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7/21/2014


Beautiful One

by Mary Cope

Transformation, empowerment, love and music come together in the book, Beautiful One. 
Elizabeth Ryan is a beautiful, shy, naïve high school senior. Having never dated she meets the boy of her dreams, Aidan Mitchell. Despite his history of womanizing Liz is drawn to him. Soon Liz becomes the envy of all the girls on campus, when they become a couple and her dream boyfriend sweeps her off her feet and into the dating world that is all too new and strange for her. When other guys start to take notice of Liz, Aidan is troubled with fits of jealousy.
Elizabeth then meets the ruggedly handsome, Spencer Hayes and they quickly bond over their passion for music. Liz begins to struggle with the feelings that spark between them. 
In the end Elizabeth finds herself torn between helping Aidan overcome his jealousy and anger and giving into what her heart truly wants. 

Bio:

Mary Cope is a freelance writer of romance. Her book, Beautiful One, is the first in a planned trilogy. She is currently writing, Beautiful Mess and Beautiful Life will follow.  
Mary enjoys spending time with her family, baking gourmet cookies, listening to music and taking long walks with her yellow Labrador, Maggie.


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Excerpt from Beautiful One


Chapter One

    The faint sounds of a guitar drifted through the walls of my bathroom as I savored the last of the hot water before it became lukewarm. Stepping away from the spray, I turned the shower knob and watched the droplets trickle down the drain. Inhaling a deep breath my mind focused on one thing. Aidan Mitchell. 
    Hearing Mason’s band practicing meant he would be here. I was ninety-nine percent sure Aidan wouldn’t blow off their practice. He knew how serious my brother was about the band, but he also had been avoiding me for days. 
    The past week had been awful. I was determined to talk to him. All I wanted was a few answers. My emotions had run the gamut from confusion, frustration, regret, and sadness… sadness consumed me most of all, at night usually, and I was exhausted from it. But at this moment all I felt was anger. Anger was good. It was certainly better than pain. 
    As I rushed down the hallway, the floorboards creaked beneath my feet and the walls began to vibrate with the beat of Derek pounding on the drums. When I entered my room the music was deafening, but today I didn’t mind. I untwisted the blue-and-white-polka-dot towel from my head and tossed it to the floor. 
    The deep conditioner I used helped my fingers glide through my long damp curls. If I was going to confront Aidan, I wanted to look my best. No Frizzy Lizzie for me. That nickname, coupled with my big butt, had tormented me, growing up in a beach town surrounded by beautiful people. I had longed to look like a typical California girl: tall, blond, perfect. But, with dark hair and bordering on five feet three inches, that was never going to be me. 
    After I blow-dried and flat-ironed my hair, I took off my purple robe and draped it over my desk chair. I slipped on a pair of jeans… yes, slipped them on. I didn’t have to tug, pull, or jiggle my butt to get in my pants anymore. When I easily pushed the button through the top of my jeans, it still made me smile. I couldn’t even count how many times I had to lie on my bed and suck in my stomach so I could zip up a pair of pants. Every time I slipped them on, I never took it for granted. I had worked my butt off… literally. I put on my bra and a green sweater before I pulled on my boots. 
    I rushed downstairs to the door that led to the garage. Thinking about confronting Aidan and having to stare into those piercing blue eyes started to intimidate me. But this was my chance. I knew he was a few feet behind the door, and I needed to deal with him. Before I completely lost my nerve, I inhaled a deep breath and exhaled then pushed open the door. 
    The stream of sunlight coming in through the open garage door blinded me for a moment. With squinted eyes, I made a beeline to the old brown sofa in the corner. My heart was beating so fast it almost seemed in tempo with Derek pounding the drums. I scooted over our yellow Labrador, Maggie, and wedged myself between her and the arm of the couch. Finally, I looked up to focus my attention on Aidan. 
    He didn’t show. 
    I sunk my head back into the cushions, exhaling a deep, long sigh, trying to rid the tension from my body. The guys were practicing their newest song. Indie-Alternative was their style, and they called themselves Random Plan. I glanced at Mason and could tell he was angry. I mouthed the word “Aidan?” 
Mason just shook his head. 
    “Derek!” The tone in my brother’s voice made me sit up straight. “Derek!” Mason snapped again. 
    Finally Derek stopped and silenced his cymbals. 
    “What?” He lifted the front of his black t-shirt to wipe the sweat from his forehead, exposing his six-pack. His brown eyes bored into Mason’s. “Hey! Just ‘cuz you’re ticked off at the pretty boy, don’t take it out on me.” 
    Derek reached back and grabbed a water from an old bookcase that held a few water bottles, electrical cords, an old CD player, and a collection of CDs. “Hey, Kyle, ya want one?” 
    Kyle nodded and Derek tossed one across the garage to where he stood behind the keyboard. 
    “Mason?” 
    “Yeah, I’ll take one… Sorry, Derek.” 
    Derek gave Mason a head nod and tossed him a bottle. He took a sip while Derek chugged his down. 
    “Okay, start again.” Mason commanded. 
    Derek picked up his sticks and began tapping. 
    I leaned my head back, closed my eyes and listened to the music. Funny, I’d come into the garage so fearless it almost made me laugh. Who would have thought the once-overweight Elizabeth Ryan would stand up to the likes of Aidan Mitchell? I smiled to myself, allowing my mind to drift back to the time when I’d found it hard to even look at him...







7/10/2014


What Dreams May Come

by Beth M. Honeycutt

Reality is overrated. Or so Ellie Cross has always believed. 

Ellie is an ordinary, nothing-special girl who feels invisible most of the time. She’s the kind of girl who would loan her lunch money to anyone, but she’s definitely not the kind of girl to get noticed. Well, except by her mom, who constantly nags her not to be such a dreamer, and the class bully who makes her life miserable. It’s kinda grim for a girl who’s already painfully shy and all-too-aware that she “takes work.” 

