Monday, September 1, 2014

Felice Stevens' Rescued Blog Tour


Blurb: Ryder Daniels has spent the last year recovering from rejection: his parents couldn’t accept his sexuality and his lover chose drugs over his love. The only bright lights in his life are his younger brother and his rescued pit bull. But now his mother's punishment for his lifestyle has cut him off from his brother he loves so deeply. Devastated, he throws himself into the work of the Pit Bull Foundation he and his friends started.

Jason Mallory can no longer hide the dissatisfaction of his relationship with his longtime girlfriend. When her marriage ultimatum pushes him to break things off, he's determined not to jump into the dating scene. But when a group of injured pit bulls are found on his construction site, he cant forget the guy who shows up to help.

After Jason adopts one of the dogs, he and Ryder become fast friends—until one night, Ryder lets down his guard and Jason recognizes his desire. Soon, they cant deny the passion between them but will family differences and ugly prejudices keep them apart, or can they fight to prove that love is precious, no matter the flavor?



Excerpt: “Hey, Jason, hows it going?” Ryder accepted licks from the dogs as he extended his hand to help the guy up from the floor. Jasons wary eyes flashed at him as he took his hand, gripping it tightly for a moment before withdrawing it after he was on his feet. 

“Uh, can we talk a moment, in private?” Jason stood close enough for Ryder to feel the tension rolling off his body. His smoothly shaven jaw clenched tight, a muscle ticking in the hollow by his ear.

Another surge of pure lust jolted through Ryder, which he immediately and viciously smothered. “Uh, well, I just got here…”

Emily, the matchmaker, pushed them into the back office. “Go, go. Well set up lunch. Its slow so far today, Ry. No calls. Connor and I can start planning the chamber of commerce thing.” She winked at him, even though he tried giving her his best evil glare. “Take your time, boys.” She slammed the door behind him.

He sighed and faced Jason. “So.”

Jason kicked the floor. “Umm, hows your head this morning? Im thinking you must have a wicked hangover.” The room they were in was pretty small, without much space to maneuver around. Jason backed up and leaned against the desk.

Remaining by the door, Ryder shrugged. “Not so bad. Guess all the water I drank at the end helped, and Connor gave me some aspirin before he left the bar.”

Jasons blue eyes pinned him so that he couldnt look away. “Well, I didnt come here to talk about your drinking habits.”

Ryder raised a brow. “No? So why are you here, then?” He crossed his arms over his chest. “Last night I thought I said everything that needed saying.”

Still glaring at him, Jason moved a step closer. “I know you did, but I didnt get a chance to say anything. You dismissed me like I was a stranger. I thought we were friends, Ry.” He raked his hand through his hair as his voice, full of frustration, rose a notch. “Look, I didnt plan on it happening. It surprised me as much as you, but I thought you knew me well enough to know I wouldnt fuck around with you.”

Ryder tried to ease Jasons agitated state. “Its fine. Lets forget about it, all right?” He gave him an uncertain smile. Better this way. They could work through Jasons uncomfortable feelings, and as for his own yet-to-be-reckoned-with desires, he could push them back into that black box where he kept all his lifes disappointments. Right now it contained his parentstreatment of him, his inability to see his brother, the brief affairs with Josh and Matt. Jason would be one more depressing addition.

Jason cocked his head and narrowed his eyes. “I don’t think you understand.” He took a step closer. “Im not sorry for kissing you.”

Jasons soft, husky voice sent a shiver through Ryder. He backtracked back a few steps. “I am, though. Im not looking to teach someone to be gay. You either are or you arent, man, and youre straight.” It pained him to push the guy away, but he wasnt about to sacrifice a friendship for casual sex.

Jason snorted. “You dont really know shit about me. If I was perfectly straight, would I have dreams about you?”


Available for purchase at: Loose ID
 
Author BioFelice Stevens has always been a romantic at heart. She believes that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. She started reading traditional historical romances when she was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasnt until she picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeths court that her interest in romance novels became renewed.

But somewhere along the way, her tastes shifted. While she still enjoys a juicy Historical romance, she began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. And once she picked up her first, she became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, she knew she wanted to write her own.

Felice lives in New York City with her husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of her own. Her day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. She practices law but daydreams of a time when she can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.

Be sure to visit Felice atWebsite

 


Friday, August 29, 2014

Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Heroes are my Weakness Blog Tour (+Giveaway)


Blurb: New York Times bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips is back with a delightful novel filled with her sassy wit and dazzling charm

The dead of winter.

An isolated island off the coast of Maine.

A man.

A woman.

A sinister house looming over the sea ...

He's a reclusive writer whose macabre imagination creates chilling horror novels. She's a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids' puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill with laughs.

But she's not laughing now. When she was a teenager, he terrified her. Now they're trapped together on a snowy island off the coast of Maine. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.

It's going to be a long, hot winter.


