Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Study in Silks (review)


A Study in Silks
by Emma Jane Holloway was a really fun read for me (although I warn you, it is a pretty long book.  I have long been a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' tales and this book starts a series that gives a different perspective on the great but quirky detective because the heroine is his niece.  This is the first in the series but it doesn't end in a cliffhanger even though there are plenty of threads that still need to play out.

My review:

A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway is the first volume in ‘The Baskerville Affair’ series and is the wonderfully complex tale of Evalina Cooper, a young girl living in a Victorian England that is held hostage to the machinations of a group of individuals known as the steam barons. The country is at the mercy of these manipulative people who possess the power to ‘Disconnect’ from sources of energy any who oppose them and there are serious repercussions for attempting to develop alternate sources.
Evalina has many remarkable resources at her command, despite being an orphan who has been torn between longing for the rigorous life in a circus where the spark of magic within her has been nurtured and the greatly desired life as a debutante participating in the social whirl of the Season. A shocking murder in the household that she is staying with propels Evalina into the world occupied by her famous uncle, the renowned Sherlock Holmes, and forces her to re-evaluate what she wants to do with her life. She must decide whether the magic within her is worth risking her life to nurture and who she wants to pursue her life with, her childhood companion who shares a mysterious heritage or the alluring and creative heir to the household that she is trying so hard to conform to. The decision may be taken out of her hands as other forces are brought to bear on her until her very existence may be threatened.

This blend of steampunk, mystery and historical romance is an intricately woven story that introduces a series that provides a remarkable glimpse of Victorian London as seen through the eyes of a young female. The impressive depth of detail that blends magic and science while incorporating elements of the considerable body of work that surrounds Sherlock Holmes and his stalwart companion Dr. Watson immerses the reader in an alternate society that is both frightening and fascinating. There are many mysteries presented beyond the obvious murder that propels Evalina to action and for every clue that is resolved, there are twice as many puzzles presented for the reader’s delectation.  

The combination of magic and technology provide a delicious facet to this enthralling tale, and it was quite entertaining to be introduced to characters such as Mouse and Bird who have their own significant roles to play even as one shivers at the various villains who prowl through the story. The most impressive aspect of this admittedly very weighty tome is the richness of development of many of the secondary characters who all have their role to play, if not necessarily significant in this volume, undoubtedly they will be pivotal in subsequent ones. Every character seems to have unexpected depths that send the story in a slightly different direction as it unfolds and the reader finds it difficult to know whether to be hopeful for that person’s success or failure. I confess to being disappointed at the developments surrounding one particular character and hope that there is ultimately some form of redemption but naturally, I am an optimist.

This is a beautifully crafted and imaginative tale that will undoubtedly provide hours of entertainment with the end result that one is temporarily satiated yet hungering for the next exciting episode in these characters’ lives. As Evalina tells one of the other characters, “If you really want to go, I won’t make you stay, but then you won’t get to find out how the case ends.” I can’t help but be curious how the overall case ends even as I admire how this particular episode was temporarily resolved.

A Study in Silks (Amazon buy link

© Night Owl Reviews

I received a copy of this title in return for an honest review. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Billionaire's Best Friend (book blast)

I am still pretty crunched for time so my apologies for the brevity of the post but I am happy to present The Billionaire's Best Friend by Christine Tetrault which was just released last week.


Despite a wonderful family, a career she loves, and great friends, a void has existed in Lauren McDonald's life ever since her best friend Callie married billionaire Dylan Talbot. Although they have remained close, Lauren and Callie now lead very different lives, that is until Lauren meets wealthy CEO Kevin Walsh. Lauren believes he could be the man who will help make her life whole again.  That is until the night Nathaniel Callahan, her high school sweetheart and the one man she has always loved, shows up.

Although Nate ended things with Lauren before heading off to The Naval Academy and his life with the Marines, he never stopped loving her. Now 15 years later he is back to correct the mistake he made all those years ago.

With Nate back in town, Lauren must decide between the man who promises her the world and the man who has the power to crush her heart again.


Lauren McDonald never stopped loving Nathaniel Callahan even though when he left it nearly destroyed her.  Now with him back in town, she must choose between playing it safe or risking her heart again.


The main doors of the room opened as Lauren paused her scan; the guest of honor was about to enter. Grabbing her camera, Lauren stood—only to immediately collapse back down into her chair when her knees gave out at the sight of Nathaniel Callahan standing in the doorway.
    “Oh my God.” Her stomach hit the floor.
    “What's the matter? Are you okay?” Callie's concerned voice sounded as if it were traveling a great distance to reach her.
    Lauren glanced over at Callie and then toward the door again. Perhaps she'd imagined him. After all, why would he be here? The last time she'd heard anything about him, he was doing his third tour in the Middle East. Despite her hope that she'd started to hallucinate, when she looked again, he was still there, dressed in a black suit rather than his Marine uniform, his brown hair cut military short and looking much the same as he did the summer he'd broken her heart. She latched her hand onto Callie's arm. “Nate Callahan. He's here.”
    She kept her eyes on him. Since that awful day the summer after senior year, she'd only seen him once. She'd been home visiting her parents during holiday break her freshman year of college. She’d spotted him in his parents' driveway from her bedroom window. They'd received more than two feet of snow the night before and he was helping his father shovel. That morning she'd stood and watched until the entire driveway was cleared. When he and his dad finished, he went back inside his house without so much as a glance toward her home.
    “What?” Callie asked, her voice louder than necessary.
    Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Kevin and Dylan headed back to the table. "Nate just walked in," Lauren hissed.
    "Lauren that . . ." Callie's voice trailed off and she sat up straighter. Her head moved to keep him in sight as he walked toward his parents. "What's he doing here?" she asked, her voice lower now.
    Leaning closer, Lauren whispered, "I don't know. We don't exactly speak."

