Monday, March 30, 2015

Virtue's Lady Cover Reveal and Excerpt

Hello everybody! 

Virtue's Lady is coming out on April 13th and I am so excited to be bringing you the next installment of The Southwark Saga. Virtue's Lady picks up a month after Tyburn ends and it follows Mark and Jane's story. To give you a little sneak peek, I have the cover here with my favorite excerpt. I hope you enjoy it!


From toiling for pennies to bare-knuckle boxing, a lady is prepared for every eventuality.

Lady Jane Ramsey is young, beautiful, and ruined.

After being rescued from her kidnapping by a handsome highwayman, she returns home only to find her marriage prospects drastically reduced. Her father expects her to marry the repulsive Lord Lewes, but Jane has other plans. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.

Mark Virtue is trying to go straight. After years of robbing coaches and surviving on his wits, he knows it’s time to hang up his pistol and become the carpenter he was trained to be. He busies himself with finding work for his neighbors and improving his corner of Southwark as he tries to forget the girl who haunts his dreams. As a carpenter struggling to stay in work in the aftermath of The Fire, he knows Jane is unfathomably far beyond his reach, and there’s no use wishing for the impossible. 

When Jane turns up in Southwark, Mark is furious. She has no way of understanding just how much danger she has put them in by running away. In spite of his growing feelings for her, he knows that Southwark is no place for a lady. Jane must set aside her lessons to learn a new set of rules if she is to make a life for herself in the crime-ridden slum. She will fight for her freedom and her life if that’s what it takes to prove to Mark—and to herself—that there’s more to her than meets the eye. 

Pre-Order now in any format from Liquid Silver and get 20% off the cover price!
Excerpt

She hung up the dress, admiring her handiwork. It was not something she would willingly wear, but she hoped the lady would be pleased with the final result. She heard the front door behind her as she bent to pluck a stray thread from the skirt. “We’ve shut for the day,” she called over her shoulder.

When she heard no response, she turned.

Mark Virtue stood behind the counter, his hand still on the doorknob. His long brown coat hung open over his dusty work clothes, the undyed linen of his shirt straining across his broad chest. That chest, a warm expanse of smooth skin over hard, sculpted muscle, was a work of art. Though she had willed herself to forget him, her hands remembered.

Her lips remembered, too.

She licked them with the tip of her tongue, her mouth gone quite dry.

“I didn’t believe it,” he said, his gaze moving from her shapeless leather shoes to her dirty, gloveless hands. Jane looked down, suddenly aware of her shabby work dress. Compared to the other gowns he had seen her in, it was little more than a rag, really. She had braided her hair over her shoulder to keep it out of her stitching and now she wondered what she must look like to him. She touched the end of her braid self-consciously, a touch of embarrassment coloring her cheeks.

She cursed herself for her embarrassment. She had as much right to be here as anyone, and she was done apologizing to Mark Virtue. She straightened her spine and looked him square in his devastatingly blue eyes.

Her knees may have trembled a bit. She did a good job of hiding it. “Well?”

Mark stepped toward the counter. “I sent you back to your father not a fortnight past.”

She shrugged, borrowing the gesture from Carys. “I didn’t go.”

“I see that.”

He paced around the side of the counter while maintaining what little distance he could in the close quarters of the shop.

Jane stepped back, hiding the toes of her soft leather shoes under the hem of her dress. Her slippers may have been stolen, but she still had her silk stockings. She wore them even now, not that he needed to know that.

He had rather liked them, if she remembered correctly.

She swallowed. “What do you want?”

He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “I’ve come to see the new shop girl everyone’s talking about. You look the part, I’ll give you that. Perhaps a touch more dirt, just here...” He brushed her skirt.

Jane crossed her arms over her chest. “Is that what you think this is? You think I’m pretending?”

“Rather unconvincingly, I’m afraid. All the shapeless dresses in the world couldn’t disguise the fact that you’re a lady. Lowering yourself to wield a needle doesn’t make you one of us.”

Jane clenched her jaw. “I’ve as much right to be here as you do.”

“You have no right,” he insisted. “You can’t play at being poor. This is life to these people. This is my life. You think I ought to stand by while you make a mockery of it by working in a place like this when you can leave anytime you please?”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she nearly shouted. “I told you, Mark, I gave it up. Believe it folly if you will, but it changes nothing. I am never going back.”

Mark looked away. “Give it a fortnight.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Give it a fortnight,” he repeated. “Work, and struggle, and starve with the rest of us if that is what you think you want. You weren’t made for this world any more than I was made for yours. Sooner or later, you’ll be desperate to go home.”

“I am home,” Jane said through her teeth. “I’m staying here.”

“How long do you suppose you can last alone in a bastard sanctuary with no money and no protection? How do you expect to live?”

“I have a job, in case you were not aware.” She threw out her arms to indicate the shop. “I work day and night, and I have a little apartment with a door that locks. I’ll make do.”

