A Lucy Review: Blush (Uncorked #3) by Shea Balik

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Fifteen years ago, Kadyn Bellamy and Valor Lee had blown any chance of building a future together. Valor had joined the CIA to hunt down terrorists and Kadyn abhorred violence. At the time, their differences had seemed insurmountable. 

When Valor shows up in Dahlonia looking as hot as ever, Kadyn needs to decide if he can reconcile their divergent viewpoints. The choice wasn’t as easy as it might seem. If only the love he’d felt for Valor had diminished, he could easily walk away. It didn’t seem fair that he might have to give up the love of his life, twice. 

All Valor wanted was the future he and Kadyn had dreamed. For fifteen years, his love for Kadyn had only grown. He’d known when he’d walked away from Kadyn all those years ago, it would be a challenge to convince Kadyn they could still make their dreams come true. 

It was only when tragedy struck, that Kadyn was forced to come to grips with the past. With eyes wide open, he was ready to take a step into the future. He just needed to decide if Valor would be a part of it or not 

We got to know Kadyn in Nolan’s book, Full Bodied, and I loved him there.  Blush is Kadyn’s book and actually begins with a scene from Full Bodied, this time from Kadyn’s point of view.  This was incredibly interesting to me because it was such a great example of how much you can fool people into believing you are doing great.  Even your best friend. 

Kadyn owns Sugar Daddys, a popular bakery in Dahlonia.  He is best friends with Nolan and has a great group of other friends there but he goes through men like popcorn.  No one ever lasts long and in his words, “…he used men to try and fill a void he wasn’t sure would ever be complete again.”  To others, it appears he is always happy and cheerful and just likes to date.  Fifteen years ago the man he loved beyond measure left him to take a job with the CIA, hunting terrorists after his father died in a plane on 9/11.  Kadyn, very anti-violence, couldn’t be with someone who was willing and able to do that. Valor walked away without a backwards glance.  “Desperately wanting to make those responsible pay for killing his father, Valor had left Kadyn behind, determined to never look back.”  Those were Valor’s thoughts.

Now, however, he’s in Dahlonia and looking to win Kadyn back.  He’s been back for a while but just now runs into Kadyn at the grocery story. When Valor goes for a kiss, I was ready to quit reading if Kadyn just melted and magically everything was roses.  Luckily, that didn’t happen.  Kadyn is rightfully angry and shows it.   While Valor claims to have loved Kadyn all this time, I had a hard time believing that for fifteen years he didn’t contact Kadyn at all and it wasn’t until he was dissatisfied with the CIA that he made any effort to contact Kadyn, who may be anti-violence but was shattered by the thought Valor might die. But I digress.

“Valor had chosen hate over Kadyn’s love.”   This seems to be what happened and Valor himself, “Look, Kadyn, I know I hurt you, but…” has that same attitude. I really appreciated that Kayden had to think it over and weight it out on whether he could do this.  “And you’re right, there are some in this world who probably should be killed.  I just don’t know that I can be with someone who is willing to be with that person.”

As the story progresses, however, it’s like someone else started writing because now it’s Kadyn’s fault they were torn apart.  That somehow the dark side of Valor, the side willing to hurt and kill, was always there and Kadyn just didn’t want to see it and was asking Valor to change who he was.  Which I didn’t understand because by asking Kadyn to accept the violence, which Valor freely admits if he needs to he would go right back to the CIA and do this work, Valor is asking Kadyn to change who he is.  Kadyn is very upfront, “If you are even thinking of rejoining the CIA, or in any way hunting down terrorists, I can’t be a part of your life.  I couldn’t take it.”  The response after fifteen years?  “Then you don’t love me, Kadyn.  Maybe you never did.”   My rating went down because it was so hypocritical for Valor to demand Kadyn change his views and stance, while not honoring that Kadyn do the same.

I may be in the minority on this but I did NOT think Kadyn was the one in the wrong here.  The story sort of heads that way and that was irritating me.  I was really interested in how they were going to work this out, how to come to some sort of compromise that would make this possible and it seems they were slowly trying to.  Then a plot device was thrown in that made things too simplistic for me.  I wanted them to work things out intellectually between them, not because of some outside happening forcing a change.  The conversations surrounding this, however, were powerful and necessary.

