Monday, November 30, 2015

Spotlight: Dragon Maid & Dragon's Dare by Ann Gimpel

Dragon Maid
Dragon Lore
Book Two
Ann Gimpel

Dream Shadow Press
Release Date: 10/5/15
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Tumble off reality’s edge into myth, magic, and Scottish dragon shifters

Book Description:

When pressed, Jonathan Shea admits magic runs through his blood, but he’s always been ambivalent about it—until a dragon and her mage show up in the Scottish Highlands, and then all bets are off. Jonathan’s charmed and captivated by the dragon—a creature fresh out of myth and legend—but the woman bonded to it is so enticing, he tosses caution aside and catapults into the magical power he’s avoided for so long.

Britta and her dragon prepare for a battle to save Earth. Freshly transplanted from a much earlier time, she feels awkward, out of place. The first person she lays eyes on is Jonathan. There’s something about him. She can’t quite pinpoint it, but he has way more magic than he lets on. Magic aside, it runs deeper than that. For the first time ever, she questions the wisdom of remaining a maid. If she doesn’t make up her mind damned fast, though, her choices will fritter away. Beset from every side, she’s never needed her magical ability more.

Surrounded by dragon shifters, Celtic gods, Selkies, time travel, and a heaping portion of magic, Jonathan comes into his own fast. Fell creatures target him, Britta, and her dragon. In the midst of chaos, he and Britta find scorching passion and love so heartbreakingly tender, it will change their lives forever.

Excerpt:
…Jonathan tried not to stare, but it was a losing battle. The woman—no, the dragon shifter—was the most perfect, the most alluring, creature he’d ever laid eyes on. Tall, with high, rounded breasts, a slender waist, and curvy hips, she looked like a goddess. Who knew? Maybe she was. The Celts had many deities. He fumbled with his rucksack and pulled out a turkey sandwich on rye bread, which he handed to her.
She yanked the wrappings aside, dropping them onto the floor while she stuffed food into her mouth, chewing and swallowing quickly. “Ye said there were two of these meat and bread things.” Britta surveyed him, her golden eyes alight with interest.
“Yes, I did. If I give you both, I’ll be hungry.”
She shrugged. “Not my problem. Also, I requested mead.”
Jonathan’s lips twitched. He corralled the smile that wanted out. Britta was an imperious bitch, yet there was something so undeniably appealing about her straightforward nature, it was impossible to feel offended. “No mead. At least I don’t have any. We could ask the other witches, or if we found you some clothes, we could go into the city and buy a proper meal, and as much to drink as you wanted.”
She cocked her head to one side and popped the last bite of sandwich into her mouth. “I can go as I am. Shall we walk or use magic, witch?”
“Um, no, you can’t go as you are. You’d be arrested.”
She tilted her chin up. “Why? I can see where I might freeze to death, but who would give a jolly fuck whether I’m dressed or not?”
Before he could craft an explanation, Kheladin stalked over, trailed by three female witches stroking the scales on his lower body. “Lachlan kept a clothes chest against the far wall.” He pointed with a talon. “I’m certain some of his shirts and tights would work, though there’s little to be done by way of shoes.”
Britta’s gaze landed on a particularly large heap of gold jewelry and coins. “I could borrow a bit of money from your hoard, just a coin or two, and—”
Kheladin’s eyes whirled faster, glittering dangerously. “I doona think so. Unless your First Born bondmate orders me.”
“No need to disturb Tarika.” Britta turned a brilliant smile on Jonathan and tapped his chest with her index finger. “He can buy me what I need.” Magic shimmered around her. “Come close, witch. We’re leaving.”
Kheladin stumped to Britta’s side. The counter spell he summoned to dampen her power sparkled, and multi-hued strands wrapped around her. Her lips curled in fury, and she raised her hands to call magic of her own.
“Not so fast,” Kheladin snapped. “First, ye’ve forgotten ye need clothes. Second, Tarika was in an all-fired hurry to find me. Such a big hurry, ye went without food or rest. Why?”
Britta shook her head so hard, her hair danced about her body. She swept the heels of her hands down her cheeks, distorting her perfect features. “Och aye, whatever is wrong with me? Nay, I know the answer. The Morrigan is furious because Lachlan triumphed over the black and red wyverns, and their dragon shifter mages.”
“Good the old Battle Crow even noticed,” Kheladin growled and breathed a fiery gout of flames.
“She did more than notice. She cast a spell to disrupt our memories out of sheer meanness. If ye wouldna have reminded me… Hell, ’tis surprised I am we got here at all. The Celtic gods, Gwydion and Arawn, sent us to warn you and Lachlan. They told us their magic would trump the Morrigan’s, but not forever.” One corner of her mouth turned down. “’Twould appear I just ran up against forever. Or mayhap their magic got subverted by your wards.”
“What impact has the Morrigan’s mischief had on the rest of our kind?”
“Those in Fire Mountain are safe so long as they remain there. The memory-altering spell only snares them when they set foot on Earth.”
“We just saw Gwydion, Arawn, and Ceridwen, and they dinna tell us aught of any such casting. Did they try to neutralize it?”
She cast a look Kheladin’s way that said he should ask something worth her time answering.
Jonathan watched the exchange, chest tight with excitement, feeling he’d fallen into one of the old tales where heroes and heroines walked among humans.
“Let me try again.” Kheladin sounded exasperated. “Did the Morrigan wake the black wyvern’s mage, Rhukon?”
“’Twas the first thing she did.”
“So all our effort was for naught.” The dragon clanked his jaws together. “I must alert Lachlan. Where’d the Celts find you? And how long ago?”
Britta rolled her eyes. “Not in Fire Mountain, though I admit Tarika and I retreated there after Rhukon, Connor, and their dragons teamed with the Morrigan, and things werena looking good. Nay, the Celts plucked us out of the sixteen hundreds. They told us enough about what the future holds to alarm us and sent us on our way.”
“Aye, and how long ago was that,” Kheladin prodded.”
“Mayhap a week. Tarika had things to attend to afore we could come. Why is that important?”
“Because Lachlan and I just sought them out, and they reminded us they doona censure their own, meaning they have no plans to clip the Battle Crow’s wings.”
“I believe I understand.” Tarika forced her voice through Britta’s vocal chords. “They rousted us out to excuse themselves from action. Craven bastards, the lot of them.” Fire rolled from Britta’s mouth.
“For the love of the goddess,” she sputtered from around flames. “Stop that.”
Kheladin inclined his head. “Though the circumstances leave much to be desired, thank you for coming.”
A warm smile lit Britta’s face. It softened her features and made her look barely more than a girl. Jonathan’s cock stiffened where it pressed against his jeans. Breath caught in his throat, and he fought against touching her, running his hands down her golden skin. He drew magic around himself to mask his lust, make it unobtrusive, but she noticed anyway.
Britta turned an appraising glance his way. “Aye, ye’d do well to hide your rut from me.”
Embarrassed at being caught out but curious too, he asked, “Why?”

