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ISSUE 17 | December 2017


featureauthors

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Katharina Gerlach

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Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpts from Hope for Christmas and Silent Knight • Review

Interview • Social Media • Excerpt from The Christmas Dragon • Review

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Char Chaffin

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Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from A Promise to Keep • Review

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Cherry Christensen

Patricia Eddy Interview • Excerpt of Mistletoe and Mochas • Review

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Patricia Bond Interview • Excerpt from Building a Christmas • Review

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Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Secret Angel • Review

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Becky McGraw

Shanna Hatfield Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from The Christmas Cowboy • Review

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Madelyn Hill Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Christmas in the Highlands • Review


tents

Issue 17 | December 2017

shortstories 49 A Divine Delivery

JB Woods

FangFreakinTastic

featureauthor 85

Tawdra Kandle

Stay Connected • Excerpt from Not Broken Anymore

81 The Secret Christmas of Ella Messenger

Patricia Feinberg Stoner

specialfeature 11

Authors Assistant Agency’s

Annette Stone

Do you need a PA? What an assistant can do for an author.

CatchUp

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R.M. Gauthier

sneakpeeks 08

4 5 92 104 108 112 116 122

Preta

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

Catch-up with the latest

Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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from the

editor’s desk

Welcome to Issue 17, December 2017 - Uncaged Book Reviews! This month is our special Holiday issue, and all our wonderful feature authors have some holiday offerings that will get you in the holiday spirit. We welcome Katharina Gerlach, Char Chaffin, Cherry Christensen, Patricia Eddy, Becky McGraw, Patricia Bond, Shanna Hatfield and Madelyn Hill.

Authors can now submit a Short Story, and in return, I’ll give space for either a full page ad, or a 1-page Sneak Peek of a book for an approved story. You can read more about that here. We are now back to serving seven authors per month in the features and will continue to until May. I’m also opening slots for feature authors all the way until June 2018, so get your slot today!

The Featured Authors that are promoted in Uncaged, is a FREE service to authors. The only requirements being that Uncaged has read at least one of the Fang-Freakin-Tastic also brings Uncaged a feature author’s books, (can be read right before the feature) author with Tawdra Kandle. and that I ask that the authors share the magazine with their networks. Read about that HERE. We have two short holiday stories this month, one from JB Woods and the other from Patricia Feinberg Uncaged is supported through advertising, both in the magazine, and on the site. Please see the Stoner. Advertising tab on the site for more information on We have plenty of reviews for you to look over from how you can advertise in the magazine and support Uncaged, Fang-Freakin-Tastic, Myra’s Horror Blog, the Uncaged mission to promote authors. Amy’s Bookshelf, Jen’s Reviews and Sweet Southern All inquiries: UncagedBooks@gmail.com or Book Reviews. I want to welcome Skylar and Rena and Sweet Southern Book Reviews to our affiliate section! We are happy to fill in the final slot and look forward to their wonderful reviews. Thanks to all the affiliates for the wonderful devotion to reading. This month we have a special interview with Annette Stone, owner and founder of Authors Assistant Agency. Find out if an assistant is right for you. The Uncaged website has undergone a makeover. With the massive growth that Uncaged has experienced in the last year, it was time for the website to grow with the magazine. The new site is much more adaptable to growth, and it’s gotten a lot of positive support, let me know if there is anything else you’d like to see on the site.

cyrene.olson@gmail.com

So thank you and enjoy the Holiday Edition of Uncaged Book Reviews!

Uncaged Book Reviews wishes everyone a happy and safe holiday season.

UncagedBooks.com


Blog Roll Call 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.

Cozy mysteries, suspense and romance. Uncaged review contributors.

Help for authors and businesses.

If you’d like your banner here, please email me at UncagedBooks@gmail.com Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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showcase Preta

Permanence Permanence Preta Fantasy

In the first installment of Permanence, Mercedes Moss, 18, meets Alec, her soul mate in a world where her kind are hunted and killed. To survive and live their love, they must run to Salus, a safe haven for her kind.

bookventure.com

US Review of Books “Soulmates are born on the same day, at the same time. They’re supposed to die at the same time as well, so their souls can be reborn at the same time.” Mercy is the third, youngest sister, and the most daring and rebellious. She is the one who was trained by their father in martial arts and survival skills. Yet she is the only one of the three girls who has not yet encountered her destiny—her soul mate. In the first installment of Permanence, author Preta has created an eerie, magical world in which some people, like Mercy and her family, are marked by their differentness: They possess the ability to love completely and forever, meeting and mating with one soul again and again. The only thing that can sever this profound bond is the untimely death of one of the mates. Thus the tragic death of her father has left his soul mate, Mercy’s mother, bereft of all feeling, a shell of a person who sits and stares, unspeaking. Mercy, perhaps stirred by her mother’s misery, decides to take a radical way out of the family’s assigned fate by going to a school where she will be subjected to treatment to remove her unique gift of loving. She daringly sets off alone to this institution. Within a short time she is taken to a clinic where she must expose her birthmark— heart and infinity signs on the middle of her chest. Soon it will be removed, and she will be “normal.” But only a short time after the procedure, she meets her soul mate, Alec, and learns her true destiny. The author, who describes herself as a “writer by night and a student by day,” has composed this intriguing novel with obvious forethought, carefully constructing a rather bleak, barren world where a young girl and her new found love must continually flee and sometimes fight to save their lives and their special gifts. Her writing style, though at times marred in ways that judicious

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editing could easily resolve, is energetic and emotive. Many touching images of color and music, even song lyrics, underpin the narrative, adding a layer of passion. The main character, Mercy, is drawn as a sensitive yet bold role model for young women readers. In some of the book’s best moments, Preta believably depicts the growing romance between Mercy and Alec, sensuously described with blushes, touches, and kisses leading to deeper fulfillment. Permanence, with its focus on young people—their parties, crushes, music, and youthful drama—will have a strong appeal to that age group. It displays many elements of a teen dream: misunderstood values, rebellion against the norms of society, and the secret desire to flee and experience adult love without hindrance. But there are darker undercurrents in the book that cannot be ignored. The world Mercy lives in exudes hostility

toward those who can love and by loving, make others feel lacking in that quality. With danger and the ever-present fear of the loss of one’s true partner, the book may also appeal to enthusiastic older readers of the fantasy genre. Those who read this first installment will be looking for its sequel, as the path has now been skillfully laid by the author for another installment in this engaging saga.

About the Author Celma Neto, also known as Preta, is a twenty year old writer by night and a student by day; who is a passionate and driven writer, with young and fresh point of view and a creative style of writing. Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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Special feature

Annette Stone - PA

Do you need an assistant? What a Personal Assistant can do to help.


| SPECIAL FEATURE |

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uthor assistants are virtual assistants to authors to help with the business side of the work that can be daunting and time consuming for authors, taking them away from writing. If you are an author and stressed out over the marketing and release commitments you need to make for your books, maybe an assistant is something to consider. Annette Stone gives us a rundown on what she, and her agency, Authors Assistant Agency can do to help.

Uncaged: You are an Author Assistant and owner of Authors Assistant Agency LLC. How did you get started as an Assistant and how did your business get started? I got my start in 2012 when an author I had met at a conference put out a call for an intern. She was looking for someone who wanted to be a writer that she could mentor in exchange for doing some tasks for her which I was not an aspiring author. When I suggested she could help by putting my name out there to other authors looking for someone to help them would be a good enough trade for me. That was the beginning :) She helped not by just telling others about me, but she also helped with naming the company and bought my first box of business cards for me. I was able to leave the corporate world and make this my full-time job in 2014. Eventually I had to hire on additional help so we are now a team of three and not just one person. 12 | UncagedBooks.com

Uncaged: Tell us about the valuable, timesaving services you provide authors. We do a wide variety of tasks including newsletters, social media, book promotions, website updates, formatting, swag shopping, research, the list goes on. Every author is different on what they want help with, so we work with each one individually on what their priorities are and what they are looking for. Uncaged: Tell us about some of the fun things you’ve done as an assistant. I think the most fun is when I get to meet the authors I work for in person. Uncaged: Have you ever attended any in-person events with authors? I have been blessed to have traveled with one of my authors to London, Dallas, Las Vegas, and San Diego. That was a great time spending it with her where I got to meet some of her street team and readers that I have chatted with through social media and emails. It was a great time. Uncaged: Do you handle any giveaways for the authors? I do, for most of the authors I handle their giveaways so that they do not have to worry


about setting it up or drawing winners. I even do some of the prize mailings for them, so I have a shelf with signed and unsigned books to send out. Uncaged: How does an author choose an Author Assistant? I am not sure about all authors, but I think word of mouth is a big help, we know that authors have their own private groups or at signings they may ask an author about their PA and how they found them.

You can find me on my website: Authors Assistant Agency

Email annette.stone@authors-assistantagency.com FB https://www.facebook.com/AuthorsAssistantAgency Twitter https://twitter.com/AuthorAsstAgncy

For over 20 years I worked in the accounting field and have an ABA in Accounting with my minor being Business Management. I am also a wife to my wonderful husband of 19 years, mother of two grown children, and grandmother of two unless you count the four-legged grandbabies then I have no clue there are so many. I am lucky to have a family that supports me in following my dreams and being there to watch it come true.

Issue 16 | November 2017 |

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feature authors fantasy holiday

Katharina Gerlach

Char

Chaffin

contemporary holiday romance

Cherry

Christensen

Patricia Eddy


feature author Born and raised German with a generous helping of an adopted Scottish heritage, Katharina started writing at age seven (although she didn’t get serious until much later) when the tomboy adventures she lived in her father’s forest weren’t enough for her imagination any more. Writing about balloon people, flying hearts, giant spiders, and more was her lifeline to sanity and Real Life™ all through her education. After finishing with a PhD in science, marriage and the start of a beloved but distracting family, she returned to her life-long vocation. These days, Katharina lives for stolen moments of writing happiness in two languages while juggling her husband, two girls in puberty, a fledgling daughter that just left the house, and … laundry.

Stay Connected

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Uncaged welcomes Katharina Gerlach! Uncaged: You have degrees in forestry and science. How did writing come about for you? Do you also work in your fields of study along with writing? I’ve always been telling stories to my three younger brothers, my cousins, and anyone else who wanted to hear them. Sometimes I’d written them down but never considered writing a serious career option. When I did my PhD in science there were times when I had little to do (waiting for other scientists to get stuff to me), so I wrote a historical novel based on facts from my best friend’s family history which got published by a small press publisher in Germany with surprising success. When my daughter was born, I decided to stay at home to be there for my family. To stay sane in a household where most of the talk was kids’ gibberish, I took some creative writing courses, wrote and published more books. It was so much fun that I never stopped. Uncaged: This is our holiday issue – can you tell us of some of your holiday traditions and some things you love to do during the Christmas season? Since I’m born and raised German, there are probably some traditions that aren’t as well known as others. My family has a variety of customs. For example, we always create individual advent calendars (a chain of 24 tiny packets, mostly sweets, that get cut daily to count down to Christmas) for out god-children. I love that custom so much, I am providing one online (http://adventcalendar.katharinagerlach.com) with stories from Indie authors including myself. Growing up in the middle of the forest made me blind for the longest time to the incredible luck we’ve always had with out Christmas tree. Around noon on Christmas Eve, my father would take us kids into the


forest to choose and cut our very own, special tree. It’s a pity that this is something I can’t do with my children, but we still have a real tree with real candles every year (and a bucket of sand and a fire blanket handy). This year will be the first celebration for my first grandson. We’re all looking forward to that.

necessary information. It is a skill I love to train. As a result I have many of them lying on my hard drive. When I discovered that I had enough with a seasonal theme for a Christmas collection, I went ahead and published them. I’m planning to publish more collections next year.

As a child, I always nearly died from anticipation each year, since my parents were the Masters of Delay. My brothers and I had to sit in front of the Christmas room while they carried packets inside. When they were done, they rang a bell for the first time. Then, everything went quiet while they prepared the tree, spread out the gifts, and made everything ready for the celebration. They rang twice more. After the third bell chime, we were allowed to enter (in Germany we celebrate on Christmas Eve). Naturally our gazes always went to the covered piles with the presents, but first we had to sing at least three carols. If we didn’t put enough enthusiasm in or showed any sign of being impatient, my father ordered more singing. When that was done, we read the story of Christ’s birth (sometimes we kids also reenacted it or showed a picture gallery) and sang a few more carols. Only then were we allowed to touch our presents. By the time we’d unwrapped them, we were usually so tired from all the excitement that we went to bed soon after.

Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews?

Uncaged: The Christmas Dragon is a wonderful book full of short stories that can be read to children – what inspires you to write this type of stories?

I’m currently in the process of publishing the 10th volume of my fairy tale retelling series: The Inheritance, a retelling of Puss in Boots. The stories can be read in any order since they are complete. They are deliberately short (around 100 pages), come with a bonus short story (because I love writing short stories) and the original (because I know many fairy tales other people have never heard of), and are all set in the same world.

A little warning, some of the stories in the book are not suitable for small children. Although there’s nothing wrong with them, they touch on subjects (like loss and mourning) that they wouldn’t yet understand. Others (like Stinky Socks) are quite simply fun, even for smaller kids. Now to your question: I enjoy writing short and flash stories because they require writing discipline. In a short-ish story there is limited room for characterization and description, but still the reader needs to get all

I love to read my reviews. Regardless of the content, it makes me happy to know that someone has read the book and found it needed a review. Not many people do this unless they’ve been really moved (positively or negatively). With criticism, I’m trying to be careful. Not everything a reviewer didn’t like means I made a mistake. I try to find validation for the reviewer’s point of view in my critique circle. Sometimes I adjust my stories, and sometimes I don’t. It depends on how valid I think the point is. But I most definitely take everything a reader writes into account. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next?

The world is a magical one that has just begun to discover steam driven technology. These two extremes are hard to combine since they don’t get along very well. This gives me a wide variety of stories to write. Some (like The Dwarf and the Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Twins) deal only with magic, others (like The King’s Mechanic) are closer to steam punk, but most examine the problems when magic and technology clash. The more volumes one reads, the better one gets to know the world. Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? I sometimes look up names on baby-naming sites but most of the time, the characters come to me fully fledged. If I pull aspects from the people around me (as I surely do), I do it unconsciously. As soon as I know what kind of story I want to tell, I hold a casting show in my brain and all the strangers that keep milling about in my mind line up to see if they fit. I know it’s a strange process, but I don’t do any character pre-planning. I believe I have enough characters peopling my mind for many stories yet. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? I love everything connected with writing and publishing except marketing. I find that telling other people how great my books are (something I shouldn’t be the judge of since I’m clearly biased) or that they should buy them, makes me feel like sitting on a hot stove. I want to run screaming. I love coding eBooks without a WYSWYGeditor, probably a remnant from my PHD times when I programmed a forest growth simulator. But most of all, I love the way a story flows onto my(virtual) page for other people to enjoy. To me, that’s the only currently existing form of telepathy. If you read my stories, you’ll read my mind at the moment of creation (plus a lot of my heart too). Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? I love to read or to go for long walks in the woods or to go swimming. However, I hardly ever get to do these things. As a first time grandmother and full time caregiver, I rarely get a little time off.I’m always needed, always in demand, and if I’m not laundry is still waiting.;-) Therefore I cherish the time I have for writing. It is the time where I find solace from the everyday 18 | UncagedBooks.com

chaos. I recharge while I’m writing, and have enough strength for my beloved but exhausting family afterward. Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? My two current favorites are two German series. One is a steam-punk series set in Cologne and Russia, and the other a clever and humorous series where the author assumes that the Harry Potter books are memoirs written by Prof McGonagal under a pen-name. Both are extremely well written and I can’t get enough of them. My favorite authors in English are Rabia Gale, J.A. Marlow, William L. Hahn, Edith Nesbit, and Eileen Mueller. They never fail to entertain me. However, my tastes in reading (whenever I get to it) are wide and varied. You might find me with a novel, a memoir, a non-fiction book on surgery done in the Stone Ages or anything else that looks even vaguely interesting. I’ve even been known to read milk cartons. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I love connecting, and it’s especially easy during the current season. Just visit my advent calendar and enjoy the stories. Or sign up for mailing list (I don’t write often) or follow me on Facebook. I’m not very active on all the other platforms since Social Media eats up too much of m writing time, but I always answer my eMails or FB-messages as fast as I can. Try out my stories. Maybe you’ll like them (and then, please do let me know because I’m the worst judge of my own work).


Enjoy an excerpt from The Christmas Dragon The Christmas Dragon Katharina Gerlach Holiday Fantasy Shorts six unusual tales about the woes and joys of winter Find out why Granny needs a dragon for Christmas. Get a scare as you witness a young dragon’s meeting with the Georges. Find stinky socks and be awed by the light of an angel. The tales in this collection will soothe your heart even if you’re not overly fond of the season. Excerpt From the story: Third Time’s a Charm Christmas was a week away and Mom was still in the hospital where his little sister Ella was sleeping, when Rudi built his first snow dragon. Ben, his older brother, laughed at the result. “It doesn’t look like a dragon at all,” he said. “More like a drunken rat.” But he didn’t stamp it, and that was something Rudi was grateful for. Since there were a lot of activities at school—the annual play, a cookie baking contest, and an advent afternoon—he had to wait for the weekend for his second try. This time, he built the dragon as big as he could. More than once the wings broke off, and he pondered a whole night how to stabilize them. Early on Sunday morning, he got up and fetched a bunch of tulle his mother had bought for a princess’ dress for Ella. Rudi tried not to think of his little sister. Carefully, he cut two big wing-shapes from the material. Then, he went outside, fetched some wire from the garden shed and attached the material to the wire, before he stuck them into his snow form.

| KATHARINA GERLACH | The dragon still didn’t look much like a dragon. More like a horse with wings. He sighed and went back inside. He needed to research dragons. So he spent the two last afternoons before the holidays in the school’s library and copied dragon pictures as best he could. On the second afternoon, Mrs. Fielding, the librarian, sat beside him. “What are you looking for? Maybe I can help you.” Rudi wondered if he could trust her, but she’d always been nice to him. “I need to make the perfect winter dragon.” “Oh, someone’s out for some special magic, ey?” She winked at him and he blushed. He should have known that she had read the Christmas Chronicler’s advent story too. The one where wishes came true. “You know,” she said, “I’ve got just the right kind of book for you.” She hurried away and returned with a big, square book bound in real leather. The Book of Dragons, the title said. “Look, there’s an ice dragon inside.” She opened the book to a page with a white, slender dragon. “Since you need a winter dragon, this one should do the trick, right?” Rudi beamed at her. “Can I borrow this?” “Sure. But treat it well and remember to bring it back after the holidays.” She signed the book out for him, and he hurried home with his new treasure. The whole night he lay awake under the covers with the book and a flashlight and planned. Mom returned very late at night. Rudi heard her cry herself to sleep while Dad whispered nonsense about things getting better soon.

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| FEATURE AUTHOR |

Uncaged Review Six wonderful and mystical tales perfect to read to the younger group. My favorite of course is The Christmas Dragon, but all are whimsical and worth the time. I am not normally a short story person. But the author brings a bit of sunshine to these seasonal holiday tales that are great for any age. Reviewed by Cyrene

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CatchUp with

R.M. Gauthier

R.M. Gauthier was a Feature Author in the March 2017 issue of Uncaged Book Reviews. We catch up with her this month to see what she’s been up to since we last chatted. Uncaged: You were a Featured Author in Uncaged Book Reviews in March 2017. How was your experience being in the magazine? Being featured in Uncaged Book Reviews was awesome! I loved my feature last year and it helped me gain a few more readers. The review was spot on and much appreciated. I love the look of your magazine. Nice job! Uncaged: This is our Holiday issue, can you tell the readers more about your Christmas Miracles series? Is there a set amount of books in the series? There are three stories published at the moment, but by Christmas there is scheduled to be four more for a total of seven stories. That’s the plan at the moment, not sure if that will change. They’re all short stories that take place in Christmas Town and I believe they’re unique because the stories all take place on a different holiday. So far there is Christmas Miracle in July, Valentine’s, and Easter and the future ones will be Memorial Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving and the last one will be Christmas. Uncaged: What else do you have coming in the near future you can tell us about? I have another series, The Mystery of Landon Miller which there is a prequel called Leroy’s story and two novels, Control and Bound. I plan to fin22 | UncagedBooks.com

ish the series off with the final novel, Freedom. It’s on pre-order right now and should be available by Dec. 31 2017. For the New Year I have a Superhero series in the works. The plan is to have 12 books and I’m hoping to have the first three published by February 2018, so look for that one. The working title for the first in the series is The Twelve, book 1, Andrew. I’m very excited about this series! Uncaged: And finally, can you share any holiday traditions with us? What do the holidays mean to you? I have so many holiday traditions but one of my favorites is wrapping presents. We’ve always saved wrapping until Christmas Eve when we pull out everything and begin wrapping at midnight. It usually took most of the night when the kids were younger but now it’s more like an hour, but still my favorite. LOL

RM Gauthier lives in Ontario, Canada and has a diploma in Film & TV Production. She began her writing career late in life, which she has been quoted saying, “better late than never.” She has three novellas published, Christmas Miracle in July, Longing & Waiting, and her debut novel, Control, was released on November 10 2016. She is part of many writing FB groups and helps run a group called The Indie Writers’ Cooperative, which provides her plenty of joy helping other authors anyway she can.


| R.M. GAUTHIER |

rmgauthier.com Enjoy an excerpt from Christmas Miracle in July Christmas Miracle in July R.M. Gauthier Contemporary Holiday Welcome to Christmas Town... Charlotte Rose runs a Christmas Store in Christmas town with her father. For years, she has enjoyed the town and all it offers. Her hopes and dreams have always revolved around the town and store, until a certain man materializes and turns everything upside down.

you the best. The gift that will, hopefully, give the intended receiver the impression the one giving the gift means more to them than anyone else. Makes me want to vomit. I wouldn’t even be here, in tinsel town, if it weren’t for the assignment I was handed last week. The one assignment I didn’t want. The one assignment that has me stepping into a store that goes against my core belief. Christmas Town Store. Yes, I’m in Christmas Town. At the Christmas Town Store. Double vomit.

Others in the series Available now

Arriving in Christmas Town, on assignment, Jack refuses to fall under the magic of the Christmas theme, using his dislike of the holiday season to shield him from its spell. Grab your sleigh and slide into Christmas Town. Excerpt As glittering lights litter the town, all sparkly and bright, I cross the main street from one side to the other, wondering how people can possibly enjoy this commercially driven holiday. It holds no sense of the true meaning anymore. This holiday brilliantly displays human nature at its finest, providing them an excuse to show their true colors. People fighting in the outlet stores over who gets the last ‘have to have this season toy.’ Spending more money than one earns in a year to spoil their kids rotten while trying to be labeled as the best parents in the world. This holiday has sure grown into quite a spectacle. Yet, every year throngs of people spend their time looking for the perfect gift. The gift that says I love Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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feature author

Char Chaffin writes romance filled with family, rich characters and engaging plots. For her, it all comes back to the love.

A displaced Alaskan, Char travels extensively, and lives full-time in a motorhome with hubby Don, a retired Air Force man with a love of Fifties rock n’ roll and a passion for hot, classic cars. Between them they have three children and four grandchildren, all scattered to the far corners of the country. Her love of romance and erotica interspersed with paranormal, horror, science fiction, and fantasy has inflated her reading collection into several groaning bookcases and an overburdened Kindle. Char voraciously reads in between writing novels, novellas, and short stories. She is multi-published, and always working on that next manuscript. Under the pen name of CiCi Cordelia, Char writes with fellow author and BFF Cheryl Yeko. Multi-published as CiCi, they write both Historical Western and Paranormal/Fantasy. Char is a member of several writing groups, and RWA National as well as local RWA chapters in Alaska and Upstate New York.

charchaffin.com 24 | UncagedBooks.com

Uncaged welcomes Char Chaffin! Uncaged: You have traveled in every state in the U.S. Do your travels influence your writing? Which places have inspired you the most? We did! It took us forty-three years, but we visited every one, and we have lived in eight of them. Mr. Don (the Most Romantic Man in the World) is retired Air Force, and we got to see a bunch that way. My travels have definitely influenced the way I write, especially since I am determined to write a book/novella/short story set in every state. So far I’ve hit Virginia, Alaska, Ohio, Maine, Tennessee, Colorado, and the Dragon Realm. Okay, technically not a state except the human setting in that book is Utah, so . . . ::grin:: As for inspiration, Alaska wins, hands-down, followed by Texas which still owes me a story. I’ve lived in both, adore both, and when I’m in one, I miss the other. Uncaged: This is our holiday issue – can you tell us of some of your holiday traditions and some things you love to do during the Christmas season?


Because we moved around a lot, Christmas was a solitary affair most years. With family on both sides scattered all over the place, it was tough to get away and celebrate any of the holiday season with this or that folk, though we did our best when we could take the time and find the money to travel. When the kids were little we kept as many standard traditions as we could: the music, the holiday movies, the decorations and the traditional meals and treats. Our local church always held a wonderful Christmas Eve candlelight service, and we never missed it.

my youngest daughter and I made fancy gold fans out of foil wrapping paper. It got to the point almost everything on the tree was handmade. I also made the tree topper: a Victorian angel dressed in velvet robes, with a porcelain face and hands. She’s over thirty years old now, and still as pretty as can be.

