Excerpt: THE GERMAN MESSENGER by David Malcolm

The German Messenger by David Malcolm – EXCERPT

 

Chapter 1 – In London

It was a cold, wet December afternoon when my train pulled into Victoria. Clouds of steam billowed up in the damp air, up into the blackened arches of the station roof. Pigeons flapped aimlessly from one to the other. A tired, bleary-eyed, bad-tempered crowd pushed and lugged its bags, porters shouted hoarsely, soldiers stood in small huddles, smoking, drinking tea at steaming, makeshift canteens. As always when I came back to London, I was struck by the amount of khaki everywhere. The city, or at least its stations, its parks, its squares, all its public places were on a war footing. Soldiers everywhere, waiting, gathering, reading, larking, dashing purposefully or looking lost and confused. One came up to me, a scrap of official paper clutched in one hand, a huge kit bag weighing down his shoulder. In a broad Belfast accent he asked me, without saluting, where platform five might be, for God’s sake. His eyes were glazed with tiredness and worry. I turned him round and pointed him in the right direction. He didn’t even manage to stammer a thanks.

The motor cab jolted me through the wet, windswept streets. Evening was coming on, and they were lighting the lamps. The matinee shows at the music halls were finishing, and crowds milled on the streets along the Strand. Again I noticed the uniforms everywhere. London used to be such a civilian town, I thought to myself. Now suddenly, so many soldiers. And then I realized it was already the second year of the War, and, as I glanced down at my own Army greatcoat, that I was one of them too.

I let myself into my service flat. I had wired ahead so they had cleaned and aired the place, and a fire was burning in the sitting room grate. For a moment, my mood of depression vanished. Here I was safe, here I was at home, surrounded by my books and chairs, my pictures, my letters, my civilian clothes, by all the bric-a-brac of a life of sorts. And then as I unstrapped my boots and took off my greatcoat, I caught a glimpse of my face in the hallway mirror, and a wave of sadness and bile swept up from my guts to my throat.

I stared at the face in the mirror. The neck rose out of the khaki and brown thinner, more gaunt than I’d ever seen it. The face above was grey and stretched. The eyes stared out of bony hollows. The hair was going grey at the temples. The neat brush of a moustache that we all affected in those years was flecked with grey. I suppose the look was distinguished in its way, but for a moment I had seen myself without any protective layers of pretence or habit, without the company of others. I looked awful, I thought, like a walking dead man. I was wearing a grey mask, and only my eyes seemed half alive. No wonder the little Belgian had almost died of fright when I had stuck my face next to his (we were completely alone by then for I had sent young Morrisey out of the room; Lefranc of course stayed, cleaning his nails in a way even I found unnerving) and told him very quietly, and in very passable French, what it was in my power, my personal power, to do to him if he didn’t tell us exactly what he thought the Panamanian registered tramp due into Santander on Thursday was really carrying. He broke down at that point and seemed grateful rather than anything else when we told him that he would probably get four years in a French military prison for not letting us know earlier.

The face was not my father’s, not my father’s at all.

The face was not that of a happy man, nor of a kind one. By late 1916, I was neither of those things. Although I was alive, and that might have been cause enough for a brief smile or two. Sometimes I felt I knew more of the dead, than I did of the living. On bad days, I felt that I belonged among them myself.

Later, after I had bathed and changed into comfortable civilian clothes, and the lights glowed liquid in the jet black night outside, I reviewed the past few years of my life. I poured myself a whisky and sat by the fire. I was afraid to lose the heat of the bath, and I let the warmth from the flames play on my face. I was thirty-one years old, a major in the British Army, seconded to the War Office for special duties. The special duties had been no choice of mine. In 1914 I had tried to join up like thousands of other young men. It seemed only right, the logical continuation of my work for the past decade. At last, the final battle was coming. I was still young enough to believe that. They plucked me out within three days, put a captain’s uniform on me, and sent me to France to interrogate German POWs. Bullivant came to see me in the big house north of Paris. We could hear the German guns on the Marne and all our papers were in boxes and all the trucks were manned round the clock in case we had to leave at a moment’s notice. Bulllivant looked like a man who’d placed a bet on an unknown horse at the races and won a fortune. His bald head gleamed in the autumn sun and he glanced towards the east and the sound of the guns with a kind of grim satisfaction. “This is your war,” he said to me, waving his hand round the grand dining room we used for preliminary interrogations. “Not out there. A stray bullet and a decade of experience is wiped out. We can’t afford that. This war will be longer than most of the generals or politicians think, let alone the general public. Longer than any of them can begin to guess, either here or in Berlin. We need you to do the kind of work only you can do. We can always find brave young men to die. We need your knowledge and your brains.” And then he added with a smile, “And don’t think for a moment it won’t be dangerous. It will, I assure you, it will.”

So I fought my war not in the trenches, but in chateaux behind the lines, in tiny French provincial police stations, by the customs desks in Boulogne and Rosslare. I interrogated, browbeat, bullied, terrified, trapped. I watched lines of people stepping off boats. I scrutinized Swiss permis de séjour and bills of lading out of Varna bound for Christiansand. I travelled to Boston to trace Irish money that was buying German guns. I tried to buy or trap German clerks in Lisbon, and to unmask the German who was trying to do the same to British clerks in Zürich. I was five times behind German lines. Exciting visits, but not for telling about here. I was in Berlin when Casement visited in 1915. Later they sent me to speak to hard-faced Polish legionnaires in the forests round Kraków. In early 1916, I was in Pommerania checking on exercises for an invasion of Britain which the German General Staff appeared to be holding on the Baltic. A few months later they sent me into Galicia to look for a lost agent, gone missing with Austrian Army codes. The Germans almost killed me later that year in an Armenian restaurant in Bucharest. Bullivant was right – it was dangerous. I carried a few more scars, my bones ached from the last mad tramp over the Tatras, I sweated when I thought of a certain forest glade in the Carpathians and a yeshiva in Romanian Transylvania. Oh, yes, dangerous enough. That salved my conscience a little, but not much when the casualty lists started to come out in August 1916. No, not much.

Andrzej had stayed with me when the War started. Bullivant payed him a salary for work he did for us. He helped me with interrogations, freelanced and trawled for information on his own among the Central European emigrés of London and Paris, came with me when I travelled to Kraków and Galicia. It was he who knocked out the German agent who wanted to kill me in Bucharest. All for a free Poland (but he was on the wrong side if that was what he wanted), or all for adventure? Or was it simply that he, like me, had become used to a certain way of life, and neither he, nor I, quite knew what we would do without it?

Along the way, too, I had picked up another assistant. Corporal Alan McLeish, tall, red-haired, very hard, very Glaswegian, had come to me as my driver and batman in the autumn of 1914. I had quickly learned to value his violent efficiency and exemplary skill with vehicle engines. He brought other qualifications with him too. He had lived for several years in South Africa and spoke very decent Afrikaans and passable Dutch. I took him with me on my first trip into Holland in late 1914 when we played the part of a pair of Swiss and South African representatives of a certain Swedish shipping company that was willing to transport certain items to certain neutral ports for a substantial fee. We flushed out a whole network of secret German suppliers that time. McLeish, like Andrzej, was a useful man to have around in a tight corner. I once saw him stop a particularly nasty pro-German, Dutch gendarme with one of the best placed head-butts I have ever witnessed. We ran fast that night, I can tell you. I remember breathing a deep sigh of relief when the little fishing smack we commandeered made it out of Dutch territorial waters.

