Category Archives: Blog Tour

Friday Feature & Giveaway: So Right by Darcy Burke

Title: So Right by Darcy Burke
Ribbon Ridge: Love on the Vine Series Book Two
Publisher: Darcy Burke
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 223 pages

Summary:

Kelsey McDade realizes that her love life is one and done. Her last—and only—relationship left her broken and afraid and more than ready to be alone for the long haul. But sexy-charming vineyard manager Luke Westcott pushes all of her buttons in the right way and makes her wonder if she ought to try again.

In nearly twenty-eight years, Luke’s most successful romance has been with the outdoors. Currently single, he’s happy to pour all of his energy into his new winery until Kelsey provokes feelings he didn’t know he was capable of. He can envision their future together—if she’ll let down her guard.

When the ghost of Kelsey’s past causes her to slam on the brakes, Luke is ready to fight for her, even if it means sacrificing himself in the process. Convinced she’s only made wrong choices in the past, Kelsey must decide if Luke—and their love—is worth the greatest risk of all.

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Excerpt

“I’m going to come stay with you for a few days. On one condition.”

Luke finished his beer. “Anything.”

“No hanky-panky.”

He laughed so hard, he snorted. “What year is this, 1953? Hanky-panky?”

Kelsey giggled. “What would you call it?”

He leaned back and huffed out a breath while he crossed his arms and adopted a pensive pose. “I don’t know. Monkey business?”

She sputtered out a laugh. “Monkey business?” The laugh grew to a guffaw until near-hysteria set in as he joined her. She fought to take a breath and pushed out the word, “Chicanery?”

He howled even louder, slapping his hand on the table. “How about fooling around?”

Tears spilled from her eyes and her face began to hurt from laughing so hard. It was one of those conversations that probably wouldn’t have been funny to anyone else, but in that moment, they were consumed by uncontainable hilarity. “We are firmly planted in 1953. There are apparently no words—none—to describe sexytimes in twenty-first century speak.”

“Sexytimes works.” He poured himself more beer and took a long drink. “God, I haven’t laughed like that in a long time. Okay, so no sexytimes. Does that include kissing? Because I’m kind of hoping I get to do that with you again soon.”

“Wouldn’t that be dangerous? I could see kissing leading to—let me borrow a word from 1953 again—petting, and petting leading to the afore-mentioned sexytimes. In fact, I would argue that kissing is sexytimes.”

He pouted. “Damn, your argument is sound.”

“So no sexytimes while I’m staying with you.”

“Wait, none at all? Or just none in the house?” He looked at her with such hope in his gaze, and he was so gorgeous with his stubble and that square jaw and those dark, hot-as-coals eyes.

“Let me think about that.”


Author Bio

Darcy Burke is the USA Today Bestselling Author of hot, action-packed historical and sexy, emotional contemporary romance. A native Oregonian, Darcy lives on the edge of wine country with her guitar-strumming husband, their two hilarious kids who seem to have inherited the writing gene, and three Bengal cats. Visit Darcy online at www.darcyburke.com and sign up for her newsletter, follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/darcyburke, or like her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/DarcyBurkeFans.

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Tour Stop & Excerpt: A Highland Ruby by Brenda K. Taylor

Title: A Highland Ruby by Brenda K. Taylor
Highland Treasures Series Book Two
Publisher: Bethabara Press
Genre: Historical, Romance
Length: 207 pages

Summary:

She must choose between a life of adventure with the man she loves or a settled, secure life with her betrothed. Flora Vass forced Gavin Munro out of her heart and mind until he returned to Scotland after an adventurous five years in the New World. Gavin leaves no doubt he returned to make the bonnie Flora his own and intends to fight for her. Flora’s betrothed, Iain MacKay, and Gavin’s brother, Chief Andrew Munro, have other plans. Andrew needs her to marry the MacKay and bring peace between the two clans. Iain MacKay desires an heir. War with England looms on the horizon, forcing Flora to make crucial decisions.

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Excerpt

He watched her through the grey mist, walking along the shore of Cromarty Firth. The hood of her arisaid covered her bonnie russet locks, but he imagined them bouncing with each step she took. She came every morn, sometimes with the wee curly-headed laddie in tow, but now, she walked alone. His heart beat a fast rhythm like a lad watching his first love. How foolish to be hiding behind a rock when he could speak to her, hold her hand, and look into her dark eyes.

Gavin gathered courage and stood to his full height when Flora walked past the rock where he hid. “Flora,” he said in a quiet voice. She continued to walk, not hearing him above the moaning wind.

Quickly, he took a place beside her, then grabbed her arm. She screamed as she turned to face him. Her eyes widened with fear, she tried to jerk her arm free, then beat his chest with the fist of the other hand, and kicked his shin with the toe of a pointed boot.

Gavin jumped from the boot’s path, but kept her arm secure. “Stop. ‘Tis I, Gavin.” She stopped kicking and the free hand went to her mouth while she studied his face. A small squeak emerged from between full red lips. He watched her lips for a moment, then bent to place a kiss on the inviting mouth. She became rigid with no response.

He released her arm then backed away. She continued to stare as though he were a stranger, and he very well may be to her now. After all, five years in the wilderness of the New World can change a man beyond recognition.

Flora’s hand raised for an instant then came across his face with a stinging blow. He rubbed at the burning cheek. “How dare you,” she screamed above the wind. “You left me. You left me.” She hit his chest with both fists now.

Gavin grabbed her wrists, bringing her close. “Stop. I only want to see you, be near you once more. May I walk with you? Just a short distance?”