He tilted his head, looking at her curiously. “In two weeks on your own? Maybe you’ve got a protector after all.”

Jane might have been naïve, but she knew exactly what he was implying, and she didn’t like it. She felt the anger rush to her face, unbidden and terrifying in its intensity. She took a deep breath. “Get out.”

“Jane, be reasonable.”

Her face burned. “You’d like me to stand here while you question my virtue? You of all people? You had no trouble dispensing with it when you thought me an actress!”

Mark gave a long sigh. “For that I apologize. I was a fool. I never should have thought that someone like you...” He motioned toward her helplessly.

“Someone like me? Who might that be? Am I a lady? Am I a seamstress? Am I a whore? You don’t seem to like me as any of these things, so why don’t you tell me, Mark, who I ought to be. What kind of a woman am I?”

He took her wrists in his hands and held them to his chest, the irritation in his face replaced by something that looked a bit like shame. “That’s not what I meant.” He lowered his voice, his face close enough that she could smell the tobacco in his clothes. “Do as you please. It makes no difference to me.”

Jane’s fingers spanned his chest of their own accord, responding to his warmth. “It doesn’t?”

He shook his head, his eyes settling on her lips. “I don’t want you to get hurt,” he confessed.

She resisted the urge to lean into him with some difficulty. “I’ve done fine this far.”

“Have you?” He took her hand, turning her palm upwards to examine the damage: pinpricks, swollen fingertips, the ghosts of calluses forming where she grasped the shears.

She tugged her hand away from him but he didn’t let go. He held her gaze, his eyes searching hers, and she was struck again by their extraordinary color. Deep blue, green, and grey, shifted across his irises in restless, churning waves, the color of a storm on the river. They darkened as he raised her hand to his mouth and kissed the palm, the touch of his lips like a balm on her sore skin.

Jane held her breath, waiting to drown.

He smiled his crooked smile, a touch of condescension in the corners. “If all you wanted was another night, you didn’t have to go to such trouble.”
***

Other Books in This Series

Tyburn (The Southwark Saga, Book 1): Notorious harlot Sally Green fights for survival in Restoration London. When a brutal attack throws them together, Sally is torn between the tutor who saves her and the highwayman who keeps her awake at night; between new love and an old need for revenge. Finalist for the Southern Magic Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence 2015. 

ARe | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Liquid Silver

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cross-Genre Paranormal Romance: Demon's Bounty by Jocelyn Dex

Thanks for having me here today!

Demon’s Bounty is a cross between erotic paranormal romance and urban fantasy. It features a fun cast of characters including: demons, a siren, a dog, a witch and others. Check out the blurb and excerpt below and if it sounds good to you, I hope you’ll give it a read.

Demon’s Bounty, Book 1 in Hunting Hell 
Jocelyn Dex

Welcome to the Network, a secret organization with a mission to hunt and kill rogue demons, a job best left to the experts. When the Network hires a siren named Lydie, things get a lot more complicated for veteran demon hunter Tanner, and a lot hotter. Passion ignites when Tanner decides to give in to his desires and sample what Lydie is offering in Demon’s Bounty, Book 1 of Jocelyn Dex's new paranormal series Hunting Hell.

Excerpt

“Nice place,” he said as he accepted her offer to sit.

“Thanks.” She treated him to a dazzling smile that formed a lump in his throat. The urge to reach out and touch her golden hair and lick her pink lips deluged him. “Can I get you anything?”

Had he imagined the suggestiveness in her tone? Probably. As much as he wanted her, he was probably projecting his wants onto her. He cleared his throat and tried to keep from ogling her. “No thanks. The man you left with tonight, I need to know where you dropped him off.”

She leaned in a little closer, giving him a better view of her ample cleavage. “Hmm. Are you sure you wouldn’t like a drink?”

He needed to keep his cool, remain in character, but her nearness was driving him nuts. He couldn’t remember the last time a female had affected him so profoundly. She exuded an energy, a vibe, that made him want things he didn’t have a name for. “I’m sure. The  man?”

“He isn’t a problem. Forget him.” She reached out and gave his thigh a little squeeze as if to accentuate her words.

His dick instantly hardened, and his thoughts muddied. What were they talking about? Rubbing his temples, he strained to remember. Oh yeah. The demon. His bounty for killing the demon. “Mi—Lydie,” he corrected, “it’s important you give me his location. He’s dangerous. You’re lucky you weren’t hurt.”

That magical laugh drifted through his mind again, compelling him, mellowing him. “He didn’t seem all that dangerous to me. And see”—she stood, did a twirl, and sat back down next to him, closer than before—“I’m all in one piece.”

Yeah, one exquisite piece she was. “You got lucky. Now where did you take him?”

“You have sexy eyes…officer.” She leaned forward as if to get a better look. “I’ve always preferred dark eyes on a male, and yours are the darkest I’ve ever seen.”

