Just how do you find your accidentally married to a cowboy? Well, when you run away from your wedding in your wedding dress and head out west for adventure, you never know where it's going to take you. Courtney finds herself in quite the predicament with the oh-so-grumpy cowboy, Dean Lawton. Which is more than a little crazy because Dean doesn't want a wife.
Rolling from one mistake and misunderstanding right into another, Courtney and Dean have to stick out their new married life for a month. And what a month it is. In addition to learning about the way so of a real ranch, Courtney bonds with Dean's family, and even starts learning how to cook! But Dean has more important things on his mind, such as who is killing off his cattle, to try and deal with the woman he's accidentally married to.
I loved how both characters started the book heading in one direction, but life quickly steered them in another. I loved how sweet the gruff and grumpy Dean could be when he let his guard down. And Courtney's fiery temper had me grinning as she set the rough cowboy in his place a few times. They make a wonderfully balanced couple, and I think I'm going to have to go back and grab book one, because from what I saw of that couple, I want to know more.
Westerns can be hit or miss for me, but the accidental marriage concept of Cowboy's Honor intrigued me. I'm really glad I gave this one a chance.
**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**
The Cowboy's Honor Excerpt
©2019 Amy Sandas
“Is there a hotel in town where I might procure a room for a few days?”
“Miss Mabel has a boardinghouse down the road, though I don’t know for sure if she’s got any open rooms.”
Courtney smiled her thanks to the postal clerk, already envisioning a quaint but comfortable room with clean sheets on the bed. Maybe even a hot, tasty meal. She had given up on finding food that was near the same quality she was accustomed to, but she would settle for edible and filling right now. She couldn’t very well expect a rugged town in the Western Territories to provide the same levels of comfort as a big city back East. She had left Boston in search of a new life. It was time to embrace all of what that meant.
As she stepped onto the boardwalk, blinking against the bright summer sunlight, Courtney didn’t realize she had stepped right into someone’s path until it was too late.
And of course, it had to be Mr. Martin.
What should have been just a very brief bumping of elbows and shoulders became much more when he took swift advantage of the encounter by wrapping his arms around her in an exaggerated and unnecessary attempt at steadying her.
Courtney immediately put her hands up to try to shove him away, but her efforts were ineffectual. He was intent on holding her close.
“It’s my lovely traveling companion,” he exclaimed. His face was so close that she could feel the heat of his breath on her cheek. “What a pleasure to run into you again so soon.”
“I would thank you to release me, sir.”
“Not yet, sweetheart. I never did get your name.”
“And you never will. Now let me go,” Courtney stated more forcefully. Her stomach turned in distress as she glanced around to see if there was anyone who might come to her aid.
“Let the lady go.”
Despite their low timbre, the words were spoken from behind her in such a hard and forceful tone that Mr. Martin’s grip around her waist loosened as though on command. She did not waste time in giving a solid push against his chest and wrenching free. She quickly backed away from Mr. Martin’s grabby reach, which brought her closer to her unknown rescuer.
Turning to acknowledge the man who had come to her aid, all she saw was the expanse of a broad male chest covered by a faded blue cotton shirt. The scents of horse and leather and sunbaked earth filled her nostrils. Distracted and still a little distressed, she felt her foot catch in the twisted length of her skirts on her next step, and she started to stumble. Warm, rough, capable hands grasped her arms as the stranger held her secure until she regained her balance. A low sound escaped the man’s throat as his hands dropped away.
“My apologies,” he muttered as he stepped back from her. The velvety texture of his voice soothed and flustered at the same time.
Courtney took a deep breath, trying to regain her composure after the discomfiting experience of being handled so familiarly first by Mr. Martin and then by the tall stranger. She wasn’t used to such treatment…but while Mr. Martin’s assistance had caused only irritation, this stranger certainly deserved her thanks. She corrected her posture and made sure her expression was perfectly neutral before she lifted her chin, prepared to utter a swift expression of gratitude.
The words never made it past her lips.
In fact, everything—her train of thought, her breath, time itself—just stopped.
The man stood a few inches taller than her and wore a wide-brimmed cowboy hat that blocked the sun, giving her an unimpeded look at one of the most handsome faces she had ever seen.
His skin was bronzed from exposure to the sun, and a hint of sandy-brown beard shadowed a hard jawline and square chin. Though his mouth was pressed into a firm line, it didn’t disguise the masculine beauty of his arched lips beneath a well-shaped nose and strong cheekbones. His features were put together in a way that was rugged yet undeniably attractive.