The Billionaire's Best Friend (The Sherbrookes of Newport) Amazon buy link

Author Bio:

I wrote my first story with characters similar to those in the Sweet Valley Twins books at the age of 10 on my grandmother's manual typewriter. As I got older my stories and characters became more mature. During my freshman year at UMass Dartmouth, I read my first romance novel and fell in love with the genre. I have been writing contemporary romance ever since.

Today I live with my husband, three beautiful daughters and two dogs in Massachusetts. Whenever I have a free moment you'll find me either reading a romance novel or working on my most current story.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Weak at the Knees (guest post by Jo Kessel, excerpt and GIVEAWAY)


Today I have the pleasure of hosting Jo Kessel and featuring her new release, Weak at the Knees, which is Jo’s debut novel in the new adult, contemporary romance genre – a story about love, loss and relationships, set between London and the heart of the French Alps.  

Jo decided to let us in on a few of her secrets...


1.  I have really curly hair, but I spend most of my life straightening it and when people I know well see me with my hair in its natural ringlet form, they think I’ve spent hours attacking my mane with a curling tong! I don’t know why I don’t like my hair natural – people say it suits me, but I guess I don’t think it does. Whenever I’m in a hot, humid climate I get what I call ‘Caribbean hair’ (do you remember the scene from Friends when Monica’s hair goes hilariously wild when they’re on the Caribbean?!) Well, no joke, that’s exactly how my hair reacts to humidity. And when that happens, I don’t even bother to straighten it. It’s not worth it, because all my hard effort is undone in a flash.

2.  I’m a yoga fanatic. Most people who know me know this, but what they don’t know is that I can do an excellent ‘head balance’. It’s the closest I get to looking like an acrobat from Cirque de Soleil. I get up into the position with control, keeping my legs straight, and once completely upside down I can split my legs, twist my torso and get into a whole load of weird looking positions. It’s my one and only party trick.

3.  I play the flute. It’s not the sort of instrument (like a guitar or piano) which you can easily play in public, by getting it out and strumming or tinkling away on the ivories, which is why not many people know I play it. But I used to actually be quite good at it, much better than I am now. I’ve got horribly rusty and my mouth starts to ache if I play it for any length of time because my muscles are out of practice.

4.  I went to Music College. While I was still at High School I won a place at one of London’s top music academies which ran Saturday school for young musicians. And that’s how I chose to spend my weekends - my girlfriends couldn’t believe it and they thought I should be going out with boys instead! I studied flute and piano. When I was 18 I had to make a choice between going to University and continuing at Music College to become a professional instead. But I just don’t think I was good enough to ever have really made it as a classical musician.

5.  I grind my teeth at night. I’ve never heard myself doing it and I keep telling my husband to record me. It’s apparently the most deafening, odd noise which is impossible to recreate awake. My sister (who’s a dentist) has heard me and thinks I must be ruining my teeth by the sounds of things. When I go away with the children and share a room with them, they hear me. They think the noise sounds like I’m scratching the sheets with my finger nails.

6.  I used to be a Gothic. You wouldn’t know it from the way I dress now, but when I was a student I used to dress in all these weird black clothes, wearing my hair incredibly long and backcombed and bright red lipstick.

7.  I’m very short. People don’t realise this because I usually wear high heels. Actually, they’re more like wedge heels, because regular high heels give me back ache.

8.  I’m a terrible cook. I’m that mother at school who, when there’s a cake sale on, buys ready baked cakes from the supermarket and dresses them up as her own. I usually buy chocolate fairy cakes with icing, melt a hole (using a teaspoon dipped in boiling water) in the middle and stick in a sweetie for decoration. They sell like hot cakes (excuse the pun!)

9.  I’ve got a shoe collection to rival Imelda Marcos. Well, ok, perhaps I don’t have that many, but I have a serious addiction. I acquire shoes which I sometimes don’t even ever wear because they’re too uncomfortable and yet I never give them away, because one day I might just wear them. Plus now my youngest daughter uses them as dressing up clothes. There are several high wedges which she has her eye on for when she grows up.

10.  I’m obsessed with hanging my washing out in the garden. This is a mixture of wanting to be environmentally friendly (i.e. not putting the drier on) and between loving the smell of clothes that have been dried outside. I always watch the TV weather forecast in the morning (you have to be careful putting washing out with the weather we have in London!) to see if it’s feasible.

Thank you for sharing Jo!  I used to love wearing high heels to add to my short stature but alas the knees and ankles don't tolerate them any longer!


“We got so busy living life that we forgot to live our dreams.”

Danni Lewis has been playing it safe for twenty-six years, but her sheltered existence is making her feel old ahead of time. When a sudden death plunges her into a spiral of grief, she throws caution to the wind and runs away to France in search of a new beginning.

The moment ski instructor Olivier du Pape enters her shattered world she falls hard, in more ways than one.

Their mutual desire is as powerful and seductive as the mountains around them. His dark gypsy looks and piercing blue eyes are irresistible.

Only she must resist, because he has a wife – and she’d made a pact to never get involved with a married man.

But how do you choose between keeping your word and being true to your soul?