But Ellie has a best friend, someone she can turn to whenever she has a problem. Well, some might call him an imaginary friend, since they’ve never actually met outside of dreams. 

And, sure, Ellie knows it’s kinda weird to have a friend no one else can see, but since her real-world friends currently number one, she figures an imaginary friend can only improve her social life. Even better, since he isn’t real, she can tell dream-guy-Gabe anything, without ever worrying that he’ll ditch her for someone cooler or embarrass her by blabbing her secrets. And so what if she happens to have an itsy-bitsy crush on her reality-challenged friend? Who’s it hurting, really? 

But things are about to get complicated, because there’s a new guy in school—a guy with hauntingly familiar eyes. A guy who knows things about Ellie that he shouldn’t have any way of knowing… 



Excerpt: 


Chapter 1
It was a dream she didn’t want to wake from. And it was a dream, she was sure of that, because he was there.
He was only ever there in dreams.
They sat in the meadow, their secret place, and watched the storm fade from the sky and the world lighten again. Ringed by trees on all sides, the meadow felt protected, hidden. Gabe leaned over to wipe the dampness from her face, and Ellie didn’t know if it was tears or rain. Didn’t matter. She was safe now. No one could hurt her here.
So when the doorway suddenly appeared on the edge of the meadow, the closed door glowing white against the lush green backdrop, golden knob gleaming with reflected sunlight, Ellie resolutely put her back to it and twined her fingers tighter with Gabe’s. She wasn’t going anywhere. Not yet.
She knew what the consequences would be if they found out she was here, after she’d been forbidden to see Gabe again, but Ellie didn’t care. She needed him—sometimes he was the only thing holding her together.
Sunlight broke from behind the large, puffy clouds floating across the vibrant blue sky and warmed them, misting the water from their clothes. A breeze caressed their faces and skin like a loving hand. Around them, the rain-soaked meadow came to life, wildflowers raising their faces to the sun…butterflies swooping, glittering jewels in the sunlight…raindrops dancing on trees like shards of crystal…birds chirping a sweet song.
“You okay, now?” Gabe’s eyes, green as the meadow itself, were dark with concern as he squeezed her hand to draw her attention.
“Yeah,” she nodded, not surprised to find it was true. Gabe had sat and listened, taking both her ranting and tears in stride, his very presence a cool balm to her inflamed emotions.
That was just what he did: when she was broken, he bandaged her back together. He always knew just how to fix her.
He was Gabe. Of course he knew.
He was her best friend—a place she belonged more than any other place she’d ever known.
He was everything.
“No more tears,” Gabe admonished, reaching his free hand up to brush her cheek. The touch zinged through her like a stray spark of the lightning that had so recently electrified the sky. It left behind a trail of warmth that seeped into her aching heart. “Not because of Patrick. He’s not worth it.” He tucked a tear-damp strand of hair behind her ear and she felt her heart beat faster at the tender gesture. She blushed, dropping her eyes to their joined hands, amazed at how they fit together like puzzle pieces.
“I was just so…” she struggled to find the words. “Patrick just makes me feel so…Ugh, I hate him!”

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6/9/2014


Stiletto Heels or Bicycle Wheels? 

by Lindsey Paley

When stressed out New York executive Rosie Hamilton inherits her Aunt Bernice’s run-down cottage, it couldn’t have come at a better time. With her love life, if she could call it that, exploded in her face and suspension from her job swinging through the corporate jungle, she reckons a couple weeks in Devon could be just the escape she needs from the glamorous, yet trauma-strewn landscape of her life in Manhattan.

But life hidden away in the thatched lodge is dull and how can she contemplate tackling the jungle of a garden in her Louboutins and Armani skirt suit?

Rosie, uncomfortable with the invasion of privacy masquerading as community spirit, yearns to return to her old life of social indifference, until she stumbles upon her aunt’s old, hand-illustrated recipe book .With no other activity to occupy her time, she bakes, bakes, bakes as if her life depends on it. With no form of transport either, Rosie takes to the road on Bernice’s ancient bicycle, warm Devonshire scones in the wicket basket up front.

She even has time to date! Austin, her aunt’s handsome, sharp-suited solicitor is straight from her New York wish list of boyfriend material; and Charlie, the local luxury Spa Hotel’s general maintenance guy, definitely not her type, irritatingly chirpy and lacking in life’s ambition.

With recipes from Aunt Bernice’s own baking book for you to try at home; Corporate Manhattan or rural Devon? Austin or Charlie? ‘Stiletto Heels or Bicycles Wheels?’ Which would you choose?

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5/29/2014


Caterina

by Shanna Hatfield

On the run from the Italian mafia in New York City, feisty Caterina Campanelli travels across the  country to the small town of Pendleton, Oregon, trying to hide her past while she decides what to do  about her uncertain future. Seeking comfort in her cooking, she battles her attraction to one of the  town's most handsome men.
   Kade Rawlings is dedicated to his work as a deputy in Pendleton. Determined to remain single and unfettered, he can't seem to stay away from the Italian spitfire who rolls into town keeping secrets and making the best food he's ever eaten. Using his charm, wit, and brawn to win her trust, he may just get more than he bargained for.

Excerpt:
From Chapter Three
“You’re forgiven, for now.” Caterina lowered her lashes coquettishly. “At least you will be if you help with the dishes.”
Kade didn’t know if he was punchy from the good food or spending time with close friends, but a little of the devil danced in him as he stepped close behind Caterina, pinning her against the sink with his big body. He bent down so his breath stirred the raven curls along her neck and stuck his hands in the sink, essentially boxing her in with his thickly muscled arms.
“How’s this?” he asked in a husky voice, wondering what had possessed him to get this close to the beguiling woman. He didn’t have a thought in his head except how much he wanted to kiss her.
“I… uh… oh, my!” Caterina stuttered, completely rattled by Kade’s close proximity. Heat from his body penetrated her back while his inviting scent enveloped her senses.
When he ran his hands over hers beneath the soapy water, it suddenly became a tub of sleek oils instead of a sink full of dirty dishes.
Biting her lip, she fought against the wild, exciting, and terrifying sensations Kade stirred in her. Utterly foreign, they weren’t altogether unwelcome.
“Kade, I think you better…” When she turned her head to speak to him, his bright green gaze mesmerized her, cutting off her ability to speak. Lowering her lashes, she felt the warmth of his breath on her face seconds before his lips caressed hers.