But his eyes—pale blue like a summer sky brushed with wispy clouds—were what had given her the intense little shock of awareness. It was like being woken up from a hazy dream. Everything just suddenly became more vivid, more…awake. His gaze held a hint of impatience as he looked down at her from beneath a furrowed brow.
While she stood dumbfounded, he swept his stunning gaze over her person.
His hard expression tensed even more as he took in the sight of her elaborate wedding gown before finally returning to her face. Only now, instead of impatience, she saw the glimmer of something more in his eyes.
She had to consciously tell herself not to react to the way he eyed her so openly. Keeping her expression calm and unruffled under this man’s intense regard was not an easy task, especially now that she was dealing with strange little sparks that had ignited beneath her skin everywhere his gaze had fallen.
She was accustomed to inciting admiration in the gentlemen of her circles—she had been told she was beautiful often enough throughout her life to believe it was so. But she could not say she had ever inspired the flash of irritation she noted in his eyes when he finished his perusal.
He sent a focused glare toward the post office behind her before looking down at her once again. “You’ve gotta be kidding me,” he muttered, his smooth-textured voice a strange contradiction to his harsh visage.
He was scowling. At her.
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Title: Innocense Lost (Bootleggers' Chronicles #1)
Author: Sherilyn Decter
Genre: Historical Fiction
In a city of bootleggers and crime, one woman must rely on a long-dead lawman to hunt down justice…
Philadelphia, 1924. Maggie Barnes doesn't have much left. After the death of her husband, she finds herself all alone to care for her young son and look after their rundown house. As if that weren't bad enough, Prohibition has turned her neighborhood into a bootlegger's playground. To keep the shoddy roof over their heads, she has no choice but to take on boarders with criminal ties.
When her son's friend disappears, Maggie suspects the worst. And local politicians and police don't seem to have any interest in an investigation. With a child's life on the line, Maggie takes the case and risks angering the enemy living right under her nose.
Maggie's one advantage may be her oldest tenant: the ghost of a Victorian-era cop. With his help, can she find justice in a lawless city?
Innocence Lost is the first novel in the Bootleggers' Chronicles, a series of historical fiction tales. If you like headstrong heroines, Prohibition-era criminal underworlds, and a touch of the paranormal, then you'll love Sherilyn Decter’s gripping tale.
Innocence Lost Excerpt
©2019 Sherilyn Decter
A satisfying afternoon of chopping, stirring, seasoning, and taste-testing, and supper is ready; despite the lingering guilt over Mrs. Leszek’s situation. Standing in the doorway between the kitchen and dining room, Peggy surveys two of the new lodgers gathered at her dining room table. She savors the moment. With a contented smile, she smooths her dress over her hips. No apron for me tonight. I’m the landlady.
Peggy loves the dining room. It reminds her of childhood dinners cooked by staff. She recalls carefree afternoons, new clothes, and indulgences that provided a soft place to fall—until she fell hard for Jack.
The dining room suite had been a wedding gift from her grandmother, who never held Peggy’s impetuousness against her. Peggy adored her for it. To her, the dining room suite’s elegant Federal style implied a certain place in the world. She loved Jack and all he stood for; yet attempted to replicate that which she missed from her own childhood home. Jack used to tease
her about it, his Principessa.
She and Jack had wallpapered the walls above the wainscoting, and painted all the woodwork a bright white to match the living room. At some point, she hopes to find a carpet to go under the table, but for now, the hardwood floors gleam.
A blue and white Spode soup tureen holds pride of place on the marble-topped sideboard. The tureen had also belonged to her grandmother and was part of the china dish set that she had left Peggy in her will. When Tommy was a toddler, he had broken the china ladle. Jack had glued it back together so that, with the tureen’s lid on, the set looked perfect.
Peggy gracefully perches on the chair her lodger, Mr. Mansfield, holds out for her. She admires the table with its starched white cloth and blue and white dishes. The elegance of the Spode is a talisman for her, a symbol of where she’d come from, and a nod to better days ahead. She’s sure there isn’t a nicer set of china in any of the houses along her street.
The smile of her other lodger, Mr. Smith, suggests an air of occasion; their first dinner all together. Almost all together. Peggy taps her foot. Tommy is extremely late from school. He is only just washing his hands in the kitchen. Constable Kelly sent word that he will be detained, and asked that she put a plate in the oven for him. Peggy sharply snaps open her napkin and lays it across her lap.
