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HERO OF MY HEART Blog Hop

Blog Hop Participants 

  • 5 eBook copies of HERO OF MY HEART! by Megan Frampton (on sale 4/8)
  • 3 eBook copies of A VAMPIRE SALVATION by Virna DePaul (on sale 4/22)
  • 2 eBook copies of Taking Shots by Toni Aleo (on sale 4/23)
  • AND . . . . . one (US only) prize winner receives a BOX of books! INCLUDING, Debbie Macomber’s STARTING NOW!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure and come back the 10th when Megan is our guest!

HUNTED with Lorenz Font

Vampires are vampires. Their long-storied existence in our imaginations has spun different concepts about them. A few things remain unchanged though. They drink blood, either humans or animals. They have fangs. They are dark, foreboding creatures that lurk in the dark.

With those basics, it was easy enough. The difficult part came with creating a believable scenario, something the readers would accept and hopefully, embrace.

“There really isn’t a second scenario, we’re dead set and conceptually right about the first one.” Pritchard chuckled. Harrow hissed under his breath, unable to control his hunger any longer. “You need to feed. I know Tor rudely interrupted your dinner. Intel confirms that needle in your pocket, meant you’re not advocating the spread of the disease, am I right?”

Harrow shuddered before nodding. His could feel his strength fading and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. This human, in all of his infinite wisdom, should give him his neck and be done with.

“I know what you’re thinking Harrow,” Pritchard laughed without humor. “I’m not the enemy here, or your dinner. I will take you to a cell for now, where you will be fed donated blood until we find a cure for that ailment.  Neither of you are prisoners here, but until we are certain that you’re not a threat to us humans, you will not be allowed to move around freely.”

Pritchard rose to his feet. “Follow me,” he told Harrow.

“What about these damn cuffs on our leg, we’re not animals you know.” Tor said and his voice thundered through the room.  He was already up on his feet and facing off with Lambert, who was sporting a push dagger, notably of Dangeran material.

“They are trackers, in case you are out there,” Lambert motioned with his hand. “We will know how to find you.”

“Just like we’re dogs, right?” Tor said distastefully.

“Yes, but very special dogs,” Lambert said, taunting as he grabbed Tor’s elbow and shoved him forward to follow Pritchard and Harrow.  They were already walking down the long corridor that eventually led them to a windowless suite. The furnishings were top-rated, lavish to be exact. There were two king-sized beds, a state of the art sound system sitting next to a giant television, expensive looking art adorned the wall, and plush carpeting to boot.

 

My story, Hunted, is about a human turned vampire. After his transition, he unknowingly spread a disease that ravaged the vampire community. This set the stage for the vampire authorities to hunt him down. Considering the fact that vampires have been rewritten in many ways, and the similarities this story may have with what is out there already, I had to make sure that the plot is not like any other. I also added a martial arts concept that is relatively unknown to non-practitioners or their followers. I introduced the art of Kali-Eskrima—fighting with sticks.

However, since my vampires are sturdy, a stake to the heart or a massive amount of garlic won’t do the trick. I created a weapon based on Arnis. I called it Kalimetal, a unique and interesting metal weapon, one that is guaranteed to incapacitate, if not kill them.

You’ll have to experience Hunted to know what I’m talking about. Vampires or actions sequences might not be for everyone, but I’m sure an intermingled romantic story would certainly be hard to ignore.

 

 

Deep in the heart of New York City’s underworld, a horrible disease is ravaging the vampire community. The Vampire Council is on a crusade to obliterate those infected, and Harrow Gates is target Number One. The unwitting source of the plague, he suffers from the same nightmarish symptoms as his victims. The world he’d been thrust into was cold, cruel, and intent on eradicating him, and the legions of afflicted vampires he created with his bite.

A bounty hanging over his head, satisfying his hunger has become an enormous challenge for Harrow. The less he feeds, the more hideous and painful his lesions become. Constantly running for his life and learning new tricks to survive, Harrow is in no position to refuse when Pritchard Tack offers him a unique opportunity. Pritchard not only gives Harrow a new beginning, but also a purpose and a chance to rectify the chaos he created in the vampire world. However, the multi-billionaire has an agenda of his own.

Jordan is a reluctant new vampire and a woman on a mission. After the demise of her family and her own transformation at the hands of Goran, the ruthless leader of the Vampire Council, her only focus is revenge. Constantly faced with one frustrating dead-end after another, a stroke of luck leads her to an underground facility that she suspects is the lair of the monster for whom she is looking.

Upon learning more about the truth behind the secret bunker, Jordan must fight against her growing feelings of friendship and concern for the facility’s inhabitants. One man in particular threatens to pull her heart away from her sworn mission. There is something behind Harrow’s dark lenses that unsettles the hardened female. Once again, she trembles and hungers for something other than red-stained revenge. Is love strong enough to override her hate-fueled thirst for vengeance?

The loneliness gnawed at him hard. He had gone to visit his family several times over the course of the following years and had witnessed firsthand the sorrow in their faces when they thought they’d lost him. He watched his parents from the shadows and saw their hearts were broken, not knowing what had become of their son. Eventually, they passed away, and Harrow felt loneliness like a knife speared permanently in his heart.

He was indeed a freak, as he’d been branded by Tor, but not for the reason Tor had concluded. Harrow was a vampire with a conscience, a disease, and a shaky future ahead of him. He was fucked — as fucked as he could get.

Lorenz Font discovered her love of writing after reading a celebrated novel that inspired one idea after another. Hunted, the first book of The Gates Legacy trilogy, is her debut novel. Written in forty-five days, the grueling writing schedule was a personal challenge, even though she thought it was madness at first.

She enjoys dabbling in different genres with an intense focus on angst and the redemption of flawed characters. Her fascination with romantic twists is a mainstay in all her stories.

She currently lives in California with her husband, children, and two demanding dogs. Lorenz spends most of her free time writing while also working as a Business Office Manager for a skilled-rehabilitation hospital.

My review of HUNTED.

 

 

Tour Schedule:

3/5: Sydney Logan

3/6: Jennifer Garcis

3/7: Wyndy

3/8: Nails23

3/9: Anna Crosswell

3/10: Credoroza

3/11: Faye

3/12: Leslie

3/13: Estelle Mars

3/14: Ali

3/15: Lori’s Book Blog

3/16: Sarah Aisling

3/17: R.E. Hargrave

3/18: M.B. Feeney

3/19: B.F. Betty

3/20: Claire

3/21: I love Vampire Novels

3/22: Laura Braley

3/23:Chris Carmilia

3/24: N. Wood

3/25: Nette

3/26: Lisa Bilbrey

3/27:Michele Richard

3/28: Nina Gomez

3/29: Tattooed Book Review

3/30: Ivy at Manic Readers

3/31: Bridgette

HIDING GLADYS with Lee Mims and giveaway

Your mom read to you when you were forced to stay indoors, sick with croup. Did she inspire you to a favorite author or book with all this reading?  Mine was Louisa May Alcott. Crushed me when I recently read she hated writing the books I loved and only did so for the money.