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5/27/2014


The Heavenly Bites Novella Collection
by Christine S. Feldman

At the Heavenly Bites Bakery, three very different women bake up delectable treats and find romance with some unexpected but equally delectable men.  Find out how in these three short and sweet novellas, finally available as a collection and in paperback form…

Pastels and Jingle Bells:  When Trish Ackerly crosses paths with Ian Rafferty, the former bully of her childhood years, her plans for a comeuppance fall by the wayside as she comes to realize that the man he is now is very different from the boy he used to be—and that a Christmas romance might just be in her future.

Love Lessons:  When bakery customer Mrs. Beasley guilts Nadia Normandy into mentoring unsuspecting accountant Benji Garner in the world of dating, Nadia soon discovers that this particular accountant has a charm all his own.  And with New Year’s Eve just around the corner, it may be time for Nadia to make a resolution to sweep her protégé off his feet before someone else beats her to it.

Playing Cupid:  Free-spirited Aimee Beasley’s plans to match her widowed grandmother up with a distinguished elderly gentleman hit a snag when she learns he’s the uncle of their downstairs neighbor, grim Doyle Berkely, a man with whom Aimee butts heads on a regular basis.  But in the process of nudging her grandmother’s romance along, Aimee uncovers a softer side to Doyle that may lead to a little romance of her own…

Excerpt: 
Pastels and Jingle Bells:  Heavenly Bites Novella #1

It was probably inviting the worst kind of karma to be contemplating murder during the holiday season of all times, but that didn’t phase Trish Ackerly in the slightest as she stared through her bakery’s storefront window in shock.
It was him. Ian Rafferty, bane of her junior high school existence. She’d know that face anywhere, despite the changes in it.  Sure, he was a couple of feet taller now and certainly broader shouldered, but as he glanced away from the winter scene she had painted on the window only yesterday and at a passing car that whizzed by much too fast on the busy city street, the profile he presented to her confirmed it. Yes, it was him. That same nose, the odd little scar above his eye, the familiar way he quirked his lips…
Her eyes narrowed. Ian Rafferty. That miserable, mean-spirited little—
Then he turned his face back to the window, and Trish gasped and dropped to the floor before he could spot her staring at him.
“What on earth are you doing?” came Nadia’s voice from behind the counter.
Trish huddled behind a tall metal trash can and glanced up through her dark bangs at her startled friend and business partner only to remember belatedly that they had company in the shop, namely wizened little Mrs. Beasley, whose startled eyes blinked at her from behind enormous tortoise-shell spectacles.
Well, there was little help for it now. “That guy,” Trish hissed, jerking one thumb in the direction of the window. “I know him!”
Both Nadia and Mrs. Beasley peered intently through the glass. “Mmm,” said Nadia appreciatively a moment later. “Lucky you, girlfriend.”
“No, not lucky me! That guy made my life a living hell in junior high. He’s a jerk, he’s a bully—“
“He’s coming in here, dear,” Mrs. Beasley interrupted her, with obvious interest in her voice.
With a squeak of alarm, Trish shuffled hastily behind the counter on her hands and knees and hunched into as small and inconspicuous a ball as she could.
Nadia blinked. “Trish, are you out of your —“
“Sh!”
“Oh, you did not just shush me —“
“SHH!” Trish insisted again, knowing full well that she’d pay for it later, and then she pulled her head down into her shoulders as much as her anatomy would allow.
The bell on the door jangled cheerfully then, and a gust of cold air heralded Ian Rafferty’s arrival.
“Hi, there,” Nadia greeted him brightly, surreptitiously giving Trish’s foot a little dig with one of her own. “Welcome to Heavenly Bites. What can I get for you?”
“Cup of coffee would be great for starters,” came a voice that was deep but soft, and far less reptilian than Trish expected. She cocked her head slightly to better catch his words and heard the unmistakable sound of him blowing on his hands and rubbing them together to warm them. “Cream, no sugar.”
“Sure thing, honey.”
“Your window art,” his voice continued, and Trish straightened ever so slightly at the mention of her work. “It’s fantastic. Can I ask who painted it?”
“Absolutely,” Nadia returned, turning her attention to getting the coffee he requested. “My business partner, Trish.”
“Is she around, by any chance?”
Nadia glanced down at where Trish sat scrunched up and did what Trish thought was a very poor job of suppressing a smirk. “She’s, um, indisposed at the moment. Why do you ask?”
“I’ve got a couple of windows that could use a little holiday cheer. Think she might be interested in the job?”
Nadia gave Trish another brief sideways glance.
Trish shook her head frantically.
“Tell you what. Leave me your number, and we’ll find out.” Nadia stepped out of reach before Trish could smack her leg.
“Great, thanks. Here’s my card.”
“I’ll see that she gets it, Mr.—“ Nadia glanced at the card. “—Rafferty.  Here’s your coffee, and you, sir, have a very nice day.”
The bell on the door jingled again, and Trish cautiously poked her head up long enough to verify that Ian was indeed gone. She then ignored the fascinated look Mrs. Beasley was giving her and fixed an icy stare on Nadia. “I’m going to kill you. How could you do that?”
Nadia tossed her dark braids over her shoulder. “Hmph. Shush me in my own shop…”
“I don’t want to talk to that guy! I don’t want to have anything to do with him.”
“He seemed nice enough to me,” her friend returned, shrugging unapologetically. “And easy on the eyes, too.”
“And single,” put in Mrs. Beasley eagerly, one wrinkled hand fluttering over her heart. “No wedding ring.”
“Of course there’s no ring! No woman wants to marry the devil!” Trish sank back down onto the floor and leaned back heavily against the shelves behind her.
“He used to be the devil,” Nadia corrected her, examining the business card he had handed to her.  “Now he’s ‘Ian Rafferty, Landscape Architect’. And he’s a paying customer, Trish. Face it, you could use the money.”
“Forget it. I’m not so hard up that I’d go crawling to Ian Rafferty for a job.” Trish scowled and folded her arms across her chest. “I have my dignity, you know.”
“Yeah? Why don’t you get up off the floor and tell me all about your dignity.”
“Oh, shut up,” Trish muttered, getting to her feet and snatching the card from Nadia’s hand. Wadding it up, she tossed it in the direction of the trashcan and stalked into the bakery’s kitchen.

