Genre: Speculative Fiction, Gaslight Fantasy, Alternative History
Publisher: MX Publishing
Publication Date: May 15, 2016
About Elizabeth Crowens
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Set in New York City’s Gilded Age, Joanna Shupe’s Avon debut introduces an English beauty with a wicked scheme to win the man she loves—and the American scoundrel who ruins her best laid plans…
Lady Honora Parker must get engaged as soon as possible, and only a particular type of man will do. Nora seeks a mate so abhorrent, so completely unacceptable, that her father will reject the match—leaving her free to marry the artist she loves. Who then is the most appalling man in Manhattan? The wealthy, devilishly handsome financier, Julius Hatcher, of course….
Julius is intrigued by Nora’s ruse and decides to play along. But to Nora’s horror, Julius transforms himself into the perfect fiancé, charming the very people she hoped he would offend. It seems Julius has a secret plan all his own—one that will solve a dark mystery from his past, and perhaps turn him into the kind of man Nora could truly love.
A Daring Arrangement
by Joanna Shupe
Four Hundred #1
October 31, 2017
Thirty-Seventh Street and Fifth Avenue
New York City
The pressed tin ceiling was about to cave in on their heads.
Lady Honora Parker glanced upward once again, fascinated by what was taking place on the second floor of Sherry’s, one of New York’s most exclusive restaurants. Each raucous thump and horrific crash from above shook the huge gold and crystal chandelier in the main dining room and caused the black-coated waiters to wince. It sounded as if a herd of elephants were up there.
From what Nora had seen and heard of the reckless Americans in the last month, she would not be surprised if it were elephants. Nothing seemed off limits here, no idea too big or too wild. Giant houses, like English country estates, lined Fifth Avenue. Imported marble, bright limestone, and shiny gilding blinded from every street corner. Tall buildings stretched high up into the sky. There was a sense of urgency in New York to buy more, build more, do more. It made her long for the dirty, crowded, yet civilized streets of London.
“Nora, dear,” her aunt’s gentle voice interrupted her thoughts. “Mr. Van Rensselaer asked you a question.”
She turned to the older, heavyset man on her right. Her uncle had arranged the dinner, one of many meetings designed for her to find a “suitable” man. But the idea of marriage to a man old enough to be her father made Nora’s skin crawl. Even her aunt disapproved of Van Rensselaer, saying he was, “a set of heavy eyebrows with a stick up his behind.”
It must be said that Nora adored her aunt.
More importantly, Nora did not desire a suitable American man, not when a perfectly suitable artist awaited her back in London. Her father hadn’t approved of said artist, unfortunately, which is how she now found herself in America, being trotted around New York like a prized thoroughbred up for auction. That’s the earl’s daughter, they whispered behind her back. Here to find a husband.
No, she absolutely would not. Nora had no intention of marrying anyone here. “I apologize,” she replied to the eyebrows. “You were saying?”
“Perfectly understandable.” Mr. Van Rensselaer smiled tolerantly at her, as if Nora were some flighty nitwit incapable of following a conversation. Commence additional skin crawling. “I asked if your ladyship missed London.”
Yes, I miss Robert terribly. Her heart squeezed in a tight grip, an ache settling in her throat. A young painter, Robert Landon had no money or title to speak of, but she didn’t care. He’d been the first person to see Nora for who she truly was, not just her father’s daughter. He was sweet and romantic and all she desired in this world. After they married, they planned to travel across Europe so Robert could hone his craft. She would keep him company and continue to serve as his “muse,” as he often called her.
Her father, the Earl of Stratton, hadn’t approved. He’d been horrified when Robert and Nora were caught together—a scene orchestrated for the earl’s benefit at a dinner party—and from there, things had taken a disastrous turn. Instead of forcing the young lovers to marry, as she’d hoped, her furious father rushed Nora off to his sister in New York. “No one there will have heard of the scandal yet,” he had said. “Your aunt will help you find a proper husband in America. Do not return without one. Now, do not disappoint me, Nora.”
Was that not what she’d been doing her entire life, disappointing him? He’d wanted a boy; she’d been born a girl. She had studied, practiced, and tried to be the perfect daughter, and he’d only ignored her. She’d smiled through her debut, eager to make him proud, and he hadn’t bothered to attend any of the balls or dances.
Attempts at playing the good daughter, the proper society young woman, had gotten her nothing. Worse, they’d resulted in a trip to a strange city to be dangled in front of every fortune hunter and insufferable snob twice her age.
So that proper society young woman was no more. A new Nora had emerged on the cross-Atlantic voyage four weeks ago, one who had decided to take matters into her own hands by concocting an infallible way back to London.
