Sunday, December 31, 2017

Here's to a fresh start, Welcome 2018!



As you can tell from the glare, this was taken through a window, but it has some of the fun things about Las Vegas...a chance to watch the Bellagio fountains dance to music, the prospect of enjoying things from another country by visiting the Vegas version of Paris, and the bright lights of the city.

2017 was a challenge for many of us, both personally and professionally. Let's shed ourselves of those burdens and face the new year with a light heart and optimism and an intention to be kind to one another. Do something nice for somebody at least once a day...whether that is bringing a shopping cart to an elderly person (or returning it for them after they get their packages in the car), opening the door for an individual burdened with packages or children, or giving someone the benefit of the doubt when things are tense. Your spirit will be lighter and you will make another person's day that much better.

Happy New Year and may you have plenty to read and plenty of time to do so!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Don't Plan to Stay by Kaje Harper (Spotlight, excerpt, and review)




Don’t Plan to Stay

by

Kaje Harper

Blurb:

At eighteen, Donnie Kagan's plans for graduation, and maybe even college, were derailed by a beer, a stoplight, and a fatal crash. Now he's twenty-four, out of prison, and bitterly determined to start over. But with the holidays approaching, he can't resist a quick trip home to Tallbridge, North Dakota, and the man he left behind. Just a fast look, to make sure Adam's doing all right, before Donnie starts his new life. He doesn't plan to stay.

Adam Lindberg's been waiting six years to get closure with Donnie. He missed that chance after the accident, fighting for his life in a hospital bed as Donnie pled guilty and disappeared into the justice system. Without so much as a letter back from Donnie in all this time, Adam's tried to move on. And yet, he never found another guy he cared about the same way. So when Donnie shows up in Tallbridge, Adam's ready to fight for more than three words of goodbye. Of course, Adam's brother and dad don't want Donnie to stick around, but it's the busy Christmas season at the family store. If Adam asks for Donnie's help, maybe he'll stay long enough to finally talk about the future, and the past.


Excerpt:


I let myself in down the hall to the john. Once the bathroom door was locked behind me, I sat on the lid of the toilet and put my head in my hands.
Beyond the hallway, the muted sound of voices and Christmas carols mingled in a garbled hum, distant enough to ignore. It was just me and silence in this cold little room, with the damaged tiles and rust-stained sink, behind a door that locked from the inside. For the last six months, this had been my idea of heaven. I let the quiet seep into me as the knots in my shoulders unkinked.
Down at my feet, I saw a web of cracks in the tile sealed with white caulk. It was a crap job, sloppy. I’d done that, eight years ago. Me and Adam, made to work off some prank I no longer remembered by fixing up the bathroom. Him and me and soap, paint, and caulk through five long days.
I traced the uneven lines of caulk with the duct-taped toe of my sneaker. I remembered Adam bending over to scrub gunk off the baseboards, and how the sight of him, the line of his back and ass, made it so hard to breathe. How I’d known, in that moment, what I wanted. And how sick I’d felt, not knowing if he might possibly want me too.
God, we were babies then. Him with his sunny view of the whole world. Me thinking I could be smart enough and tough enough to bend it to my will.
I kissed him that last day we worked in here.
I didn’t raise my head to look at the spot on the wall where he’d been leaning and laughing. Where I finally snapped and put a hand on his chest, stepped in close, and smooshed his lips with mine. I’d have freaked and run away but he shoved his hand into my hair and held me. Gentled the kiss. Said, “I was beginning to think you’d never do that.”
I was sixteen, he was fourteen and a half. We were so damned young, even with all I’d already been through. In the same grade, thanks to Mom’s screw-ups, and inseparable, with a future in front of us.
Now I was twenty-four, and this was a place to hide. Those memories needed to be locked away. Hidden, suppressed, until I could think straight again. I was so tired.
I imagined taking those summer days and stuffing them into a big box. I had a lot of boxes in my head. This one could stay closed with just a ribbon around it, something silk and soft. Some boxes in there were nailed shut, strapped with barbed wire and padlocks. This one I might get to open again someday.


