Friday, February 27, 2015

Trust No One by Jayne Anne Krentz (review)

4 out of 5 stars

Trust No One by Jayne Anne Krentz follows the path of Grace Elland, whose life makes it difficult to believe in the positive affirmations she is known for promoting after she finds her boss murdered.   Julius Arkwright isn't thrilled to have been set up on a blind date with Grace, but he has two maxims he lives by, one of which is to 'trust no one', which makes his attachment to the unexpectedly complex Grace surprising to them both.  An escalating threat to her makes her wary of more than just the motives of the man who seems determined to insinuate himself into her life and who understands more about her than she realizes.  The question is whether she is going to survive long enough to solve any of the mysteries that are surrounding her. 

This romantic suspense tale has plenty of twists and turns as the story unfolds with the flair that is characteristic of this talented author.  There were entertaining interactions between the determinedly cheerful heroine and the wary and opinionated hero but I wasn't quite as convinced of their immediate chemistry as I usually am and some of the secondary characters were a little frustrating and not well-developed enough to me.   I do enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling engendered by Grace's unconditional understanding of the type of man she knows Julius to be and the flowering of their relationship, and I love that Grace has unexpected depths, while I cheer at her self-reliance, even though she knows she has an ex-military man to depend on.  This is a fun and entertaining read and the glimpse of an upcoming release from this author definitely whetted my appetite for the next story from one of my favorite authors.

© Night Owl Reviews 

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Love's Last Bite by Viki Lyn and Vina Grey (VBB, excerpt and GIVEAWAY) ADULT title

Love's Last Bite is an ADULT title
by Viki Lyn and Vina Grey



Dark forces, a vampire, plus one sexy cop is a recipe for trouble.

VINCENT KAMATEROS is no longer the lonely exiled vampire running a cupcake shop, but the heir to his father’s throne.

JOHN REEDER is out and accepts his vampire lover, but he has to deal with his lover being destined to rule the vampire kingdom.

While Vince and John revel in their newfound love, dark forces are at work in Orbus Arcana, determined to keep the progressive Vince from becoming the next vampire king.

Time is short and decisions loom. Their irrevocable choices will change their lives forever.



Vincent’s gaze was liquid silver with emotion—love. John ran the tip of his tongue over his lips.

Vincent’s voice dropped, strange words rolling off his tongue like slow, late-night music.  Sexy and seductive, the vampire language snagged John’s attention, holding him a willing captive.

“What did you say just now? Are you going to force me to learn another language?” John teased. “Italian is hard enough.”

“In your blue eyes, my heart is captured. How will I ever find my way back? In your blue eyes, I find my guide on life’s journey. Don’t close your eyes to me, beloved, for then I surely will be lost.” 

Fearless. Fearless with his emotions. Fearless in love. That was the essence of Vincent.

John’s heart jumped in his throat. Jesus. Vincent held nothing back. Vincent had powerful strength and abilities, but his lover’s gentle nature was what he’d come to love the most. He’d allow no one to destroy this compassionate side of Vincent.

“Te amo.” John’s voice came out tight as he worked his throat.

Vincent closed his eyes for a brief moment. “And I thank the Creator every day for that.”

Vincent swallowed, the movement drawing attention to the sensual, long, brown column of his throat. Vincent took John’s mouth in a slow kiss, his tongue sliding inside, sweeping aside John’s worry, his dark flavor of wine, salt air and Vincent so intoxicating.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

An introvert and artist with a healthy dose of skepticism about life and love =Viki. An extrovert and academic and a die-hard romantic =Vina. It was so not a match made in heaven. But Viki and Vina discovered a mutual love of traveling around the world, the paranormal, good coffee, and a healthy admiration for their respective creativity. Sitting in a coffee shop one day, they started brainstorming about story plots and Vince and John and the car crash in the bakery. A story was born. Vina writes the sappy romance and Viki tempers it. Between them, they managed to find their boys a ‘happily ever after’.







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Friday, February 20, 2015

Elite Metal (Guest post, review, and GIVEAWAY) ADULT titles GFT

Please remember that these are ADULT titles

For an insight into the story behind this exciting boxed set, please read the guest post below:

What was the most difficult thing to overcome on your path to publishing this set?