My mom read to me from a great variety of books. In particular I remember A Child’s Garden of Verses, My Friend Flicka, Call of the Wild, Treasure Island and a few of the Nancy Drew mysteries. I loved all of them, but I was particularly drawn to the mysteries. She’d read a few chapters at a time. I could hardly wait to find out what would happen next. While I don’t know if the author,Carolyn Keene, wrote for the love of writing and entertaining young people or just for the money, she definitely impressed me because I still love mysteries today, both reading and writing them.

You also paint portraits.  Is the writing an outgrowth of that creativity or do you find that each answers a different creative urge?

I would definitely say that for me, writing is an outgrowth of painting. I painted long before I wrote anything. And, while they are similar in process; both writing and painting start with a sketch or synopsis, and take many layers and rewrites to complete, they satisfy different needs in me. When I paint, I get instant gratification. Writing, however, is a long and arduous process and though the finished product, a book, makes me just as proud as a painting does, the pride is for hanging in there through all the ups and downs of the sometimes years-long project. Also, writing is very cerebral, each sentence is studied, written, and re-written. Painting, on the other hand, has to be spontaneous. Brushstrokes that look studied look…well, hideous.  

What was your initial reaction to learning that HIDING GLADYS would be published and who was the first person you shared the news with?

When I first heard from my editor that a publisher wanted Hiding Gladys, I was surprised. It took a while for the joy to set in and for me to fully comprehend that at long last I had realized a dream. I believe my husband was the first person I told. 

Please tell us about your debut, HIDING GLADYS.

Book one is a story about a woman geologist who is driven to make a success of her life all on her own. She is a rugged individualist who doesn’t mind risk as long as the reward is great enough. To that end, after finding a rare granite deposit on the coastal plain, she sets out to execute a simple option to lease the property on which the deposit lies from the elderly landowner,Gladys Walton, but complications arise starting with a rattlesnake in her car.  

After her dog is shot and she falls down a well onto a body all in a the first few days prior to testing, she wonders if things could get any worse. They do. Gladys goes missing and her two greedy children make it clear they intent to take over their mother’s affairs. A little deductive reasoning leads Cleo to Gladys and the decision to keep her hidden until the deposit proves out and legalities can be wrapped up. Unfortunately, a series of mysterious accidents, a nervous banker and an imposing sheriff bent on finding a killer all work against her as time and her money are running out.

Bud Cooper, her ex-husband and all-around good guy, whom she still loves but is unable to live with, tries to help her but she is distracted by an old lover and former geologist,Nash Finley. But, it turns out he plans to kill her and Gladys and jump her claim. In the end she spoils his plans and wins the day.

Hiding Gladys is a mystery, which boiled down to its basics is about a woman geologist trying to test a piece of property hoping to confirm the existence of a vast deposit of granite so she can exercise her option on the land and open a quarry. And since I used to be a geologist who did the same thing almost every day on job, I’d say both my education and my on the job training as a field geologist were paramount to writing the story. However, my experience with small boats as well as all the time I’ve spent in the woods and fields of North Carolina serve, I hope, to make the book more believable. Lastly, it helps, if you’re writing from the perspective of an ex-wife, and mother to have experience along those lines as well. Note: I’ve been an ex-wife and like Cleo, I’m still friends with my first husband. However, I’m also a happily married wife of 33 years.

Why mystery?

I like to write mysteries because they are my favorite books to read.

Is the area, Southeastern North Carolina, as much a “character” as Cleo?

I hope I’ve succeeded in making Southeastern North Carolina a major character in the story. It was certainly my intention to do so. There are many beautiful places on the planet earth, but none, in my estimation, as lovely as here.

I read you plan to write more books with Cleo.  Why did you decide to write a series vs standalones?

I decided to write a series for the same reason that I write mysteries, I love to read them. You know how much fun it is to find a new author and get involved in a fast-paced series? How you can hardly wait for the newest book to come out? Well, that’s how I want my readers to feel about me. Also, a series gives you a chance to have a flawed character evolve over time, maybe overcome a issue resulting from a hard childhood or trauma of some kind. It’s quite a  challenge to weave family relationships and how they change over time into a series.

Do you plan for them all to be set in the same area or will Cleo travel?

All the Cleo Cooper mysteries will be North Carolina mysteries. Right now, I’m about to wrap up the second one and the third is finally starting to take shape in my head.        They are both based in Southeastern North Carolina. If there’s to be another, it will still be based in my home state, but who knows, it could take place in our wonderful, ancient Appalachian mountains. 

What rejuvenates you when you find yourself stuck on a point, detail, or just plain blah while writing?

When my writing gets dull or I just get downright stuck, a quick trip outside to walk in the woods with my dogs usually does the trick. I can tell you for sure, watching the television never does much to inspire me. I usually find my inspiration in the great outdoors.

Do you have a writing routine or something specific or special you need to get those creative juices flowing?

My routine is the following: I write in the mornings until about lunchtime. Then I break, fix my husband and I a snack—yes, that’s right, I still cook for my husband –then I paint until late afternoon at which time I take care of a few of those pesky household duties like shopping for groceries. After dinner, if I feel inspired—and I often do as all the while I’ve been painting and working around the house, I’ve also been running some problem with the book through my head—I’ll go back to my studio and write until bedtime. 

Is there another genre you’d like to try your hand at?

Right now, I’m happy and challenged trying to write mysteries. I think I’ll stick with that for a while.

What do you find the most rewarding about writing?

To me, the most rewarding thing about writing is hearing what strangers have to say about your work. I mean, it’s one thing to have your friends sing your praises, but when you read the opinions of people totally unknown to you and they’re positive, well, it’s very gratifying.

Do you have a WIP you can share some details about?

I’m just finishing the revisions for the second book in the Cleo Cooper series, Trusting Viktor, and I like it very much. It does all the things I wanted it to: it carries forward from where the first book left off with the lives of Cleo and her family, the geologic underpinnings of the story are particularly timely and interesting, there’s plenty of action and a plethora of real, hard facts to give the book a touch of reality.

Looking forward..:)

Have you read a book lately that you would highly recommend?

Gosh, I read so much it’s hard to say, but when considering fiction, I’d probably say one of John Sandford’s latest Virgil Flowers stories, Shockwave. I like both of Sandford’s series characters…both Davenport and Flowers, but Flowers, being an outdoorsman, is more appealing to me. In non-fiction, it would be Cleopatra, A Life, by Stacy Schiff. I’m fascinated by the lives of the ancients, especially the extent of their knowledge.

The Cleopatra book sounds like my kinda read.  Love history.

