#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #GuestPost : Leningrad: The People’s War (Leningrad, Book 1) #Leningrad – Rachel R. Heil @HeilRachelR #HistoricalFiction #WorldWarII

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

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Today I’m on the ‘Ride with the Moonlight’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have a guest post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Rachel R. HeilRachel R. Heil is a historical fiction writer who always dreamed of being an author. After years of dreaming, she finally decided to turn this dream into a reality with her first novel, and series, Behind the Darkened Glass. Rachel is an avid history fan, primarily focused on twentieth century history and particularly World War Two-era events. In addition to her love for history, Rachel loves following the British Royal Family and traveling the world, which only opens the door to learning more about a country’s history. Rachel resides in Wisconsin.

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Synopsis :

Book Title: Leningrad: The People’s War
Series: (Leningrad, Book 1)
Author: Rachel R. Heil
Publication Date: February 5, 2021
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 326 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Rachel R. HeilLeningrad, 1941. As Europe crumbles under the German war machine, the people of the Soviet Union watch. There are whispers of war but not loud enough for the civilians of Len-ingrad to notice. Instead, they keep their heads down and try to avoid the ever-watching eyes of their own oppressive government.
University student Tatiana Ivankova tries to look ahead to the future after a family tragedy that characterizes life under the brutal regime. But, when the rumors that have been circulating the country become a terrifying reality, Tatiana realizes that the greatest fear may not be the enemy but what her fellow citizens are prepared to do to each other to survive.
As his men plow through the Russian countryside, Heinrich Nottebohm is told to follow orders and ask no questions, even if such commands go against his own principles. His superiors hold over him a past event that continues to destroy him with every day that passes. But, when given the opportunity to take an act of defiance, Heinrich will jump at the chance, ignoring what the end results could be.
Leningrad: The People’s War tells the harrowing beginning of a war that forever changed the landscape of a city, told through the eyes of both sides in a tale of courage, love, and sacrifice.

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Guest Post :

Leningrad is a fascinating city. Over the course of the twentieth century, the city went through three name changes, was the epicenter of the Russian Revolution, lost its designation as the capital of Russia, and was the sight of one of history’s worst sieges. Indeed, I was surprised to find very few fictional works set during this time period, in a city that had seen so much history in such a short amount of time.
While Leningrad: The People’s War is set in the first year of the war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, events from the past also play a crucial role in the characters’ decisions and motivations. In addition to being the site of the October Revolution, Leningrad also had the unfortunate honor of being the place where the Great Purge began, a critical event that is touched on throughout Leningrad.
On December 1, 1934 Leningrad’s highly popular First Secretary Sergei Kirov was assassinated in his office. While Kirov’s assassin, Leonid Nikolayev, was quickly arrested, the event gave Joseph Stalin the opportunity to begin purging the country of “kulaks” and other enemies of the state, which included members of the old bourgeoisie, peasants, ethnic minorities, churchgoers, family members of earlier repression victims, and anyone with foreign connections or knowledge of a foreign language. Based on how swift and extensive the purge was, it has laid credence to the idea that Stalin arranged for the assassination of his friend so he had an excuse to implement his wave of violence. The Great Terror lasted until 1938 with approximately 40,000 people from Leningrad alone being executed for varying reasons.

Sergey Kirov
Sergey Kirov

By June 1941, life in Leningrad had returned to what passed as normalcy under Stalin and I wanted to depict this new normalcy in the first few chapters of Leningrad. When one typically thinks of this year in history, especially in the context of World War Two, one has images of bombings and the unimaginable fear people were facing with the German war machine being undefeated. Yet, the Soviet people didn’t have this leading up to the invasion. The atmosphere and feelings that my characters feel are based on survivors’ testimony and from what I found, very few gave Nazi Germany much thought.
Shortly before the invasion of Poland, Hitler and Stalin had signed a nonaggression pact that many Soviet people believed would prevent Hitler from invading. We do know that Stalin believed one day Hitler would invade, but that it wouldn’t happen for some time. In fact, Stalin was so confident that he allowed his top advisor in Leningrad, Andrei Zhdanov, to leave on June 19th for a six-week holiday. Stalin’s confidence had infected the whole of the country, including the people of Leningrad, a feeling I wanted to recreate in Leningrad, making the characters’ hopes and plans for the future all the more stomach turning in light of what the reader knows will eventually happen.

A satirical drawing of the non-aggression pact signed by Hitler and Stalin in 1939
A satirical drawing of the non-aggression pact signed by Hitler and Stalin in 1939

Stalin and Leningraders’ false confidence was decimated on June 22, 1941, when the Germans invaded. Leningrad changed overnight, transforming into a frontline city, consumed by fear and suspicion. One of the astounding facts I learned during my research was that the Soviet authorities did very little to prepare its citizens for the Germans potentially reaching Leningrad. While I was aware that the Soviet Union was vastly unprepared, I had not known that the Soviet leadership had done the bare minimum to protect Leningraders.
A prime example of this was that the government did not evacuate women, children, and the elderly until the last minute, resulting in hundreds of deaths in the months to come. Any parent who did try to get their children out of the city were viewed as traitors and even when some pressed ahead, they ended up sending their children on trains whose destinations included cities that would eventually be taken by the Germans. Frantically, Soviet authorities would attempt to evacuate these children from those cities, but ultimately faced a deadly end that their parents had tried to avoid by sending them out of Leningrad. When the Soviets did realize the Germans would reach Leningrad and started allowing for individuals to be evacuated, the process was so unorganized that many people never reached their final destination, because they were either attacked by German planes or the train was re-routed and ended up getting stuck behind enemy lines.
The biggest aspect I wanted to capture when creating Leningrad in the book was the palpable fear everyone felt. The Soviet people were used to looking over their shoulder, viewing everyone as a possible informant that could turn them into the NKVD, the secret police. But, with the added stress of war and the unknown of the future, that fear nearly broke every Leningrader left in the city. There were constant rumors being shared among citizens, some which were complete falsities and others which did have a tinge of truth to them. The situation was made worse by the fact that Leningrad’s government shared very little with their people, and if anyone did step out of line and ask questions the Party didn’t want to answer, they were hastily silenced. It was not uncommon for civilians to be executed for sharing news of another city falling to the German Army or pocketing a leaflet that German planes dropped over Leningrad.

The fire of anti-aircraft guns in front of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral during the defense of Leningrad, 1941
The fire of anti-aircraft guns in front of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral during the defense of Leningrad, 1941

Amazingly, I still think the Soviet authorities and Leningraders believed the city would be spared, an idea that was shattered on September 8, 1941. That day was the day the German Army completely encircled the city and they released one of their worst air attacks on Leningrad. It’s an event that plays a very critical role in Leningrad as I believe that was the day that many Leningraders began to realize the unimaginable situation they were in and it was the moment that Leningrad forever changed.
I’m fascinated by cities as they hold so many stories that are just waiting to be told. Leningrad, or Saint Petersburg as it is named now, is one of those cities that had a unique role in history and I hope Leningrad: The People’s War gets readers more interested in the city’s history and how it played into the complicated story that was the war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #HarlequinTradePublishingBlogTour @htp_books / #Excerpt : The German Wife #TheGermanWife – Kelly Rimmer @KelRimmerWrites @GraydonHouse @HarperCollins

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

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Today I’m on the ‘The German Wife’ blogtour, organized by Harlequin Trade Publishing Blog Tour.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

author photo_KellyRimmer_credit Bree Bain PhotographyKelly Rimmer is the worldwide, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Before I Let You Go, The Things We Cannot Say, and Truths I Never Told You. She lives in rural Australia with her husband, two children and fantastically naughty dogs, Sully and Basil. Her novels have been translated into more than twenty languages.

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Synopsis :

author photo_KellyRimmer_credit Bree Bain PhotographyThe enmity between two women from opposing sides of the war culminates in a shocking event as anti-German sentiment sweeps America, when the aristocratic wife of a German scientist must face the social isolation, hostility and violence leveled against her and her family when they’re forced to relocate to Alabama in the aftermath of WWII. For fans of Beatriz Wiliams, Pam Jenoff, and Kristin Harmel.
Berlin, 1934—Ilse Meyer is the aristocratic wife of a scientist whose post-WWI fortunes change for the better when her husband, Jurgen, is recruited for Hitler’s new rocket program. Although Ilse and Jurgen do not share the popular political views rising in Germany, Jurgen’s new job forces them to consider what they must sacrifice morally for their financial security. But too late they realize the Nazi’s plans to weaponize Jurgen’s technology as they begin to wage war against the rest of Europe.
Huntsville, Alabama, 1949—Jurgen is one of hundreds of Nazi scientists offered pardons and taken to the US to work for the CIA’s fledgling space program. Ilse, now the mother of four, misses Germany terribly and struggles to fit in among the other NASA wives, who look upon her with suspicion. In a moment of loneliness, she confesses to a neighbor, Rachel Carlson, about Jurgen’s membership in the SS and her resentment for being forced to live in a country that will always see her as the enemy. What she doesn’t know is that she has trusted the wrong neighbor.
When the scandalous news about the Meyer family’s affiliation with the Nazi party spreads, idle gossip turns to bitter rage, and the act of violence that results will tear apart a community and a family before the truth is finally revealed—but is it murder, revenge or justice?

