A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen – Release Day and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by the publisher to celebrate the release of A Duke to Remember. Enter the Rafflecopter to win a copy of the book.

7_26 kelly bowen A Duke To RememberLove takes the stage . . .

Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements-that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity-and her true feelings for him-the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

“You’re not going to die on me, are you?” The voice came from lower, almost directly in front of her this time, and Elise opened her eyes, staring up at a collection of clouds scudding across the blue sky.

“Not yet, I think.” She struggled to sit, her tired muscles still refusing to obey.

A warm hand caught hers and pulled her forward, and Elise was suddenly presented with the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen.

They were smoky green, the color of pine wreathed in mist, the color of still waters that hid great depths. They were ringed with blond lashes, set in a strong, rugged face that spoke of hours spent outdoors. Pale blond hair fell around his ears in careless waves, the ends damp where they brushed his bare shoulders. Incredible shoulders, wide and powerful, droplets of water sliding over the ridges of muscle to disappear down the front of his chest.

Her mouth went dry, and whatever breath she thought she had caught deserted her once again.

He was crouched before her, a look of concern tempered with a half-smile stamped across his striking features. “Hmmm. Well, if you die, can I have your horse?” he asked. “As fine an animal as I’ve seen in a long time.”

“My horse?” she repeated. Good Lord. Her wits had completely scattered under that smoky gaze.

He glanced over her head up in the direction of the road. “One of the boys brought it off the bridge for you.”

Elise struggled to draw a normal breath and formulate a thought. The man was trying to put her at ease. It wasn’t his fault that he looked as he did. It wasn’t his fault her body was threatening to make an utter fool of her because of it.

But clearly, it had been too long since she had invited a man to share her bed because she was shamelessly staring at the way his body moved as he shifted. Subtle shadows carved their way across his torso, created by lean muscle rippling under golden skin. A scattering of dark blond hair covered his chest and trailed down past his navel. Her eyes dropped further south, and she let her gaze wander over the sharp ridges of muscle that formed a V over his hips before disappearing into the front of his breeches. His free hand rested on a powerful thigh, long, capable-looking fingers spread out over the top of his knee. She imagined what those fingers would feel like against her bare skin. Because she already knew what his arms had felt like beneath her, the hard strength of his body against hers.

When he was pulling you from the water like a drowned river rat, you fool, not drawing you into a lover’s embrace.

A terrible realization struck her with the completion of that thought. Without needing to check, she knew her cap was gone. Her braid had come unpinned, and she could feel the heavy weight of her sodden hair on her back. A glance at her water-logged clothes plastered to her body confirmed her worst suspicions. When she’d bound her breasts tightly beneath her loose, baggy shirt, they were unnoticeable, but there was nothing unnoticeable about them now. The bindings had come loose and slid down to bunch at her waist. Worse, the threadbare fabric of her worn shirt was almost transparent, and stuck to her skin as it was, she may as well have been wearing nothing. The curves of her breasts were clearly visible, as were the dark areolas of her peaked nipples.

The man’s eyes were still on her face and not on her chest, which Elise was choosing to interpret as a testament to his chivalry, but no one in their right mind would mistake her for anything other than what she truly was. A woman dressed as a boy.

“No, you can’t have my horse,” she muttered, attempting to peel her shirt away from her breasts with her free hand. “I need it to flee a lot of awkward questions.”

The man was watching her again. “They are going to want to know who you are,” he said quietly, jerking his chin in the direction of the voices beyond them. The understanding she saw in those incredible eyes made her blink.

She managed a weak smile. “Do you suppose anyone will notice if I just swim back to where I came from?” She was trying to make her mind work, but like her muscles, it seemed lethargic, her usual ingenuity depleted. “You can tell them that I was a mermaid.”

About the Author:7_26 Kelly bowenKelly Bowen grew up in Manitoba, Canada. She attended the University of Manitoba and earned a Master of Science degree in veterinary physiology and endocrinology.

But it was Kelly’s infatuation with history and a weakness for a good love story that led her down the path of historical romance. When she is not writing, she seizes every opportunity to explore ruins and battlefields.

Currently, Kelly lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two boys, all of whom are wonderfully patient with the writing process. Except, that is, when they need a goalie for street hockey.

 

 

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How Do You Celebrate Release Day by Lillian Marek – Guest Blog and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Lillian Marek who is celebrating the release of the third book in the Victorian Adventure series, A Scandalous Adventure which will be coming out on August 2. Leave a comment or ask the author a question for a chance to win a copy of the book (US only please).

How do you celebrate release day?
Well, I would love to say that I celebrate with champagne and caviar in a glamorous setting, or that I hop on a plane for a weekend in Paris. Unfortunately, that would be—let us say, an exaggeration.

Release Day is less a celebration than a panic attack.

The real temptation is to run to the computer, check to see if anyone is buying the book or posting reviews, then jump up to make a cup of tea before I run back to the computer. Then I start to wonder if the rewrite on Chapter Four was really an improvement. Should I have left it alone? Or should I have rewritten it again? Do people hate the book? Repeat this sequence, with slight variations, until bedtime.