What do boys that age get up to? Tommy and Constable Kelly’s tardiness sets a bad example to the other lodgers, and is disrespectful of all my hard work putting together a delicious dinner for them.
About Sherilyn Decter
Do you love flappers and gangsters? See yourself in a fedora or fringe?
The Roaring Twenties and Prohibition were a fantasy land, coming right after the horrors and social upheaval of World War I. Even a century later, it all seems so exotic.
Women got the vote, started working outside the home, and (horrors!) smoked and drank in public places. They even went on unchaperoned dates (gasp)! Corsets were thrown into the back of the closets, and shoes were discovered to be an addictive fashion accessory after hemlines started to rise. And thanks to Prohibition, suddenly it was fashionable to break the law. The music was made in America- ragtime, delta blues, and of course jazz. Cocktails were created to hide the taste of the bathtub gin. Flappers were dancing, beads and fringes flying. Fedoras were tipped. And everyone was riding around in automobiles (aka struggle buggies and I leave it to your imagination why- wink.)
Bootleggers' Chronicles grew out of that fascination. Writing as Sherilyn Decter, I will eventually have a series of historical crime fiction novels dealing with the bootleggers, gangsters, flappers, public corruption, and the general lawlessness that defined Prohibition.
Growing up on the prairies and living next to the ocean, I am a creature of endless horizons. Writing allows me to discover what's just over the next one. I live in a century old house and perhaps its creaks and groans have inspired my love of history. My husband and I have three amazing daughters, a couple of spoiled grandchildren whom I adore, and two bad dogs.
For more information about Sherilyn Decter, visit her webpage at https://sherilyndecter.com
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Title: Hot for a Cowboy (Smokin Hot Cowboys #4)
Author: Kim Redford
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Content Rating: R
Two flames burn way hotter than one...
Eden Rafferty has lost it all: big time career, high-profile marriage, and just about everything she owns. Coming back to Wildcat Bluff with her tail between her legs, the only person who can help her heal is cowboy firefighter Shane Taggart. But nothing is simple, and their high-octane past is just the beginning of their current problems…
Hot for a Cowboy Excerpt
©2019 Kim Redford
After Shane left, Eden sighed in satisfaction, feeling more at home than she had in years. They were carrying on a long-held tradition in their families of eating together at the dining table. She opened a cabinet and selected the white plates with black barbwire motif around the edges that brought back fond memories. She set them on the table along with silverware and napkins.
Fortunately, she’d already had her shower and put on a red T-shirt, cutoffs, and flip-flops. All she needed to do now was make a meal for them.
As she set to work, she noticed she was happily humming a tune. She stopped in mid-pie-slice. She didn’t remember being happy like this when she was married to Graham. They were always running here and there, trying to find time for each other or maybe not trying hard enough.
She glanced around the kitchen—cabinet to countertop, refrigerator to stove, cookie jar to toaster. Who knew such a small thing as putting together a meal in a beloved home could make her feel so happy? Suddenly she realized that it didn’t require being a star, talking to a large audience, or taking home a big paycheck to feel sublimely happy. It just took being with the right man in the right place at the right time.
And in that moment of clarity, she felt every single last brick--thud, thud, thud—drop out of her protective wall. With that sudden change came a feeling of vulnerability but also a feeling of freedom and new beginnings. Home sweet home.
She picked up the platter of sandwiches and carried it to the table, where she set it in a place of honor. She walked back into the kitchen and picked up the aqua-tinted glass pitcher of sweet tea. As she poured the amber liquid over ice in matching aqua glasses, she hummed to the sound of crackling ice.
After she added the glasses to the table setting, she cut two big wedges of pie, set them on dessert plates, and carried them to the table. She stepped back, proudly looking over her creation with pleasure. She’d never been a happy homemaker with Graham. They’d been too busy, too distracted, too often gone from home. Now she wanted the happiness she remembered from childhood when warm cookies, cold tea, and simple sandwiches eaten with loved ones made life special and worthwhile.
When she heard Shane’s footsteps in the hall, she felt her heart pick up speed. Just the idea of eating a meal with him completed her happiness.
When he wrapped his arms around her waist, tugging her back against his broad chest, she felt tears fill her eyes. How long had she wanted to be loved and treasured like this?
“Table looks pretty,” he whispered as the heat of his breath fanned the delicate whorls of her ear. “But you’re a whole lot prettier.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere.” She placed her hands over his arms and held him tight, feeling the fabric—gone soft and pliant from so many washings of his cutoffs and T-shirt—rub against her.
“I’m about to choose you over food.”
