus, one RR. She scanned the names and the aggregate ratings. The human folder looked dangerous, the RR were difficult to talk to, so the Grus it was. She sent inquiries for cost and speed of departure, then checked the Time Guild clock maintenance listIssue 31 | February 2019 |


| SHORT STORY | ing. There were fold clocks requiring tuning at the systems along the way, so the trip wouldn’t cost her anything. “Fortuna Lucia, Antlia Station.” Saree grimaced and accepted the communications request. “Fortuna Lucia here, Antlia Station.” An Antlian appeared in the vid, an official seal on the surface behind it. “Fortuna Lucia, do you have the Gentle being known as the Mourner on board?” “Yes, I do. It followed me. I did not do anything to it or compel it in any way.” “Why did it follow you?” “Because I asked it if it would like to go home. It sang ‘home’ and sent me a set of coordinates in Hydrus.” The Antlian bobbed. “Would you transmit the coordinates to me, along with the recording we know you made?” “Certainly, I have nothing to hide.” Saree muted the comms. “Hal, please transmit the relevant vid to Antlia Station.” “Certainly, Saree.” “We await your transmission.” “Antila Station, I intend to take the Gentle being to those coordinates.” She shrugged. “I have finished my research here and I’m sure I can find additional music to study along the way. This costs me nothing.” “Very well, Scholar. We will let you know if we need any additional information. But some of our resident are upset by this turn of events.” She smiled, careful to not show teeth to the easilypunctured Antilan. “I understand. I intend to depart as soon as possible.” “Understood, Scholar. Safe folds. Don’t forget to settle your fees.” The station official bobbed again and the vid turned off. “Well. That’s done. Now there’s the rest.” Saree shot a look back at her guest, settled on the deck to the side of her cargo bay airlock. “Make yourself com40 |

fortable, Gentle, and let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.” The being didn’t move or sing. Saree continued to stare, then turned back when an incoming message drew her attention. The docking fee payment protocol. Hopefully, the Mourner was comfy there on the decking. She wouldn’t try to move it, just feed it every now and then. # “So, Gentle, here we are. Floating in space at your coordinates, near Hydri GeeJee Beta. Will you please give me a more refined set of coordinates, so I can take you to your final destination?” Saree spoke as she slowed the shuttle to rotate in sync with the gas giant Beta. There was nowhere to land, of course. Hal said, “Saree, the being has transported itself to the exterior cargo airlock. I do not know what it intends.” “What?!” Saree was up and sprinting to the cargo bay and the exterior airlock before she finished the word. She reached the hatch just in time to see the light flash red, showing air had been evacuated and the outer hull door was opening. She pounded on the hatch with her fists. “No! I didn’t bring you all this way to suicide!” “Saree, I do not believe suicide is the being’s intention. Look at the vid I’ve sent you.” She pulled away from the hatch, spun and sagged back against it, the cerimetal struts sharp and cold against her back as she slid to the deck. Saree swept up the vid, showing the interior of the airlock. The Mourner entered and settled on the decking. The hatch closed behind it and the air evacuated. The Mourner didn’t move, although the rags enfolding the being rippled and waved as the air was sucked out. The outer hatch opened. The rags rose, draping around whatever being was underneath, then settled down again, but the mass was much flatter. A faint shimmer rose above the compacted pile of rags. Saree squinted at the vid. The shimmering turned into a ball, then streaked out the airlock, into space. “Saree, how are you feeling?” She started and snapped her dry mouth closed. She’d been staring at nothing, wordless, for two minutes and thirty-six seconds, long enough for her mouth to become dry. She blinked and shook her astonishment off. “I’m fine, Hal. Just surprised.” “This was quite unexpected, Saree. The existence of

| AM SCOTT | energy beings has been speculated, but never confirmed.” “Yes, very unexpected.” She stood and cycled the airlock, intending to gather the rags from the airlock. But when she opened the hatch, there were no rags. No, a human woman’s dress lay spread across the decking as if it hung on a hanger. The hem of the full skirt was the deep scarlet of Sa’sa rubies, shading into the orange of a yellow star’s sunset, and fading into yellow that paled to almost white at the shoulders. Saree stood and stared, open-mouthed again. She blinked and walked into the airlock, slowly. Bending down, she grasped the dress at the shoulders. It had slim, three-quarter length sleeves, a fitted bodice with a modest, round neckline, and flowed into a wide, full skirt. The material was soft and sensuous, almost caressing her fingers. It warmed in her grasp, but it didn’t feel like insulation material. No, it was like being hugged with her Mother’s favorite blanket. A sensation she barely remembered. “Saree, I have a message from an unknown source. “It says, ‘A fair trade.’ Do you wish to reply, and if so, to whom?” She laughed. “No reply is necessary, Hal.” She held it up, high, to look at the dress again, then grasped it to her and waltzed with it around the cargo bay. The dress was beautiful, so soft, so warm. “Saree, I believe the dress is tazan silk. You have received a much higher value than you gave, especially when clock maintenance paid the transport costs.” She crashed to a halt. “Tazan silk?! Are you sure? This is worth a fortune!” “Yes, Saree. I believe you could buy a frontier planet with it.” Saree strode to the pilot’s chair with the dress and sat down, draping it across her lap. “We cannot tell anyone about this dress or how we got it. Otherwise, beings will find a way to hunt and capture the Mourner’s kin. I know we agreed to send Antlia station a vid of the Mourner’s departure, but we can’t show them this.” “I don’t fully understand your concern, Saree, but stand ready to do whatever you require.” Saree tapped out a complex rhythm on the armrests of her pilot’s chair as she thought. Then she input a course for the nearest moon, an airless rock. “We will

alter the airlock vid, Hal, to show the rags sucked out the airlock on to the moon’s surface and just lying there. We’ll include the being’s message with the vid. Hopefully, the Antlians will believe the Mourner committed suicide. That should cover the existence of the Beta Hydri beings.” “That is easily done, Saree. I will assist you in smoothing the images.” “Thank you, Hal. We must also delete all evidence of the energy of the Beta Hydri. We cannot take any chance they will be discovered. This must remain a secret forever.” “If you insist, Saree. Deleting data is often dangerous.” “In this case, keeping it is more dangerous, not only for the Beta Hydri, but for us. If anyone knew our part, they might attempt to use us as bait, to see if our ship or my voice could lure a Beta Hydri close enough to capture.” “I understand. I will delete this information entirely. I must keep you safe.” “Thank you, Hal.” “You are welcome, Saree.” Saree landed the shuttle and recorded a remote exiting the airlock. Then she and Hal melded the vid of the rags into the new vid, smoothing each pixel until it was perfect. She flew back to the folder and allowed them to dock her in her assigned bay. “You are ready to continue, Scholar Sessan?” the message from Eridani Acamar read. She messaged back, “Fortuna Lucia is ready. Continue course.” Saree felt the thrusters kick in, sending them flying to the fold point. She pulled up an outside vid and gazed as Hydri GeeJee Beta dwindled into a bright point of light. “Best of fortunes to you, Gentle. Mourn no more.” They thrust for the distant stars, Saree stroking the tazan silk lying across her lap; comforting her own unexpected sorrow due to the Mourner’s departure. A fair trade indeed. THE END A Fair Trade © 2018 by AM Scott. All Rights Reserved. Published with permission. Issue 31 | February 2019 |


feature authors

contemporary | paranormal romance

Kait Gamble

L.D. Blakeley

feature author An inveterate traveller, Kait has set foot on three continents and has the other four on her bucket list (yes, even Antarctica). Until she can see them all, she writes romances that take readers to far flung locales, often to places she’s been or hopes to one day go. For now, she’s settled in England where she spends most of her time plotting, scribbling ideas on every available scrap of paper and trying out dialogue on her cat.

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Please welcome Kait Gamble Uncaged: You write in several genres, can you tell readers more about your romances? Can you tell us about your latest release, Raking the Ashes? I like to think that no matter what I write, whether it’s sci fi, paranormal, YA or contemporary, there is romance at the center of the tale. For the most part, I’m known for writing stories that involve billionaires, strong women, and are set in luxurious locales. My latest release, Raking the Ashes is a contemporary second chance story that’s a romance all the way and fits all of the criteria above. Author Tamara lives on the page after being burned very badly in her youth. When her husband Peter, who caused the devastation, turns up at her doorstep after a decade of separation neither Tamara nor Peter are prepared for all the feelings, or the truths to long held secrets, that come with him.

Uncaged: Have you ever attended any in-person book signings or events? What do you do special when you have a new release? I haven’t, I’ve always wanted to and have promised myself I will one day.

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their resulting reach. I’ve also learned so much from my editors from each publisher. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? I’m not the greatest at marketing. I’m too shy but I’m working on putting myself out there. I find that just being me works. Talking to people about things I enjoy and sharing what I’ve learned works well. What doesn’t work is straight up promo. People don’t want to be told what to read, they want to know why they should read and finding a connection with the author is a good reason to pick up their work. When I have a new release, I like to take the time to celebrate. Usually I take a moment to take a breath, maybe go out for dinner and just relax before going back to work the next day (or most often that evening). Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about? I have a couple of books on submission at the moment. One I can’t talk about just yet, but the other is a darker romance about a hitman trying to save the woman he loves from a madman. Secrets are revealed while they’re on the run. The story takes them from the Amalfi coast to Tokyo as they learn about each other and fall (deeper) in love. I’ve got several many more in the pipeline as well. Dragon shifters, archaeologists and more billionaires (but not all together) are coming soon! Uncaged: You release with a few different publishers. What are the advantages? Each publisher I’ve worked with, Carina Press, Totally Bound and Evernight Publishing, are all amazing. I’d have to say that the advantages of working with them are the differences in what and how they publish and

Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? People who know me from high school and university who’ve found my books have said they couldn’t imagine me writing what I do. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? When I’m not writing I can be found gaming, trying out new recipes or out in my garden. One of my favourite places on Earth would have to be Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada. It has everything I love: water, trees, mountains and fresh air. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? Issue 31 | February 2019 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | I’m fascinated by the etymology of words and linguistics in general. I can spend hours looking up words to find out where they came from. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thanks for reading! There’ll be more from me coming soon!

Enjoy an excerpt from Raking the Ashes Raking the Ashes Kait Gamble Contemporary Romance Lies tore them apart… Tamara Roberts only wanted to live her life and write her novels. After living hard and fast in her youth, life now happened almost exclusively on the page for Tamara. Her carefully constructed life is torn apart when her long estranged husband makes an appearance on her doorstep looking too sexy for comfort. Peter Worthington has one request before they part ways for good. That Tamara comes to make peace with his dying father. But the simple request comes with a huge tangle of complications. He never expected devastating revelations to be uncovered or for the chemistry between them to still be explosive. But will the truth bring them back together? Excerpt “Don’t you ever do anything but work?” Tamara Roberts looked up from her screen at her assistant and gave her a mild smile as she pushed a stray lock of dark hair out of her eyes. “The last I checked, yeah. I eat, sleep, breathe, watch the occasional movie.” 46 |

“Very funny.” Angela Parsons, PA par excellence, slumped into the chair on the other side of the table to smile at her boss and friend. Gentle concern was clear on her face. “You’ve got to get out there. Live a little.” “I’ve lived plenty.” Hard, fast, and stupidly when she was younger. Tamara viciously stabbed the keyboard with her fingers as she finished a paragraph. They’d been through this many times before. Angela couldn’t seem to understand that not everyone needed—or wanted—to date wildly inappropriate men and party every weekend. There was nothing wrong with wanting a quiet life. Work was more than fulfilling. Her writing was both a living and an escape. And it gave her a comfortable life. All pluses in her book. “I’m just saying that being cooped up in the house all the time with nothing but your screen and the voices in your head for company can’t be great for you.” “It’s more than enough, Angela.” Tamara picked up one of the many pens on her desk and jotted a note on a pad before she forgot about it. “Besides. I have you.” “You need to find a man like the ones you write about.” She leaned forward, her beautiful red hair bouncing with her movement. “Smart. Sexy. Handsome. Won’t take no for an answer. Worships the ground you walk on. You know, the perfect man.” Ignoring the man that came to mind at that description, Tamara shook her head. “There’s no such thing as a perfect man except on paper.” “Oh, I don’t know about that. The guy I’m seeing this weekend seems promising.” Tamara tapped her pen against her glasses. “You’ve said that about the last four men.” “It’s different this time. Caleb is a winner. I can feel it.” Tamara smiled as encouragingly as she could. Why Angela felt the need to go through the hassle of a relationship, no matter how short, was beyond her. “So…” It took her almost a full three seconds to remember what they had been discussing before she went off on a tangent. Angela nodded. “Of course. I’ll get your blog sorted out. Was there anything else you needed?”

“Milk?” Tamara was already thinking about the hero’s final grovel. Angela didn’t usually need things spelled out for her. “I have a list on the fridge.” “I’m on it.” She stood and stretched sinuously. How can anyone be so innately sexual? Tamara shoved her glasses up her nose. Apparently, some people were just born with it. She, on the other hand, preferred to fly under the radar. Angela made no move to leave, however. “What’s wrong?” “I just thought you might want to talk about what your editor said.” Tamara bit the inside of her cheek. “It’s all good, Angela.” “Really? Because it looks like your head’s about to explode just thinking about it.” Why would she be upset over the fact that her editor said that her latest projects felt a bit ‘samey’? That her heroes lately were all barely redeemable jerks? That she needed to get out of her comfort zone and try something different? Not upsetting at all. Tamara was so okay with it that she had cried for a little bit. What was half an hour spent wallowing? Okay. It was an hour of wine and tears in the bath, but it was all part of a writer’s life, right? She knew she needed to evolve. And that was exactly what she was going to do with this new book. Her PA’s voice cut through the reverie. “If you say so. But you know I’m always here if you want to talk.” Tamara couldn’t help but smile. “Thanks.” Angela was a true friend. One who was currently distracted by something she saw outside. When Angela continued to stand and stare, Tamara had to ask, “What’s up?” She pointed. “If you wanted to get out of your rut and try something new, you should take a run at the guy outside,” Angela said approvingly. “Very hot.” There was someone outside? Tamara couldn’t imagine who would go out of their way to search her out. True, she had some diehard fans, but she wrote under a pseudonym and, thanks to her reclusive nature, people who lived nearby had no idea who she was besides being the quiet writer. That was if they ever

| KAIT GAMBLE | saw her stray farther than the mailbox. She pushed her chair back and strode over to stand next to her friend. The instant she saw the familiar tall, broad-shouldered build clad in a fine dark suit, Tamara’s knees wobbled a little. Even after nearly a decade, she still knew him on sight. She didn’t even have to see his face. And her body reacted with a force only he’d even been able to elicit from her. No. It couldn’t be. As if he could hear her thoughts, he turned his head slightly to peer at the window where they stood. Tamara’s heart stuttered to a stop. What she already knew was confirmed. Dark hair shorter and his face leaner than she remembered, he was still a fine specimen of the male of the species. One look at him always had the ability to knock the breath from her lungs. Peter Worthington. Impossible. What would he be doing there? Her first impulse was to hide. It would have been so easy to get Angela to answer the door and deny her being there, but it was obvious he knew she lived there. Why else would he be there? “Tamara? Are you okay?” Angela’s bright green gaze bounced between her and the man outside. “Who is that?” “No one.” “You’re not reacting like he’s no one.” Alarmed now, she put her hand on Tamara’s shoulder. “You don’t think he’s a stalker or something, do you?” “No.” Tamara watched him take long-legged strides up the boarded path with growing dread. “It’s my husband.”

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


feature author L.D. Blakeley is a pragmatist with a romantic soul & a dirty mind. She loves horror movies, hot sex, and happily ever afters. She’s easily distracted by shiny things, and is a slightly neurotic, highly ambitious dreamer who enjoys dabbling in photography & pretending she can carry a tune. In another life, L.D. was a newspaper reporter, an entertainment & music writer, travel writer, website content editor, and a marketing shill. Now she prefers to spend her time writing sexy, intriguing fiction (with a healthy dose of romance!) Although she dreams of living some place isolated with an endless supply of wine and an infinite number of titles on her eReader, she currently lives in downtown Toronto with her husband and their rock star cat.

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Welcome L.D. Blakeley Uncaged: Your latest release is Shadowy Pines. Can you tell readers more about the book? I like to describe Shadowy Pines as paranormal MM romance meets magical realism. It’s a contemporary romance with a fictional mythos that combines Native Canadian and Norse elements. The town itself doesn’t exist, but it’s based on one of my favourite places (see question #7) –The Kawarthas (feel free to check out my Location Inspiration photo gallery here) in Ontario, Canada. The story is about Finn Parks, a young man pretty much at the end of his tether. He’s had it with his shitty job, his clingy roommate, the dismal dating scene… the whole damn city. So when he’s asked to come to Shadowy Pines to help his cousin with the family-run bookstore, he jumps at the chance to trade the big city for a small town life. Unfortunately for Finn, his move isn’t quite the idyllic life change he was hoping for. Like most small towns, Shadowy Pines holds secrets. Big ones. Magical ones. Deadly ones. Uncaged: OK, curiosity wins, how does a female writer, write about male/male relationships with believability? Do you have sources that you hit up for

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your research? People are people no matter how they identify or who they fall in love with, so it never really occurred to me that writing a gay romance was something I shouldn’t do. I do have friends I run certain things past but that’s true of anything I write that might be outside my realm of expertise. I’m not a man. And we know men behave differently from women, and some gay men behave differently from some straight men. But the reality is love is universal regardless of gender or sexuality. Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about? Believe it or not, I’m working on a Christmas short story right now. I also have two partially written stories in my Laissez Faire universe I hope to have to my publisher by mid-year. Uncaged: You were also a part of the box set Owned by the Alpha, Manlove Edition. How did that come about? Evernight put out the call for submissions just as I’d finished devouring several seasons of HBO’s Shameless. One of the show’s main characters (Mickey Milkovich) jumped into my head and inspired the perfect

character for a story. I banged out my short about a shifter cop and the thug he’s irresistibly drawn to, and submitted Conflict of Interest. Evernight liked it. And that, as they say, was that. :) Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? To be honest, I’ve yet to figure out the perfect approach. But in my relatively limited experience, organic grassroots marketing (blogs, social media, word of mouth, reviews) seems to be what works best. Facebook and Instagram ads? Not so much. Uncaged:What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? I once had a reader tell me they had to stop reading one of my short stories as it was turning them on and they were at work. Do with that what you will, but I took it as a compliment! Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I’m an avid reader, and an amateur photographer. Issue 31 | February 2019 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | I enjoy making jewellery, love to massacre a good pop song at karaoke, and I’m learning to knit. One of my favourite places on Earth is right here in downtown Toronto. It’s got everything you could want in a big city, and it’s a short drive out of town (see question #1) for those occasions when you need to recharge your soul.