The plan was simple. If her father wanted her to find a husband, she’d find the most outrageous man in New York, a fiancé noteworthy and unsuitable enough to land in the papers. An actor? A politician? She hadn’t quite settled on how to achieve it yet . . . but she would. She had to. The news must become public enough to reach the earl’s ear across the Atlantic, horrifying him enough to summon her home.
Three sets of eyes were staring, so she returned her attention to the conversation at hand. “I do miss it. Certainly not the weather, however.”
Aunt Beatrice, Uncle James, and Mr. Van Rensselaer laughed, and conversation droned on until another loud thump sounded from above. Her uncle’s mouth flattened. “I cannot comprehend why that hullabaloo is permitted to continue.”
Mr. Van Rensselaer wiped his mouth with the linen serviette. “From what I understand, Mr. Hatcher is up in the ballroom. Some sort of exclusive dinner. This is why your country is superior to ours, Lady Nora, because the undesirables here have no idea how to conduct themselves properly.”
By “undesirables,” it was clear he meant men who had earned their wealth, not inherited it as he had. Had he any idea how pompous that made him sound? Though Robert had no money, he was a kind, decent, and loving man with brilliant wit and unshakable morals. That was the perfect man, not one like Mr. Van Rensselaer, who’d visibly sneered at the modest blue silk gown she wore tonight. While it might be conservative compared to the fancier American gowns throughout the dining room, she believed the color showed off her dark chestnut hair and golden-brown eyes.
“Mr. Julius Hatcher?” Aunt Bea asked. “The financier?”
“Indeed. The man’s a scourge on everything decent and upstanding in this city.” Van Rensselaer cut into his asparagus spears. “Do not worry, though. He doesn’t exactly run in the best circles. In fact, he’s tried numerous times to buy his way into polite society over the years, but they won’t have him.”
Though she’d only been in New York a month, Nora had heard of Julius Hatcher. A handsome, brash swell with more money than sense, he threw elaborate parties and associated with a string of high-profile actresses, at least according to the gossip pages. He’d even built a replica of a sixteenth-century French castle on Upper Fifth Avenue—complete with a moat.
Though the newspapers touted his exploits with glee, society thought him outrageous and improper. A society he’d apparently tried to buy his way into—and failed. And here her father had disapproved of Robert when there were scoundrels like Julius Hatcher running amok. However was that possibly fair? It would serve the earl right if she brought Hatcher home for—Her brain froze for an instant, stuck on the delicious idea. Oh, indeed, it would serve the earl right. Her father would never approve of Hatcher as a husband, a scoundrel who would bring shame to the venerable Parker name. Surely that would force her father to see Robert in a more favorable light. It would certainly prove that a hardworking, decent man like Robert was good enough to marry the earl’s only daughter.
Moreover, the second her father caught wind of her connection to Hatcher and the depravity of his reputation, he would undoubtedly bring her home posthaste.
Mr. Hatcher sounded like the answer to her prayers.
Another thud sounded from above. This is my chance. She had to find Hatcher and try to convince him to help her. Right now. Immediately. Before she lost this opportunity. She started to push her chair back and a waiter rushed over to assist her. “If you will excuse me, I am feeling a bit overheated.”
“Shall I come with you?” her aunt asked as the two gentlemen politely rose as well.
“No, please,” she rushed out a little desperately, then tempered her tone. “Enjoy your meal. I’ll put a cool cloth to my neck and return in moments.”
Joanna Shupe has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. While in college, Joanna read every romance she could get her hands on and soon started crafting her own racy historical novels. In 2013, she won Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical. She now lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters and dashing husband. To connect with Joanna, visit JoannaShupe.com.
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As the ward to the late Duke of Lothian, Elsbeth Carew resides at the ancestral estate of Bealadair. Fiercely attached to the manor, she loves it more than anyone else. When Connor McCraight—the new Duke of Lothian—arrives, Elsbeth does not quite know what to make of the American who has inherited the title but has never even set foot on Scottish soil. The tall, ruggedly handsome Texan sweeps through Bealadair with an air of authority Elsbeth has never encountered.
Connor has no intention of making Scotland his home and hopes to sell the estate as soon as possible. But his plan is jeopardized when he meets Elsbeth. A sweet, gray-eyed beauty, she tempts him in ways no other woman has. As word spreads of Connor’s intention to sell Bealadair, his life is threatened—and the only woman who can save him may be the one he has hopelessly lost his heart to.
The Texan Duke
by Karen Ranney
October 31, 2017
Everything was being readied for the man in the carriage approaching the long drive.
Would he care? Would he even notice?
The blowing snow obscured everything but the yellow glow of the carriage lanterns.
None of it belonged to them anymore. It was all owned by the man who would soon emerge from the carriage, the same man who could so easily wave his hand and banish them.