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5/19/2014



Aundy

by Shanna Hatfield

  Desperate to better her situation, Aundy Thorsen agrees to leave behind her life in Chicago to fulfill a farmer’s request for a mail-order bride in Pendleton, Oregon.  When a tragic accident leaves her a widow soon after becoming a wife, Aundy takes on the challenge of learning how to manage a farm, even if it means her stubborn determination to succeed upsets a few of the neighbors.
   Born and raised on the family ranch, Garrett Nash loves life in the bustling community of Pendleton in 1899. When his neighbor passes away and leaves behind a plucky widow, Garrett takes on the role of her protector and guardian. His admiration for her tenacious spirit soon turns to something more. He just needs to convince the strong-willed Aundy to give love another try.



EXCERPT:
Chapter Nine
“Dang it, Aundy. What if one of them decided to pull a gun on you? Were you prepared for a gunfight? Or a fistfight? Even worse, what if one of those men down there found out you’re a woman? There’s no telling what would’ve happened to you. You have no idea what some of them are capable of.” Fear tightened his chest again as thoughts of what might have happened filled his head.
Reaching across the table, he grasped Aundy’s soft fingers in his rough callused hands. “Please promise me you’ll never do that again.”
Aundy didn’t want to promise anything. She didn’t think she’d ever again have a need to dress as a man or venture beneath the city, but she didn’t like the way the promise smacked of conceding some of her freedom.
At the look on Garrett’s face, a look that made her heart quicken and her stomach flutter, she released a sigh. “I promise.”
“Thank you.” Garrett squeezed her hands before letting them go. “Now, what information was so important you couldn’t just ask me or Pops?”
“I could have asked you, but I needed to do this on my own, Garrett. You and your family have been so good to me, taken such good care of me. I need to start standing on my own two feet. I can’t depend on you for everything. If I’m going to run this farm, I need to learn to be self-sufficient.”
“You are one of the most stubborn, hard-headed women I’ve ever met, Aundy Erickson,” Garrett said, running a hand through his hair, sending the dark locks into a state of complete disarray. His movements made Aundy want to run her fingers through it as well. “Your ability to be self-sufficient would never come into question. If you need help, ask for it. We’re more than happy to give it. You’ve been through so much since you’ve arrived here and handled it all in stride. Growing up in the city, without any rural background, you’re going to need some help. Never hesitate to ask.”
“I know, but I’ve imposed on all of you too much as it is.” Aundy felt tears prick the backs of her eyes. She would not cry. Giving in to her emotions, as jumbled as they were, wouldn’t help prove she could care for herself and Erik’s farm. Her farm.
“You’ve never imposed on us. Ever.” Aundy was so obstinate. He couldn’t recall ever meeting such a stubborn, headstrong woman. She made him want to… Thinking about what he really wanted to do, he refocused his attention on why she went to the Underground. “Regardless of all that, what information were you hoping to find?”
“I wanted to buy something and no one would talk to me about it. Dressed as a man, I didn’t have a bit of trouble making the deal.”
“What did you buy?” Garrett tried to think of anything Aundy would have purchased in the Underground that could possibly be beneficial to the farm.
“I don’t think you’re going to like my answer.” Aundy didn’t want to tell Garrett about her sheep. He’d been quite vocal when she and J.B. were discussing the pros and cons of raising sheep the other day, about how much he disliked the “stinky little boogers,” as he referred to them.
“What did you do?” Garrett asked, pinning her with his silver gaze.
“I made arrangements with a man to buy something he wanted, quite desperately, to sell.”
Garrett’s patience was nearly exhausted. “Which was?”
She hesitated, taking a deep breath before answering. “Sheep.”
He let out a whoosh of air and sat back in his chair. Blinking his eyes twice, he was sure Aundy couldn’t have said what he thought she did.
“Did you say sheep?”
“Yes,” Aundy whispered, staring down at the cloth covering the table.
“Smelly, nasty, bleating little sheep?”
“Well, I don’t know about the smelly, nasty, or bleating part, but yes, I did agree to purchase sheep.”
“Woman! What are you thinking? Did you sign papers, make payment? Is the deal final?”
“Not yet. Mr. O’Connell was under the impression I was helping a new widow. I asked him to call Mrs. Erickson Monday morning to make arrangements for the sale.”
“O’Connell? The whiskey drinking Irishman? Why he’ll…” Garrett yelled, his eyes flashing fire.
Aundy reached across the table and clapped a hand across his mouth. “Shh. You’ll have Dent and the boys in here if you don’t quiet down. Not only should you not be here, especially with me dressed like this, but I’m not quite ready to impart the knowledge to them that we’ll soon be raising sheep.”
“Fred will quit.” Garrett stated a fact Aundy already knew. He’d made it perfectly clear that he had no interest in tending sheep, so it was a gamble she had to make.
“I’ve taken that possibility into consideration.”
“Did you also take into consideration that a lot of the neighbors around here hate sheep? Not just dislike them, but hate them. I know many people in the area raise sheep, but our neighbors are all wheat growers and cattlemen. If you think about it, there isn’t one little lamb to be found from here all the way to Pendleton. You could be asking for a lot of trouble.” 


