Winter Blogfest: Hector Duarte, Jr.

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest.

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Noche Buena by Hector Duarte, Jr.

“¡Ño, que hambre!” Is something heard a lot during Noche Buena. In a Caribbean/Latin American household, the night before Christmas holds more weight than the day itself.

Noche Buena starts early. By one, two in the afternoon, family’s already gathered at the host-house. Why? Because the alpha males (many you won’t see til next year) who know best have gathered to figure out the best way to asar el lechon. No caja china here. Don’t insult the masculinity of the yard by bringing it up. Este puerco gets wrapped in banana leaves and splayed over a bed of hot coals burning a hole in the dirt.

But, be patient. This will take hours. Of listening to stories (many on repeat) of the old island; smelling the yard fill with scents of crisping skin and sizzling mojo (sneak a bite every once in a while, but don’t get caught). More listening; if it’s a Republican president in charge, most everyone’s extolling his virtues. A democrat, they’ll say the country’s going the way of Fidel and, “Cuando, Dios mio,” will a Republican take the reins again? This banter will eventually give way to the muttering of, “¡Ño, que hambre!”

Shove as many Islas Canarias croquetas down your throat; man, are they tasty. None of them quell the itch produced by el humo hotboxing la casa entera. Black beans, yuca con ajo, flan, y arroz con leche. And, of course, el cabrón lechón. Burning a hole in your stomach.  

If you’re lucky, it’s unwrapped from its steaming cocoon by nine, by which time you’re likely out of your mind from staring at domino tiles plunked onto a custom-made wooden gaming table emblazoned with some type of Cuban nostalgia.

¡Ño, que hambre!

Pero, esperate. Got to let los mayores in front of you. What kind of joven would you be if you ate before Abuela Miña? This family’s so big and generational, it adds another fifteen minutes between you and jamando. Ni te atrevas try and sneak a peek off Mami or Papi’s plate!

Finally, you eat, filling your empty stomach with the staples that have teased harder than the episode endings of one of Mami’s telenovelas.

Ño, do they fulfill.

You eat so hard and fast, by the end you’re comatose and ready for bed.

Perfect time to sneak in a nap and wake up in time to arrive home and unwrap gifts.

The older you get, the less it matters what’s under the tree. Until the day it stops mattering all together because you know all too well all those smells, sounds, tastes can’t be wrapped. There isn’t enough gift paper in all the world to cover it. Best you can do, is try to make that noche buena for someone else. If they’re lucky, they’ll get the slightest sliver of such a memory.

Just a sliver, though. Not the whole pie. Some things you got to hoard for yourself.

 

After her friend Sandy Mangual tragically falls to his death, Bailey Cohen discovers images of his grisly corpse have been uploaded and shared through social media, by someone very close to her.

Bailey enlists the help of quiet, unnoticed, underappreciated Bernardo Castillo, who works the luxury Miami Beach high rise in which she stays.

Bernardo and Bailey will have to dredge up the shady past they’ve long worked to tamp down in order to set off on the path toward vengeance. A journey that will reshape and morph each person engulfed along its way.

Icarus Over Collins is a short, punchy revenge story as cracked and slivered as hot Miami pavement.

 

Hector Duarte, Jr. is a writer/educator out of Miami, Fl, where he lives with his wife, son, and cat. His fiction has been published widely online and in print. His first short story collection, Desperate Times Call, published in September of 2018 by Shotgun Honey Books. His debut novella, Icarus Over Collins, was published by Cinnabar Moth in March 2023.

 

Buy the book at Cinnabar Moth.

Next Stop, Boston by Iris Dorbian – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Iris Dorbian will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

: Sixteen-year-old Geri Randall’s life is turned upside down when her late sister’s fiance, Dez Deacon, a washed-up rock star, is named her guardian. Whisked away from the only life she knew and taken on a rock and roll tour, Geri is initially desperate to win Dez’s approval. That desire hits a sour note when Dez’s treatment of her becomes too much to bear. What ensues is a battle of wills between her and her temperamental guardian, a collision course that will push Geri to do the unthinkable to get what she wants.