Late afternoon Olivier and I are playing with interlocked fingers, sitting side by side on the balcony step, basking in the sun.

“I’ve been thinking about your birthday. Is there anything in particular that you’d like to do?” he asks.

I shrug.

“I don’t think so. Birthdays are no big deal and twenty-seven is hardly one of the big ones.”

It’s getting dangerously close to thirty and my life is still not exactly sorted. He rubs it in.

“There’s only three more years to go until you join my decade! Look, forget about it being your birthday. Let’s just say we’ve got an evening to spend together to do something a bit different. What would you like to do then?”

I’m not brave enough to ask what’s going to happen to us, to ask whether he’s going to have left his wife by then, or whether he’s expecting me to stay as his bit on the side. But perhaps I won’t need to. Because if I can summon enough courage to tell him exactly what I’d really like to do for my birthday, his answer will probably tell me all I need to know. There is something I’ve been desperate to do since we got together, but it’s not been possible seeing as our affair has to be kept secret. It doesn’t seem much to ask and for most couples it’s the simplest thing to do. I can’t bear to look at his face, to see his expression or to read his reaction, so I fixate on our fingers instead, making pretty puppet patterns.

“Actually, there is something I’d like to do,” I say. “I’d like to go out and eat at a restaurant, just you and me.”

He’s silent for the longest moment. His fingers stop moving and so, it feels, does my heart.

“Do you know how difficult that is for me Danni?”

His face is tight and serious when I look up and drown in his clear blue stare. I can barely breathe. It feels like the question mark hanging over our relationship and future has just jumped off the page, quadrupled in size and wrapped itself tight around my windpipe.


When Jo was ten years old she wrote a short story about losing a loved one. Her mother and big sister were so moved by the tale that it made them cry. Having reduced them to tears she vowed that the next time she wrote a story it would make them smile instead. Happily she succeeded and with this success grew an addiction for wanting to reach out and touch people with words. Jo lives in London with her husband and three children where she works as a TV and print journalist. She tells life stories and can often be found travelling the globe researching the next big holiday hotspots for readers to enjoy. Since becoming a mother anything even remotely sad makes her cry. She’s a sucker for a good romance and tear-jerker movies are the worst. She’s that woman in the cinema, struggling to muffle audible wails as everyone else turns round to stare.

P.S Jo’s pretty certain one of her daughters has inherited this gene.          

Weak at the Knees U.S. Amazon buy link

I love to hear from my readers and they can connect with me on:
My website 


GIVEAWAY:  For a chance to win a $50 Amazon or gift card please leave a comment about whether you have read any new adult books lately and what you think about the genre.  Don't forget to use the rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To find other tour stops please go to this link

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Switching Gears book blast (adult title), giveaway and review

Switching Gears
by Megan Slayer is an ADULT title




Ethan’s about to meet his match in the last person he ever expected.
Ethan Long is a man on a mission—finish well and he gets to keep his ride at Flash Racing. Continue to crash and his racing days will be numbered. Other than being behind the wheel of a race vehicle, this good-looking hotshot hasn’t got the first clue how to harness his ego or his talent. Until he locks gazes with Royce. Then all bets are off.
Royce Darden doesn’t play around. His no-nonsense attitude propelled him to the head of the merchandise sales at Flash. He’s good with numbers and facts…and a crop. Few people know about his wilder side and what he needs in bed. He sees the inner submissive in Ethan screaming for a turn. Can Royce convince the young driver that switching gears could be the key to his racing future?




“You’re only hot shit until the next wonder kid comes along. Prove why you’ve got staying power so Collin will have to keep you around.” Royce gasped for breath. Few people worked him up to the point of yelling. Ethan had made the short list. Royce shoved both hands into his hair. “Maybe no one has ever told you no, but I will. Stop being a shit so you can do what you love.”

Ethan didn’t say anything for the longest time. He stared toward the floor and shuffled his boot-clad feet.

“Thanks,” Ethan mumbled. “Collin told me we needed to hang out more. Said you’d be able to sell my crap better if you got to know me. Sounds like you already do.”

Before Royce could respond, Ethan met his gaze and grinned. “Now, do you want to fuck?”

“You can’t be serious.” So much for the emotional breakthrough Royce had expected.

“I can be, and I am.” The grin widened. Ethan winked then headed to the back of the motor coach. “And you can’t knock a guy for trying. Now, where do we sleep while this sucker’s in motion? Ooh! Bunks. Top one’s mine.”

Royce groaned. Dear Lord, this would be a long ride.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

When she's not writing the stories in her head, Megan Slayer can be found luxuriating in her hot tub with her two vampire Cabana boys, Luke and Jeremy. She has the tendency to run a tad too far with her muse, so she has to hide in the head of her alter ego, but the boys don't seem to mind.

When she’s not obsessing over her whip collection, she can be found picking up her kidlet from school. She enjoys writing in all genres, but writing about men in love suits her fancy best. The cabana boys are willing to serve, unless she needs them. She always need them. So be nice to Javier or he will bite--on command.

She also masquerades under the name Wendi Zwaduk and is published through Changeling Press, Decadent Publishing, Liquid Silver Books, MLR Press, Resplendence Publishing, and Total-E-Bound Publishing.