She tossed her head at Kheladin. “Tell him, dragon. Mayhap he’ll believe it if he hears it from another, ahem, male.” Her last word dripped sarcasm…

Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  iTunes  |  Kobo


Dragon’s Dare
Dragon Lore
Book Three
Ann Gimpel

Dream Shadow Press
Release Date: 10/19/15
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Tumble off reality’s edge into myth, magic, and Scottish dragon shifters

Book Description:

Bloated on chaos, the Morrigan leaves the Scottish Highlands to gather power. A trip through Hell yields quite the assortment of allies tagging along behind her. Fell creatures straight out of myth and nightmare that haven’t darkened Earth’s boundaries for centuries heed her call.

Heartily sick of the Morrigan’s maneuvering, the dragons are close to shutting their world off from everywhere, Earth included. If they do, every dragon shifter bond will be broken. Horrified, Lachlan and Britta launch a desperate campaign to hang onto their dragons.

Magic may bite back, but if the dragons take their magic ball and go home, Earth will fade, along with all other worlds. That suits the Morrigan fine. War and anarchy are her favorite companions, and she collects misery like children gather beloved toys.

Arianrhod’s fellow Celts found out about her fall from grace and her half-Druid son, Jonathan. With nothing further to hide, she goes back in time hunting Angus, Jonathan’s father. Forty years apart was a steep price to pay. The world needs Angus’s magic. And Jonathan needs all the help he can get. Late to accept the power thrumming through him, he holds a key role in keeping the world from spinning off its axis. Reluctant at first, Jonathan finally gets it.

Absolute focus.

Absolute commitment.

Anything less and everyone he loves will pay an unthinkable price.

Excerpt:
…Jonathan Shea cradled Britta in his arms. She was asleep, the rhythm and cadence of her breathing revealed her exhaustion. He still couldn’t believe he’d found a mate, and a woman linked to a dragon at that. Britta KilKerran was actually the Countess of Cumbria, or she had been a few hundred years back. He wasn’t certain such a title still existed.
It didn’t matter. He’d offer up his life to protect the woman slumbering against his chest. He loved her dragon too, but Tarika scarcely needed his protection. When he thought of the scarlet-scaled dragon, one of the First Born, the place on his neck where she’d marked him with a mating bite tingled. It was her contribution to his bond with Britta.
She stirred in his arms. He stroked strands of long, red-gold hair away from her face and spun a small spell to keep her asleep. They’d just come from a major battle to free Tarika and Kheladin, another dragon, from the Morrigan’s clutches. Both of them needed rest, but his heart and mind were too full to let go quite yet.
After years of never believing the rumor about his mother being a Celtic deity, he’d finally met her. He brought it on himself by calling for her when they desperately needed help, but he never believed she’d actually show up. Regardless, he couldn’t deny her existence anymore—no matter how much he might want to. Arianrhod had abandoned him when he was so young he had no memories of her, and when he cut to the bone of things, he resented the crap out of her neglect.
Jonathan shut his eyes for a moment and summoned an image of his father. Tall and rangy with shaggy, rich brown hair and amber eyes, Angus had been a dreamer. He did his best for Jonathan, but often as not, he’d been caught up in some trance state or another. Though Angus hadn’t said so, Jonathan understood his father was relieved when he grew old enough to be on his own. Once Jonathan left Ireland, Angus vanished. Their modest cabin near Inishowen remained, but Jonathan knew better than to waste time hunting for a man who didn’t wish to be found.
Had Arianrhod seen Angus all these years he’d been missing? Jonathan could ask her, but she might just stare him down with those inscrutable eyes—one gold, the other silver—and not bother to answer.
He tightened his hold on Britta, and she nestled closer. She was more comfortable about Arianrhod being his mother than he was, but then she was far more comfortable with magic in general. He blew out a breath, recognizing his life would never be the same.
Not that he wanted it to be, but he would’ve preferred finding the love of his life without having to deal with a long-lost parent. Particularly one who stirred up a welter of prickly feelings. Now if Angus were to show back up, it would be a different story…
Britta wriggled against him, and her golden eyes flickered open. She regarded him sleepily through thick red lashes. “Ye canna rest, my love?”
Jonathan shrugged and offered a sheepish smile. “Lots to think about.”
She cupped the side of his face in one hand. “Do ye wish to talk about anything?”
He shrugged again, feeling uncomfortable. What was there to say, really? He was a little old to be struggling with parent issues. Besides he’d long since come to terms with his father’s magic being too pervasive for him to spend much time around normal humans. Jonathan dealt with some level of that as well, but his job as a software engineer who designed games let him keep to himself.
Britta brushed her hand across his lips. “Whenever ye wish, I’ll be here. Tarika too. She’s verra old and much wiser than either of us. If ye canna get the information elsewhere, mayhap we can figure out what sort of hold the Celtic gods had on your da.”
“Thank you. I’ll keep it in mind.” Jonathan reached around her and snagged a bottle of Irish whiskey off the nightstand. “Would you like some? I can get us glasses.”
“Och, and I can drink from the bottle. No need to get fancy.”
She smiled, and it transformed her into something so striking he couldn’t look away. A high forehead gave way to sculpted cheekbones and a defined chin. One of his old T-shirts covered her from chest to knees, but the outline of her breasts was clearly visible through the well-aged beige fabric.
His cock stirred, and he rolled his eyes. “We made love twice after we got here. I don’t understand why I can’t get enough of you.”
“Are ye complaining?” She quirked an arched red brow.
He shook his head and drew both of them to a half sitting position against the carved oak headboard. He uncorked the bottle and handed it to her. She drank deep before handing it back.
Britta narrowed her eyes and watched him drink. “We’re far from home free,” she blurted without preamble.
“Which problem are you referring to?” He placed the bottle on a side table not bothering to cork it. He wasn’t done yet, and likely neither was Britta.
She moved away and sat cross-legged facing him, her lovely face creased with concern. “We may have permanently removed Connor and Rhukon and their dragons from the action, but there have to be other corrupt dragon shifters. We must seek them out and destroy them too.”
Jonathan shook his head. “It won’t matter unless we get to the heart of things.”
“Aye, ye’re correct. We must find a way to corral the Morrigan, or she’ll just entice more mages and dragons with promises of limitless power.” Britta caught her lower lip between her teeth. “Tarika plans to warn the dragons. She believes the dark mages want to drain their dragon bondmates’ power.”
Jonathan straightened and recaptured the whiskey bottle, taking another swallow. “I thought mages became dragon shifters because they loved dragons and wished to share their lives with them.”
“Aye and that would be true—for most of us. Power lures dark mages, though. Far more power than can be had through the normal dragon shifter bond.”
“How do you know?”
“I saw it in Connor and Rhukon’s minds afore we thrashed them.”
“You didn’t say anything.” He handed her the bottle. Maybe they should eat something, if they were going to drink much more.
“I would have. Eventually. Tarika and I needed to determine just what it meant. And if ’tis really true, or just conjecture on our part.”
He kissed her forehead before swinging his legs over the side of the bed. “I’m going to cut up a bit of cheese for us and get some crackers.” He pulled on a pair of black sweat pants, securing the waist string to keep them from falling down, and got to his feet.
“Excellent.” She grinned. “Plotting revenge is hungry business, but ye dinna have to cover that amazing cock.”
He bit back a laugh, enjoying the compliment, and made his way to the kitchen. His apartment was small enough to keep talking. “Did you discuss this with Lachlan?” he asked as he chopped cheese off a block and opened a box of biscuits.
“Nay, but Tarika and Kheladin figured out what was going on while they were held prisoner.”

