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ISSUE 48 | JULY 2020


n o te from the e d it o r T

he month has gone by fast, and this past month I was a bit out of commission because of my bad back, and Uncaged Book Reviews was a victim of my inability to sit at the desk and put the magazine together. I’m slowly coming out of it, and things are getting better, but this was the worst flair-up I’ve had for a long time. So please accept my apologies for this late release. We have ten great authors here this month and also one from FangFreakinTastic so be sure to check out their features and their books. As the pandemic continues in the world, writers are finding it a bit challenging like the rest of us. You would think they would have more time to write, but that’s not always true! Be sure to check out the advertisement on page 6, and learn how author Beth Carter is helping during these unprecedented and challenging times. Semi-finals voting will continue with the Raven Awards, with a LIVE Facebook event on August 17, 2020 to award winners. Uncaged will also be raffling off prizes and authors will be encouraged to have their own giveaways during the event. So keep voting for your favorites, Uncaged does not collect email addresses for this process.

supported through advertisements, but the prices will not increase in 2020. Unfortunately, Tier 2 review requests will remain closed until further notice. That review Tier is only open to Feature Authors at this time. Uncaged is always open to bringing on new reviewers, so if you’d like to get books for free in exchange for an honest review, please email me at Cyrene@ UncagedBooks.com Enjoy the July 2020 issue of Uncaged Book Reviews and stay safe and healthy!

Uncaged Book Reviews readership is up dramatically. New readers are finding the magazine and discovering new authors. Uncaged will continue to bring the best possible content as usual. We will be continuing with the “Buy 2, Get 1” promotion we’ve been running. It really does help from a marketing standpoint, to have an advertisment run three months in a row - to repeat in the readers mind. You don’t just see a commercial on TV one time and remember it, right? So we will continue to try and provide the best bang for your buck and get the most eyes we can on your work. Uncaged is

X cyrene 4| uncagedbooks.com


contents featureauthors Ann Charles 12 paranormal suspense 18

Digman & Roddy

34

Robert M. Fleisher

40

Alexa Aston

54

Issue 48 | July 2020

FangFreakinTastic 100 Camille Faye paranormal/metaphysical

authors and their pets

50

scifi/space opera

legal thriller

historical romance

catchup

30

Anna St. Claire

historical romance

62

Leigh Fleming

68

Dillon Walker

Uncaged’s Feature Authors introduce you to their devoted writing buddies, and the devotion goes both ways.

Susan Hanniford Crowley Susan is back writing and brings us an excerpt from the latest book in The Arnhem Knights of New York series.

showcase

28

Little Ellie Isabellie Elephant

4 7 106 110 114

Note from the Editor Contributors|Partnerships Uncaged Reviews FangFreakinTastic Reviews Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

contemporary romance

Tracy Hartley

young adult

76

Hallie Alexander

82

Jacki Delecki

88

Jo-Ann Roberts

american historical romance

historical suspense

Uncaged on Instagram

historical western

Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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Contributors | Partnerships

Follow Uncaged on Facebook

Paranormal lover’s rejoice. Uncaged review contributors.

A blog for horror fans. Uncaged review contributors.

A little bit of everything. Uncaged review contributors.

If you’d like your banner here, please email me at UncagedBooks@gmail.com Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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upcomingconventions Most upcoming conventions through June 2020 have been cancelled because of the pandemic. Uncaged will monitor the scheduled conventions and remove/add as the information becomes available. At the time of this publication, the conventions listed are still scheduled or marked cancelled, but be sure to check their websites as the time gets closer to the event.

All About the Indies July 11, 2020 Arlington, VA https://aaibookexpo.com/

Writers on the River July 18, 2020 Peoria, IL https://writersontheriver.com/

Literary Love Savannah July 29–August 3, 2020 Savannah, GA https://blueflamesabove.wixsite.com/literarylovesavannah 8| uncagedbooks.com |

Romance GenreCon August 6–8, 2020 Kansas City, MO https://www.mymcpl.org/events/romance

Indie Bookfest Orlando August 27–30, 2020 Orlando, FL http://indiebookconvention.com/

Penned Con (2021 will be the final year) September 17–19, 2020 St. Louis, MO https://pennedcon.com/


feature authors

paranormal suspense | scifi | thriller

Ann Charles

Digman & Roddy

Robert M. Fleisher


ann c h arles

A

nn Charles is a USA Today Best-Selling author who writes spicy, award-winning mysteries full of mayhem, adventure, comedy, and suspense. She writes the Deadwood Mystery Series, Jackrabbit Junction Mystery Series, Dig Site Mystery Series, Deadwood Undertaker Series (with her husband, Sam Lucky), and AC Silly Circus Mystery Series. Her Deadwood Mystery Series has won multiple national awards, including the Daphne du Maurier for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Ann has a B.A. in English with an emphasis on creative writing from the University of Washington and is a member of Sisters in Crime and Western Writers of America. She is currently toiling away on her next book, wishing she was on a Mexican beach with an icecold Corona in one hand and a book in the other. When she is not dabbling in fiction, she is arm wrestling with her two kids, attempting to seduce her husband, and arguing with her sassy cats.

Stay Connected

Uncaged welcomes Ann Charles

anncharles.com

Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! Your latest book, Devil Days in Deadwood, is the 11th book in the series, Deadwood Humorous Mystery Books. Can you tell readers more about your main character and the series? Sure! The Deadwood Mystery series stars Violet Park-

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as her daughter. This frightening news starts Violet down the path of figuring out what’s happening to the girls, which leads to her landing in the midst of some serious trouble (including the “supernatural” sort). With each continuing book in the series, we learn along with Violet about how many dangers lurk in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and how Violet has a much bigger role than a mere real estate agent when it comes to “cleaning up” the hills. In addition to Violet, there are several other key secondary characters that make up her “crew,” including a funny sidekick/self-appointed bodyguard, a long-time best friend, a sexy medium, a hard-headed cop, a kooky ghost whisperer, and so many more fun personalities. Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about the other series you have out also?

er, a single mom of almost ten-year-old fraternal twins. At the start of the series, Violet has recently moved to Deadwood, South Dakota, to live with her aunt while trying her hand at a new career—real estate agent. She has 90 days to make a sale and keep her job. As if the pressure to sell a house isn’t enough stress, she learns that a little girl has gone missing somewhat recently and that this girl wasn’t the first. It turns out the missing children are around ten years old with blond hair, same

In addition to my Deadwood Humorous Mystery series, which combines mystery, supernatural elements, humor, romance, and suspense, I have multiple other series. (Note: Almost all of my series have crossover characters, so these books all share one big fictional world where many of the various characters know each other.) • Deadwood Undertaker series (a mixture of western, supernatural, thriller, humor, and suspense set in the old West version of Deadwood, South Dakota that I write with my husband, Sam Lucky) • Jackrabbit Junction Mystery series (a mixture of mystery, adventure, humor, romance, and suspense set in Southeastern Arizona) • Dig Site Mystery series (mystery, adventure, supernatural, suspense, and romance set down in Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula at Maya archaeological dig sites) • AC Silly Circus series (novellas set in a traveling circus setting which includes paranormal shape-shifters of all sorts—these are paranormal romances with humor) As you can imagine, all of these different series keep me pretty busy, but there are a couple of more I Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | would like to write if I can find the time someday. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? This summer, I’m working with my husband, Sam Lucky, on the third book in the Deadwood Undertaker series called, Can’t Ride Around It, where the gritty Old West faces off with a world full of supernatural suspense. We hope to have it available in ebook and print in early fall 2020. Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? My husband and I both write fiction and are entrepreneurs in the publishing business. We have been working at home for years, so not much has changed in that way. However, our kids were home from school for the last quarter of the last school year, taking classes online, and that changed life “in the office” for us since we had more company around all day long. We would periodically joke about how sloppy our coworkers were in the “office kitchen.” Honestly, though, I think I work longer hours during lockdown times because there are no trips to school or town to break up my day. Uncaged: What is some advice you can give to new authors just taking the plunge into the writing world from your own experiences? This writing gig takes a lot of perseverance to be successful, and the most successful authors are stellar entrepreneurs who are skilled in all aspects of publishing, not just writing books. My husband and I support our family with full-time publishing careers. We’ve spent years and a lot of money building up our business to its current level, so if you’re in this business to get rich quick, you’re going to grow frustrated right out of the gate. This career is a time glutton. It will “eat” as much time as you are willing to feed it, so be careful not to go too far and let the physical and mental stresses 14 | UncagedBooks.com

that come with writing and marketing day after day eat you up, too. Finally, every author has his or her own path to take through the publishing jungle. Don’t try to follow exactly in someone else’s footsteps, or you’ll end up frustrated and disheartened and lost. Enjoy your own adventure on your own path. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you


| ANN CHARLES | Jane Austen—I want to know how many times she rewrote a scene or chapter before hitting the “final” draft that she turned into the publisher. Edgar Allen Poe—I just think he’d make an entertaining lunch companion. Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? Honestly, my characters rarely do as told. They are way too independent. I explain to them that I’m the director of the show, but that doesn’t seem to faze them. For example, in the first book of the Deadwood Humorous Mystery series, Old Man Harvey showed up on the first page with his favorite doublebarreled shotgun (Bessie) in his hands. I had done a lot of planning and plotting before typing the first line in the book, both about the story and the characters in it, and Harvey had not been there for any of it. Yet as soon as I typed the first line on page one in Nearly Departed in Deadwood, Harvey showed up on scene along with Violet Parker, and he’s been her sidekick ever since. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working?

love to sit and have lunch with and why? Zane Grey—I want to know if the people from the south/southwestern United States back in the mid-tolate 1800s really used the vernacular he writes in his books. How true to the time are his characters?

I watch a lot of movies. I’m a visual learner, so I use movies to study dialogue, scene setup, and story. Oh, wait! You said when I’m not working. Hmmm. Did I mention that I’m an entrepreneur? I have trouble shutting down that part of my life most days. I will go through spurts of reading where I’ll devour at least a book a day, jumping all over the place when it comes to genres. I’m a bit obsessive, which I think helps me be more successful as a writer in the long run. I do enjoy spending time with my husband and kids when I take a break from the book business. We all travel quite a bit together via road trips, and being on the road with them are some of my favorite memories over the years.

Mark Twain—I want to know if he was as clever in everyday conversation as he was on the page. Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? There are a lot of factors that you can use to define success, such as awards, bestseller lists, sales, income, brand recognition, and so on. These are all part of the package of success, but after writing professionally for over ten years, one of the things that I find the most rewarding at the end of the day is making readers happy. Those emails and letters and social media messages (and in person visits at book signings) that are filled with stories of laughter while reading my books in spite of whatever sadness or stress life is piling on at the time—that is success for me. I often tell potential readers that I write to entertain. My goal is to make them smile, chuckle, snort their drinks, laugh until they cry … and then cringe minutes later. Helping readers escape for just a little while is what keeps me writing line after line, book after book. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I like ebooks because I can take a bunch with me at once without carrying around pounds and pounds of books. Audiobooks are fun for road trips, but I have found that I like to go back and read something again, and that’s tougher to do when it comes to audio. I like to collect my favorite stories in print, though, too. Seeing a shelf full of my favorite books makes me feel rich and happy. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I’d like to tell fans that I appreciate their support and kindness. We are a team—authors and readers. Together, we can have a lot of fun in the pages of a book and share laughter, which is good for the soul.

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Enjoy an excerpt from Devil Days in Deadwood Devil Days in Deadwood Ann Charles Paranormal Suspense “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” ~William Shakespeare Violet Parker knows better than to play with devils. They always cheat, especially when lives are at stake. Deadwood’s charming, troublemaking, and soulsucking devils are no different, and they’re biting at her heels. But the clock is ticking and Violet has no choice— she must risk her life to save her treasured Aunt Zoe. With any luck, she might be able to trick the devils and beat the old terrors at their own game. If not, Deadwood could end up short one Executioner. “Executioners don’t duck, they swing.” ~Violet Parker Excerpt Once upon a time not so very long ago in a small mountain town known for several bigger than life historical figures like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Seth Bullock, there lived a single mom who believed ghosts weren’t real, enchanted mirrors were only found in fairy tales, and love was for suckers. Boy howdy, life had sure taken a torpedo and blown those beliefs to smithereens. Now, here I sat in a haunted house with a bossy ghost who liked to take her frustrations out on me, a magic mirror possibly full of incredible terrors, and a sexy medium who held my heart in his hands. What was next? Little green men in flying saucers? Unicorns with wings? A cyclops named Burt?


| ANN CHARLES | “Constable,” Prudence called to Cooper, bringing me back to the situation at hand—Doc lying on the couch and me cuddling an alchemist’s looking glass. “Move behind Violet so that you can see into the mirror as well.” Cooper joined Doc and my floor show, staring at me in the mirror. “I’d better not end up with another black eye from this, Parker.” I stuck my tongue out at him. He tugged on my hair. Some things never changed, whether there were ghosts and imps or not. “We’re ready,” I told Prudence while peering at Doc around the side of the mirror. His eyes were closed, his breathing slow and steady. I’d seen him slip into this state several times before the start of a séance. As for me, my chest felt tight and my eyes were on the verge of bugging out, so I tried to mimic Doc and take long, steady breaths. The smell of honeybuns still lingered this close to the couch, as well as Doc’s cologne. Together, they made my mouth water and remember happier times filled with all kinds of sugar. “Medium, listen to my words carefully as I lead you along,” Prudence said to Doc. “If you veer from my instructions even slightly during this process, we might not be able to rein you back in after we are finished here.” “What do you mean, ‘might not’?” I said to her while frowning at Cooper in the mirror. “This is too dangerous.” To the tall medium with his feet hanging off the end of the couch, I said, “Forget it, Doc. We’ll find another way.” I reached toward him. Zelda’s hand clamped onto my forearm, her fingernails biting into my skin, her grip bruising. I looked over. Her white eyes were inches from my face, her lips pulled back in a fierce snarl. “Do not touch him until he is ready, Scharfrichter, or you might lose him for good. Do you understand?” “Yes. Okay.” I pulled back. When she released her hold on me, there were half-moon fingernail marks dug deep into my skin. Two were bleeding a little. Criminy, Prudence was intense. “Are you ready, Medium?” I waited for Doc to nod or reply, but he did neither.

“Then we shall begin,” she continued, settling back into the chair. “He didn’t answer you,” I pointed out. “Yes, he did, only he spoke on a level above your abilities.” I sighed, keeping my fists to myself. But one of these days … Pow! Right in Prudence’s kisser. Cooper’s reflection was grinning at me. He appeared to be enjoying Prudence’s repeated jabs. “Let me get this straight,” I said to Prudence. “From here on out, only you will be able to communicate with Doc?” I didn’t like the sound of that one bit. “Precisely. Now, if you will stop this filibustering, I will show the medium what he needs to see.” “Yeah, Parker, zip it,” Cooper said, laughing under his breath. While waiting for Prudence to continue, I pointed my finger at Cooper in our reflection and pretended to shoot him.

DON’T MISS THE FIRST TITLE IN THE SERIES:

Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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digman & roddy

M

att is exactly one half the creative force behind the epic fantasy space opera novel, The Dark That Dwells.

Born and raised in Arkansas, he spent his free time studying Star Wars technical manuals, searching for his next favorite RPG, and watching his Star Trek: TNG VHS tapes until they fell apart. Basically, he was nerdy when nerdy wasn’t cool. He currently works as a pediatric emergency medicine physician in Alabama and writes when he ought to be sleeping.

R

yan grew up across the southeast, chasing her dream of becoming a professional actress. Though she eventually traded the stage for a stethoscope, she never gave up her love for great storytelling—or for playing dress up as an adult. Now she works as a pediatric emergency medicine physician to afford her cosplay and Disney obsessions. She loves the characters she’s written for The Dark That Dwells with her husband almost as much as she loves him and their four dogs

Stay Connected

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Uncaged welcomes the writing team of Matt Digman and Ryan Roddy Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! Your new book, The Dark that Dwells is releasing July 10th. Can you tell readers more about the book? Sure! The Dark That Dwells is primarily a science fiction space opera, but it has some interesting fantasy elements worked in too. Think spaceships, wormholes, and lasers but with a smattering of swords and sorcery. It was written for people who enjoy an expansive plot with world building and deep character development. It’s a robust story with four main characters and an ensemble cast, set in an expanding universe full of intrigue and conflict. There’s plenty of action, if that’s your style, and there’s even some romance. If you’re a fan of some of the more popular sci fi franchises of the 80’s and 90’s, you’ll be taken to places that feel somewhat familiar but wholly unique with our approach. Uncaged: It seems that writing duos all have their own strategies on how they write together. Can you tell us how you both wrote together to keep it cohesive? How did the partnership come about? It helps that we’re pretty much attached at the hip anyways--we’re married! We brainstorm on our big whiteboard and run ideas by each other constantly. Once a chapter gets on the page, we sit down together and read through it, adjusting line by line to keep the whole thing cohesive. We wanted the narrative voice to stay consistent. If you know us personally, you could probably pick out which parts belong to each of us, but overall, it’s a very collaborative process. The partnership came together the first day we met. Once we realized we had similar nerdy interests, Matt sort of blurted out his ideas for a book, and it went from there. Uncatged: The synopsis seems to indicate that this is going to be an ongoing series, is that true and if so, is the series open-ended or do you foresee a specific number of books in the series? Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR |

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| DIGMAN & RODDY | Yes, we’re planning on five maybe six novels in the series. We think five will get us what we need, but these types of stories are always adding new characters and new subplots, so we may need six. The overall story is planned out as well as that sort of thing can be, and we’re hoping to put out a new installation every one to two years or so. Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? We’re both pediatric ER doctors, so it impacted our day jobs the most. Fortunately, it didn’t affect our writing too much. We got to use the quarantine time at home to work on the second book in our series. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Matt: I’m gonna take a cop out and say…no one. Hear me out! Most of the people I grew up reading, like Tolkien, Zahn, Stackpole, Anderson, Foster (Star Wars and Star Trek were a big part of my reading) are interesting, but I’m sure we’d just stare at each other if we had to talk over lunch. Two introverts trying to have a conversation and all that. If I had my choice, maybe we’d go camping or visit some places that were important to them while writing. I’d love to see some of the childhood stuff with Tolkien that inspired his feats of the imagination. Ryan: I’m a huge historical fiction fan, so I’d have to say Philippa Gregory. I love the passion and strength she brings to her female characters, and I love British history. It’d be a dream to have tea with her one day! Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? Hermes subverts expectations throughout the whole book. You’ll see when you read it, but he’s a fairly chaotic being. We had more fun trying to figure out what he was going to do next than with any other character. There’s a whole section of the book where he’s hiding his identity that we found intriguing to write.

Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? Matt: I’m probably gaming or trying to catch up on my backlog on Netflix. I haven’t been to the bookstore in a hot minute due to the pandemic, so my reading has slowed down a little. But like any true reader, I have a stack of stories waiting to be read. Ryan: We’ve got four dogs, so we love spending time with them. I enjoy cosplaying, so you can probably find me working on something for my next character. And I’m big into Bioware RPGs, too, so I’m frequently gaming right next to Matt. Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? For us, our goal was always to get a story out there that makes people feel like they wished they were a part of it. When you put the book down, you have that sense of loss, like your friends have all gone home. We love sci fi and fantasy, and we wanted to add a story worthy of being included in the great stories we grew up reading and watching. For those people who feel like maybe there’s something missing in today’s big stories, maybe we could hit that sweet spot. Money, sales, and accolades are far less important to us. I think we’re both hoping for that moment when someone comes up to tell us how much our characters and stories mean to them. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? Matt: Physical copy for me. Give me the hardcover without the dust jacket any day. The only exception is audiobooks for when I’m driving. I usually have a book that I save just for the road while I’m physically reading others (I commute for work). Ryan: Physical copies all the way! I’m a paperback girl.

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

Enjoy an excerpt from The Dark That Dwells

We hope to be the story that gets you in the feels. If you’ve been looking for something fresh but with the soul of what brought sci fi and fantasy into the public spotlight back in the 80’s and 90’s, this story is for you. If you like a well fleshed-out plot with lots to sink your teeth into, this story is for you. If you’re bored and need a new book, it’s probably still for you. Get it!

The Dark That Dwells Digman & Roddy SciFi/Space Opera Releases July 10 An immersive new space opera featuring an unforgettable ensemble cast, set in a sci-fi world with a fantasy twist. In this evocative science fiction series, four strangers are swept up in a gripping adventure of thrilling battles, ravenous creatures, and the return of forbidden magic. Ranger. Warrior. Tyrant. Arcanist. As their paths interweave in love and hate, redemption and revenge, one threat will eclipse their greatest fears: a being of utter darkness and its imminent return. THE DARK THAT DWELLS: essential for readers craving robust, character-driven adventures on fantastic alien worlds, bullet-ridden spaceships barely held together, and the expansive infinity of spacetime itself. Excerpt Prologue Sidna let the fire fade from her fingers, and the light’s

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| DIGMAN & RODDY | reach retreated, leaving her cloaked in darkness. Breathless, she fell back against the temple’s rough, sandstone wall and cried out, her voice little more than a whisper. “Ronin?” She waited, but only the pounding of her heart replied, beating faster with each moment of silence.

On she ran, chasing after the wildly dancing light, always ahead of her but just out of reach. She flew through ancient rooms and long-forgotten halls, steadying the holstered pistol at her side. As she rounded the next corner, she stopped just in time to keep from crashing into the man ahead.

Where is he?

He held out his hand, palm down. “Hold up.” He was out of breath, stifling a cough. “If we aren’t more careful, we’ll run face-first into that bastard.” Sidna struggled to catch her breath too; her vision blurred, and the world spun. She stared at the dusty stone floor beneath her boots and put her shaking hands on her knees for support. After several shallow, rapid breaths, she forced herself to breathe deeply, willing her heart rate to slow and her lungs to fill completely.

She wiped the sweat from her forehead, sweeping aside a fallen strand of her loosely-braided darkbrown hair, then pulled up the sleeve of her brown leather jacket. The faint green light from her wristmounted display resolved into a small two-dimensional map of the tunnels nearby. As the pathfinding software worked, multiple routes branched away from her, each seemingly identical. She hesitated, unsure of her choice. “Pick one. Just pick one.” Ceramic pottery shattered in the distance, and her heart nearly burst from her chest. Terrified, she threw herself against the wall again, eyes closed tightly, waiting to die. But she lived. Ronin! She pushed off and sprinted down the hall, knowing the Guardian would never be so subtle. The end of the tunnel opened into a large chamber. Across the room, a bright white light disappeared through a doorway and around the corner, swallowed by a dark gullet.