How the hell do you cope when you find out magic – actual magic – is real? Or that you also happen to come from a long line of powerful witches? And that handsome man with all the sizzle? Yeah, he might be trying to kill you

Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you?

“You’d be surprised how easily swayed I can be by a handsome face.”

I’ve never broken a bone. Does that count? Oh, I know! I tried haggis when I visited Scotland... and liked it.

Not for nothing, but Finn was fairly certain that was a come on. It had been a while, but he did remember what one sounded like. This one was … nicer, somehow. It still had the promising lilt of innuendo, but it didn’t sound like it had been rehearsed or lifted from bad porn dialogue.

Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?


Do I have fans? If so, then THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I’d be thrilled if you followed me in any of the usual places: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads.

“My aunt says you’re new in town, too. What’re you here for?”

Thanks for reading!

“How vague,” Finn teased.

Enjoy an excerpt from Shadowy Pines Shadowy Pines L.D. Blakeley Paranormal Romance When an over-educated, underemployed millennial is called home to help with the family business, he jumps at the chance to leave his crap job, crappier love life, and the city behind. But moving to Shadowy Pines isn’t quite the idyllic life change Finn Parks imagined.

“Business. Boring family business.”

“Seriously. My father sent me back here to check out a vineyard. He’s interested in adding it to the wine brewing facility we already run, the Sharpe Wine Butler on the outskirts of town. You know it?” “Can’t say I do, but it sounds more interesting than why I moved here.” “Why are you in Shadowy Pines?” “Jude and Poppy needed my help, I had nothing worth holding on to in the city, so—here I am.” Finn shrugged. “Now that’s boring,” he added with what he hoped was a charming smile. “You don’t give yourself enough credit, Finn.” Owen pulled his chair closer and placed his hand on Finn’s knee. “Feel that?” Of course he did. It felt as though a live wire had been

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| L.D. BLAKELEY | placed against his bare skin. “Yes.” Finn cursed the breathy, needy tone his voice had taken on. “What…” He wasn’t sure how to phrase his question so it wouldn’t offend. “What is that? I mean, I get the concept of electrical attraction, but this? This isn’t normal.” When Owen didn’t reply right away, Finn prodded, “Right?” “No, not really.” Owen’s fingers were slowly caressing Finn’s leg and inching their way up his thigh “Not for most people.” Owen leaned forward and took Finn’s face in both hands and brought their lips so close Finn swore he could taste him. Owen’s eyes visibly blazed in a way that barely seemed human. Finn froze, his breath catching in his throat. When Owen finally pressed their lips together, Finn felt another jolt of electricity arc through his entire body and he gasped at the sensation. Owen’s fingers at his nape trailed delicious sparks across Finn’s skin as he licked at the seam of Finn’s mouth. Finn opened eagerly and nipped at Owen’s bottom lip. Never had a kiss made him so crazy with want. He needed to touch, wanted to crawl inside of Owen and feel him from the inside, out. But as Finn reached out a hand, Owen pulled away, his breathing every bit as labored as Finn’s. “We’re different, Finn.” Owen licked at his lips and watched Finn’s eyes follow the tip of his tongue. “You’re different. You know that, right?”

where Owen was going with this, he gestured for him to continue. “I think she saw you for what you are.” “And what exactly is that?” Finn asked, not sure he wanted an answer. “You’re a witch, Finn.” Owen’s face was so serious, so earnest, Finn almost believed him for a split second. Almost. He threw his head back and laughed uproariously. He laughed so hard, he could feel tears well up in his eyes. Well that’s an effective way to kill an erection. But Owen’s expression hadn’t changed an iota. He simply sat and stared at Finn. “Are you—oh, god, you’re serious aren’t you?” Dammit! He knew there was a reason he’d established his dating embargo. He certainly could attract the crazies.

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Finn had no response. None that made any sense. Right now all he wanted was to tear at Owen’s clothes and taste every last inch of the man. But for some reason, Owen had put on the brakes and wanted to discuss—what, exactly? Finn was at a loss. And his dick could have cut glass. “The woman in the grocery store. You mentioned that wasn’t the first time you’d seen her, right?” “Right.” Finn’s voiced faltered slightly. Not sure Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Short story MacDougal Street Myrtle Brooks


MacDougal Street by Myrtle Brooks A self-portrait in oils of a lone ballet dancer in the shadows was near completion, hanging upon an easel in the corner of a fourth-floor furnished room on West 3rd Street which faced the back of a building with a small patch of wildflowers below. Beside the portrait, atop a tattered dusty bureau redone in nautical blue by an erstwhile tenant, a slender vase holding three daisies overlooked a bowl of oranges and two atomizer bottles with lavender and mimosa toilet water. Above the bureau, a tobacco and incense-stained mirror reflected her image and the image of her surroundings in burnt yellow, and that of her cat, Moonlight: black, save one patch of white between his eyes. The mirror was a source of inspiration for her paintings, which she rendered in bronze tones. Moniqua-for this was the name she called herselfhad waited until she was seventeen and left home. Her father, Jonah Kramer, a paralegal in a mediumsized law firm, and her mother, Susan, a tax preparer at H & R Block, expected more from her. They expected lengthy studies at the School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center which could lead to a potential career with George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet. They expected classes in painting and charcoal sketching at the Art Students League on West 57th Street. They hoped their hard-earned money would afford their daughter and her older brother, Eli, a decent college education. Instead, Elsa-who called herself Moniqua-dropped out of high school at sixteen and spent much of her time in Prospect Park with her canvas boards, easel and paints. Now, having freed herself from the shackles of society’s Establishment during the daylight hours, the thought of returning night after night to parents who had nothing to offer but criticism (“You’re not going anywhere in life any time soon”) and to twenty-year-old Eli who reminded her she did not know the meaning of the word “love,” became suffocating. And so, one day in March, she left her family behind in Park Slope, Brooklyn and headed for Greenwich Village, haven for the beaded and barefoot, to capture in oils her reflection in the tarnished glass. 54 |

When Elsa was almost sixteen she had met Roddy in the park, an eighteen-year-old singer-guitarist who performed for donations by the Lafayette Monument. “We share the same vision,” said Roddy. After meeting several times more, Roddy brought Elsa to the cold-water flat in Manhattan’s Bowery district where he squatted with five friends. They sat on the splintering hardwood floor amid brass censers emitting steady drifts of sandalwood. Kindred spirits meditating in a circle, they spoke of the ideals Elsa held dear: love, peace and freedom of expression, while they sipped earthen mugs of ginseng tea and smoked “magic weed.” “First, set your spirit free,” Roddy said while they walked alone in Prospect Park. And Elsa felt her heart tremble when she met his enigmatic, blue-gray eyes. On weekends Elsa and Roddy frolicked in Long Meadow, ducking in private behind the flowering trees. She brought her easel and oils and painted him as he posed in the sunlight with his guitar, wearing the winsome smile of a child. “We could have this, Elsa, just this, the rest of our lives. One continuous love-in.” Roddy said. “It’s Roddy, isn’t it?” Her mother thought she knew all the answers when Elsa told her parents she was leaving school. “Do you really believe this man is going to take care of you?” Her father’s inflammatory rhetoric agitated her. “So, that’s what you think this is about?” Elsa fired back. “A lifetime of inner spiritual peace and serenity means nothing more to you than: ‘It’s Roddy, isn’t it?’ I don’t need anyone to take care of me. We’re supposed to take care of each other.” “Sounds one-sided,” her brother, Eli, hinted at sarcasm. “You giving up everything for him. You paint his picture and prance around him. Do you plan to have his love child next?” “I don’t have to listen to you. All you understand is the same society’s ‘norms’ that are destroying this planet: where war is normal and peace and love are the talk of crazy people.” She stormed out of the living room and into her bedroom and slammed the door behind her. Later, she turned the music loud to drown out the sounds of her mother weeping in the room next door. Her mother’s weeping angered her further; it was another expression of condemnation. She longed many a night to descend the fire escape and flee to Roddy’s flat, to the newfound freedom she so craved. But for now she would awake, mornings, to meet Roddy by the Lafay-

| MYRTLE BROOKS | ette Monument and dance to his music. When Roddy upped and left, his friends back at the cold-water flat did not know his whereabouts. “Not a clue,” they shrugged. “We’re sorry. We really are.” The Lafayette Monument became occupied two days in the week by a group of jamming jazz musicians. Other times it was devoid of sound and dance. Elsa could not replant herself into the now-hardened soil. The stone-faced silence made it apparent; eyes that reverberated through her from across the dinner table, clanging bells tolling the funeral knell for a life gone astray, a harbinger of things to come. To comply, to return to school and face humiliation from teacher and peer alike was a sentence worse than death. And so, Elsa severed the last remaining roots and moved out. She found work as an unpaid dancer on MacDougal Street from 8 PM to 2 AM at a coffeehouse called Café Puissance de Fleur (Flower Power), where she performed with musicians, singers and with Lenny the house pianist. Afterwards, they passed around the basket. Moniqua invented her own techniques, a fusion of ballet, modern, and folk dances such as the Ukranian hopok. The patrons lauded her prowess, and there was money enough from the basket and from paintings she sold now and then for shelter and food for herself and Moonlight. Moonlight, she had found huddled in the doorway of a closed business on Mercer Street upon a snowy day shortly after she moved in. He let her pick him up and carry him home without resistance; whereupon he took his repose against the steam radiator, allowing her time to capture the scene in charcoal. One night on her way to the Puissance de Fleur, Moniqua met Bradley on MacDougal Street. He was age twenty-three and in a hurry to catch the B Train at West 4th Street Station, and unaware that a cufflink had detached and fallen from his sleeve. She chased after him, cufflink in hand. It was an expensive piece, white gold with a row of three diamonds twinkling in miniscule flashes in the neon signs and street lamps. Grateful, Bradley returned earlier the next evening to take her to dinner at the Minetta Tavern. Afterwards he spent time over a rye and ginger at a quiet corner table at the Puissance de Fleur while she performed. Bradley’s returns grew more frequent, and one night Moniqua caught Lenny observing him from a table alongside the opposite wall while on break. It was strictly platonic, her and Lenny. Lenny was in his

mid-forties, a cross between a father and an older brother, and known to address the nightly performers as “You kids.” Once when the club was closing up-it was a week after she started there-Lenny had spent his last few moments tickling the ivories while Moniqua tried a new dance routine nearby. After he lowered the piano lid, he had called her over and taken her by the hand. “I hope you find your dream, kid. When you do, hold on to it.” Moniqua had dreamed much of late: abstract, disjointed images appearing before her like unfinished portraits of strangers she had yet to meet who spoke in muffled tones and languages she did not recognize. The knowing in Lenny’s eyes, seasoned with compassion, evoked mystery more than fear, Lenny being a gentle soul. Nothing changed after that night; what she and Lenny shared in quiet, though ever present, remained tucked beneath the layers of surrealism. Now, watching Lenny’s glance in Bradley’s direction, Monique caught a small smile play about the corners of his mouth. On Bradley’s days off from the Algonquin Hotel where he was a chef, he and Moniqua saw much of each other. While posing for her on the front stoop of her building as she sketched, he related his studies at the New Haven Restaurant Institute. “It was my dream to be a chef since I was a little kid. But there were times I almost quit. Why? Because at least five other students were better at it than I. Flawless. Me, I burned stuff, my souffles fell. But Chef Holloway kept telling me I was being too hard on myself, that my love for it would someday outweigh the mistakes. I don’t know how I could have made it to the Algonquin if it weren’t for him. The power of encouraging words. “I still burn stuff sometimes,” he grinned, and Moniqua caught it on paper before it vanished. “But I start over, and the guests keep coming back for more.” When Moniqua spoke of being a free spirit, she did not expect Bradley to ask if she thought her parents and Eli missed her. “They probably do,” she averted her eyes. “I don’t have a phone or anything. But I use the payphone by the subway.” Several months later when she turned eighteen, and the oil painting of Bradley, his grin and the front stoop was completed, she invited him up to her room to see it. Astonished, he returned to it again and again. “Is this really how you picture me?” he asked, and they kissed as Moonlight looked on from the window sill. Issue 15 | October 2017 | 55

| SHORT STORY | A week after that, Bradley left. It was over his demands for a commitment from her. He wanted marriage; Moniqua was not apt to marry. “Why? It’s just another of society’s dictates.” “Because I love you,” he pleaded. “I love you too. We can love each other without meaningless ceremonies.” Bradley did not accept her terms, and she accused him of being close-minded and repressive; she was glad she found out before things went further. When he left, her first thought was: I never told him my real name is Elsa. She purged the thought from her mind by avoiding her reflection in the mirror. There were days Moniqua laughed in giddy fashion and walked outdoors barefoot in the rain and snow with no overcoat, wearing her nightgown and Madras robe. Other times she wept without knowing why. Her parents came to visit her, and she baked vegetarian lasagna with zucchini and summer squash, and homemade brownies. These, she set on the kitchen table down the hall with cups of hot Constant Comment tea and orange slices. They asked her about her job-did she have enough to live on?-and about her painting. Moniqua brought out the self-portrait, unfinished, and they commented on its unique bronze tones and resemblance. Their voices sounded older and tireder than before; their hair showing more signs of graying; their eyes a mixture of unconditional love, pain and the desire to meet her partway. Moniqua had little desire to shoulder the burden of diplomatic concessions; she needed their concessions less than she did their prior expectations, one following the other. And when they espied her painting of Bradley inside the room and asked about “the man with the grin,” inquiring if their relationship was “personal,” she strained at calm. “He posed for me. That’s all.” “Remarkable how well you captured his expression.” When they left Moniqua had an acrid, salty aftertaste in her mouth, and she prepared more Constant Comment and took it to her room alone. After two weeks of rejections, a small Soho gallery whose specialty was oil portraits accepted her painting of Bradley on commission. Moniqua came home afterward and filled the space it had occupied with her self-portrait, yet unfinished. Money had grown scarcer. The rent was due soon. But were the painting sold, it might even allow for a night on the town. The next Monday night the Puissance de Fleur was 56 |

at capacity during both sets, and the performers continued past closing. “C’mon, I’ll walk you to the corner,” Lenny offered Moniqua. “That’s sweet of you, Lenny.” she accepted. “Sometimes I think your main job is being an angel over everyone’s shoulders.” “Yeah. I am. Because of it I’ve put down roots in that place. Kinda like being married to the floorboards. “Go straight upstairs, now, and to bed,” he voiced his good night when they reached West 3rd. And he waited at the corner until she crossed at the next intersection and proceeded up the stoop. That night, the dream images appeared in recognizable form one-by-one, each taking the hand of the preceding person until there was a crowd holding hands. Her father was among them, her mother, Eli, Bradley and a few close childhood friends. They called with words unintelligible, their pleas intense, starving for a response. “But I don’t know what you’re saying,” Moniqua shook her head. “I can’t understand you.” And she cried, as hand let go of hand and one image faded after the other. Then she heard piano music behind her, and found herself onstage at the Puissance de Fleur beside Lenny, who played Gershwin’s: I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise. “You must be searching for something,” he turned to her. “Yeah,” she replied in a small voice as the tears spilled over. “I think,” Lenny continued, “There are changes you have to decide to make, and what you’re searching for will come back to you.” A driving force had compelled Moniqua to frequent the art gallery, as if duty had summoned her to its court. The morning after her dream she found the painting gone. The owner told her an anonymous fellow whom no one had seen before paid in cash. And he counted out sixty percent of the proceeds, a tidy sum, enough for weeks of rent and food, and for a couple nights off from the Puissance de Fleur: nights she spent lying face-down sobbing, while Moonlight leaned against her and purred. Upon her return to the café Thursday, after the last set, Lenny looked up from the piano. “Do you want to talk about it? The kids talk to me all the time.” “You’re a good friend, Lenny. But I’ll… be okay.” “You’re not hungry, are you?” She shook her head. “Thanks.” “You must be,” he repeated, and she stared at him in silence. “You know, sometimes when people say

and do things you don’t understand, they could be expressing peace and love in their own way. I know you’ll figure it out.” Two days later, Moniqua bought a cat carrier from a nearby pet store and packed a few articles of clothing and jewelry into a suitcase. “Moonlight, I’ve got to make a fresh start. Maybe when I better myself I won’t… do to the next person what I’ve done here. Maybe I’ll have dreams where I understand the language… instead of making everybody in my life disappear…” She rehearsed in her mind what to say to the club’s owner: Thank you, Gary, you’ve been terrific. Starting next week, I’m moving away… Yeah, it was kinda sudden… What will I say to Lenny? He knows everything, anyway; if there’s a God, He must show Lenny a lot of stuff about people. I can‘t tell him it‘s because of what he said, the changes I have to make… I hope I don’t start crying again. Just a Thank you… simple handshake… When she caught sight of the Puissance de Fleur, she forced herself to open the door. “You’re early tonight,” the bartender, Billy, fixed her a vodka and lime. “Lenny too,” he added, and she trembled. “He said he was coming in to put something on the wall.” Moniqua started to confide in Billy that she was leaving, then choked on her words. “Did… Gary come in yet?” “He’ll be in, in another twenty minutes.” She finished the drink, tipped Billy and edged towards the stage in the back. When she was partway, a gallery light came on at the upper part of the wall to her right above a painting newly hung, and Moniqua became dizzy on beholding it. Lenny stood beside the painting, and her mouth flew agape as her eyes took in his. “I was saving it for you,” he said. “You know, kid, you don’t have to go. That’s not what it means.” The next Monday, Café Puissance de Fleur held a poetry reading at the beginning of the second set, where writers and actors read their works and those of the celebrated masters before them. When Moniqua took the microphone, a male voice from among the patrons called out: “Aren’t you the same person who dances ballet?” “Yes.” She kept her eyes straightforward as the tears made involuntary tracks along her cheeks. “I am Moniqua. Moniqua is my stage name, and the name I use to sign my paintings… Tonight, I am… Elsa Kramer from Brooklyn, who will read a few lines from

| MYRTLE BROOKS | Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the… gentle rain from heaven. It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. It becomes the thronèd… monarch better than his crown. His scepter shows the force of temporal power, Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings, But mercy… but mercy is above this sceptered sway. It is an attribute to God himself. We… we do pray for mercy, And that same prayer doth teach us… all to render The deeds of… mercy.” She stepped away from the mike to a hushed audience; after which they broke into applause. “Good job,” Lenny murmured as she passed him on her way to her seat. The “Man With a Grin” became a permanent fixture on the wall of the Puissance de Fleur. It drew many an eye and evoked many an inquiry as to the man’s identity. Bradley had kept his chef’s position at the Algonquin. Determined to perfect the art of the souffle and of every creation he undertook without fail, he poured heart and mind into the task. He received several awards which he hung on his living room wall next to a glowing review from The New York Times. Some nights, he would fall asleep in the easy chair opposite the wall, to awake a few hours later consumed with emptiness. A friend, Connor, came to stay a few nights at the Algonquin. He had traveled from Boston to attend a four-day business convention. On his last night, as he enjoyed a full-course dinner, he called Bradley to the table. “Look, this may come as a shock. But I saw your picture last night when two colleagues and I went out for drinks. “I knew it was you right away: that quirky smile of yours the artist captured so well. It was an oil painting hanging up on a wall in Greenwich Village. A coffeehouse on MacDougal Street.”