“Don’t you dare! I worked long and hard on those sandwiches.” She tried to twist out of his embrace, but he simply spread his hands across her stomach and held her tighter.
“You’re going nowhere till I let you.”
She knew that was true because of his superior strength but also because she wanted to stay nestled in his arms. And yet, she wanted them to sit down at the table and eat together like a family, as they had done so many times when they were young. “Sooner we eat, the sooner we get to the hot tub.”
He groaned, as if in great pain, nipped her earlobe, let her go, and quickly sat down in front of a plate.
She joined him at the table, savoring the moment as she looked across at him and picked up her glass of tea.
He grabbed his sandwich, took a big bite, chewed, and swallowed. “Real good, but I know something better.” He gave her a steamy look with hazel eyes gone dark.
She gave as good as she got as she bit into her sandwich, wishing she’d made them smaller, anything to get to the hot tub as quickly as possible.
By the time they got to the pie, she almost giggled because they were wolfing down the food as if they were at an Olympic event.
“Pie’s better than I expected,” he said as he quartered the piece and made it disappear.
“It’s good.” She took smaller bites, but she was in no less hurry to be done and gone. She’d had enough family time at the table. She wanted her hands on him and his on her.
He drained his glass of tea, picked up his plate, and stood up. “I’ll set this in the kitchen and go get a bottle of wine. Meet you at the hot tub.”
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Title: Lost Souls (Soul Charmer #3)
Author: Chelsea Mueller
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Get out of Hell free card? Not for Callie Delgado, Gem City’s newest soul charmer. Sin and salvation collide in this gritty and action-packed urban fantasy.
Callie’s magic is finally her own. She and Derek dispatched Ford. They should have been able to breathe, but layers of sin run deep beneath Gem City. Another mob boss quickly rises, and his sights are firmly set on Callie—and her family.
Mobile soul rental shops begin to bite at the Soul Charmer’s business. His retribution is wicked, but the blowback threatens to crush Callie. If she can’t maintain the tenuous balance of souls in Gem City, more lives will be lost.
Only the more magic she uses, the more danger finds her. A break-in, pools of blood, and bare shelves at the Soul Charmer’s store force Callie to choose the fates of others. But which can she live with? Losing her city, her love, her family …or her very soul?
Lost Souls Excerpt
©2019 Chelsea Mueller
“I’ve worked security at four other buildings.” Benton held up as many fingers. His nails were short and black. Whether from blood or dirt, Callie didn’t care to guess.
She stood behind him and leaned forward to speak into his ear. Stale cigar stench clogged her nose. “You’ve worked jobs, but haven’t paid the Soul Charmer.”
Benton surged closer to the bar. His whiskey sloshed over the lip of the glass and onto his fingers. He slammed his shoulder backward and shifted to face Callie. The wide, milky eyes and taut tendons in his neck eased. Idiot. He licked the spilled liquor from his fingers. “I have experience, but they still won’t even let me take their exam.”
She gave two fucks about his ability to get a job. “That must suck. You owe the Charmer.”
“What do you mean?”
That’s not how this worked, and he knew it. “Cash or souls.”
“I ain’t got anything on me.”
“How are you paying for that Wild Turkey?”
Benton shot scattered looks in either direction. “It just you?”
It was, and normally she hated that. Her boyfriend Derek typically made these collection calls. He looked the part. Hulking and covered in leather and scars. She hid her wounds on the inside, and wielded dark eyeliner as war paint. Not exactly scary mofo material. Callie needed more from Benton than a simple rented soul, though, and that information need to be acquired alone.
About Chelsea Mueller
Chelsea Mueller writes gritty contemporary fantasy. She founded the speculative fiction website Vampire Book Club, blogs about TV and genre fiction for numerous websites, and is co-chair of SF/F charity Geeky Giving. She loves bad cover songs, dramatic movies, and TV vampires. Chelsea lives in Texas, and has been known to say y’all.
For the latest updates, join her email list at ChelseaMueller.net or follow @ChelseaVBC on Twitter and Instagram.
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Title: Kingdom of Sand & Ashes
Aladdin, but not as you remember it….
On the dusty streets, around the bustling bazaars, being overlooked by a Sultan’s Palace was a land. A land of magic, secrets and treasures buried deep beneath the desert.
Through Arabian nights, dark forces are at work. Dark forces that can threaten the peace of everyone in the Kingdom. Watch our authors as they answer the question, can three wishes save the day?
