How We Handled the Research for the Book by Lauren Sevier and A. Smith – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Lauren Sevier and A. Smith will be awarding a $10 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.

How We Handled the Research for the Book

Leather & Lace is set in New Orleans, so one thing we did was travel to New Orleans on a particularly hot summer day and toured the French Quarter. The majority of this novel takes place in the quarter and in one building in particular: the Cabildo, which is a state museum of history now. After we ate po-boys and and drank a daquiri, we toured the Cabildo to get a better grasp of the building for authenticity purposes. Getting to spend a steamy day in the city was just what we needed to capture the feel of it in Leather & Lace.

We also spent a lot of time researching the United States geography. In The Fool’s Adventure series, bombs dropped all over and literally reshaped what the country looks like. Partnered with climate change and rising seas, we really needed to understand how what happened in the Culling changed the fabric of the world so we could present the information as accurately as possible while taking some artistic liberties.

For the character of Will Ellis, extensive research was done regarding mental health issues in men. Specifically regarding PTSD in veterans and first responders and correlating depressive episodes and issues regarding suicide attempts.

Finally, there was research done to make sure all injuries and medical conditions explored in the novel were medically accurate and that treatment options (that were non-fictional) were given using the equipment and knowledge they would have available. Think more ‘field medicine’ than ‘pioneer medicine’ though at times it could be either or both of them depending on resources. The research and outcomes of all the medical injuries/ailments in the novels are discussed with board certified physicians for the most accurate depictions possible.

Overall, we take a very hands-on approach to research and try to make most of the details as accurate as possible while still leaving room for creative license since this is a fictional world. We want the book to feel immersive and realistic while still engaging the readers in escapism through the fantastical elements of the story. At the end of the day, every effort we make is for our readers’ enjoyment and so far we’ve found that when you keep your readers at the forefront of your mind while developing your stories, they notice and appreciate it. We have the best readers in the world and all we want to do is make them proud. <3

Three years wandering the desert is enough to drive anyone insane, and the limits of Bonnie and Jesse’s minds and hearts will be put to the ultimate test.

A deadly showdown with a murderous outlaw ripped Bonnie away from the relative peace and ragtag family she’d built at the end of Guns & Smoke. In the thrilling next chapter in The Fool’s Adventure series, we finally get the answer to the biggest question: What happened to Bonnie?

After three years of fighting to get her back, literally, Jesse James finds her in the most unlikely of places– New Orleans high society. With the help of his rival-turned-friend Will Ellis, and a sassy staff member, Jesse’s tasked with infiltrating the house of the man he believes was responsible for killing his parents in order to get her back. Jesse’s biggest challenge yet will be learning to fight for Bonnie in a way he never expected before: by fitting in.

Mired in high society politics and scheming, Bonnie is at the epicenter of one of the most ruthless gangs in the world. Years trapped in a gilded cage of wealth and lies has irrevocably changed her from a crass outlaw into a southern debutante. Gone is the dangerous glint in her eyes, replaced with suspicion when the devilishly handsome street fighter named Montana suddenly joins her father’s staff.

Can Jesse remind Bonnie of who she really is in time to keep her from giving her heart and hand away or will he discover that the wild, beautiful outlaw he fell in love with is truly gone?

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Staring at her now, knowing that I’d desperately fallen for her all over again sent a stark jolt through me. This feeling between us wasn’t some average infatuation. Most people could live a lifetime and never experience the raging, all-consuming need to be close to another person, no matter whether you knew why.

My soul called out, and hers answered.

Everything that I’d lost three years ago was suddenly before me. In the span of a breath, I closed the distance. I clutched her hips, a smile curling over my lips at the little gasp she let out as her back met the steel door and my mouth covered hers. I reached behind her, flicking the lock. Too many times we’d been interrupted. I’d be damned if I let it happen now. Not when she loved me again.

About the Authors Lauren Sevier and A. Smith are longtime friends and co-authors from southern Louisiana. Guns and Smoke, their first joint publication, began as a “short” story after having too much wine on girl’s night. Nine years later it is now the first novel in a Dystopian/Western Romance series. The duo has plans to publish several series together in the future. A. Smith spends her time with her two rescue dogs and rescue cat surrounding herself with books and Labyrinth paraphernalia. Lauren Sevier collects antique tea cups and tries to stay sane, though as the mother of a toddler she fails brilliantly most days. She also has a growing collection of crowns and tiaras and likes to act silly on Tiktok. Look for more thrilling novels from The Fools Adventure series in the future!

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My Ideal Writing Space by C.L. Colyer – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. C.L. Colyer will be awarding a $10 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.

To see our 5 star review of the book, please click here.

My Ideal Writing Space

I don’t need much when I’m writing. As long as I have my laptop, a power outlet, Wi-Fi for all the times I need to look something up, a comfy place to sit, and a place for a drink and snack, I’m happy. If I’m in the zone, noise doesn’t bother me. Sometimes, it’s even welcome.

Now, if you were to ask me what my dream space would be, that’s another story. My dream space is a home library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on three of the four walls. There’d be rolling ladders that glide along a track, making it easy to reach the top shelves. The shelves would be stocked with everything from the classics to reference books. There would be books in all genres. Some bound in leather, others worn and well-loved, and still others new, many waiting patiently to be read. There’d be three comfy sofa chairs. One of the chairs would be wide enough for me to sit sideways for all the times I’m dreaming up new ways to get my characters into trouble. The other chairs are so my writing buds have a place to sit when they’re over. There’d be matching ottomans to kick our feet up on and end tables with lamps, cup warmers, and space for hair clips, pens, and notepads. A desk would be pushed up against one of the walls. Since this is my dream space, there would be a small fridge stocked with beverages and healthy snacks. Across from the chairs would be a large picture window that overlooks a lake. Of course, there’s Wi-Fi. I may never have to leave! One day. 