-        Keeping everything consistent in the world has been by FAR the most difficult thing to overcome. When writing a book every author works differently to keep everything and everyone straight in a story. Spreadsheets / flow charts / piles of sticky notes – each of us is very different. Now…multiply that by 8 stories and 7 different authors. That’s 16 characters to keep straight along with side characters and baddies. Not to mention all of the places we have to keep straight for architecture. The Elite Compound. Operation Phoenix. Bone Daddy’s. We actually drew these things out on paper and kept master spreadsheets with multiple tabs to make sure everything stayed consistent. That’s 270,000 words to keep within the parameters of the series. YOWZA!

-        This boxed set isn’t 8 random stories thrown together with a pretty cover and a snazzy tag line. Elite Metal is one cohesive set with one story feeding the next, feeding the next. Can each story be read and enjoyed individually? Of course!  Each story has its own ARC and character goals and issues to work through. But each story also has other characters from the world in it. And they’re all working toward taking down Enemy #1. Red Wolf.

       This set’s taken us 8 months to put together. That’s an incredibly long time to work on a project. Especially when so many of us have written many many other stories during the same time frame. I told someone once that I think I have a filing system in my brain with the name of each of my books on the top of a different folder. I can put up project A and pull out project B. Never have trouble keeping them all straight. Not until this set. Even my memory got taxed on this one.

      I sure hope all the hard work pays off and people find this set and devour it. It’s a work of love and heart and soul and each one of us believes in it.

        And at the end, when you flip that last page over…we hope you’re eager for more!

Elite Metal
by Jennifer Kacey, Anna Alexander, Heather Long,  Rebecca Royce, Sabrina York, Saranna DeWylde, Roxie Rivera, 



For decades the US Marines funded a top-secret unit known as Elite Recon. A deadly group of men and women sent to infiltrate dozens of countries completely undetected. Mission objectives so extreme casualties were not only probable, but expected.

The current batch of operatives had returned from hundreds of assignments unscathed…until one mission went horribly wrong. Several men lost their lives and the group disbanded. The remaining leathernecks were scattered in the wind with new identities. They were told to blend in. Be normal. Or face being forever silenced just like their fallen brothers.

Now, two years later, each living member of the group is kidnapped and given a chance to make things right. But this time they’re no longer under the thumb of Uncle Sam. A mysterious private backer who knows about their past has brought them back together. No longer are they forced to turn a blind eye to the lost and forsaken.

A new life. A new future…Elite Metal.


Bound By Steele

By Anna Alexander and Jennifer Kacey

To save his Marine brothers and sister he must accept the past isn’t dead and buried. Reuniting survivors means he is forced to first forgive…the enemy.

Steele, the man he was, died. A civilian with a new name stands in his place in the wake of death. Everything he had, lost when his undercover contact, Venus, disappeared when it counted most. In the shadow of regret, Steele is reborn from the flames of a Phoenix. To right the wrongs that destroyed his military family, he must put his trust in the hands of a mysterious backer, and the woman who led his team to the slaughter.

Not knowing who sold her out at the final hour, Alayna Devlin, spent the last two years on the run. Then the mastermind behind Elite Metal tracked her down, and offered her the chance to atone for past mistakes. To cleanse her conscience requires a baptism by fire and submission to the man who will either put the final nail in her coffin or set her heart free.

The past. The future. Truth. Lies. Nothing is as it seems when two shattered hearts are finally given the chance to heal.


Chrome’s Salvation

By Jennifer Kacey

A former leader of Elite Recon, reduced to nothing more than an apathetic existence.

Until his girl’s life hangs in the balance…now nothing will stand in the way of him coming back to life.

Chrome had it all. Exactly what he wanted. A career in the Marines he loved, fighting alongside his brothers and sisters to protect the US from everything set out to destroy it. Then on their last mission as Elite Recon they were double-crossed…and everything went horribly wrong.

Cammie needs help rescuing her siblings from the clutches of a man determined to crush everything she holds dear. But she has no one to turn to. No one to lean on when she’s trapped in a world she never knew existed. Lost in a world of pseudo-normalcy Chrome’s reduced to nothing more than existing. Day in. Day out. Nothing to live for.

Until his girl’s life hangs in the balance. Now nothing will stand in his way of coming back to life.