Flora stared. Her brown eyes larger now with surprise or mayhap shock. She stopped struggling and rested her head on his chest. A seagull called overhead and waves lapped against the shore of the firth. Gavin pushed the hood of her arisaid back, stroking her hair while wrapping an arm around her slender waist. The russet locks felt soft to his fingers. They smelled with the sweet fragrance of heather and salt air, just as he remembered and dreamed. The mist had damped one small curl so that it clung to her neck. He touched the softness of her skin where the curl lay. They stood for a long time. Flora now seemed reluctant to move and Gavin did not wish to spoil the moment.

Finally, she stepped back and looked into his eyes. A line creased her fair brow. “Why did you come back? I made a life without you.”

“I wanted to see you and the lad. Andrew sent a message while I was still in Barcelona waiting for a ship to the New World.”

Flora searched Gavin’s face. “You look older, tanned, hardened.”

“Aye. I’ve been living in a wilderness, defending myself from the wild natives and animals. Searching for gold while starving for food. Takes a lot out of a mon.”

“I am betrothed to a fine mon. One who loves and wants me and my bairns. I wanna have you back, Gavin. You left me carrying your bairn. I wanna have you back.” She beat his chest once more. Tears spilled over to her cheeks.

He grabbed her wrist. “I understand, Flora. I understand. I’ll leave you alone, I will. But I do want to see my son.” He kissed each tear-filled eyelid, then her cheeks, and not being able to resist the temptation, her tempting lips.

Flora didn’t resist and, when the kiss grew more passionate, responded. Her arms went around his neck, her body melted into his so her warmth reached his very soul.

She pushed away. “Why did you go without a word?”

“I dinna ken. I canna explain why.” He lied, not exactly an untruth, but an exaggerated one.

“Well, I ken. You fancied yourself to be in love with your brother’s wife. Now what are you gonna do about that? They’re happily married with a bairn of their own and another on the way.” Flora’s eyes flashed then she turned away, watching a crab crawl away on the sand.

Gavin grabbed her hand so she faced him. “I was wrong. I dinna love Maidie, ‘twas you I carried in my heart. I ken that now.”

Flora snatched her hand away. “I must go. My bairns are waiting. Phillip is readying for work in the fields and Ishbel is attending Gavy. Aye, I named him for his da, but call him Gavy.”

“I’m keen to see him.” Gavin didn’t want to beg, but he would if necessary.

“I live in Leslie Manor no’ far from Fàrdach Castle. Laird Andrew provides well for your son. He pays me a good wage as nanny for his bairns.”

“What of Phillip?”

Flora smiled with the mention of her oldest child. “Phillip is growing like a weed and favors his da so much I hurt to look at him. He helps with the land and sheep on the estate and trains with Laird Andrew’s slaugh.”

“A fine lad, indeed.” Gavin hesitated. “And what of my brother, the Laird of Fàrdach Castle?” An image of his brother popped into mind. Would Andrew welcome him back to Fàrdach Castle after all these years? Gavin doubted he would receive a warm welcome.

“The Laird of Fàrdach Castle grieved for his lost brother and tanist, but he’s happily married and in good health.” Flora gazed into his eyes. “I must go. You’re welcome to visit Gavy, but only visit, naught more.”

Gavin returned her gaze. “Aye, I’ll visit, naught more.”

With a nod of her head, Flora replaced the hood of the arisaid, turned, and walked in the direction of the house, not far from where they stood. Gavin watched until she took a path from the shore to the manor, his heart heavy with rejection. He didn’t expect, but hoped for more. Maybe she would turn back and accept him into her life once again. He watched, but she didn’t look back. Now the task of facing his brother, Sir Andrew Dubh Munro, Laird of Fàrdach Castle.

 

***

 

Flora ducked behind a grass-covered dune to hide from Gavin’s view. She peeped over the grassy slope to gaze in the direction of the beach. He still stood, watching her. She turned quickly toward the house and didn’t look back. Her stomach churned and thoughts of him swirled in her head. He still raised a passion within the depths of her being she could not deny. Why did he come back? He should have stayed in the savage New World and never returned to Ferindonald. Life was complicated enough without the luring charm of Gavin Munro. He would certainly be around often to visit his son. What will Iain think?

The large manor house sat far enough away from the firth that high tides did not intrude upon the land, but close enough for a good walk along the shore when one’s heart ached and needed solitude. Flora often walked the shore of Cromarty Firth looking for dolphins, listening to the water lapping over rocks, and tasting the salt air on her tongue. She bathed in the firth on warm summer days, feeling the refreshing water on her skin.

She often took the bairns on an outing. They enjoyed wading and chasing the sea gulls. Sometimes they found pretty shells she took home, cleaned, and added to their collection. Other times she walked with Iain, while they made plans for a life together. Her life, if not the exciting one she knew with Gavin, had taken a quiet, peaceful turn with promise of a secure future. Now, he had returned and her insides felt like the firth during a storm with crashing, violent waves smashing against the rocks.

Flora saw the eye of her small son pressed against a crack in the large iron-studded oak door. When he saw his mother, Gavy opened the door wide and ran out to meet her, grabbing her long wool skirt then hanging on. She bent down to rub the small head full of russet curls.

“Mam, Mam, you left without me,” he whined.

“You slept and I dinna wish to wake you.” Flora removed his hands from the cloth and picked him up. He was heavier than she wanted to carry, and immediately put his feet back on the ground, taking his hand instead.

Gavy looked around Flora’s skirt, “I see Phillip.”

Flora turned. Her oldest son ran toward them with something awry from the looks of him. He barely nodded in her direction then ran into the house. She followed, dragging Gavy along by the hand. Phillip’s footsteps clicked on the plank flooring and then ascended the spiral staircase to his room on the second story. She released Gavy’s small hand once inside and gave it to Ishbel, the housemaid, who dropped the bundle of heather she carried. Flora followed Phillip to his room. The heavy door stood ajar, so she entered without knocking.