She shivered, wishing she had been able to wear her cloak. And a scarf around her throat. And a hat pulled over her hair. She couldn’t feel her lips or her fingertips.
People were stamping their feet against the packed snow of the drive and wrapping their arms around themselves. She could see plumes of their breath against the night sky.
Didn’t Rhona notice that everyone was about to freeze to death?
Sometimes, she thought that Rhona forgot that the people who staffed Bealadair were human beings. A great many of her dictates didn’t make sense. Yesterday she’d given an order that the laundress was to starch all the maids’ aprons and today no one was to sit or otherwise crease their uniforms until the duke arrived. You could either do the job you were supposed to do or you could walk around acting like a marionette.
Rhona made decisions like that, making changes that weren’t the least practical. A few months ago she’d given an order that all of the maids were to have their hair arranged in the same fashion, in an overly intricate braided bun. It took so long for the girls to arrange their hair that way that Elsbeth had countermanded Rhona’s orders, more than willing to go to battle for the staff. Fortunately, the duchess hadn’t noticed.
Rhona liked to issue decrees. She made pronouncements, waved her hand in the air like a queen, and demanded certain behaviors. Just as quickly, however, she forgot what she’d ordered.
Elsbeth had the feeling that Rhona really didn’t care. The duchess just liked being obeyed, even if it was only momentarily. Elsbeth took great pains to ensure that Rhona got that impression, even if it wasn’t exactly correct.
In the past year she’d taken on the duty of housekeeper. Mrs. Ferguson had increasingly incapacitating arthritis. It was easier for the poor woman to remain in her quarters than it was to traverse the many staircases of Bealadair.
None of the family had any objections to Elsbeth assuming the role. They wanted their meals on time, their suites kept clean and sparkling, and their lives not disrupted by petty things such as laundry, staffing expectations, and inconsequential details like leaky roofs.
As for Elsbeth, she enjoyed having something to do every day. Each evening she met with Mrs. Ferguson, consulting the woman over the tasks that needed to be done. The housekeeper had been at Bealadair for over twenty years and knew the house as well as—if not more so—the McCraights. The woman was an organizational genius, acquiring details about the many collections housed at the estate from armaments to historical documents.
No doubt the new duke would want to know the extent of his inheritance. Thanks to Mrs. Ferguson, she could provide him with an exact inventory.
The carriage was turning into the drive. A stableboy ran out to steady the horses. A footman strode forward to open the carriage door.
Rhona stepped up, accompanied by her oldest daughter, Lara, and Lara’s husband, Felix.
Elsbeth was too far away to hear the duchess’s words, but they were probably those of welcome. Maybe the duchess said something in Gaelic, evoking Scottish sentiment. After all, the new duke was an American who needed to be educated on his Scottish heritage. At least that’s what she’d been told.
No one had ever spoken of this unknown nephew. Until Mr. Glassey had sent back word from America, they had expected that the 14th Duke of Lothian and the Laird of Clan McCraight would be Gavin’s brother.
This man who stepped down from the carriage was a complete mystery.
Karen Ranney is an American author of historical and paranormal romance novels. She began writing when she was five. Most of Ranney’s novels are set in Scotland and feature “believable characters, careful plotting, and simmering sexual tension.” She has been nominated nine times for a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award and won a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in 2002 for British-set Historical Romance. In 2014 Ranney began writing the paranormal romance series The Montgomery Chronicles, which center on a newly and unwillingly turned female vampire, and in 2016 began writing a spinoff series, The Furry Chronicles. Ranney has also been on the USA Today Bestseller List as well as the New York Times bestseller list. She lives in Texas.
Lord Alaric Wilde, son of the Duke of Lindow, is the most celebrated man in England, revered for his dangerous adventures and rakish good looks. Arriving home from years abroad, he has no idea of his own celebrity until his boat is met by mobs of screaming ladies. Alaric escapes to his father’s castle, but just as he grasps that he’s not only famous but notorious, he encounters the very private, very witty, Miss Willa Ffynche.
Willa presents the façade of a serene young lady to the world. Her love of books and bawdy jokes is purely for the delight of her intimate friends. She wants nothing to do with a man whose private life is splashed over every newspaper.
Alaric has never met a woman he wanted for his own . . . until he meets Willa. He’s never lost a battle.
But a spirited woman like Willa isn’t going to make it easy. . . .
The first book in Eloisa James’s dazzling new series set in the Georgian period glows with her trademark wit and sexy charm—and introduces a large, eccentric family. Readers will love the Wildes of Lindow Castle!
Wilde In Love
by Eloisa James
The Wildes of Lindow Castle #1
October 31, 2017
June 25, 1778
There wasn’t a person in all England who’d have believed the boy who grew up to be Lord Alaric Wilde would become famous.