Jonathan returned to the bedroom and plopped the snacks on the bed next to Britta. “How does this bondmate thing work? Would Lachlan be privy to the dark mage problem, if it’s in his dragon’s mind?”…

Amazon  | Barnes and Noble | iTunes  |  Kobo


About the Author:

Ann Gimpel is a national bestselling author. She’s also a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent and a vagabond at heart.  Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing.  A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. She’s published over 30 books to date, with several more planned for 2015 and beyond.
A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.

Author Links:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Author | Blog


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sale US/UK! Love Eternally by Morgan O'Neill




US/UK Sale!

Love, Eternally
The Roman Time Travel Series
Book 1
Morgan O'Neill


Genre: Time Travel/Historical Romance
Publication Date; February 2015
Publisher: Time's Arrow Productions



About the Book:
A witch's ancient curse propels talented flutist Gigi Perrin back to A.D. 408, to the court of the depraved Roman Emperor Honorius and his admirable sister, Princess Galla Placidia. There, Gigi grapples with her disbelief about what has happened, and with the strange, new world of violent politics, social upheaval and barbarians straining at the very gates of an empire. Through it all, she must struggle with her powerful attraction to a pagan senator and military commander, Quintus Magnus, a man exotically different from anyone she has ever known. On the brink of a dark and war-torn age, Gigi joins forces with Magnus, battling to save a princess and her people, and ultimately finding love amid the chaos, before the fall of Rome.  


Only 99ȼ AmazonUS or 99p AmazonUK






About the Authors:

A chance meeting at a writers' conference brought Cary Morgan Frates and Deborah O'Neill Cordes together, two award-winning authors who connected because of a mutual love of time travel fiction. Collaboration ensued, the search for a pen name the first step in their working relationship. Their maiden names provided the solution - and "Morgan O'Neill" was born. 

Cary and Deborah's backgrounds are uniquely suited to writing stories steeped in atmosphere and history: Deborah has a Master's Degree in history and is a dedicated genealogist; Cary is a talented linguist in French and is currently a student of Latin. They've traveled to Europe's ancient and medieval sites many times, with Cary living on the Continent for five years. 
The Morgan O'Neill time travel novels have received a number of literary awards, including two finalist wins in the Booksellers' Best Awards, two semifinalist wins in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, first, second, and third place wins for the Mainstream Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category of the Golden Rose Contest, a top ten finalist award in the Pacific Northwest Writers' Conference Zola Awards Literary Contest, and a top ten finalist win in the Orange Rose Contest. 

Author Links:


Sign up for Morgan O'Neill's Newsletter, Timely Tidbits

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Spotlight: One Tempting Proposal by Christy Carlyle

One Tempting Proposal
An Accidental Heirs Novel
Christy Carlyle


Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Date of Publication: 11/17/15

About the Book:
Becoming engaged? Simple. Resisting temptation? Impossible!

Sebastian Fennick, the newest Duke of Wrexford, prefers the straightforwardness of mathematics to romantic nonsense. When he meets Lady Katherine Adderly at the first ball of the season, he finds her as alluring as she is disagreeable. His title may now require him to marry, but Sebastian can’t think of anyone less fit to be his wife, even if he can’t get her out of his mind.