Something I did almost every year was to make either a holiday wreath or table décor. Every few years or so I’d create a half-dozen or so home-

Uncaged: Your short story, I Know You is in the anthology, A Soulmate for Christmas. What inspired this story? How did the anthology process come together for this book?

made ornaments for the tree. I made lace fans, beribboned glass ornaments, crocheted baskets that held candy canes and decorative flora. One year

Once I got the idea for an anthology featuring some of our Soul Mate authors, they volunteered fast. ::grin:: Many romance authors, sooner or later, find themselves writing a holiday story which is just so much fun. For ‘I Know You,’ I wanted something different, not your basic holiday story but something poignant and a bit eerie. Yet I didn’t want to delve into the paranormal, either. The idea Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | of two souls, meant to be together for all time, is so appealing to the romantic in many of us, and breaking the story into four vignettes, each one revealing a bit more of the overall history of these two souls, worked marvelously well. As each of our anthology authors started writing their contributions, I got hit with the usual questions about genre and story restrictions. But I wanted our authors to tell the tale in their favorite genre which is why we’ve got everything from reincarnation to women’s fiction, to vampires in this collection. And they all coalesce together for a delightful read. Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? I do read reviews. I find them helpful inasmuch as any critique is helpful. As an editor (the other side of my professional coin!), my authors worry about mediocre to poor reviews, which of course is completely normal. We authors want to put out the very best of our writing creativity that we can. What I try to do as an author and what I advise my authors to do is use the reviews they get as a learning tool. And to understand a few low reviews mixed in don’t really hinder at all. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? Sure! In addition to finishing up my latest, MADE FOR EACH OTHER, a contemporary romance set in Tennessee, I’m also working on a three-book Historical Western series with fellow author and BFF Cheryl Yeko. We write under the pen name of CiCi Cordelia, and together we’re responsible for that previously-mentioned Dragon Realm/Utah story: REALM OF THE DRAGON which is Book 26 | UncagedBooks.com

One of The Soul Mate Tree Project. We launched CiCi by writing a contemporary Western romance, RODEO KING. We had so much fun with it, we decided to try our hand at a paranormal, and now we’re setting our latest three-book series in late-19th century Colorado silver mining country. Cheryl and I have a blast writing together and our voices, while different on our own, meld perfectly together as CiCi. Our upcoming venture, ‘Brides of Little Creede,’ begins with THE SUBSTITUTE WIFE, releasing in May, 2018. Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? I have used a few family names now and then in my books, but for the most part I come up with names more as a sense of what feels right at the time. Also, because hubby Don is from West Virginia, I try to add in something unique to his home town in each of my solo books. Kind of as a nod to a place we both love. For example, in UNSAFE HAVEN (set in Southwest Alaska), I had one of my characters say, “I’ll be go-to-hell” which is similar to saying, “I’ll be damned” and something you most likely won’t hear anywhere in the world but Don’s home town. ::grin:: Of course, the character who said it was a displaced WV boy, living in the Last Frontier and trying to be a true Sourdough in spirit. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? Just about everything about being an author is my favorite. I can’t find a downside at all. I get to do my job on the road which is great because that’s kind of the way we live these days. Have Portable Desk, Will Travel, and we do. Things many authors find least appealing about writing—namely, their own revisions and editing of same— I actually love, because of that other-side-of-the-profes-


| CHAR CHAFFIN | sional-coin I mentioned earlier. You can’t be an editor and dislike editing!

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Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? I’m a voracious reader in my off-time. I read myself to sleep and I wake myself up the same way. Mr. Don exhibits endless patience with my reading addiction. I do love sightseeing, though, and beaching is an absolute must whenever there is one nearby and the weather cooperates. Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? My favorites are so vast now, I can’t even keep track of them. I have a huge fondness for Lara Adrian and her Midnight Breed world, so I never miss a single release. Another favorite is the writing duo of Taryn Elliot and Cari Quinn. Both are RWA chapter-mates of mine and together or apart, they make book magic. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Well, firstly, a big, big, really big THANK YOU!!! for reading me, liking me on social media, and being so very kind to me in reviews. The romance writing biz is competitive, and reader support means the world to those of us who chose what can be a tough, solitary career choice. If you have read a book of mine and liked it, you couldn’t give me a greater gift, that’s for sure.

Enjoy an excerpt from Promises to Keep Promises To Keep Char Chaffin Contemporary/Young Adult Annie Turner has lived in small-town Thompkin all of her life. Her family is poor, but she and her siblings have loving parents and a roof over their heads. As far as she’s concerned, she’s a lucky girl. Travis Quincy’s ancestors founded Thompkin, deep in the Shenandoah Valley. He’s known immense wealth from birth, and for him that wealth is a part of his life that he’s never had to question. While still in grade school, Annie and Travis meet and fall in love. Neither understands why they’re drawn to each other, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Like two halves of a whole, they’re only complete when they’re together. And nothing is more important than the vow they make to someday marry. Growing up together, the rich, privileged boy Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | and the girl from the wrong side of town find that when it comes to keeping their pledge, it’s easier said than done. Travis’s mother, Ruth, has plans for her son and they don’t include his marrying a Turner. Her painful and secret past gives her an unwanted connection to the Turner family and a reason to hate them all. With cold determination she sets out to destroy the bond between her son and Annie. Love is magical at any age . . . and a promise is forever. Isn’t it?

Excerpt

In the passenger seat, Annie sat with her hands folded together, staring down at them. Other than some details about her oldest brother’s recent engagement to Sissy Walker, the girl he’d dated through high school, she’d been quiet almost all the way into Charlottesville. Travis didn’t mind. It wasn’t as if he didn’t have a lot to think about, either. He wanted a long, fun-filled day with Annie. The two of them, hand in hand as they strolled along the crowded streets like any other couple in love. Maybe a cup of coffee in a cute little cafe somewhere along Main Street and some holiday shopping, a late lunch, some more shopping. Maybe a stolen kiss, here and there throughout the afternoon. A leisurely drive home with another sweet kiss under the porch light. Just some more normal time with his girl was all he wanted. He reached for her and drew her close. She uttered a broken sigh as her arms curled around his neck. He breathed her in, his mouth against her temple, and brushed a caress over her cheek until he could reach her lips. He loved the way they parted for him, so responsive. When he pulled away, her face glowed, and he felt a thousand percent better. She whispered to him as she pressed her cheek to his. “Are you okay now? Because we can stay 28 | UncagedBooks.com

here as long as you need to, Travis. We can go back if you’d rather do that, too.” “And miss shopping with you? I don’t think so.” He mugged a goofy face at her and got her to giggle. The sound warmed his heart. He played with a lock of her hair. “Let’s get something to eat first. What are you hungry for? Anything you want.” Travis knew exactly what she’d choose. And sure enough, she answered, “Big Mac. And lots of fries. Maybe an apple pie?” With a laugh, he gathered her closer, a final, tight hug, then let her go. As he helped her from the car, he commented, “I don’t think a little squirt like you can eat that much food.” He caught her hand as they walked down the busy sidewalk. She swung their joined hands between them. “No? Then why stop at McDonald’s?” “I knew you’d nag me if I didn’t.” She huffed at him as he tugged her up the sidewalk, past the familiar golden arches. “I never nag.” “Uh-huh.” Travis pushed her inside and up to the first line they came to. She stood in front of him, a slender slip of a girl with a huge smile on her face and boundless love in her heart, so real, so palpable, he swore he could taste it as he wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on her shoulder. Mine. She’s mine. I’ll never let her go. I’ll never lose her. Not for anyone or anything. Three days from Christmas and with years and years of loving each other stretching ahead, it was easy to believe. ******* Ruth stood in the foyer and wrung her hands as she watched the emergency team take Ronald out the front door on a stretcher. An oxygen mask covered most of his face and what was visible around the mask appeared gray and drawn. She took three steps toward the open double front door, and froze. Martha, behind her with Ruth’s coat in her hands, pushed at her none too gently. “Ruth, we have to go.” When she didn’t budge, Martha pushed again and grabbed one of Ruth’s arms, trying to force it into the coat. “I said, let’s go. Now. Your husband needs you.” Ruth yanked her arm away and wrapped both of


| CHAR CHAFFIN | them around her body as one of the emergency team members strode partway up the steps. He called, “Ma’am, we need to get on the road. Are you coming or not?” She didn’t answer, and the team member shook his head in exasperation and ran back down the steps. He shouted over his shoulder to Martha. “We’re taking him to Rockingham Memorial.” He jumped in the back of the ambulance, and they raced down the long driveway. Martha cursed aloud, something she seldom allowed herself to do. She whirled from the open doorway and grabbed both of Ruth’s arms, then shook her. “You listen to me, missy. That’s your husband in the back of that ambulance. He needs you to be his wife right now, not some scared girly who can’t step out of her own damned house. Phoebe is pulling the car around, and you’re going to get into it with me, and we’re all driving to the hospital. Now.” “No, I can’t. You know I can’t. The ladies will be here any minute. We have a luncheon to serve.” Ruth trembled in Martha’s grip. The distant stare of someone in deep shock might have been in her eyes, but her voice was eerily calm. “Oh for God’s—I don’t have time for this. Jenny!” The young day maid came running as Martha hustled Ruth toward the doors. “Call everyone on the luncheon guest list and tell them it’s canceled. Do not tell them why, you understand?” In tears, Jenny nodded as Martha pushed and pulled Ruth down the porch steps. Ruth fought her every step of the way. Wild-eyed now, she resisted, trying to dig in her heels. “No. I never leave the house. Ronald promised me I’d never have to leave the house. Let go of me!” Relentless, Martha dragged her by both hands, yanking her up when she tripped on the slick concrete steps. The car waited at the bottom of the stairs, the rear door open with Phoebe nearby, ready to trap Ruth inside and slam the door before she could leap out. Martha muscled her onto the seat. She jumped into the front after Phoebe locked Ruth in the back and dashed around to the driver’s side. They roared down the driveway before Martha got her door latched. Martha turned a grim face to the younger woman as

she maneuvered the slippery road. “Phoebe, she’s losing it. What on earth are we going to do?” Phoebe blinked away a sudden flood of tears. “We’ll take care of her. We’ll take care of them both.” They sped toward Harrisonburg as Ruth sobbed in the back seat, demanding to be taken home. She didn’t once mention her husband. ******* Annie peeked inside the brightly patterned bag for at least the twentieth time and sighed once more at the soft, pale yellow sweater nestled atop red tissue paper. Out of the corner of his eye, Travis saw her moon over the gift and had to stifle a grin at her excitement. It was only a sweater, but Annie reacted to it as if he’d given her a bag of pure gold. And there lay the difference between her and other girls he’d met over the years, both in Thompkin and at the exclusive all-girl boarding school adjacent to the Academy. Annie didn’t know his impulsive gift was expensive cashmere. It was fluffy, soft and in her favorite color, and he’d thought to give it to her. That was enough to thrill her, and she’d jumped into his arms and kissed him. Annie blushed when she looked up and caught Travis grinning at her. “You think I’m silly.” She wrinkled her nose at him as she fingered her new sweater, and leaned toward him to kiss him yet again. “I love it, Travis. I can’t wait to try it on.” He started to remind her she could try it on any time she chose, and she shook her head. “No way. You know how clumsy I am. I’d either rip it or spill something on it before I could even get it home.” “Then I should go back and buy you the green one, too.” He started to rise from his chair, and she grabbed his arm in both hands. “No! Travis, you can’t buy me another sweater. You’ve given me way too much already.” She pulled him back into his seat. “You don’t have to buy me things.” “But I like buying you things. And you want to know why?” Travis cupped her face in his hands and brought her close. She nodded, her beautiIssue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | ful eyes locked on his. “I like it because you’ve never asked for anything in return. You give and give of yourself, and never think anyone is going to give you a thing back, and then when I do, you’re always so surprised. The day I fell in love with you was the day you gave me half your fish and all of your worms.” He watched her eyes fill up with tears. She uttered a tremulous sigh. “Travis . . . oh, I want to marry you. I’d give anything if we didn’t have to wait.” In the middle of a food court in the mall, they leaned into each other and kissed, the gesture a pledge between them. At a nearby table, a few boys Travis’s age whooped and whistled as their girlfriends shushed them. Ignoring the hooting, Travis held her closer. “I don’t want to wait, either. I love you so much.” He pulled away, to look into her eyes. “Will you wear my ring, Annie? Right now, today, will you let me put a ring on your finger and wear it, even in front of your folks and mine?” Her bottom lip quivered as she nodded. “My folks love you, Travis. They’ll be happy.” “Even Suze? You think she’ll be okay with this?” It was a feeble joke at best, but they both needed some humor before they drowned in the overload of emotion passing between them. Annie rested her head on his shoulder and wiped the tears from her cheek. “Susan will want to kill me, but she’ll hug us both. She gave me the outfit I wore to your party. It was hers, but she said I could have it. And she said—um—never mind.” Annie pressed her lips together. “What? Did she upset you? I’ll wring her neck if she upset you.” She was quick to reassure. “No, honestly, she wasn’t mean at all. She just said you wouldn’t know what hit you, when you saw me in my new clothes.” Her blush was adorable. “She even asked if I needed any money.” “Are you sure it was Susan? Maybe it was an alien or a clone.” She pinched him. “Don’t make fun of my sister.” When he took her hand and pulled her from her seat, she protested, “Now where are we going?” 30 | UncagedBooks.com

He guided her into the first jewelry store he saw. “I’m getting you a ring. And then I’m going to ask you to marry me.” When he looked at her, Annie’s eyes had gone huge with emotion. “Now? Right now? Before you say anything to your folks? Travis—” “Right now, Annie.” He nudged her toward a display case loaded with diamonds and precious gems. “But—” Travis clapped a playful palm over her mouth, shushing her, and grinned at the young salesclerk behind the glittering display case. “Hi. We just got engaged. Do you have anything that matches her eyes?” The salesclerk returned his grin. “I have some deep smoky topaz. It’s not quite as dark as her eyes, but I think you’ll like it. A plain setting, or with baguettes?” While Annie gulped, he settled her into a leather chair placed in front of the display case, and replied as if he’d been buying jewels all of his life. “A solitaire, preferably emerald-cut. Gold setting, diamond baguettes. Nothing too big,” he picked up her left hand and kissed the back of it, “since she has very delicate fingers.” “I have something I think you’d like.” With a smile just for Annie, the salesclerk headed toward the rear of the store and disappeared behind a door. Annie sat there wide-eyed as Travis pressed her hand to his cheek. “Travis, you can’t afford this. You need your money for school.” “Yes, I can. What I can’t afford is to let another day go by without the world knowing you belong to me, Annie Turner.” When her eyes filled yet again, he groaned, “Not another tear! You’ll make me think I’m torturing you instead of getting engaged.” Before she could respond, the salesclerk was back with a small tray lined in white velvet. She chose a seat across from Annie and placed the tray in front of her. Rings lay against the velvet, some plain and others fancy. Glints of pure light shot through many of the faceted gems, and every one was breathtaking. She tore her gaze from them with a beseeching look at Travis. “I can’t choose. I don’t know—”


| CHAR CHAFFIN | “I’ll help you.” His face suddenly sober, he selected a ring from the center of the tray. Deep and pure, the stone was not too small, but not so large that it would overpower her hand. Emerald-cut, as he’d requested, and in a simple, yet elegant, gold setting, framed on two sides with tiny, perfect diamonds. He took her left hand, slid the ring on her finger. It fit as if it had been waiting for her. He lifted her hand until the ring was close to her eyes. The stone was just a few shades lighter. Against her skin, it glowed and pulsed, warm and pretty, just like its new owner. With his other hand he cupped her chin, brought her lips to his, and kissed her. For long seconds, he kissed his Annie. Slowly, he released her and gazed into her starry eyes. “Marry me, Annie.” Her lips trembled, then parted. She cleared her throat. Spoke through a dawning smile. “Yes.”

A Soulmate for Christmas Anthology Holiday Shorts A SoulMate For Christmas, five stories that celebrate the wonder, the passion, and the spirit of love during the Christmas season.

A husband and wife, driven apart by tragedy, are given another chance during Christmas in the country. HOLLY’S SECRET, by Angela Scavone: A woman’s need to reveal the truth could ruin the holidays and cost her the man she loves.

Uncaged Review I Know You by Char Chaffin I Know You is a story built on the dream that two souls that are meant to be will always find their way back to each other. It begins on Christmas Eve, in 1812 and John is mortally wounded in war, and his love, Elizabeth finds him right before he dies in her arms, and before he dies he says, “I Know You.” Knowing she will never be able to live without John, Elizabeth makes the ultimate decision. Every 50 years, the two souls find each other, but never are they able to be together in life. From Coraline and Benjamin in Boston, to Millicent and Richard in Philadelphia. Will the souls ever be together again? You’ll have to read for yourself, but the story is engaging, and in the short amount of time the author brings a quickly paced story that lets you hope that your soulmate is truly out there. Recommended. Reviewed by Cyrene

I KNOW YOU, by Char Chaffin: Star-crossed lovers, united by death on Christmas Eve, search every fifty years to find each other again. A VAMPIRE FOR YULE, by JJ Devine: Two lonely hearts come together during the holidays and discover their destiny. STELLAR HEART, by Aliza Mann: Would-be high school lovers Harper Stellar and Alexis Alston are back together to save his family business during the Christmas shopping season. Can they correct past mistakes and find their future? TO GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE WE GO, by Cynthia Racette: Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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feature author Cherry hails from the Great Lakes state of Michigan, where she lives with her husband and two adorably mischievous cats. She does most of her writing at night because she is not a morning person, and wholeheartedly agrees with the anonymous saying, “I could be a morning person, if morning happened around noon.” In addition to writing, Cherry has traveled overseas, exploring castles in Scotland, soaking in the sights of London, and gazing at the beautiful English countryside out a train car window. Closer to home, she’s gone dolphin watching and parasailing in Florida. Cherry’s husband is also an author, but he doesn’t share her love of football. Her favorite teams are the Michigan Wolverines and Denver Broncos. Go Blue! Mile High Salute! So, what’s better than watching football? Eating chocolate chip cookie dough during a game!

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Uncaged welcomes Cherry Christensen! Uncaged: You write sweet and inspirational romances, what inspired Secret Angel? Can you tell the readers more about your books? Secret Angel is set in Glen Arbor, my favorite town in Michigan. My family and I spent several summers vacationing in a cottage on Little Glen Lake, and I have many fond memories of my time spent there with friends and family. One summer, my cousin and I decorated the cottage for Christmas. We’d always dreamt of spending Christmas up north at the lake. Therefore, it seemed only natural for me to choose the area as the location for a sweet, hometown Christmas story. I love sharing my favorite places with readers, and weaving a bit of my own family’s history throughout the tale. For example, Love’s Full Circle takes place in Denver, Colorado, home of my favorite football team. And a lot of the buildings and dorms in The Fearful Heart bear my family’s surnames. Each book mentions the Church of God, where my dad was a pastor. Uncaged: This is our holiday issue – can you tell us of some of your holiday traditions and some things you love to do during the Christmas season? Every Christmas morning, my family gathers at my parents’ house for a big brunch. After everyone has stuffed themselves with eggs, bacon, sausage, homemade

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biscuits and gravy, and pancakes, we exchange gifts. Like clockwork, the cats attempt to swat ornaments off the tree, and roll around in the ripped wrapping paper, scattering it across the floor. And of course, my dad has plenty of his famous sour cream cookies on hand for all to enjoy! Uncaged: What or who influences your writing the most? I grew up reading the inspirational romances in the Serenade/Serenata series published by Zondervan Publishing House in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The stories were clean and entertaining. When I sat down to begin writing my own stories, I knew I wanted to follow in those authors’ footsteps and write sweet romance. Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? Yes. I read them. It’s interesting to see how the story resonates with each reviewer. One reader told me that her faith was strengthened because of the Bible verses interlaced in my stories. It was a humbling experience for sure!

Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? I’m busy writing a sequel to Secret Angel. It’s a Valentine’s Day-themed story. Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? When I choose characters for my stories, I first decide on the hero and heroine. Then I build their social circles with fun, quirky, and combative characters that influence them along the way. As far as naming the characters, I either search the internet, or thumb through baby name books. Sometimes I might use a variation of a name of someone I know. For example, I might use Dev instead of Deb. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? My favorite part of the writing process is creating characters and scenes. I have to admit that it’s been fun living vicariously through my characters! The least favorite part of the writing process for me is marketing. I’d much rather spend my time writing.

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? When I have time, I enjoy reading romance and mystery books. I also like to scrapbook, go on day trips with my husband, and bake. At Christmastime, I make lots of pistachio bread. Yum! Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? I’m a little biased, but my husband’s book, The Tome, is pretty good! I haven’t read a book lately that’s made me want to throw it against a wall. Although, I’ve wanted to read the Pretty Little Liars books since I was a huge fan of the show. I have no doubt that the books, like the TV show, will get my emotions churning! Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I’d like to thank them for purchasing my books, encouraging me along the way, and for helping to spread the word about my writing. They can follow me on Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, Google+, or my blog, Romantic Tales.

Enjoy an excerpt from Secret Angel

Secret Angel Cherry Christensen Christian Holiday Romance

Doctoral student Hannah Wagganer entertains dreams of teaching at a large university and leaving her hometown of Glen Arbor behind. That is until Jasper Morgan, the new mail carrier, arrives in town. Not only does he set Hannah’s heart a flutter, but he has an instant bond with her cat, Jingles. 36 | UncagedBooks.com

Preparing for the church candlelight Christmas Eve service and running the family store, Hannah continues to bump into Jasper—and the prying eyes of the locals who suspect there’s more going on than business as usual. Blessings and suspicions abound when an anonymous donor pays to have the church furnace repaired, and other locals suddenly find solutions to their problems. Is it coincidental, or the work of a secret angel? Excerpt Chapter One HANNAH SCANNED SIDE to side, searching the trees and ground for movement. With every hurried step, billowing puffs escaped her mouth into the frigid December air. She sliced through the snow, pursuing the paw prints leading across her back yard in the direction of the lakeshore. Only last night, three inches of fresh powder had blanketed her hometown of Glen Arbor. She continued trailing the tracks as her brunette curls whipped in the wind. A half zipped wool coat rustled against her hips, and flannel pajama pants failed to ward off an icy draft running up her legs. “Jingles! You’re going to make us both catch pneumonia.” Hannah paused briefly, hitching a ragged breath. Examining the ground, she spotted tracks from some of the local wildlife. One pair led in the same direction as Jingles’. “Haven’t you learned not to chase the critters?” she mumbled, tramping forward along the trail. The faint sound of twigs snapping just ahead caught her attention. She was getting closer. Two minutes — and ten frostbitten fingers later — she found Jingles perched on a tree stump by Lake Michigan. Evidently, whatever he’d been chasing had gotten away. Hannah scooped the orange tabby into her arms and swiped at the snow clinging to his fur and the small red bells attached to his collar. Soft purring cut through the cold air, melting her frustration.


| CHERRY CHRISTENSEN | “Come on, let’s get you home,” she said, trudging back toward the shop. Jingles snuggled against her chest as they crossed the church parking lot and climbed the wooden staircase leading into Deer Crossings — the store owned by her parents. Creeeeak. Hannah jolted to a halt, swallowing hard. Footsteps overhead in the apartment warned her it wasn’t a customer. “We have an uninvited guest,” she whispered to Jingles. The cat meowed in response and jumped down, running in the direction of the store room. Hannah tiptoed over to the counter and retrieved one of her dad’s old golf clubs. Creeeeak. She hefted it to her shoulder, holding it like a baseball bat as the creaking sounds on the stairs grew closer. A large shadow appeared at the bottom of the steps. She gulped and swung the golf club, striking the banister. “Put that thing away before you hurt yourself,” the stranger said, stepping into the light streaming through the bay windows. He adjusted the mail bag slung over his shoulder. “Do you always leave your front door wide open?” Hannah lowered the golf club, staring into a pair of blue eyes matching the lake. “M-my cat ran outside, and um, I didn’t want him to freeze out there,” she said, her gaze shifting to his blond hair, downward to the stubble shadowing his mouth. When his lips curled into a smile, she diverted her attention back to his bag and uniform. “I’m assuming you’re Henry’s replacement?” The words came out choked, which made his smile widen. “I’m Jasper Morgan,” he said, extending his hand. Hannah set the club on the counter and shook his hand. “Hannah Wagganer. I’m still getting used to the idea of Henry being retired. I’ll miss him,” she said as Jasper’s hand slipped away. “From what I’ve heard, he’s a local legend around here.” He removed a cap from his pocket and placed it on his head. “I’ll have to see what I can do to help you not miss him so much.” He grinned and edged past her. “Now that I know things are secure here, I better get back to work.”