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Author's links:



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My review:

4 out of 5 stars



Don’t Plan to Stay by Kaje Harper portrays the homecoming of a man who has served his time for an injudicious decision but needs to figure out whether the ties he attempted to cut with those he left behind are really severed. The young love he left behind has matured into a man, who knows his mind and his heart…and is prepared to fight for what he wants, no matter what his family thinks.

This m/m contemporary romance is a lovely character study that explores the idea of redemption and dealing with the past, set during the Christmas season, making it perfect for reading at this time of the year. I am always fascinated by this author’s ability to portray men who have dealt with a crucible that has honed their character and distilled them to their indelible core, and this is yet another example of such. The gradual unfolding of the background that has shaped Donatello (Donnie) Kagan and altered the lives of the Lindberg family plays out against the events that accompany their moving forward, six years later. I’m a little puzzled by the antipathy displayed by one particular character…and dismayed that his inaction and/or actions resulted in such a harsh punishment, which is never quite resolved sufficiently for my tastes.

Nonetheless, I loved the different characters who are rebuilding and finding a new lease on life, including the four-legged addition to the family. The faith and persistence and tentative hope that unfurls provide such a wonderful warm feeling, and that final tattoo was just so perfect that reading the story was like a warm hug and a wonderful reminder that all of us need to let the painful past go and not allow it to define our tomorrows.


A copy of this title was provided to me for review


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!







It's easy to get caught up in the hectic season and the scramble to remember to get gifts for everyone, but I hope you take the time to remember the meaning of the holiday and rejoice in the spirit of love and fellowship that is all too lacking in our society lately. Please remember that a gift doesn't have to be something you buy...the gift of your company, a hug, a compliment...can have a lasting impact on someone.


Take the time to enjoy friends and family, I wish you all the joys of the season and a happy holiday season filled with yummy things to eat, and of course, lots of great books!









Thursday, December 21, 2017

Movie Magic by Michelle Garren Flye (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT




by Michelle Garren Flye

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GENRE:   contemporary romance

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BLURB:

Lights…camera…magic!

Sabrina Parker has spent her professional life creating unbelievable stunts and magical effects for movies and stage magicians. Now she needs some special magic to help her bring her movie to life. Her search leads her to the very unlikely stage of Walt Bryson, host of a long-running children’s television show in Beaufort, North Carolina.

Walt isn’t terribly happy about taking Hollywood’s call. He’s never sought the same notoriety as his colleagues Ian Logan and Andre Hawke. But there’s something about the beautiful, levelheaded Ms. Parker, and when he reads her screenplay, he knows he wants to work with her. For the first time in years, he’s willing to put tragedy behind him and make real magic.

Can Walt and Sabrina use love as their guide or will their past mistakes haunt their future?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~




EXCERPT


What the hell kind of place was this town that she could be kidnapped off the street and carried off into a dark alley?

“Ouch! Hey, lady, the screaming’s good for effect, but I could do without the kicking!” The man who’d grabbed her smacked her bottom to get her attention. “Cut it out!”

“Put her down, Cal.” An amused voice from next to them made Sabrina freeze.

“Walt?” She craned her neck to try to see him.

“Gladly.” The man holding her swung her down over his shoulder, setting her none-too-gently on her feet and backing away.

Sabrina regained her balance and glared at him, then turned to see Walt, practically doubled over laughing and standing next to a girl in short shorts who looked just as amused. She whirled back to look at her kidnapper, realizing as she did that he was actually only about eighteen and wearing a pirate getup that made him look like a poor imitation of Jack Sparrow.