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5/11/2014


Just Dessert: Ladies of Larkspur

by Heather Gray

Dessert…the perfect remedy when nothing in life seems to be going right.
What do you do when you are the sole protector of four children, your brothers and sisters?  When each day is haunted by disappointment, disillusionment and desperation?  When you believe that everyone who ever loved you, including God, has abandoned you?
You bake a pie, of course.
What do you do when you find a woman whose heart is consumed by fear?  Who does not know how to trust?  Who scoffs at your faith and throws your kindness back in your face?
You eat a pie, of course.


Excerpt:
Seventeen year old Mary Fitzgerald stepped up next to the deacon, a beautiful looking strawberry pie in her hands. Today was the day she started taking lasting steps to protect her family. Pa was passed out at home, having drunk so much there was no way he would be waking up to come to the festivities at the church today.
She had been taking care of and protecting her younger brothers and sisters, the four of them, as far back as she could remember, but her pa was getting meaner and nastier with each passing year. Her brothers were getting angrier and more volatile, too. It was important to get them all out from under Pa's thumb before her brothers were ruined for life, sentenced to turn into men like their pa.
Hoping to find a man willing to wed her and take her brothers and sisters in, too, Mary had entered herself in the dessert auction at a picnic hosted by the church. The auction was one of many events at the picnic, but it was the only one in which Mary was interested. Only eligible men were allowed to bid, and she hoped to use the auction to find a husband. How old, ugly or poor – Mary didn't care as long as he didn't beat or terrorize them. That was her highest hope, to find a man who did not cause her to cower, who did not break her bones, who would not harm her brothers and sisters. She had poured all her hopes for escape into making this pie to help her find a husband. Harboring no illusions about love, Mary didn't even really care if the man was kind; she only needed him not to be too terrible.
As the diminutive deacon with thinning grey hair was about to begin the bidding, Mary glanced up. Fear grabbed hold of her heart and squeezed so tight she thought she might faint right there. Neither the sea of curious faces nor the beautiful blue Idaho sky drew her attention. Pa was coming, and he looked madder'n a hot, hungry bull. Mary couldn't move. Her breath came in short, shallow gasps as she tried to stay conscious. She was terrified of this man. They had been so certain Pa would stay passed out all day, that he wouldn't be able to discover their plan until it was too late. The kids had all dressed in their finest clothes and promised to be on their best behavior – no small feat for the boys – and now here came Pa, ruining their chance for escape.
The deacon had not seen Mr. Fitzgerald yet and was taking a big breath in preparation to start the bidding. His mouth was still open, sucking in air, when the bellow came from the back of the crowd, "That's my young'un and ain't nobody biddin' on her pie! I ain't raisin' no harlot to get paid for her favors!"

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5/7/2014



Rogue's Son

by Darcy Flynn

Blurb:

Tough, driven Kit Kendall has replaced her frills and dresses with no nonsense haircuts and wranglers, years ago. As owner of Sage Brush, the once thriving west Texas bed and breakfast ranch, she now struggles daily to keep her business afloat. Since McCabe Resort Lodge reopened next door as a multi-million dollar hotel, her financial difficulties compound, as she suffers one cancellation after another.

Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, Kit’s childhood sweetheart turned nemesis returns as the new owner of the resort that’s now putting her out of business, resurrecting memories she thought she’d buried long ago.

Cowboy, entrepreneur Sam Dawson has returned to Sugar Creek, Texas after six years of exile with a secret that could destroy Kit’s happiness. He left town because of it and for the past two years has secretly tried to make it right. Having failed, he now returns to make one last attempt to undo the tangled web created by his father.

Set in motion by his father’s Last Will and Testament and with the clock ticking, Sam has only weeks to convince Kit to sell him her ranch or reveal the truth that will break her heart.

Excerpt:


Sam could tell she was spitting mad. He watched her jerk the seatbelt over her chest several times before he reached over to click it into place.
He straightened up and glanced at her as he turned into the street. “Is that steam I see coming from your ears?”
Kit responded by snapping her arms across her chest.
He heaved a sigh and shook his head. “She told you, didn’t she?”
Kit didn’t say a word she just stared out the window.
“I’m sorry you had to find out that way. I was going to stop by tonight and tell you myself.”
“How thoughtful of you. So. What do you want?”
“Sorry?”
“For access to the land. Otherwise my guests have no place to hunt or fish.”
“Sell me the road frontage I need.” He’d deliberately forced her hand and hated himself for it. But far better for her to part with a few measly acres than lose everything. And if she ended up hating him in the process then so be it. He cursed both their fathers under his breath.
Kit’s mouth fell open and she slowly turned to face him, hoarse laughter tumbling from her lips.
“You’ve got to be kidding. After this stunt, do you really think I’d sell an inch of my property to you? One Kendall made the mistake of caving to a Dawson’s blackmail, but let me assure you, this one won’t.”
He hated what he was about to do. Hated to force her hand, but she gave him no choice. When did she become so stubborn?

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5/5/2014


Breaking Ties
by Jo Grafford


An intelligent woman ahead of her time, ROSE PAYNE'S world is shattered after a secret betrothal to the duke’s son costs her job in his father's household. Without a letter of recommendation, Rose becomes an easy target for recruiters to the Colonies. Desperate for work, she signs up for a risky overseas venture and sails for the New World, vowing never again fall for a wealthy gentleman.

Returning from a diplomatic tour in London, CHIEF MANTEO is bewitched by the elusive, fiery-haired ship clerk and determined to overcome her distrust. He contrives a daring plan to win her heart – one he prays will protect her from a chilling conspiracy involving murder, blood money, and a betrayal of their fledgling colony so terrifying it can only be revealed in BREAKING TIES.