Hannah followed, locking the door behind him. Moving to adjust a crooked painting of a piping plover, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror mounted on the wall. She scrutinized her appearance all the way from the crusty gunk stuck on her nose downward to the childish cat pajamas. She cringed in disgust. Why couldn’t Henry have been on duty instead of Jasper? No wonder he couldn’t stop smiling. “Meeow,” Jingles protested from the bottom of the stairs. Hannah sighed at the pitiful expression on his face and headed upstairs to feed the orange ball of fur his breakfast before changing for work. ~~~~ “I’M NOT SURE about this color,” Naomi, the preacher’s wife, informed Hannah. “I look like a wad of pink chewing gum.” “No you don’t.” Hannah tied a brown snowflake scarf around the woman’s neck. The color brought out the richness of her dark eyes. “Lovely,” she said as heavy footsteps sounded on the wooden floor behind them. Turning, she spotted Jasper coming their way. “I’ll be right with you.” “Take your time,” he said. “Hmmm. I was wondering if you’d run into him yet,” Naomi said, backing into the changing area. “I’ll take the sweater and the scarf,” she announced. “Pastor Amos will do a double take when he sees you at the candlelight Christmas Eve service.” She laughed, envisioning the older man letting out a low whistle for his wife. Married forty years, they still managed to maintain an endearing fondness for each other. “Speaking of the service, you’re still planning to help us decorate the church, right?” “I wouldn’t miss it,” Hannah said, strolling over to a small table where Jasper was thumbing through a stack of woolen socks. “See anything you like?” He lifted his gaze. “As a matter of fact, I do.”

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| FEATURE AUTHOR |

Uncaged Review A sweet holiday novella perfect for anyone looking for a quick read, with characters to enjoy. I won’t get into details, except even with the limited space this novella has, the author does a wonderful job with her characters and draws you into the story quite well. The little bit of innocent suspense is fun to speculate about as you watch the relationship grow between Hannah and Jasper. Nicely done. Reviewed by Cyrene

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feature author Patricia D. Eddy lives in many worlds. Witches, vampires, and shifters inhabit one of them, military men and women fill another, with sexy Doms and strong subs carving out the final slice of her literary universe. She admits to eleven novels (though there are at least five unfinished drafts on her desk right now), all while working a full-time job, running half-marathons, and catering to the every whim of her three cats. Despite this whirlwind, she still finds time to binge watch Doctor Who, all of the Netflix Marvel shows, and most recently, The Handmaid’s Tale. Oh, and she hopes to one day be able to say that she plays the guitar. Right now, she mostly tortures the strings until they make noise.

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Uncaged welcomes Patricia Eddy! Uncaged: Mistletoe and Mochas is a contemporary military novella, but you also have other genres you write in, such as paranormal and BDSM. Can you tell the readers more about your different series? What influences the different genres? Sure! I love all forms of romance. My first books were all paranormal romance, and I have a special place in my heart for creating rich worlds and lore. But, I just absolutely love writing the BDSM romances as well. They’re so much fun because I can just let loose.

patriciaeddy.com

All of my books and series have different inspirations. By the Fates came from a dark time in my life. In Blood came from a place of hope when I was feeling particularly good about the world around me. A Shift in the Water…well, werewolves are just fun. :) Uncaged: This is our holiday issue – can you tell us of some of your holiday traditions and some things you love to do during the Christmas season? I don’t usually have a lot of time to spend on all of the holiday trappings, but I do a few things every year.

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My family has always had a real Christmas tree, and when I have the time, I like to go cut it down myself. I collect Goebel Angel Bells, so those always go on the mantle. My most important holiday tradition, though, is baking my grandmother’s Christmas cookies—both sugar cookies and gingerbread men and women. We thought her recipes were lost for many years, but my cousin found them three or four years ago. Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? I read most of my reviews. With fourteen books out now, it’s hard to keep up sometimes. I look for the sentiment of the review. What part of my book spoke to the reader? What parts didn’t speak to the reader? I’m always trying to improve my writing, my plotting, and my characters. So it helps me to know what readers do and don’t like. For example, in my vampire novel, readers loved the connection between the two characters. In my werewolf series, they loved the vulnerability that my alpha wolf showed while he was also being strong. Those types of sentiments are the ones that help me shape future characters. It works both ways, as

well. Negative reviews are just as valuable when trying to grow as a writer, even though they’re much less fun to read. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? Next up, I have two books in the Restrained series. All Tied Up For New Year’s and In His Collar will both be released in the next two months. After that, I’m going to go back to Revelations in Blood and A Shift in the Earth. Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? There’s a little bit of me in every one of my heroines. But I try not to pull too much from those around me unless someone’s asked me if they can be in one of my books. In A Shift in the Water, a couple I know asked to be included. And though they are crazy in love and very happy, they both Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | wanted me to work it out so that her character killed his in the end. So, I did it. I’m just glad they’re still together in real life. As for character names…I use a name generator for many of them. Sometimes a name will just come to me, but most of the time, I go through a couple of names before I’m satisfied. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? My favorite part of being an author is hearing from fans. There really is nothing better than an email that says how much your book touched someone or how excited they are for the next book. My least favorite part of being an author is all of the non-writing work that has to be done. Advertising, organizing, social media…I can work all weekend long and not take a single break and write zero words. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Well, usually, some of the non-writing tasks that are required to be an author. But I also love to play GuildWars 2, I’m learning to play the guitar, and I enjoy yoga. Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? Ha! I haven’t wanted to throw a book against a wall lately. The last book I read and loved was Mastering Her Senses by Laura Kaye. I’m currently reading Devil in Disguise by Cynthia Eden. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? 42 | UncagedBooks.com

To fans, I’d say don’t be shy about emailing if you have any questions. I know I’m an introvert—in person. I was at a writing conference two weeks ago and I couldn’t even force myself to go up to one of my author heroes and introduce myself. Despite being shy, though, I love chatting about books. Find me on Facebook and Instagram in particular and comment. Start a conversation. I also want to tell my fans that I really appreciate them being so patient with me while I took eighteen months off from writing in 2015-2016. I had some health and personal issues I had to take care of, and I know it was hard for fans not to have the next books in the series they loved. I’m back now, and I’m going to finish up all of my current series before starting another one!

Enjoy an excerpt from Mistletoe & Mochas Mistletoe & Mochas Patricia Eddy Holiday Romance “Get out!” The paint is still wet when Devan discovers the ominous threat on her coffee shop window. But she doesn’t scare easily. Artists’ Grind is her home, and she’ll defend it—even if she ends up getting hurt in the process. “Quad shot Americano.” Mac hasn’t voluntarily spoken to another soul in months. Not since an IED left him scarred and in


| PATRICIA EDDY | constant pain. But when he runs out of coffee, Devan’s irreverent attitude and the best espresso in Boston draw him in. Finding out she’s being threatened? That makes the former army lieutenant’s protective instincts kick in. Will Devan break through Mac’s walls? Or his pride keep them both alone on Christmas? Excerpt Chapter Two What had he been thinking? You wanted to see if those lips were as soft as they looked. It had to be the Vicodin. The pills dulled his senses along with the pain. That was the only reason he’d gone into Devan’s shop. The only reason he’d flirted with her. The realization hit him square in the chest. He’d flirted with her. All five-foot-five of luscious curves that even the loose apron couldn’t hide. Her silky voice tumbled out of her heart-shaped mouth and flowed as smooth as the coffee that slid down his throat. Her deep brown eyes had beckoned him into her shop where he’d been hard-pressed to want to leave. The brown curls of her hair were long enough for him to grab and tug her head back so he could dip his lips—he growled out an oath. No more. Mac took another long sip of his coffee. She brewed a damn good cup. Few shops in this neighborhood had any inkling how to make a quality cup of coffee. Hell, most of them had those push-button automatic cappuccino machines that offered a dozen different drinks without lifting a finger. He loved this town— as much as he loved anything these days—but its coffee left a lot to be desired. She’d had some trouble. That much had been clear from his apartment. He couldn’t read what had been scrawled in red paint on her shop window, but it likely wasn’t good. “Don’t get involved,” he muttered as he coded

himself back into his building. He nodded to the security guard at the visitor’s desk. It didn’t occur to him until he’d collapsed into his armchair and flipped on the morning news that he hadn’t made it far enough to buy beans. Dammit. He was going to go back to that little shop and talk to her again. The throbbing pain in his hip flared up and he cursed. No. He was damaged goods. He’d go out later and buy beans at the Co-op three blocks away. *** The pain woke him sometime after dark. It always did. He looked at his watch. Seven p.m. He’d fallen asleep after a solitary dinner of cold pizza. It was too late to head to the Co-op now. Every time he steeled himself for another trip out into society, he found another reason to stay indoors. He’d done more physical therapy than was probably smart, worked in his sketchbook for a while, and booked time at the metal shop for the next day. Mac limped into his bathroom and reached for the Vicodin bottle. His hands shook while twisting the lid and he spilled ten of the pills onto the bathroom tiles. “Shit.” Frustration rose with each pill he retrieved. He’d been about to make it a two-pill day. That was unacceptable. He’d meant to be off of them by now. Never mind that his doctors told him he’d probably have pain for the rest of his life. That didn’t mean he had to let his body win. He was strict where the pills were concerned. Becoming addicted to painkillers was not something he was prepared to live with. He refused to take the pills more than two days in a row and never more than one pill a day. He shoved the pills back into the medicine cabinet and opted for a glass of Scotch instead. It didn’t take the pain away, but the fuzzing of his mind wouldn’t last as long. His head would be clear in the morning. The phone rang as he took his first swallow. “Terry. What’s up, man?” His former CO called Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | him at least once a week. At first, it’d been clear the man had only called out of obligation, but sometime over the past year, they’d become friends. Terry had lost the lower half of his right leg in the same attack that had nearly taken Mac’s life. Despite this, Terry had been released from the hospital after a scant three months. He’d gone on an army recruitment trip to finish out his enlistment and was now looking for work. Mac felt like a failure next to the man, despite how much he’d come to rely on Terry’s friendship when things got low.

“This morning.” “Really?” The surprise roughened Terry’s voice. “I needed coffee.” Terry snorted. “A trip to the grocery store barely counts. Did you talk to anyone? Have any sort of meaningful conversation?” “I went to a coffee shop,” Mac said defensively.

“I got a job.” The gruff voice on the other end of the line was thick with pride.

“Talked to the owner some. I might go back tomorrow.”

“Yeah? Where at?” Mac took another sip. He wasn’t looking forward to the rest of this conversation, even though he was fucking proud of Terry for how quickly he’d recovered and gotten back into society.

“You’re kidding me.”

“I’m workin’ for OneFund. Volunteer Coordinator. I start on Monday.”

“What about your metal work? Call any galleries?”

“That’s great, man. How’re you doing with the new leg? Giving you any trouble?” “Nah. I got a retrofit yesterday. It gets a little sweaty when I’m on the treadmill, but that’s the only issue. I’m training for the marathon. OneFund said they’d give me one of their charity spots.” Silence descended. Mac didn’t know what else to say, and Terry was probably trying to figure out how broach his favorite subject. He sighed. “Mac, has anything changed with you?” “Nope.” “Goddammit. Listen, man. You’ve got to snap out of this. Do something with the rest of your life! When was the last time you left your apartment?” 44 | UncagedBooks.com

“No.” He didn’t feel like explaining. Or admitting that he’d flirted with Devan. Or that he knew her name. He’d never hear the end of it.

“I’m not any good. It’s something to blow off steam. That’s all. I’m looking for a job. Haven’t found anything I’m interested in yet. I’ve got enough saved up for another year. So get off my back. You might be Captain America, back from war, but I’m not. I’ll do it in my own time and in my own way. I’m proud of you, man. Seriously. You came back from some serious shit and you did it in record time. But I can’t.” “Goddammit, Mac. You’re a f**king genius with the blowtorch. I’ve seen your pieces. You could make a living selling that s**t.” “Can we change the subject, please?” Mac was about to hang up on the man. “Fine. What are you doing for Christmas? My sister’s cooking a huge spread. Goose. Some epic bread pudding, pecan pie. Come up to Vermont with me for the weekend.” Mac ran a hand through his wavy black hair. It had


| PATRICIA EDDY | gotten a little long in the eleven months that he’d been off active duty. He needed a haircut. “We had this same discussion at Thanksgiving. I’m not good company. I’d ruin everyone else’s Christmas. I’ll get Chinese food.” “Be that way. I’ve got to get up early for PT in the morning. Next time you want to talk, you call me. Make a f**king effort and stop feeling sorry for yourself. You’re alive. Start acting like it.” The line went dead and Mac fought the urge the throw the phone across the room. The only reason he didn’t was that he’d have to go to the store the next day and get a new one. He wandered over to the window and gazed down the street. Snow fell lightly, glistening in the glow of the street lamps. Down at Devan’s shop, the door opened. A parka-clad form emerged, turned, and locked the door behind her. Even bundled up, he recognized her. Devan tucked a fat leather pouch under her arm and looked both ways before crossing the street. Dammit, woman. Don’t you know that it’s stupid to not hide your bank pouch? There was a small local bank two blocks over, and he’d bet money that was where she was heading to make her night drop. She’d have to walk right by his apartment. Mac grabbed his coat. He didn’t know if he could make it down to the street in time to catch her, but he was going to try. *** The street was deserted tonight. The temperature dipped into the low teens and snow fell, bathing the entire city in white. Devan loved winter. Everything was fresh and clean. The street lamps boasted holiday garland and twinkling lights. Once she deposited the night’s bankroll, she could tuck herself in on the couch with a blanket and watch Love Actually—one of her favorite holiday movies. Monday, she’d rent a car and go out and get herself a stocky Christmas tree for her apartment and a small one for the shop.

“Four days,” she told herself. She closed the shop early on Mondays because business was never good that day, and she needed the break. When you owned your own store, you didn’t get vacations. “Hey!” Footsteps slapped on the pavement down the street and Devan tensed. Those weren’t running shoes. Whoever belonged to those steps was headed straight for her. She dug into her pocket for her pepper spray and whirled around. “Stop there!” she yelled, brandishing the bottle. The man skidded to a halt and lost his balance on a patch of ice. He went down with an audible oof. “Who the hell—Mac?” The man crumpled in a heap a few feet away was Mr. Tall, Dark, and Sexy from this morning. “Are you insane?” She kept the pepper spray held aloft. Regardless of how sexy he was, he’d still chased her down on a dark, deserted street. “S**t,” he grunted. His arm wrapped protectively around his waist and pain deepened lines around his eyes and lips. “Admittedly, that was not my smartest plan.” “Running after a woman in the dark? No. Give me a good reason why I shouldn’t call the cops on you right now. I’ve never seen you before today and now you’re chasing me? Stalker much?” Devan backed up a few steps as Mac got to his feet. “I’m not going to hurt you, sweetheart. I live in the apartment building there.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Looked out my window to see you walking alone with a bank pouch. Are you asking for trouble? This isn’t Peoria. It’s Boston, for f**k’s sake. You’re a walking target carrying that thing.” He gestured Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | towards her leather pouch and winced. “I’ve been making this walk every night for three years. Never had a lick of trouble. Also,” she said, wagging the bottle of pepper spray in front of his face, “I’m not exactly helpless.” Mac shoved his hands in his pockets. “Never said you were. But you’ve got to admit you’re asking for it. At least put the pouch inside a bag. Or get someone to go with you after dark.” “The bank’s two blocks away. It’s not even nine.” Anger sharpened her tone. “Go home, Mac.” “No. I’m walking you to the bank. Once you drop off that bullseye you’re holding, you’re on your own.” A frustrated groan escaped her lips as Devan took off at a quick clip down the icy street. Mac strode after her, the hitch in his step more pronounced than it had been this morning. She cast furtive glances at him as they went. He wasn’t staying too close, possibly not wanting her to feel threatened. Or perhaps he’d hurt himself when he fell. “Are you okay?” she asked. “Fine,” he said, and quickened his steps. Hardly. He was hurting. She knew the signs. Her father had dealt with a chronic hip injury for the last ten years of his life. Mac exhibited some of the same behaviors. Even this morning his gait had been uneven. She snorted in disbelief. They turned down Tremont and made another quick left onto Worcester. Devan rushed over to the bank drop, yanked down the door and slid the pouch inside. “There. It’s done. Your white knight duties are officially over for the evening.” She set off back towards Artist’s Grind. Mac watched her for a moment, then followed in his loping manner. 46 | UncagedBooks.com

When they reached Tremont, he caught up with her and touched her arm. “Where are you headed?” He hunched his shoulders against the cold and the snow. His black hair was dusted with white. A couple of flakes were buried in his eyebrows. She wanted to brush them away. “I live above the shop.” “Oh.” They walked in silence the rest of the way to Artist’s Grind. Devan pulled out her keys. “Thank you for your sweet but totally unnecessary chivalrous behavior. I open at six. Tomorrow’s coffee is on me. For nearly blinding you with pepper spray. Even though you did probably deserve it.” Mac’s shocked look put a smile on Devan’s face as she slipped into the warmth of her shop.

Uncaged Review A short and sexy read, just in time for the holidays. The author gives us flawed, but heroic characters with Mac and Devan – and even sneaks in a bit of danger in this holiday love story. The author did a great job with the characters, not often found in short stories. Mac, severely injured in Afghanistan from a mortar attack, has only been out of the hospital for three months, and against doctor’s recommendations. Devan, owns a hip artisan coffee shop across the street. When some thugs start vandalizing her property, Mac steps in to help, but even when he’s starting to have feelings for Devan, he still thinks he’s damaged goods and no one would care for him. A nice storyline that is a bit rushed, but still quite enjoyable. Reviewed by Cyrene


Short story

A Divine Delivery

by JB. Woods


| SHORT STORY |

Danger-Road Closed Ahead will return in January.

A Divine Delivery JB. Woods

Christmas Eve The week before a bulky letter from America had arrived and thudded onto the hall carpet. Julia got to it before Patch the cocker spaniel, picked it up and turned it over and over, undecided what to do. Her heart said open it but her head stopped her. Now, on Christmas Eve, with the children in bed her dilemma was still unresolved. She dropped it onto the coffee table poured herself a drink and turned to survey herself in the large mirror over the fireplace. She leaned forward for a closer look at her reflection. ‘I look tired she thought,’ as she pondered over her life’s events. Who would have expected her husband David, at the age of 40, to have the heart attack which had snatched him away and made her a single parent with two young daughters one eleven and the other fourteen with no one to turn to in times of distress. It was the second time that the mainstay, the love of her life, had departed suddenly. The first time twenty-five years earlier, her father, a carpenter, left her mother. It had caused a devastating gap in her life then, the same as the hollowness she felt now. It was said he had moved to the USA and the feeling that he had abandoned her never left her and she never had the urge to trace him. Now she was confronted by the letter. Was it him? She finished her drink, placed the offending 50 | UncagedBooks.com

missive on the mantelpiece and went to bed for a tormented sleep. Christmas morning ‘Come on, Mummy, open your presents,’ shouted the youngest, Charlotte as she bounced onto the bed. ‘Yes, Mum, you must,’ echoed her sister Zoie from the doorway. ‘I will shortly,’ answered Julia, ‘but first we will have breakfast.’ ‘Oh, Mum, you are a spoil sport. Come on,’ pleaded the girls in unison. There was a moments silence before Julia spoke. ‘No, I’ve made up my mind.’ Breakfast was a hurried affair and the girls dragged Julia into the living room where there was a big scramble to find presents under the Christmas tree. They thrust small parcels at her simultaneously but Julia stopped them. ‘Put the Christmas music CD on first. It will give us a bit of atmosphere and I promise I will open your presents.’ To the melodious tune of ‘O come all ye faithful’ sung by the Westminster Cathedral Choir she made a fuss about choosing and opened Charlotte’s present first. ‘Oh, darling, what a pleasant surprise.’ She placed the box of body lotion and deodorant on the coffee table and gave Charlotte a hug and a kiss. ‘I saved for it out of my pocket money.’ ‘You’re a clever girl.’ She reached over and began unwrapping Zoie’s gift. ‘Oh, Zoie, you shouldn’t have, it’s so expensive.’ She opened the bottle of Eu de Parfum and sniffed. ‘It smells wonderful. Let me dab some behind your ears.’ ‘Me too, Mummy,’ Charlotte piped up.


| JB WOODS |

‘Of course, dear.’ As the Christmas Carol ‘We three kings of Orient are’ began whispering around the room the chimes of the front door bell echoed from the hallway. ‘I wonder who that is? Charlotte ran to the window and lifted the lace curtain. ‘I don’t know who it is, Mummy, but there’s a big car outside.’ Julia brushed herself down and patted her hair into place, scooped up the breakfast things and put them in the kitchen on her way to the front door. She cautiously opened it and peered out and was surprised to see three smartly dressed men in Burberry overcoats. One was hatless and the other two wore bowler hats. A nurse stood behind them holding a baby. The hatless one spoke. ‘Good morning, Mrs. Williams?’ ‘Err, yes,’ she stammered. He seemed surprised that she was not expecting him. ‘We have brought baby Emanuel. Did you not receive a letter?’ Julia gasped and her hand flew to her mouth as she remembered the letter unopened on the mantelpiece. ‘Oh, the letter,’ she said. ‘You had better come in. Zoie! Charlotte! Go upstairs, please, while I talk to the gentlemen.’ The children looked curiously at the visitors and ran upstairs giggling. Julia waited while they made themselves comfortable and took the letter down from where she had left it but before opening it she enquired who they were. With a distinctive American accent the hatless one said, ‘I am Mr Wise, your late fathers lawyer,’ and pointing to the others, he said, ‘and this is Mr Gabriel of the Immigra-

tion department and last but not least, Mr King, the US Ambassador and of course, Nurse Esther.’ He had noted Julia’s sharp intake of breath at the mention of her father and added, ‘I think you had better open that letter.’ Tentatively she opened the envelope and withdrew a letter and a copy of a Will. She read them both twice unable to comprehend fully both the bad news and the good. Finally she said, ‘Is this true? My father Joseph and his young wife Mary died in a car accident and have left me real estate in Tampa, Florida and eight million dollars and I am now the legal guardian of...’ pointing towards the baby, ‘...their son Emanuel?’ ‘Yes, Mrs Williams...’ Wise withdrew an envelope from his inside pocket, ‘...you’re their only surviving relative and here is £50,000 to cover expenses plus Emanuel’s visa and passport and the necessary documentation to access your inheritance.’ Julia sat down dumfounded and it was several minutes before the nurse brought the baby to her. ‘Here you are. He is a good child, take good care of him.’ ‘We’ll go now, Mrs Williams,’ said Wise, ‘we look forward to seeing you in Tampa.’ — Julia was explaining their sudden change of circumstances to the girls when the door bell chimed again. Charlotte dashed to see who it was and returned a few moments later to announce. ‘Mum, it’s the nosy Shepherds from over the road.’ Julia put a finger to her lips. ‘Ssh, don’t say that.’ Mrs Shepherd bustled into the room and stopped wide eyed and pointing to the sleeping baby in Julia’s lap with more than a hint of innuendo, she said, ‘My, my,’ she said, ‘what secrets have we here?’ ‘He’s the best Christmas present—ever,’ replied Julia.

The End

Issue 16 | November 2017 |

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Author’s Amazon Page


feature authors

historical western holiday

Becky

McGraw

Patricia Bond

Shanna Hatfield

Madelyn Hill


feature author New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Becky McGraw writes happily-ever-afters with heat, heart and humor. A Jill of many trades, Becky knows just enough about a variety of subjects to make her contemporary cowboy and romantic suspense novels diverse and entertaining. She resides in Florida with her husband of thirty-plus years, is the mother of three and grandmother of one. Becky is a member of the RWA, Sisters in Crime and Novelists, Inc.

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Please welcome Becky McGraw to Uncaged! Uncaged: I can never resist a contemporary western romance – what inspires you to write about cowboys and westerns? I grew up in the country riding horses, feeding chickens, calves and other animals before school, so I know and love the lifestyle. They say write what you know, so I did! As for cowboys? C’mon, cowboys! What’s not to love? Uncaged: This is our holiday issue – can you tell us of some of your holiday traditions and some things you love to do during the Christmas season? Well, since my kids are all grown now, we have a scaled down version for them, because we’re all about spoiling the grandbaby. When the kids were younger, one of our traditions was opening gifts on Christmas Eve. Rick and I would always save back their ‘special gifts’ to put together and leave under the tree after they went to bed.

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We usually finished around two a.m. and, like clockwork, they were squealing and running down the stairs at 3 a.m. to open them. At 3:30 they were running back up to our room to show us what ‘Santa’ left for them. That was one of my favorite things about Christmas. The excitement on their faces was priceless. Uncaged: Your holiday story, Hope for Christmas, is part of a series. Can you tell the readers more about the series? The Cowboy Way series is my second contemporary

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western series and includes seven standalone books (3 novellas and four novels). The stories are a little hotter and funnier than my Texas Trouble Series, which has more romantic suspense. I started the series intending on it being funnier and hotter, with no suspense element, but I can’t seem to write a book without at least some suspense. All of my books contain humor, because life and books are pretty dull without it. I just went wherever the characters led, because, hey, it’s their story!