Walt, on the other hand, might have stepped right out of a movie. He wore a brocade vest over his tanned bare chest and his head was wrapped in a red scarf. Several rings decorated his fingers and he wore a gold chain with a medallion. His shoulder-length dark hair and beard completed the look to perfection. Sabrina fought off her attraction by embracing her irritation at the whole incident. “Would anyone like to tell me what the hell is going on here?”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AUTHOR Bio and Links:




Michelle Garren Flye is an award-winning author of romance and women’s fiction. Reviewers have described her work as: “an engaging novel with charming and likable characters”, a story that “will make you believe in love and second chances”, and a “well-written and thought-provoking novel.”
Michelle placed third in the Hyperink Romance Writing Contest for her short story “Life After”. Her short stories have been published by the romance anthology Foreign Affairs, Opium.com, SmokelongQuarterly.com and Flashquake.com. She has served on the editorial staffs of Horror Library, Butcher Shop Quartet and Tattered Souls.
Michelle has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is the mother of three and lives in North Carolina with her husband and their rapidly growing collection of pets.

Links:
Blog: BREATHE


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GIVEAWAY


a Rafflecopter giveaway


The tour dates can be found here




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My review


3.75 out of 5 stars




Movie Magic by Michelle Garren Flye is a contemporary romance that features screenwriter Sabrina Parker, who’s searching for an expert magician for a project that is near and dear to her heart. Her trip to North Carolina proves that not all resources are in L.A., but convincing Walt Bryson to move beyond his popular children’s show will require more than make-believe, it will require getting his heart involved as much as hers is.

This story is part of the ‘Sleight of Hand’ series but can be read as a stand-alone without any problem. It gives an intriguing look at the challenges of transforming a concept to a movie and introduces characters who have had their share of challenges in life that they have coped with in very different ways. I’m a little perplexed by the dynamics of the relationships each of the main characters has with a significant person of the opposite sex, and I thought one of the side stories with a secondary character was a little forced, but I like the interactions between the hero and heroine. It was fun to read about the references to Hollywood and startling to think someone would trust a virtual stranger in their inn while they travel elsewhere, but I guess that highlights the contrast between big city and small town attitudes. There are fun twists in the story and I think those who enjoy gentle romances with show business elements will be delighted by this tale.

A copy of this title was provided to me for review






Monday, December 18, 2017

ELFing around

It turns out the Zygo cactus does NOT need a frosty night in order to bloom!


Yep, one would think I would be used to this time of the year being a maddening, hectic, chaotic period, but somehow I always continue procrastinating and end up madly trying to finish things. In my defense, this year, we have had several pretty serious illnesses in the family...one of which did NOT end well, so it's kind of a gloomy time of the year for the second year in a row.

But anyway...

there are the ongoing projects, like the paracord quality control for Operation Gratitude (which just sent out its 2 millionth box to the soldiers), which realistically ends up with me dismantling the paracord bracelets submitted by enthusiastic volunteers who...don't quite follow the standard pattern. Why is this important? Because the soldiers need to be able to unravel the bracelet quickly...and the pattern is designed for quick unraveling.


So...Mr. Snowden is presiding over a bag that has about 1/10 of the number of cords I need to go through. Because I have wrist/hand issues, I have sadly come to the conclusion that it is better to just unravel the bracelets and start over than trying to tug and tighten them up. I was straining my wrists trying to fit that last bit of cord into the loop...and I had to quit for a while because I was exacerbating my tendonitis!


Transfer paracord
into

a useful



















   
bracelet that can be

used for a WIDE range of things!













So, now I unravel a group, let them rest for a while in hopes that some of the curl relaxes, and make them into a bracelet again. I've discovered that keeping strong tension on the cord I am wrapping
around and around keeps me from having to tighten quite so much at the end.






And, voila...the bag of bracelets is started.




Of course, I am so behind that the ELF'n workshop did NOT get the snowmen assembled for the soldiers' Christmas box, so they are going to get there terribly tardily...


and, because they have adhesive on the back, I have started trying to leave the protective cover on as much as possible--otherwise they end up stuck to everything!





So...MAYBE I'll finally put a box in the mail...and hopefully, they will get it by next year, lol

What projects have you started that will need to carry on into the new year?