Thanks so much for stopping by. And thanks to Long and Short Reviews for having me on their blog!

Nothing frightens Atticus Everheart more than monsters, thanks to his older brothers, who often threaten to feed him to the beastly creatures.
Fearing that’s what they will do if he doesn’t replace the book he accidentally ruined, he takes a job tutoring a boy in his neighborhood.

Although nervous about the job, Atticus soon discovers there’s a lot more in store for him than teaching. Never in a trillion years would he have imagined he’d be hiding from monsters, working with ghosts, or searching for werewolves and witches. He’s not brave, and he has no plans to change.

Until he’s forced to.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“These came for you,” said Abigail, the oldest of his younger sisters. At eight, she was already smarter than him in many ways. She turned the envelope upside down over his bed. A pair of prescription, steampunk- inspired goggles tumbled out. Still ignoring Atticus’s prior demand, she settled on the window seat.

“I thought they’d never get here!” His previous statement forgotten, Atticus sat up and took off his glasses. He then slipped the leather strap of the goggles over his head and pulled to tighten them to a perfect fit. He raised his chin, wise and prepared, able to spot danger in a single glance.

“How do I look?”

“Like a weirdo.” Abigail pulled her honey-brown hair into a high ponytail. “Or a praying mantis.”

He should have known she wouldn’t recognize functional accessories if they stared her in the face.

“Did you have to get green frames?” she asked.

“I like green.”

“I think you look smart,” said Evie, the youngest of the Everheart children. She was a miniature version of Atticus, from her curly brown hair, round cheeks, and scrawny arms, right down to her bulbous big toes and curious nature. “Why are there round thingies sticking out from the side?”

“Those are monocles.” Abigail opened the newspaper to the comic section. “They magnify things.”

“These aren’t ordinary monocles,” said Atticus. “I can’t believe you think I’d want goggles if they didn’t do something spectacular. I’ll have you know these are the most advanced pair of monster-seeing goggles available, able to cut through the mundane to reveal beasts and demons, ghosts, and goblins.” At least, that’s what the ad had said. Atticus flipped down the crimson lens. “This one’s for flesh-eating monsters.”

“Oh, they’re way cool!” Evie inched closer and asked, “Do you see any?”

“Yes!” Atticus lunged forward and grabbed her, tickling her waist.

About the Author: C.L. Colyer found her love for writing in first grade when her class was sent to the library and asked to find a book for their first book report. While she doesn’t still have this book report, she’s very proud to say she got an A on it. Her favorite thing about the book was that it had no words. That’s right, not one! That gave her the freedom to interpret the pictures in any way she wanted and write her own story.

This sparked her love for writing essays. It wasn’t until she was an adult that she sat down and penned her first novel. This story has a special place in her heart because it’s the story that helped her discover her passion for writing. She has since written several books, many of which may never see the light of day, but all of which helped her learn to combine her passion for writing with her fascination with all things mythical. You’ll find examples of this in her novels.

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A Reservoir Man by L.J. Ambrosio – Q&A and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. L.J. Ambrosio will be awarding a signed copy of the book to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on a tour banner to see the other stops on the tour. See our review here.

What would I tell a new author?

Listen to yourself and get advice creatively, learn formatting, and understand the industry you are entering.

The hardest part about writing is

Spelling, run on sentences, the physical appearance, clothes, and haircuts of my characters. I don’t want them to look like someone I know unless I want them to…

Important Elements

Get a great cover design; don’t get too heady getting a title or silly; stay away from sexual implications in title design. Don’t let people read your book until you are finished, but you should have one person that you can trust that you can share with. You must get an editor – don’t be cheap; spend money here. If you are self-publishing know the field and know how to advertise. Release the book to critics before the public by three months. Reviews are important; get them. They are very important as is their posting on Goodreads and Amazon. Be a gentleperson; don’t be pushy and be humble. Do tours, blitzes, and interviews – anything to get your novel out there. Believe in yourself; you are the artist. Sex is important, but it doesn’t make it your novel. Your story is, and the relationship of your characters with life and themselves.

A Reservoir Man, critics have hailed this explosive and timely work as “a must-read coming-of-age story of 2022.” Twists and turns further pull the reader in to Michael’s action-packed tale, with powerful themes, from betrayal and family to secrets and identity. “Be sure not to blink because you just might miss a pivotal moment in Michael’s rousing, larger-than-life story.” — R.C. Gibson, Indiestoday.com. “This book is a dream, a gamble, a utopia, even.” — Kalyan Panja, Bookmarkks.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Michael had now become, after these last six months, a little more world weary and worse for the wear. Sitting on his bench, entering his last year at college. Michael still had not found his soul or his truth. His emphasis on sex was unfulfilling and empty. He wandered in the shadowy corners, the lightless streets, leading to a dead end and the darkness of an empty truck. Loneliness had become a fixture of Michael’s being. He longed for a few hours to be with Carol, Claire, or Raphael.

One day, while sitting on the bench, Michael heard in the distance Otis Reading’s “The Dock of The Bay” playing on a portable radio. The music came closer and closer and then quickly turned to the Four Tops’ “Reach Out (I’ll be There).”

Picking up his head, Michael saw this extremely attractive ethnic guy standing right above him. Michael said ‘hello,’ and the young man answered.

“My name is Nick. Do you dance?”

Michael said, “Sort of, but I do not have much of a chance to go dancing.”

“You want to go tonight?” Nick asked with a smile, and he started to sing “Baby I Need Your Loving” by the Four Tops.

Michael became a little concerned about the message of the song, so he suggested that they might talk over coffee before they venture out dancing. Michael decided to cut his next two classes and have coffee.