What I should do, of course, is get out of the house. Since it’s August, I could take myself to the beach with a couple of books from my TBR pile, a picnic lunch that includes delicious local peaches, and a gallon of sunscreen. I could just stay there until sunset. That sounds like a perfect plan—for any day except Release Day, when I will be much to nervous to sit still.

To be honest, I need something to occupy my hands and limit the peeks at the computer. There must be some authors out there who are so confident that they don’t have to look. But maybe not. Authors are, on the whole, a diffident bunch.

What I will probably do is cook. More specifically, I will bake. Because that’s what I do when I’m nervous. I bake.

Since it’s August, I will probably make some blueberry muffins and a peach cake or two like the ones my grandmother used to make, with a rich yeast dough base. And if I really want to keep myself busy, I will try something ridiculously complicated.

A dobos torte maybe—seven layers of sponge cake filled with chocolate cream and topped with caramel. Some people cheat on the cake and make two or three layers that they cut horizontally, but it takes more time if you draw circles on parchment and spread the batter to fill the circle. And then you have to trim the circles, because who can spread batter in a perfect circle? Definitely a time-consuming cake.

Or I could finally make a marjolaine from a recipe I cut out of the New York Times eons ago. That one has only four layers of a cake made with grated filberts and egg whites, but it has lots of fillings. There’s a chocolate cream made with crème fraîche and a rum cream and a praline cream, both made with pastry cream.

If sanity prevails, I will remember that in hot humid weather, cakes do not do well. That’s why my grandfather’s birthday cake—his birthday was July 25—fell more often than not. If I manage to remember that, I’ll stick to cookies. Snickerdoodles, because I love the name.

And me? By the time I’m finished, I will be completely exhausted. (That is, after all, the point of this exercise.) Since complete exhaustion means that I will not only be too tired to cook, but too tired to go out. That means we will have pizza for dinner. And since I get to choose, it will be sausage pizza from Luigi’s.

It may not be a champagne and caviar, but it’s just fine with me.

7_26 marekThey’re hiding a scandalous secret
When his monarch’s flighty fiancée disappears, Count Maximillian von Staufer is dispatched to find her. His search leads Max to discover not the princess, but a look-alike who could be her double. Desperate to avoid an international crisis, he conceives a plan that will buy some time—and allow him to get to know a beautiful Englishwoman.

And time is running out
Lady Susannah Tremaine and her young friend Olivia are staying at the Grand Hotel in Baden, where so far the most exciting part of the visit has been the pastries. But when a devastatingly handsome royal Germanic officer asks Olivia to impersonate a missing princess, Susannah finds herself drawn into a dangerous world of international intrigue as she tries to protect her friend—and her heart.

About the Author:Lillian Marek was born and raised in New York City. At one time or another she has had most of the interesting but underpaid jobs available to English majors. After a few too many years in journalism, she decided she prefers fiction, where the good guys win and the bad guys get what they deserve. The first book in her Victorian Adventure series, Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures, won first prize in both the Launching A Star and the Windy City Four Seasons contests. She was also a first prize winner in the Beau Monde’s Royal Ascot contest.

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Swept Away by Kristina Mathews – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kristina will be awarding a digital copy of Swept Away to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

7_26 Swept Away (2)Carson Swift may look exactly like his twin brother Cody, but they’re as different as tie dye and camouflage. Reliable, responsible, and usually the designated driver, Carson is also over being his brother’s keeper, but suddenly his plans to break free are complicated by the woman they fish out of Hidden Creek . . .

Lily Price is not your typical damsel in distress. Infidelity, infertility, and downsizing provide a triple threat to her ego, but falling into the swollen river nearly ends her life. If not for the handsome stranger—make that two handsome strangers—she might not have had a chance at having a baby by any means necessary . . .

As Carson helps Lily overcome her fear of the river, she helps him save his rafting business from going under. She also saves him from abandoning all that is important to him in order to get a taste of freedom. Together they find that love is the ultimate adventure.

About the Excerpt:

“I thought winter would never end.” Cody would probably still catch a fish or two. He had that kind of luck. Women and trout landed at his feet without much effort. “But summer’s coming and it’s going to be a hot one.”

Another summer stretched out in front of them. Long, hot days on the river. Longer, hotter nights at the Argo—throwing back a few beers, shooting pool, picking up pretty strangers. Who wouldn’t want the easy life of a whitewater guide?

About the Author: 7_26 KristinaMathewsPhotoKristina Mathews doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t have a book in her hand. Or in her head. But it wasn’t until she turned forty that she confessed the reason the laundry never made it out of the dryer was because she was busy writing. While she resigned from teaching with the arrival of her second son, she’s remained an educator in some form. As a volunteer, parent club member or para educator, she finds the most satisfaction working with emergent and developing readers, helping foster confidence and a lifelong love of books. Kristina lives in Northern California with her husband of more than twenty years, two sons and a black lab. A veteran road tripper, amateur renovator and sports fanatic. She hopes to one day travel all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD, replace her carpet with hardwood floors and serve as a “Ball Dudette” for the San Francisco Giants.