The End © Copyright 2018 Myrtle Brooks Published with permission.

Issue 15 | October 2017 |


feature authors

Diana Bold

historical regency

Elizabeth Rue

feature author All my life, I’ve wanted to a writer. Even as a child, my sister claims all I ever did was sit in my closet and scribble in a notebook. Now, I concede the scribbling part, but not the closet part! Why would I need to sit in my closet when I had a perfectly good desk? In any event, I won my first writing contest when I was seven, and I was hooked! I married young, and soon had three wonderful little boys running around the house, so writing took a backseat for several years as I worked a variety of jobs that I hated. Once I started seriously pursuing a writing career, I found it was not as easy as I had expected, and I was not the prodigy I had imagined. But I joined a writer’s group, and made a ton of writing friends along the way who showed me the error of my ways and unselfishly helped me get a little better. By the time I sold my first book in 2006, I’d already been at this for over ten years and was about ready to give up. Rejection is hard!!! But holding that first book in my hands made it all worth it! Now my sons are all grown up, and two of them have babies of their own, so I now have all the time in the world to devote to telling the stories that just won’t let me sleep. Hope you enjoy them!

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Please welcome Diana Bold Uncaged: You are part of a boxed set releasing on Valentine’s Day, Five Heroes of the Heart. Can you tell us more about this set and your story within the set? I have partnered up with four amazing authors – Lana Williams, Sydney Baily, Catherine Kean, and Laurel O’Donnell - to bring you five great heroes for Valentine’s Day. My contribution is the first book of my BRIDES OF SCANDAL series, GAMBLING ON THE DUKE’S DAUGHTER. Uncaged: You also have a series, Brides of Scandal – and the latest released last November, can you tell us more about that series? How many books are planned for it? There are three books in the series, GAMBLING ON THE DUKE’S DAUGHER, MARRYING THE AMERICAN HEIRESS, and FINDING THE BLACK ORCHID. They are all Victorian historical romance with a dark edge. Uncaged: What inspires you to write in the historical genre? I fell in love with GONE WITH THE WIND when I was ten years old and must have read it a dozen times as a teenager. However, it wasn’t until I read a historical romance by Brenda Joyce when I was in my early twenties that I really knew there was a whole genre of romantic stories set in the past. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Uncaged: How much time do you spend researching for a novel?

ancient trees that the loggers somehow didn’t get, and it feels like a cathedral to me. So peaceful.

It varies depending on the story, but I’d say at least a month before I start, and then I fall down various rabbit holes along the way, trying to get specific details exactly right.

Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you?

Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? I’ve had a lot of luck with ads from ENT. I find FB ads the least effective, but that’s probably because I’m doing them wrong. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? One reviewer compared my writing to Laura Kinsale’s, which made me tear up, because she is my all-time favorite author.

I won my first writing contest when I was seven years old. I wrote a story called “The Cinnamon Bear” and I won $150. That was a ton of money in the ‘70s. I bought a bike. And I didn’t make that much money with my writing again until 2006. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I am incredibly grateful for everyone who has helped me along the way, bought my books, and offered words of advice and encouragement. I love to hear from readers, and they can follow me on Facebook, Bookbub, and Instagram.

Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? I love to go on long walks with my boyfriend, fixing up the new house we just bought, working on my family tree, and spending time with my grandchildren.

Uncaged: Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? Near my aunt’s house in Idaho, there is a stand of Issue 31 | February 2019 |



Enjoy an excerpt from Gambling on the Duke’s Daughter Gambling on the Duke’s Daughter Diana Bold Historical Regency Captain Dylan Blake has spent the last decade fighting for his country. Desperate for a little peace, he sells his commission and returns to England but soon finds himself angry and adrift in London Society. When an old nemesis challenges him to a wager -- he must get Lady Natalia Sinclair to dance with him twice in one evening -- he is willing to play along. The daughter of a duke, Lady Natalia Sinclair fears her enormous dowry is the only thing that draws her many suitors. But heroic Captain Blake seems different. Unfortunately, she soon realizes his smile is false, his interest superficial. Dylan sees Natalia’s rejection as a challenge, and the stakes increase when he discovers his elder brother Michael is wooing the duke’s daughter as well. Passed over for Michael too many times, he’s determined to prove he can be first in somebody’s heart. As the lines between the wager and attraction blur, can Dylan and Natalia find the courage to take the biggest gamble of all -- love? Excerpt London, 1867 The Earl of Warren’s London townhouse stood in fashionable Grosvenor Square. The Palladian 62 |

monstrosity with its imposing white columns had been in the Blake family for generations. On this particular May evening, every window blazed with light, even though dawn would break in a matter of hours. Dylan Blake, the earl’s youngest son, paid the driver of the hired hack that had brought him and alighted from the vehicle with a jaunty step. His black velvet cloak whipped in the chill spring breeze, and the solid weight of his dress sword bumped against his thigh. He strode toward the red brick mansion, which had never felt like a home, with rebellion in his heart. Half a dozen footmen in deep blue livery waited on the front steps, their faces impassive as they shivered in the cold. One of the young men bowed deeply and hurried to open the door, letting the festive sounds of laughter and music drift out into the night. Dylan grinned at the lad as he crossed the threshold. The midnight supper had ended but plenty of guests remained for the dancing. His timing couldn’t have been better. The butler, Wadsworth, lifted a disapproving brow as Dylan entered, but the old man was too well-trained to chide his employee’s son for his late arrival. “Shall I announce you, sir?” Dylan nodded, his blood pounding with the thrill of having thwarted one of his father’s plans. Childish, he knew, to continually provoke the man, but sometimes he just couldn’t help himself. Surrendering his cloak to one of the footmen, Dylan followed the aging butler up the grand staircase with its intricately carved banisters, then down the long hall that led to the ballroom. He was dressed for effect tonight in his scarlet military regalia, his medals and gold epaulets flashing in the candlelight. They passed several aristocratic guests along the way, but Dylan ignored their stares and whispers. The heady scents of beeswax and roses assaulted his senses as he entered the ballroom. The laughter and buzz of conversation indicated the earl’s privileged guests were having a good time. Dylan scanned the crowd, his smile widening. He hadn’t been to one of these affairs in more than a decade, but nothing had changed. Society girls in elaborate gowns still whirled around the parquet dance floor on the arms of suitable young gentlemen. Titled ma-

| DIANA BOLD | trons still schemed and plotted from the corners as the older men congregated in small groups, looking bored. When the last notes of the current waltz faded away, Wadsworth cleared his throat. “The Honorable Captain Dylan Blake.” For a moment, utter silence reigned. Scores of interested nobles craned their necks for a glimpse of the earl’s prodigal son, home at last after twelve long years of dedicated service to the Crown. Dylan met his father’s furious gaze. He smiled, then turned his back and skirted the gleaming dance floor. Let the old bastard come to me. His days of seeking the old man’s favor were long past. After an awkward pause, the music started up again, as did the whispers. Julian Tremaine, Lord Basingstoke, who was Dylan’s only friend in this whole crowd, strode toward him. Dressed in austere black, as usual, the earl’s eyes glinted with welcome. “Blake! Where the hell have you been?” Dylan shrugged, amused by the knowledge that everyone else wanted to know the same thing. “I had a prior engagement.” Basingstoke stared at him for a moment, then chuckled in admiration. “You were with Cassandra, weren’t you?” He shook his head in astonishment. “Has there ever been a woman you couldn’t get, once you set your mind to it?” “Never.” Dylan grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waiter and took a long, appreciative drink. “It’s the uniform. Besides, I’m making up for lost time. I was in the Army for a bloody long time, you know.” Basingstoke laughed, then sobered and nodded in Warren’s direction. “Well, I hope she was worth it. Your father was furious when you didn’t show up for dinner. Threw off the whole thing. Uneven number, and all that.” Exactly one hundred of London’s most elite and fashionable attended Warren’s annual ball. Because of its exclusivity, the ton considered an invitation to be the height of social accomplishment. The earl had debated long and hard about allowing his younger son to attend. By selling out early in his career, Dylan had taken the place of some far more deserving social climber. The earl had lectured Dylan

endlessly about the importance of the occasion and threatened vague, dire consequences should Dylan do anything beyond the pale. For these reasons and a thousand more, Dylan had taken a sinful amount of pleasure in the fact that his late arrival had turned his father’s One Hundred Ball into a dinner of ninety-nine. There would be hell to pay for this latest transgression, but Dylan was enjoying the moment anyway. “My father has been furious with me since the day I was born,” he told Basingstoke with a shrug. “I figured I might as well give him a reason.” Out of the corner of his eye, Dylan saw his older brother, Michael, confer with the earl, then move through the crowd in Dylan’s direction. As blond and golden as Adonis, Michael had always been the earl’s pride and joy. Viscount Sherbourne from birth, Michael would one day inherit the earldom and all the wealth and privilege that went with it. In return, Michael kept his reputation above reproach and obeyed their father’s every command. No doubt he was obeying one of those commands now. “Let’s go down to the billiard room.” Dylan refused to stick around and be chastened in such a civilized manner. He’d much prefer it if his father made a scene and took him to task for his irresponsible behavior once and for all. But that would never happen. The earl didn’t care enough about his second son to expend such emotion. *** “He’s a disgrace! Honestly, can you believe the nerve! Making a scene and ruining a perfectly lovely ball!” Lady Amelia Lansdowne fluttered her filigreed fan with unusual vigor, an unbecoming flush on her pale cheeks. “I wouldn’t call this a scene, Amelia. He merely arrived a little late. I’m sure he had a good reason.” Lady Natalia Sinclair sighed with impatience over her companion’s melodrama, but her Issue 31 | February 2019 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | own fan fluttered a bit faster as she watched Captain Blake chat with Lord Basingstoke. Captain Dylan Blake, recipient of the Victoria’s Cross. Natalia knew all about him. She’d read dozens of newspaper articles touting his courage, but she’d never actually met him. “He’s dreadfully good-looking,” she mused, as she cast a subtle glance in the captain’s direction. In his scarlet dress uniform, with his confident military bearing and chest full of medals, he stood out in the crowd of somber, black-garbed lords. His thick black hair, caught at his nape with a piece of scarlet ribbon, contrasted sharply with his light blue eyes. His high, chiseled cheekbones, square jaw, and clear, sun-kissed skin stole her breath. Amelia gave a delicate shudder. “How can you say such a thing? He hasn’t a title nor farthing to his name. He’s been in the military for years, serving with the very dregs of society, and probably doesn’t know the first thing about how to act around civilized people.” “Surely, the fact that he fought to preserve our way of life gives him the right to a few eccentricities. He’s a hero, Amelia.” Natalia didn’t bother to point out that a man’s wealth had nothing to do with how attractive he was. It wouldn’t do any good. In Amelia’s eyes, money and power did determine a man’s worth. Unfortunately, Natalia’s father shared Amelia’s opinions, and he would choose her future husband. Amelia turned up her nose with a condescending sniff. “Well, hero or not, you wouldn’t catch me marrying such a man.” “No.” Natalia fought to maintain a civil tone. “I don’t suppose so.” Not that a hero like Captain Blake would want to marry a little cat like you anyway. To her relief, Amelia soon drifted away, obviously in search of someone more inclined to share her narrow-minded opinions. Natalia found herself alone for a few moments, free to daydream about Captain Blake. 64 |

She wanted to meet him, even though her father would never permit a man like Captain Blake to court her. It seemed so unfair. What good were wealth and a title, when so many of those who had them lacked even a hint of character? Captain Blake had risked his life to save his men. He’d dashed back into the fray three times before he’d been wounded. The mere thought of his courageous actions sent a shiver down her spine. Unfortunately, Captain Blake and Lord Basingstoke left the ballroom before she could work up the audacity to arrange an introduction. Disappointed, Natalia forced a smile as the next young man on her dance card claimed her for a mazurka. Lord Roger Densby was the son of a duke. While undoubtedly her social equal, he was at least two stones overweight and stank of sweat and brandy. He managed to step on her toes twice before he even got her out on the dance floor and didn’t have a heroic bone in his entire well-fed body. Densby, or someone like him, was her fate. Still, her entire soul rebelled at the thought of spending her life with a man who wasn’t interested in anything but the next hunt or glittering party. What she really wanted was someone like Captain Blake—a man with poetry in his face and courage in his heart.

feature author Elizabeth Rue writes historical romance set in Regency England. Her award-winning debut, Undone by the Earl, released in June 2018. Previously, Elizabeth worked as a technical editor for the U.S. Department of Defense and more recently, as a developmental editor specializing in romance and science fiction. She lives in Massachusetts with her high school sweetheart husband, two children, and two cats.

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Uncaged welcomes Elizabeth Rue Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your debut novel, Undone by the Earl? Undone by the Earl tells the story of Anna Colbrook, a spinster hiding her true reasons for not marrying, and Adrian Sinclair, the nobleman who has inherited her home and intends to quickly marry her off. Of course, nothing goes according to plan. Uncaged: What inspired you to write historical romances? Historical readers can be very good at spotting errors in historicals, how much time do you spend researching? I’ve always especially loved fiction set in other times and places, whether it’s historical, fantasy, or science fiction. My favorite stories even as a child usually had a central romance, and my love of reading romances inspired me to write my own.

I’m not sure how much time I spend on research because I research as I write, checking as many details as possible for accuracy. After completing a manuscript, I make an additional research pass to hopefully catch anything I missed. Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about? Currently, I’m working on revisions for my next book, which tells the story of Cecelia Sinclair, the sister of the

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hero in Undone by the Earl. I plan to release it later this year. Uncaged: What are some of the advantages of joining your newsletter? You can sign up for my newsletter by visiting If you do, you’ll be kept up to date about new releases, special events, and also automatically be entered to win an Amazon gift card. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? As a debut author, I am still fairly new to marketing. So far, the best marketing has been kindle countdown promotions. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? No one has said anything too unusual yet, but I will share one of my favorite comments so far. One reader said she wasn’t a big fan of historical romance before she read Undone by the Earl, but now she was.

hiking, and scuba diving. Despite the cold water and often limited visibility, one of my favorite places in the world to go diving is Cape Ann in my home state of Massachusetts. The area has so much wonderful marine life, and I love the peacefulness and beauty underwater. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I had a very unique first job after graduating college: wilderness nanny. My older sister is a scientist who often works in remote areas. For about a year, I traveled with her to some beautiful and unusual places, and I took care of my baby niece so they could stay together. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I am so grateful to all my readers and I love to hear from them! They can reach me through my website, or follow me on my Facebook author page or twitter.

Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? Since my two children are still at home, I spend a lot of time taking care of my family. I also enjoy camping, Issue 31 | February 2019 |



Enjoy an excerpt from Undone by the Earl Undone by the Earl Elizabeth Rue Historical Regency

He didn’t want a wife… But he needed one. Former hellion Adrian Sinclair is ready to prove he’s a changed man. He vows to fulfill his duties as the new Earl of Wareton, which includes choosing a wealthy, suitable wife. When he takes charge of his cousin’s home, his first priority is marrying off his cousin’s troublesome stepsister. However, the more time he spends with the unconventional beauty, the harder it is to deny his attraction to her. While she’s anything but suitable, she’s everything he wants. She didn’t want to be alone… But she had no choice. Anna Colbrook would rather everyone think she’s content to be a spinster than have them know the truth. Unfortunately, Adrian seems determined to uncover the real reason she remains unmarried and his powers of persuasion— namely his kisses in the moonlight—awaken Anna’s long-denied dreams of love. But when a scandalous deception is revealed, she begins to doubt Adrian’s honor. Worse, the secret puts Anna in grave danger, one even Adrian might not be able to save her from.

her stockinged toes peeked out from beneath the hem of her gown. As he approached, she briefly lifted her head from her book.

“Where are the other ladies?” he asked.

“Still dressing, I imagine.” She didn’t glance up again. “They may be quite a while. Madeline is always late for outings.” She had already changed into her evening clothes: a plain, dark blue gown and only the barest jewelry–tiny gold ear bobs and a thin necklace that fell almost to her waist. Still, she looked far more ravishing than most women did in much finer clothes. “What are you reading now?” He stepped close and bent to scan the cover of her book.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Prudent Investment.

“Investment?” Good Lord. Next she’d be reading about fencing or how to tie a cravat. She glanced up only to frown at him. “It’s fascinating.” “I’m sure,” he said. “Do you mind if I sit?” He didn’t wait for a reply but dropped onto the cushions at the other end of the window seat. He leaned back, facing her, his knees a few feet from hers. She shifted the book so it blocked him from view. “I need to speak with you,” he said. He began tracing the edge of the windowpane with one finger.


“About what?” she asked from behind the book.