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Mia's Men by Lucy Felthouse (Pre-order blitz) ADULT title WMS






Book 1 in a Brand-new Reverse Harem Series 
ADULT title
by Lucy Felthouse


Available for Pre-order Now! (@cw1985) #reverseharem #whychoose




Blurb:
The Heiress’s Harem: Book One

Mia Harrington’s father just lost his brave battle with cancer. Naturally, she’s devastated. With her mother long-since dead, and no siblings, Mia has a great deal of responsibility to shoulder. She’s also the sole beneficiary of her father’s estate. Or so she thinks.

Unbeknownst to Mia, her father made a change to his will. She can still inherit, but only if she marries a suitable man within twelve months. If she doesn’t, her vile cousin will get everything. Determined not to lose her beloved childhood home, she resolves to find someone that fits the bill. What she isn’t expecting, however, is for that someone to be into sharing women with his best friend. In the meantime, Mia’s friendship with the estate gardener has blossomed into so much more.
She can’t possibly plan to marry one man, while also being involved with two others …or can she?




Pre-order now—coming 23rd January 2018!
(For those of you looking to purchase at non-Amazon retailers, pre-ordering is highly recommended as the book will be going Amazon exclusive shortly after release)
Add to your Goodreads shelves
 
*****
Author Bio:
Lucy Felthouse is the award-winning author of erotic romance novels Stately Pleasures (named in the top 5 of Cliterati.co.uk’s 100 Modern Erotic Classics That You’ve Never Heard Of, and an Amazon bestseller), Eyes Wide Open (winner of the Love Romances Café’s Best Ménage Book 2015 award, and an Amazon bestseller), The Persecution of the Wolves, Hiding in Plain Sight and Mia’s Men (The Heiress’s Harem Book 1). Including novels, short stories and novellas, she has over 160 publications to her name. She owns Erotica For All, and is one eighth of The Brit Babes. Find out more about her writing at http://lucyfelthouse.co.uk, or on Twitter or Facebook. Sign up for automatic updates on Amazon or BookBub. Subscribe to her newsletter and get a free eBook: http://www.subscribepage.com/lfnewsletter




Saturday, December 16, 2017

Delectable by Ann Grech (spotlight) HTP ADULT title



"This book is so...
Delectable
Delicious
Dirty
Damn good!"
Delectable
  (Gold Coast Nights Book 1)
by
Ann Grech

ADULT title
Genre: M/M/F Romance


Can true love really withstand any test? Suffering from PTSD, Connor returns from war to his best friends. Are they the key to this Australian ex-soldier’s happily ever after? Ann Grech’s delectable MMF menage romance will take you on an emotional roller coaster through twists and turns leaving you breathless.

Connor

I owe Levi everything, so when I fell for his girl, I did the only thing a good mate would do. I left. Ran. Six years in the Army and I still couldn’t forget. But I couldn’t stay away any longer.
And now I’m realizing it wasn’t just her I’d fallen for.

Levi
He left us to defend our country. While I was living in paradise, happy, and in love with my gorgeous girl, he faced horrors I can't even imagine. It nearly broke me knowing he was there, and we were here. Twenty years we’ve known each other and we’re still inseparable. Now I’m beginning to understand how, in another life, we could have been so much more. 

Katy
Levi’s the love of my life, my soulmate. And life is good. We’re so damn lucky… blessed to have found each other. But when Connor left, he took a piece of my heart and we’re incomplete without him. In limbo.

NOW HE’S BACK.


☆ BUY LINKS ☆
Nook











By day Ann Grech lives in the corporate world and can be found sitting behind a desk typing away at reports and papers or lecturing to a room full of students. She graduated with a PhD in 2016 and is now an over-qualified nerd. Glasses, briefcase, high heels and a pencil skirt, she’s got the librarian look nailed too. If only they knew! She swears like a sailor, so that’s got to be a hint. The other one was “the look” from her tattoo artist when she told him that she wanted her kids initials “B” and “J” tattooed on her foot. It took a second to register that it might be a bad idea.