Love at first sight is a myth. Or so Chrome thought. Everything he thinks is true disappears in the presence…of his salvation.


Adamantium’s Roar

By Anna Alexander

Adamantium left Beth to what he thought was a better life, only to find she had been living in hell. Now he’ll do anything, break any vow, to claim her as his for all time.

Adamantium feels right at home being back to what he does best with his Elite Metal buddies, especially if it keeps his mind off her. Beth Bradshaw. His best friend’s girl. But when their paths cross again, he discovers Beth is in the hands of a dangerous man. Vow or now vow to his Elite Metal family, Ant will do anything to claim the woman he loves.


Pure Copper

By Heather Long

Copper will do whatever it takes to get the job done, even if it means seducing and betraying the one man who really sees her.

Former Marine special forces, Sachi “Copper” James is a chameleon. She thrives on being someone else. Her mission? Identify the rat who sold her team bad intel. Gabriel Danvers, ex-CIA analyst, is a master of disseminating the details. He wants to enjoy a normal life, retired from the game. His mission? Teach classes.

When Gabriel becomes the target of Copper’s investigation, he re-enters a world of danger and deception--all to claim the passion of the one woman who’s haunted him for years.


Sterling’s Seduction

By Sabrina York

When a snoopy reporter threatens the Elite Metal, Sterling will do whatever it takes to kill her story about the team. Even if it means he has to tie her to his bed.

When Sterling spots a reporter masquerading as a waitress in a dingy bar in Deep Ellum, he suspects she’s investigating the team. And that’s something he just cannot allow to happen. Too many lives are at stake. He will do everything in his power to learn the truth—even seduce her. And to stop her story from coming out? He might even tie her to the bed.

Nothing is off the table when it comes to keeping his brothers safe. Nothing. It’s a damn shame she’s everything he’s ever wanted. It’s a damn shame her touch warms his cold, dead heart.


Platinum’s Choice

By Rebecca Royce

Platinum left the life he had with Rose in New York to rejoin his team and silence the nightmares from Operation Phoenix. But when Rose is forced to go on the run with Platinum’s hidden son, he will have no choice but to return to his old life and reclaim what he has ached for every day since. Red Wolf’s sniper wants to nudge Plat’s underbelly and they’re going to find out quickly how deadly he can be.

Platinum was a man of few words before he changed his name and had his sniper rifle taken away. But as Elijah, he could start over, maybe even fall in love with his hidden son's Kindergarten teacher, Rose. But Platinum is reborn when Elijah is kidnapped, so he's left with no choice but to vanish, leaving Rose to wonder about his fate, broken-hearted.

Rose has spent the last year getting over the disappearance of the man she knew as Eli. Now, alone and terrified, she finds herself on the run from a sniper while trying to hide a scared little boy from certain death.

Red Wolf's crew isn't done with Plat, and his soft underbelly is just the place to nudge. Sniper vs. sniper, Platinum will reclaim what is his. That is, if she'll even have him back...


Mercury’s Poison

By Saranna DeWylde

A scarred, mad genius more monster than man must protect the beauty he's become obsessed with from a beast more terrible than himself.

Serum 17 took his face, took his kindness and took his empathy. It took, in essence, all of John Thrace leaving only the Elite Metal operative "Mercury" in his place. A man marked with a biohazard tattoo because he knows he's incompatible with other living things. Until he becomes obsessed with the seemingly innocent doctor Hazel Brewer and a chance encounter changes everything.

Hazel knows the giant scarred man won't hurt her, even though she's in the business of saving lives and he'd rather take them. In fact, she's never felt safer or more alive than when she's with him. Even when a terrible biological weapon forces her into his arms for a night of hot passion she won't soon forget.

Their love could be the redemption he never thought he wanted, or something even more toxic: Mercury's poison.


Forged in Silver

By Roxie Rivera

Rebel. Nomad. Troublemaker.

After surviving the double-cross during Operation Phoenix, Former Elite Recon Marine Silver embraces the underworld and builds a new life as one of the world's most renowned thieves. Jewels, paintings, corporate espionage--there's no job he won't take for the right price.

Until Poppy Jones orders her ghosts to snatch him up in Budapest and haul him back to Texas to face her brand of justice...