They spent hours talking about their lives. Nick was older than Michael by nine years. Nick said he had to prepare for graduation as did Michael. He was in the school for Education and would be graduating that year.

He was first generation Greek from Cyprus and spoke fluent Greek. His family lived in Harlem on 137th Street off Broadway. He had siblings, a brother and sister. Michael was taken by him. He made him laugh and feel amazingly comfortable. Nick invited Michael to dinner Saturday night. His mother would make Doimadakia, Humus, Tzataki and Moussaka. Michael agreed to go.

Nick’s parents were great. His mother was shy, his father a little less. They spoke with a broken accent, which Michael loved. They had a great dinner and talked a lot. Michael learned a lot about Cyprus.

Nick said after dinner, “Dancing, right?”

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 also distinguished himself as an award-winning film producer and novelist over the course of his impressive career. He taught at 7 universities in the United States.

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My Take on Critique Groups by Sally Basmajian – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sally Basmajian will be awarding a $10 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.

My Take on Critique Groups

I belong to two critique groups. One is made up of five female writers—some wise and some witty, but all darn good writers. We call ourselves LAKS, which stands for the Literary Ass Kicking Society, and that’s metaphorically what we do whenever one of us becomes sluggish and stops producing. The other is a much larger collective made up of writers at varying stages of their journey. It’s a local, inclusive group. I like to support it because the members were very encouraging when I started writing, and actually awarded me the first prize I ever won.

When I meet with my LAKS friends, I take seriously every piece of criticism they give me. We push each other to be better writers, and we’re all at similar stages in our literary journeys, so we aren’t afraid to be direct. While we don’t bludgeon each other with overly harsh, personal observations, we also don’t sugarcoat our comments or pull any punches. We hash through issues over coffee and heaping helpings of complex carbs. Later, when I’ve re-read their written critiques at home, I choose how many of their suggestions to incorporate in my next draft. More often than not, it’s the majority.

One of my LAKS colleagues, Lena, doesn’t even have to write her ideas out in full anymore. She just pens a bold “OTT” on any particularly florid passage I’ve written, to tell me that once more I’ve gone too far in trying to push a joke or describe a zany character. Is she right? In my opinion, yes—at least 80% of the time. I have her to thank for helping me realize that not everything I think is hilarious will amuse someone else.

In my larger community group, I apply a different filter. I do appreciate the general impressions of everyone in attendance, and I find many of their comments instructive. I also love the fact that the larger group organizes workshops and sometimes brings in knowledgeable professional speakers. Often, though, I disagree with the feedback from one or two participants.

As an example, a person in the group recently voiced a strong opinion that a novel’s character shouldn’t be called a nickname by her lover, because having two names made it confusing to keep track of who she was. In this case, the critic happened to be new to the group and had no grasp of the book’s flow. For instances like this, the rule I follow is to nod and pin on my brightest smile—and later not revise a single word.

It’s like hand-selecting the reddest apples at the grocery store, or buying a cheap, jumbo bagful and hoping for the best. Either option can be nutritious and tasty, and I do recommend both types of critique groups. Just remember to choose your companions wisely, and don’t be afraid to walk away if you end up frustrated instead of inspired after you’ve tried out a couple of sessions. In the long run, it’s more important to feel uplifted than to be critiqued in a manner that’s inapt or inept.

Suze Foster has always been devoted to her daughter. As a child, Jannie required extra support in school, but now-at age 29-she’s a rising executive. Suze, thrilled with Jannie’s success, is finally free to follow her own dreams.
Without Suze’s dedicated attention, though, Jannie flounders. In a careless moment, she floods her apartment. Enter our hero, Aram-her hot but significantly older neighbor. He saves the day, and for Jannie, it’s love at first sight.
Not so much for Aram, though, who falls head over heels for Suze when they accidentally meet. Unaware of Jannie’s feelings, Suze is equally smitten.
In this twisted triangle, can a happily-ever-after be achieved? Or will someone’s heart break and the mother-daughter bond be severed forever?

Enjoy an Excerpt

He was the most good-looking man she’d ever seen. Luxuriant locks. She bet that’s how a Harlequin Romance would describe his hair. And under the full beard, maybe even a cleft chin. And most definitely, a sensuous lower lip. Ooh la la.

As she mused in an X-rated way about his mouth, Jannie remembered something from a book she’d read where the heroine had a habit of biting her lower lip. It drove men mad.

So she tried it. Nibble, nibble.

Aram just looked at her. His breathing didn’t accelerate. His chest didn’t heave.
She tried again. Nibble, nibble. The prolonged silence was beginning to be uncomfortable.

“Are you all right, Jannie?” Aram finally asked. He studied her.

Well, that hadn’t gone so well. But she’d never tried to flirt with an older man before. Maybe they needed something more obvious.

She attempted to look coyly up at Aram through her eyelashes. This wasn’t as easy as all those romance authors made it sound. She felt her forehead contract, her nose wrinkle and her upper lip pull away from her teeth in her effort to do the impossible.

“Jannie, are you having an allergic reaction? Shellfish, maybe? Isn’t that crab I smell coming from your condo? Do you carry an EpiPen?”

She stamped her foot in frustration. It was supposed to look fierce and cute, but she could tell from Aram’s face that he was way more startled than turned on.

About the Author After leaving the corporate world, Sally Basmajian discovered the joy of writing. Her fiction and nonfiction stories have appeared in newspapers such as The Globe & Mail and in several anthologies. In 2022 she won prizes for memoir pieces (Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop, Gulf Coast Writers Association), and was thrilled to have a poem selected by the journal Antithesis. She expects to be busy in 2023, when her first two novels appear: in January, a light-hearted romance, So Hard to Do (published by Creative James Media) and in October, a much darker one, Fountain of Evil (Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC).