After five seasons of snubbing suitors and making small talk, Lady Kitty has seen all the ton has to offer…and she’s not impressed. But when Kitty’s overbearing father demands she must marry before her beloved younger sister can, she proposes a plan to the handsome duke. Kitty’s schemes always seem to backfire, but she knows this one can’t go wrong. After all, she’s not the least bit tempted by Sebastian, is she?


Excerpt:

Chapter 2
Cambridgeshire, May, 1891

Slashing the air with a sword was doing nothing to improve Sebastian Fennick’s mood. As he thrust, the needle-thin foil bending and arching through the air and sending tingling reverberations along his hand, he glared across at his opponent, though he doubted she could see any better than he could from behind the tight mesh of her fencing mask.
His sister parried before offering a spot-on riposte of her own, her foil bowing in a perfect semicircle as she struck him.
“Are you making any sort of effort at all?”
Seb bit back the reply burning the tip of his tongue. Fencing was the least of his concerns. In the last month he’d learned of the death of a cousin he’d barely known and inherited the responsibility for one dukedom, three thousand acres of land, hundreds of tenants, twenty-eight staff members, one London residence, and a country house with so many rooms, he was still counting. He could find no competitive pleasure in wielding a lightweight foil when his mind brimmed with repairs, meetings, investments, and invitations to social events that spanned the rest of the calendar year.
And all of it was nothing to the bit of paper in his waistcoat pocket, separated by two layers of fabric from the scar on his chest, dual reminders of what a fool he’d been, how one woman’s lies nearly ended his life.
He wouldn’t open her letter. Instead, he’d take pleasure in burning the damn thing.
Never again. Never would he allow himself to be manipulated as he had been in the past. He had to put the past from his mind altogether.
Fencing wasn’t doing the trick. Give him a proper sword and let him dash it against a tree trunk. Better yet, give him a dragon to slay. That might do quite nicely, but this dance of lunges and feints only made his irritation bubble over.
Yet his sister didn’t deserve his ire, and he’d no wish to stifle her enthusiasm for the newest of her myriad interests.
“I fear fencing and I do not suit, Pippa.” As she returned to en garde position, preparing for another strike, Seb hastened to add, “Nor shall we ever.”
Pippa sagged in disappointment when he reached up to remove his fencing mask. “I’d hoped you might find it invigorating. A pleasant challenge.”
In truth, his mathematical mind found the precision of the sport appealing, and the physical exertion was refreshing. But when he’d inherited the dukedom of Wrexford, Seb left his mathematics career at Cambridge behind. And weren’t there a dozen tasks he should be attending to rather than waving a flexible bit of steel about at his sister?
“Invigorating, yes. Challenging, absolutely. Pleasant? No.”
When he began removing his gloves and unbuttoning the fencing jacket Pippa insisted he purchase, she raised a hand to stop him.
“Wait. We must do this properly.” She approached and offered him her hand as if they were merely fellow sportsmen rather than siblings. “Politeness is an essential element of fencing.”
Seb cleared his throat, infused his baritone with gravitas, and shook his younger sister’s hand. “Well done, Miss Fennick.”
She’d tucked her fencing mask under her sword arm and met his gaze with eyes the same unique shade as their father’s. Along with her dark hair and whiskey brown eyes, Pippa had inherited their patriarch’s love for mathematics and sporting activity of every kind.
“Fine effort, Your Grace.” And father’s compassion too, apparently.
Pippa smiled at him, her disappointment well-hidden or forgotten, and Seb returned the expression. Then her words, the sound of his honorific at the end, settled in his mind. Your Grace. It still sounded odd to his ears.
Seb and his sister had been raised for academic pursuits, children of a mathematician father and a mother with as many accomplishments as her daughter now boasted. Formality, titles, rules—none of it came naturally. The title of Duke of Wrexford had passed to him, but it still rankled and itched, as ill-fitting as the imprisoning fencing mask he’d been relieved to remove.
As they exited the corner of the second ballroom Pippa had set out as her fencing strip, she turned one of her inquisitive glances on him.
“Perhaps you’d prefer boxing, like Grandfather.” Their grandfather had been as well known for his love of pugilism as his architectural designs, and had reputedly been one of Gentleman Jackson’s best pupils.
Taller and broader than many of his classmates, Seb had engaged in his own share of scuffles in youth, and he’d been tempted to settle a few gentlemanly disagreements with his fists, but he never enjoyed fighting with his body as much as sparring with his intellect. Reason. Logic. Those were the weapons a man should bring to a dispute.
“Unless you’re like Oliver and can’t abide the sight of blood.”
It seemed his sister still sparred. Standing on the threshold of Sebastian’s study, Oliver Treadwell lifted his hands, settled them on his hips, and heaved a frustrated sigh.
“I did consider medical school, Pip. I can bear the sight of blood better than most.” Ollie’s eyes widened as he scanned the two of them. “What in heaven’s name is that awful getup you two are wearing?”
Seb didn’t know if it was his lack of enthusiasm for fencing or Ollie’s jibe about their costumes that set her off, but the shock of seeing Pippa lift her foil, breaking a key point of protocol she’d been quite insistent upon—“Never lift a sword when your opponent is unmasked”—blunted the amusement of watching Ollie rear back like a frightened pony.
“Fencing costumes,” she explained through clenched teeth. “I tried instructing Sebastian, though he says the sport doesn’t suit him.” She hadn’t actually touched Ollie with the tip of her foil and quickly lowered it to her side, but the movement failed to ease the tension between them.
Turning back to Seb, she forced an even expression. “I’ll go up and change for luncheon.” She offered Ollie a curt nod as she passed him, her wide fencing skirt fluttering around her ankles. At the door, she grasped the frame and turned back. “And don’t call me Pip. No one calls me that anymore.”
“Goodness. When did she begin loathing me?” Ollie watched the doorway where Pippa exited as if she might reappear to answer his query. “Women are terribly inscrutable, aren’t they?”
Seb thought the entire matter disturbingly clear, but he suspected Pippa would deny her infatuation with Oliver as heatedly as Ollie would argue against the claim. They’d been friends since childhood, and Ollie had been an unofficial member of the Fennick family from the day he’d lost his parents at twelve years old. Seb wasn’t certain when Pippa began viewing Ollie less as a brotherly friend and more as a man worthy of her admiration.
As much as he loved him, Seb secretly prayed his sister’s interest in the young buck would wane. Treadwell had never been the steadiest of fellows, particularly when it came to matters of the heart, and Seb would never allow anyone to hurt Pippa.
“Welcome to Roxbury.” He practiced the words as he spoke them, hoping the oddness of playing host in another man’s home would eventually diminish.
“Thank you. It is grand, is it not? Had you ever visited before?”
“Once, as a young child. I expected it to be less imposing when I saw it again as a man.” It hadn’t been. Not a whit. Upon arriving thirty days prior, he’d stood on the threshold a moment with his mouth agape before taking a step inside.
Seb caught Ollie staring at the ceiling, an extraordinary web of plastered fan-vaulting meant to echo the design in the nave of an abbey the late duke had visited in Bath. Every aspect of Roxbury had been designed with care, and yet to match the whims of each successive duke and duchess. Somehow its hodgepodge of architectural styles blended into a harmonious and impressive whole.
“You mentioned an urgent matter. Trouble in London?” A few years older than his friend, Seb worried about Ollie with the same ever-present paternal concern he felt for his sister.