Forced to decide between a prison cell and signing on to Elite Metal, Silver chooses the latter. Quietly operating in the background of a team that no longer trusts or wants him, he completes all the dirty little jobs that keep the team alive and flush with new intel.

But when he learns Poppy plans to infiltrate a terrorist gathering, he refuses to hide in the shadows a moment longer. In a world of secrets and lies, Poppy Jones is his bright light of truth and trust.

And he'll brave the fires of hell--and the disdain of Steele and Chrome--to protect her.



Mercury’s Poison

Fucking fuck.

He shouldn’t have fucking touched her. Spoken to her. Gotten close enough to breathe the same air.

Goddamn it.

He wasn’t going to follow her home, but he had to make sure she got there okay. Or that’s what he told himself to reconcile the fact that he couldn’t turn away from her. That he was still starved for the sight of her.

And what a sight it was.

He knew he should’ve stopped watching when she began peeling her clothes off, but he couldn’t. She was too damn beautiful. He watched her touch herself, a violation to be sure. John had never been so hard, until he’d heard her whisper his name.

It sent a jolt of pleasure and pain through him.

He wanted it to end, he wanted it to last forever.

John didn’t feel these things, to have her ignite them both, well more was the pity. She’d never be free of him now. He knew he was obsessed. Knew his behaviors were unhealthy for him and for her.

But he couldn’t stop.

Didn’t want to stop.

He thought it would be okay as long as he didn’t touch her, didn’t affect her. But he did. He’d violated those rules and in doing so had violated her. This, now, even though she fantasized about him—and no mistake, he would hear his name on her lips from now until he stood at the gates of hell every time he came—but that didn’t mean it was invitation to watch her. He’d take a man’s head off for doing the same to her.

His cock strained against his fatigues, demanding to be taken in hand. He had to stop this, he couldn’t do this anymore because he knew now that there were no lines he wouldn’t cross when it came to her. He was going to smear his hands all over her pretty wings and he’d break her. Ruin her.

Hurt her.

The sound of another presence distracted him.

He held his position on her balcony, silent and still as he considered his options.

The man above was mostly silent, moved with some skill. He wore combat boots that had been shined so that they glinted in the moonlight. The sign of a professional. What had the pretty little doctor gotten herself into that warranted the attention of whomever jerked this guy’s chain?

He had a choice. Kill this guy now or watch him and see what he would do? He could take the chance that this was just a burglar, but if it wasn’t, they’d soon send someone else. Maybe when Merc wasn’t there.

He edged around to where the balcony opened into her living room and pressed himself against the wall. If he was discovered, he’d just have to kill him.

The man moved quickly, installing surveillance equipment—

Kill him.

No, find out why. Or they’ll just send another.

Kill him, too. Kill them all.

Mercury forced himself to stay still, to wait. This was why he was Mercury—this was why he was poison. His solution was kill first, talk later.

 “I see you there, you ugly bastard,” a voice whispered.

Mercury froze.

“I’m not afraid of you. I know who you are, John Thrace. Get your bitch on a leash if you want to keep her safe. We’ll be watching.”

He reached around the corner and grabbed nothing but air. The man leapt from level to level, adept at parkour. Merc would’ve pursued him, if not for the soft voice begging him to stay.

He turned to see her there, the light from inside a nimbus. “Please.” She reached out to him.

“You should fear me.”

“I don’t.”

He closed his eyes and breathed deep to steady himself. “You should let me find out what they want from you.”

“I know what they want from me. Come inside.”

Said the fly to the spider.

He opened his eyes and centered his hard stare on the tiny camera. He yanked it from its perch and crushed it beneath his boot. If they knew who he was, that was a problem that would have to be addressed.

Her small hand on his arm was all it took to fell him. Like a giant redwood, he toppled to her will and stepped inside her apartment. “Why didn’t you ask how I know where you live?”

She’d wrapped a pink silk robe around her delectable body and he couldn’t stop wondering what that silk would feel like. If he’d even be able to feel it.

“I know you watch me always.”

“That’s fucked up, Hazel.”

She looked up at him, her eyes guileless. “I know. But probably no more fucked up that you’re always watching.”

“I don’t just watch you. I stalk you. I’m dangerous.” He couldn’t seem to make her understand.