Infamous? That was a possibility.
His own father had given him that label after Alaric was sent down from Eton at the age of eleven for regaling his classmates with stories of pirates.
Piracy wasn’t the problem—the problem was the uncanny way young Alaric had depicted his small-minded Etonian instructors in the guise of drunken sailors. These days he avoided portraying self-righteous Englishmen, but the impulse to observe had never left him. He watched and summarized, whether he was in China or an African jungle.
He had always written down what he saw. His Lord Wilde books were a consequence of that impulse to record his observations, a drive that appeared as soon as he learned to write his first sentences.
Like everyone else, it had never occurred to him that those books could make him famous. And he didn’t think any differently when he rolled out of his berth on Royal George. All he knew in that moment was that he was finally ready to see his family, all eight siblings, not to mention the duke, duchess, and a stepsister or two.
He’d stayed away for years, as if not seeing his eldest brother Horatius’s grave would make his death not true.
But it was time to go home.
He wanted a cup of tea. A steaming hot bath in a real bathtub. A lungful of smoky London air.
Hell, he even missed the peaty smell that hung over Lindow Moss, the bog that stretched for miles to the east of his father’s castle.
He was drawing back the curtain over the porthole when the ship’s boy knocked and entered. “There’s a mighty fog, milord, but we’re well up the Thames, and the captain reckons we’ll be at Billingsgate Wharf any minute.” His eyes shone with excitement.
Upon on deck, Alaric found Captain Barsley standing in the prow of the Royal George, hands on his hips. Alaric started toward him and stopped, astonished. Through the fog, the dock glimmered like a child’s toy: a blurry mass of pink, purple, and bright blue. It separated into parts as the ship approached.
The dock was crowded with women—or, more precisely, ladies, considering all the high plumes and parasols waving in the air. A grin tugged at the corners of Alaric’s mouth as he joined the captain.
“What in the devil is going on?”
“I expect they’re waiting for a prince or some such foolishness. Those passenger lists they print in the Morning Chronicle are utter rubbish. They’re going to be bloody disappointed when they realize the Royal George hasn’t a drop of royal blood aboard,” the captain grumbled.
Alaric, who was related to the crown through his grandfather, gave a shout of laughter. “You have a noble nose, Barsley. Perhaps they’ve discovered a relation you never heard of.”
Barsley just grunted. They were close enough now to discern that ladies were crowded as far back as the fish market. They appeared to be bobbing up and down like colored buoys, as they strained to see through the fog. Faint screams suggested excitement, if not hysteria.
“This is Bedlam,” Barsley said with disgust. “How are we supposed to disembark in the midst of that?”
“Since we’ve come from Moscow, perhaps they think the Russian ambassador is on board,” Alaric said, watching a rowboat set out toward them, manned by a dockworker.
“Why in the devil’s name would a flock of women come looking for a Russian?”
“Kochubey is a good-looking fellow,” Alaric said, as the boat struck the side of the ship with a thump. “He complained of English ladies besieging him, calling him Adonis, and sneaking into his bedchamber at night.”
But the captain wasn’t listening. “What the devil are those women doing on the wharf?” Captain Barsley roared, as the dockworker clambered over the side from the rowboat. “Make way for my gangplank, or I won’t be responsible for the fish having a fine meal!”
The man dropped to the deck, eyes round. “It’s true! You’re here!” he blurted out.
“Of course I’m here,” the captain snarled.
But the man wasn’t looking at Barsley.
He was looking at Alaric.
ELOISA JAMES is a New York Times best-selling author and professor of English literature who lives with her family in New York, but can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. She is the mother of two and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight. Visit her at http://www.eloisajames.com.
The Captain’s Rebel
(Irish Heroines #1)
Published by: Entangled Publishing
Publication date: April 3rd 2017
Genres: Erotica, Historical, Romance
Land. Power. Influence. Mary O’Malley knows these are the only things that matter in her war-torn country. Determined to win back her ancestral home, she must embark on a journey across the Atlantic disguised as a cabin boy. But her ruse brings her under the control of a dangerous sea captain who demands from her the one thing she will never give—complete and total submission.
Captain Richard Grant runs a tight ship, and he didn’t claw his way up through the ranks of the Royal Navy to be undone by a headstrong Irish girl hell-bent on jeopardizing his mission and his crew. If she insists on dressing like a man, then she can take his punishments. He demands obedience, but his insatiable need for her leads to a complex game of sex, desire, and dominance not even he can control.
Awakened by the passion Grant stirs in her, Mary finds herself falling for the stern captain. But when her false identity leads to rumors of her spying for the French, she must choose between her love for Ireland and the man who commands her body—and her heart.
