An Ali Audio Review: Where Death Meets the Devil (Death and the Devil #1) by L.J. Hayward and Rowan Scott (Narrator)

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Rating:4 out of 5 stars

Jack Reardon, former SAS soldier and current Australian Meta-State asset, has seen some messy battles. But “messy” takes on a whole new meaning when he finds himself tied to a chair in a torture shack, his cover blown wide open, all thanks to notorious killer-for-hire Ethan Blade.

Blade is everything Jack doesn’t believe in: remorseless, detached, lawless. Yet, Jack’s only chance to survive is to strike a bargain with the devil and join forces with Blade. As they trek across a hostile desert, Jack learns that Blade is much more than a dead-eyed killer—and harder to resist than he should be.

A year later, Jack is home and finally getting his life on track. Then Ethan Blade reappears and throws it all into chaos once more. It’s impossible to trust the assassin, especially when his presence casts doubts on Jack’s loyalty to his country, but Jack cannot ignore what Blade’s return means: the mess that brought them together is far from over, and Ethan might just bring back the piece of Jack’s soul he thought he’d lost forever.

This was a fast paced adventure story about two spies on opposite sides of a case. Maybe. Or maybe they’re on the same side but they don’t know it. All they know is they can’t stand each other. Maybe. Or maybe they actually love each other……..

The story goes back and forth, from chapter to chapter, from past to present. The author keeps you guessing about what happened then and what’s happening now. All you know for sure is that these two are great together and their sexual tension jumps off the pages.

This was a new author for me and I’m really glad I tried this book. It was super good and super entertaining. The story is filled with car chases, shoot outs, blowing up bad guys, some sexy times and the best camel a boy could ever have (Sheila!!). This would make a great movie. As it is, it made a great book. It’s different and really has a bit of everything in it. Good plot that’s not too confusing, great MC’s, some action and adventure and lot’s of feelz. I highly recommend this for those of you who like romantic suspense stories.

The audiobook was narrated by Rowan Scott who I had never listened to before.  I thought he was really good and I very much enjoyed his performance. His voice was great and I never had a problem figuring out which mc was talking. I thought he did a good job on the side characters also. I will definitely listen to this narrator again soon.
Cover art by L.C. Chase:  I love the cover for this book as well as the rest of the series.  They are striking and they really stand out. The compliment each other and are perfect for the vibe of the story.
Audio Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing |Audible | Amazon | iTunes
Audio Details:
Audiobook, 11 pages
Published April 11th 2019 (first published February 26th 2018)
Original Title Where Death Meets the Devil
ASINB07QF57V9C
Edition Language English
SeriesDeath and the Devil #1

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Chained (Bureau #4) by Kim Fielding

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Another satisfying paranormal romance from Kim Fielding! Someday I want to read these stories back to back but I’ll wait until the series ends, and I hope that’s not in the near future.  In this story, agent Terry Brandt of the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs is going undercover at the home of a famous Hollywood agent. Something is not right with the way he ensnares his clients so Terry is set up as a movie star wannabe to get to the bottom of it. 

The dogs who accompany the agent and guard Terry around the clock appear to be very intelligent, so much so that when Terry talks to them, they seem to understand. But when he compares the collar around the neck of his human guard—sexy, muscular, quiet Edge—to the collar on the dog that seems most intelligent, he realizes the truth. Edge and his brothers are dog shifters. And Terry is head over heels for Edge.

The story is short but the author sketched amazing character descriptions and a complete plot that led to a few painfully violent scenes, a few tender, loving moments, and a complex plot that ultimately leads to an HEA for the couple.  At times, it’s hair-raising, nail-biting, and fast-paced action, but overall, it’s simply a well-written drama with memorable characters and a satisfying outcome.  I highly recommend this and others in this series to readers who love action drama and paranormal activity mixed in with MM romance.

The cover by Reese Dante features a fit, muscular man, his naked torso on display with a chain around his neck. It fits the story and most certainly grabs attention.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Published April 30th 2019
ASINB07Q3NJT7W
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBureau #4

An Alisa Review: Unexpected Journey by JD Walker

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

John Dornbrook is forty-nine years old. He’s been doing the same job for fifteen years and hates it. But when he’s laid-off, it hits him hard and his world turns upside down. When he meets Hollis Lombard, his neighbor’s grandson, the unexpected happens.

