Archive for May, 2014

Guest Author: Cynthia Garner & A Lifelong Love of All Things Paranormal

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Today I’m welcoming Cynthia Garner, an author I’ve know for quite a few years. Today she’s talking about something near and dear to me. The paranormal! Welcome Cynthia!

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A Lifelong Love Of All things Paranormal

My flirtation with the paranormal began in the sixth grade, when our teacher, Mrs. Gosnell, gave the class this opening line: “It was a dark and stormy night” and told us to write a story. From what I can recall, my story was exciting and full of scary paranormal creatures, though the ending was rather…anti-climatic.

It was only a dream.

Hey. I was 12. I write much better now.

By the time I was fifteen I’d discovered Dracula, both in book and on film courtesy of Hammer Horror Films. (I still love Christopher Lee’s version of the Transylvanian count!) I was a happy girl, eating popcorn and watching vampires, the Frankenstein monster, mummies, werewolves and other creatures that go bump in the night. I’d also discovered boys by that time, so of course those paranormal creatures were just misunderstood and just needed a good woman to love them.

So it was only natural that when I decided to look at writing as a career, I would look back to those supernatural bad boys. I’ve written about vampires, werewolves, dragonshifters, demons, and angels. They’ve been on Earth, in space, and in fantasy lands.

The one thing they all had in common? They were tamed by love. Tamed for their woman, but dangerous to anyone who threatened her.

My latest release is The Awakening Series, with VAMPIRE’S HUNGER and VAMPIRE’S THIRST.

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Vampires_ThirstIn a post-apocalyptic wasteland, civilization no longer exists, and only the strongest survive. The few remaining humans must band together with supernatural beings to battle unspeakable evil-or all hope will be lost.

Kimber Treat is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary gift: she can raise the dead. As a necromancer who works with the police, she communicates with murder victims to bring their killers to justice. But after a normal session goes horribly wrong, Kimber realizes she’s summoned something dark and sinister. She’s unwittingly unleashed the apocalypse, and everyone blames her . . . except Duncan MacDonnough, the devastatingly handsome vampire she can’t stop fantasizing about.

As society shuts down and flesh-eating hordes close in, Duncan vows to protect Kimber. He can keep her safe from others-but not from the insatiable carnal hunger he feels for her. Now racing to reverse the chaos she’s unleashed, Kimber can’t afford any distractions. But even as she succumbs to Duncan’s seduction, she fears that he has a hidden agenda. And with the line between life and death starting to blur, his secrets might kill her-or worse . . .

**

You can find Cynthia in a variety of places! Please visit her at:

Her website

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Twitter: @CynthiaGarner

Cover Gasm! One Chance With You & Cooper’s Haven Revealed

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Just a fly by blog to reveal two new covers I received yesterday from Ellora’s Cave. Both covers are for short stories set in Redemption Ridge, Arizona. The first short story in this grouping was Redemption Ridge which came out last year, and the next two are One Chance With You and Cooper’s Haven. I don’t have release dates or official blurbs yet but I’m posting unofficial blurbs to give you an idea of the story content.

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One Chance With You

What if being who you really are means taking a chance?

Amber MacMillan has survived abuse and misunderstanding over her empathic abilities. Being authentic has set her free, but most men aren’t interested in a woman who can sense their feelings.

Jim Clay’s time in war left a mental scar—fear of flying. When Amber rescues him with her gentle touch and understanding, he thinks he might defeat his phobia. Then a tornado tears through the airport, bringing them close and kindling passion between them. Now they’ll find one chance in each other’s arms.

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Cooper’s Haven

Ten years ago Jilly Warren and Cooper Hawkins shared a night of devastating loses that almost brought them together. Now a new threat brings them together again in a fight for love and survival.

The man staring at Jilly Warren at the courthouse is up to no good, and every instinct tells her to run far and fast. Instead she turns to marine reservist and sheriff’s deputy Cooper Hawkins.

Cooper never forgot the comfort of Jilly’s embrace, and when danger darkens her doorstep, he knows the only safe place she’ll be is in his arms.

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Author: Haley Whitehall & Historical Fiction About the Underclass

Monday, May 26th, 2014

I’d like to thank Denise for inviting me to her blog. It is always a pleasure to talk about writing. She asked me why I like to read and write historical fiction that is “different” not the same old same old. Well, my simple answer would be that I’m tired of reading the same stories. I don’t want to write a story that will bore me. What is the fun in that?