Her son, in the process of belting his father’s claymore over his young shoulders barely acknowledged her when she approached him. “What are you doing, Phillip? You have nae business with your da’s sword.”

Phillip jerked away and continued securing the large leather scabbard over his shoulder. When he insisted, she had let the young lad keep the claymore in his bedchamber, but he had solemnly promised not to use it except to practice with the slaugh.

Flora grabbed for the claymore again. “What are you doing?

“MacIntosh reivers burned a haystack. While we were trying to douse the fire, they stole ten head of cattle. I’m going with the chief to find them and get the cattle back.”

“Och, I give nae permission for you to go with the slaugh.” Flora held to the billowy sleeve of his léine.

“I dinna need your permission. I am of age, thirteen years.” Phillip’s dark head shook. His cheeks, already ruddy from exertion, reddened even more while bright brown eyes flashed.

Flora could only stare at her son. Thirteen summers and he thought himself a man. The heaviness of his father’s sword weighed down upon his shoulder. He practiced with the Munro cateran, but only with small dirks and bows, not with large claymores or the deadly falchion.

“I forbid you to go. You’re too young to take on such a task. The chief wanna allow it.” She grasped at Phillip’s sleeve when he brushed past her, but to no avail. Her son rushed through the open door. She followed calling to him, “Phillip you’re too young. The chief will forbid you to go.”

Flora watched Phillip’s back as he descended the spiral staircase, rushed through the great hall, and out of the door. Gavy whimpered when his brother strode by without acknowledging him. Phillip fancied his wee brother, and delighted in teasing the lad, rumpling his hair, and telling him stories of ghosts and fairies. Flora rushed to the yard as Phillip entered the stables. She could say or do naught to stop him, so she stood, waiting until he galloped by on a garron. They owned no war horse, and would never own one if she had her way.

She would not give her son up to fighting. Maidie, her friend and wife of the Munro chief, Laird Andrew, insisted her son, Sven, study the law. He would train as a barrister and live in a burgh. Sven would never see battle and fighting. Flora wanted the same for Phillip. Her sons were as good as Maidie’s. They should have the same opportunities.

Flora dashed back into the house and found Ishbel. “I’m going to the castle. Look after the bairn.” Crying, Gavy reached for her. Flora pressed a kiss on the plump pink cheek, then turned to leave. Mayhap if she could get to Fàrdach before Andrew left with his cateran, she could stop Phillip.

 

**

 

Gavin turned away and started toward the castle. His heart felt heavy like a rock in Cromarty Firth. Flora spurned him. She was promised to another, betrothed to another man. He came back to Ferindonald to see her, but she no longer loved him. Although she would not have him, he must see his son at all cost.

Fàrdach castle loomed before him. A large band of Munro warriors, some mounted and others on foot, were assembled on the grassy meadow outside of  the castle wall. Calls and war whoops rose from the horde. Those ahorse rode away to the west in a cloud of dust. The warriors afoot followed closely behind. Reivers must be about, with Andrew leading his slaugh to fight.

Hopefully, he would not have to face his brother this day. He could gauge the mood of the castle servants and occupants then decided if he should stay or go before meeting Andrew. Gavin fell in with some of the tenants making their way to the castle with their quarterly rents. One woman who had a chicken under her arm gave him a suspicious eye. The woman looked familiar. She may have been a neighbor of Flora’s in the village of Drumainn. The chicken squawked when Gavin walked by. The woman turned her gaze toward him and searched his face.

“Sir Gavin, is that you?” she asked in amazement.

“Madam.” He touched his forehead in a salute, then walked on quickly.

The woman walked faster as if to follow him, so he quickened his gait. He could hear her calling to others. “Sir Gavin’s home. Sir Gavin’s home.”

Calls traveled down the line of tenants entering and leaving the castle. Soon a small crowd gathered, following Gavin through the castle gates and under the portcullis. The guard in the gate house called then waved. He recognized the man and returned the greeting. Those within the outer bailey stopped their work or activity to welcome him home. Some gathered around. Small children tugged on his great plaide until it sagged beneath the thick leather belt. He tugged back, trying to keep some semblance of order about his person. The crowd followed him through the bailey, over the drawbridge covering a deep moat, then into the quieter inner yard. Guards called from the catwalk on the curtain wall. He saluted and returned the greeting. The great iron-studded oak doors of the keep opened. The chief of Clan Munro stepped out.

Gavin pushed his way through the crowd, jerked his plaide from the hands of a small, dirty-faced boy, and approached his brother. Andrew looked the same, but older with deeper lines on his brow and around his grey eyes. His raven hair hung in the usual warrior braids to the broad shoulders. He had trouble keeping the wry strands out of his eyes if not braided. The chief’s lips pursed into a firm line, then turned up on the edges with a broad smile. Without a word, he moved forward to embrace Gavin who returned the embrace with relief.

Andrew pushed away and studied Gavin’s face. “Welcome home, Brother. I thought you lost to Ferindonald forever.”

“Andrew. Good to be home. To see you. I figured you led your warriors and wanna be here.”

“The business of chief sometimes keeps me at my desk and ledgers instead of chasing thieves with my men. I’d rather be out with them any day.”

Gavin returned his brother’s broad smile. “You seem to be unchanged except for deeper wrinkles, and do I spot a few grey hairs among the ebony?”

“Aye. More than a few grey, I’m afraid.” Andrew gave Gavin a pat on the shoulder. “I sent Alan with the slaugh. Only a small band of reivers pestered us. Alan was elected tanist when you left Fàrdach. Come inside to greet my family. The ruckus you caused has them all aroused and curious.” Andrew motioned for Gavin to go ahead.

