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ISSUE 40 | NOVEMBER 2019


note from the editor

N

ovember made it to Wisconsin, and release day for Uncaged came and went so quickly. Unfortunately, I got drug down one week sick, and to top it off, my back was not cooperating. Not much for excuses, but things are looking up, and hopefully that will last throughout the month.

I n J u ly , t h is w il l b E m a il me to e a new ad s reserv e your pace. s lo t .

This month we have a great group of feature authors that thrill, mystify and have us all dreaming of soul mates, love and even space. So make sure you check out what these authors have to offer. Uncaged still has an opening in our blog review group. If you have a blog and you review books and would like to get more exposure for your reviews, then shoot me an email. The only requirement is to review 4 books minimum although you can certainly do more. In December, Uncaged is going to have a very special section, but it will be a surprise. The magazine has a new monthly section for authors and their pets! Each month, the Featured Authors will be highlighted with their furry pals in a section separate from their feature slot. You will also get a bit of insight into my life as I feature one each month of my own.

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There are two Facebook groups to join now. One is the Uncaged Book Club Reviews. In this group, I’ll list books available to review. Readers can claim 2 books at a time, and once they link their review - they can claim more. This is separate from the magazine. Join HERE if you’d like to get some free reads! The second group is Uncaged Promotions. This is a group where you can share your promotions and get in on newsletter swaps with other authors. Join HERE. Enjoy the November issue of Uncaged Book Reviews and have a great month.

X cyrene


contents 16 30

Tosca Lee dystopian thriller

Christie Stratos

historical thriller

36

Sandi Underwood

42

C.B. Clark

50

Desiree Holt

64

Sadira Stone

74 82

romantic suspense

92

Stan Yan

100

Edgar Swamp

children’s horror

horror suspense

catchup 24 Mary Lancaster

check out the excerpt for her story Madeleine in the box set, The Midnight Hour: All Hallows’ Brides

romantic suspense

contemporary romance

70 Tammy Andresen

check out The Chronicles of a Bluestocking series with Tammy Andresen

Emily Heebner

young adult

Hywela Lyn scifi romance

Madelyn Hill

The Wild Thistle Trilogy

authors and their pets

56

FangFreakinTastic

romantic suspense

showcase

10

Issue 40 | November 2019

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

sneakpeeks 60 73 4 7 104 112 116

Tena Stetler Elizabeth Rose Note from the Editor Contributors|Swaps Uncaged Reviews Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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Contributors | Advertising Swaps

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.

Help for authors and businesses.

If you’d like your banner here, please email me at UncagedBooks@gmail.com Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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upcomingconventions

Yallfest November 8–9, 2019 Charleston, SC http://www.yallfest.org/

Wild Wicked Weekend February 20-22, 2020 San Antonio, TX http://thewildwickedweekend.com/

Coastal Magic February 20–23, Daytona Beach, FL https://coastalmagicconvention.com/

Readers & ‘ritas November 8–10, Allen, TX https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2019-readers-ritas-warriors-and-waistcoats-tickets-50979520117

20 Books 2019 November 12-15, Las Vegas, NV http://20booksvegas.com/ 8| uncagedbooks.com |


showcase

Madelyn Hill

The Wild Thistle Trilogy The Wild Thistle Trilogy was a true work of love. The line, “Remember, lasses. Through Hope, Faith, and Honor, ye can rule,” came to me one day, spoken by a wounded warrior, inspiring the trilogy and three heroines who discover their inner strength and the bond of family. The books practically wrote themselves as the sisters determined to live their lives according to their hearts, dreams and the fortitude to fall in love with their Highlanders. It was hard to finish the trilogy, hard to let go of characters who grew through their strength and that of those around them, but I knew after book three I’d find other characters to occupy my muse. Highland Hope Madelyn Hill Highland Romance Laird Hope’s clan was her everything, until he tried to steal her lairdship and her heart. “Remember, lasses. Through Hope, Faith, and Honor, ye can rule,” were the last words Lady Hope MacAlister’s father spoke before dying. Those very words direct her every action and thought. Sword fighting and leading the men of her clan was second nature to Hope and she has little time for herself or any thoughts of love. Until Aidan MacKerry is captured spying on the clan. She is beautiful, strong, and quick to pull a sword. But when he kisses her, all thoughts of the lairdship Aidan MacKerry seeks flee his 12| uncagedbooks.com |

mind. When the enemy continues to undermine Hope, Aidan is determined to aid her—only he didn’t think he’d lose his heart to the Laird of Wild Thistle Keep. When the enemy reveals Aidan’s secret, he must fight for his right to be laird and prove, despite their differences, he loves Hope. The enemy refuses to back down and continues to threaten not only Hope, but the security of the entire clan. Only together will they be able to save the clan and save their love.

Highland Faith Madelyn Hill Highland Romance Lady Faith longed for adventure. Be careful what you wish for . . . Huntress Lady Faith MacAlister seeks adventure. Her father’s dying pledge tethers her to Wild Thistle Keep, thwarting her desire to explore the world beyond the palisade. Solace is found while hunting and providing sustenance for her clan. When snatched from the safety of MacAlister lands by a rogue bent on securing a ransom, she finds the adventure of her life. Disgraced Captain Graeme Ross travels the high seas in search of bounty to sell in order to secure lands seized by the Crown. He longs to regain his honor in his father’s eyes and continually risks his life on the high seas. Lacking enough funds, Graeme and his crew follow Lady Faith MacAlister as she hunts. Out of need and desire, he kidnaps her. The lady captivates him for the moment he laid eyes upon her. Bold and spirited, she fights him. When he negotiates a ransom, deception tears the burgeon-


ing romance apart. Now, Lady Faith and Captain Ross seek to settle those differences hindering their union, despite the stretch of land and sea—and angry Highlanders standing between them.

An unlikely partnership develops during the frequent trips to the forest and work in the apothecary. The walls each has erected to protect their hearts and their future crumbles. Until a stranger arrives at the keep. Lady Honor’s secret is threatened to be revealed putting in jeopardy the growing romance between the ardent healer and the reluctant warrior-suitor.

Highland Honor Madelyn Hill Highland Romance Lady Honor can heal everything but a broken heart . . . Lady Honor does not believe in marriage. Her father’s death broke her mother’s spirit and took her from her daughters emotionally well before her own death. When Honor is attacked in the forest, she keeps the event to herself, lest her lairds search for the man and strike him down. As a healer, she’ll do anything it takes not to cause harm. Rumors of attacks in the Highlands forces the lairds to increase guards and security measures. When Bryce Calder is assigned to protect Lady Honor, she fights the burgeoning attraction for the man, knowing she’ll never risk her heart to love. Warrior Bryce Calder trusts no woman. Women only strive to better themselves through cunning, as his father warned throughout his childhood. When he is asked to escort Lady Honor while she gathers healing herbs, he is vexed. Training the men and protecting the clan are his duties, not following the sharped-tongued lass about the wood. With each passing day, Bryce becomes enchanted by Lady Honor, despite his father’s words, but his unworthiness halts any proclamation of his desire.

Madelyn Hill is an historical author who loves the lure of Scotland, captivating Highlanders and the strong women they love. Madelyn lives in Western New York with her husband, three children and a naughty puppy named Cannoli.

madelynhill.blogspot.com Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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feature authors

thriller | historical thriller | suspense

To s c a Lee

Christie Stratos

Sandi Underwood


“Superior storytelling.”

—Publishers Weekly

“One of the most gifted novelists writing today.”

—Bestselling author Steven James

“Tosca Lee has proven her chops over and over with her inventive and ground-breaking work.” —Baker Book House reviews

t o sc a l e e

T

OSCA LEE is the New York Times bestselling author of eleven novels, including The Line Between, A Single Light, The Progeny, The Legend of Sheba, Iscariot, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker. Her work has been translated into seventeen languages and optioned for TV and film. She is best known for her meticulous research, masterful prose, unexpected points of view, and high-octane thrillers. Lee is the recipient of numerous awards including a Literary Titan award for The Line Between and the 2014 ELCA Book of the Year in Fiction for her portrayal of the infamous betrayer of Christ in Iscariot, which Publisher’s Weekly calls “impeccable and masterful.” The Legend of Sheba was a finalist for the same award the following year. In addition to the New York Times, her books have appeared on the IndieBound and Christian bestseller lists, Library Journal’s Best Of lists, and as part of Target Stores’ “Target Recommends” program. She has been called the “queen of psychological twists,” and “in a league of her own,” her work praised by Publisher’s Weekly, The Historical Novel Society, Kirkus, Booklist, Woman’s World, Romantic Times, BookReporter, BookRiot, The San Francisco Book Review, The Dallas Morning News, and The Midwest Book Review as “deeply human…” “powerful…” and “mind-bending.” She can currently be heard on American Airlines’ in-flight entertainment system on the Beautiful Writers podcast alongside writing luminaries Lee Child, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Dean Koontz. Lee lives with her husband and two of four step-children still at home in Nebraska and shares her adventures as an author, city-girl-turned-farmer’s-wife, and insta-mom of four (or five, if you count her 140-pound puppy)—on social media. Kristal primarily writes for her publisher, The Wild Rose Press, although she self-released “Hand-Carved Wolf” and “Thief of Hearts.” She writes paranormal, contemporary, and erotic romance.

toscalee.com Uncaged welcomes Tosca Lee Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your latest releases, The Line Between series? How many books are you planning on for this series? The Line Between, which released earlier this year, is the story of a young woman named Wynter Roth, who has just been expelled from a self-contained doomsday cult right as a pandemic begins to sweep across the nation. As she struggles to start over in a world she’s been taught to regard as evil, she finds herself face-to-face with the apocalypse she’s feared all her life—until the night her sister shows up at her doorstep with a set of medical samples and Wynter learns there’s something far more sinister at play. 16 | UncagedBooks.com


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| FEATURE AUTHOR | It’s a thriller set on the American prairie filled with action, conspiracy, and even a touch of romance.

married to a farmer) where there’s always some kind of general mayhem happening.

Wynter’s story continues—and concludes—in A Single Light, which released September 17. Right now, there are just these two books in the series. The duology is, however, in development for TV, so I always say that if the series got made and there were demand for more, I could probably be arm-twisted into writing another. ;D

Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why?

Uncaged: How much do you edit out of your books? Mostly just the repetitive or boring or stupid stuff. Anything unnecessary that will slow the story down. I used to really, really overwrite my books—by tens or hundreds of thousands of words. Thankfully, experienced helped me grow out of that! Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about?

I’m so fortunate to call many authors I so enjoy friends. I’d have to say Steena Holmes, whom I’ve never (yet!) had the good fortune to meet in person… Steven James and J.D. Barker, with whom I’ve been friends for ages. Also James Patterson, Blake Crouch, and Anne Rice. Forget lunch—THAT would be an awesome dinner party! Uncaged: You attend a lot of in-person signings, what is your favorite part about meeting the readers in person? Just getting to make that in-person connection. To see readers, to hear their stories, and to let them know how much they mean to me. Uncaged: What is a scene that was the most difficult to

The TV development—by Radar Pictures (Jumanji) and Ed Burns’ Marlboro Road Gang Productions— is fun and exciting to follow. Meanwhile, I’m about to start pitching two new historical novels to publishers, so we’re a bit in an in-between phase, project-wise. Writing-wise, however, I’m really excited to announce that two of my writing friends, bestselling authors Nicole Baart and Kimberly Stuart and I are putting on a writing intensive this coming June called Alchemy Writers, in which we’re basically teaching our participants everything we wish we’d known. You can learn more about that at https://alchemywriter.com/. Uncaged: What are some of the benefits for signing up for your newsletter? Fun news about upcoming releases and appearances, of course, and exciting events like Alchemy Writers. I also do giveaways and invite readers to join my launch teams (which includes getting to read my new books free and months before they release). I often include photos from my life on the farm (I’m 18 | UncagedBooks.com

write? Haha, they’re all difficult. Writing is not one of those


Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR |

I love to cook because I love to eat. And I love to cook, especially, when the weather is bad and I’ve got a movie or binge-able series on TV. Also, travel. I love traveling with my husband. Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? Entertaining readers, consistently, over and over. Being able to support those who rely on me for work (editor friends, my assistant, and my publicist) and my family. Staying amazed and mystified by the process of storytelling, and continuing to find joy in luring readers into each new world. Helping aspiring authors do the same as they pursue their own dreams. Never putting the business of writing before who comes first in my life. That sounds like success to me.

things that just flows from me except on very rare occasions. But I can say that some of the scenes toward the end of Iscariot, where Judas begins to regret his decision to turn his friend and master, Jesus of Nazareth, over… that was very sad and difficult. Beyond that, fight scenes and battle scenes are always a bear because it’s a lot of moving parts and choreography.

Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Physical books. That said, I can’t argue with the convenience of carrying an entire library with me on my phone when I’m away.

Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working?

Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you. I love you guys. Ready for a new adventure?

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Enjoy an excerpt from The Line Between

| TOSCA LEE | But I can tell you it’s closer to a foot and a half. The distance of a step. Give or take an inch.

The Line Between Tosca Lee Dystopian Thriller When Wynter Roth finally escapes from New Earth, a self-contained doomsday cult on the American prairie, she emerges into a world poised on the brink of madness as a mysterious outbreak of rapid early onset dementia spreads across the nation. As Wynter struggles to start over in a world she’s been taught to regard as evil, she finds herself face-to-face with the apocalypse she’s feared all her life—until the night her sister shows up at her doorstep with a set of medical samples. That night, Wynter learns there’s something far more sinister at play: that the prophet they once idolized has been toying with the fate of mankind, and that these samples are key to understanding the disease. Now, as the power grid fails and the nation descends into chaos, Wynter must find a way to get the samples to a lab in Colorado. Uncertain who to trust, she takes up with former military man Chase Miller, who has his own reasons for wanting to get close to the samples in her possession, and to Wynter, herself. Excerpt CHAPTER ONE IOWA, SEPTEMBER Conventional wisdom dictates that there’s an insurmountable divide—an entire dimension of eternity and space—between Heaven and Hell. Lucifer managed to make the trip in nine days, at least according to Paradise Lost. That equates to a distance of about 25,920 miles, assuming standard rules of velocity.

Magnus stands near the gatehouse, shirtsleeves rolled up, collar unbuttoned beneath his brown vest. He nods to the Guardian in the booth and the industrial gate begins its mechanical slide. There’s a small door to the side of it just large enough to admit a single person, but I won’t be leaving by the Narrow Gate. My departure must be a spectacle, a warning to those assembled behind me. I can feel their eyes against my back like hot iron. The glares mottled by anger and fear. Sadness, maybe, but above all gratitude that they are not me. Two Guardians stand at my sides ready to forcibly walk me out in case I balk or my twenty-two-yearold legs give out beneath me. I glance at the one to my right and swear he looks impatient. Hungry, maybe; it’s just before lunchtime. I’m crossing into eternal damnation, and all he’s thinking about is an egg salad sandwich—and not even a good one. It’s Wednesday, Sabbath by the solar calendar. Rosella is managing the kitchen, and that pious sandwich is full of chickpeas without a single real egg in it. The gate comes to a stop with an ominous clang. The road beyond is paved with gravel, a gray part in a sea of native grass strewn with gold and purple flowers in stark contrast to the carefully and beautifully manicured grounds behind me. A meadowlark sings somewhere nearby as a combine rumbles in the distance. I grip the plastic bag of my sparse belongings: a change of underwear, my baby book stripped of its photos, a stone the color of sea glass. Sweat drips down the inside of my blouse as I stare out at that feral scape. At that barren drive through untouched prairie that leads to the road half a mile away. A car idles at the corner, waiting for me. Don’t look. Don’t glance back. That’s Pride talking, a voice so faint this last decade I wasn’t aware it was still in there. Still, I turn. Not because I need a parting glance at the compound I called home for the last fifteen years or even Jaclyn, my sister. But because I need to see her. My niece, Truly. Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | I scan the nearly five hundred Select assembled across the broad drive until I find her small form near the front, her hand in Jaclyn’s, curls wafting around her head in the breeze. I’d planned to mouth the words I love you. To tug my right earlobe in our secret sign so she’ll remember me long after she’s told she can never speak my name again. To fight back tears at the sight of hers, to combat her confusion with love. Instead, my heart stops. She’s glaring at me, her face pink, growing redder by the instant. I open my mouth—to say what, I don’t know—but before I can, she tears her hand from my sister’s and runs away, disappearing into the assembly. “Truly!” I gasp, and stagger a step after her. The Guardians grab my arms. “No. Wait—Truly!” I twist against them, plastic bag swinging against my thigh. I can’t leave her like this. Not like this. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. None of it was. I shift my gaze to my sister, where she stands beside the six Elders. Her cheeks are hollow, features chiseled far beyond her twenty-seven years. “What did you say to her?” I shout as I’m jerked back around and hauled toward Magnus, who stands before the open gate, this side of that invisible line. “Wynter Roth,” Magnus says, loudly enough for those behind us to hear. Which means he’s basically shouting right at me. Gone, the brown-andgray scruff that was on his chin yesterday. I can smell his aftershave from here. “Please,” I whisper in the space between us, trying to snag his gaze. But he stares past me as though I were a stranger. “Because of your deliberate, prolonged disobedience . . .” His words carry to those behind me even as the breeze whisks mine away. “Just let me say good-bye!” 22 | UncagedBooks.com

“. . . including the sins of idolatry, thievery, and the willful desire to harm the eternal future of those most vulnerable among us . . . because you will not hear the pleas of the brethren and refuse repentance, you are hereby delivered to Satan for the destruction of your flesh.” I hear the words as though from a distance. I’ve seen and heard them spoken before—I just never thought they’d be aimed at me. So this is it. There will be no good-byes. And I realize I hate him. Magnus lifts up his hands. “And so we renounce your fellowship and cast you out of our holy number even as we pray for the restoration of your salvation, which you forfeit this day. Now, as it is bound on Earth, so let it be bound in Heaven.” He lowers his arms as the assembly echoes his words and says, more quietly as he meets my eyes at last, “You have broken our hearts, Wynter.” He moves away before I can respond and the Guardians walk me to the line as I glance back one last time. But Truly is gone. I face the gravel drive before me. One step. That’s all it takes to span the distance of eternity. Welcome to Hell.

Book 2, A Single Light available now


C AT C H U P MARY LANCASTER


| MARY LANCASTER | Mary Lancaster is back in Uncaged to tell us about the new box set, The Midnight Hour: All Hallows’ Brides and an excerpt of her story, Madeleine in the set. Uncaged: Recently, you’ve been a part of two different holiday collections. All Hallows’ Brides, and Stars are Brightly Shining. Can you tell readers more about these collections? I know! It’s very exciting! The All Hallows’ Brides collection is an anthology of gothic novellas set in Regency or Victorian eras, but all inspired by different stories by the master of gothic – Edgar Alan Poe. I’m dying to read these myself, because the collection includes tales by wonderful authors Kathryn le Veque, Meara Platt, Chasity Bowlin, Maggi Anderson, Sydney Jane Bailey, Scarlett Scott and Violetta Rand! My story, Madeleine, was inspired by The Fall of the House of Usher… Cursed or damaged? As soon as Madeleine encounters Roderick Usher and his isolated Scottish castle, she is mesmerized. A soldier wounded in mind and body, he has the soul of an artist and the hands of a musician. She falls in love and marries in haste…but will she live to repent? Stars are Brightly Shining (coming 3rd December!) is a very different collection, perfect for Christmas! Again, these are novellas and short stories from Dragonblade authors, linked to series that I’m sure you already love! Hope you’ll love mine, too! It’s called Christmas Heart, and features my hero and heroine from The Deserted Heart (Unmarriageable, Book 1), a couple of years after their wedding…

No room at the Hart Inn… After her first ever serious quarrel with her husband, Charlotte, the young Duchess of Alvan, flees to her parents’ home for Christmas, taking her baby son and her dog. However, when the road is blocked by snow, she has to seek refuge at the Hart - and all the rooms are full. In the end, she has to share an old stable with a highly suspicious neighbor, a thief and a depressed rake. But there are plenty of unexpected gifts that night and love is the greatest of all. Uncaged: You also recently released book twelve in the Blackhaven Brides series – The Wicked Heir. How many books do you have planned for this series? I did! There will be another two in the series – The Wicked Captain, coming on 12th November (available for preorder now!) And then The Wicked Sister, which is with my editor. And I think that will be the end of my Blackhaven stories… for a while at least :) Uncaged: What are the benefits of signing up for your newsletter? Well, you get all my new release news first! Plus, you should get a sampler of some of my books when you first sign up, and a free Blackhaven novella – The Wicked Abductor – which I send out the link to periodically in the Newsletter. Who knows? There may be another free story soon… :) Either way, I’d love to have you there – it’s another way to stay in touch!