With her face so close to his, her sweet breath caressing his cheek, he barely fought back the desire to kiss her, ravage her. She affected him like no other. Her essence pulled at him, drew him in, but he had to fight it, just a little longer. When he got the information from her, he’d make quick work of killing the demon and delivering the body to D, and then he’d be back here to put out the fire that was obviously burning between them. “Thanks,” he choked out. “About the man…”

“There’s no man but you, here, right now,” she said. Her voice raised an octave, the most melodic sound he’d ever heard, the trickling lull of the wall fountain a perfect backdrop to the melody.

Brain feeling fuzzy, dick hardened to granite, he again fought to remember why he was there. “You, uh…” He couldn’t remember. All he knew, in this moment, was that a goddess sat next to him, and if he didn’t touch her soon, he’d die.
***

Buy Demon’s Bounty

About Jocelyn

Jocelyn was born in Iowa and currently resides in hot-as-hell Texas. She shares her home with her very own 6'4" alpha male and varying numbers of spoiled cats and dogs. Teaching one of her dogs to file his nails is one of her all-time favorite accomplishments. 

She thinks dragonflies are awesome, spiders are creepy, and it’s rumored that she sleeps with a machete by her bed in case zombies attack in the middle of the night. 

Jocelyn writes paranormal and contemporary romances that include humor, lust, love, and four-letter words on the way to a Happily-Ever-After.

Here’s where you can find Jocelyn on the web
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads

Thanks for stopping by and reading!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cover Reveal: Her Heart's Surrender by Allison Merritt


One woman will turn the tide of battle by risking everything for the man she loves.

Taken from her village as a child, Ealasaid has lived under the iron rule of a Viking king for far too long. The only good to come out of her life is her son. As long as the king lives, their freedom and hope for the future seems dismal. Despite her contempt for the king and his bloodline, she's drawn to Hella Ingvasson, the man who kidnapped her, and the plight he faces when the king dies.

His father's final demand is that Hella must wed if he's to claim the throne. What better revenge than to marry the thrall his father hated most? Despite her fears Hella will become like his father, Ealasaid agrees to marry for her son’s sake, but she quickly learns her husband’s battle scarred body provides more pleasure than nightmares.

Word comes that her brothers also survived the raid and have assembled an army. They march toward a Norse settlement with the intention of revenge. Unless she can reach her brothers and convince them not to slaughter the man and people she's come to love, Hella may become another bloody stain on history's tapestry.

Excerpt

“You seem troubled, Hella.” His name rolled from her lips smooth as wind through the oaks. “Shall I send for Erik or Bjorn? Company might soothe your nerves.”

Erik would have to be informed of Ingvar's plan should Hella fail to marry, but he didn't want to share it yet. “They'll suggest we drink ourselves blind and let the problem wait for tomorrow. There are not enough tomorrows to prevent my trouble.”

Her lips puckered, a clear sign she wanted to ask, but there were limits to her curiosity.

There wasn't any harm in telling her. Everyone would learn his plight soon enough. “It's about my father's last wish.”

“Ingvar speaks from beyond the death veil.” She quirked an eyebrow. “What does the old king require you to do? Will you unite Northumbria to conquer Byzantium or Spain?”

“No, it's much more difficult.” He tore the end off the bread and ripped it into little bits. “I must take a wife or lose Solstad.”

Ealasaid stared, then burst into laughter.

“I'm pleased my troubles amuse you.” He smashed his hand on top of the crumbs. “Explain how my misfortune is a cause for laughter.”

She wiped tears from her eyes. “You've fought battles others would run from. You grew up in the White Raven's shadow. You take what you want and leave nothing behind. I find it difficult to see how marriage is a horror you cannot face.”

“Indeed, my sorrows are reason for mirth.” He shoveled scalding soup into his mouth and swallowed. She wouldn't have dared talk to his father this way, but Ealasaid had never held her tongue around him. “Be gone. Instruct another thrall to bring the rest of my courses.”

“You must have dozens of conquests. Surely one would make a suitable wife for the new king of Solstad.” She twirled a pale strand of hair around her finger. “Inga the butcher's daughter? She's fair of face and quick to laugh. Or Giera. The daughter of some jarl or the other north of here.”

“You're not helping. Go on, leave.”

“As you wish, m'lord.” She curtsied then turned for the door. “May the gods resolve your inheritance issues and favor you with a mighty queen and a hundred strong Viking babies born with clubs in their hands.”
***
About the Author

A love of reading inspired Allison Merritt to pursue her dream of becoming an author who writes historical, paranormal and fantasy romances, often combining the sub-genres. She lives in a small town in the Ozark Mountains with her husband and dogs. When she's not writing or reading, she hikes in national parks and conservation areas.

Allison graduated from College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri with a B.A. in mass communications that's gathering dust after it was determined that she's better at writing fluff than hard news.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

New Release: Playing the Part by Lynn Rae


The last thing jaded action star Thomas Locke expects to find on location is a curvy driver who jump-starts his heart.