Hollis Lombard is determined to get John out of his funk, so he offers to take him on a summer road trip. They head out west in search of adventure, but John is touchy and lashes out easily. Hollis, aware of the attraction between them, doesn’t want to take any chances which could hurt their budding friendship.

It’s all a frightful muddle, and it remains to be seen if they can overcome their issues in time to reach their final destination. Will the journey be worth it?

I was glad these two found what they wanted but I wasn’t a fan of how they came about it.  John’s life feels like it is in limbo after he loses his job and he doesn’t know what he wants to do next.  Hollis is getting ready to go to graduate school in the fall and invites John on his already planned road trip.

Umm, there wasn’t any connection to these characters and I kinda felt hum drum about the whole book.  It’s a bit crazy for Hollis to invite someone has only know for a few hours on this long trip with him and for John to so readily accept it.  I didn’t like how Hollis flirted but would pull back the instant John would show interest and how John tried to make Hollis jealous when he got tired of it, it just seemed very childish for both of them.

The cover art by Written Ink Designs gives a visual of the characters but just like the story didn’t really do anything for me.

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 12,128 words

Published: March 20, 2019 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781634869355

Edition Language: English

Angel Martinez on Influences, Writing, and her new release The Mage on the Hill (The Web of Arcana #1) (author guest blog and excerpt)

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The Mage on the Hill (The Web of Arcana #1) by Angel Martinez

Dreamspinner Press

Published May 7th 2019

Cover Art: Tiferet Designs

Buy links:  

Dreamspinner Press eBook and Paperback | Kobo | iTunes | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interviews Angel Martinez…

  • How much of yourself goes into a character?

It depends on the character. Basing a character entirely on me would be uncomfortable, but since every character comes out of my brain of course there’s some of me in every one. There are characteristics of mine that I’ve drawn on – certain insecurities and failings. Because I live them, they make good character fodder.

  • Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?

Oh sure. But a Mary/Gary character are those where the author’s self-insertion is sort of a wish fulfillment. Yes, that’s the author, but the character gets to be the author without the author’s issues and struggles. Therein lies the important difference: drawing on life experience, good or bad, allows an author to share what they know of that experience in a deeply felt, honest way, while Mary/Gary characters draw on aspects of the author through rose-colored glasses.

  • Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

Yes. All of that. Both. I don’t stray too far from science fiction and fantasy. That’s what I write. The story chooses the genre rather than any research concerns and from there, no story is ever without research. Even when dealing with a completely fictional environment – an alien planet, for instance – I still might need to research what’s possible. How far can the planet be from its star to be this climate or that? How big is this star? Where am I placing this in the galaxy? How would this type of atmosphere influence the development of life? And so on. In real world environments, which urban fantasy is to some extent, I need my maps, my historical data, and sometimes really specific things like what flowers are blooming in a certain month in a certain state park.

  • Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

Yes. I haven’t changed one jot. The only difference is there are some genres I still enjoy reading that I’ll probably never write, like historicals and horror.

Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?

Never. Mwahahahaha. I will sip tea while my characters suffer. No, that’s not quite accurate. I do hurt with them and sometimes even cry over them, but I’m more likely to stop writing over an external issue that’s simply so overwhelming that I can’t write, like the death of my mother last year.

  • Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

I like HFN and HEA when I read romance, though there are some bittersweet endings I’ve enjoyed too. In other genres, no, I don’t need them. In some genres, I don’t expect them at all. But in romance, often I like that warm, smishy feeling that everything turned out well. The world is a hard place these days and the warm smishies help with that.

  • Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?

I didn’t read romances until well into my forties. Yes, I was something of a genre snob. But I started reading them in critique groups and when I worked for review sites and have never looked back.

  • Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?

Probably C. J. Cherryh, then and now. She was the first author I encountered who could create truly alien minds. I wanted to be her when I grew up.

  • How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?