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Her skinny fingers rippled across the strings. She played a G chord, one of the few chords he’d taught her in between gigs. She plucked it again, the twangy sound vibrating in her ears.

It was part of her nightly backstage ritual. Most important was polishing and cleaning his guitar. He was persnickety in the way he liked it. Lately, she had gotten the hang of it, but it had been rough going there for a while, as he was never satisfied with anything he asked her to do. Whether it was this task or another, she could never please him. Not until recently.

She’d thought being on the road would be a lot more fun. She didn’t hate it, but she didn’t relish it either. Time was a blur; it was as if school and her other life never existed, with every day seeming to stretch into an eternity.

She scanned the musty room, and when she was sure no one was lurking, Geri picked up the Gibson again and pretended to play the guitar like a rock god. Tossing her head back, she rolled her right arm like a windmill and closed her eyes, faking the strumming and picking motions.

It was dumb, childish as all hell. But, screw it. She needed to let loose.

Of course, if he saw her doing this, she’d never hear the end of it.

About the Author: Iris Dorbian is an arts and business journalist whose bylines have appeared in a wide array of outlets that include Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Crain’s New York Business, Business Insider, Buyouts, Venture Capital Journal, Investopedia, Playbill, Backstage, Dance Magazine, Theatermania and Stage Directions, where she served as editor-in-chief for eight years. Her personal essays have been featured in HBO’s Inspiration Room, Boomer Magazine, Jewish Literary Journal, Diverse Voices Quarterly, and Gothesque Magazine. Having previously published “Great Producers: Visionaries of the American Theater” (Allworth/Skyhorse) “An Epiphany in Lilacs: In the Aftermath of the Camps” (original publisher: Mazo Publishers) and “Sentenced to Shakespeare” (Sunbury/Milford House Prss), “Next Stop, Boston” is her fourth book.

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Six Elements Every Historical Fiction Story Should Have by Kate Bristow – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kate Bristow will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Six Elements Every Historical Fiction Story Should Have
I love reading historical fiction because if written well the story will not only immerse you in another time and place but also inspire you to do a little research for yourself to learn more about the events depicted. Because of ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel, I started exploring Tudor England and the shadowy history of Thomas Cromwell. ‘Lonesome Dove’ by Larry McMurty sent me off on a journey to the Old West. While the historical fiction author needs to focus on many of the same elements as any writer, they need to work a little harder to ensure that the reader finds the story credible.

1. Setting

As in any story, setting is critical in putting the reader into the heart of the novel from the beginning. In historical fiction, the writer must ensure that the location is described in a way that makes sense in the time period. London today looks very different from London in 1823 despite the fact that many of the buildings from two hundred years ago are still standing.

2. Characters

Often in historical fiction, the cast of characters will be based on a mix of real and fictional people. A good novelist will create living breathing creatures that dress appropriately for the time period and behave in the right way. Women for example lived under very different societal norms in years gone by. My heroine Elena was not encouraged to be educated to the same degree as her male counterparts, nor expected to want a job outside the home.

3. Dialogue

As with the descriptions of characters and their traits, dialogue needs careful research in historical fiction. Characters cannot come out with modern expressions or use language that would be considered inappropriate in that time period. Words can change their meaning over time: ‘awful’ used to mean ‘worthy of awe’ whereas today it simple means something or someone terrible. In my novel, I also had to think about Italians and the fact that they tend to be more formal when addressing elders or people they don’t know very well. At the same time, you want to make sure that the modern reader isn’t struggling to read and understand the text.

4. Plot

The plot is the sequence of events that happen in the story, each of which causes the next thing to happen. In historic fiction, the plot is sometimes drawn from an event that actually took place at some point in the past. But the fiction writer has the ability to add imagined elements to the story and to alter the timeline. My book is based on real life events but I simplified certain aspects in order to give the story a dramatic arc.