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Enjoy an excerpt from Madeleine - from the box set The Midnight Hour: All Hallows’ Brides Madeleine Mary Lancaster Gothic Regency Romance When doors creak and ghostly whispers are heard in the midnight hour, this stunning collection of Gothic Regency Historical Romance novellas are sure to leave you breathless with Poeinspired, romantic dreams… Welcome to the All-Hallows’ Brides collection. Seven of your favorite Historical Romance authors have come together for a collection of never-before published stories that will give you a chill, a thrill, and have you reading them again and again. Inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, you’ve never seen a collection like this by some of the biggest names in Historical Romance. The title of each story is named for their ‘Bride’: Emma by Kathryn Le Veque Aislin by Meara Platt Sarah by Scarlett Scott Madeleine by Mary Lancaster Beth by Maggi Andersen Hyacinth by Chasity Bowlin Eleanor by Sydney Jane Baily Raven by Violetta Rand So, grab your candle and lock your door, and settle down to read this smashing collection of darkly-tinged romantic tales with unforgettable heroes and magnificent ladies. Romance has never been so daring… or so Gothic. And if you hear a knock on your door… don’t 26 | UncagedBooks.com

answer it. Unless you are prepared to welcome a wandering wraith in a tattered wedding gown… Excerpt She had just begun to think the house deserted, when, in her second full turn, she caught movement at an upstairs window. A man’s face, pale and handsome and ghostly. Something shrieked in her ear, flapping against her hair. With a startled cry, she fell back. “Bats,” Daniel said in disgust. The face at the window had gone. Had she imagined it? “There’s no one here, Madeleine,” Daniel said. “It’s all a hum. Let’s—” Before he could finish, the front door opened wide with a satisfyingly loud creak. The Castle of Otranto, Madeleine thought with some glee and a mere hint of nervousness. A manservant stepped out. At least Madeleine supposed he was a servant, for he wasn’t dressed as a gentleman. However, neither did he look like a butler. “Ah!” Daniel strode toward him. “Mr. Usher at home? Mr. Roderick Usher?” “Aye, but—” “Give him my card,” Daniel instructed, holding one out to the servant. “He should be expecting us.” The servant hesitated. For a moment, Madeleine thought he would make them all wait in the rain. His gaze flickering over her, Sonya Kosara, and Mercer the maid, then on to John Coachman and the carriage horses.


“Come in out of the rain,” he said abruptly and pointed John wordlessly to the right, presumably to the stables. Turning, he then marched into the house and everyone else scuttled after him.

old chairs and sofa.

“Still want to stay?” Daniel murmured in Madeleine’s ear as they found themselves in a dark hall.

He laughed. “You are contrary. I believe you think it’s like those novels you’re always reading. Well, Verne said he was eccentric.”

No fire burned in the hearth, and the rugs on the floor were well worn. A suit of armor stood in the far corner, crossed swords above the doorways leading off. A stone staircase with a carved, wooden bannister rose up from the middle, disappearing into the dusk. “This way, if you please.” The servant led them to the left, toward the tower end of the building, Madeleine guessed, and into a surprisingly cozy room with beautiful wood-paneled walls and a polished wooden floor ornamented with a large, Turkish carpet. As she entered, Madeleine glanced back over her shoulder across the entrance hall. A man stood on the stairs, unmoving in the shadows. Their host? She thought not, for she had an impression only of untidiness and white shirt sleeves before Sonya Kosara dragged her fully into the room. Here, she was delighted to see a lit fire and hurried up to its warmth, her hands spread out. The servant left again, presumably sweeping Mercer up in the hallway and sending her to the kitchen. Madeleine turned her back to the fire and gazed around her. The curtains had not been drawn, and the rain trickled relentlessly down the windows, adding to her pleasure at being indoors. If one was strictly honest, the room was more cluttered than cozy. A pianoforte sat in the large window embrasure with music strewn over it and on the floor around it. Three painting easels stood haphazardly around the room, draped with multi-colored painted rags. There were splashes of paint on the portions of floor not covered by the carpet. A man’s coat, a waistcoat, and several books were strewn across the heavy

Madeleine met her brother’s gaze. “I like it,” she said defiantly.

“Hush,” Madeleine said. “I thought he was your friend?” “Apparently he is, though I didn’t know we were on such terms until I got that very odd letter at the Hart.” “You never said it was odd.” Daniel shrugged. “Well, we were coming to Scotland anyhow. We have time to say a hail and farewell at least.” “Yes, but they don’t appear to be expecting us,” Madeleine observed. “You did write back to him, didn’t you?” “Can’t quite recall,” Daniel said vaguely. Of course he couldn’t. For some reason, his mind was focused on this duke he was desperate for Madeleine to meet. So much so, that one day when Madame Kosara wasn’t present, she had said bluntly, “I gather his grace is rich and powerful, but I hope you are not set on trying to make a match between us because I couldn’t marry anyone for such reasons.” Daniel’s lip had curled. “Oh, I have already gathered that after the society of emperors and princes, mere dukes do not impress you.” She hadn’t been talking of rank but of love. However, since he would only say her head was full of trashy novels, she had not argued. Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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A quick footfall sounded, crossing the stone hallway. Madeleine and everyone else turned expectant gazes to the door. The handle turned, and a man strode in, fastening his coat with one hand. He paused, glancing into the room almost warily. For no reason she understood, Madeleine’s heart lurched. He was tall and very lean with a shock of barely combed raven-black hair that was too long for fashion. Was he the man she had glimpsed at the window? She couldn’t tell now if this man was handsome, for he looked ill. His skin was too pale and drawn around his eyes and mouth. A frown marred his high brow, though it seemed to be unconscious—perhaps it was permanent. As he came closer, she thought his dark eyes were almost black, the whites slightly blood-shot. He walked with quick movements that might have been nervous or simply restless. “Deare,” he said in a deep, curt voice. “What a pleasant surprise.” There was no way to know if he meant it, but at least he thrust out his hand in welcome. Madeleine’s gaze clung to that hand, so long and thin, its veins standing out like ridges. As Daniel put his into it, the tapered fingers closed, and she actually held her breath, as though it was her own hand he held.

marylancaster.com 28 | UncagedBooks.com

Mary Lancaster lives in Scotland with her husband, three mostly grown-up kids and a small, crazy dog. Her first literary love was historical fiction, a genre which she relishes mixing up with romance and adventure in her own writing. Her most recent books are light fun Regency romances written for Dragonblade Publishing: The Imperial Season series set at the Congress of Vienna; the popular Blackhaven Brides series, set in a fashionable English spa town frequented by the great and the bad of Regency society; and the Unmarriageable series, which centres on the mysterious Hart Inn and people whom society considers unmarriageable for one reason or another. Newsletter sign-up: http://eepurl.com/b4Xoif Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mary.lancaster.1656


Uncaged welcomes Christie Stratos Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about the Dark Victoriana Collection?

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hristie Stratos is an award-winning writer who holds a degree in English Literature. She is the author of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart and Brotherhood of Secrets, the first two books in the Dark Victoriana Collection. Christie has had short stories and poetry published in Ginosko Literary Journal, Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal, Andromedae Review, 99Fiction, and various anthologies. An avid reader of all genres and world literature, Christie reads everything from bestsellers to classics to indies.

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C h r i s t i e s t r at o s

Originally I was going to write just one book: Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, which focuses on the Whitestone family and the eldest daughter, Abigail Whitestone. The question that defines this novel is: what is stronger, a person’s true self or other people’s assumptions about them? Abigail must struggle through this concept. It takes place in Victorian America, and I ended up loving writing it so much that I decided to make it into a collection. There’s already a second novel, Brotherhood of Secrets, and the idea behind the collection is that all the books and short stories are intertwined but don’t necessarily follow in date order. I planned to write two novels and three novellas or novelettes in the collection, but I always let my creativity dictate, so I now have a third novel that I’m writing, and the length of these books is a little unruly—characters keep wanting to tell their full stories, so novel length seems to be the only option right now! Uncaged: How much do you edit out of your books? I usually end up adding to my books to make sure they’re fleshed out and developed properly more so than editing things out, but I have had occasion to cut scenes. That’s relatively rare for me since I tend to be on the succinct side as a fiction writer. I have plenty of ideas and scenes that never make it into my books, they’re just part of my notes, and I post those on my Patreon page. Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about?

christiestratos.com


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| FEATURE AUTHOR | I’m currently writing the third book in the Dark Victoriana Collection, which is an unplanned addition to the original five books. It picks up from a particular place in the second book, Brotherhood of Secrets, with the character Timothy Kiddson, a locksmith apprentice who’s badly injured from a daring…actually, I’m giving away a little too much about the second book! You’ll have to read it to find out what’s going on with Timothy, but what I can tell you is that there will be a ten year jump in book three, so the majority of it will take place during the Civil War era. This is what I’m working on during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Uncaged: What are some of the benefits for signing up for your newsletter? My newsletter says it’s monthly just in case I have news once per month, but I usually end up sending it out when there’s a new release coming up. When you sign up for my newsletter, you are the first to know if I have any books, short stories, or anything else to give away. The rest of the world only gets giveaways once my newsletter subscribers have a chance to claim their prize. I also release updates and news there that I don’t tell social media about. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Brandon Sanderson, who is a major fantasy author. I don’t write fantasy (yet), but the way he builds his worlds and seamlessly works so many different facets of real life into them fascinates me. He can write a 1,200 page-sbook and I’m riveted the whole time. That’s not easy to do! I also would love to take Shakespeare to lunch (I think modern food might surprise him though), since some of his plays had enormous impacts on my writing, such as Hamlet and Henry V. It was his writing that got me interested in writing psychological fiction in the first place. Uncaged: What is a scene that was the most difficult to write? 32 | UncagedBooks.com

The most difficult scene I’ve ever written—and there have been a few emotionally difficult ones—was when my main character in Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, Abigail Whitestone, lost all routes of escape from her abusive family. She changed permanently in that scene, and what I to do to her for that to happen was very difficult. I took a month off from writing, mourning how painful it was, and then came back to write the dreaded scene. I didn’t struggle to write it, I struggled to hurt her so badly. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working?


It’s very rare that I take any kind of break from writing, editing other authors’ manuscripts, or any of my other work, but I love cooking and baking. As a food lover, there’s something very satisfying about duplicating my favorite dishes in restaurants at home. But really, writing is what I love to do in any time off! Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? My greatest dream would be to publish a book a year, which is very tough with my work schedule, even though I work for myself! I’m an editor, project manager, social media manager, and I do other things too, so fitting writing in is tough. My goal is to someday write regularly and publish often. That’s success as an author to me. And believe me, I have no shortage of ideas! Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Physical books are my favorite and always have been. When a book is long and I don’t think I’ll have time to read it, or if I have a long drive ahead of me, I prefer audiobooks. I think humorous books are also best on audiobook. Ebooks are my least favorite format—they feel a little more impersonal to me, but they’re very convenient. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you for reading and reviewing my books! I love receiving messages about your favorite characters and why you enjoyed reading about them. It means the world to me. You can help support my writing on Patreon, and you can follow me in lots of places, but I’m most active on Facebook and Instagram.

| CHRISTIE STRATOS |

Enjoy an excerpt from Anatomy of a Darkened Heart Anatomy of a Darkened Heart Christie Stratos Historical Thriller Abigail Delilah is the firstborn of three Whitestone children - and she is the most regretted. But is it really her fault? She can’t help that the revelation of Father’s wretched secret coincides with her birth. She can’t help the fear she feels during Mother’s psychological - and physical - assaults. As the shadows grow stronger over her soul and the noose of pain tightens around her neck, Abigail will find out which is stronger: her family’s wicked assumptions about her or her true self. Excerpt How could Mrs. Hinsley’s husband let her give something like that to a baby, especially in front of all those people? How could either husband let it happen? Elizabeth was humiliated, outraged. That barely controlled sort of outrage that showed on her face through a mask of wide, black-hole eyes, eyes that could chew up their victim, mouth in a stiff sort of smile like a bracket on its side, like half a square—the bottom half. Elizabeth’s fingers had gripped the brooch tightly, pinching it between her forefinger and thumb, the small bit of skin it touched completely white from the pressure. When she put it down on the table hard enough to scratch the surface, blood was left on her finger; the sharp end of the lover’s eye pin Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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had stabbed her. She’d had to say thank you. Graciously. Among whispers and stares, following a vicious act, she’d had to show genuine appreciation. She wanted to break it. She wanted to force it into Mrs. Hinsley’s Cheshire cat mouth, force her jaw closed, make her choke on it as it scraped its way down her toxic throat and got stuck. She hadn’t known this was going on. But now… The lover’s eye in Mrs. Hinsley’s eye color was bad enough, but the pearls represented tears—everyone knew that. A realization pressed at her mind. There was one particular thing that had bothered her for quite some time. Elizabeth had always done the bookkeeping for their family. It was something Richard had once commented on as a particularly “moral” skill of hers, perhaps because it required pure honesty and so few people dealing with money had that quality. She had done it successfully for two years of their marriage until Richard had asked to see her records. Every once in a while he stood over her while she wrote in her ledger, but he had never actually asked to see them separately before. He had said… What was it… He had said he wanted to analyze their expenses to see if they could hire a better cook, perhaps a butler instead of a maid. Elizabeth had handed him the book with no suspicion, but when it came time to enter a new bill payment, she realized he never returned it. Several times she had asked to have it back, very simply saying things like, “When you have a chance, just leave the ledger on the table,” and later, “I’ve written down some expenses and payments on the notebook in the desk, so when you return the books, I’ll write them in.” He would usually hum his acknowledgement, giving no actual answer. Then he got to the point of completely ignoring her. Finally ten bills and payments had piled up, and when she reminded him yet again and got no response, she had felt a surge of pent-up frustration that came out of her mouth as, “Richard, I am the one who handles our expenses after all. You must 34 | UncagedBooks.com

give it back. It’s very bad practice to keep all these records piling up out of place. I don’t even know what the bank balance is anymore.” He’d stood from his chair, put his newspaper down— all quite calmly as ever was—and said, “You have too much pride about the bookkeeping and you’ve made mistakes. I will do it from now on.” “Well show me where I’ve made mistakes then. Help me improve,” Elizabeth said, aggravation soaking her tone; she knew she hadn’t made any mistakes. She’d checked the numbers over and over. This was the one thing she was good at. “There it is again,” Richard said disapprovingly. “Pride. It’s a sin, you know.” “Richard, I have no pride. If I have made mistakes, I am asking for the chance to fix them,” Elizabeth said, even more irritated by his lack of emotion, lack of care that this mattered to her. He never bothered to see things from her perspective. “You once told me you very much respect my careful handling of our money, and now you are taking that away from me. Do you really expect me to simply agree without a second chance?” “It is your duty as a wife to obey me,” he said. “I say I will be doing the bookkeeping from now on and you must accept that. I say it is bringing out a sinful side and you must accept that too because I know it to be true. It is not a discussion. I am telling you, and that should be enough.” She’d stood there, feeling like a child scolded by her father, and stared at him with no words to throw back. She was fighting a battle she was not going to win no matter what she said. She could give up on it and have it end there or she could keep pursuing it and make him say even more awful things that weren’t true. In the end she had stomped out of the room feeling impotent and useless. She had run up the stairs and closed the door to their bedroom behind her, locking it from the inside. And then she had taken apart every single drawer, every chest, and every bit of clothing she could find, looking for the ledger. But it was nowhere. She nearly drove herself insane, thinking she must be blind. She was convinced it was in that room, not in the rest of the house, and that it was sleeping beside her every night without her knowledge.


| CHRISTIE STRATOS | Deciding which drawer to search for the third time, she’d paused and in those few seconds of silence, in those surprisingly long seconds of sweaty exasperation, she recognized the sound of footsteps walking away from the door. He had been listening. Listening to her tear the room apart inch by inch. He had not knocked nor had he said anything to her. He had just listened. That was the moment she’d realized she had married something wicked. Everything had changed after that. It had been far from perfect before, but that moment was the end of any trust between them. Thinking back on all that now, two years later, and remembering it with such vividness, Elizabeth supposed she should not be surprised that their first child was so odd. It was, after all, half his. And now it was starting its life with a brand on it. A pin of betrayal. No one ever would have known about it if this “gift” hadn’t been given, because Mrs. Hinsely was barren and everyone knew it. So there could never be an accident, a questionable child, to prove the horrid sin. And yet Mrs. Hinsley had done this. And Richard had stood stolid as ever as Elizabeth had received it, showing no emotion, no fear, no regret. Nothing. If he thought he would have a son after this, he was badly mistaken. He would have to force her. And that would be a sin. But then again, so was this.

Book 2, Brotherhood of Secrets available now

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S A N DI U N DER W OOD

andi Underwood was born a PK (Preacher’s Kid) in the beautiful East Tennessee Mountains, where family stories were passed down, generation-to-generation. Her love of writing was cultivated at an early age when family get-togethers and Church dinners-on-the-grounds provided an idyllic backdrop for memories that fuel her stories. Sandi’s early career included working with children in both the public and private sectors. Later in life, her path took a different direction, but her love of books was ever-present. Today, she shares a home with her rescue dog, Gus, and draws inspiration

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from her grandchildren as she continues to write for both children and adults.

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Uncaged welcomes Sandi Underwood Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your romantic mystery, Blood Money? Alex Baker, born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, inherits Great Aunt Honoria Alexandria Baker’s vast estate−an estate, complete with foundations, a Manor, and more money than she could ever spend. Is Alex up to the challenge or should she depend on fiancé, Greg, to manage her inheritance? Armed with determination and very little knowledge, Alex travels to Boston to meet with the law firm that has managed the Estate for years. During the flight, Alex meets up with an old family friend, Clark Smith. Right away, Alex notices that Clark is apparently battling demons of his own. There’s definitely more here than meets the eye. However, Clark’s demons are no match for sexy lawyer Kyle Patterson. Immediately, Alex is turned off by Kyle’s arrogance and resolves to steer clear, but she can’t help noticing his perfect mouth and piercing blue eyes. Back home, fiancé Greg seems to do everything wrong. At first, Greg smothers Alex with his new-found protectiveness; then he drifts farther and farther away. Is Greg having an affair?

human effort, but Greg insists he couldn’t have done it without help from the mysterious elderly lady. The New Year brings hope! With Greg on the mend and an upcoming spring wedding, the future promises a new beginning. Alex wonders if Aunt Ria had anything to do with the outcome. Uncaged: How much did you edit out of the book? The book went through several revisions with the publisher, but the main story had very little editing− mostly grammar issues. Uncaged: You have participated in book signings, what is your favorite part of attending them? I love meeting new people face-to-face, especially when they’ve already heard about the book. Word of mouth sold several books for me and I love the interaction, especially once they’ve finished the story…and the questions, “when will there be a sequel?”

Alex decides to mend fences with Greg, but life-threatening accidents plague her every step of the way−from cut brake lines to being forced off the road. Alex escapes to Aunt Ria’s beloved cabin in Maine, a decision that almost cost her everything. During the night, Alex is startled by a gunshot and finds Greg lying in a pool of blood and Kyle holding the gun. Kyle turns the gun on Alex and calmly outlines how, not only had he scammed money from Aunt Ria for years, he was also responsible for the death of Alex’s own father! Now Kyle reveals his plan for murdering Alex and Greg. At the sound of a second gunshot, Alex swings around to see Greg slip to the floor. It must have taken superIssue 40 | November 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: What are you working on next that you can tell us about? The sequel to Blood Money is finished and I’m shopping around for a publisher. I have two other published books and am currently working on a sequel to my last one. I also have a new romance mystery in the early stages.

I was raised by parents who encouraged reading. Oh, the trips I took as a child without ever leaving home. I want to write books like that−books that linger long after the last page. It’s not about selling the most books. It’s about writing quality books that people enjoy reading and recommend to friends. I have one couple who bought five copies of the same book as gifts. That, to me, is success.

Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why?

Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books?

Oh my! When asked who my favorite authors are, I often struggle with the answer as it always changes to whoever I’m currently reading. I admire CIA mysteries, so Baldacci and Patterson are two I read but Sandra Brown and Nora Roberts are also counted among my favorite modern-day writers. My list would also need to include Jane Austin, Charlotte Bronte, and Hemingway…who wouldn’t love to sit down with Papa Hemingway? His life was almost as fascinating as his books.

I’m old-school. I enjoy holding a book in my hands. That’s not to say I don’t read ebooks; I do. I also enjoy audiobooks. Heck, I read cereal boxes at the grocery store…I just enjoy all formats, but there’s just something about holding that hard-copy book in my hands. I love going to book stores and libraries. I’m that grandma that still gives books for Christmas presents.