Excerpt

Excerpt (Chapter 1):
Annie didn’t usually talk to her suitcase, but she wasn’t exactly herself these days. The high beams of her headlights could barely penetrate the dark, swirling chaos of the winter blizzard, and the windshield wipers on her ancient Kia were no match for the wrath of the storm that had hit the island. “It’s only a little snow,” she told the oversize red suitcase wedged into the passenger seat. “Just because it feels like the end of the world doesn’t mean it is.”
You know I hate the cold, her suitcase replied, in the annoying whine of a child who preferred making a point by stamping her foot. How could you bring me to this awful place? Because Annie had run out of options.
An icy blast rocked the car, and the branches of the old fir trees hovering over the unpaved road whipped like witches’ hair. Annie decided that anybody who believed in hell as a fiery furnace had it all wrong. Hell was this bleak, hostile winter island.
You’ve never heard of Miami Beach? Crumpet, the spoiled princess in the suitcase retorted. Instead you had to haul us off to a deserted island in the middle of the North Atlantic where we’ll probably get eaten by polar bears!
The gears ground as the Kia struggled up the narrow, slippery island road. Annie’s head ached, her ribs hurt from coughing, and the simple act of craning her neck to peer through a clear spot on the windshield made her dizzy. She was alone in the world with only the imaginary voices of her ventriloquist dummies anchoring her to reality. As sick as she was, she didn’t miss the irony.
She conjured up the more calming voice of Crumpet’s counterpart, the practical Dilly, who was tucked away in the matching red suitcase in the backseat. We’re not the middle of the Atlantic, sensible Dilly said. We’re on an island ten miles off the New England coast, and the last I heard, Maine doesn’t have polar bears. Besides, Peregrine Island isn’t deserted.
It might as well be. If Crumpet had been on Annie’s arm, she would have shot her small nose up in the air. People barely survive here in the middle of the summer let alone winter. I bet they eat their dead for food.
The car fishtailed ever so slightly. Annie corrected the skid, gripping the wheel more tightly through her gloves. The heater barely worked, but she’d begun to perspire under her jacket.
You mustn’t keep complaining, Crumpet, Dilly admonished her peevish counterpart. Peregrine Island is a popular summer resort.
It’s not summer! Crumpet countered. It’s the first week of February, we just drove off a car ferry that made me seasick, and there can’t be more than fifty people left here. Fifty stupid people!
You know Annie had no choice but to come here, Dilly said.
Because she’s a big failure, an unpleasant male voice sneered.
Leo had a bad habit of uttering Annie’s deepest fears, and it was inevitable that he’d intrude into her thoughts. He was her least favorite puppet, but every story needed a villain.
Very unkind, Leo, Dilly said. Even if it is true.
The petulant Crumpet continued to complain. You’re the heroine, Dilly, so everything always turns out fine for you. But not for the rest of us. Not ever. We’re doomed! Doomed, I say! We’re forever--
Annie’s cough cut off the internal histrionics of her puppet. Sooner or later her body would heal from the lingering aftereffects of pneumonia--at least she hoped so--but what about the rest of her? She’d lost faith in herself, lost the sense that, at thirty-three, her best days still lay ahead. She was physically weak, emotionally empty, and more than a little terrified, hardly the best state for someone forced to spend the next two months on an isolated Maine island.
That’s only sixty days, Dilly attempted to point out. Besides, Annie, you don’t have anywhere else to go.
And there it was. The ugly truth. Annie had nowhere else to go. Nothing else to do but search for the legacy her mother might or might not have left her.
The Kia hit a snow-packed rut, and the seat belt seized up. The pressure on Annie’s chest made her cough again. If only she could have stayed in the village for the night, but the Island Inn was closed until May. Not that she could have afforded it anyway.
The car barely crested the hill. She had years of practice transporting her puppets through every kind of weather to perform all over the state, but even a decent snow driver had limited control on a road like this, especially in her Kia. There was a reason the residents of Peregrine Island drove pickups.
Take it slow, another male voice advised from the suitcase in the back. Slow and steady wins the race. Peter, her hero puppet--her knight in shining armor--was a voice of encouragement, unlike her former actor-boyfriend-slash-lover, who’d only encouraged himself.
Annie brought the car to a full stop then started her slow descent. Halfway down, it happened. The apparition came from nowhere.
A man clad in black flew across the bottom of the road on a midnight horse. She’d always had a vivid imagination--witness her internal conversations with her puppets--and she thought she was imagining this. But the vision was real. Horse and rider racing through the snow, the man leaning low over the horse’s mane streaming. They were demon creatures, a nightmare horse and lunatic man galloping into the storm’s fury.
They disappeared as quickly as they’d appeared, but her foot automatically hit the brake, and the car began to slide. It skidded across the road and,with a sickening lurch, came to a stop in the snow-filled ditch.
You’re such a loser, Leo the villain sneered.
Tears of exhaustion filled her eyes. Her hands shook. Were the man and horse indeed real or had she conjured them? She needed to focus. She put the car into reverse and attempted to rock it out, but the tires only spun deeper. Her head fell against the back of the seat. If she stayed here long enough, someone would find her. But when? Only the cottage and the main house lay at the end of this road.