An hour before the carriage was due to leave for the ball, Adrian strolled into the sitting room and found Miss Colbrook alone, reading in the far window seat. She reclined against a pile of white velvet cushions, her legs tucked under her. Her blue and silver shoes rested on the floor beside her, and

“Marriage.” He watched the volume slide from her fingers and land beside her shoes with a soft thud. She quickly bent over to retrieve it. Despite the conservative cut of her gown, he was afforded a brief, tantalizing view of her breasts. His body reacted instantly, far

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too strongly for a mere glimpse of cleavage, however voluptuous. This was what happened when a man behaved like a monk for too long.

| ELIZABETH RUE | “Did you refuse Mr. Harley?” he asked bluntly. He assumed she would respond as curtly and evasively as before, but she surprised him.

She frowned. “Marriage?”

“No,” she said softly, meeting his gaze. “The old earl refused him.”

“But you did not?”

“Yes. I am offering my assistance.”

“Thank you, but I am in no need of help.” She opened her book and reclined against the cushions again, pretending to read. A lock of hair fell in front of her eyes. He resisted the impulse to lean forward and tuck it behind her ear. What on earth was wrong with him, to be thinking such things? “It is true, then,” he said, “that you have no desire to marry?” She snapped the book shut and dropped it in her lap. “I shall not be pressured into a match.” She tucked her hair back into place and shifted, sitting up straighter. Oddly, her necklace was suddenly shorter, falling only to the top of her bodice. “Then you might marry someday?” He restrained himself from asking about the suitor Madeline had mentioned. Miss Colbrook had already denied his existence. If she did have a serious admirer, the gentleman would almost certainly make himself known soon, perhaps even tonight.

“I might,” she said. “Or I might not.”

“But you refused the offer six years ago from Mr. Harley?” “Is that not common knowledge?” She glanced out the window. He frowned. She wasn’t actually answering the question. He recalled the anxiety in her eyes when his aunt had raised the subject on his first night at Wareton. Was she hiding something?

She slowly shook her head. Interesting. Perhaps he’d discovered the real reason she remained a spinster. His aunt and apparently everyone else believed that she’d refused Mr. Harley, but this changed everything. Perhaps it wasn’t fear of repeating her mother’s unhappy marriages that made her reluctant to wed. Was it possible she was still so heartbroken that she simply wasn’t interested in other suitors? He felt a stab of annoyance that Mr. Harley might have captured her affections so deeply. She glanced at him, then down at her hands. “Why did the old earl refuse him?” he asked. “He was a miserable old man,” she said. She shifted and tugged at her necklace. “That was reason enough.” He wouldn’t argue that fact, but she was still being evasive. There was something more, something she didn’t wish to tell him. “Miserable as sin,” he said, “but—” “I am caught on something.” She reached awkwardly behind her back, trying to free the chain, but it wouldn’t budge. “May I assist you?” he asked. “No, I believe I can get it.” She struggled for a moment longer. “It is caught on the cushion.” Issue 31 | February 2019 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | “Let me help. You risk breaking it.” She looked at him gravely. “Very well.” He stood and moved beside her, trying to ignore the disturbing effect she had on him. As usual, she smelled good, like fresh cut roses and linen. He fought the desire to lean closer. “A link is tangled in the pillow cover,” he said. She clasped her hands in her lap as he bent behind her. “Lean back,” he said. She did, briefly brushing her back against his arm. She stiffened. He wondered how she would react if she knew the alarming thoughts running through his mind. No doubt she would be appalled. Perhaps amused, but more likely horrified. He couldn’t forget the disappointment in her eyes after her awkward discovery of the account entries. And Mr. Harley, from what little Adrian recalled of the gentleman, was as straight-laced as they came, suggesting her taste in men leaned toward the puritanical. She wasn’t likely the type of woman who would find a gentleman with his past at all acceptable, no matter how reformed. He carefully pulled the white threads out from around the chain. “There. The cushion cover needs mending, but your necklace is undamaged.” “Thank you,” she said. As he returned the freed chain to her neck, his fingers touched just below her chignon, brushing the soft, fine hair too short to pin up. She jerked away. “Forgive me,” he said. “I did not mean to startle you.” He straightened, feeling a stab of anger. Was she so repulsed by him that one touch made her draw back so? Still holding the necklace against her chest, she glanced up at him. In that instant he saw something in her eyes he never expected to see. It wasn’t re70 |

vulsion. It was quite the opposite. She quickly looked away and a bright flush of red coursed up her neck and onto her cheeks. In all the times he’d encountered her, she’d never once blushed, even under the most obnoxious and improper comments. She’d always been cool and imperturbable. “You are blushing,” he said softly. She turned and faced the window. In the glass he could see the faint reflection of her eyes, wide and nervous. He had the sudden urge to touch her again, to stroke the soft hair that fell from her chignon and touch the smooth column of her neck. He wanted to turn her to face him, to caress her flushed cheeks, and to see if her mouth tasted as soft and sweet as it looked. He should step away. He was too near. “Miss Colbrook,” he said. He stepped even closer. Slowly, she turned her head and met his gaze. Her lips were parted, and she seemed about to say something. He wanted to hear nothing she could say. More than anything at that moment, he wanted to kiss her.

fang-FREAKIN-tastic reviews

feature author


A.H. Gilbert

A.H. Gilbert grew up in Oneonta, NY, a railroadturned-college town, nestled in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. The fourth and youngest child in her family, Amy spent much of her free time barefoot and uncombed, at least when the season allowed it. With acres of hardwood forests, rocky outcrops and golden hay fields as playgrounds, she learned to appreciate nature and its amazing mysteries. She graduated from Binghamton University in 1985 with an English degree that emphasized creative writing. She won the university’s prize for undergraduate literature with a short story that year. After graduating, she worked for a few years as a reporter at a small town newspaper and won a New York State Associated Press Award in 1992. From then on, she worked mainly in the corporate world, sometimes in positions that gave her an opportunity to write. She eventually earned a graduate degree in communications from Western New England Uni72 |

versity, 2016. When not writing, she walks in the woods and fields, rides horses, tends to sheep and sometimes slips away for some golf with her husband. She can use all manner of tools and farm equipment, and is reckless on a tractor. She published The Crandall Haunting in 2016 and will release its sequel in 2018. Tell us about your latest book, For Sissy: It’s a fast-paced, suspense novel. In it, Emerson Crandall is forced to stand trial for the crimes committed by his father in my previous book, The Crandall Haunting. But, an even bigger problem immediately begins to follow Emerson: A serial killer realizes that Emerson’s 7-year-old daughter is the only living witness to his crimes, and he needs to eliminate the risk. Add to it the fact that the police are suspicious about Emerson’s possible involvement in a string of murders, and his

troubles are multiplying. Then there are the two love interests that find their ways into his heart, so he has a lot going on. What is your genre? When I started reading Ken Follett, I knew that I wanted to write books like his: Compelling plots that drive the reader forward. I haven’t settled into one genre, but whatever the label, I want them to be hard to put down. For my first book, The Crandall Haunting, I had a ghost story inside me that just needed telling. That doesn’t mean I want to write ghost stories forever, but I definitely wanted to write that one. For my second book, For Sissy, I felt like tackling the challenge of placing myself inside the mind of a serial killer. For the record, I don’t want to BE a serial killer, but I wanted to learn enough about the mental misfirings of aberrant, narcissistic sociopaths to be able to bring one to life – fictionally! In For Sissy, I also rolled forward with several subplots that place my protagonist, Emerson, in sometimes difficult (he’s on trial for crimes his dead father committed), sometimes rewarding (love is in the air?) positions. I understand that readers have expectations, and my switching genres could be disorienting for them. But… I’m switching again with my next three books. They’ll be mysteries, suspenseful and gritty. What do you have in the works? I’m working on a three-book mystery series, set in the current time. Books one and two will be complete mysteries in themselves, but will also have an overarching mystery that will be solved in book three. At this point, developing and slipping clues into the plot feels a bit like creating a crossword puzzle. These books will introduce a completely new set of characters, including a female protagonist (think amateur sleuth), a couple of her friends and a bad-ass, bitter ex-cop. It is set in a rural New York State farming village and includes an underground network that protects abused women and children who are on the run. Will we see protagonist Emerson Crandall again in the future?

| A.H. GILBERT | I always planned to give Emerson three books, so there is a very good chance he will have another go. I have the plot for his third book already rattling in my head, and it will bring us a changed Emerson, as his challenging and sometimes horrific experiences from his first two books have morphed my handsome entomologist’s worldview and goals. Regarding your writing process, what did you edit out of The Crandall Haunting? How about For Sissy? In The Crandall Haunting I had an elaborate subplot that involved the character Maddie and her attempt to get out of Peru in time to help her aunt. It made my first editor grumpy (made the book too long), and so I listened to him and cut it. The first draft of For Sissy was actually another paranormal suspense, but this time my first editor said the ghosts were not necessary and were actually detracting from the protagonist’s strength. I decided she was right and did a wholesale rewrite – several times! What was the first book that scared you? Oh, no doubt – it was Dr. Seuss’ story “What Was I Scared of?” which I have always thought of as “The Pale Green Pants with Nobody Inside Them.” It’s included in one of his greatest books, The Sneetches and Other Stories. Not only is the story concept chilling, but the drawings are absolutely terrifying. Even though the story has a happy ending, those pale green pants still look scary to me, even today. In fact, if someone tried to leave a copy in my bedroom, I’d have to move it to the guest bathroom for the night. As an adult, I set out to see if I could be scared by Stephen King’s The Shining. And I was! What other children’s books influenced you? The Phantom Tollbooth, which is one of the most creative and ingenious books on the planet that should be read to every child, and Harriet The Spy, which absolutely influenced my decision to become Issue 31 | February 2019 |


| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | a writer (if not a spy, alas). years, so creating the character of Angela was easy. I could definitely remember the stress of waitressing durWhat books have you liked recently? ing a desert rush and being sticky with ice cream up to my elbows. To tell you the truth, while I do have nightI listen to so many audiobooks I can’t keep them mares about serial killers, I have even more about being all straight, mostly mysteries and suspense, with a waitress. some literary fiction. Recent standouts were The Dry, by Jane Harper, The Good House by Ann You dream about serial killers? Leary and Right Behind You, by Lisa Gardner. In mysteries, I lean toward grizzly and away from Yes, it’s not uncommon for me. I did especially while cozy. In my early adulthood I really loved Ken I was focused on writing Martin. I read a lot about real Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, but it was writlife serial killers and their personality disorders, then ten in a different era, so some of the cultural norms wrote from Martin’s perspective. During those times, I of that time might not match today’s ideals. Still, a actually dreamt that I was the killer. Try telling that to great book. your spouse in the morning and watch the reaction. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find? Yes. In The Crandall Haunting, my protagonist’s memory of getting in trouble for accidentally stomping to death some newly planted pansies was a true story that happened to my sister. In For Sissy, I slipped in my favorite Colorado-based couple and their dog, but I doubt they would recognize themselves. They might recognize the dog, though. Have you had any real-life experiences that influenced your books? Well, the germ of an idea that became The Crandall Haunting came from a former co-worker who told me about his haunted house. There were unexplained noises, a chair rocking by itself, that kind of thing. Turns out the elderly lady who owned it before him couldn’t afford the heat and she froze to death in the basement. That story was so sad, and the ghost aspect so interesting, that it stuck with me for years before I wrote the book. I myself lived in a haunted house in which several bizarre things occurred. Next time we have a campfire, I’ll tell you about it. Now, in terms of For Sissy, I, fortunately, have never encountered a serial killer that I know of. And I hope it stays that way. My serial killer, Martin, targets waitresses, and I was a waitress for several 74 |

Enjoy an excerpt from For Sissy For Sissy A.H. Gilbert Crime/Serial Killer A man targeted as a prime suspect fights for his freedom ... as the real killer stalks his next victim. Violence has come to Creeley County, Colorado. Its residents are shaken, especially night shift waitresses. Here to defend himself for crimes committed by his father, Emerson Crandall is implicated in the string of grisly murders. As a serial killer emerges with an insatiable compulsion, Emerson becomes the prime suspect. But Emerson doesn’t know is his daughter is the only surviving witness to the killer’s crime. And now, she is in the killer’s crosshairs.

| A.H. GILBERT | With more to lose than his freedom, Emerson must outsmart the police and catch a killer. But with the killer stalking his next victim, is he already too late? Excerpt ~1~ Martin paused in his work. Why did that little girl look familiar? His hands were wet and sticky as he fumbled for his cigarettes in the dim room, which was illuminated only by the television and a single-bulb lamp in the corner. He lit one and sat back, squinting through the smoke at the TV. The local news was sharing a clip from its national affiliate about a trial, soon to start, in a county just outside of Denver. Martin didn’t care about the trial – something about a hotel that had collapsed – but that girl caught his attention. He knew her face. Martin shuffled his feet, making room on the cluttered floor, the black plastic rustling under his sneakers. The shoes, once white, were now stained. He would throw them out shortly and get a new pair. He leaned against the stiff wooden chair, found the TV remote, stopped the news, and hit “Reverse.” There she was. He hit “Play.” A tall, dark-haired man—presumably the girl’s father—stared at the camera as he walked with her holding her hand as they attempted to hurry down the sidewalk, looking startled by the aggressive approach of the reporters with cameras. The shot lingered briefly on the child before going back to the man, who, the screen caption said, was the hotel’s owner. Martin reversed the feed again and paused it on the best shot of the little girl. A slow smile spread over his scarred face, which was pocked from the cystic acne that had tormented him until a few years ago. Yes, it was the same girl. Martin’s dark brown eyes narrowed with focus as the realization settled in. He reversed the news story again and watched it with interest now, taking in all the details, such as when the trial was expected to start, and more importantly, the street and surroundings where the little girl was walking with her father.

The caption under the man’s name said “Emerson Crandall.” The little girl wasn’t named, but he knew who she was. She was the one person who could identify him. He finished the cigarette as he thought about what he needed to do next, then stubbed it out in an already-full ashtray. The filter was smeared red. Reaching again for the saw Martin continued his work, methodically separating the dead woman’s leg from her torso, cutting through the strong tendons at her hip, and then stuffing the leg, along with its partner, in an extra-strong, black, lawnand-leaf bag. Well, well. It looked like he would be applying for work in Denver. ~2~ A cell phone’s ring jarred Emerson’s frayed nerves, causing him to jump as though a gun had gone off next to his head. Detective Lotu looked at him curiously as he answered the call. “Lotu,” he said, his eyes on Emerson. Emerson hadn’t slept well for the last two nights. He stared dully at Lotu, watching his round, tawny face and wide mouth as the detective grunted a couple affirmative answers into the phone. Lotu hung up. Emerson’s vision blurred, and he felt like he could just lean his head against the dingy yellow wall of the interrogation room and drift off. Then his body jerked involuntarily. “You okay, man?” Lotu asked. “Yeah.” “You seem a little jumpy.” The cheap, molded plastic chair in the interview room didn’t fit Emerson’s tall, lanky frame, and he shifted, uncomfortable. He realized that Lotu was waiting for more of a response. Issue 31 | February 2019 |


| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | “Yeah. I just didn’t sleep well the last couple nights. It’s catching up with me.” “Oh, sure. I see.” Emerson returned the detective’s gaze, his vision blurring again slightly, his brain screaming for sleep. The other detective, Sheen, watched him warily, his expression confirming that Emerson was acting a little goofy. The detectives might be seeing his exhaustion as something else. Drugs? Mental illness? He had to focus. He sensed some change behind the large mirror, in the observation room it guarded, but when he looked that way, there was nothing. His gaze fell on his own reflection. He saw the wariness in his deep blue eyes, his dark, unkempt curls pushed back from his forehead impatiently, his long, straight eyebrows pressed low in a scowl, the muscle in his angled jaw pulsing as he clenched his teeth, his shoulders slouching defensively. The short beard he had allowed to grow, mainly because he hated shaving, looked scruffy. The unexpected glimpse forced him to see himself as the two sheriff’s detectives did, and he didn’t like it. He looked like a slapped dog. He sat up straight, drawing a breath that opened his broad shoulders and stretched his hard torso. At six-foot-two, Emerson was much taller than Lotu, but only a little taller than Sheen. Sheen, a graying redhead, was built like a mountain gorilla with a broad chest, powerful arms and thick, muscular legs. Sheen noticed the change in Emerson’s posture and became alert, radiating aggressive energy. Emerson’s exhaustion made him want to return that hostility. But he needed to suppress that and focus. Lotu had opened the conversation by asking Emerson questions about his trips to New Mexico. Confused, Emerson let them know – several times – that he was never there. With that line of questioning going nowhere, Lotu circled to worn-out questions about Mrs. Stanton’s death. 76 |

“Just to be sure we’re square on all this, remind us. When did you learn that your father planned to kill Mrs. Stanton?” “I never learned that,” Emerson said, annoyed, but striving for civility. He thought of calling Jeff, the lawyer representing Emerson and all of Crandall Enterprises, but didn’t want to bother him on a Sunday. Besides, the police could get nothing new from Emerson on this. They already knew it all. Emerson found himself drumming his fingertips on his thigh, humming a tune that rattled around in his brain. Lotu raised his eyebrows in little, pointed arches, his round head, receding hair and soft features making him look more like a friendly friar than a homicide investigator. Emerson refocused on the question, wishing he could catch a nap. “I only learned much later that it was even possible that he had planned to kill her. I’m not even sure what did happen the night Mrs. Stanton died. I thought she froze to death, right?” Why did he feel so guilty? He had nothing to do with Clara Stanton’s death. But his tendency to accept blame made him feel responsible, especially when it came to his family’s bad behavior. “Really? All you needed to do was get rid of her, and then you and your father could go on and build the biggest casino resort in Colorado. You were on the brink of becoming a millionaire. Except you needed her land. She was in your way. And now look at you. You’ve got no job, you’re probably broke, and if you’re not, you will be after the lawyers get done with you. You’re going to trial, and you’ll most likely spend the rest of your life locked away at Canon City with the most dangerous felons in Colorado. What will happen to your daughter?” The idea scared and angered Emerson as he thought about his seven-year-old daughter, Courtney. He knew he had to regain control, but his exhaustion was causing him to overreact. Sheen watched him steadily, looking like a mutt that was expecting him to drop a morsel of

| A.H. GILBERT | food. Emerson didn’t like that look, or Sheen. He had pegged Sheen as a bully when they’d first met a couple months ago. He usually combatted bullies with his wit, rather than his fists. But he was too tired to have his usual filters. This was a bad day to come here, he realized, way too late. He had heard about police constructing false cases against innocent people. He stretched his head back, looking at the ceiling, and took a deep breath before finally responding. “The last I knew, nobody is being charged with homicide. Not me, not my father, not his company.” “Not yet, but I think there was a homicide. I’m betting the jury will, too. Even if you’re not formally charged with it, they could try to nail you on the other charges. And there could always be a civil suit. You could get off a whole lot lighter if you cooperate.” Lotu let it sink in, then softened his tone. “Look Emerson, you’re a good guy. We know that. We know you’re not a murderer. All you want to do is make sure your daughter’s safe. Is that how your father got you to help him kill them?” His anger bubbled. “Don’t try to manipulate me,” he said. “I’m exhausted, but I’m not stupid.” “Just answer the question,” Sheen said. Emerson appraised him moodily. He had trained himself to be mild and flexible in most circumstances. But to stay that way, he constantly cooled a deep, smoldering fury that he could never quite extinguish. It churned, deep inside. Sheen took a small step closer. Emerson wondered what it would be like to pound that jowly pink face and the bulbous nose. Sheen smiled, his face reddening, with a look that said, “Bring it.” Emerson shook the thought away and yawned abruptly.