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Night Magic by Kathleen Ann Gallagher – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kathleen will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

MediaKit_BookCover_NightMagicKrista Winter is in need of legal counsel. Several years ago she was forced to flee her life as a teacher in New Jersey after being shunned for practicing witchcraft, and her past is about to catch up with her.

Jon Bartolo is a dedicated attorney. His days are spent helping his clients with their struggles, and his nights are spent in agony, lost in a world between life and death. His mother, who died three years ago, lurks in his house, suffering from a curse for eternity, without a final resting place.

A smoldering fire ignites between Jon and Krista almost immediately, however, he’s sure his secret would frighten any woman away. An afternoon escape brings them closer, but doubts linger between the love-struck couple.

Burning questions about how to fuse their futures together with so much of their past still clouding the future becomes a heavy burden that they’re both trying to bear on their own. It will take a touch of magic if there’s any hope in sight.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

She smiled, wishing she wasn’t so nervous. Before she realized what was happening, he stood and headed toward her. Was Jon about to make a move? If so, she wasn’t resisting. He planted himself in front of her and took hold of her hands to help her stand. With a smooth sway of his hips, he slowly slipped his hand around her back. Tunnel vision altered all perception of reality, and she closed her eyes as he gently pulled her up against his chest. Jon’s touch aroused her mercilessly. There wasn’t time to react. Her panties moistened and her nipples tingled. The tiny stubble on his face gave her skin a slight burn, and it unleashed her wild spirit. She dug her fingers into his back. A sense of belonging came as a surprise. Jon cradled her in his arms, and she surrendered to his advances. His passionate touch filled her spirit with longing. It didn’t matter if they were strangers. When their lips touched, it felt right. A quiet echo and a brightness filled the room as if the goddess of love hovered over and shined light upon them. The connection was solid, and it practically knocked her off her feet. Steadying herself, Krista stared into his eyes with her heart racing. As Jon moved in again and plunged his tongue deep into her mouth, he caressed her back, and she surrendered mercifully to his touch. Each passion-filled kiss felt as if he was a long lost lover who had reappeared and claimed her heart’s desire. There was no telling what might happen next.

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_NightMagicKathleen writes contemporary and paranormal romance in her home in New Jersey, where she lives with her husband and their two fur babies, Luc and Chaz. She spent years working as a registered nurse in an emergency room. She is also active in Community Theater. She has three children and three lovable grandsons. Her favorite romantic getaway is Cape May, New Jersey. You might find Kathleen on a beach down the Jersey Shore, wearing a straw hat and sipping on an iced tea as she plots her next romance novel.

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M.L. Buchman’s Favorite Sequels – Guest Blog and Giveaway

M.L. Buchman is stopping by Long and Short Reviews as part of a virtual book tour organized by the publisher in celebration of the release of her newest book Heart Strike, the second book in the Delta Force series, which will be released on August 3. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a copy of the book.

M.L. Buchman’s Favorite Sequels
The first book in my new Delta Force #1, Target Engaged was called “His best yet” by Booklist and was also named a finalist for RWA’s prestigious RITA award.

Well, my answer to that is Heart Strike, releasing August 3rd, 2016. But it got me thinking. What are my favorite sequels? For a change-up, I focused on the action side rather than the romance, and here’s what I came up with.

5. The Color of Money

Paul Newman and a very young Tom Cruise in The Color of Money. The original Jackie Gleason and a very young Paul Newman The Hustler was a master work of a tight psychological drama. They upped the stakes and made it utterly captivating in the highly energetic sequel.

4. Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne #2 & #3 didn’t disappoint…for a single second. They sustained the tension, remained true to the character (an essential), and found ways to ratchet the tension higher in each successive one. Number 4? Not so much.

3. The Wrath of Khan

The Wrath of Khan notoriously took one of the most disappointing movie launches ever, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and created a massive and incredible franchise that has continued ever since. Khan is still one of the great, over-the-top, out-of-control villains.

2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Sometimes a great sequel comes third rather than second. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade pitted Harrison Ford against Sean Connery in gloriously foolish father-son mayhem that completely honored the first film.

1. The Dark Knight Rises

This choice surprises me. I like the Dark Knight reboot, but I’m not a big fan of the comic book heroes in general and frequently skip them. It took me a couple of years to catch up with this one and what I love about it isn’t the acting (which was wonderful), or the action (which was dramatic). It was the story. The writer and director completely set us up to thinking this story was going one direction…then in the last half hour it went another way entirely. AND that twist was perfectly in character, just wholly unexpected.

Now, I write romantic suspense, so the ending is fairly predictable, but I certainly hope that you enjoy the journey of my latest Delta Force novel, number 2, Heart Strike!

buchman book coverSERGEANT RICHIE “Q” GOLDMAN: The smartest soldier on any team

SERGEANT MELISSA “THE CAT” MOORE: Newest on the team, determined to be the best

Rescued from an icy mountaintop by a Delta operative, Melissa Moore has never met a challenge she can’t conquer. Not only she will make Delta Force, she will be the best female warrior in The Unit, and woe to anyone who says otherwise. Technical wizard Richie Goldman is Bond’s “Q” turned warrior. A genius about everything except women, he takes point on the team’s most dangerous mission yet. When the Delta Force team goes undercover in the depths of the Colombian jungle, surviving attacks from every side requires that Richie and Melissa strike right at the heart of the matter…and come out with their own hearts intact.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Sunrise was less than an hour off when Chad jostled his shoulder.