Join our award winning and USA Today best selling authors for nine action packed fantasy and contemporary retellings with Sultans, sorcerers, romance and more magic than a genie’s lamp can hold.
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Title: Two Witches and a Whiskey (The Guild Codex: Spellbound #3)
Author: Annette Marie
Genre: New Adult, Urban Fantasy
Three months ago, I landed a job as a bartender. But not at a bar—at a guild. Yeah, the magic kind.
I’m not a badass mage like my three smokin’ hot best friends. I’m not a sorcerer or an alchemist, or even a wussy witch. I’m just a human, slinging drinks like a pro and keeping my non-magical nose out of mythic business. Seriously, I know my limits.
So why am I currently standing in a black-magic ritual circle across from a fae lord?
Somewhere behind me, my three mage friends are battling for their lives. Somewhere near my feet is the rogue witch I just knocked out with a stolen spell. And I have about five seconds to convince this very angry sea god not to shmoosh me like a bug.
I’m pretty sure this wasn’t part of the job description.
Two Witches and a Whiskey Excerpt
©2019 Annette Marie
Footsteps creaked on the stairs, and I could tell by the sound who it was. Huffing nervously, I opened the door and stuck my head out.
Kai paused with his hand on his bedroom doorknob, laptop tucked under one arm. “Hey Kai!” I said brightly.
His eyes narrowed immediately.
“What?” I demanded, wounded by his wariness.
Faint amusement touched his features. “Tori, if you don’t want to seem suspicious, don’t act so sweet and sugary.”
“Oh, come on. Why is me being cheerful suspicious?”
Leaning back against his door, he looked me up and down like I might be carrying concealed weapons. “What do you want?
I smiled hesitantly. “Wanna take me for a ride on your motorcycle?” His guardedness returned in full force. “A ride where?”
No matter how I answered that, he’d be suspicious, so I batted my eyelashes and chirped with all the sweet sugar I could muster, “It’s a surprise!”
He stared at me—then threw his head back in a laugh.
Fifteen minutes later, I was gripping Kai’s leather-jacket-clad waist as his motorcycle rocketed down Dunsmuir Street. Yellow streetlamps and red tail lights flashed past as we weaved through traffic. I pointed over his shoulder and he careened through a left turn, cutting it way too close to an oncoming car.
Ahead, the skyscrapers opened up. Squatting among the giants was an old-fashioned building with a stone exterior, four-story-tall columns marking the dramatic entrance, and a domed roof. The structure, once a courthouse, was over a hundred years old.
I looked around for a parking spot, but dozens of sleek cars and SUVs, most of them black with the occasional silver or gunmetal gray, were parallel parked bumper to bumper. Kai slowed the bike, and I gestured helplessly toward the gallery as we passed it.
“Here?” he shouted in disbelief over the road noise. “Yeah.”
His helmet swiveled as he scanned the street. The engine revved, then he spun a one-eighty into the opposing traffic and shot back down the road. With a squeal of tires, he cut across the pavement and onto the sidewalk. Slowing to trolling speed, we passed a grand three-sided staircase that looked like it had spilled off the second-level terrace. The gallery entrance was tucked into the inner corner of the L-shaped building.
Stopping the motorcycle beside a row of trees in concrete planters, Kai killed the engine. I loosened my death grip on him and looked around. Yeah, this wasn’t a parking space, but who would complain? The felonious rogue we were about to meet?
About Annette Marie
Annette Marie is the author of Amazon best-selling YA urban fantasy series Steel & Stone, its prequel trilogy Spell Weaver, and romantic fantasy trilogy Red Winter. Her first love is fantasy, but fast-paced adventures and tantalizing forbidden romances are her guilty pleasures. She lives in the frozen winter wasteland of Alberta, Canada (okay, it's not quite that bad) with her husband and their furry minion of darkness—sorry, cat—Caesar. When not writing, she can be found elbow-deep in one art project or another while blissfully ignoring all adult responsibilities.
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Title: The Council of Nereth
Author: T.J. Amberson
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Six months have passed since the Council of Nereth was formed. The land is at peace. The people are thriving, secure in the knowledge that Raelin, the evil sorceress who once ruled over them, is no more.Like the other members of the Council of Nereth, Edlyn has returned home to live and work, waiting for the time when the council will meet again. Busy serving the people and restoring the manor of her childhood, Edlyn keeps her deepest wishes hidden away in her heart.On Edlyn’s eighteenth birthday, a messenger from the capitol arrives to her home and delivers devastating news: Maddock has gone missing, and the worst is feared. Edlyn rushes back to the capitol to join the other council members in a desperate search for Maddock. Soon, a ghostly attack confirms the terrifying truth that evil forces are upon Nereth once again. With time running short, Edlyn and her companions must find Maddock and save Nereth before it is too late.