She tried to think. Her single contact on the island was the man who took care of the main house and the cottage, but she’d only had an e-mail address to let him know she was arriving and ask him to turn on the cottage’s utilities. Even if she had his phone number¾Will Shaw¾that was his name¾she doubted she could get cell reception out here.
Loser. Leo never spoke in an ordinary voice. He only sneered.
Annie grabbed a tissue from a crumpled pack, but instead of thinking about her dilemma, she thought about the horse and rider. What kind of a crazy took an animal out in this weather? She squeezed her eyes shut and fought a wave of nausea. If only she could curl up and go to sleep. Would it be so terrible to admit that life had gotten the best of her?
Stop it right now, sensible Dilly said.
Annie’s head pounded. She had to find Shaw and get him to pull out the car.
Never mind Shaw, Peter the hero declared. I’ll do it myself.
Buy Peter--like her ex-boyfriend--was only good in a fictional crisis.
The cottage was about a mile away, an easy distance for a healthy person in decent weather. But the weather was horrible, and nothing about her was healthy.
Give up, Leo sneered. You know you want to.
Stop being such a douche, Leo. This voice came from Scamp, Dilly’s best friend and Annie’s alter ego. Even though Scamp was responsible for many of the scrapes the puppets got into--scrapes heroine Dilly and hero Peter had to sort out--Annie loved her courage and big heart.
Pull yourself together, Scamp ordered. Get out of the car.
Annie wanted to tell her to go to hell, but what was the point? She pushed her flyaway hair inside the collar of her quilted jacket and zipped it. Her knit gloves had a hole in the thumb, and the door handle was icy against her exposed skin. She made herself open it.
The cold slapped her in the face and stole her breath. She had to force her legs out. Her beat-up brown suede city boots sank into the snow, and her jeans were no match for the weather. Ducking her head into the wind, she made her way to the rear of the car to get her heavy coat, only to see that the trunk was wedged so tightly into the hillside that she couldn’t open it. Why should she be surprised? Nothing had gone her way in so long that she’d forgotten what good fortune felt like.
She returned to the driver’s side. Her puppets should be safe in the car overnight, but what if they weren’t? She needed them. They were all she had left, and if she lost them, she might disappear altogether.
Pathetic, Leo sneered.
She wanted to rip him apart.
Babe… You need me more than I need you, he reminded her. Without me, you don’t have a show.
She shut him out. Breathing hard, she pulled the suitcases from the car, retrieved her keys, snapped off the headlights, and closed the door.
She was immediately plunged into thick, swirling darkness. Panic clawed at her chest.
I will rescue you! Peter declared.
Annie gripped the suitcase handles tighter, trying not to let her panic paralyze her.
I can’t see anything! Crumpet squealed. I hate the dark!
Annie had no handy flashlight app on her ancient cell phone, but she did have… She set a suitcase in the snow and dug in her pocket for her car keys and the small LED light attached to the ring. She hadn’t tried to use the light in months, and she didn’t know if it still worked. With her heart in her throat, she turned it on.
A sliver of bright blue light cut a tiny path through the snow, a path so narrow she could easily wander off the road.
Get a grip, Scamp ordered.
Give up, Leo sneered.
Annie took her first steps into the snow. The wind cut through her thin jacket and tore at her hair, whipping the curly strands onto her face. Snow slapped the back of her neck, and she started to cough. Pain compressed her ribs, and the suitcases banged against her legs. Much too soon, she had to set them down to rest her arms.
She hunched into her jacket collar, trying to protect her lungs from the icy air. Her fingers burned from the cold, and as she moved forward again, she called on her puppets’ imaginary voices to keep her company.
Crumpet: If you drop me and ruin my sparkly lavender dress, I’ll sue.
Peter: I’m the bravest! The strongest! I’ll help you.
Leo: (sneering) Do you know how to do anything right?
Dilly: Don’t listen to Leo. Keep moving. We’ll get there.
And Scamp, her useless alter ego: A woman carrying a suitcase walks into a bar…
Icy tears weighed down her eyelashes, blurring what vision she had. Wind caught the suitcases, threatening to snatch them away. They were too big, too heavy. Pulling her arms from their sockets. Stupid to have brought them with her. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But she couldn’t leave her puppets.
Each step felt like a mile, and she’d never been so cold. Here she’d thought her luck had begun to change, all because she’d been able to catch the car ferry over from the mainland. It only ran sporadically, unlike the converted lobster boat that provided the island with weekly service. But the farther the ferry traveled from the Maine coastline, the worse the storm had become.
She trudged on, dragging one foot through the snow after the other, arms screaming, lungs burning as she tried not to succumb to another coughing fit. Why hadn’t she put her warm down coat in the car instead of locking it in the trunk? Why hadn’t she done so many things? Find a stable occupation. Be more circumspect with her money. Date decent men.
So much time had passed since she’d been on the island. The road used to stop at the turnoff that led to the cottage and to Harp House. But what if she missed it? Who knew what might have changed since then? She stumbled and fell to her knees. The keys slipped from her hand and the light went out. She grabbed one of the suitcases for support. She was frozen. Burning up. She gasped for air and frantically felt around in the snow. If she lost her light…