She looked up at Ronin. His dark leather boots, green left-shoulder cape, and well-used white-and-green light armor marked him as an Aeturnian Ranger. There was an eagle painted on the armor of his left shoulder, diving downward, and a short, scoped rifle hung from his back by an old, worn strap. Long years of travel were etched upon his face, and his black hair betrayed a hint of gray. Yet, in spite of the difference in their ages, it took him far less time to recover. He peeked around the corner. When he turned back to her, he nodded grimly in reassurance. The bright white light from before shone from his forearm, and he swept the beam back down the opposite end of the corridor.

Wait!

Sidna tensed. For a moment, she thought she’d seen the Guardian.

She made her way through the debris-filled chamber then rushed through the exit, slamming into the solid wall on the other side. She grabbed her shoulder and looked back, expecting to see the Guardian’s crimson light, but there was only darkness.

Just a shadow. Somehow, she knew she’d always see it when she looked into the darkness, even if she did manage to escape it. Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | It was a living nightmare, relentless and unyielding, hide thick with plated armor. It was tall too, nearly half a meter more than Ronin. Black fog, pungent and sulfurous, emanated from the broiling heat within, adding to its already dreadful appearance. It had grasping, armored gauntlets full of hot plasma, and pulsating red light spilled out from between its plates, surging with each unnatural breath. It was by far the most terrifying thing she’d ever seen. “Okay.” Satisfied they weren’t followed, Ronin bent down to look into Sidna’s eyes. He gently put his hand on her shoulder, smiled, and tilted his head toward the other end of the corridor. “There’s another side chamber that way. Let’s get inside and catch some air.” She nodded and stood. “Yeah. Air is good.” They jogged into the chamber. It appeared to be some sort of office or reading room, judging from the decayed scraps on the floor, scattered shelves, and rotted tables. Across the room, on the opposite wall from the entrance, an exit led further into the unknown. She looked back. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a door to close behind them. Ronin looked around and seemed to settle on an empty shelf. With a few dull, wooden thuds, he moved it to cover the entrance. After a few more pushes and pulls, he backed away and walked across the room. “Now.” He dusted his hands together. “Let’s get outta here.” She walked past him and looked up into his eyes defiantly. “You can’t be serious. I’m not leaving until—” 24 | UncagedBooks.com

He raised his hand. “We’re leaving. We didn’t plan on that…thing.” “If we go now, we came for nothing.” “We can always come back.” She put her hands on her hips. “The way back will have moved by then. Do you have any idea how much this cost?” He stepped forward. “More than our lives? You can’t come back if you’re dead.” She sighed and looked down. “Fine. But you’re paying half next time.” “Gladly.” He opened a small panel on his armlet and tapped a few keys. The device’s speaker sounded a pleasant, two-note tone that lingered in the air. In front of him, the soft blue light resolved into a flat square map. The temple’s network of tunnels and chambers spread out, and a small, flashing red dot marked Ronin’s current location. Sidna moved to his right side and went to one knee. One of her boots was untied, and her gray, tight-fitting flight pants were riding up her leg. As she adjusted her clothing, Ronin reached under his left arm and grabbed the edge of his cape. He pulled it forward to obscure some of the light from the hologram. “Okay. That’s us there.” He nodded toward the dot with his head. “Hmmm. I think this corridor leads to the last intersection on this floor. Past that, if we make our way to—” He was cut short as a huge black mass tore through the wall where the entrance used to be. Blood-red light flared under its impossibly dark armor, spreading throughout the room. The Guardian bellowed a strange, otherworldly chorus in its deep, resonating voice.


| DIGMAN & RODDY | Sidna shook herself from her paralyzing fear and ran as fast as she could for the exit. She could feel the creature’s grasp at her back; she knew its fingers were about to take her. Instead, she felt Ronin’s palm through her jacket, shoving her into the passageway. She stumbled, and when she was back on her feet, they ran. A deafening wave of sound came from behind as the Guardian burst into the hall. Billowing smoke flowed into the space before it, red glow pouring through. Ronin spun around and planted his right knee on the stone floor, scoped rifle suddenly in his hands. Staccato muzzle flashes lit the corridor brilliant white, and the barking sounds of the rifle echoed down the hall. Eight shots later, the last casing ejected from the rifle, hit the wall, and bounced to the stone floor with a hollow, metallic sound. Sidna watched in horror as the monster strode through the smoke unharmed. The armored plates on its arm stood up like hair on an angry animal, and the light spilling through grew more intense. Raging fire formed in its rising hand. Ronin grabbed Sidna’s shoulder and threw her to the floor. Searing heat followed a bright flash as the small flare of energy flew overhead. The end of the corridor exploded, showering them with rubble. Through her blurred vision, she saw Ronin calling out to her, though she could barely hear him over the ringing in her ears. When she could breathe again, the scents of ozone and burning hair filled her nose. She took one last look at the monster then hurriedly spun to her belly. With help from Ronin, she scrambled to her feet then ran away from the Guardian toward the hole in the wall. They leapt over the pile of rubble and, surprisingly, landed in a new passageway. Ronin stopped and pulled a smooth, silver disk from a pouch on his belt. After a few quick twists of its outer surface, the disk produced a low, intermittent beep. He tossed it back through the hole, and they ran to the right, down the corridor they had just discovered. After a few seconds, Sidna felt the shockwave,

and small pieces of stone rained down from the ceiling. Ronin shined his light back down the hall, revealing the pile of broken stone that had collapsed into the opening. He tapped her shoulder. “Come on!” They turned and ran again, weaving through the winding passages until Ronin signaled for her to wait. Completely drained of energy, she stopped, crossed her forearms against the nearest wall, and pushed her forehead against them. She wanted to fall down but somehow managed to stand. Pulled again by a tug on her jacket, she reluctantly jogged to a nearby room. Once they were inside, Ronin turned off his light and quietly edged along the wall toward the opposite end of the room. Sidna saw it too. “Is that sunlight?” Ronin looked back. “Yeah. And maybe a way out.” They moved around the wall and through the next room, where they found a massive cathedral. Wide stone columns ran through the center in two rows, going on as far as she could see. A wide, faded red carpet ran down the length between the columns, with matching tapestries on the walls. They bore the image of a robed corpse with a white, skeletal face. It held a curved rod with a long, crescent-shaped blade in its bony hands. Stone benches sat in evenly spaced rows. Along the tops of the stone walls, there were high rectangular fenestrations, letting in just enough sunlight to see. It was morning on Veridian. We made it! They jogged to the area of the columns and took cover behind one of them. Sidna reached up to Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | her arm. When her fingers came away, they were wet with blood. “Let me help.” Ronin pulled his cape up from behind him then unsheathed his tech-knife from the scabbard on his chest. With the humming blade, he cut away a thin strip of the green cloth then motioned toward her injury. She removed her jacket and tossed it to the floor, noticing its collar was matted with blood. Ronin tied the cloth around the upper part of her arm. She winced and sucked in hard. With a start, she realized that underneath the blood, the iridescent metallic patterns of her implanted viae were visible. She turned to hide the markings, but Ronin grasped her arm. He looked up into her eyes and gave her a knowing grin. He knew the whole time. She smiled back. And he doesn’t care. Ronin suddenly pushed past her. “Wait here.” He pulled his rifle and put his back to the nearest column, edging around the surface. She turned. “What is it?” “I’m not sure. For a second, I thought—” He gasped and spun away from the column. He tried to raise his rifle but wasn’t fast enough. Sidna screamed, watching helplessly as he rose from the floor, lifted by the black hand around his neck. Even in the glow of dawn, the Guardian was no less terrifying; its smoke and night-black armor seemed to devour the morning’s light. It stared into Ronin’s eyes dispassionately as the Ranger struggled to wrench free of its grip, boots kicking wildly above the floor. As he fought, the beast’s other hand grabbed him near his midsection, rotating him horizontally. Sidna ran forward. “No!” 26 | UncagedBooks.com

In the bloody blur of movement that followed, Ronin died horribly, one half of him flung to the left and the other to the right. She tried to scream again, but she couldn’t make a sound. Her hands trembled, gripping her pistol as the hulking mass turned toward her, red light flaring from its empty eyes. Terror took her as the monster started to lumber forward with its slow, steady gait. She stumbled backward and fell, and the pistol skipped away on the stone floor beside her. Past the gun, she saw her fallen protector, his face mercifully turned away. Ronin… She turned back to the creature as it extended its arm toward her. Ronin’s reassuring smile flashed in her mind’s eye. Alone again… Cold anger replaced her fear. Always alone. The monster’s smoke flowed forward, but before the substance could reach her, it swirled away, shooting back toward its source. The metallic lines and symbols of Sidna’s viae surged with blue light as she raised her arms before her. The Guardian seemed confused, curiously watching the churning fog, no longer under its control. Roaring wind swept the gas around violently, and the air crackled with electric intensity. “Die.” Sidna’s furious storm buffeted the beast, and as the cathedral’s stone walls and columns collapsed around her, she fueled the tempest with all her rage.


showcase Tracy Hartley

Little Ellie Isabellie Elephant Little Ellie Isabellie Elephant Tracey Hartley Childrens

A little elephant named Ellie Isabellie wanted to join her friends for a fun day at the pool. They were already splashing and swimming and having lots and lots of fun. But Little Ellie Isabellie was just too little to be joining in, she might drown! It almost made her sad that she could not play with her friends, until she decided she would do something about her being too little. She wished to be bigger. She did this to make herself appear taller. She did that to make herself appear larger. But she was still too Little Ellie Isabellie. And just when she was losing hope when her efforts all failed, she decided to ask her mother for help. And Little Ellie Isabellie Elephant was off to a great adventure with her friends with the help of her mother.

U.S. Review of Books “As she was walking to her room she thought, it’s ok to be little. And it’s ok to need help.” Little Ellie Isabellie is a young elephant with a serious dilemma. She’s watching her animal friends playing together happily in a swimming pool. She really wants to join them, but unfortunately, she fears she’s “just too little.” It doesn’t seem fair that 28 | UncagedBooks.com

she can’t jump in and play as they do. Maybe if she were just a little bigger, she thinks. For example, what If she had stilts? But she realizes she’d never be able to get in the pool or swim around with those. The same objection applies to her idea of wearing her mother’s high heel shoes. Could she stretch herself to the right height? There’s a tape on the door to measure herself by, but making herself taller is obviously impossible. Ellie Isabellie is getting sad. She hates being little, and there doesn’t seem to be any solution to her problem. Maybe, though, her momma can help. Amazingly, Momma has just the thing Ellie Isabellie will need to join in the fun at the pool. At first, Ellie doesn’t understand. How can that “strange item that was filled with air” help her in the pool? Her mother gently explains, telling Ellie to her surprise that swimming with the floaty will even allow her to swim at the deep end. Sure enough, when Ellie takes the floaty to the pool and jumps in, she finds she can stay afloat and kick and swim, impressing her friends who have never seen such a thing before. And best of all, they’re happy she’s come to join them. Later, as she remembers the experience, she’s pleased that she decided to ask for help. She has learned a valuable lesson. This sweet children’s parable was written, author Hartley says, for her granddaughter—a “beautiful little brave fighter.” With jaunty, pleasant illustrations by Linda Solomon, Ellie is shown as plump, pink, and thoughtful, perplexed at first as she tries to figure out on her own some way to enjoy a day at the pool, and then contented as she looks back later on the positive results of taking advice (and a floaty) from her caring mother. This animal fantasy shows young children the benefits of asking for help sometimes and not being afraid to try new things. The book demonstrates that with a bit of trust in the counsel of one’s elders, a child can enjoy life to the fullest and make and keep friendships by participating in new activities with others. In fact, as Ellie Isabellie remembers the events of her day, she realizes that tomorrow might bring even more such adventures. She falls off to sleep, thinking, “Ohhh, the possibilities!” Hartley’s book will be an enjoyable read-to for parents and grandparents, opening the way to some simple but significant discussions with youngsters who will soon be able to read the cheerful tale for themselves. Hartley says that she wants her granddaughter, and all other children as well, to know that even though they may be small, they can be strong and bold. Her book offers a heartwarming way to spread that message.


C ATC H UP

CATCH UP WITH SUSAN HANNIFORD CROWLEY AND HER LATEST RELEASE IN THE ARNHEM KNIGHTS OF NEW YORK SERIES


Uncaged welcomes back Susan Hanniford Crowley Uncaged: You’ve released the third book in the Arnhem Knights of New York series, The Vampire with a Blanket of Stars. Can you tell readers more about the book and the series? Hi, everyone! The Vampire with a Blanket of Stars is a tale of two lovers, a vampire prince and a Gypsy girl separated by war. The story, which begins just prior to WWII and spans to the present day, is filled suspense and danger, but with the essence of an enduring love that will never surrender. It is the ultimate search for love story - a love found, lost, and the hero who won’t surrender his search. I enjoyed blending the historical with the paranormal, the research into the legends of Romania, in particular the most haunted place. I had a consultant on Romania to advise me, so I could make it as authentic as possible. The book is set in Romania, Paris, and also New York. I had finished this book just before I found out I had cancer and turned it in to my editor. She went to work on it, and I saw it once or twice more before my first surgery. She promised me that if anything happened to me, she would publish it anyway. I will always be grateful to her. I fell in love with this first son of the Vampire King of New York, and I hope you will too. The book before this is Vampire Princess of New York, Arnhem Knights of New York, Book 2, is about Noblesse. Max made her a vampire when she was shot down at the beginning of the French Revolution in Paris. He admired her warrior spirit. The story is set in modern day New York, Paris, and a little bit in Iceland. Noblesse is a sophisticated New York vampiress, highly educated, and the CEO of Max’s international business, when he’s not in New York. Even though time is not on her side, she continues to search for her mother who went missing prior to the revolution. Her life is further complicated when two possible lifemates show up, and

| SUSAN HANNIFORD CROWLEY | they are both keeping secrets from her. The difference being that one truly loves her, while the other wants her dead. Maximillion Vander Meer starts the series with Vampire King of New York. He also created the Arnhem Knights, who swear an oath to protect humans in their region from death by vampires and to come to the aid of supernaturals needing assistance. Max has been living in Iceland but has come to the point where he must find the woman who can heal his heart or perish like other vampires who have experienced the emptiness of an eternal life. Max was once a Viking and still worships in the old way. When the Goddess Freya warns him, that an ancient terror threatens to destroy the city that he helped built, Max, currently an absent CEO must return to New York. Each book in the growing series is about either Max, one of his children, or a friend Uncaged: You’ve had to step back from the writing for a while to concentrate on your health. How are you doing now? After over a year of battling breast cancer, I am doing well. My doctors feel that I’m cancer-free but it’s not official until you remain that way for 5 years. The doctors keep testing me. I do have to be careful because my immune system is not where it should be yet, as the chemo meds are not entirely out of my system. It leaves me very vulnerable, so I’ve been sheltering at home and will continue long after most people are going out. Uncaged: Are you working on anything that you can tell us about? I am working on Arnhem Knights of New York, Book 4, which is all about Toff. It will be set in Iceland, New York, and Romania. I am going through edits and rewrites on a dragon romance book, which will be the beginning of a paranormal contemporary trilogy. My beta readers have already called it a “winner.” I am also writing a book on cancer from a different take. Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| CATCH UP | Uncaged: Are there any promotional events for 2020 that are on hold for now because of the pandemic? I am in the medically vulnerable group regarding Covid-19, so I cannot attend anything without my doctor’s okay. Right now, everything I did before is in a holding pattern. I am one of the people waiting for a vaccine to become available.

S

usan Hanniford Crowley, a science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal romance author, specializes in vampires and rare supernaturals. Susan has been married to the same wonderful man for 41 years, is a mother of two grown daughters, grandmother to three grandchildren, has two cats, and a miniature rose bush. An active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Romance Writers of America, Susan founded Nights of Passion Blog, which she shares with two other authors in addition to guests. She is also an Associate Editor for Space and Time Magazine. The Arnhem Knights of New York books are based on the Susan’s vampire knights, which is a sequel to her original series Vampires in Manhattan. The first series includes When Love Survives, The Stormy Love Life of Laura Cordelais, A Vampire for Christmas, Vampire in the Basement, and is available on Amazon. Her steamy steampunk romance in alternate Victorian England is Mrs. Bright’s Tea Room and her sexy Greek mythology romance Poseidon’s Catch are also on Amazon. 32 | UncagedBooks.com

Susan have been researching vampires for over 30+ years. She collects dragons and sea shells. Susan can be found at Nights of Passion blog http:// nightsofpassion.wordpress.com and at her website https://www.susanhannifordcrowley.com/ She is on Twitter as @SHCrowley, and on Facebook as Susan Hanniford Crowley and Susan Hanniford Crowley, Author.

Enjoy an excerpt from The Vampire with a Blanket of Stars The Vampire with a Blanket of Stars Susan Hanniford Crowley Paranormal Romance Night fell with the snow. Vampire Prince Răzvan stood at a crossroads in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. On that cold wintry night in 1938, something unseen spoke to his heart, and he led his companions into the forest. A flash of silver in the dark! A whisper to his heart so soft it ached! Then he saw the gypsy encampment in the deep woods and knew they would take refuge there for the rest of the night. At first, she hid behind the others. But when she peeked out, his heart was lost gazing into the exotic blue eyes of the raven-haired beauty. He felt the excitement rushing through her blood like wine, making her reckless and wild. She should have been afraid of him. His dark visions of the future should have terrified her. Still, she remained spellbound by his gaze and would not turn away. While the others slept, two hearts stood in the snow hidden behind a tree, watched by the stars. But it would not stay night forever. Excerpt Snowflakes danced and glowed with twilight in the deep forest, where stark dark trees clawed the diminishing light. Three riders continued against the growing storm. Răzvan barely noticed the ice diadems


| SUSAN HANNIFORD CROWLEY | swirling, appearing to pause midair around him then disappear, as if time stood still in that moment.

“Good people, could three travelers buy a meal and a place to sleep for the night?”

Dragă (darling). The word sang to him. On a mission with Toff and Zebrok, why did he choose this road? Why did he insist on continuing into the night? Dragă. Dragă mea (My darling)! Such an odd thing to be thinking now with his mission to see the king so vital.

The men grouped together and talked among themselves.

“My Prince, perhaps we should return to the last village and stay there. The snow will soon be too deep for our mounts.” Răzvan patted his stallion. “He will bear it. So shall we. Our refuge is close by.” How did he know that? Thousands of times he had traveled this road and knew nothing was close by. “Besides the snow is easing now.” A snowflake crown settled on his brow, and he brushed it off. They continued on the old road and turned with the bend toward the Carpathian Mountains. Răzvan thought he saw a shadow moving briskly behind the trees, a twinkle of silver light and then it was gone. Was it magic? No. The slightest touch of a feeling so immense drew him and urged him on. Near the road but under the cover of trees were tents and wagons. “Gypsies,” Toff muttered under his breath. “They are the Roma people, and I expect you to show them the same respect you would to anyone else.” “Yes, my Prince.” Răzvan slid carefully off his stead and taking the reins led the way to the encampment. He could hear the grumbling thoughts of his companions in his head, but that didn’t matter.

“What brings you on this road when the snow falls and the sun is low in the mountains?” “A mission for the king. I am Răzvan Forţă. These are my friends Toff and Zebrok.” They huddled together, eyeing Răzvan and his men with suspicion. “We are a free people and have broken no laws.” “You are not in any kind of trouble. We will pay you for the food and lodging. At sunrise we will leave.” The leader walked up to the prince. “You are welcome. Please, come this way.” He led the three into a tent that was open on one side to allow a fire pit, and it looked like the entire community followed. Her eyes were ghostlike, dark rimmed but with a pale blue light in them, beautiful beyond words. She peered out at him from behind the other women. She wore a silver comb in her dark hair. It was hard to keep focused and listen to the leader who offered them seats on barrels at a makeshift table. She was the shadow he saw racing through the woods at twilight. Hers was the face he could gaze on endlessly. Răzvan saw several men leave to get wood. The young woman ran off too. Why did the word “Dragă” come to him earlier as he was deciding which road to take? Did she lead him here?

The blazing fire invited and urged him closer. Men of the camp came out of their tents and approached him. Women and children hid behind them, their clothes layers of mismatched rags, colors faded by time. Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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r o bert m . f leis h er

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OMPLAINING is how I got my start in writing. Every day, at lunch with my healthcare colleagues, I would complain about the way healthcare professionals could be sued so easily. The lawyers incessantly advertised how all the evil doctors did patients wrong and how much money one could get by suing them. One doctor, tired of hearing me complain, said, “Why don’t you write a book about it.” And I did.

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Uncaged welcomes Robert M. Fleisher Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! Your new book, The American Strangler releases July 16th. Can you tell readers more about this book? Lawyers and the legal system strangled America, and now a serial killer strangles the legal system. The American Strangler is a vigilante thriller that brings to life the William Shakespeare admonition, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Simple and sweet. We all know how lots of people hate lawyers, especially if they have ever been sued. Dr. Ron Rellick loses everything, including his sanity, to a malpractice claim and goes homicidal. Get inside the mind of a good man turned violent. See how the evil of corrupt lawyers leads to unforgiving vengeance. Dr. Rellick becomes the hunter to avenge what he sees as the scales of justice fractured and out of balance.

Uncaged: You’ve also written a book called The Divine Affliction, which readers are saying is very eerie considering what is happening in the world today. Can you tell readers more about this book? Today, we are challenged by a viral epidemic. Viruses and other biological weapons could cause untold destruction. The beginning of the story sets the scene for the horror that came from prions, the cause of Mad Cow Disease and other devastating infections that are impossible to detect until the damage is done. The Divine Affliction explores the use of stealth, violence, terror, and enslavement to destroy the American people, whose most venerable enemy may be revealed when looking into a mirror. The cause of the rampant, vicious, irrational behavior that sets its stain upon every echelon of society is postulated and may help explain the crazy world we live in today. Is America sleeping, unaware of the ultimate weapon of destruction? In an ending that challenges the reader, one must decide if there is any hope for humanity. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? Currently, I’m working on several projects that include, Sixty Something, which is a continuation of my series all about aging and sequels to The American Strangler and The Divine Affliction. Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light how dangerous and fragile the world is, especially from attack using biological weapons. This is especially interesting to me, since in The Divine Affliction biological agents are used to attack America. Due to the social distancing, I find I have more time to write and less time to socialize. This is a double-edged sword. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR |

I would like to have lunch with Joseph Conrad, because I just love Heart of Darkness. His writing resonates with me, and his style is a magic mix of language. I would also like to break bread with Dan Brown. Besides being a master of the thriller genre, he seems to be so very down to earth. In a lecture he told a great tale about his early career that would warm the heart of any struggling author. Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? When I write, I’m the boss. My characters come from my own creation. It doesn’t mean they al36 | UncagedBooks.com

ways follow the script. There are times they influence my writing and have a mind of their own. Nasty little creatures! Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I like to post on social media which is a great deal of reading and writing. I never used to watch TV, but recently, with all the well-scripted shows, it’s become a way for me to relax. Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? To me, success as an author is all about making the


| ROBERT M. FLEISHER | world a better place. If I can change the hearts and minds of people toward goodness, I have accomplished all the success I need. Uncaged: Do you prefer eBooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I love audiobooks, because I can “read” while driving in my car. Ebooks have their purpose, and they are sometime my first choice, but I seem to have so many eBooks on my devices that they can get lost. A plain old fashion physical book is right there in front of me. It’s just easier to keep track with a nice bookmark. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? To readers everywhere, you live a life of great advantage. You travel to new worlds, meet new people, and have an abundance of experiences that could only come from many lifetimes. You are blessed to be a reader. Not everyone enjoys this medium, because it takes effort and talent that is not all that common. Embrace your advantage and keep reading.