What do you like to do to relax or your preferred downtime activity?

Like Cleo, I have a center console flat-bottom fishing boat. My husband and I love to pack a picnic lunch and spend a day fishing and crabbing and just exploring the estuaries and sandbars around Southport with our three Westies. Sometimes we take a photo safari: he drives the boat and tries to creep up on birds while I photograph them to use a reference for my paintings.

I have a Westie..his name is Riley. He’s a old & crochety but still a sweetheart.

Is there anything special you’d like to share with all the Manic Readers out there?

I’d like to tell them how special I think they are not just because they’re Manic Readers, but because they read. The fact that they like mysteries is just icing on the cake and proves they love a mental challenge. Ever met someone at a party who proudly proclaims they’d rather watch TV than read a book? Then, notice how after a few minutes, you drift off to engage someone else? I don’t know for a fact, but I think people who read are just happier don’t you? Probably live longer, too so keep it up! Oh, and read Hiding Gladys while you’re at it.

I’m not much for TV but if I watch anything it’s usually mysteries, British ones in particular.

Thanks for taking the time to visit,Lee.  I’ve enjoyed it.

Thanks for interviewing me, I’ve enjoyed it, too.

What’s a live rattlesnake doing sunning itself in the back seat of field geologist Cleo Cooper’s Jeep? Nothing good, you can be sure — but the dilemma of how it might have gotten there isn’t as crucial to her as making certain it doesn’t stay. Yet, alarming as such an uninvited passenger might be, more disturbing to the plucky, single-minded Cleo is the need to nail down her deal for mining rights to a rare, vastly valuable North Carolina granite deposit.

The problem is that the property owner, Gladys Walton, has suddenly and mysteriously disappeared, while neglecting to sign the final documents.

First, a murder interferes with locating her: is the woman’s body found dumped in a well that of the missing Gladys? Amid the wooded, rocky countryside, suspicious misdeeds multiply and Gladys’s conniving relations all behave extremely badly.

The increasingly provoked Cleo sees her dog shot, the progress at her job site dangerously disrupted and, finally, is made witness to another death. Whom can she trust? And what kind of distractions should she allow herself when so much is at stake? Both her charming but exasperating ex-husband and an even more seductive former lover are both on hand competing to rescue her; it’s clear to Cleo, though, that she must go it alone and risk the consequences.

 

Here’s my review of HIDING GLADYS.

Cleo Cooper is set to realize every geologist’s dream.  She’s discovered a huge and rare granite deposit under her friend Gladys Walton’s land; however, someone doesn’t want Cleo and Gladys to reap the rewards.

HIDING GLADYS is a wonderful debut with a distinctly Southern heroine, of a certain age, aided and abetted by an excellent supporting cast. Cleo’s age was a big plus for me.  Sometimes you get a bit tired of bright young things and want someone with attitude based on living experience, ensuring she can back up that sass. Cleo Cooper is your quintessential well rounded Southern girl.  She can tromp through the woods, handle a gun, hang with the fellas, drive the hell out of a boat, hold her own in a fight when necessary, and clean up to reveal a beautiful, sexy, intelligent woman who isn’t averse to using her feminine wiles.  In addition to these stellar attributes Cleo also brings to the table a large slice of “bound and damn determined” combined with a heaping helping of hardheaded, just to keep things interesting and others on their toes, dontcha know.  It was the hardheaded that made me want to pinch her occasionally, but sadly I understood it too.

Cleo is ably assisted and abetted by Bud, her ex husband.  I flat out adored Bud.  He doesn’t mind admitting when he’s wrong & he still loves Cleo.  He’s also shaping up to be a great friend making Cleo one lucky woman.

There are her children, daughter Henri, and son,William.

Stick, Mule and Joe are the crew Cleo works with while endeavoring to prove her suspicions of what’s beneath Gladys’s land.  They’re great guys.

Nash Finley, handsome and sexy fellow geologist that Cleo dated briefly.  Should his reappearance be likened to the proverbial bad penny?

Robert Earle and Shirley are Gladys’s pitiful excuses for children.  Sorry doesn’t even begin to describe these two.  Not a redeeming quality between them, poor Gladys.

Finally there’s Gladys herself. What a trooper.  They don’t come much feistier than Gladys, even when she discovers the painful truth of the Shakespearean quote, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”

HIDING GLADYS manages to make geology interesting.  Well, maybe not the nuts and bolts of geology, but the results of it.  Who knew?  From natural gas stores to whopping granite mountains, there’s definitely enough money to kill people for.  Rattlesnakes to dangerous boat rides and plenty in between,Cleo has her hands full trying to survive, keep Gladys safe, and figure out who is behind these attempts on their lives.  I know I’ll never look at yucca bushes the same again.

HIDING GLADYS is a solid debut featuring an interesting, charming cast and possessing a strong sense of place and culture.  I can’t wait to see what Cleo and crew gets up to next.

4 stars

Lee is offering a print copy of HIDING GLADYS to one lucky commenter.  Do you prefer your mystery heroines young as in Nancy Drew, middle aged like Cleo, or much older like Ms.Marples?  Giveaway ends @12am est 4-3-13 with winners announced shortly thereafter. Good Luck! (Sorry y’all, due to shipping it’s a U.S. only giveaway).

Lee Mims is and always has been a North Carolina farm girl. She played outdoors from dawn to dusk, built forts, drank water from garden hoses and ran with sticks. And for 25 years, she raised and trained Quarter Horses.

She was often sick as a child, and it was while staying home with her mother that Mims learned the beauty of words. Together they read endlessly: short stories, fairy tales and adventure novels.

Because of her love of the great outdoors, she later earned a master’s and bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and worked as a field geologist. And as a popular wildlife artist, Mims owns her self-named studio where she does both portrait and fine art oil paintings. She has two pieces on tour with Paint America and recently sold a painting to Ms. Andy Griffith for his museum.

Books never escaped her, and her geology background inspired Hiding Gladys, the first of the debut author’s Midnight Ink-published Cleo Cooper Mystery Series. Busy writing the next installment, Trusting Viktor, Mims is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

She lives on a family farm in Clayton, NC with her husband.

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Hiding Gladys on Amazon

The Appeal of Place with Drea Stein

Some writers are great at describing places.  But they aren’t always places you’d want to visit.  Think the America of the Hunger Games.  But I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. Whether it’s a book set in the Big Sky Country of Montana or in a quiet town in Maine, I tend enjoy stories where there are places I want to go visit.  Perhaps it’s because reading for me, is a form of escape. I want to get away – at least in my head, to someplace nice, much like a vacation.  Sure I endure a few bumps along the way, but in the end when I crack open a book, or turn on my ereader, I want to be transported.