I really wanted to know the story of Chet and Leo, who are an established couple here, because they are lovely together.  I’m not sure if their story has been told but I am very happy that the next in the series is Shine because he is such an interesting character and his “Southernisms” were actually some of the ones my own grandfather used to say!

This was another solid addition to the Uncorked series.  My wish right now is to know – what in the world is going on with Andrew and Brogan?

Cover art instantly grabs your attention with the striking models and informs with the blush wine. Great job.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 184 pages
Published November 29th 2017 (first published August 2017)
Original Title Blush
ASINB077PVX6MD
Edition Language English
Series Uncorked #3

A MelanieM Review: Peony Lanterns by Patricia Correll

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Mitsu has been Shiro’s personal servant and best friend since they were both six years old, and he’s been in love with him for nearly that long. While Shiro takes lovers of both sexes, the gulf between their social classes is so vast that Mitsu has never spoken his feelings aloud.

When Shiro meets the beautiful Lady Keiko, he’s instantly infatuated. His affection soon turns to obsession, and Mitsu resigns himself to a life of unrequited love.

But as Mitsu looks deeper into Keiko and her motives, he realizes that Shiro is in grave danger. He will need all his courage– and some help from a master of the occult– to save the life of the man he loves.

Peony Lanterns by Patricia Correll is a short but exquisite Japanese historical romance.  The story carries its historical accuracy and the authenticity of its era throughout the tale with the lightness of a Sakura petal, a tribute to it’s author’s ability to fold facts and cultural elements gently into her story. The focus here is on Mitsu, his feelings for his master, Shiro, and the current drama/mystery playing out between Lady Keiko, Shiro, and the brokenhearted Mitsu who carries a deep love for Shiro.

It unfolds naturally and then the pace picks up as does your heartbeat, racing as the revelations come one after another.  Even as the world building expands, the author never misses, either with the narrative or with the details.  She keeps the reader hooked to the action and the drama unfolding , hoping that Mitsu;s bravery and love will prevail.

I would love to see more in this universe, more with this couple.  It’s just amazing in every way.  I highly recommend this story.  It’s quite the gem!

Cover art is beautiful and works within the culture and times.

Sales Links: Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 91 pages
Published February 12th 2019
ASINB07N12QDLH

A Lila Review: The Faeted: Box Set By Caitlin Ricci

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Rating: 3.3 stars out of 5

The Faeted Series

Joshua

There’s only one place to go for a guaranteed happily ever after…

Joshua, a dragon shifter, hates having to go to the Faeted Matchmaking Agency, but he’s running out of time to find a mate, and he’s failed everywhere else. He only has a few more months before he enters the next stage of his life, and he’s getting desperate. Dragon tradition states that he must have a partner to help him transition into independence from his clan. A long-time friend would be sufficient, but Joshua doesn’t have any of those, either. Faeted is his last hope.

Rex expected Faeted to set him up with someone fun and sexy, but he was never expecting a dragon. As Rex is an eagle shifter, a dragon would be a good match for him, since they’re both born to fly. Joshua is far more cautious than Rex expects a dragon to be, but Rex knows he can get Joshua to loosen up with a bit of a push.

Adrian

There’s only one place to go for a guaranteed happily ever after.

Finding a Faeted match is always supposed to lead to true love, but Adrian doesn’t believe that anymore. After six months of perfect bliss with his fire mage Corrin, Adrian caught him kissing someone else at a party. Now he wants a new match, and he never wants to see Corrin again. A matchmaker at Faeted gives Adrian another mate and tells him to go to a hotel to find him.

But when Adrian gets to the hotel room, he finds Corrin there, waiting for him. Naked and bound, Corrin has served himself up as a perfect peace offering, if only Adrian is willing to take a second chance at love with him.

Caldren

There’s only one place to go for a guaranteed happily ever after.