Playing the Part
Book Three of the Love Around the Corner series
By Lynn Rae
Published by Liquid Silver Books, 23 March 2015
ASIN: B00UG0BVSO

Independent Melanie Sheraton has to hustle for odd jobs in her small town to eke out a living. When the opportunity to act as a driver for some movie folks comes up, she jumps at the chance to earn an extra paycheck. What she didn’t bank on was one of her passengers invading her imagination, something she resists since no movie star would ever be interested in her.

At a crossroads in his professional life, action star Thomas ‘Wheeler’ Locke is in Ohio for a role he hopes will launch his career in a new, serious direction. Instead of concentrating on his acting, he finds himself growing more and more distracted by his feisty driver and her irascible ways.

Dancing around the attraction growing between them, both Mel and Thomas struggle to maintain their distance as the time for filming grows short. Will a reunion at the movie’s London premiere bring them together, or will their disparate lives keep them apart?


Connect with Lynn Rae at her website and on Facebook

Monday, March 23, 2015

World Building in an Established World: Guest Post by Rosanna Leo

I’d like to thank Jessica for hosting me. Not only are we pub sisters at Liquid Silver Books, I’m a huge fan.

One of the reasons I admire Jessica’s work is her ability to create worlds. In Tyburn, she swept us away to historic London. The reader feels and smells and tastes everything the characters do.

World building is just as important in a contemporary romance, although it may not feel the same. After all, in the cases of contemporaries, the “world” or setting is one we recognize. It is generally the world in which we live, although it may feature more glamorous aspects.

I am always conscious of making my readers feel they’ve entered a new world in my books, even if it is similar to one they’ve encountered. In my latest romance, The Stand-In, the world is modern-day Toronto, Canada … my home town. The action takes place at banquet halls, churches, pubs, strip joints and downtown office towers. These are places we know. The characters are ones you might encounter on the street. The situations, plausible. So how did I endeavor to make this world unique?

Detail, detail, detail.

While not beating the readers over the head, I try very hard to engage their senses. When hero Patrick enters his old friend Jake’s office, he waxes poetic about the designer leather furniture. It is my hope that you not only smell the fine leather but that you feel it cushion you as he sits in the expensive office chair. When heroine Winn tries on the poufy coral dress for her first wedding date with Patrick, I try to describe it in such a way you will feel the soft caress of exquisite fabric.

World building also comes through in how characters speak to each other. In a paranormal or sci-fi romance, an author might employ interesting patterns of speech. She might create her own language, in fact. In contemporary romances, I like to see dialogue that sounds natural, the way I might speak with a friend, using slang and colloquialisms. It really helps a story flow. There is nothing more stilted than speech which is inappropriate to the situation.

Every fictional world has rules, and the same goes for romances set in modern times. There are certain things you do, and others you just don’t. In describing the way a character works and plays, think about what you would do in the same situation. Do your characters uphold those unwritten rules of behavior? If so, then you’re on your way to creating a great world.

I hope you enjoy The Stand-In. Thanks for reading.

The Stand-In

She’s the best bridesmaid money can buy.

Failed actress Winn Busby is at the end of her rope. With no money and no prospects, she accepts the one job she never thought she’d see on her résumé. Professional bridesmaid. It should be easy. If only the idea of weddings and vows didn't give Winn a case of the hives. Her role becomes more challenging when she's told a reporter will shadow her work for a men's magazine article. 

Working for Player Magazine is Patrick Lincoln's worst nightmare. A former political journalist, he used to write thoughtful columns for one of Toronto's most respected papers. That is, until he was blackballed for allegedly sleeping with the boss's wife. Overnight, Patrick becomes the city's most reviled bad boy. And now he's forced to write a seedy expose on, of all things, a bridesmaid.

Patrick begrudgingly accompanies Winn to a series of strange weddings. As they are forced to work together, he learns there is more to the stand-in bridesmaid than puffy dresses and pretty speeches. She, in turn, begins to question whether or not Patrick actually deserves the derision of his peers. As much as they fight their attraction, it begins to threaten their work and their sanity. 

For so long, Winn has felt second-best. A stand-in. She finally meets a man who believes in her value. But can she let go of the past and accept him?

Excerpt

She glanced at her computer screen again. “Let’s see. Ah, yes. We’ll have you meet with Winn. And by the way, she’s lovely. She has the perfect look for this job. Accessible and fresh, but not intimidating. You’re in luck. She’s in the building right now.” She texted a command into her phone. “I’ll have my assistant send her right in.”

In the time it took Margie Kent to flash her very pearly whites, a knock sounded on the door. These stand-ins were prompt. He supposed that was good in any business.

“Come in, please,” Margie called.