Enjoy an excerpt from The American Strangler The American Strangler Robert M. Fleisher Thriller/Suspense Releases July 16 “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” –Dick the Butcher, William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2 Ron Rellick agrees. Simple and sweet. We all know how lots of people hate lawyers, especially if they have ever been sued. Dr. Ron Rellick loses everything, including his sanity, to a malpractice claim and goes homicidal.

The title has a dual meaning… The legal system is strangling America, and now a serial killer is strangling the legal system. Get inside the mind of a good man turned violent. See how the evil of corrupt lawyers leads to unforgiving vengeance. Dr. Rellick becomes the hunter to avenge what he sees as the scales of justice fractured and out of balance. Excerpt CHAPTER 1 He placed the pill far back onto his tongue and swallowed hard. Mounting angst contorted every muscle in his neck. He never took a Xanax before. He never engaged in recreational drugs. He never drank. Though he appeared to navigate life’s passage with ease, recent events kept him from exorcizing the demons tormenting his conscious thoughts. He ran from a relentless circumstance of evil intent. With each stride, he saw the ground beneath him dissolve like loose sand. His soul was the hunted, his mind the hunter. The emptiness of the room magnified the echo of heavy footsteps. Four muscular men went about their work much in the manner of mindless robots. Over and over they made the trip from the house to the truck carrying elegant furniture, artwork, and the boxes stacked in each room. The sedative effect of the Xanax did not affect his mood. His thoughts drifted. He saw many obnoxious, selfish people that day. The stress to perform turned intolerable. I see the patients. I hear their voices. It’s become an endless chatter. Instead of concentrating on their problems, I stare with a blank expression at their irritable faces. I never felt this way before. All I see are the flaws in their complexion; the Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | wrinkles, blemishes, and dark patches that visit their skin like a plague.

“What can we do?” she asked. “Nothing. Not a damn thing we can do.”

“Excuse me, sir,” said one man, balancing two large boxes in his arms. “I gotta get through here.” Lifted just above the threshold of deep thought he responded, “Oh, sure.”

“What about Florida?”

He moved out of the young man’s path and walked to the undressed window. With a fixed gaze, he stared into the distance, looking at nothing in particular. I used to reason there were more kind people in the world than nasty ones, but for the life of me, they seem reduced in numbers from the past. A pile of junk mail sat on the sill, left there by the housemaid before being dismissed from service. As mindless therapy, he glanced at the envelopes, determined what he needed to read, and flung the fodder into the empty box next to him for recycling. One piece caught his attention. The outer envelope stated, “DON’T LOSE EVERYTHING YOU WORKED HARD FOR TO THE PREDATORSOF THE LEGAL PROFESSION!” He saw this mailing many times in the past. It meant nothing before, but now it was too late. He placed his finger beneath the sealed flap and attacked the messenger. A searing burn preceded the realization that the envelop tore open his flesh. Unlike other paper cuts, this wound traveled deeper. The hollow high-pitched sound of petite footsteps heard crossing the room intruded upon his solitude. “What happened to your finger?” she inquired. He ignored her question and stated, “This fiasco should have never happened to us.” With an expression defining despair, he shook his head from side to side. 38 | UncagedBooks.com

“They’ll get that too.” “The beach house?” “That they can’t take.” The leader of the men approached. He held the last box between his strong arms. Sweat and grime from his labor darkened a badly worn blue denim shirt. His bulging forearm bore a faded tattoo blurred by time. Still, remnants of a once proud eagle, wings spread and mounted, remained for all to admire. “You can lock up now,” he said without emotion or commentary as he exited. Two souls now stood naked before a world of their perceived injustice. They had become the residue of a defective system manipulated by design. No more dreams to live for, only emptiness and torment stood ready to visit upon them. How did I get here? Every problem has solutions, logical solutions. God, I know this! The ruination of my existence is about to unfold. How did I get here?


feature authors

historical romance | contemporary romance

Alexa Aston

Anna St. Claire

Leigh Fleming


A

ward-winning, internationally bestselling author Alexa Aston lives with her husband in a Dallas suburb, eating her fair share of dark chocolate while plotting out stories as she walks. She enjoys reading, Netflix binge-watching, and attending sporting events when she’s not watching Survivor or The Crown. Alexa’s Regency and Medieval historical romances bring to life loveable rogues and dashing knights and include the series The St. Clairs, Soldiers & Soulmates, The King’s Cousins, and The Knights of Honor.

Stay Co n n e c te d

alexaaston.com

ale x a ast o n 40 | UncagedBooks.com


Welcome Alexa Aston Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! Your latest book, To Save a Love, is the 4th book in the series, Soldiers and Soulmates. Can you tell readers more about this series? Can they be read as standalones? Thanks for having me here! Soldiers and Soulmates takes place during the Regency Era, when the Napoleonic Wars were in full swing. My five heroes are army officers who, due to varying circumstances, come into their titles. Each leaves the military to take up his new duties and responsibilities and find the women meant for them. In To Heal an Earl, a governess who was once a lady tries to heal the shattered heart of a lonely soldier. To Tame a Rogue’s heroine must forgive the hero for his role in her husband’s death, even as he tries to forgive himself. To Trust a Duke has a new duke who tries to break through the walls a widow has erected around her while he tries to teach her how to live—and love—again. In my newest Soldiers and Soulmates, To Save a Love, my hero tries to save the sanity of the woman he loves before she is lost to him forever. They were childhood sweethearts who eloped to Gretna Green and were caught before they could cross the Scottish border. Dez is shipped off to the army, while Anna’s father, angered by her disobedience, places her in a madhouse. The series wraps this month with the final entry, To Win a Widow, where a widowed duchess must convince an earl raised in poverty that they are a perfect match. As a writer, I always make sure that each book in my current series can easily read as a standalone, so readers new to me can jump in at any point without being lost. Those who read from the beginning, though, will see familiar faces as they move through reading each series. Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: As a historical author, where do you go to research for your novels? I was a history teacher before I began writing historical romances—so some of the research is deeply embedded in my head from all those years of teaching about it to my students! I do most of my research online, looking for clothes and customs of the period; slang that was used; and various jobs to be had. I’ve used currency converters and studied maps of English counties and roads. I’ve delved into specific battles and their commanders and strategies. I especially love websites with names, seeing what names were popular in certain decades and sometimes putting my own spin on the spelling of that particular name. One thing I’ve found really helpful, believe it or not, is children’s books, especially for my medieval historicals. I’ve poured over books that have diagrams of castles and the various pieces of armor knights wore and the weapons used. I referred several times to a children’s book about different places on ships when I wrote God of the Seas, a pirate novel. These kiddie books, with their clear illustrations and simple language, give me a good idea of how to describe things to my readers. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? Coming up next for me at Dragonblade Publishing is my Medieval Runaway Wives trilogy, releasing in August, September, and October. My heroines are the only woman troubadour in England; a French comtesse who is being blackmailed; and a baroness who will do anything to protect her unborn child. I also have my first contemporary romance series releasing between August and November. It’s called Hollywood Name Game, featuring five incredibly hot actors and the women they fall for. For now, I’m hard at work writing my Dukes of 42 | UncagedBooks.com

Distinction series. It features five close friends who will all become dukes. Some are honorable. A few are rogues. By the end, they will all be better men for the women they have come to love. This Dragonblade series releases next February through June. I can’t wait for readers to get their hands on these dukes! Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? As a writer, I’ve always stayed home quite a bit, so my days are pretty much the same. Amazon has been my best friend, and Mr. Aston teases me that we have a new package delivered from them every day. I have missed being able to go to a restaurant or movie with family and friends. For the first two months, I wasn’t able to see my dad, who lives in an independent living facility. He can now leave the premises but cannot have visitors. I do still see my only grandbaby, who is ten months old and only lives ten minutes away. I also have regular zoom dates with two circles of girlfriends, and my book club has also zoomed. Who would have thought zooming—something I had never heard of—would become such an integral part of my life! Uncaged: What is some advice you can give to new authors just taking the plunge into the writing world from your own experiences? Write every day. I’ve found immersing myself in my writing on a regular basis keeps me close to the story and characters and helps me to be more productive. I would also suggest studying your craft. There are great websites, blogs, podcasts, and other resources available to those taking the plunge into the world of writing. Joining a professional organization will also help new writers tap into those resources. Get online and “meet” other writers in your genre, via Twitter and Facebook groups. Writing can be a lonely business, and it’s great to have others who understand where you’re coming from. Also, invest in large bags of chocolate! Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? That’s a tough question! In no particular order, my au-


| ROBERT J. SAWYER |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | thor companions at that table would include: Mark Twain, Johanna Lindsey, Theodore Roosevelt, Victoria Holt, Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Lee Child, David Baldacci, and Victoria Thompson. And that’s just for the first course! I think I would demand a twelve-course meal and rotate a new set of authors in for each one. Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? All. The. Time. I must have the most misbehaving characters on the planet. I calmly tell them where we’re going and share the road map on how we’ll get to the HEA—then they take off and insist upon doing their own thing! As I write, some of my characters are headstrong, sometimes impulsive, but they always are true to who they are and help me in bringing them to life. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working?

Walking each morning clears my head and is great exercise. I enjoy eating (everything from seafood to Mexican to Italian), a good Netflix binge, watching movies, and going to sporting events—and especially playing with my sweet granddaughter. Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? I think it’s looked different at various stages of my career, as I progress and set new goals for myself. At the beginning, it was simply landing a contract or pulling up my book’s page on Amazon and feeling that sense of pride at being a published author. Then holding that physical book in my hands, knowing I created this story and the people living within its pages. Later, it became signing a contract for a multi-book series and breaking a certain rank on Amazon. I’ve also stepped into writing different sub-genres of romance, something to help challenge myself creatively. 44 | UncagedBooks.com

Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physi-


cal books? Are you reading anything now? I love the feel of a physical book but have come to truly enjoy all those ebooks on my Kindle. I used to get on a plane for vacation, with my carryon holding 8-10 hardbacks! Now, I slip my Kindle into my purse and can read as many books as I like on vacation—and my carryon actually holds clothes and shoes now. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? If I could hug every fan in person, that would be simply amazing. Hugs are smiles for the body, and I would love to be able to meet each reader who has enjoyed one of my romances. Instead, I will simply say, “Thank you for your support and encouragement. Because you buy my books, it allows me to live my dream of bringing my romances to others.”

Enjoy an excerpt from To Save a Love To Save a Love Alexa Aston Historical Victorian Both wronged by their fathers . . . two damaged souls longing for love and salvation . . . Childhood sweethearts Desmond Bretton and Anna Browning defy their powerful fathers and elope to Gretna Green when Anna is told she will marry a viscount old enough to be her grandfather. Caught before they cross the Scottish border, Dez is shipped off to the army, where he learns of Anna’s suicide. Though a dozen years pass, Dez still loves the girl who always held his heart. Though everyone is told Anna died, her father places

| ALEXA ASTON | his daughter in a madhouse to punish her for her rebellious behavior. Anna retreats inside herself to a world of her own making in order to cling to her sanity. Dez, her lost love, is a huge part of that perfect world. When Dez becomes the Earl of Torrington, he discovers Anna is still alive and with her cousin’s help, they free her from Gollingham Asylum. Dez knows the girl he loves still lingers within Anna and is determined to liberate her, as well as other women imprisoned at the madhouse. Can Dez save the sanity of the woman he loves— or will Anna be lost to him forever? Excerpt The key went into the lock and Dez tried to brace himself for what he would see as the door swung open. The first thing to hit him was the horrendous smell, much worse in here than in the hallway, which had been awful enough. Bars covered the lone window, which was closed. The air felt heavy. His eyes swept across the room and found the single bed near the corner. A shape lay on it. He rushed toward it and faltered, gasping. He could barely tell it was a woman, much less Anna. Her beautiful, strawberry blond hair had been shorn short and was so filthy he couldn’t tell what color it should be. She lay motionless on the bed, her eyes closed, a rope wrapped around her several times and underneath what was a cot, effectively tying her to it. What puzzled him was something that bound her, her arms crossed in front of her. “What is this contraption?” “It is called a straitjacket,” Cheshire replied. “Quite effective, I must say. Restraints are often needed to control behaviors such as tearing clothes and demonstrating lewd behavior.” Dez shuddered. The doctor continued. “We find restraints helpful in stopping patients from harming themselves or Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | others. It also keeps them from attempting suicide at night when no one is watching them.” He couldn’t believe what he was hearing and looked at Lord Shelton in disbelief. “You are insane, Cheshire, if you believe this helps individuals committed here, the vast majority which I assume are not mad. You are shutting innocent women away from the world.” The physician shrugged. “They are deemed mad by their families, my lord. I am merely providing a service. We don’t promise a cure. We do confine them so they and their loved ones are safe.” “Get this . . . thing off her at once,” he barked at the attendant. The man looked to Cheshire, who nodded grimly. The attendant first loosened the ropes that bound her to the cot. When he flipped Anna over, Dez could see all the many ties up the back. Then Anna began jerking and making wheezing, guttural noises. *** Anna had gone to her special place. She only went there when she was placed in her room. Not when she sat on the hard wooden benches for twelve hours a day. Others were around her and even though they never spoke, she liked to keep her world private. She imagined being at the lake again, the one that sat in the middle where Shelton Park ended and Torrington lands began. So many happy days had been spent at this lake. Skimming stones. Swimming. Picnicking. Walking along the shore. She pictured the blue of the water sparkling in the sun. A clear sky. Birds chirping in the trees behind her as the woods started. Her legs were straight out in front of her as she sat on a blanket. Her hands were propped behind her, her arms straight, as she lifted her face to the sun and tried to feel its warmth penetrating her. She sensed Dez sitting beside her and imagined the smell of his favored sandalwood soap wafting toward her. Near the water, Jessa was hopping on one foot. Then a butterfly caught her eyes and she began chasing after it. Dalinda followed Jessa as she 46 | UncagedBooks.com

scampered away and they moved into the trees. She sighed. Now came the best part. One which she had relived a thousand times. No, a thousand times a thousand. Maybe more. Slowly, she turned her head toward Dez. His handsome face smiled down upon her, his brown eyes rimmed with amber. A breeze caught a lock of his dark, wavy hair and he pushed it from his brow. Then he leaned toward her. Every time she knew it was coming and yet she cherished it as if it were the first time. His hand cupped her cheek. His lips met hers. And she relived her first kiss. The kiss was sweet. Lingering. It told of his love for her and promised good things to come. Anna reveled in it, enjoying it anew, yearning for the time when a simple kiss had been her whole world. Dez broke the kiss and gazed upon her. She froze that image in her mind and let it stay. This was her favorite moment of her life. When she had been young. Pretty. Carefree. Her whole future ahead of her. She would take out this memory and examine it. Replay it. Relish it. It was unlike the white times. Those were for when Fiend punished her with the abominable treatments. Anna had learned during one of those to go to her quiet place. It was all white. Pure. No color. No sound. No motion. A vast expanse of nothingness where she could hide from the mean people who did bad things to her. She went back to Dez. Thoughts of him calmed her. She hadn’t been calm earlier. It had been one of her rebellious days, one where she couldn’t sit for twelve hours without moving or talking. She had screamed and shouted until her throat ached and she grew hoarse. Even the ice-water treatment hadn’t made her cease. Eventually, her throat became scratchy. Her pitch fell. Then she lost all ability to speak and retreated to the white place. She didn’t remember anything done to her after that, only that she was now here, in her room, the awful straitjacket pinning her arms across the front of her body, tied so tightly that it was worse than a corset. But it was still blissful because she was alone. Left with her cherished memories. From afar, she heard voices. Men’s voices. They


| ALEXA ASTON | frightened her. Perhaps the attendants had told Fiend of her abominable behavior and he had sent them to beat her again. The beatings left her battered and bruised. They crushed her spirits. It took her a long time to heal from them. She wouldn’t think about it. She would go to the white place. Where it was serene. Where nothing invaded. Devoid of anything or anyone. Then she was roughly turned and she knew an attendant was untying the restraints. She couldn’t help it. She began thrashing about, trying to scream, wheezing grunts coming from her. She had endured too much today. She couldn’t take anymore. Tears streamed down her face as she wished everyone would go away. Leave her. Let her finally die. Suddenly, the straitjacket was ripped away from her. Her arms ached as the blood began rushing back. What was amazing, though, was she felt an embrace. Someone stroked her hair and murmured to her. Anna caught a whiff of sandalwood and relaxed. Warmth enveloped her. What was happening? She had never been able to conjure anything so complex. Yes, she could imagine things in clarity with brilliant, bold colors. Yet she had never been able to create smells. Sounds. Touch. Keeping her eyes closed, she smiled. The heavenly warmth continued. The sandalwood scent became stronger. Anna inhaled deeply, drawing it into her lungs. My God, she had imagined Dez here. With her. This was an entirely new level she soared to. Anna had no idea how she had done it, only that it was the most wonderful thing that had happened to her since she had come to Gollingham. Then she was being lifted. Carried somewhere. Oh, how marvelous. Her cheek rested against a beating heart in a hard, muscled chest. Dez moved so fast that she felt as if a breeze gently touched her. Then she bounced a bit, moving down stairs. Fear struck her. No. She couldn’t do this. She couldn’t carry her fantasies so far. She had never imagined trying to leave the asylum, at least not after those first few gut-wrenching weeks. She’d thought of nothing but escape then. Ways to flee. And had been shown just how foolish

those notions were. She had been hurt so badly as to never wish to think about leaving on her own again. Even her fantasies of Dez coming to rescue her had been shoved away, placed so deeply within her that she dare not let them out. Suddenly, bright light slammed against her, as if she had been taken outside in the blinding sunshine after the darkness of the asylum. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut and whimpered. This was going too far. She heard the sweet song of a bird. Felt the breeze. Smelled the fresh air of a spring day. She began weeping copiously because she knew her greatest fear had final come and swallowed her whole. After all this time, Anna finally had gone mad.

DON’T MISS THESE TITLES:

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Jana Richards To Heal a Heart To Heal a Heart

Jana Richards Contemporary Romance Garrett Saunders’ world changed two years ago on a road in Afghanistan. Back home, he feels like a stranger. As he struggles to find his place in the world, he meets a horse destined for the slaughterhouse and a woman bent on rescuing the strays of the world, including him. Blair Greyson moves to Masonville to look after her ailing grandfather and give her rescue horses a home. Right away she butts heads with a surly former Marine. Despite a rocky start, they come to an agreement: Blair will board Garrett’s rescue horse and he’ll help with repairs around her farm. Garrett finds purpose working with Blair—and falls in love with her. But she’s hiding a secret. Can she forgive herself and accept Garrett’s love, or will she let guilt and regret continue to rule her life?

Excerpt “Okay, what would you like to do? In your heart of hearts, what would you really like to do with your life?” He was slow in responding. For a long time, he pushed gravel around with his rake, until Blair thought he wasn’t going to answer her question. With a sigh, she started working again, almost missing his soft-spoken words. “I always thought after my military career was over, I’d come back to civilian life and begin a career in policing or firefighting.” 48 | UncagedBooks.com

sneakpeek “Those both sound like good options. So why haven’t you applied to some police forces or fire departments?” The anger in his eyes took her breath away. “Are you deliberately trying to be cruel?” Blair stepped back, shocked by his words. “No, of course not! What are you talking about?” “I’m not exactly a prime candidate for either the police force or the fire department.” “Why would you say that?” Was he worried about his drinking as well? Did he think he’d be unable to handle the rigors of policing or firefighting because of it? He tilted his head. “You don’t know, do you?” “Know what?” He bent at the waist and rolled up his right pant leg till it was above his knee, revealing a device made of metal and plastic where flesh and bone should have been. He rose to his full height and looked her straight in the eye, as if daring her to pity him. “As you can see, I’d have a tough time acing the physical.” Blair wanted to cry. She wanted to run into Garrett’s arms and hold him forever, to make all the hurt go away. She wanted to scream and yell and rail against war and all the stupidity and intolerance in the world. But Garrett wouldn’t appreciate her tears, and crying wouldn’t solve anything. So, she sucked them back and raised her gaze to his, willing her chin not to tremble. “I hope you’re not going to use your leg, or lack thereof, as an excuse to get out of work. There’s still plenty to be done here.” He rolled his pant leg over his prosthesis once more, straightened and grinned at her. “I wouldn’t dream of it.” Somehow Blair managed to smile back at him. “Good answer.”


ALEXA ASTON & Jake

picked up from my aunt and uncle last summer. We drove her 2000+ miles home with us from Ohio to Arizona in a jam-packed vehicle for four days. She was a tiny “munchkin” kitten who fit in our palms, and she made our trip home so much fun. Both of these kitties still go with me to pick up the kids from school because they don’t mind riding in vehicles and love to see the kids after being away from them all day.

ANNA ST. CLAIRE & Shep & Gracie This is Jake the Wonder Dog, who is now eleven but a bit younger in this picture. We live in Texas and I snapped this picture of him during bluebonnet time. I love the chill look on his face as he soaks up the sun and relaxes among the flowers.

ANN CHARLES & Bamboo & Clementine I’d love to share a pic of two of our four cats. This picture is of Bamboo and Clementine. Bamboo is our oldest cat at 17, and Clementine is our youngest at a year old. Bamboo is an amazing cat that we were given as a kitten. She is two years older than our son, so we call her our “oldest” child. She has helped raise our two children and been super patient with the kids and cats we’ve brought into our home after her. She used to go to work with me when she was younger, because my job allowed us to keep pets in our office, so she is super friendly. Clementine is a wild-and-crazy barn kitten we 50 | UncagedBooks.com

I have two wonderful dogs—Shep (my white cockapoo) and Gracie (our puppy – a Jack Russell-shizu mix). I write my pets (past and present) into my stories, whenever possible. Shep is featured in The Earl She Left Behind (Noble Hearts Series, Book One) and can be seen on the cover. From the beginning, Shep has loved to play ball. If someone is game, he is ready. He catches balls, plays soccer, plays a form of volleyball with beachballs from the edge of the pool. He enjoys long walks, cuddles, and is my constant companion. Gracie is a cuddler. She has an adorable underbite (from the Shizu mixture) and wormed her way into our hearts immediately—when she wags her tail, her whole body moves in a wavelike motion. She runs at a slight angle, which is hilarious to watch. And her affection is boundless. We got her almost six weeks ago and adore her. She will get her story, as well. Stay tuned...