Gavin stepped inside to the great hall of Fàrdach. Nothing much had changed. The same boar and stag heads looked down from around the claymores, broadswords, axes, lances, and targes. Maybe a few more weapons had been added. Andrew seemed ready for a mighty fight. Reivers must be plaguing Ferindonald with their stealing and looting. Servants spread bundles of dried heather across the flagstone floor, filling the hall with a sweet aroma. They stopped and nodded toward Gavin with broad smiles. Shafts of light streamed through the small keyhole windows, causing dust motes to dance on the air. A large grey, shaggy hound lumbered up to Andrew who reached down to scratch the dog behind the ear.

“’Tis no’ the same hound with all the pups the bairns played with?” Gavin asked, eyeing the huge dog that stood up to his brother’s waist. “Seems like I remember a brown and white dog.”

“Nae, the hound and all her pups went out to tenants who needed good rabbit dogs. This large, lumbering thing is a gift from Maidie for my birthday of thirty years.”

“How does Maidie fair? And Sven?” Gavin brought himself to ask.

“She fairs well, and gains in beauty within and without each day.” Andrew smiled, showing white teeth through his salt and pepper beard.

Gavin’s heart skipped a beat with the mention of Maidie’s beauty. Her memory still held a special place in his heart, although he gave her up to Andrew five years before. He felt self-conscious, covered with road dirt and unshaven. He bathed in a cold burn three days ago and scrapped his beard with a dirk, but now stubble covered his face. The men turned toward the stone spiral staircase to watch two women descend. One held the hand of a small dark-haired lassie. The other, wearing a gown of blue silk clinging to her comely form now large with child and a thick braid of golden hair hanging down her back, held the hand of a blonde curly-headed lassie. Andrew’s smile grew brighter. He walked toward the group, taking the younger blonde bairn in his arms.

“Come family and greet our brother who returned to us this verra day.” Andrew said, bringing the group to Gavin. “This bonnie lassie is my daughter, Andrina.”

Gavin stroked the small fair hand. The bairn smiled. Her blue eyes sparkled, and he saw Maidie’s bright eyes smiling at him, then she buried her pretty head on Andrew’s shoulder. Her father patted the small head with a gentle, loving touch. He reached for Maidie’s arm, drawing her forward. Gavin swallowed a large lump forming in his throat. She was more beautiful than he remembered. Married life and having bairns agreed with her. He bowed.

Her blue eyes glowed. “Hello, Gavin. Welcome home.” Then her eyes roamed over his dirty, disheveled clothing. “Seems you’ve journeyed long and hard.” She placed her hand upon his arm. A chill ran down his spine. “We’re so verra glad you returned home and hope your stay with us will be a long one. I’ll have your old chamber made ready with a bath.”

Gavin could only smile and nod his head at the lovely lady. His heart beat much too wildly to say more, so he turned to look at the other lassie and her maid. “Hello, Nellie. You look well. How is Briana?” He tried to take Briana’s hand, but she jerked back. Gavin looked at Andrew. His brother shrugged his shoulders.

“Briana is leery of strangers these days. Of a sudden she’s become shy, and clings to Nellie. I can hardly touch her, myself.” Andrew made a sign with his hands to the lassie. She shook her head then hid her face in Nellie’s dress. “Briana is learning to speak with her hands. She learns quickly, but wanna speak around strangers. We are all learning to talk to her with our hands. Sven is teaching the family and anyone who wants to learn. He studied a book I brought from Edinburgh.”

Gavin turned to Maidie. “You must be proud of Sven.” She smiled and nodded. He spoke to Andrew. “You have a lovely family, M’Laird.”

Andrew placed his free arm around Maidie’s shoulders. “Aye. These dear ones are the light of my life.” He gave Andrina to her mother then planted a lingering kiss on Maidie’s lips. Gavin wondered if his brother did that for his sake. Probably. Like a hound marking his territory. “Come, let’s go to the tiltyard before Maidie gets you into the bath. Several of the luchd-taighe that dinna go with the slaugh are practicing. They’ll want to bid you welcome.” Andrew took Gavin’s arm, turning him toward the door.

He turned back. “Thank you, M’Lady for being so kind. I shall look forward to a comfortable bed and hot bath. Both have been few and far between these past five years.” Her lips, now rosy from his brother’s kiss, parted in a smile.

The two men made their way out of the keep and walked through a heavy door in the curtain wall of the inner bailey that led to a broad meadow beyond. The large wolfhound followed at Andrew’s heels. Several warriors dressed only in a great plaide held secure by a broad leather belt practiced with claymores, broadswords, and bows. One rode a horse toward a target and threw a spear at the center. The spear met its mark with a thud. Two men wrestled within the center of a small group who cheered for one or the other. Gavin smiled, remembering the many days he practiced with the warriors. This sparring field felt more like home than any other place in the castle or the whole of Ferindonald, except maybe the small box bed in Flora’s black house in Drumainn Village. Ah, remembering the reason he left seemed harder with each passing day.

Andrew’s voice broke through Gavin’s revelry. “Have you seen your son?”

His brother’s unexpected words took him aback. “Aye. That I have, Brother—from a distance is all.”

“You ken Flora is betrothed. He is Iain MacKay, and a finer fellow you’ll be hard pressed to find.”

Gavin turned to stare at Andrew. Did he think Flora would never love again? “So ‘tis Iain who won her heart. I remember the first son of the MacKay being wild and rambunctious, always looking for a way out of duty.”

“Iain’s gained in maturity these past five years, and being the first-born will inherit his father’s title and land. Flora could do nae better.”