Megan’s website

Megan’s blog

Megan on Amazon

Megan on Goodreads

Megan on Facebook

Megan on Twitter


Buy Links:
Resplendence Publishing link
Amazon link
ARe link

My review:

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

“Switching Gears” by Megan Slayer is part of the ‘Track Domination’ series that features   the members of the Flash Racing team of truck racers.  Ethan Long has been erratic around the track but his tendency to destroy his trucks and his bad boy image makes his boss Collin resort to requesting that Royce Darden use his skills as a Dom and his knowledge of merchandising to guide the young driver to a winning career.  The strong attraction between the two is enhanced by Ethan’s desire to submit to Royce but only in their private relationship, the hardheaded driver is unwilling to change his behavior anywhere else. Royce will have to decide how to reach the man who has come to mean  more to him than he is quite ready to admit.

This m/m erotic read returns to the exciting world of truck racing and gives an interesting glimpse of the inner machinations involved in the sport.  I am not a big racing fan but was intrigued by some of the differences between this and NASCAR although I was a bit disconcerted by Ethan’s tendency to crash his truck, lol.  The series continues to give insight into more of the characters and although I felt the storyline was a bit jerky in this particular tale, it is nice to see glimpses of the other characters and to get more peeks at all that is involved in these particular races.  I hope to see a bit more in depth exploration of the characters as the series continues although I realize that there are limitations imposed by the length of the story.  An entertaining quick light read.


Megan will be awarding a Bracelet/earring set - handmade in team colors of black and red, to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
Please leave a comment with a valid e-mail address about whether you are a fan of racing and if so, which type.

For additional chances, please find the other stops on the tour at this link

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Contests, specials and whatnots (updated 9/24/13)

I am overblessed with things to do right now...gulp, I suddenly realized I was overdue on a few reviews so I have to get to those...but I got distracted by all of the great contests that are going on!  Sadly, I did not make it through all of the blogs that were featured on the Fall Into Romance hop but there were certainly quite a few new ones for me to become intrigued by.

So...if you have a few hours (and your wrists hold up)...there are lots of great things going on right now...

The 100th Sunday Snog (that's kissing for those non-Anglophiles) is at this link

Night Owl Reviews has its Halloween Scavenger Hunt at this link

Prism Book Group is celebrating its anniversary at this link

Congratulations to Mary at the Dark Thoughts blog!  She is celebrating her 1000th blog post (plus several other accomplishments) with a giveaway at this link.

A Rush of Wings by Adrian Phoenix is one of the free reads at XOXO After Dark at this link.  I love this series and there is a new addition to the series releasing on September 24 (On Midnight Wings) that I have on my soon to be read and reviewed list!



Lynne Connolly is offering the delicious novella In the Mood for free for a limited time. This is a great series about a rock band and its members, the newest is just out (Fascinating Rhythm)

In the Mood (Nightstar, Book One) Amazon link

Don't forget that the first in Lisa Renee Jones' 'Inside Out' series, If I Were You is also a free read at XOXO After Dark for only a few more days. And don't forget to stop by Lisa's blog on Mondays for the delicious recipes that Rachel posts and for a chance at a lovely prize!   Link

The delightful Sabrina York has THREE different titles for only $0.99 each...


Fierce (1Night Stand Series)
Dragonfly Kisses (Tryst Island Series)
Smoking Holt (Tryst Island Series) (my review is at this link)


Tara Lain has another fun addition to her 'Balls to the Wall' series, called F.A.S.T. Balls and she is celebrating at this link!

FAST Balls (Balls to the Wall) Amazon Link

and you can join the Sunset on Summer Fun blog hop at this link.

There are tons more contests so make sure you pay attention when you do the hops because the blogs are usually participating in others.

I will try to update when I have time but don't hold your breath, lol.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Wolf Sirens: Fever (Celestial Book Productions)

The Wolf Sirens:  Fever  by Tina Smith

Eternally Cursed to Love & Not Purely Desire…

Temperatures rise as the flames of longing still burn in the thrilling sequel to Wolf Sirens: Forbidden.

The legend continues. Apollo, god of deadly plague, conspires to undo his sister’s legacy.

The wolves exist between two worlds, one in the town and another in the forest.

 Prophecy says hunters and wolves are cursed to a mutual attraction. Increasingly, each successive slayer becomes more alluring to the wolf. The predestined enemies struggle, to both resist and contain their fierce rivalry in a conflict powerful enough to tear two worlds apart.

A shadow has fallen over the heartlands of myth and reality. The chosen is reborn broken-hearted, in the scorching embers of grief. Devastated, Lila trains tirelessly as the assassin. She must submit to deliver justice and protect the innocent of Shade.

 But is it love or revenge which motivates her?

  Will the huntress or her heart prevail?

Breaking away from the call of destiny and fearing betrayal, Lila makes a desperate escape in search of her lost beloved. The intensity between two ancient enemies ignites. The history of the wolf pack is revealed as devotion and desire in the underworld reaches fever pitch.

If The Bite Doesn't Get You, Then the Fever Will

About the Author:  


Tina Smith is an herbalist, dog lover, Piscean and mother with a fondness for strong female protagonist's. A love of the fantasy genre and the deep exploration of dark and evocative subjects inspired Wolf Sirens Forbidden. The sequel Fever further unfolds the tale of the heroine femme fatale, on her journey in the underworld between the lands of myth and reality.