After trying his hand at philosophy, chemistry, and medicine, Ollie had decided to pursue law and currently studied at the Inner Temple with high hopes of being called to the bar and becoming a barrister within the year.
“No, all is well, but those words don’t begin to describe my bliss.”
Bowing his head, Sebastian closed his eyes a moment and drew in a long breath, expanding his chest as far as the confines of his fencing jacket would allow. It had to be a woman. Another woman. Seb had never known a man as eager to be enamored. Unfortunately, the mysteries of love couldn’t be bound within the elegance of a mathematical equation. If they could, Ollie’s equation would be a simple one. Woman plus beauty equals infatuation. If Ollie’s interest in this woman or that ever bloomed into constancy, Seb could rally a bit happiness for his friend.
Constancy. An image of black hair came to mind with a piercing pain above his brow. How could he advocate that Ollie learn constancy when his own stubborn heart brought him nothing but misery?
“Tell me about her.”
Ollie’s face lit with pleasure. “She’s an angel.”
The last had been “a goddess” and Seb mentally calculated where each designation might rank in the heavenly hierarchy.
“With golden hair and sapphire eyes …” Ollie’s loves were always described in the same terms one might use when speaking of a precious relic Mr. Petrie had dug up in Egypt, each of them carved in alabaster, gilded, and bejeweled.
“Slow down, Ollie. Let’s start with her name.”
“Hattie. Harriet, though she says she dislikes Harriet. I think it’s lovely. Isn’t it a beautiful name, really?”
Too preoccupied with unbuttoning himself from his fencing gear, Sebastian didn’t bother offering a response. Ollie rarely had any trouble rambling on without acknowledgment.
“She’s the daughter of a marquess. Clayborne. Perhaps you know him.”
Seb arched both brows and Ollie smiled. “Yes, I know. You’ve only been a duke for the space of a month. Don’t they introduce you to all of the other aristocrats straight away, then?”
A chuckle rumbled up in Seb’s chest, and for a moment the burdens that had piled up since the last duke’s passing slipped away. He laughed with Ollie as they had when they were simpler men, younger, less distracted with love or responsibilities. Seb felt lighter, and he held a smile so long his cheeks began to ache before the laughter ebbed and he addressed the serious matter of Oliver’s pursuit of a marquess’s daughter.
“I think the better question is whether you’ve met Harriet’s father. What are your intentions toward this young woman?”
Ollie ducked his chin and deflated into a chair. “Goodness, Bash, you sound a bit like you’re Hattie’s father.”
Only Ollie called him Bash, claiming he’d earned it for defending him in a fight with a particularly truculent classmate. The nickname reminded him of all their shared battles as children, but if Ollie thought its use would soften him or make him retreat, he was wrong. Ollie needed someone to challenge him, to curb his tendency to rush in without considering the consequences. If he lost interest in this young woman as he had with all the others, a breach-of-promise suit brought by a marquess could ruin Ollie’s burgeoning legal career.
“I intend to marry her.”
“May I ask how long you’ve been acquainted with the young lady?” Mercy, he did sound like a father. As the eldest, he’d always led the way, and with the loss of their parents, Seb had taken on a parental role with his sister too. Pippa might wish to marry one day, and it was his duty to ensure any prospective groom wasn’t a complete and utter reprobate.
“Not all of us fall in love with our childhood friend.” The barb had no doubt been meant to bring Seb’s past heartbreak to mind, but Seb thought of Pippa. Thankfully, she hadn’t heard Ollie’s declaration.
“Indeed. I would merely advise you to take more time and court Lord Clayborne’s daughter properly. Her father will expect no less.”
Even with a properly drawn-out courtship, a marquess would be unlikely to allow his daughter to marry a man who’d yet to become a barrister and may not succeed once he had.
“I must offer for her now. Soon. She’s coming out this season, and I couldn’t bear for another man to snatch her up.”
“You make her sound like a filly at market.”
“Will you come to London and meet her? I know you’ll approve of the match once you’ve met her.”
Seb had already given into the necessity of spending the season in London at Wrexford House. Pippa had no interest in anything in London aside from the Reading Room at the British Museum, but their aristocratic aunt, Lady Stamford, insisted he give his sister a proper coming out. She’d also reminded him that a new duke should meet and be met by others in their slice of society.
“You hardly need my approval, Ollie.”
“I need more than that.”
If he meant money, Seb could help. Cousin Geoffrey and his steward maintained the estate well over the years, investing wisely and spending with restraint. Sebastian had met with the estate’s steward once since arriving at Roxbury and emphasized his desire to match his predecessor’s good fiscal sense.
“We should discuss a settlement of some kind.”
Waving away Seb’s words, Ollie stood and strode to the window, looking out on one of Roxbury’s gardens, perfectly manicured and daubed with color by the first blooms of spring.
Oliver Treadwell had never been a hard man to read. Seb knew him to be intelligent, but he used none of his cleverness for artifice. A changeable man, Ollie blew hot and cold with his passions, but he expressed himself honestly. Now Seb sensed something more. Another emotion undercut the giddiness he’d expressed about his most recent heart’s desire.
His friend seemed to fall into contemplation of the scenery and Sebastian stood to approach, curious about what had drawn Ollie’s attention. The sound of Ollie’s voice stopped him short, the timbre strangely plaintive, almost childlike.
“She says her father won’t allow her to marry until her older sister does. Some strange rule he’s devised to make Harriet miserable.”
It sounded like an unreasonable expectation to Sebastian. At two and twenty, Pippa found contentment in pursuing her studies and political causes. She’d indicated no desire to take any man’s name. Never mind the way she looked at Oliver. If they had a younger sister, the girl might have a long wait to wed if some ridiculous rule required Pippa to do so first. Then again, not all women were as reticent to marry as Pippa.
“Does this elder sister have any prospects?”
Ollie’s whole body jolted at Seb’s question and he turned on him, smile wide, blue eyes glittering.
“She has more suitors than she can manage, but she’s not easily snared. I assure you she’s just as beautiful as Hattie, with golden hair …”
“Yes, yes. Eyes of emerald or sapphire or amethyst.”
Oliver tugged on his ear, a frown marring his enthusiastic expression. “Well, she is lovely. Truly. You should meet her.”
A sickening heaviness sank in his gut at the realization of Oliver’s real purpose for their urgent meeting.
“You’re very determined to convince me, Oliver.”
Ollie sighed wearily, a long gusty exhale, before sinking down into a chair again. “You only call me Oliver when you’re cross. Won’t you hear me out?”
Sebastian had a habit of counting. Assigning numbers to the objects and incidents in his life gave him a satisfying sense of order and control. Not quite as much satisfaction as conquering a maddening equation, but enough to make the incidents he couldn’t control—like the small matter of inheriting a title and a home large enough to house a hundred—more bearable.
He wished he’d counted how many times he’d heard those same words—“Won’t you hear me out?”—from Ollie. Whatever the number, it would certainly be high enough to warn him off listening to the man’s mad schemes again.
“All right, Ollie. Have it out then.”
“Do you never consider finding yourself a wife?”
“No.”
“You must.”
“Must I? Why? I have quite enough to occupy me.”
Ollie took on a pensive air and squinted his left eye. “The estate seems to be in good order, and you’ve given up your post at the university. Pippa has her own pursuits.” He glanced again at the high ceiling over their heads. “Won’t you be lonely in these grand, empty rooms, Bash?”