I’m drawn to historical fiction about the underclass. To me the lives of queens and dukes are too dull and pampered. I guess I have a hard time relating to them. Some authors are famous for writing about the underclass. Charles Dickens did it. Jane Austin did it. Now I’m trying to brand myself as a historical fiction author who tells the story of the common people.

The common people have to work hard for a living, have to work hard to achieve their dreams and to reach that happy ending. I’m not saying historical fiction about the rich and famous won’t involve their own set of problems; however, the underclass has built in drama and tension. I don’t have to invent an enemy trying to overthrow the crown or a woman trying to blackmail a duke. Just living is hard enough. In a way it saves me a bit of work and always adds another layer to the story.

I’ve released two historical romances in April. Both stories involve common people. My favorite time period is the Civil War. Soldier in Her Lap (Decadent Publishing) is my first Civil War romance.

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Soldier in Her Lap

Trapped by her alcoholic, abusive father, Sophia Carpenter longs to escape her life of drudgery on her father’s dirt farm in Clark Springs, Georgia. Making matters worse, her father’s scared off every man who tried to call on her. She longs for freedom, but with the Civil War raging, even fewer men are available to fulfill her dreams—unless a soldier landed in her lap.

Conscripted into a war he never wanted to fight, Lucas Grady is tired of battle and refuses to lay his life down for a lost cause. After a musket ball tears through his leg, he deserts from the ambulance wagon rather than risk a field surgeon’s saw. He barely makes it to Sophia’s farm before collapsing.

The wounded soldier’s arrival seems like a dream come true, but first she must save him from his injuries—and her father. As forbidden attraction blooms between them, they will have to struggle to survive. Can their love overcome so many obstacles or will they become another casualty of the War Between the States?

Buy Links: Decadent Publishing | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Amazon UK | ARe

The second book Midnight Kiss (Liquid Silver Books) is an interracial romance set in post-Civil War Missouri. Another reason my stories might be considered different is because I like to write multicultural and interracial stories.

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Midnight Kiss

April Windmire is the answer to Matt Seever’s prayers. But racial prejudice in the old South threatens to keep them apart. Haley Whitehall brings you another passionate tale in Midnight Kiss, Book 3 of her historical romance series Moonlight Romance. Sometimes love is black and white.

Unjustly accused of stealing, nanny April Windmire is turned out on the streets without pay. With no place to go and no friends, she stows away on a Mississippi River steamboat. Her hopes to hide through the journey to St. Louis are dashed when a handsome white officer finds her. But instead of turning her in, he takes her to his private quarters where she fights her growing attraction to a man she cannot have.

Matt Seever’s wife died four year ago, leaving him alone with two small mulatto children. But his job as an officer on the Queen Bee isn’t family friendly. He knows he needs a new wife, but no southern white woman will marry him. When April lands in his lap, his prayers are answered. Or are they? April’s not the trusting type and racial prejudice runs deep in post-Civil War Missouri. Just when Matt convinces April he loves her, his new family becomes a target and there’s no backing down from this fight.

Together, April and Matt must brave heinous race prejudice crimes to find an enduring love.

Buy Links: Liquid Silver Books | Amazon I Barnes and NobleAmazon UK | ARe

 Haley's Author Picture

Author Bio:

Haley Whitehall lives in Washington State where she enjoys all four seasons and the surrounding wildlife. She writes historical fiction and historical romance set in the 19th century U.S. When she is not researching or writing, she plays with her cats, watches the Western and History Channels, and goes antiquing. She is hoping to build a time machine so she can go in search of her prince charming. A good book, a cup of coffee, and a view of the mountains make her happy. Visit Haley’s website at http://haleywhitehall.com.

Where to find Haley Whitehall:

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Guest Author: Nikki Logan & A Lifetime Romance With Nature

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Today I’m happy to welcome Australian author Nikki Logan to my blog. I recently started reading Nikki’s work, and she’s an amazing writer with a great voice.  I first read Wild Encounter, which is set in Africa. You all know how much I appreciate novels set in different places than the norm. I knew I had to invite her to say hello and give us her perspective from Down Under. Please give Nikki a warm welcome.