A U T H O RS A N D T H E I R P E TS Pets and companions come in many shapes and sizes. From furry to feathered to hairy and scaley - there is a place for all of them. Authors have a special relationship with their pets - whether they remind them to get up and take a break or they inspire their writing. Meet the critters that share their love and devotion to Uncaged Feature Authors.

MATT DIGMAN & RYAN RODDY & Remy, Laune, Murphy & Ellie

We have four dogs! Laurie, Remy, Murphy, and Ellie. They’re our constant companions, and they have been very supportive throughout the writing and editing process. They get lots of cuddles and belly rubs while we read the book out loud together, so it works out in their favor!

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DILLON WALKER & Blue & Gus

These guys are Willow and Bruno, otherwise known as the Doodles of Mayhem™. They are often asleep behind me when I write, but if I walk away from my desk, there’s a good chance Bruno will steal an important piece of paper off of it. Odds are he’ll eat it before Willow can reprimand him.

LEIGH FLEMING & Nap

These are my two boys Blue (big one) and Gus (little one). They love to accompany me when I choose to write outside in the summer, which I greatly appreciate. They also love plenty of time snuggling of time snuggling with me on the couch.

HALLIE ALEXANDER & Willow & Bruno

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I have the most amazing dog. (Doesn’t every dog owner feel that way?) His name is Napoleon, and he is an eight year-old, French Bulldog—and, he’s deaf. He is so funny, energetic, and loving. His lack of hearing has not hindered his intelligence. We communicate with him by using some American Sign Language and other gestures of our own. Since our kids have gone out on their own, he has become our child. Needless to say, he rules the house, and we love him!


SUSAN HANNIFORD CROWLEY & Buffy & Bella

My cats Buffy (the grey and white one) and Bella were abandoned as tiny kittens in a box on a busy city street corner. Someone called the local cat rescue, and I saw them on the rescue’s website. At the time our dog Pete was at a grandfatherly age and had lost his best friend, our cat Isis. Pete always rose to any challenge, and the kittens adored him, following him everywhere. You can see in the picture of the three of them that they were always near him especially during thunderstorm. He taught them how to mouse, fetch the ball that went down the stairs, and other important life skills. They in return hugged and kissed him. His best trick that he taught them was to climb up on the kitchen table where the dog biscuit box was kept, knock it over, and push with their paw until they knocked the biscuit off the table, to Pete waiting below. Sadly, Pete passed away a few year back. He would however be proud of the smart and caring cats his Buffy and Bella grew up to be.

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A N N A S T. CLAIRE spare time. As a child, she loved mysteries and checked out every Encyclopedia Brown story that came into the school library. Before too long, her fascination with history and reading led her to her first historical romance—Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind, now a treasured, but weathered book from being read multiple times. The day she discovered Kathleen Woodiwiss,’ books, Shanna and Ashes In The Wind, Anna became hooked. She read every historical romance that came her way and dreams of writing her own historical romances took seed. Today, her focus is primarily the Regency and Civil War eras, although Anna enjoys almost any period in American and British history.

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nna St. Claire is a big believer that nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself. She sprinkles her stories with laughter, romance, mystery and lots of possibilities, adhering to the belief that goodness and love will win the day. Anna is both an avid reader author of American and British historical romance. She and her husband live in Charlotte, North Carolina with their two dogs and often, their two beautiful granddaughters, who live nearby. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, and Mimi— all life roles that Anna St. Claire relishes and feels blessed to still enjoy. And she loves her pets – dogs and cats alike, and often inserts them into her books as secondary characters. Anna relocated from New York to the Carolinas as a child. Her mother, a retired English and History teacher, always encouraged Anna’s interest in writing, after discovering short stories she would write in her 54 | UncagedBooks.com

annastclaire.com Uncaged welcomes Anna St. Claire Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! You recently released, Romancing a Wallflower, which is the 2nd book in the Noble Hearts Series. Can you tell readers more about this book and the series? How many books are you planning for the series? Each book in this series features a hero or heroine overcoming an extreme hardship alongside an animal that figures prominently within the storyline. The first scene of this second book filled my head before I could determine the rest of the story. This story features Lady Liliana, a young woman with aspirations of love and marriage before an accident leaves her


with a life-challenging disability that threatens the possibility of ever finding a match, much less a love match. She faces insecurities that she never had before. It struck me as a storyline filled with possibilities and challenges. Thinking through the scenes and the trials endured in the course of simple everyday activities for Lady Liliana made me confront a lack of understanding on my part – something that I am making a conscientious effort to change. I plan to write two more books for this series. Uncaged: You also are a part of a couple box sets coming out later this year. How was the experience working with a group of authors? That whole experience is very gratifying. We all come together around a theme. Some Wallflowers Do will be coming out – and is already on preorder, and Hello Rogue is already on preorder. Uncaged: As a historical author, where do you go to research for your novels? When I wrote my civil war romance, Embers of Anger, I spent a week in New Bern, NC, where my story takes place, walking the grounds of the battlefield (it was mid-July and there were snakes everywhere near the path we walked—which led me to use that knowledge in the book). I learned as much as I could about the preparation of the town, the mindset of the people during that time, and with all of the museums available, I was able to get a feel of the time. I bought books and talked to people—knowing that the war and its battles would be the background to my romance. However, I like to add adventure and suspense. Other books, I spend time looking through books written about the era, reading articles, asking questions—and securing a knowledgeable editor that knows the area and the social mores of the day. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

I am in the editing phase of the ‘Lyon’s Prey,’ a book that is part of the Lyon’s Den Connected World Series, a series by Dragonblade Publishing. My book is scheduled for release in October. Each book is written by a different author and features a core group of characters and storyline. It’s been lots of fun! Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? It has made you look at the life I have and be glad I have chosen wisely in my life partner. There are still days that my husband and I annoy each other—but they are minimal, and when that happens, social distancing in the house increases. (Ha!) The first two months were nerve-wracking because it was hard to concentrate or write while worrying about a pandemic for a virus that has killed so many. Now--I’m resolved that we shall have this change in lifestyle until a vaccine is created—I will be in line for that, most definitely! Until then, masking and social distancing are the norm. I should mention that it also gave us time to say goodbye to our sweet dog of almost 18 years, Lacey. After a month or so, we decided to rescue a crazy rascal – Gracie, a Jack Russell and Shizu mix, giving my cockapoo, Shep, a playmate. It took about five weeks before full acceptance happened. Now, while there are still bumps here and there, they enjoy each other’s company and playtime.

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| FEATURE AUTHOR |

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Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I’ve been fortunate to meet and have lunch with several authors I have always admired, but I’d love to repeat that. So let us assemble a huge table –Kathryn Le Veque—who is as nice a person as there could be, Meara Platt, Lauren Smith, Elizabeth Johns, Katherine Bone, Collette Cameron, Ally Broadfield, Annabelle Anders, and Madeline Martin. I could name so many more that I enjoy so much. But let’s leave room for a paranormal end to the table and invite Cindy Nord and Kathleen Woodiwiss to join us. Cindy was a woman that left us too soon. I felt cheated for never having met this vivacious spirit and talented writer of civil war romance. And Kathleen Woodiwiss sparked my love for historical romances with Shanna and Ashes in the Wind. Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? My characters are always moving to a beat of their own. In Romancing A Wallflower, Liliana rescues a small dog from the clutches of boys that are abusing it in the worst way. She takes matters into her own hands when the other adults are startled into silence—undeterred by any disability. She was a force! Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I confess to loving the company of my granddaughters. We go to the park, dance, play games, have Storytime, and do crafts when I have them. Sometimes it can be all be packed into a single afternoon. I also love to walk and listen to audiobooks. I drift into the story and barely notice how far or how long I have walked. And finally, when I have time, I love to refinish furniture. It allows me to be creative and relax. Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? Success looks like fun to me. It’s having readers that enjoy my books and continually look forward to the next one; being able to produce a steady stream of

| ANNA ST. CLAIRE | stories with characters and storylines I enjoy; and being able to write full time. Writing historical romances is something I’ve wanted to do for years and I’ve learned that it truly is never too late to start. Uncaged: Do you prefer eBooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I have so many physical books – and still collect them from authors that I follow. While nothing replaces my love of physical books, I enjoy reading eBooks. I was skeptical at first, but my appreciation for them grew. They make it easy to pack for a trip and maintain a library. Audiobooks are essential, too. As I mentioned, exercising is much more enjoyable when I can get lost in a story. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I love to get to know my readers and encourage them to reach out if they have a question they’d like answered. I love hearing from them and interacting with them during parties and author takeovers.

Enjoy an excerpt from Romancing a Wallflower Romancing a Wallflower Anna St. Claire Historical Tudor A tragic riding accident leaves Lilian DeLacey unable to walk and restricts her life to books and quiet activities. When her twin sister convinces her to attend just one ball, she accepts. Wheelchairbound, she watches the dancers with longing, until a startling familiar masculine scent unlocks memories of the mysterious man who had saved Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | her—none other than the charming and affable John Andrews. Meeting John creates a desire to walk again and not miss out on life, but can he love a woman who may never walk again? John Andrews, the Earl of Harlow returned from the Napoleonic wars with scars both inside and out. Nightly dreams force him to relive horrors he would soon forget and make him fear ever falling in love, lest he harms a bride who shares his bed. John attends a ball while on assignment for the Crown and recognizes the beautiful woman he rescued a year ago from a bad riding accident, and his response to her stuns him. Smitten by her beauty and wit, he pursues her, accepting her disability. Their chance encounter blossoms into romance, igniting a yearning for a future, yet bound by his fear of marriage. When an undercover commission for the Crown takes him into the heart of a dangerous smuggling operation on the Cornwall coast, an unseen danger threatens his life and Lilian’s. Will trust and love be enough to save them and heal the scars that threaten their future? Excerpt PROLOGUE August 1815 Tintagel, England “T hat was a narrow escape! I thought Chambers was going to tell us Mama was looking for us.” Lydia DeLacey put her hand to her mouth, smothering her giggles as she joined her twin sister at the bottom of the front steps of their father’s house. “Hurry!” Lilian urged. Picking up their skirts, they ran down the gravel path to the stables, arriving breathless and intoxicated with excitement at avoiding Mama’s machinations. Two handsome gentlemen had arrived earlier to meet with their father. The twin’s abigail, who had had it from 58 | UncagedBooks.com

Cook, had told her mistress that Mama had ordered tea to be served at four of the clock. Lilian hated to think her father would arrange marriages for her sister and herself—not when he and their mother still enjoyed a love match. However, her mother was notorious for creating opportunities, as she termed it, for her two daughters to meet the men of their dreams and seemed determined, despite Lilian and her twin showing no interest in any of their suitors, to find at least one match. Her joyous mood changed when she saw the head groom waiting at the door of the stables. “Oh, marvellous! Barney is waiting for us,” she muttered with a hint of sarcasm. “We will have to take him, Lilian.” She yearned to ride Danby, the dark bay she had brought on from birth. She loved the fresh air and thrilled to the independence riding her horse gave her. Often, she and Lydia rode neck and neck, racing over the pastures and fields of her parent’s estate. Such freedom was impossible in London. “Good morning, my lady and my lady.” Barney, the head groom, stepped forward with their horses. “I took the liberty of having Danby and Ginger saddled. I thought you would wish to ride this morning. Me own horse is also ready.” He sent an imploring look in their direction. Lilian glanced at her sister and then around her, struggling to find an excuse to leave him behind. There was none, although on many an occasion she and her sister had contrived to lose him. The poor man knew they were likely to put him through his paces. “Thank you, Barney.” Lilian smiled tightly. “It is a beautiful day for a ride, is it not? We will endeavour not to trouble you unduly.” “Yes, my lady.” He noticeably gulped and led Lydia’s horse to the mounting block. He helped each of them onto their horse and climbed upon his own. The small party rode out of the stable yard, Lilian and her sister in the lead and the groom trailing a safe distance behind. Flowers were in bloom everywhere. A purple blanket of creeping thyme edged the path. Bluebells and bright yellow cat’s ear carpeted the sides of the hill, dominating small sunny areas as it climbed a ridge


| ANNA ST. CLAIRE | beyond them, making the small pockets of pink wild roses very noticeable. “This is truly lovely, Lil. The air even feels cooler. It is perfect weather for our ride,” Lydia commented. “Would you care to ride to the cliffs today?” Lilian questioned. “I would love to, but do you think we should? Father has asked us to stay close to the house. He does not want us near the cliffs unchaperoned because of the free traders. I do not think he would consider Barney sufficient protection.” Lilian did not care to bear Father’s wrath. He was normally a gentle soul, but when it was needful, he could become intractable. She agreed with her sister. “Yes, the thought of Barney defending our honour is almost too much to contemplate. Very well. What about the ruins? We could follow the ridge and mayhap stretch the horses there.” “That is a good plan. Mama will be so cross! I wonder who these gentlemen are?” “An earl and his friend, Father said this morning. You were too busy eyeing that new footman to notice.” “Perhaps we should have taken the Season more seriously and she would not be so frantic about our finding suitable matches,” Lydia replied. The family had arrived home from London only a week ago and had barely unpacked. Lilian sighed. “There was one gentleman…” “Oh, I know the one you mean, and I noticed your reaction to him. He was wearing his regimental dress although, according to Mama, he is an earl.” Lilian was not surprised Lydia knew exactly the man she remembered. It had been the last ball of the Season. She drew in a breath, recalling how she had noticed him the moment he had entered the room. “I will admit I wished he would ask me to dance, but he and his friend did not seem to remain long.” “Quite. I noticed him watching you and thought he would ask to be introduced, but then his friend came back with glasses of champagne, said something to him and they left.” “Perhaps there was an emergency.” Her mind flitted back to that night. “They were both interesting, but so were several others. I noticed you seemed taken with Viscount Yarstone.” Although she spoke the words,

Lilian’s mind was still on the gentleman in the regimentals. “Do come down from the clouds, sister,” Lydia teased. Wrinkling her nose at Lydia, Lilian gave her horse a slight nudge, sending him into a canter. Her hat came off and she felt her hair fall from its pins until her long auburn brown curls were flowing behind her. She did not care. She had Danby, and she was here on this glorious morning. It was all that mattered. Her sister looked behind them. “Good heavens! Barney is keeping up!” Immodestly, Lydia yelled across the space between them, gesturing with a jerk of her head and obviously goading Lilian to look. Instead, Lilian sniggered in a rude way and gave Danby another nudge. Her brown gelding ran faster, forcing Lydia and her chestnut to race to catch them. It felt wondrous. The two sisters rode across the crest of the hill for a good while, deftly dodging trees, fences and outcrops of rock—doggedly followed, some distance behind, by their groom. Low shrubs and weathered post-and-rail fencing bordered one edge of the path they followed, and masses of coloured flowers covered the ground, gradually disappearing from sight. A more wooded area appeared in a bend in the track ahead of them, and as they approached, a loud shot rang out. Danby shied violently sideways and with a shrill squeal of distress, reared high on his back legs. “Lilian!” Lydia cried out. Lilian heard her sister’s cry and was dimly aware of her struggles to gain control over Ginger, but her own struggle to maintain her seat was failing. Somehow, her legs loosened from the pommels of her side-saddle when the horse rose, and she fought to keep her balance. Danby lost his footing and as he toppled, the force of him hitting the earth tossed her to the ground. She landed on a stone, or something equally hard, the momentum then rolling her across the rough ground until she thudded into a large rock. She heard her own scream pierce the air. Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Lydia and the groom tried to lift her, but she screamed in pain at their touch. Although she could see them speaking to her, their voices sounded distant. Her vision was growing darker and she could barely see; she was viewing their faces and the sky behind them through a small, dark hole which kept shrinking. Her world was growing dark. Her head and her back ached fiercely. Her ears were ringing. She wanted to scream and tried yet could hear nothing. Pain throbbed from every part of her body. She tried to move, to get up, but her feet…what was wrong with her feet? They were not moving. What had she done? Her head pounded, and warm liquid ran down the side of her face. A large warm hand grasped hers and at last she heard voices. “Lady Lilian, can you hear me?” “Lilian, please speak to me.” Wet drops hit Lilian’s face. Her sister was crying, it seemed. Whatever had happened to her, it must be bad. She tried to open her eyes but could see naught but blackness. I am so tired. “We heard a shot and then saw the horses. We came to help.” A strong, masculine voice penetrated the fog in her head. Who was this? She could hear only snippets of the conversation because of the ringing in her ears. “Lady Lilian, we must move you…” “...gown ripped…” “...back of gown wet with blood.” Are they talking about me? Lilian felt herself being lifted and then coming to rest against a warm body. The horse shifted beneath them and was soothed with a soft murmur. She could smell the comforting aroma of its sweat, and shivered. Why was she so cold? She recognized her sister’s voice, but her garbled words were disjointed. A light scent of bay leaf and bergamot teased her nose. Gentlemen’s and lady’s colognes had been in abundance during her coming out, and had mostly tortured her senses, but this was one she liked. How odd that both scents were conveyed so distinctly. Nothing was making sense. What was happening? She felt helpless and trapped, 60 | UncagedBooks.com

now unable to see or hear, and fought against the urge to cry out. A rich voice above her calmed her trembling, and she found she could breathe. She could not hear what was being said, but the voice was soothing. Exhausted, Lilian leaned her head into the warm body holding her and gave in to the darkness that beckoned.

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S t ay C onnec t ed

leighfleming.com

lei g h f le m i n g Uncaged welcomes Leigh Flemming Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! At the beginning of June, you released your latest book, Whatever Love Means. Can you tell readers more about this book and the Highland Springs Romance series?

L

eigh Fleming creates unique characters facing life’s challenges, but who always find their happy ending. Her latest release, Whatever Love Means, is part of her contemporary romance Whatever series, mostly set in her home state of West Virginia. Stay Hidden, part of her Hidden romantic suspense series published by Soul Mate Publishing, won the Lone Star Writing Contest for romantic suspense in 2017. Leigh lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia, with her husband, Patrick, and her deaf French bulldog, Napoleon, and is mom to adult children, Tom and Liza. When she’s not writing in her windowless office, she enjoys reading, travelling, scrapbooking, and spending time with friends.

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You’ve heard the headlines on your favorite morning news show: Divorced Couple Finds Love Again After Thirty Years. The perky anchorwoman then spouts the exciting details of a couple who married hastily as he was shipped off to war, only to get divorced when he returned. Thirty years later, when they bump into each other at a coffee shop, bells ring and doves fly. They realize they never stopped loving each other and rekindle their love. We swoon over these stories. We think it could never happen to someone we know. But it can. And it did. On a summer night at a beach resort pub, over crab cakes and cold beer, a long-time friend shocked me with the news that she and her first husband had reunited. They had been divorced for nearly thirty years. They had married as teenagers with a baby on the way. Too young and unprepared to face the responsibilities of raising a child together, they soon split. But throughout the years, they remained friendly. I was drawn in by their rekindled love story and asked if I could write something based on it. That’s when


Whatever Love Means was born. The idea for Whatever Love Means fit perfectly within my Whatever series, books which take place in the West Virginia fictional town of Highland Springs. It’s a small town where everyone knows one another, and each book features men and women doing their best with what life handed them. Whatever Love Means Determined to have her happy ending and salvage her reputation, Maggie Timbrook is about to marry for the fourth time. But when tragedy strikes and secrets are unearthed, she questions her past decisions and is determined to start again. Whatever It Takes - Darla Heartwood has held a secret for eighteen years, until a fateful phone call changes everything. Now she has to stand up and be heard to have the love she’s always wanted. Whatever We Are - Tucker Callum has always wanted to play Mr. Claus at Highland Springs’ Mistletoe Ball, but he needs a Mrs. Claus to win the coveted role. Liza Fisk believes Christmas is cursed but reluctantly agrees to help Tucker by pretending they’re a real couple. Can Christmas kisses and mistletoe magic turn a fake relationship into a real romance? Whatever You Say - Kate McNamara is a big city attorney chasing her dreams. Brody Fisk is a small town songwriter who gave his up. Can this big-hearted mountain man and this ambitious city woman build a new dream together? Uncaged: Give me the marketing plug – tell us why readers should read your books, what makes you stand out? What do you want readers to take away from your

books? As in any romance, the hero and heroine in my books are rewarded with their happy ending. But, I think my stories show the struggle it takes to get there. Each of my characters experience common feelings and situations we’ve all gone through at one time or another. The Whatever series is contemporary romance and my Hidden series is romantic suspense, all of which take place in small town West Virginia towns. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? My life is a bit topsy-turvy right now. We are moving into our new home at the end of the summer, so my house is a disaster as I pack and plan. Along with that, our daughter is getting married this fall, so how to proceed with the event during these uncertain times has my mind occupied. Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | I’m working on two different projects (when I actually work)—one is a historical novel inspired by my great grandmother’s work with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and the other is a series of short stories that take place at a county fair. Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? Mainly it has affected the way I eat! Having to plan and cook meals every night has been a real chore. I miss going out to dinner and meeting friends for lunch at our favorite cafes. I’m used to being home most of the time, but not seeing friends the way I’d like is frustrating. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I’d love to have lunch with Judith McNaught. I discovered her books about ten years ago when I picked up a copy of A Kingdom of Dreams at Sam’s Club. The book sucked me right in, and I went on a mission to read every one of her books. She hasn’t released a new book in a long time, and I wish she would. Beyond Judith, there are just too many names to list here. Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? My characters often go off in a direction I hadn’t intended. Some of their actions affect the trajectory of the story, making it better, and sometimes their actions are deleted. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? Reading, of course! I like to do scrapbooking and paper crafting with friends. And, I love to travel. We have a European river cruise planned for next April which we hope isn’t cancelled due to coronavirus. Uncaged: What does success as an author look 64 | UncagedBooks.com

like to you? That is a difficult question. The fact that even one person wants to read my books is success in my mind. I have a loyal group of readers who has supported me from the beginning, and I can’t thank them enough. Gaining new readers is always a thrill. Would I like to have a New York Times Bestselling book? You bet! That would truly spell success. But, more importantly, success is having dedicated readers who clamor for more of my books. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I read both ebooks and physical books. There is nothing like the feel and smell of a physical book, but my Kindle is so convenient. Right now I am reading The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love my readers and love hearing from them.

Enjoy an excerpt from Whatever Love Means Whatever Love Means Leigh Fleming Contemporary Romance Maggie Timbrook had a baby at sixteen. Too young and immature to be a wife and mother, her marriage quickly unraveled, and she spent the next fifteen years going from one man to another, searching for Mr. Right to fill the void left by the loss of her first love. Travis Kane, the father of Maggie’s teenage daughter, works from sunup to sundown to make his auto repair business a success and to take his mind off his loneli-


| LEIGH FLEMING | ness. He has no shortage of women to warm his bed, but none can take the place of his one and only love, a woman he continues to desire . . . and disappoint.