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Excerpt :

1
Sofie
Huntsville, Alabama 1950


“WAKE UP, GISELA,” I MURMURED, GENTLY SHAKING my daughter awake. “It’s time to see Papa.”
After the better part of a day on a stuffy, hot bus, I was so tired my eyes were burning, my skin gritty with dried sweat from head to toe. I had one sleeping child on my lap and the other leaning into me as she sprawled across the seat. After three long weeks of boats and trains and buses, my long journey from Berlin to Alabama was finally at an end.
My youngest daughter had always been smaller than her peers, her body round and soft, with a head of auburn hair like mine, and my husband’s bright blue eyes. Over the last few months, a sudden growth spurt transformed her. She was now taller than me. The childhood softness had stretched right out of her, leaving her rail thin and lanky.
Gisela stirred, then slowly pushed herself to a sitting position. Her eyes scanned along the aisle of the bus as if she were reorienting herself. Finally, cautiously, she turned to look out the window.
“Mama. It really doesn’t look like much…”
We were driving down a wide main street lined with small stores and restaurants. So far, Huntsville looked about as I’d expected it would—neat, tidy…segregated.
Minnie’s Salon. Whites Only.
Seamstress for Colored.
Ada’s Café. The Best Pancakes in Town. Whites ONLY!
When I decided to make the journey to join my husband in America, segregation was one of a million worries I consciously put off for later. Now, faced with the stark reality of it, I dreaded the discussions I’d be having with my children once we had enough rest for productive conversation. They needed to understand exactly why those signs sent ice through my veins.
“Papa did tell us that this is a small town, remember?” I said gently. “There are only fifteen thousand people in Huntsville and it will be very different from Berlin, but we can build a good life here. And most importantly, we’ll be together again.”
“Not all of us,” Gisela muttered.
“No, not all of us,” I conceded quietly. Loss was like a shadow to me. Every now and again, I’d get distracted and I’d forget it was there. Then I’d turn around and feel the shock of it all over again. It was the same for my children, especially for Gisela. Every year of her life had been impacted by the horrors of war, or by grief and change.
I couldn’t dwell on that—not now. I was about to see my husband for the first time in almost five years and I was every bit as anxious as I was excited. I had second-guessed my decision to join him in the United States a million or more times since I shepherded the children onto that first bus in Berlin, bound for the port in Hamburg where we boarded the cross-Atlantic steamship.
I looked down at my son. Felix woke when I shook his sister, but was still sitting on my lap, pale and silent. He had a head of sandy curls and his father’s curious mind. Until now, they’d never been on the same continent.
The first thing I noticed was that Jürgen looked different. It was almost summer and warm out, but he was wearing a light blue suit with a white shirt and a dark blue bow tie. Back home, he never wore a suit that color and he never would have opted for a bow tie. And instead of his customary silver-framed glasses, he was wearing a pair with thick black plastic frames. They were modern and suited him. Of course he had new glasses—five years had passed. Why was I so bothered by those frames?
I couldn’t blame him if he reinvented himself, but what if this new version of Jürgen didn’t love me, or was someone I couldn’t continue to love?
He took a step forward as we shuffled off the bus but didn’t even manage a second before Gisela ran to him and threw her arms around his neck.
“Treasure,” he said, voice thick with emotion. “You’ve grown up so much.”
There was a faint but noticeable American twang in his German words, which was as jarring as the new glasses.
Jürgen’s gaze settled on Felix, who was holding my hand with a grip so tight my fingers throbbed. I felt anxious for both children but I was scared for Felix. We’d moved halfway across the world to a country I feared would be wary of us at best, maybe even hostile toward us. For Gisela and me, a reunion with Jürgen was enough reason to take that risk. But Felix was nervous around strangers at the best of times, and he knew his father only through anecdotes and photographs.
“Felix,” Jürgen said, keeping one arm around Gisela as he started to walk toward us. I could see that he was trying to remain composed, but his eyes shone. “Son…”
Felix gave a whimper of alarm and hid behind my legs.
“Give him time,” I said quietly, reaching behind myself to touch Felix’s hair. “He’s tired and this is a lot to take in.”
“He looks just like—” Jürgen’s voice broke. I knew the struggle well. It hurt to name our grief, but it was important to do so anyway. Our son Georg should have been twenty years old, living out the best days of his life. Instead, he was another casualty of a war that the world would never make sense of. But I came to realize that Georg would always be a part of our family, and every time I found the strength to speak his name, he was brought to life, at least in my memories.
“I know,” I said. “Felix looks just like Georg.” It was fitting that I’d chosen Georg for Felix’s middle name, a nod to the brother he’d never know.
Jürgen raised his gaze to mine and I saw the depth of my grief reflected in his. No one would ever understand my loss like he did.
I realized that our years apart meant unfathomable changes in the world and in each of us, but my connection with Jürgen would never change. It already survived the impossible. At this thought, I rushed to close the distance between us.
Gisela was gently shuffled to the side and Jürgen’s arms were finally around me again. I thought I’d be dignified and cautious when we reunited, but the minute we touched, my eyes filled with tears as relief and joy washed over me in cascading waves.
I was on the wrong side of the world in a country I did not trust, but I was also back in Jürgen’s arms, and I was instantly at home.
“My God,” Jürgen whispered roughly, his body trembling against mine. “You are a sight for sore eyes, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes.”
“Promise me you’ll never let me go again.”
Jürgen was a scientist—endlessly literal, at least under nor¬mal circumstances. Once upon a time, he’d have pointed out all the reasons why such a promise could not be made in good faith—but now his arms contracted around me and he whispered into my hair, “It would kill me to do so, Sofie. If there’s one thing I want for the rest of my life, it’s to spend every day of it with you.”
“Many of our neighbors are Germans—most have just arrived in Huntsville in the last few weeks or months, so you will all be settling in together. There’s a party for us tomorrow at the base where I work, so you’ll meet most of them then,” Jürgen told me as he drove us through the town in his sleek black 1949 Ford. He glanced at the children in the rearview mirror, his expression one of wonder, as if he couldn’t believe his eyes. “You’ll like it here, I promise.”
We’d be living in a leafy, quiet suburb called Maple Hill, on a small block the Americans nicknamed “Sauerkraut Hill” because it was now home to a cluster of German families. I translated the street signs for the children and they chuckled at the unfamiliar style. Our new street, Beetle Avenue, amused Gisela the most.
“Is there an insect plague we should worry about?” she chuckled.
“I really hope so,” Felix whispered, so quietly I had to strain to hear him. “I like beetles.”
As Jürgen pulled the car into the driveway, I couldn’t help but compare the simple house to the palatial homes I’d grown up in. This was a single-story dwelling, with a small porch leading to the front door, one window on either side. The house was clad in horizontal paneling, its white paint peeling. There were garden beds in front of the house, but they were overgrown with weeds. There was no lawn to speak of, only patchy grass in places, and the concrete path from the road to the porch was cracked and uneven.
I felt Jürgen’s eyes on my face as I stared out through the windshield, taking it all in.
“It needs a little work,” he conceded, suddenly uncertain. “It’s been so busy since I moved here, I haven’t had time to make it nice for you the way I hoped.”
“It’s perfect,” I said. I could easily picture the house with a fresh coat of paint, gardens bursting to life, Gisela and Felix running around, happy and safe and free as they made friends with the neighborhood children.
Just then, a woman emerged from the house to the left of ours, wearing a dress not unlike mine, her long hair in a thick braid, just like mine.
“Welcome, neighbors!” she called in German, beaming.
“This is Claudia Schmidt,” Jürgen said quietly as he reached to open his car door. “She’s married to Klaus, a chemical engineer. Klaus has been at Fort Bliss with me for a few years, but Claudia arrived from Frankfurt a few days ago.”
Sudden, sickening anxiety washed over me.
“Did you know him—”
“No,” Jürgen interrupted me, reading my distress. “He worked in a plant at Frankfurt and our paths never crossed. We will talk later, I promise,” he said, dropping his voice as he nodded toward the children. I reluctantly nodded, as my heart continued to race.
There was so much Jürgen and I needed to discuss, including just how he came to be a free man in America. Phone calls from Europe to America were not available to the general public, so Jürgen and I planned the move via letters—a slow-motion, careful conversation that took almost two years to finalize. We assumed everything we wrote down would be read by a government official, so I hadn’t asked and he hadn’t offered an explanation about how this unlikely arrangement in America came to be.
I couldn’t get answers yet, not with the children in earshot, so it would have to be enough reassurance for me to know our neighbors were probably not privy to the worst aspects of our past.
Jürgen left the car and walked over to greet Claudia, and I climbed out my side. As I walked around the car to follow him, I noticed a man walking along the opposite side of the street, watching us. He was tall and broad, and dressed in a nondescript, light brown uniform that was at least a size or two too small. I offered him a wave, assuming him to be a German neighbor, but he scoffed and shook his head in disgust and looked away.
I’d been prepared for some hostility, but the man’s reaction stung more than I’d expected it to. I took a breath, calming myself. One unfriendly pedestrian was not going to ruin my first day in our new home—my first day reunited with Jürgen—so I forced a bright smile and rounded the car to meet Claudia.
“I’m Sofie.”
She nodded enthusiastically. “Since we arrived last week, you are all I’ve heard about from your husband! He has been so excited for you to come.”
“I sure have.” Jürgen grinned.
“Are you and the children coming to the party tomorrow?” Claudia asked.
“We are,” I said, and she beamed again. I liked her immediately. It was a relief to think I might have a friend to help me navigate our new life.
“Us too,” Claudia said, but then her face fell a little and she pressed her palms against her abdomen, as if soothing a tender stomach. “I am so nervous. I know two English words—hello and soda.”
“That’s a start,” I offered, laughing softly.
“I’ve only met a few of the other wives, but they’re all in the same boat. How on earth is this party going to work? Will we have to stay by our husbands’ sides so they can translate for us?”
“I speak English,” I told her. I was fluent as a child, taking lessons with British nannies, then honing my skills on business trips with my parents. Into my adulthood, I grew rusty from lack of speaking it, but the influx of American soldiers in Berlin after the war gave me endless opportunities for practice. Claudia’s expression lifted again and now she clapped her hands in front of her chest.
“You can help us learn.”
“Do you have children? I want Gisela and Felix to learn as quickly as they can. Perhaps we could do some lessons all together.”
“Three,” she told me. “They are inside watching television.”
“You have a television?” I said, eyebrows lifting.
“We have a television too,” Jürgen told us. “I bought it as a housewarming gift for you all.” Gisela gasped, and he laughed and extended his hand to her. I wasn’t surprised when she immediately tugged him toward the front door. She’d long dreamed of owning a television set, but such a luxury was out of reach for us in Berlin.
I waved goodbye to Claudia and followed my family, but I was distracted, thinking about the look of disgust in the eyes of that passing man.

Excerpted from The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer, Copyright © 2022 by Lantana Management Pty, Ltd. Published by Graydon House Books.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#MiniBlogBlitz #RachelsRandomResources @rararesources / #Excerpt : A Defiant Maiden’s Knight – Melissa Oliver @melissaoauthor @MillsandBoon @HarlequinBooks

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

A Defiant Maidens Knight

Today I’m on the ‘A Defiant Maiden’s Knight’ blogtour, organized by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

2wOPzYMAMelissa Oliver is from south-west London where she writes historical romance novels. She lives with her lovely husband and daughters, who share her passion for decrepit, old castles, palaces and all things historical.
Melissa is the WINNER of The Romantic Novelist Association’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers 2020 for her debut, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight.
When she’s not writing she loves to travel for inspiration, paint, and visit museums & art galleries.

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Synopsis :

A Defiant Maidens KnightA tense, dramatic medieval love story.
A knight’s protection…
That she doesn’t want…or need?
Joan Lovent may be losing her sight but she refuses to lose her independence too. So when Sir Warin de Talmont tells her it’s too perilous to be out alone in the city, she doesn’t pay him any heed. But with threats surrounding them, she begins to value his protection and helps with his dangerous work in return. If only the powerful connection between them wasn’t so impossible to ignore!

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Excerpt :

Warin de Talmont and his friend, Nicholas d’Amberly encounter Joan Lovent once again on the streets after she had agreed that she would no longer come to that part of London alone.