Council of Nereth Excerpt
©2019 T.J. Amberson
Suddenly, the Berax let out another screech, toppled off of Edlyn, and collapsed onto the leaves that covered the ground. Edlyn pulled herself to her feet. She froze when she saw the silhouette of a man crouched beside the Berax. The man swiftly raised an arm, and the flash of his dagger's blade caught the moonlight before he thrust his weapon into the monster's side again. The Berax was dead.
Edlyn staggered and dropped her sword, a torrent of emotions crashing down upon her.
"Maddock," she whispered.
"Are you hurt?" she heard him ask.
At the sound of his voice, Edlyn swayed again, the shock still so acute that she could barely reply. "I am not hurt."
Maddock came toward her. Like Edlyn, he was breathing fast. Once he got close, Edlyn could see that Maddock's clothes were dirtied and worn, and his hair had grown longer since she had seen him last. But Maddock's eyes—dark and penetrating—had not changed.
About T.J. Amberson
TJ Amberson hails from the Pacific Northwest. With a love of writing in several genres, TJ strives to provide well-written, age-appropriate, & original novels for tweens, teens, and new adults.
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Triplicity is an odd mix of an almost slice-of-life story and a suspense novel. As I followed the three teenagers on the cruise I continually wondered where the story was trying to go. We get a dash of a romantic triangle, misplaced blame for a thief on board, and lots of family drama. With so many different trains of stories running through, I felt like the there wasn't really an end goal.
I didn't always find the three main characters very engaging, and there were many times I flat out didn't like them. Navy especially had moments that I found to be very disingenuous. The standards that she held Isaiah and Jesse to were inconsistent, and while both of the boys also had their issues, I found them to feel more real and genuine.
The impact of the mystery the teens are trying to solve really doesn't impact the story until very close to the end, and I wish it had been integrated throughout so that it had more of a hovering presence instead of just the occasional mention to cause drama.
Isaiah was the character that saved it for me. I loved his history with the ranch, and while in the end, he did a few questionable things, it was more because he didn't see another way out. Jesse was a close second. But I found it odd how Navy looked past his lies while holding Isaiah to a different standard.
**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**
About J. Mercer:
J. Mercer grew up in Wisconsin where she walked home from school with her head in a book, filled notebooks with stories in junior high, then went to college for accounting and psychology only to open a dog daycare. She wishes she were an expert linguist, is pretty much a professional with regards to competitive dance hair (bunhawk, anyone?), and enjoys exploring with her husband–though as much as she loves to travel, she’s also an accomplished hermit. Perfect days include cancelled plans, rain, and endless hours to do with what she pleases. Find her on Facebook @jmercerbooks or online at www.jmercerbooks.com.
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Title: Shadow's Voice
Author: Natalie Johanson
Rose Trewin is on the run. Pursued by memories of her father, she runs from city to city, seeking normalcy. But Rose can’t escape her past, or the magic running through her veins, the magic that allows her to slip through the shadows unnoticed. The magic her father once used to mold her into a mercenary sent to destroy his enemies.
Now her magic is growing and changing, becoming something new and untamable. Rose is unable to rest. Wolves wrapped in fog follow her relentlessly along the countryside. Desperate, she uses her magic to escape, but the shadows are pushing her towards the center of a conspiracy.
Now, her country teeters on the brink of a civil war as a Lord Governor gathers power against the king. An enemy, with magic similar to her own, emerges in the chaos of political intrigue.
Faced with a country at war and a king brought to his knees, Rose must accept who she is and harness her powers in order to save her country and herself.
Excerpt from Shadow's Voice
Copyright © 2019
When moonlight filtered in through her window, Rose climbed from her stiff bed. With an angry sigh, she pulled on her trousers and stuffed her feet into her worn and cracked boots.
With the dagger in her bodice, she slipped into the hallway, peer- ing through the shadows in each room as she passed it. It was an easy enough trick, looking through the shadows as though they were nothing more than windows.
She found him back in his room, bent over at the short table in the corner. The soft glow from an oil lamp distorted any more details. Rose looked up and down the hallway, saw no one else, and stepped into the shadow casted by the still lit candles. She fell into the darkness, became part of it, and was in Gavin’s room. She didn’t know how it worked, where the magic came from, or why she could use it when no one else apparently could.