Caldren has been looking forward to having his own Faeted match for a long time. It’s what all the brownies do, and Faeted has always taken good care of them. As a brownie, he’s a gentle person who just wants to help his mate out and keep things clean. He likes honey, books and a tidy house.

He’s surprised when his mate turns out to be a dragon, at least, according to Faeted. They’re aggressive and powerful, so Caldren doesn’t think he would be a good match for someone like that, but his kind have always trusted Faeted to do what is best for them.

Bannock is a scary dragon, just as Caldren expected him to be. But he’s also fair and firm. He appreciates what Caldren is and what he needs. It isn’t long before Caldren realizes that sometimes a little brownie needs a dragon to be whole.

Faeted includes three very short erotic stories:

Joshua: 4 stars

This story has the most plot of all three in the series. Perhaps since it’s the first one and it’s the readers introduction to the Faeted Matchmaking Agency.

It has a nice premise but Joshua changes drastically as soon as he meets his mate. Gone is the shy dragon trying to find a companion. Lust takes over him and everything he mentioned wanting at the beginning of the story.

Definitely an erotic short for those with an exhibitionism fetish.

Adrian: 3 stars

I’m guessing Adrian is the least favorite story for many people. If you don’t tolerate cheating, this story is not for you. Even when it’s an intoxicated misunderstanding in the end.

The sex scene is a bit tedious with many stops and goes. It was nice, just not great.

Caldren: 3 stars

This was an insta-lust submissive story. The characters were interesting and the sex scenes well thought. Unfortunately, not enough to make it memorable.

The cover by Posh Gosh is for Joshua, and it matches the main concept of the story. The Sepia color gives it an old feel.

Sale Links: Amazon | Nook | Pride

Book Details:
ebook, 106 pages
ISBN: 978-1-78651-714-2
Published: November 20, 2018, by Pride Publishing
Edition Language: English

A Chaos Moondrawn Review :Royal Guardian (Rise of the Symbionts #1) by Jo Tannah

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Lando is a man genetically bred by machines for security purposes. By the age of 12, he is one of the top 20 security specialists on the planet Oryon based on his intelligence and skill. He is training to be a Royal Guardian assigned to Prince Kallen, a powerful technomage. Prince Kallen was born sickly and is dying. When unknown inhabitants of the planet Nigul sent a distress call to Oryon, they arrive too late to save anyone while the planet is destroyed. Lando finds an egg with a sentient being inside that seems to have empathic abilities. The symbiont, Bobik, attaches itself to the Prince after it hatches, healing him.

There is an eight years age gap between the Prince and Lando. While Lando is in love with his prince, he never thinks anything will come of it. Kallen has other ideas–though he waits until his 18th birthday to make his feelings known. When Kallen names Lando Prince Consort, Lord Commander Militant Cheol, unhappy with the union and the symbiont, resigns his position and leaves with fifteen thousand guardsmen. While Lando hunts Cheol, Kallen leaves for Vespa to study magical protocols for two years. Lando becomes Lord Commander Militant, security and advisor to the King. When the Prince is kidnapped and Bobik is not with him, they fear the worst. Is Cheol involved? Are there other enemies they don’t know about? Many fear the alien Bobik and Kallen is such a powerful technomage already.

Although this was slow to get going, I actually enjoyed this. The love scene is strange as Bobik is involved. Part two will undoubtedly take up the search for Cheol. Lando also found a new egg as part of a mission assigned him by the King. I expect this is how the rise of the symbionts (the subtitle) will happen. I would have preferred this to be a long novel rather than having the story broken up into three novellas. Now I have to know what happens. This was an easy enjoyable read with likeable characters, low angst, and palace intrigue.

I like the cover art by Angela Waters, which communicates the story is science fiction and shows Lando.