It’s here to stay, for one thing. Readers have shown that there’s room for multiple book formats – print, ebook, audio – and I think that’s entirely a good thing for the industry. People need choices. The proprietary ebook services and formats may go away some day. One can only hope.

  • How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)

I don’t, generally. But I have worked with some amazing artists over the years who’ve taken my vague “here’s what the book is about and I sort of have this in mind” and have made my vague hand waving into amazing things. Sometimes they let me pick models and that’s quite the rabbit hole to go down.

  • Do you have a favorite among your own stories?  And why?

Ah, the pick your favorite child question. Don’t tell the others, but my favorite is probably always the latest one. I’ve grown as a writer and I recognize that when I look back. Not that I love those stories any less, but the latest one is always the newest, the freshest, and I get to be proud of how far this journey has taken me.

  • Have you ever put a story away, thinking it just didn’t work?  Then years/months/whatever later inspiration struck and you loved it?  Is there a title we would recognize if that happened?

I have had stories that took a terribly long time to finish because of other writing commitments and lack of inspiration. Because I tend to work on one thing at a time, unfinished manuscripts are always a niggling guilt at the back of my brain. Pack Up the Moon, the last Brandywine Investigations story, was two years in the making since I started it and then had other contractual things to fulfill. And there it sat and scowled at me. But I do think I understood where the story had to go better when I came back to it.

What’s  the wildest scene you’ve imagined and did it make it into a story?

Hmm. There’ve been some pretty wild things. Probably one of the most out there involved flying books of bad intent who spat physical, harmful words at people, an animated leather jacket, and well, it just gets stranger from there. Yes, that did come about in Skim Blood & Savage Verse, which is the third Offbeat Crimes story.

  • Ever drunk written a chapter and then read it the next day and still been happy with it?  Trust me there’s a whole world of us drunk writers dying to know.

I tipsy write sometimes, but never drunk write. Not in a serious, whole scene kind of way. However – you knew that was coming – I do have some interesting conversations in my head when drunk and more than one good piece of dialogue has been written on a cocktail napkin and shoved in my purse.

  • With so much going on in the world today, do you write to explain?  To get away?  To move past?  To widen our knowledge?  Why do you write?

Because I write science fiction and fantasy, I often write to illuminate. Non-real world genres allow us to look at issues from one remove, and often from different angles. There are recognizable stand-ins in much of my work for current issues. It’s certainly not the only reason I write, but it slides in every time. Being queer is in itself a political statement, especially now, and as a bi person, I’m constantly aware of that.

Also, if I didn’t write, the voices in my head would eat me.

  •  What’s next for you as a writer?

Probably the next Arcana book, though there are several irons on the fire right now.

Blurb:

A young magic user who wants desperately to live. A jaded recluse who has forgotten what living means. They’re each other’s only chance.

Toby’s wild magic is killing him. The mage guilds have given up on him, and it’s only a matter of time before he dies in a spectacular, catastrophic bang. His only hope is an exiled wizard who lives in seclusion—and is rumored to have lost his mind.

The years alone on his hilltop estate have not been good for Darius Valstad. After the magical accident that disfigured him and nearly drowned Pittsburgh, he drifts through his days, a wraith trapped in memories and depression. Until a stricken young man collapses on his driveway, one who claims Darius is his last chance. For the first time in fifteen years, Darius must make a choice—leave this wild mage to his fate or take him in and try to teach him, which may kill them both. The old Darius, brash and commanding, wouldn’t have hesitated. Darius the exile isn’t sure he can find the energy to try.

Excerpt:

It’s killing him. We have to end this.

Too cruel to force him to keep struggling.

I don’t understand. He should be finding a minor channel at least. Something. He shouldn’t be at this level of physical distress and still be able to throw so much.

We can’t condone pushing on. Dangerous for him and for everyone in a five-mile radius. We’ll have another Darius situation on our hands.

You’ll tell him?

As soon as he’s able to hear it, yes.