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A Lifelong Romance with Nature

I don’t remember exactly when I developed my ‘thing’ for nature. I was always the kid who got out amongst the Aussie animals or the trees or the dirt, but in my private girls’ schooling there really weren’t many avenues to explore that other than for fun. ‘Get Wild’ is not on any syllabus I know, though it really should be. I double-majored in Film and Theatre at university and I discovered natural history films in my second year. How awesome that I could go out into the Australian bush—or even into my back yard— with a camera and some basic film-making skills and make a mini natural history doco. I think that’s when I realised I loved to tell wildlife stories because, back then, I didn’t know a whole lot about species or conservation or even taxon and so the easiest wildlife stories to tell were creative ones.

No-one who watched young me growing up on our five acres of trees, wildlife and wetlands would be surprised to find me telling wildlife stories for a living. And no-one who watched teenaged me sitting at the kitchen bench with my mother, eyeballs deep in a M&B while we both had our tenth cup of tea for the day would blink at those stories also being romantic. Or the people who worked with young-adult me as a copywriter and communicator. Or with grownup me when I later worked in a zoo.

Over six months in 2007, all of those threads of my life finally pulled together when I decided to sit down and write ‘Wild Encounter’ a big, edgy romp set in the wilds of Africa – the story I would have liked to read.  Write what you want to read. It’s a brilliant bit of publishing wisdom because it taps into your reader self and your creative self and helps you to really identify what it is you want to be known for over the next decade. Because a writer needs to live with that—and repeat it—ad infinitum.  And, for me, a decade is forty books so I really needed to be comfortable there.

And that’s how I found my romance with nature.

European Otter (photo taken by Bernard Landgraf, reproduced with permission under open content license).

European Otter (photo taken by Bernard Landgraf, reproduced with permission under open content license).

I’m now on my 21st nature-based romance and I’ve written about seals in Australia’s south-west, wild brumbies in the Kimberley, turtles in a marine park, cockatoo smuggling, whale rescuing, urban raptors, wild dogs pups, giraffes on a sea freighter, and the extraordinary world of bees. I’ve flown characters in a balloon over a natural wonder in Turkey, had them landscaping rooftop gardens high over Sydney, trapped them in a vehicle hanging over a gully in wildest Tasmania, and footing it to Everest base camp. They’ve been blind, addicted, wounded, married to the wrong person, scarred, shut-in, obsessed, abused, blinkered, stalked and in multiple ways damaged by their past.

But they’ve also been resilient, courageous, brilliant, driven, witty, focussed, loving, and ultimately willing to risk everything for their chance at love. And whether or not there’s any on-the-page action (sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t) the attraction and tension between those two characters is delicious.

And they do all of this against a fascinating, rich, wild backdrop where nature is as much a character as they are.

My next book is out in August (the first in a series of four with inter-woven plots) and it was a challenge to get a bit of nature into a story set mostly in metro London, but I think I’ve pulled it off. Otters! Woo-hoo!  Or, if you wanted to dip your toe in the water free, my cowboy book ‘Their Newborn Gift’ is included free with the Mills & Boon reader app, too (iTunes and Android).

No matter what your wildlife interest, I’ll have something for you. Just hit a search engine near you or my website and gift yourself a few hours of immersion into love and nature. It would be my absolute pleasure to take you there.

May love always find you

x

Nikki

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Military Tuesday: Close Quarters

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Howdy all. I’m back on Military Tuesday for a bit. Haven’t run out of military themed stories for you yet. Today it’s another book in the Hot Zone series. This one is called Close Quarters. In this excerpt the hero and heroine encounter danger on their first meeting.

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Neena Williamson is positive the man who just walked into her favorite café is all wrong for the local charity’s new hot male calendar. For starters, he’s wearing the most butt-ugly Hawaiian shirt on the face of the earth. He doesn’t fit anyone’s image of a smokin’ hardbody, even if her friend insists he’s perfect for Mr. December. When a gunman robs the café, Mr. December proves that underneath his bad taste in clothes, he knows how to bring it.

Clarksville, Wyoming is the perfect place for Mitch Gilroy to hide in plain sight. He enjoys his low-key handyman job, and no one pries into his former life. But in an instant, Mitch is forced to remember everything he’s tried so hard to forget.

Thrown together by sudden violence, Neena and Mitch quickly discover how tangled their emotions can become. And the only way to banish the monsters that haunt them is to do the one thing they fear most. Become vulnerable—to each other.