SPECIAL NOTE:
Based on real people and real events, Breaking Ties is the "rest of the story" of the Lost Colonists from Roanoke Island. New archaeological findings now claim conclusive proof of survivors!


EXCERPTS (Three total – Preface, Chapter One, and Chapter Thirteen. Use which one(s) you want and feel free to toss the rest):

PREFACE

     Sometimes murder isn’t as messy, up-close, and personal as many people imagine it to be. Sometimes it is distant and impersonal – as simple as crossing a line through a name on a sheet of paper. Or one hundred and fifteen names in our case.

CHAPTER ONE
Portsmouth, England, April 26, 1587

     “Yer bum’s hanging out the window!” My brother banged his empty mug on the inn table. He ran both hands through his hair, as red as my own, standing each flaming lock on end.

     My lips turned up despite the heaviness in my chest. It felt good to hear him lapse into the Gaelic brogue of our childhood. “Och, Donnen!” I reached across the table to clasp his large hands and grimaced at the stench of salmon and sweat hanging in the air. “I dinna bring ye here to quarrel. ‘Tis my first job offer in weeks.”

     I dared not share my other reason for leaving.

     “Nay, ye can stay with me till ye find a different job. Crossing the Atlantic unwed is bad enough, but these—” He shook my upraised palms, “are ink stains. Blast it all! Ye’re a clerk, not a sailor.”

     “Indeed?” Saints alive, he acted as if I was still twelve instead of nineteen. “Well, good news. I shall be accompanied by other women – whole families of people, for that matter – and ‘tis a clerk they need.”

     “Only because—“ Donnen glanced around the room and lowered his voice. “The last one left in a frightful hurry along with half the crew all in the same night.” His glare was fierce. “Rumor has it the entire fleet is bound straight for Jonah’s watery vault. I don’t suppose that came up during the bloomin’ interview?”

A peek at the middle...

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
     "You want my help." 'Twas an accusation.

     "Aye."

     His eyes darkened. "I save your life. I give gifts. I offer marriage." He closed the remaining distance between us, his eyes burning into mine.

     I stumbled back.

     "You give nothing in return," he snarled. "You only ask for more."

     "I would had I something to offer," I whispered. "But I have nothing. I am nothing."

     "Then what use are you to me?" He wheeled away.

     I sagged against the door, eyes stinging. I blinked rapidly and pressed a hand to my stomach. Nausea rolled at the thought of informing the others of my failure.

     Manteo circled the cabin like a hawk stalking its prey. 'Twas a fine room with ornately carved shelves lining one wall. Bunks were built into the next wall. A generous desk jutted from the third, overflowing with maps and navigational devices. I recognized the compass and hourglass but could not identify the other instruments. I jerked in surprise when Manteo swooped down upon me.

     "I know our location." His arms shot out and slapped the wall on either side of me, hemming me to the door. "I could swim ashore from here."

     "Then why do ye stay if ye can leave and save yourself?"

     "Governor White gave his word to deliver me home."

     "We are going to starve, Manteo. 'Tis only a matter of days now."

     "Nay. You alone starve. The others eat."

     "I have no appetite."

     "You act as one already dead."

     I straightened my back. "I accept what I cannot change."

     "And I change what I cannot accept." He shifted his weight to the wall, one arm propped over my head. He drew his fingertips down the side of my face in a feather-light caress.

     I closed my eyes against the rush of unbearable sweetness. He made me long for things forbidden. "'Tis within your power to help us. I am begging you."

     "Very well."

     My eyes flew open. "Ye will do this for us."

     "For you." His voice was silken, his features as hard as granite.

     I smiled tremulously. "I thank thee, Manteo. Chief Manteo, that is." The new title felt strange on my lips. I beheld him with a mixture of awe and pride.

     "I have yet to name my price."

     I stared, confused.

     He grunted in disgust. "You refuse me as both husband and lover, so you are left with the hiring of my services."

     I worried my lower lip between my teeth. At least he was willing to negotiate. His eyes flashed with lust as he followed my movements.

     "I will entreat the Dares for payment."

     "Nay. You are the one in my debt."

     I raised and dropped my hands helplessly.

     "You serve this company, no? You can serve my people, too."

     "Ye would hire me as clerk?" Hope leaped in my chest at the possibilities. I would not have to part from him so soon.

     "My people have no clerks." His eyes narrowed. "We have slaves."

     My breath hitched. "Ye wish to punish me, humiliate me?"

     "Nay, I only wish to marry you."

     I briefly closed my eyes against the pain. He already knew the reason for my refusal.

     "Rose."

     "Say no more. I will do it. 'Twill be punishment enough to see you so often and—“ I clamped my lips.

     Exultation flickered briefly across his face. "You would give up your freedom to save your friends?"

     "Without question."

     "Swear it," he said grimly.

     "I swear it."

     His eyes flared with emotion. He bent slowly 'til his breath stirred my lips. My eyelids fluttered closed. Heaven help me, for I had no will left to resist him.

     "Now you will eat," Manteo commanded hoarsely. He stepped back, surveying me from head to feet.

     "Eat?"

     "I have no slaves so thin and weak. Go. Collect your rations." He turned from me and bent to pore over a map on the table.

     I reached for the door handle, disbelieving at the curt dismissal.

     "And send for Anthony. I have need of him."

     I glared at his back. Faith, should I press my face to the floor as well? "Aye, master." I bit the words out and fled.

(To be continued...) 

CONTACT INFO:
Twitter: @jografford
YouTube Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/nBB8_qcG-9I


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5/4/2014



Matter of Choice 
by RM Alexander

Some promises can’t be kept. 

Shannon Winters’ picture perfect marriage is in shambles after a car accident left her husband an amnesiac. The commitment to vows he doesn’t remember making keeps her fighting while covering up the parade of other women and a spectacle of bad behavior. Her career as owner and manager at a successful boutique hotel alongside the Hudson River is a refuge, but, at thirty-seven years old, what she craves is the bond to be repaired. 