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Love All by Liza Malloy – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Liza Malloy will be awarding a $15 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.

College students Nate and Olivia are a perfect match on the courts—and in the sheets. Everywhere else, they’re polar opposites and sworn enemies. But as the chemistry builds, a figure from Olivia’s past unexpectedly pops back into her life and the couple realizes they have more in common than they thought. Are these star-crossed lovers doomed to repeat their parents’ mistakes, or can they build a life together once the final set is played?

This book is a standalone, steamy, new adult/college, sports romance, 77k words. Tropes include enemies to lovers, he falls first, and billionaire.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“You know, some people like to give others the benefit of the doubt and get to know them before assuming the worst.”

Olivia snatched the cherry from the shake that I’d set on the edge of my plate. “Some of us prefer to avoid disappointment. I’ll keep my assumptions until people prove me wrong.”

At least she was honest, I thought, oddly envious of the cherry stem as she pressed her tongue against it. “Challenge accepted.”

We left the diner, but the drive home was far too short.

“Thank you for the ride,” she said, already clutching her racket and duffel bag before I even slowed to a complete stop in front of her apartment.

“And for the excellent meal, right?” I added.

She stared dryly. “I’ll thank you for the food when you thank me for not pressing charges on the whole kidnapping front.”

I bit back a smile. Even pissed off, Olivia was captivating. “This was fun. Why haven’t we hung out before?”

“Because we have nothing in common.”

“Not true. There’s tennis, lame business majors, and douchebag fathers.”

Olivia gazed back at me and for the briefest of moments, I thought she would say something meaningful, but instead she just shook her head, dismissing whatever idea had crossed her intriguing mind.

“You can’t possibly want to spend more time with me. I’ve been a total bitch to you all afternoon.”

I wasn’t about to deny that last part, so instead I pushed my luck with a bad joke. “We could move into the back seat and you could make it up to me,” I said, wiggling my eyebrows seductively.

I’d hoped for a snarky comeback, but instead she just rolled her eyes and chuckled. “I’ll see you at practice,” she mumbled, climbing out of the car.

About the Author:

Liza Malloy writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction. She’s a sucker for alpha males, bad boys, dimples, and muscles, and she can’t resist a man in uniform. Liza loves creating worlds where her heroine discovers her own strength and finds her Happily Ever After. When Liza isn’t reading or writing torrid love stories, she’s a practicing attorney. Her other passions include gummy bears, jelly beans, and the occasional marathon. She lives in the Midwest with her four daughters and her own Prince Charming.

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Titanian Warrior by Victoria Saccenti – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Victoria Saccenti will be awarding a $15 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.

One woman holds the key to his destiny—and his people’s salvation. Hagen drags himself to the gates of Hell, body and soul shredded by the bloodlust that consumes all the unmated of his kind. Awaiting the painful atonement that will buy him ten more years to find his eternal mate—or face oblivion. But Hades himself kicks him out with the bloodlust still prowling, unsatisfied, in his veins.

Bargained away by her parents to Master O, a mysterious, cruel wizard, Faiza serves in his household, keeping her small magic a secret, plagued by wild, confusing visions of a strange, suffering man. Then the master brings home a wounded Titanian warrior whose touch sends ice, fire, and desire racing through her body.

When she learns Master O plans to use Hagen as a weapon to conquer all races, she devises a desperate plan to free him—a plan that opens a portal to a world she’s never known. And a destiny entwined with danger that could destroy them all.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The towering pair of boulders stood as gatekeepers and markers of the way. A steep path snaked between them until farther down the hill, the road disappeared in thick fog. Leaning on the closest rock, Hagen steadied himself to catch his breath, then pushed on.

Bloodlust crippled his Titanian vision. Still, he stumbled, rolled, and crawled over jagged rocks and gnarled roots with single-minded determination to reach his appointed meeting place, the cavern at the base of the Shivaliks, and the sole entrance to Hades’s domain on the earthly plane. A perverse satisfaction filled him each time he scraped and sliced his exposed skin, as this was only a precursor to the punishment he deserved. If he could shred his flesh to strips in anticipation as he had done with his clothes, so much the better.

Hagen advanced through the haze, seeking the deity’s promised signal. Images of his frenzy during the last skirmish prodded him. He strained past gore-filled images, and the effort paid off. There, deep within the haze, a faint red light marked the spot. Alecto had not forgotten. A hitched breath escaped his lungs as he stood and trod on a more secure step.

As the haze dissipated, the cavern’s hungry mouth gaped before him. Healing and deliverance acquired through pain would soon be his. As he inched closer to the wavering light, he removed the last remaining strips of clothing. The offering had to be bare and unadulterated. Nothing but skin would satisfy the Fury, purify his spirit, and postpone the horror of termination for another ten years—a mere blip in the lifespan of a Titanian.

About the Author:

Award-winning, multi-genre author Victoria Saccenti writes romantic women’s fiction, contemporary romance, and paranormal romance. Not one for heart and flower stories, she explores the edgy twists and turns of human interaction, the many facets of love, and all possible happy endings. After thirty years of traveling the world, she’s settled in Central Florida. She splits her busy schedule between family and her active muse at Essence Publishing. However, if she could convince her husband to sell their home, she would pack up her computer and move to Scotland, a land she adores. On a side note, in one form or another, Scotland appears in most of her stories.

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Roxy Constantine: Jam Queen by Meg Benjamin – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part o a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Meg Benjamin will be awarding a $20 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.