When I set out to start my contemporary romance novel Rough Harbor Iwanted to write what I knew.  Sure I’ve been lots of places, but for better or worse, I have only lived in a handful or environments – New York City, suburban New Jersey, and Long Island. For many reasons, I wasn’t interested in writing about New York City and though I love the countryside where I live, I don’t know much about all the things that go with – I can’t ride a horse, milk a cow, or chase a chicken.  But I do know a thing or two about boats and the water.

I grew up on the North Shore of Long Island. For those of you who don’t know it, Long Island is just that – a long island in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Manhattan. Part of it contains Queens and Brooklyn, city size entities on their own. But the farther east you go, especially on the north shore, the more country – and sea-like you get.

The coastline is jagged, dotted by harbors and inlets and large body of water, imaginatively named the Long Island Sound, separates us from Connecticut. The Sound is a boater’s paradise and my summers were spent swimming, boating and generally hanging out in, on or around the water.

But how many romance novels have you read set on Long Island?  Somehow when you say ‘Long Island’ people have a pretty strong reaction – and not one that conjures up the majesty of a Montana ranch, or the charm of a small New England town.

What to do? Well like most writers, I decided I needed to be creative.  So I picked up my old hometown, moved it across the sound to Connecticut (which is technically New England) and renamed it Queensbay, the setting for my series. Of course a few other things have been changed along the way, to create more opportunities for different couples to meet and fall in love

And that’s what writers do.  We create our own little worlds. Sure, Queensbay isn’t a total fantasy land in distant time or place. Nope, that wasn’t what I was going for. See I love the idea of small towns, of communities where people know one another. I’m a sucker for a parade, the high school play or a good harvest festival. Most of all, I wanted Queensbay to be the kind of place you wanted to visit.  You know, where you’d want to book  a room at the Osprey Arms, grab a cookie from The Golden Pear, take a boat for a spin on Queensbay Harbor and then walk down Main Street, window shopping.  Or be invited over to Caitlyn’s house, Rough Harbor’s main character, for a glass of wine and chocolate cake.

I think that’s one of the joys for a reader, to be able to go back home, or at least some version of it, when dinner’s burning, the kids are screaming or you just had a bad day.  For me the setting of the story is one of the most important characters. I want you to smell the faint tang of salt from the harbor, hear the unmistakable cry of a seagull and feel the sand between your toes.

But unfortunately the only way you’ll get to visit Queensbay is in a book. Shoot – it’s a lot cheaper than a real vacation. Enjoy!

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Gene Doucette and FIXER

Fixer was completed at the end of 2005.  At that time I was just getting news that my earlier novel, Immortal, was not going to be picked up by the major publishers that had seen it, and so Fixer was meant to be the solution to a problem: how to get Immortal published.  And it was worse than that because by that time I not only had Immortal waiting to be seen by the world, I had Hellenic Immortal too.  So both of those books were relying on Fixer to be the dream-come-true of some big six editor out there.

This was how you had to think of things in the mid-aughts, before there was Kindle, and easy/cheap self-publishing, and before the indie market exploded.  Self-publishing was the thing you did if you wanted to sell books out of the back of your car, and once you’d done it, it was something you could never undo because Random House wasn’t going to be taking you seriously if your resume included, “I sold 200 copies of my last novel, which I self-published.”

Fixer did not end up being the solution either, although not because it was rejected by everyone like Immortal had been.  It only needed to be rejected by one person: my (now former) agent, who felt it would hit the same walls Immortal had.

So to publish Immortal and Hellenic I had to publish Fixer, and to publish Fixer I had to get a new agent, and I had already been playing this game for three years.  The idea of starting from almost zero—finding a new agent—was enormously daunting.  That agent would have to be ready to take on someone who had already been rejected by every major publisher, whose books didn’t fit an easy genre niche, and who had also already had two agents.  (The first agent represented an earlier novel, called Charlatan.  While the book was less mature than my later work, and perhaps did not fully deserve to be published, in hindsight the book’s title was an incredibly apt description of the agent.)

I wasn’t ready to go through that again, which was why by the end of 2006 I was trying my hand at screenwriting instead, and Fixer was put on a shelf, unseen by essentially everyone.  And I forgot about it for a while.

It wasn’t until 2012 that Immortal and Hellenic found a long-term home with The Writer’s Coffee Shop, and only then that I took another good look at Fixer.

In my mind Fixer was a project that didn’t work out.  It was a completed novel, but one that was so different from Immortal/Hellenic that I was less sure how I felt about it.

Then I started rereading it.

If you want to have a strange experience, write a novel, put it in a box somewhere, and then go back and read it seven years later.  Sure, what I was reading needed an edit, and it had to have some things rearranged a little bit, and it needed a new chapter or two, but as I went along I thought, this is actually really good.  And after another rewrite and a little time to look it over again came the thought I didn’t expect to have at all: this might be better than Immortal.

It was a great surprise.  Now if you’re a reader of mine you may not agree, and to be honest I go back and forth on which book is better, since they’re very different.  (There are also days when I believe Hellenic Immortal is better than either of the others.)  But Fixer turned out to be a pretty good book, and I’m as surprised as anyone.

My review of FIXER.

 

 

In addition to ghost writing for an immortal man, Gene Doucette has been published as a humorist with Beating Up Daddy: A Year in the Life of an Amateur Father and The Other Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: A Parody. He is also a screenwriter and a playwright. Gene lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife and two children.

 

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A project for Spring with Michele Drier

Even as a kid, when you had to wear green to school or get pinched,St.Patrick’s Day has been one of those annual times to remember ancient rituals.

I’m not Catholic, nor is my family, but we do have some Irish blood; along with English, Welsh and a smattering of Portuguese, thanks to someone way back in my father’s family.

But on my mother’s side?  Pure British Isles.  And this includes a great-great-grandmother from Leeds who sailed to the U.S. from Ireland.  Why Ireland?  No one has ever found the answer, but I’m still looking.

This same great-great-grandmother traveled and on one trip back to Ireland, family lore has it that she kissed the Blarney Stone.  So some of our family legend might trace back to that visit.

Whatever the reason, I’ve always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, usually with corned beef, cabbage and Irish potatoes, occasionally with a tot of Jameson and for several years with a party that included a fair amount of drink and someone singing “Danny Boy”.

One year as the party was in the planning stages, I moved.  I moved 900 miles away.  It was for a new job that I desperately needed.  I ended up on St. Patrick’s Day that year in a new city, a new home and a new job with a group of people I came to count on as true friends.

But on the day, I sat in my new office looking north at the San Bernardino Mountains, palm trees waving in the breeze under a clear blue sky and wondered what the future held.

That year was particularly hard because our St. Patrick’s Day party had a theme.  We were going to design and enter a “float” in the Kinetic Sculpture Race, a three-day event from Arcata to Ferndale, across Humboldt Bay mud flats, grazing lands and two-lane roads using only human power to propel the sculptures.