‘Sir Warin de Talmont?’ The woman had the temerity to grimace at him. ‘It seems that once again you have somehow found yourself in this part of London that you have a great dislike for.’
He smiled. Joan Lovent certainly had a spark of humour laced with her obvious irritation in finding him here again. ‘Ah, but I only dislike it when I happen upon you here, Mistress Joan.’
‘You put me to the blush, sir, by singling me out with these attentions. Truly—you honour me.’
‘I very much doubt it,’ he said wryly. ‘May I introduce my friend, Sir Nicholas d’Amberly?’
‘Of course. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, sir.’
She turned her head around, but something in the manner in which she spoke must have raised D’Amberly’s curiosity in her. The man’s brows shot up as he darted a quick quizzical glance in Warin’s direction before returning his attentions to the woman. Ah, d’Amberly had not been aware of Joan Lovent’s impaired eyesight and he had forgotten to inform him. After all, for Warin it was neither an important nor a pertinent fact about her. The woman was vexing with or without her diminishing sight.
‘Enchanted, Mistress Joan.’ D’Amberly caught the woman’s dainty hand and lowered his head over it. ‘I have heard so much about you.’
‘Have you indeed, sir? I am surprised.’
‘I do not see why. For once my friend has not been excessive in any way when describing your lovely appearance.’
Her lips curved into a real smile—one that she had never bestowed on him. ‘I thank you but I’m sure Sir Warin has grossly exaggerated.’
Nicholas d’Amberly flashed his devastating smile. One that had usually amused Warin at the absurdity at the impact it had on women—but not this time. This time it irritated him in a wholly unexpected manner.
‘I assure you that he has not.’
‘Thank you, sir, but I think it might be prudent to release my hand from yours as it might raise a few suspicions about your attentions to just an unassuming page.’
D’Amberly let go of her hand and tilted his head. ‘You see, mistress, how your beauty and graciousness, even dressed as you are, make me forget myself. In truth, I have quite forgotten where I am.’
This time Joan Lovent actually giggled, making Warin grind his teeth together. And not because he had never managed to make her laugh. Not that he cared about such trifles—the woman was nothing to him. Even so, it was irksome that she was actually enjoying this discourse with Nicholas d’Amberly. But then most women did.
‘Then allow me enlighten you, sir, for I would hate for you to get lost.’ She grinned. ‘You are on the corner of Honey Street in a part of London considered so terrible, so very bad, that our friend here has resorted to following me in attempt to intimidate me into never returning back here again.’
‘That is very poor form.’ D’Amberly shook his head. ‘However, I can vouchsafe that he does mean well.’
‘I do.’ Warin was beginning to get more and more aggravated with the mild flirtation between his friend and this woman. ‘And by and by, there was never an intimidation, rather an agreement that was made, Mistress Joan. An agreement, I might add, which you have soundly broken with this little outing.’
She had the good grace to blush before tilting her head up defiantly. ‘I’m afraid to say that when I thought about it at length I came to the conclusion that my prior vow to the souls of All Hallows must prevail.’
Warin’s face was like thunder. ‘Is that so, mistress?’
‘I’m afraid it is. But you will be heartened to know that my visit here is not entirely unsanctioned, since I informed my sister by marriage of it. Indeed, Brida acquiesced to my little outing here.’
Warin’s patience was becoming raggedly thin.
He moved a little to shield the woman from a moving cart, before responding.
‘You might believe that these jaunts might meet Mistress Brida’s approval, but be assured that they would not meet her husband’s—your brother’s.’
Warin noticed a muscle flick in her jaw. ‘Then it is good thing that Thomas is none the wiser, sir, and can only hope that it would remain so. I bid you a good day. Sir Nicholas, it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance,’ she muttered, turning to leave.
‘Wait one moment, if you please.’ Warin reached out and caught her wrist, preventing her from moving away. ‘As I have maintained before, this is not some jest, Joan. Nor is it a game.’
‘Have I said that it was?’ she whispered, looking up, hurt filling those pretty blue eyes of hers.
He needed to make the woman understand the situation far better. He needed her to cease being so bloody obstinate.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #ZooloosBookTours @ZooloosBT / #Excerpt : Twenty Sixteen #TwentySixteen – Lee Bullman #LeeBullman @SpellBoundBks

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

TwentySixteen Tour Poster

Today I’m on the ‘Twenty Sixteen’ blogtour, organized by Zooloo’s Book Tours.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Lee Bullman Author PhotoLee Bullman has something of a chequered past but he did once meet Michael Caine on a boat.
He is the author of the best-selling crime memoir Blowback, a collector of early 1960s R’n’B blasters and doesn’t really believe in anything.
When not writing he buys and sells antiques and loves a decent nineteenth century tapestry.
He has a son called Tom and lives with the visual artist Siena Barnes in the birthplace of the gothic imagination where they are restoring a nice old house and happily living the dream.

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Synopsis :

Lee Bullman Author PhotoTwo murders, committed over three decades apart, set in motion a modern noir detective story that plays out against the chaos of a Britain at odds with itself.
As Brexit bites and Britain begins to tear itself apart, DI Reider returns from a manhunt in Europe with a bullet hole in his shoulder and decides it’s time to retire from the force. But Reider hasn’t counted on his first case coming back to haunt him. He hasn’t counted on his career going full circle and he definitely hasn’t counted on Sasha Haye.
Angry and heartbroken, Sasha is seeking answers about the death of her boyfriend and Reider might just be the only person who can help her find them.
Against the backdrop of the referendum and its aftermath, the pair embark on a journey that brings them into contact with extremism, celebrity, politics and the world of vintage porn, as they attempt to unravel a murderous knot with threads that lead into the dark heart of the establishment, and a past which has a cold and unrelenting grip on the present.

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Excerpt :

Inna de boomtown

Coventry Central Police Station. Temporary Incident Room.
Sunday August 21st, 1982. 10.22pm

It’s riot night. We’re at the tail end of this long, hot summer and tensions have been rising since Spring, since the TV weathermen went to shirtsleeves and started using words like unprecedented and looking haunted and confused. We should have expected it, we should have seen the signs, read the runes, studied the entrails of dry, smashed birds on these grey city streets but now it’s too late and on the other side of town they’ve tied football scarves around their faces and gone into the homemade bomb business and taken us all by surprise. They’ve set the world on fire and Coventry nick is the first ring of hell.
Cold tea stagnates in the polystyrene cups with jagged half-moon bitten rims on desktops and filing cabinets and I’m the only man in the room not moving. Every other man in here is jacked up on hate and adrenaline, their rictus grimaces emerging here and there from the thick blanket of cigarette smoke hovering at shoulder height and staring at me without registering anything before sinking back into the fog.
The stuttering, percussive radio report emanating from wooden Philips speakers at the far end of the room is playing a running commentary from mobile units on the ground. Two hundred and fifty rioters are currently lighting up cars, tossing bricks through windows and looting shops along the length of the Foleshill Road. The tinny radio signal fights to be heard over the deep bass hum and fury of my esteemed colleagues, the policemen around me. All of them are gearing up for a fight, a ferocious buzz echoes through their demented hive, lit from above by six fizzing fluorescent tubes. Most of the forty-two officers, constables and recruits around me are wearing, carrying, or in the process of putting on matt black, padded riot gear, buckling buckles and tightening straps. The room is moving in slow motion and fast cuts. Some of the men in here are twenty-five years older than me but look like kids at a dressing up box getting ready to play war. A few of the telescopic batons and plexiglass shields are still smeared red with the blood of miners and hippies following recent outings to peace camps and picket lines. I stand amongst them like a ghost and the wall speaker feeds back with this ear-splitting high octave burst of fuzz and static and slices the room in half. The voice that emanates from the speaker belongs to Dave Housman, local copper, young, in the uniform for three months at most. He’s out of control, the fear in his voice is palpable, his training has deserted him and procedure has been replaced by panic.
“Oscar three nine, we’re at… at the corner of the Foleshill Road and Ryton Way, there must be fifty of them, they’re coming from everywhere… we need help, this is just…”
There’s another burst of static until Dave Housman’s hoarse, desperate cries mix with those of the other two officers with him in the car and cause everyone around me to freeze.
“Petrol bombs! they’re lighting fucking petr…”
Then the screams of the policemen fill the car they’re in and the room I’m in as flaming glass bottles smash through the windows of their panda car. The radio falls silent. A palpable, shared hatred for whoever just did that envelops the room and makes whatever happens for the rest of the night personal. The hatred blocks out what little air there was in the room and it chokes me.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #Excerpt : Clement: The Templar’s Treasure (Clement, Book 3) – Craig R. Hipkins @CraigHipkins #HistoricalFiction #YoungAdult #YAfantasy #Medieval

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Clement The Templar's Treasure Tour Banner

Today I’m on the ‘Clement: The Templar’s Treasure’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Craig R. Hipkins grew up in Hubbardston Massachusetts. He is the author of medieval and gothic fiction. His novel, Adalbert is the sequel to Astrolabe written by his late twin brother Jay S. Hipkins (1968-2018)
He is an avid long-distance runner and enjoys astronomy in his spare time.

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Synopsis :

Book Title: Clement: The Templar’s Treasure
Series: Clement (Book 3)
Author: Craig R. Hipkins
Publication Date: 4th May 2022
Publisher: Hipkins Twins
Page Length: 233 Pages
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Craig R. HipkinsClement & Dagena return for another action packed adventure. From the cold and dreary shores of Greenland to the fabled land of Vinland. The legendary treasure of the Knights Templar awaits.