“Mr. Crandall?” Lotu said. “You with me, man?” “Yeah. Sorry.” Emerson looked back at Lotu, still conscious of Sheen’s heavy presence, too close. “Like I told you, I didn’t know anything about what my father was doing at the time Mrs. Stanton died. I was in Syracuse, doing research. Invasive insects.” Sheen snorted derisively. “For the government,” Emerson added, wondering if that made it sound more credible or less. Impatiently, he reached for his phone, remembered it was off, per the detectives’ instructions, and flipped it around in his hand a few times, staring at it blankly. His thoughts wandered back to that day in October when the Crandall resort was destroyed, and he learned about his father’s treachery, the day that he and Maddie discovered the location of the diamonds that Clara Stanton had protected. These were some of the same thoughts that had forced him awake the past couple nights. “Everything okay?” Lotu asked. “What kind of name is Lotu, anyway?” “It’s short for Lotulelei.” He pronounced it “Lotoo-lay-lay.” “It’s Tongan. But people have trouble saying it.” Despite his patient answer, Lotu and Sheen grew more intense in their attention to him, as though he was acting just strange enough for them to prepare themselves for something unexpected. “Huh,” Emerson said. “Anyway, I hadn’t talked to my father in probably six months. But my research grant was canceled, and all of a sudden Courtney came to stay with me, after her mother was hospitalized.” Emerson flipped his phone, glanced at the mirror, wondering who was in the room behind it. Issue 31 | February 2019 |


| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | “My father always told me he had a good job for me whenever I needed it, but I never wanted to work for him. But then, I needed a decent job for Courtney. So, I called him, planning to work for him for a while, just until I could find a good job in my field.” “Sounds like he had you just where he wanted you,” Lotu said. “What would you have done for that income? What would you have done for that little daughter of yours? Would you have hurried along an old lady’s death? Would you have made her lawyer disappear?” Enough. Emerson stood up abruptly, accidentally knocking over the flimsy chair. Lotu jumped up too, in surprise, and Sheen stepped closer, getting ready to pounce if needed. Emerson quickly raised both palms. “Sorry!” he said. “It was an accident.” He picked up the chair and set it back in its proper position. “Please sit down, Emerson,” Lotu said, trying to sound calm. Emerson didn’t sit. He was sick of this room, the detectives, the questions hounding him for the past three months. He stretched, letting his fingers skim the low ceiling, then walked over to the mirror. Cupping his hands against it to cut the glare, he peered inside, spotting dark shapes that might have been humans. “Hello in there,” Emerson said. “Sit down, Crandall,” Sheen said. “We’re not messing around.” Emerson turned and saw them both standing on guard. He remembered they were trained to take down suspects far bigger and angrier than him. He sighed, sitting again and leaning back, hands behind his head, staring at Lotu. “You have me for five more minutes,” he said. “I 78 |

have to pick up my daughter at three-fifteen.” “Are you taking medication?” Lotu asked, now sitting down again, too. Sheen remained standing and inched closer to Emerson. “No. Nothing. I’m good.” “Because I have to say, you don’t seem good. You seem distracted, edgy even. You’re not normally like this.” “I’m just ready to get out of here. I haven’t slept for two nights. I feel like I’ve answered these questions a hundred times. But, go ahead, Detective ‘Lo-too-laylay.’ Let’s get this over with.” He could tell his attempt at a cooperative smile came off as a sneer. But Lotu smiled, the dimple reappearing in the loose flesh of his cheek. “Yeah, sure.” The detective sipped his coffee, then slid the paper cup aside. “So, what was the deal with your father? He just thought it was okay to kill people to get his way, or what?” Lotu suddenly sounded rude. “You just went along with whatever he said, no matter who got hurt?” This question provided the breeze that flamed Emerson’s fury. “That’s it.” He started for the door. Sheen stepped closer to him, not quite blocking him. Emerson could have stopped, but didn’t, and his shoulder hit Sheen’s. Knocked off course, Emerson’s leg caught Lotu’s small table, tipping the paper cup, spraying coffee onto Lotu’s neck and white shirt. Now Emerson felt his arm twisted painfully behind his back, and he fell forward as the cold steel of handcuffs snapped around his wrists. He was shoved to the floor on his stomach. “Don’t move!” Sheen’s voice was near Emerson’s ear, his elbow in his back. Lotu, annoyed to find himself wet with cold coffee, stood at the ready. Two uniformed deputies rushed in.

| A.H. GILBERT | “What do you think you’re trying to pull?” Sheen said, pressing Emerson’s face into the filthy, gray, concrete floor. “That’s assaulting an officer.” “What are you talking about? You jumped in front of me,” Emerson said, trying to swallow the rage, his voice muffled with his cheek against the gritty floor. His shoulders felt yanked out of their sockets. His hips were painful against the cold concrete. “Let me up. I have to get my daughter.” Lotu wiped his neck with his handkerchief and frowned at the big, wet stain on his shirt. “Nice going,” he said mildly. “You just earned yourself a night at our place. What is wrong with you, Crandall?” “I didn’t do anything!” Emerson said, panicked. “Don’t put me in jail! My daughter needs me!” “You should have thought of your daughter before you attacked a sheriff’s detective,” Sheen said, sitting back and removing his sharp elbow from Emerson’s spine. “Get him out of here.” The deputies grabbed Emerson roughly on either side and yanked him up, pulling him out the door. “Stop it!” “What has gotten into you, Emerson?” Lotu said calmly. “You never acted so strange before. You know better than to hit a sheriff’s detective like that.” “I have to call her babysitter, please!” He looked to Lotu. Lotu appraised him, frowning. “Yeah, okay. Let him make the call.” “I want a copy of that recording,” Emerson said. Then the door closed, and Emerson was on his way to jail.

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Uncaged Reviews Lost Boy

Anya J. Cosgrove Paranormal Things used to be easy for me. I had the perfect Mom, the coolest Dad, and a little brother I loved to tease. I juggled school, the track team and making out with my hot cheerleader girlfriend. Now, I hear voices. And see corpses. They think I’m insane or sick, but I’m not. The voices are real. And they’re coming for me...

Uncaged Review: This is a prequel novella that finds out that not all is as it seems for Liam and gives you a nice start to the beginning of the series. I’m not sure that I personally liked the direction that this story took, there is some violence, and it’s not recommended for a young audience from me, but it seemed that it went against the grain of who Liam is at the end. I think seeing how he moves through the first full length book will tell the tale of this series. So far, it’s original and has a good handle on the back story. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Captain’s Lady Jamaila Brinkley Historical Regency Captain Jack Boone would like nothing better than to get back to plundering the seas, legally or otherwise. But suddenly, he’s a viscount, and his friends and family are insisting he needs a wife. When he’s asked to consult on a magical problem, he finds the perfect solution to his own issue: a convenient bride. Uncaged Review: Being a lover of fantasy and historical, this book was a nice surprise as it hits both of those genres in one. It was a little too tame for my tastes, both in the magical part and the romance, but the author does a nice job combining the two genres. Even though this was a series book, it held up just fine on its own. There is some fun banter between the characters and some fun with the magic tossed in. Reviewed by Cyrene

Tangled Up In You Lara Ward Cosio Rockstar Romance The first time Gavin reunites with Sophie, it’s a disaster. He’s cocky and caught up in his newfound rockstar status - and still stinging from losing her a few years before. The next time they meet, he’s relieved to find they still have a connection. She’s the only one who has ever understood his wounded heart, after all. Plus, their chemistry is undeniable. That much is clear the moment they lock eyes. He looks at her like he wants to consume her. And she’s willing.

Uncaged Review: Gavin and Sophie met in high school, when Sophie was studying abroad in Ireland, and Gavin and Sophie became inseparable. When Sophie leaves to return to the U.S., she breaks Gavin’s heart, too young to say yes to his proposal. Fast forward – Gavin’s band Rogue, is hitting the big time, and along with his band mates, they are caught up in the rock star lifestyle. When Sophie and Gavin meet again, it doesn’t turn out well, but Gavin seeks her out, and begins their story all over. This book is quite dark a lot of the time. Sophie and Gavin’s story is almost self-destructive to a point where the reader is smiling at them one minute, and yelling at them the next. When it finally spirals out of control, it’s unclear if they will ever get their connection back on track.

For the Love of a Duke Christi Caldwell Historical Regency After the tragic death of his wife, Jasper, the 8th Duke of Bainbridge buried himself away in the dark cold walls of his home, Castle Blackwood. When he’s coaxed out of his self-imposed exile to attend the amusements of the Frost Fair, his life is irrevocably changed by his fateful meeting with Lady Katherine Adamson.

Uncaged Review: This is my first read by the author, and I hope to read more in the future. After a mainly marriage of convenience for both main characters, the romance begins to build slowly. I had issues with both main characters, but mainly Jasper – his character is so over the top angst, that I’m not sure why someone hasn’t shot him and put him out of his misery. After a long, drawn out – but interesting – romance, the ending seemed very rushed and out of character for both Katherine and Jasper, like the author just wanted to be done with it. There was also a lot of repetitive paragraphs, and it could have really used a good editor. This story has a lot of promise and I enjoyed the author’s style, but this book just doesn’t hit the mark. Reviewed by Cyrene

This book does not end their story, it continues on in the next book, but I need to take a breather from this story – as it is a bit drawn out and at times, emotionally draining. Reviewed by Cyrene

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Uncaged Reviews The Pink Rose of the Prairie Ginger Ring Western/Time Travel Rose McAlister was always the perfect daughter and student, but it was never enough for her high society family. Tired of the big city spotlight, Rose accepts a teaching job at the most remote location hiring – in the middle of the prairie in South Dakota. This was her chance for adventure, her opportunity to shine as an educator, and her shot at forgetting the ex-boyfriend who left her heart torn to pieces and her bank account in shambles. In South Dakota, Rose vows she’ll find someone to love and trust. Uncaged Review: I actually have had this book to read for a while, and forgot that it was a timetravel romance, and when all of a sudden Rose is transported back in time around a hundred years or so, I was a bit disoriented along with Rose. But we both got our feet back under us. This is a nice romance that sets a nice pace with some added suspense and danger. All in all, I’m not sure I wanted Rose to stay in the past or come back to the future. I’ll let you decide. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Rainbows in the Moonlight Ryan Jo Summers Contemporary Romance Koda Jacobs urgently needs a nanny. Right now. Fresh from prison, Dalton Clayton needs a job—and just about anything will do. Divine Intervention steps in and tosses Koda and Dalton together. Koda struggles with the conflicts of her impulsive decision to leave her babies with an unknown, convicted felon. That just can’t be wise, can it? But she can’t help but see how quickly the children bonded to him and trust him. Or the reassuring sense that this is just right. Uncaged Review: Koda Jacobs is a widow with a son and daughter she is raising on her own. In the opening, she is on her way home from church when her car has a flat. Dalton Clayton, who has returned to him hometown after being gone for over 15 years, 10 of which were in prison, offers to change her tire, when Koda can’t get the jack to where it raises the car off the ground. Her children let it out that she is looking for a nanny/ babysitter as she nanny quit with little notice. She ends up hiring Dalton without knowing much about him other than that her kids like him and he is kind. This is done after many doubts and in desperation. She has used all her time and has to return to work. Dalton does tell her about his prison term for being the getaway driver for a bank robbery. As he becomes a part of her family, Koda can’t stop the fears her friend at work keeps planting in her brain. Dalton shows himself as responsible and caring when Terry, her son, falls from the tree out back and breaks his arm. That same friend attempts to set her up with Norm, a creepy tech in the doctor’s office where she works. There you go. A great triangle along with the doubts

she has of Dalton to begin with, yet she still trusts him and has fallen for him, not sure if he even likes her as she finds ways to keep him there after she returns home from work. Needless her kids have become attached to him and want him to stay. This is another of those stories which shows you how prejudice affect everyone. It’s also a prodigal son story when he finally goes to see his family and admit what he had done and his 10 years behind bars. This inspirational romance was fun to read as Dalton bumbles along, taken in by Ruthie, Koda’s daughter. You know right from the outset it will have a good ending, but how it gets there was a lot of fun. I gave it 4 stars for a good story which is well written with a couple of twists you miss until they happen. Reviewed by Barbara

Brewed for Love Leigh Raffaele

Contemporary Romance Welcome to Cedar Ridge! A small town in Northwestern New Jersey where quirky residents are always underfoot and loyalty is abundant. The best way to meet some of the locals is at The Bean & Brew. Check in with owner Evan Cavanaugh, whose life is pretty good right now. It has been rough for a while, what with his father’s death and his wife skipping out on him and his daughter. But his decision to move back to Cedar Ridge to keep the family coffee shop alive was a good one.

Uncaged Review: A delightful read with a few moments of drama and tempers flared. Nora is sent to do some research in a closed knit community coffee shop. Little does she know what awaits her. Reviewed by Jennifer

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Uncaged Reviews K: The Awakening K.R. Fajardo Fantasy Romance

“Fifty years ago the Shadows betrayed me, left me to wither slowly into nothing, chained deep inside a hidden mountain cave. Meanwhile they took control of my kingdom, killing or enslaving any who would dare oppose them. But I am a patient woman … and immortal. The Shadows should enjoy their reign of terror while they can, in the meantime, I will continue to stare at these dark walls plotting my revenge. After all, it is only a matter of time, and I have all the time in the world.” K. Uncaged Review: It took me awhile to really get into this book, but I hung in there and around 40% in, things started clicking into place. There is still a lot of unknowns, even at the end of the book, but it has great world building and an original storyline. There are a lot of characters to keep up with, but the author does a good job with the cast. This is marketed as a fantasy romance, but there is not much romance in it to speak of – maybe that will be more defined in the coming books. All in all, this is a good start to a series although at times it felt a little too drawn out, but I’ve also found many first books in series the same way. It will be interesting to see where the author takes us in the upcoming books.. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Fallen Academy: Year Two Leia Stone Urban Fantasy

Family is everything to Brielle, so when she learns about an opportunity to free her mother from Demon City, she takes it. No matter how dangerous, Brielle will do anything to unite her family in Angel City. All is going according to plan, until her brother’s awakening ceremony. What he is… it shocks everyone, and he’s sent away until he can get his powers under control. Uncaged Review: In this second installment, we see more action, more character development and even better understanding of the world since the war. Brielle is advancing her powers and her brother Mikey is coming up to his Awakening ceremony. When she finds a way that she could possibly get her mother free from being a slave, she will risk her life to try. This book is more action packed than book one, and the romance (clean) between Lincoln and Brielle continues to grow and mature. The one thing that I hated was the crappy ending, even the author apologizes in the notes at the back. On a whole, this is a great action-packed book and a good addition to the urban fantasy libraries. Reviewed by Cyrene

The Rancher’s Conditions

R.S. Chapman Contemporary Western Romance When Layne Martin tore up his one million, five-hundred-thousand-dollar donation check, she had no idea that Erik Rivers was one of the richest, most influential ranchers in all of Texas. All she knew was that he’d hit on her a couple of times in the gym, and she’d rebuffed him each time. Her only thought wasGod, do they all subscribe to the same gym introduction newsletter?

lawyer colors coming out. Second: The Point of view between characters is handled like a bag of potato chips, passed around so that everybody has their share among paragraphs. The communal, head-hopping point of view throughout the story makes for a confusing read. Beyond those issues, The Rancher’s Conditions is still full of engaging characters and based in a realistic Texas setting. Reviewed by Ryan Jo

Never had a woman made Rivers feel like such an idiot, but giving up on her now was not possible. The challenge was just too great.

Uncaged Review: Layne Martin was sick of guys who hit on her at the gym, including Erik Rivers. While she is volunteering at a fundraiser, he shows up in filthy clothes and driving an ancient pickup. He gives her a check for one million, five-hundredthousand-dollar donation, which she promptly tears up. He can’t be anyone who can have that kind of money. Except it turns out, Erik Rivers is one of the richest, most influential ranchers in Texas. That single error in judgement was going to cost Layne far more than one million, five-hundred-thousand dollars. The premise of this story is cute. Layne and her roommate are both lawyers in a firm, in which their boss is also good friends with Erik Rivers. When the men discuss the shredded fundraising check, they decide to teach Layne a little lesson--which will also give Erik a chance to finally try wooing her without the constant cool rebuffs. The romance is light, and clean, and told mostly from Erik’s view. This book does have a couple of drawbacks. One: Layne is prone to making hasty verdicts or saying impulsive comments. She is also likely to react impulsively. All these are hallmarks that makes one question how good of an attorney she can be. In fact, it’s when she is offered a case that conflicts with her (finally!) budding interest in Erik as a likeable guy that we see her Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Uncaged Reviews Dark Steel

The Fox and the Mermaid

Kathryn Le Veque Historical Medieval Romance

Dee Carey SciFi/Fantasy

1512 – Dane Stoneley de Russe is a hardcore knight, bred for battle. His father, Gaston de Russe, is called The Dark One, a knight so deadly and legendary that he is more myth than

Can a woman, who is actually a seal, and a fox, who might be a man, overcome a man who is an ancient Questing Beast?

man. Dane has a lot to live up to.