But I lost McLeish in early 1916. He gave me an ultimatum (we were on that kind of terms by then). Either let him join up in a line regiment, or he would simply go AWOL and get himself thrown in a military prison. I told him he was mad, he’d be dead in three months. He said he didn’t care, he couldn’t bear watching good men go West while he sat safe in “some fucking fancy French chateau, drinking wine like a pimp.” When I pointed out that we got shot at too, he just laughed. “Nothing against you, sir,” he said, “I know they won’t let you join the regulars. But we have a right cushy number here most of the time. I canna look mysel’ in the mirror much longer if I stay here. Just sign the bloody paper, would you? Sir.” So I did, and he went back to the Cameron Highlanders. I missed him. I hadn’t seen him for almost a year. He was most likely dead. I really did miss him. Young Morrisey couldn’t get a car started on a damp February morning; no prisoner believed he’d break every finger in your left hand without a qualm (they did when McLeish looked at them); my paper work wasn’t half as good as when McLeish was managing it. And I missed the covert and overt insults. Morrisey was a mild mannered young man from Hardy’s Wessex, not a Glaswegian thug deeply imbued with a Scottish contempt for authority. Ach, McLeish was probably frozen dead in some trench by now. And good luck to him.

Then I started. I stared into the fire and thought of the dead. When I was out on a job, I rarely allowed myself the luxury. Here in my own flat, by my own fire, I could hardly stop. You see, it wasn’t all safety behind the lines. My work took me to the front too, and not to some cleaned-up version that the brass-hats saw. I knew the mud and the wire and the trees like burnt matchsticks. I smelled the stench of the unburied bodies in No Man’s Land; I heard the heavy guns. But after a day or two I could go home. That was the difference. But even there the front pursued me. I talked to men on furlough, on rest detail, British and French. The stories were the same. The same endless, concentrated imitation of hell. But what was unnerving was that the German soldiers I interrogated told the same stories. They all shared a landscape of hell and madness – the same mud, the same stench, the same rats. A young Bavarian Feldwebel would paint the same picture as a corporal from East Lancs or a French poilou from Dijon. Sometimes it seemed they weren’t fighting each other, but the war. That was their common enemy, the bloody war.

I remembered a spring day in 1915. McLeish and I were lounging against the wall of an old French farmhouse. We’d stopped for lunch on our way back from a line H.Q. where they’d just captured a sergeant from a Prussian regiment. He was a tough old Berliner (with Social-Democrat leanings, I’d wager) who told us nothing of any use, so we decided to take the long way home and enjoy ourselves a little en route. The cold chicken and the white wine that Mcleish had conjured out of a passing French officers’ supply truck were excellent. The sun was shining, heating the old limestone walls of the farm house. The trees had a haze of green on them.

And then down the road marched a column of Scottish soldiers. Their badges were that of one of the new Glasgow regiments, one of Kitchener‘s New Army creations. But they looked good lads, well-disciplined, marching in good order, their trench kilts swinging like loose aprons. We raised our glasses to them as they passed, about a hundred and fifty of them, and they smiled and waved back. “Awa’ ye go, lads,” called McLeish. “Awa’ the bhouys!” I even knew the captain from school, a grim, dark-faced lad two years my junior who’d wanted to be a doctor. “Aye Gavin,” I cried. “Did ye make it to the Medical Department?” “Harry, man, Harry Draffen,” he called in return. “Aye, I did. MBChB. I got married too. A bonny lass. We live near where your grandad had his parish.” “Good luck to you, Gavin. Tak’ care.” “An’ you too, Draffen.” They marched on and McLeish and I watched them. There was yellow blossom in the fields. The trees had that tinge of green they only have in early spring. We watched them march away, and then silently, without exchanging a single word, we packed the basket, loaded the car and set back for base. We didn’t say a thing to each other for more than an hour. What was there to say?

I was in Divisional H.Q. when the flimsy came in for that sector. The afternoon we had seen them they had been wiped out attacking German fortified machine-gun emplacements. Every one of them was dead. That night McLeish and I drank a great deal. I think it was then he decided to leave me altogether.

But I never hated the Germans. Well, with my background and experiences I wouldn’t, I suppose. But it went further than that. You’d think, after that story of the Scottish column being wiped out, I’d blame it all on them and hate them for it. But neither McLeish or I did. We hated the War, we hated the bloody brass-hats on both sides who sent kids in to die in the mud and on the wire. But hate the Germans? Christ, they were dying like flies too, in the same mud, on the same wire.

It was as if we were all characters in some mad novel, written by a lunatic whom we couldn’t control. So many of us knew the whole thing was bad, but we could never break away from it. How could we? If we did, we’d be betraying our mates, the men who suffered and died with us. We’d have to confess that the two years of hell had been for nothing and that the men we let give us orders were fools. And that we were fools for obeying them. So we kept on serving the War that consumed those very mates of ours.

And the funny thing was, the men from the Wilhelmstrasse felt the same as we did. Some did, anyway. I met one in Zürich in early ’16, I remember. We were exchanging agents (oh, we’d become sophisticated enough to do that by then, provided we could keep it out of the papers and away from the brass), one of ours for one of theirs, on neutral territory by a pretty little summer house on the Lake of Zürich. It was spring, I remember. The snow was still on the mountains, but the leaves were beginning to bud and the birds were singing. The waters of the lake lapped softly on a grassy shore. Goethe had rowed here 130 years before and written one of my favourite lyrics. “Und frische Nahrung, neues Blut . . .”. (“And fresh nourishment, new blood. . . ” – it doesn’t translate well, does it? But it is beautiful.)

I was to meet one of theirs first, to settle details, to arrange terms. He stood by the lake, a tall, slim figure in a dark coat, smoking a cigarette. The smoke from his right hand curled against the sparkling blue of the water. We bowed ceremoniously and exchanged credentials. He spoke with a clear North German accent, and after we had finished our business, he smiled and offered me one of his cigarettes. I took it and we stared out over the water and its little choppy waves to the other side of the lake. Zürich was a cluster of medieval towers and steeples off to our left. The hills that surrounded the city were brown and their trees still leafless. The air was sharp, the light clear and thin.

I could think of nothing to say. I stole a closer look at my counterpart. The face was like a reflection of my own, thin, with shadowed eyes, the obligatory small moustache drawing out his face. The same age. I saw him making his way through the streets of Lübeck or Rostock or Hamburg to his university. I saw the friends he drank with, the girls he talked to. I knew the trips he had made to the Schwarzwald or Bavaria, to Hiddensee or Rügen. A Doppelgänger, I thought, how appropriate for this gothic, necromancer’s city.

“Goethe rowed a boat out there in the lake,” I said. It was all I could think of.

The German turned to me, his eyebrows raised in surprise.

“Ah, yes? You know that?”

“Yes. One of my favourite poems comes from that experience.” I quoted the first two lines. “Und frische Nahrung, neues Blut, saug’ ich aus freier Welt. . .”.

“Wie ist Natur so hold und gut, die mich am Busen hält,” he completed the sentence. “You are a German scholar, I see, sir.”

“A little. I was a student in Germany many years ago.” This was more than I should have breathed to him.

“Ah, yes,” he replied gently. “I too was a student for a time in your country. A year in Oxford. It was very charming. I remember it with great pleasure. So many people were . . . very kind. I studied Anglo-Saxon literature with your Professor Sweetman. I still remember how he would recite Beowulf. It was quite wonderful. I disagreed with his reading. It ignores the German tribal elements. But he was a great man, nonetheless. A great scholar. I think he is dead now.”