“Hey, if you want to go down that road again with little Buddy Garrett, don’t let me stop you—” “Be quiet, she’ll hear you.”

When Travis is hit by a car along a quiet country road, Maggie abandons her wedding day to be by his side. Travis infuriates Maggie. But seeing him injured and so vulnerable brings back old feelings she has tried to forget.

“—but my daughter needs to cover up.”

With nowhere else to go, Travis moves in with Maggie to recover after his accident. They do their best to put their differences aside and treat each other kindly for their daughter’s sake. Tender moments and shared apologies open the door to new possibilities. But when disturbing secrets surface about Maggie’s fiancé, she once again questions her choices. Together, Maggie and Travis open their hearts to discover Whatever Love Means. Excerpt Instead of heading out, Travis stalked across the room and stopped in front of Maggie. His eyes drifted from her veil to the hem of her dress. Sucking in a breath, he closed his eyes and gave his head a shake. “Go ahead,” she said, “say it.” “Christ, have you lost your mind?” he hissed. “She has no business wearing that dress.”

“You’re ridiculous.” She tugged the veil from her head and handed it to Riley who had stayed quiet and out of the way. She had witnessed more than her fair share of arguments between Maggie and Travis and knew better than to interfere. “She’s my daughter, too, and I say she can wear that dress in my wedding.” “She’ll be the talk of the town, and not in a good way.” That snide comment hit a nerve. Coming nose-tonose with him, Maggie seethed. “Like her mother? Is that what you mean?” Travis’s voice dropped to just above a whisper. “I didn’t say that.” “But it’s what you meant.”

“I saw more skin than material. Hell, five or six shop rags would’ve covered her better.”

His gaze landed on her mouth, and she felt a shiver when he ran his tongue over his bottom lip. Taking a step back, he narrowed his eyes as a wry grin grew on his face. Like a train rolling slowly down the tracks, his gaze traveled downward, lagging a beat too long at her breasts and stopping at her hips. That shiver surged to her belly, and below. Damn him for looking so sexy while he thought up a hurtful remark.

“She’s not a little girl anymore, Travis. It’s what girls her age are wearing to formal dances.”

His gaze headed north and locked with hers. “Looking good, Maggie.”

“This isn’t a formal dance. It’s your fourth trip around the moon.”

“And?” Surely he had a zinger coming her way.

“She likes it.”

She picked up the skirt of her dress and brushed past him. “Don’t start.”

“And nothing. You look really good in that dress.” Fury raged through every cell in her body. Travis didn’t compliment her. He never said anything Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | nice. What kind of game was he playing? “Liar,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest, suddenly feeling exposed. He chuckled and turned to Riley. “See what I have to put up with? I give the woman a compliment, and she calls me a liar.” Riley threw out her hands, wisely staying quiet. “I’ll be outside, Carly,” he called out as he turned toward the curtains. “Good luck with this one, Mag.” Maggie punched the air behind Travis’s back as he disappeared through the curtain. “That man.” She stomped her foot, fisting her hands at her side. “Why do you let him get to you?” “I wish I knew.”

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feature authors

debut authors | young adult | historical romance

Dillon Walker

Hallie Alexander


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d ill o n wal k er

D

illon Walker is a lifelong writer, storyteller, and full-time caffeine addict. She published her first book, Dreams from Tea And Coffee, at age sixteen. She enjoys hiking and exploring the local shops in her hometown of Missoula. She’s a whopping five foot two, the perfect height for countertop gymnastics, petting her corgi, Gus, and laying on shoulders of the nearest familiar tall person.

Stay Co n n e c te d

I am first and foremost inspired by music and my own experiences. For this book, in particular, I was really inspired by Dean Lewis, particularly Waves, and Don’t Hold Me were super inspirational along with When by Dodie. As far as my own experiences, this book was inspired by a toxic relationship that I was in for almost a year. It was horrible, but this book was my way of taking away the power he still had over me, even after he had left. Uncated: What are you working on next that you can tell us about? My newest manuscript is about a girl’s downhill spiral being told from both her perspective and the perspective of her best friend. It’s also told using a second-person narrative and will eventually be written as a stage play. Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? I’ve had much more time to write and I actually started a YouTube channel because I finally had time. I’ve also had more time to read and practice yoga, two things I also love to do.

dillonwalkerauthor.com

Please welcome Dillon Walker Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! In March, you released Friends, Families, and other Tragedies. Can you tell readers more about this book? Friends, Family, And Other Tragedies was officially released on March 20th of 2020. This book tells the story of an 18-year-old girl named Andy as she struggles to escape an abusive relationship and navigate the grief that has been following her since she was a kid due to the death of her parents.

Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I would love to sit and talk to Oscar Wilde because he seems very interesting. However, if I were to have lunch with an author for the sake of picking their brain, it would be Neil Gaiman. He was who inspired me to make the jump into becoming a reallife author. Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? I don’t actually experience this much, I am a pretty heavy plotter, so I know what my characters need to do. However, if something changes or something doesn’t feel authentic to my character, I have no problem changing what happens.

Uncaged: Besides coffee, what inspires your books? Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Honestly, guys, I love hearing from all of you and you should never be afraid to follow your dreams. It’ll all work out in the end.

Enjoy an excerpt from Friends, Family and Other Tragedies Friends, Family and Other Tragedies Dillon Walker Young Adult

Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I love going out for coffee with my friends or text people and take my pups out for walks or to throw the ball around. Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? My dream is to be able to tell stories for a living, whether that’s writing books, plays, or movie scripts. I want to be able to tell stories to make a living. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks, or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I love physical books personally, especially paperbacks. Right now, I am reading “The Picture Of Dorian Gray” and a self-help novel called “What A Time To Be Alone”

Eighteen-year-old Andy lives in a small town and from the outside, it looks like she has it all. She’s a dancer awaiting the opportunity of a lifetime, she has a wonderful best friend, and is dating the richest, not to mention hottest, boy in school. But behind the face, she puts on every morning, Andy is being buried by fear and grief. The boyfriend she claims to love hurts her. Her grandparents died when she was ten, her dad died when she was 13, and she never got the chance to meet her mom. As she awaits audition results from Juilliard, Andy is forced to navigate her fear of both her boyfriend and the thought of losing her best friend of 15 years. However, as her boyfriend becomes more violent and results get closer and closer, Andy finds the stories her family left behind and learns that she has the strength hidden inside her that she needs. But she knows that if she doesn’t find it soon, leaving will lead to something more permanent than a scar. Excerpt Chapter One “Okay, just a few more steps.”

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| DILLON WALKER | Tanner’s familiar voice guided me forward, his hand holding mine. Vanilla began to fill my nose as we moved towards the surprise that Tanner had promised me. I smiled. “Forgive me for not trusting you. I think in three years I’ve figured out your evil ways.” He laughed and my heart fluttered. “I promise I’m being good,” he said. “Okay, stop.” I did as he said. My stomach churned. “I swear to God if you’re naked…” He laughed again and my body relaxed. “Do you really think I’d pull the same trick twice?” “I guess that’s fair.” I thought I could try to make another joke to buy me a few seconds, but I knew better than to push my luck, especially on date night. “Are you ready, beautiful?” His voice was bouncy and filled with sweetness. “I think so.” I clasped my hands together so that he couldn’t see them shake. He pulled my blindfold off. “Surprise!” Once my eyes adjusted to the dim light, Tanner’s familiar living room had become a place of beauty. The normal outdated furniture was gone, replaced by a small table covered in a snow white tablecloth. There was a centerpiece of white roses on the table. Two plates waited for us, one filled with steak and the other with my favorite pasta dish. The floor was paved with red rose petals and candles flickered from the bookshelves. I felt like I’d stepped into a movie that I never wanted to step out of. “What do you think?” He stepped behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist and rested his chin on my shoulder. I squirmed in discomfort, but he stayed in place. I flinched at his breath hitting my cheek and my heart slowly sank to my stomach. I turned around to face him and filled the silence with a smile. I jumped into his arms and kissed

him, his mouth warm against mine and, just for a moment, I was transported from reality. “I think I’m in love.” He smiled and kissed me again, longer and softer than before. He hadn’t kissed me like this for a long time. I was hesitant but did not question it. When he pulled away this time, he guided me to the table and pulled out my chair. I took my seat. Tanner kissed me on the forehead and sat down across from me. He moved the massive centerpiece to the floor and grabbed my hands. The firelight danced along his high cheekbones and I noticed that the shadows made his eyes look darker than they were. His expression was kind. I was skeptical, but relished in it all anyway. How calm things were, for now. “What’s this for?” I asked. I wracked my brain and tried to figure out why he would have gone out of his way to plan something this extravagant. I couldn’t think of anything. Tanner took a moment to swallow a bite of his dinner. “Because I wanted to show you how grateful I am to have such an incredible, smart, and beautiful girl in my life.” “Awe, baby. What did I do to earn someone like you?” I took a bite of my pasta and smiled at him. “I don’t know. But we’re together. That’s what’s important.” A devilish look flickered through his eyes and my throat tightened. A moment later he stopped to wipe his mouth and said, “So, how’s Natalie?” My heart leaped into my throat. “She’s fine.” “I’m glad that she’s back on her feet,” he replied. “It would be a shame for her to have another relapse. That last one was a doozy, wasn’t it?” You son of a bitch. “Yeah, it was. Thanks again, you know, for paying for her rehab.” “Of course, I wouldn’t want to leave you two to Issue 48 | July 2020 | 71


| FEATURE AUTHOR | struggle through an addiction alone.” “I’m just glad you caught her before things got too bad,” I said, shoveling another bite of food into my mouth. I could remember coming home to Natalie drunk on the floor, the front of her shirt covered in her own vomit. There had been a pile of broken glass in the corner that Tanner had swept to the side. I screamed and tried to help, but he held me, telling me that her therapist was on the way so they could figure out what had caused this. I collapsed into him while we waited for the therapist. Nat’s therapist took her to a rehab facility for a week and Tanner stayed with me. One day when Nat was still gone and we were out to get food I went through the entire kitchen in search of any hidden bottles. I had almost convinced myself that everything was fine until I saw that a bottle of sparkling cider was missing. I immediately pushed the thought out of my head, convincing myself that Tanner would never lie to me and that we had simply run out without me noticing, but as I stared at him across the table, the bottle of cider cut through my mind. Once we had both finished our meals, Tanner wiped his mouth and asked, “My dear, would you care for a glass of wine to wash down this wonderful meal?” “That sounds lovely.” Tanner and I were both barely eighteen, but we’d gotten into the habit of drinking a glass of wine together when his father was out of town. “Perfect.” He pushed himself from his chair. “Why don’t you take a seat on the couch and I’ll grab the glasses.” “Sounds absolutely wonderful.” “Only the best for you, my dear.” He grabbed the plates and walked towards the kitchen. Once he was out of sight, I felt my entire body start to shiver. I stood up and trudged towards Tanner’s living room. It had been a family room at one point, but Tanner had claimed it as his 72 | UncagedBooks.com

space before I’d ever met him. I collapsed onto the soft leather couch and covered my legs in a red blanket. I had practiced at the ballet studio for almost four hours and my muscles were exhausted. Normally, that would have been a long practice, but it was the shortest one I’d had in days. A few minutes passed before Tanner walked in with our wine. The glasses were so full that the legs of wine had red drops running down the outside. He wiped them with his thumb, and my heart sank into my stomach. “Here you are.” He handed me the fuller of the two and a little splashed into my lap. “Thank you.” I held out my hand. The glass felt like it was made of stone. Together, we sipped our wine. I did my best to drink slowly, but before I knew it, the glass was empty, despite it only feeling heavier by the second in my shaking hands. Tanner took the glass from me and set both down carelessly on the coffee table. The sharp sound of them hitting the wood made me jump. I looked and saw that his had barely been touched. I took in a shaky breath, the alcohol seeping into my brain, making my thoughts foggy. That familiar black cloud crept in with it. I tried to push it back out of my head, but it fought its way back in, just like always. “You look beautiful tonight.” His voice barely above a whisper. I recognized the fire that began to dance into his eyes. “And you look very handsome.” I was too frightened to come up with anything clever to say. “How tipsy are you?” he asked. I felt my aching legs tense as his hand moved up my thigh. It didn’t matter what I said. “Bit passed buzzed, not quite drunk.” “Perfect.” He leaned over and kissed me, softly at first, then


| DILLON WALKER | harder. Before I could think of anything to do or say, I was on my back and he was on top of me. I tried to pull away, but he kept kissing me harder and wrenched my shirt over my neck. My body tensed as my head hit the sofa’s frame. I knew there would be just a few seconds before I froze entirely. The black cloud started swirling more violently as his hands ran over my body. When Tanner pulled away to take off his own shirt, I said, “No, sweetie. Not tonight.” Tanner’s face tensed in anger. “What was that?” I tried to sit up but his weight and my fear kept me down. “I’m just not in the mood tonight, baby. Maybe we could just cuddle? Watch a movie?” He pretended to laugh. “Oh, is someone feeling brave tonight?” He stood and pushed me from the couch. “I’ll fix that.” “Tanner, no,” I said. I tried to back away from him, but he kicked me in the side. I screamed out in pain. He undid his belt and flipped me onto my stomach and began to whip me with it. When the first strike connected with my back, I felt the buckle graze my skin. He hit me over and over until the world went black. When I woke up I was on the ground, my wrists and ankles bound. Tanner was sitting next to me. My black cloud was sitting on the edge of my vision; it had stilled and now simply sat there, an inconvenience more than anything. “Tanner, I’m so sorry,” I pleaded, but he smacked me and placed a piece of duct tape over my mouth. I cried and tried to scream but I couldn’t make a sound. He smiled at me and placed a hand on my face, the other one slowly sliding up my inner thigh, which I now felt was bare. I risked a glance down at myself and was disgusted at the sight of my raw, bloodstained skin. I could see the indent of Tanner’s belt buckle. I tried to use my bound legs to kick him away but he pushed his fingers into one of my many open wounds. I looked away. “Andy, you know I get what I want, no matter what.” He gouged my blood from beneath his fingernails as he spoke. “I get this house to myself

whenever I want. I get the things I want whenever I want them. I get the friends I want and easily get rid of the ones I don’t. Hell, I got my whore of a mother away from me. I even got a beautiful girl like you; I rescued you when you lost your daddy, don’t you remember?” He stroked my face. “So smart, Andy, and so stupid. Who could save you? Do you think there’s a prince that’s stupid enough to really try?” He grabbed my jaw. “Just me, I think. No one else would want a piece of trash like you. Except for that gay giant you call a friend and your bitch of an aunt.” I tried to kick at him again, but he stood up and walked away. “It’s so cute when you try to hurt me- that you even think you have the right to hurt me. Andy, you are by far the feistiest girl I’ve ever had the privilege of… enjoying. You really are quite fun,” he said, “I just love to watch you try to fight me off. Even when we’re at school, you walk around trying to seem as normal as possible, that stupid fake smile plastered on your face when you’re just a piece of shit who misses her daddy. Isn’t that right? You miss your daddy so much. Well, guess what, sweetie, he’s dead. Don’t worry, I doubt he loved you all that much, I don’t see how he could have. Even if he did back when he was still alive I can’t imagine he would anymore, he’s probably gotten a front row seat to his daughter turning into nothing more than my beautiful little fuck toy.” I screamed through the duct tape again. My body protested the strain, but I kicked and screamed to try and break my unbreakable restraints. Tanner laughed at me and walked out of the room. I struggled for another minute until my body refused to move anymore. I thought about how many girls he had done this to. I wondered if their time had been better or worse. I wondered how they escaped. Survived. But one sick look from Tanner overpowered any amount of curiosity I had over where he had come from. Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Tanner returned a long time later with a first aid kit and a change of clothes. He knelt over me, the kind look I’d seen in his eyes earlier had returned and my stomach churned. He grabbed a cloth and poured a small amount of disinfectant on it and began to dab the open wounds. The liquid was freezing, but my muscles were tired, and my skin was burned so I was forced to stay still. Once he had cleaned them all he removed the tape from my mouth and gently moved me to a seated position. He set the clothes next to me and helped me put them on. I hated that they smelled of him- that I would smell of him. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a packet of tissues. He pulled one out and began to blot my tear-stained cheeks. “You need to get cleaned up so I can take you home.” He pushed a stray hair out of my face so he could blot away at a drop of blood. “And, Andy, our secret, yeah?” I nodded in agreement as he continued to run his hands through my hair to straighten it out. I flinched as he kissed me on the forehead. The dark cloud that had lined the edges of my vision before was moving farther and farther in with every word Tanner spoke. Looking at him, no one would have guessed who he really was. His face was soft, his blonde hair was perpetually messy, and his smile was brighter than the sun. He wasn’t particularly tall, and he was skinny as hell, but unfortunately, I was one of the people who had the privilege of his true nature. He had charmed me into loving him and before I knew what had happened, I was caught in a hurricane. Now, the only thing that protected me was the blackcloud that surrounded my head when I had nowhere else to go. Once Tanner was done cleaning me up, he helped me to my feet and forced me towards the garage. The room was as big as a house and held four cars. Two were his, the others were his dad’s. He picked the Mercedes that was farthest from the door. He opened the passenger side door for me and buckled my seatbelt. He kissed me again, on the cheek this time, before he closed me in and walked to the driver’s 74 | UncagedBooks.com

side. He pulled out of the garage slowly, too slowly, and kept the radio off. The only sound was the hum of the car. A minute down the road the soothing buzz lulled me into a deep sleep; the dark cloud engulfed me as I drifted off. I was grateful as its easy emptiness surrounded me; my sleep would be free of dreams tonight. I woke up a while later surrounded by my own blankets and back in my own clothes. The clock said it was already past one. I rolled out of bed and my body screamed in protest. I walked to the window. The moon was full, and the stars were bright. I stayed by my window for a moment before returning to lay face up in my bed, studying every inch of my ceiling. I tried to come up with a story to tell anyone who might see the marks I knew were there. I tried to distract myself through counting, listening, observing, but nothing ever changed. With every blink, another memory. With every move, another pain. I tried to remember the night before when my sheets had provided a soft comfort. When my bedroom was a sanctum where everything was safe. When staring up at my ceiling at night meant I was daydreaming about the future or remembering the past. When the weather controlled what I wore. When the only reason it hurt to move was ballet. Finally, I pulled myself out of bed, flinching as my sheets ripped their way along my skin. I grabbed a pair of tennis shoes from my floor and opened the window. I sat on the sill, my legs cooled by the night air. I took a deep breath before I turned and lowered myself to the top of the sill below. The window had been Dad’s study at one point, but no one had been in there since he died. I slowly turned so my back was pressed against the bricks, which chilled my skin even more. I looked out over my backyard towards the woods for a while before I closed my eyes and leapt to the ground. I felt like the air was cradling me in its arms for an eternity as I fell. When I hit the earth, my body exploded in pain and I fell to my knees. So much for dancers being graceful, I thought, pushing myself to my feet and walking towards the center of


| DILLON WALKER | the yard. I turned back towards the house as I walked and saw that the living room light was still on. Jesus, Natalie, you need to get some sleep. I made a note to myself to talk to her at some point. The ground gave slightly beneath my feet as I continued to walk farther away. Eventually, I stopped and laid on the grass. My skin was on fire as goosebumps forced their way onto my skin, but I ignored it. I closed my eyes and focused on the soft grass that caressed the skin that wasn’t torn. I could still remember when Dad and a younger me would sit out here. Always on Saturdays, always in the spring, just to watch the stars. He used to tell me that my mom was up with them, but I hadn’t really paid enough attention to understand what he meant. But now, as I allowed my eyes to slowly open, I could almost see his shadow among the stars. It had been years since I’d looked at them. They seemed brighter now, in the moonlight. I watched my skin dance in it and convinced myself that the stars had smiled. I smiled back at them, beautiful as they danced in the darkness, I wanted to stay there forever. To join them. But whenever I looked up, I seemed to get myself noticed. Against the soothing sounds of the night, I broke my silence. “Hey, Dad.” My voice was a shaking whisper. “I don’t know if you can hear me or see me from where you are, but this is the closest I’m going to get to talking to you for the rest of my life. I don’t really know what to say right now, if you have been keeping an eye on me up there then you already know about what I’ve been going through. I know you’re probably really mad at Tanner. Or me? I don’t know, take your pick. I’ve been mad at myself for a long time. It’s a lot easier. I guess, all I can really say besides that is, I miss you. God, I miss you so much.” Tears burned their way down my face, but I wiped them away as they fell. I didn’t want to cry anymore. I thought of the Elton John songs my dad used to sing to me when I was sad. “I’m still standing, Dad. I just want you to come back.”

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Hallie ale x a n d er Uncaged welcomes Hallie Alexander Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! On July 22, you will release your debut novel, A Widow’s Guide to Scandal. Can you tell readers more about this book?

H

allie Alexander might be the only romance author who didn’t cut her teeth on old school romances swiped from her mother’s collection—her mother didn’t read them. In fact, she wasn’t much of a reader until she opened her first romance novel later in life and devoured it cover to cover like a child tasting chocolate for the first time. Hallie’s debut, A Widow’s Guide to Scandal, finaled in the 2019 Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest. She writes steamy, feminist historical romances set in America. Her heroines are centered as the heroes of their own story as their swoon-worthy partners work to deserve their love. Expect lush history and lots of smooching. And, if there is an element of humor and hijinks, or a fraying in the fabric of the patriarchy? Even better. When Hallie isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with her doodle dogs, cooking with her children, and taking long walks with her husband.

Stay Connected

halliealexanderauthor.com 76 | UncagedBooks.com

A Widow’s Guide to Scandal is a steamy, comical historical romance set in Manhattan as the American Revolution dawns. It’s a friends-to-lovers story of Henrietta Smith who needs to marry again, and Marcus Hardwicke who never wants to and thinks Henrietta’s reasons and potential husbands are the worst. Despite meddling friends, villainous relatives, and finding themselves at cross-purposes, they can’t help falling in love. Uncaged: You also have released the prequel to the book available to newsletter subscribers. Is this novel part of a series? Yes! The series is called The Sons of Neptune. Rescuing Her Rebel, the prequel novella, introduces readers to the setting and many of the characters. You can read it for free by signing up at: tiny.cc/hallie_sm A Widow’s Guide to Scandal is Book 1. As of now, I have Books 2 and 3 in the works. The whole series will take place in Manhattan just before the Declaration of Independence is signed and the British invade in full force. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? I am working on Book 2. It will pick up where Scandal left off. I can share that these fools think their love is forbidden because she’s the best friend’s little sister, not because she makes a major social faux pas in front of His Excellency, General George Washington. And more stuff will blow up, which is a wink to my very own hero


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| FEATURE AUTHOR | who thinks any wartime story ought to have explosions. Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? With three kids, two dogs, and one husband at home, the house is never quiet—which is the only time I can write (hello, ADHD!). I’ve (gasp!) started waking up at 5:30 to write. As a notorious night owl, this is a major change. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole. Those ladies are among the smartest, most generous, and socially conscious writers I follow on social media and read. If any of them are looking for a writer cub to adopt, I’m available.