She’s never entirely fit in and loves escaping into a book—whether it’s reading or writing one. But she’s found her tribe now and loves her MM book world family. She dislikes cooking, but loves eating, can’t figure out technology, but is addicted to it, and her guilty pleasure is Byron Bay Cookies. Oh and shoes. And lingerie. And maybe handbags too. Well, if we’re being honest, we’d probably have to add her library too, given the state of her credit card every month (what can she say, she’s a bookworm at heart)! 

She also publishes her raunchier short stories under her pen name, Olive Hiscock.

Ann loves chatting to people online, so if you’d like to keep up with what she’s got going on:
Like her Facebook page
Follow her on Facebook
Join The A-Team (Ann’s street team and fan group)
Insta & Twitter: @anngrechauthor 
Visit her online (while you’re there, sign up for Ann’s newsletter. You’ll get a free read)



Friday, December 15, 2017

Depression in Later Life: An Essential Guide by Dr. Deborah Serani (Spotlight) (PUYB)



DEPRESSION IN LATER LIFE: AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE

by


Dr. Deborah Serani


Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Pages: 286
Genre: Self-Help/Psychology

BOOK BLURB: 
The geriatric population, defined as men and women 65 years and older, is the fastest growing population in the world. Little attention has been given to the mental health of the aging, and often treatable disorders are overlooked entirely. Depression is one of the leading mental disorders in any age group, but among the elderly, it is often viewed as a normal part of aging. But it’s not. Depression at any age requires attention and treatment.

Depression in Later Life is a go-to guide that introduces readers to depression among the aging and elderly. It looks at both sufferers who’ve been diagnosed in their younger years as well as those with a new diagnosis, and reviews the symptoms, the diagnostic process, treatment options including alternative and holistic approaches, and long-term care for those experiencing mild, moderate, or severe depression. With real stories throughout, the book illustrates the many forms depression can take, and Dr. Serani offers a compassionate voice alongside practical advice for sufferers, caregivers, and families.

BOOK IS AN AWARD WINNER: 2016 Gold Medal Winner, Psychology, Foreword Review https://www.forewordreviews.com/awards/books/depression-in-later-life/.








Book Excerpt:
What is Late-Life Depression?

            I know depression because I’ve endured it my entire life. I had it as a child and it worsened as I became a teenager. And it still lingers in the margins of my life at age 55. For me, depression was a chronic illness that left me in despair and frighteningly unaware of its grinding misery. I didn’t recognize the symptoms – and neither did any family or friends. In fact, as my depression worsened as a college student, I sank into a featureless existence, either awake in a fatigued haze or sleeping the entire day away. Gradually, the bitter brine of depression flooded my mind with hopelessness. I didn’t care about the future and I couldn’t find purpose in the present. It didn’t occur to me that anything was out-of-sorts, short-sighted or even peculiar as my thinking became more corrosive. When I attempted suicide at age 19 with a handgun, it felt right. It felt comforting.
            Of course, looking back, I was in deep emotional and physical pain and believed I found a way to make it stop. But it wasn’t a healthy choice. I was making a decision from an incredibly distorted reality. Luckily my plan was interrupted and I immediately got help. I began intensive psychotherapy and discovered that I’d been living with dysthymic disorder and that it escalated into a major depressive episode. Having both these disorders was called a double depression, and I learned how to replace the quiet agony of my illness with tools to live a more meaningful life. The experience I had with talk therapy was so life-changing and life-saving that it inspired me to become a psychologist. I combined my personal experiences with depression with my training as a clinician and became an expert in mood disorders. I realized that my personal experiences with depression offered enormous insight to those who sought treatment with me because I know the talk and I walk the walk. 
            In the 45 years of personally living with depression and the 25 years of professionally treating it as a disorder, this is what I’ve learned: 