I also have Hard Landing, the final book in my Deep Six Security Series, releasing the day after Christmas. Then I’m taking a fishing break for a month. LOL Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know?

The tagline for the series is: Cowboys are a different breed. They work hard, play hard and love harder. It’s all about the ride, until the right woman makes them fall. And that is so true.

All of my characters are fictional, but may have traits from people I know. I get inspiration from everything in life. Those plot bunnies are always hopping around in my head when something funny or interesting happens in the world. As for my character names? They just come to me.

Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews?

Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite?

I read every review and think about it. If there is a nugget of wisdom to be gained, I will find it and hold it close for future books. When you stop learning, and growing, you’re dead.

My favorite part about being an author is being able to spend my time entertaining readers. I don’t dance and you wouldn’t want to hear me sing, so that’s the only way I have to express myself creatively. Having people enjoy my stories and characters, live in the world inside my head and fall in love with my characters, makes being an author the most rewarding job on earth.

Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? I have a brand new Christmas book coming out in my Deep Six Security series, which is romantic suspense and set in Texas, but without cowboys. Silent Knight: Deep Six Security Christmas releases on 11/21. A homeless veteran, a helpful cougar and two troubled teens make for a heartwarming Christmas story. I hope you’ll check it out.

Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? I’m Becky, and I’m a fish-a-holic. Sitting in my boat with my husband on the water, watching the end of my pole, is the way I relax. My other hobby, Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | now that I have a grandbaby, is spoiling her of course. She makes me laugh so hard. Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? I’m an author and can’t express those opinions, sorry. Every book has a place in this world and is a result of the author’s blood, sweat and tears. There will always be readers who love and those who hate them, because everyone has a different opinion. They are all special and precious, regardless. I will tell you, I love reading romantic suspense and romantic comedy. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I’d love to say thank you so much for buying and reading my books. Without you, I couldn’t indulge my passion. I would love to get to know you better on social media. You can usually find me here because I’m a social media addict too.

Enjoy an excerpt from Hope for Christmas Hope for Christmas Becky McGraw Western Holiday Romance Cowboys are a different breed... They work hard, play hard and love harder. It’s all about the ride, until the right woman makes them fall. Cord Dixon, Mr. Laramie in the world of western clothing modeling, loses his job because he refuses to sleep with his female boss. Christmas 56 | UncagedBooks.com

is coming, and his bills are due, so he takes the only job he can find. A mall Santa. Socialite wedding photographer, Hope Carlisle’s life disintegrates when she ruins the wedding of the year. In one fell swoop, she loses her best friend, her business partner and her fiancé. Unemployed and needing a job fast, Hope takes a job as an elf photographer at the local mall. She is not looking forward to her new job, until she meets her sexy Santa. Individually, Hope and Cord’s lives seem to be a hopeless mess. But with the magic of Christmas in the air, they work together to reclaim their lives and find love in the process. Excerpt Hope Carlisle tugged her heavy equipment bag the last five feet to the back entrance of the mall. Breathing hard, she set it beside the door and pulled the metal door open. She needed to get a bag with wheels. Carrying that bag, in those shoes, from the back forty of the lot wasn’t something she could do every day. Maybe she’d wear tennis shoes tomorrow and just change inside. She knew she’d have to do something because it was the holiday season and the mall would be packed until after Christmas. But a new bag would have to wait because Hope had higher priorities at the moment. Like eating and paying her rent. Cool air brushed Hope’s rear end and she tugged down the hem of the skirt on her Sally Stripper Elf costume. Her feet throbbed in the matching green five-inch heels. The outfit wasn’t something Hope wanted to wear. It was what the mall required. A man must’ve made the costuming decision is all Hope could come up with. If he had to wear these shoes for a day, Hope was sure she’d be wearing house slippers right now. The fact that the costume was so short it bordered on indecent pointed toward a man’s decision too. A woman would never have picked it out knowing Hope was going to be photographing kids. At least the man had the good sense to add candy-striped tights, or her butt would be hanging out too. Hope


| BECKY MCGRAW | didn’t like it, but she’d worn it because she needed this job. To keep it, she needed to suck up her selfpity and get inside before she was late. The Santa she was working with was probably already there.

over.

She never realized what her underpaid assistant had gone through lugging around the cumbersome bag. If the woman still worked for her, Hope would definitely give her a raise. But her former assistant, like her ex-business partner, had gotten out while the getting was good. Before she lost everything she had to Bridezilla, Brittany Weston.

Bright blue eyes burned their way slowly up her legs and stopped a minute at her breasts before sliding up to meet her eyes. They twinkled as he said, “Killing Santa isn’t a great way to start your first day on the job, Tinkerbell.” The man added a knee-melting grin before he rolled then sprang up to his feet.

Hope didn’t blame them really, but her partner and former best friend could have at least left her a little money in their business account. Instead, she emptied out every penny to open her own photography studio. And took Hope’s assistant with her.

Hope had never met a sexy Santa before, in a mall, on television, or in a story book. But this guy, even with the big belly, wig, and beard, was sex in a Santa suit. He must’ve realized she was staring because his grin got wider. A dimple popped out above his fake beard and Hope’s heart tripped in her chest.

With a heavy sigh, Hope grabbed the bag again and held open the door with her hip. She tugged but quickly realized the bag wasn’t going to fit through the doorway. Hope let the strap slip through her fingers then swiped her hand across her forehead. It was so cold out this morning. If she didn’t get inside quickly, the sweat pouring from her hair would probably turn into icicle bangs in a minute. Hope bent over to grab the strap of the big duffle again. She shoved the door wider with her butt then jerked with all she had. Something inside the bag shifted. The bag came through the door and hit her in the chest. Hope gasped as she flew backwards, hitting something soft and fluffy. She heard a grunt then her bag clattered loudly as it hit the floor beside her. She landed on what felt like a pillowtop mattress. Large, warm hands gripped her waist, a delicious piney scent wafted to her nostrils, and hot breath tickled her ear as her landing pad chuckled. The rumble rolled through her body, carrying tingles along with the sound. Hope rolled onto her hands and knees then stood. She smoothed her costume, looking down at the portly man she had bowled

“I’m so sorry. Are you okay?” What had cushioned her fall was Santa’s stuffed belly.

Guilt rushed through her as she wondered what the man looked like under that bulky suit. With the smooth, tanned skin at his neck, the firm line of his square jaw, those eyes, and that delicious dimple, she couldn’t help herself. Sitting on his lap for hours, staring into those gorgeous eyes wouldn’t be a hardship, that was for sure. The mothers of the toddlers they’d be photographing would probably feel the same way. Hope shoved those thoughts away, reminding herself she was there to do a job and this man was her co-worker. “I guess you’re my Santa?” she said, extending her hand to him. “Cord,” he corrected, taking her hand. When their palms met, electricity shot up her arm to zap her in the chest. “And you must be my elf,” he said. All Hope could do was stare into his eyes dumbly. I’ll be anything you want me to be. Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Hope shook her head. “Hope,” she said and the starch went out of her arm as he clasped her hand tighter. “Is that your name or are you about to ask me for a Wetty Betty?” he asked with a laugh. The sound traveled along Hope’s nerve endings to settle south. His cap and wig slid sideways, and he pushed them back in place. “If so, I’m fresh out. That’s all the little girls who sit in my lap ask for lately.” In that flash of a second, she saw the dark hair at his temples and his left ear. Who had sexy ears and who noticed them? This man did. And Hope noticed. Thoughts of sitting on his lap and whispering the long list of things she wanted from him flitted through her mind. That list did not include a doll. But Hope had other things she needed to focus on right now. Like keeping her job. Lusting after Santa, her co-worker, would not help that cause. “I’m the new photographer,” she said. Because she couldn’t help herself, she let her eyes take one more pass over him, trying to imagine yet again what he looked like under the red felt. “I’m excited to be working with you.” Santa’s smile faded and he shrugged his broad shoulders. “Don’t be too excited. As a veteran of a week, I have to warn you. This job isn’t for the faint of heart. Keep your eyes open or you might get hurt. You also might want to renegotiate your contract and ask for combat pay.” He didn’t laugh. Hope became a little concerned until she saw those eyes of his twinkling. She tilted her head to the side and smiled. “You trying to scare me, Santa?” “You need to be scared, Tinkerbell. Really scared. I’ve been peed on, punched, and set on fire. Mall security only goes so far, so just stay 58 | UncagedBooks.com

on your toes.” Santa shook his head and his beard shifted, but he jerked it back in place. His costume didn’t seem to fit him very well at all. And neither did the job. He wasn’t old enough, and was just too...manly. It was eight thirty in the morning, but she saw dark beard scruff on his jaw under the white beard too. “Well, as an elf, it’s my job to protect you, so I’ve got your back,” she said with a grin. “Thank God someone has it, because I need backup.”

Uncaged Review Fun and just what I needed for Christmas! Cord and Hope are a sweet couple with just enough heat between them to keep you interested. It was a heartwarming Christmas story without being same old, same old. The writing was great, and the characters grew on me quickly. I hated to see it end! If you are looking for a story to get you in the Christmas spirit, this is the one! Reviewed by Skylar

Silent Knight Becky McGraw Romantic Holiday Suspense Thomas Griffin never thought he’d be a homeless vet at fortysix years old. But when he was no longer useful to the government he’d spent his life serving, they turned their back on him when he needed them most, costing him everything he ever loved. After that, he really didn’t care. Living his life on the fringe was safe and he didn’t have to worry about anything except his next meal. That safety remains until a beautiful socialite decides to come slumming for Thanksgiving on the wrong side of town and gets herself into trouble.


| BECKY MCGRAW | Over her fifty-five years of life, Lou Ellen Wells had received many blessings. To pay them forward and honor the men in her life who served her country, both living and dead, she cooked Thanksgiving Dinner at the Dallas Veteran’s Services Center every year. It was located in a bad part of town, but she’d never had a problem, until this year when she’s brutally attacked and can’t get to her gun. A bedraggled man with piercing blue eyes jumps to her rescue and saves her with moves out of an action movie. She gives him her card and offers him help, but he tells her doesn’t need saving and takes off like his tail is on fire. A couple of weeks later, Lou is surprised when the man calls her asking for help of a different kind. A teenage girl he cares about has gone missing in gang territory. He’s afraid she’ll get killed if he doesn’t find her soon. Lou calls in the team to help him, but her price for that help is finding out why her Silent Knight, who is obviously skilled and educated, chooses to be homeless. But will satisfying her curiosity about Thomas Griffin put her in the crosshairs of a terrorist group even more dangerous than MS-13? Excerpt Griff reached up to cup her jaw in his palm and stroked his thumb over her lower lip. “God, you have an amazing mouth.” He moved his thumb to caress her cheek while staring into her eyes. “I’m going to kiss you, Queenie, so if you’re not okay with that, tell me now.” Not okay? What a silly, silly man, Lou Ellen thought, as she placed her shaking hands on his chest and slid them up his hot, wet skin to his broad shoulders. His eyes held hers and all she could do was stare into them as his head gravitated toward hers. His hand slid into her hair and he pulled her closer. His minty breath wafted over her taste buds before he sealed his mouth to hers. A moan rumbled up her throat and escaped into his mouth, as he skimmed his mouth over hers. Slow and methodical in his assault, he nipped, licked and sucked her mouth until Lou Ellen’s toes curled in her shoes. Hot flames of desire licked at her insides and she leaned into him needing more. She opened her mouth in invitation, his tongue slipped

inside her mouth to find hers. His groan rumbled against her sternum as his free arm wrapped around her waist to pull her body flush to his. The most erotic kiss of her life went on and on for what seemed forever. They didn’t have forever right now, though. With a final delicious taste of him and a sigh, she sat down on her heels and stepped back. His heart beat pounded under her palm at the center of his chest as rapidly as hers beat against her ribs. She smiled up at his frowning face. “The team will be waiting for us in the conference room, so let’s pause this for now, but I definitely want to hit play later. Logan gets pissy when he has to wait and I don’t want to have to kill him tonight.” She reached up to smooth her fingers over her throbbing lips then winked at him. “Definitely, rewind and replay later.” He finally smiled. “For a minute there, I thought I’d lost my touch. It has been a long time,” he said and pain filled his eyes. Lou Ellen stepped close again and put her hand on his cheek. “Honey, you haven’t lost a damned thing.” She tiptoed to give him a lingering kiss. “I can’t wait to see the rest of what you think you’ve forgotten.” His body tensed and his arms tightened around her. Lou Ellen leaned back in his arms to meet his eyes. “Really?” he asked, his eyes narrowing. “Yes, really. But I have no idea why you’re wasting your time with an old woman like me. Looking like this, you could have any woman you want.” Lou Ellen was very willing to be his leg up back into the saddle of life. She could do younger and temporary, but she didn’t want to let herself fall in love with him and be hurt if that was the arrangement. They needed to talk about it. “The woman I want is you,” he growled and his hand shot out to grab hers. He forced her hand between them, uncurled her fingers and held it against his erection. “Does that feel like I’m wasting my time or playing?” Heat surged up her body to set her scalp on fire and she knew her face was flaming too. Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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feature author

Ever since her first encounter with a long hooped skirt gown at age 5, Ms. Bond fell in love with the style. Her love of historical romance began a bit later, and she scoured the public library for every one she could find. Reading Gone With the Wind as a teenager cemented her suspicion she was born about 100 years too late. She daydreamed about writing novels but knew it was beyond her ability at that time. Instead, she tried her hand at poetry and really bad iambic pentameter flowed from her fingers. Thankfully for the world at large, it was a short-lived obsession. The desire to write books never left, and a workshop at a local department store added fuel to that desire. While the kids were in school, she sold luggage at that same department store to earn the money to attend her first RWA national conference, and finally feels safe enough to admit to hiding a legal pad under her counter where she wrote scenes in between customers. She still does much of her first draft writing longhand. (100 years too late, remember?) Even with a B.A. in English, there was a lot to learn about writing books and Romance Writers of America is the best thing to happen to her career, teaching the art as well as the craft of writing. It also brought her together with four of the most amazing women she’s ever known - critique partners and friends. A prize-winning amateur photographer, Reiki master and Guild knitter, Ms. Bonds lives in Western New York one mile from the home she grew up in. You can

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often find her at the lakeside, camera and notebook in hand where she is likely to invite you to pull up a rock and have a chat. She’s known to feed her travel addiction whenever possible, soaking up locations and customs, folklore and history, to file it away to use in a story later. Many years, four children and two grandchildren later, the man who made her see fireworks with the first kiss is still her go-to research assistant for all things romantic.

Stay Connected

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Uncaged welcomes Patricia Bond! Uncaged: Building a Christmas is set as a Historical, but not in a traditional Historical setting like so many romances are today, such as Regency and medieval Scotland – but set after the Civil War with the struggles of trying to keep life going under dire circumstances. A feel-good story, what inspired this story? What would you like readers to take away from this story? Before we start, thank you for having me here and giving me the opportunity to tell you about Building a Christmas. It’s true it’s not set in the currently popular time frames you see so much of in today’s market. But the Civil War era was immensely popular years ago, (Tara, anyone?) and the story transcends time. It explores the effects of war on people, soldiers and civilian alike. While PTSD is a modern term, the syndrome itself is as old as humanity. Not all war wounds are visible, and healing comes in many forms. The inspiration for the story? The holidays themselves, I guess. Family. Love. The burning need for normalcy after war. Both Nathaniel and Melanie have witnessed the worst humans can do to each other. Nathaniel has sent men into battle who died and he bears the responsibility heavily in his heart. Why he should live when they didn’t is a question he needs the answer to. Both he and Melanie are trying to make the world right again. To make reparations for the evil that visited our country at the time. Melanie has cobbled together a family of war orphans and is desperate to keep them together and

provide a home, security, and love for them. With no money and few resources, it’s a daunting task. But her love is unending. Nathaniel needs to make right what the armies have wrought and assuage his guilt that now wears faces. Fourteen of them. He needs to build a life, as does Melanie. They start by building a Christmas for the children. What should readers take away? I hope they’ll take away a feeling of hope, of love. A feeling that all is never lost, no matter what. That we are a community and need to work together. That family is what truly matters. I hope the story brings them enjoyment and warmth and that I can make them smile at the end. Uncaged: This is our holiday issue – can you tell us of some of your holiday traditions and some things you love to do during the Christmas season? Christmas is by far my favorite time of year. I’m one of those obnoxious folk who play Christmas music all year long. I think it’s some of the most beautiful music written and play it more for that than any seasonal reason. I also have an extensive village that my daughters and I painted over a couple of years that stays up – it’s going on 3 yrs now, partly ‘cause it’s just too big to keep putting up and taking down! My family exchanges presents on Christmas Eve and it’s always a fun Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | time to get everyone together for dinner and gifts. We’re of Polish heritage, so breaking the oplatki (wafer) is a big thing for us. You offer your wafer to someone with blessings for them for the following year, and they break off a small piece to eat and then return the offer with their wafer. It echoes the sharing of the Communion wafer at Mass, but this wafer is blessed rather than consecrated. In years past, Christmas Eve dinner was a meal of abstinence (meatless), but the rules have changed over the years. We still look forward to several types of pierogi for dinner, as well as Mama’s (that’s me!) baked ham. And then – look out! It’s giggles and shrieks, and bows and paper are flying! Gift tags are a revelation too! Who knew my brother-in-law was Snookie-ookums?? Or is that my sister?

insinuating itself into my thoughts when I’m supposed to be in Reconstruction Carolina. When I started dreaming sequences, I knew I had to write it or go mad. And so, I’m currently marketing From My Balcony, which is a current day women’s fiction/romance set in the south of France. Diana (my heroine) is a lady of a certain age (ahem) looking to repair her confidence and self-esteem after the end of a decades-long marriage to a true bastard. She wants to hide up on her 3rd floor balcony, but has the unluck of choosing a town to live in with folks who simply won’t let her hide. Hide or take a chance again and live the life she always wanted – and maybe find the courage to love again - is the choice she must make. While From My Balcony is a huge departure in sub-genre for me, it recently placed 2nd in the Pages From the Heart contest, so I guess I’m kind of on the right track with it. I’d like to straddle both genres, historical and contemporary to offer my readers variety.

Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews?

But now that From My Balcony is done, I’m heading back to 1865 Carolina and Robbie Mathieson and Maggie O’Sullivan. In The Rainmaker’s Daughter, Maggie is charged with murder and Robbie is the prosecutor. Growing feelings between them make for a rather sticky situation. There are way too many stories and characters living in my head. It’s sometimes tough to choose whose turn it is to bring to life. Because while Robbie and Maggie are finally talking to me, Diana’s daughter Brianna and Robbie’s cousin Jean Claude are both tugging on my sleeve hinting at stories of their own.

Yes, I read the reviews. I know a lot of authors who won’t, who don’t want to take the chance of reading something negative. So far, I’ve been blessed in that readers have been very generous with their comments. Whenever the going gets tough – and that happens a lot – I’ll read again a nice review and tell myself I really CAN do this. The other part of reviews is simply – I can’t fix what I don’t know is broken. I can’t do much about the books that are already published, but I can keep the criticisms in mind while working on the next one and don’t do the dumb thing again. The real trick is to not let the negative ones pull you down. And that is a trick, I can tell you! Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? I don’t want to bore readers with same old, same old, and so I’ve taken a stroll down the contemporary path. A story has haunted me for years, lately 62 | UncagedBooks.com

Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? Anytime I try to force a character into being, it never works. They come to me, often starting out life as a secondary character in a different book. (see Brianna & Jean Claude <g>). I think it’s because they already have that fourth dimension to them – a past. The Grandmother in my first book, By Love’s Honor Bound, set in 1860, has been sashaying around, waving a fan and a perfume bottle in front of me, and making noises about a “pirate’s sapphire” she’s had since the War of 1812. I


| PATRICIA BOND | need to have a serious talk with that lady…. They tell me their names. I rarely choose them. In Arms of an Angel, I wasn’t real thrilled with the heroine’s name, Corinne. But every time I’d think of changing it, I’d hear this voice saying, “My name’s Corinne.” Okay. You’re Corinne. Pull from people I know? You trying to get me in trouble here? <G> It’s bad enough my family looks at each character wondering if I meant them! I think my characters in the end are an amalgam of all the people I’ve met, watched, and imagined. All those psychology courses in college are finally coming in handy. They didn’t work well for potty training, but they’re great for creating characters. Although, like most writers, I tell people be nice to me or I’ll kill you in my next book. Really, the best characters are the ones who come to me on their own. What’s hard is coaxing them into telling that story. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? The best part? Being God. Really – I create people. I give them baggage, put them in impossible situations, and if I’m really lucky, then I get to sit back and watch them figure it out. Creation is a true high – that idea that I can make something out of quite literally nothing.. there’s nothing like it. Except seeing your book in print sitting on the library shelf (or better yet, NOT seeing it left on the shelf!). And reading those nice reviews, knowing I brought someone a couple hours of enjoyment, of escape from the daily grind. That I could take them to another place and time, give them hope, some fun, a happily ever after. The least favorite part is the marketing. It’s a necessary evil, but it’s so not me. I think that’s the same for a lot of authors. When we attend conferences, the most crowded workshops are the ones about marketing. We’re all looking for the magic elixir that puts our books in everyone’s hands without having to do anything for it. If there ever was a time when authors could just write (even Charles Dickens had to sell his stories

in serialized form to the newspaper), those days are long gone. But we try to make the best of it, and have some fun along the way, like doing interviews like this. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? There’s that creative thing again. All my hobbies revolve around creating. I play at photography – landscapes, seascapes, sunsets mostly. Even won a prize for one of my pictures! I love sitting by the lake, and if you talk real nice to me, I might share my rock with you. I knit reasonably well, and am nearly done making myself a lace shawl, and do some charity knitting as well. I play the piano. Cooking is fun, too. You can’t get hips like mine without working at it! I’d like to learn watercolors, but I’m afraid it would just reinforce my fear that I should stick to drawing pictures with words. And read. I read whatever comes to hand – books, magazines, cereal boxes. And then, there’s my travel addiction... I’ve been lucky enough to actually visit places I used to dream about. Rather than satisfy the longing, it just adds more places I want to go to, to see, experience and meet the people. I love talking to people from other countries, finding out about their lives, their people. Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? There are so many authors I love to read. I recently discovered Louise Penny and her inspector Gamache series. They’re fantastic, and if you ever want a master class in creating characters, you can’t do better than those. Last year, I inhaled her whole series! I adore Julia Quinn, Mary Balogh. Mary Jo Putney, Nora, Jayne Ann Krentz in all her personae. How can you not love pet dustbunnies? Grisham, Connelly, Crichton, Preston and Child (singly & Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | together). And some metaphysical things just for good measure. How much room are you giving me here? The last t-a-w book? Something I picked up at a conference that I’m pretty sure was self-published. The use of passive voice all the time made me cringe and finally donate it. It wasn’t for me, but someone else may enjoy it. I won’t be any more specific than that, because reading is highly subjective, and another reader may be in thrall with that author. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? First, I’d say THANK YOU!!! If you’re a fan, I presume you’ve read something by me – even if it’s only this interview. So, thank you. You are the reason I do this, and if I can give you any amount of pleasure with my stories, I’m a happy woman. Second – you will see on the dedication page of Building a Christmas that part of the proceeds from it will be donated to a veterans’ organization to help those battling PTSD. If you can see your way to buying that story, you’ll be helping our men and women in uniform who fight to keep us safe and free. If you stop by my webpage, you’ll find direct links to my Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads pages, as well as buy links for my books. My webpage is undergoing a re-vamp, but is accessible. The next iteration will include a blog to keep up on what’s happening here in Western New York and with me and also the occasional guest poster. I’d love to hear from readers (and reviewers, too!). Drop me a note! The Contact Me page on the website will get your email directly to me. And thank you!! I hope you have an enjoyable holiday season. Wesolych Swiat!! (Merry Christmas!) 64 | UncagedBooks.com