Richie hadn’t been asleep and barely managed to suppress an oath as Chad shook him hard enough to wake the dead—his idea of humor. Richie noticed that he was a little more cautious with Duane who often woke with his knife half-drawn. Kyle and Carla were already at the hut’s entrance.

Kyle had taken one look at the order and, in minutes, outlined a plan of how they were going to exit the farm with hopefully minimal exposure and risk. The guards they were anticipating would be off duty and the patrol timing would be wrong, but Kyle’s plan was as solid as they could get with what they knew.

No way would Richie be missing this place. Dirt floor, woven grass mat, and a thatched roof that could really use some thatch before the next rainstorm but wasn’t going to get it.

He felt sorry for the laborers. Some of the farmers were about to have an even worse season than the last one. At a big site like this, they were little better than slaves. Once the coca was gone, they’d be free, but with no assets and no working farm crop. In the coca business, locals just weren’t part of the profit equation.

Rolando and the drug lord’s other armed guards Richie liked well enough, but had less sympathy for.

The Delta team slipped out into the darkness, just a hint of the blue in the sky that was already washing out the fainter stars. They passed the farmers’ huts and were almost to the road leading out of the camp.

“Where are you going, amigos?” Rolando, his AK-47 no longer over his shoulder but now in his hands.

“Hey, buddy.” Chad started forward, but stopped and tried to look stupid when Rolando flicked off the safety.

Carla stepped forward with an easy sway of her hips. Her dirty blue work shirt unbuttoned far enough to reveal that her assets weren’t all that much less impressive than the fabled Mayra’s.

Rolando’s eyes dropped to her cleavage.

She moved a hand up to his chest. With a little flick of her wrist, she revealed the long KA-BAR military knife she was holding and rammed it up under his chin and into his brain.

Rolando twitched once.

“That’s for trying to ram it up my backside without asking.”

“He what?” Kyle snarled, but Carla didn’t waste any time answering. If there was ever a woman able to defend herself, Richie knew it was Carla Anderson.

Then Rolando collapsed to the ground and his finger must have snagged on the trigger. A single 7.62mm round gave a loud crack and zinged off into the trees.

“Shit!” the whole team said pretty much in unison.

With their clandestine departure blown, Chad swept up the AK-47 and fired a security round into Rolando’s forehead.

In seconds, they were fifty meters away and moving fast. Kyle had Rolando’s sidearm and Carla had a subcompact Glock 27 that she’d produced from somewhere—where was one of the questions Richie suspected he’d be better off not asking. Still, it was an interesting problem because they’d all been checked on arrival as being unarmed. Richie had pre-buried his GPS and satellite gear in the jungle, carefully crossing then recrossing the mined perimeter before they’d come into the camp so that he could retrieve them once the team had been accepted.

The two guards at the main gate were half-awake when they stumbled to their feet. They went back down fast and Richie and Duane now had AK-47s as well. Chad stripped them of a pair of Makarov handguns, tossing one to Richie that he caught midair.

There was an old Jeep parked by the gate, but neither of the guards had a key. It was probably back in the open, on Rolando’s body. Chad started hot-wiring it while the rest of them stood watch.

Then Richie heard it. Distant at first, but building fast. The four-engine gut-thumping roar of a loaded 747.

“Come on, Chad,” Carla pleaded. “Get us out of here.”

The Jeep’s engine roared to life and they piled in.

Duane tossed his AK-47 to Chad and dove into the driver’s seat—he was the best driver they had. He’d been working up the sprint-car circuit toward NASCAR when he’d taken his detour into the military.

Kyle and Richie dropped two more armed guards who came rushing from the huts, half-dressed and scared awake.

Duane raced the Jeep out of camp along the road, praying for no booby traps.

Then the largest tanker plane in the world descended and began its run.

The 747, converted for firefighting, had been put into deep storage in the Tucson desert when its owners went out of business. The CIA had found another use for the massive plane, which now began its dump of twenty thousand gallons—over eighty tons—of defoliant across the exact coordinates that Richie had sent to them just six hours ago.

His Delta team had been to twelve coca farms in the last six months. And the 747 tanker had visited each in turn. Twelve farms that wouldn’t produce a single leaf of coca anytime soon.

“Down,” Chad shouted.

They all ducked and hung on as Duane rammed the heavy wooden outer barrier at thirty miles an hour. It blew apart. A four-by-four shattered the windshield and Carla knocked the remains of the glass clear with the butt of a Chinese QBB machine gun she’d acquired somewhere along the way before turning it around to shoot a guard who’d been standing well clear of the gate.