When she’d still attended the lectures at the small schoolhouse in town, before her father made her work, she was told there were different planes of the world. The gods lived in one, the world in another. Rose often wondered if the shadows were another plane, and that was what she was touching.
It scared her back then. It scared her still. Maybe if she wasn’t afraid of it, she’d know what she could truly do with it. Rose had never pressed herself with her magic. Never challenged herself.
She drew her small knife as she moved closer. She paused in the shad- ows, the cool mist that always seem to be present ghosting over her skin.
This would be difficult. His back was straight and rigid. Even through the loose sleeves of his shirt, long lines of muscle were visible. She had one shot, one try for this to be easy and finished. Good thing I’ve had practice. Rose moved closer in the light shadow.
With a deep breath, she fell out of the shadow.
The bed dipped as her weight suddenly appeared on it. The second she was back in the real world her hand whipped around his mouth and pulled him back against her, her dagger sliding across his neck a second later. She pushed him to the ground, her hands and arms covered in blood. There were splashes on the wall across from her.
She stayed kneeling on the bed, her breathing deep and raged. Gavin choked on the floor in front of her. She should say something. He stared at her as if he was waiting for her to say something. Instead Rose looked at her bloody dagger and stained arms. They never could stay clean for long, no matter how far she went.
Rose sank back into the shadows and stayed in them until she was back in her own room. A headache started between her eyes from the time in shadow, it had been a long time since she’d used her magic. A nauseous feeling settled in her stomach, but she didn’t think that was from her magic. With a sniff, Rose methodically cleaned herself in the small bowl and changed her shirt and bodice. Throwing her ruined shirt into the small wood stove, Rose locked it all away with the rest of her past. She’d see it again in her nightmares.
Quietly, Rose walked around the small room and gathered her things: a few changes of clothes, old and worn, her one good set of boots. Numbly, she blinked at the tears in her eyes and hauled her pack over her shoulder. Rose tossed the key onto the bed and headed off toward the servants’ stairs. Once outside, Rose heaved a sigh and started toward the edge of town. She was just passing the stables set behind the inn when the first tear made its way down her cheek.
Rose took a deep breath and pinched her lips together, but that didn’t stop the tears as she walked. She wrung her hands in her shirt, as if there was still sticky blood to be wiped off. Her breathing came back, the tears came faster, and Rose had to cover her mouth to stop the sob.
“Stupid,” she cursed herself and gulped down air. She let herself think, for just a second, while working the spinning wheel in Marg’s dusty little shop that she could stay. “You know better.” Oh, but it had been nice. The illusion of a normal life, working a boring job for too little coin in a small town. Rose took a deep breath, her tears slowing and her pace quicken- ing. She should’ve remembered it was an illusion.
Rose followed the uneven cobblestones past the old buildings, the cool night air blowing loose strands of hair around her temples. She just needed to go further. Rose scrubbed at her cheeks with her sleeves and cleared her throat. She walked through town, past the slaughter house at the edge, the smell of rotting meat following her into the fields. Eventually those faded, and with sore feet Rose walked into the tree line.
The crickets were loud around her and every so often she’d hear the hoot of an owl. The moon was large in the sky and provided light on the small trade road. And so, she walked and tried not to think of Gavin and the look in his eyes. Or his blood. She reminded herself Gavin had killed and robbed. His death was no loss. Rose thought, for a second, she hadn’t needed to kill him. She could’ve just slipped away without a word, but if Gavin sent word she was this far west . . . if her father turned his attention toward her after so many years. . . . Rose snorted. She would not go back to her father.
When her feet hurt enough to make her limp, she walked off the small road into the forest and settled against a large tree. She pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. She let her head fall back against the rough trunk and closed her eyes. Rose sent a short prayer to the gods she wouldn’t dream and let herself sleep.
A hand on her shoulder woke her, her heart jumping into her throat. Rose palmed her dagger and had it shoved against the person’s ribs as she opened her eyes. The man kneeling above her stilled and slowly lifted his hand from her shoulder. Rose kept her dagger pressed against his ribs.
“You’re all right.”
Rose looked around before slowly sitting up and scooting back against
the tree. She kept her dagger raised. “What are you doing?”
“Checking on you,” the stranger said and cautiously moved backward on his haunches. “A young woman asleep in the woods. . . . I was check- ing to make sure you were not injured.”
Rose eyed the man, trying to point where she’d seen him before. He was familiar, but she couldn’t remember why. “I’m fine.”