5. Conflict

A good story always contains a conflict of some description and historical fiction should be no different. But even when a novel is based on an extreme example of a conflict—in my case, World War 2—it is still critical that the main conflict is at a very personal level. My heroine Elena believes art is worth saving in a time of war: my hero Luca thinks that more energy should be spent worrying about whether there is enough food to eat.

6. World building

World building—the ability of a writer to create a credible fictional world—is of particular importance in historical fiction. The reader has to embrace the world that is being described and understand why the story needed to take place at exactly that time and place. Are the characters behaving in a believable way given the time period? How are the events taking place in the wider world affecting the people in the story? What kind of relationships and conflicts would you expect to see in this particular moment in time? Authenticity is so important. If the reader senses something out of place, they begin to subconsciously doubt the entire premise of the novel. Attention to detail is a must if the world being built by the novelist is to appear plausible to the reader.

I hope you enjoy my historical fiction novel ‘Saving Madonna’ and the glimpse it gives of the lives of ordinary Italians during the war.

Is a painting worth dying for?

Inspired by real events, an unforgettable story of love, courage and sacrifice to save a country’s heritage.

Italy 1943. As the Allies bomb Milan, Elena Marchetti reluctantly gives up her coveted job as an art curator in the city to return to her family farm near Urbino. She takes up a new role assisting Pasquale Rotondi, the Superintendent of Arts in the region, in protecting works of art from all over Italy that have been hidden in the relative safety of the countryside.

At a family celebration, Elena reunites with Luca, a close childhood friend. A shattering event instigated by the occupying Germans deepens their relationship, and they start planning a life together. When rumors surface that Italy’s art is being stolen by the German occupiers, Pasquale hatches an audacious plan to rescue the priceless paintings in his possession. Elena and Luca are forced to make an impossible decision: will they embark on a dangerous mission to save Italy’s cultural heritage?

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Marco looked beyond his home to a small wood that stretched out from the rear of the property down to the narrow white road snaking through the valley toward the distant hilltop town of Peglio. His home was called Ca’Boschetto (House of the Copse) because of these trees, and Marco knew it would soon be time for his father and uncle to gather their friends and bloodhounds for the annual truffle hunt. Their small wood was known far and wide as a fruitful location for the illusive and highly sought-after fungi, and the truffle hunt was one of the highlights of the season.

Beyond the wood, a patchwork of fields that had been parched brown after the harvest in the heat of August was beginning to turn into shades of green from recent rain. Marco spotted a couple of deer making the most of the fresh grass. Something else caught his eye as it glinted in the distance. Marco lifted his hands to his brow to deflect the glare of the autumnal sun. Whatever was flashing in the sunlight was moving toward their farm. The ox-drawn carts that often made this journey on the back road couldn’t move that quickly. He squinted. Something was not right.

“Luca! Luca! I can see a car coming. Look at the road!”

His older brother turned away from the flock and walked over to where Marco was standing. Luca stared at the distant vehicle for a minute and his face darkened. “Marco, Gianni, run down to the house and tell Papà that there might be Germans coming. Move!”

About the Author: Kate Bristow was born in London. She fell in love with reading when she got her first library card at the age of four. Her first attempt at writing and publishing for a wide audience was a local newspaper typed laboriously at home on her mother’s typewriter while at primary (elementary) school in north London. It is surely a loss to cutting-edge journalism that only one issue was ever produced. Kate divides her time between her small-but-perfectly-formed modern home in Los Angeles and her five-hundred-year-old farmhouse just outside Sassocorvaro in Italy.

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Reflections on the Boulevard by L.J. Ambrosio

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will award a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner and an autographed copy of the book to a second randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

As an author, what scares me the most is…

Nothing-really, I must check and recheck my research. That is important.