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Excerpt :

Clement strapped on his belt and checked his dagger. He would not need his bow so he left it with Olaf in the shelter. They left quietly, in the dark, leaving Olaf with the remaining biscuits. The village was a few miles away. Pometecomet estimated it would take two hours to get there as they would not be using the trails for obvious reasons. It was still snowing, but not as heavy as the evening before. Clement could feel the cold air biting his face and pulled the hood of his cloak tighter. Except for his feet, Pometecomet’s legs were bare from the knees down. Clement wondered how he managed it in the cold, but it did not seem to bother him.
They wanted to arrive before dawn. The Nipmuck usually only kept a solitary guard near the entrance but there might be more than one on this morning. No doubt, Sven would have men on duty. Pometecomet was hoping Dagena would be sleeping with the other maidens in the small hut near the breach, but if not, they would be able to tell them where she was staying. Clement was dreading the worst possible scenario. Sven had her with him, or even worse, the sailor, Guy, who would probably be doing unthinkable things to her. He felt his blood boiling again and was impatient to get there. If Pometecomet was not here, he would probably be reckless and use the main trail. However, he was glad he was here. How would he know about the location of the village or the breach where they could enter the town undetected? He felt fortunate and blessed.
It was still dark when they arrived on the hill overlooking the village. Clement felt a lump in his throat. This was going to be dangerous and he might end up being captured or even killed; but he had no choice. Not only was Dagena counting on him, but Tristan’s life was also in peril. For a few minutes, the two boys crouched down among some boulders and observed the palisade. It was quiet. Mostly, everyone was sleeping. They could have probably entered through the narrow lane and quickly dispatched the lone sentry keeping watch, but if they did, it would come at a great risk. The sentry might be able to call out the alarm. Also, Clement knew his uncle would not be so careless. Undoubtedly, there were others tending to the fire and keeping a lookout on the camp. He could see the glow of a fire but, from their position, could not actually see the flames.
“What do you think?” Clement asked.
Pometecomet was rubbing his chin. His long dark braids fell across his face. He pointed toward a depression in the ground outside the sturdy posts that served as the town’s walls.
“That is where we will enter. Come…it is time. We need to do this before it is light.”
The snow was now coming down fast and heavy. It was turning into a white out as the two boys quickly and catlike moved down the wooded slope. If anyone had been watching, they would have mistaken them for ghosts. Pometecomet led the way. They were soon huddled together in the depression up against the posts. They could see the opening but it was only a few inches from the ground to the bottom of the posts. They began to dig frantically into the snow. It was not long before they had an opening a boy could fit through but not a grown man.
Pometecomet touched Clement on the shoulder. “I will go in first. If I am not back in the time it takes to walk the perimeter of this village, then I am caught and the game is up.”
Clement nodded. “I will be waiting but do hurry.”
Without replying, the Wampanoag boy slipped through the opening. Clement was on his belly, peering through the hole. He saw his friend disappear around the corner of the hut. The snow was now coming down in sheets. He had never seen it snow this hard. It was turning into a blizzard. He remembered his father talk about one storm that had stopped King Stephen’s army in its tracks on one of his campaigns against the Welsh.
He waited anxiously, getting impatient. He wondered if he would have had time to walk the perimeter of the village. He had decided if Pometecomet got caught, he would still go. That is just the way he dealt with things. He was about to despair when he saw his friend peek around the corner and motion for him to come. He crawled through the opening and joined Pometecomet behind the hut. A few of the girls were standing in the shadows, watching them. Would any of them betray them?
“Dagena is being held in a separate hut,” Pometecomet whispered. “They say she is all alone, except for a guard, who has been assigned to watch her. He is sitting on a log outside of the hut.”
Clement was biting his lower lip. His mind was in motion.
“Where is this hut?”
His friend looked grave.
“It is located on the other side of the village. It is isolated from the others. It is usually where the Nipmuck keep prisoners. You will recognize it because it is the only hut built right into the palisade and there is a small holly tree growing next to the entrance. Watch out for the guard. The maidens say he is a big Norman with a brown mole on his forehead. They say he is fierce and has been abusing the girl with the hair the color of the brightest autumn leaves.”
Clement’s eyes narrowed and he was clenching his fists. He pulled his dagger from its sheath.
“That is Guy. He is a dead man.”
Pometecomet placed a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder. He began to speak in his own tongue, in which Clement was now completely fluent.
“My friend; do not let your anger get in the way of your mission. You can get there undetected by following the narrow space between the palisade wall and the huts. I am going to help Weetamoe. I have told her about the boy, Tristan. She is gathering some supplies but needs my help to get them. I will meet you behind the boulders on the hill.”
They clasped hands and Clement watched his friend disappear into the darkness. For a second, he just stood there listening. The falling snow seemed to muffle nearly every sound, including his own footsteps as he cautiously crept around the backside of the huts along the palisade wall. He heard someone coughing in one of the huts. For the first time, he felt apprehensive and even a little frightened. What if he were captured before he got to Dagena? He quickly erased this thought from his mind. He was wearing the white cloak with the red cross of the Templar order. He suddenly felt empowered, almost invincible and omnipotent. He was not only a Templar Knight, but he was also their Seneschal. He was their leader. He could not fail. He would not fail.
He crept along in the snowy mist until he reached the last hut. Peering around the corner, he saw it. The small hut built into the palisade wall. He could see the lumbering form of Guy sitting cold and miserable on a stump blowing warmth into his hands and rubbing them together.
Clement’s eyes narrowed and he pulled his dagger from his sheath and boldly started forward. When he was about halfway across the open space Guy looked up and spotted him. Standing up, the sailor was at first confused, not recognizing who was approaching in the wintry mist. When he did finally realize it was the boy Templar, he was baffled. How had he managed to make it into the village? He had heard all about Clement’s former exploits and his supposed invincibility. Still, he did not believe a word of it. Clement, after all, was still only a boy and no match for him, a grown man twice his size and strength. Despite this, however, he felt it wise to treat this boy as a formidable opponent. He pulled his dagger from his sheath and grinned, showing his rotten teeth and grey gums. He started for the boy with his dagger raised.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #Excerpt : The Wistful and the Good – G. M. Baker @mbakeranalecta #HistoricalFiction

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

The Wistful and the Good Tour Banner

Today I’m on the ‘The Wistful and the Good’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

G. M. BakerG. M. Baker has been a newspaper reporter, managing editor, freelance writer, magazine contributor, PhD candidate, seminarian, teacher, desktop publisher, programmer, technical writer, department manager, communications director, non-fiction author, speaker, consultant, and grandfather. He has published stories in The Atlantic Advocate, Fantasy Book, New England’s Coastal Journal, Our Family, Storyteller, Solander, and Dappled Things. There was nothing much left to do but become a novelist.

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Synopsis :

Book Title: The Wistful and the Good
Series: Cuthbert’s People
Author: G. M. Baker
Publication Date: 4th April 2022
Publisher: Stories All the Way Down
Page Length: 341 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

G. M. BakerThe mighty are undone by pride, the bold by folly, and the good by wistfulness.
Elswyth’s mother was a slave, but her father is a thegn, and Drefan, the man she is to marry, is an ealdorman’s son. But though Elswyth is content with the match, and waits only for Drefan to notice that she has come to womanhood, still she finds herself gazing seaward, full of wistful longing.
From the sea come Norse traders, bringing wealth, friendship, and tales of distant lands. But in this year of grace 793 the sea has brought a great Viking raid that has devastated the rich monastery of Lindisfarne. Norse are suddenly not welcome in Northumbria, and when Elswyth spots a Norse ship approaching the beach in her village of Twyford, her father fears a Viking raid.
But the ship brings trouble of a different kind. Leif has visited Twyford many times as a boy, accompanying his father on his voyages. But now he returns in command of his father’s ship and desperate to raise his father’s ransom by selling a cargo of Christian holy books. Elswyth is fascinated by the books and the pictures they contain of warm and distant lands.
But when Drefan arrives, investigating reports of the sighting of a Norse ship, Elswyth must try to keep the peace between Drefan and Leif, and tame the wistfulness of her restless heart.

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Excerpt :

The more this sleepless wondering dragged on, the more she became convinced that Elswyth had done what Drefan had asked of her, against her own desire, of necessity, and in doing so had come to despise Drefan, and her mother as well. And with that thought in her head it became impossible for her to go on without knowing.
She rose therefore, and went in search of Elswyth. From the door of the sleeping house, she saw the form of her daughter crossing the compound before the hall. Elswyth saw her standing waiting in the doorway and stopped a few paces away. The message could not have been clearer, but Edith was seized by a heartache too strong to allow her to respect Elswyth’s wish to be alone. She went to her, and Elswyth waited where she was, looking at the ground rather than at her mother.
“I thought you went to bed,” Edith said.
“Couldn’t sleep,” Elswyth replied, her voice low and surly, her eyes still on the ground.
“Neither could I,” her mother replied.
“I want to go to bed now.”
“Where did you go?” The anguish Edith saw in Elswyth now was not two days old. It was of the very hour.
“I’m tired, Mother.”
“You are not happy.”
“I don’t have to be happy all the time.”
“But you have spent the evening with the man you are to marry, drinking wine, singing songs, telling tales. How can that not have made you happy?”
“Can’t I just go to bed?”
“Where did you go?”
“Mother, I’m tired…”
“Did you go to him?”
Elswyth stiffened, as if with alarm, then turned away from her mother towards the sea.
There seemed only one answer. Only one thing to ask. “Has Drefan asked you to lie with him? Are you wandering about here waiting for him?”
Elswyth turned back to her again. “Why shouldn’t I, if I want to?”
“Do you want to? Or is it because…”
“You didn’t wait.”
“I had nothing to wait for.”
“Father couldn’t have courted you without…”
“Hilda already thinks I am a trollop,” Edith said. “Darling, please not you too.”
“Weren’t you a trollop?”
“One man. In all my life I have lain with one man. Your father.”
“Well, if I was waiting here for Drefan, and I did lie with him tonight, I would only ever lie with one man as well.”
“Is that all you want? To be no better than me?”
“Isn’t that what you wanted of me? I don’t need to be better than you, Mother. I’m not. That’s Hilda, not me.”
Edith went to her and grabbed her by the arm. “Oh, my darling. Please be better than me. I beg you, be better than me.”
“Really, Mother? At what cost? What should I give up to be better than you? Whose safety? Whose freedom? So that I can be better than you?”
Edith could not keep tears from her eyes. “Darling. You don’t know. You’ve never felt your belly pinch. You’ve never gleaned a field or lived on roots and dandelions. You’ve never been prey to plowboys or any young thegn that visits the hall. I need you to be a lady. Not half a lady like me, not pretending half the time and hoping no one notices, not Lady Cyneburg looking down her nose and pretending you didn’t make a fool of yourself. I need you to be a proper lady, who knows the right things and says the right things and does the right things. I need you to embroider like your fingers were born to it, not like mine that were born to the broom and the quern and never did learn to make an even stitch. I need you to wear shoes on your feet, cover your head, and keep your dress clean.”
“And what else, Mother? What else must I keep to be a lady?”
“Don’t darling. Be kind to me. Hilda is right. I am a trollop. I think like a trollop. You don’t know the difference. You will. A year in Bamburgh hall, and you will see what your grandmother saw, what Lady Cyneburg sees. Cyneburg forgives, because she is a lady. But she knows. She forgives it in me. But she cannot forgive it in you. You are to be Lady of Bamburgh after her, and you must be all she is and more. You must be better than me.”
“Mother, why are you saying this now?”
“Because of what I see in you. What I saw tonight. You don’t want to marry Drefan. You don’t want to marry Drefan, and I don’t know why. And I am afraid that it is because… I’m afraid I have made you hate me too.”
“Oh, Mother, I’m so tired. I just want to go to bed.”
Elswyth broke from her mother and began to walk toward the sleeping house. Edith turned and called after her, “You don’t have to.”
Elswyth turned back to her.
“You don’t have to marry Drefan if you don’t want to. Perhaps we can find another way.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Mother,” Elswyth snapped in return. “There is no other way.” And then she turned and entered the sleeping house, leaving her mother standing alone under the harsh gaze of the summer stars.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #HarlequinTradePublishingBlogTour @htp_books / #Excerpt : Breaking Time #BreakingTime – Sasha Alsberg @sashaalsberg @InkyardPress @HarperCollins

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

642-HTP-Banner---INKYARD-PRESS-YA-Google-Form

Today I’m on the ‘Breaking Time’ blogtour, organized by Harlequin Trade Publishing Blog Tour.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

SashaAlsberg_authorphotoSasha Alsberg is the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Zenith, the first book in The Androma Saga. When Sasha is not writing or obsessing over Scotland, she is galavanting across social media with her two dogs, Fraser & Fiona. Sasha lives in London, England.