“I believe so. In 1913, I think.”

“Quite so. A sad loss.”

“There are many sad losses nowadays.”

“Many.”

“I hate this war. I loathe it with all my heart.”

He could barely conceal his surprise. He stared at me for a full five seconds before turning away and flicking his cigarette onto the pebbles of the lake shore. What was running through his mind, I wondered. Was this Englishman mad? Was he trying to entrap him somehow? Why this absurd, unprecedented confession? But his answer was strangely unexpected, yet wholly appropriate. He cleared his throat and poked the ground lightly with the shiny toe of his shoe.

“I hate it too, my friend. I too, with all my heart.”

And then we both cleared our throats together, and like men caught in some guilty act looked quickly around us. He gave a wry smile and I responded in kind. I shrugged my shoulders. We bowed briefly, shook hands and went our different ways back to our waiting cars. I turned as I opened the door of mine, and saw him sitting hunched in his, a brown gloved hand covering his face. Gulls were wheeling above the bright blue of the lake, crying sharply.

That night I went drinking in a small bar in a Niederdorf backstreet. The streetlight glanced off the black cobbles, damp from a spring rain shower. I walked down by the river and watched the black waters lap slowly against the stone embankment. I felt completely lost and empty, a living ghost in the night.

This night, too, in London, I downed my whisky and went to bed. The whisky killed the dreams and helped me sleep.

 

Aboutthebook

 

THE GERMAN MESSENGER by David Malcolm

Genre: Historical/Crime/Thriller

Published by Crime Wave Press/2016

 

german-messenger

Late 1916. Europe is tearing itself apart in the Great War. Harry Draffen, part Greek, part Scottish, British secret agent, cosmopolitan, polyglot, man of violence, is having a bad war. Now he is instructed to uncover a plot by the Central Powers against England. From the slums of East London to an Oxford college, from the trenches on the Western Front to an isolated house on the Scottish coast, on to a bloody showdown in the North of England, he chases a phantom and elusive German messenger. Betrayed, deceived, under attack from many enemies, bringing death to those he does not hate and even to those he loves, he tries to reach the heart of the mystery. In a final reckoning in a London tenement, he at last understands the full scope of the plots centered on the German messenger.

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abouttheauthor

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David Malcolm was born in Scotland. He was educated in Aberdeen, Zürich, and London.

For over thirty years he has lived and worked in Japan, the USA, and Poland. He currently resides in Sopot, Poland.

His collection of short fiction, Radio Moscow and Other Stories was published by Blackwitch Press in 2015.

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Excerpt: THE CHESAPEAKE BRIDE by Mariah Stewart

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THE CHESAPEAKE BRIDE

11th in The Chesapeake Diaries series

by: Mariah Stewart

Published by: Pocket Books

Release Date: August 29, 2017

ISBN 9781501154355; $7.99

Excerpt

Diary~

I love the changing of the seasons—and I think summer into fall might be a favorite, being as how I relate to the whole “autumn of my years” thing. That’s how I see myself, anyway. If sixty is the new forty, I believe seventy must be the new fifty, eighty the new sixty, and so on. Therefore, I fall into that third quadrant. Don’t try to change my mind or confuse me with facts.

One of the reasons I love this time of the year: the steady influx of tourists into St. Dennis begins to wane. Not that I don’t love our visitors. Why, without them, St. Dennis would have continued to languish and would never have become the Eastern Shore mecca it now is. But there’s something sweet about having your hometown belong to you and yours again, even if it’s just for a while. I know soon enough the holidays will be upon us and many will flock to town for all the beautiful festivities—the Christmas House Tour, the weekend of caroling, the tree lighting at the square on Old St. Mary’s Church Road, Christmas at the Inn (a favorite of mine), and, oh, yes, the shopping! But this little respite between the beginning of September, when the families leave to return their offspring to school, and the holiday madness belongs to us, we old St. Dennis folk who like a little downtime.

Not to say there’s nothing going on here! There are new babies to celebrate and a special wedding on the horizon, one that makes me especially weepy. My dear nephew, Alec, will be marrying his lovely Lisbeth in an event that will be the talk of both St. Dennis and Cannonball Island for a long time to come. I’m not privy to all the details, mind you, but since my daughter, Lucy, is planning the wedding, I’ve heard bits and squeaks of what she has in mind, and it will, no doubt, be perfectly wonderful.

When we were children, Mama told us that when good folks passed, they earned a star in the heavens where they could sit and shine down on all the goings-on here on earth. Our brothers scoffed, but we girls believed her, and so it is that I know my beloved sister, Carole, will be watching happily from her star as her son marries his bride out on the point in just a few more weeks.

Thinking about the point makes me think of all the changes that are coming to Cannonball Island soon. So much, it could make your head spin! For the first time in roughly two hundred years, new dwellings will be going up on what had once been barren land. I heard from one in the know that some of the older homesteads—mostly those that have fallen into ruin or have been abandoned—will be replaced with new versions more suitable to modern living. Some are up in arms about this, but frankly, it’s about time. Those dilapidated old shells offer no shelter and, if anything, detract from the beauty of the island. My good friend Ruby Carter—the island’s matriarch—has given her blessing, and that’s good enough for me. Besides, Alec will be serving as the environmental consultant, so I feel confident that all will be well. The new homes are being designed with the island’s history in mind, so the legacy of those early settlers will be well protected. The architect is a lovely young woman who is serious about this project, so I know, eventually, all will be well.

Of course I do.

I know, too, that a certain islander with a “rolling stone” reputation will be finding his rolling days coming to a halt

 

before too long. It will be amusing, to say the least, to see him meet his match. Will he be bested?

The smart money’s on the new girl. That’s all I have to say about that.

And so much excitement over all the goings-on at the mouth of the river on the other side of Cannonball Island! Who knew such mysteries lay beneath the water, waiting to be discovered—and now that they have been, well, the flurry of activity these days has my poor old head spinning like an old-fashioned top. I cannot wait to see what they find, and I’m more than happy that one of the principal players is staying at the inn. Not that I’d pry, but if one overhears a snippet of conversation now and then . . . well, let’s just say it’s good to keep informed. Now, how all this is going to affect the construction that was slated to begin in November, well, I suppose everyone will have to wait and see. Could be there will be delays, which will keep the new girl around for a while longer and will keep the rolling stone on his toes.