The hardest part about writing is…

Exhaustion. I can only write 2 hours a night because I write stream of consciousness; I must keep on going not to lose thread of the moments of the story

Character interview with Michael:

“Michael, what do you think of Ron in Reflections on the Boulevard?”

He taught me a lot about my truth and my freedom; I do not want to neglect how to sit on benches.

“What do you think about yourself in Reservoir Men?”

I had a painful journey, but I learnt the true mystery of life sitting by the river.

Ideal writing space

I write in my office overlooking my garden

Michael’s story continues from “A Reservoir Man” (2022) where we find him teaching at a university ready to retire. He unexpectedly meets a young man named Ron who becomes his protégé and journeys with him in a haphazard adventure throughout America and Europe. In Michael’s final journey in life, each twist and turn of the road brings unexpected adventures. The journey taken is one of joy, friendship, and discovery.

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On one particularly bumpy part of the trail, Michael assured Ron.

“You look great and natural on that mule! Like Gene Autry!” Ron was falling over now, off the mule. Ron had some choice language for Michael. After a minute he also asked, “Who is Gene Autry?”

“He was the cowboy who sang ‘Don’t Fence Me In’!”

The mule train proved to be extraordinary. The views were spectacular; being inside the canyon was the best. The formation of the rocks was either tilted, straight, or flat. The horizontal layers of rocks produced the colors yellow, red, and blue. The mule and Ron were no problem; he was a natural mule rider. Thank heavens he told the mule about his relationship with Rhonda – that was the key to their bonding. Ron had a wonderful time, even if his butt was in pain. He felt the saddle was still attached to his bottom even after they left.

They found a bench looking at their incredible view of the North Rim. Michael turned to Ron telling him how nice and cool their friendship was. Michael agreed.

“I had so many friends and partners, but I was never able to have as much fun and conversations as I have had with you, Ron.”

“Partners like Gail, your former business partner?” Ron asked.

Michael playfully responded, “No, like loving, and those other things.”

About the Author:

Louis J. Ambrosio ran one of the most nurturing bi-coastal talent agencies in Los Angeles and New York. He started his career as a theatrical producer, running two major regional theaters for eight seasons. Ambrosio taught at seven universities. Ambrosio also distinguished himself as an award-winning film producer and novelist over the course of his impressive career.

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Welcome to Wonderland by Bobbie Candas – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Bobbie Candas will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

A recently fired biologist with mommy issues, a successful entrepreneur with a dead wife, and an immigrant hiding from gang violence…These three have only one thing in common.

They’re all screwed up

Biology researcher, Violet Hill, was just let go and is devastated. She found the solitary lab and long hours the ideal respite for her anxiety issues–doing meaningful work while avoiding people and conversation. Now unemployed, with diminishing finances, Violet is forced to face the enemy, her mother.

For years, Turner Cooper was consumed with building his company’s client roster, until the sudden death of his wife throws him totally off kilter. Now, instead of work, Turner’s guilt and alcohol issues consume him.

Living a reclusive life in Dallas, Rosario Guzman is hiding from a Mexican cartel while working in the shadows at three part-time jobs. Finally, the item she covets the most, a Green Card, arrives in her mailbox. But Rosario quickly realizes the paper card doesn’t solve all her problems.

While navigating social issues, private demons, and nightmare memories, these three lives collide as they find each other at a place none of them ever imagined they’d be working at. As their mutual relationship evolves, Violet, Turner and Rosario lean into each other and unexpectedly find their lives unfurling in remarkable and magical ways.

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Violet is Blue
Violet Hill

Mother considers me awkward, graceless, and socially challenged, but always has hope for improvement. I disagree and think of myself as critically shy. Is there such a diagnosis? I’ve learned I do best when I can control limited social encounters. That’s why I’m better working alone, in a world I’m comfortable and familiar with, the study of soil, seeds, and grasses.