Sales Links:       Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 76 pages
Published March 31st 2017 by eXtasy Books Inc
ISBN 1487412029 (ISBN13: 9781487412029)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesRise of the Symbionts #1

Love Fantasy Fiction? Check out the Release Blitz for Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1) by Isobel Starling (excerpt)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title:  Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1)

Author: Isobel Starling

Publisher: Decent Fellows Press

Cover Artist: Valentine Pascadian (Lennel)

Genre/s:  Fantasy, M/M Romance

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length:103 600 words/ 556 pages

Release Date:  February 15, 2019

Add on Goodreads

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Blurb

After a traumatic event, Winter Aeling finds himself destitute and penniless in the backwater town of Mallowick.  He needs to travel to the city of Serein and impart grave news that will bring war to the Empire, but without a horse, money, and with not a soul willing to help him, he has no choice but to line up with the common folk seeking paid work on the harvest.  

As wagons roll into the market square and farmers choose day laborers, Winter is singled out for abuse by a brute of a farmer.  The only man who stands up for him is the farmer’s beguiling son, Adam, and on locking eyes with the swarthy young man Winter feels the immediate spark of attraction.

Winter soon realizes there is a reason he has been drawn to Blackdown Farm.  The farmer possesses a precious item that was stolen long ago from Winter’s family, and he determines to retrieve it.  He also cannot take his eyes off the farmer’s son, and as the young man opens up Winter can’t help wondering if Adam is just kind or his kind!

Excerpt

“Apple Boy” by Isobel Starling

CHAPTER 1

MARKET SQUARE

“You boy, aye, YOU.  Ain’t never seen ye round ‘ere before,” The farmer directed his bellow at me.  

It was sunrise, and at last, I’d found the courage to step out of my hiding place and join the common laborers who gathered in Mallowick market square.  We were waiting for the farmers’ carts to come by and choose their day workers.  I’d watched this ritual each morning for the past three days, peeking out from shadowed doorways, or while crouching behind barrels.  

It was harvest time, and it appeared to be routine for peasants to walk from the surrounding hamlets before dawn and assemble in the square to seek work on the farms.  There was wheat, barley, root vegetables, and tree fruits to be gathered before the weather turned. I was informed by a ruddy looking fellow in the tavern that anyone could get work on the harvest, and so, with my pride cut to ribbons and my pockets empty, I’d stepped out of the safety of my hiding place and joined the commoners.

“Does ye wants work or no’?  Look at me when I’m talkin’ to ye.  What’s yer name?” The burley farmer roared.  I looked up, stunned to be singled out from among all of these strapping men and hardy looking women, for I felt invisible.  Four carts had already passed and taken their pick of the young, strong peasants, but none of those farmers gave me a second glance.  I should have known something was afoot, for when this particular wagon turned up the women in the square shrank back into doorways, and men sidled away to lean against buildings.  On the side of the wagon, writ-large in bold off-white letters were the words BLACKDOWN FARM. There were around thirty of us left on view, like cattle.

I had never partaken in manual labor or any kind of work before.  I was a gentleman and far more familiar with spending my days relaxing, reading, attending social events in the city, or taking a horse for a gallop in the country.  But my life had changed since I’d become stranded here in the Pasturelands provincial town of Mallowick two weeks earlier.  Now I was living on my wits.  Each day was a fight for my life, and I’d sold all of my fine belongings, intending to pay for passage on the stagecoach from Mallowick to the city of Serein.  But I had not thought things through, and it did not happen that way.  My body’s needs took precedent. I’d become so ravenous, and therefore the meager coin I’d gathered from selling my finery was spent on what I could afford—basic rough barley bread and ale, just enough to stave off the gnawing pangs of hunger in my belly each day.  Now, I had no belongings, and the money was all but gone. I was no thief, and the only thing I had left to sell was my body. Looking like a wretch, I did not believe I could earn even a copper that way! Before I left on my travels, I was warned that the province of Erias had strict rules about men bedding other men and I did not want to tempt fate.  I was at a loss—hard labor or starvation were the only choices available to me. Gods, if my father could see how far I’d fallen in such a short time, he would be thoroughly ashamed.  I was living hand-to-mouth, and if I dared to seek out my reflection and observe my disreputable state of dress, I was sure I would see I was no longer a gentleman at all.