“I know that, too.” Her hand was still on his arm.

“You should stop touching me.”

“I like touching you.”


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Jennifer Kacey

Jennifer Kacey is a writer, mother, and business owner living with her family in Texas. She sings in the shower, plays piano in her dreams, and has to have a different color of nail polish every week. She’s the Amazon top seller and award winning author of the Members Only Series and the Surrender Series along with several standalone novels and novellas. The best advice she’s ever been given? Find the real you and never settle for anything less.

Social Media Links

Anna Alexander

Anna Alexander's literary world changed at age thirteen when a friend gave her a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss's "A Rose in Winter." With her mind thoroughly blown, she decided that one day she too would be a romance writer. With Hugh Jackman's abs and Christopher Reeve's blue eyes as inspiration, she loves spinning tales about superheroes finding love.
Sign up to receive news about Anna's latest releases at this link

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Heather Long

National bestselling author, Heather Long, likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren’t douche bags. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas summertime. From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories—her characters drive the books. When she’s not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes her time to family and friends she considers family. She believes if you like your heroes so real you could lick the grit off their chest, and your heroines so likable, you’re sure you’ve been friends with women just like them; you’ll enjoy her worlds as much as she does.

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Rebecca Royce

As a teenager, Rebecca would hide in her room to read her favorite romance novels when she was supposed to be doing her homework.

She is the mother of three adorable boys and is fortunate to be married to her best friend. They are transplants from the northeastern part of the United States to the great state of Texas, specifically Austin.

She is in love with science fiction, fantasy and the paranormal and tries to use all these elements in her writing. In her world anything is possible, anything can happen, and you should suspect that it will.

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Sabrina York

Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York, is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers. Her titles range from sweet & sexy to scorching erotic romance.  Connect with her on twitter @sabrina_york, on Facebook or on Pintrest. Check out Sabrina’s books and read an excerpt on Amazon or wherever e-books are sold. Visit her webpage at to check out her books, excerpts and contests. Free Teaser Book: And don’t forget to enter to win the royal tiara!

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Saranna De Wylde
Saranna De Wylde has always been fascinated by things better left in the dark. She wrote her first story after watching The Exorcist at a slumber party. Since then, she's published horror, romance and narrative nonfiction. Like all writers, Saranna has held a variety of jobs, from operations supervisor for an airline, to an assistant for a call girl, to a corrections officer. But like Hemingway said, "Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure, only death can stop it." So she traded in her cuffs for a full-time keyboard. She loves to hear from her readers.

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Roxie Rivera

A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, I like to write super sexy romances and scorching hot erotica. I live in Texas with my red-bearded Viking husband and a sweet but rowdy preschool-aged daughter with autism and heart defects. We also have two wildly rambunctious Great Danes named Hannibal and Murdock.

My other book writing alter ego--Lolita Lopez--was named one of Latina Magazine's Eight Erotic Latina Authors To Check Out. Lo writes deliciously steamy tales for Forever Yours/Grand Central, Mischief/Harper Collins UK, Siren Publishing and Cleis Press.

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Elite Metal:  Eight Novel Cohesive Military Romance Boxed Set" is the introductory collection to the 'Elite Warriors' series.  These eight tales are unified by the backstory which involves a group of highly trained operatives who are the survivors of an op that went horribly wrong and decimated their numbers.  Relocated, renamed, and disbanded, the survivors have been eking out an existence, only to be thrust back into action by a mysterious figure who has dangled the carrot of revenge in front of them.  These stories detail the beginning of their respective recoveries as each spotlighted soldier finds a person who helps them deal with the ever-present darkness that prevents them from beginning to heal from the wounds to their spirits and psyches.

This group of stories will provide hours of entertainment as exciting action and mystery is combined with intensely erotic and sensual interludes.  The fascinating melding of various authors' styles with a unifying theme and characters who carry over from one story to the next makes this a delightful concept that I can only hope engenders many more volumes in this series.  There is a fun super-hero quality to many of the individuals featured in these stories while the poignancy of the horrific experiences that have shaped them makes one ache for what they have gone through. 