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I nodded, choking back a sob. Or perhaps a moan. I couldn’t tell which. Placing my trembling hands back on the wall, I widened my stance, as if I could somehow distribute the pain more evenly through my body.
The Captain chuckled low and dark, and the sound of it sent a bolt of fear and pleasure through my body.
“You think by showing me that delicious cunny of yours that I’ll be easy on you?”
“It had crossed my mind.”
The flogger came down on me again, and this time my teeth drew blood on my lip as I bit back a scream.
“Three!” I cried in a strained voice. My eyes swam with stars, the pain pushing me to a space outside my body. The next two slaps came fast and hard, my voice calling out the numbers. On number five, my body peaked, my folds swelling and aching with heat.
The Captain ran his hand gently across my bum, finding me wet and wanting with his exploring fingers. “You enjoyed that, I think.” He slipped a finger into my core, massaging the inside.
“Yes,” I gasped as he slid another finger in, but the pressure only made me ache for something bigger. “I’m sorry…for the boots… I won’t let it happen again.”
“See that you do not.” His fingers worked harder, and I arched my back, trying to gain more friction against them. “There is only so much this sweet backside can take.”
“I think it can take a little more.” The words fell from my mouth, and they sounded so final, so complete, breaking some forbidden barrier between us. With a flurry of movement, Grant dropped his trousers and pressed against me, his hands digging into my hips. His swollen cock jabbed against my arse, but I rearranged myself until my folds engulfed him. He groaned, his tip teasing my opening. I dripped for him, my hips undulating across his cock. I wanted him inside me. Now. Nothing else would do.
Colleen Halverson is a writer, educator, wife, and mother of two. She is the author of the Aisling Chronicles and writes erotic romance under the pen name C. B. Halverson. She lives in the Driftless area of Wisconsin.
They’re reincarnated soulmates. So why is he pushing her away?
Lizzie Davenport has been reincarnated from 1815, England … but she doesn’t know it until she meets her soul mate from the past and he triggers her memories to gradually return.
When Drew Carmichael moves to Lizzie’s town, Lizzie feels a connection to him, like she knows him. But he wants nothing to do with her. She knows she should let go of her fascination with Drew, but that gets harder and harder as memories of her past life return. And the more Lizzie remembers, the more she’s determined to unravel the mysteries of the past … no matter how deadly those secrets might be.
A romance with a fantasy twist that listeners of all ages will love!
Michelle Madow is a USA Today bestselling author of fast paced fantasy novels that will leave you turning the pages wanting more!
She grew up in Maryland and now lives in Florida. Some of her favorite things are: reading, traveling, pizza, time travel, Broadway musicals, and spending time with friends and family. Someday, she hopes to travel the world for a year on a cruise ship.
Audible Best Selling Narrator, Andrea Emmes was born in Hollywood, FL and grew up in both Tennessee and Rhode Island, started her career in musical theater. Cutting her teeth at The Trinity Arts Center in Rhode Island, Andrea eventually made her way to Orlando and began her eclectic career singing/dancing in various shows at Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Pirates’ Dinner Adventure, performing as a magician’s assistant, headlining on the Las Vegas Strip and touring Los Angeles as an L.A. Award winning artist with her album, “I’m On My Way”.
Having worked in tv, film and video games, Andrea, a total Book Nerd, now enjoys narrating audiobooks at her home studio in San Jose, California.
Her wide range of character voices and dynamic/emotionally invested performances has reviewers and listeners alike commenting on how she effortlessly pulls listeners in, and has versatility and charisma.
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The Canary Club
Sherry D. Ficklin
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: October 16th 2017
Genres: Historical, Romance, Young Adult
“Bad Luck” Benny is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Recently released from jail, he has vowed to keep his head down and stay out of trouble. But he also needs to care for his ailing sister and the rest of his struggling family, and he’ll do anything to make that happen—even if it means taking a position with a notorious crime boss. He soon finds himself in over his head—and worse still—falling for the one dame on earth he should be staying away from.
Masie is the daughter of a wealthy gangster with the voice of an angel and gun smoke in her veins. Strong-willed but trapped in a life she never wanted, she dreams of flying free from the politics and manipulation of her father. A pawn in her family’s fight for control of the city, and with a killer hot on her heels, she turns to the one person who just might be able to spring her from her gilded cage. But Masie is no angel, and her own dark secrets may come back to burn them both.
Two worlds collide in this compelling story of star-crossed lovers in gritty prohibition-era New York.
Perfect for fans of Beatriz Williams’ A CERTAIN AGE or Libba Bray’s THE DIVINERS, THE CANARY CLUB by Sherry D. Ficklin will entice Historical Romance fans of all ages. This Gatsby-era tale filled with dazzling speakeasies, vicious shoot-outs, gritty gangsters, and iridescent ingenues has also been compared to the television series Z: THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING and BOARDWALK EMPIRE.