A dream brought on by the Guinness and Jameson?  Maybe.  This vision and planning had begun several weeks earlier and would consume us right up until race day, always begun on Mother’s Day in May.

Our sculpture would be a cross between a barge and a cart.  It would have to ride on over-inflated fat tires, like a dune buggy.  It would have to have pontoons laced underneath for the water portions.

We had a name and a design.  Since all of us worked for various non-profit agencies, it would be called the “Non-profit Prophet”.  It would have a superstructure designed with Moorish columns and turrets.  A “prophet”, yet to be chosen, would ride on a throne, dressed like a Turkish sultan.

Since we were all women, the actual work of moving the sculpture was a major discussion.  It would have to be propelled by some sort of bicycle arrangement to move across the mudflats and none of us were bicycle enthusiasts, so we started working up a training schedule.

We’d set aside the St. Patrick’s Day party as an appropriate time to work out the superstructure design.  What should the turrets be made from?  We were leaning toward papier-mâché over chicken wire, both for weight and because a couple of us had been teachers and could churn out papier-mâché by the cart-load.

Plans were coming along until that fateful phone call one Sunday morning, offering me a job I couldn’t refuse.

In the hustle of packing up, moving, finding a place to live, enrolling my daughter in a new school where she’d know no one, the “Non-profit Prophet” slid off the radar.  I’d promised myself and my friends that I’d come back for the St. Patrick’s Day party and to help with the final planning for the race, but demands of a new job and new surroundings took over.

So instead of celebrating the day with a group of close friends, laughter and raging silliness, I sat at my new desk and wondered if I’d made the right move.

Over many years, I’ve decided that, yes, it was the right move since it opened up experiences and challenges I’d never have had. I’ve stretched my interests, met many new people, become a writer with six books under my belt and traveled.  I’ve even been toIreland.

I didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone, but now St. Patrick’s Day brings back both memories of parties and memories of a green, green land full of history, music and welcoming people.

And a big chunk of zaniness!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos are from the Kinetic Sculpture Race website and were shot by Tina Kerrigan.

 

 

Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home.  During her career in journalism — as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers – she won awards for producing investigative series.

Her mystery Edited for Death, called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review is available at Amazon. She’s working on the second book in the Amy Hobbes Newspaper mysteries, Labeled for Death, out in spring 2013.

Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, is available in ebook, paperback and audible at ebook retailers.  All have received “must read” reviews from the Paranormal Romance Guild. SNAP: The World Unfolds, SNAP: New Talent, Plague: A Love Story and Danube: A Tale of Murder are available singly and in a boxed set at Amazon, B&N and Kobo. The fifth book, SNAP: Love for Blood rated 5 stars, is now out. She’s writing SNAP: Happily Ever After? for release in summer 2013 and a seventh book in late fall 2013.

Visit her website or facebook page,  or her Amazon author page.

 

 

 

Linda Kovic-Skow and FRENCH ILLUSIONS with giveaway

 

 

Can you tell us a little about your memoir?

In the summer of 1979, when I was twenty-one, I contracted to become an au pair for a wealthy French family in the Loire Valley. To secure the position, I pretended to speak the language, fully aware that my deception would be discovered once I arrived at my destination. Based on my diary, French Illusions captures my often challenging, real-life story inside and outside the Château de Montclair. The over-bearing, Madame Dubois, her accommodating husband Monsieur Dubois, and their two children are highlighted as I struggled to adapt to my new environment. Continually battling the language barrier, I signed up and attended classes at the local university in the nearby town of Tours, broadening my range of experiences. When I encountered, Adam, a handsome young student, my life with the Dubois family became more complicated, adding fuel to my internal battle for independence.

 

 

What compelled you to write this story after thirty-three years?

About four years ago, after my husband and I dropped our youngest daughter off at college, I went through a sort of mid-life crisis. I missed being a mom and I wondered how I would fill the void. Sure I had my part-time bookkeeping business, but it consumed only a few hours a day and it wasn’t interesting any more. Something was missing, but what? 

This prompted me to review what I like to call my “mid-life list.” This is similar to a “bucket list,” with an important twist. The idea was to refocus myself and figure out the things I wanted to do with my life in my fifties – while I could still do them. My list was short.

-Learn to play the piano

-Travel to Africa to see the elephants

-Travel to Tahiti and see the island of Bora Bora

-Travel back to France(with my family this time)

-Write a book

At the time, I didn’t own a piano and, with two daughters in college (on the east coast no less!), I couldn’t afford a trip to Africa or Tahiti. I had already traveled back to France in 2001 with my family, so that left me to examine the fifth item on my list more closely.  If I did write a book, would it be fiction or non-fiction? What genre would I choose?  

The answers to my questions came to me in the shower (which is where many of my ideas seem to materialize, strangely enough). I decided to hunt down my diary from my au pair adventure in France and compose a memoir. It took me three years and countless hours to write French Illusions, but now I can scratch another item off my mid-life list. 

Can you tell us about some of the difficulties you experienced writing your memoir?

I have to admit writing my memoir was a lot more complex than I initially imagined it would be. My diary offered a great outline, but I realized early on that I would have to change the names of people and places to protect identities. This was especially true with regard to my host au pair family. Acquiring permission from them was out of the question. Totally out of the question. I mean it. Read my book and you’ll understand. Additionally, over thirty years had passed since I spoke with anyone I’d met in France. I no longer had any contact information. With this in mind, I researched common French names that might fit my characters. I tried them out and retained the ones that were a good fit. 

Other decisions haunted me along the way. Where will I find elusive data on the Loire Valley, the Loire River and the town of Tours? How should I deal with the French sprinkled throughout the book? Should I italicize my inner thoughts? Oh, and I really struggled with how much detail to include in my own love scenes. This was probably the most challenging dilemma of all.  

Is there an excerpt you would like to share?

It’s difficult to choose one excerpt, but I’m proud of the detailed picture I paint of a French baker in Songais.

 “I watched as the other woman, maybe in her eighties, kneaded a large ball of dough at a table on the other side of the display window. Her gnarled fingers pulled and rolled the dough, adding flour until it gained the right consistency. At one point, she stopped to scratch her face , leaving a smudge of flour on her cheek. As I followed Madame out the door, our eyes met, her grin transforming her face from serious to radiant.”

What’s a typical weekday like for you?  

I start my day about 8:30 in the morning with a generous cup of coffee. After I check emails, I attend to book business for a few hours – promotions, research, my blog or twitter. At certain times of the month, I meet with clients or perform tasks associated with my bookkeeping business. Often, in the afternoon, after lunch, I walk the dog, run errands or write. I can’t sit for long or my neck hurts, so I switch back and forth between my desk and a standing computer station. Late in the day, my husband arrives home from work and that signals a break for dinner. After a few more hours writing at the computer, I finally shut things down at around nine o’clock. Ahhh, a glass of wine usually helps me unwind. 