Roxy Constantine: Jam Queen

At the beginning of The Pepper Peach Murder, my heroine, Roxy Constantine, has a laser focus on jam. She spends most of her time making jam, selling jam, and thinking about jam. After all, the local paper has called her “The Jam Queen of Shavano County.” She’s got a lot to live up to.

Roxy has come back to her hometown of Shavano, Colorado, after a bad experience as a line cook in Denver. It’s soured her on doing much besides concentrating on her jam company, Luscious Delights. Her business is just beginning to take off after a lot of hard work. And getting Luscious Delights off the ground has occupied most of her time. Roxy hasn’t done much in the way of socializing for the past couple of years. But thanks to her booth at the farmers market where she meets local chef, Nate Robicheaux, things may be looking up in the romance department.

Unfortunately, another Shavano chef, Brett Holmes, is trying to rain on Roxy’s parade. The two of them worked together in Denver, and even then he was someone who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Roxy doesn’t want to go out with him since he’s a definite sleaze, but he just keeps asking. And, in fact, it isn’t really asking . Brett’s demands move closer to threats, and Roxy has had enough. She tells Brett off in front of most of the vendors at the Shavano Farmers Market, which means half of Shavano gets the idea that Brett and Roxy are definitely not soulmates.

When someone kills Brett in his own kitchen a few days later, Roxy finds she’s got some major problems. A lot of people in town think she’s the killer, including the new chief of police, Ethan Fowler. Even though Roxy has an alibi, she decides she needs to investigate—Luscious Delights is in jeopardy since nobody wants to buy jam from a murderess.

Roxy’s investigation is the central focus of The Pepper Peach Murder. Well, that and her developing relationship with Nate. She’s got a lot to figure out and a lot to overcome if she’s going to maintain all she’s accomplished so far and all she wants to do in the future.

The Jam Queen of Shavano County is on the case, and she’s definitely got a lot of reasons to find the killer. Whether she can do that, particularly when she discovers some people she cares about may be involved, is another question. That’s one question she’ll have to answer if she wants to keep her title.

Roxy Constantine is the jam queen of Shavano, Colorado, and she’s fine with it. Not that things couldn’t be better. Her social life is a bust, and she’s still recovering from a bad experience as a line cook in Denver. But things are looking up when she meets local chef Nate Robicheaux. Roxy would like to get closer to Nate, but she’s fending off the unwanted attentions of another local, Brett Holmes, who won’t take no for an answer. When Brett threatens to derail Roxy’s appearance on a national cooking show, the two have a very public fight. A few days later, Brett is found murdered in his restaurant kitchen, and suddenly Roxy’s a prime suspect. Now Roxy, Nate, and her other friends must find out the truth about Brett’s background and his murderer before the town of Shavano decides Roxy’s reign as jam queen is over for good.

Enjoy an Excerpt

It would be better for him to hear it from you than to discover it on his own.

Nate’s voice still echoed in my ears. For a moment, I wished I’d asked him to come with me. But I had to face this on my own. It was my disaster, after all.

I climbed up the stairs to the front door, pausing for a moment to check the directory on the wall inside. The chief’s office was on the first floor, right down the hall. Once I turned in that direction, there’d be no going back. I’d be committed to confessing.

I walked down the corridor, feeling like I was going to the executioner’s block.

There was a receptionist for the chief’s office along with the county attorney and the sheriff. I didn’t recognize her, which was just as well. This visit wasn’t something I wanted shared on social media.

She looked up expectantly. “Yes?”

“I need to see Chief Fowler.” I was amazed that my voice was steady.

“Do you have an appointment?”

I shook my head. “He’ll want to talk to me. Tell him it’s Roxy Constantine.”

The receptionist picked up her phone and dialed a number, turning away from me as she spoke.

Of course, I wasn’t absolutely sure Fowler would want to see me. Maybe he’d be too busy. Maybe he wasn’t interested. Maybe…

The receptionist glanced up at me. “Go on in. He’ll see you now.”

So much for hope. I opened the office door and stepped inside.

Fowler was sitting at his utilitarian, city-issued desk. He gazed up at me with that same unsmiling, inscrutable look he always seemed to wear. I wondered if he ever smiled. Probably not at people like me, people he suspected of murder.

I cleared my throat. “I have some things to tell you.”

He gestured to the chair in front of his desk. “Sit down, Ms. Constantine. I’ve been expecting you.”

About the Author:Meg Benjamin is an award-winning author of romance. Meg’s Konigsburg series is set in the Texas Hill Country and her Salt Box and Brewing Love trilogies are set in the Colorado Rockies (all are available from Entangled Publishing). Her new cozy mystery series, Luscious Delights from Wild Rose Press, concerns a jam-making sleuth based in the mythical small town of Shavano, Colorado. Along with contemporary romance, Meg is also the author of the paranormal Ramos Family trilogy from Berkley InterMix and the Folk trilogy from Soul Mate. Meg’s books have won numerous awards, including an EPIC Award, a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Holt Medallion from Virginia Romance Writers, the Beanpot Award from the New England Romance Writers, and the Award of Excellence from Colorado Romance Writers.

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Sanctuary for a Surgeon by Jason Wrench – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Jason Wrench, who is celebrating today’s release of Sanctuary for a Surgeon, the third book in the Up on the Farm series. Enter the rafflecopter at the end of the post for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Finding love in the sanctuary of nature and another man’s arms.

Darrin Betancourt is a trauma surgeon in his early thirties living in New York City. His world gets thrown upside down after his husband dies in a car accident. Can Darrin get his act together and learn to love again before his life spirals out of control? His friends convince him to attend an all-gay retreat outside Woodstock. Begrudgingly, Darrin agrees to spend a weekend in nature, out of the city.

Jordan Floyd is a twenty-four-year-old farmhand who works for Devereux Farms Upstate just outside Woodstock. Jordan gets permission from his bosses to attend Camp Namast-Gay at the Woodstock Esoteric Sanctuary.