Toby drifted from gray misery to scarlet agony, the voices floating to him in fits and starts. His instructors, the director—they were talking about him and they sounded done with him, just like the previous six guilds that had tossed him to the curb. Wild magic. Unplaceable on the web of Arcana. Unsustainable and eventually deadly. The only remaining bets anyone could make now were how many people he took with him when he went out with a catastrophic bang.

Hands lifted him. The familiar sensations of stretcher and rolling followed him down into the dark.

“What’s this?” Toby peered at the papers on the rolling tray, not quite up to focusing through his pounding headache.

The director pulled a chair close and cleared his throat uncomfortably. “We discussed that this might be a possibility someday, Tobias.”

“We’ve talked about a bunch of stuff.”

Director Whittaker let out a sharp sigh.

“Not saying it to be a smartass, sir. I can’t get my eyes to read this just yet.” Toby shifted on the infirmary bed. His fifth stay in this wing of the guildhall and the mattresses hadn’t managed to grow any more comfortable. “Couple hours I should be able to.”

“Ah. My apologies.” The director returned to a concerned parental pose, hands clasped between his knees as he leaned forward. “These are your separation papers from the Montchanin Guildhall.”

Toby swallowed hard. “You’re giving up on me? Already?”

“I’m so sorry, Tobias.” Director Whittaker patted his arm. “The Kovar method is nearly infallible—”

“Nearly. You said nearly.” Despite his pounding head, Toby sat up, hanging on to the director’s hand as hard as he could. “Please don’t do this. You said you’d help me.”

“We said we would do the best we could. Wild magic…. It’s unusual, certainly, but cases of unplaceable wild magic like yours aren’t unheard of. We should have seen some sign of channeling by now. Some directed trickle that would have let us help you find your place in the web.”

Toby let go to fall back against the pillows, hurting, nauseated, and dizzy. His uncontrolled magical explosions, each one harder on him than the time before, had only been getting more volatile and unpredictable. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. Can’t I stay here? Until, well, until….”

“It’s too dangerous for the other students. For the staff and other guild members.” Director Whittaker took his hand again. “Tobias, you blew a hole in the guidance room’s wall today.”

Ten feet of weapons-grade Kevlar and steel—that shouldn’t have been possible. Holy crap. “Did I hurt anyone?”

“Not today. But I can’t risk lives any further. It’s reached that point where we’ve tried everything we could. When you feel up to it, read the packet. There are several wonderful hospice options nearby. Beautiful places where you’ll be cared for and made comfortable. The guild will take care of you and cover any expenses.”

Drugged to the eyeballs so I won’t do any more damage. Allowed to starve to death in the nicest possible surroundings. Toby closed his eyes, his exhausted brain banging up against walls of possibility, trying to find him a way out. All this time he’d been sure one of the guilds would find a way. They were the experts. Now? Now he was terrified. The experts were telling him he needed to accept his impending death. No, no, no, fuck that. “Sir, who’s Darius?”

“Ah, you heard that, did you?” The director sat back and pulled out a microfiber cloth to give his glasses a meticulous cleaning before he went on. “Darius Valstad caused one of the greatest magical disasters in recent memory. He nearly destroyed Pittsburgh. He pulled magic too far from his channelings, the result much like a wild magic accident. The catastrophe was narrowly averted.”

“Oh. That sounds about as bad as it gets. What happened to him?”

“He nearly died. His guild status was revoked, his teaching of any more students forbidden.”

Toby turned that over a few times, his brain fumbling and dropping concepts along the way. “So, but he’s still alive?”

“As far as I know. He lives in isolation, oh, not far from here, with the promise that he will no longer attempt anything beyond personal magic.”

“But he was once like me? And he lived?” Toby knew it was conclusion jumping, but he was desperate enough to reach for anything.

The director’s sigh was slower this time, more melancholy. “Tobias, he found his channels long ago, both his major and minor Arcana. Yes, he lives because as long as he respects the web, his magic won’t tear him apart. He had some early success with teaching unplaceables, but Pittsburgh was the ultimate result of his unorthodox methods.”

“Yes, sir. Of course.”

Director Whittaker rose with one last pat to Toby’s shoulder. “Get some rest. We’ll talk again in the morning. Please keep in mind we’re not simply turning you out onto the street. We want to be certain you’re looked after properly.”