Does your book have a hidden message for readers?

Set in the beautiful Loire Valley, French Illusions, my remarkable true story, will remind readers what it was like to be young, adventurous and filled with dreams. It’s not too late to create your own memories so go out and explore the world. Life’s for living, after all 

Is there another book in your future?

Yes, there is! French Encore – the sequel toFrench Illusions. 

Linda is generously giving away an autographed print copy of FRENCH ILLUSIONS  to one lucky commenter  who knows what year Linda traveled back to France with her family.  Giveaway ends @12am est 3-29-13. with Linda announcing the winner shortly thereafter.  Good luck!  Due to shipping costs giveaway is limited to US only, sorry.

 

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Chicken Hotels with Lila Munro

The Culture de Chicken…Or, Chicken Hotels? Really?

For those of you who know me, you’re used to seeing me blog about my hotter reads like the Identity series and my BDSM or ménage stand-alone titles, but for the past couple of weeks I’ve been out and about the blogging circuit resurrecting my roots. My writing roots that is, the ones which started out in the more sensual side of the house and sort of sprouted a few sprigs here and there which eventually led to hotter and hotter and hotter titles.

The Slower Lower series was in fact my first series of books and book one, A Slower Lower Love, was actually only my third title to hit the e-shelves. In fact, it was a stand-alone in its humble beginnings until E (editor extraordinaire) emailed me one day after an initial read and said, “We need to talk.” **cue heart racing and cold sweat**

It turned out okay though because we needed to talk about the potential she saw in my characters and she wanted to see more and suggested I turn the whole thing into a series…thus the Slower Lower series was born.

Now, I’m sure at this point you’re wondering just what in a blue moon that has to do with chickens. Gather round kids…do I have a tale to tell you…

Way back in 1996, only a few short weeks after I’d met the love of my life and future life mate, I made the decision to road trip with the man I barely knew all the way from Missouri to Delaware—home state of said love of my life and the setting for the Slower Lower books. I had no idea then Sussex County Delaware would one day serve as backdrop for theDelaneybrothers and all their love woes. It was a few hours out from our destination when love of my life began to tell me the ground rules of being “introduced” to slower lower living (whatever?) and the eastern shore way (again, whatever?).

So, ground rules. Rule number one: Don’t crack chicken jokes. (hehe? Crack? Okay…moving on…)

I asked why not and he proceeded to tell me in a few miles I’d begin to see why and he’d not have much ‘splainin’ to do past that. Could he have been more right?

Oh. My. God.

My first glimpse of a chicken farm came in the early morning after 24 hours on the road and zero sleep. I thought at first I’d fallen asleep and was dreaming after his instructions not to make chicken jokes.

“What the hell is that?” I asked.

“That?” (love of my life swerves in the direction he’s talking toward) “That’s a chicken house. They take their chickens seriously here.”

Umm…ya think? I knew right then there would be no chicken jokes. Not that I really knew any, but had I I’d have kept them to myself. J

I kid you not kids. If you’ve never been exposed to the “chicken culture” let me ‘splain a bit. They are not chicken houses—they are in fact chicken hotels. Some of the hotels are three stories tall with auto-feeders and heat. Also, in case you get curious and go off in search of this phenomenon because you simply must see these chicken hotels, take a clothes pin with you.P.U.

And why do I visit today ‘splainin’ the chicken culture a bit? Because the Delaney boys are farmers and guess what they grow…

Have a realmantic day and thanks for spending a few moments of it with me…

Lila Munro

 

A Slower, Lower Leap

Book Three, Slower Lower Series

When you’re the last man standing…

Not only was Logan Delaney the last of his siblings to remain unmarried and unsettled, his entire family believed he’d never find a wife. The baby of eight, he’s been dubbed an irresponsible player and told he’ll never amount to a hill of beans. And at one time,Loganmay have been okay with those descriptions, but no more. On a quest to prove his worth, he’s spent the entire summer learning the family business, staying in at night, and saving his money. And if his family would stop meddling in his affairs and trying to dictate who he should and shouldn’t be seeing, he might just show them he’s found the one, Lizzy Jenkins.

And have a bad reputation to blame…

 

Elizabeth Jenkins had always known Logan Delaney existed, but he’d never so much as turned one glance her way until she handed him his butt on a silver platter in three sentences or less over the phone. After that it seemed at every turn there he was and the more she resisted the heat building between them, the bigger the fire got. Until his family interfered. And why wouldn’t they? BetweenLogan’s legacy and her baggage, they were a disaster in the making.

Can you be trusted with a fragile heart?

ButLogandoesn’t run when he finds out about Colby. In fact, he embraces Lizzy’s special needs son and defies the advice of everyone urging him to leave Lizzy alone. But after one moment of weakness, Logan finds himself knee deep in a marriage complete with the little boy whose father bailed before his birth and Lizzy’s grandfather, who needs constant care as well.  Then there’s the man who just might be the demise of it all.

Available now at:

Amazon               ARe                        Barnes and Noble

ON WINGS OF DESIRE and giveaway with Bianca Swan

The word demon is probably a derivation of daio, meaning to divide.  The name was generally used for spiritual beings of a lower order that interfere between gods and men.  Many believe that the Nephilim, or sons of the Grigori, the origin of the demon.  In the Book of Enoch, we are introduced to the Watchers, the angels who fell from grace because they took wives from amongst mortal women and sired giants (the Nephilim).  Although Enoch is not an “inspired” book and not found in the Bible, it is quoted in the Book of Jude.

 

In On Wings of Desire¸ the hero Salseph is a demon created by the fallen angel Paimon to look like an angel.  Paimon isn’t one of the Grigori.  He was with Lucifer in the original Fall, and he is General of Hell.  His beauty sets Seph apart from the fiendish creatures brought into existence by the other fallen angels.

In one scene, Paimon tells Salsepth, “The other angels are like children with Play-Doh, each trying to produce the most abominable.”

Paimon created Seph for his pleasure, but the young demon spurns his creator.  As punishment, the fallen angel forces Seph to perform humiliating missions of seek and destroy.  He is assigned a target, must seduce the woman and destroy her life, leaving her in tears.  Seph despises his job and sees the second war between Heaven and Hell as a way to escape.

Gloria Landry, the heroine, has a bad track record with men.  Though a short history, she always seems to choose the wrong one.  When a breathtakingly handsome man rescues her from a violent storm, she is convinced she has found the right one.  Until she learns he is a demon.

On Wings of Desire is an erotic fantasy romance, not an inspirational work.

 

Wings is Bianca’s third erotic romance and was released February 28th by Double Dragon Publishing and is available at the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.  Both Celestial Sin and Hot Spanish Nights were published by The Wild Rose Press and are available at the links included.