Darrin and Jordan end up in adjacent cabins. Can the two men take their friendship to a whole new level before the weekend is over? Or will disaster strike, derailing both of their lives and their burgeoning love?

Reader advisory: This book contains public sex and voyeurism.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The last six-and-a-half months had been a living nightmare. There had been funeral arrangements and memorial services to organize and attend. Then there had been the months of pitying stares. I had become a recluse. I hadn’t wanted to deal with friends and coworkers. I had gone to work then gone home. When I ran out of excuses to avoid their offers, I had occasional meals with them. My life had shattered. Richard had recommended therapy on more than one occasion because I was clearly depressed. Of course I was depressed. The man I loved had died.

Chance had been one of three people who had been directly in the vehicle’s path when it had run through the crowd. After the NYPD investigation, it was ruled an accident. The car’s tire had blown after hitting a metal object in the street, which had caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle. She had tried to regain it but couldn’t. I heard through the grapevine that she was now being treated at an inpatient psychiatric facility upstate after she had attempted suicide. The woman hadn’t been ready for the media scrutiny and the accident’s fallout in her life. Part of me was glad she’d had a mental breakdown, but that was the evil, vindictive side. Another part was sorry for her. As horrible as it was, accidents happened. I saw accidents every day. Some were preventable. Some were not.

I had agreed to another Sunday brunch with Bryce and Richard. I hadn’t wanted to go, but I found myself at their door with a bottle of wine. I plastered on my best fake smile and knocked.

“Just a second,” Richard’s voice rang from the other side. A few seconds later, the door opened. “Darrin, we’re so glad you could make it. Brunch is almost ready.” He ushered me inside the townhouse as he kept talking. “We’re having a quiche I whipped up from scratch. It has a smattering of vegetables with sausage and bacon. I also threw together a mixed green salad and a raspberry tart for dessert.” I handed him the bottle of wine. Richard inspected it and nodded before saying, “Good choice.”

Bryce came from the backroom. “How are you doing?” he asked me.

“I’m doing…” I left the phrase hanging in the air.

“Well,” Bryce said without acknowledging the ambiguity of my statement, “at least you’re up and moving around.”

I forced a smile and followed Bryce and Richard into the small dining room. The table was set for three. As usual, Richard had set an immaculate table that would make Emily Post jealous. Bryce motioned to a chair, and I took a seat as Richard left.

“So, how are things in your world?” I asked, breaking the silence.

“Richard and I are doing well. We’ve been looking into surrogacy again. I think Richard’s biological clock is ticking. He wants a baby.”

“I heard that,” Richard’s voice echoed from the kitchen next to the dining room. Richard walked in with the salad and placed it in the middle of the table. “And don’t let this one fool you,” he said, sticking his thumb in Bryce’s direction. “He wants to be a doting father as much as I do. We have a lot of love to give a little one.”

“Why not adopt?” I asked.

“We talked about that,” Bryce acknowledged, “but ultimately we want to have a little baby. We have thought about having one through surrogacy, then adopting her or him a little brother or sister.”

“Two kids?” I asked.

“Don’t be so shocked,” Richard said, returning to the dining room with the quiche. “I’m doing more and more of my work from home. After the pandemic, the firm has embraced remote work, so the timing couldn’t be more perfect.”

Richard set about serving up the quiche. We spent the next hour talking about a range of topics deemed ‘safe’ by the group.

After an appropriate amount of time once we’d all eaten, I looked at Bryce and Richard and said, “Well, I need to get to the gym before taking a nap. I’m working the ten-to-ten shift tonight.”

“Let me put together a to-go box for you,” Richard said. “I worry that you’re not getting enough home-cooked food.”

Sadly, he was right. Most nights I grabbed takeout or heated something from a box in the microwave. “Thanks,” I said. “It would be much appreciated. You can only eat takeout Chinese so many days in a row.”

When Richard left the dining room, Bryce turned and stared at me. For the first time that day, he put on his serious face.

“I’m worried about you,” Bryce said. “I know it’s only been six months, but you’ve almost completely shut down.”

“I’m still grieving. Is there an appropriate amount of time one should grieve?”

“No, there’s not,” Bryce said hesitantly. “But I worry that you’re not making progress toward getting healthy. Have you reconsidered Richard’s suggestion about therapy?”

“I don’t need a shrink… I need time.” I blinked back tears that had started to swell in my eyes. “I need him back.” I was amazed when the words came out of my mouth.

“I know. We all miss him,” Bryce said. He looked at me for a second, and I could tell he was trying to plan what to say next. “I don’t know how I would react if Richard died, so I won’t presume to tell you how you’re supposed to behave. I won’t. But I will say I’m worried.”

“Thanks…” He meant well. Part of me wanted to come back with a snarky comment, but I held my tongue. “Each day is a little better,” I lied.

“Here’s your to-go box,” Richard said, breezing back into the dining room. He took one look at the serious faces in the room. “Did I miss something?”

“Not at all,” I said, using the break in the conversation to my advantage. “Thank you for an amazing meal and lovely company, but I must get to the gym.”

Bryce looked like he wanted to say something, but he kept his words to himself, which suited me just fine. I said goodbyes and hugged both men before going home to change and head off to the gym.

About the Author Jason Wrench is a professor in the Department of Communication at SUNY New Paltz and has authored/edited 15+ books and over 35 academic research articles. He is also an avid reader and regularly reviews books for publishers in a wide number of genres. This book marks his first full-length work of fiction.

Website | First for Romance

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Jane Austen Time Traveler by Rachel Dacus – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Rachel Dacus 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.