Enjoy excerpts from Building a Christmas Building a Christmas Patricia Bond Historical Holiday Colonel Nathaniel Walker has been ravaged by the Civil War nearly as much as his country has. Now he seeks the sanctuary of home, hoping to find solace from the dreams that haunt him most nights. Instead, he finds an orphanage for war orphans has sprung up next door. Now, his guilt has faces – fourteen of them. And the woman who cares for them. Melanie Treymont exhibits more courage under fire than any soldier he’s ever seen. Is she the one who can help him rebuild his life and finally put his demons to rest? Melanie Treymont hopes to make amends for her dead husband’s actions by taking responsibility for fourteen war orphans. But facing eviction, she may have to give up her plans of building a life for them. Help comes from an unexpected source, as her neighbor, Colonel Nathaniel Walker, steps up to the challenge, despite fighting his own inner battles. These two tortured souls unite for the children, working to build a life for them as well as themselves. They start by “Building a Christmas.” Excerpt Chapter 1 The bodies flew past his head. Parts of organs lay strewn at his feet. The moans of the dying filled the air. An odd foot got up and walked past him, seeking its owner. Colonel Nathaniel Walker awoke shaking, bathed in a fine, cold sweat. If anyone had asked him, he would not have said he


| PATRICIA BOND | was an evil man, a bad man, or even an uncaring man. Yet he’d sent countless men, some so young they were nearly boys, to their deaths. Been responsible for even more. It was what war did to you. It changed your very being. Your soul. Nathaniel wasn’t sure he had a soul anymore. What Antietam hadn’t taken of it, Gettysburg had. What he wanted to know was why God, in His perversity, had insisted on keeping him alive. He should have sent him to hell. Maybe he already was there. Maybe this was a special kind of hell. One designed to torment him and only him. He got up from his bed, shuffled to the window, looked out at the field behind the roadhouse. Twenty-eight years sat upon his shoulders with the weight of eighty-eight. Tomorrow, he would complete his journey and he would be home. Home. Why? He was useless now. Unable to think clearly. Unable to work. Unable to feel. Unable to do anything but see those whom he’d killed in one way or another. By bullet, bayonet, or order. He splashed water long gone cold on his face, washing away the sweat and tears. The sun would come up soon. He could see the pink tinge on the edge of the sky. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning. He wondered what kind of storm the day would bring, but decided it didn’t matter. It couldn’t possibly match the storm in his head. He wouldn’t go back to bed. He would not sleep, wished he didn’t ever have to sleep again. If he didn’t sleep, he couldn’t dream. He put on his socks, ignoring the holes in them, and his boots, ignoring the holes in those, too, and, wrapping the thin blanket around his cold shoulders, sat in the chair and stared at the coming dawn. And just sat. *** Melanie Treymont rolled over, pulling the blanket up higher. It didn’t help. She was still freezing. Grumbling, she rubbed her feet together in a vain attempt

to warm them. You’d think the landlord could have given her enough coal to last the night. It was the end of November, for God’s sake. Didn’t the man know it was cold outside? And inside. Dawn was fighting its way past the horizon when she finally gave up the battle and rose to dress. At least her gown and boots would warm her a bit. Downstairs, the roadhouse slowly came to life, the sounds of wood being brought in, the smell of cooking fires being lit drifting up to her room. Clanging pots told her cooks were beginning to make food, and . . . coffee? Oh God, was that coffee? Closing her eyes, she sighed and smiled in anticipation of a cup of blessedly hot coffee. She stuffed her nightgown into her satchel and waited for what she hoped was a decent interval, then carried her bag down to the roadhouse’s main room. With any luck, she would have enough time to eat a breakfast and buy a cold lunch packet to eat on the road before having to board the coach. And drink a cup of coffee. It would seem the other travelers spending the night at the roadhouse had the same idea she did. There was only one seat left in the main room. A lone man sat at a small table, the chair opposite him empty. Tall and taciturn, with dark hair curling over his collar, she assumed the Union soldier was returning home. He had shared the coach with her yesterday, spending the whole of the trip silently looking out the window with eyes, she’d wager, not registering anything he saw. She knew he wasn’t blind because he’d saluted her as though she were a general when he held the door for her. But he never uttered a word the entire day. His uniform’s worn green jacket seemed to provide scant protection from the weather and aside from his rifle, he carried only a small knapsack. She caught his eye and smiled a greeting. He looked at her blankly before staring down into his cup of coffee. A bowl of porridge sat before him, seemingly untouched. Undaunted, Melanie approached the table. “May I join you?” she asked, smiling. He looked up at her with a blank expression, as Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | though she were speaking a foreign language he didn’t understand. She wondered for a moment if he was deaf, perhaps from standing too near cannon. Finally, he shrugged. “Suit yourself,” he said, and cast his storm-cloud grey eyes down again at his untouched porridge. Not the reception she’d hoped for, but then again, she was the intruder here. She murmured a thank you. “Where are you going to?” she asked, hoping to break the awkward silence. He gave a huge sigh, looked up at her with something akin to scorn. “Pittsburgh.” “So am I. We shall be traveling companions again, it seems.” His level gaze bored into her. “How is the porridge?” He stared in silence again, then shoved the bowl to her. “Here. Have it.” “Oh, but I couldn’t take your breakfast,” Melanie protested. “I was just wondering if I should order it.” “Nothing else to order,” came the terse reply. “Eat it or go hungry.” “You needn’t be rude about it,” she bristled. He shrugged again, pulled the bowl back in front of him, picked up the spoon, then set it down again. The owner’s wife came up to her and Melanie ordered her own porridge and coffee, then sat back and looked around the filled main room. “It seems the landlord does a brisk business, does it not?” He raised his gaze to her. “Look, if you don’t mind, I’d just as soon eat in quiet.” Well. That put it bluntly. Her brows raised. “Then why don’t you?” she asked. His own brow furrowed in question. “Eat,” she said. “You say you want to eat in quiet, but you’ve yet to touch your food.” “Are you my mother?” “Do you need one?” she shot back. The faintest ghost of a smile flitted across his face, before he turned dour again. “If I eat, will you be quiet?” “Eat, and we’ll see,” she answered in her best 66 | UncagedBooks.com

schoolmistress voice. He picked up the spoon and took a mouthful, pulled a face that made her burst out laughing. “It’s not funny,” he snarled. “Oh, but it is. You look just like one of the babies the first time they try porridge,” she said, trying in vain to curb her laughter. “I’ll wager theirs isn’t cold.” “Sometimes,” she admitted. “You’re not being quiet.” “You’re not eating.” He made a rude noise, drank some coffee, and stood. “Enjoy your breakfast, madam.” He dropped a coin on the table, grabbed his knapsack and rifle from under his chair, spun about, and practically stomped out of the room. “Well,” Melanie said to herself. “That set me in my place.” She dug into her own porridge and made a face she imagined was quite similar to his. It ought to be. Her food was cold as well.

Uncaged Review Two broken people, fourteen orphaned children who lost their parents during the civil war. Melanie has poured her heart and soul into caring for the children and now they learn they are losing their home as the owners are going to sell out. With no money and nowhere to go, the future looks grim. Nathaniel has returned from the war, being the only survivor of his troop – caring the guilt of many on his shoulders. When he comes home, he finds the orphans, living in the neighboring ranch have been taking care of his fragile father and his ranch he can no longer work. Everything works with this story. The hardships, the seemingly impossible task of keeping the orphanage and the children together. It’s easy to picture the world the author has built in your mind as you read along. This is a heartwarming tale that had me breaking out the tissue box over the plight of the children and the hard times they endure. You’ll see a love


| PATRICIA BOND | story unfold and see the mending of two souls as they strive to keep the orphanage open and I don’t think you will stop reading until you finish this one, I know I didn’t.

Don’t miss these titles:

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feature author After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky heroes. When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

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Uncaged welcomes Shanna Hatfield! Uncaged: In The Christmas Cowboy, we meet Tate and Kenzie, a book full of romance, the rodeo, and a feel-good ending. What inspires you to write in the Western romance genre? I’ve been a horse owner most of my life so I’m intrigued, do you have a background in the western way of life? I grew up on a farm and always had a horse to ride. My family would probably tell you I was a bit of a horse crazy girl. When I was about three or so, I was supposed to be napping and snuck out of the house so I could ride my pony. I didn’t get the riding pad tight and ended up clinging to it upside down beneath the pony when my mom finally found me. (A girl just wants to ride, right?) During most of my childhood years, my oldest brother worked as a buckaroo on remote ranches located on the edge of nowhere. He’d return home full of adventurous stories and sometimes bring along a cowboy or two who could use a home-cooked meal and a few days of “civilization.” They’d walk in the house smelling like sunshine, horses and leather and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. The western way of life is one I greatly admire and enjoy. Uncaged: This is our holiday issue – can you tell us of some of your holiday traditions and some things you love to do during the Christmas season?

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The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year. Growing up, we always made a trek to the woods (which was about an hour and a half drive) to spend the day picking out the perfect Christmas tree. We often hosted Christmas at our house for all the extended family, so we’d go sledding and ice skating and have such fun. One tradition I started a few years ago is making home-made cinnamon rolls. I try to deliver them to friends and neighbors while they’re still warm, and

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the frosting is melting over the cinnamon-filled rolls in sweet, delectable puddles. Also, I love to decorate for the holidays and have a theme for each room in the house. My husband, Captain Cavedweller, and I wed during the holiday season, so it’s just a wonderful, magical, romantic time of the year for us. Uncaged: You also write in other genres, can you tell us about the different series you have published along with the wonderful holiday selection you have written? I started out writing sweet contemporary romance then I decided to give writing historical romances a try. Goodness, I love writing both so much! I also have a few humorous books out (one based on my adventurous growing up on the farm), four recipe and entertaining tips books, and my first children’s book, Steve the Mule recently released. One contemporary series I write is the Rodeo Romance series (The Christmas Cowboy is the first book in that series). The fifth book just released a few weeks ago and all the stories involve hunky rodeo cowboys, sassy women, laughter, heartwarming moments, and holiday

cheer. Grass Valley Cowboys is another contemporary series I enjoy writing. It’s been popular with readers. The setting is a ranch in central Oregon owned by the three Thompson brothers. Among the characters are their widowed mother, a few cousins, and their close friends, the Morgan family. (The Morgans just happen to be cousins to Tate Morgan of the The Christmas Cowboy.) The first book in the series, The Cowboy’s Christmas Plan, is about a city girl who needs a change of pace so she comes to Grass Valley to visit her aunt. Trey Thompson needs a new cook and housekeeper after his retired, so he hires Cadi and from there, the holiday fun and romance begins. I also have a World War II series called Hearts of the War. So far, there are two books out in it, but I have plans to write more. Historical accuracy is very important to me, so it takes a lot of research for these books, but I love every minute of it. Historical series I write include Pendleton Petticoats, Baker City Brides, and Hardman Holidays. The Hardman Holidays series has been likened to Old West fairy tales and is such fun this time of year. The sixth book in the series, The Christmas Confection, releases December 5. It’s a story about Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | a man in need of redemption and a baker determined to make him smile. Three fairy-godmother like aunts arrive to add to the chaos and holiday escapades. Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? I do read a lot of reviews and appreciate people taking the time to write them. Everyone is so busy, so when people actually take a minute to share their thoughts about a book, I think it’s important to read it. A well-written, thoughtful review can be so helpful to an author, even if it is pointing out something specific the author can do better. Constructive criticism is a great thing. Destructive not so much. And the great reviews truly buoy our spirits and lift us up when we need a little boost. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? Plans for 2018 include releasing books in several of my series. The next installment in the Pendleton Petticoats series and Baker City Brides series will be out in the spring. Most likely, I’ll have a new Hearts of the War book out around autumn. I do plan to release new stories in the Rodeo Romance and Hardman Holidays series, too. Additionally, I have a new secret project I’m working on and hope to have completed before the end of the year. Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? I love names that are different (that might derive from having a name most people don’t pronounce correctly). If I happen upon a name that is unique or different, I save it to a file I keep with character names (and those names include humans and pets!). Some names are inspired by people I know. The name of the heroine in Chasing Christmas is 70 | UncagedBooks.com

inspired by my niece. As for developing characters, when I first started writing I tended to draw quite a bit from people I knew. Now, though, I let the characters blossom as I write. Each character is so unique and different, but I usually start by thinking about their personalities and go from there. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? The favorite part of being an author for me is writing the stories. I absolutely love sitting down and letting the words flow, the characters develop, the story reveal itself. And I feel exceptionally blessed to get up every day and so something that makes me so ridiculously happy. My least favorite part would definitely be keeping up with social media trends and trying to stay on top of the ever-changing landscape of promotion. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Beyond curling up with a good book, I love to bake and try out new recipes. I enjoy photography and like to snap a few photos when time permits. Home decorating and crafts are things I also like to play with. Pinterest is somewhere I could hang out for hours, studying craft projects, home ideas, and beautiful gardens. Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? One of my readers recommended a book to me and I loved it. It’s called the Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof. Just a touching, wonderful story full of love and hope. As for one I wanted to throw against a wall, I couldn’t do that to a book! I will admit, though, that if a book


| SHANNA HATFIELD | doesn’t pull me in by page three, I set it aside and don’t come back. I have such limited reading time just for fun, a book really has to grab my interest from the start or I won’t invest my time in it. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you, thank you, thank you! Fans are awesome and fantastic and so appreciated!

cessful direct sales company, Kenzie Beckett doesn’t have time for a man. Besides, after being burned twice by two-timing losers, she refuses to allow a third opportunity to exist. Unfortunately, no one told that to the handsome rodeo cowboy who catches her eye at the airport. He’ll need more than a pair of fine-fitting jeans, dusty boots, and dimpled smile to break past her resistance and bring her a heaping helping of holiday cheer.

If any of them would like to join my Street Team, we hang out on Facebook at Hopeless Romantics where we share recipes, craft ideas, have weekly giveaways, and I shamelessly promote my books and expect them to do them same.

Full of laughter and tender romance, The Christmas Cowboy takes readers on a sweet Christmas adventure to a happily ever after.

I love connecting with readers, so I hope to see you online!

“Do you think she’ll come?” Cort asked Tate as he stretched behind the chutes at the rodeo. Determined to center his focus on the upcoming ride, Tate struggled to block out thoughts of Kenzie. If he hadn’t been in love with her before last night, he certainly was now. He kept picturing how tempting she looked in the candlelight at the restaurant, how her skin felt so soft beneath his fingers, how much that one amazing kiss had him wanting hundreds more. “Probably not.” Tate stretched his legs, making sure the adjustment on his stirrups was just right. “You sent a ticket to her at the hotel, didn’t you?” Cort leaned against the fence and chewed on a toothpick. “Yeah, but that doesn’t mean she’ll be here,” Tate said, annoyed and out of sorts for reasons he couldn’t explain and didn’t want to examine. More than anything, he wanted Kenzie to watch him ride tonight. He knew she had a meeting, but from what details he gathered, it should be over at seven. If she really wanted to see him ride, she’d have time to get to the rodeo. His current state of irritability derived from the thought that she honestly wasn’t interested in him.

Enjoy excerpts from The Christmas Cowboy The Christmas Cowboy Shanna Hatfield Western Holiday Romance The combination of Christmas and hunky cowboy May prove to be more than she can resist. . . Tate Morgan is as tough as they come. He can handle the wildest bronc on the rodeo circuit, but he loses the ability to think straight around the beautiful woman he keeps running into at the airport. Completely captivated by the uptight executive who makes it clear she detests cowboys, Tate will have to work a little holiday magic if he wants to win her heart. Married to her job as a corporate trainer for a suc-

Excerpt

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Cort’s chuckles caused him to look up with a cool glare. “What’s so funny, man?” Tate asked, looking around for the source of his friend’s amusement. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, all he could see was a bunch of other cowboys getting ready to compete. “You.” Cort shook his head as he waggled a finger at Tate. “I’ve never seen you so worked up about a girl before and I’ve seen you with a lot of girls.” “Yeah, well most of them weren’t of my choosing, you know. I can’t help who is in the recent circle of biggest fans or stalkers,” Tate said, continuing to stretch his muscles as he brushed aside a niggling concern over one fan that wouldn’t leave him alone. He was convinced the woman was certifiably insane. “Whatever.” Cort waved a dismissive hand at Tate. “Admit it, man. She’s under your skin.” “I’m not admitting anything,” Tate said, knowing Cort was right. Kenzie was under his skin, wrapped up in his thoughts, with an ever-tightening hold on his heart. If he wanted to win the event, let alone stay on the horse he’d drawn, he was going to have to concentrate on the ride ahead and quit speculating about Kenzie and her feelings for him, or the apparent lack of them. Later, they sat on a fence watching the grand entry of the rodeo. Cort nudged Tate so hard he almost fell backward off the top rail. “Is that her?” Cort motioned to the bleachers as Tate regained his balance. Although he hadn’t met Kenzie, his friend shared several photos he took of her with his phone. Tate’s gaze followed Cort’s pointing finger and his eyes widened in surprise. Kenzie maneuvered her way to her seat dressed in a navy suit and heels. Quickly jumping off the fence, Tate jogged toward the stands. Kenzie looked around, getting her bearings, as he hustled up the steps and squatted down beside her. “Dewdrop, I didn’t think you’d be able to make 72 | UncagedBooks.com

it.” He took her hand in his and squeezed her fingers. The warmth in her eyes as she gazed at him made his heartbeat kick into overdrive. Maybe she cared about him more than she wanted to admit. The jubilant smile on his face made her glad she raced through her presentation, ran through the hotel as if the building was aflame, and pleaded with the taxi driver to put some hustle in it so she’d arrive at the rodeo on time. Kenzie smiled at Tate, savoring the feel of his big, rough hand against hers. A bright light twinkled in his blue eyes while the grin on his face was both charming and engaging. “My meeting wrapped up early so I decided to come. I realize, though, I am probably the only person here in a business suit, so don’t make fun of me,” Kenzie warned good-naturedly. “No, ma’am.” Tate kissed her cheek before taking a seat on the steps beside her. He’d reserved a seat for her on the end of a row with some of his friends in hopes if she did come, he could sneak in a few minutes with her. “I’m really glad you’re here.” “Me, too,” Kenzie said with a sincerity Tate could hear in her voice. “Is there anything you need me to explain to you?” Tate asked, as they watched the end of the grand entry. “This ain’t my first rodeo, cowboy.” The western twang she inflected into her voice made them both laugh. “Okay,” Tate said in surprise. He wondered what else he had to learn about the beautiful woman who just made everything right in his world by showing up to see him ride. When the bareback riding began, Tate whipped off his hat to hide their faces and gave Kenzie a kiss that made her wonder if her shoes would melt right off her feet. “For luck.” He stood and settled the hat on his head as those around them laughed or hollered. “Ride ‘em, cowboy.” Kenzie grinned at Tate with flushed cheeks. Thoroughly embarrassed, his attention also pleased her immensely. He’d just made it known to anyone watching that she was off limits and that was fine with her.


| SHANNA HATFIELD |

Tate hurried down the steps and behind the chutes with Kenzie’s eyes glued to his jean-covered backside. A little girl sitting beside her watched her observation of Tate. “Is he your boyfriend?” the little girl asked. Kenzie looked down at the blond hair in pigtails, red flowered T-shirt, and jeans tucked into bright red cowboy boots. The cherubic face staring up at her made her smile. “Not exactly,” Kenzie said, not wanting to discuss her feelings for Tate with a six-year-old. “Either he is or he isn’t,” the wise child said, staring at Kenzie with tiny arms crossed over her chest and an impatient look on her face. “Grammy says you’ve got to learn to make up your mind.” “Your Grammy sounds very smart.” Kenzie watched as Tate disappeared into the sea of cowboy hats barely visible behind the chutes from her seat. “Is Tate your boyfriend?” the cherub asked again. “He’s really nice, and all the girls think he’s cute.” “He is nice and very cute.” Although she replied to the child, her thoughts remained lost in the kiss Tate planted on her in front of everyone. Normally, she would be mortified at such behavior, but somehow, tonight, it seemed perfect. “If you let him kiss you like that, don’t you think he’s probably your boyfriend?”

Uncaged Review This is a sweet romance that simmers slowly and even though it’s not an action packed book, the characters are easy to love and the author infuses enough humor to keep you turning the pages. There was a couple times I wanted to shake some sense into Kenzie, but she does finally get to where she needs to be, and the journey is a fun, holiday romance well worth picking up this holiday season. I also love the idea that one of the supporting cast in this book, has his own story in book two of the series. Reviewed by Cyrene

Don’t miss...

The Cowboy’s Christmas Plan Shanna Hatfield Western Holiday Romance Sometimes the most unexpected circumstances lead to the best adventures... Cadence Greer’s plans for a happy-ever-after are quickly derailed when her fiancé runs off with his secretary a week before their wedding. Homeless, jobless, and jilted, she escapes to Grass Valley, Oregon, where she takes a job as a housekeeper and cook to seven cowboys on a sprawling ranch. Trey Thompson is a well-respected pillar of the community, running a successful ranch with his brother. All he wanted was someone to cook meals and keep the house clean. When he hires Cadence Greer for the job, he gets more than he ever planned on, including a sassy little redheaded orphan. Spend Christmas in Grass Valley at the Triple T Ranch, where mistletoe hangs in abundance and holiday magic floats in the air.

Uncaged has no warnings for these stories. These are sweet romances with Christian undertones - suitable even for Young Adult romance readers.

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feature author Madelyn Hill has always loved the written word. From the time she could read and all through her school years, she’d sneak books into her textbooks during school. And she devoured books daily. At the age of 10 she proclaimed she wanted to be a writer. After being a “closet” writer for several years, she sent her manuscripts out there and is now published with Soul Mate Publishing. And she couldn’t be happier! A resident of Western New York, she moved from one Rochester to another Rochester to be with the love of her life. They are busy with their 3 children and a puppy named Cannoli! They love to cook, go to the movies, and hang out with friends.

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Uncaged welcomes Madelyn Hill! Uncaged: You are well known for writing smoking hot Historicals, especially those wicked Highlanders, but you also write Contemporary and Young Adult. Can you tell us more about your different series? Thank you! My first love is the historical novel. When I was young I read Little House On The Prairie books over and over again loving the way they lived and carved their lives in the land. As I grew older my love for historical romance continued and I really focus on historical romances. My adult contemporary series aren’t yet published, are filled with alpha males and strong heroines who clash until they realize they can’t live without each other. My YA series is a work in progress and always hovering at the back of my mind. I work in education and kids amazing me in so many ways. And the characters have specific interest in art and that is pulled into the series. I actually have interviews set up with a metal artist coming up. Uncaged: This is our holiday issue – can you tell us of some of your holiday traditions and some things you love to do during the Christmas season?

madelynhill.com

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We do Christmas big in our house. Growing up all of the relatives would come to our house on Christmas Day and it was very fun and there was a ton of food. My love of Christmas has sometimes gotten out of control with decorating, baking and cooking, but I love chaos so it usually works out. We still put our shoes by


our bedroom doors on St. Nickolas’ Day (December 6th) and the kids receive gum, candy and Starbucks gift cards. When my daughter went to college, I sent it to her

make them real. With historicals, this is a no brainer, the history must be within the pages of the book in order to create an immersive story for the reader.

We bake a lot of cookies and bring them to neighbors, relatives, and work. This is an all-day activity in which we make about eight different types of Christmas cookies. And for Christmas dinner, we have an abbreviated Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes along with family favorites such as tenderloin, roasted Brussel sprouts and tiramisu.

When I start plotting a story, I determine the area of the Highlands and see if there is a real clan I can use for my story. If I need to create a clan like, I did for the heroines in the Wild Thistle Trilogy, I pick characteristics of existing clans. If it is a real clan, there is a lot of research to do in order to honor the clan’s history. In Christmas in the Highlands, the clans are real and I found some information about the clan which allowed me to create the conflict in A Family for Christmas. Basics, such as clothing, speech, and food is necessary to get right and create an authentic experience for the reader. My editor is awesome at detecting words that weren’t used during the time period I’m writing, so I research word usage as well (Thank God for Google!).

What I love most of all is that we are together. Uncaged: Christmas in the Highlands was a magical book to me. What I loved about it, is the two stories kept all the characters in both and they both enhanced each other. What inspires your Historicals? How much research do you do for them? Thank you! I think there is just something magical (at least perceived by readers) about the Highlands and Scottish men in general. The accent, the kilt, the brawn. Those facets come together to create a romantic character. And for me, that means writing historicals because I love the idea of a Highlander sweeping the heroine off of her feet. I’m also very tied to my Celtic heritage and it may be why I’m drawn to Scottish historicals in particular. I love little nuggets that I can pull into my stories and

Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? I read all reviews. Sometimes a review can hurt, these are our babies after all. However, I think the best thing to do is see if the criticism is accurate and then use it to better your writing craft. In my opinion, writers should always try to learn and Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | perfect the facets of writing such as characterization, dialogue, and word usage. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? Highland Faith, Book 3 of the Wild Thistle Trilogy will be out May 2018. I’m working on a contemporary Christmas story and developing 2 historical series, one is called Highland Rogues based on Shakespearian themes and the other a Regency Mystery Series. Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? I usually start with a title and the hero and heroine’s names. That kicks off the story and then I do a character sketch for each character and plop those right at the beginning of the working manuscript. That way I can keep the characterization accurate and tweak if necessary. I also create a Pinterest board for each book so I have visuals and links to something I researched. Some characteristics of people I know filter into a character, but none are based solely on someone I know. And a few times people have asked me to put them in my books. In my Highland Rogue Series, I have added a clan story teller which is loosely based on one of my co-workers. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? I love writing, the creative process, and seeing my books in print. Even if I tried to turn my muse off, I can’t, stories pop into my head all of the time. I love meeting writers and forging friendships and meeting readers at signings. One thing I do not love is the everyday minutia of marketing. I’m a bit of a techie, so I try to use technology to help me post to multiple social networking sites at one time and populate my Twitter feed with writing 76 | UncagedBooks.com

articles. I do love interacting on social networking, but sometimes I lose a lot of time on Facebook and/or Twitter – oh and Pinterest! One can spend a lot of time finding inspiration on Pinterest. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? I love to read and cook. We spend a lot of time together as a family and now that our children are getting older, my husband and I are enjoying going to events and restaurants in our city on our own. We also have a new puppy named Cannoli who is keeping us very busy and may well become a character in a children’s book in the future! Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? I always give books a chance, even if I want to throw it against a wall, I finish it. Sometimes books improve, but I think the main reason is that I know how much work goes into writing and publishing a book. As for my favorite book, hmmm, this is tough! I have so many authors I love to read and read all of their books. I think Elizabeth St. Michel’s Duke of Rutland Series and Willa Blair’s historicals are wonderful. I also love Misty Simon’s newest contemporary book Cremains of the Day. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you for reading my books! An author puts a lot of blood, sweat and tears into each book and when someone clicks that buy button, it makes our day. And when you leave a review? It is the best gift an author can receive.