Richie kept an eye out to the rear, but no one was following. If they were, they’d have a long way to go. The team had been pulled out of Bolivia. They were being tasked to a new assignment.

That was fine.

After six months training together and another six in the field, it was the last line of the message that had worried them all.

Proceed to Maracaibo, Venezuela. Acquire new team member.

About the Author:M. L. Buchman has over 35 novels and an ever-expanding flock of short stories in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year,” Booklist “Top 10 of the Year,” and RT “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of the Year.” In addition to romantic suspense, he also writes contemporaries, thrillers, and fantasy and science fiction.

In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world.

He is now a full-time writer, living on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing at MLBuchman.com.

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Wagon Train Sisters by Shirley Kennedy – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Shirley will be awarding a digital copy of Wagon Train Sisters to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

7_25 Cover_Wagon Train SistersAfter the death of her abusive husband, Sarah Gregg is free to join her family along with thousands of others in the nation’s westward march for gold. But in the middle of the hard journey, Sarah’s younger sister, Florrie, disappears. Devastated by the family’s failed attempts to find her missing sister, Sarah now wants only to settle into a quiet, uneventful life when she reaches California . . .

But Jack McCoy, a drifter and one-time gambler riding along their wagon train, sees so much more for Sarah. In the roaring mining town of Gold Creek his attentive persistence points Sarah toward new vistas. Then unexpected news of Florrie arrives—and it’s worse than anyone expected. But driven by a new hopefulness, Sarah seeks help from Jack, despite his troubled past. The two have traveled a rough road together, and only their hearts can tell them where they are headed . . .

Enjoy an excerpt:

“Has anybody seen my sister?”

Lined along the bank, the ladies of the train dutifully halted their labors. “Haven’t seen her since this morning.”

“Haven’t seen her all day.”

“Maybe she ran away.”

Everyone tittered at that last remark. After weeks living in the forced closeness of a wagon train, they knew each other well, and in some cases, better than they wished. Sarah was known to be the hard worker of the family. Her sister-in-law, Becky, was the one with the sharp tongue. Florrie was the quiet one, hadn’t made many friends, and stayed close to their wagon. She’d be the last person in the world who’d run off. Besides, where would she go? Two days ago they’d left the last vestiges of civilization at Fort Hall and were now in a land where rivers raged, wild animals roamed, forests stretched to the horizon and beyond.

So where was Florrie? Come to think of it, Sarah hadn’t seen her since right after they stopped for the day, and that was hours ago. It wasn’t like her, but she must be visiting at one of the wagons. She’d surely appear in time for supper. Nothing to worry about.

About the Author: 7_25 AuthorPic_Shirley KennedyShirley Kennedy was born and raised in Fresno, California. In her early career as an author, Shirley wrote traditional Regency romances, one for Ballantine, the rest for Signet. Later on, she branched into other genres. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her older daughter, Dianne, and Brutus and Sparky, her two editorial assistants who love to nap in the sunshine next to her computer while she works on her next book.

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The Story of Us by Ariel Tachna and Nicki Bennett – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes Nicki Bennett and Ariel Tachna, the authors of Checkmate.

The Story of Us

Ariel:

People ask us occasionally how we met and came to write together. Since it never ceases to make me smile, I thought it might be a fun story to share.

About thirteen years ago, Nicki and I were both very active in the Lord of the Rings fandom, but we hadn’t really interacted. Then I posted the next chapter of the opus I was writing, and I got this e-mail. “The characters you’ve spent 120 chapters lovingly creating wouldn’t act the way they did in chapter 121.” It then went on to explain in great detail why the author of the e-mail felt that way. It turns out she was right (she’s always right). So I rewrote the end of chapter 121, sent it back to her, and asked if that was better. She agreed that it was, so I issued a correction on the forum where I shared the story. Then I wrote chapter 122 and sent it to her, asking if she’d like to read it before I posted it. She said yes.

Since then, I have written all of four things that she hasn’t read first, sometimes as I’m writing them (quite literally—I write a paragraph and post it in a chat window and then write the next one), and all four of those things were gifts for her: Testament to Love, two chapters of Partnership in Blood that were birthday presents for her, and an unpublished retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac with a male lead in place of Roxane.

For all that the story of how we met is fun and funny, it’s also very telling. Nicki has an eye for detail and characterization that makes her an invaluable beta reader and writing partner, and that wasn’t something I had to learn through trial and error. From our first interaction, I knew she cared about my story as much as I did, because when I say she gave me a detailed explanation of the characterization error I made, I’m not kidding. The e-mail was almost as long as the chapter! She had clearly put so much thought and care into her e-mail that it resonated with me. Here was someone who was as passionate as I was, not just about Lord of the Rings, but about my specific take on them. The jump from beta-reading to writing together was, for me, a no-brainer.