Her fingers were so numb she nearly missed it. When she finally had the flashlight back in her grasp, she turned it on and saw the stand of trees that had always marked the road’s end. She moved the beam to the right, where it fell on the big granite boulder at the turnoff. She hoisted herself back to her feet, lifted the suitcases, and stumbled through the drifts.
Her temporary relief at having found the turnoff faded. Centuries of harsh Maine weather had stripped this terrain of all but the hardiest of spruce, and without a windbreak, the blasts roaring in from the ocean caught the suitcases like spinnakers. She managed to turn her back to the wind’s force without losing either one. She sank one foot and then another, struggling through the tall snowdrifts, dragging the suitcases, and fighting the urge to lie down and let the cold do what it wanted with her.
She’d bowed so far into the wind that she nearly missed it. Only as the corner of a suitcase bumped against a low snow-shrouded stone wall did she realize that she’d reached Moonraker Cottage.
The small, gray-shingled house was nothing more than an amorphous shape beneath the snow. No shoveled pathway, no welcoming lights. The last time she’d been here, the door had been painted cranberry red, but now it was a cold, periwinkle blue. An unnatural mound of snow under the front window covered a pair of old wooden lobster traps, a nod to the house’s origins as a fisherman’s cottage. She hauled herself through the drifts to the door and set the suitcases down. She fumbled with the key in the lock only to remember that island people seldom locked up.
The door blew open. She dragged the suitcases inside and, with the last of her strength, wrestled it shut again. The air wheezed in her lungs. She collapsed on the closest suitcase, her gasps for breath more like sobs.
Eventually she grew conscious of the musty smell of the icy room. Pressing her nose to her sleeve, she fumbled for the light switch. Nothing happened. Either the caretaker hadn’t gotten her e-mail asking him to have the generator working and the small furnace fired up or he’d ignored it. Every frozen part of her throbbed. She dropped her snow-crusted gloves on the small canvas rug that lay just inside the door but didn’t bother to shake the snow from the wild tangle of her hair. Her jeans were frozen to her legs, but she’d have to pull off her boots to remove them, and she was too cold to do that.
But no matter how miserable she was, she had to get her puppets out of their snow-caked suitcases. She located one of the assorted flashlights her mother always kept near the door. Before school and library budgets were slashed, her puppets had provided a steadier livelihood than her failed acting career or her part-time jobs walking dogs and serving drinks at Coffee, Coffee.
Shaking with cold, she cursed the caretaker, who apparently had no qualms about riding a horse through a storm but couldn’t summon the effort to do his real job. It had to have been Shaw riding the horse. No one else lived at this end of the island during the winter. She unzipped the suitcases and pulled out the five dummies. Leaving them in their protective plastic bags, she stowed them temporarily on the sofa, then, flashlight in hand, stumbled across the frigid wood floor.
The interior of Moonraker Cottage bore no resemblance to anyone’s idea of a traditional New England fishing cottage. Instead her mother’s eccentric stamp was everywhere--from a creepy bowl of small animal skulls to a silver-gilded Louis XIV chest bearing the words PILE DRIVER that Mariah had spray-painted across it in black graffiti. Annie preferred a cozier space, but during Mariah’s glory days, when she’d inspired fashion designers and a generation of young artists, both this cottage and her mother’s Manhattan apartment had been featured in upscale decorating magazines.
Those days had ended years ago when Mariah had fallen out of favor in Manhattan’s increasingly younger artistic circles. Wealthy New Yorkers had begun asking others for help compiling their private art collections, and Mariah had been forced to sell off her valuables to support her lifestyle. By the time she’d gotten sick, everything was gone. Everything except something in this cottage¾something that was supposed to be Annie’s mysterious “legacy.”
“It’s at the cottage. You’ll have… Plenty of money…” Mariah had said those words in the final hours before she’d died, a period in which she’d been barely lucid.
There isn’t any legacy, Leo sneered. Your mother exaggerated everything.
Maybe if Annie had spent more time on the island she’d know whether Mariah had been telling the truth, but she’d hated it here and hadn’t been back since her twenty-second birthday, eleven years ago.
She shone the flashlight around her mother’s bedroom. A life-size mounted photograph of an elaborately carved Italian wooden headboard served as the actual headboard for the double bed. A pair of wall hangings made of boiled wool and what looked like remnants from a hardware store hung next to the closet door. The closet still smelled of her mother’s signature fragrance, a little-known Japanese men’s cologne that had cost a fortune to import. As Annie breathed in the scent, she wished she could feel the grief a daughter should experience following the loss of a parent only five weeks earlier, but she merely felt depleted.
She waited until she’d located Mariah’s old scarlet woolen cloak and a pair of heavy socks before she got rid of her own clothes. After she’d piled every blanket she could find on her mother’s bed, she climbed under the musty sheets, turned out the flashlight, and went to sleep.
***