I particularly enjoyed Heather Long's "Pure Copper" because I like my heroines to be just as capable as their partners and the back and forth between the very efficient and lethal Copper/Sachi James and the sexy and equally capable Gabriel Danvers reminded me of the movie, "Mr. & Mrs. Smith".  

 One of my favorite erotic romance authors, Sabrina York, has a delightful story in "Sterling's Seduction" that pits a nosy reporter against a honed killing-machine who unwillingly succumbs to the pigtail-wearing woman.  Ms. York provides her trademark quirky visuals with statements such as:  "His cock understood it immediately; it perked up like a meerkat on the Serengeti."   

Jennifer Kasey's "Bound by Steele" (co-written with Anna Alexander) and "Chrome's Salvation" provide a drool-worthy but gut-wrenching introduction to the men who serve as the leaders to the resurrected group and the rest of the stories do a great job of enhancing the mystique behind this unique group.  I look forward to reading even more of their adventures!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

White Gardenia by Belinda Alexandra (spotlight)

White Gardenia is a sweeping, emotional journey that “depicts vividly the powerful lifelong bond between mothers and daughters” (Paullina Simons, author of The Bronze Horseman). In a district of the city of Harbin, a haven for White Russian families since Russia’s Communist Revolution, Alina Kozlova must make a heartbreaking decision if her only child, Anya, is to survive the final days of World War II. Both mother and daughter must make sacrifices.  Will they ever find each other again? Rich in historical detail, White Gardenia is a compelling and beautifully written tale about yearning, longing, and the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her child.



Harbin, China

We Russians believe that if you knock a knife from the table
to the floor, a male visitor will come, and if a bird flies into
the room, the death of someone close to you is at hand. Both
these events occurred in 1945, around my thirteenth birthday,
but there had been no omens of dropped knives or stray birds to
warn me.

The General appeared on the tenth day after my father’s
death. My mother and I were busy removing the black silk that
had been draped over the mirrors and icons for the nine days of
mourning. My memory of my mother on that day has never
dimmed. Her ivory skin framed by wisps of dark hair, the pearl
studs in her fleshy earlobes, and her fiery amber eyes piece together into a sharply focused photograph before me: my mother,
a widow at thirty-three.

I recall her thin fingers folding the dark material with a languidness
that was not usual. But then we were both shell-shocked
by loss. When my father had set out on the morning of his doom,
his eyes shining and his lips brushing my cheeks with parting kisses,

I had no anticipation that my next view of him would be in a heavy
oak coffin, his eyes closed and his waxen face remote in death. The
lower part of the casket remained shut to hide the legs that had
been mutilated in the twisted wreck of the car.

The night my father’s body was laid out in the parlor, white
candles on either side of the coffin, my mother bolted the garage
doors shut and fastened them with a chain and padlock.
I watched her from my bedroom window as she paced back
and forth in front of the garage, her lips moving in a silent
incantation. Every so often she would stop and push her hair
back over her ears as if she were listening for something, but
then she would shake her head and continue her pacing. The
next morning I slipped out to look at the lock and chain. I
understood what she had done. She had clasped shut the garage
doors the way we would have clasped onto my father if we had
known that to let him drive into the lashing rain would be to
let him go forever.

In the days following the accident our grief was diverted by a
constant rotation of visits from our Russian and Chinese friends.

They arrived and left hourly, by foot or by rickshaw, leaving
their neighboring farms or city houses to fill our home with the
aroma of roasted chicken and the murmur of condolences. Those
from the land came laden with gifts of bread and cake or the
field flowers that had survived Harbin’s early frosts, while those
from the city brought ivory and silk, a polite way of giving us
money, for without my father, my mother and I faced hard times

Then there was the burial. The priest, craggy and knotted
like an old tree, traced the sign of the cross in the chilly air before
the casket was nailed shut. The thick-shouldered Russian men
jabbed their spades into the dirt, dropping frozen clods of earth
into the grave. They worked hard with set jaws and downcast
eyes, sweat slipping from their faces, either out of respect for my
father or to win the admiration of his beautiful widow. All the
while our Chinese neighbors kept their respectful distance outside
the cemetery gate, sympathetic but suspicious of our custom
of burying our loved ones in the ground and abandoning them
to the mercy of the elements.