            Depression doesn’t care if you’re rich or famous, poor or homeless.
            It doesn’t care if you’re young or old.
            Or if you’re ordinary or superlatively gifted.
            Depression cuts across social economic status, is found in every culture and in every country around the world.
            Depression will drape its chokehold over men, women and children - and thinks nothing of how it decays your mind, siphons your soul and crushes the glimpse of possibility, hope and freedom at every turn.
            Depression is not an experience that fades with the next sunrise or can be shaken off with a newfound attitude. It won’t be cured by tough-love. Or rectified by ignoring it. You can’t snap out of it or will it away either. And if you try to minimize its wrenching hold on your health, it’ll root itself even deeper. Depression can’t be ranked alongside adjectives like blue, sad, dejected, down, melancholy or unhappy. Those words just won’t do… because they don’t even come close to describing what depression feels like.
            Depression demands you to see it for what it truly is – an illness. And while it’s a serious illness, it is treatable. The key to success in living with depression is early identification, consistent treatment and planning to manage your illness.


Defining Depression

            Depression is a complex illness that significantly impacts the way you feel, think and behave. According to the World Health Organization, depression involves feelings of worthlessness, decreased energy, hopelessness, poor concentration, negative thinking and disrupted sleeping and eating patterns, just to name a few. The most predominant of these symptoms is a depressed mood, and because of this, depression is classified as a mood disorder. Sometimes called affective disorders, mood disorders are the most common mental illness, touching over a hundred million people worldwide. Mood disorders aren’t the result of a weakness of character, laziness or a person’s inability to buck up and be strong. Mood disorders are a real medical condition.

The Geriatric Population
           
It’s important to know that depression can occur at any age, but in this book, we’re looking at depression in later life. Specifically, the geriatric population - which are individuals 65 years of age and older. Sometimes referred to as seniors or the elderly, geriatric citizens are the fastest growing population in the world.  In America, alone, the baby boomer generation now makes up over 50 million of the senior population. With people living longer, and the combination of medical advances and technology improving the state of healthcare, the senior population is expected to soar to 72 million by the year 2030. More specifically, The US Census Bureau reports that in the next 45 years, people over the age 65 will double, and people over the age 85 will triple. And now more than ever, centenarians, people 100 years of age and older, are not just reaching these amazing ages, but living richly textured lives.    
                   
            While gerontology, the study of the aging process in human beings, has brought insights about the physical, emotional and social needs of this population, little has been done to train geriatric health professionals. In fact, 97% of medical school students have no training in geriatrics, and the rate of doctors graduating with a geriatrician degree are lower now than ten years ago. 
            Even geriatric psychology, or geropsychology, the specialty that focuses on the mental health of the elderly, isn’t gaining the kind of traction needed to help those living in their golden years. 
            This makes identifying and treating depression in later life difficult. But with the help you get in Depression in Later Life, you'll be equipped to see the early warning signs and know where to get help.     

Amazon

 

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Book trailer  


______________________

Meet the Author


Dr. Deborah Serani is a psychologist in practice over 25 years, an associate adjunct professor at Adelphi University and a TEDx speaker on the subject of depression. She is also a go-to expert on psychological issues. Dr. Serani is the author of the award-winning books, Living with Depression, Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers and Depression in Later Life: An Essential Guide published by Rowman & Littlefield.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK



 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Forsaking Hope by Beverly Oakley (spotlight, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) RBC



Fair Cyprians of London
by
 Beverley Oakley

 
 
About the Book: 


 
Two years ago, she missed their secret assignation and disappeared without a trace. Now the divine "Miss Hope" is in Felix Durham’s bed - a 'surprise cheering-up gift' sourced by his friends from London's most exclusive brothel. Felix is in heaven - and he wants to stay there. So does Hope, but she can’t. Hope Merriweather lives by a code of honour – even if she’s a prostitute. Having sold her soul, she’s prepared to sacrifice everything else to protect what she believes in. Even if honour – in her eyes – comes at the cost of thieving and breaking hearts. Including her own.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

Excerpt: 

Chapter One

 Wilfred Hunt.  