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Synopsis :

SashaAlsberg_authorphotoRomance, Celtic mythology, and adventure swirl together in this time travel fantasy by #1 New York Times bestselling author, booktuber, and popular Outlander social media influencer Sasha Alsberg.

Fate brought them together. Time will tear them apart.
When a mysterious Scotsman suddenly appears in the middle of the road, Klara thinks the biggest problem is whether she hit him with her car. But, as impossible as it sounds, Callum has stepped out of another time, and his arrival marks the beginning of a deadly adventure.
Klara soon learns she is the last Pillar of Time—an anchor point in the timeline of the world. After being unable to protect the previous Pillar, Callum believes he’s fated to protect her. But now a dark force is hunting the Pillars—and Klara and Callum are the only two standing in the way. They’ll have to learn to trust each other and work together…but they’ll need to protect their hearts from one another if they’re going to survive.

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Excerpt :

Callum
1568

“Thomas!” Callum yelled as he left the pub. The wall of crisp night air dizzied him, causing him to stumble over cobble¬stones that seemed to shift beneath his feet. Drunken laughter muff led as the door slammed shut behind him.
“Where the hell are ye?” he shouted. His voice echoed through the deserted streets.
No answer came.
Lanterns flickered along the main road, setting the heavy fog aglow. In a wee town like Rosemere, the slightest whis¬pers could be heard a mile away. They carried farther than that, Callum knew; the windows around him were shuttered, but candles burned low just inside. How many prying eyes watched from behind the slats? How many would speak of his friend, the disgraced fighter, in hushed voices at tomor-row’s market, over bread bought with the coin they’d won betting on him mere weeks earlier?
Callum clenched his fists. The whole pub had shouted and jeered while Thomas got pummeled that night. Sounds still rang in Callum’s ears: the thud of fist and flesh, the sickening crunch of bone. It was the third time this month that Thomas had lost—only the third time, in two years of fighting.
Brice would be angry.
Master, keeper, devil, father. Brice MacDonald was all of these things to Callum and Thomas. Whatever Brice’s wrath tonight, Callum could not let Thomas face it alone. Not when Thomas had looked after Callum for so long, raised him up from a nipper as well as a real older brother would.
But he would not abandon Thomas like his mother had abandoned him.
The thought sobered Callum. He called again, lowering his voice to a taunt.
“Thomas! You owe me three shillings!” Thomas could usually be drawn out with a jab.
Callum paused, straining his ears for a response but was met with unease instead. An owl watched from its perch atop the baker’s roof, golden eyes unblinking against the dark night sky. The shining orbs fixed on him.
He tore his gaze from the bird and walked on, moving away from the firelight and into shadow.
Even more worrisome than Brice was the fact that Thomas had given Callum his most treasured item earlier that night: his notebook, small sheaths of vellum bound in leather. When he first began carrying it around, Thomas claimed to have stolen it from the apothecary when he went in for a poultice.
He had kept it on him, always, and had never let Callum lay eyes on what was inside. Yet he had pressed it into Callum’s hand, just before the match tonight. He said something to Callum when he did, but his words were inaudible within the roar of the pub. Then after, he disappeared from the pub without even a goodbye.
Now Callum was wandering the streets, alone.
It was unlike Thomas to behave so strangely, to lose so badly. The Thomas he knew—boyish and rowdy, tough as leather but never mean—had fallen away with the autumn leaves these past months. Instead of spending evenings at The Black Hart Inn, weaving stories he’d learned as a child of selkies and sailors for red-cheeked barmaids until the sun rose, Thomas began to disappear for days, weeks at a time—stretches too long for Callum to explain to Brice. He took a beating or two for it, too. When Thomas returned, he was sullen, sometimes violent, and consumed by a strangeness Callum had no words to describe. His eyes stared but did not see, as distant as stars burning in his skull. If he spoke at all, he told tales of the demons that terrified them as children: like the Sluagh, spirits of the dead who wandered in flocks, flying around the sky like soaring reapers and stealing souls, flesh hanging off them like blackened rags. Or the bean-nighe, banshees, messengers from the Otherworld and omens of death, who lingered in lonely streams, washing the clothes of doomed men. Normally Callum heard of such dark crea¬tures within the stories of heroes, but Thomas’s stories didn’t end in life…but death. He fixated on that fact, as if it were coming for him.
I saw her, he’d said of the bean-nighe. I refuse to die.
It worried Callum, but just as his worry morphed into con¬frontation, Thomas would come back to himself. This was enough to comfort Callum as he watched Thomas return to tales of ancient heroes and kings. Maybe he accepted his re¬lief too soon since the nights of those stories were fewer these days, and more often Thomas’s speech would turn dark again. He would speak of strange visions, of men who leaped from one world to the next.
They’re coming, Cal, you’ll see. It’s as simple as stepping through a veil.
Who’s coming, Thomas? What veil? Callum asked, and Thomas would laugh.
It was no tale that Callum knew. He’d warned Thomas not to tell it. He didn’t like the wary looks it earned him. It was one thing to be a bard who told these stories for a living, but it was another thing to speak like a madman of evil spir¬its and fairies as if they were tangible things away from the lyrics of a song or the pages of a book.
Callum reached the end of the main road—the turn for Kelpie’s Close. If you wanted trouble, you found it in Kelpie’s. The narrow backstreet edged Rosemere like a blade pressed against the town’s throat.
A chill clung to his skin. Here, there were no lanterns to light the way, his only guide sparse slivers of moonlight. The wind picked up suddenly, lifting his hair and reaching under his woolen cloak. He tried to shake off visions of the Sluagh hovering above him, raking their cold fingers down his neck.
“It’s as dark as the Earl of Hell’s waistcoat,” he mumbled.
Callum reached for the dirk tucked under his arm and found the carved handle concealed under layers of wool, feel¬ing a sting of guilt. It was Thomas’s knife. Callum had slipped it away from him before the match, worried about what his friend might do in the crowded pub if he got enough drink in him. He tapped it, drawing enough strength to plunge into the darkness.
“Scunner!” he cursed, meaning it. “Where are you?”
A cry pierced the quiet.
Callum’s heart pounded as he followed the sound farther down the alley. He pulled the dirk from under his arm, cer¬tain now that he’d need to use it.
“Thomas?”
Unease, cold and metallic, crept up his spine. The alley appeared empty—strange, for this time of night—but the si¬lence was thick, alive with a feeling Callum couldn’t name. He pushed on, deeper into the gloom. “Thomas?”
Another strangled cry, ahead.
Callum broke into a run.
A single lantern flickered a short distance away, casting a wan glow over a lone figure slumped against the wall. A sweep of red hair, bright even in the dim alley.
“Thomas, ye bastard, do ye ken what—”
The insult lodged in his throat. Thomas lay on the ground, his legs splayed at sickening angles. Blood seeped through his shirt, blooming like ink on paper. Callum rushed to his friend and knelt beside him. He dropped the dirk and pressed his hands against the deep slice that marred his friend’s torso. A knife wound.
“Dinnae fash, Thomas, dinnae fash,” Callum repeated, voice tight and panicked. He glanced up, searching for friend or foe, and found no one. “We’ll be back to the pub before Anderson kens we havna paid our tab.”
Thomas stared up at him with glassy blue eyes. With each shuddering breath, more blood spilled through Callum’s fin¬gers. He ripped the cloth stock from his neck and pressed the fabric onto the wound. It did little to stem the flow of blood. Within a few heartbeats, the cloth was soaked through, red and dripping.
If he pressed any harder, would it be doing more harm than good? Should he call for help, though it might draw the at¬tacker? Callum hadn’t a clue. He wished suddenly, ferociously, that he’d had a proper mother, one whose wisdom he could call upon to calmly guide his hands. However, Thomas was the only family he had.
His only family was dying.
Thomas opened his mouth, but instead of words, a wet cough came out, splattering red across his pale face.
“Dinnae move, Thomas,” Callum shushed him. His uncer¬tainty gave way to desperation, burst from his throat. “Help! Help us!”
His words dissolved into the night air, leaving behind only a tightness at the center of his chest. If he hadn’t taken Thomas’s dirk, he would have been able to defend himself, he wouldn’t be dying in Callum’s arms—
Thomas gasped, but it seemed as if no air reached his lungs.
Lowering his head, Callum gripped Thomas’s hands, though his own were shaking. “I will find the man who did this, I swear—”
Then the world flipped sideways. A blow had hit Callum like a runaway carriage, throwing him against the alley wall opposite Thomas.
Pain exploded along his ribs. Grasping the mossy wall for purchase, he struggled to his feet and wiped blood from his eyes, scouring the darkness for his attacker—and found no one.
“Show your face,” he growled.
A cruel whisper cut through the quiet. “Are you certain?”
The man emerged from the shadows as if he had been one with them. He wore a dark black cloak, in stark contrast to his unkempt, pale hair. Deep set in his face, a pair of amber eyes seemed to emit their own light. Callum’s gaze was drawn to a glinting shape in the man’s hand.
A dagger, dripping with blood.
Thomas’s blood.
Callum’s heart pounded like a war drum in his ears.
The man sighed. “Move along. Unless you’d like to meet the same fate as your compani—”
Callum lunged forward, cutting off the man’s speech with a guttural cry, striking with the speed of a viper.
The man ducked. He whirled around as Callum charged again. He overreached with the arc of his knife, and Callum used the moment to surge upward with a punch. His fist took the assailant in the chin—
And the force knocked Callum back.
He stared. A blow like that would have laid out the tough¬est fighter, yet the man stood and smiled, rubbing his chin with a gloved hand.
“I’m going to have fun with you,” the stranger whispered. “I like a man with a bit of fight in him. It’s more fun to play with your prey, don’t you think?”
Callum didn’t see the blow coming, only felt the pain sear¬ing across his temple as he was thrown to the ground again.
He lifted his head, vision blurring. He blinked it clear, took in his friend’s ashen face. The sight flooded Callum with rage.
Whoever said to never fight with anger fueling your fists was a fool. Thomas’s best fights had been powered by emo¬tion. Callum wasn’t fighting for money now. Or for Brice. He was fighting for Thomas. Because Thomas was—
“Stay down, little man,” the attacker’s voice hissed.
Callum dragged himself to his feet. His body, corded with muscle from a lifetime of training, screamed for him to stop. Instead he stood, swaying.
“I dinnae believe I’m going to Heaven,” Callum said, rais¬ing his fists once more, drawing strength from the familiar ache that radiated through his arms. “But I cannae wait to bring you to Hell with me.”
Lunging forward again, Callum poured everything he had into a single strike. He swung, landing the punch more out of luck than skill, half blinded by blood and dirt.
The man merely flinched, then caught Callum easily by the throat. A grin curled over his face.
How could that be possible?
“My, my, you are a feisty one,” he hissed.
The man lashed out, and pain flared along Callum’s torso. He released Callum and stepped back, red-tinged silver shin¬ing in his fist.
Callum touched his side, and his fingers came away wet with blood. He watched as crimson spread across his shirt. He tried to take a step, only to crumple to the ground beside Thomas, whose head rested limp against his chest.
Callum had never feared death, but now as he looked into its eyes, terror seized him.
“Many thanks for the entertainment,” the man said.
To Callum’s horror, he bent low, holding a vial to the spreading pool of Thomas’s blood. He was gathering it.
“If you’ll excuse me, there’s one last Pillar I must find.”
Pillar?
The unearthly amber eyes melted into darkness as his oppo¬nent backed away and turned, disappearing into the shadows once more. Softly hissed words echoed in the alley. Àiteachan dìomhair, fosgailte dhomh, Àiteachan dìomhair, fosgailte dhomh…
The words the man spoke were Gaelic, but Callum’s fad¬ing mind couldn’t make out their meaning. A dark, mist-like substance rose from the ground and curled around the man’s feet, nearly indistinguishable from the dim of night. Like a sudden fog had rolled in.
Callum sputtered a curse, lacking the strength to spit. He tried to lift himself, but with each breath, pain flared in his side like a web of fire.
“I’m sorry, Thomas,” he croaked. Tears fell freely down his face, mingling with blood and sweat. He pressed his forehead against his friend’s. Grief washed over him at the still-warm press of his skin.
Thomas was gone, and Callum would soon follow.
A shiver raked his body. His eyes drifted shut.
Take me already, he pleaded to the darkness.
And the darkness answered.
No, not the darkness—Thomas’s voice, a memory now, though it was solid as stone.
“Get up, scunner.”
The warmth of the words turned electric, spreading through Callum’s body like wildfire. His eyes shot open and he gasped, breathing in a shock of cold air still sharp with the smell of blood. His fingers found the dirk he’d dropped earlier.
Grief and agony and pain and rage lifted Callum onto his feet, thrumming in him as he charged after Thomas’s mur¬derer, knife raised and eager for flesh. He grabbed blindly, finally grasping a handful of fabric—the man’s cloak. Turn¬ing, the man’s eyes widened, making two white rings of sur¬prise in the dark. Callum’s hand grabbed the man’s neck and aimed his dirk at the pale slash of his throat.
Suddenly, they froze. Callum could not move. His hand remained around the man’s neck, the tip of the dirk pressed against his vein. Light flowed around them. It’s not time for sunrise, he thought. Dimly, he noticed markings along the man’s collarbone. Knots carved into his skin.
The man cried out—not in pain, but in anger—but then, the cry was stifled by a rush of silence, so thick Callum thought he might drown in it. His stomach turned violently as the ground seemed to drop out from under him, forcing him to squeeze his eyes shut. He was falling, flying, falling.
I must be dead in the alley. The man must have killed me. This must be death.
A bright glow burned against his lids. He closed his eyes tighter and welcomed whatever might follow, only hoping he’d find Thomas there. A wall of light had formed above, descending as if the sun were pulling him through the sky. His body rose into its searing embrace.
He waited for the long drop to the ground, but it never came.
Callum kept soaring.
Not just through the street.
Not to death’s embrace.
But somewhere else.
Leaping to another world, like the man in Thomas’s story, Callum thought.
So he leaped.

