Her Dark Lies by J. T. Ellison **Excerpt** @tlcbooktours

Happy Tuesday afternoon!

Excited and delighted to share with you today an excerpt from this upcoming release from one of my favorite authors!👀

About the Book

Fast-paced and brilliantly unpredictable, J.T. Ellison’s breathtaking new novel invites you to a wedding none will forget—and some won’t survive.

Jutting from sparkling turquoise waters off the Italian coast, Isle Isola is an idyllic setting for a wedding. In the majestic cliff-top villa owned by the wealthy Compton family, up-and-coming artist Claire Hunter will marry handsome, charming Jack Compton, surrounded by close family, intimate friends…and a host of dark secrets.

From the moment Claire sets foot on the island, something seems amiss. Skeletal remains have just been found. There are other, newer disturbances, too. Menacing texts. A ruined wedding dress. And one troubling shadow hanging over Claire’s otherwise blissful relationship—the strange mystery surrounding Jack’s first wife.

Then a raging storm descends, the power goes out—and the real terror begins…

Purchase Links

MIRA | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Connect with J. T.

Website | Facebook | TwitterInstagram

Excerpt

As if he can discern my thoughts, Jack gives me a tight squeeze, then turns me around and starts pointing out landmarks. “See that white building, halfway up the hill? That’s the entrance to the artists’ colony. I can’t wait for you to see all the sculpture. With luck, we’ll have enough time for you to set up a canvas and capture some of the cliffs. The labyrinth is just there, follow my finger, look straight. See the dark spot in between the trees? And above that is part of the original fortress, built by Julius Caesar. Dad says it will be fully restored in an other couple of years, enough for people to visit safely. It takes forever because of all the permits and conservation rules they must follow. But we’ll take a walk through it, naturally. And ahead, on the right, by the old houses? On the second floor of Villa la Scogliera? See the terrace?”

I do. It has the same cheery patina as the Villa’s coral stucco walls. A lemon grove pours over the wall, meeting the gaily striped ochre-and-tan umbrellas by the infinity pool below. On the terrace itself, on either side of the French doors, petunias spill from terra-cotta pots in bursts of aubergine and gold. It’s like a Condé Nast photo shoot for the perfect Italian retreat.

It had been in a Condé Nast spread, but that was years ago. I read the piece when Jack first suggested we have the wedding here. I’d cut it out and used it as the basis for a painting I’d called Scylla, it inspired me so. It sold for $40,000 to a couple in Nashville with an obsession with mythology.

Hidden away on the western edge of Italy in the southwest of the Tyrrhenian Sea, out of sight from the mainland and the more popular islands of Capri and Anicapri to its north, lies the isolated Isle Isola. Originally a remote, hard-to-reach private armory of Julius Caesar, it is sometimes thought to be the island from which Homer’s Scylla perched in the cliffs, waiting for unsuspecting questing sailors like Odysseus, who had to choose between sailing closer to the six-headed beast or sinking into the gaping maw of Charybdis’s whirlpool. It is also said the island houses an oracle, but no documentation has been found to prove this claim. There have been a disturbing number of shipwrecks in the waters of the bay, surprise waves driving ships against the rocks at the base of the cliffs, and storms are known to arise without warning.

A more speculative fiction surrounds it; like any remote area, rumors abound about the island’s many hauntings over the years, including a famed Gray Lady who lingers about the fortress, supposedly the ghost of the daughter of one of the island’s many generals, who was sacrificed, given to an enemy who brought a mighty navy to attack the island. When he came ashore to parlay, the young woman was given to the man in good faith and disappeared that very night in a terrible storm. The storm raged for weeks, and the invading navy was driven away.

Sea monsters and unverifiable history aside, Isola’s occupation dates to Roman times, and is home to the stunning Villa la Scogliera, the house on the cliff, currently home to famed cinematographer Will Compton. The Villa, a former monastery, perches on the hillside and ties into the abandoned Roman fortress. While the Villa itself is of this century, and has been modernized with electricity and water, the fortress, abandoned for centuries, is undergoing a full renovation, sponsored in part by the Italian antiquities committee and the Compton Foundation.