Glitter and Gold (A Canary Club Prequel) is currently FREE!
I roll the name around in my head like a curse.
Glancing back over my shoulder toward my room, toward June, I know what I have to do.
For the most part, it suits me just fine to let people think I’m just some silly girl, some empty-headed dame. Because what it means is that they never see me coming, never suspect me of being capable of doing terrible things.
But I am my father’s daughter.
I was born to violence like a fish is born to water. It’s part of me, part of who I am. All my life I’ve watched the people around me suffer—the women most of all. It’s a fact of this life that more often than not, shots are fired, grievances aired, and warnings sent through the women around the powerful men. They are soft targets. Disposable, but cared for enough to make a point.
In this business, women are nothing more than weaknesses to be guarded and fodder to be thrown when needed. Pawns in a game we aren’t even allowed to play. It’s one of the reasons I was so glad when Mother had sent me off to private school upstate. For a few months, I’d felt normal. Safe.
Being called back to the life after losing her was like suddenly having an axe hanging over my head again. For one dark, dark moment I’d considered running away—and I might have too. But soon enough I realized that this is where I belong, even if I might wish otherwise. I have to do what I can to protect my family, what family I have left. I know my part and I can play it as well as any Hollywood starlet. I know I should be appalled, bereaved that things like this come so easily to me now. But I let that grief, and the dreams of being anything other than what I am, go a long time ago. And so I stay. Cursed to walk the fine line between hero and villain, between vengeance and redemption.
But Lepke isn’t going to get away with this. Not this time.
I drag my hand through the water, mixing in the salts, cementing my plan in my head.
As soon as I deposit June in the tub I steal away to the den to make a call.
“Hello?” Vincent Coll’s groggy answer reverberates through the receiver.
My heart stutters at the sound of his voice. “It’s Masie. I need a favor.”
“What’s up, doll?”
I hesitate, biting my bottom lip. It’s then that I notice the smear of blood on my dress.
“I have blood on me, Vinny,” I say, more to myself than him, but his tone heightens.
“Are you alright?” He’s awake now, alert and sharp.
“It’s not my blood,” I clarify. “It’s the blood of someone I care about, though.”
He calms again, “What do you need?”
“Lepke Brewer,” I spit the name, unable to quite put into words how I want him to suffer. How much I want him to hurt.
On the other end of the line there’s a deep sigh, followed by the sound of a lighter flicking and Vinny taking a long drag. Despite being someone I once cared about greatly, Vinny is a dangerously unstable man on a good day. I know he’ll do what I’m about to ask without breathing a word of it to anyone—not out of loyalty to me or sympathy for June and what had happened to her, but for the sheer opportunity to level some brutality on a rival. Most people call him Mad Dog, thanks to his reputation for being about as well tempered as a rabid animal. But to me, he’s just Vinny, the young boy who’d come to stay with us after being expelled from the Catholic Reform School his mother had abandoned him to. We’d spent our formative years together, thick as thieves and practically family, until he took up the roll as Daddy’s enforcer and hit man. He’d changed after that.
Hell, we’d both changed. And neither of us for the better.
I roll the memory of him around in my head, biting the inside of my cheek as I decide what to say next. We haven’t been close in a very long time, and that’s the way it has to be. It might have been something more once, or maybe I just wanted there to be something there that never was. He’d kissed me exactly once, and it had been enough to sear itself into my memory, only to be buried beneath piles of disappointment and choices neither of us can take back. He has to be hard to do what he does, with no weaknesses for our enemies to exploit. And if I’m being honest, it’s the darkness in him that terrifies me. Not because I don’t understand it, but because I do. I know exactly how easy it would be to allow myself to be consumed by the violence of this life—and how good I would be at it.
But that’s not the person I want to be.
Even so, here I am, about to ask him to do the dirty work for me, just so I can keep my hands just a little bit clean.
“You want him taken care of?” he asks finally.
I suck in a breath before answering. Yes, I want him dead. I want him wiped from the face of the earth so he can’t ever hurt anyone ever again. I imagine myself saying yes. I imagine myself throwing a fistful of dirt onto Lepke’s coffin as it’s lowered into the ground. And then I imagine trying to look myself in the mirror every day after that.
“I want him to hurt,” I say after a moment. “I want him to be broken to the core of him. But leave him breathing.”
Leave it to Vinny to echo my own fears back to me. “You sure about this, Mas?” he asks, taking another drag and exhaling it slowly. “It’s not going to keep you up at night?”
It’s a barb from an accusation I’d leveled at him the last time we spoke, when I’d asked how he slept at night, after all he’d done. His answer had been crude and aimed to hurt me. Mine would be much kinder.