Comments about the book:

  “Rich, complex, and deeply fascinating. Smith’s creation stands apart from other books in the genre. Wolf Sirens has raised the bar for paranormal romance.”- Kevis Hendrickson, author of Rogue Hunter

"Smith weaves a thrilling and beautifully crafted tale that sinks its fangs in and refuses to let go."- Michael Alexander, author of The Vessel

“Fever does not disappoint! Tina Smith captures her readers on the first page and leads them on a fast-paced journey full of suspense and adventure as heroine, Lila, struggles towards the truth.” - Beverley Eikli, author of A Little Deception

Purchase Link:
Wolf Sirens #2: Fever: Many are Born, Few are Reborn (Amazon link)


International: a Rafflecopter giveaway

US: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cold by Stella Cameron

I am delighted to feature Stella Cameron's newest book, Cold
It is on my review pile and I am anxious to get to it!  I am delighted to be able to share some information that was provided to me.

Introducing Alex Duggins

Stella Cameron is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author.

With over fourteen million copies of her books in print, Cameron is now turning her pen to mysteries and independently publishing COLD, introducing Alex Duggins. She draws on her English background for this new, already critically acclaimed mystery series.

Atmospheric, deeply character and relationship driven, COLD reveals the power of old secrets to twist the present. Cameron's reputation for using her backgrounds to add tension and allure to her stories is heightened again.

Cameron is the recipient of the Pacific Northwest Achievement Award for distinguished professional achievement and for enhancing the stature of the Northwest Literary community.  She lives in Washington with her husband Jerry, her Papillon Millie, black cat Zipper, and a cheeky little tabby named Jack.

FAQ for COLD, Introducing Alex Duggins

Why did you choose the Cotswolds as the setting for COLD?

The Cotswold Hills are a treasure trove of mysterious villages with cottage windows that cry out for me to tell stories about the folks who live in them. History doesn't have to be searched out, it's stamped on the faces of churches, shops, pubs, tithe barns, markets still held where they have been for hundreds of
years, cobbled alleys and streets, and even in the cadence of the people's voices.

This is a place rich with atmosphere, it's a haven for someone like me who sits quietly, observes and spins tales. I think the Cotswolds chose me to tell the story in COLD.

All of the characters in this book are memorable, but Bogie really stands out. What can youtell us about him?

Bogie, who becomes Alex Duggins’ dog, is named after a dear reader's dog. I held a sweepstakes to find just the right name and along came Bogie who was randomly selected from hundreds of entries. Even more lucky, I have now met this lovely little furry boy, taken him on a walk, sat with him on my lap while I told him how handsome he is! After spending time with him, I knew he had to have more than just a walk-on part in COLD.

Many readers may recognize you from your successful career as a romantic suspense writer. Why the switch to mystery?

I've never written a book that has no mystery/thriller elements. When a story develops for me, a mystery wraps itself around the plot and the mystery and thriller threads not only demand equal time with a romance but I make a conscious effort to balance the two. Romantic suspense is wonderful to work with but I'm a very natural mystery writer and I'm ready to devote myself to the genre.

After so many years of writing under contract, why have you decided to independently publish COLD?

Stereotyping doesn't just happen in the acting world, it's rife in publishing. If a writer is successful, as I am, in one genre, traditional publishers are reluctant to take on what is essentially a total makeover of an author. Since I have no such hangups and I've gathered an accomplished support team around me, all I
feel is excitement at the challenge and confident I'm making the right choice.

Coming in September from easyepublish
Available in eBook and Print On Demand * 254 pages * eISBN
* $5.99 (eBook)

Amazon purchase link


Introducing Alex Duggins


Starting over is never easy but there's nothing like discovering a dead body to really complicate things. Alex Duggins left London to return to the small town where she grew up. Now she finds herself a suspect in the mysterious death of a stranger.

When she launches her own investigation the killer sets out to make her the next victim.

New York Times Bestselling romantic-suspense novelist Stella Cameron turns her pen to the mystery genre with brilliant success, drawing readers into the secretive world of Folly-on-Weir in the English Cotswolds.

Praise for COLD

“an intriguing cast of characters laden with dark histories. A thrilling conclusion, combined with cliffhanger chapter endings, guarantees readers will be flipping the pages late into the night.” --Library

"Cameron digs deep into the dirt of an idyllic English village when the past comes back to haunt the present for the sharply-etched townsfolk in this chilling tale of murder." --Bestselling Author Mary Daheim

"COLD is fast-paced, edgy, and wonderfully atmospheric." --New York Times Bestselling Author Jayne Ann Krentz


NOTE:  If you are fond of giveaways (and who isn't?), please scroll back a few posts and look for the various tours that I am part of...there are several books and other prizes available!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Maven and Nemesis (review) blog tour


by S.A. Huchton continues an exciting young adult science fiction series.  I have the pleasure of presenting a guest post from the author as well as excerpts from both books...and, don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter (and please leave a meaningful comment for the author).


The Courage to Be Niche
S. A. Huchton

When I sat down and started writing Maven, I didn’t give it a second thought. A romance between a scientist and a techie on the ocean floor? Sure, why not? Set it forty years in the future? Done. What’s the big deal?

It didn’t occur to me until the first book was complete that it might be a problem. Would anyone want to read this thing? Would Romance readers welcome the sci-fi angle? And Sci-Fi readers, how were they going to react to all these… emotions? I had a moment of panic. I created something I didn’t have a name for.

But then I went digging around the internet. I discovered that there were others writing these same kinds of stories. I found and embraced the SFR Brigade. I read up on the history of writers putting romance in their Science Fiction.

Still, I was hesitant. I wasn’t writing about aliens, or space, or far-flung worlds hundreds of years in the future. To make it more confusing, Maven is also New Adult; not YA or straight-up Adult. I’m niche within a niche. Terrifying? You bet.