Annie hadn’t thought she’d ever be warm again, but she was sweating when a coughing fit awakened her sometime around two in the morning. Her ribs felt as if they’d been crushed, her head pounded, and her throat was raw. She also had to pee, another setback in a house with no water. When the coughing finally eased, she struggled out from under the blankets. Wrapped in the scarlet cloak, she turned on the flashlight and, grabbing the wall to support herself, made her way to the bathroom.
She kept the flashlight pointed down so she couldn’t see her reflection in the mirror that hung over the old-fashioned sink. She knew what she’d see. A long, pale face shadowed by illness; a sharply pointed chin; big, hazel eyes; and a runaway mane of light brown hair that kinked and curled wherever it wanted. She had a face children liked, but that most men found quirky instead of seductive. Her hair and face came from her unknown father--“A married man. He wanted nothing to do with you. Dead now, thank God.”
Her shape came from Mariah: tall, thin, with knobby wrists and elbows, big feet, and long-fingered hands. “To be a successful actress, you need to be either exceptionally beautiful or exceptionally talented,” Mariah had said. “You’re pretty enough, Antoinette, and you’re a talented mimic, but we have to be realistic…”
Your mother wasn’t exactly your cheerleader. Dilly stated the obvious.
I’ll be your cheerleader, Peter proclaimed. I’ll take care of you and love you forever.
Peter’s heroic proclamations usually made Annie smile, but tonight she could think only of the emotional chasm between the men she’d chosen to give her heart to and the fictional heroes she loved. And the other chasm¾the one between the life she’d imagined for herself and the one she was living.
Despite Mariah’s objections, Annie had gotten her degree in theater arts and spent the next ten years plodding to auditions. She’d done showcases, community theater, and even landed a few character roles in off-off Broadway plays. Too few. Over the past summer, she’d finally faced the truth that Mariah was right. Annie was a better ventriloquist than she’d ever be an actress. Which left her absolutely nowhere. She found a bottle of ginseng-flavored water that had somehow escaped freezing. It hurt to swallow even a sip. Taking the water with her, she made her way back into the living room.
Mariah hadn’t been to the cottage since summer, just before her cancer diagnosis, but Annie didn’t see a lot of dust. The caretaker must have done at least part of his job. If only he’d done the rest.
Her dummies lay on the hot pink Victorian sofa. The puppets and her car were all she had left.
Not quite all, Dilly said.
Right. There was the staggering load of debt Annie had no way of repaying, the debt she’d picked up in the last six months of her mother’s life by trying to satisfy Mariah’s every need.
And finally get Mummy’s approval, Leo sneered.
She began removing the puppets’ protective plastic. Each figure was about two and a half feet long, with moveable eyes and mouth and detachable legs. She picked up Peter and slipped her hand under his T-shirt.
“How beautiful you are, my darling Dilly,” he said in his most manly voice. “The woman of my dreams.”
“And you are the best of men.” Dilly sighed. “Brave and fearless.”
“Only in Annie’s imagination,” Scamp said with uncharacteristic rancor. “Otherwise, you’re as useless as her exes.”
“There are only two exes, Scamp,” Dilly admonished her friend. “And you really mustn’t take out your bitterness against men on Peter. I’m sure you don’t mean to, but you’re starting to sound like a bully, and you know how we feel about bullies.”
Annie specialized in issue-oriented puppet shows, several of which focused on bullying. She set Peter down and moved Leo off by himself, where he whispered his sneer inside her head. You’re still afraid of me.
Sometimes it felt as if the puppets had minds of their own.
Pulling the scarlet cloak tighter around her, she wandered to the front bay window. The storm had eased and moonlight shone through the panes. She looked out at the stark winter landscape--the inky shadows of spruce, the bleak sheet of marsh. Then she lifted her gaze.
Harp House loomed above her in the distance, sitting at the very top of a barren cliff. The murky light of a half moon outlined its angular roofs and dramatic turret. Except for a faint yellow light visible from a room high in the turret, the house was dark. The scene reminded her of the covers on the old paperback gothic novels she could still sometimes find in used bookstores. It didn’t take much imagination for her to envision a barefoot heroine fleeing that ghostly house in nothing more than a filmy negligee, the menacing turret light glowing behind her. Those books were quaint compared to today’s erotically charged vampires, werewolves, and shape-shifters, but she’d always loved them. They’d nourished her daydreams.
Above the jagged roofline of Harp House, storm clouds raced across the moon, their journey as wild as the flight of the horse and rider who’d charged across the road. Her skin turned to gooseflesh, not from the cold but from her own imagination. She turned away from the window and glanced over at Leo.
Heavy lidded eyes… Thin-lipped sneer… The perfect villain. She could have avoided so much pain if she hadn’t romanticized those brooding men she’d fallen in love with, imagining them as fantasy heroes instead of realizing one was a cheater and the other a narcissist. Leo, however, was a different story. She’d created him herself out of cloth and yarn. She controlled him.
That’s what you think, he whispered.
She shivered and retreated to the bedroom. But even as she slipped back under the covers, she couldn’t shake off the dark vision of the house on the cliff.
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…
***