I’ve been working as a research assistant with Dr. William Hirshfield. After finishing my masters at UT in Austin, I gratefully found my hidey-hole at the UT School of Environmental Sciences. After being hired, I realized it was the perfect job for me. For a year, we’ve been running experiments and collecting data on soil absorption, attempting to come up with a microbial substance that will turn arid lands into potential blooming fields of agriculture. All well and good for keeping me in my cozy, solitary research lab, but with the added bonus of working toward saving a warm and crowded planet.

Then yesterday happened.

Dr. Hirshfield called me unexpectedly to meet in his office. We normally only met every two weeks for consultations on experiments. I sat down across from his desk, with my sweating palms gripping the arm rests of the chair. The meeting opened with congenial small-talk. I said, “Hello.”

As with most people I conversed with, I found it difficult looking at Hirshfield when he spoke. Today I found his floorboards especially interesting. Wide wood panels which had me wondering, were they deliberately distressed or actually marred from age? As he shuffled papers on his desk I reached down and touched the floor. Definitely faux distressed.

He nervously coughed and then continued, “Violet, I must say, your work has been exemplary, but…”

Oh shit… The proverbial but. I shuddered slightly.

As I pretended to be intrigued with the floor, Hirshfield said, “I’m afraid I have some bad news to share.” He coughed again. “I’ll just get right to it. I hate to tell you this, but our next year of NIH funding has been cut. They haven’t renewed the terms of our project at the previous level and claim our results are not going as quickly as we initially projected.”

He seemed to be talking to himself now, explaining his problems to the ceiling as my eyes nervously flitted up occasionally to watch. “Seems our study is on the low end of their priority scale regarding research grant money. But our idea has so much merit! It dovetails perfectly with climate change issues and food production for overpopulated areas. Anyway…it’s probably all politics. Therefore—” He coughed a third time. Nervous tick or avoidance? Either way, not a good sign. “I’m having to cut most of my research staff, including your position.”

Please no. Had I heard correctly? I was praying he’d single me out as too good to let go. But of course not. My eyes became moist and my body went cold. I had finally found my place in this chaotic world, my comfy, musty den. Where I could reach my fingers deep into sandy soil and disappear into another world within my microscope. I’d clock in for hours of uninterrupted work, eat a sandwich over my work station by myself, needing to only interact with others regarding information I was knowledgeable about.

Now apparently all that was gone.

And what remained? Going home to Mother? I was devastated. I felt like laying down on those faux floorboards and curling up in a ball.

“Dr. Hirshfield, p-perhaps p-part-time. Tw-Twenty-five hours a week?”

In case you missed that, I have a noticeable stutter, which seems to come into full bloom during times of stress.

“I only wish that were possible, Violet. The grant has been downgraded to include lab equipment, supplies, and compensation for only a few key personnel. I’m so sorry. This has all come as quite a surprise. So, we’re making adjustments immediately; I can keep you for another two weeks. I wanted you to hear it from me, personally.”

I mumbled, “Th-Thank you,” then stood up, wrapped my arms across my chest, and meekly asked about a possible reference letter. He went back to shuffling papers and nodded, agreeing to my simple request. I quickly walked out with my head down, making my exit before he had the chance to shake my perspiring palm.

I spent the next few weeks desperately attempting to find a position with another research team within the department. There were several available for volunteer and credit work, but all paid positions were fully staffed. Although my educational credentials were excellent, my interviewing skills were a little shaky. I considered customer service positions, but they never seemed a good match, and I truly wanted to continue within my field of study.