Toby nodded, no longer trusting his voice. He didn’t turn his head to watch the director leave, staring at the white ceiling tiles instead. Ugly ceiling tiles. Places where you have to lie in bed like hospitals and infirmaries should have nice ceilings with meadows and bunnies painted on them. I don’t want to die. Oh gods… I don’t want to die.

About the Author

Building worlds. Constructing Fantasies. Angel Martinez, the unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, (same husband for over twenty-five years) and gave birth to one amazing son (now in college.) While Angel has worked, in no particular order, as a state park employee, retail worker, medic, LPN, call center zombie, banker, and corporate drone, none of these occupations quite fit. She now writes full time because she finally can, and has been happily astonished to have her work place consistently in the annual Rainbow Awards. Angel currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around queer heroes.

Website: https://angelmartinezauthor.weebly.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amartinez2

Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/angelmartinez

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AngelMartinezrr

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1010469.Angel_Martinez

Love Fantasy Romance? Check Out the Release Blitz for Healing Glass by Jackie Keswick (excerpt and giveaway)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Healing Glass

Author: Jackie Keswick

Cover Artist: Pavelle Art

Release Date: May 13, 2019

Genre/s: Fantasy, M/M, Fantasy romance

Trope/s: friends to lovers, two against evil

Themes: fighting oppression, personal responsibility, love is stronger than tyranny, never piss off a man who has something to protect 😉

Heat Rating:  3 flames

Add on Goodreads

 

 

Blurb

A dying city.

An ancient, forgotten accord.

And two gifted men caught in a web of greed and dark magic.

Despite belonging to different guilds, glass master Minel and warrior captain Falcon are friends. Their duties keep them apart, but when Minel falls ill and chooses death rather than the only known cure, nothing can keep Falcon from his side.

As their friendship grows into more, old wrongs and one man’s machinations threaten the floating city and leave both Minel and Falcon fighting for their lives. Can they learn to combine their gifts to save the city and its magic, or will everything they know and love perish before their eyes?

Healing Glass is an LGBT fantasy adventure with its head in the clouds. If you like medieval backdrops, impressive world-building, three-dimensional characters and a touch of magic, then you’ll love Jackie Keswick’s socially-conscious adventure.

Buy Healing Glass to visit the floating city today!

 

Buy Links 

Payhip Store (this offers a lower price than mainstream retailers)

Universal Link

Kobo

Apple Books

Barnes & Noble

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

Amazon DE

 

Excerpt

Half a mile above the surface, a deep, rumbling groan rattled through Favin’s bones and turned his guts to water. The elevator jerked and shuddered—long enough for Favin to wonder whether he’d left his errand too late—before it resumed its stately progress up towards the floating city.

The groans and jerks came more often these days, on almost every journey. Despite the trickle of ice-cold fear, Favin welcomed the noise and stuttering ascent. He’d raised the alarm weeks earlier, but no one had believed the word of a servant. No one but Councillor Teak, who now clung to the transparent wall on the far side of the elevator, face grey and eyes wide.

The City Council would believe Teak.

“Is… this… why you wanted me to accompany you?” Teak spoke louder than necessary in the tight confines of the chamber bearing them aloft.

“Yes, Councillor. I reported it several times, but—” Favin stopped, loath to criticise the council. “I felt you had to know what’s happening.”

Teak, resplendent in a well-cut black coat and lace cuffs under his scarlet robe of office, didn’t belong in an elevator filled with rows of stacked crates, bins of cloth, and rolls of parchment, even when Favin hadn’t packed the space as full as he usually did. The councillor didn’t need the experience of a full cargo run, of squeezing into a gap just large enough to get in and out of. Never mind that he wouldn’t have fit. The servants joked that were the councillor hollow, one of them could fit inside his frame with space to spare.

Teak enjoyed his food as much as he enjoyed his status and privileges, but he hadn’t lost all sense of his responsibilities. When Favin had asked for his help, he’d only grumbled a little before agreeing to investigate the matter. Now here he stood, pressed against the transparent wall, gaze riveted to the crate in front of him, not daring to look down.