So, I had a choice to make. I could either shelve this project and let it become one of those trunk novels that authors hide away to use bits and pieces of in later works. Or, I could embrace it. I could own up to everything the book was and wasn’t and send it out into the world, having faith that it would find the right readers.

It was scary, sure, but the book needed to be seen. As an author, you have to develop a thick skin. You have to have faith in your work. If you don’t, no one else will. I had to put aside my doubts about the reception I’d get from hard-core Sci-Fi or Romance fans and remember that I love my story, I love my characters. Even if there was only one other person out there who would love this book too, that was worth the risk.

The week leading up to Maven’s release date, the internet exploded with blog posts about misogyny in genre fiction. It was nerve-wracking, although, really, it’s not a new issue. Now more than ever, I was calling into question my ability to fight the battles I was sure to face. But, you can’t keep a good writer down.

While I can’t say that I’ve set any best-seller lists on fire with Maven, or the sequel, Nemesis, I can say that the book has been well-received by those who have given it a chance. Romance readers are finding the science accessible and not long-winded, and Sci-Fi readers are finding it well-researched and plausible. People I’ve never met are picking up the series and discovering the world I’ve created in the Endure series, and that makes me happier than I can say. Every writer harbors that fear that their mother will be the only one to buy their book, so it’s a beautiful thing when I see ratings and reviews from strangers. It means I’m reaching out to the world and sharing with others, and that others are recommending my work.

And really, that’s the whole point. It’s about connecting. Connections keep us human. Connections power the world. If I connect with only one reader, I consider it a win.

(A note from ELF:  Congrats on melding the two worlds together and garnering even more science fiction fans!)


Maven (The Endure series, book 1)
By S.A. Huchton
Genre: New Adult Sci-Fi Romance
Available Now: Maven (The Endure Series) Amazon link | Goodreads |Barnes & Noble | Smashwords


"How far would you go for love?

Since losing her parents at 14, young prodigy Dr. Lydia Ashley has focused on one thing: an appointment on the Deep Water Research Command Endure. Now 21, she’s about to realize that dream, but nothing is how she imagined it would be. Her transitional sponsor forgets her, her new lab is in complete chaos, and, as if that weren’t enough, she’s about to discover something so horrific it could potentially destroy all life on the planet.

Daniel Brewer, a noted playboy and genius in his own right, may be exactly what she needs… Or he may make everything worse.

Has she finally found a puzzle she can’t solve?"


"Close your eyes," he said before opening the doors.


"Just do it." He smiled reassuringly.

Lydia sighed and shut her eyes. Daniel pressed his thumb to the scanner and the large bay doors parted. At her back, he guided her forward by the shoulders until she was a few feet from the stairs. Then he stepped around her. He wanted to see her reaction.

"Okay, you can look."

Her dark eyes opened, then widened at the sight before her. "Can I go up?" she asked.

Daniel nodded. After seeing her panicked state earlier, he thought she could probably use a distraction. Lydia raced up the six steps to the edge of the tank. Three sleek, gray heads popped above the surface to greet her. Two others hung back, the meeker of the pod, waiting for the verdict from the more outgoing ones.

"This is Gracie, the mother hen of our resident dolphin pod. You can recognize her by the heart-shaped spot between her eyes."

Lydia's grin was a mile wide. "Hello, Gracie. Nice to meet you." She reached out and touched the nearest dolphin. It rose to meet her, answering her greeting with a click and a whistle.

"This is Dora, Gracie's oldest daughter. She has an indentation on the top of her dorsal fin due to a run in with a shark. We almost lost her that time. She's a bit too friendly for her own good."

"Fozi is the youngest of the pod, a male. He's smaller than the others, but twice as loud." Daniel stroked the top of the dolphin's melon as he swam by.

"Back there are Lucinda and Talulah, impossibly rare twin girls. In the case of dolphin twins, one of them is usually stillborn or dies soon after birth. Those two are fighters, and stick together like nothing I've seen, but they also shy away from strangers."

Lydia looked elated. "They're beautiful. I've been wanting to see them since I got here. I was starting to think they were avoiding me."

"Not at all," Daniel said. "At this time of year they spend more time out than in."

"I wish we had one of their tubes running through the lab," she said. "They'd be a welcome sight every now and again."

"I know what you mean. I'd love to have them in the Tech Center too." He laughed as Gracie nudged her way in for another one of Lydia's pats. "She likes you. They aren't always so welcoming."

"Have you been successful in teaching them hand signals?"

He nodded. "Absolutely. The twins were pretty stubborn about it, but even they know twenty or more different signs. Daniel made two pumping motions with his right index finger. As Lydia reached out to touch Dora, she was met with a light spray of water from her blowhole. Daniel couldn't help but laugh loudly as she gasped in shock.

"Very funny," she said, wiping saltwater off of her face.

Daniel tossed her a towel hanging from a rack on the wall. "Just wanted to prove a point." He winked.

"Mission accomplished," she said through the terrycloth. "Speaking of, didn't we come here for something?"

"Oh, right." Daniel removed the drive from his pocket. He hopped down the stairs and grabbed a stepladder. Placing it against the wall, he climbed up and stuck the drive inside a container on a high shelf.

"You don't think someone will find it there?" Lydia asked.

"Nah," he said, pushing the container to the back. "They only use this stuff once every other year for a SCUBA class. That happened last month so I think we're safe for awhile."

He mounted the stairs again and perched on the tank edge next to her. "How are you doing?"