Uncaged: What is a scene that was the most difficult to write?

Like you, I love a good story. I appreciate every one of you who takes the time to read Blood Money and I’m diligently striving to get the sequel, Blood Moon, on the shelves. I would love to hear from you.

Believe it or not, the story basically wrote itself. I stated in the synopsis I got so involved with my characters that I felt bad when I forgot their birthdays. However, there is very little intimacy in my stories, so when encouraged to up the reading level by adding more adult situations, I would have to say, that is not the easiest part for me to write. Instead, I prefer to leave a lot to the imagination of the reader. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I’m an avid reader−always searching the market to see what is out there. I also enjoy crocheting and spending time with my writing buddy, Gus ( a 10-lb. Maltie-Poo ). Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? 38 | UncagedBooks.com

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


Enjoy an excerpt from Blood Money Blood Money Sandi Underwood Suspense In Alex Baker’s small world, where she’s in love with Greg, the man of her dreams, everything is perfect. When she inherits Aunt Ria’s vast estate in Boston, Massachusetts−complete with a huge mansion, stables, staff, and more money than Alex could spend in two lifetimes, she finds a new interest in lawyer Kyle Patterson.

| SANDI UNDERWOOD | wear hung in plastic bags ready for the choosing, as if Aunt Ria had merely gone into town to pay a social call on one of the ladies at the club. Strange… Aunt Ria sure owned a lot of pants— that seems unusual for a lady of her age and era. As she strolled through the Victorian sitting room, Alex noticed a small ornate antique chest squatting on a table near one of the large windows. She crossed over to get a better look but stopped in her tracks as a faint smell filled her nostrils and a cool breeze brushed her face. “Flowers?” She sniffed and tilted her head toward the window and sniffed again. There must be a hothouse or flower garden below. She reached out a hand to push the delicate muslin sheer away from the window but jerked back in surprise when she collided with glass.

After a series of unexplained accidents, Alex fears someone is trying to harm her. Her perfect little world is turned upside down, and she narrowly escapes with her life. Could Greg be responsible? Needing to sort through her emotions, Alex escapes to Aunt Ria’s beloved cabin in Maine—a decision that could cost her everything. Excerpt Baker Manor: Alex found herself standing alone in the grand room that would have welcomed dignitaries and political leaders of the day. She pondered a moment where to start, and then determinedly headed toward the stairs. Okay, Aunt Ria…what else did we have in common besides our name? She spent a good hour in Aunt Ria’s suite, leafing through a photo album, scanning a bundle of yellowed documents, and sifting through bureaus and closets. She fingered the tailored Chanel pantsuits and formal Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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feature authors

romantic suspense

C.B. Clark

Desiree Holt


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ecret Betrayal is award-winning author, C.B. Clark’s fifth novel published by The Wild Rose

When she’s not busy traveling around the globe or hiking and camping in the wilderness near her home, she can be found in front of her laptop plotting the next story. C.B. has always loved reading, especially romances, but it wasn’t until she lost her voice for a year that she considered writing her own romantic suspense stories. She grew up in Canada’s Northwest Territories and Yukon. Graduating with a degree in Anthropology and Archaeology, she has worked as an archaeologist and an educator.

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C . B . C LAR K Please welcome Kerry Blaisdell Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your latest suspense, Secret Betrayal?

cbclarkauthor.wordpress.com

Secret Betrayal is the story of a strong, independent woman whose past comes back to haunt her. The hero, Scott Bannister, has spent his life seeking revenge and is one of my favorite characters. He’s flawed, vulnerable, a wee bit nerdy, and oh, so attractive….just my kind of man. Uncaged: How much did you edit out of the book? I’m a pantser and I don’t plot my stories before I write them. It’s fun not knowing what’s going to happen next. I enjoy letting my


characters lead the way. Their trials and tribulations keep me writing until the end. Of course, that means there’s a ton of editing to be done once I’m finished the first draft. Often I delete entire chapters. And that’s all before my editor gets hold of the manuscript. Uncaged: What inspired you to start writing? When a botched operation left me unable to speak above a whisper for a year, I decided to try my hand at writing a novel. I loved the challenge and was ecstatic when months later, I finished. Now my voice is back, and I have five published romantic suspense novels and another due out in a couple of months. Three of my books are also available as audiobooks. It’s been quite the journey.

ever forget the eccentric Belgium detective, Hercule Poirot? Or Miss Jane Marple, the elderly, crimesolving spinster? Agatha Christie’s personal life was fascinating. At one point she disappeared without explanation for several days while the world searched, only to turn up in a hotel registered under the name of her husband’s lover. She never offered an explanation for her bizarre behavior. Later she married an archaeologist and travelled to Syria and Iraq. What an incredible woman. I have so many questions I would like to ask her that I have no doubt our lunch would extend into supper.

Uncaged: What are you working on next that you can tell us about? Healing Hearts is in final edits and will be released soon. It’s a romantic suspense and it’s very close to my heart. The story is set on a ranch in the Chilcotin wilderness of Central British Columbia, an area of stunning beauty, and near to where I live. As well as murder, mayhem, sexy cowboys, a strong heroine, and a satisfying romance, an environmental theme, an issue I’m passionate about, runs through the story. Here’s a teaser: “They must overcome their tragic pasts to find the love that will heal their wounded hearts.” Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I’d love to have a chat with Agatha Christie. Can you imagine the fascinating conversation? Aside from the fact she’s the best selling novelist of all time, her stories, filled with creative twists and turns and memorable characters are as relevant today as when she wrote them. Who will Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: What is the scene that was the most difficult to write? Secret Betrayal is the most challenging book I’ve written. About three-quarters of the way through, I hit a major roadblock. I’d written my characters into a corner, and they weren’t happy. To make matter worse, my writing muse deserted me. I tried all the usual tricks—long walks in the forest, reading, positive thinking, meditation—nothing worked. This went on for months. Then one morning, I awoke, and I knew the solution. My subconscious had figured it out. After that, the story flowed. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I love to travel. In the past few years I’ve hiked the

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Inca Trail in Peru, ridden a camel in the Sahara Desert, climbed glacier-covered mountains in Patagonia, trekked through the Petra ruins in Jordan, and cycled across Central America. I’m heading off to South Africa for another adventure in 2020. I also enjoy camping and canoeing in the wilderness. The area of British Columbia where I live is incredibly beautiful. There are hundreds of pristine lakes and rivers and trails to explore, places where you won’t see another person for days. Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? At one point, after dozens of rejections, I never thought I’d be a published author, but I persisted and now look where I am. If I can continue to get enjoyment out of


| C.B. CLARK | writing, I’ll be satisfied. To be published and have my stories out there for people to read and enjoy is very fulfilling. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks, or physical books? Ebooks are great, especially for travelling, but nothing beats a real book—the musty smell of ink, the weight of the book, the uniqueness of the cover design—all are essential to the reading experience. I also enjoy listening to audiobooks when I’m driving on long road trips. The miles fly by as I get wrapped up in a good story. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you so much for your support. Your positive comments and interest in my books mean the world to me and keep me sitting at my desk writing every day. You can follow me on any of the following links. I’d love to hear from you.

Enjoy an excerpt from Secret Betrayal Secret Betrayal C.B. Clark Romantic Suspense Head college librarian, Marissa Reynolds has spent years distancing herself from her crime king pin uncle and his criminal empire. When she awakens in an unfamiliar hotel room with blood on her hands and no memory of how she got there, the past returns with a vengeance, and her life spirals into a nightmare. Straight-laced, Assistant district Attorney, Scott Bannister has spent a lifetime seeking justice for the senseless gangland shooting deaths of his parents. When he realizes Marissa is the niece of his prime suspect, he crosses a line guaranteed to put in jeopardy both his life and his beloved career. He’s made it clear he’ll do anything to destroy her uncle. She fears he’s using her to achieve his goal. As the body count mounts, and their lives are threatened, they must put aside their distrust and work together to find the devious killer. Will they be able to forgive and find true love? Excerpt The floor heaved, and faded blue carpeting undulated like ocean swells beneath Marissa Reynold’s cheek. Waves of nausea surged through her. She squeezed her eyes shut. Breathe, Marissa. In through the nose, out through the mouth. But breathing hurt. Her throat was raw like she’d Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | swallowed a gallon of sand, and a brackish chemical taste furred her tongue. Her mouth was dry, her lips cracked and sore. She opened her eyes again. Her vision wavered, and her temples pounded, but she managed to lift her head a few inches. The notion she’d somehow shipwrecked on a desert island faded against the reality of her surroundings. She was lying on the floor in a dimly lit room. It was a bedroom, maybe, but not her own. She wrinkled her nose at the musty reek oozing from the worn carpet. She pushed to her hands and knees. The pounding in her brain mushroomed into a full-blown, jackhammer assault. With a moan, she sank onto her bottom and grabbed her head in a fruitless effort to keep her brain from exploding. Despite the pain, she needed to get up. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. Faint wisps of light seeped around the edges of the window curtains. The distant sound of traffic echoed through the glass. A lamp imbued the room with a soft, rosy glow, revealing a king-size bed. The cover on the bed was a glossy, garish pink, the pillows covered in the same lurid color, their edges trimmed with frilly, black lace. She rubbed the back of her neck and closed her eyes, but when she opened them again she was still in the unfamiliar room. A battered desk with a large, flatscreen television on top faced the bed. The flickering images of a naked, full-breasted woman being entertained by two equally naked men played across the screen. A wingback chair covered in faded black leatherette sat in the far corner where a door was ajar, revealing the yellowed linoleum floor of a bathroom and the edge of a chipped porcelain sink. A framed diagram of a fire escape route was posted 46 | UncagedBooks.com

on the back of the other door. Was she in a hotel room? She dug her fingers into her temples. Why couldn’t she remember? Fake moans of pleasure emanated from the television, adding to her sense of unreality. The last thing she remembered was putting on her coat and saying good night to Joseph, the library’s night security guard, and walking toward her car in the faculty parking lot. Wisps of memories swirled through her aching brain…a horn honking, a distant siren, the swish of tires on wet roads, the beaded drops on the hoods of the parked cars, the earthy, sweet smell, the wet plops of heavy raindrops…rough hands grabbing, hurting, the overpowering stench of garlic and strong tobacco, disabling fear…Her heart hammered in her chest, and the disturbing images vanished. She inhaled a ragged breath and pushed to her feet. Something terrible had happened. But what? Was she still in Brunswick? Still in Oregon? The door swung open, and a tall, lean man wearing a red baseball cap and dark sunglasses stood framed in the doorway, a white plastic hotel room key card in his hand. A deep furrow formed between his brows, and he scowled. “What are you doing in my room? Where’s McGregor?” Stepping into the room, he slammed the door. He removed his sunglasses and stuffed them in his coat pocket. His navy eyes blazed.


Desiree h o lt Welcome Desiree Holt Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about Finding Redemption and about this series?

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nown to the world as the oldest author of erotic romance, Desiree Holt proves every day that she is more than the sum of her years. She is a winner of the EPIC E-Book Award, an Authors After Dark Author of the Year and winner of the Holt Medallion. She has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and in The Village Voice, The Daily Beast, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The London Daily Mail and numerous other national and international publications. She enjoys football and reading and her three cats, who are her constant writing companions.

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The series deals with 5 men who are part of Guardian Security, a complex security agency that handles everything from training to covert ops. Ethan Caine, the hero of Finding Redemption, had left the agency to take a black ops assignment from the government. The op went sideways, people were killed and Ethan blamed himself. He retreated from life, hiding in his old farmhouse on acres of property and shunning all social contact. But when Lisa Taylor Malory’s son was kidnaped and even after the ransom was [aid was not returned. Her brother Josh turns to his old friend Ethan Caine. For Ethan this is a chance for redemption, a chance to wipe away he stain on his soul. When he learns the boy is alive and being held in an estate in Mexico’s Quintana Roo jungle, Lisa insists on accompanying him on the rescue mission. They are at odds from the first moment, but as the mission progresses, during the long, hot days and nights, antagonism turns to intense attraction. But they must put it aside to rescue the boy, an event in which Lisa is badly injured and Ethan cannot forgive himself. Back home in Tampa, Florida, he once again goes into hiding, but Lisa is hounded by the media. Can Lisa’s brother, Ethan’s friend, convince him that he is really a hero, that it is okay for he and Lisa to accept that they love each other and that she needs him, Right now? Uncaged: How much do you edit out of your books?

desireeholt.com

Very little. I edit as I go along so have a fairly clean manuscript to turn into my editor. We have been together for a long time, she knows my style, and everything she suggests only makes the book better. I have rewritten scenes based on her recommendations, because she is always right on target.


Uncaged: You also have several other series running, what is coming up next that you can tell us about?

the drawing board!) and I’d like to add to Guardian Security. We’ll see!

In 2020 I will be adding two books to my heroes rising series, about former SEALs trying to readjust to life after the military. In The Defenders series I will be adding two books, one of which is a sequel to Protecting Cassie. In February I will be releasing the first book in The Phoenix Agency series in six years. I am launching a new series with Totally bound entitled Galaxy. This is about four friends, all of whom serve in different Special Ops branches, who win a mega lottery, resign from the service and sue the money to start a charter airline. But there’s a twist. The airline is really a cover for their very black ops private agency. To meet with them, clients must charter a flight and the meetings are held on the plane. This will take them all over the world and of curse each man will meet his partner for life. I expect to add two novellas to my Rawhide series (they are on

Uncaged: What are some of the benefits for signing up for your newsletter? Readers get first look at the first chapter of an upcoming book. I offer a prize of some kind in each newsletter plus Readers get a bonus code for a ten percent discount in my web store. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Marie Force, who writes the most amazing books. Linda Howard, whose Cry No More inspired me to write romantic suspense. Kyle Mills, who is carrying on the Mitch Rapp series for the late Vince Flynn. Karen Rose, whose books inspire me. The

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late Dell Shannon who set the standard for police procedurals.

iPad. Watch television. Spend time with family and friends.

Uncaged: What is a scene that was the most difficult to write?

Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you?

In Extrasensory (Phoenix Agency #2) the scene where Mia is shot and rushed to the hospital and nearly dies. Dan, the ultimate former Marine, who is sued to keeping his emotions on a leash, is totally undone. I had to show is emotional reaction without changing who he was.

Having a strong group of followers who autobuy my books, review them, tell their friends about them. Consistently list high on Amazon’s chart and make the USA Today list.

Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I love to read. I have close to 4,000 books on my 52 | UncagedBooks.com

Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Ebooks. I don’t have a lot of time t listen to audio and with physical books I can’t enlarge the type. Plus when I am reading a book in a series, I like to have the others


| DESIREE HOLT |

at hand to refer to. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I love my fans. I am so very grateful for them. They make me want to write more and more. Many of them have been with me for a long time and I am blessed for it, as well as the new ones who are attracted by new releases. I appreciate each and every one of them. They make my writing a blessing.

his determination to stay single and Lainie with her nightmares and a vicious bully after her. And a rich one at that. But chemistry and emotions have their own plans, and when Zane gets word Lainie’s ex is on her trail, he realizes he’ll do anything to keep her safe…and for himself. With the help of Sheriff Alex Rossi, he is ready to take on the enemy for his woman. Excerpt “Drea? What’s up? Aren’t you at work?”

Enjoy an excerpt from Desperate Deception Desperate Deception Desiree Holt Romantic Suspense She’d only be safe if she got away… Lainie Taggert needed to break away from her abusive relationship before it killed her, but Sonny Fitzgerald had all the keys to controlling her. Until she landed in the hospital with bruises and broken bones. And her friend, Drea Halstead, convinced her they had to spirit her away. His life was in limbo… Zane Halstead was rootless after three tours with the SEALs, medically discharged and not sure what to do with himself. When Sheriff Alex Rossi in Montana reached out to him with an offer to join his staff, he thought, what the hell? A house came with it along with two horses he could work with. But then his sister pleaded with him to take a battered woman with him and keep her safe. How could he say no? But the best laid plans and all that…

“I am, but Zane? I really, really need your help. And please don’t say no until you hear it all. Okay?” “Jesus, girl. What have you gotten yourself into now?” He listened while she laid out her story for him, especially Lainie Taggert’s condition and why her fear of Sonny Fitzgerald was so intense. As she outlined the plan, his stomach knotted, and his fingers tightened their hold on the phone. “You’re kidding me, right? This is a joke to yank my chain.” “No, it isn’t.” Her voice was low. “I’m dead serious. Dead, by the way, being what this woman will be if we don’t pull this deception off and sneak her out of Tampa. Please, Zane. She has no place else to turn. “ He wanted more than anything to say no, but it wasn’t who he was. He knew this last-minute call from Drea might screw up his plans. He also knew she wouldn’t ask unless she was desperate. Take a strange woman to Montana with him to a situation he wasn’t even sure would work? What the hell? What was he supposed to do with her when he got there? If she was as banged up as Drea said, she’d need medical care, and he had no idea what kind was available in the sparsely populated area where he was headed.

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | And what about her? If she was running from an abusive relationship, she was probably terrified of men. He’d seen that before. It always made his blood boil, wondering how a man could treat a woman that way. But she had to be scared shitless, and what would make her trust him? Did she know Drea well enough for that? Plus, he’d have to find a way to take care of her on the trip. Then, when they got to Montana, he’d have to figure out what to do with her. Hopefully, Drea would have some kind of update for him by then. He needed to know things like how long he was expected to hide Lainie away. Where she would go from there. How she’d get her life together. F*ck. This wasn’t what he needed. He could hardly keep himself together, just taking things one day at a time. But he knew in his heart he’d do that. He was a protector by nature. “Anything else I should know?” “Yes. This guy is one mean bastard, and Lainie says she knows something he’d kill her to keep secret.” F*cking great. He swallowed a sigh. “You know I can’t turn you down, but I’m leaving in five minutes. Can you get her to that exit by the time I get there?” “Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Oh, and you’d better bring plenty of cash. If he somehow finds out she’s with you, he can track your credit cards.” Jesus! What next? “Okay. No sweat.” “And, Zane? Thank you so much.” He carried the last of his bags down to the truck and stowed them in the back seat. Then he placed his Glock .9mm in the console along with a box of ammo. Finally, he made sure the knife he al54 | UncagedBooks.com

ways carried was securely strapped to his ankle. He didn’t know if this asshole would suddenly show up or what, but, like every other SEAL, he wanted to always be prepared. Then he climbed into the driver’s seat and pulled out of his parking space. What the f*ck have I gotten myself into?

Don’t miss this title


TOSCA LEE & Timber, Charlie, Misty, Kamiko & Samson

This is Timber the giant German Shepherd (with my husband, Bryan), Charlie the corn-fed Black Labrador, Misty the barn cat who drools when you pet her, and Kamiko and Samson—a sister and brother we found orphaned a day after they were born and bottle fed.

CHRISTIE STRATOS & Daisy My dog, Daisy, is sweet and cuddly and encourages me to write by sitting on my lap and not letting me move for a while. She loves fall weather and curling up on piles of blankets or anything soft. She’s nine years old, but she still acts like a puppy—maybe it’s because her nickname is Puppy! She’s the sweetest of sweethearts. 56 | UncagedBooks.com

C.B. CLARK & Jazz My dog, Jazz, a German Shorthaired Pointer, lived to the ripe old age of fifteen. In her younger years, she was filled to the brim with frenetic energy and needed two long walks every day to tire her out. Even then she’d grab the old tattered soccer ball and beg me to kick it. She leaped like a deer over fallen trees and raced ahead on the trail, and sprinted back, again and again as if telling me to hurry. In the past few years her eyebrows had turned gray, her face grizzled, and her eyes cloudy. Her once svelte, leanly muscled body sagged, her back legs bowed from arthritis. She began to struggle to rise from her bed, and she lumbered painfully along the trails. Every once in awhile, there were flashes of her puppy playfulness. She’d dig in her toy box for a well-chewed stuffy and whine until I tossed it for her to retrieve. When she scented a grouse in the forest, her old body would stiffen, and she formed a perfect point, her tail wagging a mile a minute in excitement and pride. I lost the old girl a few months ago, and my heart is broken. A unique bond develops between an older dog and its owner as you relish every minute you have together. Maybe it’s the certain knowledge that time with your pet is limited. Or maybe it’s their gazes filled with patience, wisdom, acceptance, and love.


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.