If there was a name to tip Hope into the abyss of despair she was hearing it spill from Madame Chambon’s lips now as the older woman directed Hope to take a seat in the reception room, presumably so Madame could loom oppressively over her.  

With her hands on her ample, expensively padded hips, Hope’s benefactress—procuress, employer and gaoler were other monikers—sent Hope a beetling look that needed no interpreting: Regardless of Hope’s true feelings, Hope must project the required show of warmth and delight at being the chosen one. 

Madame patted the side of her faux curls. Years of hot irons had reduced her hair to the texture of wool but her crowning glory these days was supplemented by the lustrous locks of those girls who dared cross her – before they were thrown back into the street from where most had come. Nevertheless, Hope had to make her resistance clear. Surely Madame who knew her history would understand her loathing for this man, above all others. “I shan’t do it,” she whispered. There was little evidence of the willful child and wild adolescent who’d been the despair of her family. “I won’t—”  

Outside, the noise of the traffic rumbling over the cobbles and the shrill calls of competing vendors settled upon the tense silence. Madame Chambon’s other girls, ranged around the sumptuously appointed room on red velvet upholstered banquettes, watched the exchange with prurient fascination. Hope knew it had been a calculated ploy of Madame’s to conduct her interview in public so that Hope would serve as an example to them. 

No one crossed Madame Chambon. 

The shrill cry of a fishmonger caused Madame to look pointedly out of the window. With something between a smile and a sneer, she smoothed a Marcel wave. “Is that where you plan to return, Hope? The gutter?” Her nose twitched and in the sunlight that filtered into the room, the grooves chiselled between mouth and chin were thrown into harsh relief, highlighted rather than hidden by the thick powder she used to conceal her age. 

Madame Chambon’s comfort, now and into retirement, depended on obedient girls. Hope knew that as well as anyone. She’d had to bury her rebellious streak just to ensure food in her belly. 

The Frenchwoman raised a chiselled brow and began to pace slowly in front of her girls. A painter with an eye for beauty would have been ecstatic at capturing such a spectacle on canvas. The discerning young man about town who visited 56 Albemarle Street was frequently rendered ecstatic by the range of delights Madame Chambon's girls offered in addition to the visual. 

“You forget yourself, Hope. I put a roof over your head and deck you out as handsomely as Mr Charles Worth ever did for his most discerning customer.” There was acid in Madame Chambon’s tone. “But for me, you'd be starving and glad of the pennies you could trade for a grubby stand-up encounter in a dark alley.” Madame Chambon thrust out her bosom and breathed through her nose, her response a calculated warning to the other girls arranged in various languid poses about the ornately decorated reception room that intransigence would not be tolerated. 

“Mr Hunt has requested you.” She paused and when Hope remained silent, though her stance and expression left no one in any doubt as to her horror regarding this enforced assignation, went on. “Remember what I told you—what I tell all my girls when they first come here? The past must be forgotten the moment you step over my threshold. You are reborn, remodelled, refashioned into the most exquisite delectation of womanhood. A marquess, a prince, is well recompensed for the tidy sum he hands over in order to enjoy your sparkling wit, to converse with you in French, or if he chooses, on philosophy…to enjoy your charms…and,” she added significantly, “your gracious hospitality and tender ministrations to his needs. That is our agreement and you are no different. If Mr Hunt wishes you, Hope, to attend him at his residence then you will go.” 

Faith, one of the kinder girls, patted Hope’s arm in silent solidarity. Hope didn’t expect any of them to speak up in her defence. Not when they all relied on Madame Chambon as much as she did to provide them with the necessities of life. Anything more than that was part of a strict contract that indentured a girl for life unless she was able to secure a generous benefactor to settle Madame's severance bill. The fine clothes were part of the charade, necessary to entice a more elite clientele. Hope’s exquisite wardrobe did not belong to her though she'd have forsaken all the dupion silk and Spitalfields lace for the freedom of the gutter and to be mistress of her own destiny – and her body - if she could only be sure of a plate of gravy and potatoes every second day. 