My, what fun this will be~

Grace ~

~~~~~~~~

Praise for The Chesapeake Bride, Book 11 in The Chesapeake Diaries:

“Stewart succeeds in giving both Owen and Cass a smooth blend of strength and vulnerability, and the setting of this heartwarming romance will draw readers in with its island-life charm.”— Publishers Weekly

Strengths: Noteworthy historical content; Engaging characters; Strong Romance; HEA…Measure of Love: Teaspoon…Mood: Poignant and lighthearted…Why You Should Read this: Definitely will appeal to readers wanting a strong romance. And the genealogy and historical aspects are a perfect addition to a pleasing story!”— Heroes and Heartbreakers Women’s Fiction Best Bet for August 2017

“The Chesapeake Bride is a small-town romance which will leave readers wanting more of the charming characters and unforgettable story. I enjoyed this book so much that I am still running some of the scenes through my head, which shows how fantastic the story is. Another great read by an outstanding author. A Recommended Read!”— Romance Junkies, Five Heart Review

“The romance is slow and sweet…the lack of unnecessary melodrama, angst, and over-the-top gestures makes this a refreshing contemporary romance between two adults who act as such.”— Kirkus Reviews 

Praise for Driftwood Point, Book 10 in The Chesapeake Diaries:

“This second-chance-at-love romance is gentle and sweet…The colorful friendship between the family matriarchs…charms. Stewart seamlessly checks in with former series protagonists and introduces future romantic pairings without stealing attention from Lisbeth and Alec.”

—RT Book Reviews 

Praise for That Chesapeake Summer, Book 9 in The Chesapeake Diaries:

“[That Chesapeake Summer] deftly uses the tools of the genre to explore issues of identity, truth, and smalltown kinship…Stewart offers a strong statement on the power of love and trust, a fitting theme for this big-hearted small town romance.” — Publishers Weekly

“A touching story of self-discovery and homecoming that is sure to warm readers’ hearts…fans are sure to feel right at home in Stewart’s idyllic seaside setting and follow this emotional journey with avid interest.” — RT Book Reviews

 Praise for The Last Chance Matinee, Book One in The Hudson Sisters Series:

“The popcorn, the red velvet seats, the glittering Hollywood stars on-screen…I’ve enjoyed all aspects of going to the movies since I was a kid…so when I saw a vintage theater on the cover of this book, I quickly swiped it up…The tale was a sweet reminder of the importance of family. I can’t wait for the next book in this series!” — First for Women magazine, July 2017

“[This] lively, warmhearted series starter will have readers eagerly awaiting the second installment.” — Booklist

“A good read, with a nice blend of mystery, family drama, and romance.” — Library Journal

 

 Aboutthebook

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New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart returns to the cherished Maryland shores of St. Dennis withTHE CHESAPEAKE BRIDE (Pocket Books; August 29, 2017; $7.99), the charming story of a jaded architect who meets the one man who could finally melt her heart—if she’s willing to let him in.

Cassidy Logan has sworn off good-looking adventurers, having just divorced the one she’d married. Now working with her father’s construction company to build ecologically friendly, historically accurate homes on the Chesapeake Bay, she’s designing them for Cannonball Island. Knowing there’s been no new construction on the island in almost one hundred years, Cass is sensitive to the heritage and history of the sparsely populated island, and has come up with plans so perfect she’s determined to buy one for herself to live in. Even the fact that Owen Parker—whom she dismisses as a lightweight and a player— seems to be everywhere she goes isn’t enough to deter her from building her dream house.

Owen is and always has been sinfully handsome and wickedly clever, a magnet for mischief as well as the girls in St. Dennis. He’s also a rolling stone, going and doing whatever appeals to him, from flying a mail plane in Alaska to working on a cattle ranch in Australia and a shrimp boat in Louisiana, to surfing and diving in Costa Rica. When an old friend offers him a job salvaging a sunken ship in the Chesapeake, Owen gladly accepts. Something’s been telling him it’s about time to head home to Cannonball Island, and a job is as good an excuse as any. He’s totally smitten with the pretty architect, but it seems he’s finally met a woman who’s immune to his charms. Sooner or later, Owen will have to face the reason why he always runs, because this time, leaving just might be harder than staying.

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abouttheauthor

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Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas and short stories.  A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors country life and tends her gardens.  Visit her website at mariahstewart.com, like her on Facebook at AuthorMariahStewart, and follow her on Instagram at mariah_stewart_books.

Upcoming store event with Mariah:

Thursday, August 31st, 6:30 pm (Note: This event was rescheduled due to the storm.)

Bethany Beach Books

99 Garfield Parkway

P.O. Box 904

Bethany Beach, DE 19930

 

NOTE FOR THE NEW YEAR:

Look for Gallery Books’ second installment in Mariah Stewart’s all-new trade original women’s fiction series, The Hudson Sisters, following a trio of reluctant sisters as they set out to fulfill their father’s dying wish—and discover themselves in the process. Book 2, The Sugarhouse Blues, will publish March 2018!

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END OF SUMMER GIVEAWAY:

We’re celebrating The Chesapeake Bride and Summer 2017 with one giveaway for Driftwood Point, 10th  in The Chesapeake Diaries Series by Mariah Stewart! The last day for entries will be Friday, September 22nd (the official last day of summer!) The winner will receive one copy of Driftwood Point. U.S. only, please. You can enter at the participating blogs listed below – but you can only win once!

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Excerpt: COMFORT PLANS by Kimberly Fish

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COMFORT PLANS
by
KIMBERLY FISH
  Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Date of Publication: May 23, 2017
Number of Pages: 320
Scroll down for giveaway!
 

Colette Sheridan is being remodeled.

As a San Antonio architect, she’d have vowed her career was to investigate the history and create new functions for the structures everyone else saw as eyesores. The old German farmhouse in Comfort, Texas, might be the screeching end of that dream job. The assignment seemed so ideal at the start; generous clients, a stunning location, and a pocketful of letters that were surely meant to explain the ranch’s story. All that goodness crashed louder than a pile of two-by-fours when her grandfather announced he’d lured Colette’s ex-husband back to San Antonio to take over the family architecture firm. Now, not only does Colette have to endure the challenges posed by Beau Jefferson, the client’s handpicked contractor, a house that resists efforts to be modernized, and letters that may hold the secret to buried treasure, but she also has to decide if she has the courage to fight for her future.
Set against the backdrop of the Texas Hill Country, Colette and Beau have to rely on plans neither of them constructed in order to navigate the changes of a house with a story to tell, and a future they couldn’t even imagine.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Kimberly Fish’s unique writing style snatched me out of my easy chair and plunked me down into the middle of her character’s life where I was loathe to leave when my real life called me back. Her descriptive visual writing drew me in on the first page. Can’t wait to read more stories by Mrs. Fish.”
–Vickie Phelps,Author of Moved, Left No Address

Excerpt

Excerpt, Chapter 1, Part 3

from Comfort Plans

Continued from the Lone Star Book Blog Tours 8/5/17 Stop

Scooping up a handful of chiffon, Colette scooted across the leather driver’s seat and wondered if her grandfather followed-through with a candidate, if a new president at Sheridan’s would gain much traction in the market. The boutique firm specialized in historical restoration and had a niche in South Texas. Since Nathan Sheridan was the guru of that style, she doubted anyone would ever replicate the success her grandfather had maintained in an industry that could change on the whims of the stock market.

Point number twelve for why he needed to groom a stronger replacement.