* *

When the cook walked out of the kitchen, the robber gestured toward the open doorway of a small, dark room.

“Get in there,” the robber said.

Handyman flipped on the light switch as the gunman nodded toward Neena and practically hissed his next words. “Move it, prissy.”

She did as told, her knees trembling with weakness and her heart banging a relentless drum in her chest. What did the nutcase have in mind? The aforementioned lunatic slammed the door and left them inside the room. She flinched. The lock engaged from the outside.

A spark of intuition alerted her. Solid. No nonsense. Immediate. Before Handyman could say a word, she dashed toward him. “Get away from the door!”

She practically dived, and as her body hit him and his arms encircled her, bullets slammed through the door. Fear riddled her, but she felt no pain as Handyman grabbed her close, braced to keep from falling and pressed her into his solid body.

“Shit!” Handyman growled.

He moved swiftly, pressing her back into the corner, his body a shield. If anything ricocheted, he’d feel the sting of a bullet first.

Her face buried against his shoulder and he wrapped one arm around her waist. The other hand came up and cradled her head to his shoulder. Her fingers twisted in his shirt, bunching gobs of the loose garment in her fists. He held her like that, his breath coming quickly, her heart slamming in her chest, for what seemed forever. The shots stopped. Dragging noises and the sounds of something massive being pulled in front of the door startled her.

She pulled back slightly. “Oh God.”

Handyman’s eyes no longer held ice. Those deep brown eyes turned dark with serious worry. “Are you hit?”

“What?” She felt dazed.

“Are you hit?”

“No. I’m great.”

Right. If that wasn’t the stupidest, most absurd thing she’d ever said. She trembled from head to toe, and the shock of what happened reverberated through her in waves.

“You…are you okay?” she asked, the words escaping with a dry croak.

“I’m great.”

She registered the heat and hardness of his body. Her breasts mashed to his chest, his hips and thighs pressed along hers. Close up, his face held the chiseled hardness of an old west movie hero, without anything fancy to pretty him up. A cut jaw, a nose slightly on the big side. Only his mouth was sculpted, lips just right on a man—not too big, not too thin. He felt so warm, so protective—

He released her and walked toward the door. He tried the knob. When it didn’t budge, he slammed one palm against it. He tried kicking it down, but the door wouldn’t budge. She realized the room was a huge pantry with shelves on three sides. No way out.

Handyman tried budging the door one more time to no avail. “Damn it!”

That’s when true fear slammed her. Like it or not, she was trapped in a locked room with a total stranger. Tears gathered in her eyes and spilled over her eyelids before she could stop them. Handyman turned toward her, striding across the room until he cupped her shoulders.

“Hey, it’s going to be all right.”

She nodded and buried her face in her hands. “I know. I just…”

Tears spilled, and a sob escaped her.

“Hey, hey. Easy.” He gathered her close once more, and she found her hands buried in his big shirt again. As tears spilled from her and she gulped and sobbed, she tried to regain control. Embarrassment sliced her with cruel fingers. His touch slipped through her hair, gently massaging her neck.

“It’s all right. He’s gone.” Velvet and husky, his voice held safety and comfort.

Poor fashion sense or not, his voice was to die for.

So was the body pressed along hers. She felt muscles. Lots and lots of glorious muscles. Or maybe the fear had destroyed her reasoning ability and she wanted the man holding her to play the hero. Right now, with a tenderness that put her off guard, he fit the lead part in her adventure movie down to a capital T.

Only difference is, he hadn’t whipped out a gun and gone Kung Fu on the bad guy’s ass. Which in reality made perfect sense. If Handyman had played knight on a white horse, they’d be dead. She shivered and then did another stupid thing. She slid her arms around his waist and held on. Yeah, he has a trim waist, too. Hmmm…

“When that jerk pointed his gun in your face, I thought he was going to kill you right in front of me,” she whispered through a sob.

“So did I.”

His voice rumbled deeply, so matter-of-fact she couldn’t believe how distant he sounded. His arms tightened around her in a gentle squeeze, the only sign that he felt anything about his near miss with death.

“You had a gun pointed at your head, and here I am babbling like an idiot.” She gulped back another sob.

“So did you, remember? You were looking right down the barrel for a long time.”

Right. She had. Her tears started to dry, and the fright calmed somewhat. She forced herself to pull back out of his arms. “God, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go all girly like that.”