Uncaged Review: A story of betrayal, innocence, abuse, danger and finally love. It was exciting to see that one of my favorite characters from previous books was getting his story, and it is a story worthy of the strong knight, Dane. Grier is the perfect match, a shining light which she rises from her sheltered life to be a woman of honor and worthy of being and becoming the Duchess of Shrewsbury. The complexity and uniqueness of all of Le Veque’s characters continues to amaze me, and Dane and Grier are no different. Kathryn Le Veque brings it all together in a way that only she can, and keeps the reader glued to the pages until the very end. One of my favorite parts of all of her books is the epilogues. The author pulls many different emotions from the reader, and finally the time to relax and smile and sometimes cry, is always the epilogues, and again, this was no different. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Only when those afflicted can realize they must cooperate in order to overcome evil do they prevail. This story focus is upon loyalty, teamwork, and trust. Uncaged Review: A short novella with magical elements and fantasy. I really liked how the fox Liam could talk and I really do enjoy these sort of stories. Personally I feel reading this we are just building up to the series and would like to read a longer book in this adventure. Very keen to see what happens next. Reviewed by Jennifer


Shayne Silvers Urban Fantasy

The Brothers Grimm – legendary supernatural assassins – have escaped their prison, and their first day in St. Louis could be Nate Temple’s last… Sharing a beer with Death – one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – really put a few things into perspective for this foul-mouthed, billionaire wizard. Like finally strapping on the boots to propose to his girlfriend.

Uncaged Review: We are taken on a wild ride, almost right out of the gate with the third book in this series, and you never get a chance to catch your breath. Nate has a hit out on him, and it’s the Grimm’s that are after him, whom are much stronger than he is. Since he doesn’t have control over his powers yet, he’s a sitting duck, but his friends, and a couple new allies, are targeted too. This book doesn’t let its foot off the gas pedal much, it’s a fully action packed book that keeps the reader tense and on high alert the whole time. Several characters from past books make an appearance, and I finally like Indie. For the most part in this series, I’ve thought she was just a filler character, but in this book, she finally comes into her own and earned my respect. My biggest gripe is that Nate was clueless most of the book. Being a Maker, he has no idea how to use his new-found powers and it does wear you down. All said, this is a great addition to the series, and I like how Mr. Silvers is bringing in so much of the traditional folk tales and interweaving them into the story, along with witty dialog. A must for urban fantasy lovers. Reviewed by Cyrene

Burn the Dead

Stephen Jenkins Horror

It’s a dirty job - but someone’s got to do it. Robert Stephenson burns zombies for a living. It’s a profession that pays the bills and plays tricks on the mind. Still, his life is routine until his four-year-old son becomes stranded in a quarantined zone, teeming with rotters. Does Rob have what it takes to fight the undead and put his broken family back together? Or will he also end up in the incinerator - burning with the rest of the dead? Uncaged Review: Rob’s job means he has to burn the infected, chopping off their head doesn’t work in this world, so they tranquilize them, tie them down and muzzle them – ship them off to be burned. Rob has burned many, and when he gets to his last 4 bodies for the day, his wife is one of the four of the infected he has to burn. Overwhelmed, he tries to get home, to find his whole neighborhood blocked off, and his 4 year old son is not on the list of safe or infected at the barricades. His whole section of town is cut off, and he has to find a way in to find his son. All the zombie genre is tragic, and this genre really brings out the half crazed. This story is not overly long, but it’s a bit repetitive and drawn out in spots, but a little more realistic with an average person trying to survive. This book is all one man’s point of view – so you really don’t get any idea about how the virus started, or how the fate of the world is. You get a couple days in the life on one average man, not a super hero, or an ex-military, just an average man trying to get to his son, and finding out more about a couple of neighbors than he probably wanted to. Reviewed by Cyrene

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Uncaged Reviews Highland Wish

Colleen MacGregor Historical Romance/Highlands

What is it about a man in a kilt? Kate Cameron contemplates that very question as the bus full of handsome groomsmen makes its way to Crathes Castle for her best friend’s wedding. An editor of romance novels, she loves her high heels and fast-paced city life. But lately, something’s been missing. Uncaged Review: I was dying to escape into some Highlander romance after a long time away from reading. Highland Wish started out fantastic, even though written in present tense (not an issue for me, but I do know some readers do not care for it). Katherine was sent back in time while attending one of her best friend’s weddings in Scotland. I was a bit surprised that she wasn’t surprised. Katherine took it in stride, and as far as I remember, never knew more than it was some time in the 1800’s. Big cheers for adapting and shrugging it off. Another thing I enjoyed was that she wasn’t a whiney female character, nor was she overly stubborn and tough. Her desire to find true love seemed to allow her to easily fall for Angus, though she tried to fight it a small bit. Enter Angus. I honestly can’t tell you if I liked him or not. Generally I absolutely love a character or I absolutely hate them. Rarely is there any other option. Zero middle ground. Although, almost 24 hours after reading, he is still in my mind. He wasn’t overly endearing or likable – but he also wasn’t loathsome. He was pushy and overbearing at times, like most Scots in Highlander Historical Romance – but it didn’t swoop me away. There were a few instances of storyline confusion as well as name swaps, but that didn’t stop me from mostly enjoying the book. As a short book (about 148 pages according to my Kindle), they’re always tough to write. Longer 90 |

books allow for more time to flesh out the characters. It was going well – until the ending. I honestly tried to keep swiping my Kindle for another chapter because I thought my device had glitched. I wanted more. The abrupt ending solved a few things, but not everything, in my opinion. Maybe there will be a book two. Reviewed by Norah


Patrick Canning SciFi/Dark Humor

A young janitor working at an insane asylum is about to commit suicide when he’s rudely interrupted by one of the residents and recruited to play in a game called Cryptofauna—a bizarre competition of worldwide meddling and mischief that might actually give the blue custodian a reason to live, assuming he survives the dangerous world of the game.

Uncaged Review: Jim is a young man working at St. Militrude’s, an insane asylum/nursing home. After thinking “too hard” about life, he decides to end it all with some pills washed down with a can of root beer (because a resident had recently thrown all the cans of Coca Cola off the roof). He is interrupted by Oz, who is one of the residents of St. Mili’s and also an “Operator” in a global game called Cryptofauna, and taken deep down into the basement. Jim is given a bag of turmeric and a dog and is then thrown into this game. Having been given very minimal instructions, Jim must survive and work toward completing three tasks, all while gathering a group of people to help him (his “Combo”). But he has a Rival to contend with, a nasty and not-so-intelligent man named Boyd. Jim must figure out how to make it through the game and stop Boyd’s evil shenanigans in the process. It is a rare thing indeed for a book to make me laugh as much as this one did. I found myself smiling, chuckling, and outright belly laughing on many occasions, and I have to say that this book was a supreme delight to read. It’s quite bizarre -- think of a mix between Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and possibly Doctor Who (except that there is no time travel, and all the events take place on Earth). The author has brilliantly written this book to allow readers to vividly visualize the wonderfully bizarre and crazy events. We sometimes are in the thick of things with Jim and company, and sometimes we

get fascinating history lessons about some of the main characters. Each section has the same witty and hilarious style and pace that makes you want to keep reading to find out what happens next. There are so many fascinating things about this book. Everything is bright and mentally engaging. One of my favorite parts was the underground Abbey in Boston, which boasted a labyrinth of libraries and other mentally stimulating rooms. Who wouldn’t want to spend months soaking up as much knowledge as they could? (Even if you had to be surrounded by leprous monks who didn’t sleep and who only ate carrots and drank dandelion wine?) The cast of characters was truly fun. Each had a unique personality, and I felt like I came to love them as family just as Jim did. Although the details and exact purpose of the game Cryptofauna may still be vague in Jim’s mind and my mind, this book is a true treat to read, certainly one of the funniest books I have read in a long time. I would recommend this book to anyone who is not easily offended and who loves quirky and bizarre but very interesting situations. *While it thrilled me to my core to read this book, there are some disturbing things and adult situations (think orgies, random cruel murders, and excessive drug use) so I wouldn’t recommend the book for anyone who is too young for that kind of content. I would eagerly read another book written by Patrick Canning, and I am likely going to purchase a paperback of this book for my library (I think this is one I will want to read again and again). I would also LOVE to see this made into a movie. Reviewed by Emily

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Uncaged Reviews Resurgence

S. Usher Evans Urban Fantasy

Demon hunter Jack Grenard is rebuilding his life in Atlanta three years after his wife was brutally murdered by demons. But while out on a routine patrol with his partner, Cam, they encounter a demon who saves lives instead of takes them. They embark on a mission to find out who she is before Demon Spring, the quadrennial uprising of the most evil demons from the Underworld. And word on the street is, the King of the Demons, Bael, will be making an appearance. Uncaged Review: This is a promising start to a series and a solid read. Demon Hunters, Jack and Cam have been partners for a long time, Jack even having married Cam’s sister – Sara. But Sara was killed by a demon attack 3 yrs ago, and Jack has been out of the game since. When he transfers to Atlanta, to once again team up with Cam, he’ll need to get back into the game since an event known as a Demon Spring is about to happen, and when it does, thousands of demons from the Underworld are released on mankind. My biggest hang up with this book, is that the first half of the book, Jack is still mourning his wife and he shouldn’t even be out, he’s a danger to himself and his partner. This is too overdone – I wanted to kick him myself – so I never really got that attached to Jack. When we finally get moving is about at 60% in, and then we begin to learn more about Anya, and the Demon King, Bael. That is when this book begins to become hard to put down, I just wish it would have gotten there quicker. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Betting on Cinderella

Petie McCarty Contemporary Romance

Garrett Tucker inherits his grandfather’s casino empire and steps into the reclusive billionaire’s shoes as the “Prince of Vegas.” His first act is to buy a bankrupt casino in Biloxi. When he discovers embezzling in his new operation, Garrett goes undercover. His prime suspect is the new finance supervisor--the spitfire brunette who stole his heart at first sight. Uncaged Review: This is modern re-telling of Cinderella, with a little bit of danger and suspense thrown in to keep it interesting. When Garrett inherits a casino empire from his grandfather, he acts to keep his grandfather’s last project going in Biloxi, MS. But his grandfather’s rival and enemy will do almost anything to keep Garrett from succeeding in making the casino a success. This is the second book in this series, and reading book one would have given a better background on the three best friends, Rhett, Garrett and Aidan – it does fine as a standalone, I had no issues, but if I were choosing – I would have chosen Rhett’s book first, as Andi, our heroine – is a friend to Rhett’s new wife, Lily. When Garrett sees her at Rhett and Lily’s wedding – he is immediately attracted to her, but she disappears before he gets a chance to be introduced. And when she applies to work for the casino to keep an eye on her gambling addict godmother, the two will be tossed together again. There isn’t anything too surprising in this romance, but it’s well written and I enjoyed reading it. I definitely would pick up more from this author. Reviewed by Cyrene

Siren’s Curse Carly Fall Fantasy

Her Siren Clan is dying, and she’ll face death to save them. The only thing that can reverse the curse and save her people from extinction is a long-lost Legacy Stone.

Uncaged Review: This is a book is a full length standalone in a series of books from different authors known as The Cursed Seas Collection, now split apart into their individual stories. In a dystopian world of sorts, brought on by dark magic, both sirens in the oceans, and the humans on land are suffering from disease, monsters made from dark magic and famine. Part of Rainie’s family and many others in her clan have been killed by crocodiles while trying to hunt for food, or taken by pirates. When a member of a different clan visits and tells Rainie’s clan that there is a way to heal the land and sea, but it’s a dangerous journey, Rainie knows she must go, even though humans hate the sirens. This book has plenty of action and there is danger throughout the book. It reads more as a new adult, with a caution to younger teens because of the violence and some language. The story moves at a good pace, and the two main characters of Rainie and Jonah are worthy leads. Reviewed by Cyrene

Notes from Hell Rachel Bukey Mystery

When Seattle Times reporter Ann Dexter scores an interview with Franco Albanese, rock star of the modern opera world, she is thrilled. Don Giovanni in art, Don Juan in life, this charismatic man easily charms all women he meets, including Ann. Uncaged Review: I’m not a mystery reader and I don’t read heavily in this genre, but I have to say this was a really well written read. Ann is a reporter that is normally stuck on the education circuit, and when she gets the chance to interview the opera star, Franco, she jumps at it. When Franco is kidnapped, and Ann starts getting cryptic messages, she cooperates with the police, but also does her own investigation on the sly. The nice thing about the book, is that Ann is not written as a superhero, she’s written as a strong, smart female lead that is believable and likeable and the author does a good job with the whole cast of characters, and there are quite a few to keep track of. It slows down a bit in spots, but it gets right back into storyline without dragging down the story. Nothing was overly surprising to me, but it had an ending I didn’t really expect, and a nice epilogueish final chapter. This is the second book in the series, but it reads well as a standalone Reviewed by Cyrene

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Uncaged Reviews Hotter than the Caribbean Stacy Hoff Contemporary Romance

Luis Serrano, the unwanted love child of a hotel construction magnate, is determined to reach his father’s level of success. When Luis finds himself pitted against his half-brother for control over their ailing father’s company, sibling rivalry comes to a head. Uncaged Review: This is a book that has all the great trappings of a good contemporary romance. A heartwarming read with two characters are perfectly blended. With both Melanie being the black sheep of her family, trying hard to keep the peace and Luis the illegitimate son of his father and fighting for the respect he’s earned and never given. All the elements fall into place, and I truly enjoyed this read. With a high stakes design competition pitting brother against brother, and design firm against design firm, the rewards can make or break Mel or Luis. The romance is not a slow burn, but an easy alliance with a tense uphill battle. Easily recommended for romance lovers. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Only a Duke Would Dare Collette Cameron Historical Regency

A Duke. A vicar’s daughter. A forbidden love. Marriage—an unpleasant obligation A troublesome addendum to his father’s will requires Victor, Duke of Sutcliffe to marry before his twenty-seventh birthday or lose his fortune

Uncaged Review: Whenever I think I should go to bed early and get some much needed sleep, I should never pick up a Collette Cameron book. She has a way of sucking me into the story and I have to read into the wee hours of the morning. And today, my coffee pot will work overtime to counteract the lack of sleep – but it was well worth it, I was charmed by this Duke as much as Thea was. In this emotional and sweet romance, Thea must deal with an overbearing father, a secret crush and a slimy villain whom her father is going to push her off on, but not if Victor has anything to say about it. Victor, having come home from his rakish lifestyle only to find his father leaving a provision in the will that he marry by the time he turns 27 yrs. old, and that being only a few weeks away. His thought of just finding a wife and leave her be is tossed out the window when he bumps into Thea. Friendship, love, suspense, great characters and a storyline that will pull you right into the story are all trademarks of this author. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Cyrene

Blood is Thicker

Scottish Devil

A Broken Pact. An Ancient Enemy. A Bitter Betrayal. What does a vampire fear more than sunlight? The Cazadoras Sangrientas-Blood Hunters.

He was the one man she shouldn’t want…

Orlando A. Sanchez Urban Fantasy

Michiko Nakatomi has led the Dark Council for over a century, maintaining the uneasy truce between humanity and the supernatural. But when an ancient enemy returns the delicate balance is shattered and vampires start dying. Uncaged Review: You would think, that as you get further into a series, storylines will start overlapping, things won’t be fresh and exciting, but that’s not the case of this series. If anything, it just gets better and better. The brilliant action scenes, some of the best dialog I’ve read in any urban fantasy and great plotlines. I don’t what goes on in this author’s mind, but I’ll bet that it’s a riot. Blood Hunters out to destroy all vampires are spreading Bloodrum as a drug in the streets. Their aim is to take out all vampires – but at a cost to both vampires and human casualties. When they also kidnap Michiko – the target is now on the Dark Council. And on top of it all, Tristan has a price on his head from the Golden Circle. We also meet Dex, Tristan’s uncle, and a powerful mage with connections to Morrigan…yes THAT Morrigan. This is a full-fledged urban fantasy series that will keep you pulled in to the pages and won’t let go. This one ended on a cliffhanger – but this series is 7 books strong, so it didn’t bother me too much and the first chapter of the 4th book is included in the back. If you love urban fantasy, you won’t get much better than these. Reviewed by Cyrene

Tammy Andresen Historical Regency

Known as the devil, Stone Sinclair, Earl of Alban, is carved of rock, hard and uncompromising. He bends for no man. A fiery lass with golden hair and a will as strong as his own? Surrender has never sounded sweeter.