Afterwards the funeral party returned to our home, a wooden
house my father had built with his own hands after fleeing Russia
and the Revolution. We sat down to a wake of semolina cakes and
tea served from a samovar. The house had originally been a simple
pitched-roof bungalow with stovepipes sticking out from the eaves,
but when my father married my mother he built six more rooms
and a second story and filled them with lacquered cupboards,
antique chairs and tapestries. He carved ornate window frames,
erected a fat chimney and painted the walls the buttercup yellow
of the dead Tsar’s summer palace. Men like my father made Harbin
what it was: a Chinese city full of displaced Russian nobility.

People who attempted to re-create the world they had lost with
ice sculptures and winter balls.

When our guests had said all that could be said, I followed
behind my mother to see them off at the door. While they were
putting on their coats and hats I spotted my ice skates hanging
on a peg in the front entrance. The left blade was loose and I remembered that my father had intended to fix it before the winter.

The numbness of the past few days gave way to a pain so sharp
that it hurt my ribs and made my stomach churn. I squeezed my
eyes shut against it. I saw a blue sky race towards me and a thin
winter sun shining on ice. The memory of the year before came
back to me. The solid Songhua River; the cheerful cries of the
children struggling to stay upright on their skates; the young lovers
gliding in pairs; the old people shuffling around in the center,
peering for fish through the sections where the ice was thin.

My father lifted me high on his shoulder, his blades scraping
against the surface with the added weight. The sky became a
blur of aqua and white. I was dizzy with laughter.

“Put me down, Papa,” I said, grinning into his blue eyes. “I
want to show you something.”

He set me down but didn’t let me go until he was sure that
I had my balance. I watched for a clearing and skated out into
it, lifting one leg off the ice and spinning like a marionette.

“Harashó! Harashó!” My father clapped. He rubbed his
gloved hand over his face and smiled so widely that his laugh
lines seemed to come to life. My father was much older than my
mother, having completed his university studies the year she was
born. He had been one of the youngest colonels in the White
Army and somehow, many years later, his gestures had remained
a mix of youthful enthusiasm and military precision.

He held out his hands so I could skate to him, but I wanted
to show off again. I pushed myself out farther and started to turn,
but my blade hit a bump and my foot twisted under me. I smacked
against the ice on my hip and knocked the wind out of my lungs.

My father was at my side in an instant. He picked me up and
skated with me in his arms to the riverbank. He set me down on
a fallen tree trunk and ran his hands over my shoulders and ribs
before slipping off the damaged boot.

“No broken bones,” he said, moving my foot between his
palms. The air was freezing and he rubbed my skin to warm it.

I stared at the white streaks that mingled with the ginger hair
on his crown and bit my lip. The tears in my eyes were not from
the pain but from the humiliation of having made a fool of
myself. My father’s thumb pressed against the swelling around
my ankle and I flinched. Already the purple stain of a bruise was
beginning to show.

“Anya, you are a white gardenia,” he smiled. “Beautiful and
pure. But we need to handle you with care because you bruise
so easily.”

I rested my head on his shoulder, almost laughing but crying
at the same time.

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Author info:

BELINDA ALEXANDRA is the widely acclaimed, internationally bestselling author of numerous novels, including her American debut Tuscan Rose. The daughter of a Russian mother and an Australian father, she lives in Australia. Alexandra’s Golden Earrings (Gallery Books; August 4, 2015; $16.00) will publish this summer.

“[White Gardenia] tackles a difficult time in history from a fresh perspective…There’s a great deal to like here…Alexandra excels at evoking exotic locations such as the crowded streets of Shanghai…those who are fascinated by the time period or love a good family saga will be pleased. Alexandra has legions of dedicated fans, and they will be thrilled that her first novel is finally available in the United States.”
—Library Journal

“Sweeping epic told with sensitivity and grace…Anya is a wonderfully realized heroine, resilient in the face of hardship and the consequences of her own mistakes...Exotic, evocative, and achingly expressive, WHITE GARDENIA is an impressive testament to the many kinds of heroism regular people display in both war and peace.”

“Fans of The Bronze Horseman will be captivated by [WHITE GARDENIA]. The plotline is compelling, the backdrop fascinating and the characters will lure you into their story. Alexandra spins an epic, sprawling tale that hooks you from the beginning and introduces little-known geographical areas and historical events.”