She wasn’t hungry when she awakened the next morning, but she made herself eat a handful of stale granola. The cottage was frigid, the day gloomy, and all she wanted to do was go back to bed. But she couldn’t live in the cottage without heat or running water, and the more she thought about her absent caretaker, the angrier she grew. She dug out the only phone number she had, one for the island’s combination town hall, post office, and library, but although her phone was charged, she couldn’t get a signal. She sank down on the pink velvet couch and dropped her head in her hands. She had to go after Will Shaw herself, and that meant making the climb to Harp House. Back to the place she’d sworn she’d never again go near.
She pulled on as many layers of warm clothes as she could find, then wrapped herself in her mother’s red cloak and knotted an ancient Herm├Ęs scarf under her chin. Summoning all her energy and willpower, she set out. The day was as gray as her future, the salt air frigid, and the distance between the cottage and the house at the top of the cliff insurmountable.
I’ll carry you every step of the way, Peter announced.
Scamp blew him a raspberry.
It was low tide, but the icy rocks along the shoreline were too hazardous to walk along at this time of year, so she had to take the longer route around the saltwater marsh. But it wasn’t just the distance that filled her with dread.
Dilly tried to give her courage. It’s been eighteen years since you made the climb to Harp House. The ghosts and goblins are long gone.
Annie pressed the edge of the cloak over her nose and mouth.
Don’t worry, Peter said. I’ll watch out for you.
Peter and Dilly were doing their jobs. They were the ones responsible for untangling Scamp’s scrapes and stepping in when Leo bullied. They were the ones who delivered antidrug messages, reminded kids to eat their vegetables, take care of their teeth, and not let anyone touch their private parts.
But it’ll feel so good, Leo sneered, then snickered.
Sometimes she wished she’d never created him, but he was such a perfect villain. He was the bully, the drug pusher, the junk food king, and the stranger who tried to lure children away from playgrounds.
Come with me, little kiddies, and I’ll give you all the candy you want.
Stop it, Annie, Dilly said. No one in the Harp family ever comes to the island until summer. Only the caretaker lives there.
Leo refused to leave Annie alone. I have Skittles, M&M’s, Twizzlers…and reminders of all your failures. How’s that precious acting career working out?
She hunched into her shoulders. She needed to start meditating or practicing yoga, doing something that would teach her to discipline her mind instead of letting it wander wherever it wanted¾or didn’t want¾to go. So what if her acting dreams hadn’t worked out the way she’d wanted. Kids loved her puppet shows Her boots crunched in the show. Dead cattails and hollowed reeds poked their battered heads through the frozen crust of the sleeping marsh. In summer, the marsh teemed with life, but now all was bleak, gray, and as quiet as her hopes.
She stopped to rest once again as she neared the bottom of the freshly plowed gravel drive that led up the cliff to Harp House. If Shaw could plow, he could get her car out. She dragged herself on. Before the pneumonia, she could have charged uphill, but by the time she finally reached the top, her lungs were on fire and she’d started to wheeze. Far below, the cottage looked like a neglected toy left to fend for itself against the pounding sea and rugged Maine cliffs. Dragging more fire into her lungs, she made herself lift her head.
Harp House rose before her, silhouetted against the pewter sky. Rooted in granite, exposed to summer squalls and winter gales, it dared the elements to take it down. The island’s other summer homes had been built on the more protected eastern side of the island, but Harp House scorned the easy way. Instead it grew from the rocky western headlands far above the sea, a shingle-sided, forbidding brown wooden fortress with an unwelcoming turret at one end.
Everything was sharp angles: the peaked roofs, shadowed eaves, and foreboding gables. How she’d loved this Gothic gloom when she’d come to live here the summer her mother had married Elliott Harp. She’d imagined herself clad in a mousy gray dress and clutching a portmanteau¾gently born, but penniless and desperate, forced to take the humble position of governess. Chin up and shoulders back, she’d confront the brutish (but exceptionally handsome) master of the house with so much courage that he would eventually fall hopelessly in love with her. They’d marry, and then she’d redecorate.
It hadn’t taken long before the romantic dreams of a homely fifteen-year-old who read too much and experienced too little had met a harsher reality.
Now, the swimming pool was an eerie, empty maw, and the simple sets of wooden stairs that led to the back and side entrances had been replaced with stone steps guarded by gargoyles.
She passed the stable and followed a roughly shoveled path to the back door. Shaw had better be here instead of galloping off on one of Elliott Harp’s horses. She pressed the bell but couldn’t hear it ring inside. The house was too big. She waited, then rang again, but no one answered. The doormat looked as though it had been recently used to stamp off snow. She rapped hard.
The door creaked open.
She was so cold that she stepped into the mudroom without hesitating. Miscellaneous pieces of outerwear, along with assorted mops and brooms, hung from a set of hooks. She rounded the corner that opened into the main kitchen and stopped.
Everything was different. The kitchen no longer held the walnut cabinets and stainless steel appliances she remembered from eighteen years ago. Instead the place looked as though it had been squeezed back through a time warp to the nineteenth century.
The wall between the kitchen and what had once been a breakfast room was gone, leaving the space twice as large as it had once been. High, horizontal windows let in light, but since the windows were now set at least six feet from the floor, only the tallest person could see through them. Rough plaster covered the top half of the walls, while the bottom was faced with four-inch-square once-white tiles, some chipped at the corners, others cracked with age. The floor was old stone, the fireplace a sooty cavern large enough to roast a wild boar…or a man unwise enough to have been caught poaching on his master’s land.
Instead of kitchen cabinets, rough shelves held stoneware bowls and crocks. Tall, freestanding dark wood cupboards rose on each side of a dull black industrial-size AGA stove. A stone farmhouse sink held a messy stack of dirty dishes. Copper stockpots and saucepans--not shiny and polished, but dented and worn--hung above a long, scarred wooden prep table designed to chop off chicken heads, butcher mutton chops, or whip up a syllabub for his lordship’s dinner.
The kitchen had to be a renovation, but what kind of renovation regressed two centuries. And why?
Run! Crumpet shrieked. Something’s very wrong here!
Whenever Crumpet got hysterical, Annie counted on Dilly’s no-nonsense manner to provide perspective, but Dilly remained silent, and not even Scamp could come up with a wisecrack.
“Mr. Shaw?” Annie’s voice lacked its normal powers of projection.
When there was no reply, she moved deeper into the kitchen, leaving wet tracks on the stone floor. But no way was she taking off her boots. If she had to run, she wasn’t doing it in socks. “Will?”
Not a sound.
She passed the pantry, crossed a narrow back hallway, detoured around the dining room, and stepped through the arched entry into the foyer. Only the dimmest gray light penetrated the six square panes above the front door. The heavy mahogany staircase still led to a landing with a murky stained-glass window, but the staircase carpet was now a depressing maroon instead of the multicolored floral from the past. The furniture bore a dusty film, and a cobweb hung in the corner. The walls had been paneled over in heavy, dark wood, and the seascape paintings had been replaced with gloomy oil portraits of prosperous men and women in nineteenth-century dress, none of whom could possibly have been Elliott Harp’s Irish peasant ancestors. All that was missing to make the entryway even more depressing was a suit of armor and a stuffed raven.
She heard footsteps above her and moved closer to the staircase. “Mr. Shaw? It’s Annie Hewitt. The door was open, so I let myself in.” She looked up. “I’m going to need--”
The words died on her tongue.
The master of the house stood at the top of the stairs.