At the end of the two-week period, I decided to call in for financial reinforcement. Via email, I sent my mother news of the change in job status, then requested funds to keep me in Austin while I continued to look for work, but instead of an electronic deposit, she offered this:

Dear Violet,
So sorry to hear about your job loss. I know you’ve been happy with your little research position. Sometimes these minor hiccups work out for the best. I think you need more stimulation and interaction in your work. When I visited, your lab job seemed so sterile and lonely. I’m sure I can line something up for you through my contacts in Dallas. Come home, darling. The guest house was recently redone and you’re welcome to use it. It’ll be fun hanging out together again. I believe I’ll call Lexy and see if she can revise her schedule and set aside sessions for you. What day should I expect you? Can’t wait to catch up! –Mother

She was not going to be sympathetic to my cause. I made a second stab at job hunting, knowing it was only a delay tactic. Was I being an ungrateful little bitch? Sort of. But I knew I’d have to deal with my mother’s incessant smiling face, popping in without warning, spewing false cheer, urging me to conform to her standards, and always sending out subliminal messages regarding her underlying sense of disappointment in me.

It had been five years since I’d lived at home. My first year in the dorms had been a disaster. I was happier on my own, renting an apartment for three years while earning my bachelor’s and another two for my masters, comfortably surviving in my small, quiet efficiency.

In contrast, Mother’s home was palatial, but for me it was a luxurious prison sitting on a green oak-studded hill overlooking White Rock Lake in Dallas.

I dragged out my move. I felt no incentive to rush home knowing what lay ahead; struggling through painful interviews, going through clothing issues and social events with Mother. Yes, still a tender issue at age twenty-four. Then, once again, I’d start sessions with my speech therapist, Lexy.

Unfortunately, research assistant’s pay was low, Austin rents were high, and the guest house at Mother’s was free. Economically, it made sense. Emotionally, I was an unhappy wreck.

And who could I complain to? Call 911 — My mother is inviting me to move into her newly renovated guest quarters. Put her on trial? — She insists on buying me new clothing suggested by her personal shopper at Neiman’s. Lock her up? — She’s offering me therapy for an affliction which admittedly has recently become worse.

I was a pathetic whiner. Time to get up, pack it in, and get moving.

About the Author:

Bobbie Candas lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, Mehmet Candas, a stray gray cat, and a jealous tabby who does not enjoy sharing affection with the interloper. Bobbie attended The University of Texas in Austin, earning her degree in journalism. She took a detour with a career in retail management, and found her happy place when she returned to writing fiction about nine years ago.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Yvonne, Lady of Cassio by Rosemary Morris

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When Yvonne and Elizabeth, daughters of ruthless Simon Lovage, Earl of Cassio, are born under the same star to different mothers, no one could have foretold their lives would be irrevocably entangled.

Against the background of Edward II’s turbulent reign in the thirteenth century, Yvonne, Lady of Cassio, contains imaginary and historical characters.

It is said the past is a foreign country in which things were done differently. Nevertheless, although that is true of attitudes, such as those towards women and children, our ancestors were also prompted by ambition, anger, greed, jealousy, humanity, duty, loyalty, unselfishness and love.

From early childhood, despite those who love her and want to protect her, Yvonne is forced to face difficult economic, personal and political circumstances, during a long, often bitter struggle.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Erin’s Children by Eileen O’Finlan

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In 1851 Irish Famine survivor, Meg O’Connor, buys passage to America for her younger sister, Kathleen, and arranges employment for her as a maid. Kathleen’s feisty spirit soon puts her at odds with her employers, the bigoted and predatory Pratts. Driven from their home, Kathleen ends up on a wild adventure taking her to places she could never have imagined.As a domestic servant in the Worcester, Massachusetts home of the kindly Claprood family, Meg enjoys a life beyond her wildest imaginings. Yet she must keep her marriage to Rory Quinn a secret. Rory, still in Ireland, eagerly awaits the day he will join her. But as the only jobs open to Irish men pay poorly, Rory’s imminent arrival threatens to plunge her back into dire poverty.On the eve of the Civil War, while America is being rent asunder by the fight over slavery, Irish Catholics wage their own war with the growing anti-immigrant Know Nothing party. Through grave doubts, dangers, and turmoil, Meg and Kathleen must rely on their faith and the resilient bonds of sisterhood to survive and claim their destinies in a new and often hostile land.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Grace, Lady of Cassio by Rosemary Morris

Thanks for joining us on our 16th anniversary scavenger hunt! There are two ways to enter to win and it’s easy to play– first read the blurb below, then answer the question on the first Rafflecopter. You might win a $100 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC (along with other prizes). Follow and visit authors’ social media pages on the second Rafflecopter and you’re entered to win another $100 Amazon/BN GC (along with other prizes)!