She backed out of the driveway but stole one last glance at the man who never went a day without Brylcreem. His custom-tailored shirt was rolled at the sleeves, and he was wearing his dress slacks on a Saturday night. The Big Ben of her world—he was classy, reliable, and just as unbending as any national monument London had ever produced.

He was flagging her to roll down her window.

Colette cranked the window below her nose. “Yes?”

“Aren’t you at all curious who I’ve finally selected to manage my empire?”

Empire was a bit of a leap. The last quarter-profits weren’t anything to get excited about. “Knowing that you would scour the face of the earth to find someone worthy of the Sheridan name and that it’s taken you years since the last serious candidate, I’m hopeful this man is capable of carrying your legacy forward.”

“That’s a lot of faith from the girl who questioned me about the wisdom of maintaining my breakfast ritual at Earl Abel’s.”

He did have a nasty habit of smothering all forms of nutrition with sausage gravy, which was another reason to force him into a doctor’s appointment.

“I’m looking out for your general health because I want you to hang around and torment me for years to come.” Which was true. She adored her resident curmudgeon and delighted in being one of the few people in the world who could make him laugh.

His lips turned down even more than usual. “I’m one of the short timers, which is why I want to know that you and my firm are going to be in good hands.”

She shivered. “Don’t talk like that. You know what Momma says about positive thinking.”

“Your mother is a flake.”

Colette sighed and knew she’d be even later to this wedding than was acceptable. “I can see you want to tell me who you’ve hired, so what’s his name? Or am I supposed to guess based on last month’s Architectural Digest article about the ‘it guy’ from Los Angeles?”

She’d seen her grandfather poring over those pages like they were printed in gold leaf. She hadn’t seen anything brilliant when she’d snatched the article from the breakfast table, but her inability to see modern trends was another excuse she’d offered as to why she’d make a lousy president of the firm.

Finish reading Chapter One on the Lone Star Book Blog Tours 8/13/17 Stop

Kimberly Fish started writing professionally with the birth of her second child and the purchase of a home computer. Having found this dubious outlet, she then entered and won The Writer’s League of Texas manuscript contest which fed her on-going fascination with story crafting.
She has since published in magazines, newspapers, and online formats and in 2017, released the first novel in a series set during the World War II years in Longview, Texas – The Big Inch.
She lives with her family in East Texas.
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July 31 – August 14, 2017
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CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
7/31
Excerpt 1
Books in the Garden
8/1
Review
8/2
Character Interview
8/3
Guest Post 1
8/4
Review
8/5
Excerpt 2
8/6
Playlist
8/7
Review
8/8
Video Guest Post
8/9
Review
8/10
Excerpt 3
8/11
Guest Post 2
8/12
Review
8/13
Excerpt 4
8/14
Review
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Excerpt: GAIJIN COWGIRL: A Val Benson Thriller by Jame DiBiasio

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Aboutthebook

Working Tokyo nightclubs is easy money for beautiful and troubled American Val Benson – until a wealthy client with a dark past – reluctantly gives up a map to a stash of Japanese war loot and tempts his favourite girl into a dangerous treasure hunt.
But the Congressman’s daughter is not the only one interested in the map: Yakuza, bent cops, human traffickers, rogue CIA agents and her father are hot on her trail, snapping at her high heels.

So begins the dark, epic journey of a new anti-hero of Asian Noir, a protagonist both ambiguous and courageous, and utterly unreliable. From comfort women and tomb-raiding in Japanese-occupied Burma to the murderous echoes of the Vietnam War, long forgotten crimes come roaring back to life, as Val leaves a trail of destruction and chaos in her wake.

Together with her best friend, the equally unreliable nightclub hostess Suki, a British kickboxer and a washed up Australian treasure hunter, Val travels through Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok to the Thai-Burmese borderlands for a dramatic showdown with her pursuers. Finding the treasure before someone less deserving does is her only hope for survival, and perhaps redemption.

Gaijin Cowgirl by American writer Jame DiBiasio is a breathless page turner with a beautiful, dangerous heroine to match.

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Excerpt

Gaijin Cowgirl Chapter One

 

abouttheauthor

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Jame DiBiasio is the author of thrillers “Gaijin Cowgirl” (Crime Wave Press) and “Bloody Paradise” (Water Street Crime), as well as the non-ficiton “The Story of Angkor” (Silkworm Books). He is based in Hong Kong. Visit him at www.jamedibiasio.com.

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Guest Post: What is Noir? by Elka Ray

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As an author, editor and avid reader, I’m excited to have been invited to write a guest post for The Librarian Talks.

My name’s Elka Ray. I write crime fiction, mystery, suspense and noir.

If you’re like me, up until fairly recently, I didn’t actually know what noir was. So I’m going to explain it today.

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Noir is the French word for Black – which is a clue. There stories are not about rainbows and unicorns – it’s a dark genre.

Noir has its roots in the hard-boiled private eye stories of the 1920s – you know the kind – gritty tales of violence, murder, dirty cops and dangerous dames.

What sets noir apart from those hardboiled PI stories is the main character – in those old PI stories, while the world around them is grim, you know the hero’s a good guy trying to do the right thing. That is not the case in noir. In noir, you’re not really sure if the lead is a good person. Can they justify what they’re doing? Maybe. Is it morally right? That’s trickier to answer.

It’s this moral ambiguity that defines noir.

My latest book – Saigon Dark – is noir and follows a woman who – faced with tragedy – makes a terrible choice. She’s not necessarily a bad person – but she is selfish, isolated and deceitful.

In noir, the main character is often cynical and self destructive. A modern day example would be Gone Girl – you just can’t trust the main point of view. Or The Girl on the Train. The main character is not doing herself any favors.

Another great example of a contemporary noir author is Dennis Lehane. In Live by Night, for example, he leaves you questioning whether a gangster can be a good person.

If you want your stories to be black and white – with a happily ever after ending – noir is not for you. But if you like mysteries that are complex and thought-provoking, give this genre a try.

You can find my latest book – Saigon Dark from Crimewave Press – on amazon. Or visit me at elkaray.com – Happy reading!

abouttheauthor

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Elka Ray is a UK/Canadian author and illustrator based in Hoi An, Vietnam. The author of one novel, Hanoi Jane, Elka also writes and draws an expanding series of children’s books about Southeast Asia, including Vietnam A to Z, 123 Vietnam! and The Warrior Queens.

For adults, Elka focuses on crime fiction and mysteries. Her short stories have appeared in Monsoon’s Crime Scene Asia: Asia’s Best Crime Fiction 2014 (Hong Kong); New Asian Fiction (India) 2013 and Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction (Singapore) 2014. Her travel writing has run in a wide range of publications, including Fodor’s, Forbes, Executive Traveller and Persimmon Asian Arts. Elka holds a Canadian degree in Journalism and Asian Studies and a Canadian diploma in Creative Writing. She has a sporty husband and two kids, works as a magazine editor, and has an author’s site at www.elkaray.com.

When Elka’s not writing or drawing, she’s in the ocean.

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Check out her introduction video here

Aboutthebook

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SAIGON DARK

Good and bad. Life and death. Some choices aren’t black and white.

A grief-stricken young mother makes a rash decision, then spends the next decade living a lie. She’s rebuilt her life and is starting to feel safe when she gets a note: ‘I know what you did’.
Can she save her daughter from her dark secret?
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Excerpt

Saigon Dark

by Elka Ray

Black and white. Life and death. She made a choice. Can she live with it?