Sentiment? That was how Ollie meant to convince him? Seb had put away sentimentality ten years before, dividing off that part of himself so that he could move forward with the rest of his life. If its power still held any sway, he would have opened the letter in his waistcoat pocket the day it arrived.
“I will manage, Ollie.”
And how would a woman solve anything? In Seb’s experience, women either wreaked havoc on a man’s life, or filled it with noise and color and clever quips, like his mother and sister. Either option would allay loneliness, but he did not suffer from that affliction. Sentimental men were lonely. Not him. Even if he did live in a house with ceilings so tall his voice echoed when he chattered to himself.
He narrowed his eyes at Ollie, and his friend sat up in his chair, squared his shoulders, and tipped his chin to stare at Seb directly.
“She’s the eldest daughter of a marquess, Bash, and much more aware of the rules of etiquette among the wealthy and titled than you are.”
“Then we won’t have much in common.”
Ollie groaned. “She would be a fine partner, a formidable ally in this new life you’ve taken on.”
“No.”
Denial came easily, and he denounced Ollie’s mad implication that the two of them should marry sisters from the same family. But reason, that damnable voice in his head that sounded like his father, contradicted him.
At two and thirty, he’d reached an age for matrimony, and with inherited property and a title came the duty to produce an heir. No one wanted Roxbury and the Wrexford dukedom to pass to another distant cousin. If he had any doubts about his need for a wife, he was surrounded by women who’d happily remind him. His aunt, Lady Stamford, had sent a letter he’d found waiting for him the day he’d arrived at Roxbury suggesting that marriage was as much his duty as managing the estate. Pippa also dropped hints now and then that having a sister-in-law would be very nice indeed.
Ollie had yet to multiply the bride-taking encouragement, but he was making a fine effort at rectifying the oversight.
“Acquiring a dukedom is a vast undertaking.” Ollie stretched out his arms wide to emphasize the vastness of it all. “Why not have a lovely woman by your side in such an endeavor?”
“I didn’t acquire it, Oliver. It passed to me.” He loathed his habit of stating the obvious.
A lovely woman by his side. The notion brought a pang, equal parts stifled desire and memory-soaked dread. He’d imagined it once, making plans and envisioning the life he’d create with the woman he loved. But that was all sentiment and it had been smashed, its pieces left in the past. Now practicality dictated his choices. He spared emotion only for his family, for Pippa and Ollie.
Ollie watched him like a convicted man awaiting his sentence.
His friend’s practical argument held some appeal. A marquess’s daughter would know how to navigate the social whirl, and Seb liked the notion of not devoting all of his own energy to tackling that challenge. He might even find a moment to spare for mathematics, rather than having to forfeit his life’s work entirely to take on the duties of a dukedom.
And it would give Ollie a chance at happiness. Perhaps this younger daughter of Lord Clayborne’s would be the woman to inspire constancy in Ollie, and Seb might assist his friend to achieve the family and stability he’d lost in childhood.
Seb spoke on an exhaled sigh. “I suppose I do need a wife.” And there he went stating the obvious again.
Oliver turned into a ten-year-old boy before his eyes, as giddy as a pup. If the man had a tail, he’d be wagging it furiously. He jumped up and reached out to clasp Seb on the shoulder.
“Just meet Lady Katherine, Seb. See if you suit. That’s all I ask.” It wasn’t quite all he asked, but Seb had learned the futility of quibbling with a giddy Oliver.
A marquess’s daughter? Lady Katherine sounded like just the sort of woman a duke should seek to marry. Seb could contemplate marriage as a practical matter, but nothing more.
Would he ever feel more?
He hadn’t allowed himself an ounce of interest in a woman in ten years, not in a lush feminine figure, nor in a pair of fine eyes, not even in the heady mix of a woman’s unique scent under the notes of some floral essence.
“I think you’ll enjoy London during the season.” Ollie couldn’t manage sincerity when uttering the declaration. His mouth quivered and he blinked one eye as if he’d just caught an irritating bit of dust.
Seb doubted he’d enjoy London during the crush of the social season. As a Cambridge man raised in a modest home in the university’s shadow, he’d enjoyed occasional jaunts to London but had always been content to return to his studies. As he opened his mouth to say as much to Ollie, Pippa strode into the room and drew their attention to the doorway.
She’d changed into one of the day dresses their aunt insisted she choose for the upcoming season, though Pippa signaled her disdain for the flouncy yellow creation by swiping down the ruffles that kept popping up on her chest and around her shoulders.
“Luncheon is laid in the morning room. Are you joining us, Oliver?”
Ollie stared wide-eyed at Pippa a moment and then turned to Seb.
“We’re almost finished here,” Seb assured her. “Ollie and I will join you momentarily.”
She nodded but offered the still speechless Ollie a sharp glance before departing.
After a moment, Ollie found his voice. “I’ve never seen her so …”
“Irritated?”
“Feminine.”
Seb took a turn glaring at Ollie. The man had just been thrilled at the prospect of a match with Lady Harriet. He had no business noticing Pippa’s femininity, especially after failing to do so for over a dozen years.
“She chose a few new dresses.” Seb cleared his throat to draw Ollie’s attention.
“It’s odd,” Ollie said, his face still pinched in confusion. “I’ve known Pippa most of my life and never truly thought of her as a woman.”
His friend’s words put Seb’s mind at ease, but he suspected Pippa wouldn’t find them nearly as heartening.
“Ollie, let’s return to the matter at hand.”
“Yes, of course.” Ollie rubbed his hands together and grinned, the matter of Pippa quickly forgotten. “Will you come to the Clayborne ball and meet Lady Katherine?”
“I will.” Meeting the woman seemed a simple prospect. Practical. Reasonable. A perfectly logical decision in the circumstances.
“If you’re still planning on presenting Pippa this season, by all means, bring her along too,” Ollie added. “Why leave her to ramble this house alone?”
Pippa preferred to spend her days at Cambridge where she’d been studying mathematics for much of the previous year. Yet Seb felt the pull of his aunt’s assertion. His sister should have a London season, or at least spend some time among London society. He wished to open as many doors for Pippa as he could. Give her choices and options. If his title meant his sister might be more comfortably settled in life, all the better.
“She’s not convinced of the appeal of a London season.” Seb worried neither of them was equipped for it either. Gowns and finely tailored clothing aside, they didn’t possess the aristocratic polish others would expect of a duke and his sister.
Ever undaunted, Ollie grinned. “Then you must convince her.”
Seb lifted his gaze to the ceiling, following the tracery, lines in perfect symmetry, equidistant and equal in length, forming a perfect whole. The geometric beauty of the design melted a bit of the tension in his shoulders. Still, he doubted the propriety of allowing his sister to attend a ball when she’d not yet formally come out. And, most importantly, he feared Pippa was unprepared for the sort of attention she would encounter in London.
Pippa unprepared? She’d fence him into a corner for even entertaining the notion.
“Very well. We’ll both attend, but I make no promises regarding Lady Katherine.”
He’d accept the invitation in order to give Pippa her first glimpse of a proper London ball, meet this marquess’s daughter, and do what he could to assist Ollie’s cause. But marrying Lady Katherine was another matter entirely. He’d only ever intended to marry one woman and that had gone so spectacularly pear-shaped, he wasn’t certain he could bring himself to propose ever again.