“I suppose I will have to find a way to live with myself,” I answer, keeping my tone indifferent.
He hangs up without even saying goodbye.
I hold the receiver in my hand for a few heartbeats before returning it to its cradle. JD is being groomed to take over the family business and –despite daddy’s constant berating that he’s too soft-hearted or slow-witted or whatever insult he feels like hurling in the moment for the job—I’ve never stepped in and asked for a place in the business. I’m just the girl, after all, to be coddled and protected and mollified. I’d been surprised that he let me worm my way into the club as it’s headline singer rather than being shipped off to wherever. Now, I can’t help but wonder, if Daddy had seen me tonight, if he might rethink the line of ascension.
And I can’t help but wonder what life would be like for me if he did.
Sherry is the author of over a dozen novels for teens and young adults including the best selling Stolen Empire series. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.
Sherry also writes contemporary romance under the pen name SJ Noble. You can find her at her official website, http://www.sherryficklin.com, or stalk her on her Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/sherry.ficklin.
Monsters & Angels
Anne Marie Andrus
Publication date: October 11th 2017
Genres: Historical, New Adult, Paranormal Romance
Fledgling nurse Sorcha Alden knew she had the skills to save lives, but she never dreamed that her own life would be the one in danger.
Driven by tragedy to honor her family name, Sorcha embarks on a journey that takes her from the bleak but familiar streets of New York, through the sultry and seductive city of New Orleans, and into the brutal jungles of Nepal. Forging friendships and carrying on her mother’s mission of healing was her dream. Plunging into a love affair with the mysterious Dr. Ashayle could have been a fairytale.
Being murdered and waking up as a blood-thirsty monster—became her living nightmare.
Torn away form a life that had just begun, Sorcha returns to New Orleans as a newborn vampire, forced to start over in a cutthroat underworld of devilry and decadence. Complicated politics, bitter rivals and jealous ancestors stand between her and the promises she’s still determined to keep.
In a realm where the boundary between good and evil is as murky as the Mississippi River and immortal does not mean invincible, will Sorcha ever risk her shattered heart and love again? Can the magical harmony of the Crescent City give her enough courage to fulfill her eternal destiny?
The door chime on Thursday evening caught the attention of the whole house.
“Sorcha,” Angela called out. “You have a visitor!”
Whole hospital heard that. Smoothing out the black skirt and crimson cotton blouse, Sorcha made one last check of her lipstick and hair. She grabbed her small purse, wrapped it around her wrist and hurried to the door. Her appearance in the entry collided with deafening silence. Did I forget a piece of clothing?
“Sorcha.” Vir held out his hand and guided her down the stairs. “You look ravishing. I’ve never seen your hair down—it’s gorgeous.” He twirled one of the soft curls in his fingers and placed it back on her shoulder.
“Thank you. You look dashing as well.” Black trousers and a white collared shirt were a perfect contrast to his rich, smooth skin. Sorcha’s heart fluttered remembering their first kiss. I’d very much like another.
After the village band’s first set, Vir coaxed Sorcha away from the punch bowl and paper lanterns.
“But, we just got here.” Sorcha pretended to drag her feet.
The full moon shed barely enough light to follow a winding trail in the deep forest.
“The clearing is right ahead.” Vir clutched her hand.
Sorcha’s jaw dropped when she saw thousands of delicate flowers blooming in the deep grooves of ancient tree bark. Some petals were multicolored, while others were solid. They were all vibrant, including blossoms of pure white.
“They’re rare orchids—the roots draw the moisture from the air.” He reached down for a flower that had fallen to the forest floor. “I don’t like to pick these, but this one dropped here especially for you.” He held it up so Sorcha could inhale the scent and then tucked it behind her ear. “So beautiful.”
As good as their first kiss was, the second kiss was better. In the scattered glow filtered through swaying trees, Vir took Sorcha’s hands and lifted them to his lips. He kissed each knuckle, never taking his eyes off hers as a light breeze swirled around them.
“You look like the girl from my dreams, sparkling in the rays of the moon.” He grasped one of Sorcha’s wrists and gently bent it behind her back, pulling her close. “I’ve got you.”
Sorcha’s knees buckled, but Vir held her steady. “You do have me.”
“Indeed.” Vir’s voice was a breathless whisper.
Electricity ricocheted from Sorcha’s ears to her fingers, down to her toes and back again as she met his kiss, immediately deeper than their first one. His free hand found her neck, squeezing gently at the base of her throat.
The dirt beneath their feet quivered and startled them out of their trance.
Sorcha’s back stiffened. “Did you feel…?”
Vir took a step back. “Yes, but I think I heard something too.”