HYWELA LYN & Harri, T’pau, Choccy & rescued kitty I have a ‘paint’ Quarter Horse x Welsh mare called Flying T’pau (who I call my ‘mare with attitude’) She’s chestnut and white and very beautiful and knows it! Choccy is a ‘rescue’ terrier and had been shut up for the first two years of his life, never being played with or taken for walks, so was very nervous and needed a lot of conditioning and training to get used to things like cars and lorries and other dogs—he’s so much more confident now though, very loving, and a real character. We also have a rescued ‘feral’ cat who was hired to do the mousework, and is paid in food and cuddles. He’s quite mischievous and when the owner of the yard where T’pau lives was packing to go on vacation, he climbed in her suitcase as if he expected to go with her! Sadly I lost my other horse, Harri, a black Welsh Cob, two years ago, but I love the picture of him and T’pau. I can’t quite make up my mind whether he was blowing her a kiss of sticking his tongue out at her! Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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DESIREE HOLT & Bianca, Grace & Bast

I have three fur babies, all 15 years old. My husband passed away and my children are all grown and on their own, so my cats are the creatures of my heart. They like to sit with me when I write and at night when I get into bed they are right there, cuddling with me as I watch television. Bast is my little black cat, Grace is the torty (and the alpha cat) and Blanca is the white furball.

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EMILY HEEBNER & Sally & Solo

I found “Solo” one night in the driveway after teaching late. I’d opened our gate and before driving in, I thought I saw a leaf fluttering. Thankfully I took a second look. A tiny creature, looking quite like a mouse with eyes and ears shut, still had the umbilical cord attached. She’s lived indoors with us ever since!

SADIRA STONE & Elle & Mila

Alas, I don’t have any pets at the moment, so I must content myself with spoiling my grand-dogs. My stepson and his lovely wife have two miniature long-haired dachshunds, Elle and Mila, who are adorable and hilarious. Elle, the (legally) blonde, is about two now, so she’s mellowed out of her puppy madness. Little sister Mila still has enough energy for three or four dogs.


SANDI UNDERWOOD & Gus Meet Gus. Gus is the best writing partner one could ever have. He listens to all my story twists and turns and appears concerned when one of my MCs goes off the deep end. Gus came into my life on November 9, 2014. A friend directed me to our local Human Society’s website where Gus’s picture jumped out at me−all 5 lbs. of him. I called only to learn someone else beat me to him. They asked me to come on Saturday to meet another similar dog to see if we could “bond.” Saturday rolled around and I went to meet the other dog. We spent a few minutes outside, but the dog never made eye-contact. He just wasn’t interested in me. Meanwhile, a dog out in the back lot screamed “bloody murder.” I tossed a few glances in his/her direction, but I never saw where the commotion came from. One of the volunteers stuck her head out and yelled for “Juno (the name they had given Gus) to hush!” She looked at me and stated, “I’ve never heard him act like that.” My head jerked up. “That can’t be Juno−somebody already adopted him.” The volunteer told me the lady brought him back because her hubby wanted a bigger dog. The manager hadn’t written down my name, but he was available if I still wanted him. “Here, hold this.” I handed the volunteer the lease to the perfectly nice dog and headed to the backlot to get my dog. At first look, I knew his name was Gus. Gus jumped into my car and never looked back. Because he raised such a clamor when I arrived, I have a sign hanging on the door to our bedroom: You had me at woof. We say he will turn 14 years old November 9th−his new birthday−the day we rescued each other.

CYRENE & Anastasia I have a mob of pets. Mainly because I seem to like them more than most people, at least that’s what my family says. I will feature one each month - and you can get a small peek into the life I lead on a small farm.

Three and a half years ago, I lost my quarter horse gelding Chico, at 24 yrs old. He was sick for a couple years before he finally crossed the rainbow bridge. We fought the good fight, and I was heartbroken for a long time. It took 6 months before we brought home Anastasia, or for short - Ana. Ana is a 20 yr old Morgan/Tennessee Walker mare, that was an Amish buggy horse on the east coast, and was rescued from a kill pen and shipped to Wisconsin by a wonderful supporter of a rescue here I am a part of, Racer Placers. Even though we can ride her lightly, Ana has arthritis in a back fetlock, so she is more of a snuggle horse and pasture puff for this year and given the time she needed to heal and just be a horse. Next year, we plan on using her as a fun driving horse since we have two other horses we use for riding. She found her soft place to land and be loved. Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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Tena Stetler Charm Me Again Charm Me Again

Tena Stetler Paranormal Romance Releases Dec. 9 For several months a Scottish Highland Ghost has haunted Daylan, in his personal life, his professional life and at his forge. Yet, being a talented warlock, he is no closer to discovering what the ghost wants or why he chose Daylan. A trip to his estranged sister’s home in Colorado may have unforeseen consequences especially when family history leads him to a shocking discovery. As his attraction blooms for Josie, a yoga instructor in his sister’s studio, he realizes there may be more to Josie than he can imagine. When an ancient rogue Fae Warrior set on revenge kidnaps her in an attempt to claim her as his own, a devastating curse comes to light. Daylan’s world spirals out of control as he searches for Josie. Can he break the age old curse to save her and their future, or will she be lost to him forever?

Excerpt “Hey wait for me.” He stuffed lunch in the day pack, along with extra waters, swung it on his back and jogged after her. He made the suggested pit stop and met her at the base of the trail. “Ready?” “Just so you know, we’ll gain 1,000 feet in elevation during the mile climb to Hanging Lake. Drink lots of water. I can’t haul your ass off this mountain due to dehydration or altitude sickness.” She snickered. “I’ll be fine.” He fished the bottle of water from his belt pack and took a swig. “See, I’m prepared. Also bought a first aid kit last night.” “Great, now we have two. I always have one in the SUV.” “Good to know, not a lot of help on the trail or at the Lake.” He chided. 60 | UncagedBooks.com

sneakpeek She smirked. “It’s in the day pack you’re carrying.” A little over two hours into the hike, he huffed and puffed as he struggled to keep up with lithe Josie who had no trouble talking as she climbed. Pausing on a footbridge, she waited for him. “This trail follows Dead Horse Creek. “There are footbridges that span the creek along the way. Like this one.” She picked up her booted foot and put it back down. “Ready.” He nodded because he didn’t have the breath to say anything. As they climbed, the trail became steeper and rockier. He grabbed hold of the handrails assuming they were provided for oxygen-deprived people like him. How do people breathe up here? Until now he’d prided himself in being in excellent shape. She turned and peeked over her shoulder. “You all right back there? We’re almost to the top.” About damn time. Huffing out another breath, he leaned against a large boulder. The trail opened up and the Lake came into view. He sucked in a breath at the geologic wonder before his eyes. Suspended on the edge of Glenwood Canyon’s cliff, waterfalls spilled into a clear turquoise lake. Lush green plants trailed from the outcropping of rock on the walls surrounding the water was like nothing he’d ever seen. “This is absolutely unbelievable.” Suddenly, the wind changed direction, a thin maroon line formed along the flat bottom of the dark clouds spreading across the sky where moments before there’d been only a few fluffy cotton ball clouds in a sea of blue. The maroon line widened then switched to vertical and spread open to reveal a shimmering interior. Shadows emerged from the cloud then disappeared. As he was about to comment, huge raindrops plopped on the ground followed by pea size hail that grew to softball size. Josie ran for cover and he followed. Protected under a ledge, she cupped her hands over her ears as the roaring of the storm combined with huge ice balls smashing against rocks echoed through the canyon. She elbowed him and cocked a brow in question, pointing to the vegetation that remained unharmed. His eyes narrowed. Something isn’t right. I can feel it. Magic is spinning this storm. But who—how and why?


feature authors

contemporary | young adult | scifi

Sadira Stone

Emily Heebner

Hywela Lyn


Please welcome Sadira Stone

sadira stone

Uncaged: Your latest book is Runaway Love Story, part of The Book Nirvana series, can you tell readers more about the book and the series? Can they be read as standalones? Runaway Love Story is the second book in the series but works well as a standalone. I dislike cliffhanger endings, so I don’t write them. Each book in the series features a couple, one of whom works at the bookshop. Why set the series in a bookshop? Ever since I was a wee lass, I dreamed of owning one. Add to that my fascination with historical erotic art and literature, and you’ve got the Book Nirvana series, set in an indie bookshop with an extensive erotica collection behind a locked red door.

E

ver since her first kiss, Sadira’s been spinning steamy tales in her head. After leaving her teaching career in Germany, she finally tried her hand at writing one. Now she’s a happy citizen of Romancelandia, penning contemporary romance and cozy mysteries from her home in Washington State. When not writing, which is seldom, she explores the Pacific Northwest with her charming husband, enjoys the local music scene, belly dances, plays guitar badly, and gobbles all the books.

S ta y Co n n e c te d

I love stories in which a couple’s powerful physical attraction leads them to consider a partner outside their usual M.O.—one who just might turn out to be their perfect match. That’s how it happened for my husband and me, and I like challenging my characters’ assumptions about who and what they need to be happy—a big element in Runaway Love Story. Uncaged: Have you participated in any online parties or in person signings? Would it be something you’d like to do? So far, I’ve participated in three live author events, with another on October 18th at the Emerald City Writers Conference. As for online parties, too many to count! 3. What are you working on next that you can tell us about?

sadirastone.com

I’m nearly finished with the first draft of Book 3 in the Book Nirvana series, as yet untitled. Let’s see if my critique partners and readers can help me find a title! The story features Margot, Clara’s spiky-haired young assistant at the bookshop, and


Elmer, a buff, tattooed, ginger-bearded potter introduced in Runaway Love Story. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? J.A. Jance, one of my favorite mystery writers, is a great storyteller in person. I’d love to spend time with her. How about some of my romance faves, like Tessa Dare, Damon Suede, Alyssa Cole, Beverly Jenkins, Sarah Maclean…I’m gonna need a bigger table. Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest?

In this book, 90-year-old Great Aunt Maxie was the most fun to write. She’s feisty, eccentric, creative, and says whatever’s on her mind. I suppose Laurel’s mother was the hardest, since she took back a man whose infidelity nearly destroyed her. I wouldn’t have made that choice, but we can’t just write characters who make the same choices we would in real life. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? Reading, of course. Hubs and I like to hear live music whenever we can, especially blues. A long walk Issue 40 | November 2019 | 65


| FEATURE AUTHOR | along the Puget Sound always helps quiet my squirrel brain and bring things back into balance. I also love to cook—chopping veggies can be therapeutic. And I’m a big fan of romance podcasts: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Heaving Bosoms, When in Romance, and Wicked Wallflowers. Listening to those is like visiting with hilarious girlfriends— without having to put on my grownup clothes. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? Honestly, I don’t suffer from writer’s block. Does blasting through the morning in my jammies until the coffee wears off count as a writing quirk?

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Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Yes. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I hope you’ll enjoy this series as much as I enjoyed writing it! I’d love to visit with you on all the socials.


| SADIRA STONE |

Enjoy an excerpt from Runaway Love Story Runaway Love Story Sadira Stone Contemporary Romance She hates average...he’s as average as they come. High school history teacher Doug Garvey is trying to enjoy his last few weeks of summer vacation, but receiving his final divorce decree hits him harder than expected. After a brief fling fizzles, he fears love just isn’t in the cards for him. If only he could find someone who’s real, someone interested in something beyond herself… maybe a new running partner who can keep up with his more carnal appetite. When sexy, straight-talking Laurel runs across his path, he dares to hope again. He’s done with social-climbing posers...she’s ambitious and has big dreams. Fired from an art gallery, Laurel Jepsen shelves her pursuit of an art career in San Francisco to help her beloved great aunt Maxie move into assisted living. While out on a morning run, she’s harassed by a group of teens until a tall, broad-shouldered hottie steps in, pretending to be her boyfriend with a kiss that makes her wish it were true. But she’s only passing through, not looking for a relationship. Their fierce chemistry burns up the sheets—and the couch, the shower, the forest—but falling in love would ruin everything. Laurel can’t stay in Eugene, and he can’t leave. Doug’s only hope is to convince her the glittery life she’s after could blind her to the opportunities already in her path. Short Blurb: Fierce passion or long-cherished dreams...she can’t hang onto both.

Chasing a big-city art gallery job, Laurel detours to Eugene, Oregon to help her spitfire great aunt into assisted living. While on a run, she’s harassed by a group of teens until a tall, broadshouldered hottie rescues her by pretending to be her boyfriend--with a kiss that makes her wish it were true. But she’s only passing through. Their fierce chemistry burns up the sheets—and the couch, the shower, the woods...but falling in love could cost Laurel more than she’s willing to sacrifice. She can’t stay in Eugene, and he can’t leave. His only hope is to convince her those bigcity lights have nothing on her inner sparkle. Excerpt I’ll never run without pepper spray again. The guy was almost on her, puffing like a bellows. “Babe, there you are. Hold up.” This voice was deeper and lacked the mocking tone of the others. Without slowing, she risked a backward glance. A tall bald guy. Serious runner, judging by his gear. His face dripped from exertion, but his broad smile held no threat. He tilted his shaved head toward the bushes and winked. She slowed, and he pulled up alongside her. His voice rang out, unnecessarily loud. “I stopped to tie my shoelaces, and you disappeared.” Hard of hearing? Near-sighted? He threw a glance over his shoulder, then lowered his voice. “You okay?” Understanding dawned. He’s rescuing me. “I’m good. Thanks.” She jogged to a stop and bent over, hands on her knees, gulping air. He waited beside her, facing the bushes she’d fled, his breathing hard but steady. Expensive running shoes. Above his big feet rose long, well-muscled legs encased in snug shorts and—God help her—the finest ass she’d seen in a long, long time. High and firm and muscular, with an adorable hollow at each side that made her fingertips itch to trace its contours. He Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | kept his back to her as he scanned the trail. And what a back it was, outlined by his sweat-soaked T-shirt, narrow at the waist and broad at the shoulders. He ran his long fingers over his shiny shaved head, then turned to face her. Late thirties, she guessed. High cheekbones, long, aquiline nose, straight, pale brows, and deep-set eyes, blue as the summer twilight. A shadow of golden scruff covered his sharp jawline. His lips spread in a slow smile, transforming his friendly, bony face into something dazzling. Their eyes met, and a spark jolted her, strong and sharp and aimed straight at her center. Uh-oh. She’d felt this spark before with Carlo, her college boyfriend, the one who loved her hard and fierce for two years before dumping her just before graduation. Instant attraction like this spelled trouble, the last thing she needed. Especially now. She gave her head a little shake. Just a nice, friendly guy. No need to panic. “Thanks for stopping. Those guys—” A voice rang out from the bushes. “Blondie, where are you?” Then another. “Come back here and show me some love.” And a third. “You know you want to.” His easy grin slid into a scowl. “‘Scuze me.” He sprinted toward the voices. At his approach, the shrubs exploded in a flurry of rustling. “Shit, it’s Mr. Garvey.” “Run!” Scuffling sounds followed, along with cursing. A moment later, the tall guy emerged, his arms crosshatched with welts and scratches, clutching a plump, pimply teenager by the back of his shirt. The kid squirmed in a vain effort to escape. He couldn’t have been more than fourteen. Eyes bulging, he blinked up at his captor, then at Laurel, both of whom towered over his greasy head. The man leaned in, his handsome face thunderous, and snarled in the kid’s ear. “What do you 68 | UncagedBooks.com

say to the lady?” The boy lowered his gaze. “I’m sorry, ma’am.” He gave the kid a shake. “And?” “It won’t happen again.” Not so brave now, are you, little macho? She swallowed a snort of laughter and glared at the kid. His eyes brimmed with tears. “Please don’t tell my dad, Coach. He’ll kill me.” For a moment, she thought the kid might wet his pants. The man glared like an eagle clutching a rat in its talons. He relaxed his grip. “Get out of here.” The kid scrambled back into the bushes. A tickly, nervous giggle escaped her throat. “Coach?” “Cross country. North Eugene High. Home of the Highlanders.” He chuckled. “And a few low-lifes, like Justin and his buddies.” He shuffled his big feet on the pavement, then fixed his blue, blue eyes on hers. “I’m Doug, by the way.” She extended her hand. “Laurel.” His palm was warm, his grip firm but gentle. He held her gaze so long she filled the awkward silence with embarrassed blathering. “Great name for a tall girl, right? Like a tree.” She calculated his height. Six foot six? Or seven? Six feet tall in her bare feet, she seldom met a guy who towered over her like this. He made her feel delicate, for once. She cleared her throat. “Are you going to tell his dad?” He tapped his lips with his forefinger, then grinned. “Nope. His mom. She works in the school cafeteria.” “Ooo. A lunch lady. They’re tough.” When he laughed, his craggy face lit up with a playful energy that made her want to—what, exactly? She wasn’t looking for a new boyfriend. After her last break-up, she’d promised herself to go three whole months before dating again, time to reset her


| SADIRA STONE | priorities, find her center—stuff like that. She cleared her throat. “Well, thanks for being my pretend boyfriend. Best fifteen-minute relationship ever.” “Let’s make it a bit longer.” The corners of his wide mouth lifted, and a by-God dimple winked in the hollow of his cheek. “Oh, um…” In her belly, a swarm of fireflies began their jittery, glowing dance. “It’s nearly dark. Let me run you back to your car.” The fireflies winked out, leaving her oddly disappointed. “Actually, I came on foot.” “Okay, I’ll run you home. Which way?” “It’s not necessary, really.” His open, earnest smile tugged her toward surrender. Maybe just a little flirtation to pass the time until I move to San Francisco? She gave herself a mental kick. Nope. Gotta be ready for a fast exit.

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Tammy Andresen returns to Uncaged to tell us about her series, Chronicles of a Bluestocking and a Christmas anthology. Uncaged: Your latest release, Too Wicked To Woo – book one of the Chronicles of a Bluestocking series just released, and you will follow that up in November and December with books two and three. Can you tell readers more about this series? The Chronicles of a Bluestocking series is a super fun romp of ladies who turn the tables on the men by hunting down London rogues. They were so much fun to write, I honestly am considering adding more books next year. I loved it too much for only three! Uncaged: You are also part of a Christmas anthology - A Lady’s Christmas Rake. How did this anthology come about? I love the other authors in that set! We just wanted to work together and putting a Christmas themed set out seemed like the perfect excuse. Uncaged: What are the benefits of joining your street team? Besides my undying love? LOL Lots of free books in exchange for an honest review. And honestly, since it’s a small group, I get to interact with readers one on one in a way I don’t in larger groups. It feels way more intimate to me. Too Wicked To Want Tammy Andresen Historical Regency Releases November 12 A scarred marquess and a ruined bluestocking with everything to lose… Lord Marks doesn’t give a dung pile about the ton or society. His lands, his duty, and the people who depend on him are all that matter. But when Lady Annabelle begins following him about, he won’t

stand for it. He’s knows she’s attempting to trap him in marriage. It’s his legacy at risk, after all. It’s time to teach Lady Annabelle Standish a lesson she’ll never forget. Lady Annabelle is determined to study the rakes of London. It’s purely for research she wants to share what she’s learned with the ladies of her station. The problem, she can’t find any research subjects. That is until she meets Lord Marks, a reclusive marquess accused of ruining a young lady in her first season. First, she needs to determine if he’s as bad as they say and then… well then she needs to keep from falling under his rakish spell. What she didn’t count on was that dangerous and mysterious men are also exciting. Excerpt Lady Annabelle Marks stood on the side of the dance floor assessing her prey. For all intents and purposes she was the least likely person here to be likened to a predator. Tall for a woman and fair, she had a slender build that one might be able to argue was at the very least cat-like. But her mark was no garden bird, in fact, he was more like the tigers she’d heard about that lumbered on the great continent of Asia. Dark, brooding, massive, not round but large and muscular, he stared about the floor, his gaze sweeping across the room as though he dared the assembly to attempt and approach. Just like the tiger, she’d guess he had large teeth and claws. No one had yet taken the challenge he’d presented. She knew because she’d been watching him for the last forty-five minutes. Not that it was a difficult task. When one was so imposing, he needn’t hide or skulk. He stood taller than anyone in the room with arms crossed, his muscles bulging through his finely cut evening jacket. Two matrons passed by her where she remained partially hidden behind a well-placed fern. “You Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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would think that Lord Harding would have the decency to look ashamed.” One sniffed as she passed. “That is the benefit of being a marquess. He can go around ruining perfectly lovely girls and no one will call him to task,” the other replied. Their conversation continued but Annabelle couldn’t hear anything else without abandoning her post. Not that she needed to learn any more gossip. Lord Harding, her tiger, well not her tiger, had a reputation that preceded him. And she’d learned everything she possibly could before coming here tonight. If one was going to attack, it was best to study the victim first.