In addition to grapes and olives, the island is known for its lemon groves. It also houses a natural rookery, home to the many birds who fly off course, find themselves lost in the straights and unable to return to land.

How romantic, how very Gothic and creepy, and how very Compton to choose an island in the middle of nowhere surrounded by sea monsters and exhausted birds to call their own.

“I see it. It’s lovely. Say the name again?”

“Villa la Scogliera.”

I try to mimic the way the R rolls off his tongue and bungle it massively, which makes Jack laugh.

“I’ve been studying the tapes and everything. I swear it.”

“Say it slowly, like this. Sko-lee-AIR-a. It means cliffside.”

“Skola-air-a.”

“Close. Emphasis on the third syllable, and roll your R,” he says, planting a soft kiss on my cheek. “Chef Boy-ARRR-dee. Sko-lee-AIRRR-a. You can just call it the Villa, you know. No one will mind.”

“I need to learn Italian properly.”

“And you will. But let’s focus on one thing at a time, shall we? We have our whole lives ahead for me to teach you.”

Our whole lives. Lives that can be changed in an instant.

Stop it, Claire.

“The terrace is lovely. Is it special? Historically important? Did Medusa stand there or something?”

He rolls his eyes. “Not Medusa. Venus, maybe. The whole island is loaded with odes to Venus. No, my dear, it’s special because that’s where you will spend your first night as Mrs. Compton. Just you, and me—”

“And thirty of our nearest and dearest.”

He laughs. “Well, they won’t be watching what we get up to in there. Besides, I’ve been told the bed is magic.”

Escaping From the Shadows by C L Tustin **Excerpt** @rararesources

Happy Valentine’s Day!

What better way to spend a romantic holiday them with a good book???❤️

Escaping from the Shadows

Anastasia Travess is caring, beautiful and talented, but all her life her abusive father has kept her down. Seeking love wherever she can there has only ever been one man she trusts, one man who makes her complete and he rejected her years ago. 

Piers Talbot is an enigma, a charming bachelor with only one woman in his heart. But when offered a choice between fixing his estranged family and obtaining his heart’s desire he makes probably the worst decision of his life.

When Anastasia rekindles her past relationship with Piers’ younger brother, the lines between love and loyalty become blurred. Amid danger, betrayal and deception, Anastasia is forced to question everything she thought she knew. 

But will Anastasia have the courage to escape from the shadows?

Purchase Links 

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Escaping-Shadows-C-L-Tustin-ebook/dp/B08R7F9R1F 

US – https://www.amazon.com/Escaping-Shadows-C-L-Tustin-ebook/dp/B08R7F9R1F 

Author Bio

C L Tustin was born and raised in the East Midlands but spent her teenage years in Sydney, Australia. She has sung twice at the Sydney Opera House and also appeared singing live on Australian national television. Returning to the UK in 1989 via Singapore and the Middle East the travel bug has never left her and she has explored countries and cities across the world.

C L Tustin began writing at the age of 11 when she didn’t see why James Bond had to be a man and created a spy code named The Cat with 10 planned adventures. Her first published novel “Escaping from the Shadows” is a romance with an undertone of threat set in the social media free world of 1990. She is currently working on editing and completing her second romance “Desert Rose” whilst writing a brand new story “Flower of Death”. Future projects already planned include two Regency romances and a sci-fi thriller.

Whilst raising her son C L Tustin continued to balance writing and work with completing a BSc(Hons) in Science and a MSc(Merit) in Earth Science with the Open University. This was a most rewarding experience despite the long hours and hard work involved.