I assured myself that all would be well as soon as I could get to the city of Serein.  There I would attend my father’s depository and obtain funds from his account—as had been arranged, and then, I could find my way to my uncle’s residence and attend to a much grimmer business.  

So, with no other choice, I was here, standing in Mallowick market square with a bunch of rough-looking fellows and ruddy-faced women with just the ragged clothes I stood in to my name.  I wondered if my visage had taken on the same gaunt, starved, haunted look some of them wore.

“WELL?”  The farmer roared.

“Leave him be Pa; I think he’s a mute.  P… p… please don’t—” A swarthy young man urged, stepping to the farmers’ side.  The man appeared to be in his early twenties, with broad angular shoulders, slim hips, and wavy jaw-length hair that longingly reminded me of Montestein tea.  When the morning sunlight broke through the clouds and caressed him, the strands of his hair revealed all the shades of autumn.  It was beautiful.  His eyes were bright emerald green, and his skin bore the wind-burned tan of a man who spent his days working the land.  I met his gaze for a second that seemed to stop time, and I felt a flutter of longing erupt in my gut. I found myself mesmerized by him.  He appeared a little embarrassed, for himself or for me, I wasn’t quite sure. The farmer turned to his son.

“Shut that filthy mouth o’ yours, apple boy!” he spat.  His large meaty hands twitched.  He sneered and glared at his son in such a wicked way I knew it should have been followed up by a sharp slap.  I worried that the young man would endure further public humiliation at the hands of his father, but the farmer moved his disdainful glare back to me.  I shuddered with fear. I had a feeling that he was saving his son’s punishment for later—away from the prying eyes of the townsfolk. I did not like that thought, not one bit.  I did not know why the farmer was drawn to me, but he sized me up with a sweeping glance of consideration, then wrinkled his nose as if he’d sniffed a revolting stench—I hadn’t bathed in two weeks, so maybe I did smell a tad ripe!

“Is ye a mute?”

I shook my head.  I would say, if anything, I was deeply traumatized by the unfortunate circumstance I’d found myself in, but no, I was certainly not a mute.  I just wasn’t used to a lowly man speaking to me so roughly. Generally, men who dared to address me knew their betters and behaved appropriately.  But here in Mallowick, in the province of Erias, I was no better than a beggar on the street.  There was no one I could call on for favors, no one who, on hearing my family name, would loan me coin for the stagecoach or a horse to ride to the city and send word to my father.  

When I’d first arrived in Mallowick, telling the truth of my station had gotten me dragged down an alley where my finger and earrings were stolen, and I’d received a beating.  This farmer from Blackdown Farm had no idea who I was, and I would not make the same mistake again.

I took a breath and stepped out of line.  “Master Irwin Harding, sir. You may call me Win.”  I winced at hearing my own soft, well-spoken voice, with my accent, the clipped tongue of Thorn.  I had not used my real name and wished I had not used my true voice either.  The fact that I was the son of the Duke of Thorn meant nothing here.  Thorn was west of Erias, on the other side of the Silua Montis Mountain range, and I doubted any of these illiterate souls in Mallowick knew anything other than that folklore passed around by storytellers.

The farmer stepped to stand in front of me.  He was a big, bulky bastard of a man and stank of stale sweat and baccy.  He had a grizzled podgy face and thick dark hair shot with strands of silver pulled into an untidy tail.  The tension grew between us, and I worried I’d spoken out of turn. I looked down and watched my bare, filthy feet as if they held endless fascination.  I’d seen men like him before. He had hands like shovels, and I’m sure they’d done damage in their time. My father would have used a man like him well, probably as muscle to intimidate the city folk while the Royal Chancellor did the rounds collecting taxes.  

Afraid and sweating with anxiety, I glanced up and away, unable to look at the farmer directly and meet his fierce piggy eyes.  Instead, I looked left and caught the eye of his son. I felt another flutter of attraction. I was grateful for it because it dampened my fear a little.  The glance the farmers’ son sent me back was sheepish, apologetic. He shrugged and put a finger to his lips, signaling for me to hush. I’m sure now he knew what was coming.