USA Today Bestselling Author, Tammy Andresen lives with her husband and three children just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She grew up on the Seacoast of Maine, where she spent countless days dreaming up stories in blueberry fields and among the scrub pines that line the coast. Her mother loved to spin a yarn and Tammy filled many hours listening to her mother retell the classics. It was inevitable that at the age of 18, she headed off to Simmons College, where she studied English literature and education. She never left Massachusetts but some of her heart still resides in Maine and her family visits often.

tammyandresen.com

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Don’t miss these titles


Elizabeth Rose

Keeper of the Flame Keeper of the Flame Elizabeth Rose Ancient Historical Romance

Immortality isn’t always a blessing . . . sometimes it’s a curse! An old sorcerer is how everyone knows him, but Orrick Pendragon has only chosen to shapeshift into the image an old man because of his painful past. When he stole the Eternal Flame over a hundred years ago, he had no idea of the consequences of his action. Being immortal and also married, he had to watch as his loving wife grew old and died while he stayed young and continued to live forever. Heartbroken, he swore, he would never fall in love again. Can an immortal man who is destined to live forever, find love again with a mortal woman who is bound to die? “What is this legendary item you search for? Perhaps I have heard of it in my travels after all,” said Orrick. Lady Hope took a step closer to him. “It’s said there is candle or torch of some sort that is magical and even guarded for fear the flame will extinguish.” Orrick’s body stiffened. He knew exactly what she was talking about and he didn’t like it in the least. “Really. Tell me more.” He found it interesting that anyone but him would know about this. “It’s called an . . . infernal flame,” she blurted out, making Orrick cringe. “Eternal,” he corrected her, too softly for her to hear it. The woman kept talking. “I’ve heard that this flame can make one live forever. Supposedly the holder of the fire is also invincible and the flame cannot be extinguished, no matter how hard one tries. “Are you looking to live forever?” he asked cautiously,

sneakpeek Excerpt needing to know more of what she knew. She’d gotten part of the story straight, but he was sure she didn’t know all that was involved. “Nay. Not really. Although the thought is enticing.” “You do not know what you’re doing,” he said in a low voice. “It’s not for you, so leave it be.” She blinked twice, smiled, and stood up straighter. Suddenly, the seriousness of their conversation faded away. “I’m just intrigued, that’s all. I’ve been hearing stories about this ever since I was a child and I would love to see it.” Orrick had never told anyone about the Eternal Flame. No mortal had ever seen it, and he planned on keeping it that way. Not even his good friend, Lord Corbett Blake knew the powers that surrounded this magical icon. The only one he’d confided in about it was someone he trusted with his whole heart, and it had been many, many years ago. Petronilla knew about the flame, but she promised to take the secret to her grave rather than to tell a soul. Had she gone back on her promise? “So tell me, Sorcerer. If one owns this Infernal Flame, can they snuff out the lives of their enemies with ease?” It angered Orrick to hear she wanted the flame for an evil purpose. “Nay, I am sorry, but I don’t know where to find it.” Orrick wouldn’t help a woman who wanted to use such an honored and revered piece for a dark purpose. “All right, then, I guess I’ll leave,” she answered from behind him. “But there is one person who might know where it is, and perhaps he can find it for me.” “And who would that be?” scoffed Orrick, thinking she was lying just to get him to help her. “The person I speak of is the Guardian of the Flame,” she told him. “I am going to find him and won’t stop until I do.” “Keeper of the Flame,” said Orrick softly, watching her go. He knew exactly whom this woman searched for, and also where to find him. If only she had known she was closer than she thought. Orrick was the person that she sought, because he was the Keeper of the Eternal Flame. Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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s a middle child of three girls, Emily grew up in New Jersey, Michigan, but mostly Buffalo, NY. After graduating from Cornell University with a BA in English, she earned her MFA in Acting from the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. She spent the next years acting in commercials and regional theatre with stints at Berkeley Repertory, Actors Theatre of Louisville and A Noise Within. She even understudied on Broadway and played a lead on a national tour. Favorite roles included Maggie in After the Fall, Brooke in Noises Off and Belinda in Engaged by W. S. Gilbert.

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Eventually settling in Southern California with her husband (it’s now 32 years together!), she wrote documentary scripts for dvds of such films as The Hours, Tuck Everlasting, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Passion. She currently teaches acting classes at a university and regional theatre. When she’s not teaching, Emily and her husband head “home” to the mountains where they love to hike with their grown son, their adopted dog, and two cats who turned up on their driveway.

emilyheebner.com

e m i ly h e e bn e r


Uncaged welcomes Emily Heebner

and really examine what they’ve read.

Uncaged:Your YA novel Seneca Lake released in July. Is this your debut novel?

Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why?

Yes!

I’d love to meet Penelope Lively (Moon Tiger), and Cynthia Voigt (Dicey’s Song). Their stories captured me heart and soul, and I’d love to talk to them about their use of structure, genre and writing styles. Having read three of his books, I know I’d find Richard Powers fascinating for his superhuman creativity and knowledge. Also John Green for his emotional depth, George Orwell for his prescience, and Willa Cather for her poetic portraits of relationships and land.

Uncaged: What inspired you to start writing? My mother always encouraged us to read. In fact, she gave my sisters and me recommended reading lists every summer which we happily ate up. I remember taking books into our front hall closet in Battle Creek where it was cool (no air conditioning in our house). And when we’d visit Mom’s hometown on Seneca Lake, I’d lie on the dock, read and nap, dive in for a swim, then read some more. So all that reading inspired a love of writing, too. And in school, English was my favorite subject. My teachers encouraged my writing and in eleventh grade I received an NCTE award for writing, which continues to inspire me to this day. Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about? I’m working on the sequel to Seneca Lake. Readers have expressed interest in what happens to Meg, Arthur and Hank after the war ends. I’ve uncovered some research about the post-war era in the Finger Lakes region that’s helping me develop the story further. Uncaged: On your website it says you are a university professor. Are you still teaching and what subjects are your specialty? Currently I’m teaching acting classes at a university and an Equity theatre. It’s so much fun! I’ve also taught English at the college level, which is rewarding, too. Every student has interesting life stories to tell in their own writing. And I love to promote closer reading. Even in acting classes, I encourage students to think more deeply about the script as a whole and what the characters are thinking and feeling beyond just the words they say. We’re all on our phones so much these days, I think young folks are used to scanning rather than taking time to read more carefully, more slowly,

Uncaged: You’ve also acted in commercials and regional theater. What are some of the similarities between writing and acting? Both writing and acting satisfy that urge to share stories, to study what it means to be human, and to step into the shoes of other people and see the world through their eyes. In both practices the artist is reaching out to an audience, a listener. We all want to be heard and to feel others empathizing with us even when they disagree with our point of view. When you’re acting, you’re speaking the playwright’s words but you still need to invent your own version of the character’s behavior, voice, inner emotional life and to flesh out relationships with the other characters. In fiction writing, we hear the characters’ conversations in our heads. I think acting in great plays can give a writer the opportunity to absorb the musicality, range, tempos of voices of characters created by great playwrights. That may be why actors often have such fun and ease writing dialogue. Uncaged: What is a scene that was the most difficult to write? Without giving too much away, a scene that was particularly hard to write was when Meg first sees Hank after he returns home from war. I wanted to both honor and reveal the pain that returning solIssue 40 | November 2019 |

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| EMILY HEEBNER | diers experience. I’ve had such folks in my classes, courageous souls who’ve lived through experiences I can barely imagine. I hoped to share the difficulty some soldiers have readjusting to civilian life. And in researching WWII, I found poignant letters about real events that I wanted to borrow from as well. Writing this section with respect and authenticity was challenging. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I love long walks in the woods with my family and our dog. A hot bath and hours to enjoy whatever book I’m reading. I love meeting friends for dinner at a good restaurant so that someone else does the cooking and the dishes and we can just visit and relax. So luxurious! I love seeing world class theatre that’s beautifully pro-

duced and makes you think, like something from the Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago. Dancing with friends. Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? I’m grateful every time someone reads my work and appreciates it. Ideally, I think if a book finds readers and has a shelf life, you’ve achieved success. But I believe the process and journey are precious and somewhat fragile. As artists, we do our best work when we’re loving what we’re doing. Making those works worthy of being published is where that fine line between talent and achievement intersect.

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Personally I prefer physical books because I love cozying up with the paper pages on my couch or in bed. Plus I don’t read as well on screens and I’m not the best driver so if I get too interested in an audiobook, I’m likely to miss my exit! But I love beautifully narrated audiobooks because I appreciate the acting. And I know some talented audiobook narrators and respect the artistry and effort that goes into their work. Actress Ann Marie Lee, for example, who narrated Seneca Lake. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you so much for reading my book! Please write to me via my website emilyheebner.com and stay in touch so I can let you know when the sequel is out! Or follow me on twitter @EmilyHeebner or Facebook.

Enjoy an excerpt from Seneca Lake Seneca Lake Emily Heebner YA/20th Century It’s 1944, and high school senior Meg Michaels has always obeyed her grandparents’ wishes, till now. They’re urging her to give up her dream of Cornell University and accept a ring from wealthy Hank Wickham before he deploys overseas. 78 | UncagedBooks.com

But Meg has studied hard and yearns for something better than life in the rural Finger Lakes. Plus Meg’s suddenly fascinated with her childhood friend, Arthur Young, a handsome Seneca Indian farm worker. When Meg and Arthur nurse a sick puppy to health, their friendship transforms into love. But locals look down on “injuns” and resent the fact that Arthur’s farm job exempts him from military duty. While the war rages in Europe, Meg and Arthur must fight their own battles at home… Excerpt Chapter 3 It was the middle of the night when Meg saw Arthur dash across the Lee’s side lawn and disappear into the woods. His unbuttoned shirt flapped like wings behind him. His hair was loose. Meg ran barefoot on the silent highway. She called to him in a hoarse whisper, “Arthur!” He didn’t look back. She followed him into the thicket, tracking sounds of sticks breaking under his feet, leading toward the gully, to the black swimming hole at the foot of the waterfall, deep, deep in the woods. Tips of leaves touched Meg’s cheeks. She clutched her thin gown to avoid snags on the brush. The moon lit silver pathways between the shadows. Meg’s legs were now a deer’s legs. Her hooves crushed fragrance from pine needles to the rhythm of Arthur’s chanted breaths. Meg sat up with a start. Sunshine pummeled her room. The alarm clock on the side table claimed ten past ten. She tossed off her blanket and peeled damp hair off her cheek. She took a sip of water from the glass Gram had left her. Arthur’s grandmother had once said, “In the days of Handsome Lake, people listened to their dreams. A dream will tell you who you are.” “That’s witchcraft,” Meg’s sisters had said. “Don’t turn pagan, or we’ll have to tell Mom.” “You finally awake?” Gram called from the front room. “Yes’m!” Meg paid a quick visit to the bath-


| EMILY HEEBNER | room, then hurried back down the hall and poked her head into the front room, clutching the bodice of her nightgown. Samantha purred in the shadow of Gram’s rocker near an open window. “Come see me, honey,” Gram said. “Your Gramps went to the baptism. Hand me that tumbler.” She rocked forward to set her mending aside and to reach for a glass pitcher of lemonade with droplets running down its side. Ice cubes tinkled into Meg’s glass. A handmade doily sported a circle of sweat which Gram covered when she set the pitcher down again. Meg sank back into the upholstery and draped a crocheted throw over her chest. “Hank Wickham came by on his way to church this morning,” Gram said. “You were out so late, I didn’t want to wake you.” Gram discouraged Meg from going to church whenever she could. She didn’t mind her playing piano alongside Greta, who played the organ. But Gram didn’t like the reverend or the doctrine or the dunkings. “Them wedding vows rile me ‘specially,” Gram would say. “A wife’s to obey her husband like a servant? Who made up such nonsense!” “Who’s getting dunked today?” Meg sucked an ice cube, enjoying the fact that her sisters had probably heard about Hank’s early morning sojourn over to the saloon. “Charley’s sister, I think. Seems she’s sober since she found religion. Hope it’s true. Hope it’s not Reverend working her that other way he does.” “Gram.” “Well, you know how I feel. Just be careful over there.” “I am.” Although Meg listened, she found herself revisiting her dream. The silver moonlight. The rhythm of bare feet. The far off sound of falling water. She tried harder to concentrate on Gram’s blue eyes. “Hank said he was sorry he missed you last night. Said he’ll be by again later.” Gram resumed her mending. “What do you think of that?” “Hm?” Meg couldn’t help but be flattered, though she pretended she wasn’t. Oh, poor big sis Viv would be dying with envy. “Is the cousin all

right?” “Leg’s broke. I never did understand why the men have to... Well, anyway.” Gram rocked in her rocker. “Do you like Hank Wickham, honey?” “Course. He got voted most popular his senior year. Can’t believe he’s calling on me.” “He sure looks fine in that uniform -Mm-hm.” Meg swallowed a last bit of lemonade and tried to picture Hank as he’d stood on his tractor. But her mind kept switching to Arthur’s open shirt from her dream. “Hank comes from a good family,” Gram said. “It’s time to consider such things.” Meg tapped on her empty glass. “There ain’t nothin to be scared of if a boy calls on you proper like Hank does.” “I’m not scared of boys.” “Well, you should be.” Meg blushed. Gram stopped rocking and paused to choose her words more carefully. “I don’t mean that exactly, honey. But a young man like Hank. Why, he’d listen if you said you wasn’t ready for something. If he did something and you wasn’t comfortable. He’s brought up good. Other boys don’t know such things. They might not listen.” Meg almost said,”You mean, like Arthur?” but she didn’t. It made her mad that people assumed Arthur was rude or rough with girls. Whenever dogs or horses at the Lee’s barn got frisky, Meg and Greta watched everything. They studied. Arthur disappeared. “Don’t worry. Ron told me what to do.” “He did?” Gram poised her needle in the air and held her mending against her belly. “Well?” “I’d rather not repeat it.” “You’re awful young,” her brother had warned her when she started high school. “You’ll be around older guys now. And sometimes you act older than you are. If things heat up and the guy won’t stop, just kick ‘em. You know, where it hurts.” Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | “Well, if you like Hank, honey, I think it’s fine,” Gram said. “Seems he’d like to see you before he ships out.” Meg’s stomach grumbled. “Fix a sandwich. There’s ham and one of my cucumbers. They come up mighty big this year.” From Gram’s kitchen window Meg could see the crowd for the baptism gathering down the hill to the west, along the lake shore. She tried to pick out Hank, but couldn’t. Then she looked at the Lee’s property up the hill to the east and searched the lawn’s edge which adjoined the woods. A buzz of insects accompanied a stillness in the air, interrupted only by an occasional car passing on the highway. Meg dawdled, spreading mustard in parallel lines on her slice of ham, nibbling crust off slices of bread. She munched her cucumber like a crisp banana, eating the sandwich in separate pieces, watching the Lee place for Arthur. “Guess I need a walk,” she told Gram on her way to her bedroom to put on some clothes. “What about Hank?” Gram looked up. Meg turned and smiled. She didn’t want to seem crabby. “I’ll come right back. Slept too long. Got stiff.” She almost added, “Probably all that dancing last night,” but she didn’t. Humidity weighted the air outside. Meg walked fast, hopeful that if she kept her head down her daddy might not look up from petting one of his stray cats or tipping the ash off his cigarette. Singing erupted from the baptism down the hill. She scuttled past the church and hurried across the highway. No cars were in view. She skirted around the front of the Lee’s house and ran back to the barn. Inside, manure and hay baked in the summer heat. A horse snorted. Ole Pete snored in a lower stall. Meg wondered if Arthur slept hidden in a stall or overhead in the loft. But she didn’t call his name. It felt strange to be alone in the barn today. The Lees would be at the baptism. She slipped back outside and headed for the woods. 80 | UncagedBooks.com

The canopy of trees fluttered over the sounds of running water in the gully. Meg took off her handme-down slip-ons and stepped with care on the forest floor. Fallen needles pricked her arches at times, so she looked for smooth stones to tread on, or moss. Bees hummed near low patches of wild strawberries. Meg listened to a tune in her head from Oklahoma. “I know’d what’s right and wrong since I been ten.” She and Arthur had sung it in the truck. Squirrels scampered up tree trunks onto bowing branches. Then that line from Oldtown Folks, Mrs. Stowe’s book, nagged her. That part about “men that women are always wrecking themselves on.” Why had Mrs. B recommended it especially to her for summer reading? That part about men that “make bewitching lovers, but terrible husbands.” Was Hank Wickham that kind? She walked through a remnant smell of skunk. Meg’s mother had chosen an auto mechanic for her husband. A kind man with a sixth grade education. Gram had raised Daddy and Aunt Lizzie to be loyal and hard-working. But Meg’s mother liked books and music. She’d been the first in her family to finish high school and get teacher training. A baby a year, well, nobody in her backwoods family had taught her how to manage that. Meg was her mother’s fifth live birth when the stock market crashed in 1929. Meg had been one baby too many for her overwhelmed mother. That much Meg knew. But she never knew exactly what had happened. The driving sounds of the waterfall up ahead reached her. She slowed her walk in order to be silent. Only Arthur would use the swimming hole on Baptism Sunday. Everyone else would head off to Valois Castle or Watkins, depending on who they wanted to see. She tiptoed from mounds of soft moss onto bent ferns. She lifted the hem of her shirtwaist to protect it from prickers on branches. The top of the waterfall came into view. She heard a thunk, then a splash. She crouched low, sneaking behind the thicker growth. The swimming hole shone like a polished stone. Arthur’s head emerged. He flipped over onto his back, naked, and floated. Meg held her breath. If she moved at all, he might hear. She memorized what she saw. How odd that


| EMILY HEEBNER | she wasn’t embarrassed or uncomfortable. Still, she wouldn’t want him to know she was there. She would wait till he made enough noise to cover hers, then she would leave. And then he would never know. But when Arthur finally did move, she couldn’t leave. He had flipped onto his front, baring his back to the sky, revealing welts the size of fists or rocks near his kidneys. Meg stared. Even at a distance, the purple wounds contrasted his smooth skin. She knew who had done it. Cowards. They knew Arthur wouldn’t tell. And his overalls would hide the evidence. Her eyes stung. Did Hank know? Was it his idea? Arthur frog-kicked to the rim of the swimming hole and slid onto a slate ledge, using his arms to keep his back stiff, flinching when he pulled too hard. Then he lay there on his belly so the sun could dry him. She knew she should leave but the moss had allowed her feet to sink. Her arms cradled her shoes. A breeze rustled leaves above her. She watched Arthur rest. Finally, she turned to go. Gram would wonder why she’d stayed away so long. She hadn’t meant to disobey. She’d just forgot. The further she walked, the less carefully she picked her steps. She kept worrying about direct sunlight on Arthur’s wounds. If they dried out and cracked, they might get infected. A pricker caught the arch of her foot so she found a stump to sit on and removed it. With the flat of her hand she wiped a dot of blood which she licked. She applied pressure with her thumb till a clot started, then lay a green leaf over the spot and tucked her foot into her shoe. When she looked up, Arthur stood close by, watching her, buttoning his shirt over his overalls. She blushed. Neither of them spoke. They wandered among the trees toward home. White butterflies danced above the wild strawberries where the bees had been. The scent of skunk still lingered. “You shouldn’t come out here alone,” Arthur said. “You can’t be sure what you might see.” “Maybe you ought to wear a bathing suit.”

She glanced at him. He watched the path ahead. He didn’t care that she’d seen him without his clothes on, she knew that. “Where’d you get the welts?” “Fell. Wrestling Ole Pete.” He gently took her hand. Crickets chirruped. Sunlight brightened the woods’ canopy as they neared the Lee’s property line. He paused. “I’ll wait a while,” he said, letting go of her hand. “You leave first.” She looked up. Why after so many years of thinking of him as a brother, as a pesky brother even, why suddenly did she feel so differently standing near him? She knew Gram was waiting. But she loathed the Wickhams. And she couldn’t tell anyone why. She touched a top button on his shirt. His chest rose and fell with soft breaths. She tucked a strand of wet hair behind his ear. Their foreheads pressed together. His hair fell forward around their faces. Their noses touched. Then their lips. She dangled her arms at her sides so she wouldn’t bump his sores.

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member of the Romantic Novelists Association, Hywela Lyn writes under her first two names, but is usually known just by her second name, Lyn. Originally from rural Wales she moved to England when she married. Horse and dog lover, romantic, chocoholic and virtual star traveler, she writes mainly futuristic and science fantasy romance. Her debut novel, a Science Fiction romantic adventure, Starquest was published by the American Publisher The Wild Rose Press. This was followed by two more novels, Children of the Mist and Beloved Enemy to complete what has now become the Destiny Trilogy, each is complete in itself and can be read as a ‘stand alone’. Beloved Enemy won the Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America Best Banter Contest in the SF/Fantasy category, was nominated for the Romantic Novelists Association Awards (RoNA) in the Paranormal category, and was also Runner Up in the Reward Of Novel Excellence Awards (RONE Awards.) Her fantasy novella, incorporating Greek Myths and Welsh and Arthurian legends, entitled Dancing With Fate was originally published by TWRP as part of a commissioned anthology but is now available as a standalone novella. All her books are available either in paperback or as e-books from the publisher, Amazon and other online stores, or from her own website. All three books in The Destiny Trilogy are also available in Audio. She continues to work frantically, but paradoxically slowly, on fantasy and Science Fiction romances and hopes to write a Romantic Western historical novel at some point.