“It’s okay. What just happened scared the shit out of me, too.”

A man who’d admit his fear. Interesting. His expression might show no fear and his voice gave no indication of the trauma he’d faced. Yet he could speak the words.

Neena became aware of a shift in perception. Not a smidgen of change, but a whopping ugly belief that she’d altered in the last few minutes. That the world had undergone a drastic, nasty transformation. She’d never believed in a rosy world, but this one had sharp thorns. She held her hands in front of her. They shook. A heat wave and then a cold flash washed over her in relentless strokes. Her stomach curled. Shaking, she put her back against the one wall minus shelving and slid downward until she plopped on the floor. Cold and hard, the landing felt brutal against her ass. Incongruously she noticed a run in the right calf of her thigh-high stockings. A jagged, gaping slit that might have been there before the robber came into the coffee shop, or maybe happened sometime in between. Who knew? Who cared? For a second she gave a damn. A really big damn. Then she took a shaky breath. She was acting like an immature, shallow twit. She’d buy more. Ten pairs more if she survived her stay in this stupid pantry. Then she wanted to smack the robber across the face with her purse for the inconvenience.

Stop by the book page for this story and enjoy another excerpt and information.

 

 

 

Gothic Novels & Monday Ramblings About Trends

Monday, May 19th, 2014

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Morning all. A quick post from the depths of the writing cave. You know that place. Where you’re eager to keep going on a novel and all you want is to stay in the cave until it is finished.

Tomorrow is Military Tuesday again, and I’m profiling Close Quarters which is in my Hot Zone series. Today, though, I wanted to share a few observations on old gothic novels and trends. This weekend I went through some truly ancient paperback gothic romance novels I’ve had since the 70’s to see if I could part with them. There are a few that are absolute favorites. If I could find any in ebook I wanted to get them. I did find a couple of Victoria Eden’s and that made me happy. Many others, alas, seem lost to the sands of time.

Those of you who are old enough to remember when gothic novels were all the rage will also recall the main elements. The dark, brooding castle or manor house in Britain, Ireland or the U.S. (On rare occasions somewhere else), the young and very innocent governess or other unfortunate and alone woman. The dark, brooding hero who might be the bad guy or might not. Yeah, I repeated dark and brooding twice because these sort-of-Heathcliff heroes were always brooding. These days it isn’t that much different, although the heroines aren’t as innocent or sometimes even as  young, and the heroes may be millionaires, sports heroes, bikers, or cops, FBI agents, shape shifters, vampires, or military. I have to admit I’m not much into reading about bikers, sports heroes or even billionaires. I’m even pretty tired of FBI agents. Of course there are a lot of permutations of all these characters and originality is certainly possible, but I have to admit I’m one of those birds of a different feather. Trends are even irritating to me on a basic primal level. Yep, I’ll admit it. But I won’t tell you which trends I find irritating because I don’t want to diss anyone else’s love either for reading material or for a writing passion. After all, I frequently write military or former military characters. Everyone has the right to create what blows their skirt up. When I was a teen I wrote reams of my own gothic novels and loved every minute of it.

So which trends in the writing world these days are getting on your nerves? Do you have any pet peeves that are just chapping your hide? Come on, spill it.

In the meantime, here are the covers for my most “gothic” romances.

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Meet Me At The Castle Release Date May 12

Meet Me At The Castle
Release Date May 12

 

Guest Author: Marie Harte & Major Attraction

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Today I’m honored to have author Marie Harte talking about her new military series Good To Go and the first book Major Attraction. Today Marie will also be picking one winner from the comments to receive a copy of Bodywork, a contemporary novel. Take it away Marie!

 

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 A Major Attraction, the first in the Good to Go trilogy

U.S. Marine Major Kyle Waters has recently returned home after months at sea. He desperately wants some well-deserved rest, but his pleasant dreams turn from downright sinful into a nightmare when he wakes up, his arms full of a deliciously naked and thoroughly panicked Olivia Cava—the woman he’s been fantasizing about for months.

Kyle’s scheming ex-girlfriend has maneuvered Olivia into sharing a lease with the sexy man of her dreams. Olivia’s a professional, a career woman who finds herself drawn to Kyle, as she’s been since she first laid eyes on him. But growing up the daughter of a career military man, she’s vowed never to get involved with a Marine. Yet Kyle stirs something inside her, and she finds herself saying yes when she means to say no.