~~~

I am on a Ferris wheel by the sea, in the tropics. Although it’s dark, it’s still hot. A warm breeze lifts my hair and pushes the night’s smells into my nose. I can smell salt, woodsmoke and frangipani flowers, plus the irresistible scent of Vinh, a mix of warm skin, tobacco and cinnamon. The lights of distant squid-fishing boats sparkle on the horizon.

Vinh has both arms around me, shielding me. We are laughing. Our carriage rises and stops to allow more passengers onboard, sways a little. This is repeated: rise, stop, sway. But each time, I’m caught off guard, that heady mix of anticipation, excitement and unease, deep down in my belly.

When the last carriage is full we glide upwards, smoothly. Down below, the town’s lights twinkle. There are more diamond-lit boats out at sea. Vinh pulls me even closer and begins to kiss me.

I have never been happier. I have everything I want and yet the best is still to come. I am heavy with fulfilment and buoyant with anticipation. We glide higher, Vinh’s long fingers twisting in my hair. The carriage sways a little.

And then we are at the top, poised, and everything changes. That warm, salty breeze turns cool. I smell decay instead of flowers. My heart plummets. I will fall. I know this with total certainty, the way you know a dropped stone won’t float. It’s a natural law. It’s the order of things.

I start to twist away, frantically, but Vinh has a hold on me. Just before he throws me out, I wake up.

The dream is always the same. I wake up screaming.

Part 1: Ho Chi Minh City

April 9th, 2005

I’m woken by the sound of breaking glass. A woman screams. It’s the neighbours, again. A boy—one of the older kids—yells, and a younger child starts to sob. I roll over. If only it would stop. Their youngest is smaller than my daughter.

Tired as I am, I know sleep is impossible. How can I sleep when the kids next door are being tortured? Without turning on the light I walk to the window. A row of trees hides their shack from view. I can hear the dad yelling. I want to punch him. But given that I’m five foot one, it wouldn’t help. Another bottle shatters.

Even with the aircon full-blast, I’m sweating. April in Saigon. The hot season. I press my forehead against the glass. My yard lies dark. The child’s cries are louder now. I think of Evie.

The man bellows. While my Vietnamese isn’t perfect, I can understand this obscenity. He’s calling his wife a fucking whore. I unlatch my window. “Stop it!” I yell. “I’m going to call the police!” I wish my voice sounded tougher, without that waver in it.

For a moment there’s silence. But then the guy yells back. “Mind your own business you foreign traitor slut!”

I lean back. While this insult shouldn’t matter, it does, for some reason. I left Vietnam at the age of three, on an overloaded boat. I was lucky to end up in the States. Behind the trees, I can hear the woman sob. I slam my window shut.

What am I doing here?

For a moment, I think of calling Vinh. But what good would that do? Why would he help with this when he’s made it clear he wants nothing to do with us? He’s never even seen his own daughter.

I sit on the bed, fighting the urge to cry. Should I call the police? Would they even come? But then I remember my maid’s warning: The family next door are squatters, landless peasants come to Saigon from the countryside. The authorities would just evict them. Then where would they go—that small, thin woman with her thin dark children and her alcoholic asshole of a husband? I make a fist, feeling angry and helpless.

I’ve just gotten back into bed when my phone rings. My bedside clock glows 2:14. My heart rate picks up again. Is it about my mom? Or an emergency at the hospital? A ringing phone in the middle of the night is never good news. Unless it’s Vinh, calling to say sorry. I take a deep breath, absurdly hopeful. “Hello?”

Lily?” It’s Yna, my best friend in Seattle. Just from the way she says my name, I know everything is fine.

“Yna,” I say. “It’s two in the morning.”

“Oops.” There’s apause. “Sorry.” She doesn’t sound sorry at all. “I guess I got the time difference wrong.”

I met Yna at the University of Washington, where we all went to med school. She and Vinh were the stars of our class, the ones everyone wanted to be–or jump into bed with. During the time Vinh and I specialised as surgeons, Yna did an MBA at Stanford. She just got a new job, managing some investment fund. “Is it something important?” I try to keep the irritation out of my voice. Brilliant as she is, Yna is a ditz—and details like time differences mean nothing to her. Like my ex-husband, she barely needs sleep.

“What’s up with you?” she says. “You sound upset, Li.”

For a moment, I consider telling her about the guy next door, how he beats his wife and kids. How helpless I feel. But how could Yna understand? She lives in the kind of gated community where people call security if neighbours play loud music after 9pm. I can picture her now. Sharp black bob. Size nothing suit. Smart, successful and beautiful.

“I’m just tired,” I say. “It’s been a long week. I’ve been working double shifts. “

“How’s Evie?”

I fight back a sigh. I don’t want to talk about Evie, especially not now. “She’s fine,” I say. “Look, I need to work early, Na, so I’d better get some sleep.”

“The Evergreen Clinic is looking for a plastic surgeon. I told Harvey you might be interested. They have a lot of paediatric patients–“

“I’m not interested,” I say.

“But it’s a great place to work,” says Yna. “Great neighbourhood. Not far from a good school.”

“Yna,” I say. “I’m not ready to leave.”

Throughout our conversation, I’ve heard her tapping on a keyboard. Multitasking. The tapping now stops. “But why?” she says. I can hear the mystification in her voice.

Why indeed? Although I was born in Saigon, I never felt any desire to return. I came because of Vinh, who was raised in an orphanage in Go Vap, then got a full scholarship to study in Seattle. He wanted to go home, said he wanted to give back. Like a fool, I believed him.

“Lily?”

I realise I’ve been lost in thought, trying to work out why Vinh changed. Or didn’t he change? I rub my eyes. It’s a waste of energy thinking about my ex. And it makes my stomach hurt. I take a deep breath. “It’s interesting work,” I say. “Meaningful work. Kids without access to modern medicine. Kids with facial tumours and cleft palates. I…I’m doing god things here, Na.”

She sounds unmoved. “Those problems exist here too.”

“I know,” I say. But I also know that the bulk of my work at the Evergreen Clinic would be cosmetic. “I ah, I like it here.” This comes out sounding lame, as it should, since the truth is, I don’t like it here. The real reason I’m staying, which I can’t even explain to myself, let alone Yna, is that being here helps distract me from my failed marriage. If I were back in the States, and back in real life, I’d feel even more humiliated. Everyone I know knew Vinh. They all loved him. How can I explain he was Jekyll and Hyde, the perfect husband back in the States, then AWOL in Saigon’s sleazy bar scene?

These thoughts are interrupted by a child’s scream in the shack next door. My grip on the phone tightens.

“Lily? Are you still there?” From Yna’s somber tone, I know what’s coming next. We’ve had this conversation before. “It’s time you came home,” she says. “Why would you want to deal with this on your own? Has Vinh even seen her yet? Are you still hoping to work it out with him? Two epileptic fits in three months!” Her voice has risen. “She needs medical care they don’t have over there. What tests are you running? Lily? Can you hear me?”

I’m tempted to hang up. I can call her tomorrow and say we were cut off. Instead, I take a deep breath. I know Yna means well. She was charmed by Vinh too, his dark dazzle. She’s almost as bewildered as I am.

I take a deep breath. “I’m a physician,” I say. “And I’m her mom. I’m on top of things, Yna.”

I can hear her sigh. “I hope so,” she says. “I just… You’re so far away. First, everything with Vinh, and now Evie. I feel helpless. It’s like…like bad luck over there.” She gives a nervous laugh. “You know what I’m saying?”

“Evie will be fine,” I say. I have to believe this. “How’s Sofia?”

Sofia is Yna’s baby, conceived after four rounds of IVF. Her voice lifts. “She’s great, Lily. Six months old and already sitting up.” I try to pay attention as she fills me in on Sofia’s latest achievements. But I’m tired. She must realise she’s been rambling because she says: “Wait. It’s the middle of the night. I should let you sleep.”

“Good night Na.”

“Yeah, sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” I hang my head. Vinh and I used to say that to each other. How could he have left me when I was eight months pregnant?

Only after I’ve hung up do I notice that next door, all lies quiet. No yelling. No crying. I guess that bastard passed out.

I wish he’d choke to death on his own vomit.

Interview with Melissa Cutler, Author of One More Taste

Please describe One More Taste in one sentence.