Enjoy an excerpt from Christmas in the Highlands

Christmas in the Highlands Madelyn Hill Historical Highlands A FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS IN THE HIGHLANDS, BOOK ONE

Laird Malcolm Sutherland needs a bride. He has few requirements of his new wife; demands he should have insisted with his former betrothed—namely, honesty, loyalty, and resources. Lady Rossalyn Gordon will do anything to be rid of her tyrant father, even if that means deceiving the man who offers her an escape. If revealed, those secrets will either bring her mercy, or thrust her back into the hands of the devil who sired her. When Rossalyn’s bastard of a father arrives at Sutherland Keep, going back on his word and ordering her return, Malcolm must decide if he can forgive his wife enough to listen to his heart and have a family for Christmas.

HIS BY CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS IN THE HIGHLANDS, BOOK TWO Fiona Sutherland longs for love with the man she has pined after since she was a lass. When he weds another she is devastated, and questions why the man she pledged her heart to has forsaken a vow made in their youth. Could loving her be so hard? Cameron Munro adores Fiona from afar, knowing her heart has been set on another. She is everything he desires—strong, loyal, and fiery in spirit.

| MADELYN HILL | Determined, he pledges to prove his love to her and win Fiona’s heart by Christmas. Excerpt (Book 2 - His By Christmas) “I want to woo a wife.” Brae tipped her head back and laughed. “You’ll not be needing my help with that, lad. Why, I could go in the kitchen and announce you’re looking for a wife and the lasses would run me down trying to get to you.” He chuckled, relaxed in his chair, and crossed his arms over his chest. “I want to woo Fiona.” Abruptly, Brae sobered and then her eyes widened. “Fiona,” she exclaimed with wonder and a bit of surprise. “Are you certain, lad?” He grinned. Fiona had earned her contrary reputation honestly. “Aye.” “Well.” That single word held a heavy dose of skepticism. “‘Twill be tricky. She’s hurting and not likely to receive your attention. She’ll refuse you if you push her.” Aye. Fiona was an independent woman, but with a vulnerability about her and something painful in her gaze that resulted from more than Mal’s so-called betrayal. Cam had witnessed it too many times. When those green eyes turned sad, it broke his heart. For her soul was strong and if sadness lingered, ‘twas a grievous wound within her. “Lad, you’ll have to go slowly.” A quick smile flashed on Brae’s aged face. “Little things. Things a lass such as Fiona would appreciate. Nothing obvious.” Aye, from what he knew of Fiona, she wouldn’t want a gift-giving swain made public. “Could Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | you send a meal to her chamber as a courtesy?” Brae’s smile forced her wrinkles to crease around her eyes. “For certain, Cam. ‘Tis a kind gesture.” She patted his arm and relayed his desire to one of the kitchen lasses.

this holiday season, this Highlander would be a great choice. Reviewed by Cyrene

His wooing would need to be quick, for if Fiona discovered his plan she’d fight him and the desire he kenned she’d have for him if she just gave him a chance.

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Aye, he’d court her, gently but swiftly, for he’d only a fortnight. And she’d be his by Christmas.

Uncaged Review A fantastic seasonal Highlander that should have a place on all historical lovers lists, and one of the things I loved about these two stories in one, is they follow each other perfectly. In our first book, we get the story of Laird Malcom and Lady Rossalyn who is pledged to him from her cruel father – as a bargaining tool for an alliance with Laird Malcom Sutherland. Unknown to Malcolm, that Rossalyn was once married and has a daughter whom she steals away in the wagons. The second story follows right after the events of book one, and this one is about Malcolm’s righthand man, Cam and the feisty Fiona, who we met in book one, whose heart is broken from Malcolm bringing home a wife – believing it should have been her since they were children. A rare treat, is we get to still see Rossalyn and Malcolm and a peek into their life after their arc ended as we also cheer on Cam and Fiona. The stories don’t feel like shorter novellas, both stories are well developed with interesting and likable characters and the author does a great job having the reader connect with the characters. If you are looking for a nice historical romance for

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| MADELYN HILL |

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Short story

The Secret Christmas of Ella Messenger

by Patricia Feinberg Stoner


| SHORT STORY |

The Secret Christmas of Ella Messenger by Patricia Feinberg Stoner The village was almost picture-perfect. Nearly every house round the green was festive with lights and tasteful glitter, Christmas trees sparkled in front gardens and the sound of carols drifted into the night. Admittedly the life-sized illuminated sleigh, complete with waving Santa, on the Fortescues’ lawn was a little out of place, but they were incomers, and a tactful word from the village committee would see them right for next year. Now it only lacked snow to achieve the look of a Dickensian Christmas card – and Mrs Forrest had done her best with cotton wool balls in the monkey puzzle. Ella Messenger’s cottage was the missing tooth in the gleaming smile. No Christmas tree adorned her lawn or twinkled from her front window. No coloured lamps hung gaily from the eves. Even her porch light was an uncompromising LED white, unadorned by snowflake stickers or cheeky robins. Her friend Madge would sometimes jokingly call her Ella-nezer Scrooge. This wasn’t strictly fair: Ella was no Scrooge. If someone wished her a Merry Christmas she would smile and say ‘The same to you.’ When carol singers came calling she was ready with warm mince pies and a coin for the collecting plate. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Christmas. It was more that she didn’t see the point of it. ‘I’m not religious,’ she said on more than one occasion, ‘I dislike children and I loathe sentimentality, so really I don’t see any sense in the whole thing.’ Madge had just laughed and gone off to spend Christmas with her grandchildren. Was Ella envious? Was she just a tiny bit wistful at the thought of fun and games round the tree with a loving family? Ella was a woman accustomed to looking squarely into her own emotions, confronting unpalatable truths as well as flattering insights. 82 | UncagedBooks.com

‘No, Chairman Miaow, I can honestly say I’m not jealous,’ she told the black cat weaving round her ankles with one green eye on the tin-opener. On Christmas Eve Ella carried on as if it were any other day. She always liked to sit up for the ten o’clock news, after whatever grisly drama was on offer at nine. She made herself a cup of tea and a small plate of cheese and crackers and settled down to watch the day’s events unfold. At 10:45 she was in bed. At eleven she was peacefully asleep; at midnight she woke up suddenly. The room was cold and her hot water bottle had worked its way down to the foot of the bed, but the cat, asleep on her feet, kept her warm. Something had wakened her, and as she opened a cautious eye it came again: a busy scuffle in the corner of the room. Ella opened both eyes, and then sat bolt upright, dislodging an indignant Miaow. ‘Oh for pity’s sake!’ she snapped. ‘Is this some kind of prank?’ The rotund figure in red glanced over his shoulder. ‘Ah, you’re awake,’ he said, adding a rather perfunctory ‘Ho, ho ho.’ Ella glared at him. ‘You’ve made a mistake, coming here,’ she said sternly. ‘You want the Wilkinses next door – they’ve got four kids, two dogs and a hamster. Yes, I think you’ll go down very nicely over there.’ Santa Claus, if indeed it was he, came over and sat on the foot of the bed. ‘No, I’m in the right place. I gather you’re not a Christmas person, Ella-nezer Scrooge,’ (Ella had the grace to blush at that) ‘so I’m going to take you on a little trip. We’re going to visit my home. Put on a warm dressing gown: it can get draughty in the sleigh.’ ‘If you think I’m going to get into a sleigh with a strange man and go traipsing off to Lapland in the middle of the night, you’re very much mistaken,’ said Ella. ‘Who said anything about Lapland? Hurry up now, or we’ll be late.’ It didn’t take long. No sooner had the sleigh – and yes, there were reindeer, Ella counted eight of them – swooped up into the sky than it swooped down


| PATRICIA FEINBERG STONER | again over the town. Lights and music blared out of the cheap supermarket and twinkling electric snow sprinkled the red lettering of its name: not Lapland, but something close. Customers elbowed each other to grab the last of the mince pies and bargain party treats. The tills rang out like the ‘B’ side of a Pogues’ record, and in the back Darren, the manager, counted the takings, a greasy smile anointing the acne on his cheeks. ‘There,’ said Santa, ‘now that’s the true spirit of Christmas.’ ‘How wrong you are,’ drawled a cut-glass accent from over Ella’s shoulder. Startled, she spun round and looked up into fathomless black eyes above an ebony goatee. The creature was dressed from head to toe in a shimmering grey-green outfit – was it a onesie? Ella wondered rather wildly. Surely not. He bowed and took her elbow. ‘Now, my dear, let’s leave this buffoon to his jollity and I’ll show you the real spirit of Christmas.’ The clink of glass on glass sounded in her ears and she looked round to find herself in a large and noisy pub. ‘Forget the turkey!’ yelled the revellers. ‘To hell with the pud! Lesh drink and drink and drink… it’s Chrishmass.’ Appalled, Ella clapped her hands over her ears and fled from the noise and the fumes. Stumbling out into the chilly street she practically fell over a band of Salvation Army workers. They were busy handing out blankets and hot soup to the rough sleepers, and belting out ‘God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen’ as they worked - with, it must be said, more enthusiasm than musicality. Ella turned abruptly, intending to make her way to the night bus stop and then back to the safety of her home. As she did so she bumped into a portly woman in an unbecoming blue uniform, almost knocking her off her feet. The woman recovered, smiled, and held out a small giftwrapped parcel to a flustered Ella. ‘No, she stammered, not me, you don’t need to give me a gift. I’ve got a home, and a warm one too, and I don’t even believe in your Christmas.’ ‘That doesn’t maaatter…’ said the woman, her voice fading into a plaintive mew. The cat was

pummelling the duvet furiously, demanding to be let underneath. ‘Well,’ thought Ella, ‘that’s the last time I watch ‘A Christmas Carol’ and eat cheese before bed.’ As she turned to make herself comfortable, Ella thought she spied something odd. There, on the night table, beside the Maeve Binchy and the Simvastatin and the glass of water, was a square cardboard box. Sleep was tugging at her eyelids, and she decided that it was a left-over bit of her dream, as much a figment of her imagination as Marley’s ghost. The next morning the box was still there. Cautiously lifting the lid she saw that it contained four crumbly, sugary, delicious-looking mince pies. Not, she was glad to note, from Santa’s other home, but from a much classier establishment. She took the box downstairs and set about getting breakfast for herself and Chairman Miaow. On the kitchen table were two packages. One was obviously a bottle; it was ginger wine – Crabbies, her favourite. The other, small and rectangular, might have been a book. Instead it was a DVD. ‘Oh, no,’ she groaned, mindful of her strange experiences of the night before. It was sure to be ‘Miracle on 42nd’ Street’ or, god forbid, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’. The DVD proved to be neither. It was ‘Terminator 2’, in her opinion the all-time greatest of the Arnie Schwarzenegger films. ‘Well, Miaow, it would be a shame to waste these gifts,’ said Ella later that evening, wriggling her toes comfortably into her sheepskin slippers. ‘After all, a mince pie is only a cake, and a drop of ginger wine while we’re watching a DVD is nothing to be ashamed of. But just in case we get accused of celebrating Christmas, we’ll let this be our little secret.’ Chairman Miaow blinked greenly up at her and purred. ‘Ho, ho, ho,’ he thought, but did not say.

The End Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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fang-FREAKIN-tastic reviews

feature author

welcomes

Tawdra Kandle


| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR |

Tawdra Kandle writes romance, in just about all its forms. She loves unlikely pairings, strong women, sexy guys, hot love scenes and just enough conflict to make it interesting. Her books include young adult and new adult paranormal romance, new adult and adult contemporary romance and adult paramystery romance. She lives in central Florida with a husband, kids, sweet pup and too many cats. And yeah, she rocks purple hair.

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Enjoy an excerpt from Not Broken Anymore

Not Broken Anymore Tawdra Kandle New Adult/Sports Romance

Football is everything, but love is the only game that matters. Tate Durham, the newest Philadelphia football hottie, has been in love with Gia Capri since the moment he laid eyes on her back in college. Unfortunately, that happened the same night her destructive and doomed relationship with the troubled Matt Lampert began. Tate didn’t stand a chance. In the year since Matt took his own life, Gia’s been sleepwalking through her days and just barely surviving her nights. She’s not sure that she’s capable of anything else . . . until Tate finds her sitting on the floor of a grocery store, crying over potato chips. Tate’s patience and honesty begins to heal what’s broken in Gia’s soul. Still, no matter how hard he tries—or how much he loves her—making her whole again might take more than he can give. But love never gives up. And neither will Tate. Excerpt

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| TAWDRA KANDLE | “So . . . no pressure, either outright or implied, right?” I spoke slowly, feeling my way. “You won’t push me, and you won’t . . . I don’t know, look at me or touch me in ways that could be construed as pressure?” I expected Tate to agree readily, but he hesitated. “I don’t know if I can promise that. I’ll do my best not to gaze at you soulfully, and I’m not the kind of guy to mope around after anyone, but I can’t say you might not see what I’m feeling in my eyes. Can’t help that.” I laughed a little. “You know, dude, if you were any other man, when I asked why you were here, you would’ve just fed me the friends-only line. I might not have bought it, but it would have given us both plausible deniability.” Tate rested his chin on his hand and smiled serenely at me. “I’m not any other man.” For a solid moment, I felt electricity crackle between us, and I couldn’t breathe. This was new, this hyperawareness of another person, and I didn’t know quite what to do with it. I stared at Tate as my brain scrambled to figure out what to say or do next. And then he sighed, breaking the spell. “Ready for dessert?” He pushed back his chair and reached for my plate, carrying both his and mine to the sink. I cleared my throat and attempted to find normal again. “Dessert? Need I remind you that we ate the cannoli several hours ago, when you claimed we hadn’t eaten lunch, and you were on the verge of starvation? Or did you buy a cake when I wasn’t looking? Or are you planning to whip something up in the next twenty minutes?” Tate quirked his eyebrow at me over his shoulder. “Twenty minutes? Does that mean you’re tossing me out at nine?” “No.” I shook my head and played with the spoon still in front of me. “It was just a figure of speech.” “Good to know. But to answer your question, no, I didn’t buy any baked goods, and I’m not going to toss something together now. Nothing I have to bake, that is.” He rinsed off the scrubbed the plates with my new dish brush and set them into the drainer before turning to the fridge. “C’mon, woman. On your feet.

This is something you can help me with.” I stood up, watching as Tate withdrew the berries he’d bought. Dumping them into the colander, he washed them carefully before picking up the cutting board he’d used earlier to chop the potatoes. “I’ll slice these if you’ll handle the whipped cream.” He reached for a knife. I frowned. “We didn’t get any whipped cream.” “Sure, we did.” Tate opened the refrigerator again, this time emerging with a small milk carton in his hand, which he set down on the counter in front of me. “Here you go.” “Just what am I supposed to do with this?” I saw the words on the container. Heavy whipping cream clearly meant that whatever was inside the cardboard could somehow be transformed into the frothy goodness I loved, but I had no earthly idea how to go about making it happen. “You’re going to whip it.” He winked at me. “Whip it good. I’ll get you started.” I watched him moving around the kitchen, and I thought again how odd it was that such a large man could have such grace. I was willing to bet that it came from playing football, where I imagined his talent for maneuvering probably paid off. Within a few moments, I had a small metal bowl, the brand-new electric hand mixer, a bag of powdered sugar and a bottle of vanilla laid out before me. I surveyed all of it with undisguised suspicion. “Now pay attention, because this is tricky. Here’s the hardest part: dump the cream into the bowl.” I rolled my eyes. “Ha, ha, ha, Mr. Smarty Pants Chef Guy. I think I can manage that.” I slid my thumb up the small crease and deftly opened the cardboard carton. The cream was thick and velvety as I poured it into the bowl. “Now what?” “Plug in the mixer, submerge the beaters in the cream, and turn it on. Move it around a little now and then. And that’s pretty much it.” He turned back to his cutting board, slicing the tops of some luscious-looking red strawberries. Gingerly, I dipped the shiny silver beaters into the liquid and used my thumb to move the switch to on. The small machine sprang to life, whirring in Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | my hand. I held the bowl with my other fingers, staring into it, waiting for magic to happen. A few minutes later, I was still waiting. “Tate, this isn’t working. It’s still just, like, cream.” “Uh huh. Give it a little longer.” He didn’t even bother to look at me over his shoulder. “But it isn’t changing. It’s just swirling around and around.” I raised my voice, in case he didn’t understand how serious this was. I was ruining the whipped cream. “Yep, that’s how it works.” His voice remained serene and unconcerned. I kept it up a little longer. “I think we must’ve gotten defective cream. It’s still all liquidy. Or maybe I messed it up.” “The only way you can mess it up is if you whip the cream too long and it turns into butter. I don’t think you’re in danger of that yet.” He finished cutting up another berry, and drying his hands, stepped over to check out my work. “Okay, turn off the mixer for a minute, and then add some sugar and vanilla.” I did as he instructed, resting the edge of the mixer against the side of the bowl. “How much?” “Eh, two or three tablespoons of the powdered sugar and a couple of teaspoons of vanilla.” I was troubled by his lack of precision in measurements. “Two or three? Which is it?” Tate sighed. “Start with two. We don’t want it too sweet, just sweet enough.” “All right.” I flipped through the measuring spoons he’d bought today and found the right one before I carefully measured the sugar into the bowl. Next I poured two precise teaspoons of vanilla. “I did it. Now what?” “Back to whipping.” Tate used a paper towel to gently dry the blueberries. “Just incorporate all of that into it.” Setting my jaw, I got back to work, peering intensely at the whirling white that was threatening to hypnotize me. The cream made a pretty design as it ran through the beaters, and it reminded me a little of snow. As a matter of fact, it almost looked like . . . “Tate!” I flicked off the mixer again. “It worked! 88 | UncagedBooks.com

It’s thickening. Look!” I stood back so that he could see into the bowl without moving away from his spot at the cutting board. “Excellent. I knew you could do it. Now keep it up a little longer. It’s not quite ready yet. But watch it, because too long there and it really will turn into butter.” “Huh.” I squinted down, nearly afraid to look away in case what was in the bowl might suddenly betray me. “Does it honestly happen that fast?” “Nah. I mean, hypothetically speaking, if you had a stand mixer, and you were whipping cream, and you got distracted doing something else while it was mixing, and you forgot to check on it for a while . . . then yeah, it’s a possibility. But you’re on it.” He scooped all of the berries into a round glass bowl and moved over to stand closer to me. “I think you’re good now. See how it’s forming nice peaks?” I did see, and I felt an unaccustomed surge of pride. “I did it. I can’t freaking believe it, but I made whipped cream.” “Yes, you sure did.” He swiped one finger into the cream and stuck it into his mouth. “Mmmmm, and you got the flavor right, too. Just sweet enough.” Before I could protest, he stuck that same finger back into my bowl again. “Hey! Yuck! No double dipping. You’re going to ruin my masterpiece.” I scowled up at him. “But I wanted you to have a taste, too.” So saying, he held up his whipped cream-covered finger a few inches from my lips. “Don’t you want to try it?” My heart thudded a little. I hadn’t done anything like this . . . touched my tongue to any part of any man . . . for a long time. I swallowed and resisted the urge to fan myself. The kitchen was all of a sudden much warmer than it had been. With a deep breath, I closed my eyes and lifted my mouth to his hand, closing around the creamy goodness. The second the flavor hit my tongue, I forgot all about how it got there. “Oh . . . my . . . God.” I moaned the words. “That is amazing. So much better than the stuff I get in the can.” “The real thing always is better.” Tate’s voice was hoarse, and he slid his finger out of my mouth. As I


| TAWDRA KANDLE | watched, he turned his back to me, busying himself with pulling out two small plates and a couple of forks. I wondered what I might have seen in his eyes if he hadn’t turned away. I wasn’t sure I’d have been able to deal with what whatever might have been there. “Grab a spoon for your, uh, masterpiece, and let’s eat.” He lifted the berries on the cutting board and set the whole thing down on the table. “Serious conversations make me hungry.” I rolled my eyes. “Is there anything that doesn’t make you hungry?” Dragging out his chair, he shot me a wicked smile. “That’s for me to know and you to find out. And lucky girl, you’ll get to find out, because as long as you’ll let me, I plan to spend as much of my free time with you as possible.”

More from the series:

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Issue 17 | December 2017 |

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Uncaged Reviews Her Sweetest Christmas Holly Blair Contemporary Holiday

Natalie LeClair will never forget the kiss she shared with Cooper King three years ago. Too bad he’s the enemy, back in her life to buy her grandmother’s chocolate company right from under her nose. Cooper King will stop at nothing to acquire LeClair’s Chocolate Shop and its famed recipe. There’s only one wrinkle. Natalie is standing in his way, and he wants nothing more than to rekindle their romance. Cooper longs to return to just business as usual, but Natalie may be the sweetest distraction he’s ever imagined.

Uncaged Review: A shorter length sweet holiday story – easily a book you can sit down and read in your quiet times this season, and put a bit of joy into the holidays. Natalie LeClair is back home after a false alarm with her Grandma. When she gets home, she finds her Grandma is preparing to sell the family business to King Chocolates – and no other than Cooper King is there to finish the sale, a man she shared a smoldering kiss with three years ago and never forgot. I won’t say anymore, but it’s a sweet romance and if you have an hour or so to sit with a nice story for the season, this is a sweet choice. Reviewed by Cyrene

A Montana Bound Christmas Linda Bradley Contemporary Holiday Chloe and John McIntyre await Maggie Abernathy’s arrival at the 617 Ranch, but snowfall has halted flights from Michigan to Montana. While Maggie and her mother prepare for a delayed departure, eight-year-old Chloe prepares for disappointment by inviting her Hollywood mother to the ranch in hopes of filling the void. Brook’s unexpected acceptance raises the stakes for John who longs for the perfect Christmas. This cast of misfits bands together in true Montana Bound style when unexpected guests arrive and a curious dog goes missing. Uncaged Review: When we last left John, Maggie and Chloe in the Montana Bound three book series, we had our happy ending, and it ended in a good place, I was happy with the series. Imagine my excitement when Ms. Bradley sent me this fourth installment – and a Christmas one at that! I’m not going to give a lot away, but I think I see even better closure for a couple more characters. This book alternates point-of-views each chapter – and I liked seeing in the thoughts of the other characters like John’s father and his ex-wife. If you’ve read the Montana Bound series, this is a welcome addition, and if you haven’t – you can read it as a standalone, but to get the full impact of what these characters have been through, start at the beginning, Maggie’s Way. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult/New Adult No major warnings

Uncaged Ratings: Adult/New Adult No major warnings

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A Secret Scottish Christmas Regan Walker Historical Regency Spies and Scots and Shipmasters, oh my! Scotland 1819 ~ Twin brothers Nash and Robbie Powell of Powell & Sons Shipping, London, sail with their fellow Agents of the Crown to Scotland for a secret celebration of Christmastide, a holiday long frowned upon by the Scottish Kirk. But more than Christmas is being kept secret. The two brothers have accepted an assignment from the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth to ferret out a fugitive fomenting rebellion among the Scots...

Uncaged Review: The perfect dose of intrigue and romance, Regan Walker hits another home run with her Scottish/English Christmas story. Again, the author weaves this story tightly with real history and whether we know it or not, we are learning along with being entertained. This story isn’t action packed, but the story grabs hold and soon you are a bystander within the story. The Powell’s are visiting their Scottish friends for the Holidays, sailing from England to Scotland-but the twin brothers, Robbie and Nash are also secret spies for England trying to find a fugitive, unknown to their hosts. Things get even more intriguing when the brothers fall for the hosts’ sister, Aileen. Will they be able to keep their secret? Which one will win her heart? A perfect story to read this holiday season Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult No major warnings

Christmas at Gate 18 Amy Matayo Contemporary Holiday Supermodel Rory Gray just wants to go home. After wrapping up a three-day high-fashion photo shoot overseas, she’s exhausted and ready for the holiday. A holiday that involves Hollywood parties, air-kissing the industry elite, and a whole lot of fakeness…but whatever. Once she gets through that torture, she’ll head to her beloved Seattle and the life of anonymity she misses so much. In less than twentyfour hours, she’ll be there....