Uncaged Review: A great book for the lesson of don’t judge people by rumors and hearsay. Stone and his family lost their parents in a mine collapse. Stone has inherited the Earl-ship as the oldest, and because of his fierce features, he’s known as the “devil.” Eliza’s father who has been the solicitor for the Sinclair family, comes on an extended stay to help transition Stone into his new role. He brings along his daughter, since his wife had passed on a month ago. Eliza is filled with anger as in her province, the laird is a greedy man, who doesn’t care for his people – and in her time of need for her mother, there was no help to be found. With this as her only experience, she believes the rumors of Stone and is unhappy to have to travel to his lands. But when she does arrive, every action she sees Stone take, she starts to question the rumors. A nice story, with a good character development and secondary characters are fun and interesting. It kept a nice pace and I’m really looking forward to reading about the next Sinclair. Reviewed by Cyrene

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Uncaged Reviews Love’s Harvest

Gwen Overland Contemporary Romance

Immediately following the tragic death of her husband, Julia Reynolds makes good on her promise to restore the family winery to its former glory. Luckily, the vineyard itself is in good shape due to the hard work of orchard manager, Diego Gonzales Martinez. Julia turns to him for strength as they work to restore Nooksack Valley Winery and Vineyard, but they soon discover they face more than one adversary. Uncaged Review: In Nooksack winery vineyard Julia finds herself coming to terms with her husband death. She now must find a way to keep the business going to honor his memory. The book was good and there was plenty of action and plot. The only thing that made me wonder is I thought the love interest was too quick in this book. Apart from that it was an enjoyable book and others reading it may find the love interest works perfectly the way it is. Reviewed by Jennifer

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Legends of Persia Jennifer Macaire SciFi/Fantasy

After winning a prestigious award, Ashley is chosen to travel through time and interview a historical figure. Choosing her childhood hero Alexander the Great, she is sent back in time for less than a day. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his own time. Uncaged Review: This is the 2nd book in this series, and I highly recommend you read these in order. Although I did catch on, it was still confusing throughout the book in parts since I did not read the first one. In this book, Alexander’s army is on a major road trip. Because Ashley is from the future, she knows when her husband, Alexander will die in history. She’s not allowed to change anything in history or she’ll be erased. This is a very unconventional story, and the customs and practices from the past do collide with Ashley’s own beliefs, but the emotions and love remains the same as it would at any time. Having to remember, that back in this time period, Alexander had more wives than Ashley, even though they did love each other in the book, and Ashley had other lovers. So the sex scenes are not your conventional interludes. There was even a couple instances that would really put off some readers. I’m not sure if reading the first book would have had me liking the book better, but it really wasn’t my cup of tea. I will give credit to the author for the outstanding storytelling and originality, but I really do think this series is going to appeal to a specific target audience more than the general readers of historical fantasy. Reviewed by Cyrene

The Scandalous Inheritance

Nancy Smith Gibson Historical Romance/20th Century

It’s 1919 and the Great War is over. Soldiers are returning home and want their jobs back. When Alise is replaced by a returning soldier, the letter from an attorney in Texas comes at an opportune time. She is sole heir to her aunt’s estate: a house, business, and money. Uncaged Review: Miss Alise Rose Taylor loses her job in St. Louis at the end of WWI when the soldiers return from the war. She is careful to hide her real last name of Scheider which is German for tailor. There was much prejudice against the Germans due to the war regardless of how long they had been in the country or if they came here because they disagreed with the policies in Germany. Miss Taylor ends up inheriting a house of ill repute from her Aunt Rose Alise Threadgill. The story revolves around how she handles the inheritance (she doesn’t keep the house) and the man Owen Gomance who she meets on the train to Rock Springs Texas to get her inheritance. She ends up getting involved with Owen, but there is much that happens before then. This tale was well told, kept to historical facts and was quite believable. It kept you turning the pages to see what would happen next with Alise, how was this woman you want to root for and Owen who you know has to change from being the surly rude man you first see on the train. The cast of characters become like your friends as you learn more about each one, which to me, the best a book can be. It is a tale which holds a lot of truths for today about prejudices, differences, kindness, caring and love. I gave this book 5 stars for the wonderful characters you meet in it and the lessons we all can learn through a well-written book which pulls you into the story with a good ending. Reviewed by Barbara

Stella of Akrotiri: Deminon

Linda Rae Sande Historical Fantasy/Greek & Roman

Love can last a thousand lifetimes when you’re an Immortal... or so they thought. 
What’s become of the Immortal Darius? His wife, Stella, worries about his fate as she rules over their city-state of Deminon, especially when she learns he’s been the victim of treachery. She’ll do anything to get him back. Uncaged Review: This is a slow burner – as I read along, I never even realized that the book ensnared me and when I looked up at the clock, I was surprised so much time had passed, I was that engrossed in the story. I’ve read books from this author before, but this is a totally different style. The world was described so well, that I was able to picture the story as I read along. Stella and Darius are immortals, along with a handful of others, meaning they really can’t die. Stella and Darius have been together for hundreds of years, but when Darius is set up to be named a traitor, he is sent off to be a gladiator. When he allows his body to die, his essence is transferred into a younger immortal - who he fought in the ring, Marcus. But will the two minds become one and he be able to return to Stella, or will Marcus prevail and Darius be lost to Stella forever? There are a few really good twists in this that I didn’t see coming, and it was a world that I would happily go back to. There is a lot of sex and some violence that is true to the time period, but there is also friendship, love, honor and loyalty. Reviewed by Cyrene

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Uncaged Reviews Ian

Lily Baldwin Historical Romance/Highlands

Stars over Texas

Tessa Gray Contemporary Western Romance

To escape imminent danger, Scottish lady Jocelyn Ferguson, flees her home and the comforts of her station to live as an English commoner. She knows not who hunts her or why, only that she must trust no one.

After catching her husband in bed with another woman at her twentieth high school reunion, Meredith Chapman files for divorce, packs up her two kids, and heads to a small west Texas town to start rebuilding her life.

Uncaged Review: In this 6th book of the series, our hero for this story for this Highland Outlaw is Ian, the youngest of the MacVie brothers. Belonging to a secret group of Scottish rebels, Ian is the last of his brothers whose identity has not be revealed. Lady Josselyn and her mother flee their home as their home comes under attack, making their way to England to scrape out lives as weavers, knowing they can’t return home. With an accidental meeting with Ian, her whole world will change.

Uncaged Review: This story is unlike any other contemporary romance I’ve read to date. It’s mesmerizing with its complexity and the way the author interweaves characters is refreshing. Felt the story bogged down in the middle especially the attitudes of her friends, which I didn’t get, and the relationship with Adam became stilted. Eventually the story picked up again. Though I cried during poignant moments, overall this was an engaging read. Reviewed by Mary

Danger, action, treachery, loyalty and love are steadfast in this story. The author does a brilliant job with some grand twists that actually caught me by surprise. I loved Jo, she is strong, smart and brave – even when she doesn’t think so. She may be one of my favorite heroines in a long time. This is a book that I’ll be thinking of for quite a while, and the epilogue is full of wonderful moments, and if you haven’t read the other books in the series, this does well as a standalone, but the epilogue will be that much better if you have. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Free My Heart

Gwen Overland Contemporary Western Romance

Bailey Anderssohn, one-time international opera star, inherits the family ranch near Salmon Run, Washington. Seeking a creative outlet, she jumps at the chance to ghost-write the autobiography of a retiring German soccer star. It’s a difficult few months for Bailey, since the young man’s widowed father, Bastien Steinholz, is not only rude, but also refuses to divulge needed information about the family’s past. Still, the attraction between them slowly dispels their

phone call from home turns him once more into a raging beast. The gist of the entire storyline is Bailey and Bastien’s on again and off again anger and misunderstandings or their lusty graphic moments of sex. Both Bailey and Bastien have their emotional baggage and Bailey is a shining star. She is a woman determined to rise above life’s harsh circumstances. Bastien’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Sabine, breaths fresh air into the story while dealing with her smothering father. In the end, a daring rescue brings resolution to both Bailey and Bastien’s shattered hearts. Reviewed by Ryan Jo

Uncaged Review: Following a series of tragedies, International Opera singer Bailey Anderssohn Rogers returned home to Salmon Run, Washington and to the family horse ranch. She also co-wrote a biography of a star German footballer player. At the launch of the book, she comes face to face with the star player’s brooding, widowed father, Herr Bastien Steinholz. Meanwhile, Bastien is not happy with the personal details Ms. Rogers’ book reveals about the Steinholz family. He is curt at the book launch until an unexpected pairing of him and Ms. Rogers singing a song starts to change his tune. This is a western romance, and an International love story, rolled into one. Bailey and Bastien meet in his native country of Germany for the book launch, and both end up in Washington in the States. The characters spend a large amount of time in their own internal dialogues, either wondering about the others or reliving the past. There are also inconsistencies with character’s themselves. Neither Bailer nor Bastien get along at first, they are coerced into singing a song and suddenly there is a mutual spark of attraction. Throughout the story, Bastien is rude, overbearing, and difficult to like. He alternates between explosively overreacting to situations and enjoying graphic sex with Bailey. In his own thoughts, “he’d gone from anger to curiosity, and from fascination to lust”. A Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Uncaged Reviews Pearls of Fire

Meara Platt Historical Victorian/Regency

Do the mysterious pearls with the red-gold color of the burning sun hold the key to love... or to a curse? Emma Langdon’s life was changed by a kiss that never happened. Hugh Le Brecque, the handsome viscount meant to do the kissing never showed up, and Emma has been trying to forget him ever since. But when thieves break into her elegant home to steal a family heirloom known as the Pearls of Fire, a necklace she believes is cursed, Emma knows she must turn to Hugh for help. Uncaged Review: I love a good pirate book and love a good high seas adventure. Emma’s father has gone missing after her mother was murdered over a family treasure – the Pearls of Fire. Hugh, is a convicted pirate, convicted of crimes he didn’t commit, but languishing in a prison. With her money, she goes to Hugh to strike a deal. Help her find her father, and she’ll get him out of prison and get his ship out of impoundment. Hugh, once a respected man and former Viscount and heir to an earldom wants to prove his innocence – and he finds that Emma may be the one to help him. But it may not be as easy as he thinks to keep her at arms length, Emma being the woman he fell in love with, before he was a convicted criminal. Emma is strong, stubborn and perfectly suited to take on Hugh. The villians are truly despicable and the cast of supporting characters are worth remembering. A story with danger, secrets, laughter and intrigue, all in a well-paced story that will keep the reader turning the pages. A great addition to the Pirates of Britannia shared world. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Raking the Ashes

Kait Gamble Contemporary Romance

Tamara Roberts only wanted to live her life and write her novels. After living hard and fast in her youth, life now happens almost exclusively on the page for Tamara. Her carefully constructed life is torn apart when her long estranged husband makes an appearance on her doorstep looking too sexy for comfort. Uncaged Review: This is one of those books that drew me in, and that is normally not what I do with contemporary romances, but I really enjoyed this book. Tamara is an author with a past…a past that includes a husband she is still married to but hasn’t seen in years. When he walks back into her life, all the old feelings of hurt threaten to pull her down. And almost as soon as I read that, I decided I was not putting down this book until I found out what happened. When the truth does come out, will it matter, or has too much time passed to make it right? The author kept a good pace without bogging down the story. I liked the fact that she let the characters play out naturally and didn’t force them too quickly or hurry any of the story. Definitely an entertaining read that will quench your romance urges. Reviewed by Cyrene

Dead School

Laura Gia West Paranormal/YA

There is no death... only a change in worlds It is Valentine’s Day at John Hopkin’s High, and the disgruntled Tina Crocker is having the best day of her life as she performs at the school’s largest talent show. She kills it. Literally. The moment she steps off stage: Tina Crocker croaks and ends up in... Dead School. Entering a grotesque new world, she is greeted by a furious, hair-wobbling mentor who dispels her into the Spirit Guide division. But, unlike the rest of her class, she becomes the school’s first Spirit Guide’s Assistant while paired with the biggest floozy in the afterworld. Together, they are assigned to guide a living loser, in order to pass their course.

didn’t care much for the ending, but that’s just my own personal preferences showing. I did appreciate the humor that was scattered throughout and what the author did with Tina’s cat. I thought that was a nice touch. In all, Dead School was creative in a way I hadn’t seen before and I can appreciate that. I think the author did a good job creating this whole other world, even if I found it confusing at times. The characters were the kind you either really like, or really dislike. Alexei was my favorite and I would have liked to know more about him even though it wasn’t his story. Overall, this wasn’t a bad read. I don’t regret taking the time to read it and would suggest other people give it a shot of their own instead of just taking my word for it. Reviewed by Melanie

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel... a rather long tunnel. Tina also meets a mysterious artist from the Suicide division, Alexei. And, somehow, their different breeds of awkward strangely click. As finals approach, Tina’s focus has to switch or else a miserable reincarnated life awaits. Yeah, rest in peace, my ass... Uncaged Review: Dead School is an unusual take on the afterlife. Tina dies after an accident at her high school talent show and instead of going to the perceived place for eternity, she’s sent to Dead School. Where it appears, she has already been numerous times and failed. I have mixed feelings about this book. I really like the concept behind the story, but I found it to be somewhat confusing at times and I felt as though there were aspects of Tina’s life, or lives, that should have been included to help clarify things. I also Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews For Sissy A.H. Gilbert Crime/Serial Killer A man targeted as a prime suspect fights for his freedom ... as the real killer stalks his next victim. Violence has come to Creeley County, Colorado. Its residents are shaken, especially night shift waitresses. Here to defend himself for crimes committed by his father, Emerson Crandall is implicated in the string of grisly murders. As a serial killer emerges with an insatiable compulsion, Emerson becomes the prime suspect. But Emerson doesn’t know is his daughter is the only surviving witness to the killer’s crime. And now, she is in the killer’s crosshairs.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: For Sissy is the follow up book to The Crandall Haunting. I enjoyed the first book so much I saw no reason not to read the second. I’m so glad I did. It continues the story of Emerson and his daughter Courtney and what happens after the catastrophe at the Crandall Resort. I didn’t realize how much I needed this book until I started reading it. I’m the kind of person who always wants to know what happens with characters after the story is over. For Sissy satisfied that curiosity and more. We find out what really happened to Courtney’s mother, which I had wished had been touched on more in the first book, but the way Gilbert presented it in this book was perfect.

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The feel and events in For Sissy are, overall, MUCH darker than in The Crandall Haunting. It’s primarily about a serial killer and the way Emerson gets entangled in his web is just insane. It made me angry on Emerson’s behalf. He’s such an overall good person, to see someone screw with him makes me want to kick their ass. I truly had no idea how this story would end. Overall, For Sissy was a great book. As someone who is fascinated with the psychopathy of serial killers, this was, without a doubt, my kind of book. I hope Gilbert continues to tell stories such as this one because if so, I’ll read every single one. An absolute page turner for sure.

Ride or Die 2 Cee Cee Riley Suspense Casa only cares for two things in this life: his club—the Devil’s Highwaymen—and sex. That is until he meets Harlow. She’s feisty, passionate, and doesn’t fall for his usual charms. She’s perfect for him…but she belongs to someone else. Harlow is broken; she has been for a long time. With nowhere to go, and worse, no one to go to, she’s become a clubslut for the West Side Bangers. That is until a chance meeting with her old friend and former lover, Dom, brings their worlds colliding together once more. Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: For all intents and purposes, I shouldn’t have liked this book as much as I did. As most people know, romance is not my thing. With that being said, the characters in this series intersect with characters in one of my favorite zombie series, Odium, by Claire C. Riley. I adore Riley’s writing style, so I wanted to give this series a chance. I wasn’t disappointed by the writing. I wasn’t actually disappointed by anything if I’m being honest. I just can’t stand one of the main characters.

and every time he opened his mouth, I wanted to knock his teeth out or junk punch him. He just grated on every nerve I have. I just feel like he’s a piece of shit and Harlow deserves better than him. Keep in mind, just because I hated a main character doesn’t mean this is a bad book, it just means I hated him for my own reasons and you shouldn’t let that stop you from reading this book. While I hated Casa, I enjoyed the action and drama that played out within the story. There are some crazy things going on with the Devil’s Highwaymen, that’s for sure! Each of the characters Riley develops (except Casa) has a way of growing on you. You feel their familial connection. Blood doesn’t always make a family and the Devil’s Highwaymen are definitely a family. Overall this was another great book by Riley. The Devil’s Highwaymen series is a great addition to her ever expanding library of incredible books.

I adore Harlow. I’m not sure what it is about her, but I love her. She’s feisty and has a huge heart. Even when it’s not in her best interest to be caring, she is. She’s damaged and seems to be a glutton for punishment. I want to punch Dom and Casa both. I like Dom to a degree. I like him more now after reading the first Ride or Die book. I can tolerate him. I can’t stand Casa. He’s too aggressive for my tastes

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews This Night Sucks Elizabeth J.M. Walker YA/Paranormal Lana is a high school senior enrolled in Vampire Education – a class to teach students about the very real presence of vampires in the world. Lana and her classmates don’t really expect to meet up with any undead bloodsuckers. Vampires are a lot like other scary things that supposedly exist but you hope you’ll never come across: nudist colonies, mad cow disease, and your parents’ sex life. What is part of Lana’s everyday reality is navigating through one last year of high school while desperately trying to be less nerdy. She still loves spaceships, fantasy novels, and cat stickers, but she also recently got her braces removed, grew boobs, and is working on the makeup thing. She never expected her crush-of-a-lifetime Pete to even notice her – let alone ask her out on a date.

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: This Night Sucks by Elizabeth J M Walker was a pretty funny read. I definitely appreciated the author’s sense of humor. With everything going on in today’s society, it was nice to see an author making jokes. There was several snort-laugh worthy moments. The teens in this book are pretty typical teens. Lana is easy to relate to, and Pete is a stereotypical jock type. Now that I think about it, most of the characters fall into their stereotypical roles fairly easily. The main one that doesn’t would be the vampire and he’s got his own issues going on. I liked the flow of the book. It didn’t drag in places, which is good. The action was present but not anything too crazy or unreasonable for a group of teenagers to have participated in. I liked the uniqueness of the storyline also. Walker does a great job of giving us a new spin on the sometimes played out Vampire and everything that goes along with it. Overall, This Night Sucks is a really good read for teens or adults. It’s fun and unique and will keep you guessing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It’s a quick and easy read for me and I loved every minute of it. I was a little disappointed that it was over before I was done reading, but that tends to happen to me regularly. Definitely worth trying out.

Freed Amanda Carlson Fantasy Phoebe Meadows has one thing on her mind: Free her mother. For the last month, Phoebe has been training in the Valkyrie stronghold readying for battle. But when she stumbles into a secluded valley after a day of grueling practice, she’s given a dire prediction. Phoebe must leave the stronghold immediately with the aid of the giant, Junnal, to rescue her mother from the dark elves. If Phoebe fails, Leela will be transported to a place that can no longer be reached. And hopefully, this would be our second chance. Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: The Phoebe Meadows series is exciting, fun, and addictive. This is my first Valkyrie series, and I am thoroughly enjoying it every step of the way. The writing is what I have come to expect from Amanda Carlson and Freed sucked me in just as quickly as the first book, Struck, did. Freed picks up about a month or so after Struck ended. I was worried that I had forgotten some of what was going on, but as usual, Carlson reminded me without rehashing the whole story. Phoebe’s main goal in this book is to free her mother from the dark elves. Every adventure Phoebe goes on feels like an epic quest, full of different supernatural elements and Norse mythology. I’ve learned quite a bit about the Norse beliefs just through this series already. Obviously, Carlson puts her own spin on things but doesn’t get so far off base to damage the basic principles of the stories.

books is how strong and witty her female characters usually are. She really knows how to write strong women that while they enjoy having their men around, aren’t reliant on them to achieve their goals. There are no damsels in distress waiting for their princes to save them in her books. Something that made me glad I’m not a Valkyrie was the description of the armor they wear. It all sounds super uncomfortable and stiff and makes bras seem like the most comfy things every created in comparison. I love how Carlson incorporates the different elements into her books while keeping them all interwoven in the story. They each rely on the other in some way, whether it is in a good way or bad. There always has to be a villain, so someone has to do it. I liked the introductions of Baldur and Callan. They were fun characters. As usual, my only complaint is that it was over before I finished reading. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. It went far too quickly for me, but that’s my fault for reading so fast. At one point I even made a conscious effort to read slower just to make it last longer. Overall, this is a very enjoyable sequel to Struck and I can’t wait for the next book in the series. I would recommend this series to anyone with even a vague interest in Norse mythology or anyone who enjoys reading about strong women with a fun sense of humor.