Lonely Regency romance writer travels to the future, meets her fans, dips into a pearly swimming pool, and falls for its owner. Can she ever go home again…

If Jane Austen’s novels had never ever existed, would we have rom-com movies and women’s fiction? But the young writer is discouraged by a publisher’s rejection and ready to give up writing. And an unwelcome marriage proposal she has rashly accepted spells her doom.

Someone must save history and Jane Austen! When a stranger calls and claims to be an interested publisher, a desperate Jane agrees to go with him to his office. That office turns out to be in the future. And it’s not an office, but a bookstore in southern California in 2024 where fans of Jane Austen gather every month to discuss her works.

Jane greets the Jane Austen Superfan Club, only to find that superfans can be super picky. Discouraged by their critiques, Jane wants different adventures. Even deadly, dangerous ones. And oh, yes! Romantic ones.

Her “publisher” had hoped to inspire Jane’s writing by showing her a book club devoted to her writing. But when she meets a tall, handsome superfan, Jane decides to chart her own course. She disappears with her new friend, and history may have to save itself …

Enjoy an exclusive excerpt from the book:

Jane sat up and looked out of the wall of glass. It overlooked the pool they had walked beside last night. Will was swimming with a most peculiar stroke, like a butterfly spreading its wings. He leapt from up the water and then disappeared under again, doing a stroke she had never seen, even at the seaside when the boys played in the ocean.

Jane lay still, contemplating the day and the swimmer.

She should get dressed and join him at the pool, to watch from nearer. Having only her new, silky outfit from last night, Jane wondered if she could wear it for another day. The idea of returning to the hotel and lacing up the layers of her old life returning made her shiver with dread.

Will had left George a message, Ubering their whereabouts, he had said. George would have to rest content with her absence for at least another morning.

Will’s rhythmic swimming mesmerized her as she listened to the sound of his hands and feet slapping the water. He changed to a smoother stroke, swimming quickly back and forth the length of the pool.

Jane dressed and joined him. The day’s warmth was beginning, so she was glad she had left off her jacket.

Will swam over to the side of the pool, dripping like the statues of Attic gods in fountains in Hyde Park.

“Did you sleep well?” he asked. When she nodded, he said, “I made breakfast for us, if you’re ready.”

“Breakfast would be wonderful.”

He swam to the far end of the pool, walked up the steps. Drying off with a blue towel, he wrapped it around his hips, which made Jane look up and around at the sky and gardens, anywhere but at the living statuary that was Will Fleming, a man who had kissed her last night.

RACHEL DACUS writes about history, love, family, and art — with a touch of magic. Rachel is the author of both prose and poetry. When she’s not writing or reading, she listens to music and walks through the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her architect husband and a lively Silky Terrier. She blogs about books and the writing life.

Website: https://racheldacus.net/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rachel_Dacus
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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RachelDacusAuthor

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Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jane-Austen-Time-Traveler-Timegathering-ebook/dp/B0BDVXLXC1

Skull’s Vengeance by Linnea Tanner – Q&A + Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

If you could apologize to someone in your past, who would it be?

There is no one in my past whom I feel the need to apologize. However, I regret that I did not tell my daughter-in-law how much I loved her until she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Life is precious and we should often tell cherished family members and friends how much we love them.

If you could keep a mythical/ paranormal creature as a pet, what would you have?

Dragons.

How do you keep your writing different from all the others that write in this particular genre?

Every story has a unique perspectives, characters, and plot lines that make them distinct. I don’t consciously consider what makes my stories different from others. I write from the heart. Readers have described my novels as evocative with unexpected twists. A review from Reader’s Favorite describes Skull’s Vengeance as follows: The plot rockets off at a fantastic pace that amps up the tension at every turn, making for a surprisingly quick read filled with passion, bloodshed, and some very cinematic and exciting dark magic to top it all off.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you ever received?

The best piece of writing advice I’ve received is how to firmly place a scene in a character’s point of view instead of head-hopping from one character to another, which can confuse readers. The worst piece of advice is when someone insists that you strictly avoid adverbs, complex words and sentences, descriptions, and semicolons. As long as the prose does not distract from the story, a writer should use all tools of writing that enhance the story.

Are the experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Whenever I visited London, I was intrigued with the statue of the ancient warrior queen, Boudicca, and her daughters in a horse-drawn chariot. The Roman historian Cassius Dio described her as being, “in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh: a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips; around her neck was a large golden necklace.” She symbolizes how a single woman can unite divisive factions to rise up against tyranny and seek their freedom.

Statue of Boudicca and her two daughters in a chariot

My primary character, Catrin, is inspired by the legend of Boudicca and her Celtic world, which later inspired Arthurian legend. The characterization is based on the complex archetypes of ancient Celtic goddesses whose functions embrace the entire religious spectrum from healing to warfare, from creation to destruction, and from birth. Catrin is intended to be an inspiration to modern-day women who are seeking to find their place in society.

The legacy of Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) and his tragic downfall with Cleopatra inspired the primary male character, Marcellus Antonius. Mark Antony’s son (Iullus Antonius) suffered a similar fate as his father. He fell on his sword in disgrace for his scandalous affair with Augustus Caesar’s only daughter, Julia. Little is known about Iullus’s son, Lucius, except that he was exiled to Gaul as a young man, most likely as a condition to escape his father’s fate.

Bust of Mark Antony

During the time period in my series, the Antonius family legacy was cursed by the act of damnatio memoriae (condemnation of memory) that erased public records of Mark Antony and Iullus Antonius. A burning question that I wanted to answer in Skull’s Vengeance is how the tragic family legacy would impact Lucius Antonius. How would he react if his son, Marcellus, went down the same fateful path as his forefathers?