When a brazen chef tries to prove her chops to her sexy new boss, they heat up a lot more than the kitchen.

What can readers expect from One More Taste?

Readers can expect my signature combination of a book full of both humor and emotional resonance…with one seriously spicy romance woven throughout it.

Which of your characters would you most & least like to invite to dinner, from which book and why?

The characters from this series that I’d most like to invite to dinner are all those hot, sexy cowboy heroes (surprise, surprise!). Decker, Micah, Knox, and (from upcoming books) Paul and Gentry. Mmm….sexy cowboy heroes at my dinner table…now there’s a dream come true!

The character from the series that I’d least like to have over for dinner, and which readers of the series would probably agree with me, is Ty Briscoe, the villain of the first three stories.

Are there any differences and/or similarities between Emily from One More Taste and Carina from The Mistletoe Effect?

While Emily and Carina are best friends, they have very different personalities. Carina is all about becoming a mom and not working too hard, which is a shift because she used to be a work-a-holic, which Emily still is. On the other hand, Carina is a rule follower, while Emily is more of a rebel. What they do have in common is that they love each other and their home of Briscoe Ranch Resort very much.

Out of all of the secondary characters within One and Only Texas Series, do you have one or two favorites so far? If so, who are they and can you tell us why?

What a fun question. I tend to write books that have huge casts of characters, so there are lots of secondary characters to choose from. My current favorite is from next year’s release, ONE WILD NIGHT, and it’s the heroine’s grandmother, Mama Lita, who clashes with Granny June at every turn because, while Granny June is the consummate matchmaker of the series, Mama Lita is a wild spirit who doesn’t believe a woman needs a man in her life.

Random Question (so I can try to have your name listed in that color) – What is your favorite color?

Red. Love it!

June Briscoe is one of my favorite characters.  She’s appeared in all the books.  How did you come up with her and her amazing personality (sneakiness, quirks and all)?

She’s one of my favorite characters in the series, too. When I wrote her character’s first ever scene, in scene one of THE MISTLETOE EFFECT, she seemed like an old, strict Italian mafia grandma with old world superstitions at first, which probably would have been fine, but I then wrote a draft that lightened her up and turned her into the scene’s comic relief…and I instantly fell in love with her! Hence, the Granny June we all know and love was born.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

Growing up, my house wasn’t a pleasant one, and so I kept to myself in my bedroom as much as possible. In a huge way I’m grateful for the way my childhood played out, because my imagination flourished. The earliest I can remember writing stories and poems is age four. Writing them and reading books took me away to other times and places and let me live, for a little while, in magical places. Even then, I knew I was a writer, an identity that stayed with me in all the years since.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

What most characterizes my writing is a combination of humor and emotion weight. I’m really interested in real issues and the struggles that everyday people face in their lives, not just romantically, but with family and friends and their careers. My heroines tend to be quirky, smart, career-focused women and my heroes tend to be blue collar workers. In that way, Knox Briscoe, the hero of ONE MORE TASTE, is unusual. I rarely write about wealthy men because they don’t tend to hold my interest, but what I love about Knox is how he rose to wealth from blue collar roots, which makes his relationship to his wealth and his family really complicated in the best, juiciest possible way for an author to explore.

What question do you wish that someone would ask about One More Taste, but no one has? Please write it out here, then answer it.

Q: Have you ever executed a revenge plot (like Knox does in the story)?

A: Mwahahaha! I’ll never tell! ☺

Q: Has your car or house ever been haunted by a dead relative?

A: No, but I fully plan on returning to my high school to haunt it after I pass away like the ghosts at Hogwarts do in the Harry Potter series. [kids whispering to each other] “They say she never recovered from getting that C in Spanish her freshman year, and now she walks the halls begging for extra credit to raise her grade. Poor, tortured soul.”

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I can’t decide between these two: 1) controlling the weather, or 2) having the power to heal people with a touch. Either one would make the world a better place in significant ways.

What literary character is most like you?

Depends on the day. You know how it goes—some days you’re George, while other days you’re Lenny. Captain Ahab pops up every so often. And Jack Reacher, sometimes. And then there are those days that we all have when we’re Frankenstein’s monster. Mostly, I aspire to be Olivia, the pig from the children’s picture book. Oh, if we could all be more like Olivia. 

abouttheauthor

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Melissa Cutler knows she has the best job in the world writing sexy contemporary romances and romantic suspense. She was struck at an early age by an unrelenting travel bug and is probably planning her next vacation as you read this. When she’s not globetrotting, she’s enjoying Southern California’s flip-flop wearing weather and wrangling two rambunctious kids.  Find out more at Melissa’s website: http://www.melissacutler.net/.

Amazing Praise For Melissa Cutler:

“Cutler’s engaging, down-to-earth storytelling makes this contemporary romance soar. A prideful, strong-willed heroine in Emily combined with Knox’s toughness and grit, along with the battle-of-wills between them, will appeal to readers. With genuine, delightful secondary characters, a rock-solid plot, and the passionate tension between Emily and Knox, Cutler’s latest is full of humor and heart.”—RT Book Reviews on One More Taste

“Melissa Cutler is a bright new voice in contemporary romance.” —New York Times bestselling author Lori Wilde on One Hot Summer

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Aboutthebook

Melissa Cutler, author of One Hot Summer is back and ready to quench your thirst for romance with her new novel ONE MORE TASTE (St. Martin’s Paperbacks; October 4, 2016; $7.99), where one man will discover that revenge is a dish best served sizzling hot…

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ONE MORE TASTE by MELISSA CUTLER

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Welcome to the Briscoe Ranch Resort, where love is always on the menu.

Chef Emily Ford has the talent and ambition to make it in the cutthroat culinary world—which is why she refuses to accept her demotion at the hands of Knox Briscoe, the new CEO of Briscoe Ranch Resort. He has grand plans that include bringing in a celebrity chef to helm an exciting new restaurant at the resort, but Emily has plans of her own—to do whatever it takes to change his mind…

Cut out of the Briscoe fortune by an old feud that left his family in ruins, Knox grew up dreaming of revenge. Out-maneuvering his uncle for control of Briscoe Ranch is merely the first step in a grand plan that doesn’t include the brazen and beautiful Emily Ford…or the attraction that sizzles between them. With both their futures on the line, can they keep their desires on simmer—or are they headed from the frying pan straight into the fire?

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Excerpt

A knock sounded at the open door. Everyone turned, relieved at the distraction. A woman Knox would recognize anywhere filled the doorway, a folder clutched in her arms and a hard-set look of determination on her face. Chef Emily Ford.

***

            “Ty told me about you. You’ve worked at this resort since right out of culinary school a decade ago. No internships, no stints as a sous chef at a celebrated restaurant, nothing remarkable, not even a chef competition show on TV. Your whole career, you’ve been here at Briscoe Ranch, laboring in obscurity. If you’re so talented, then why have you been holding yourself back?”

            He watched the shift of her weight from one foot to the other, the extra squeeze she gave the folder in her hand. He’d hit a nerve. Good. Turnabout was fair play.

            “I’m not holding myself back. All the years I’ve worked here, laboring in obscurity”—she said with a scoff—“I’ve had the freedom to cook what I want, every dish completely original instead of imitations of more prominent chefs or attempts to pander to critics’ fickle tastes. Over the last decade, I’ve risen from a graveyard-shift line cook in the room service kitchen to the executive catering chef, one of the principal roles at the resort.” She spun the folder onto his desk and speared a finger on it. “A few months ago, Ty agreed to my proposal to open a high-concept, signature restaurant at the resort. Subterranean, I’m going to call it. We were in the process of securing funding when you showed up and ruined everything.”