Even twenty years after high school, Triston Keyes continues to be haunted by memories of the girl he’d lost, the only woman he’s ever loved. When he meets Shannon during a vacation, Triston finally has the chance to apologize. It’s the only hope he has if he ever wants to fall in love with anyone else. 

Sparks rekindle between them, and Shannon struggles to find a reason to stay true to a broken marriage which is quickly crumbling as she gravitates towards the forgotten love. 

Until her husband pleas for her to come back. 

But when the depth of betrayal is revealed, Shannon must choose her vows-and her beloved hotel-or remain true to her heart; while Triston must fight to keep the past from catching up to his future. 

Both know nothing is a matter of luck, but a matter of choice …


Excerpt: 




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5/1/2014


Woman of Honor

by Nicole Zoltack


Aislinn of Bairbhe dreams of becoming a lady knight to honor the death of her fallen brother. To her mother's horror, King Patrick grants Aislinn's wish. 

Despite the mockery of the other pages and disdain of Prince Caelan, who also trains to be a knight, Aislinn commits herself to her training and embarks on a journey of self-discovery and bravery.

Through the years, Aislinn and Caelan grow from sparring classmates to good friends. Honor, bravery, and yes, love are worth fighting for even when they both know that someday Caelan will have to marry for the sake of the kingdom.

Excerpt: 

"Is there anyone else that you have feelings for, Aislinn? Is that why you don't want to be with Geoffrey?"
Aislinn blinked, thinking about his question. "I haven't thought about such things. I'm too focused on becoming a knight. That's all I'm worried about."
Caelan pushed back his chair and stood. With him on his feet, Aislinn had to tip back her chin to look him in the face, he had grown so much in the years since they'd first met. "There is no one else?"
She shook her head. 
Caelan pushed back his chair and stood. With him on his feet. Aislinn had to tip back her chin to look him in the face, he had grown so much in the years since they'd first met. "There is no one else?"
She shook her head.
Caelan took a step closer to her, stepping so close he only had to whisper for her to hear him. "What if I told you that Geoffrey isn't the only one who favors your company?"
His closeness overwhelmed Aislinn and she tried to take a step back. Her shoulders bumped the bookshelf behind her and several books shifted, but non made enough noise to draw the attention of anyone else in the library. Caelan lay a head against her cheek, his thumb beneath her chin, and with a gentle touch, forced her to look at him.
Her heart pounded hard in her chest like a caged bird and Aislinn caught her breath.
"Caelan," she whispered softly, but before she could say more, his lips covered hers.
Aislinn froze for a second as he held his mouth against hers, then heard herself sigh when he pressed closer and moved his lips. Aislinn's eyes fluttered close and she raised her hands to lay them on his chest, feeling his heart pound as hard as her own. Then reality snapped at her and she shoved him away.
"Stop it!"
She pushed past the prince and rushed from the library, with several squires and younger pages turning at her escape. Aislinn ran to her room and slammed the door shut. She leaned against it and slid to the floor, her head in her hands. 
How dare he kiss me!
But the worst realization was that she'd kissed him back. Even the memory now made her insides tremble and her hands shake. 

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4/30/2014



Searching for Lady Luck 
By Patricia Kiyono

Only seven years have passed since Rose Sheffield was a carefree college student, though it seems like a lifetime ago. Her father’s position at a major bank provided her with luxuries she took for granted. Now she works at menial jobs to support herself and her mother, and they live in what used to be their vacation home in Wildwood, New Jersey. Rose’s days are pure drudgery, until she meets Charlie. As luck would have it, she just happens to have the perfect place to display his artwork. 

Before the Great Stock market crash of 1929, Charlie Brannigan was hailed as an up and coming artist in Manhattan. But now he’s back at his family home in Wildwood, delivering newspapers in the mornings and selling his paintings on the Boardwalk in the afternoons. He needs some luck in his life, and it seems every time a pretty lady named Rose appears, good things happen.

Excerpt:
“I didn’t think you’d sell anything out there today,” Connor, younger than Charlie by four years, teased him as they set the table. “I know the Boardwalk has been busier lately, but I figured it was still too chilly for the society ladies to be out strolling.”
“I thought so, too. In fact, I was ready to come home when this lady came and helped me retrieve one of my miniatures that the wind had blown off the crate. I figured I’d have to chase it out onto the beach, so I was glad she caught it for me just before it blew off the Boardwalk. She didn’t buy the painting, but after she set it back, another woman came and bought that very one, as well as the ones on either side of it.”
“Wow, that’s a coincidence,” agreed eighteen-year-old Katie as she entered the dining room. She set a serving bowl of steaming beef stew on the table and went back into the kitchen.
“You must have met your Lady Luck,” said Connor.
“My what?”
“Lady Luck. Remember when Uncle Phineas would go to Atlantic City? He’d talk about the women in the casinos. If one of them happened to be nearby when a gambler hit it big, that woman would be his Lady Luck and he’d keep her by his side the rest of the night.”
“Lady Luck. That’s pretty much how I felt about her. It was as if she put a special spell on those paintings and that’s what made the next person buy them.” 

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4/25/2014


Mail-Order Groom
by Cindy Flores Martinez

Blurb:

Mail-Order Groom, a debut romantic comedy novel by Cindy Flores Martinez, was inspired by the author’s own Polish ancestry and is based on her screenplay and movie project of the same title, which she shopped around Hollywood, New York, and other parts of the world.
A sweet romance about an American woman who marries a stranger from Poland after her fiancé leaves her right before the wedding.
Lisa is about to marry her first real love and have the wedding of her dreams, but her world is shattered when she finds her fiancé, Jeff, in the arms of another woman. When he calls the wedding off, Lisa is heartbroken.
In a twist of fate, she meets Krzysztof Zielinski from Poland on Mail-Order-Grooms.Com. He needs to marry an American woman so that he can stay in America, and he’s willing to pay money for it. His reason for needing to stay tugs at Lisa’s heart and convinces her to say “I do” to him. After all, it’s going to be strictly a business deal. She won’t even have to live with him, and marrying another man would be the perfect revenge on Jeff.