Master, is it?”  The farmer gave a raspy malevolent chuckle.  “Well, well, well aren’t ye an uppity little scrote.  Such a pretty voice an’ all. Have your balls dropped yet, lad?”  

The townsmen men standing around me shuffled on their feet and snickered uncomfortably.  I could tell from the tentative laughter they were afraid of this man too. My chest tightened with fury, and I felt the flare of heat rush to color my cheeks.  If in Thorn I would have put this fellow in his place, but as directed by the farmers’ handsome son, I held my tongue.  

I dared to look up as the farmer scratched his grizzled chin and consider me.  It was then I saw it. A chill iced my bones. On his chubby right index finger, he wore a gold ring set with a large red gemstone that I was aghast to see held the intaglio engraving of a rose thorn—my family’s seal.  How had this disgusting Pasturelands farmer come upon my family’s ring?  Anger curdled my gut, but I forced myself to focus and fixed my features so as not to alert the man to what I was looking at.  That ring was more precious than I could say. It was not set with any common gemstone, oh no, the setting was Star-fall.  The legend was that mortal tools could not cut the rich-red Star-fall stone.  The gemstone was shaped by sorcery, and the power that carved into the gem was stored inside it as if the Star-fall was a reservoir for the magic.  It was illegal for any other than the Twin Kings of Osia to own Star-fall.  The king’s men had scoured the Empire to remove all traces of the priceless gem from common and aristocratic hands and possessing it was a death sentence.  Did this ruffian have any idea what he wore?

Not getting a rise from me, the farmer stepped yet closer and found out for himself if my balls had dropped.  He reached for my privates and squeezed.

Ahh, ye got some big stones de’re al’right, boy,” he said with a filthy sneer.

“Done any labourin’ before, lad?”  My eyes watered.  I shook my head and winced as the pressure on my most sensitive parts rose.  I wanted to shout and push him away, punch him in that bristly pug face. I’d trained in hand-to-hand combat and swordplay, but that was of little use to me now that I had no sword and was cast as naught but a commoner myself.  I stood frozen to the spot with fear, my cock, and balls in the hand of this brutish man. I was sure that clutching my nethers was not the best way to test if I would be a good apple picker.  

The farmer let go, stepped back, and looked me over again like he was sizing up a prize pig.  I wanted to keel over, hold my sensitive parts and howl, but, with my eyes watering, I kept my back ramrod straight and looked past the farmer, using his son’s regretful, pretty green eyes as my focus.  

I appeared to be a boy, but I am nineteen and about to make my majority.  I have a tall, willowy frame, and little muscle to show for my near twenty summers.  Weeks before, I was clothed in the silken garb of a lordling, but all I wore now were my stinky silk britches and a once-white linen shirt.  I’d even had to sell my fine leather boots. My flaxen hair hung loosely to my shoulders and was bedraggled. My mother had always told me my hair shone like a golden halo.  I guessed that was no longer the case. I had not seen my reflection in two weeks so I could only imagine how frightful I appeared to onlookers. My circumstance was terrible, but I refused to let it defeat me.  I was a son of Thorn, I was a gentleman, damn it, and I was prepared to do whatever it took to do to find my way to my destination and seek justice for all the ill-luck that had befallen me.  

“Right, scrote, up on the wagon,” the farmer declared.  “We can always do wit a few extra scurrier’s fer the windfalls.”

I had no idea what that actually meant, but strangely relieved to be selected, I nodded subserviently and then, ducking my head to avoid the farmers’ glare, I scurried to the wagon where I surreptitiously gave my aching intimate parts a gentle rub.  

I’d heard from a fellow in the tavern that harvesting wheat at Robinswood Farm was backbreaking, as was digging root vegetables at Windy Oakes Farm.  He advised that apple picking was easy work and if I could get employment at Weatherby’s or Blackdown Farm, they paid good coin.  He said the mistress at Blackdown was particularly well-liked and always gave laborers a bread and cheese luncheon with last season’s cider.  I was so hungry that bread and cheese sounded like a banquet. The fellow had neglected to tell me that the farmer was a brute!