            He took a step nearer to her, then another, stopping just short of arm’s length. This close, those freckles on her cheeks came into focus again, as did a faint, hairline scar along her jaw that curved to her chin. He refocused on her furious green eyes. “I did not take this opportunity away from you. Ty did. He was the one who contacted me, looking for investors. My presence here to execute my vision for the resort, as well as the timing of it, was at his invitation. If he let you believe your restaurant would be possible under this new vision, then he was stringing you along. He’s your enemy, not me.”

            Emily blanched, but only for a split second before recovering her wits. “He wasn’t stringing me along. I’m sure he was grooming me for your takeover, knowing you’d want to step up the caliber of the resort’s dining options. He’s not my enemy. He’s the employer who gave me a chance. All I need is an open door and a budget and I will give you the restaurant of your vision.”

            She’d been dead on about his sixth sense and the rush he got with each thrill of discovery. He felt that familiar rush right now while sparring with her. He couldn’t wait for her to leave so he could read her proposal. He should have eaten the damn soup. Now he’d never know what he’d missed. “You and I aren’t so different in our ambition, you know.”

            She sniffed at that, feigning a nonchalance he saw right through. “You couldn’t be more wrong. I possess a patience that you clearly lack.”

            Oh, this woman. She wouldn’t stop pushing his buttons. He felt heat rising on his neck. He had to stuff his hand in his pockets so he wouldn’t give in to the discomfort and tug his tie loose. Emily had no idea how much patience it had taken to wait for the right time to make his move against Ty Briscoe. Years of planning and strategy, years of positioning himself in the right business, with the right connections, silently closing in on his prey, waiting to pounce until the time was right—until the prey thought it was his idea and came to him, on the verge of bankruptcy and begging for a bailout.

            “Prove it,” he heard himself say, not knowing exactly what he meant by the dare.

            Her gaze was unflinching. “How?”

            He had to think fast. “I’ll give you four weeks. If you can prove to me in that time that you’re as gifted a chef as you claim, then I’ll hand you the reins of the restaurant along with whatever budget you require for this . . . Subterranean.”

CREDIT: From ONE MORE TASTE by Melissa Cutler. Copyright © 2016 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

 

LSLL Blog Tour: ARTHUR ZARR’S AMAZING ART CAR by Cathey Graham Nickell

ARTHUR ZARR’S AMAZING ART CAR
by Cathey Graham Nickell
illustrated by Bill Megenhardt
Genre: Children’s Picture Book/Outsider Art
Publisher: Twenty-Eight Creative
Date of Publication: November, 2015
# of pages: 40

SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY!!

Arthur Zarr is a quiet man with few friends. His life is rather plain, and his car is plain, too. But not for long! When Arthur gets a creative idea to add everyday objects to his car’s plain exterior, he’s noticed for the first time. Neighbors and other bystanders add their own artistic flair to the car, too. What happens when he enters his bedazzled vehicle in the town’s art car parade? Mr. Zarr finds happiness and makes friends by building an amazing art car. In this whimsical story, children learn about recycling, community, friendship building, and the power of imagination. The book includes a “History of Art Cars” page for readers who’ve never heard of this creative form of artistic expression. It also has a subtle ABC theme, as Arthur Zarr adds objects to his art car in alphabetical order! This is the first—and so far, the only—children’s book published about an art car. Suitable for all ages but especially ages 4-8. Illustrated by Houston graphic artist, Bill Megenhardt.
 Praise for Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car:

“Nickell’s book is a treat for sight, sound, and sense, for readers and artcarfans (no, you won’t find the word in your dictionary just yet, anyway) of all levels.”
Lone Star Literary Life.
“A wonderful story of art, opening up to the joys of life, and celebrating the artist in everyone.”—Lynette Wallace, Executive Director, Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, Houston, Texas.
“Cathey Nickell’s book will help fuel the desire to make positive changes in our world through artistic endeavor.”—Alicia Duplan, Assistant Director, Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas.
“Cathey’s story. . . is both engaging and warm. By the end, I found myself rooting for Mr. Zarr. I even felt a small twinge of disappointment when he didn’t win the trophy. Artcar Nation highly recommends this book. Give it to all the children you know.”— Paul McRae, Artcar Nation.
BUY LINKS

ALSO AVAILABLE AT THESE BRICKS & MORTAR STORES:
BEER CAN HOUSE, 222 Malone St., Houston, Texas (weekends only). 
BERINGS Baby and Kids Dept., 3900 Bissonnet St. and 6102 Westheimer Rd., Houston, Texas.
BETWEEN THE COVERS BOOKSTORE, 224 W. Colorado Ave., Telluride, Colorado.
BLUE WILLOW BOOKSHOP, 14532 Memorial Dr., Houston, Texas.
BRAZOS BOOKSTORE, 2421 Bissonnet St., Houston, Texas.
CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM, 5216 Montrose Blvd., Houston, Texas.
THE JUNG CENTER BOOKSTORE, 5200 Montrose Blvd., Houston, Texas.
TOY FAIR at Pierremont Mall, 4801 Line Ave., Shreveport, Louisiana.

Excerpt

Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car – Book Excerpt

Excerpt Image

Neighbors offered to help decorate Arthur’s car, too. One man gave him the fake pink flamingo from his yard. A girl no longer needed her swim goggles. A boy offered his toy helicopter. Another child gave up his plastic iguana. Arthur attached each object to his car. … “We sure like your car, Mr. Zarr!” his new friends shouted and waved as he drove by.


Cathey Graham Nickell is an author, mother, and wife living in Houston, Texas. She is best known as the seeing-eye-person for her little blind dog named Cricket. Cathey launched her first children’s picture book, Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car, in November 2015. She doesn’t drive an art car herself, but she has a habit of covering the back of her SUV with bumper stickers! Cathey also snaps pictures of art cars—which are plentiful in Houston—when she sees them. Her all
-time favorite car was the bright-yellow Volkswagen Beetle that her grandmother drove in the 1970s. 

Cathey draws from her experience as a former newspaper reporter and public relations professional. After taking a few years off to raise four children, Cathey started freelance writing again in 2012 when a non-profit organization called the Institute for Spirituality and Health hired her to research and write its six-decade history. Uniting Faith, Medicine and Healthcare: A 60-Year History of the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center was published in 2015. The book is used as a marketing and communications tool, and all financial proceeds benefit the Institute (not Cathey). Cathey graduated from Baylor University with a BA in Journalism in 1985. She earned a Master of Arts from Louisiana State University-Shreveport in 2013. Find her online where she blogs about her writing and publishing adventures.

GIVEAWAY!! 
Three winners will each win 
$20 CASH & an Author and Illustrator 
Signed Copy of the Book!


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Check out these other great blog stops on the tour!

3/7     Hall Ways Blog  – Review

3/8     Because This is My Life Y’all – Author Interview

3/9     Blogging for the Love of Authors and Their Books – Promo

3/10   Books and Broomsticks — Review

3/11   The Librarian Talks – Excerpt

3/12   The Page Unbound – Review

3/13   Texas Book Lover – Guest Post

3/14   The Crazy Booksellers – Promo

3/15   Missus Gonzo  — Review

3/16   A Novel Reality  — Author Interview

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