Lisa races to the altar with her stand-in groom, but she soon learns that she actually does have to live with him. Things become even more complicated when she finds herself falling for him, and he’s not planning to stay in America forever. Will Lisa’s heart break all over again or will she find love and happiness in the end?


  • Excerpt

Main Street was alive with the morning rush as I made my way down the sidewalk grasping a café mocha in one hand and my phone, a rhinestone-studded extension of myself, in the other. The delicious aroma of brewing coffee, baking bread, and fragrant spices filled the air from the bakeries, cafes, and Mom and Pop restaurants, which lined the street among a vast array of picture-perfect small town shops. Canopy overhangs, window boxes, and antique lampposts added to their charm. For as long as I could remember, this was home.

I stopped at the bridal shop beside the ornate town clock, and I tugged hard on the doorknob, ignoring the “closed” sign that still hung on the door. I had made an appointment that morning for a final fitting of my wedding dress, and I was a nervous wreck. What if it didn’t fit? I had searched high and low for the perfect dress. There wasn’t time to find another one.

I checked my reflection in the window. The waistband on my tapered beige skirt was slightly off center, and a button on my long-sleeved off-white blouse was halfway undone. It was obvious I had gotten dressed in a hurry. Lately, every day had been like that.

The past several months had been a whirlwind for me. My fiancé Jeff had asked me to marry him after two years of dating, and my best friend, slash maid of honor Daphne, and I embarked on a frantic journey to plan my wedding. Despite our meticulous preparations, there was still so much left to do, and the wedding was Saturday. I just hoped I would be ready.

“Hey, there,” said a familiar voice behind me.

I spun around, and my face lit up. My tall, handsome, groom-to-be towered over me, clad in an expensive suit. “Hey, you. I was just about to call you.” I slipped my phone in my oversized tote bag, set my coffee on the windowsill, and wrapped my arms around his wide, muscular back. “What are you doing here?”

“I was on my way to work. I saw you down the street. I wanted to say hi.” He pulled me close. “Hi.”

I laughed. I had always loved his sense of humor.

He embraced my small, but far from perfect frame, tighter. “I missed you last night.”

“I missed you too.” I gave him a tender kiss. “But I’m glad to say that the wedding favors are all finished.” Daphne, my bridesmaids, and I had been busy putting them together until late.

Jeff swept my wavy golden hair out of my face. “Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are?”

I shook my head. “Never.”

“You liar. You’re beautiful.”

“Thanks. You’re not so bad yourself.”

“What are you doing tonight?”

“Did you get my text message? We’re taking dance lessons. I made an appointment for us at Madame Alexandra’s Dance Studio.”

His smile faded. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No.”

He stepped back. “What do we need dance lessons for?”

“I want our first dance at the wedding reception to be perfect.”

“I don’t need lessons for that.” A playful look filled his eyes, which always meant trouble. He grabbed hold of my hand, spun me around, and dipped me backwards like some sort of dancing Don Juan.

“Jeff, be careful!” I held on tight as the royal blue sky flashed before my eyes. “I don’t want to walk down the aisle wearing a cast.”

He raised me up, rescuing me from the brink of bodily injury.

“Seriously, French satin and Plaster of Paris do not match.” I tugged at my skirt, which had ridden up my thighs.

I liked the feeling, but I jumped away. “I don’t want any blemishes, either. That’s how they start. I had a giant zit for my senior prom. I was voted most likely to have a volcanic eruption by the end of the night. I’m still not over it.” I winced at the memory.

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4/24/2014


The Friendship Star Quilt 
by Patricia Kiyono and Stephanie Michels

Anne Brown loves her job at The Stitching Post Quilt Shop in Grandville, Michigan, but she keeps a suitcase packed so she can leave at a moment's notice. Living under the radar, she longs for a normal life, but settles for listening to family stories told by the friendly ladies of the quilting club who meet at the shop on Tuesday evenings. When she meets Brad, the handsome band director of an area high school and his adorable daughter, Anne begins to hope for a happily ever after of her own. But someone has far different plans.


Brad Carmichael is juggling the demands of his job as band director at Rivertown High School with trying to be a better father to his daughter. When Brad is late picking Jennie up from a birthday party, the pretty young clerk from the local quilt shop comes to his rescue. Kind-hearted and talented, Anne becomes a vital part of Brad and Jennie’s lives. But her past threatens to destroy their relationship.

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Patricia: @PatriciaKiyono

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4/21/2014



Fractured Steel by TJ Loveless
Women's Fiction
Warning: Reading Fractured Steel may send reader on an emotional roller coaster. Filled with dark thoughts, extreme events, and the ability of humans to survive the worst life has to offer. Fractured Steel  is filled with realistic consequences of decisions gone wrong, finding friendship in adversity, and trying to live again.

After a bloody tour in Iraq, all Karen Barnes wants is a simple life, surrounded by horses and the mountains of Wyoming. But when a stranger tries boarding a famous horse worth millions at her stable, Karen grows suspicious that the horse has been stolen.

When her worse fears are confirmed and her life is threatened, her instinct for survival kicks in. But things are far worse than she could have even imagined when she discovers that the theft is just a cover up for espionage.
With the lives of those she cares for at stake, can she find the courage to fight one more battle, or will the violence and carnage tear her to pieces?

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1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading Searching For Lady Luck. I thought the story brought out many facts about that terrible time in US history. Of those who took their own lives leaving family members to deal with it, as well as, those who showed how strong they really were. The relationship that developed with the characters was excellent. I highly recommend this book.

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