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Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? Yes, and it was almost an anachronism. In short, a character does origami a hundred years before Japan opened its borders. I had to figure out how/why they would do it and came to learn that the 18th century was apparently the golden age of napkin folding. Ain’t research grand? Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I love to walk my dogs with my husband, laugh with my kids, and watch a good rom-com. I also enjoy cooking, so long as it’s not for a holiday because that’s when it’s not relaxing.


| HALLIE ALEXANDER | where can they follow you? Thank you for welcoming me into your personal libraries. You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram: @AuthorHallie. I’m also on BookBub and GoodReads. But to really get to know me, you should sign up for my newsletter: tiny.cc/hallie_sm

Enjoy an excerpt from A Widow’s Guide to Scandal

A Widow’s Guide to Scandal Hallie Alexander American Historical Romance Releases July 22

Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? As a debut author, success is having readers find my book and read it. If they enjoyed it, I’d love it if they reached out to me. I suppose garnering a negative review would also equate success because even the best authors get those! Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I always have all three in play. Ebooks on my phone for the long line at the store, audiobooks for the commute to work, and physical books because they are easier on the eye after a long day. I’m currently listening to The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, reading by ebook, The Devil of Downtown by Joanna Shupe, and by physical book, The Lord I Left by Scarlett Peckham. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and

The first novel in debut author Hallie Alexander’s steamy Sons of Neptune series introduces readers to the rebels of Manhattan at the brink of the American Revolution. Henrietta Smith was fifteen when she stole a kiss from Marcus Hardwicke. She’s still waiting to be kissed back… Hopelessly at the mercy of her deceased husband’s family, Henrietta decides it’s time to marry again. But who would want her? She’s penniless and pushing thirty, and hasn’t a clue how to flirt. Marcus, wickedly handsome carpenter and rebel rogue, fell off Henrietta’s leaking roof. He can’t leave until his broken ankle heals, giving him plenty of time to consider his past mistakes. But Henrietta could lose more than her home if she doesn’t encrypt British secrets, and the latest puts Marcus in the crosshairs. Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Excerpt “Can’t leave without paying, Miss.” Henrietta spun to find a man standing behind her. He’d been hunched over the noisy contraption with the others when she entered. Now, she saw all too well the size of him. He filled the doorway with his height, the breadth of his shoulders, and confidence as if he were what held the building up. The loose open collar of his shirt exposed his collarbone where a black leather cord hung at his neck. The sweaty notch of his throat glistened in the sunlight. And how could she miss the dark stubble on his strong jaw? His tousled hair, brown streaked with gold, hung from a messy queue, making her fingers itch to tunnel through the curling strands. She wanted to touch him? A stranger. The idea alarmed her. Searching for signs of danger, she studied his eyes and nearly tripped over her own feet. He was no stranger at all. She knew those hooded eyes. “The mallet. Three dollars.” Gripped in her right hand, she found said mallet and considered chucking it at his head. He took a step toward her. She couldn’t believe it. Not one flicker of recognition. Marcus Hardwicke, who had filled out through the shoulders and gained an inch or two in height, prowled closer, determination in his cool, blue eyes. “What’s your project? Cabinetry? Lutherie? Marquetry?” “Market-ry?” Henrietta was sure she misunderstood. She gave the mallet one last heft and tossed it into his quick hands. “I need a carpenter more than I 80 | UncagedBooks.com

need carpenter’s tools.” Keeping her home in working order was no small task. The roof needed new shingles, the floorboards were loose, and the hinge on the cupboard quit when a particularly loud thunderclap shook the house during the last storm. Her husband’s will provided a small allowance. Her husband’s uncle, who outright owned her home, couldn’t be bothered with details, but he’d blame her anyway if the house fell to ruin. So long as it didn’t rain again, she’d be fine. “I’m fine. Everything’s fine.” She woke telling herself this. Said it when she went to sleep too. The sun baked through her dress. “I hadn’t asked, but it sure don’t seem like everything’s fine.” She was overheating again. Henrietta couldn’t find the opening to her pocket at the side of her skirt where she kept her fan. Her sweaty hands plunged into the pleats and came up empty. The more she sought her pocket, the more she couldn’t find it. Marcus advanced on her. “Are you unwell?” His hand rose to touch her as if they were familiars. They hadn’t been in over a dozen years. Taking a leap back, Henrietta withdrew her fan in an arc, a might close to his nose. She flicked it open and waved it frantically. She needed to whisk the heat from her skin, the embarrassment coupled with the upwell of forgotten desire. The side of his mouth tugged up, and she knew he knew. Her stomach dropped from a hundred feet. “Hetty Betty Smith. How the hell are you?”


feature authors

historical suspense | historical western

Jacki Delecki

Jo-Ann Roberts


J

ja c k i d ele c k i

acki Delecki is a USA TODAY Best Selling author whose stories are filled with heartpounding adventure, danger, intrigue, and romance. Her books have consistently received rave reviews, and AN INNER FIRE was chosen as an Editor’s Selection by USA Today. Currently, she has three series: the contemporary romantic suspense Impossible Mission, featuring Delta Force operatives; Grayce Walters, contemporary romantic suspense following a Seattle animal acupuncturist with a nose for crime; and the Code Breakers, Regency suspense set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Delecki’s stories reflect her lifelong love affair with the arts and history. When not writing, she volunteers for Seattle’s Ballet and Opera Companies, and leads children’s tours of Pike Street Market.

Stay Co n n e c te d

jackidelecki.com

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Please welcome Jacki Delecki Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! Recently you released book four in the Impossible Mission Romantic Suspense series, Mission: Impossible to Forget. Can you tell readers more about this book and the series? Can they be read as standalones? Thanks so much for hosting me. I’m very excited to share my books with your readers. Mission Impossible to Forget is the fourth book in the Romantic Suspense series that is based on a Seattle family of 5 brothers. The Scandinavian brothers have all served in the military as spec ops. And I’ve enjoyed pairing them with very strong women. Mission Impossible to Forget is the story of the Nick, the oldest brother, and Emily Hewitt, a professional cellist. Nick has been medically discharged from the Marines because of hearing loss and not in a good space. Emily is the sister of Nick’s close friend who has asked him to guard her when her life is threatened. Loads of romance and intrigue. I decided to make Emily a cellist since I’ve always wanted to play the cello. I had a great time listening to music as I imagined what Emily would play, which artists she would listen to. I hope you’ll like Nick and Emily as much as I do. All of my books in the three series that I’ve written all can be read as standalones. Uncaged: You also write suspenseful romantic regency. Can you tell us more about your Code Breakers series? I love spies. And I love Regency romance. I wanted to write about women serving their country against all social norms. And like my Impossible Mission Series, the Code Breakers is also about family— family love and loyalty.

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? I’m writing Mission: Impossible to Protect. It is the story of Lars, the youngest Jenkins brother, and Danni, a physicist, who gets herself into danger. The sparks have been flying between these two in the previous books so loads of fun to be finally telling their story. Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? Work wise it isn’t any different--by myself at my desk. The rest is like everyone. Missing family and friends and all the daily aspects that make life special. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why?

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I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with some of my favorite authors at different workshops etc. Jayne Ann Krentz is a great and supportive human being. Lisa Kleypas is as lovely as her writing. Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? All the time. I have a basic sense of plot but the rest is unknown until I’m writing…which makes for loads of rewrites. LOL Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I’m an outdoor person so I’m hiking, biking. And I love to dance…right now I’m doing a weekly dance party with my dance friends. Virtual classes didn’t work for me since I miss the people too much.


Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? Having readers either reach out or review my books. As a writer you spend so much time alone, it is soul quenching to know that you’re entertaining and touching people with your stories. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I now only read ebooks. And recently I’ve been rereading Julie Garwood’s medieval romances. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? There are so many authors to choose from, I’d be thrilled if you read or gave a listen to one of my books. And please sign up for my NL. I love doing giveaways and telling my readers about other author’s books.

Enjoy an excerpt from A Code of Wonder A Code of Wonder Jacki Delecki Historical Suspense Miss Eliza Louise Lyon comes face-to-face with deception and danger when she is kidnapped in a case of mistaken identity. Using her skills as a horsewoman, she escapes the villains by stealing a prized horse. But she is unable to outrace the fierce snowstorm or the man in pursuit. Lord Nathaniel “Nash” Trentham, Earl of Wessex, chases Eliza through the snow as she makes off with his most-favored stallion. Nash must now save her, paying no mind to decorum and conventions.

| JACKI DELECKI | Will Eliza be forced to marry the Earl and give up her passion for horses? Or will they find a compromise? Excerpt Miss Elizabeth Louise Lyon, Eliza to her friends, needing a horse to escape, scanned the stable. A gigantic black stallion, standing at least sixteen hands, occupied the first stall—the obvious prize, flaunting his proud stance and giving an insolent flick of his magnificent tail. She opened the gate to his stall and scrambled up the stacked hay bales to reach him. She didn’t have a lot of time to calm him if she were to make her getaway. Now that she had three men after her, her chance of evading capture had lessened. She whispered to him, sensing his heroic but persnickety personality, before she swung her leg over his enormous back. The handsome fellow didn’t bolt but turned to stare at her. Whispering how beautiful and brave he was, she ran her hand along his silky, sleek neck. He pawed at the ground, shook his head, and gave a loud snort. She felt his strong muscles ripple in defiance, but it was all for show. “You’re a sensitive and courageous fellow, and you’ll save me. Your name should be ‘Lancelot.’” Eliza swallowed the unexpected sob in her throat. Abbie, her older sister, always teased Eliza about her need to rename horses to suit their personalities. This wasn’t the time to have a crying fit, despite her harrowing day. She had to warn Abbie of the danger. If she hadn’t worn Abbie’s cape for her imprudent ride this morning, none of this would be happening to her. But then her sister might have been kidnapped. Although, unlike her younger sister, Abbie wasn’t so headstrong or defiant that she’d risk riding alone. “You have to help me. Evil men are after me. Not me, but my sister Abbie, whom I strongly resemble.” She hadn’t told the Frenchmen that she wasn’t Abbie. The fear that they might kill her and return to kidnap Abbie kept her silent. “The only explanation must be for ransom from Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Abbie’s rich husband. Or could it be her secret work? Why else would wicked men want my sweet and studious sister?” She rubbed Lancelot’s thick, muscular neck, needing comfort from the gentle beast. The family’s Irish stablemaster always said she had the “touch.” A high compliment that she held to her heart since her mother and her father always found her, their third daughter, wanting. As a gently bred lady, she was supposed to prefer the drawing room and sketching and sewing over spending her time in the stables filled with men and horses. She couldn’t think of her mother right now or how worried Abbie would be when she didn’t return. She gripped Lancelot’s mane and squeezed her thighs and knees into his giant flank to back him out of the stall. “We must be off.” Her racing heartbeat resounded in her ears as she nudged Lancelot into a canter. Slowing to a brisk trot at the road, Eliza searched for a sign or a landmark in the small village to orient herself. She didn’t know the way to Bonnington Estate and her sister. She had been knocked unconscious when she was taken and knew nothing before awaking in the strange inn. Nothing looked familiar, and none of the shops gave any clue to where she was. The sky was filled with ominous clouds, preventing her from identifying the position of the sun to orient herself. Even then, it wouldn’t help her to pinpoint her location. By the fading light in the cold, wintery, December sky, darkness would descend soon, and she would need shelter. Glancing toward the stable, she saw the man who had fought the kidnappers, jump on the gelding tied to a post. She pushed Lancelot into a gallop. She had made the right choice for her mount. Lancelot, a blue-blood goer with an Arabian head and perfect conformation, would easily outdistance the sturdy saddle horse and the stranger who appeared to be pursuing her. Why was this man chasing after her? By his arrogant attitude and his expensive, fitted clothes, he appeared to be an English gentleman. Because he was English, could she trust him to help her return 86 | UncagedBooks.com

to Bonnington Estate in St. John’s Woods? The violent manner in which he overpowered the two villains was disturbing and not in the manner of an English gentleman. How far before she reached the next town or a farm where she could hide until her sister and her brotherin-law rescued her? What about the man behind her? She turned to look over her shoulder to see him smiling just as he had done during the fight. She wouldn’t trust the handsome ruffian with her fate. Surprisingly, like her, he wasn’t prepared for the cold weather. He wore only a shirt that clung to his broad chest and riding breeches.

DON’T MISS THE WHOLE SERIES:


J O - A NN ROBERTS

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orn and raised in western Massachusetts, Jo-Ann Roberts was fascinated by America’s Old West and always felt she was destined to travel on a wagon train following the Oregon Trail. With her love of history and reading, she began reading historical romance during high school and college. Victoria Holt, Jude Deveraux, and Roseanne Bittner were among her favorites. Influenced by her father, she fell in love with John Wayne, James Garner, and her all-time favorite, James Stewart and grew up watching Wagon Train, Bonanza and Rawhide. A firm believer in HEA with a healthy dose of realism, Jo-Ann strives to give her readers a sweet historical romance while imparting carefully researched historical facts, personalities, and experiences relative to the time period. Her romances take her readers back to a simpler time to escape the stress of modern life by living in a small town where families and friends help one another find love and happiness. When she isn’t creating believable plots and relatable heroes and heroines, Jo-Ann enjoys spending time with her husband, children and grandson. She also enjoys baking, quilting and eating way too much chocolate. After 38 years in public education in Connecticut and Maryland, she’s now calls North Carolina home. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina RWA, and the 2018 Winner (Historical Category) of NEORWA’s Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest. Her debut romance, Lessie-Brides of New Hope Book One, is a 2020 RONE Award Nominee.

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jo-annrobertsauthor.com Uncaged welcomes Jo-Ann Roberts Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! You are going to be releasing your 2nd book in the series, Brides of New Hope on July 22. Can you tell readers more about the book and the series? Thank you for having me here today. I am very excited to tell readers about the Brides of New Hope series. Set in New Hope, Kansas, the series revolves around three very different women who for various reasons are unattached, yet determined to carve out a life for themselves without the help of a man following the Civil War. But little did Lessie MacKenzie, Posey Campbell, and Grace Donegan know their ordinary, every day lives would be turned upside down by the arrival of a doctor, a U.S. marshal and an undercover Pinkerton agent. In Book One, the last person Lessie MacKenzie expected to see on her doorstep was her missing husband…the injured Yankee she was forced to marry, who disappeared the next day, and whose kiss still lingered on her lips. Eli MacKenzie wanted only one thing after the Civil War…to establish his medical practice in New Hope, Kansas. His dream turned to despair when he discovered someone sold his property. And that someone appeared to be the woman who haunted his every dream the past two years…and now claimed to be his wife! Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | In Book Two, Posey Campbell couldn’t understand why her love life, or lack thereof, was of such interest to her family and friends. Having endured one ill-fated relationship, she resigned herself to living out her days as New Hope’s spinster schoolteacher…until an unkempt U.S. marshal with inviting grey eyes and a kiss-me-smile came to town turning her well-ordered life off-kilter. Glad for a temporary assignment keeping him in one place, Grayson Barrett never expected to find love, let alone a wife, a set of orphans, and a life he’d feared had passed him by. Book Three features Grace Donegan, a widow with a precocious five-year old daughter and a sullen 14 year-old stepson, whose struggle to make ends meet goes from bad to worse. Already on the verge of losing her job at the café, she faces homelessness when the bank threatens to take her humble farm. A seasoned tracker and Pinkerton agent, Tripp Walker is ready to return to his family’s spread in Texas once he infiltrates and apprehends the gang robbing banks near New Hope…until his heart is snared by a pair of hazel eyes, a tender heart, and one of the best bakers in Douglas County. Uncaged:What inspired you to write after having a long career in public education? While I loved the students, staff and administrators I’ve worked with over the past 38 years in Connecticut and Maryland, I knew the time had come to pursue something different. Several years ago when my children were in elementary school, I joined RWA and penned my first romance. It made it to the first round of the Golden Heart. But soon after life got in the way. College was looming for our children so I traded my 10-month position classroom position for that of a full-time position in Curriculum Development in the superintendent’s office. When we moved to Maryland for my husband’s job., I went back to a 10-month position. Since he was away from home during the week I had quite a bit of free time on my hands so I decided to try my hand at writing again. But the biggest inspiration came from a visit to my late mother-in-law who 90 | UncagedBooks.com

lived on Cape Cod. As a lover of antiques who haunted yard sales even before they became popular, she was always on the hunt for something unusual. Several years before her health began to deteriorate, she showed me a purchase…two daguerreotypes. The first featured a well-to-do family of four, ostensibly capturing their images of position and wealth for posterity. But it was the second grainy photograph which caught and held my interest. A scantily clad young woman in a provocative pose gazed up at me. With her sad, kohl-rimmed eyes and pouty lips, she appeared anything but happy with her present station in life. This got me to thinking. How had she come to be in the photo? Had she been kidnapped? Had she runaway? Had she been a dancehall girl only? Or had she succumbed to “sins of the flesh”? Thus, my heroine, Lessie MacKenzie, was created. Uncaged: Where do you do your research for your books? I’ve been a history buff since elementary school and recall spending hours after school in the children’s section of the library (it was called an athenaeum where I grew up in western Massachusetts). Stories of Betsy Ross, Lotta Crabtree, Martha Washington, and Dolley Madison fueled my imagination of life in the 18th and 19th century. Later, after watching my first episode of Bonanza, I fell in love with cowboys. Research for my books comes from a variety of sources. My bookcase and files are full of diaries, periodicals, photographs, newspaper articles, works of art, architecture and music of the time period. Public television series, historical websites, and city/county/ state websites are essential for historical accuracy. I have several books on western slang, cowboy sayings, everyday life in the 1800s, and Victorian and western clothing. One of my favorite sites for vintage clothing is Recollections and Western Emporium. It gives simple descriptions of everything from crocheted gloves to eyeglasses to gun belts and holsters. Another great source is YouTube. In Book One of my series, Lessie, and in Book Two, Posey, both heroines demonstrate their expertise in loading a pepperbox pistol. I can’t tell you how many times I watched that particular video to get the wording and movements just right! On another note, I enjoy incorporating historical figures


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and current events of the day into my books. Having my characters interact with men and women of prominence adds another layer of interest to the time period. In Book One, Eli and Lessie are having their picture taken at their wedding. Timothy O’Sullivan, a wellknown photographer during the Civil War and protégé of Matthew Brady, was the photographer and friend of Eli. In my fertile imagination it was completely plausible that O’Sullivan could have struck up a friendship with Eli, a contract surgeon during the conflict. Their wedding coincided with O’Sullivan’s trip west as the official photographer for the U.S. Geological Exploration of the West. These are the types of facts I enjoy imparting to my readers. Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle?

Since we retired and moved to North Carolina in 2018, our day to day lifestyle hasn’t really changed. I think a better word might be altered. We are fortunate to live in a development which has a clubhouse encompassing a spa, indoor/outdoor pool, exercise room with a variety of classes, and walking trails. I used to swim daily and joined a few of the Pilates classes while my husband water walked and enjoyed the hot tub. However, as your readers are aware, all of these activities have been cancelled until further notice We still walk every day, but miss our favorite activities. Our trips consist mainly of grocery shopping, pharmacy and doctors’ visits. The month of May was especially difficult for us as we could only attend our only grandchild’s graduation via ZOOM. My annual Quilt Week has been pushed back to September, a family wedding has been cancelled, as has a Michael Buble concert, Jimmy Buffett concert, and Issue 48 | July 2020 | 91


| FEATURE AUTHOR | a PRO Rodeo event. Even though I am an introvert by nature and don’t mind staying home, I miss the social interaction with our neighbors, weekly church services and bible study…and I haven’t been clothes shopping since February! Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Past – Jane Austen. I’d love to discuss who she really was and how close her characters’ predicaments mirrored her own life. Did she ever find falling in love as difficult as her characters did in her books? Past – Erma Bombeck. As a wife and mother, I still have a lot to learn how to balance life with humor. I’d love to hear her commentary about today’s

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parenting attitudes, kids use of technology, helicopter parents, etc. I bet her answers would be hilarious. Present – Shanna Hatfield. I adore her writing, sense of humor, and hunky cowboys and swoon-worthy romance. I’ve interacted with her several times and found her to be a lovely, generous woman and as full of fun and sass as the feisty heroines she creates. Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? Oh, yes! I’m not a plotter, so when my characters surprise me by doing or saying something unusual, I just go with it. Fortunately, this has worked well for me. In Lessie -Book One of the Brides of New Hope, the heroine Lessie is abducted by her former employer. Because


of her tall, sturdy frame and strong legs, she acts purely on instinct and pushes her abductor to the floor with a shove of her legs. When his accomplice enters the fray, she uses her height to thump him upside the head. Though it was popular in in the romance genre years ago, I never liked the fact the heroine always waited for the hero to rescue her. Not in my books! I hope my readers see my heroines as feisty, full of sass, and independent get-it-done women whose love their men as fiercely as they are loved in return. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? Spending time with my husband, children and grandson. Time with them is a priority and so precious. Also, I love to bake…especially cookies! I come from a large Italian family. My mother and several aunts baked cookies for every gathering as well as every wedding in the family. Because so many of them have now passed, celebrations are scaled back, and I no longer live near my extended family, I only make them at Christmas much to my husband’s delight. I usually make about 10 different kinds and give them to neighbors as gifts. Another activity I truly enjoy is quilting. About 20 years ago, myself and several friends got together during the summer for a few days of quilting. Over the years the time frame has increased from a long weekend to a week to 10 days of quilting. We rent a house outside of Lancaster, PA which sleeps 8-10 people. We quilt, shop for fabric, laugh, eat way too many Twizzlers and chocolate, and make a nightly pilgrimage to an Amish farm for ice cream. Each year we have a “challenge”. Some years it will be the same pattern, or a line of fabric, or our own design. We have Show and Tell one night and display our quilts. These quilts are then donated to the VA hospital, nursing homes or NICUs, etc.

| JO-ANN ROBERTS | in a small town setting full of friends, family, faith, and a guaranteed HEA. On a small personal note, I am especially honored and humbled that my first book, Lessie – Brides of New Hope Book One was a 2020 RONE Award Nominee from InD’Tale Magazine. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? As much as I like the textural feel of an actual page in my hands, I really do prefer reading books on my Kindle Fire. My daughter gave me my first one a few years ago. For my birthday last month, she gave me an updated version complete with Alexa. It can hold thousands of books and it’s easy to transport, pull out and read, and weighs less than a paperback version. I just finished reading, Catching the Cowboy by Shanna Hatfield. My TBR list grows daily!!! Next up is A Rancher for Rowena by Amelia Adams, then Heartstrings by Lily Graison, then Falling for a Younger Cowboy by Liwen Ho….see, I told y’all… I LOVE COWBOYS!!! Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I love interacting with my readers. Over the past two years, I have been blessed to have gained new readers who have become friends. I so appreciate their support, their honesty, and their humor for helping me keep my feet firmly planted on the ground.

Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? Success is hearing back from readers that they were transported into the world I created leaving behind the problems and worries of the outside world, if only for a few hours. As an author I am privileged and pleased my books give them a glimpse into a simpler way of life Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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Enjoy an excerpt from Freeing Eden Posey Jo-Ann Roberts Western Historical Releases July 22

Posey Campbell couldn’t understand why her love life, or lack thereof, was of such interest to her family and friends. Having endured one ill-fated relationship, she resigned herself to living out her days as New Hope’s spinster schoolteacher . . . until an unkempt U.S. marshal with inviting gray eyes and a kiss me smile comes to town spinning her well-ordered life off-kilter. Glad for a temporary assignment keeping him in one place, Grayson Barrett never expected to find love, let alone a wife, a set of orphans, and a life he’d feared had passed him by. When a secret from Posey’s past comes to light will Gray’s steadfast love be enough to convince her he is the right man? Or will an old nemesis put an end to their love before it begins? Excerpt New Hope, Kansas October 1870 Chapter One “Quite a looker, ain’t she, boys?” Grayson Barrett shifted against a column just inside the entrance to the dining room of the Prairie Queen Hotel. Something unseemly in the man’s voice stopped him from moving farther into the ornately furnished room. He’d heard far worse 94 | UncagedBooks.com

comments made about women in his line of work, though it still never sat well with him. He angled his body closer to the men, his eyes squinting against the stench of body odor and stale beer coming off them in waves. They laughed again, and one of them pointed to the crowd. Following his target, Gray’s eyes came to rest on the very woman in question. For the last ten minutes, he’d watched her offering drinks in crystal cups from a silver tray. Admittedly, he, too, had come to the same conclusion she was indeed ‘a looker.’ While most of the women looked like spring blossoms in their printed calico, the lady wore a simple skirt of dark-green iridescent fabric. The material shimmered as she moved, changing from green to blue, depending the angle and the reflection from the kerosene sconces on the wall. A white blouse with a rounded neck was tucked into the waistband of the skirt. A black velvet belt accentuated her trim waist. Taller than most women of his acquaintance, she appeared to be only a few inches shorter than his own six-foot frame. Her hair, a rich chestnut threaded with highlights of red and gold, was arranged in a loose knot at the nape of her neck, while tendrils floated around her cheek. She had yet to turn in his direction, but her profile revealed smooth skin, accented by high cheekbones, a well-shaped brow, a pert nose, and a very kissable bottom lip. He wondered about her eyes. Were they green, brown, blue? Being a lawman who relied on hunches as much as he relied on facts, he’d guess her eyes were green, a deep emerald green matching the color of her skirt. “Yup. I’d sure like to grab a tumble in the barn with her.” Their crude laughter grated on Gray’s nerves. “Be even better in one of those fancy rooms upstairs,” put in one of the men. “What would a fine-looking gal like her want with an old goat like you, Cal?” Cal punched his friend in the arm. “Who you callin’ old, Reed? We’re twins, remember?” “Yeah, but I’m older and better lookin’ by a far piece. And I got a powerful hankerin’ for that gal. Woo-wee! What I wouldn’t give to see all her dark hair fallin’ across my pillow, and those purty lips kissin’ . . .” Reed’s next words died in his throat when Gray’s hands fisted the lapel of his tobacco-stained vest. “Can’t say I like what I’m hearing, son.” He appeared to be young, probably no more than


| JO-ANN ROBERTS | twenty years old. Gray had seen plenty of greenhorns over the years. Not really a boy but not yet a man. A man with nothing to do could only mean one thing. Trouble. “Then you shouldn’t be listening, old man. This here’s a private conversation.” Reed gave a cocky smile, while pulling himself up to his full height. Though shorter than Gray, he appeared just as fit. He punctuated the air with a finger, mere inches from Gray’s chest. “And I ain’t your son.” Gray’s grip tightened on Reed. “If you were, I’d have taught you to be more respectful toward others, especially women. Come to think of it, maybe it’s not too late for someone to teach you a lesson.” Reed’s cocky smile slipped, but his eyes were cold. “Yeah? Who’s gonna do it, old man? You?” Gray let him go with a not-so-gentle backward shove. “Me and Sam Colt here, and your uncle.” He drew back his duster far enough for the duo to glimpse the metal badge imprinted with the words U.S. Marshal and the worn leather belt and holster housing his revolver hanging low on his left hip. Cal dropped back farther, his complexion growing pale despite his tanned skin. He yanked at his brother’s upper arm. “Let it go, Reed. You know what Pa said about gettin’ in any more trouble. He’ll tan our hides, and you know he can do it.” Gray didn’t move a muscle but continued to stare down Reed, watching him clench then flex his fingers. If it hadn’t been for the Judge and Miss Clara, he would’ve tumbled down the same slippery slope Reed showed signs of heading. “Listen to your brother, son. If you pull that hogleg, I’ll have no problem telling your pa what his sons are up to.” A man hurried to Gray’s side. He was of medium height, his dark hair slicked back with enough scented pomade it made Gray’s eyes water with its potency. “I’m Roscoe Parker, one of the dining room managers. Is there a problem here? Do I need to escort them off the property?” Roscoe Parker was shorter than the duo, considerably thinner, and seemed an unlikely candidate to strongarm a wounded dog, let alone two armed men half his age. With his swarthy looks, brown eyes, and seemingly impeccable bearings, he had the appearance of being too smooth, giving Gray an uneasy feeling in his gut. But, nonetheless, Roscoe glared at the duo, his arm already in motion to escort them to the door.

“Get away from me, old man.” Reed turned his wrath on the hotel employee and glowered. The tension between the two men stretched tighter than a bow fiddle at a Saturday night dance. Because of his years hunting down criminals and too many cold nights on his belly, Gray had developed a knack for reading unspoken messages among outlaws. Though he couldn’t put his finger on it yet, he sensed a connection between the two men. He’d keep an eye on Roscoe Parker, and he’d talk with Sheriff Fuller about the man called Reed. “I got as much right to be in this hotel as you and him.” Reed jerked an angry thumb toward Gray. “Now that’s where you’re wrong. This hotel is a private place, and this is a private gathering, and you are not entitled to annoy the guests. If I hear you slander that woman or anyone else, I will personally throw you in jail, and that’s a promise.” A dark flush covered Reed’s face, his hands forming fists by his sides. Slowly, his gun hand opened, his fingers alternately clenching and flexing. “You haven’t seen the last of me, marshal.” Again, Roscoe Parker extended his arm toward the hotel lobby. As they reached the opened door leading to the lobby, Reed let loose with a few choice words, turning the air blue around them, causing some of the nearby mothers to clap their hands over their children’s ears. In two long strides, Gray grabbed Cal by the back of his collar and spun him around. “You seem like a lad with a good head on his shoulders, where I’m sure you want it to stay. Whatever demons are plaguing your brother, don’t let them eat at you.” Though his eyes looked wary, Cal nodded and hurried out of the hotel. Gray waited for a minute more for Roscoe Parker’s return, but the man had vanished. A niggle of suspicion inched its way into his mind. Parker was quickly becoming a burr under his saddle. Returning to the dining room, Gray was approached by several of the guests. They thanked him for his quick action, stating they enjoyed living in New Hope and did not want that kind of element in their town. Laughter, like the tinkling of bells on a winter’s night, drew Gray back into the festivities. The striking-looking woman continued to make her way around the room. She stopped momentarily Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | to exchange her empty tray for a full one from a tall, gangly youth with copper-colored hair. He said something to her, and her laughter floated right toward Gray, curling around his heart. Gray observed her graceful movements. Each time a child or group of children tugged on her sleeve or pulled on her remarkable iridescent skirt, she would stop, giving them her full attention. Keeping his focus on the beauty, Gray saw Ben Campbell slip his arm around the beauty’s trim waist, pulling her close against him and giving her a kiss at her temple. Having met Ellen, Ben’s wife, he knew they were parents to three lively children. Unbidden, a river of jealousy wider than the Missouri flooded through him. Thunder and tarnation! He didn’t even know the woman’s name or the color of her eyes, but he was ready to pop the hotel proprietor in the nose for his blatant familiarity with the beauty. A friendly wave from New Hope’s outgoing sheriff, Cash Fuller, shifted his attention. He acknowledged the greeting by touching two fingers to the brim of his hat. As a U.S. marshal, Gray’s home base was in Kansas City and his jurisdiction spread westward to include Abilene, Salina, Ellsworth, and north to Mankato and the state line. While he would only be in New Hope helping on a provisional basis until a new sheriff was elected, he could be sent anywhere in the state at a moment’s notice. Studying Cash and his wife, Delia, Gray felt a different type of jealousy. Cash slipped an arm around his wife’s expanding waistline and pulled her against his side. Their son, Gates, nestled himself against his father’s shoulder. What would it be like to love and be loved completely? He shook away the yearning. Sadly, he might never find out. Focused on Cash and Delia, Gray was caught unaware once the beauty stopped in front of him. “Would you care for some cider, sir?” Instinctively, Gray pushed away from the ornate column to stand ramrod straight. He blinked once. Twice. Gray couldn’t seem to untangle his tongue. The woman stared back at him. To keep from capturing one of her curling tendrils to see if it felt as silky as it looked, he shoved his hands into his 96 | UncagedBooks.com

coat pockets, amazed by the direction his thoughts were heading. Choosing to ignore the warning voice in his head to look away, he took in her high cheekbones dusted with a blush of pink, her creamy skin, and her top lip that looked as kissable as the bottom. Lush feathery lashes rimmed eyes which matched the iridescent hues of her dress. Not green, not blue, but an arresting combination of both. “If you don’t care for cider, stronger spirits are available in the saloon across the hall.” She nodded her head in the direction of the lobby. “Of course, you will have to consume it there as spirits are not allowed in the dining room,” she added as he remained silent. “Cider is fine,” he said, finally finding his voice, amazed it sounded as normal as it did. “I don’t imbibe. Especially not while I’m wearing this.” He drew aside his coat for the second time. “Ah, the new lawman in town.” Those kissable lips parted in a welcoming smile, showing perfectly even white teeth. “It seems we have something in common. My name is Penelope Campbell. I’m replacing Delia Fuller as the new schoolteacher. But I’ve been called Posey for as long as I can remember.” Campbell? He repeated the surname to himself twice before the realization dawned. Ben Campbell was the beauty’s relative, not the philanderer he’d accused him of being. Pleased beyond all comprehension, he couldn’t stop the smile spreading across his face. “Posey? Like in flowers?” He hoped to keep her talking. And from moving on, out of his line of sight. She chuckled, her laugh as charming as the woman herself. “More like thorns if you asked my brother, Ben. Whenever he tried to say ‘Penelope,’ it came out as ‘Posey.’ So, I’ve been Posey ever since and a barb in his side for nearly as long.” “It’s a pleasure, ma’am. My name’s Grayson Barrett.” He tapped the badge. “Most folks just call me Gray or marshal.” Her scent, something floral, floated up from her lush, dark hair as she leaned in farther to read the inscription. “U.S. Marshal. An impressive lawman.” She continued to scrutinize his appearance, and for the first time today, he wished he’d taken the opportunity to stop at the bathhouse for a soak and a long overdue shave. Except for the occasional dip in a pond or river on the long ride north from Baxter Springs,


| JO-ANN ROBERTS | he’d slept in his clothes and ate whatever he cooked himself. He lived a solitary life, and now as he was coming up on the shy side of forty years old, its appeal was diminishing by degrees. “I’d prefer to call you Grayson.” She tilted her head to one side, still assessing his person. “It seems to suit you better.” Gray didn’t care what she called him as along as she kept talking. “My English-born mother would be pleased to hear you say that. She made it her life’s mission to turn me into a proper gentleman.” “In your training as a gentleman, did you sleep through the lecture on removing your hat in a building or when talking to a lady?” He snatched his hat from his head, then raked his fingers through his hair. He’d had his hat on so long no doubt he had a permanent indentation where the inside band touched his scalp. Though comfortable with its longer length, even he knew his hair was in pitiful need of a trim. “Sorry, ma’am. The Judge and Miss Clara would march me double time to the woodshed for not respecting a lady. My sincere apologies.” “The Judge and Miss Clara? Are they your parents?” Even after all this time, the sorrow at his mother’s passing hadn’t faded. Nor had the bitter hatred toward the man who’d murdered her. His father. He shook his head, mostly to clear away the grief the painful memory exposed, but also to assure the beauty waiting for his reply. “No. Judge Fenwick and Miss Clara became my guardians following my mother’s passing. She and my mother became great friends after they both arrived in Baltimore from England. From the time I was ten years old, the Fenwicks raised me as they would their own son.” With one hand, Posey expertly balanced the tray with the two remaining cups of cider. She gently placed her free hand on Gray’s forearm in a sincere expression of sympathy. “Oh, marshal. You were just a child. How terrible for you. Please accept my condolences. What of your father? Has he passed as well?” Hopefully, right into Hades, he wanted to say but found he could only concentrate on the weight of her delicate hand on his forearm. The heat of it traveled through his duster and shirt, shooting

warm tingles up his arm. Her eyes widened. Had the connection affected her as well? She rested her hand a moment longer than proper, but he didn’t mind. “His whereabouts are unknown,” he finally replied. As she lifted her hand, Gray experienced a loss. Yet, a part of him rejoiced as her fingers trembled while passing him a cup. She tried to hide it by curling her slender forefinger through the smooth handle of the last cup. “What do you say we offer up a toast?” As if he had timed it perfectly, the tall gangly youth with the copper-colored hair and crystalline blue eyes appeared, relieving Posey of the silver tray. Though Gray inclined his head toward the newly elected state representative and his wife, his gaze never left Posey’s face. “To Cash and Delia . . . love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” He lifted his cup, draining the contents in one swallow. “Good advice to a new politician, don’t you think?” About to join him in the toast, Posey’s hand stopped in midair. “I’m impressed you are acquainted with the works of Shakespeare, marshal.” Gray shrugged. “His plays were required reading every year at the academy.” “The academy?” “West Point,” answered Gray. “After I graduated from there, I served as a tactical weapons instructor.” He leaned in and lowered his voice to a husky level, favoring her with a smile he’d been told could coax the angels down from the heavens. “I thought you agreed to call me Grayson.”

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Enjoy an excerpt from: Courtship Courtship Camille Faye Paranormal/Metaphysical

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While Sophie Nouveau stresses over wedding plans, she fears Madame LaLaurie has been resurrected somehow when a black bird snatches a newborn from its crib out in Cajun country. Sophie investigates the kidnapping and uncovers clues about a Skinwalker, a different type of shapeshifter who can steal and wear human skins. She suspects the creature strikes again when one of her loved ones dies amid disturbing circumstances. While in mourning, Sophie also ascertains the identity of her biological father. As Sophie’s inner demons rise, she realizes her birth was just a part of a diabolical scheme to destroy Sacred Power and spread black magic across New Orleans. Sophie will face a trial by fire in her priestess training in order to fight this threat and restore the universal balance. But will she be able to walk through the flames? Or will she get burned? Excerpt 1—Witchy Woman Papa Moses Montgomery called this morning, asking me to help with a rootwork case. Taj came along because he wanted to investigate my Mind Changer powers with some of his new high-tech gear. The three of us rode in Moses’ old rusty pickup truck, as it roared down Old U.S. 51 in Saint John the Baptist Parish. Classic rock blared from the speakers. The noonday sun rose high in a cloudless, azure sky. With the break in spring rain, we had the windows rolled down and the cool wind blew in our hair. Taj fiddled with his fancy new FLIR camera. It was

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| CAMILLE FAYE | nice having him along because it felt like something we could do together, as a couple. I would do my Mind Changer thing. He would track different bits of evidence and data with his new gadgets. He enjoyed scientifically studying my magic, though he had actually been able to see more with his own eyes lately. At Jacques’ New Year’s Eve party, Taj had seen me do a mind change for the first time. Since then, he caught glimpses of different paranormal phenomena, like a split-second apparition or a shadow out of the corner of his eye at a haunted location, but nothing as tangible as him seeing my mind changes. “Moses, where are we going?” I shouted over the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man.” He punched the stereo knob with his forefinger to turn off the music.

look like an off-kilter mountain man. “Don’t know much myself.” Moses shrugged. “The Landrys called me and said their friends are dealing with that same ‘pest’ they dealt with. Sounded like Beau and Rose didn’t want to tell me specifics over the phone.” The statement felt like a sucker punch to the face. “They mean a Rougarou, right?” I asked to clarify. I remembered the first time I heard about the Rougarou, a Cajun shapeshifter with a taste for human blood. It was at my voodoo baptism. People were chatting before the ceremony, swapping stories about these swamp creatures. But, like a lot of things since I inherited my grandma’s voodoo shop, now I knew the stories were real. “Rougarou?” Taj said. “Isn’t that—”

“No need to shout,” he said, but Moses was extremely hard of hearing, so I needed to do just that in order for him to hear me. “We headed to the Landry place.” My stomach retreated into my toes.

I had told him the whole story about what had happened out here on the Maurepas Swamp while he was in Malaysia fighting his own paranormal battles.

The Landry house had been the location of the showdown between Dr. Bone’s group of thugs called The Wolves and Sacred Power’s secret voodoo council. Back then, I had vanquished Madame LaLaurie’s soul using a Captain Morgan’s bottle and a bit of Louisiana lore. According to the old Southern tradition of bottle trees, spirits get trapped within the vessels and the morning sun destroys them.

My heartbeat increased as I remembered Madame LaLaurie, in a black antebellum dress, hovering over four-month-old Temperance Landry’s crib. Madame LaLaurie had been feeding on the baby, and I got there just in time, otherwise who knew what would have happened. She could have sucked all of the infant’s blood dry. I shook my head, to get the image out of my mind.

“The Landrys aren’t having trouble again, are they?” I asked, steeling my nerves and steadying my voice. The old rootman didn’t answer my question.

“Little Tennie isn’t—” I began, using Temperance’s nickname, but not wanting to finish the sentence with, being fed upon.

“Moses!” I demanded. “You dragged us all the way out here. You can at least tell us what you know.”

“No.” Moses swatted the suggestion away. “The Landrys know what to look for. Rougarou do best when they can feed upon those that don’t know the signs. No, it’s their good friends, the Broussards.” “Do you know them?” Taj asked.

He had been cryptic about why he wanted me to make the hour-long drive out to Cajun country, but the old conjure doctor didn’t always act “normal.” Decades ago, he had been struck by lightning. His crazy white hair paired with his long, scraggly beard made him

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cause Moses was a hermit. He just didn’t like people until you made it into his inner circle, then he would tolerate you. “Anything else you can tell us?” I asked. “What did the Landrys say exactly?” “That’s it,” Moses snapped at me, but I didn’t know if it was his normal crotchety nature or if he felt as anxious as I did. “We’ll know in a few minutes when we get there.” Papa Moses reached forward and flicked the radio back on. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” played, the final electric guitar riff jamming loud, and the old rocker rapped his thumb on the steering wheel, ratcheting up my nerves. Moses wouldn’t say it, but I wondered if he was freaking out on the inside as much as I was. My stomach felt like it had a million butterflies inside. I purposefully drew a long, full breath, to diminish the nervousness at my core.

of the little Landry house on the bayou. The porch, lined by spirea and forsythia bushes, ran the width of the cottage. A set of wide steps led up to the front door, which was framed by two picture windows with country blue shutters. If I hadn’t been here before, the place would have looked quaint and inviting. But I had been through hell here. Every member of The Council had. The muscles at the base of my neck tensed. I squeezed Taj’s hand too tightly. “Ow,” he said, wiggling his fingers and laughing a little. He scrunched his eyebrows, wondering why I was so uptight. “Sorry.” I loosened my grip. What if Madame LaLaurie’s back? I thought, swallowing the lump in my throat.

Taj took my hand and held it on the bench seat between us. After Skynyrd’s final notes played, a news report cut across the airwaves. “Take care now, y’all. An unexpected rise in missing person cases, across the Greater New Orleans area, has police out in full force,” the announcer said. “With no indication of the cause, authorities are choosing to increase patrols, sending out more plainclothes and uniformed officers. The mayor’s administration says it is investigating several longterm solutions and is committed to the safety of all city residents. Let’s hope no hexes are the cause of all this unrest. But just in case . . . to ward off any bad mojo, here’s ‘Witchy Woman’ by The Eagles.” The steady beat of drums paired with quick guitar thrums, made my heart thump in unison with the music as we pulled into the familiar driveway. A thin fog wrapped itself around the foundation 102 | UncagedBooks.com

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Uncaged Reviews Dragon’s Ground Shannon Mayer Urban Fantasy

What Would a Duke Do? Collette Cameron Historical Regency

Dragons and danger and magic collide. And its only Monday.

He’s bent on revenge. She’s his enemy’s granddaughter. He’ll marry her…willing or not.

Once more Zamira must test her mettle against a world bent on breaking her, proving she is more than she seems.

Maxwell, the Duke of Pennington is a man focused on one thing: revenge. He’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goal, including marrying the beautiful, unpredictable granddaughter of the man he seeks reprisal against—whether Gabriella is willing or not. As Max inexplicably finds himself drawn to the spirited minx, unforeseen doubts and guilt arise.

We survived the land of the Witch’s Reign, that much is true. But our arrival home is far from welcome.

Uncaged Review: I read the first book in this series a few months ago, and even though I liked it and liked the direction it was going, I didn’t love it. That all changed with this second book in the series. So many questions from the first book are answered, but still many more remain. But this book turned this series into a must read for me, it was full of action, twists and turns and allies coming from the most unusual places. There are new allies and new enemies, and Zam along with Maks, Lila and Balder will be in the thick of it again. World building and character development is much stronger and the action scenes were nonstop. The author has tossed in a few twists that I didn’t see coming. If you didn’t fall in love with this trio in the first book, you may fall in this one. I can honestly say that I laughed, screamed (OK, not loud) and cried in this book and I can guarantee it won’t take me a few months to read book three.