Excerpted from Breaking Time by Sasha Alsberg, © 2022 by Sasha Alsberg, used with permission from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #ZooloosBookTours @ZooloosBT / #Excerpt : Marriage Unarranged #MarriageUnarranged – Ritu Bhathal @RituBhathal @SpellBoundBks

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Marriage Unarranged Tour Poster

Today I’m on the ‘Marriage Unarranged’ blogtour, organized by Zooloo’s Book Tours.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Ritu Bhathal Author PhotoRitu Bhathal was born in Birmingham in the mid-1970s to migrant parents, hailing from Kenya but of Indian origin. This colourful background has been a constant source of inspiration to her. From childhood, she always enjoyed reading. This love of books is credited to her mother. The joy of reading spurred her on to become creative in her writing, from fiction to poetry. Winning little writing competitions at school and locally encouraged her to continue writing.
As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and teacher, she has drawn inspiration from many avenues to create the poems that she writes. A qualified teacher, having studied at Kingston University, she now deals with classes of children as a sideline to her writing! Ritu also writes a blog, www.butismileanyway.com, a mixture of life and creativity, thoughts and opinions, which was awarded first place in the Best Overall Blog Category at the 2017 Annual Bloggers Bash Awards and Best Book Blog in 2019.
Ritu is happily married and living in Kent, with her Hubby Dearest, and two children, not forgetting the fur baby Sonu Singh.

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Synopsis :

Ritu Bhathal Author PhotoIt all s̶t̶a̶r̶t̶e̶d ended with that box…
The year 2000 and Aashi’s life was all set.
New Millennium ,exciting beginnings, new life.
Or so she thought.
Like in the Bollywood films, Ravi would woo her, charm her family and they’d get married and live happily ever after.
But then Aashi found the empty condom box…
Putting her ex-fiancé and her innocence behind her, Aashi embarks upon an enlightening journey, to another country, where vibrant memories are created, and unforgettable friendships forged.
Old images erased, new beginnings to explore.
And how can she forget the handsome stranger she meets?
A stranger who’s hiding something…

Coming Summer 2023, book 2 in The Rishtay Series!

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Excerpt :

Every time she closed her eyes, Aashi saw herself in different bridal outfits, and each time, she felt like a princess.
With those pictures in mind, Aashi drove to Ravi’s place, singing along to one of her Hindi film soundtrack tapes. Excitement fizzed inside her, rendering her incapable of sitting still in her seat. In a few hours, their honeymoon destination would be finalised. Soon I’m going to be Mrs Grewal. Mrs Ravi Grewal!
After parking her car, Aashi grabbed the bulging carrier bag filled with travel brochures from the passenger seat next to her. She quickly checked her reflection in the mirror and smoothed an unruly lock of hair down before getting out. She hummed as she bounced up the garden path and rang the doorbell. A minute passed. No answer. She pressed it again. Where is Ravi? He knows I’m coming. A blurry image through the frosted glass showed someone approaching. That isn’t him…
The door opened to reveal a tall, attractive woman: Nishi, Ravi’s work colleague. She towered over Aashi’s 5’ 5” frame. Flicking her long, wavy hair backwards, she smiled at Aashi, her full lips shining with what looked like freshly applied gloss. “Oh, Aashi! Hi there. Ravi didn’t mention you were coming over. He must’ve forgotten.”
“Nishi? Hi!” What’s she doing here? Haven’t they done enough work at the office all week? Aashi entered what was going to be her own home soon, stepping past Nishi.
As she headed towards the living room, Ravi sauntered down the stairs. Aashi’s heart melted a little, looking at him with his usually groomed hair sticking up in all directions.
“I’m going to have to love you and leave you both. See you around, Aashi, see you later, Ravi.” Nishi walked out the door, shutting it behind her.
“How are you, honey? Did you forget I was coming today?” Aashi gave Ravi a big hug and a quick peck on the cheek.
“Er, no, of course I didn’t forget. How could I? Do you want a cup of tea?” Ravi hurried into the kitchen.
Aashi followed him. “Here, let me make it.” Putting her bag down, she reached over and flicked on the kettle. “What was Nishi doing here so early? And on a Saturday? Surely not work?” As usual, the kitchen was a complete tip. Her nose wrinkled as a variety of stale scents assaulted her nostrils. Grabbing a cloth, she cringed as an unknown substance oozed between her fingers. She felt the need to tidy up whenever she came around. Ravi is so lucky!
“Nothing, I mean, she needed to deliver an important file to me, so I could finish a project this weekend. Anyway, what are we discussing today?”
“You haven’t forgotten already, have you? The honeymoon.” Aashi took the cups of tea to the living room. She carefully placed them on the small coffee table and perched herself on the edge of the sofa. Once comfortable, she proceeded to take the brochures out of her bag. “So, any bright ideas? I thought about Goa, or maybe the Maldives?”
Sitting down near her, Ravi took a sip of his tea. God, he looks a mess. But a cute one. Aashi watched him sink back into the sofa and close his eyes for a moment. She took a minute to savour the profile of her fiancé. Ravi’s black hair, though tousled right now, would usually be neatly gelled back. A straight nose tapered off into a perfect point. His eyelashes were so long, they touched his cheeks when his eyes were closed, and those lips were full and inviting. Oh, I could kiss him now! But I can’t. That would be way too forward of me. Aashi stood up quickly, embarrassed at her thoughts. “I’ll be back in a sec.” She nipped up the stairs.
“Aashi! Where are you going? Aashi?
“I’m only going to the loo. I’ll be down in a sec.”
The bathroom was also a mess. Toilet seat up. Typical. Toothpaste tube uncapped. A towel casually dropped on the floor, as if it belonged there, not on the towel rail. Aashi went into her automatic cleaning mode, hanging up the towel, placing dirty clothes in the clothes basket, picking up random tissues from the floor-
“Noooooo!” Her scream filled the air. It can’t be… OMG! It is! Aashi closed her eyes. Perhaps when she opened them again, she’d see something different.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #HarlequinTradePublishingBlogTour @htp_books / #Excerpt : Good Husbands #GoodHusbands – Cate Ray @CateRaywriter @HarperCollins @parkrowbooks @septemberbooks

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

638-HTP-Banner---MYSTERY-THRILLER-for-Google-Form

Today I’m on the ‘Good Husbands’ blogtour, organized by Harlequin Trade Publishing Blog Tour.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

author photo_Cate Ray_credit_Paolo FerlaCate Ray is an author of four previous novels of suspense published in the UK under the name Cath Weeks. She was named an Author to Watch by Elle magazine. She lives in Bath with her family.