Their life goals seem worlds apart, but love will find a way. Until Kyle’s past relationship threatens to ruin the future he has only just found in Olivia. Can the truth set him free? And can Olivia put aside her five-year plan and her heartache to forgive a stubborn Marine bent on loving her…forever?

An Excerpt

“Come on, Olivia. I think you and I could be great roommates.” He couldn’t help the innuendo that laced his tone, too much in lust to control his tongue.

To his surprise and pleasure, she laughed at him. “Convince me, Romeo. What’s so great about a man, and a Marine at that, as a roommate?”

“I’m neat, I cook, and I don’t snore.”

She chuckled, and he continued on a more serious note.

“I’ll respect your privacy, and you’ll be safe here. Trust me, no one will mess with you while I’m around.” The thought of anyone harming Olivia made him see red.

“I really wasn’t looking forward to moving,” she said slowly. “It’s very nice of you to offer to let me ride out the lease. I’d like to stay.” She paused and blushed a deeper pink. “But about last night. That kind of thing can’t happen again.”

It can, and it will. “I understand.” He changed the subject, not wanting to scare her into changing her mind.

For the remainder of the meal, they made small talk that put them both at ease. To Kyle’s surprise, he felt as though he could tell Olivia anything. She listened to him, and for the first time in a long time, Kyle found himself having fun with a woman. He truly enjoyed her company. Her mind intrigued him as much as her body did, increasing his desire to know all of her. He knew he wouldn’t last much longer without tasting her again.

Once they finished dinner, he stood and cleared their plates. He returned to the table and pulled her chair out to help her stand. Instead of backing off to give her space, Kyle moved closer, so that her breasts brushed his chest. She froze, her lips parting on a breath.

“The kind of thing that can’t happen again. You mean something like this. I shouldn’t do this again.” He leaned down to skim his lips over her mouth. He moved slowly, giving her the chance to say no. She didn’t. “I definitely shouldn’t touch you like this.” He brought his arms around her waist, drawing her deeper into his embrace.

“No, you shouldn’t,” she said on a breath, her eyes wide as they stared up into his. She licked her lips in invitation, and he lowered his head once more.

No holds barred, this woman belonged to him.

Now available at:

Amazon
B&N
Kobo
ARe
iTunes

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About the Author:

Caffeine addict, boy referee, and romance aficionado, USA Today bestselling author Marie Harte has over 100 books published with more constantly on the way. She’s a confessed bibliophile and devotee of action movies. Whether hiking in Central Oregon, biking around town, or hanging at the local tea shop, she’s constantly plotting to give everyone a happily ever after. Visit http://marieharte.com and fall in love.

 

Paranormal/Historical Romance! Meet Me At The Castle is out today!

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Hey all! Today’s the big day for my historical/paranormal story, Meet Me At The Castle. Below is a blurb and excerpt. Hope you enjoy it! You can get your own copy of Meet Me At The Castle at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance Ebooks and Liquid Silver Books.

Meet Me At The Castle Release Date May 12

Meet Me At The Castle
Release Date May 12

Elizabeth Albright lives a simple life at Penham Manor under the watchful and disapproving eye of her father and stepmother. They think she’s odd for loving to paint Cromar Castle, a ruin on the hill. Even Elizabeth doesn’t understand why she insists on painting the structure over and over. Yet her compulsion demands it—there is something alive and beautiful about the castle that she cannot resist. When she meets the devilishly handsome Damian, more than her interest is piqued, for he engages her like no other has. But her stepmother has plans that will take her away from Cromar—and Damian—forever.

 

**

 

Elizabeth Albright came to the castle ruins late at night, when the moon dropped low and the gray stone walls glowed with the silver of its light. This night, when she reached the high, craggy walls, she knew something was different. The usually cool wind that blew between the ancient stones was still, the air pungent with a flower scent, sweet yet refreshing. As she ascended the last few feet, she inhaled a pleasing, refreshing bouquet that settled her from the inside, bringing a peace so often missing from her life.

She stood on the crest of the hill, her breath coming hard. She wished her skirts were not so heavy, and her corset not so restricting. Maybe next time she ascended to the castle she would leave the house without such confinements. After all, no one would know.