Available for purchase at: Amazon
Kobo 

Author Bio: Susan Elizabeth Phillips soars onto the New York Times bestseller list with every new publication. She’s the only four-time recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Favorite Book of the Year Award. Susan delights fans by touching hearts as well as funny bones with her wonderfully whimsical and modern fairy tales. A resident of the Chicago suburbs, she is also a wife, and mother of two grown sons.

Be sure to visit Susan at: Website

http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/06/now-booking-tasty-virtual-tour-for_17.html

  
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cathy Maxwell's Nightingale Book Tour (+Giveaway)


Blurb: Fate has brought them together -again.

At one time, Jemma had meant the world to Dane Pendleton, but then she betrayed their young love by marrying another for his title and fortune.

Now Time has turned the tables. Dane is wealthy, respected, knighted and the widowed Jemma has nothing but her pride.

His honor for hers . . .

Dane’s name is on the lips of every beauty in London. They whisper he learned “tricks” while he was in the Orient. But has he forgotten Jemma, now Lady Mosby, and what they had once meant to each other? And will he accept her devil’s bargain?

In every woman’s life, there is that one love who slipped away. The man who makes her wonder “what if?”

But is this a momentary madness or a chance to rekindle a love that could last a lifetime?

Excerpt: He’d removed his jacket and wore a vest embroidered in black, red, and gold over a snowy white shirt. Even seated his breeches were so well tailored they seemed molded to his thighs, and his tall, black boots were a tribute to their maker. The knot in his neck cloth was still crisp, as if he had the wherewithal to change to a newly starched one several times a day.

She’d dressed in her best, a cream muslin gown with cap sleeves and edged in white lace. She would have worn it to the opera back in the days when she’d done such things. However, the gown was woefully out of style, and the blue silk Norwich shawl covering her shoulders now seemed out of place and somewhat silly—especially under the intensity of his regard.

Nervous, Jemma hoped he didn’t notice how worn her kid slippers were. And she was glad she’d listened to her mother’s advice on how to style her hair for this interview. It was so long that she usually braided it and wrapped it into a loose chignon at the nape of her neck. Tonight, however, she’d taken extra care and wore it high on her head in loose curls as if preparing to be presented at Court. Now, she wondered if it hadn’t been foolish to waste precious minutes on her appearance. The rumor was Dane preferred blondes—

His deep voice broke the silence between them. “What are you doing here?”


Available for purchase at: Amazon 

Author Bio: CATHY MAXWELL spends hours in front of her computer pondering the question, “Why do people fall in love?” It remains for her the great mystery of life and the secret to happiness. She lives in beautiful Virginia with children, horses, dogs, and cats.

Be sure to visit Cathy atWebsite

http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/07/nightingale-by-cathy-maxwell.html
 
 

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Lecia Cornwall's What a Lady Most Desires Book Tour (+Giveaway)


Blurb: On the night before the final battle against Napoleon, Lady Delphine St. James finds herself dancing with the one man she has always wanted, Major Lord Stephen Ives. He makes it clear he has no time for a lady he sees as flirtatious and silly, but as the call to arms sounds, she bids him farewell with a kiss that stirs them both. When he returns gravely injured, she is intent on caring for him, even if his surly behavior tests her patience.

After the battle, Stephen is not only wounded and blind, but falsely accused of cowardice and theft. The only light in his dark world is Delphine, the one woman he never imagined he could desire. But she deserves more than he can give her.

As their feelings deepen and hidden enemies conspire to force them to part forever, can their love survive the cruelest test of all?


Available for purchase at: Amazon
Kobo 

 Author Bio: Lecia Cornwall is a PRO member of the Romance Writers of America’s Seattle and Calgary Chapters. Her background includes all facets of writing, including running a successful freelance writing business specializing in direct marketing and advertising. Both history and writing have been lifelong passions. Lecia currently lives and writes in Calgary, Alberta, the heart of the Canadian West.


Be sure to follow Lecia atWebsite
Blog 

http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/07/what-lady-most-desires-temberlay-3-by.html
 

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Vivienne Lorret's Finding Miss McFarland Book Tour (+Giveaway)


Blurb: Fans of historical romance authors Lorraine Heath and Sophie Jordan will adore Vivienne Lorret's latest Wallflower Wedding novel. 