Patrick lifted his gaze toward the door and watched as a pear-shaped blonde entered. Christ. Margie had called this woman unintimidating. He knew a few dozen men who’d be intimidated into next year by her girl-next-door sex appeal. Chin-length golden hair framed her pleasantly round face. Amazing cheekbones. Bright blue eyes and a body that looked made for squeezing. Just the thought of pressing that luscious flesh made him hard. If she was a high-class call girl, and if he had to pay for love, he might be tempted to pull out his wallet. He cleared his throat and thought of the day Jason Dietrich fired him, just to make his boner disappear.

Margie did the introductions in her singsong voice. “Winn Busby, this is Patrick Lincoln.”

She stuck her hand out. “A pleasure to meet you.”

As he shook her soft hand, Patrick waited for the old “that Patrick Lincoln?” but it never came. Thank God. Someone who didn’t know of his ruin.


Buy Links:


Rosanna Leo is a multi-published, erotic romance author with Liquid Silver Books. Several of her books about Greek gods, selkies and shape shifters have been named Night Owl Romance, Two Lips Recommended Reads and Top Picks at The Romance Reviews. When not writing, she can be found haunting dusty library stacks or planning her next star-crossed love affair. Her next contemporary romance, Vice, will be published Sept. 22/15 by Samhain Publishing.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cover Reveal: Light Beyond the Darkness by Tami Lund

Light Beyond the Darkness by Tami Lund
Genre: Paranormal
Release Date: April 27, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions @BookEnthuPromo


LightBeyondDarkness_Cover.jpeg


#Synopsis:


In the third installment of the Lightbearer series, lightbearer Carley Santiago and shifter Reid Hennigan are running from their pasts. Hiding in the human world, they meet and sparks fly. But what happens when Carley’s past threatens to ruin her relationship with Reid?

Carley was once the premier chef for kings - the King of the Lightbearers, that is. But when her mate pushes her over a cliff and she miraculously survives, she flees her home, the coterie, knowing he will want to finish the job. She figures hiding in the human world is the best way to ensure her own safety.

While working as a chef at one of Chicago's top restaurants, she meets Reid Hennigan, a lone shifter running from his own past. Carley tries to push him away - she wants nothing to do with anyone from the magical community - even a persistent shifter who insists he only wants to show her pleasure.

Reid Hennigan is another reject from Quentin Lyons' defunct pack. When he received word his pack master was dead, Reid ran away from his pack, from pack life, having no interest in being forced to be subservient to another abusive pack master. Unfortunately for Reid, shifters are hardwired to desire to be part of a pack, and he finds himself wandering aimlessly through life, with no clear idea of what to do next. When he stumbles upon the shy lightbearer while eating the best steak of his life, he discovers a new lease on life.

Reid sets out to woo the beautiful, broken lightbearer. Passion turns to love, and Reid figures his life is pretty damn perfect, despite no longer having a pack. But Carley has secrets of her own, and her secrets.

#MeettheAuthor


Tami Lund likes to live, love, and laugh, and does her best to ensure the characters in her books do the same. After they’ve overcome a few seemingly insurmountable obstacles first, of course.

When she’s not doing that, she’s a mom to two (growing far too fast) kids and a furbaby who conveniently forces her to exercise at least once a day. She’s also a wife to her own knight in shining armor who proposed in a way worthy of a romance novel.

Most of all, she loves to write. She figures it keeps her from going insane. Or at the very least, it keeps strangers from believing she is insane, because if she goes too long without writing the characters down on the computer, she tends to start talking to them. Out loud. Often, in public places.

Tami is multi-published, both self and with a few publishers, including Crimson Romance, Liquid Silver Books, and, (as of June 2015) Soul Mates Publishing.


#SocialLinks




#Excerpt


“He sent it back?” Carley asked in disbelief.

Sara nodded. “He said he can tell you didn’t make it, and he refuses to eat anything from this kitchen that does not come specifically from you. He suggested you could come out and talk to him about it.”

Carley shook her head and rolled her eyes. She would just bet he was open to her going out into the dining room to talk to him.

“Tell him I’m not making steaks tonight. Tell him I’m focusing on the vegetarian dishes,” she said suddenly. She grinned when Sara walked away. That ought to teach him.

The waitress returned a moment later. “He wants the vegetarian special,” she said. “And the key lime pie.” She tilted her head and gave Carley a quizzical look. “What’s going on with you and that guy? I thought you said you didn’t know him?”

“I don’t,” Carley insisted. “I know…someone close to him,” she said. She knew Tanner and his mother, Ariana, Finn, and Lisa, the shifters who were currently living in what had once been Carley’s home, the lightbearers’ coterie. Whether this shifter knew them or not, she had no idea. But they were the same species. That meant he was closer to them than any other species, right?

She washed her hands and nudged Eric away from the vegetable station. “He wants our vegetarian special? I’ll make him a vegetarian special,” she announced, and she set to work chopping every damn type of vegetable she could find.

When Sara returned with the empty plate from the shifter’s table, she held it up for Carley’s inspection and said, “He wants to speak to you. He said he’ll summon the manager if you don’t go out there.”