Nicki:

What Ariel left out of her side of the story is that the reason I felt so passionate about her opus was that she had made the characters come alive, not just retelling their actions during the LOTR trilogy but envisioning their lives and relationships before and after the fellowship, in original and entrancing detail. (Those of you fortunate enough to have read The Price of Pride know exactly what I mean.) I was incredibly nervy sending that e-mail, but I’d come to respect her and the characters she’d made her own, and the scene just felt wrong. I honestly expected her to either ignore me or tell me she knew her characters better than I thought I did. I never expected her to rewrite the chapter based on my comments! But that’s the thing about Ariel—even though we rarely disagree (the whole sharing-a-brain thing), she’s always open to listening to another viewpoint and changing things when it will make a story stronger.

I have to laugh at her casual statement that “the jump from beta-reading to writing together was, for me, a no-brainer.” What she neglects to mention is that I wasn’t a writer before knowing her. Oh, I’d written job-training aids and technical manuals for my evil day job, but the only creative writing I’d ever done was a truly horrible Mary Sue fantasy short story when I was twelve (blessedly long lost). I learned the craft of writing from Ariel, so that when she prompted me to try my hand at writing something myself a few months after we “met,” I knew I could rely on her to help me develop my skills, until I improved to the point that we started writing together. I’ve written a few things on my own since, but I still think the strongest writing I’ve done are the things I’ve written with her. We bring out the best in each other.

Ariel:

What Nicki isn’t telling you is that the first thing she sent me was so powerful that I went running down the hall at the school where I was teaching at the time to show it to two friends because they absolutely had to read it right now! I may have convinced her to try her hand at writing, but I didn’t have to teach her anything.

Tell us about how you met your best friend—we’ll choose one comment to give away an eBook copy of any title from either of our backlists.

7_25 CheckmateFS_v2When sword-for-hire Teodoro Ciéza de Vivar accepts a commission to “rescue” Lord Christian Blackwood from unsuitable influences, he has no idea he’s landed himself in the middle of a plot to assassinate King Philip IV of Spain and blame the English ambassador for the deed. Nor does he expect the spoiled child he’s sent to retrieve to be a handsome, engaging young man.

As Teodoro and Christian face down enemies at every turn, they fall more and more in love, an emotion they can’t safely indulge with the threat of the Inquisition looming over them. It will take all their combined guile and influence to outmaneuver the powerful men who would see them separated… or even killed.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Esteban stared out at the street from the window of la taberna Castellán, as he had for most of the past three days. Teodoro did not like him to visit the tavern where they sometimes took meals when they were in funds, but the small window in their rooms at the parish residence did not give much view of the street, and after three weeks had come and gone and Teodoro had still not returned, Esteban could no longer sit upstairs and pretend to study the lessons his tío, Inocencio, had left for him. If he had known exactly where his guardian had gone, Esteban would have set off in search of him, but since Teo had neglected to provide him with that information, he could do nothing but wait, watch for him, and worry about what would happen should he not return.

It was growing dark, and Beatriz, the tavern owner’s wife, had started throwing him looks (which he was doing his best to ignore) to indicate it was time to return home before the night’s heavy drinking began, when Esteban caught sight of a figure in a familiar wide-brimmed hat and worn brown jerkin. When he was younger, he might have run out the door, crying out to anyone with ears to hear that Teo had returned, but with age Esteban had learned some discretion and also some self-preservation. Slipping quietly outside, he tried to appear as if he were simply strolling the street to take some air and just happened to notice that Teodoro was approaching. He was so relieved to see Teo that he did not at first realize he was not alone.

Christian had sighed with relief when Ciéza pulled the horse to a stop. He was sure this was Madrid, though he had never been there before, which perhaps meant they had reached the end of their journey. Even if they had not, they were stopping for the moment, giving him a much needed break from Ciéza’s proximity. The last near fortnight had been… difficult, the Spaniard’s nearness a constant prod to Christian’s libido, until his erection seemed to nag at him day and night. Ciéza had not seemed to notice, but Christian needed a respite. Fortunately, they had left the horse at a livery stable and were now on foot. He glanced around to see an inn of slightly lesser quality than the one he had inhabited in Valencia, but that seemed to be their destination. A youth some years younger than Christian’s own age lounged against the wall, pushing off when he saw them and approaching eagerly. Christian frowned, wondering who this was.

“You’re late, Teo,” Esteban said accusingly, stopping in his tracks when he noticed the gentleman accompanying Teodoro. The man was elegantly dressed, if somewhat dusty and rumpled, and he was undeniably handsome, but something about way he dogged Teo’s steps like a shadow set Esteban’s teeth on edge. “Who is this?” he demanded, nodding at the stranger.

“My commission,” Teodoro answered shortly, amused that Esteban sought to distract him by taking the offensive. “Your Excellency, this whelp is my son, Esteban. Esteban, this is Don Cristian Blackwood.” He didn’t bother with the Englishman’s full title; it wouldn’t mean anything to Esteban, and if all went well he wouldn’t be around long enough for it to matter in any case. The younger men bowed to each other with the air of two dogs sniffing each other warily.

Christian had already discovered a weakness for Ciéza’s voice, but hearing his name spoken, not with boring English rhythm, but with the Spanish flair that made everything more alluring—Cristian, not Christian—only increased his susceptibility.