The farmers’ son met me by the wagon and offered to help me aboard.  For a moment, from the look of consideration in his eyes, I thought he could see past the disheveled state of me to the gentleman I’d once been.  But that was ridiculous. The farmers’ son hopped up onto the back of the wagon with dexterous athleticism, and then offered me his hands. I took them without a thought.  His warm touch and the strength in those work-roughened fingers twisted my gut into uncomfortable knots. He fixed my gaze as he gripped both of my hands and tugged me up as easily as if he were lifting feather down.  He pulled me closed and pressed me to his hard chest.

“Don’t back chat him or it’ll be the worst fer you,” he whispered the warning to my ear.  Alarmed, I eased back from him and cautiously met his eye for a split second. In the look he gave me I saw that the warning was well-meant.  Bewildered, I nodded in thanks and understanding. I had no idea why this stranger was looking out for me, but the fact he was warmed my heart.  I choked back a tear. No one had looked out for me over these past weeks, and I had been so terribly lonely. I’d learned some hard life lessons on this leg of my journey, and I’d come to understand that here my title was irrelevant, and without money I was suddenly invisible; therefore small kindnesses meant more than I could say.

My adventure into the provinces had been made to appease my father for my supposed ‘lack of direction.’  I’d become bored with my easy life in Thorn, and not intending to marry; I’d told my father that in-light of my upcoming twentieth Bloomsday I wanted to tour the Empire.  If I were to one-day become Duke of Thorn, I needed to know a little of the politics of each province and so, pleased with my initiative and happy to be rid of me for a while, he’d set me on my way.  I’d toured the provinces of Terria, Corvay, and Reuss and then continued to the province of Osia, spending time in the capital city Altea, at the court of the Twin Kings, Kristoff, and Fabian Von Harte.  With this journey to Erias, I was to have the full set of provinces under my belt.  But fate was not on my side.

On benches affixed to either side of the farmers’ wagon sat fourteen men morosely staring at their bare, filthy feet, not a word of chatter between them.  They each owned a small pack of belongings and a wrapped blanket that each had stowed beneath the bench. At this moment they were better-off than me, for I did not even have a blanket to my name.  There was space for me and five more, totaling twenty men. The farmer chose from the remaining laborers with less consideration than I had been afforded.

“Right…  I’ll take Allin, Jed, Arthur, Bartram, and Matty, that’ll do me fer the week,” he hollered decisively.

The week?  I thought I’d promised myself for a hard day’s labor?  But then again, I considered the harvesters who were sitting in the wagon, and yes, they appeared to have prepared for an overnight stay.  Confused, I sat down as the other laborers were pulled up onto the wagon by their comrades, and then we shuffled along the benches until we were all seated.  I noticed the shoulders of the remaining men in the market square sag a little in apparent relief as if some mighty weight had lifted from them. I didn’t understand it.  I thought they’d wanted to work?

The farmers’ son clambered over into the front of the wagon.  His father climbed on, the man’s bulk shaking the timbers of the rickety wagon as he settled on the bench beside him.  The son handed his father the ribbons, which the farmer greedily snatched up, and then with a fearsome bellow of “Geddup” and a thunderous whip crack, the large mottled grey workhorse began its cumbersome trot down the main street and onto the dusty road to Blackdown Farm.

About the Author

Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland.  She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art.

Isobel is currently working on her nineteenth book.  

“As You Wish” (Shatterproof Bond#1) narrated by Gary Furlong won the Audiobook Reviewer Award for Romance 2018.  It is the first M/M Romance audiobook to win a mainstream audiobook award.

Author Links

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Decent Fellows Press

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Charlie Cochrane on Her Fav Reads and her new release Old Sins (Lindenshaw Mysteries #4) by Charlie Cochrane (author guest post, tour and giveaway)

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Old Sins (Lindenshaw Mysteries #4) by Charlie Cochrane

Riptide Publishing
Cover Art: L.C. Chase

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Charlie Cochrane back again talking about the latest releases in her Lindenshaw Mysteries, Old Sins.  Welcome, Charlie.