Delaney McFarland is on the hunt for a husband—preferably one who needs her embarrassingly large dowry more than a dutiful wife. After the unspeakable incident at her debut, Delaney knows marrying for love is off the table, but a marriage of convenience—one that leaves her free to live the life she chooses—is the next best thing, never mind what that arrogant, devilishly handsome Mr. Croft thinks. Delaney plans to marry for money … or not at all

Ever since the fiery redhead burst into his life—in a most memorable way—Griffin Croft hasn't been able to get Miss McFarland out of his mind. Now, with the maddening woman determined to hand over her fortune to a rake, Griffin knows he must step in. He must help her. He must not kiss her. But when Griffin's noble intentions flee in a moment of unexpected passion, his true course becomes clear: tame Delaney's wild heart and save her from a fate worse than death … a life without love.

Excerpt: When Griffin spotted young Mr. Simms before he left Danbury Lane, he learned that the lad knew nothing of Delaney’s departure either, other than the fact that she’d left shortly before dawn. Not only that, but she’d taken one of her father’s carriages and drivers with her. Neither the driver nor the carriage had returned, which left Griffin with only one conclusion. Somehow, he’d lost her. Of course, he wasn’t one to accept defeat. He would simply find her by any means necessary. 

Frustrated, Griffin went to Gentleman Jackson’s saloon. He needed to find a decent sparring partner. As luck would have it, Everhart was there. Today, however, his opponent was sorely lacking in skill. Griffin’s fist connected with flesh time and again. 

“You’re an easy target today, Everhart. Spend the night carousing?”

“Though you may not believe it, I kept very respectable company last evening,” he said through a yawn and then threw a punch that struck only air. “My cousin and his wife invited me to dine with them. Afterward, Rathburn gave me leave to stay in my usual guest quarters if I chose, and so I did.”

This time, he blocked the blow to his gut. “Regardless, I was not expecting to awaken at dawn to the sound of some red-haired demon pounding on the door.”

Griffin’s arms felt suddenly stiff and leaden. “Red-haired demon?”

Everhart took advantage with a left and then a right to his ribs. “With my room overlooking the drive and receiving the full force of those violent raps, I stumbled out of bed and stuck my head out the window.”

Dancing from foot to foot, he motioned with his fist for Griffin to raise his guard again. “Anyway, I learned later that the chit was one of my new cousin-in-law’s friends, requesting use of Rathburn’s hunting box in Scotland. Apparently, she had to flee posthaste, though my cousin and his bride could only speculate over the reason. If you can believe it,” he paused to laugh with incredulity, “Emma said that only a matter of the heart could be the cause. Besotted fool that my cousin is, Rathburn was inclined to agree.”

Griffin stilled. A matter of the heart. That was reason she’d left London. Could it be that Delaney McFarland was in love with him? Everhart connected with Griffin’s jaw and knocked him flat.

Blinking the stars from his eyes, Griffin looked up. “Whereabouts in Scotland?”

“Near Dumfries. I’ve stayed there a time or two. Say, are you going to sit on the floor, or are we going to finish?”

Everhart offered his assistance. Dumfries? Surely, fate had a hand in this. Griffin stood and shook his opponent’s hand. “I owe you one, my friend.”

“For knocking you on your arse?”

“Precisely.”

Available for purchase atAmazon

Author Bio: I fell in love with fairy tales and the romance behind happily ever after at a very young age. Like a lot of you, I tweaked the fables bit by bit in my imagination until they suited me perfectly. By the time I was eleven, a teacher encouraged me to start writing.

 Throughout the years that followed, my teachers remained my most fervent supporters, giving me the tools I needed to continue my journey as a writer.

My husband and I have two teenage boys, who are heroes in their own right. For now, we live in a small Midwestern town near Lake Michigan…until a time in the future when a new adventure calls us to other shores.

I am currently working on my next novel, but I always enjoy hearing from my readers. Feel free to email me at vivienne@vivlorret.net .

Be sure to visit Vivienne atWebsite


Follow along with the tour HERE 


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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Felice Stevens' Rescued Release Day Blitz! (+Giveaway)



Blurb: Ryder Daniels has spent the last year recovering from rejection: his parents couldn’t accept his sexuality and his lover chose drugs over his love. The only bright lights in his life are his younger brother and his rescued pit bull. But now his mother's punishment for his lifestyle has cut him off from his brother he loves so deeply. Devastated, he throws himself into the work of the Pit Bull Foundation he and his friends started.

Jason Mallory can no longer hide the dissatisfaction of his relationship with his longtime girlfriend. When her marriage ultimatum pushes him to break things off, he's determined not to jump into the dating scene. But when a group of injured pit bulls are found on his construction site, he can’t forget the guy who shows up to help.

After Jason adopts one of the dogs, he and Ryder become fast friends—until one night, Ryder lets down his guard and Jason recognizes his desire. Soon, they can’t deny the passion between them but will family differences and ugly prejudices keep them apart, or can they fight to prove that love is precious, no matter the flavor?

Available for purchase at: Amazon
Barnes & Noble 
All Romance 


Author Bio: Felice Stevens has always been a romantic at heart. She believes that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. She started reading traditional historical romances when she was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until she picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that her interest in romance novels became renewed.

But somewhere along the way, her tastes shifted. While she still enjoys a juicy Historical romance, she began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. And once she picked up her first, she became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, she knew she wanted to write her own.

Felice lives in New York City with her husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of her own. Her day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. She practices law but daydreams of a time when she can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.


Be sure to visit Felice at: Website


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