Uncaged Review: After finishing up a photoshoot, supermodel Rory wants nothing more than to get home before the holidays. But when a hurricane grounds all flights out of the Dominican Republic – Rory finds herself stranded at the airport with everyone else. When she finally doses off, she wakes to find herself next to Colt, not knowing who he really is. They form a strange bond and friendship with trying to get through an awful situation. I enjoyed this more than I would have expected. The dialog is fun and fast, and the characters are likeable, although the bit of suspense is anti-climatic for the build-up it had. The author gave you enough of the backstory on both main characters that you can get on board with and connect well enough. The ending was a bit too fast, but all-inall, it’s a fun read. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult No major warnings

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Uncaged Reviews Howl for the Holidays Keira Blackwood Paranormal Sometimes a close friend is a true mate. In the company of her pack, at work with the drunks, alone at her apartment—Amy Anderson wants to spend Christmas anywhere but home at her family’s farm. Time with her parents and grandmother, her sisters and their families, reminds Amy of what she wishes she had—a mate and cubs of her own. Too bad the man she wants doesn’t want her in return.... Uncaged Review: A nice short read that packs quite a bit into it. Going home for the holidays is always a challenge for Amy, since she’s the last one that isn’t mated in her family – even though she insists she’s fine single. The one man she could see herself with is Harkins, but in his eyes, he’s damaged goods and Amy deserves better. In a short amount of space that this novella takes up, you get to know the characters and the back story and the author packs in quite a bit of action. Never a dull moment and easily read in one setting. This is a feel good holiday short story that is worth the look. Reviewed byCyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Sexual situations

Bear Mine for Christmas Ariana Hawkes Paranormal Wrap yourself up in a smokinghot bear shifter romance this Christmas! Every winter sexy bear shifter Brock Fletcher runs a Christmastree store with his uncle Granger and cousin Riley. Despite his smoldering looks and charismatic personality, Brock hasn’t found a mate because a girl named Madison stole his heart many years earlier, before she left town for good. So, when Madison walks into his store one day, Brock couldn’t be more shocked – especially when she tells him that she’s come back to live in Misty Hollow. ... Uncaged Review: When Madison returns to Misty Hollow, from living life in a big city to help take care of her mom, and restart her life back home, she runs into Brock and his family who run the local Christmas tree lot. Later, taking in the hometown parade, Madison’s niece is missing, and in a major snowstorm. Finding out that her niece went up the mountain with three other kids, has Madison, her sister Karen and their mother Elsbeth in a panic. Brock and his family offer to search for them, in their bear forms. You get more than one love story in this book, even though it focuses on Brock and Madison, Madison’s sister and mother also find romance in the background. There isn’t much conflict and I did not get real attached to any of the characters very well, although I did like them. Some of the plot elements came a bit too easily, but it’s a nice holiday read. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

Sexual situations and language

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Christmas with the Vampires Catherine Green Paranormal With his blonde hair, ice blue eyes, and sculpted physique, Marcus Scott immediately turns the heads of everyone he encounters upon his arrival in London at Christmas time. Unbeknownst to all the women and men who fall under his spell with just once glance, Marcus is a vampire with a desperate need to feed from the young and the beautiful. When he unexpectedly encounters the Lady Amelia Richmond, the vampire instrumental in his own transition, the two begin to plan a holiday feast to satisfy their deep hunger. Uncaged Review: I found this book difficult to get into. The story seemed rushed and the conclusion wasn’t satisfying at all. It wasn’t what I was expecting and to me was just a bunch of sex and buildup to a murder. I did, however, enjoy the setting for the story and the author did a good job describing the scenery. It just wasn’t an interesting book to me. Reviewed bySkylar

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Sex, language, violence

Sweet Sacrifice L.D. Rose Paranormal

Former Navy SEAL Sebastian “Bash” Lockard died in Afghanistan after leaping on a grenade to save his comrades. Little did he know his act of heroism would grant him a ticket into Heaven’s elite army as one of the few and powerful Archangels. Struggling with his new existence, Bash still retains his human memories, leaving behind a wife he loves with all of his heart. Although he’s forbidden to see her, he can’t resist her lure, or the mortal desires he harbors for her...

Uncaged Review: Sweet Sacrifice is a paranormal romance that will surely tug at your heartstrings. Sebastian “Bash” is a Navy SEAL who makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect his team but also devastates Irene, the love he leaves behind. After enduring countless trials in Purgatory, he is granted entrance into The Sphere, becoming an Arc Angel under the iron fist of their leader, the Arc Angel Michael. Unable to avoid his one true mortal love, Bash finds himself once again having to choose between his heart and his sense of loyalty to his brothers in arms. This is my first time reading this author’s work. She does a fantastic job of showing us the beautiful world of The Sphere in contrast to the human world they visit to battle the evil that dwells there. The love between Bash and Irene is beautifully constructed. Their understanding of one another and the knowledge of one another’s quirks helps you fall in love with their love story. This is a great read and has opened me up to a new author. Reviewed by Rena

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Uncaged Reviews Managed 4

Clarissa Carlyle Rockstar Romance

As Autumn continues to lose control, will Jasper have the patience to want to stay by her side? Or will he try to win back Hailey’s attention? Will he have a chance of rekindling the flame that once burned bright with Hailey? Or will he discover that she had grown tired of waiting for him to make a decision and has moved forward with her life? Uncaged Review: We finally made it. A conclusion to this 4 part story and it comes to an end, wrapping up the story line on a satisfying ending. Even despicable Matthew somewhat redeems himself. Now is the time to buy, all four parts are available, and you can read straight through. This was a hard fought battle for Hailey and Jasper, but it’s well worth the heartache to get to the end. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Sexual situations

A Groom for Mama Catherine Castle Romantic Humor

Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes she has one wish: to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend. The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness. A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom For Mama.

Uncaged Review: Allison’s mother is very ill but in order for her to try out more tests, to find a cure - Allison must find a husband. As fate would have it her ex-boyfriend Jack runs an online dating service, but finding a groom won’t be that easy as Allison first thought. I really enjoyed this book and even if the subject matter is a little sad. It is still a very romantic story. I loved Allison as a character as I felt I could identify will her and what she was going through, due to similar circumstances. I hope to read more by this author in the future. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations, language

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Leaving Kate

JD Corbett New Adult/Contemporary

No big chances, and no big changes. This was Kate’s motto. With her father out of the picture, and a mother who had quit being “mom” a long time ago, Kate finds herself floating through life under the shelter of her brother and best friend. Afraid of rocking the boat and having to face the world alone, she makes every effort to keep her circle tight. That is, until she meets Eric, the charming Southern boy from Texas who stands out like a sore thumb in the bustling city of D.C. Eric has suffered much in his past, but, unlike Kate, he has learned to grow from his experiences instead of run from them. Uncaged Review: I was totally engrossed in this book, I read it in one sitting. I think because it deals with real life problems and feelings, I got caught up with the story easily. Following twins Ernest and Kate and their battle in the world to make something of their lives and all the problems they deal with along the way. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: New Adult Adult situations, mild language

Guardian

A.J. Messenger Fantasy/Young Adult Eighteen-year-old Declan Jane is just trying to make it through senior year in San Mar, the Northern California coastal town she’s lived in all her life. Perpetually under the radar, she’s surprised by the pull she feels to a mysterious and attractive new student, Alexander Ronin. Despite all the girls vying for his attention, Declan is the one he’s drawn to, and she finds herself returning his interest. As the intensity of their attraction builds and she discovers the truth behind his appearance in San Mar, he reveals the danger she’s in and why their relationship holds deadly consequences. But as Declan overcomes her fears and fights for her life, the connection between the two lovers may be the only thing that can save them both.

Uncaged Review: This book reminded me a lot of Twilight, or maybe the better things about that book. A girl who feels she doesn’t fit in, falling for the new guy in school who tells her it’s dangerous to be involved with him, but they can’t stay away from each other. Sound familiar? But the story is well written and engrossing – and it’s worth a look. If you enjoyed Twilight and books like it, you will definitely like this one. You won’t find vampires in this one, instead you’ll find angels and the author’s almost original take on that mythology. Three of four of this series is out now, and the final promised soon. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Young Adult No major warnings

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Uncaged Reviews Lion’s Prey Karin Shah Paranormal

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations, sex

This Old Cafe

Marci Boudreau Contemporary Romance

On the run . . . Attempting to flee from a bank robbery he was blackmailed into, Chimera-shifter and former Army Ranger Tyler Gunn is a desperate man. Reeling from what he believes is the death of his twin, he knows he can’t control his lion if he’s arrested and he fears killing innocent people. His only hope is to get somewhere far away, where he can safely surrender to the feral side that has gnawed away at his humanity and is now a whisker away from locking him in his lion, forever.

Uncaged Review: The story revolves around Ty, a bank robbing Chimera/shifter struggling with the lion inside and Zara, the reporter he takes hostage when she recognizes him after he shields her from an explosion. As it turns out, there are reasons behind Ty’s bank robbing ways but still Zara has to keep reminding herself that the good looking man who has taken her hostage is a criminal. Add in a lost drug plane and you have loads of action and sexual tension. The exploration of the building romance between Ty and Zara is perfectly executed. The slow build fits perfectly into the story. With the addition of the set up for an additional sequel this book offers you all the action and romance you could ask for. I had a hard time connecting with this book in the beginning. As the action and the story line continued, I found it became easier to move along with. I enjoyed the romantic tension and the great flow of action this book offered. I definitely plan to check out other books by this author to learn more about the other characters mentioned in this one. Reviewed by Rena

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Jenna Reid purchased the Stonehill Café to prove to herself that her exhusband was wrong...that she could make her dreams come true. Three years later, all she has is a crumbling building, no social life, and her bruised pride. Pride is something Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Maguire lost long ago and isn’t likely to find living in the alley behind the café. He just needs a little time to get on his feet. In the interim, keeping an eye on the overworked café owner gives him a sense of purpose. He has no intentions of making his presence known until he hears the woman screaming late one night.

Uncaged Review: This Old Café was a refreshing look at second chance small town romance. The characters were believable and not over the top. There were points in the book that made me want to cry and parts that made me laugh. I gave the book four stars only because it was hard to connect with the characters in the beginning. I felt that there wasn’t enough description of Daniel and Jenna to connect. The book also ended abruptly, jolting me and making me yearn for a better conclusion. Still the book was well-written and interesting. I look forward to reading more from this author! Reviewed by Skylar

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations


Ensnaring Lord Starsen

Miracle on Aisle Two

Jenn Langston Historical Regency

Tethered to a restrictive life on her half-brother’s estate, Lady Isabella Rossland tries her best to find her own happiness. With the dreary gentlemen nearby not appealing to her restless spirit, she’s left with few escape options. Then, a man she’s known for years catches her attention, and she’s intrigued. What could make a man so aloof act so unexpectedly? It seems there is more to Lord Starsen than the person he presents to society.

Uncaged Review: The third book in the touched by fire series which can also be read as a standalone book. This story features Marcus and his attempt to not fall for his sister’s best friend. This book had a lot of twists and turns I didn’t expect to happen, also a lot of romance and action. Perfect for any history romance readers. I can’t wait to see what happens in book four of the series. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Sexual situations

Beth Carter Contemporary Holiday Fired two weeks before Christmas, distraught single mom Madison wonders how she’ll afford to pay for her young daughter’s Christmas gifts and still keep a roof over their heads. Sleigh bells and twinkling lights are the last thing on her mind—until a handsome stranger intervenes. Successful architect Adam Donovan dives into his work by renovating an elaborate hotel after his wife leaves him. He barely notices it’s Christmastime until he overhears a young mother’s tearful plea. Stepping in makes Adam feel like Old Saint Nick himself. Will Madison and Adam find holiday joy—and possibly love—after discovering Adam’s secret or will it tear them apart?

Uncaged Review: In this short and sweet holiday story, Madison is a single mom, and fired from her job just two weeks before Christmas, and heading to Target to see how much of her daughter’s presents she can salvage that she has on layaway. But miracles can happen, and when Adam overhears Madison breaking down at the customer service counter – he steps in to help. The story is sweet, with a lot of emotions in a very short amount of space, but Ms. Carter does a wonderful job with the book and it’s the perfect story to kick off the season. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult No major warnings

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Uncaged Reviews The Beekeeper’s Daughter Jane Jordan Paranormal

Annabel Taylor, a beekeeper’s daughter, grows up wild and carefree on the moors of England in the late 1860s, following in the footsteps of her mother, a beautiful witch. Annabel’s closest friend is Jevan Wenham. The son of the blacksmith, he lives his life on the verge of destruction. His devotion to Annabel is full of twists and turns as brutality melds with deepest desire. But when Jevan is forced to travel to London to receive an education, Annabel is devastated...

Uncaged Review: I thought I would read a different genre to what I would usually read and this book described as Victorian/witch’s/wizard’s seemed to fit the bill. Though after reading the synopsis on Goodreads I was a little concerned about how much romance would be involved (as it really isn’t my thing) I was pleased that it was not all lovey dovey and there was some darkness in the book coupled with the plot twists that kept you guessing what was going to happen next. I was not disappointed in my selection and would recommed it to those who would like something different to read. . Reviewed by Skye

Betting on Love in Vegas Stacy Hoff Contemporary Romance

Catherine(Cat)Warner has problems. The profits from her inns are down. The pressure from her parents is up. Her love life is non-existent. But Cat did manage to get the attention of tough, powerful, gorgeous hotel magnate Ty Orland. Unfortunately, his interest in her is for all the wrong reasons. Instead of wanting Cat, this debonair CEO only wants her land—a parcel he desperately needs for his next big development deal. Too bad, it’s not for sale. A people pleaser by nature, Cat knows to stand strong. If she caves in to the demands of this sexy, alluring man, it will be her own neck on the line.

Uncaged Review: Cat Warner is attending a convention in Las Vegas on how to better budget her hotel inns. She is waiting to meet a fellow business owner who is very interested in doing business with her. This was an easy to follow read with a lot of romance and funny one liners. Looking forward to seeing what’s in store next for book two. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

Mild language, sexual situations

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

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Daimonion

J.P. Jackson Horror/Gay

discovers.

Dati Amon wants to be free from his satyr master and he hates his job— hunting human children who display demon balefire. Every hunt has been successful, except one. A thwarted attempt ended up as a promise to spare the child of a white witch, an indiscretion Dati hopes Master never

But Master has devilish machinations of his own. He needs human-demon hybrids, the Daimonion, to raise the Dark Lord to the earthly realm. If Master succeeds, he will be immortal and far more powerful...

Uncaged Review: I enjoyed this book and was hooked from the start. The author brings the characters to life and there are plenty of twists. Reviewed by Skye

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations, violence

The Reaper’s Kiss Dale Ibitz Paranormal

Haunted by painful memories, William turns to a world of sex and poison to forget his status as a shunned reaper with a sordid past. His strategy for survival is to fortify his emotional armor so no one will ever hurt him again, while trying to find redemption for his sins. Natalie, an exquisite human trying to save her sister from the horrors of the Other World, intrigues him. Though adamant she means nothing to him, her kisses reach into William’s soul and her silky skin is a slice of heaven. The damn woman cracks his protective shell. After learning the dark secret of Natalie’s past, how much will he sacrifice to save her soul?

Uncaged Review: William is a reaper who is shunned due to bad choices and an addiction to soul juice. Promising to get back on the straight and narrow, he struggles to try and keep his nose clean. Haunted by his past and painful memories, he has hardened himself. Natalie is in search of her sister who has been taken to the Other World by Giltine, and will do anything she can to get her back. Even if that means playing reaper William to get his help. Still something about him does things to her she doesn’t expect. The same can be said to the effect she has on him. She threatens to break the shield he has put up around himself. Will William do whatever it takes to help Natalie? Will she play her game and use William for what she needs or will the urges he sends through her make her forget her plans and let him in or is she actually the one who is being played? The story of William and Natalie is quite intriguing and fun to read, however, the subplots of so many other characters makes it quite hard to keep up with. At times it feels as if the main story line is lost among all the other characters and their inIssue 16 | November 2017 |

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Uncaged Reviews tentions. Although it is a great read, the confusion I felt at times hindered being able to fully enjoy the story to the extent I wanted. Still, I would read this author again. The visuals provided help you envision what is going on and the imagination behind William and his story is very well thought out. Reviewed by Rena

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Violence, sex

Claiming His Heart

LaNora Mangano Contemporary Romance Ben Jameson loves flying helicopters for the town of South Westfield’s fire department. His job as a fireman and a pilot leaves no room for romantic involvement and he is okay with that. He has had more than enough busywork trying to help rebuild their town, which was devastated by a record-breaking storm and flood.

Uncaged Review: Ben works as a firefighter and helicopter driver. After some really bad flooding destroyed his home, a team of insurance claimers come out to help assess the damage. What Ben doesn’t expect is to fall for one of them. I really enjoyed this story I hadn’t read any of the emergency call series before but now I want to it was an easy to read quick romance which left me wanting more. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations, language

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Savage Betrayal Emily Tyler Fantasy

Princess Kendra, legitimate only daughter of the royal marriage, is destined to be Queen of Keswin but her twin, Kirra, covets the crown. Her lover, Lord Devon, also wants the crown and he seizes it with a bloody coup. While fleeing to safety, Kendra saves and falls in love with a wounded soldier, Arlan, and when no noble will offer her marriage, she becomes determined to find a way to marry the man she loves. But Kendra knows she must soon put their potential happiness aside and return and save her throne.

Uncaged Review: Kendra finds out some home truths about her family after her sister tells her of her motives for the crown. A brutal attack by her own sister’s lover finds Kendra on the run. I felt this book was very action packed and full of surprises for the reader. A good start to the series and looking forward to reading book two. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

Adult situations, sexual situations


Mask Beneath Her Face

Salvageable

During the 1980s, slashers terrorized America. With machetes and masks, these unstoppable killers stalked college campuses, quiet suburbs, and lakeside cabins.

The trouble with trust is once it’s broken, it changes who you are and who you will become—forever.

Rafael Chandler Paranormal Suspense

Thirty years ago, Bobbi Metzger survived a massacre at her 16th birthday party. She spent decades putting her life back together.

Uncaged Review: What if the monster hiding under your bed was real? I took the journey along with a group of friends proving monsters are real and revenge is a dish best served cold. The book is filled with a lot of blood and gruesome action. A mixture of entertaining reading awaits you.. Reviewed by Jennifer

Jean Baxter Young Adult

If Michael Jarrid thinks the worst has happened when his parents don’t believe him over his pregnant ex-girlfriend’s lie, he is wrong. Feeling alone, he pours all of his heart and soul into a new relationship. What Lacey does to him is even worse … Now he doesn’t even trust himself. Is his life salvageable?

Uncaged Review: Mike had it all planned out according to his father. Finish school then off to college. Until Mike finds himself in trouble with his ex girlfriend. I really enjoyed this book as it focused on real life problems. I even found myself getting angry with Mike like I knew him myself. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

Adult situations, violence, language

Uncaged Ratings: Young Adult Adult situations, mild language

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Death Fricassee Tawdra Kandle Horror/Occult Pour some wine, put up your feet and spend some time in Palm Dunes . . . where people aren’t always as they appear. From USA Today bestselling author Tawdra Kandle comes the second book in this paramystery series with a touch of humor. If you enjoy the Stephanie Plum books, you’ll fall in love with Jackie, Lucas and the quirky Florida retirement community where they live as the only non-senior residents--and the only ones with otherworldly connections. Want a recipe for disaster? Take one thirty-something food columnist, living the high life as the youngest resident of a Florida retirement community in the house she inherited from her grandmother. Sprinkle with early-bird specials and nights of bingo. Add one college professor-turned-novelist, seasoned heavily with deep, dark secrets sprung from a night of drunken fun that left him changed in ways he doesn’t understand. Toss in a dash of murder that rocks a quiet community. And heat until neither one can deny their growing attraction to each other. Best served hot with a side of wicked humor and a glass of Pinot Grigio. Bon Appetit! Save Tomorrow is a series of paranormal romances that begins in the small town of King, Florida, winds through the Serendipity and Recipe for Death books, and finally culminates in Age of Aquarius, the inevitable showdown that ties all the characters together in a fight to stop the ultimate evil.

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Death Fricassee is a great start to the Recipe for Death series. I love how Kandle has placed Jackie in a retirement community, surrounded her with elderly people and she still manages to meet someone she can relate to. Her new neighbor Lucas is a hot vampire type of guy but there is so much more to it than just that. Lucas isn’t your stereotypical vampire; he is also a “Death Dealer”, which makes this book that much better. I also really love her kooky nosy neighbor, Mrs. Mac. The characters are all fun and entertaining; the mystery is as it should be, intriguing. She gives the readers just enough to make them keep asking questions and speculating what is actually going on. Overall, I loved this book. I can’t wait for the rest of the series and to find out all of the secrets! The tone of this book is fairly lighthearted even with the dark undertones. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good mystery with slight paranormal activity.


Scarlett Elle Klass Horror At five my parents died in a horrible car crash changing my life for the worst. I was thrust into a life I never expected and had to learn to adapt in order to survive, no matter the cost. Soon I was shuffled into the foster system becoming a lost child with no ties. My roommate and mortal enemy divulged a troubling rumor about my parents, forcing me to question everything I knew. Even worse I realized I had a gift ... or a curse that allowed me to see and interact in the spiritual realm. It was only a matter of time before I learned ghosts weren’t always trustworthy and some had hidden motives. They become part of my life, past, present and future. I no longer knew who to trust or who to run from. All glitter and gold, married to a wealthy husband I met my half-sister and thought my problems were over or at least the odds were looking better until their dirty little secrets spilled over into my life and well-being. They used my body to quell their insatiable need and performed a terrifying experiment on me -- one that worked. I was impregnated with a child but not just any child. Born of jealousy and hate he became a vicious serial killer and is remembered only with shudders of fear. Enough was enough I planned my revenge against those who harmed me using my spiritual talent. It was all that I had and gave me an edge. Will my plan work or will I forever live with the insidious actions of others?

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Scarlett by Elle Klass is the story of a young woman who is both gifted and cursed. Reading like a VC Andrews book without the incest, my heart went out to this girl and I deeply admired her courage after everything she has been through This is a hard review to write because I’m trying hard to not give away the story. There are some very high points as well as incredibly low points. Scarlett is one of those characters you are dying to see succeed and have her happy ending, but every time you turn around there is something else going wrong for her. It’s like the universe has picked this poor girl to take a massive dump on. How she maintains hope through the story is beyond me. Scarlett can see and interact with ghosts. Where those ghosts come from, I will let you read for yourself, but it’s not your typical ghost story. I like the uniqueness of the ghostly interaction and how the author consistently surprises the reader with their stories. There are also some seriously disturbing scenes in this book, which wasn’t a surprise to me as I read Klass’s book, Evan’s Story a few months ago. Scarlett is Evan’s mother (not a spoiler) so now I know why he is who he is and it makes complete sense. Overall this was a good book. It’s not your run of the mill ghost story and involved a serial killer. There are unexpected surprises along the way, mixed in with sad or disturbing elements as well. I recommend this book to anyone who likes the VC Andrews style of writing without being into the incest.

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Planet of the Dead Thomas S. Flowers Post-Apocalyptic Anthology News reports speak of mass panic and violence spreading across the globe. Negligent leaders hide behind misinformation. But in an age of paranoia and suspicion, who can say what is true anymore? Struggling to survive against a sweeping epidemic that has engulfed the planet, survivors will have to make hard choices in a world that no longer makes sense. Live. Die. Or become one of the undead.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Planet of the Dead is about, in a most basic description, a veteran and his girl, his best friend, and a convenience store employee during the start of the zombie apocalypse. Thomas S. Flowers has a way making the reader feel actual emotions for his characters. He did it in the other book by him I read as well, called Feast. The emotions that Jonny experienced in the beginning of the book were heart wrenching if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve ever known someone in a similar situation. Each of his characters experience situations that I could easily sympathize with and their reactions were understandable. The way he brings each character into the story is perfectly told and I like how and where they intersect. Ashley somewhat reminds me of Tank Girl.

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Planet of the Dead is incredibly fast paced. Once things start going, they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t calm down until the end. Some people think there is nothing new in the zombie world, but Flowers proves them wrong. I read A LOT of zombie books and Planet of the dead is most definitely in my top 3-5 favorites. This story is gripping from beginning to end and I will impatiently await the next book in the series, which the author has promised me is in the works. My only complaint is that it wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t long enough for me. I immediately wanted more, right now. I highly recommend Planet of the dead to both new and experienced zombie readers as it provides new perspectives and spins on the classic zombie tale.


Mrs. Dracula Various Paranormal Anthology Bound by blood. Cursed for eternity.

Overall, this is a great anthology. Many times there are a few duds in anthologies, but I honestly can’t say that any of the stories fell short for me, which is highly unusual. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a variety of great vampire stories told from the female point of view.

She’s worn out every welcome. Bitten every hand that feeds. But with a name like Mrs. Dracula, what did you expect? Eighteen bestselling and award-winning authors spill secrets about this lady of the night just in time for Halloween. Tales of titillating evil, supernatural events, thrilling mystery, and historical horrors, or rather, proof of the vampire’s existence. Can you escape the bride of Dracula?

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: With fabulous authors such as Eli Constant, Angela Roquet, and Logan Keys, among others, how could Mrs. Dracula not be a great vampire read? Each story has its own unique qualities that leave the readers still wanting more. I’ve found several great new to me authors via the Mrs. Dracula Anthology. The variety of stories is great also. They each offer different eras and many places of historical reference from all over the world. I like that these stories are all told from the female perspective of the ladies associated with Dracula. We don’t always get to see things from their points of view as the stories are normally told from the man’s side. I think this offers the reader something special they can’t find just anywhere else.