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Uncaged Review: Ms. Cameron is a consistent author for me, whenever I open a book from her, I feel as though I’m going to enjoy and get lost in a new world. This book holds steady in that way, but it’s not my all-time favorite from this author. It was a bit slow in the beginning and there was a bit too much internalizing from the characters that went on a bit long, especially Gabriella. And even though Maxwell is a bit over bearing at first, he does work his way into the reader’s good graces. There is a really good twist that comes in near the end, and it’s a doozy. The characters have great chemistry and there are times I love them both, and times I’d like to swat them both. But after the initial 20% of the book, the book finds it’s voice and the reader is carried into the story. Reviewed by Cyrene


The Lovers L.A. McGinnis Fantasy Romance

Nearly Departed in Deadwood Ann Charles Paranormal Ghost Suspense

Thief. Sinner. Saint.

“The first time I came to Deadwood, I got shot in the ass.”-Violet Parker

Lilly Domenic has stolen from the rich. The Famous. The Unsuspecting. This is her life, navigating her crime family’s dangerous world, hoping to survive another day. But when her brother gives her one final task to complete, Lilly finds herself in over her head.

Uncaged Review: As we hit the 5th book in this series, this book centers around Lilly and Freyr – but the main back story is continuing, and it’s ramping up in a crazy way. Lilly, coming from a crime family and pulling cons her entire life, has the perfect photographic memory and strategic mind. She can’t be trusted at first, but she does find her place – and along with the other strong women in this series, they all contribute something new and unfailingly helps the immortal warriors. But with the Orubus coming through, all Hell is about to break loose, literally. I can stress the importance of reading this series in order. The main story arc in each book continues on after each other, and you may be a bit lost if you just pick up any of the series. But it’s well worth the time – this is a fantastic series, full of action, Norse Gods, hot scenes, and great dialog. This story has some great twists in it, especially in the back end of the book and will keep you guessing on the edge of your seat. What a fantastic series this would be on the small or large screen. Reviewed by Cyrene

Little girls are vanishing from Deadwood, South Dakota, and Violet Parker’s daughter could be next. She’s desperate to find the monster behind the abductions. But if she’s not careful, Violet just might end up as one of Deadwood’s dearly departed. Uncaged Review: This author came on my radar as a featured author in Uncaged Book Reviews. This series seemed right up my alley, so I gave the first book a try. This is a mystery, and it’s not hard core paranormal, but it has unforgettable characters, sass, humor, romance and a few twists and turns I never expected. It’s a fun series set in Deadwood, South Dakota, and Violet is trying to bring up her twin kids on her own. The cast of characters that Violet manages to pick up are a great and original supporting group, helping out in the laughter and the fun. But don’t think this is all just fun and games, there is a seriously morbid person on the loose kidnapping kids, and this is a well written mystery, the laughter just eases the tension and keeps you flipping pages. From Harvey, the old man with the shotgun Bessie and an overcharged libido, to Elvis the chicken, this is a cast of characters that will keep you on your toes. Even the kids in this book are pretty cool. Looking forward to continuing on in Deadwood. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Uncaged Reviews The Companion Witch Coco Thrift Paranormal Romance A vampire receiving death threats. A witch with secrets and a dark past. Lucy Mills is better known as Lulu at The Cat’s Meow, a glamorous cabaret club that caters to the adventurous types. Entranced by the glitter and swaying hips, unsuspecting humans sit alongside far more devious creatures. Lulu dazzles by working her magic with feather fans under the spotlight… and then conjures up solutions backstage with her supernatural clients. Uncaged Review: This book has a boat load of potential and so does this author. The characters are likeable, original and easy to get attached to. The plot is different and the author gives the readers a bit of a new take on vampire origins and life. Lulu is a companion witch, and a witch without a coven – who dances at a burlesque club to make rent. When Lulu is contracted for a side job as a companion witch, she will do everything in her vast array of powers to defend her client, as her specialty. When a vampire named Seymour asks about her services, her first inclination it to decline, even though the money offered would solve many of her issues. This book would have rated much higher for me but for the fact of the many typos and grammar issues in the book. A good editor would have fixed this before going to print. There was also almost too much talk about any of the vampire’s “claws.” This was really overdone, and almost makes a reader think that they have deformed hands in some way, even though they don’t. And the one sex scene was completely uninspiring. So even with those issues, this could have been a much higher rated and better book, all the groundwork was there, but the job wasn’t finished. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Fire Maidens: Rome Anna Lowe Fantasy Romance The one woman this lone wolf can’t resist... New Yorker Lena Castamolino has trouble. Big trouble. Every time the full moon shines, her body tries to turn into a wild beast, and she has no idea why. Her skin goes all leathery, and her shoulders begin the agonizing transformation into wings. Wings! Could it have to do with her recent move to Rome — a magical city that called to her for years? Or does the answer lie in the father who abandoned her at birth? Either way, she needs help, because all the grit and determination in the world can’t stop the moon — or the evil forces hot on her trail. Uncaged Review: When I am having trouble to decide on a genre or book to read – to get me back in the swing of it, I turn to a group of authors that I can always trust to bring me out of a rut, and Anna Lowe is on that list. This is the third book in this series, and it’s just as good, or even better than the first two. I read this book in a day, that’s how hard it was to put down. Our Fire Maiden in this is Lena, who has no idea of the shifter world or supernaturals, but you can see some of her abilities from the beginning, even if she can’t by being able to see the true souls of people. This a great romance, with Sergio and Lena, and seeing the major action scene is a nail biter, and when Lena shifts for the first time, I felt like I was there watching it all unfold in person. Action, discovery, love and loyalty. It’s all in these books, and I just “know’ the next book has to be about one of my favorite supporting characters from this book, Marco, and I can’t wait to read it. Reviewed by Cyrene


Day of the Dead Nikki Landis Occult/Horror

My Cosan is broken ... One of my guys has been taken and I’ll do whatever it takes to bring him back. No one messes with my family. Torn between my duty and my heart, I have to make a choice that could destroy the council and everything my ancestors fought so hard to build. The Salem Witch Trials began our fight for independence, but the true test of honor and skill has just begun. There’s only one tiny problem. I’ve been magically restricted by the council. I’m forbidden to leave Mystic Hallows.

Uncaged Review: In the fifth episode in this series – Cassie’s mother, Elizabeth has been stolen and her soul is in the Fade. With Ryder missing, she will have to break a lot of rules to go in after her, and she’ll have to depend on a couple of beings that she has never trusted. There are a couple really good twists that show up near the end of the book, that are scene stoppers. I won’t give anything more away, but not everything is as it seems in this story. Cassie has been magically grounded by the counsel, so she’s going to have find a loophole, and the one they use could be a matter of life or death. I would caution anyone that wants to begin the series to start at the beginning. The author does a nice job catching you up in the front of the book, but it’s a good series. And the heat level is rising fast, as the author promised. Reviewed by Cyrene

Wagered in Winter Scarlett Scott Historical Regency

Lord Ashley Rawdon has agreed to accompany his painfully shy brother, the Duke of Coventry, to a country house party with the goal of securing him a wealthy bride. A dedicated rake, Ashley is so confident he can help his brother to ensnare the lady of his choosing, he offers him a wager. It’s too bad the lady his brother selects is Miss Prudence Winter, who is infuriating, stubborn, and far too alluring.

Uncaged Review: So we are back with the very fun Winter sisters, and this one focuses on Prudence, who is the oldest sister who has decided she doesn’t want to marry, but instead start a foundling hospital. Lord Ashley is playing wingman to his brother, the Duke of Coventry to help him find a wife, since he is painfully shy and not socially adept. When he finds himself attracted to Prudence, the woman that his brother has selected, he struggles to contain his emotions. Again, this is a fun book, with some great banter, a nice romance and that dang book. Slowly but surely this book is making it’s rounds with the sisters and it causes quite a few moments of hilarity. A nice romance that’s a easy, light read. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Satanic Bible Camp Tim Miller Occult Horror Camp Good News is a Bible camp where people send off their kids for the summer to become good Christians. Destiny is a troubled girl whose parents hope the camp will help straighten her out. The camp seems odd enough with the extra happy staff and their leader, Pastor Rick. Except there is something lurking beneath that smiling exterior. Something dark and evil. The campers may be left to the staff’s evil devices, but from the wilderness, a mysterious witch looks on and plans to put an end to the camp’s reign of terror. Nothing is what it seems in the Satanic Bible Camp!

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Satanic Bible Camp was an unexpected surprise just when I needed it most. It was fun while still being dark enough to keep my attention, and the story moved at a good pace. I enjoyed the idea of a bible camp that was more than it appeared, as often is the case in real life. Maybe not quite to this extreme, but it’s not wholly unbelievable. The mystery of who the witch was and all the little details weren’t totally obvious to me, which is awesome. I hate figuring things out too soon as it ruins the story. There were some things that I didn’t quite love, but it’s not my story and it wasn’t that they were wrong, just not what I wanted so I won’t take stars off for that. Honestly, this is one of the better stories I’ve read this year and I’m glad I accidently found it. It’s worth checking out if you are looking for something that’s not your run of the mill horror. There was some gore, which wasn’t bad to me, but may

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be a bit much for some. I read it on KU, but would not have been mad if I had paid regular price.


Nazis Want My Guitar Jojo Strange Humorous Some couples have rocky relationships. Cheryl and John have a rock and roll relationship.

have a sense of humor similar to my own, so they are easy to identify with. It’s a fairly short read, which is both good and bad. Good because it’s great if you don’t have a lot of time to put into it and want the whole story. Bad because I want to know about more of Cheryl and John’s adventures. Jojo Strange’s books are always too short for me, even when they are really long, so this isn’t a surprise to me.

She’s Cheryl Loxley. Known as the ‘Scandal From Orlando’. World famous lead singer of the Irregulars. She’s loud, brassy, and full of rock and roll energy. He’s John Watts. Known as the husband of Cheryl Loxley. A kinda famous writer. He’s got a cool car and wrote some books.

For some reason, in my mind, I keep picturing the actress Katey Sagal, as Cheryl. Katey seems to get more beautiful with every birthday. Cheryl is funny and relatable. She was someone I could connect with because she thinks in similar ways to how I do. She sounds pretty bad ass in my opinion.

When Cheryl buys a vintage electric guitar from her shady antique dealing friend, she finds a priceless historical artifact from WW 2. After several encounters with men who want the artifact the couple is forced into hiding from a Nazi terrorist organization. Their quest will take them from The House of The Mouse to the Navajo Nation. On a hunt for an ancient holy object sought since the death of Jesus Christ. Soon, Cheryl will have a title for a new song.

Overall, this was a short, but fun, addition to the world of Jojo Strange. I enjoyed the little Easter egg type bits and pieces referencing some of Strange’s other books. Fast paced shenanigans all wrapped up and hidden in a guitar case, it’s an adventure to remember. There really is no downtime in this book, so be sure to get your snacks and drinks before you start reading.

Now she knows why... NAZIS WANT MY GUITAR!

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Jojo Strange is one of those authors that is full of surprises. I have yet to read a book by him in which I didn’t become fully immersed. At the end of each of his books, I feel like part of a family. I care about the characters and what happens with them. His worlds are so realistic that, to me, they feel like what I imagine going home to feel like. Nazi’s Want My Guitar is a fun and quirky little adventure that is dotted with humor. The characters

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Fragments of Delores Claire C. Riley Romantic Suspense Can a picture-perfect life be destroyed by a single lie? Or did it take more than that to split her world apart? Perfect husband. Perfect children. Perfect home. Delores Stanton had it all. Or so it seemed. Until one hot summer’s night, she got into her car, and left. Delores’s tragic journey begins with deception, a bloody revenge plot born from jealousy, and a lie that has become the rocky foundation for her fragile mind. As her world begins to spin dangerously out of control, Delores’s desperate mind starts the tortuous process of piecing her life back together. But when you can’t even trust yourself, how can you even begin?

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Fragments of Delores is a book that will really get you tied up in knots. It’s emotional and heartbreaking, all while pissing you off at the same time. It’s considered a “psychological drama” for a good reason. As usual Claire C. Riley had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I suspected some of what was going on, but the story was told in a way that made me question my ideas. She does a great job of stringing you along and dropping breadcrumbs along the way to keep you wanting more. This book really shows the lengths some will go to in order to have complete control over others. With no regard to anyone else, it’s all about their feelings. Delores husband is a classic narcissist to the upmost degree. For him to take things as far as he did just to get his way is a perfect example of how

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messed up some people can be. Though the word “gaslighting” is thrown around in our society a lot, Fragments of Delores really paints the picture of the extent of how bad it can be and the potential outcomes from someone who exhibits such behaviors. I understand the concept much better than I did before reading this book and frankly, it’s terrifying. That someone can willingly destroy someone’s mental health in the way Delores’s husband did makes me sick because I know there are people out there who do just that. This really is a great book and worth checking out. It’s just long enough to tell the story without it being rushed, but also doesn’t drag. I will say that the beginning ran a little slower than I usually prefer, but I was so desperate to find out what was going on, I didn’t really notice it until I was past that part.


Emergence Camille Faye Paranormal Suspense Voodoo shop owner Sophie Nouveau has it all: love, purpose, and the magical ability to change evil people good. Following in her family’s otherworldly footsteps, she emerges into the New Orleans voodoo community by taking part in a public voodoo baptism. However, she still hasn’t told Taj, the love of her life, about the paranormal skeletons in her closet. So when he leaves the country indefinitely and without explanation, she realizes they are both masters at keeping secrets. And since true love is the source of Sophie’s Mind Changer spell, she not only loses her soul mate, she loses her ability to protect herself and her city against an emerging threat.

my problem to work out. I’ve been loving learning more about Voodoo and that aspect of the books. I’ve always been really creeped out by Dauphine LaLaurie, so I think she fits into this story perfectly. I do wish things were easier for Sophie. The history of New Orleans is fascinating to me as well, so that is something else I’ve enjoyed about this series. Ultimately, this series quickly became one of my favorites and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: I really love this series.

I read the first book back in October and started this one right after, but life got in the way so I didn’t finish it. I finally got to it, and I am kicking myself for waiting so long. I wasn’t able to put it down once I really got started.

The way this author unfolds the story is great. I don’t figure out all the bits and pieces right away, which is a relief. I hate it when I figure it out right in the beginning. She knows just how much info to give at just the right time to keep me wanting to know what happens next. There isn’t really much downtime because Sophie always has something going on. I’m not a fan of love triangles, generally speaking. But for some reason, I don’t mind this one. I really went back and forth on how to feel about everything, and I don’t like feeling so indecisive. Luckily, it’s not

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews A Knife’s Edge Eliot Parker Political Thriller

Betrayed by You Marilyn Williams Romantic Suspense

Six months after a drug cartel infiltrated Charleston, Ronan McCullough continues to fight the drug war that plagues the city.

Justin is rich, handsome, and sexy as hell. I gave him my heart, and now he’s gone.

Amy’s Review: Absolutely thrilling Parker pens a magnificent story in A Knife’s Edge. I haven’t read anything from this author before, and I really enjoyed this story. The characters were intense and raw. The author’s writing style is deep and perfect for this type of story. I should say stories as this is filled with intensity and suspense, while thrilling the reader. This author brings the stories to life. There is a great chemistry between the characters, and a depth that makes them realistic and flawed. This book deserves a second read! (and maybe more). Ronan is a very intriguing character, and keeps the story interesting. Magnificent story, kept this reader turning the pages. A definite attention grabber. The thrills and intrigue is written clearly and the characterizations are engrossing. Love this story. The author’s technique of intense characters and great plotlines is a gift. I have fast become a big fan of (this author). I look forward to reading many more stories by this author. This book is a definite recommendation by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.

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Ava Sinclair believes she has met the man of her dreams in hotel developer, Justin Harrington. He pursued her, and after several tries, she relented to his charm.

Amy’s Review: Romance unlike any other Williams pens a unique and suspenseful story in Betrayed by You. I have read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. The characters were intense with a sense of lightness, as well as multidimensional. It was filled with interesting emotions, and those brought the reader on a journey of truth seeking, and betrayal. This author brings the story to life. This book deserves a second read! (and maybe more). This author is not just a writer but a great storyteller. It was definitely an enjoyable journey. Magnificent story, kept this reader turning the pages. A definite attention grabber. This story was intriguing and kept the reader guessing. An inspiring story. The title is just the beginning, and the reader finds out along with Ava, that nothing is as it seems. I look forward to reading many more stories by this author. This book is a definite recommendation by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.


Ivy is a Weed Robert M. Roseth Satire There’s something funny going on here! Was Jeremy Ronson, a top-ranked university official, defenestrated (tossed out a window), or did he defenestrate himself? The police decide his death was accidental, but Mike Woodsen, the university’s PR director, is not convinced. Amy’s Review: A unique comedic mystery Roseth pens a unique story in Ivy is a Weed I haven’t read anything from this author before, and I really enjoyed this story. It’s unlike any mystery that I have read before. The characters were had depth, and grand personalities. This author brings the story to life. The story revolves around the death of Jeremy Ronson, a very unlikable sort. I enjoyed how this story played out, with both intrigue and humor. It is definitely an interesting story that kept this reader, turning the pages. This author is not just a writer but a great storyteller. A definite attention grabber. The title drew me in (and made me wonder), but the story made me stay. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next. I have fast become a big fan of Roseth. I look forward to reading many more stories by this author. This book is a definite recommendation by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.

Playground Zero Sarah Relyea Young Adult/Political Fiction 1968. It’s the season of siren songs and loosened bonds--as well as war, campaign slogans, and assassination. When the Rayson family leaves the East Coast for the gathering anarchy of Berkeley, twelve-year-old Alice embraces the moment in a hippie paradise that’s fast becoming a cultural ground zero. Amy’s Review: Captivating story! Relyea pens a remarkable “coming of age” story in Playground Zero: A Novel. I haven’t read anything from this author before, and I really enjoyed this story. The characters were raw and complex, and even though the main character was 12 (Alice), there were a lot of layers to both her and the story. This author is not just a writer but a great storyteller. An enjoyable journey. An enjoyable journey. Magnificent story, kept this reader turning the pages. The reader is taken back to the 60’s (1960’s), which is an interesting era in itself, and brings that era to life. The intensity and free flowing stories within 60’s Berkley. Relyea is a very strong writer, and the story is told in an intriguing way that makes this a definite attention grabber. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next. This author’s characters develop and interacts well with the other characters. I look forward to reading many more stories by this author. This book is a definite recommendation by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews The Innocent Stranger Gerald Darnell Hard-boiled Mystery All Carson Reno Mystery Series Books are standalone novels. It is not necessary to read them in any particular order. A man has disappeared while duck hunting and things surrounding his disappearance are troubling. Amy’s Review: Another Magnificent Carson Reno caper! As a big fan of Darnell, I absolutely love the Carson Reno series. Each story can be read independent, but each story is worth the read! Another interesting case drops in Reno’s lap, and it is more than just what it seems at first. This author brings the stories to life. There is a great chemistry between the cast of characters, and a depth that makes them realistic and flawed. Reno soon finds out that his missing persons case is more than typical. The clues, the twists and turns, and its ups and downs, The Innocent Stranger is a magnificent read. The thrills and intrigue is written clearly and the characterizations are engrossing. Love this story. It is always a joy to read this author’s stories and the reader is always brought on a bumpy and intriguing journey. The author’s technique of intense characters and great plotlines is a gift. I like the addition of the graphics, and how Reno tells his own story, and his perceptions of what is going on. He has quite a band of friends that keeps the story moving. I look forward to reading many more stories by this author. This book is a definite recommendation by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.

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They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach Iván Brave Young Adult/Coming of Age Amid loss, hope, and despair, They Lived They Were . . . is a story about the power to move on. It begins with a show at Brighton Beach, New York, where Ilya Gagarin performs a set of original dance music to a crowd of loyal fans. They know him as a rising internet star, only 22 years old, and the resident DJ at one of Brooklyn’s sauciest nightclubs Amy’s Review: Magnificent story!! Brave pens a remarkable story in They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach. I have read this author’s work before, and I really enjoyed it. The characters were intense, raw and very real. It was an exciting story that came to life by almost jumping off the pages. Ilya is a great character, filled with flaws and is definitely human. The journey of Ilya’s life is rocky and tumultuous, but intriguing. A very well-written story, and I enjoyed it. This story was not only interesting and kept the reader guessing, but also an inspiring story in its own way. The title drew me in, but the story made me stay. The author’s technique of intense characters and great plotlines is a gift. I look forward to reading many more stories by this author. This book is a definite recommendation by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.


Fish Farm Walt Sautter Suspense Meet Jack, a God fearing family man with malice towards none but little does he know of that which awaits him. Within days of our meeting, Jack’s life will be shattered and he will be forced into new, perilous surroundings. He is sure he knows the cause of his downfall and vengeful thoughts haunt him incessantly. Amy’s Review: Suspenseful read Sautter pens an intriguing story in Fish Farm . I haven’t read anything from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. The characters were raw, flawed and very intense. A very well-written story, and I enjoyed it. The thrills and intrigue is written clearly and the characterizations are engrossing. Jack is one of those characters that you can see change, especially from tragedy and life’s pitfalls. The struggling character is most interesting as his life turns upside down. This story was intriguing and kept the reader guessing. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next. This author’s characters develop and interacts well with the other characters. I have fast become a big fan of Sautter. I look forward to reading many more stories by this author. This book is a definite recommendation by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.

Overbrook Farms Neal Goldstein Mystery/Crime Charles Hunter, a former United States Re-Con Marine working as an independent contractor with an international security outfit, reluctantly accepts an assignment to assist in the rescue of a widow and her eight-year-old daughter who were being held hostage by a gang of criminals in Venezuela Amy’s Review: Grand Story Goldstein pens a grand story in Overbrook Farms. I have read another story from this author before, and I really enjoyed it, so I wasn’t surprised that I liked this one. I never assume I’ll like something, and I read with no expectations. This is a great story. The characters were well developed and each one very unique. This author brings the story to life. There is a great chemistry between the characters, and a depth that makes them realistic and flawed. Hunter was one of those characters that stick with you, even when you’re finished reading the story. I like how the book was set up, and the story was gold. This was a very well-written story, and I enjoyed it. I have fast become a big fan of Goldstein. I look forward to reading more by this author. I liked reading this story, wondering what would happen next and who would be introduced to the reader next. It was a thrilling story. And I must say, this line ... ““Mother why does Father hate me?” was one of those lines that just sticks with you. Short to the point, and relatable. This book is a definite recommendation by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.

Issue 48 | July 2020 |

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Uncaged Book Reviews  

July 2020 - Issue 48 Feature Authors: Ann Charles, Matt Digman & Ryan Roddy, Alexa Aston, Robert M. Fleisher, Leigh Fleming, Hallie Alexand...

Uncaged Book Reviews  

July 2020 - Issue 48 Feature Authors: Ann Charles, Matt Digman & Ryan Roddy, Alexa Aston, Robert M. Fleisher, Leigh Fleming, Hallie Alexand...

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