Sorcha put her finger to her lips before tiptoeing to the edge of the clearing and peering into the brush. “I saw a shimmer.”
“Don’t call me crazy, but I’ve seen that a million times.” Vir crouched over her shoulder. “My parents always said it was my mind playing tricks.”
Anne Marie has been an equestrienne, chorale singer, candy-striper, EMT, and baseball fan. Roaming the back roads of New Jersey with her family, she found great respect for antiques, historical locations and the stories they hold. Her current list of favorite pastimes include coffee, bourbon, and Les Miserables–which requires more bourbon. She has been known to attend sporting events just for the flyover. The boat she and her husband christened Glory Days, is her escape from the chaos of everyday life.
The inspiration for Anne Marie’s debut novel, Monsters & Angels, is her fascination with vampires and her passion for everything New Orleans. When she isn’t writing, she can be found working nights with the critical care team in a busy trauma center.
Running with Wolves
Publication date: September 22nd 2017
Genres: Adventure, Historical, Romance, Young Adult
“They always come back,” she whispers. “Always.”
He spilled their blood. Now, she’s out for revenge.
Jenna Renee is a woman wronged. When her adoptive parents are brutally murdered by an outlaw named Conroy Parker and his gang of thugs, they take everything from her: her family, her happiness, and her money.
Determined to bring Conroy and his boys to justice, she hires a gruff but dangerous gun-slinging trapper and guide, Jeremiah Black, to help her hunt Conroy down.
But there is more to Alaska than meets the eye.
The cold touch of the arctic winter is dangerous, and the corruption of Conroy Parker and his comrades runs deep. The tundra is unforgiving, and so are the wolves. Nothing is as at seems.
If the wilderness doesn’t kill Jenna, the pack will. Revenge comes with a price, and so does love. There will be no mercy….only the hunt.
A romantic adventure from #1 bestselling author Summer Lane, set amidst the gritty and awe-inspiring setting of Alaska during the last great Gold Rush.
Interview with Bestselling Author Summer Lane
(Courtesy of Writing Belle Publishing)
This is your first historical fiction. How different was the writing process, as opposed to the past 17 novels you’ve written – which have all been post-apocalyptic?
A historical novel is more strictly attached to the time period in which it takes place. The way people talk, dress, act, and even eat are different than how we do all of those things modernly. I had to do a lot of research, of course. I have been slowly working on this book for roughly 2 years, when the idea originally occurred to me. I have read so many books about Alaska…toward the end of the writing process, I was devouring whole college textbooks and double fact-checking everything I had until I was entirely sure my eyes were going to fall out of my head.
With my apocalyptic books, the research is tactically-oriented, if that makes sense. With Wolves, I had to make sure the slang and vernacular was correct and that the history was right on target. I took a few artistic liberties with the story, as all writers do, but everything is based in fact. Everything.
Where did the idea for Running with Wolves come from?
I have always loved animals. I have always loved dogs. I first was enraptured by the idea of setting a story in Alaska when I was a little girl, after watching the animated film Balto for the first time. The concept for this particular novel sprung up about 2 years ago. It took me a long time to cultivate the plot to a point where I liked it enough to go ahead and write the book. I have always wanted to write a western-style novel, and that’s what Wolves is. A western novel set in the snow, with adventure and romance.
Where does the story actually take place?
I have constructed a fictional tale within the boundaries of the boomtowns and mining camps that existed in 1898. The main character, Jenna Renee, lives outside of a town called Dyea. I used prominent and famous historical hotspots, such as the Chilkoot Pass and Dawson City, in the book, too.
Can we look forward to some romance, in addition to adventure?
Yes! One of the central themes of the novel is the romance story between Jenna Renee and the rather callous but handsome United States Marshal Jeremiah Black. I love Jeremiah’s character – he’s got a lot of surprises up his sleeve, and I think readers will love him as much as Jenna does.
What are your upcoming projects?
Well, I have a non-fiction novel coming up in the next several months: Prolific: Writing a Hit Novel. I’m also releasing the first installment of the anticipated Resurrection Series in January 2018. Resurrection will continue the adventures, fights, and romances of Commander Cassidy Hart from the hit Collapse Series.
Summer Lane is the #1 bestselling author of 18 novels, including the smash-hit Collapse Series. She owns Writing Belle Publishing. Lane is also an experienced journalist and creative writing teacher. Writing Belle is her online magazine, where she has interviewed and featured hundreds of writers from around the globe.
Look for her upcoming books, Prolific: Writing a Hit Novel, and Resurrection: Shadows of Omega, the hotly anticipated continuation of Cassidy Hart’s post-apocalyptic adventures.
Summer lives in the Central Valley of California with her husband, Scott, and their German Shepherd, Kona.