“Did you arrange the marriage, thinking I may never return to lay claim to my son?” Gavin felt a tinge of ire rising around the idea of his brother arranging the marriage of his love to another.

“We dinna ken whether you lived or died at the hand of savages. When nae word came from you year after year, I began looking for a suitable mate for Flora and a da for your son.” The light in Andrew’s grey eyes faded. A deeper line formed between his heavy brows. “What would you have me do, Gavin? Keep Flora unwed and your son with nae da to see to his raising? Phillip needs a father also.”

Of course the chief was right in his decision. He had obligations to the members of his clan—to take care of their welfare and keep them safe. Andrew made the only choice left to him in Gavin’s absence. He found Flora a suitable mate and a father for Phillip and Gavy. Flora’s and Iain’s love for each other did not matter, they could make a good life together.

Gavin started to walk away, but Andrew put a hand on his arm. “Brother, I expect you to abide by the betrothal contract and leave Flora be. Make nae trouble for Iain.”

“What about my son? Will I be allowed to see him?”

“Aye, with restraint. You gave up rights to the boy when you left his mither.” The eyes of the two men met. Andrew didn’t blink. Gavin knew his chances with Flora were nil.


Author Bio
The desire to write historical fiction has long been a passion with Brenda B. Taylor. Since elementary school, she has written stories in her spare time. Brenda earned three degrees: a BSE from Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas; a MEd from Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas; and an EdD from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; then worked as a teacher and administrator in the Texas Public School system. Only after retirement could she fulfill the dream of publication.

Brenda and her husband make their home in beautiful East Texas where they enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working in Bethabara Faith Ministry, Inc. She crafts stories about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people in her favorite place overlooking bird feeders, bird houses, and a variety of blooming trees and flowers. She sincerely thanks all who purchase and read her books. Her desire is that the message in each book will touch the heart of the reader as it did hers in the writing.

Her latest book is the historical romance, A Highland Ruby.

Author Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

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Tour Stop, Excerpt & Giveaway: Chameleon by Zoe Kalo

Title: Chameleon by Zoe Kalo
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural, Gothic
Length: 187 pages

Summary:

An isolated convent, a supernatural presence, a dark secret…

17-year-old Paloma only wanted to hold a séance to contact her dead father. She never thought she would be kicked out of school and end up in an isolated convent. Now, all she wants is to be left alone. But slowly, she develops a bond with a group of girls: kind-hearted Maria, insolent Silvy, pathological liar Adelita, and their charismatic leader Rubia.

When, yet again, Paloma holds a séance in the hope of contacting her father, she awakens an entity that has been dormant for years. And then, the body count begins. Someone doesn’t want the secret out…

Are the ghost and Paloma’s suspicions real—or only part of her growing paranoia and delusions?

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Excerpt

Madre Estela remained standing by the door. “Get a bucket and fill it with water.”

Her hypercritical eyes sliced through my self-worth as I grabbed one of the metal buckets, lifted it into the sink, and turned on the faucet. I watched, transfixed, as the water gushed like a torrent spurting from an open artery. The cold spray raised goosebumps on my arms.

Madre Estela snapped her fingers. “Move.”

As I hauled the bucket to the door, some of the water slushed over the edge and splattered to the floor.

“Add the detergent,” she said stiffly, irritated by my clumsiness.

I chose a green bottle, twisted the cap, and poured. The acrid pine smell stung my nostrils.

“Get a sponge and a brush from there. Get going. We don’t have all evening—unless you want to work in the dark.”

I gritted my teeth, but pretended not to be bothered. I suspected that the one thing that this nun couldn’t stand was indifference.

Outside, it was almost dusk. In spite of the intense screeching of the coquíes, the drum of the waterfall hit my ears. It was louder now than the last time I’d been here. How was that possible?

I felt a drop of rain. Great.

Madre Estela put one hand out, palm up. “My, my. What’s this?” She looked chagrined, and I suddenly realized why. If it rained, I would have to go inside, ruining her plans. “What are you standing there for? Start scrubbing.”

I was tempted to throw the bucket of greenish water at her face. Instead, I prayed for rain as I walked across the rose garden. Once at the gate, I glanced back at her.

“You’ll work until I come for you, understood?” she said, hands on hips in her usual stance. She pointed to one of the second-floor windows. “I’ll be watching from there.”

And that was it. She was gone.

For a moment I just stood there. If only my friends could see me now. They would never believe it.

I opened the gate and walked into the graveyard. The statue of Gabriel greeted me, its face fiercer in the dusk. The temperature must have been in the low seventies. I was glad I had my cardigan.

Suddenly, the garden lamp post lit up. I turned, startled. I wasn’t sure if it had automatically switched on or if someone, maybe Madre Estela, had done it from indoors. I glanced up at the second-floor window, expecting to find her face. I had the chilling sensation of being watched. There was nothing. The windows glowed with yellow light, a multitude of feral eyes keeping guard.

However, behind one of the ground-floor windows on the right, a figure appeared. Tall, blurred. Madre Superiora? I was sure that was her office. Yet, something about the shape of the head and the shoulders made me think of…Rubia. What was she doing in Madre Superiora’s office?

Just as abruptly as it’d appeared, the figure vanished from view.

The incident left me strangely unsettled.

Focus.

I splashed some of the water on one of the tombstones and got to work. The sound of hard bristles against stone blocked the hum of the waterfall. Almost.

Go away, damn it. 

As I crouched to work on a second tombstone, doing my best not to get wet in the process, something shifted at the edge of my vision. I jumped to my feet, my heart thudding. Gabriel. Its wings had rippled with movement.

Dear God…what’s happening to me?