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H y w e l a ly n Welcome Hywela Lyn Uncaged: Your last book, Beloved Enemy was released in 2016. Can you tell readers more about the book? Beloved Enemy is the third book in the Destiny Trilogy, which began with Starquest. Each book is complete and can be read as a ‘Standalone’. Beloved Enemy finds Kerry Marchant, who was a secondary character in Starquest, stranded on a mysterious and inhospitable planet when he and the crew of the Destiny answer a distress signal. What seemed a straightforward rescue mission soon turns into a fight for survival as he and Cat find themselves on trial for the crimes of humanity as a whole. My original inspiration for the first book in the series,


started with the hero of Beloved Enemy, Kerry Marchant. He invaded my dreams and I just had to start writing about him. Then came his starship, the Destiny, and her crew and Jestine Darnell, who became the main character. What had started out as a short story morphed into a novel, followed by a ‘sequel’ Children Of The Mist, featuring the inhabitants of Nifleheim, the home planet of two of the Destiny’s crew. However, Kerry nagged at me for his own story, since he’d lost out in the first book, and so I ended up with a trilogy. Beloved Enemy was so much fun to write. I have become very fond of Kerry and the crew of the Destiny, and I enjoyed introducing a new character, Cat Kincaid, and her trusty pet, the chameleopard, Shifter. Cat and Kerry have nothing but mistrust for each other at first. In fact, Cat has sworn to kill him. However a smouldering attraction builds between them as they have no option but to work together to survive on a hostile planet. Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about?

Gosh I’m such a slow writer, aren’t I! I have another science fiction romance on the’back burner’ which is quite different to the Destiny Trilogy – more dystopian. I’m also working on a fantasy romance, which I’m hoping to submit to my publisher by the end of the year It’s not Science Fiction, it’s a fantasy, set in present day Wales, set on a pony stud in the area I come from. It’s a ghost story, and has three points of view, the heroine, hero, and one of the two ghosts – which makes it a bit tricky, but it’s fun to write. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Oh, there are several – but if I had to choose one, I’d love to have had lunch with Anne McCaffrey. The Ship Who Sang, and The Dragonriders of Pern were some of the first Science Fiction stories I read. I wrote to her telling her I wanted to be a writer, and to my surprise and delight she wrote back a handwritten note, telling me to ‘write what you would like to read’. Wonderful advice which I’ve followed

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | ever since. Uncaged: How much interaction do you have with readers on social media? I’m on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, Facebook, Goodreads and Linked in and have a blog and a Newsletter. I also attend as many local literary festivals as I can, and love meeting and chatting to readers. Uncaged: What is a scene that was the most difficult to write? I enjoy writing love scenes, but I do find them difficult. After all there are only so many ways you can describe a kiss, or the act of love. I don’t go in for graphic love scenes, I prefer to write them as romantic and sensual, and leave a lot to the readers’ imagination, so although I’m always excited when I get to the point where the hero and heroine finally admit their feelings for each other, and take it to the ‘next level’, I’m never quite sure if I’ve done the scene justice. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? Of course I love reading - and watching a good film. I’m an outdoor person so I love spending time with my horse, T’pau or walking my ‘rescue’ dog Choccy. That and gardening in the summer takes up a lot of time so I tend to do most of my writing in the winter months. Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? Oh crumbs. I would love to say being a best seller and making a lot of money – but that’s certainly not me. :) If I can make a reader feel for my characters when they’re sad and rejoice with them when they win a victory and finally get their h.e.a. then I feel I’ve done my job. For me success is having books out there and knowing people can escape into my worlds for a few hours, and when a reader writes 84 | UncagedBooks.com

a review, or sends me an email to say they enjoyed my book, that, for me, is success. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? There was a time when I’d have said physical books – there’s nothing quite like the smell and texture of a ‘real’ book, but I love my Kindle and the freedom of being able to carry around my whole library of e-books. I read on a bus, waiting for appointments – anywhere and everywhere and never have to worry about having ‘nothing to read’. I also enjoy listening to audiobooks – very useful when I’m doing something that only demands physical attention (like ironing!) So really I feel all three have something to offer and today’s readers are quite lucky in having three choices to choose from. I’m also glad my own books are available in all three formats, including audio, so readers or listeners can just pick their favorite.


| HYWELA LYN | Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I want to thank all my readers and fans, without our readers, we writers would just be writing for ourselves, but it’s so much more fulfilling to think that we’re helping someone out there to while away a few hours and explore other worlds with our characters. I love hearing from readers, who can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and my blog Romance that’s ‘Out of this World’, and of course they can email me at Hywelalyn@hywelalyn.co.uk and I will reply to each and every one.

Enjoy an excerpt from Beloved Enemy Beloved Enemy Hywela Lyn SciFi/Fantasy Cat Kincaid is obsessed with killing the man she believes is responsible for the torture and death of her sister, but when she eventually catches up with him, survival becomes a greater priority than revenge. Kerry Marchant, haunted by memories, regret, and self-blame, shields himself from the pain of the past by committing himself totally to the starship, Destiny, of which he is part owner. However, the beautiful, red-haired woman who reminds him of his lost love, and who he suspects is working for a corrupt regime, represents a possible threat not only to the ship, but to his heart. Marooned on an inhospitable planet, they need to work together to stay alive, fighting not only unknown assailants, but their growing attraction. But how can they learn to trust each other when he has vowed never to get close to a woman again, and she made a solemn pledge to destroy him? Excerpt Chapter One “Hold tight, Shifter, this is going to be bumpy.” The small vehicle careened down the incline, ploughing a deep trough and throwing up a cloud of dirt and sand. Eventually it plunged through the tangled branches of a group of slender trees and Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | bushes at the bottom, and shuddered to a halt. For a moment, sandy soil and a blur of green and brown severed leaves and twigs on the external scanner obscured the view. Cat Kincaid ground her teeth and activated a control. A gust of recycled air blew away the offending sand and foliage, and the screen before her displayed the surrounding terrain. A bleak, undulating landscape, punctuated by clumps of scrubby trees and bushes, like the ones she’d crashed into, stretched into the distance. A small forest bordered most of the far side of a steep slope behind her. She grabbed her emergency pack, and slung it over her shoulder, before swiping the airlock control. Let’s hope the computer was right about the atmosphere and pressure on this planet being compatible with human requirements. “Come on Shifter,” she called, and a large animal materialized like a wraith from the shadows inside the vehicle. Two minutes later, after confirming the temperature, pressure and air composition, Cat emerged from her crippled craft. She gave a cautious sniff to the air, then took a deeper breath, glancing up at a sullen, pale copper colored sky. Although the atmosphere smelled a little sulfurous, the air was perfectly breathable. She stepped onto the surface, and gave an involuntary start as the silence rent asunder with the unmistakable whine and shriek of blaster fire. She drew her pistol and ducked, using the hull of the craft as cover, acting on instinct, before logic cut in. Whoever it was, they weren’t firing at her, and they were some distance away. At least she wasn’t alone. If life on this planet had advanced to a point where the inhabitants possessed power weapons, they might also have space vehicles, and be her means of escape—if she could just keep them from killing her. She listened for a moment, to confirm the direction of the firing. It came from somewhere beyond the rim of the sandy cliff behind her. It took 86 | UncagedBooks.com

several minutes to scramble to the top of the slope and peer cautiously above the edge. The battle sounded closer now, coming from the other side of several low dunes looming before her. She bent low against a scorching wind that lashed the sand around her into swirling eddies. She cursed as it snatched several long strands of her hair from the scarf that struggled to restrain it at the nape of her neck. Like a dark red mist, the unbound hair whipped across her face, blurring her vision. She brushed it back, with a few more muttered words of annoyance. As she reached the top of another low hillock, the sky lit up with a scintillating green light and the sound of the weapons almost deafened her. Her fingers tightened on her laser pistol, and throwing herself to the ground, she inched her way to a group of thorny bushes for cover. She strained to see how many combatants were involved. The air shimmered and danced in coruscating hues of blue and green, heavy with blaster smoke. Putting her tri-dee-viewer to her eyes, she adjusted the range. Three figures crouched behind a rock to one side of her in the shallow valley below. As far as she could make out, they were human. On the other side of the little clearing where the vegetation took over again, a much larger group, apparently also humanoid, kept up a relentless barrage of blaster fire. From this viewpoint, it looked as if they outnumbered the three several times over. She raised her weapon undecided as to whether she should get involved or not. This was not her fight, especially since she didn’t even know who they were. She drew in her breath. It would be cowardly just to leave. No one could call Cat Kincaid a coward, but she wasn’t a fool either, nor about to commit suicide. However, allying herself with them might be her best hope of escape from this planet. A slight movement in the bushes just below her, to her right, and a low humming noise, warned her of another weapon firing up. A flash of light cut the air, and the shortest of the three figures gave a strangled cry, crumpling to the ground. One of the


| HYWELA LYN | men swung round and fired in their assailants’ direction, while the other bent to tend to their companion. Casting a quick look to her left, she took advantage of the confusion to check her surroundings. No sign of Shifter. She hoped he’d just merged into the landscape, but she couldn’t risk checking, and could only trust he would find cover. The injury, or perhaps death, of one of the combatants lengthened the odds against them even further, making the decision for her. She couldn’t just walk away from the situation. One of the antagonists fired again, raising his head above the rock as he took aim. Cat fired back, rewarded by a shrill cry as the figure fell. The metallic reek of blaster fire hung in the air, and the roar and whine of the weapons intensified. She flattened herself closer to the ground as another blaster bolt exploded into the dirt some distance from where she lay, scorching the sandy soil and shriveling the undergrowth, sending down a cascade of small rocks and pebbles. She rolled to the side as far as she could, at the same time, letting loose a few more bolts from her pistol. After several seconds, she risked a peek below her. One of the three, a dark haired man dressed in black, seemed to be holding his own and covering his two companions. A second man, blond haired and of slender build, knelt beside the motionless form of their fallen comrade. She made an adjustment to her weapon and flicked a control. At this rate, they could go on taking pot shots at the unknown enemy until they all died of starvation. She could at least shorten the odds a little. Another crack of blaster fire caused her to duck for cover again. The salvo lasted for what seemed an interminable time. When the firing ceased, she risked another look. There was no sign of the other man or his wounded companion. The man in black crouched behind a rock. Where’s the other one? Did he leave his friend to fend off the attackers by himself? She could not make him out clearly, because of the distance, but he appeared to be alone.

What happened to the one who’d been shot? She took the tri-dee-viewer from around her neck and focused it on the figure fighting a lone battle against an unknown number of opponents. He must be either very brave or very foolhardy. She adjusted the range and sucked in her breath. Even with his back toward her, something about his general physique and the way he held himself struck her as being almost familiar. Idiot. You’re letting your imagination play tricks. You have no idea who that is down there—so why are you getting involved in the first place? Her priority must be to find a way off this planet. For now though, she needed to get back to the safety of her escape vehicle before dark, but the likelihood of doing that seemed slimmer every moment. She pressed the trigger control and fired again. **** Where did that damned smoke come from? Kerry Marchant wiped his streaming eyes and tried to focus on the area where he last saw his attackers. Who are these people? They had appeared from nowhere and fired at him and his two crewmates without warning or provocation. There was another question—the identity of the third party who seemed to be siding with them against their attackers. He turned back to glance at Jon Quinlan. The main concern, at the moment, was Zeldra. “How is she?” he asked, indicating the unconscious woman. The other man looked up from his ministrations, coughing and trying to waft some of the choking smoke away with his hand. “Not good. I’ve used my bio-regenerator and it’s repaired some of the damage. We need to get her back to Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | the Destiny.” “Then take her. At least this smoke will give you some cover. I’ll hold them off here for as long as I can.” “What? And leave you here to fight them alone?” “I can handle it. Come back for me.” “I don’t like the thought of leaving you down here—” “Have you a better idea? We can’t both go. We would just be sitting targets if this smoke clears. I can cover you, but as the Destiny’s commander, you need to be with the ship.” “We don’t have time to argue—just make sure you stay in contact.” The commander slung the woman’s unconscious form over his shoulder and bending low beneath the smoke, edged his way back the way they’d come, keeping close to the tree-line. Kerry kept their attackers busy with a volley of well-aimed blaster fire. How many of them are there? He must be hopelessly outnumbered, but he might as well be killed here as on some other planet. If only he could keep them busy long enough for Jon to get Zeldra safely to the Destiny’s ferry craft. He ducked behind the boulder as another volley of blaster fire singed the surrounding undergrowth. He fired once more and heard a strangled scream as another of his assailants went down. A long silence ensued. What are they waiting for? It seemed unlikely they were all dead or injured. However, an injured man, like a wounded animal, could be more dangerous than an uninjured one. He checked his blaster. The charge still held but it would not be long before it ran down. 88 | UncagedBooks.com

He allowed another couple of minutes to elapse before risking a look. The smoke still hung in the air, although it seemed to be clearing a little. Apart from several bodies, the landscape seemed deserted. With all the caution he could muster, finger on the trigger button, he crept from around the rock. He froze. Sensing movement in the boulders opposite, he dived back again. Just as he reached the shelter of the rock, the ground seemed to explode around him. A piercing pain shot through his shoulder and he knew no more. **** Cat paused and listened. The blaster fire ceased several minutes ago. The silence lay thick and heavy as the smoke, after the din of power weapons moments before. She should have been long gone. I should leave now, while I still can. The effects of the smoke capsule she’d released would not last long. Already the air was becoming clearer. She turned once more and trained her viewer back on the clump of rocks. The man in black lay motionless. Leave him. Leave him and get out of here. If she was right and he and his companions were human, presumably they’d have some sort of transit ship, unless their starship was small enough for planetary landings. Either way, they’d surely come back for him. Then it dawned on her that if they returned, perhaps she could persuade—or force—them to take her with them. If he was alive, he’d serve as a bargaining chip. She checked her weapon and looked down again on the scene of the recent battle. A grey haze still hung over the area, the motionless figure on the ground barely visible in the gloom. There were no other signs of life. She waited a few more minutes, and let off another shot. No response. Either their assailants were dead, or they had escaped under the cover of smoke. Perhaps they believed they’d killed the three people they’d been firing on, although nagging caution warned her it seemed strange they did not come back to check. Holding her gun in both hands ready to fire, every nerve alert, she pushed the thought to one side and made her way down to where the fallen man lay. A spreading crimson stain showed on his shoulder


| HYWELA LYN | and chest. Shards of rock lay everywhere, most of it from the large boulder he’d sheltered behind, split down the middle almost in two pieces. It must have absorbed most of the blast so he missed the main force. It looked like the wound was caused by the shattering rock, or the damage would have been a whole lot worse, and she probably wouldn’t have been able to do anything for him. She knelt and drew in her breath. Kerry Marchant. She’d only seen holograms of the man. She could not recall noticing the faint scar beneath his left eye before, but it must be him. He’d changed little in the five years since she first saw the images, after searching through countless holo-libraries, and those features were unforgettable. She allowed herself the hint of a smile. She’d always hoped one day she’d run into him, and now fate played right into her hands. For a fleeting moment, she thought of killing him there and then, but she was not a coldblooded murderer. She could just leave him, let him bleed to death, but she wanted to be the instrument of his demise when it came. She wanted him to know who killed him—and why. Besides she had questions only he could answer.

A silver chain hung around his neck with a small oblong metal capsule. Cat hesitated for a moment, before curiosity got the better of her, and she flipped open the lid. A soft, cushioning material lined the interior. She tipped the contents into her hand—a tiny gold cross and a locket. A quick glance at the inside of the locket revealed the portrait of a young woman with short dark hair curving in soft waves to frame her face, blue eyes and a long, aquiline nose. The family resemblance looked too close for it to be a wife or girlfriend, so perhaps the image portrayed his sister or mother. Swiftly, she replaced the two items. As Cat bent over him, her hair, now loosened completely from the scarf, swung forward, and she shook it back from her face with an impatient gesture. She took her knife from her belt, and inserted the point into the material of his tunic. At once, a hand reached up and grabbed her wrist, with fingers like cold, carbon steel.

His gun lay nearby and she grabbed it with one hand, without taking her eyes off him, and slipped it under her belt. His eyes were closed, his face pale but his breathing steady. She needed to work quickly before he regained consciousness. Not that she was sure she could help him anyway. It depended on the extent of the damage. Glancing warily around before holstering her own gun, she slid her emergency pack from her shoulder. She rummaged inside and brought out a compressed blanket. Taking it from its container, she waited until it fluffed out and folded it into a thick pad to support his head. Next, she took her medical kit and laid it on the ground while she attempted to unfasten his tunic. In the warm air, the blood dried quickly, and the leather-like material stuck to the wound. She would need to cut his shirt. Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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fang-FREAKIN-tastic reviews

feature author

Stan Yan & Edgar Swamp


Stan is a Denver-based writer, illustrator, caricature artist and instructor. Growing up in Denver, Stan, a self-taught artist, went to school at the University of Colorado in Boulder where he got his bachelor’s degree in accounting. His life took the tragic turn into sales for the securities industry, where he wallowed in ethical poverty on-and-off for thirteen years. Stan took out his frustrations out by penning graphic novels.

PRESENTS (BlueWater Productions / Storm Comics / Tidal Wave), THERE’S A ZOMBIE IN THE BASEMENT (Squid Works Kids), DENVER COMIX, KITE TALES, the RMC-SCBWI annual calendar, THE QUEUING DEAD (British zombie anthology), POP CULTURE CLASSROOM, and THE WESTWORD, among many others.

In 2005, Stan gave up on financial security and became a full-time freelance cartoonist, illustrating SUBCULTURE for Ape Entertaiment and Action Lab Danger Zone, creating comic strips for the financial and sales industry, but most notably built a following by drawing zombie caricatures. He helped to co-found the Squid Works comic creator cooperative, was a board member of the Colorado Alliance of Illustrators and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Cuddlefish Gang art “cuddlective.” His work has been seen in VINCENT PRICE 92 | UncagedBooks.com

stanyan.me


What inspired you to write a kid’s book specifically about zombies. My earliest memories of being able to hold a pencil in my hand involved me drawing the same character over and over doing different things in boxes I later found out were called “panel borders.” I was drawing comics before I knew what I was doing! Now, I didn’t have a lot of pride in my artwork at that time, but that wasn’t important. The most important thing was to tell a story! And, I drew constantly. Fortunately, my father worked at a place where they discarded reams and reams of computer printouts, so he always brought me the paper to draw on (probably with company secrets printed on the other side). When I was around 7 years old, my Aunt came into town for her wedding honeymoon. Of course, if you have out of town guests, you’ve got to take them to Casa Bonita! If you’ve been there, you know there’s a caricature artist in there. My aunt bought us all caricatures. Even at 7 years old I’d studied caricature artists intently. I already knew that every artist had their “signature” style… things they’d do to every drawing to cover up weaknesses in their drawing skills or to make sure their drawings were “funny.” This artist drew everyone’s eyes touching in the middle and he drew everyone with buck teeth. What’s funnier than buck teeth? Am I right? My aunt didn’t think so and was not happy about being drawn with buck teeth and considered it a horrible racial stereotype of Asians. My new uncle, who isn’t Asian, was sympathetic to the artist (since he was a musician – a creative type). I thought they were going to be divorced on their honeymoon over the caricatures. And, this was the start of my fear of drawing caricatures. But, my love affair with drawing continued all the way through high school. But, I never really considered art to be a viable career path, so I didn’t even consider going to art school. In fact, I studied ACCOUNTING at CU in Boulder. But, as my passion, I continued drawing comics, doing editorial comics and comic strips for the school news-

| STAN YAN | paper. I even spent a Summer in NYC working as an art direction intern for an ad agency. But, when I graduated, I didn’t get a job doing art. I ended up working as a stockbroker for 13 years. But, I kept drawing comics, self-publishing my own comic books. I even started taking them to comic book conventions in 2001 to sell them and build my fan base. Unfortunately, in 2005, I got laid off. I decided (with my wife’s blessing) to try doing my art full time for a living. With that, I had to figure out how to make more money at conventions. I saw my friends doing sketches for fans to make a few extra bucks, and I thought maybe I could do fan-based caricatures of people, I was still AFRAID of how people might react to how I drew them. So, I decided I should draw ZOMBIE caricatures. Because, then people would EXPECT to look awful, right? And, that was a lot of pressure off of me. Fortunately for me, the zombie thing was very popular, and I started to become known for this. Anyway, I started to get pretty good at doing caricatures all together. So, everything was good until one day, my 3-yearold son wouldn’t come downstairs to my basement studio for some reason. His mom asked him what was wrong. He said, “I’m scared.” She asked, “What are you scared of?” And, he pointed at all of the zombie artwork hanging from my walls. That’s what inspired me to write, “There’s a Zombie in the Basement”, my first children’s book. I saw that you’re an artist, what is your favorite subject to draw and why? People might automatically think that zombies are my favorite thing to draw, but I love to draw living people as well, and animals, and cars, and other monsters too. Favorite? That’s a tough one, because it’s a moving target. I find that one of my favorite things about illustration is that it has been a lifetime of discovering things I love to draw. I do love funny things, so I naturally like to draw things like wiener dogs, people with odd hairstyles, and funny cars (pun intended). Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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works in production. What was the hardest part about writing There’s a Zombie in the Basement? The writing was not the most difficult thing. To be completely honest, I wrote the manuscript in one hour, and the final draft wasn’t a whole lot different from the first. The drawing wasn’t the difficult part either. It was the publisher submission process that was the most difficult, and that took me about a year. What were you scared of at bedtime as a kid? As a kid, I was scared of all sorts of things, and often it was as a result of scary movies I’d watch with my mom (which I couldn’t help myself from watching). The one that stuck with me the most was after watching Salem’s Lot (a made-for-television movie that is still to me arguably the most scary movie I’ve seen), I had a fear of a vampire kid floating up to my bedroom window and tapping on the glass. Do you have plans for more kids (or adult) books in the future? Most of my works in progress are kids graphic novels, including one that features the zombie girl from There’s a Zombie in the Basement as the main 94 | UncagedBooks.com

character. I even include a lot of the other monsters in the book as other characters, like The Evil Twins and the overweight centaur. You certainly can see some of my work-in-progress and appearances at my website or via Instagram, but my Patreon backers get the most behind-thescenes peeks at my

Enjoy sample pages of There’s a Zombie in the Basement There’s a Zombie in the Basement Stan Yan Children’s Horror Milo won’t fall asleep because he thinks the monsters in the basement are gonna get him. And, if he can’t get to sleep, no one will. Mom and Dad better hope his wild imagination doesn’t get the best of him!