"Better, thanks," she said, running her hand along Fozi's side. "I still have this sick feeling of violation, but it's getting better."


She said nothing for a moment and was very quiet when she spoke again. "Since my family died, I haven't really felt comfortable anywhere. I've spent the last six years wanting nothing more than a place on the Endure. Coming here was like..." She stopped, swallowed, and began again. "Coming here was like coming home. To know that a place I care about so deeply, and my own lab at that, was abused for something so despicable... Yeah. Violation is the best word I can think of, but even that's an understatement."

Daniel reached out and laid a hand on her shoulder. He had been with the Endure since the beginning, but hadn't ever stopped to think if he considered this place as home. "Hey," he said, and she looked at him. "We'll get to the bottom of it. We'll fix it. Both of us."

She gave him a half-hearted smile. "I hope so, Daniel. I really do."

Nemesis (The Endure series, book 2)
by S. A. Huchton
Genre: Science Fiction Romance (New Adult)
Available Now: Goodreads | Nemesis (The Endure Series, book 2) Amazon link| Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Book Description:

"Tech genius Daniel Brewer isn't the only one with a romantic history. Already weighed down with the impossible problem of the Maven Initiative's plans for world domination and disaster, Dr. Lydia Ashley is finding it more and more difficult to keep things in balance. With an old flame reappearing and the schemes of a vindictive new rival thrown into the mix, her hopes for a life with Daniel may be on the brink of annihilation.

When Lydia's past is brought to light, one big secret could destroy everything."


At 1045, there was a quiet rapping at her door. Lydia turned to see Dr. Corvis standing there, smiling politely. It was like watching a shark circling for an attack.

"Do you need something, Dr. Corvis?" Lydia said.

"Dr. Miller and I have worked out a possible sequence of alterations for one of the bacteria. Care to take a look?"

Sure she was walking into a trap, Lydia agreed anyway. One of the work stations had been arranged with four different devices: an electron microscope, a centrifuge, a chromosome splitter more compact than any she had seen before, and a rotating rack for petri dishes.

"Where did that come from?" She indicated the splitter. The display screen on the top showed a squirming object, pinned in place by the microlasers hovering above the sample tray. The controls hummed, waiting for their next command.

"My own personal stash," Nick said, coming up behind her. He was closer than she would've liked, but given the confines of the area there wasn't anything for it.

Lydia was stunned. "You own a chromosome splitter? How did you afford that?"

Nick shrugged. "It was a gift from Dr. DeBeauvoir."

"He's as generous as he is brilliant," Dr. Corvis gushed.

"Uh huh." Lydia gave her a sidelong glance. "So what have you been working on?"

Dr. Corvis answered for him. "Dr. Miller had some amazing insights on how to achieve the necessary virulence while maintaining its water-borne nature."

"You figured that out? That was the one thing I was dreading the most. I had hoped to find a workaround so I wouldn't mess with bacteria's environmental needs." What Lydia hadn't said was that she was terrified of creating some super bug that would become airborne and infect everyone on the station.

Nick moved over to the electron microscope and looked into the eyepiece, adjusting the focus. "If you take a look here, you can see the segment of the chromosome we're targeting."

He took a step back and she positioned herself in front of the device. "What am I looking at, exactly?"

Nick leaned against the table, closing the distance between them some. He was close enough that she caught the scent of sandalwood from the soap he'd used since she'd known him at Stanford. Focus, she reminded herself.

"These base pairs are responsible for virulence and environment adaptation. They're right beside one another so it can be difficult to separate them. You have to know exactly what you're doing or you could wind up with something really nasty."

Lydia looked up from the eyepiece and was startled to find his face less than a foot away from her own. "Good thing you're here to make sure we don't do that then, I guess." She sounded like an idiot. His proximity was flustering her.

"I was about to make the first cut with the splitter, but I wanted to show you one other thing first." Nick slid up to the microscope and she skittered away, as though he might burn her if they touched.

If he noticed, he didn't show it. He made another slight adjustment to the eyepiece. "Here." They traded places again. "This is the chromosome segment responsible for host selection. According to Anna, this was being altered to make it viable on multiple cellular types. What this basically means is that the cell wall degradation mechanism will be much more powerful and adapted to both rigid cells from plants and softer cells from animals. Really wicked stuff."

He was calling her Anna already? Damn. That woman worked fast. 

She pushed it aside. Lydia focused on what was important: a bacterium that could attack both flora and fauna. Something that strong could be devastating. "So it feeds off of organic material then, but doesn't discriminate in regards to the source? The environmental impact that will have..." Lydia rubbed her forehead. 

"Not only on human life. Anything within the release area will be obliterated."

"It's designed to only work for a certain period of time, within a certain range, remember," Dr. Corvis offered. Was she really defending the Maven Initiative? "The nanotags will ensure self-destruction of any infected phytoplankton outside that."
Lydia gaped at her. "And so that makes it okay?"

She shrugged. "To them, it was acceptable."


"Now I'll show you how to split the base pairs and graft the new ones," Nick said. Her spine went rigid as his hand touched the small of her back, ushering her towards the other piece of equipment. Fortunately, there wasn't far to go and the contact was brief.

Nick's hand grasped the controls, strong and steady. He talked her through the operation, explaining where the precise cuts needed to be made and directing the microlasers expertly.

"Did you do a lot of this with Dr. DeBeauvoir?" she asked.