About Natalie Johanson
Natalie Johanson has been interested in writing and reading since she first held a pencil. What first began a short story for her own reading turned into a world with a story to tell the world. When her time isn't being monopolized by her ferret, work as a police officer, running Dirty Dash races or reading she is writing.
Check out Natalie's website, nataliejohanson.com, for news, updates and more.
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Title: A New World - Contact
Author: M.D. Neu
Genre: Science Fiction
A little blue world, the third planet from the sun. It’s home to 7 billion people with all manner of faiths, beliefs and customs, divided by bigotry and misunderstanding, who will soon be told they are not alone in the universe. Anyone watching from the outside would pass by this fractured and tumultuous world, unless they had no other choice. Todd Landon is one of these people, living and working in a section of the world called the United States of America. His life is similar to those around him: home, family, work, friends and a husband.
On the cusp of the greatest announcement humankind has ever witnessed, Todd’s personal world is thrown into turmoil when his estranged brother shows up on his front porch with news of ships heading for Earth’s orbit. The ships are holding the Nentraee, a humanoid race who have come to Earth in need of help after fleeing the destruction of their homeworld. How will one man bridge the gap for both the Humans and Nentraee, amongst mistrust, terrorist attacks and personal loss? Will this be the start of a new age of man or will bigotry and miscommunication bring this small world to its knees and final end?
A New World - Contact Excerpt
©2019 M.D. NEU
They were busy with cleanup, not paying attention to the television, until they recognized what sounded like a special bulletin. Getting into the living room, they fell silent watching the TV. Reporters jockeyed for attention from the press secretary in the White House briefing room.
“If they’re going to make an announcement, isn’t it usual for the press secretary to tell us what the topic is?” one of the reporters questioned, her voice raised so she could be understood. “Particularly one called without advance notice.”
“The president informed me about the address an hour ago,” Press Secretary Frank Chen said to a visibly annoyed member of the press. “The president will address the nation and Congress tomorrow night at eight eastern time.”
Jumping on the end of his sentence, a female reporter shouted, “Does this have to do with the troop movements in Europe and Asia?”
“Yes, President Zachary will be addressing the troop rotations and provide an update on military movements,” Chen answered. “Next question, please.”
Todd turned to Jerry who was focused on the television. He would have thought he was a statue if it wasn’t for his breathing.
“What about FEMA?” A female reporter yelled at the press secretary to get his attention. “FEMA has been reported outside of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Los Angeles International, and Chicago O’Hare. They report they are conducting practice disaster emergency responses, but reports say they look like they are staging for something.”
Chen’s face brightened with a smile. “FEMA conducts regular joint exercises with city and state officials all the time. Those are the three busiest airports in the country. It only makes sense for FEMA to practice disaster response with them on occasion to ensure we are prepared. Next question.”
“Will the president—” A male reporter leaped out of his seat to be heard over the other reporters shouting for attention. “—address the reports of the UN peacekeepers going in and sealing the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory on the Canary Islands? We’ve been told that the White House made the request. Is that true?”
“I have no information on that,” Chen answered sharply. He nodded to an aide, “Last question.” He pointed to another reporter.
The older reporter stood. “We’ve heard reports that President Zachary has been meeting privately with several leaders in Europe. He’s also met with the Japanese Prime Minister, the Prime Minister of Australia, and the Chinese Premier. Is he going to be announcing a shift in our strategy toward China?”
“As you know, the president meets with world leaders on a regular basis—”
“All in the last week?” the older reporter interrupted.
“As I said, the president meets with world leaders on a regular basis. He is not announcing any shifts in policy toward our friends in China. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have nothing more to share.” With that, Mr. Chen left the podium and headed off stage.
Jerry bit his lower lip and Todd shifted back and forth on his feet.
The camera returned to Tonya Smith. “For those of you joining us, late-breaking news from the White House. President Zachary has announced that he will be addressing the nation tomorrow night at eight eastern. As we get more details, we’ll bring them to you. Now back to The Lineup with Kimberly Guilfoyle.”
Jerry crossed his arms. “Huh. Your brother might not be crazy or lying.” Jerry’s face was pale, and his eyes were wide. “I’m not sure what’s happening, but I’m glad we got stuff for the house.” He reached for Todd’s hand as they continued watching the TV.
About M.D. Neu
M.D. Neu is a LGBTQA Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he's always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alice Walker, Alfred Hitchcock, Harvey Fierstein, Anne Rice, and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.
Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.
When M.D. Neu isn't writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric his husband of eighteen plus years.
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