C L Tustin has worked for two major banks, a tool company, the MOD and the NHS. She has completed 3 Thames Bridges walking challenges for charity, volunteers for Butterfly Conservation and passionately supports rescue dogs. C L Tustin lives currently with her rescued 15 year old Jack Russell Terrier and a diverse collection of books and sci-fi memorabilia.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/C-L-Tustin-Author-109346397535473

Excerpt

Extract 4

This is Anastasia’s first taste of Mark’s real temper and the way he wants to control every aspect of her life, including who she should see and what she should wear. This should have raised many red flags to her, however her need to be loved, to feel wanted overrides her common sense.

Anastasia spent the rest of the day dealing with problems that

had occurred over Christmas. Some of them were incredibly

trivial, but she knew that was why Rick left them for her. At

regular intervals, people popped their heads in to say hello, and

a few wanted to know what had happened between her and

Bryan, whom she deflected with ease. As she left the office, she

was still trying to process what Bryan had told her, hoping very

much that Suzanna was making the right call, but she knew she

needed to see her friend’s face to be the judge of that.

As she got home, she could smell something wonderful

cooking and her hopes were raised that Mark was still in a good

mood.

“Hi, baby!” he called out, coming to meet her at the door.

“How was your day?”

Escaping From The Shadows

164

She hung up her slightly damp coat and replied, “It was all

right. Plenty of people in to talk to, and lots of ridiculous queries

as usual.” But Mark had already gone back into the kitchen.

She sighed and then prepared to tell him about Bryan and

Suzanna. Hesitant as to where to start, she simply came out with

it. “Bryan came to see me.” As soon as she said his name, Mark

whirled around to face her, ice back in his eyes.

“What did that loser want?”

“He and Suzanna are getting married.”

“What? Really?”

“Yes, I was shocked, too.” She braced herself. “I said we’d

meet them in the pub on Sunday to celebrate.”

His face took on an ugly expression. “No, we won’t.”

“Why? We’ll be at Guy’s on Saturday, but we’re free Sunday.”

He glared at her.

“I want to see Suzanna. She’s my closest female friend, and

I want to make sure she knows what she’s doing; that she’s

genuinely happy.” Anastasia began to feel her nails digging into

her palms.

“You’re not going near him because I say so.” His voice was

raised, and she flinched at his expression. He stood inches from

her. “No means no.” And then he turned his back on her to carry

on with dinner as if nothing had happened.

“I’m going to get changed,” she stammered, and she ran from

the room.

For the rest of the evening, Mark behaved as if there had been

no disagreement; that he had not shouted at her. Anastasia did not

know what to do, and when he suggested what she should wear

into work the next day, she agreed before she realised it. Anastasia

went to bed first, as Mark wanted to watch a documentary, and,

feeling trapped, she hoped very much to be asleep before he

came up.

THE VINEYARD AT PAINTED MOON by Susan Mallery **Excerpt** @tlcbooktours @harlequinbooks

Happy hump day all!

Super excited to share with you today and excerpt from this book that I cannot wait to dive into. Book publishes February 9, 2021🍷

About the Book

Step into the vineyard with Susan Mallery’s most irresistible novel yet, as one woman searches for the perfect blend of love, family and wine.

Mackenzie Dienes seems to have it all—a beautiful home, close friends and a successful career as an elite winemaker with the family winery. There’s just one problem—it’s not herfamily, it’s her husband’s. In fact, everything in her life is tied to him—his mother is the closest thing to a mom that she’s ever had, their home is on the family compound, his sister is her best friend. So when she and her husband admit their marriage is over, her pain goes beyond heartbreak. She’s on the brink of losing everything. Her job, her home, her friends and, worst of all, her family.

Staying is an option. She can continue to work at the winery, be friends with her mother-in-law, hug her nieces and nephews—but as an employee, nothing more. Or she can surrender every piece of her heart in order to build a legacy of her own. If she can dare to let go of the life she thought she wanted, she might discover something even more beautiful waiting for her beneath a painted moon.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Susan

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Excerpt

Chapter Four 

Mackenzie carefully studied the wine in the glass before taking another sip. This time she let the liquid sit on her tongue a bit longer before swirling it in her mouth and then spitting it into the coffee mug she’d brought with her.