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“Amber Hollow” is the first mystery you’ve written. What drew you to the genre, and how does this novel push the boundaries of typical mysteries? I’ve always been a fan of Whodunits (game of Clue, anyone?) but even more so “The Twilight Zone.” I’d watch it as a kid and try to guess the ending, and I’d actually get a bit disappointed if I did. “Amber Hollow” at heart is a Whodunit, however, what it really is, is my stab at a “Twilight Zone” episode in which I invite the reader to try and guess what’s really going on within the realm of a horrific situation. If the reader guesses the ending, I failed (you’ll never guess the ending)! How did growing up in Wisconsin influence the setting for the book?

Edgar Swamp is the author of the “Gyre Mission,” “Glitch in the Machine,” and “Blackout.” His short stories have appeared in Alienskin, Macabre Cadaver, and Urban Reinventors. When he isn’t holed up in his office playing online poker, he likes to dig up the recently deceased and make furniture out of their skin. He lives and works in San Diego, California.

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I grew up in East DePere, Wisconsin, and as an adult who has moved away, I remember it as a town straight out of a Stephen King novel — a creepy, rural denizen populated by strange folks who may or may not want to harm you (just kidding family, friends and neighboreenos!). Amber Hollow is a tribute to Wisconsin as both a state as well as a launching pad for some of the world’s most notorious serial killers (eat your heart out John Wayne Gacy!). The novel is full of “Wisconsinisms” as well as being a period piece with respect to the year it takes place in, 1991. And Northern Wisconsin is scary! Take a vacation at Crystal Lake if you don’t believe me (no relation to Camp Crystal Lake or the “Friday the 13th” franchise!). In the town of Amber Hollow, history tends to repeat itself. Do you see that in your own life, and where did that idea come from? We are all doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again if we don’t eventually learn a lesson and move on. But sometimes you only get one chance, and if you screw it up, the lessons you learn from that mistake come back to haunt you again and again with disastrous results. Yes, that is like my life, one where everything was learned “the hard way,” and only drastic measures could intervene to prevent an imminent trainwreck, like taking up guided meditation and voting “yes” on California proposition 64. Parallels abound!


You’ve said that the #MeToo movement inspired certain themes in “Amber Hollow.” Can you comment on how this inspiration plays a role in a novel that is so action-packed? I consider “Amber Hollow” a contemporary fairy tale (hence my allusion to fantasy) in which I can air out subject matter that is presently in our collective social conscience, popularized (hopefully stigmatized) in both our entertainment and political climate. That said, this novel shares no political views nor do I alienate anyone’s opinions; it’s as ambiguous as a David Bowie impersonator. But the novel deals with themes such as women being treated unfairly or as unequal to their male counterparts, and I confess that the movement helped inspire some of the ideas in this novel. It’s about women’s empowerment! In college, you dropped out after a few semesters to sing in a metal band. What did you learn from that experience, and how did it ultimately allow you to pursue your passion for writing? First of all, stay in school, kids; dropouts are losers and drugs are bad, m’kay? Singing in a DIY touring metal band taught me that after three days without eating, you’ll consider almost anything food. Eventually, you need a real job, so I learned a lot by interacting with society’s outcasts: the Minimum Wage Worker. If you sit at one of those break room tables and encourage anyone to tell you something they keep secret, some belief they have holed up in their head, you’re going to hear something so crazy you’ll wonder how they put their pants on in the morning. Writing became my way of expressing myself because human beings and their paranoid fantasies are just so freakin’ strange! I still sing, though, and am available for bar mitzvahs and weddings.

Enjoy an excerpt from Amber Hollow

| EDGAR SWAMP | Amber Hollow Edgar Swamp Horror Suspense “Do we want to continue to be cowards in the face of tyranny, or shall we stand up and fight for what we know is right?” On July 14, 1991, an isolated village in Northern Wisconsin is ground zero for an unprecedented, fiery tragedy. Of the community’s 600 residents, there are only five survivors. Detailed accounts by the victims contradict one another; the only link they have in common is a man named Anthony Guntram, who they allege is the primary suspect. Because he is presumably dead, this claim can’t be verified. Further inquiries expose a culture enshrouded in mystery. What are the survivors are hiding? Only the villagers know the secret of Amber Hollow, a place where sanity is checked at the town line, and the parameters of reality become blurred. Excerpt The call came when they were five blocks from St. Mary’s, blaring from the radio in a raucous hiss of static that made both of them jump. Sadie looked at Jeremy, and the confusion in her eyes would be almost comical if the situation wasn’t so dire. He grabbed the handset on the radio, pressed the button. “This is Detective Jeremy LeFevre. Please repeat the transmission.” “There is a ten fifty-six A in progress on the Tower Drive Bridge, I repeat a ten fifty-six A.” “We’re two miles from that location,” he said calmly, although his nerves suddenly felt as if they were live wires spitting enough electricity to power the entire city. “We’re en route.” “Ten four,” the dispatcher said, and Sadie flipped a switch on the dash that fired up the siren. She then grabbed the bubble next to her, rolled down her window, and tossed it onto the top of the car where the magnet on the bottom held it firmly in place. For some reason, she always felt like she was in an episode of Starskey and Hutch when she did that. “You thinking what I’m thinking?” Jeremy Issue 40 | November 2019 |

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asked his partner. “What are you thinking?” “I don’t know, maybe I’m jumping to more conclusions, but somehow I think this is one call we need to take.” Turned out, he was right. *** She was clinging to a support cable with both hands, in the center of the giant arch, the wind whipping her hospital gown around like a flag at full-mast. People had gathered, commuters on their way to work, housewives getting the day’s grocery shopping done, families heading to Bay Beach to enjoy a picnic lunch and carnival rides. A man in faded jeans and a flannel shirt was shouting something at her, reaching out his hand, but the woman was oblivious. To Sadie’s horror, there were actually a few people who were taking pictures; one man in fact had a large video camera and it was apparent he wasn’t affiliated with any of the local news stations based on his attire of jammy-jam bottoms and a ripped Molly Hatchet T-shirt. She made a mental note to confiscate their devices once the situation was handled, if it was handled. She pulled the car alongside the railing on the east side of the bridge, turning off the siren but leaving the flasher on. She and Jeremy got out, but they moved with deliberate caution, not wanting to frighten the woman any more than she already was. “One of the survivors?” Sadie asked Jeremy, and he shrugged before nodding. “Probably.” They reached the man in the flannel shirt, and Jeremy put a hand on his shoulder. He started, looking wildly at them, and they could see he was almost as scared as the woman standing on the ledge. “Please stand down, sir,” Jeremy said. “We’re police. Let us handle this.” The man’s eyes were practically bugging out of his head, his jaw working but no words coming out. Spittle had formed in the corners of his mouth, and he licked his lips with a tongue that was so dry it made a rasping sound. “I was just driving by, and I saw that woman walking along the side there. People aren’t allowed to walk on the bridge, ya know? No walkway.” Jeremy nodded. “Yes, of course. Now, please, let us do our job.” 102 | UncagedBooks.com

“I was just driving by in my truck when I saw her—” “We understand, sir. Please.” The man nodded and backed away. Sadie stepped up to the rail, looked down at the roiling water below. The bridge connected the east and west sides of Green Bay at the mouth of the Fox River, and it had been used for suicide attempts in the past, although it wasn’t quite high enough to be instantly fatal. Most suicide attempts from the bridge that were successful were due to the victim drowning. With this in mind, she removed her walkie-talkie from her belt and called for a police boat. “Heading that way, ma’am,” she was told. “Ten four,” she replied and replaced the walkie-talkie on her belt. Jeremy advanced toward the woman slowly, holding out one hand. “My name is Detective Jeremy LeFevre, ma’am,” he said calmly, his voice pitched low. One wrong word and all she had to do was let go of the cable, and the wind would whip her right off and into the bay. “I’m not going back!” the woman screamed, her eyes rolling in terror. “You hear me? I’m never going back!” “We understand,” Sadie said, approaching carefully from the opposite side of her partner, although her reply couldn’t have been farther from the truth. So far, she didn’t understand anything. However, she knew for certain that this woman’s passing wouldn’t do them a damn bit of good at getting to the truth. They needed to keep her still so she wouldn’t let go. “We’re here to help you,” Jeremy said, “in fact, we were on our way to the hospital to visit you, to ask you some questions—” “You have questions, you can ask Anthony Guntram! It’s his fault, all his fault!” “I’m afraid we can’t do that, ma’am.” He gazed down, saw a police boat approaching from the mouth of the river. Good timing. “Please, let us help you. Take my hand.” “I don’t want your help!” she screamed, and in her exertion one of her feet slipped and she almost fell, the only thing keeping her from plunging over the side was her grip on the cable, which apparently was pretty tight. “You can’t help me, no one can!” “Let us try,” Jeremy begged. “Never,” she croaked in a husky voice, and then she let go of the cable.


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Uncaged Reviews Bullets & Blades

Orlando A. Sanchez Urban Fantasy Sometimes magic doesn’t get the point across. Sometimes the point of a blade is required. After unleashing the power of the neutralizer, Tristan finds himself without the ability to cast magic. Assured this is a temporary condition, Tristan and Simon decide it’s the perfect opportunity to take some much needed time off. That is until a group of dark mages enters the city looking for Master Yat. Now the Montague & Strong Detective Agency must face and eliminate the threat. There’s only one problem. William Montague— Tristan’s lost brother is leading the mages.

Uncaged Review: Mr. Sanchez is a master storyteller. This time out, Simon needs to rescue Monty from The Pit, and he comes into some of his own in this book – and it shows how strong the bond between Simon, Monty and Peaches is becoming. I was all in – and Mr. Sanchez didn’t let me down. The great world building that continues on in each book, building upon what is already there, and the author promises us that we will learn more and more about these characters in every book and even though it seems Simon is going to get in trouble with his wise-ass ways, this book shows us that he’s so much more and stronger than you think. And Peaches? One of the greatest sidekicks ever. Reviewed by Cyrene

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The Comedian Sean-Paul Thomas Dark Humor Bill, an aging world-famous comedian, and his PA daughter arrive in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival to receive his lifetime achievement award. Bill hasn’t been in the city for well over 40 years though and is soon haunted by memories of his wild and adventurous past there - including ghostly visions from a beautiful, but fiery and feisty, old Scottish girlfriend. But why are they are no longer together and what actually happened to his first real love all those years ago? Uncaged Review: Bill Stones and his daughter travel to Edinburgh to pick up a life time award. Let’s just say there won’t be much comedy by the end of the night. A dark tale with a few wee twists and turns I didn’t see coming. A good wee read. Reviewed by Jennifer


Unchained Shayne Silvers Urban Fantasy

Taming a Wicked Rake Tammy Andresen Historical Regency

Meet Callie Penrose. Is she Heaven’s Devil, or Hell’s Angel?

A wicked rake and a ruined lady…

Callie is a middle-class, Midwest American girl. And a wizard in training. She works for Roland, a member of the Vatican Shepherds – an elite group of twelve warrior priests who travel the world smiting whatever offends them or their Good Lord.

Uncaged Review: 73% of the reviews for this book is 5 Stars. I’m not there…..yet. But it’s a hell of a start. Since this is the introductory book for this character and even though this is still within the fantastic Nate Temple world and he’s even featured in this book to help spin-off this series, we still have to learn about Callie and her city of Kansas City, and the supporting cast. In this book we don’t really get full answers as to what Callie is or what she’s capable of, it looks like we will learn along with her. There is plenty of action and violence, humor and plenty of Nate, and the first time I’ve read about Nate with him being as the second narrative as this is in Callie’s narrative. I’m still on the fence on that one. This book starts this series with a bang, I think that Callie will become one of those characters that I love now that the “getting to know her” part is done. I will also see if Callie can hold her own without Nate, time will tell, but I’m along for the ride. Reviewed by Cyrene

Lady Madeline Maddox has a secret. Actually, Maddie has several. The worst one isn’t that she accidentally kissed a known rake, Lord Adam Ridgely, in the garden at the Everston’s Ball. Nor is it that the editor of the London Standard published her scandal for all of London. Her greatest error was sending a series of letters to that same publisher detailing her deepest desires for social change. Uncaged Review: I think this is probably one of my favorite books I’ve read from this author. This was a shorter read, and I think my only real complaint is it could have been a bit longer, there were a few areas that seemed a bit rushed. This is a fun and romantic historical, and the characters were easy to enjoy. There was just enough intrigue to keep me guessing what the bad guy was going to do, and I cheered the strength of Maddie. All in all, this is a good story for a quick afternoon read. The author has a fantastic way of creating characters that makes a reader want to hear their story, and enough of a romantic build up with suspense to keep you turning the pages. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Uncaged Reviews Her Midnight Sin Sofie Darling Historical Regency

Death Among Us Various Murder Mystery Anthology

Like a vengeful Norse God, Captain John Nylander has come from the sea to steal the only home that Callie has ever known. And that might not be all he’s after.

Who knew death could be so eclectic?

Uncaged Review: This is an enjoyable regency that is quite original in the genre. Callie has been running an estate since her husband passed away, an estate that has been profitable – and an estate that is going to be sold out from under her to a man who looks like a Viking god. But when Captain Nylander is taken back to the estate to recover from malaria, and she gets to know him and he gets to know her, they find they may have more in common than different. This is a slow burn romance, but not a slow burn sexy novel. The sex in the book does start out early, but the romance takes time to brew, for two people who don’t believe they deserve to be loved to find and trust each other. There is some twists, suspense and danger – that keep the reader involved and turning the pages. One of the issues I did have, is that Callie had always run the estate honorably, and when she was going to stoop low enough to try and save the estate, she knew how to get in touch easily with a pirate – almost too easily. One other caution I have, is that the cover of this book does not represent the main characters at all, and although it didn’t affect my rating, it was still very distracting that the time wasn’t given to it. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Relish this mesmerizing murder mystery mash-up of short stories. Murder and mystery have been the staple of literature and films for years. This anthology of short stories will thrill and entertain you. Some will also make you laugh out loud. Others will stop and make you think. Uncaged Review: This is a good anthology, for those that enjoy the crime thrillers. Some of the stories almost straddle the horror line. This is about perfect for my speed, since I’m not a huge crime thriller reader, each of these short stories were easy to pick up and read in a short span. I particularly liked The Rose Slayer by Stephen Bentley, Robbie Cheadle comes up with some quick stories that were actually based on true cases, and Kelly Artieri came up with a couple that tells me that the same house in both stories needs to be burnt to the ground. This is a good anthology, and I could easily see some of the characters within these stories easily translating to a full length novel. If you are a murder mystery lover, these should fit the bill. Reviewed by Cyrene


Running After a Heartbreaker Jami Albright

Contemporary Romantic Comedy “This is a bad idea.” “The worst.” He placed his hands under her butt and lifted. “Should I stop?” “I’ll murder you if you do.” Hailey Odom’s life is out of tune. The bar she owns with her father is a Texas-sized money pit that she has four months to save. Her mean as a snake ex-husband is breaking their daughter’s heart daily. And the town of Zachsville hates her guts for something that was only fifty percent her fault.

Uncaged Review: Stupid book. Made me stay up way past the time I should have been sleeping and made me bust out the tissue box at the end. There was more than a few times that I wanted to stomp my feet at Hailey and tell her not to put up with the small town whiners, but she got there, with her friends, her daughter and Beau’s help. If you’ve been reading the Brides on the Run series, all of our previous characters from the books are all back in this one, a supporting cast this group, but it was so great to see them all again. I think this series is getting better with each book as Jami Albright finds her voice more and more with each installment. Highly recommended series – start at the beginning and good luck getting to sleep on time. Reviewed by Cyrene

Dangerous Duke Scarlett Scott

Historical Regency He’s lethal and ruthless. Suspended from his work as an agent for the Crown, Griffin, Duke of Strathmore, exists under a dark cloud of suspicion for crimes he didn’t commit. He’s on a desperate race to clear his name by any means until a grave error lands him under house arrest with the last sort of distraction he needs.

Uncaged Review: This is by far, my favorite historical romance this year. From the time that Griffin trips over Violet’s crochet yarn and lands in her lap, you knew that these two were meant to be together. Griffin’s language felt more natural – where in so many historicals, everyone seems so stuffy in their speech and actions, you never feel that with Griffin. What a breath of fresh air! Perfect amount of romance, danger, intrigue and a couple of people who fell in love back during that trip over the crochet yarn and wouldn’t admit it, this book hits all the right buttons. Highly recommended for the historical romance lovers. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Uncaged Reviews Witching Hour

Nikki Landis Paranormal/Occult Tricked by the rogue witch that’s attacked Mystic Hallows from the beginning of Samhain, I’m drained and weakened in a dungeon cell far from home. Each passing hour brings me closer to the edge as I teeter on the brink of insanity. Fantasy and reality blur, my mind deteriorates, and I can’t distinguish between friend and foe.

Uncaged Review: The third episode finds Cassie prisoner in a cell with Damian out of commission chained to the wall and a necromancer in the next cell. She’s almost left for dead, when Damian’s brother Dmitri saves her. But what’s in it for Dmitri? The action ramps up well, and the reverse harem is beginning to come into play, and we find out more about Damian and his past and his relationship with his brother. We also learn a huge whopping secret at the end of the book that is sure to be a complete game changer. The heat level is increasing as the author promised, and the Cosan bonding is closer than ever. Looking forward to episode four. Reviewed by Cyrene

Strange Tidings

Jim Stein Fantasy/Science Fiction

Music, magic, and creatures of legend - Fighting the darkness one song at a time. The apocalypse didn’t arrive with nuclear war or a plague of zombies, just a quiet virus that sterilized most everyone and put humanity’s future in jeopardy. Fifty years later, seventeen-year-old Ed Johnson plies his musical talents in New Philadelphia, jumping at the chance to help launch a coworker’s band. But Quinn, their beautiful bassist, is inexplicably cold toward him, and other strange things are afoot. Uncaged Review: This is a bit of a surprising read, once you get past the first part. It’s a very slow starter – and to be honest, I struggled in the beginning. But it does jump into gear pretty well after Ed’s sister goes missing. The apocalyptic part of the book is the experimentation on a birth control medication that actually sterilized a majority of the population. Now, years later the population of the whole planet is under a million. Another very interesting part of this book is the Native American mythology brought in. If you manage to get through the first 20% of the book, there is a pretty good story awaiting and it definitely picks up the pace. Tying it all together with the power of music, it makes for a good read. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Good Intentions

Brenda K. Davies Paranormal Romance

To Hell and Back

Annabelle Anders Historical Regency

River Thirteen years have passed since the war started, bombs fell, and the central states became a thing of the past. When the war ended, the government erected a wall to divide the surviving states from the destroyed ones. I never expected to leave my town, but unlike those who volunteered to go, I wasn’t given a choice.