England 1331. What was it like to live at a time when love was not a reason to marry, and husbands had the right to thrash their wives with a rod no wider than their thumbs? Spirited, compassionate, seventeen-year-old Grace is about to find out if her marriage will be made in heaven or hell? Her mother, Countess of Cassio, arranges for her to wed Jocelyn, Lord Lovat, Baron Montford. Grace knows marriage only founded on romantic notions is unacceptable. She agrees to tie the knot with Jocelyn to increase her family’s prestige and political alliances. Nevertheless, she is terrified of sharing a bed with the stranger she will be wed to on the day after they meet for the first time.

Until she arrives at her bridegroom’s manor, Grace has only experienced unconditional love. She is shocked by Jocelyn’s spiteful, widowed sister, and is puzzled by her own inexplicable power to see auras and know when someone she loves is in danger. Grace is even more troubled when she overhears her former nurse’s deathbed confession about the countess. Unable to decide if Nurse’s allegation is false, Grace is tormented. Fulk, her beloved twin, does not believe it is true. He ensures the other witness, a priest, will not repeat it.

A handsome husband, prestige and wealth are not enough to compensate Grace for the severe trials, including brutal murders, she must come to terms with to find happiness.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Shades Of Persephone by Reed Stirling

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“Shades of Persephone is a literary mystery that will entertain those who delight in exotic settings, foreign intrigue, and the unmasking of mysterious characters. Crete in 1980-81, more specifically the old Venetian harbour of Chania, provides the background against which expat Canadian Steven Spire labours in pursuit of David Montgomery, his enigmatic and elusive mentor, who stands accused in absentia of treachery and betrayal.

The plot has many seams through which characters slide, another of them being the poet Emma Leigh, widow of Montgomery’s imposing Cold War adversary, Heinrich Trüger. In that the setting is Crete, the source of light is manifold, but significant inspiration for Steven Spire comes from Magalee De Bellefeuille, his vision of Aphrodite and his muse. “Find Persephone,” she directs him, “and you’ll find David Montgomery.” Her prompts motivate much of the narrative, including that of the Cretan underground during the Nazi occupation, 1941- 45. Shades of Persephone presents a story of love and sensuality, deception and war, spiritual quest and creative endeavour.

The resolution takes an unanticipated turn but comes as no surprise to the discerning reader. Like Hamlet who must deal with his own character in following the injunctions of his ghostly father, Steven Spire discovers much about the city to which he has returned, but much more about himself and his capacity for love.”

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: A Child to Cry Over by Vanessa C. Hawkins

Thanks for joining us on our 16th anniversary scavenger hunt! There are two ways to enter to win and it’s easy to play– first read the blurb below, then answer the question on the first Rafflecopter. You might win a $100 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC (along with other prizes). Follow and visit authors’ social media pages on the second Rafflecopter and you’re entered to win another $100 Amazon/BN GC (along with other prizes)!

Maddy Bell was just eight years old when she was sent away for the murder of a two-year-old boy living in the rural town of St. George, New Brunswick. Growing up in the church-run community with a life-hardened mother, Maddy has always been an outcast in the wake of her father’s homosexuality. She keeps to herself until authorities discover Sonny’s body on the railroad, but was his death just a terrible accident, or is little Madeline Bell to blame?

The media and the community of St. George are quick to condemn her, and ten years later, when Madeline is released from juvenile detention with a new identity, can she hide her past, forget her roots, and finally be a normal girl in the midst of a media manhunt?

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