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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews

Hell on Earth Tony Urban Horror/Post-Apocalyptic When civilization ends When hundreds of millions of the dead return to eat the living - How will the remaining humans survive?One week ago there were over 300 million people living in America. Today there are less than 5000. After a man-made plague destroys the population, cities burn and the government crumbles when the dead come back to life as flesh-hungry zombies. Wim, a 30-year-old farmer, purposely kept himself cut off from other people, but when the undead arrive at his farm, intent on eating him, he’s forced to venture out into the land around him and fight to save a world on which he long ago turned his back. Survivors from all walks of life - criminals and fry cooks, teenagers and soldiers - battle to survive zombies and each other as mankind races toward extinction.Book 1 in the epic “Life of Dead” zombie apocalypse saga. Myra’s Review: The author noted there are a lot of characters, and if I counted correctly, there are 13 in total. I really don’t like keeping up with that many characters, but the author did a good job. When each characters’ story picked up again

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with a new chapter, I had to stop and think about the character being tracked and what was happening the last time we left their ongoing story. We follow various individual’s story as the zombie apocalypse breaks out and how they survive. Each story and character was quite different; some were strong, others clearly losers even before the outbreak and some stepped up. My favorite was Wim the farmer. He was easy to understand since I spent years on a farm. I felt his pain as his animals died and loneliness filtered in when the world he knew died around him. Poor guy had to clear his whole small town and surrounding community of the undead. I liked the fact that Ramey, a young girl with a horrible life before the apocalypse, stumbled upon Wim. The next day she left to go find her father, but after Wim discovers she is gone, he is determined to find her. He cannot stand being by himself any longer. Another interesting angle, was Mitch’s story; the spoiled son of a Congressman. We see how the upper crust get treated differently than the rest of us regular folks, being transported by helicopter to a safe bunker with other important people. The story quickly turns deadly as an outbreak erupts even within the bunker.d I wondered if Mitch will be one of those that will grow and become self-sufficient later. I am assuming most of the characters, if not all, will


meet up at some point; will be interesting, since a few are not nice people. A recommended read for zombie fans, especially if you enjoy many characters covered in the story.

Haunted House Harbor Roma Gray Horror/Post-Apocalyptic The world has just been struck by the “Perfect Apocalypse”: nuclear bombs, disease, famine, zombies, killer bees and many other hidden terrors. As the world crumbles, a group of survivors discovers there is only one safe haven: the mysterious town of Haunted House Harbor. For some reason, all of the unleashed perils cannot penetrate the city limits. But there’s one problem—Haunted House Harbor has its own dark side...

Myra’s Review: I wasn’t sure what to think of this book at first. A supernatural, haunted town, plus terrorists carrying out multiple different attacks (bombs, killer bees infected with a deadly virus, & zombies). It seemed like too many elements that are very diverse to bring together in one tale. How could terrorists carry out such well-orchestrated attacks all over the world? Didn’t seem possible to me. But then the author brought in another element that cemented it more cohesively; I’m assuming the Four Horsemen of the Biblical Apocalypse.

harmless…at first. She quickly became creepy and probably evil. We’ll have to wait for a followup to see what she really is. There were several horrifying situations. One was Suzie who was caught up in a traffic jam when a bomb was detonated on top of a building. That was bad enough, especially when the bridge overhead collapsed. But then motorists stuck in traffic were attacked by bees. Suzie quickly discovered things could get worse when the bee-stung dead people turned into zombies and started attacking the people in cars. Another one that got to me was the Wood family; mother, father and young daughter, trapped in their home by bees. But the situation escalated when the farm hands, killed by bees, got up as zombies and broke into the house. While the family is held down by the former workers, something more horrible is being done to them than being bitten by zombies. A nightmarish creature attacks the family and is turning them into a new, more dangerous kind of the undead. I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll leave it up to the reader to discover all the horror perpetrated on these unfortunate characters. There are other interesting stories concerning various individuals in the story. A complex tale with many different interwoven elements. Recommended for those who love horror, zombies, apocalyptic tales of a divergent kind, all mixed together with supernatural components.

Haunted House Harbor was a small town or village; more a collection of unlived in houses than anything. As a reader my antenna was up; why was this place virtually a ghost town? There was only one resident we were introduced to and the old woman seemed

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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Shadows and Teeth Various Horror Shadows and Teeth delivers a variety of ghastly tales of terror. Step into the dark with me as we explore these offerings of horror.

Myra’s Review: In The House Wants What the House Wants, four college friends are excited at their luck in finding a gorgeous house to rent at a very cheap price. You might say it was too good to be true – and it was. Cannibal House holds a deadly secret; a ghoulish cannibalistic ghost. This one will make you think twice about buying an old house to remodel. The Tree Hugger was my favorite story. As a lover of old B monster movies I couldn’t help but be enthralled. While terrifying, the irony brought a smile to my face. In No Thanks, the story will leave you wondering about your co-workers. Could one of them be as insane as the main character? A Missed Call chilled me. The beastly vampires were bad enough, but the missed call spelled disaster for poor Gwen. I loved the setting of Bernadette and the validity the author brought to the language and time period. A pitifully scary tale of a man’s attempt to help his sick niece, with horrific, hellish results. Picture Not So Perfect reminded me of Beauty & the Beast teamed with The Hunchback of NortreDame – gone awry. An abused, pitiful young man falls deeper into despair; when Lucifer offers him a deal, he grabs at the opportunity. In The Screaming, Felix inherits a large manor house in Scotland and considers keeping it. After all, it has been in the family for generations. But stories of the Bogle, who legend says has slain many of his ancestor Lairds, and a terrifying scream in the 110 | UncagedBooks.com

night, (he attributes to the nightmarish Bogle) make Felix think of selling the property. In The Cruciform, Mark delves into the dark arts, conjuring up a demon from hell. He gets more than he bargained for when a Master demon rises up to rescue the demon in Mark’s power and punish him. (Sub) Routine takes the reader into the world and mind of a man driven insane by a heinous act he committed.


Zombie Fallout Mark Tufo Horror/Post-Apocalyptic Reuters - Estimates say that nearly three thousand people nationwide, and fifteen thousand people worldwide have died of the H1N1 virus or Swine flu and nearly eighty thousand cases have been confirmed in hospitals and clinics across the United States and the world, the World Heath Organization reported. The influenza pandemic of 2010, while not nearly as prolific as the one that raged in 1918 still has citizens around the world in a near state of panic.

and his family escape. This book was a hoot, combined with fighting zombies and terror. The main character has some moments of great wisdom and many instances of wise-cracking insights that keep you turning the pages. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I highly recommend this for zombie fans; especially if you want a new read with a different “flavor”, or you love humor and horror combined.

Myra’s Review: The author has a sense of humor I haven’t seen matched in any other book I’ve read, no matter the genre. You either are smiling or laughing through much of the novel. His understanding of marriage and the relationship between the husband and wife is astute and hilarious. Character development is really good, with those depicted feeling like real people. Mike, who considers himself a survivalist, works non-stop to make sure his family stays safe when a zombie apocalypse hits his world. He leaves the safety of his house to rescue his son who works at the local Wal Mart. One of the employees also rescued is Tommy, a “slow” young man who has a hidden talent which proves invaluable in different circumstances. He senses things and alerted Mike more than once about danger. Luckily for Mike, the people in his housing complex quickly stepped into action to secure the community. He works alongside Jed, the grouchy leader of the HOA, who does a good job with the disaster. There’s a mysterious female zombie who is intelligent and powerful. Mike has an encounter with her in which he almost dies. The reader can tell this will not be the last of this creepy zombie. While calamity strikes the community at the end of the story, Mike Issue 16 | November 2017 |

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Hidden Lives Jerry Pociask Mystery Anthology

The Flawed Ones Jay Chi Women’s Fiction

When the Streetlights Went On

In this compelling novel, Jay Chirino channels his own struggles with depression and addiction, creating a universal story that is painfully relatable for those with similar issues, and eye-opening for the ones that haven’t dealt with the challenges of mental illness.

“...join us on a journey of the past as we share the forgotten ... with a willingness to celebrate traditions we let go of ... no longer wanting, or perhaps lost to technology....

Amy’s Review: Magnificent The book intrigued me when the author was nominated for one of my Best Indie Titles of 2017 awards on my author blog, and the author was nice enough to share the story with me for a review. I know from reading Pociask’s other books, that he shows a good story. He’s one of the better storytellers that I’m familiar with. Here, he shares different short stories, each one bringing in the piece of him that is his work. Every author puts a piece of themselves in their work, whether they know it or not. There were three stories in this collection, “When the Streetlights Went On”, “End of Life” and “ Three Days of Darkness” and my favorite of the three, was the last one. The prologue of the story started out with “One can never prepare for what may happen when they are cold, alone and in total darkness.” Each story engages the reader, and makes you reread sentences and paragraphs over, loving it from beginning to end. (I read the last story twice). Highly recommended.

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Amy’s Review: Bravo! Enter the world of mental illness and the challenges that one faces when having a debilitating mental illness. Bravo to Chirino for sharing the story. This story takes on the journey of the challenges of mental illness compiled with addiction, which leads to a downward tail spin which never seems to end. It’s a well written experience of survival and challenges, within the confines of a hospital, and confrontation of a past that is regrettable and forgettable. I enjoyed the story and felt drawn into. This story should be shared, so read it and share it with others.


She Watches David Kummer Horror She still watches. The nights grew longer and the streets became empty. There was nothing left in the city. What she had taken, none could restore. The terrible woman of the dark, who lived in the forest, who lived to destroy. She is a mystery; She was always mystery. And now She is back. Some things are meant to never come back. Amy’s Review: Terrifying sequel I enjoyed SHE (book 1) and looked forward to reading this one. SHE #2 is better than the first one, and still had the same sound of horrifying and creepiness, with the hint of terror. This book will scare the living ... out of you, and you’ll enjoy it (if you love a good horror story). It’s chilling terror, that brings action to the forefront of the story. There are twists and unpredictable actions. I like that Kummer has the right about of terror and humor in the story, and it’s not just one note. A great story, one you need to read with all the lights on.

The Struggle Patrice, Donna, Shannon, Charity, and Faith Smith Childrens Humor The Struggle: 4 Girls & 1 Bathroom is the sequel to the book entitled The Struggle: Mom and the Summertime Blues. It is also about the lives of four sisters, Diamond, Shelia, Crystal, and Felicity. Previously, these sisters wrote about having to endure a long summer with their mom and her never-ending lists of chores and schoolwork. Now they are back to discuss their upcoming school year. But this time, no one is safe from their complaints! Amy’s Review: Another great journey Their journey? just living life and surviving. As a mother, I understand the struggle, as it’s referred to. I definitely read “The Struggle: Mom and the Summertime Blues” and looked forward to reading this one. First, it’s multi-authored, with each one having her own writing style and story to tell. It’s wonderfully put together, and the writing for all, is great. They each write well, and you can tell the different styles and who is telling what story, but it works for this. I enjoyed reading this from beginning to end, and a book that makes you nod your head, and laugh out loud because of its humor or relatability, is one you need to read. Mom writes “My goal was to get a better idea about the girls and their feelings.” and I think, she got more than she realized she would. And so did we all. A great read.

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Bear Medicine G. Elizabeth Kretchmer Contemporary When Brooke sets off on a trail in Yellowstone National Park to train for an upcoming marathon, she is savagely attacked by a grizzly bear. One hundred forty years earlier, Anne accompanies her husband on a camping trip in the nation’s first national park and awakens one morning to find he’s been captured by Nez Perce warriors... Amy’s Review: Stunning It took me a minute to figure out what the connection between Anne and Brooke was, but it brought the story together so quickly. Both women were courageous and brave, and endured a lot. I was immediately engaged in the story from Brooke’s bear attack. The description and pain that she endured was magnificent, and emotional. I read the book in one sitting. I couldn’t put the book down, not even for a moment. The connection between the characters, in both the past and the present had chemistry and an emotional bond. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve already become a fan of Kretchmer, and this book was absolutely stunning. I highly recommend it.

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Legacy Stephanie Barr Fantasy Anthology Who will Omoto choose to be? What path will he take? His story, Legacy, is one of several tales in this volume that introduce new and unforgettable characters, while others offer new glimpses into the personal histories of characters familiar to readers of Stephanie Barr’s novels. All focus on those who refused to bow their heads to fate and instead forged their own futures. Amy’s Review: Great collection The book intrigued me when the author was nominated for one of my Best Indie Titles of 2017 awards on my author blog, and the author was nice enough to share the story with me for a review. Legacy is a collection of short stories written by Barr, and I think the stories relate to each other in more than just the author writing them. It’s a great collection of stories, and Barr certainly can write a short story, as short stories are not so easy to write. A few of the stories, I could see doing some expansion on, and creating a full length novel or series on. Barr writes well, and tells a good story.


Lesson Plan for Murder Lori Robbins Mystery/Suspense No one sheds any tears when overbearing English teacher Marcia Deaver is found dead in her classroom. Some staff members speculate it was a heart attack, or perhaps a suicide, but Liz Hopewell knows that no self-respecting member of the Valerian Hills English Department would kill herself without leaving behind a perfectly penned suicide note, complete with detailed footnotes and obscure literary references.

Amy’s Review: Thrilling A mystery behind the death of a unliked teacher. A great premise for what looks like the start of a new mystery or detective series. First, I like that the name of the amateur detective is Liz Hopewell, and hope that was an intended foreshadow of the character. I like Liz and how she ingratiates herself into the middle of the mystery. It’s a definite thrilling and fun read. The story came together with fitting puzzle pieces, and it was more than just the forefront story of the murder. I look forward to reading more from Robbins, and hope she brings more of Liz into more mysteries.

Unveiled A.D. Trosper Young Adult/Fantasy Jo’s birthright may be her death sentence…

fully human. ...

Being blood bound to Caius, a powerful and rather irritating demonborn, was never on my bucket list. Of course, neither was being a reaper or learning I’m not

Amy’s Review: Powerful! The book intrigued me when the author was nominated for one of my Best Indie Titles of 2017 awards on my author blog, and the author was nice enough to share the story with me for a review. This YA fantasy is filled with twists and strong characters, who have depth. It was exciting and riveting, and Trosper writes a good story. She brings in different worlds and themes and melds them together into one great story. This is the first book I’ve read of Trosper, and it won’t be my last. It was one of those books that kept the reader engaged, and I think it was truly magical. It grasps the reader and doesn’t let go, and Jo was a character I won’t soon forget.

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Jen’s Book Reviews Blanky Kealan Patrick Burke Horror In the wake of his infant daughter’s tragic death, Steve Brannigan is struggling to keep himself together. Estranged from his wife, who refuses to be inside the house where the unthinkable happened, and unable to work, he seeks solace in an endless parade of old sitcoms and a bottle of bourbon.... Jen’s Review: A tragic loss of a child throws a grieving father into madness. Believing there’s more to his daughter’s death then he first thought, he sets out to uncover what really caused the death of his child. This is a short story - the first by this author I’ve read but I really enjoyed this tale which is sad. But is also filled with horror and will have readers wondering what really happened. The ending had me asking myself questions. I really want to read more by this author now.

The Crying Boy Jane E. James Paranormal Suspense Clayton and Avril Shaw have lost their little boy and are still grieving when they move into Swallow’s Nest on the Yorkshire moors. In their new house Avril discovers a painting and is intrigued by the history surrounding it. When she learns that the boy in the painting was deaf, like her dead son, she starts to try and communicate with his ghost. Jen’s Review: Supernatural thriller set in Swallows Nest house on the Yorkshire Moors. A couple Mr. and Mrs. Shaw move In to a new house hoping this will be a fresh start for them. Strange things start happing and Mr. Shaw begins to worry about his wife’s frame of mind. I was engrossed in this story and learning more about the legend of The Crying Boy sitting up into the wee hours of the morning reading this book has me made thankful I do not own or wish to receive a copy of the painting for myself. Bravery knows no bounds as the author of this book owns in fact two copies. I highly recommend this book, I would think other readers will enjoy this. Hopefully they make it into a film soon.

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The Girl Before Cassandra Jamison Young Adult/Suspense Miley has only one year left in the foster system and is sent to finish it in the home of an older couple, Anne and Clive Winchester, who are still coping with the death of their sixteen-year-old daughter. Miley is soon drawn into deadly mind games and deception that make it clear that they have their sights set on more than just replacing their deceased daughter. Hidden secrets within the home and chilling revelations about their past bring Miley’s worst nightmare to life. Jen’s Review: Miley Fairchild is a foster child sent to another family to finish her last year in care. She’s not too thrilled about the family she’s staying with, but when a boy from her class at school goes missing she begins to suspect her foster parents are behind it. This new book from this author seems a little darker then her others, but I really enjoyed it. I saw a lot of twists and turns with Miley throughout the book which I didn’t expect. So I was pleasantly kept on the edge of my seat while reading this nail bitter of a Young Adult book.

Life Upside Down Jacey Rhodes Contemporary Lesbian Life Upside Down is a romantic life story with a comedic twist. It’s a romantic comedy that will have you loving, laughing, and turning the pages. You just never know who is going to catch your fancy, and either did Erin. Jen’s Review: Erin works in an office and has a crush on a girl Rose who works with her. After work, a night out to a bar they get a little cozy. This book explores what it’s like to be in love with someone and have the uncertainty that they may not love you back. Especially at the start of any new relationship. This book is very funny and sweet I really enjoyed it. My only problem being I finished it too fast. This book was introduced to me by a friend and I had never read any of this author’s work before but I’m hoping to change that now.

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Jen’s Book Reviews Half Life Sarah Gray Paranormal Half Life is a triplet of supernatural stories which journey to worlds that linger between life and death. From a recently deceased woman who tries to live a better life as a ghost, to the brother of death. Fear, disappointment and loneliness permeate these worlds, forcing each character to face up to the dark side of human existence Jen’s Review: A collection of three different stories all with being stuck in limbo as the theme. The first story in the book was really good - a sister who is desperate to reconnect with her sister and niece reaches out in the only way she can think of, by haunting them, something she used to joke about to her sister. I did enjoy reading this book and learned a whole lot more into hauntings and the meaning of limbo even if it’s only made up. The author has a way of making even the darkest subjects interesting. Definitely a book to check out.

Surface Tension Sarah Gray Paranormal Surface Tension is a unique collection of six dark tales, which delves deep into the undercurrents of human psychology. Ghosts, heavenly creatures and magic-beings find fantastical ways to deliver messages of warning or redemption. From a widow longing to be reunited with her husband, to a mother trapped by guilt these stories reveal how life’s tragic events can change our perception and lead to unexpected consequences. The results are delightful stories that charm, intrigue and scare in equal measure. Jen’s Review: I really enjoyed this book. Can’t pick a favorite story as I really liked them all. A story called Bruised really stood out to me. A wife is unhappy in her marriage with her husband as he’s a bit of a bully. A drunken night finds him missing, thought of as dead. She begins to move on only to have her husband haunt her and leave bruising on her body. After a failed exorcism doesn’t get rid of him, it’s clear he wants his wife to suffer. I found myself caring a lot about all the characters in this book. I would highly recommend this book and would read it again, as it even taught me some life lessons.

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Scarlett Elle Klass Horror At five my parents died in a horrible car crash changing my life for the worst. I was thrust into a life I never expected and had to learn to adapt in order to survive, no matter the cost. Soon I was shuffled into the foster system becoming a lost child with no ties. My roommate and mortal enemy divulged a troubling rumor about my parents, forcing me to question everything I knew. Jen’s Review: Set in the 1960s after a tragic accident leaves Scarlett orphaned, she’s sent to a foster home where the other kids don’t like her much as a result of her two different eye colours. Believing this to lead her to having a special power or magical ability. Scarlett begins to see ghosts, in fact her best friend happens to be a ghost. I really enjoyed this book and thought it to be quite dark towards the middle of the book as we discover more about Scarlett. I really think other readers will enjoy this book and be hooked on others in the series.

Back to December E.J. Bennett Romantic Fantasy Bella, an old grumpy woman, finds her self in the past. To a time she was happy and loved. Bella must race against time and her mind to change a devasting event if she wishes

to save her future. A white Christmas wedding and the love of her life. Will Bella be distracted? Can Bella keep her mind set on the task at hand? Or will she fall back into her old life and old ways?

Jen’s Review: Bella was meant to marry the love of her life on Christmas day. By some magic she is given a second chance to change the outcome of that day. A beautiful Christmas themed story with a second chance at happiness.

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Jen’s Book Reviews Collected Christmas Various Horror Anthology Christmas is often thought of as a time of joy and cheer, a time for giving to others, a time of celebration and love…. Well, this year some of the best voices in horror fiction decided to band together and tell you some tales about a different kind of Christmas, so grab yourself a mug of hot chocolate, close the curtains, lock the door and get comfy. This will be a Christmas like never before! Jen’s Review: A little collection of Christmas horror stories to get everyone involved. In the upcoming Christmas season. From a father hell bent on justice after a drunken driver and kills his family, to a mother who has had enough of her family by deciding to spike the eggnog. I found this book all about the fun and horrors of Christmas. Perfect for a Christmas present enjoyable and very entertaining.

Eight ‘Til Christmas Sarah Gray Contemporary Eight inspirational, international authors have gathered together to share their talent, donating their time and their individual Christmas themed stories for your entertainment. Not one of them will receive a single penny for this as they have all agreed to donate their collective royalties to FEED THE CHILDREN, the amazing international charity caring for children around the world. Your purchase will not only give you eight fantastic stories to make your Christmas but will help feed the children of the world. Jen’s Review: A mixture of Christmas themed stories featuring a lot of romance and some unusual gifts of the occult kind. If this isn’t enough to get you interested in reading this book, there’s one or two ghosts who pop up to say hello. I wasn’t sure what I expected in this book, but I can honestly say it kept me entertained. Please check out as all the funds of this book go to a charity.

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Sweet Southern Book Reviews Broken K Webster Erotica

Night Stalker R.L. Weeks Horror

Andi has the perfect life. She is about to graduate with an Architecture degree and marry her-All American baseball star-fiancé. When she catches him in bed with another woman, her world is turned upside down. Left to pick up the pieces of her shattered life, she takes on a new persona—a promiscuous one. This new role protects her heart from ever being broken again.

Casey and George are traveling around Japan’s notorious suicide forest when they see something move in the tree line and Casey can’t shake the feeling that someone has been following them. Later that night, Casey wakes up to find a woman in their room. After breaking free of the woman’s entrancement, Casey wakes George, who convinces her it was just a dream.

SSReview: I grabbed this book without checking out the blurb due to hearing of the author from friends. I found myself pleasantly surprised by what I found inside. The story centers on Andi and the mysterious Jackson. Troubles from Andi’s past sent her from the perfect girlfriend to the promiscuous, Friday night game player. On one such Friday night, she meets Jackson. Jackson is hot, rich, and by all means ready to play Andi’s weekend game. When Monday rolls around, Andi finds that Jackson has become a part of her life that she won’t easily be able to ignore after their steamy weekend. Now that the stakes are raised both Andi and Jackson, who has issues all his own, must decide whether the game they are playing means more than either one of them is ready to admit. I found this book very steamy, funny, and entertaining. With the addition of Andi’s friends, and Jackson’s comical brother, I cannot wait to check out the other books in this series to see where their stories go.

SSReview: In an attempt to not give anything away in this review I have to be extra careful. I had read the blurb as well as saw numerous Facebook posts advertising Night Stalker. The cover, of course, caught my attention and considering my love of all things paranormal I decided to give it a try. I was pleased that I did. The story revolves around Casey, a young girl who seems to be hit with one life altering thing after another. Her world is finally completely turned upside down when she enters the world of the Night Stalkers and realizes parts of her life had never been what they seemed. Partnered with a shady character by the name of Scorpio, Casey must learn things about herself and the new world she now finds herself a part of. In my opinion, this was a wonderfully put together story. The build up was fantastic as was the intrigue. I found myself wondering what would happen next. R. L. Weeks did a great job bringing us into the world of the Night Stalkers. This was a wonderful start to a new series. The only issue I found myself having was the fact it felt too short, lol.

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Wisteria Witches Angela Pepper Supernatural Suspense Zara Riddle moved to a small town so her life could be quiet and safe. But now that her witch powers have kicked in, life is anything but. Long-lost relatives are coming out of the woodwork, and it turns out the family tree is riddled with magic. SSReview: Gilmore Girls meets Charmed is the perfect way to describe this light-hearted paranormal cozy. I loved the characters of Zara and her quirky daughter from line one of page one. The characters were crisp and easy to get to know, while the descriptions had you almost feeling like you were right there with them. The only thing I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t like about this book was that it ended way to soon! A perfect read for a long winterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s night.

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December 2017 - Issue 17 Feature authors: Becky McGraw, Shanna Hatfield, Cherry Christensen, Patricia Eddy, Madelyn Hill, Patricia Bond, Ch...