I rubbed my forehead and grimaced, my fingers shaking.

I felt another drop of rain. If it was going to rain, why didn’t it? The sky was playing with me, too. Mocking me.

I cursed the clouds and started scrubbing again.

I had another sensation of being watched and this time, yes, it was Madre Estela behind the window. I pretended I hadn’t seen her and tried to keep focused on the task at hand.  The water had turned blackish with grime.

I don’t know how long I scrubbed. I lost track of time. But it was dark. My back and shoulders were sore and my hands stung from the harsh detergent.

Madre Estela was long gone from the window.

Half panting, I sat down on the edge of the tombstone and tossed the brush aside in disgust. I looked at the statue again, but it was motionless. I turned to the windows again, my eyes slowly moving from one to the other.

From one to the other.

Expecting to see the face. Wanting to see it.

Nothing.

Yet, that weird sensation of being watched, again.

My gaze shifted to the woods, to the exact place where the cemetery ended and the forest started. There was a path there. Narrow, obscured by the trees. For a long moment I sat, mesmerized. Then I stood up and began to approach it. The breeze picked up as I got closer, carrying with it the cool, slightly pungent smell of the waterfall.

I stopped at the very edge, the darkness enveloping me, the dampness seeping through my clothes.

The wind sighed, rustling the leaves and fluttering my hair.

Icy breath, on the back of my neck.

I’m in here… a voice whispered from the shadows.

I spun around in terror.

Then I hit something hard.


Author Bio
A certified bookworm and ailurophile, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. Reading led to writing—compulsively. No surprise that at 16, she wrote her first novel, which her classmates read and passed around secretly. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy worlds has stayed with her, so now she wants to pass her stories to you with no secrecy—but with lots of mystery. She lives amongst cats and books in Belgium, and is the author of the Cult of the Cat young adult fantasy series and the Retribution novella series for adults.

Sign up for her newsletter at www.ZoeKalo.com and get her exclusive short story “Irkalla.”

Author Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads


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Tour Stop & Giveaway: The Drifter by Christine Lennon

Title: The Drifter by Christine Lennon
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 384 pages

Summary:

Megan Abbott meets M.O. Walsh in Christine Lennon’s compelling debut novel about a group of friends on the cusp of graduating from college when their lives are irrevocably changed by a brutal act of violence.

Present Day…

For two decades, Elizabeth has tried to escape the ghosts of her past…tried to erase the painful memories…tried to keep out the terrifying nightmares. But twenty years after graduating from the University of Florida, her carefully curated life begins to unravel, forcing her to confront the past she’s tried so hard to forget.

1990s, Gainesville, Florida…

Elizabeth and her two closest friends, Caroline and Ginny, are having the time of their lives in college—binge watching Oprah, flirting for freebies from Taco Bell, and breaking hearts along the way. But without warning, their world is suddenly shattered when a series of horrific acts of violence ravage the campus, changing their lives forever.

Sweeping readers from the exclusive corners of sorority life in the South to the frontlines of the drug-fueled, slacker culture in Manhattan in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, when Elizabeth is forced to acknowledge her role in the death of a friend in order to mend a broken friendship and save her own life, The Drifter is an unforgettable story about the complexities of friendships and the secrets that can ultimately destroy us.

Read my review HERE.

Add to Goodreads.

Purchase Links: Amazon * B&N * Kobo


Author Bio

Christine Lennon is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor. Before she moved to the West Coast to start her freelance career, she was an editor at W, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Since then, she has written for publications including T The New York Times style magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Town & Country, W, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Martha Stewart Living, Sunset, C California Style, Marie Claire, Self, Net-a-Porter’s Porter and The Edit online magazine— among others.

Her first novel, THE DRIFTER (formerly GAINESVILLE), will be published February 21, 2017: “Journalist Christine Lennon’s GAINESVILLE, alternating between 1990s Florida and present-day New York, about a group of friends on the cusp of graduating from college, whose innocence is shattered by a brutal act of violence that changes the course of their lives, to Emily Krump at William Morrow, by Brettne Bloom at The Book Group (World). [Publisher’s Weekly]”.

Christine lives in Hancock Park with her husband, Andrew Reich, and their two children.

Author Links: Website * Goodreads


Giveaway

Christine Lennon is giving away Ten (10) copies of The Drifter.

Terms & Conditions:

• By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
• Ten winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter.
• This giveaway ends midnight March 10.
• Winners will be contacted via email on March 11.
• Winner has 48 hours to reply.

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Follow the rest of the tour:

Monday, February 13
Book reviewed at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Book reviewed at Books Are Love

Tuesday, February 14
Book featured at Books, Dreams, Life
Book featured at CBY Book Club
Book reviewed at Perfect at Midnight

Wednesday, February 15
Book featured at Warrior Woman Winmill
Book featured at Mello and June
Book featured at What is That Book About

Thursday, February 16
Book featured at The Bookworm Lodge
Book featured at RoloPoloBookBlog

Friday, February 17
Interviewed at The Pulp and Mystery Shelf
Book featured at Authors and Readers Book Corner

________

Monday, February 20
Book reviewed at Indie Book Reviews

Tuesday, February 21
Book reviewed at Book Reviews and More

Wednesday, February 22
Book featured at A Title Wave

Thursday, February 23
Book featured at A Book Lover

Friday, February 24
Book featured at Voodoo Princess
________

Monday, February 27
Book featured at The Dark Phantom

Tuesday, February 28
Book featured at Write and Take Flight

Wednesday, March 1
Book featured at Celticlady’s Reviews

Thursday, March 2
Book featured at Harmonious Publicity

Friday, March 3
Book reviewed at I’m Shelf-ish
________

Monday, March 6
Book reviewed at Turning Another Page
Book reviewed at Cover2Cover