 

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What Charlie likes to read

Do you have a favourite book? I have many, in all sorts of genres. “The Charioteer” if we’re talking gay fiction, “Death at the President’s Lodging” if it’s mysteries, “Three Men in a Boat” for humour; the list goes on and on through different genre, fictional and non-fiction. Some of these books are a bit of a guilty pleasure, not least because I can see their flaws.

I’m a huge fan of classic age mystery writers; Dorothy, Agatha, Michael, Ngaio and the rest, but they have their feet of clay. Sayers could sometimes overcomplicate plots to the point of obscurity (which reader could really have worked out the sequence of events in Five Red Herrings?) and seems increasingly in love with her detective, Lord Peter Wimsey.  All of these authors shared a falling of their powers in later life – the last few Appleby mysteries are a pale shadow of the early ones – and, of course, all were products of their time, so modern readers might fund things which jar, such as anti-semitic references or the treatment of gay characters in a derogatory way.

Some of these authors reused plot ideas and devices. The classic story of the murderer assuming someone else’s identity, sometimes to benefit from inheritance, occurs again and again with Christie (as do other tried and tested story arcs). Marsh also showed an economy of plot, using the same method of murder both in a short story and again in a full novel. Her “Death and the Dancing Footman” falls into the category of “familiar plot” – the twist is the sort that an avid reader of the genre would soon spot –  but that doesn’t make it any less of a delightful comfort read. A sort of literary equivalent of mulled wine in front of a roaring fire.

The book has several of the staple elements of the archetypal classic age mystery: a country house, a house party cut off by snow, family rivalries, a sealed room death, an outsider who acts as ‘chorus’ and a witty, urbane and aristocratic sleuth, Roderick Alleyn. How I love “Handsome Alleyn” – I wonder if Ngaio loved him, too, like Sayers loved Wimsey. He seems just a bit too perfect at times.

That’s why I’m determined to show that neither of my male leads in the Lindenshaw series are anything less than human. They get angry, they make mistakes, they argue with each other, they make up, they talk about work, they refuse to talk about work…just like any of us. I’m also determined not to fall in love with either of them, although how can I resist falling head over heels for their dog Campbell?

A detective, his boyfriend and their dog. That’s the Lindenshaw mysteries in a nutshell. Old Sins is the fourth instalment in the series, and not only does Robin have a murder to investigate, he and Adam have got the “little” matter of their nuptials to start planning. And, of course, Campbell the Newfoundland gets his cold wet nose into things, as usual.

 

About Old Sins

Past sins have present consequences.

Detective Chief Inspector Robin Bright and his partner, deputy headteacher Adam Matthews, have just consigned their summer holiday to the photo album. It’s time to get back to the daily grind, and the biggest problem they’re expecting to face: their wedding plans. Then fate strikes—literally—with a bang.

Someone letting loose shots on the common, a murder designed to look like a suicide, and the return of a teacher who made Robin’s childhood hell all conspire to turn this into one of his trickiest cases yet.

Especially when somebody might be targeting their Newfoundland, Campbell. Robin is used to his and Adam’s lives being in danger, but this takes the—dog—biscuit.

Available now from Riptide Publishing.

 

About the Lindenshaw Mysteries

Adam Matthews’s life changed when Inspector Robin Bright walked into his classroom to investigate a murder.

Now it seems like all the television series are right: the leafy villages of England do indeed conceal a hotbed of crime, murder, and intrigue. Lindenshaw is proving the point.

Detective work might be Robin’s job, but Adam somehow keeps getting involved—even though being a teacher is hardly the best training for solving crimes. Then again, Campbell, Adam’s irrepressible Newfoundland dog, seems to have a nose for figuring things out, so how hard can it be?

Check out the Lindenshaw Mysteries.

 

About Charlie Cochrane

Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Riptide, Endeavour and Bold Strokes, among others.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.

Connect with Charlie:

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Old Sins one lucky person will win a swag bag from Charlie! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on February 16, 2019. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!