HarperCollins  | Amazon  | BN  | Google Play | iBooks  | Add it on Goodreads


About the Author:


Fueled by Pacific Northwest coffee and inspired by multiple viewings of every British costume drama she can get her hands on, Christy Carlyle writes sensual historical romance set in the Victorian era. She loves heroes who struggle against all odds and heroines who are ahead of their time. A former teacher with a degree in history, she finds there’s nothing better than being able to combine her love of the past with a die-hard belief in happy endings.

Author Links:
Website  | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Blog 



Tour giveaway:
3 ebook copies of Book 1, One Scandalous Kiss

Monday, November 16, 2015

Release Day Spotlight! Not Enough by Mia Hoddell

Not Enough
Mia Hoddell


Release Date: 11/16/15
Genre: Upper YA/NA contemporary romance
Page Count: 324
Heat level: Sweet (closed door)
Content warning: There is some strong language



About the Book:
Neve Colvin isn’t good enough. As an introvert, her life is a never-ending list of labels and criticism. Pressures to change come from everyone—including the one person she thought would love her unconditionally … her mother. All Neve wants is acceptance, but surrounded by extroverts it’s a wish that’s nearly impossible to fulfil.
For Neve there’s only one solution: anyone disapproving must go. Even if it means only one person will remain.
That person is her lifelong friend Blake Reynolds. He’s seen the fights with her mum, the breakdowns caused by attacks on her personality, and the battles for acceptance. Each time she is left shattered and questioning who she is, he’s the one to collect the pieces of her broken heart. Shielding her from the cruelty is his only concern. But how can he protect her when Neve is concealing a secret so dark?
Blake thinks he knows everything about her, and with their relationship developing, he assumes Neve trusts him fully. However, there is one memory Neve is too ashamed of to share. Revealing it will test Blake’s loyalty beyond what she could ever ask, and Blake is the only friend she can’t afford to lose. He’s the one person capable of dragging her from the darkness plaguing her, but with pressures to conform increasing, even Blake may not be enough to pull her back this time.