Favin watched the sea and the sky over Teak’s shoulder, wishing—as always— that he could see the city as they made their way towards it. The freight elevators didn’t allow for such a view, and Favin’s work rarely left him the leisure to sit on the beach.

Four levels of squat glass tiers and elegant spires connected by sweeping stairs and graceful bridges, suspended high above the waves by a raft of near-invisible columns… the floating city had stood waiting at the edge of the ocean when the Craft Guild arrived in need of shelter. Nobody knew its builders. Nobody quite understood how it worked. The city kept its occupants warm and dry, the glass walls closing or receding depending on the weather. Fountains supplied water in every square, and in all the buildings. The middle tier of the city—a wide, level space between the double-story, flat-roofed dwellings of the lower level and the skyward-reaching spires of the top tier—had been given over to growing food. All other goods the inhabitants needed came via the trade guilds and the Merchant Guild. The craft masters could have anything that fit into one of the eight large elevators, whether it came by land or sea, while men like Favin ensured the goods arrived where they were needed.

The groan came again, more of a pained shriek now, like the death cry of a material used too long and too well, as an abrupt slip downward hurled both Teak and Favin to their knees.

Then the sounds stopped.

The downward movement stopped.

And the elevator resumed its unhurried climb.

Sweat pearled on Teak’s brow and upper lip by the time the transparent cabin reached its goal. “Can we… not use this elevator?” He stepped off the floating disk before he turned to ask.

“It will delay deliveries, Councillor.”

“How many journeys do you make in a day?”

“Some days as many as fifty.”

“And the noise and the… jerking… have been getting more frequent?”

“Yes. I’m told the other elevators show the same signs of trouble. And in the upper city, the glass is said to be weeping.”

“Weeping?”

“That’s what I’ve heard, Councillor. I’ve not seen it.”

“No, of course not.” Servants of Favin’s class had no access to the upper levels. “Thank you, Favin, for bringing this to my attention.”

Favin bowed to the councillor before he set about unloading the cargo into the hands of the waiting servants. The council would decide whether to shut down the elevator or keep it running. He’d done as much as he could do, given his station. He’d said his piece and had had a councillor listen.

He continued with his work, until words drifting through a half-open door stopped him on his way to deliver rolls of parchment and ink to the council chamber.

“Weeping is the only way to describe it, Wark. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“And you think it’s going to be a problem?” The clipped tones were the regent’s and Favin froze where he stood, listening.

“Of course, it’s a problem,” Teak argued. “Go and see for yourself if you don’t believe me. There’s liquid glass welling up out of the column and trickling down its length. What do you think will happen if the glass wears away doing that? Or if the whole column turns to liquid? Will it continue to support the upper level in that state, or will it run into the sea and disappear?”

“Calm yourself, Teak. I’m sure there’s no need for panic.”

“You would know, of course.” Teak said snidely. “But I say you should listen. There’s more than one of those weeping spots in the upper city. The freight elevators jerk and groan, and servants are buying out their contracts, happier to make a life elsewhere than work here.”

Then it is serious, Favin thought, glued to his spot. More serious than I knew.Positions with one of the three gifted guilds were hotly sought. Only the king’s court paid better wages, and with the high prices in the royal city and port of Allengi, those wages didn’t go nearly as far.

“We must deal with this, Wark. Before it is too late.”

“Repairs to the city’s fabric are the task of the glass master. I will make sure he attends to the problem.”

“Minel is an outstanding craft master.” Teak bristled as if he had heard something in Wark’s comment that Favin had not. Something he disagreed with. “Most sought after, despite his youth. His list of commissions is near endless and he earns—”

“There are no other glass masters in the guild. Minel is our only choice if we want to fix the problem you’ve brought to my attention.” Regent Wark sounded oddly gleeful.

“No. You can’t— What if—?”