A widow, her man of business, and a second chance at love... Eve Mossant’s life has been quite turned over. As has the carriage she was traveling in to attend her estranged husband’s funeral. Thank heavens for Mr. Waverly, her ever dependable man of business. She wouldn’t know where she’d be without him...

Uncaged Review: The first book in a four book series starts out really well, from the start of reading to the end, the book is fresh, interesting and original. The post-apocalyptic world that is created is well told, and you keep learning more and more of what happened as you go along. The action sequences are well done, and the characters are well written. What I really liked about these characters, is the author keeps them in their base forms, even though Kobal has proven that he is not truly evil, he is a demon, and demons don’t look at life the same way as humans, and he proves he’s still a demon, even though River means everything to him, she will have to either accept Kobal for what he is, or not. The author doesn’t shy away from the violence.

Uncaged Review: A nice regency that has the nice spin of a couple that are both over 40 yrs, and a second chance. After Eve’s estranged husband passes away, she needs to travel with Niles Waverly, her man of business to see to the end of the affairs. When the carriage has an accident, she is stuck at an inn with her companion for a couple of days.

This is a great start to this series, I think this book had a few spots that were repetitive and drawn out, but I’ll be moving easily on to book two. Reviewed by Cyrene

This is a quick, easy read that I finished in a couple of hours. I enjoyed the strength that the author gave to Eve, but I would have liked to see more from Niles also. In giving the woman so much independence and strength, it took a bit away from the main male character. In all, this was a nice romance with nice paced plot. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Uncaged Reviews Angel’s Collar

Manhattan Dragon

Anna Hague Contemporary Romance

Genevieve Jack Fantasy Romance

I have it all...until he shows me more.

Deadly secrets. Hidden enemies. Colliding histories.

I didn’t intentionally spill wine all over the most beautiful guy in the room, and one look at those icy-blue eyes brings on a major lapse in coherent speech. Jordan Caldera tells me his secret and wants me to join him. This is where my journey into submission begins.

Uncaged Review: This was a bit different, Emma tells her journey into BDSM with a reporter and how it all began for her. I really liked Emma in many ways, although I thought she acted a bit like a teenager instead of an adult woman, but she was easy enough to like. Her journey can be mesmerizing, or it can be a bit unbelievable. In the first part of the book, Jordan was attentive and loving but somewhere along the way he turned into a bully, not the Dom that he should be. Taking care of the Sub and trusting each other is the utmost importance in a BDSM relationship and as you read along, there seems to be more trusting from Emma’s side, and more controlling from Jordan. This is not a long read, and it does end up on a cliffhanger and I think there was too much emphasis on the collar, and there was way too much importance placed on it turning Emma into more of a captive instead of a Sub. This is a steamy read, and I got through it in a couple of hours and it kept a nice pace, even if it didn’t go where I wanted it to go. Reviewed by Cyrene

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She’s supposed to be dead. For Rowan Valor, faking her own death is a regular necessity. How else would an immortal dragon manage to live in a place like Manhattan for close to three hundred years? But changing her identity leaves the community center she founded vulnerable, and for the sake of the children, she must find a way to undo the damage. Uncaged Review: This series is just getting better and better. This time out, Gabriel and Tobias’ sister Rowan takes the lead. Rowan lives in Manhattan, and her humanity work with the children could be lost to her forever – but to find out who has purchased the land under her building, she’ll have to face a new danger that may cost the life of her, or of Nick, the handsome cop that Rowan just can’t leave behind. The Treasure of the Paragon series is one of the best dragon series I’ve read yet. I loved the beauty and power that the author gives to Rowan, and to see Gabriel and Raven, and Tobias and Sabrina back to try and protect their sister, and there was one part of the ending that I literally jumped and hooted. This is an action-packed, suspenseful and hot series – and very hard to put down. Reviewed by Cyrene


May Queen

Elizabeth Rose Historical Medieval

A beautiful but mysterious woman arrives in the castle courtyard one night, as the baron’s replacement to Lord Ricard Wellington’s betrothed. With eyes like emeralds and a smile that could melt even a hardened warrior’s heart, Lady Flora Debenham quickly captures Ricard’s interest. However, she is feisty as well as disobedient and keeps sneaking out of the castle walls. The woods are dangerous and filled with Druids who he believes have killed his parents. Fearing for her safety, he follows her, hoping to learn her secrets. Uncaged Review: It’s always fun to get a book and learn while you are entertained. In this book, the author draws on the world of the Druids and some of their traditions which was very new to me. Lord Ricard is to marry a baron’s daughter, and instead of his betrothed coming to the castle, Flora tricks the baron and Ricard into being the replacement when what she really wants to do is to sneak away to the forest and find her father, a Druid – whom are hated by her newly betrothed, Ricard since the Druids killed his parents. But all is not as it seems… I liked Flora and Ricard well enough, but the book felt off to me and disjointed. It’s not what I’ve come to expect from this author. It was entertaining, but there were too many things were rushed over and I never really felt a connection to the characters. I think fans of this author will still enjoy this book and its originality. Reviewed by Cyrene

Legacy of Ruby’s Ranch

Rhonda Frankhouser Paranormal Ghost Romance The moment her grandmother presses an ancient amulet into her palm, Rube Gautier’s life changes. Chosen to lead a mystical life in the service of her village, she’s expected to marry within the community and confer with the spirits to lead her people, but all she really wants is a normal life, on a ranch of her own far away from Oklahoma, with a man of her choosing. When she lays eyes on Mac, hope for a different future begins to blossom.

Uncaged Review: It’s really hard to pin down a genre for the Ruby Ranch series, I know this one is marketed as a paranormal – but it’s not the typical type you’d read in this genre. This full series can actually straddle the lines between paranormal, western contemporary and western historical – 20th century and even a tidbit of scifi. So I don’t want readers to think this is “just” a paranormal or “just” a western, it’s not – it’s a true crossover. This is the third book in the series, and this time we go back in time to Rube’s time as a young woman and how life was like for her. I’m so very honored, that Rube’s mother’s name is Cyrene – and then to find out that Ruby’s mom, Katherine – her middle name is Cyrene. I’m so very humbled, it’s a very uncommon name and I thank Ms. Frankhouser for the honor (yes, she did ask). This is probably my favorite book of the series. Each book we learn more and more and this one clicks the other two books in place for me, especially with the tradition of her community – but will she be able to break tradition to be with Mac? You’ll have to read to find out, and you won’t be disappointed. I just want to go back and reread the entire series. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Coffin Cemetery Ron Ripley Horror/Occult The dead speak and one man hears their harrowing cries... Dan Tate survived a heartbreaking tragedy and is plagued by nightmares of his terrifying ordeal. Withdrawing into an emotionless shell, he has driven away everyone who cared about him. Dan is lost, and utterly alone. Until he hears the voices…

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: This is a great start to the newest series. I’ve come to look forward to each book released by Ripley. They are somewhat similar just due to the nature of his ghosts and they’re all in the same world, but it doesn’t take away from the story. Each book has its own quirks and characters. The characters are easy to love or easy to hate, depending on the situation. The only thing I can say that bothers me with this book (and his others) is that I don’t care for how the ghosts can physically touch their victims, but the victims can’t make physical contact with the ghosts. To me, that feels unbalanced. Despite that concept, I have loved almost all of Ripley’s books. There is plenty of action to keep my interest and the character development works for me. I definitely recommend this series and I look forward to reading the rest of it.

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Voodoo Butterfly Camille Faye Paranormal Ghost Romance When twenty-five-year old Sophie Nouveau inherits her grandmother’s voodoo shop she knows nothing about voodoo. Or her family’s history of Mind Changers, who have the power to change evil people to good. To complicate matters, someone doesn’t want Sophie in New Orleans and sends a series of death threats to scare her away from her new enchanted life.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Voodoo Butterfly is a book that I wasn’t sure I would like. I’m not big into magic and voodoo type things, but I was hopeful that I would like it, and I’m glad I took a chance. I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans but for now, I’ll have to be satisfied with books that take place there. The main character, Sophie, is a fairly complicated woman. She didn’t have the best childhood so she has trouble trusting people. She definitely has issues, but she seems open (at times) to resolving them. She doesn’t always make the best choices, but she’s learning. It was nice to see her start making better decisions, even if the bad ones she was making were quite stupid. One of the things I really liked about Voodoo Butterfly was that I never knew what Sophie was ultimately going to decide to do. Not just about being the next mind changer, but with pretty much anything. She was unpredictable in the sense that you didn’t know what her end game would be but predictable in that she was going to make a lot of wrong choices before she finally decided what she wants to do.


I would like to have learned more about Sophie’s parentage and more about her grandmother. I’d also like a bit more background on Jacques and Poppy. As a whole, I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next in the series.

The story starts out in a place none of us want to be at the start of the zombie apocalypse: an in-flight airplane. There is only so much I can say without giving away important parts of the story, but trust me when I say it’s incredible how things work out. These authors pull no punches when it comes to the zombie apocalypse and I love every minute of it. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Red Eye Season 1 Episode 1 Claire C Riley & Eli Constant Post-Apocalyptic When a red-eye flight from London to Los Angeles brings two strangers together, they have no idea that it’s the end of the bloody world! Rose, a British runaway, is ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Her hopes are high, her funds are low, and nothing is going to rain on her parade. Except maybe the apocalypse!

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: What an amazing start to the series. I’m loving every minute and can’t wait to see what happens next. The timing couldn’t be better after my first flight across the country! If I had read this before my trip, I would have canceled my plane tickets and driven instead. I knew these 2 authors coming together would be a great match up. They’ve provided me with nothing but amazingly terrifying books for years and I was ecstatic to find out they were collaborating.

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews There’s a Zombie in the Basement Stan Yan Children’s Horror “Milo won’t fall asleep because he thinks the monsters in the basement are gonna get him. And, if he can’t get to sleep, no one will. Mom and Dad better hope his wild imagination doesn’t get the best of him!”

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: I don’t normally review children’s books. I have several children of my own, and while we do read together, it never occurred to me to review any of them. I’ve also never read a zombie book to my kids, so that’s probably what motivated me to write this. It’s hard to find kids books that are unique and can appeal to me as much as they do to my kids. I have a history of falling asleep mid-book when reading to my kids. It’s probably why they’ve all learned to read earlier than many kids. They just wanted to be able to finish the books after I fell asleep. I didn’t fall asleep reading There’s a Zombie in the Basement. That in and of itself is nothing short of a miracle. My youngest child is 5. What he likes changes from day to day so what he likes today, he probably won’t like tomorrow. We’ve read, at his request, There’s a Zombie in the Basement every single night this week. And it’s Thursday. He loves the book because he’s afraid of all things bedtime. He has a vivid imagination and, like most kids, imagines things that aren’t really there. This book teaches kids that the things in

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your imagination can be your friend. I love that concept. Stan Yan puts it in a way kids can understand without being scared of the characters in the book to start with. I recommend this book, and so does my son because I didn’t fall asleep reading it, it’s actually helping my son go to bed and be less afraid, and it’s a really cute book.


Black Eyed Children Sara Clancy Horror With three knocks, Ruby is cast into a living hell… It had seemed like the perfect job. For months, she could stay in a cabin in the middle of the Yukon wilderness with only a pack of sledge dogs to care for. But from the moment she arrives in the isolated dog yard, something is terribly wrong. She can feel it watching her from the woods. She can hear them whispering to her in the silence. But she is sure it is just a trick of her mind. Until the night they arrive. Pass the poker chips. Your favorite gender-bending trickster is going all in.

There is a history of people disappearing or being found brutally murdered by an unknown source in this town and no one seems to think twice about it. Nor do they feel the need to inform this chick who they know will be out there by herself. She only knows what’s going on to any degree because of some photos she found hanging in the library. That, to me, seems horribly irresponsible on the part of her new employers. They warn her about wolves, but that’s it. It moves fairly slowly at first, but picks up towards the end. The action is pretty intense, I will say that. I can’t even suggest how I would change the story because I’m not completely sure where it went wrong for me. I’m also not saying this is a bad book. I read the entire thing. If it was that bad, I wouldn’t have bothered. I just wish I had enjoyed the story more. Who knows, maybe you’ll like it more than I did.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: I love books about the urban legend of “The Black Eyed Children”. In my opinion, they are some of the creepiest stories around. There’s just something about creepy kids that scares the pants off me. That being said, I didn’t love this book. I’m not sure what it was that I didn’t like though. The main character, Ruby, has a disorder called social-emotional agnosia. The quick explanation of that is she is unable to recognize facial expressions. So, she also doesn’t understand sarcasm. She has agreed to become the caretaker for a team of sled-dogs while the owners are out of town for the winter (I think). They live in the great white north, so they are fairly secluded, which works perfectly for her since she won’t have to interact with people on a regular basis, only when she goes into town.

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Break My Bones Rachael Tamayo Psychological Thriller Sticks and stones do break bones, and words will surely hurt you. Staring down the barrel of a loaded 9mm is a wake-up call, especially when it’s your husband’s finger on the trigger. Brooklyn James’s only thought is to take her baby and run. It’s better to end up on the streets than suffer one more day beneath her husband’s hand. Amy’s Review: Raw and powerful This story is absolutely amazing, and yet also terrifying. I enjoyed each word, and could relate with the characters. I found a lot of truth behind Cain’s words and actions, and unfortunately, this story could be real. And in some ways, it probably is. I’ve read Tamayo’s work in the past, and I can say that this is not only favorite, but probably (in my opinion) one of her best works she’s written. “Brooklyn is mine, like I possess her, and I need to reclaim my property. Mere hours ago, I pretty much agreed with him, my love for her making me crazy.” This quote is pretty much the state of mind, and it keeps the character focused on one thing, and though he says its regret, it’s more about possession and obsession. I read this book from beginning to end in a sitting, but sometimes, I had to stop, as I could relate a little too much to the story, but I continued reading, and am glad I finished it. I can definitely say that the ending was very unpredictable, and yet, very satisfying. I look forward to reading more by this author.

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Ida’s Witness Karl Beckstrand Children’s History Young Ida lives in 1880s Sweden with her family. When she contracts scarlet fever, she almost loses her sight. After another brush with death, Ida learns that there is more than this life, disease has an end, and small miracles happen every day. With new faith Ida leaves her mother and brother and sails with her sister to America for a better life. But she knows no English. How will she share what she’s learned in a strange country? Amy’s Review: Wonderful story Beckstrand definitely caught the eye of this reader with his previous books, but this one, is so different from his other writings. I enjoyed reading Ida’s Witness: The True Story of an Immigrant Girl. There is something personal behind the words, and it is also filled with love and faith. Ida is a strong girl, and has under gone a lot in her years, and yet, she still has faith in the future. She even believes in miracles. Beckstrand brought Ida and her journey to life in his pages. It was heartfelt and delightful, and I think this book would be best read by anyone, and if they can’t read yet, they should have it read to them. I look forward to more of Beckstrand’s work.


The Adventures of Bella & Emily Continued Michelle Holland Children/Young Adult Bella, Emily and Snowy are back in Sussex after three glorious weeks at Aunty Pam’s Rescue Centre in Devon. Emily is anxiously waiting her exam results and learning to drive. Will Emily’s family manage to complete the challenges ahead of them? Bella makes new friends and proves she is an accomplished rescuer herself, whilst Snowy finds a new friend. What other adventures await Bella and Emily this time? Amy’s Review: Another grand adventure If you haven’t read anything by Holland before, I recommend all of her Bella and Emily books. I’ve read each one, and though it may look more geared toward young adults, I think they are wonderful stories, with strong characters, and they just make you smile when reading. So, now, the adventures continue, and the characters are growing, and not only getting stronger as characters, but the story brings them together, whether human or animal. One of my favorite parts of the story was when Emily looked into Bella’s eyes, seeing exactly the same feeling from Bella as she had for the animal. It was one of those moments that helped define the story. Emily tells the story, and is growing herself, getting more involved in rescues. Holland has this way of telling a story, that just touches the heart. I look forward to reading more by this author. This read is definitely recommended by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.

Phantom of the Catacombs JB Michaels YA/Supernatural Thriller Your most dangerous enemy is closer than you think. Bud, Ivy, Maeve, and Bert’s head venture to Vatican City, Italy to the headquarters of The Order of St. Michael, among the beautiful artwork, benevolent basilicas, and mysterious passageways. Amy’s Review: Another Great Bud Hutchins story First, I am a definite fan of Michaels’ work, and I love the Bud Hutchins series. This one, The Phantom of the Catacombs, is the fifth book in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, as I had with the other ones, and yet had no expectations when reading it. This book is filled with everything that a Bud Hutchins’ book reveals. I love the whole thrilling supernatural edge and investigative measures of Hutchins. This story brings the reader to Vatican City, and it is a well ‘”shown” story. A definite read if you’re a fan of Michaels’s work, and even if his work is new to you. I recommend reading the other books, just so you can fall in love with Hutchins from the beginning. It’s an adventure, it’s thrilling, and there is that wit and humor that balances perfectly with this drama-filled book. I look forward to reading more by this author, and this title is highly recommended by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews The Silence of the Severance Wes Markin Crime Fiction Your wedding day should be the most unforgettable day of your life. And this is one wedding that will never be forgotten. When a police officer’s wedding day ends in brutality and chaos, DCI Michael Yorke is pulled away from his own wedding and into the bloodiest chain of events Wiltshire has ever seen. Amy’s Review: A real page-turner I expected nothing less than a wonderfully, intriguing story by Markin, and I was definitely not disappointed. Markin pens a suspenseful page-turner, while he, once again, brings Yorke to life again. I’ve read Markin’s other books in this series, and though it’s not necessary to read them to understand and enjoy this book, I recommend it. This reader fell in love with Yorke from the first book, and I was excited to read this one as well. This is book three, and Yorke is more intense and gripping as ever before. First, I am hooked on how Markin shows a story, and brings Yorke to life. The story itself is unpredictable, filled with shocking twists. I like that the story is raw and gritty, and very suspenseful. A definite recommendation by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews. I look forward to reading more by this author.

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What Heals the Heart Karen A. Wyle Historical Western Romance Can they help each other heal? Joshua Gibbs survived the Civil War, building on his wartime experiences to become a small town doctor. And if he wakes from nightmares more often than he would like, only his dog Major is there to know it. Amy’s Review: A grand historical romance This is the first story I’ve read from Wyle, and I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t just about two people who were fated to be together, there was another woman in the mix, and she was focused on having a husband, and she knew who she wanted. It was well written and the story flowed, well, not forced at all. Each character had their own unique traits, and fit within the story. I like that it also touched on Joshua’s past in the war, (the Civil War) and how it affects him, and his life. It is a great romance, and it has a lot of depth in the story. I look forward to reading more by this author. This book is recommended by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.


Prodigal Avenger Tim Moynihan War/Military Fiction A Covert Rescue Mission No One Expects to Succeed--Who will survive? Special operator and “nice Jewish kid from Hawaii,” Jake “Snake” Drecker, is intent on a mission across borders to eliminate a brutal terrorist cell. That they may or may not also be holding an American missionary hostage is unclear. The intelligence is sketchy, the objectives vague, and the chance of success slim. Amy’s Review: Full of action and intrigue Moynihan pens an intriguing story in Prodigal Avenger: A Story of the Secret War in Afghanistan. First, I liked that the story was fast-paced, and that the reader didn’t have to wait for the action, and intrigue. It was military based, and yet, as a civilian, I was able to follow it without question. The characters are strong, especially “Snake” who is on a mission. There is a sense of urgency, thrilling intrigue and determination that comes from the story and the characters. This is the first title of Moynihan’s that I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. I look forward to reading more by this author. This book is recommended by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.

The Path of Least Resistance Leah Downing Gulf War Historical Fiction The deadly actions set in motion by Collin St. Germain during the Gulf War created a catastrophic chain of events, resulting in an IED triggered homeland terrorist attack over a decade later. In 2008, Fort Bliss was targeted by one of its own: Army Captain Burak Yilmaz. Amy’s Review: Captivating story Downing pens a captivating story in The Path of Least Resistance. This is the second book in The Shooting Stars series. I didn’t read the first one, and I really enjoyed this one, so I may go back and read the others in the series. I liked the character of Lauren, and the premise of this story. It was an interesting romance, but there was so much more within the story. I liked the backstory and the growth of the characters. I look forward to reading more by this author.

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