One of the things I love about Amanda Carlson’s

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews

Surviving the Evacuation Book Three: Family Frank Tayell Horror Nations collapsed. The undead rose. Some people survived. Three months after escaping from London, Bill discovers the true extent of the global war that followed the outbreak. Most of the world has been destroyed, but there is a safe haven in a small village on the Irish coast. Myra’s Review: The story of George and the nursing home residents introduced in Book 2 is concluded in Book 3. George is handicapped by age and health issues, but struggles to help the few remaining residents to survive. Although this portion was only a few chapters, it was the most interesting part of the novel to me. The next section we pick up with Bill’s journey, as he and several others are trying to make their way to the Irish coast, rumored to be a safe zone. Bill and his friends use a boat to navigate past most zombies. At one point they must use bikes and then vehicles for the journey. There are many encounters with the undead and Bill has gotten much better at killing them. The group is on the trail of Stewart, who kidnapped baby Daisy and Annette in the last book. Finally tracking them 106 |

down, a fierce fight ensues; the youngsters are reunited with Bill and his friends. An exciting part, was when a horde composed of millions of the undead, were headed toward the group. Bill remembered a tunnel nearby that had been closed off and thankfully they found it so. They needed a place that the zombies couldn’t trample underfoot and where Daisy’s cries wouldn’t be heard. It was frightening when they emerged and saw the devastated landscape. No one would have survived if they had hid in a building, for no structures were left standing after the horde passed. At the end, Bill tracks down the scientist who started the apocalypse. When inventing the virus, the man had noble intentions. Let’s call it “false positive” results; the outcome ended disastrously, creating monsters. The scientist was kept locked up – he had gone insane, and Bill no longer feels the need to kill the man who started the zombie outbreak. After reading three books in this series, I still don’t understand why Bill blames himself for his part in the evacuation plan. In a disaster things fall apart and shouldn’t be expected to go exactly as planned… that’s my take. While this book has some worthy parts, it is not enough for me to finish the series. I highly recommend the first book as a standalone read. It was very interesting, with Bill surviving an overrun London with a broken leg.

The Remaining Faith D.J. Molles SciFi/Thriller The world is slipping into chaos. A mysterious plague has come stateside, and Clyde Bealey suddenly finds himself with nothing but a suitcase full of worthless things and a desperate sense that he must prove himself to his pregnant wife. As he tries to lead his family to safety through a world filled with madmen, he will learn that the cost of his pride might be more than he can bear.

Myra’s Review: Clyde and his pregnant wife, Haley, are trying to make it to a secure FEMA camp. The local people have been evacuated to the High School, where they are being loaded onto buses for the trip. It is clear Clyde is outside his element, like a fish out of water. He is a stock broker and ill equipped for the new world ramming its way toward him. Haley seems better suited than him, being raised on a farm. But since she is 6 months pregnant, she looks to her husband for protection. Clyde argues with the soldier guiding civilians onto buses, because he refuses to give up the large suitcase he was carrying. While he acts like an idiot, people slip past them and take their spot on the bus.

being a crying wimp and grow a pair!) Finally, Clyde, who had picked up a gun from a dead soldier, shoots the infected. He’d been holding the pistol in numb silence. The attacker is killed by a lucky head shot, because inapt Clyde treats a gun like he was holding a snake. Poor Haley dies too, but before she does, she begs her husband to save their baby. Later, we see Clyde walking like a dead man, with a small bundle in his arms. He’s not dead, but a shell of a man. At the end he is picked up by scouts from a nearby enclave of survivors. We get a glimmer that Clyde may be given a 2nd chance in this new world. I cannot give him another chance unless later we see a story where he is a kick-ass hero. While only a novella, this tale is full of terror, horror and sadness. It was both fascinating and hard to read. Clyde is feckless and his level of cowardice made me dislike him totally. It takes a very good author to make a reader abhor a character. If you’re looking for a horror novella that will rip at your heart and throat, this is it.

When the infected attack Haley and Clyde run for their car. Whether through fear or actually thinking straight, Clyde hunkers down with his wife. The infected don’t see them hiding in the car, and pass by after slaughtering everyone they run across. Leaving the vehicle, they make it to a convenience store, where they can find food, water and temporary shelter. But minutes after they arrive, an infected man breaks in, attacking Haley. Clyde stands weeping while the man rips at his wife lying on the floor. (I wanted to reach through the pages and slap him. Quit Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Extinction Age, Book 3 Nicholas Sansbury Smith Horror Humans are losing the war. Master Sergeant Reed Beckham and the survivors of 1st Platoon must battle through the tunnels-where they make a grisly discovery. Dr. Kate Lovato is working on a new bioweapon to destroy the Variants when a derelict Navy Destroyer crashes into the Connecticut shoreline carrying yet another threat. Myra’s Review: Reed Beckham and his team don’t know if they can escape death in the sewers of NY. Variants attack and they fight. What they discover in one sector is too horrific – a nest where the Variants stash their food – humans. Beckham saves one woman near him, then using grenades, he blows up the nest and the team flees the tunnels. Fortunately, the Plum Island base sends helicopters to pick them up. While Beckham’s team was in NY, the island was invaded by Variants; many survivors were slaughtered, but Kate and other characters we know are fine. When supplies start running low on the island, Colonel Jensen requests supplies from General Kennor. The General says no and the Captain comes up with a plan. One of the island’s lookouts had just spotted a Navy destroyer adrift. Jensen will send several teams aboard to search for food, ammo and guns. Of course Beckham volunteers to lead his team. Though at first it seems a ghost ship, soon each team is attacked by Variants. It’s a battle royal as the soldiers try to survive. These Variants are even more dangerous, for they leak blood from their eyes and nose, making them contagious.

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In the meantime, Kate comes up with a way to kill the Variants. The delivery system is tricky and will be transmitted to the bloodstream through cancer drugs. Her “medicinal poison”, named Kryptonite, piggybacks with the cancer drugs, targeting the same cells that the cancer meds strike. Where do they get the large supply they need? FEMA seems the best choice. The agency maintained a huge stock at Raven Rock, the underground bunker set up for important government officials. Unfortunately the base has dropped off the communication grid. A team had been sent earlier when contact was lost, but they never reported in, so the Colonel knows the base has been overrun. Beckham’s team and others are sent to secure the meds and save any personnel left alive. Of course they find much resistance from the Variants. Still, they manage to extract several truckloads of the drugs, plus rescue people, including the Secretary of State. When they return to Plum Island, Colonel Wood, who runs the military operations at the island, makes it clear the drugs are only for America. He won’t even consider sharing with U.S. allies. Reed and others sense of “right” and horror won’t allow this; any cure is supposed to be shared with the world. A battle erupts and our heroes win. As the story ends, Kate asks what happens now. Beckham replies, “We get Kryptonite ready and send it over every corner of the… earth”. This is a very appropriate ending and leaves us readers anxiously awaiting the ongoing saga. Highly recommended for zombie and Nicholas Sansbury Smith fans.

Dead and Alive Dean Koontz Horror From the celebrated imagination of Dean Koontz comes a powerful reworking of one of the classic stories of all time. If you think you know the legend, you know only half the truth. Now the mesmerizing saga concludes. . . .

Myra’s Review: Victor Frankenstein’s creations continue to break down, almost as if they are going insane. Janet and Bucky are public figures in the community; a married couple and replicants. Janet abruptly slaughters the pizza delivery guy, and then goes on a killing spree in their neighborhood. At first hesitant, Bucky joins in later. In the middle of the murderous rampage of Janet and Bucky, they are confronted by the German Shepard the human Bucky owned. He confuses them with his intense stares and they are convinced he “knows something”. They start chasing the dog down the street. Officers Carson and Michael see the two running naked after the Shepard. Tracking them to a park, they shoot Bucky when he attacks them. They know he is a replicant because he was very hard to kill. Janet slips away while the dog jumps in the car. Meanwhile, the New Race member, Werner, has escaped the room he was imprisoned in at Victor’s lab. He continuously morphs; reptilian, humanoid, cat-like, etc. Werner is one of Frankenstein’s creations that went wrong. Werner convinces one of the other super humanoids to join him, by absorbing his brain. As the book progresses the monstrosity has absorbed all the staff. Back at Victor’s mansion, Ericka 5 has made the acquaintance of a strange dwarf, what she calls a troll. He is an odd looking creature, but seems sweet and innocent. They slowly become friends and you can see a different kind of relationship developing – mother and child. In another part of the mansion, Victor receives a bizarre phone call. It is Ericka and she claims to be number 4, who he had killed and had disposed of in his dump. As she continues to call him repeatedly, he realizes it really is wife # 4 and she has

somehow returned to life. Interestingly, another creation of Frankenstein’s, is the Chameleon, which is able to blend into the environment so it’s invisible. It escapes the lab and almost kills Victor. But noticing a “ripple” on the table, the madman knows Chameleon is loose, and sprays his body with a concealer scent he concocted for just such an accident. Chameleon targets only humans. Later, while traveling in Ericka’s car, behind Frankenstein’s vehicle, Jouko, the dwarf, can see the Chameleon. Ironically he kills it just before it goes for Victor again, when the concealer scent wears off. When Jouko realizes what he has done, he is very upset, because he wanted his maker dead. Throughout the book, Deucalion has been trying to find a way to stop Victor’s mad plan to replace humans with replicants. He discovers a detonation program in the computer for the lab and sets it into motion, destroying the whole complex soon after he leaves. In the meantime, Ericka 4 and other New Race members want Victor dead. She arranges for the police officers, plus Deucalion, to meet at the dump. Ericka introduces them to a strange entity, one of Frankenstein’s accidents. The creature can read minds, plus send out “emotional waves”, which take away all the hatred and fear inside each replicant. They now feel happy. The New Race members at the dump set a trap for Victor, killing him in a fitting, horrific manner. But they did not realize their creator suspected things were getting out of hand, triggering his clone to awaken. Terrifyingly, the New Victor is stronger, faster and more intelligent than his creator. You can tell things are escalating out of control. I am very interested in continuing this saga. Highly recommended for Dean Koontz fans, and those who love mystery and monster elements mingled together.

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Spirit Warrior: Fighting the Realms of Darkness Crystal Mary Lindsey Suspense/Fantasy

Public Affairs: The Choices We Make Elizabeth Ferry-Perata Contemporary Fiction

Serenity (Rena) Charles knew nothing about the heavenly battle between good and evil, angels and demons, but she was about to be recruited as a Spirit Warrior and find out!

Ella, the sharp public relations expert, and Charles Grady, the hot, handsome, bad boy movie star, meet and the sparks instantly fly. As Ella works to repair her bad boy’s public image, she finds herself falling deeply in love with the sexy Charlie. Charlie falls for the sweet, smart, loving Ella -- and soon the bad boy is tamed. Love though sometimes isn’t quite that easy. On the eve of their wedding, tragedy strikes in the most unthinkable way. Ella must make a heart-breaking choice...

Amy’s Review: Magnificent storytelling Lindsey pens a wonderfully inspirational story in Spirit Warrior. The story definitely catches the reader’s attention from the beginning. Lindsey writes with a flair for detail and brings the emotions of her characters to life. I am proud and honored to read her stories, and this one is no different. The intensity of the story and how it flows is just perfect. Rena takes heed in her grandmother’s words, and they set the precedent for the entire story. “Be wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove in everything you do and say.” I will definitely read more of her work, as I find her writing and storytelling style, very hard to put down.

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Amy’s Review: Magnificent storytelling Ferry-Perata pens a magnificent story in Public Affairs -- The Choices We Make. The reader gets introduced to the characters and almost becomes invested in them. The story shows life for different generations, suffering tragedy, falling in love, overcoming obstacles and sharing in their triumphs. This is a remarkable story, where you have to sometimes take a deep breath to get through being choked up. I thoroughly enjoy Ferry-Perata’s writing style and how the stories are told. I look forward to reading more by this author.


Obama’s Dream (audio) Abdiel LeRoy Poetry

Lara’s Story Diane Merrill Wigginton YA/19th Century

A corrupt empire, and a man caught up in its structures of power.

SHATTERED BY HEARTBREAK “When a heart breaks, it does not break evenly, cleaving in half exactly down the middle.”

Only a divine intervention can set him free, as a great angel sets out to save his soul and with it, all of

Amy’s Review: Another grand Epic Poem Narration First, I read the print copy of this book. Many of my sentiments are the same, but there are some dramatic differences when listening to the prolific voice of author Leroy, as he narrated his story. LeRoy has a great talent for writing an epic poem, and his hypnotic voice lends grandly to the narration of the story. The way the words are penned together to come up with a completely grand poem is just pure talent. LeRoy has a unique way of looking at the world, and as I have read his other epic poems, this is not different and definitely not disappointing. He has a remarkable writing style and add to it his reading, no, narrative style, and it brings the reader in, as he paints with words, his voice flowing over gently with the narrative song of his words. “Close by Obama’s ear, there sits the fiend, Whispering foul thoughts of evil influence. 3 To overhear and learn what might be gleaned Of wicked schemes one angel’s preference.” I look forward to reading (and listening) more by this poetic author.

Surrounded by her large, boisterous family in 1840s Ireland, Lara Flannigan has never known anything but love and belonging—until the day tragedy strikes, leaving her abandoned and forced into indentured servitude. Amy’s Review: Captivatingly dramatic story! Wigginton writes a wonderfully dramatic and beautiful story in Lara’s Story. There is something captivating about Lara, whose life turns upside down, and she has to find her way. The story brings the culture of 1840s Ireland and wraps itself around Lara. I found myself turning each page and savoring each word before moving on. This story may target young adults, but a reader with my experience also enjoyed it very much. The strength and growth of Lara is shown as she endures the path her life has set for its course. This is the first book of Wigginton’s that I’ve read, but I definitely look forward to reading more by this author.

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Death on Lake Michigan Steven Arnett Crime/Mystery Death on Lake Michigan is a mystery set in a glamorous town on the shore of Lake Michigan in the summer of ’73. Mike O’Brien, once the crusading editor of the Michigan State News, now the assistant editor of the Gull Haven Observer, becomes obsessed with solving the murder of Rich Mallon, one of the most notorious and well-known summer citizens of Gull Haven—and finds love in the process. Amy’s Review: Intriguing and suspenseful Death on Lake Michigan is the first book from Arnett that I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. First, I enjoyed his writing style and how he put together his thoughts to make such as great suspenseful story. I’ve never been to Lake Michigan, but I found it’s a town like so many that I can relate, except maybe for the body being washed to shore. It’s a story that reminds me of the old sleuth novels, and adds so much more. The time is 1973 and it brings a sense of nostalgia and entertainment as the reader is brought into the middle of a tantalizing mystery.

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Cross Country Doctoring William LeMaire Biography/Medical In Cross Cultural Doctoring you will read about my career as a successful obstetrician and gynecologist in academic medicine at a major university. You will read why I decided at age 55 to leave my position, jump into the unknown and get off the beaten path. I will relate how my wife Anne and I accomplished this and how I kept working for various lengths of time in a number of different cultural settings around the world and how we travel extensively between assignments. Amy’s Review: Wonderful anecdotes LeMaire pens a remarkable true story about his personal journey in Crosscultural Doctoring On and Off the Beaten Path. First, LeMaire writes from his heart and his journey, and you can tell that in the way he writes and tells the story. The anecdotes and experiences were put together in a way that made sense and gave the reader a sense of the author. I’ve read another one of LeMaire’s work, and enjoyed that one as well. The stories are filled with emotions and shines a light on the obstacles and adventures that ones life can offer. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Cinderelevant P. Mattern Fantasy

Kennedy’s Coconut Will Mayo Poetry


These are tales of what was, what never was, what will be, and what will never be. Open and enter the land of your imagination. You will never be the same again.

A lonely and neglected peasant girl living in a small town will rise to unimaginable heights of feminine power. A TWISTED TALE OF BEAUTY, POWER AND FATE Amy’s Review: Unique and Interesting The book intrigued me when the author was nominated Best Indie Author of 2018 awards on my author blog, and the author was nice enough to share the story with me for a review. Mattern pens a unique and interesting story in Cinderelavant. The title drew me in and the story made me stay. Yes, it’s a modern day take on Cinderella, but it’s much more than what the author calls it “a reverse Harlem fairytale.” This story was about Cinderess (Cinder). The words of her father, haunting her, but warning her, “Your circumstances are going to get worse before they get better...” and they do, but she deals with her step-mother, step-sisters, and everyone else who looks down on her. It’s a great fairytale story. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Amy’s Review: Talented Thoughts The book intrigued me when the author was nominated Best Indie Author of 2018 awards on my author blog, and the author was nice enough to share the story with me for a review. Mayo pens great and interesting stories in Kennedy’s Coconut Stories from the Edge. I am already a fan of Mayo’s work, his stories and his poetry. This book I can say is more like a collection of very, very short stories, but also like grand thoughts that come from a talented and creative mind. From the title story Kennedy’s Coconuts” to A Roll Among All the Dead and everything included in this collection, each one was absolutely wonderfully intriguing. I reread the book several times.

Issue 31 | February 2019 |


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Uncaged Book Reviews  

February, 2019 - Issue 31 Feature authors: Linda Rae Sande, Lisa Borne Graves, L.D. Blakeley, AM Scott, Diana Bold, Elizabeth Rue, Kait Gam...

Uncaged Book Reviews  

February, 2019 - Issue 31 Feature authors: Linda Rae Sande, Lisa Borne Graves, L.D. Blakeley, AM Scott, Diana Bold, Elizabeth Rue, Kait Gam...