Carley’s heart sank. The manager would undoubtedly force the issue, if it was brought to his attention. He saw no reason why his chef wouldn’t want to go out into the dining room and schmooze customers.

“Fine,” she grumbled as she sliced a wedge from one of the key lime pies she had made earlier in the day. She deliberately dropped it onto its side on the plate and didn’t add garnish before shoving a few strands of hair behind her ear and stomping out of the kitchen.

“Here,” she said as she unceremoniously dropped the plate onto the table.

The shifter gave the sloppy slice of pie a cursory glance before lifting his pale blue eyes and focusing so wholly onto Carley that she was certain he saw absolutely nothing else in the room at the moment. How could someone be that focused? She didn’t think she’d ever had anyone pay her such full attention in her life.

She fidgeted, nervously twisting her hands together before she realized what she was doing and clasped them behind her back. The shifter continued to stare at her.

“You owe me for that one, Carley.”

She visibly jerked at the sound of his voice, low and deep and smooth as whiskey.

“For what?” she asked, wondering how in the world he knew her name and for what she could possibly owe him. As far as she knew, she’d never met the man before yesterday.

“That dinner. As enticing as it was eating something with your magical stamp on it, forcing me to eat vegetables does not put me in a particularly good mood.”

She blinked owlishly. “I didn’t force you to eat vegetables.”

“You refused to make me a steak.”

“Sean’s steaks are practically as good as mine,” she protested.

“‘Practically’ isn’t yours.”

With a great deal of effort, she pulled her gaze away from his and made a swift perusal around the restaurant. All human, and none were paying them any particular attention, other than the ones she knew were listening at the door behind her.

“Do I know you?” she asked.

“Not yet,” he replied.

She frowned. “What is that supposed to mean?”

His voice pitched low. “It means I intend to get to know you, every inch of you, from the inside out. I intend to possess you. I intend to do things—” He reached for her, and she pulled away as if he was about to hit her. He froze, mid-reach and mid-sentence. And then he slowly lowered his hand.

“You’ve been abused,” he stated, matter-of-factly.

She shook her head, trying to deny it. Don’t go there. Don’t go there.

“Past lover?”

She shook her head again. How had the conversation turned to this?

“Family member then.”

“No,” she finally managed to get out.

“Who?”

“Stop,” she said as she lifted her hand, palm facing out. “Just stop. This is none of your business. I don’t know you. I don’t even know your name, and I have no idea how you know mine. I—” He cut her off.

“My name is Reid. And one of your employees referred to you by name yesterday, when I went into the kitchen to meet you.”

“Fine. Fine. Reid. Look, Reid, obviously you know what I am, and I know what you are. So can we just be honest with each other? What do you want from me?”

“I was in the middle of telling you when you flinched away as if you expected I would hit you.”

Carley blew out a breath. Damned instincts. But it was hard to change the only way she knew how to interact with men.

“I don’t know how you found me, but—”

“It was purely by accident.”

She drew in a ragged breath. “Fine. By accident. Whatever. Look, I’m trying to establish a nice, normal life here. One that doesn’t involve shifters or lightbearers or anyone else from the magical community for that matter. That means there isn’t any room in that nice, normal life for you. So the best thing for you to do is just finish up that key lime pie and go back to whatever pack you came from, okay?”

“I can’t go back,” he replied. “And it isn’t acceptable that you have no room in your life for me.”

Was he serious? She stared at him. He certainly looked serious. If he was joking, he was doing a damn fine job of acting deadpan. Too fine a job.

“I don’t understand,” she finally said.

“Which part?”

She flapped her hand. “All of it. What do you mean, it isn’t acceptable? Since when do you have any say in my life?”

“Since I entered it and decided I want you.”

She stared again, her jaw falling open. “You want—”

“You.”

“Me?”

“Clearly it isn’t for your quick wit.”

She snapped her mouth shut and stabbed her finger at the restaurant entrance. “Get out of my restaurant. You can’t have me. Get out. Now.” She didn’t wait to see if he complied. She turned and stalked back into the kitchen with her head held stiffly, refusing to turn around and look at him again. She didn’t need to, to know he was watching her. Lights above, she could feel the intensity of his stare without having to look.

Just as soon as the kitchen door swung shut behind her, she leaned against the wall and took great, gasping breaths. Her entire body shook as if she was in shock. Hell, she probably was.

Someone thrust a glass into her hand. The stench of bourbon assaulted her nose.

“Drink,” Vivian commanded. Carley obediently drank, and then sputtered and gasped when the amber liquid slid down her throat.

“What did he do to you?” Vivian demanded, clearly having decided she was coherent enough to speak of the incident.

“Nothing,” Carley said.

“Well, what happened, then? You’re shaking like a leaf. Something scared the crap out of you. What was it?”