 Barrel tasting was essential so she could keep track of the progress of the wine, but getting drunk while doing so was a rookie mistake. She’d learned early that spitting came with the job. She picked up her clipboard and made a few notes. Later she would transfer the notes to a computer file. Old-school, for sure, but it was how she preferred to work. 

This corner of the barrel room held her personal wines— blends she’d created because she’d had an idea and had wanted to see how it played out. The first three times that had happened, Barbara had flat-out refused and then had told Mackenzie to stop asking. Frustrated, Mackenzie had told Barbara that if the wines didn’t do well, she would cover the losses with her salary. But if they sold the way Mackenzie expected, she would get a cut of the profits for as long as the wines were made.

 Barbara had agreed, drawing up a contract they’d both signed. Two years later the first of the Highland wines had been released. Highland Thistle—named in tribute to Mackenzie’s Scottish ancestry—had sold out in two weeks. She’d used a more French style of blending the cab and merlot grapes, giving Thistle a softer finish that was appealing to a younger crowd.

 The following year Highland Heather, a nearly botanical chardonnay, had sold out before the release. Last year, Highland Myrtle, a Syrah, had done the same. At that point, Barbara had stopped telling Mackenzie no on pretty much anything wine related. Still, the three wines provided a steady flow of money every quarter. The proceeds were currently just sitting in an investment account, but someday she would do something with them.

 She reviewed her notes, then tucked the clipboard under her arm and headed for the offices on the second floor. 

Bel Après had grown significantly over the past sixteen years. They’d always had enough capacity to produce more wine, but previous winemakers had sold off hundreds of tons of grapes rather than risk creating a new wine that failed. When Mackenzie had come on board, she and Barbara had come up with a strategic plan using the best of what Bel Après produced. 

As she took the stairs to the second floor, she glanced at the awards lining the wall. Bel Après had started winning awards with Mackenzie’s very first vintage, and Barbara had been giddy with the success. She’d wanted to enter every competition, but Mackenzie had insisted they be more selective. Better to place in a few prestigious competitions and get noticed rather than win awards no one had heard of. 

Bel Après had been written up in journals and magazines, driving sales. Every year they’d expanded production. Ten years ago, they’d tripled the size of the barrel room. 

She reached the top of the stairs and paused to look at the pictures mounted there. They showed Bel Après as it had been a generation ago, when Barbara had been a young bride. From there, all the way down the long hallway, photographs marked the growth of the winery and the family. 

She smiled at a photograph of Rhys with his three sisters. He looked to be about ten or eleven with the girls ranging from nine to maybe five. The girls were all smiling and mugging for the camera, but Rhys looked serious, as if he already knew how much responsibility he had waiting for him. 

He’d grown into a good man, she thought. He worked hard, was a fair employer and came home every night. Rhys was her rock—his steadiness freed her to send all her energy into the wines. 

Mackenzie’s parents had died when she’d been young, and her grandfather had raised her. He’d been a winemaker up in the Spokane area of the state, and she’d grown up understanding what it was to wrestle magic from the soil.

 He’d gotten sick when she was fifteen—a cancer that could be slowed but not cured. Sheer will had kept him alive until she’d graduated from high school. He’d died that summer. Mackenzie still remembered the first day she’d moved into the residence hall, meeting her new roommate. Stephanie had been friendly and upbeat and exactly what Mackenzie had needed.

 That first Christmas, Stephanie had brought her home. Mackenzie had been overwhelmed by Bel Après, dazzled by Barbara and swept away by Rhys. 

He’d been so steady, she thought, smiling at the memory. Kind and strong, but with a sly sense of humor that made her laugh. Her second night there he’d knocked on her door at two in the morning, telling her to get dressed. He’d taken her outside, where unexpected snow fell from the sky. There, in the cold, dusted by new snow, he’d kissed her. It had been a perfect moment. She might not have fallen in love with him then, but she’d certainly cracked open her heart to the possibility.