Excerpt of On Wings of Desire: (PG13):

“I smell angel,” a low-ranking atrocity shouted, his high-pitched voice rasping on Seph’s nerves.

The demons stank of brimstone and ash.  Salseph’s Creator had only missed one detail in replicating a celestial being.  Like an angel, Seph possessed an individual, mysterious scent, the airy fragrance part of his allure.  Unlike an angel, Salseph had no sigil.  A sigil, the angel’s name in Malachim script, was branded in his palm at his creation.  Paimon did not have the ability to bequeath a sigil to his demon son.  The fallen angel had, however, created Seph with an irresistible sexual magnetism.

A disgustingly ugly brute bared his fangs.  A laugh rumbled from the creature’s slavering maw.  He stumbled into Seph, crushing one of the long white feathers trailing the ash-gray ground.  “Hello, Salseph.”  Two taloned fingers drifted down the feathered arch.  “Wish I had pretty wings.”

Seph flinched from the malicious caress, folding his wings in a tighter arch.  The creature chuckled, and anger ground Salseph’s good intentions to dust.  When he landed, he’d planned to hurry to his cave, avoiding another senseless confrontation with his brethren.  The fiends detested him as much as he abhorred them.  It was an effort of will to resist a scathing retort.

“I think he’s hideous,” a demon in the shadows called.  “Angels are our enemies.  Every time I look at Paimon’s favorite, I want to draw sword.”

Jealousy and envy gleamed in Evolz’s yellow eyes.  The demon reeked of the Pit.  Sulfur wasn’t an enticing perfume.  “Now, who would want to spit our lovely Salseph on a sword?”

“Let me pass.”  Seph would have shouldered by Evolz, but touching the creature repulsed him.

“Coming home from another assignment?”  Evolz smirked.

Seph refused to give the other demon the satisfaction of a reply.  He was returning from another demeaning mission with his stomach in a knot and his heart bleeding for a poor human woman whose only sin was falling in love with him.

“Did you eat her baby or pump a little half-demon into her womb?”  Evolz leered, his glob of a head tilted to the side, his hairy ears wagging.

“I don’t consume human flesh.  Now, step aside.”

“Or you’ll do what?  Report me to Paimon?”

Seph flared his wings, striking the demon and sweeping Evolerzzal into a stumbling retreat.  “Sorry, Evolz.”  He drove his wings down hard, rising straight into the sultry, close air.  Voice dripping sarcasm, he said, “I forget how powerful I really am.”

He hovered above the gross blob, his condescending smile goading Evolz to react.  The demon glared at him but said nothing, a quick comeback beyond his limited mental capacity.  Why were they all so fiendish?  One of the monsters tried to capture his ankle.  Laughing, he flew higher and, still chuckling, soared toward home.  The place I hide.  He’d never thought of the dim stone cavern as home.  His heart stuttered over a painful beat.  He had no home and belonged nowhere.

Bianca is giving away a digital copy of HOT SPANISH NIGHTS to one lucky commenter.  Giveaway ends @12am est 3-22-13.  Good luck!

 

Visit Bianca

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She is on Facebook but doesn’t know how to find herself!  Would love to befriend you!

Fortunately for Bianca I do..:)

Bianca lives in Texas with her baby grand piano and is very fond of her snazzy little convertible.  She has two sons, one in England, the other in Texas.  She enjoys reading, horses, symphony, theater and writing (living in other locales and other people’s minds).  She still believes in the power of love—and the power of lust—and enjoys delving into the soul of both the L-Words, bringing to life hot men and the hot women who love them.

 

HER GILDED PRISON

Hi Ivy,

Nice to be back at MR.

I’ve been busy the last couple of weeks preparing for my first ‘History Through Costume’ talk which I presented last night. Dressed in a 1780s polonaise, with the stays, panniers chemise and underwear of the period I discussed the changing silhouette and mostly English and French history between 1750 and 1820 to a room of 50 local library patrons.

With wine and cupcakes to finish it was a huge success and the questions didn’t stop.

So when I collapsed, exhausted into bed, after so many weeks of dressmaking, I decided I really needed an early night tonight.

THEN I remembered I had my first Ellora’s Cave erotic Historical releasing today, and there was naturally work to be done.

So here is a bit about my favourite new release, Her Gilded Prison

 

Her Gilded Prison is an intense, passionate Regency Historical of forbidden love between an older woman and a younger man. I adored writing as it just seemed to write itself. My young hero, 24-year-old Stephen Cranbourne, is just like many randy young men when he sets off on his journey as heir apparent to Viscount Partington and his large estate.

En route he’s seduced by a scheming fortune hunter who tricks him into a wager over some mating spiders. It’s a wager that comes back to haunt him some time after he’s ensconced in his new life, setting the hearts aflutter of Lord and Lady Partington’s two daughters: vain and dazzling Araminta and plain, sweet-natured Hetty.

In the meantime, though, cabbage-headed Edgar, the former heir to the estate, returns from the battle-field. Presumed dead, he has in fact deserted.

Now Lord and Lady Partington will do anything to ensure that Edgar, their clodpole of a nephew, never inherits the estate.

In his wildest dreams, Stephen Cranbourne never imagined his duties would be so diverse.

Below I’ve included the first couple of pages as an excerpt. I hope you like it.

HER GILDED PRISON EXCERPT

The three men were on their knees, heads craned forward, eyes fixed with prurient interest on the amorous adventure playing out on the gossamer web before them.

“He’s launching in, for God’s sake! Dipping his wick—if you could only see it! Look at him.” The young Earl of Barston’s breath was hot on Stephen’s arm, his gaze rapt as he asked in an excited whispered, “She’ll kill him for it?”

Stephen’s host, Sir Archie Ledger, laughed coarsely. “You say he knows his reward is death?” The young baronet jostled his companions for a better look and his eyes bulged with excitement.  He twisted his head to dart a glance at his wife who sat calmly embroidering at the far end of the drawing room, before adding under his breath, “The fuck of eternal damnation, eh? I reckon that’s what I got.”

It was no secret Sir Archie had been pressured into marriage following an indiscretion with the lovely but sharp-tongued Miss Julia Preston.

Lady Julia raised her head at the commotion and her voice cut like scissors into the schoolboy game Stephen was orchestrating. “I say, gentlemen, what’s more interesting than paying some attention to the ladies? Mr. Cranbourne, I want you to please take a seat by me and tell me all about your new benefactor.”

The three young men huddled closer, eyes still fixed on the spider’s web just below the escritoire. “Take cover, gentlemen, here she comes.” Sir Archie’s tone soured. “No, it’s no good. She’s found us. Story of my life. Fun’s over.”

Stephen, still on his knees, blinked to see first Lady Julia’s well-turned ankle and then, as she bent down, her lovely face. As her lively green eyes locked with his he wondered at Archie’s discontent. She was a diamond of the first water.