A Celtic warrior queen must do the impossible—defeat her sorcerer half-brother and claim the throne. But to do so, she must learn how to strike vengeance from her father’s skull.

AS FORETOLD BY HER FATHER in a vision, Catrin has become a battle-hardened warrior after her trials in the Roman legion and gladiatorial games. She must return to Britannia and pull the cursed dagger out of the serpent's stone to fulfill her destiny. Only then can she unleash the vengeance from the ancient druids to destroy her evil half-brother, the powerful sorcerer, King Marrock. Always two steps ahead and seemingly unstoppable, Marrock can summon destructive natural forces to crush any rival trying to stop him and has charged his deadliest assassin to bring back Catrin's head.

To have the slightest chance of beating Marrock, Catrin must forge alliances with former enemies, but she needs someone she can trust. Her only option is to seek military aid from Marcellus—her secret Roman husband. They rekindle their burning passion, but he is playing a deadly game in the political firestorm of the Julio-Claudian dynasty to support Catrin's cause.

Ultimately, in order to defeat Marrock, Catrin must align herself with a dark druidess and learn how to summon forces from skulls to exact vengeance. But can she and Marcellus outmaneuver political enemies from Rome and Britannia in their quest to vanquish Marrock?

Enjoy an Excerpt

PROLOGUE

White Cliffs in Southeast Britannia,
Eve of Samhain, 31 October, 26 AD

Three human skulls hung over King Marrock’s stallion, dangling from a rope like ornaments. Feeling as invincible as a god, he rode to the precipice of the sheer cliffs and listened to the roar of the waves crashing below. Yet, the raven soaring overhead chilled him to the bone—an omen he was but mortal and could plunge to his death.

He embraced the warmth of Boudicca, his younger half sister, who sat astride his horse in front of him. A toddler full of mirth, she was a healer who could connect to the souls of the dead.

Whereas their mother accused him, also known as Blood Wolf, of being a soulless murderer.

On this eve of Samhain, Marrock knew the souls of the dead freely roamed among the living. He spotted his deadliest assassin, Gawain, searching for the wraith on the emerald hilltop. Gawain had a blue, triangular tattoo of a dagger’s blade on his forehead and deadly weapons underneath his black cloak—the royal insignia of the red dragon stitched to the front panel.

For Marrock, the Otherworldly dragon, with its leathery wings and fiery breath, symbolized perpetual power. It was said that where dragons trod, mystic energy flowed. The untamed beast guarded the portal into the Otherworld.

He yearned for the dragon’s mystic power—the power to summon forces from the earth’s molten underbelly to immolate his rivals.

Gawain pointed to a pile of rocks. “The sheepherder saw the wraith over there,” he said in his deep, gravelly voice.

Marrock handed Boudicca to him and then dismounted, pulling the rope of skulls off his horse and draping it over his shoulders. His family’s skulls served as a warning to anyone who threatened his sovereignty.

Until now, he had only been able to summon the deadly powers from the skulls of his stepmother and bastard sister; their souls were encased in the bone crowns. The soul of his father, King Amren, still eluded Marrock, even after he had sliced off his father’s head. If his father’s soul was indeed wandering the hilltop, he would imprison it in the largest empty skull he had.

Then, he would be able to unleash the collective forces from all three souls.

Glancing all around, he could not see his father’s ghostly figure in the thickening fog. Boudicca’s gleeful giggle roused his attention. He watched her waddle toward a mound of stones and place her tiny hands on the stacked rocks.

“Pa. Pa. Am,” she squealed with delight.

Marrock cast a glance at Gawain. “Did the sheepherder see the wraith disappear into those rocks?”

Gawain nodded. “Indeed, I believe so.”

Marrock transferred the roped skulls from his shoulders to the grassy ground and looked at Gawain. “Help me remove the rocks so I can see what is underneath.”

Gawain joined Marrock in the task of removing the white stones one by one. They inspected each rock for any defect before setting it aside.

Boudicca, mimicking the men, picked up flint pebbles and dropped them on the chalky ground.

After a while, they uncovered the gemstone handle of a dagger; its blade was embedded in a coil-shaped serpent stone. Marrock recognized the jewel-studded dagger as once belonging to his father. Intrigued, he gripped the handle with both hands and strained to pull it out, his muscles aching and his face dripping with sweat from the effort.

Suddenly, to his shock, the hilt turned sizzling hot. He jerked his hands away and inspected the blisters that had formed on his reddened palms. Hearing Boudicca’s gleeful babble, he looked down just as she gripped the dagger’s handle.

“Pa. Pa. Am,” she trilled.

To Marrock’s surprise, Boudicca’s hands did not burn.

A prickling sensation noosed around his neck as he recalled the original curse cast by his mother just before his father had executed her.

The gods demand that the scales be balanced for the life you take. If you deny my soul’s journey to the Otherworld by beheading me, I curse you to the same fate as mine. I prophesy your future queen will beget a daughter who will rise as a raven and join your son, Blood Wolf, and a mighty empire will overtake your kingdom and execute my curse.

King Amren had etched the words of the curse on the dagger’s blade using the Roman alphabet with the belief he could thwart the dark prophecy.

Marrock shuddered.

Does my father’s soul live in the dagger? Has he come back to exact vengeance on me?

About the Author Award-winning author, Linnea Tanner, weaves Celtic tales of love, magical adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts, who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.

Linnea has extensively researched ancient and medieval history, mythology, and archaeology and has traveled to sites described within each of her books in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. Books released in her series include “Apollo’s Raven” (Book 1), “Dagger’s Destiny” (Book 2), “Amulet’s Rapture” (Book 3), and “Skull’s Vengeance” (Book 4). She has also released the historical fiction short story, “Two Faces of Janus.”

A Colorado native, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.

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