“Now, since you’ve obviously made yourself familiar with the tavern in my absence, make yourself useful and have Beatriz send us some food—and a bottle of wine.” Teo gestured to Blackwood to precede him into the taproom, his gaze following the graceful sway of the younger man’s backside as they entered. “Better make it two bottles,” he called to Esteban, forcing his gaze away.

About the Authors:

Growing up in Chicago, Nicki Bennett spent every Saturday at the central library, losing herself in the world of books. A voracious reader, she eventually found it difficult to find enough of the kind of stories she liked to read and decided to start writing them herself.

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When Ariel Tachna was twelve years old, she discovered two things: the French language and romance novels. Those two loves have defined her ever since. By the time she finished high school, she’d written four novels, none of which anyone would want to read now, featuring a young woman who was—you guessed it—bilingual. That girl was everything Ariel wanted to be at age twelve and wasn’t.

She now lives on the outskirts of Houston with her husband (who also speaks French), her kids (who understand French even when they’re too lazy to speak it back), and their two dogs (who steadfastly refuse to answer any French commands).

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26 Hours in Paris by Demi Alex – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a viruatl book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Demi will be awarding a digital copy of 26 Hours in Paris to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

MediaKit_BookCover_26HoursInParis
One day to see the sights.

One night to change your life.

Magazine writer Kathryn Taylor is traveling from New York to Paris for work. But the flirtatious Frenchman she left long ago is waiting at the airport–and he wants to play. . .

No one can guide Kat through the sensual city’s delights like Marko Renard. He let her get away once, and now he’s determined to make her stay–even if he has to tie her down. He will wrap her in cashmere, tease her tongue with chocolate, and take her to the peak of the Eiffel Tower . . . But can he convince the bohemian beauty she belongs with him, in his luxuriously decadent world? In business, he’s the master–but it’s Kat’s body and soul he truly longs to rule. He has just enough time to show her the pleasures of the boulevards, the boulangeries–and the bedroom. To finally get her to just say oui, he’ll have to seize the day–and the night. . .

Enjoy an Excerpt:

“Why do I need to go to Paris?” Kathryn asked, rubbing her temple with more force. “I’ll be looking over my shoulder for him at every turn. What if I bump into him? What happens then?”

“You mean, how do you research the perfect place to find love when love finds you?” Paul folded his muscled arms over his chest and leaned back in his seat. “You could even have a true Parisian show you around all the hot spots. Why is that so bad, Kittykat?”

“Because Marko is not an option. He’s loaded, cultured, and out of my league.” Even worse, he’d insist on introducing her to his family like he had that Christmas years ago. “I’ve worked real hard to establish myself as a competent professional. It would kill me to have the mighty Renards look down on me.”

“Why would they look down on you?” Paul asked. “You’re being ridiculous.”

“You could never understand, Paul. You’re rich and entitled, cut from the same cloth as Marko. I’m a girl from Long Island that had to take online classes for eighteen months to finish my last semester and get my degree, all while keeping my dad’s aluminum-siding business afloat to save my childhood home. Could you picture a woman in Marko’s family with chipped nail polish and callouses on her palms?”

“Marko stayed by your side. You were the one that ran away from him.” Paul’s jaw was set, but his gaze was full of compassion. He’d seen what her father’s passing had done to her and her mother, and he’d also been there for her in that difficult time. She hadn’t turned away from him. The difference was that Paul was her friend. Marko was her soul mate.

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_26HoursInParisDemi Alex writes steamy romances, blending emotional fulfillments of the heart and carnal desires in her work. Born in Athens, Greece, and raised in her own version of a big fat Greek life in New York, Demi was infected with book and travel bugs early, and currently admits the only therapy for this condition is to combine the two in fictional stories that allow her characters to let loose and experience all they crave. She attended SUNY at Stony Brook, and after changing her major numerous times, graduated with a degree in Public Policy and International Studies. Her characters are loosely based on people she encounters while she travels or during the time she spends matching homes to owners as a Realtor. She simply has a passion for matchmaking that can’t be put to rest.

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Hair Power by Piers Anthony – Spotlight

NEW RELEASE from Piers Anthony
Dreaming Big Publications brings you a new fantasy/sci-fi story from nationally bestselling author of the Xanth series, Piers Anthony. With about 175 books in print, Piers Anthony continues to bring fans stories with magic, a little naughtiness, and full of the humor they have come to expect.

7_22 piers anthony book coverTerminal cancer patient, Quiti, walks into an abandoned building planning on taking her life.

Instead, she encounters a telepathic ball of hair that insists it is an alien seeking to facilitate diplomatic communication on Earth.

Quiti assumes it is all a hallucination conjured up by her brain tumor.

Because of this assumption, when she saves the alien’s life and it insists on doing Quiti a favor in return, she only asks for her hair back. She soon discovers, however, that the creature’s gift extends much further than her new locks that can change color with a thought. As her powers grow and her deadly illness goes into remission, Quiti quickly realizes that there are those that would want to use her for her abilities and is forced to leave behind everything that she knew.

Will this blessing curse her to a life on the run, or does the mysterious hairball have more in store for her?