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Synopsis :

author photo_Cate Ray_credit_Paolo FerlaThree wives, one letter, and an explosive secret that will change everything.
He said, she said. Who do you believe?
Jessica, Stephanie and Priyanka are complete strangers, but they have one thing in common: they’ve each received a letter accusing their husbands of committing a sexual assault more than two decades prior. Is the accusation true or is there more to the story? It was a secret that remained buried for years.
With their worlds suddenly turned upside down, they don’t know who to trust—a complete stranger or the men they love and built their lives with. The three women come together to embark on a hunt for the truth, but they are hardly prepared for what they will discover. Who is the victim, and will justice ultimately be served?

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Excerpt :

Jess

I’m one hundred percent average, said no one ever. Yet that’s what most of us are, myself included. I know the sum of my parts and it equals ordinary and there’s no shame in that. In fact, it’s a strength. My parents were ordinary too and as their only child they raised me to respect being a leaf on a tree, a grain of sand on the beach. You get the picture. But it doesn’t mean being insignificant, anonymous. It means being part of a community, a tribe, a cause greater than yourself.
I realise this kind of thinking isn’t very now. The idea of being average scares my girls to death. I wouldn’t accuse them of it outright, yet it’s probably in their DNA too and at some point, they’ll have to confront it. Mediocrity isn’t something they can deal with and perhaps that’s where we’re going wrong because ordinary is what gets you through. Ordinary is noble, life-affirming. It’s the heart of humanity and somehow, we’ve forgotten that.
And then the letter arrives and I know as soon as I read it that I’m going to have to re-think everything. Because I’m fairly sure that ordinary people don’t get letters like this.
It’s the first day of autumn and I don’t know if it’s actually colder or whether I’m imagining it, as though a door closed yesterday on summer and a chillier one opened, but I’m definitely feeling it today. The tip of my nose is icy and I would get a hot water bottle for my lap, only I’m leaving the house in twenty minutes.
I’m meeting Duane Dee, my favourite sculptor—the only sculptor—on my client list and anything could happen. You never know what you’re going to get with artists, which is why I like working with them. They’re up and down but more than that, they’re honest. I’ve never known a profession like it. My artists talk about integrity and authenticity all the time and I lap it up. I love that the men don’t shave for meetings, the women don’t dye their greys, no one bothers ironing anything.
The investors are another sort altogether. People who buy and sell art are very different from those who create it. I know whose company I prefer, but I keep that to myself because even I know not to bite the hand that feeds me.
Max thinks it’s funny that I work for Moon & Co—he calls them the Moonies—even though he was the one who got me the job. He knows everyone in Bath because he grew up here, whereas I’m originally from the East End, London. I’ve been living here for twenty years and it still makes me laugh that locals think it’s urban, even though I can see cows from our bathroom window.
I’ve just got enough time for a quick look at Facebook. I don’t know why I do it to myself, but sometimes I feel that if I don’t keep up, I’ll be left behind. Which is odd because it’s not as if it’s a race, is it, being human?
I’m forty-six years old and still looking for friends. I’m pretty sure I won’t find them here in this endless scroll of happy images. People work so hard to make themselves look perfect, it’s hard not to try to find faults. I don’t enjoy it. It makes me feel bitchy but still I return and peek.
I glance at the time: ten minutes until I have to go. Outside, red leaves are hanging on the trees as though they’ve gone rusty and can’t move. There’s no wind today, the air completely still.
Duane Dee doesn’t use social media. He thinks the tech companies are using us to get rich and that it’s odd I’m willing to be a pawn in Silicon Valley because I strike him as militant.
It’s probably because I still have a slight East End accent, which can sound blunt, tough, but I like to think of it more as plain-talking. My late Dad used to say that the EastEnders wore their hearts of gold on their sleeves. A firefighter all his life, he believed in helping people out, especially along our street of identical terrace houses where no one could set themselves apart.
Enough of Facebook. I shut it down, telling it I won’t be back, knowing I will. And then I gather my things, ready to take off.
In the hallway, I sit on the stairs to put on my trainers, wondering when I started dressing like a teenager, and that’s when the postman comes. There’s only one small piece of mail, which slips in like a piece of confetti, drifting to the mat. I pick it up with interest because it’s handwritten and I can’t think when I last received one of those.
Then it’s out of my mind because I’m locking up and putting on my puffa jacket as I walk to the car. And then I’m driving to town—the sun a pale wedge of lemon above me—running through what to say to Duane Dee.
Is he well? Is he pushing himself too hard? Is he sleeping enough? He always looks chronically tired.
I ask too many questions. Intrusive. That’s the little bit of feedback my boss always gives me. Jess, here’s some feedback you didn’t ask for…
When people say you’re intrusive, assertive or direct, they’re basically telling you to be quiet. Are men given feedback like that? I don’t know. But I’m thinking about this as I enter the Sicilian café which is my personal preference and not Duane’s. Whenever he chooses, we end up somewhere too dark to see our food, sitting on tasselled mats.
The service here is very good. Within seconds of my sitting down, the waitress hands me a menu even though I always have an Americano and an almond pastry.
Glancing in the wall mirror beside me, I note that my expression is severe. A semi-friend told me recently that I carry a lot of tension in my face. It was a bit passive aggressive of her to say so, but I know what she means. I have bony cheekbones and thin lips that can look mean if I’m not careful.
So, I’ve been making an effort lately to smile more, worry less and unclench my hands. I also tend to tap my teeth together and I’m doing that now in time to the café music as I wait for Duane.
And then I remember the letter.
It takes me several minutes to find it, as well as my read¬ing glasses. Since hitting my mid-forties, I misplace things all the time. I normally ask myself, where would I have put it? And it’s never there.
The letter is in the front compartment of the rucksack which I haven’t used for so long, there are crumbs and bits of foil in there from the primary school-run. Flicking the crumbs off the envelope, I examine the handwriting, feeling a pang of nostalgia at the idea of someone putting pen to paper just for me.
The writing is tiny and in capitals, internet code for shouting, but in this case is more like whispering. Something about it gives me the sense that it’s trying its hardest not to offend or take up too much space. I have to prise the paper out of the envelope, where it’s wedged, folded into eighths.
THURS 1ST OCTOBER
DEAR JESSICA,
I HOPE YOU’RE SITTING DOWN TO READ THIS AND THAT YOU’RE ALONE.
THIS IS SO DIFFICULT. YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE HOW OFTEN I IMAGINED TALKING TO YOU, BUT I DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO GO ABOUT IT. AND NOW IT’S TOO LATE.
For what? I check the postmark on the envelope: Monday 5th October, 5pm. That was last night. Shifting uneasily in my seat, I turn over the letter to see who sent it: Holly Waite.
I’VE KNOWN FOR SOME TIME THAT I WON’T MAKE OLD BONES, BUT NOW IT’S URGENT AND I’VE ONLY GOT A FEW DAYS LEFT. SO, I’LL JUST COME OUT WITH IT.
ON 22ND DECEMBER 1990, MY MUM NICOLA WAITE WAS RAPED BY 3 MEN IN THE MONTAGUE CLUB, BATH. THE MEN WERE ANDREW LAWLEY, DANIEL BROOKE AND MAXIMILIAN JACKSON.
MY MUM FELL PREGNANT WITH ME. SHE ASKED THE MEN FOR HELP, BUT THEY DIDN’T WANT TO BE INVOLVED. SHE NEVER RECOVERED FROM WHAT HAPPENED AND DIED 9 YEARS AGO OF AN ACCIDENTAL OVERDOSE.
EVERYTHING I OWN IS AT STONE’S STORAGE, UNIT 21, 156 CLEVEDON ROAD. IF YOU GO TO THEM, THEY’LL GIVE YOU THE KEY. YOU’RE WELCOME TO ANYTHING. I HAVE NO ONE ELSE TO LEAVE IT TO.
WE NEVER KNEW WHO MY FATHER WAS. SO, I’M ALSO WRITING TO:
PRIYANKA LAWLEY. 32 WALDEN WAY, HIGH LANE, BATH.
STEPHANIE BROOKE, 7 SOUTH AVENUE, BATH.
I’M SORRY TO DO THIS. I KNOW IT’LL BE A SHOCK, BUT I COULDN’T GO WITHOUT TELLING YOU. YOUR HUSBANDS WENT UNPUNISHED, WALKING AWAY COMPLETELY FREE. I ALWAYS HOPED THAT ONE DAY I’D SEE JUSTICE DONE, BUT I COULDN’T THINK OF A WAY TO DO THAT WITHOUT DESTROYING MORE LIVES.
NOW THAT I’M OUT OF TIME, I CAN SEE THAT IT WASN’T MY CHOICE TO MAKE. SO, I’M PASSING IT OVER TO YOU, TELLING YOU WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN FROM THE START. IT ALWAYS FELT SO PERSONAL, BUT IT WASN’T, NOT REALLY. YOU CAN’T DRAW A LINE WHERE ONE LIFE STARTS AND AN-OTHER BEGINS.
ONCE AGAIN, I’M SORRY.
I HOPE YOU DO THE RIGHT THING.
YOURS TRULY,
HOLLY WAITE X
The kiss throws me the most. I stare at it. It’s like she’s trying to add a softener, after making the worst possible accusation.
I read the letter again, my eye lingering on Maximilian Jackson. No one ever calls Max that. It doesn’t even sound like him.
“Jess?” I glance up to see Duane standing there, untying his Aztec scarf, clay stains on his jumper. “Alright, darlin’?”
I can’t pull out a smile for him. I’m not great at hiding my emotions. It’s one of the things Max has always loved about me and I like it about myself too. Yet suddenly, it feels like an impairment; a liability even.
Slipping the letter into my bag, I stand up robotically and we exchange kisses. He smells of autumn air and his cheek as it brushes mine is so cold it makes me shiver. “Hi, Duane.”
We sit down and Duane scans a menu before tossing it aside. “Who am I kidding? I’m gonna get the calzoni. I always get the calzoni.”
“So…how are you?” I manage to ask. “How’s the new project going?” I sound uptight, formal. I clench my hands, trying to stop them from trembling.
The waitress takes our order. And then I sit rigidly in my chair, listening as Duane describes his latest creation—how it embodies technoculture, hyperreality, paranoia.
When the coffees arrive, I drink mine too quickly and burn my tongue.
“You OK?” He cocks his head at me.
No, I’m not. How could I be?
“Actually, I just need to pop to the ladies. Could you excuse me a minute?”
Out in the restroom, I stand with my hands against the sink, trying to breathe, feeling dizzy. Closing my eyes, I see Maximilian Jackson again in that tiny handwriting.
It’s not Max. It’s some sort of mistake. Holly Waite…whoever that is…is wrong. And perhaps, dead.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt happy before to hear of someone’s demise, but as I open my eyes it occurs to me that if this woman is deceased then there’s no one present to make any accusations.
I return to the table, where Duane is tucking into his calzoni, a thread of cheese hanging from his lip. Normally I wouldn’t hesitate to tell him, or anyone, so they could set themselves straight.
But something strange happens and I just sit there, silent, watching the thread dangle as he chews and talks. It seems to me that I don’t know who I am. Or more to the point, who my husband is.