She sighed, taking in the grand sight of the edifice before her; it never failed to inspire, to make her painting that much easier. Of course, painting at night here without light … impossible. But in the morning…

In her thoughts she could hear her stepmother Anne’s whiny, ugly voice. “Elizabeth, Elizabeth, how is it you can paint that awful place…”

And her dear stepbrother George’s voice. At nineteen years of age, he had the zeal of youth but amazing maturity. “Elizabeth, that is the most beautiful painting I’ve ever seen.”

She smiled in remembrance and turned to see the landscape below she had labored many times to paint from her mind’s eye. In the deep of the night, the land was a mass of dark mounds and shadowed valleys, the ground made sterling by the moon. A single cloud passed across the gray face of that faraway orb, and for a moment her world went dark. But not silent.

Deep within the castle walls lay secrets deep and ancient. Void of warmth. Void of meaning.

She held her breath.

Felt everything around her with acute clarity.

Painfully so.

Her skirts under her hands, the whisper of a thousand voices in her ears.

Voices that begged to be heard, but no one would listen.

The cloud moved on, and she was relieved to have the light again. It was at these moments she sometimes wondered if she had gone insane. Mad.

“Unreachable,” she had heard her stepmother murmur to one of her cronies just that day when the women did not realize Elizabeth listened around the corner. “She paints those bizarre pictures of that horrid castle on the hill. Never anything else.”

Anne did not understand Elizabeth.

Neither did anyone else.

Reminding herself that it did not matter, she finally turned from the landscape and wandered toward the mouth of the castle. The dark maw of the structure remained almost intact, as did a good portion of the facade. Without fear she stepped through the arch and stopped.

There it was again.

A lingering scent. Not unpleasant. Unusual.

Ignoring it as her imagination playing tricks, she wandered until she found the room she usually chose to rest in. She guessed it might have been the great hall at one time. Now the moon shone through where the roof had once been. And when she sat down on the cold stone floor, she let herself imagine the walls covered with tapestries, swords, shields, and—

She thought she heard a noise.

Almost like a sigh.

No. It could not be.

Ghosts?

No ghosts had disturbed her in all the weeks … nay, months she had come here. Maybe the loneliness brought her here. The isolation from her stepmother’s insults and her father’s pointed disinterest. George was too young to defend her against them. Her mother a beloved, long-distant memory. Mother had died when Elizabeth was five, but she’d never forget her love and kindness.

Concentrating again on her fantasy of what the ancient hall must have looked like, she thought perhaps she would try drawing or painting this place as it may have looked hundreds of years ago. Before time and weather and neglect had worn it bare.

Tears welled in her eyes.

Maybe something similar would happen to her. She would never leave Penham Manor and would eventually be an old maiden aunt. At four and twenty she had never had a true suitor, not one who fired her imagination. She would end up dried up, dull, and as spiteful as her stepmother. A desolate shell of what she might have been. If only…

If only what?

Hope welled in her breast. What if she ran away? Left her home here in England and ran to France or America, where fields of flowers and beautiful monuments would serve as her inspiration. Not the drab, eerie light of the full moon on this forgotten monstrosity.

But she knew that would not be. She could see her future. Every month, when the full disc of the moon emerged, she would return to this promontory and yearn for something she did not understand. A single tear rolled down her cheek. She wandered to the center of the great hall and found a large slab of stone in the middle of the room. She sat down.

“Are you well, mistress?”

Startled, she whirled, scrambling to her feet. A man stood at the entrance to the room. He was nothing more than a shadow.

She licked her parched lips. “Who is there?”

The man moved into the room, walking with a smooth gait. When she could see him, surprise kept her still.

He was devilishly handsome. More handsome than any man she had seen. No angel could be so noble, she thought feverishly. So he must be a devil.

“I am Damian.” His voice was a deep, mellow baritone, pleasing to her ears.

Cautious, she looked from side to side and noted two points of egress along the walls. She looked at him again. “Good evening, Mr. Damian.”

“Please, just call me Damian, mistress.”

Though she deemed it inappropriate to call a man by his first name, the night, she thought, cloaked many things with special intimacy.

The tall man stepped closer, and she stepped back. He smiled, his grin wide and stunning. In the half-light she could not see the color of his eyes, but she imagined their darkness. His black hair hung thick about his shoulders.

“Do not be afraid. I mean you no harm.”