Carley shook her head, but Vivian was a tenacious human being. Finally, Carley admitted, “I’ve never stood up to a man like that before.”

Vivian looked at her as if she’d just sprouted an alien head. Carley shook her head again.

“My father—he wasn’t exactly the most loving parent. And I ended up in a really bad relationship,” she said, conscious of the fact that she’d never spoken of this to anyone, not since the day she left the coterie, five months ago. “I never had the option to say no.” She smiled, just a little. “It sort of felt good.”

“Hell yeah, it did,” Vivian said fiercely. But then she frowned. “Problem with those types, though, is that they generally see someone like you as a challenge.”

“What does that mean?” Carley asked in alarm.

“It means that I doubt this is the last we’ve seen of Mr. Rare Steak.”


***

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Other Books in the Series:


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Dawning of the Light (Book Two)


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Friday, March 6, 2015

See the Setting of the Southwark Saga!

Hi everybody,

If the setting of the Southwark Saga feels a little unfamiliar to you (or if you just want more of it!), you can now experience it for yourself. Well, almost! Six students from De Montfort University have made this incredible three minute animation of London before the Great Fire in 1666. The Southwark Saga begins in 1671, but most of London and Southwark would have still looked like this. Check it out to fly through the streets past churches, pubs, and even gallows, and notice the beautiful architecture that has long since been replaced. One of those tall houses with the projecting top floor could be Mark's!

This is too awesome not to share. Enjoy!


Sunday, March 1, 2015

10 Welsh Castles to Celebrate St. David's Day

Today is the feast day of Saint David, the patron Saint of Wales. It is a public holiday in Wales not unlike Saint Patrick's Day in Ireland, and is celebrated with parades, festivals, and other cultural events. It is a day to celebrate Wales and Welsh culture around the world, so I thought I would share some of what I love about Wales with you today.

I was lucky enough to go to Swansea University for both of my degrees and I lived in Wales for seven years. There are so many things I love about Wales that it would be difficult to summarize in a single blog post, so I'm going to focus on one of my favorite things: the castles! 

As I'm a historical romance author with a degree in Medieval History, it might not surprise you to hear that I love castles. If you like castles, too, you should know that Wales has more castles per square mile than any other country on earth, and they're all beautiful with dramatic locations and fascinating history. I got to visit many castles and other historical tourism attractions around Wales as a freelance journalist, so I have built up quite a collection of photos and Cadw brochures. Although I haven't seen every castle in Wales yet, I do have my favorites, and I thought I would share those with you today. 

In honor of St. David's Day, here are ten of my favorite castles of southern Wales:

10. Hay


Hay Castle in Hay-on-Wye is one of the last surviving castles of the Welsh marches. Built for defense by William de Braose in the late twelfth century, it was sacked by the last Prince of Wales, Llewelyn II in 1233. It was rebuilt by Henry III, and in 1660, the Jacobean mansion Castle House was built alongside it. Although it has been damaged by fire twice in the last hundred years, there's still much to see, and parts of the 18th century formal gardens can still be seen. Today, the castle is owned by the Hay Castle Trust, an organization devoted to the conservation of this historic monument. Preserving Hay Castle will take a lot of work, and the Trust has a vision to make the a center for education and culture. You can learn more about them here

It's well worth a visit, and not only for the history: Hay-on-Wye has a yearly festival of arts and literature visited by hundreds of thousands with lots of great guest authors. The town itself is the National Book Town of Wales and has more than two dozen bookstores, many specializing in used and rare books. 

9. Oystermouth


The first castle on this site was built in 1106 by William de Londres after Gower was captured by the Normans. Ten years later, it was burned by the Welsh of Deheubarth when they retook the Gower peninsula, and again in 1137 after it had been rebuilt. Henry III expelled the Welsh from the Gower in 1220 and gave it to John de Braose who at last built it in stone. Edward I even visited in 1284. The chapel was later improved by Aline de Mowbray, and much of it still stands today (see one of the fourteenth century windows, above). Oystermouth is located just outside of Mumbles, overlooking Swansea Bay, and has recently undergone a massive refurbishment by the National Assembly for Wales. Updates include a thirty-foot high glass viewing platform and bridge through the chapel to the windows on the other side. 

8. Weobley


Weobley Castle is a fortified manor house overlooking the Llanrhidian Marsh built more for comfort than defense by the de la Bere family in the twelfth century. While the walls are not what they once were (I climbed them) perhaps due to Owain Glyndwr's attack in 1403, the castle was built with many comforts, including private rooms, fireplaces, decorative windows, and multiple indoor toilets! 

7. Margam



Margam Castle is really a Victorian country house built between 1830 and 1840 during the Gothic Revival for Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot. It was designed by Thomas Hopper and Edward Haycock Snr. David Evans-Bevan bought it in 1941, but found it too large to live in, so the castle fell into disrepair. Restoration began after it was damaged by a fire in 1977. Today, the castle hosts ghost tours and is a popular setting for ghost hunter TV shows. Episodes of Doctor Who have also been filmed here. 