About the Author: 7_22 piers anthonyPiers Anthony, critically acclaimed author of the New York Times bestselling Xanth series, brings together humor and adventure in this original story of loyalty, friendship, extraordinary powers, and hair.

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Her Unexpected Affair by Shea McMaster – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The authors will be awarding digital copies of all books on the tour to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

MediaKit_BookCover_HerUnexpectedAffairThis was a detour worth taking . . .

For as long as she can remember, Meilin Wu has had her life mapped out, and she’s well down her chosen path–which had no warning signs about a tall, golden Brit who would bowl her over the night before her arranged marriage . . .

Drew Robinson has nearly finished his formal education and is ready to face the world when he meets Meilin, an exquisite beauty with Chinese ancestry. He doesn’t mind she’s ten years older, and the fact she knows Mandarin only makes her that much more a perfect fit for his upcoming adventures in China. He just has to get her to dump her fiancé and convince her that a trip in
China will only enhance her established design business.

Easy for a guy who’s known for seeing sunshine wherever he goes. Right?

Enjoy an Excerpt:

A stab of jealousy knifed Meilin in the heart. Other people found grand passion, and here she was about to commit the rest of her days to a union with a man who failed to inspire the rush of heat she’d experienced by just shaking Drew’s hand. Insane. She didn’t know these people well enough to envy them so fiercely. And yet, that emotion was a thousand times stronger than any emotion she’d ever felt for Shan.

It confused her.

And when confused, she turned to small talk. “I detect more than a little pluminess in your accent, sir, but none in your sister’s. I’m guessing you were raised in England? Father and mother both British?”

“Good ear, not that it’s hard to decipher. I did the whole boarding school with proper elocution thing while Courtney was raised here in California as wild and free as a bird.”

“How very interesting. Are you to the manor born?” She did her best to say it in a British accent. Not that she’d had much practice, but who didn’t love a good BBC program from time to time?

Drew laughed. “No fancy titles in our branch, but we do have the biggest house in the district. My father likes to pretend he’s a lord of some sort at Christmas.”

The notion wasn’t foreign to Meilin.

Junlei arrived with the second round of drinks for her table and turned to Jack’s party to take their orders.

Her own father, directly descended from minor nobility turned laborer in California, liked to do the same. The reminders of how the family had started high born, fell to the lowest depths of society, then rose to the upper ranks were drummed into them all, chapter and verse at each large gathering. Come to think of it, at almost any gathering, large or small. The ancestors were well revered.

“Tell me about yourself,” Drew said. “Jack has told us nothing about you.”

Before she could open her mouth to politely turn the conversation again, Jack leaned across the table in order to be heard. “She’s an interior designer. One of the best in the city. Possibly in all California if not the west coast. Big time bigwig woman.”

Frowning at Jack did no good. She always let her work do her bragging for her, never did she need to toot her own horn. The wave of girls, fluttering like butterflies, returned to their table, relieving her from answering.

“Jack, what a surprise.”

“Hey, cousin.”

“Jack, you mangy dog, what are you doing here? Spying on Meilin’s last night out? We should kick you out of here.”

“Not while he has friends here.” Sunchu, one of her few remaining single friends, leaned over from the far side of the table to extend her hand to Drew. “And who might you be, tall, golden, and handsome?” Drew stood and exchanged handshakes all around as the entire group of five women settled at the table. Sure, they included Courtney, but Drew had ninety-nine percent of their attention. And why not? Exactly as Sunchu had said, he was tall, golden, and very handsome. Not only did he have a perfect tan, but he smelled good too. Not one whiff of heavily scented aftershave teased Meilin’s nose. He was as fresh as a forest. Clean water and towering pines came to mind. Maybe a hint of citrus, possibly lime, but his scent was light and refreshing. She’d have to find out what he used.

What in the hell was she doing sniffing him up like that? No, she would not ask him what scent he wore. Especially because his proximity made her pulse thrum wildly in her veins. His thigh brushed against hers and she swallowed a gasp, as the contact acted like a raindrop landing on a smooth lake, sending ripples of goosebumps down her leg and up her body.

It took only a second to drain her first drink, set it down, and reach for the second. This was all she needed. A short, intense attraction to a foreigner on the eve of her engagement. Sort of like a very short-term foreign exchange. Surprised at her comparison to a semester abroad, she laughed to herself.

Not happening. Not now, not ever.

And then he had to ask, “Would you like to dance?”

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_HerUnexpectedAffair

Shea McMaster lives for traditional romance. Born in New Orleans, raised in California, Shea got moved to Alaska in 1977, where she attended high school before running back to California to get her English degree from Mills College. Alas, once back home she met and fell in love with her own forever true hero, a born and raised Alaska man. Since then she’s had a love-hate relationship with America’s largest state.

With her one and only son half way through college, and mostly out of the house, Shea is fortunate to spend her days engaged in daydreaming and turning those dreams into romantic novels and novellas featuring damsels in distress rescued by their own brains and hunky heroes. She also writes under the steamy romances under the name Morgan O’Reilly.

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