“I’m Elizabeth Albright.” She offered her hand and he took it. Cool and dry, the press of his hand felt strong. He brought her hand toward his lips. For a moment she was mortified that she had offered her hand to a stranger. She had no gloves. He bowed over her hand, and yet she did not feel the brush of his lips against her skin. She withdrew her hand hastily.

He walked toward another large stone slab that jutted from the uneven floor. As she observed him, she noted the old-fashioned cut of his clothing. No one wore breeches like he did, nor did they wear white shirts with such deep lace cuffs. Silver buckles adorned his black shoes.

“What brings you here every moon?” he asked, sitting on the stone slab.

Fear overcame her. “How did you know I come here every full moon?”

“Because I do also. For longer than you have.”

“I have never seen you here before.”

He stood up and walked toward her again, and she allowed him to stand much closer to her than any man should to a woman he had just met. She felt no threat from him or desire to hurt her. The fear she’d felt just seconds ago had vanished on the wind.

“Perhaps you have never needed to before,” he said.

“I don’t understand.”

“You will when the time is right.”

She suddenly wondered if Damian had been spying on her all this time, and the idea he had been watching her both frightened and excited her. It was a wholly unreasonable excitement.

“Do you not think this a beautiful place?” he asked.

“Yes. I have always thought so.”

“And why do you come here?”

Did he enjoy keeping her off balance with unexpected questions? She reached up to pat the secure mass of curls at the back of her head. “That, sir, is none of your affair.”

He frowned, and the sharp angles of his face seemed to deepen, to take on sadness. Instant remorse twisted her gut.

“I apologize. I’m not accustomed to such familiarity,” she said.

His brows rose. “This place breeds comfort. I think when one comes here all convention loses meaning. With me, there is no reason to hold back what you feel.”

His voice curled around her like warm wool, a dark inky sound that inspired strange sensations. Something odd in his tone, in his way of speaking nagged at her. Begged her to be cautious and to take note.

Yet she found herself leaning toward him. Her gaze linked with his. A cool wind drifted around her, ruffling through her skirts and her hair. It was icy and abrupt and broke her from the trance of her thoughts.

As soon as the wind had come, it departed.

“I should go,” she whispered and turned to leave.

“Wait.”

She stopped but kept her back to him.

“Will you come again?” The tone of his voice was almost a plea.

She turned slowly to look at him. “When the moon is again full.”

As she ran from the castle, she paused and realized he was no longer there.

 

 

Book Recommendations! Nikki Logan, The Soldier’s Untamed Heart & Wild Encounter

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Sometimes I am astounded by the number of really, really good books that don’t have many reviews and aren’t showing up high in the sales ranks on places like Amazon. I’ve recently discovered Australian author Nikki Logan’s novels. I’ve read only two so far but they won’t be my last. The first one I read was Wild Encounter. A great contemporary, romantic suspense set in Africa with sexual tension, wonderful character development, you name it this book has got it.

Then I read The Soldier’s Untamed Heart and loved it! This book deserves a full slate of kudos. Not only is the writing filled with the author’s unique voice, the characterization is wonderful. The hero and heroine have faults, and that’s something that isn’t always portrayed well in a lot of novels. We seem to be drifting these days toward alpha heroes with no faults and heroines with a ton of faults with many of the books I’ve read in the last few years. Nikki’s characters are complex, and I cheered for them every step of the way. They are admirable people going through life doing the best they know how to do, learning and growing. The sexual tension is off the charts and totally believable. All I can say is if you want to read a romance that is superbly written, pick up this book!

 

Meet Me At The Castle Is 20% Off With Pre Order!

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Hey all, Meet Me At The Castle (historical/paranormal romance novella) is up for preorder at Liquid Silver Books. Here’s the great deal. If you order from now until May 12 you’ll get 20% off! Awesome deal, yes? So be sure to click this link and preorder your copy.

Meet Me At The Castle Release Date May 12

Meet Me At The Castle
Release Date May 12

Elizabeth Albright lives a simple life at Penham Manor under the watchful and disapproving eye of her father and stepmother. They think she’s odd for loving to paint Cromar Castle, a ruin on the hill. Even Elizabeth doesn’t understand why she insists on painting the structure over and over. Yet her compulsion demands it—there is something alive and beautiful about the castle that she cannot resist. When she meets the devilishly handsome Damian, more than her interest is piqued, for he engages her like no other has. But her stepmother has plans that will take her away from Cromar—and Damian—forever.