Closing her eyes, she hung her head, the carefully coiffed curls that fell forwards brushing against her tear-streaked cheeks. It was as well that they not be in evidence. Tears, weakness, vulnerability were like a red rag to a bull where Madame Chambon was concerned. 

“How long…do I have to prepare myself?” She was not so stupid she couldn’t admit defeat when there was no alternative. Obduracy was beaten out of one, but tears ensured a girl got the very worst next assignment. Their clients weren’t all marquesses and princes, though they did require a very fat pocket book. 

“Tomorrow.” 

“Tomorrow.” Hope repeated it in a leaden tone, and stared at her hands, clasped in her lap; white-knuckled. As white as the rabbit-fur that edged her fashionable black-and-white striped satin cuirass. Hope had the tall, slim figure suited to the scandalously tight tie-back skirts that were all the rage, the back flowing into a train adorned with elaborate swags and trimmed with bows. She'd turned heads the length of Oxford Street as she’d promenaded along the pavement following a walk through Hyde Park earlier that afternoon. In fact, for the first time in two years, she’d almost felt happy as she’d pretended a sense of freedom in the afternoon sun, blocking her mind to the prison to which she was returning. 

She drew in her breath and forced herself to be brave, knowing the punishment she’d invite for daring to speak her mind. “Please tell Mr Hunt I will see him again under sufferance.”

Madame Chambon’s voice was surprisingly caramel. “Well then, now that you have made your objection clear, Hope, you will be pleased to hear that Mr Hunt’s desires are not only motivated by fond memories of your no-doubt mutually satisfying congress. I believe he wishes to acquaint you with news of your family.” 

Hope hid her shock. “I have no family.” With care, she modified her tone so it was as leaden as before though emotion roiled close to the surface. 

“Not even a sister?” Hope raised her chin. Here was the chink and Madame knew it. The woman did her research. 

Aware that the other girls who surrounded her were tense with anticipation, Hope struggled not to respond. Camaraderie existed at surface level but one never knew when it might profit one to have the dirt on a fellow prostitute. It was, clearly, another reason Madame Chambon had chosen to make this conversation public.  

Mr Hunt will see you at nine tomorrow evening,” said the so-called Frenchwoman who, it was whispered, was from the gutters of Lambeth, not Paris. “At his apartments in Duke Street. Now go and prepare yourself for Lord Farrow. Married to a monolith like the venerable Lady Farrow, he likes his girls vivacious and free-spirited. There’ll be less coin in your pocket if you sully the transaction with that long face, Hope.” 


Available for preorder here:

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Author Info: 
Beverley Oakley was seventeen when she bundled up her first her 500+ page romance and sent it to a publisher. Unfortunately drowning her heroine on the last page was apparently not in line with the expectations of romance readers so Beverley became a journalist.
Twenty-six years later Beverley was delighted to receive her first publishing contract from Robert Hale (UK) for a romance in which she ensured her heroine was saved from drowning in the icy North Sea.
Since 2009 Beverley has written more than thirteen historical romances, mostly set in England during the early nineteenth century. Mystery, intrigue and adventure spill from their pages and if she can pull off a thrilling race to save someone’s honour – or a worthy damsel from the noose – it’s time to celebrate with a good single malt Scotch.

Beverley lives with her husband, two daughters and a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy the size of a pony opposite a picturesque nineteenth century lunatic asylum. She also writes Africa-set adventure-filled romances tarring handsome bush pilot heroes, and historical romances with less steam and more sexual tension, as Beverley Eikli.
 
You can get in contact with Beverley at:
Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter | Goodreads

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Beverley is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use the RaffleCopter below to enter. Remember you may increase your chances of winning by visiting the other tour stops. You may find those locations here.

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