Tuesday, March 7
Book reviewed at Turning the Page

Wednesday, March 8
Book featured at Reviews by Crystal
Book reviewed at Curling Up by the Fire

Thursday, March 9
Book reviewed at Svetlana Reads and Views

Friday, March 10
Book reviewed at Brooke Blogs
Book reviewed at Blushing Babes Are Up All Night

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Tour Stop, Excerpt & Giveaway: A Millionaire at Midnight by Naima Simone

Title: A Millionaire at Midnight by Naima Simone
Bachelor Auction Series Book Four
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Imprint: Indulgence
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 201 pages

Summary:

Boston socialite Morgan Lett is having a run of bad luck. Her fiancé just dumped her for her stepsister, the charity foundation she’s given her life to is in danger of folding, and now, the gorgeous man she bid on and won at a masquerade bachelor auction turns out to be a cold-hearted jerk…and her new employer.

Millionaire Alexander Bishop needs the best wife money can buy. In order to inherit his family business, he must get engaged—fast. And Morgan, with her beauty and pedigree, is the perfect candidate. Her sharp tongue may drive him crazy, but she needs money to save the foundation she loves, and he needs a fiancée. It’s a flawless arrangement—no strings, no love. But soon she has him craving more, and cursing the platonic terms of their agreement.

Still, he won’t allow need—no matter how hot it burns—to threaten everything he’s built.

Add to Goodreads.
Add series to Goodreads.

Purchase Links: Amazon US * Amazon CA * Amazon UK * Amazon AU * B&N * iTunes * Kobo

Purchase Links for the Series: Entangled Publishing


Excerpt

“Since you’re my betrothed, I can share my worries with you,” Morgan propped a hip on the edge of his desk. “I’m not going to pretend a humility I don’t have—I’m hot.”

“You’re right.” Alex paused. “You don’t possess any humility.”

“The point is, men have been hitting on me before I grew breasts. But not you. Of course, I could chalk that up to you being a little, uh…” She pursed her lips, squinting her eyes. “A little emotionally challenged. But then it occurred to me that in addition to not liking me, you just might not be attracted to me.”

She rose from her perch and flattened her palms on the desk top, leaning forward. Her breasts pushed against the silken material of his shirt, the tiny row of buttons earning their keep by containing the soft weight of her flesh. His body tightened, a rush of lust pouring through his veins and culminating in his cock. His erection strained behind his zipper, and he grasped hold of every scrap of control he possessed not to fist the thickening column through his pants.

Fuck, this was crazy. He wasn’t even sure he liked her, and yet thoughts of shoving that tight skirt up around her hips and tasting everything the clothing hid consumed him.

The woman was slowly shredding his control, and he hated it.

Feared it.

Yet, as he stared into her eyes that glittered with something reckless, a little bit wild, he felt nothing but hot, control-searing need.

“I think you should kiss me,” Morgan stated.

The matter-of-fact tone didn’t match the slightly taunting smile she wore or the hooded gaze that barely concealed a sensual gleam. For him.

His mind questioned the veracity of her attraction.

His body didn’t give a good goddamn.

“What are you doing, Morgan?” He couldn’t eliminate the rasp from his voice. Not with lust roughening it like a plow churning up newly turned earth. “What game are you playing?”

“The game you’re buying me a building for. Be the best fake fiancée possible. And as two people desperately and deeply in love, PDA will be expected. So let’s do a trial run. Kiss me. See if we need to work on it before taking this show on the road. So. Kiss. Me,” she murmured.

“No,” he ground out.

“Why not?” she countered. “Scared you won’t be able to live up”—her gaze dropped to his lap and the rigid flesh that mocked him—“to the occasion?” When she returned her attention to his face, that blue scrutiny fucking smoldered.

With a growl, he rocketed to his feet.

In three long strides, he rounded the desk and, as she turned to face him, he cupped the back of her neck. Dragged her forward until her chest and thighs pressed against his.

The heat in those eyes had accomplished what her words couldn’t.

They snapped his restraints.

He crushed his mouth to hers, answering the siren’s call that had been tempting him since they’d walked into the office. On another, deeper, growl, he thrust his tongue into her mouth, parting those pretty lips.

Jesus. The taste of her. Sultry. Sweet. Like ripe, delicious fruit. He entwined his tongue around hers, licked the roof of her mouth, drawing on more of her flavor. Burying his other hand in her hair, he fisted the strands and tilted her head to the side and dove deeper. Demanding she give him what he needed, wanted. Not that she was holding back. She opened wide for him, meeting him thrust for thrust, lick for lick, suck for suck, groan for groan. Her fingers curled around the lapels of his jacket, and she rose on her toes, grinding her mouth to his.

The kiss was wild, a little messy, a lot raw, carnal. Addictive. And not enough.


Author Bio

Naima’s love of romance was first stirred by Johanna Lindsey and Linda Howard many years ago. Though her first attempt at writing a romance novel at 11 never saw the light of day, her love of romance and writing has endured. Now, she spends her time creating stories of unique men and women who experience the dizzying heights of passion and the tender heat of love.

She is the wife to Superman – or his non-Kryptonian, less bullet proof equivalent – and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They all live in perfect, domestically-challenged bliss in the southern United States.

Author Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads * Newsletter * Amazon Author Page


Giveaway

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Friday Feature & Giveaway: Not in My Wildest Dreams by Jamie Hollins

Title: Not in My Wildest Dreams by Jamie Hollins
McKenna Series Book Two
Publisher: Jamie Hollins
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 339 pages

Summary:

It really sucks to be in love with someone who sees you as nothing more than a friend. Darcy Owens knows this from personal experience. From the moment she met Sean McKenna as a shy ten-year-old, he’s owned her heart. So when he asks for her help with an important construction project, she can’t say no.