“You can’t have it both ways, Teak. You can’t bring me a problem and then object when I solve it. Minel’s work and his designs pay a large part of the city’s debts. I’m not so stupid I’d interfere with that. But if the fabric of the city fails, all the money and favours we’re owed will be no use to us. It’s fortunate that Minel cares about nothing but making glass. He doesn’t have the stomach for confrontation. I think… I think this will work out very well. Minel will accept that we direct his work and we can add another treasure to our collection. I have waited long enough.”

 

About the Author

Jackie Keswick was born behind the Iron Curtain with itchy feet, a bent for rocks and a recurring dream of stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere to go home. She’s worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.

Jackie loves unexpected reunions and second chances, and men who don’t follow the rules when those rules are stupid. She blogs about English history and food, has a thing for green eyes, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for everything, including her characters and the cat.

And she still hasn’t found the place where the bus stops.

For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops or recipes for traditional English food, you can find Jackie Keswick in all the usual places.

 

Author Links

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Giveaway

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win one of FIVE ebooks from Jackie Keswick’s  backlist.

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Review Tour – Match Grade (Criminal Delights:Assassins) by GB Gordon (excerpt and giveaway)

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Length: 156 pages
 
Cover Design: Natasha Snow
 
Blurb
 

SOME MATCHES SPARK AN INFERNO


Eirik Haldurson is a hitman. Kidnapped at age five and cruelly trained by his captor, he is today one of the most sought-after contract killers alive. Emotional distance from his targets, brutally beaten into him until it became second nature, is now the only way he can function. Lately though, that distance has started to elude him.
And when a Colombian drug cartel contracts Eirik to take out ex-soldier-turned-vigilante, Matt Moreno, distance is suddenly as close as heat to fire. And all hell breaks loose.


This book is part of CRIMINAL DELIGHTS. Each novel can be read as a standalone and contains a dark M/M romance.


Warning: These books are for adult readers who enjoy stories where lines between right and wrong get blurry. High heat, twisted and tantalizing, these are not for the fainthearted.


 

 
Excerpt
 

Match Grade — high precision firearms, ammunition, or other devices suitable for a competitive match

CHAPTER ONE
 

 

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

 

 
-Sun Tzu





Eirik had been ready to close the contract yesterday, but no one should have to die in the rain. Today the sky was a bright blue, so the last thing the target would feel would be the sun on her face. Irrelevant.


He quickly checked his wardrobe in the mirror to make sure nothing was out of place. He’d picked the navy blue suit and coat. They were perfect to blend in with the hundreds of business people attending the conference. Or the thousands milling about on the plaza of the office building across the road. Ants. Point was, he would be neither well-dressed, nor shabby enough to be remembered by any one of them. Not to be remembered was the goal.


He pulled his shirt cuffs out below the hem of his jacket sleeves, then slipped his coat on and pocketed the micro syringe he’d filled earlier. The target would be walking across the plaza at 12:15. She was always on time. He liked that about her. There wasn’t much else he’d learned to like in the week he’d been studying her movements. She was pissy with baristas and servers, and never had the time of day for the porter in her building.


Focus. This wasn’t about likes; it was a contract, nothing personal.


Not liking her made it easier, though. Don’t think about targets as people. Gunnar’s cardinal rule. How was his brain always forgetting that?


He went over the plan in the elevator. Not because it was complicated or involved in any way, but simply because that was what he did. Good planning made for a smooth contract solution, and he liked smooth. Smooth kept him alive and out of prison.


As the doors opened, he assumed the slightly hunched posture that made his height less conspicuous, then melted into the crowd.


The lobby was packed with a busload of tourists hovering on small islands of luggage he maneuvered around, giving everyone as wide a berth as possible.


“Mr. Kennedy! Good morning! Mr. Kennedy?”


He was almost at the door before a tiny alarm went off in his brain and he remembered that he was Paul Kennedy this weekend, a trader from Butt-fuck, Indiana. Get with the program already, brain.
He turned back toward the reception desk with an apologetic smile and a tap against his temple. “Sorry, my mind was elsewhere.”


“No worries.” The receptionist handed him a note. “Your office called, Sir. They’re asking for a call back.”