Excerpted from Good Husbands by Cate Ray, © 2022 by Cate Ray, used with permission from Park Row Books/HarperCollins.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #Excerpt : Apollo’s Raven (Curse of Clansmen and Kings, Book 1) #ApollosRaven – Linnea Tanner @linneatanner #HistoricalFantasy #HistoricalFiction #AncientRome #AncientBritannia

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Apollo's Raven Tour Banner

Today I’m on the ‘Apollo’s Raven’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Linnea Tanner Head ShotAward-winning author, Linnea Tanner, weaves Celtic tales of love, magical adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts, who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.
Linnea has extensively researched ancient and medieval history, mythology, and archaeology and has traveled to sites described within each of her books in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. Books released in her series include Apollo’s Raven (Book 1), Dagger’s Destiny (Book 2), and Amulet’s Rapture (Book 3). Skull’s Vengeance (Book 4 Curse of Clansmen and Kings) is anticipated to be released in late October 2022.
A Colorado native, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.

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Synopsis :

Book Title: Apollo’s Raven
Series: Curse of Clansmen and Kings, Book 1
Author: Linnea Tanner
Publication Date: 20th January 2020 (3rd Edition)
Publisher: Apollo Raven Publisher, LLC
Page Length: 394 Pages
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Linnea Tanner Head ShotA Celtic warrior princess is torn between her forbidden love for the enemy and duty to her people.
AWARD-WINNING APOLLO’S RAVEN sweeps you into an epic Celtic tale of forbidden love, mythological adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia. In 24 AD British kings hand-picked by Rome to rule are fighting each other for power. King Amren’s former queen, a powerful Druid, has cast a curse that Blood Wolf and the Raven will rise and destroy him. The king’s daughter, Catrin, learns to her dismay that she is the Raven and her banished half-brother is Blood Wolf. Trained as a warrior, Catrin must find a way to break the curse, but she is torn between her forbidden love for her father’s enemy, Marcellus, and loyalty to her people. She must summon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that threatens the fates of everyone in her kingdom.
Will Catrin overcome and eradicate the ancient curse. Will she be able to embrace her forbidden love for Marcellus? Will she cease the war between Blood Wolf and King Amren and save her kingdom?
Trigger Warnings: Sex, Violence, Sacrificial Rituals

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Apollo’s Raven (Book 1)
Dagger’s Destiny (Book 2)
Amulet’s Rapture (Book 3)

Excerpt :

Chapter 2 Roman Demands
24 AD, Southeast Britannia

When the king rose from his throne, Catrin rushed up three stairs to the platform and into his arms. “Father, what is happening here?” she anxiously asked. “Did you know Marrock has returned with a Roman army?”
She could smell her father’s musky scent as he hugged her. “I am aware of this. Don’t worry. Just stay close to me while I calm the situation down.”
Catrin watched Mor climb the stairs to stand between her mother, still seated, and Vala, the eldest sister, standing erect. Remaining at her father’s side, Catrin warily scanned the high-vaulted chamber to assess the assemblage. A caped Roman commander with a disfiguring facial scar and his soldiers stood at attention near the central hearth. Near the entryway were the king’s warriors and commoners, squeezed in like fish caught in a net.
Belinus and Trystan, both speakers of Latin, joined two Roman diplomats at the front of the royal dais. The elder statesman reminded Catrin of a boxer with a thick neck, square jaw, and eagle-beaked nose. Next to him was a striking young Roman attired in a scarlet-edged white toga. A few years older than her, the young man had short curly hair that gave him a boyish charm, but she could almost feel his licentious eyes wandering over her hips.
No man from the village would dare look at her that way!
A seething confusion boiled into her heart as she drank in the nobleman. The danger of galloping off a cliff now seemed tame. Her father also seemed to notice the Roman’s salacious mien. The young Roman, appearing aware of the king’s glower, turned to the elder statesman.
King Amren stepped away from Catrin to the front edge of the dais. He raised a hand for quiet. Silence fell over the chamber as he addressed the audience in Latin, a secondary language that Catrin could speak and read.
“Welcome, Senator Lucius Antonius, noble descendent of the legendary Mark Antony. I recall our meeting as young men in Massilia, Gaul, where I was educated by your mentor. I assume the young man beside you is your son.”
The revelation that her father knew the senator surprised Catrin. She could not keep her eyes off his imposing son as the senator introduced him in a commanding voice.
“This is my youngest, Marcellus Antonius. He is training to be a diplomat and has journeyed with me to learn about your customs.”
The young noble’s name resonated like a song in Catrin’s mind. Marcellus Antonius. He acknowledged with a nod, his eyes consuming her as they flamed in the torch light. She smiled shyly into his fiery grin. Heat flushed over her face as she looked again to her father, now presenting the queen.
“Beside me is my beloved wife, Rhiannon. As queen, she stands as my equal.”
Catrin noted the senator’s dismissive sneer while Marcellus leaned forward with interest.
Her father proudly introduced Vala, dressed as a warrior in a chain mail shirt, gray trousers, and variegated cape.
“This is my eldest, Vala. As you can see …”—the king rubbed his lips, as if trying to restrain a chuckle—“she took height away from her younger sisters to see eye-to-eye with any opponent.”
Catrin smirked. Vala had a soldier’s demeanor that quietly announced her ferocity. She had soundly defeated every one of her challengers in single combat. With frizzled dark hair, Vala was as different from Catrin as a moonless night and a golden morning.
The king gestured toward Mor. “Next to Vala is my middle daughter, Mor. She is a mirror image of my queen at a younger age.”
Unlike Vala, Mor wore leather chest armor over a knee-high tunic and piqued the interest of many men in the kingdom. The king had recently negotiated a dowry for her to marry the son of the rival Catuvellauni king. Only Catrin knew Belinus was Mor’s true love.
Lastly, King Amren affectionately wrapped his arm around Catrin. “This is my youngest daughter—the runt of the litter. Like me, she has bandy legs. Perchance …”—he peered at her trousers— “that is why her breeches are torn.”
Hot sweat flooded Catrin’s face as she squirmed under her father’s comment. She glanced at the big rip in her plaid trousers and looked up to find Marcellus grinning. At that instant, she wanted to hide in a cave and disappear into its walls.
The king continued jesting. “Don’t let size fool you. Catrin is the bravest of my daughters. She is—”
Senator Lucius Antonius interrupted. “What of your son?”
“My son?”
“Marrock.”
Catrin could feel her insides tumble when she observed her father’s smile sour. The chamber stilled like a moonless night before a tempest. She again pondered why Marrock had returned, another harbinger of potential conflict.
King Amren proclaimed, “Marrock is no son of mine! I renounced and banished him almost seven years ago for his treacherous acts.”
The senator remained adamant. “Rome only recognizes the birthright of your eldest male heir, not the queen or your daughters.”
“Marrock!” Amren growled. “Why would Rome support him?”
“Cunobelin, the king of the Catuvellauni, claims your son is the rightful heir.”
The senator’s disclosure shocked Catrin; she could feel her heart pounding in her chest. Even though her father and Cunobelin had been bitter rivals, they had recently forged a truce. Obviously, Cunobelin had offered her father a hand of friendship while stabbing him in the back by championing Marrock’s claims.
She seethed. This is brazen betrayal. Marrock cannot become king! He will destroy everyone in my family!
When Catrin noticed her father’s clenched jaw, she assumed that he had reached the same conclusion as her. She had seldom seen him lose control of his steel-edged demeanor, but his face blazed like hot metal. A battle-hardened warrior, he might lash out. Her mother must have also seen this, because she rose to calm him with a soft touch. It seemed to work, as her father appeared to relax, his face returning to normal color. He looked at the senator and said in a tempered voice, “How did you hear of Marrock’s claims?”
The senator pulled at his toga. “From the mouth of the Catuvellauni king himself in Rome. Last fall, he presented your son’s case to Emperor Tiberius.”
Every new disclosure by the senator grated on Catrin; nothing made sense. Why would the mighty emperor support her half-brother’s claim to the throne if he had seen his monstrous face?
She overheard her father grumble in Celtic, “Cunobelin, that treacherous dog.” Her mother again nudged him and shook her head. This time, the king made no attempt to hide his rage.
“Why should Cunobelin’s support for Marrock matter to Rome? This is a local tribal issue that has no impact on the empire. For that matter, neither does it affect the Catuvellauni.”
“I beg to differ,” the senator countered. “Cunobelin accuses you of blocking Roman merchants from traveling through your kingdom to trade with the Catuvellauni. Marrock promises to open trade ways through your territory.”
“Where is Marrock now?”
“Under the protection of the Catuvellauni, Marrock is married to Cunobelin’s eldest daughter.”
Catrin gaped at the senator with shock. How could Marrock have gained so much influence with Cunobelin without her family knowing? With the tensions escalating in the chamber, she intently studied each person’s stance and reactions.
The king jabbed a finger at his own chest so hard that Catrin feared he would break his ribs. His voice rose like a thunderstorm. “Cunobelin should have consulted me before giving Marrock safe harbor. Rome should only deal with me about issues in my territory. Our treaty with Rome is separate from the Catuvellauni. Again, what does Rome hope to gain by declaring its support for Marrock?”
The senator matched the king’s fervor. “Marrock promises to recompense sums still owed Rome from treaties bartered by your forefathers and Julius Caesar, almost eighty years ago. He also agrees to pay additional tribute in exchange for favorable trading and peace with Rome.”
“What tribute?” Amren said, raising his voice. “We have always met our obligations.”
Each of the senator’s demands now rumbled through the chamber. “One thousand gold coins; fifty horsemen to serve in the Roman auxiliary; one hundred slaves, including captured warriors to fight as gladiators.”
“We never agreed to these in our treaties with Rome,” Amren said through gritted teeth. “How can you expect us to supply you with gladiators when our kingdom is at peace?”
Trystan interrupted and shouted in Celtic to the crowd in the rear, “The treacherous leach, Cunobelin, has turned on us. He demands that Marrock be declared heir to the Cantiaci throne.
The next rightful heir is Queen Rhiannon, not that child murderer, rapist, and traitor! Rome wants our warriors to die in their legions … or be sold as gladiators!”
From the back of the hall came staccato cries. “Never … never … never!”

The Magic of Wor(l)ds