"Not at first," he said, keeping his eyes on the screen. "But the last two years I was in the lab almost exclusively. I got a lot of practice with this thing. They were upgrading the equipment when I left so that's why I didn't feel guilty when they sent me away with this baby. We have spent many an hour together, Sheila and I."

She tried not to laugh, but couldn't help herself. "You named the splitter Sheila?"

"I thought about calling it Lydia, but that seemed inappropriate given the circumstances."

Her face burned as Dr. Corvis giggled. She actually giggled. Lydia was mortified, and Nick didn't so much as crack a smile. He couldn't be serious.

"There." He finished the cut and turned back to her. "Want to give it a try?"

Reining in her embarrassment, she nodded and stepped up to the controls. Nick loaded up another sample. He reached in front of her and punched in the autofocus on the sample camera. Another hit of sandalwood drifted up to her, scattering her thoughts.

"You're looking for the eighteenth base pair," he said, directing her where to shift the sample plate. "Stop."

She had to remind herself to breathe. With the way her entire body was shaking, she would probably wind up creating a highly virulent super bacterium.

"Good, now lock in the sample position."

Lydia flipped a switch and six microlasers pinned the sample in place.

"This is the tricky part," Nick said. "You have to have the right touch."

Every nerve in her body electrified as Nick slid behind her and wrapped his hands around hers. If she wasn't seven shades of scarlet before, she absolutely was now. This was not happening. No way was this professional by any stretch of the imagination.

"Slowly... slowly... now cut."

Her thumbs pressed down on the buttons to fire the incision lasers, and she was careful not to jerk away as soon as it was done.

"Perfect," he said, leaning over her shoulder to smile at her.

Right on cue, a throat cleared and she jumped, pushing away from both the machine and Dr. Miller.

Daniel was standing not ten feet away, looking none too happy about what he'd walked in on.

"We're dicing bacterial DNA," she blurted. "Dr. Miller was demonstrating how his equipment worked."

His eyebrow twitched and somewhere behind her, Dr. Corvis coughed to hide her laughter. Maybe her word choice had been a little questionable, but her brain was scrambled.

"Daniel Brewer, right?" Nick strode forward, hand extended. "I don't think we've been properly introduced. Nick Miller."

Daniel was not impressed.

Lydia hurried forward, cutting Nick off before he got any closer and all but pushed Daniel toward the door. "Time for lunch? Great! I'm famished. Let's go."

She was pretty sure Dr. Harpy was still laughing when they left the lab. Apparently, she'd decided on a new plan of attack.

Author Bio & Links

Starla Huchton released her first novel, The Dreamer's Thread, as a full cast podcast production beginning in August 2009. Her first foray went on to become a double-nominee and finalist for the 2010 Parsec Awards.

Since her debut, Starla's voice has appeared in other podcasts including The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, The Drabblecast, and Erotica a la Carte. She is also a voice talent for Darkfire Productions, and narrates several of their projects, including The Emperor's Edge series, This Path We Share, and others.

Her writing has appeared in the Erotica a la Carte podcast, an episode of the Tales from the Archives podcast (the companion to Tee Morris and Philippa Balantine's Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series), which garnered her a second finalist badge from the 2012 Parsec Awards, and a short story for The Gearheart (earning her a third Parsec finalist badge).

Her second novel, a Steampunk adventure entitled Master of Myth, was the first place winner in the Fantasy/Science Fiction category of The Sandy Writing Contest held annually by the Crested Butte Writers Conference.

Maven was her third completed novel and the first in a planned series of four, being released under the name S. A. Huchton. Nemesis is the second in the Endure series.

After completing her degree in Graphic Arts, Starla opened up shop as a freelance graphic designer focusing on creating beautiful book covers for independent authors and publishers. She currently lives in Virginia where she trains her three Minions and military husband.


My review:

Nemesis by S.A. Huchton is the new adult science fiction that continues the saga started with Maven in the ‘Endure’ series.  The hunt continues for a way to combat the deadly biological weapons being created and the search for hidden enemies is ongoing.  A request for outside assistance results in a complication for the blossoming romance between scientist Lydia Ashley and computer whiz Daniel Brewer and their relationship is sorely tested by the various strains that they both are facing.  The possibility of traitors within their own ranks adds to the tension as the NEMESIS (Naval Exploratory Mission: Endure Suboceanic Investigation Squad) team search for their own nemesis before time runs out.

This entertaining science fiction series continues to demonstrate interesting aspects of the natural world as it explores the various aspects of science which impact on our lives.  The use of biological terms as chapter headings encourages one to explore and expand one’s knowledge base even as the various complicated relationships depicted keep one invested in the story.  There is a bit too much angst for my personal tastes but one cannot help but sympathize with the conflicted feelings that the main characters are experiencing as their respective pasts impact their present relationships.  Some of the secondary characters demonstrate behavior changes that don’t seem to be quite logical to me and the way Daniel and Lydia deal with their conflict is a bit illogical for my tastes but undoubtedly needed to carry the storyline along. Nonetheless, this is a very fun read and a nice addition to the series and I look forward to even more adventures featuring these characters.

A copy of this title was provided to me in exchange for an honest review (which has been submitted to Night Owl Reviews)

(My review of Maven is at this link)


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Print and ebook copies of MAVEN and NEMESIS
An Angkor Wat postcard signed by Daniel
Sandalwood Vanilla goat's milk soap handcrafted in small batches by Haldecraft
3 oz of Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls (green tea) from Teavana
Stonewear infuser mug with lid
MAVEN and NEMESIS postcards with party mustaches!

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