“Thank you.” The office meant the client. And the client was not supposed to call the hotel unless it was an emergency. Eirik crumpled up the note and dropped it in his pocket as he got his phone out. There was a corner behind a planter, away from the tourists, that promised a little more quiet, and he made his way over as he dialled the number he’d memorized.


“Where the fuck are you?” the voice with the heavy Spanish accent said without greeting. “Is it done? What’s keeping you?”


“Having to call you back is keeping me,” he said quietly. “What’s the emergency?”


“Mierda. Call me immediately when you’re done.” The line went dead.


He inhaled a long breath, counted to ten, then slowly let it out. People who couldn’t stick to the plan were top of his shit-list. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change anything. Don’t get riled up. You have a job to do.


He checked his watch. 12:07. Eight minutes to rendezvous. He needed to get a move on. He wanted to be in place and have ample time to identify the target. There was a sweet spot just to the left of the plaza’s center where the stream of people was thickest between the planted area on the edge and the fountain in the middle. That was where he needed to be.


#


The sunshine was a welcome change from the raw, grey week that had led into October. And for once the Windy City was pleasantly calm. It meant he could choose his position without having to stay out of water spray. People would notice a man oblivious of getting soaked by a fountain. To be noticed meant to be remembered. You’re walking too tall, boy. An assassin has to be like a ghost–unseen and unheard.


Well, Gunnar was a ghost now. Eirik just wished his voice had died with the man. But it was always there, still as commanding now as it had been in life. Eirik was used to it reminding him of the technicalities of his job: trajectories, method, weather… Though lately it was displaying a disturbing fixation with Eirik’s frame of mind.


He kept his eyes on the entrance of the building over the rim of his phone. Standing with nothing to do would attract attention.


12:14–if she didn’t show today, he would try again tomorrow. Nope, there she was, hurrying across the plaza to the little cafe where she ate her lunch. Eirik kept the phone up and started walking.


Gunnar clutching at his throat with both hands as the blood spurted through his fingers.


The memory shockingly unexpected, and vivid enough to blind him. He shook his head like a man emerging from water to get rid of it.


Five steps to target. His free hand dove into his pocket and closed around the syringe, thumb on the shortened plunger. The micro needle barely registered with most people. She wouldn’t know anything was wrong until she was already sitting at her table, eating her lunch. And then it would be too late.


He walked straight into her. “Oh Jesus, I’m so sorry.” Both arms out to catch her, needle into the meaty part of the arm.


The boy losing his grip on the grocery bag when the shot rang out, oranges rolling everywhere. The father dropping to his knees, a red mark like a third eye between his brows, the back of the head disintegrating in a spray of debris.


“…you’re going, you dumb ox!” Her shrill insult brought him back. Shit, he couldn’t deal with memory flashes now. He needed his eyes and ears in the present, not the past.


“Sorry again. That was entirely my fault.”


You have to pay more attention, Rikki. Don’t read and walk at the same time.


Eirik barely stopped himself from clapping his hands over his ears to keep his mother’s voice out. More ghosts. But this one was more recent. And much more distracting. He didn’t have to fake his confusion, or how shaken he was.


“You’re darn right it was.” She shrugged his hands off and took a step away. “One of these days those stupid phones are going to kill someone.”


One of these days? He didn’t say that, though. Stood there, contrite without commenting. Without looking back at her. Trying to will his brain into compliance.


Finally she turned away. She would remember him, but it didn’t matter. She wouldn’t be around to answer questions.


He watched her enter the cafe, then pocketed his phone and the tiny syringe that was perfectly invisible in his palm.


His hand was shaking.


Why the fuck was his hand shaking?


With a glance around he assured himself that no one else was watching, then strode to the other end of the plaza. And further. He couldn’t remember where he’d planned to go after. All he could do was walk, walk away from the ghosts of the past, the shaking hands. Like a wounded animal, he was looking for a cave to hide out in until he was better. Because he would get better. Right?

 

G.B.Gordon worked as a packer, landscaper, waiter, and coach before going back to school to major in linguistics and, at 35, switch to less backbreaking monetary pursuits like translating, editing, and writing.


Having lived in various parts of the world, Gordon is now happily ensconced in suburban Ontario with the best of all husbands.

 

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