Excerpt:


PROLOGUE
From: Neve Colvin
To: Neve Colvin
One word, four letters. It sticks in my throat and refuses to come out. Maybe it’s not the right time, or maybe I’m just scared. But it’s normal to be scared, right? Saying that word isn’t something a person should undertake lightly. Once the word is out, it can’t be reclaimed. Once it’s said it becomes real and actions must follow.
Words can hurt—I should know that well by now. They cut deeper than a knife, and the wounds last longer even if they’re invisible. Some people will show off scars like they’re a trophy, telling you the story behind each and every one no matter how boring or traumatic the event was. The scars are like a brand to them, and I’m thankful that the ones left by your words aren’t visible to the naked eye for everyone to gawp at.
It doesn’t take a psychopath, murderer, or unstable person to hurl words that are meant to maim. Anyone can, and anyone does. They cut to the core, repeatedly stabbing and twisting deeper into the heart. They play with peoples’ minds and no one can see the consequences until it’s too late. A person can take a lot of verbal abuse, but there’s always a limit.
Everyone breaks.
Everyone crumbles.
Like a riverbank that is battered repeatedly by the water, bits of me have been chipped off and worn away. If you could see inside of me you’d notice I’m no longer whole, but rather a scratched and scarred person who’s been pieced back together too many times. I’m ugly on the inside. Fragments are missing, wounds are both fresh and old; I’m bleeding and I can’t stop your latest comments from slicing me open and adding to the unusual piece of artwork.
I’ve weathered a lot of attacks, but I’ve finally reached my limit.
Saying it should be easy. You’ve destroyed everything I’ve been working for, shattered every dream, and broken the person I want to be. You’ve pushed me beyond my limit, yet I can’t do it. I feel weak because of it. It makes me hate myself more. That you have this kind of control over me when you don’t even care isn’t right, but it is what it is.
A part of me wants to say it. I want to convince myself it’s the best solution. After all, you’re never going to change, are you? What’s the point in sticking around to suffer more?
Regardless, sitting here with salty tears dripping from my face I gaze out at the horizon through blurred eyes. I haven’t been able to stop them since I ran out on you. My eyeliner has long since stopped marking me with black trails, I’m now just blotchy … a mess. My sleeves are incapable of drying my face, too wet to be of any use, and I only have one tissue on me. Not that my body cares. The wounds ripping open inside of me all over again refuse to allow the tears to stop, and in a way I don’t want them to. It’s cathartic … the only way I can release what you’ve done to me.
A chilly, evening breeze hits my back and sends a shiver down my spine. It stirs the edges of my zip-up hoodie, causing them to whip at my sides. Tendrils of hair stick to my face from the water trails. The pieces that have escaped that fate swarm around my head like a cluster of snakes. As strands catch my face in the wind, it’s like they’re adding more poison to my already broken mind. I just wish they’d numb it.
You did this. It’s all your fault.
You’re responsible for making me come out here to write this. I’m sitting here, looking down at the river, watching as the current batters the water against the rocks and wondering if it would feel as bad as what you’ve done. The amount of water makes my tears seem small in comparison. In fact, my whole life seems small. Because that’s what you think, isn’t it? It’s what everyone thinks of me: that I’m weird, don’t fit in, don’t act normally. My choices aren’t good enough for anyone. I was meant to have a chance like you said, but you couldn’t even give me that. Instead you broke the one thing I wanted more than anything, making it impossible.
I knew you were mean, but I didn’t think you’d go that far.
It’s not something you have to repeat on a daily basis either. I know I’m not the daughter you wanted. I get that I’m a disappointment and fail you at every turn, but it’s not something I strive for.
All I want is to be accepted for who I am, but you can’t …
One word, four letters. That’s all it is. Four tiny letters and everything will be solved for me.

What reviewers are saying:
"From the dedication at the beginning up to the end this was both a thought provoking and an emotional read for me and I loved it!" - Sandra @ JeanzBookReadNReview
"This story tugged at my heartstrings, played on my every emotion. It was a beautifully written story of how an introverted young girl blossoms into a beautiful young woman." - Keren Hughes, Author of Nothing Like The First Time
"A heartbreaking read that sometimes had me close to tears." - Susan @ Ladies Living in Bookland

"Heartbreaking. Powerful. Real ... I literally lived the pages, not read them ... It's so well and beautifully written, it is more than just another YA novel." - Cristina @ Crazy Beautiful Reads



ONLY 0.99 FOR THE RELEASE WEEK!
Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | B&N | iBooks | Kobo 



About the Author:

#1 Amazon bestselling author, Mia Hoddell, lives in the UK with her family and two cats. She spends most of her time writing or reading, loves anything romantic, and has an overactive imagination that keeps her up until the early hours of the morning. 
Mia has written over ten titles including her Seasons of Change series, the Chequered Flag series, the Elemental Killers series, and her standalone novels False Finder and Not Enough. 
Her favorite genres are contemporary romance or romantic suspense, and with an ever growing list of ideas she is trying to keep up with the speed at which her imagination generates them. She also designs book covers on her website M Designs.

Author Links:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads  Blog | Facebook

Giveaway:
1 x $5 Amazon Gift Card