6. Laugharne


Now little more than a beautiful shell, Laugharne has a long and complicated history. The first castle on this site was built in 1116 by Robert Courtemain and served as the place where Henry II and Rhys as Gruffudd agreed to a treaty of peace in 1171. Rhys ap Gruffudd later burned it down in 1189 when the castle was retaken by the Welsh of Deheubarth after the death of Henry II. Rebuilt in 1215 by the Normans, Laugharne was promptly captured by Llewelyn the Great and destroyed in 1257 by Llewelyn ap Gruffudd. Although Sir John Perrot converted it into a Tudor mansion in the late sixteenth century, it suffered further damage by cannon fire in a week long siege during the Civil War, after which it was left as a romantic ruin. 

In more recent years, the castle has served as a place of inspiration for artists and writers. Here Richard Hughes wrote Hazard, and Dylan Thomas wrote his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. The nearby boathouse was home to Dylan Thomas and his family from 1949-1953 and still has much of original furniture. Well worth a visit! 

5. Carew


Carew Castle stands on a limestone bluff that has been used for military purposes for at least 2,000 years. The first stone keep was built on this site in 1100 by Gerald de Windsor. The castle was expanded almost continuously until the Carew family fell on hard times during the Black Death and it was mortgaged. Rhys ap Thomas expanded the castle again with luxurious Tudor apartments. Carew reverted to the crown in 1531 when Rhys' grandson was executed for treason by Henry VIII. Like Laugharne, it was acquired by Sir John Perrot and completed. The castle was repurchased by the Carew family in 1592 after Sir John Perrot died out of favor in the Tower of London. Although it was refortified by the Royalists during the Civil War, much of it was pulled down by the local Parliamentarians it was abandoned during the late seventeenth century. There's still plenty to see, though, and the grounds also contain Wales' only intact Tidal Mill built in the early nineteenth century. 

Oh, and it's haunted by a monkey.

4. Pembroke


Begun in 1093 by Arnulf de Montgomery, Pembroke has withstood sieges and survived the Civil War. Henry VII was born there in 1457. Enormous and wonderfully intact, Pembroke Castle is like a full-sized playground for adults. There are enough rooms, halls, and staircases in wonderful condition to keep you busy for hours, including the massive drum tower built in by none other than William Marshal (sigh!). You can climb the stairs and even sit on the top if you're brave, or try not to look down if you're not! There are few places where so much history is so accessible. It is without a doubt one of the best preserved castles in Wales. 

3. Cardiff 


Although parts of Cardiff Castle are medieval or even Roman, much of what you see today is the result of a nostalgic fever-dream that Bute had in the 19th century and built with the help of mad genius William Burges. This idea we have of the middle ages being particularly romantic is a result of hundreds of years of rose-tinted propaganda dating back to the early Arthurian Romances, and it hit a high point when the Industrial Revolution set people yearning for simpler times.

One of the best things to come out of this was the Arts & Crafts movement, and Cardiff Castle has some truly spectacular examples of art and art-architecture from it. I’ve been several times, and have never had the same tour twice. Here's a bonus picture of the library:


2. Caerphilly


Caerphilly Castle is the second largest castle in Britain. The only one bigger is Windsor! Built in the thirteenth century by Gilbert de Clare, it introduced concentric castle defenses to Wales and boasts "the most elaborate water defenses in all of Britain." Situated on an island surrounded by artificial lakes with fortified dams, Caerphilly withstood several attacks throughout the fourteenth century and eventually fell into disrepair until it was restored by the Bute family in the eighteenth century. Beautiful as it is well-designed, Caerphilly is a wonderful day out and can even be rented for weddings and other parties. Several episodes of Doctor Who have been filmed here, too! 

Some of Caerphilly's defenses:


And the hall:


1. Raglan


Of all the castles I’ve seen, Raglan may be my favorite. A fifteenth century castle in the Welsh Marches, Raglan is a newer castle than many in Wales, but is no less stunning for it. Sir William ap Thomas started it in 1432 and building continued under his son, William Herbert, the first Welshman to be made an earl. Expansions were made through the 17th century until the civil war. It resisted Cromwell’s army during a thirteen-week siege before it was surrendered and dismantled by parliament.

Enough of it remains that it’s well worth a visit. The hillside setting is beautiful in the summer, and swallows dart around the moat catching insects. As lovely as it is now, you can tell that it was stunning when it was still in use. If you have ever have the chance, be sure to see it. At only thirteen miles away from Tintern Abbey, you can’t beat it for location.

Bizarrely, the land Raglan was built on had previously belonged the Earls of Hereford following the Norman Invasion. I find this a particularly strange coincidence not because of the location (come on, Hereford is right there), but because there is an Earl of Hereford in my novels. By the time I’m writing in the 1670s, the title had gone extinct.

Happy St. David's Day!