Building a boutique hotel on Boston’s waterfront is a career-making opportunity, and Sean needs Darcy’s interior design expertise. She’s incredibly talented, and there is no one he trusts more. He knows he can always count on his childhood friend, but doesn’t know why he’s thinking about her tight skirts and blue eyes instead of tight deadlines and blueprints.

When Sean and Darcy’s excitement about their work turns into an entirely different kind of excitement, it’s a sexy surprise. But they soon realize that building a new relationship is more challenging than building a new hotel, especially when life-long habits and old insecurities create cracks in the foundation.

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Add series to Goodreads.

Purchase Links: Amazon * Other * iTunes * Kobo


Excerpt

She felt the wheels of their plane lift off the ground and watched out the window as the ground got farther and farther away.

“Nervous flyer?”

Her head jerked over and she found Sean watching her with amusement. She ignored him and looked down at her magazine.

“What are you reading?”

He was just like a gnat that wouldn’t leave her alone!

She wasn’t planning on answering him but felt him lean toward her over the armrest to look at the page. When she read the title of the article, she nearly gasped. Of all the articles to be reading next to Sean, she had to open her magazine to this particular one.

“Picking the Right Lingerie for Your Body Type,” Sean read aloud.

Before she could respond, he flipped the page. Both sides of the magazine had four different pictures of women in lingerie. Some were modest and some could be classified as nonexistent. Darcy’s eyes scanned the page, taking in the various and rainbow selection of lacy, satiny outfits.

An incredibly thin woman wore a red bustier and garter set. A pale blonde posed with thin straps of sheer neutral fabric covering her tiny breasts and the triangle between her legs. A buxom brunette lounged in bed in a silky camisole and nearly painted-on boy shorts. It was a smorgasbord of scantily clad woman, and she couldn’t help but cringe.

“Hmmmm,” he said, scanning the two pages. “I’d pick that one.”

He pointed to a dark-haired woman wearing a black lacy bra-and-panty set. She stood with one knee kneeling against a chair, a satin black robe draping off her shoulders. The top consisted of a lacy demi-bra, which hoisted the model’s cleavage up into plump mounds below her collarbone. The bikini bottoms were the same lacy material as the bra and sat well below her smooth, toned stomach.

The ensemble’s simple color and lines made it sexy, but the flowing satiny fabric of the robe made it romantic. There were other lingerie sets that were much more vixen than this one, and she was surprised at Sean’s choice.

“You’d pick that one if you were a woman, huh?”

“No, I’d pick that one if I were you.”

Jerking her gaze away from the magazine, she stared at him with wide eyes. She couldn’t believe he’d gone there. It was bad enough she had to sit next to him, the source of her torment and embarrassment. But he crossed into territory that she wasn’t ready to talk about. Wouldn’t be ready to talk about for at least another year. Maybe more.

He looked up, must have seen her bewildered expression, and grinned.

“What? It’s true. You have these perfect—” he started, cupping his hands in front of his chest.

“Stop!” That single word left her breathless as she stared at him.

He smiled. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I was just about to say that—”

Darcy squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head quickly, trying hard to ignore the warm contentment that settled in her chest over hearing Sean call her breasts perfect. “No! Just stop. We are not having this conversation.”

After a moment, he sighed loudly. “All right. I’m just gonna say this because it needs to be said. We had sex. Big deal.”

Darcy snapped her eyes open in time to see the man sitting in front of them turn his head to where his ear was in the middle of the two seats.

“Jesus Christ. Shut up.”

“We’re two consenting adults, and we had sex,” he said, ignoring her. “It changes nothing.”

“It changes everything,” she hissed. “And if you don’t shut your fucking mouth, I’m going to shut it for you.”

“We’ve been friends forever. I’m not going to let what happened between us change that. That’s why I’m here. I gave you the time you wanted to think through this, but I’m impatient, and I decided it was in our friendship’s best interest to force you to spend time with me. The more time we spend together doing normal things, the easier it’ll get. It’s time we got back to being Darcy and Sean again.”

It was a valiant speech full of sincerity and feelings. For just a second, she forgot about being uncomfortable and just floated in the wonderful sensation of being wanted. And by Sean, nonetheless. But she wasn’t going to be able to flip a switch and go back to the way things used to be before they’d slept together.

Yeah, she could probably get over the embarrassment. Eventually, she could smile at him again and laugh at his jokes. But there would always be that part of her that loved him and wanted more. She wanted his love, to share his dreams, to feel his passion. They’d already given the passion part a try, and although it’d started out promising, the ending had ripped out her heart and torn it into tiny pieces.

And it still lay broken.

Sean’s blue eyes studied her as she thought through the emotional roller coaster she was still riding. He leaned toward her, his shoulder resting against hers.

“Please, Darce. Can’t we just try? I miss you.”

She closed her eyes as his soft, deep plea swam around in her ears. She tried not to think about how good it made her feel. She tried not to notice he wore her favorite cologne and that his shoulder was burning through her cotton shirt. She tried not to think about how much she missed him too.

Damn Sean McKenna, his honeyed tongue, and his goddamn manly cologne.


Author Bio

Jamie Hollins was born and raised in rural Northeast Ohio. After graduate school, she embarked on a perilous career in Human Resources where she met plenty of real life characters. When she’s not writing or chasing after her toddler, she enjoys reading and golfing. Jamie lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, and their dog, Winston.

Author Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads


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Filed under Blog Tour, Contest, Excerpt, Friday Feature