“What is so fascinating, gentlemen?” Her intimate murmur sounded as if it were just for him. Her gaze was certainly focused on him as her mouth curved in a secret, knowing smile.

Stephen sucked in a breath and found he was quite unable to answer. Since he’d come back from war he was unused to mixing in such elite company, though he remembered frequenting houses like this when he was a boy before his mother’s decline.

Just when he assumed she’d solicit her husband for information, she brushed his hand with hers, the smile that was just for him still in place.

Good God, he thought he’d imagined it before. Now, with Sir Archie still on his haunches to her right, reluctantly in the process of rising, Stephen was quite clearly being conveyed a secret message. Lady Julia admired him. He forced himself to breathe evenly as his cock sprang to attention. He could not rise now, for God’s sake. He must keep them watching at least a few seconds longer.

“She’s going to devour him.” The urgency in his voice that had nothing to do with the mating spiders.

“Nothing happening.” Archie sounded bored as he groaned and gripped the table leg to heave himself up. Stephen had wondered at a match between the spindly-legged, chinless baronet and the ravishing debutante conducted in such haste the season before. He’d not thought about the lovely Miss Julia again until news spread that the couple had been blessed with twin boys within a barely timely eight and a half months of their nuptials.

Now Lady Julia looked as dewy fresh and desirable as she had when Stephen had admired her in the ballroom as a young man experienced in battle but completely unprepared for London society. His mother had left him little of the vast fortune she’d frittered away through drink and gambling but enough to at least deport himself like the gentleman he’d been born.

He managed. Just.

“No, nothing happening,” muttered Barston, rising unsteadily. “I’ll wager a thousand monkeys you’re all hot air, Cranbourne.”

Lady Julia, who’d straightened, bent at the waist to peer again at the scene that had so excited the gentlemen. “Oh, my goodness, the spider jumped!” she squeaked, twisting round so suddenly she tripped over her husband’s arm and fell full length upon Stephen.

For a second he just lay beneath her, eyes wide with shock as her soft curves molded his hard—very hard—contours, not all of them his bones.

“Get up, Julia. Cranbourne, do you accept the wager?” Archie, who sounded as if these were everyday occurrences, took his wife’s elbow and hauled her to her feet. But not before Julia had slanted a knowing and very provocative look at Stephen.

“What? Er, yes,” Stephen mumbled, paying only half a mind. He rarely gambled these days. He had only to recall his wretched, fatherless youth and the antics of his feckless, beloved, wager-mad mama.

“Good fellow!” A hearty handshake followed as Stephen rose. He took refuge behind the back of the Egyptian sofa and forced a strained smile at his hosts.

“I do love an unusual wager.” Lady Julia adopted a pose of rare solidarity beside her husband. “So this big, bold, female spider—obviously a prime article in the arachnid world—has just suffered the amorous attentions of her tiny, boring, timid, ineffectual husband.” Her knowing smile broadened and her words were heavy with emphasis as she enunciated each one. It was impossible to miss her meaning and Stephen could only wonder that Archie didn’t bristle at the obvious allusion to their own marital situation. She stroked Archie’s arm while asking Stephen in silky tones, “You’re the celebrated man of science in the room, Mr. Cranbourne. Please explain in…explicit terms…the courting rituals of the spider world.”

Stephen flicked a glance at Archie. Fortunately he appeared to be his usual good-humored self—and just as keen for information as his wife.

He cleared his throat. “The male spider will court the female and…and then after he…”

“Impregnates her?” Lady Julia supplied with an inquiring smile.

“That’s correct, yes, the female will devour him.” Stephen let out his breath in a low whistle as his erection finally subsided. God, he hoped Archie hadn’t noticed. Lady Julia was a diamond of the first water but she was dangerous and Stephen wasn’t in a position to alienate the few advantageous connections he’d made since his unexpected elevation in the world.

“Nonsense!” Archie let out a guffaw. “The male of every species is infinitely superior in every respect and I’ll wager the insect world is no exception. Cranbourne, if this pretty boy spider is still safely in his love lair, gazing raptly at his lady love in two hours, then I’ve won the wager.”

Stephen quirked an eyebrow, the fog which clouded his brain finally clearing. He’d not realisedrealized what he’d agreed to. Honesty and fair play won over though the temptation to take advantage of Sir Archie was great. “I’m happy to call off the wager, old chap. It was foolishly done in the heat of the moment, for one can’t bet against the laws of nature. The study of spiders was my childhood hobby. As sure as the sun rises in the east this puny male will have been devoured by his mate by 2amtwo a.m.”

“The wager stands.” Archie grinned. “I’m willing to bet that a female is no match for a male— – in any arena.” He glanced at his wife. “Don’t I prove that time and time again, dearest?”

Lady Julia’s smile for her husband was limpid but when she slid her eyes across to Stephen he read calculation in their depths. Arousal slammed through him and he lowered his head to hide the guilt that burned his cheeks. If Archie were to intercept the silent messages she was sending him, the young baronet would go wild. Particularly if he knew the effect they were having on Stephen.

Stephen had drunk more than usual yet he was not addle witted. When he rose from his bow, his three companions were looking at him. He shrugged helplessly. Tomorrow he was to meet Lord Partington, his new benefactor. He wanted to be in top form. On the other hand, he’d need to stay to see his wager translate into a thousand pounds, an enormous sum but one that seemed neither here nor there to Archie.

Archie was now bending over again, peering at the web beneath the table. “Can’t say the housemaids are up to snuff in this place but it’s good for a lark. Nothing’s happening. Reckon the old boy’s going to turn tail and run in a sec. Now, ’nother drink, old chap?”

“Thank you,” Stephen replied, though his bladder was full to bursting. He moved to the door. “Call of nature,” he mumbled. “Please excuse me.”

He drew in a lungful of air as he headed up the passageway to the privy. He’d have to return in the next few minutes to keep an eye on his booty though he’d much rather have gone to bed. Still, he couldn’t afford to lose the wager. It would be some time before he became the next Viscount Partington, with all that came with it.

He was just issuing into the corridor, bending to adjust his breeches, when a whiff of familiar orange-water scent assailed his nostrils.

“Good Lord, I beg your pardon.” He stepped back as if stung from the connection of his forehead connecting with Lady Julia’s pert breasts as he straightened. Half expecting an outraged slap, he was astonished by the warmth of her expression as she raised her candle.

“You are a very handsome man, Stephen.” There was no mistaking the intention, conveyed by the calculating gleam in her eye and husky whisper.

Her delicate fingers curved around his wrist and she gave a gentle tuck. Obediently followed her, not knowing what to expect.

And certainly not expecting the door of a small closet to be closed behind him, plunging them into almost total darkness save for the candle she set upon the windowsill.

“Lady Julia—”

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