 She was still smiling at the thought when she walked down the hall, through the open door and into Barbara’s large office. The corner space had huge windows that overlooked the property. The other two walls were covered with maps of the various vineyards owned by the family.

Have a lovely day! Cheers Berit🥂

 

Reunited With Her Blue Eyed Billionaire by Barbara Wallace **Guest Post** @rararesources

Happy weekend!

Reunited with Her Blue-Eyed Billionaire

For billionaire Whit Martin, Jamie Rutkowski is the one who got away. Now his college girlfriend is back to celebrate their best’s friend’s marriage. As their chemistry reignites into an even greater passion, Whit’s determined that this time their relationship will work. But are they ready to unlock the secrets of their past…if it means a chance at forever?

Purchase Link 

Amazon UK : https://amzn.to/36LZwrw    

Amazon US:  https://amzn.to/3nrXFxH   

Mills & Boon: https://bit.ly/36IolnV   

Harlequin: https://bit.ly/2GBGhGg 

Author Bio – 

Barbara Wallace is the best selling author of over two dozen romance and cozy mystery novels.  Her books can be found world-wide, including the UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy and Australia.

A native New Englander, Barb lives in the suburbs with her husband of thirty-one years. Their only son is married and lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her hard at work at her other job, that of an unappreciated caretaker to two demanding rescue cats. For some reason they seem to think laps are for petting, not laptop computers.

Social Media Links – Website: www.barbara wallace.com; Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/barbwallacewriter/  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/barbarawallaceauthor/ 

Guest Post

At the beginning of Reunited with Her Blue-Eyed Billionaire, ghostwriter Jamie Rutkowski attends her best friend, Keisha’s, engagement party in a traffic stopping pink dress and sexy stilettos. The shoes are killing her feet, but the pain is worth it.  Why? Because her ex-boyfriend, Whit Martin is attending the same party, and she’ll be damned if her wealthy, former lover sees her looking like anything less than a million bucks.  Or, to quote the conversation she has with Keisha:

“What’s wrong with making sure that when Whit sees me, he knows I’m successful and living my best life?”

“You don’t need a dress for that,” Keisha replied. “You’ve got a fantastic career. How many other people do you know who have had two books hit the bestseller lists?”

“Neither of which had my name on the cover,” Jamie pointed out. None of her ghostwritten pieces did. Made bragging about her achievements difficult. “This dress will communicate my winner status without my having to say a word. Then all I have to do is smile dismissively, flip my ponytail, and tell him ‘Later’.”

Keisha pursed her smoked purple lips. “A classic passive-aggressive move. I approve.”  

Excerpt from Reunited with her Blue-Eyed Billionaire

We’ve all been there, right? Forget all that stuff about how living your best life is the best revenge.  When we run into an old crush, or the person who dumped you in college or even the partner we kicked to the curb, not only do we want them to see that we’re living our best life, but we want them to regret losing us. 

A picture containing person Description automatically generated

Figure 1 Courtesy of Giphy

Petty?  You bet.  Human? Absolutely. Why else would there be a zillion articles online about how to make your ex jealous?  

But why do we do this?  I mean, why do we feel the need to seek passive-aggressive revenge on someone we most likely don’t even want back?  

It’s because no matter how over a person we may be, a part of our subconscious remains attached.  

When we fall in love, our brain produces dopamine.  You know dopamine, it’s the neurotransmitter or chemical that lights up our when we feel pleasure.  The more pleasure an action provides, the more dopamine.  Our brain encodes the experience by recalling the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, etc. so that we can remember and repeat the experience.  It’s the reason why we can want more than one bite of cake or more good sex.  

Seeing an ex triggers a similar response. The mention of their name or the sight of them entering a room reminds a portion of our brain that this person once gave us pleasure.  

It’s an automatic response, and it’s perfectly normal.  These little, automatic “spurts” (for lack of a better term) don’t mean we still have deep feelings. They may be, however, what makes us need to overtly prove we’re living our best life. 

Or we’re all a little petty.  Either way, I say it’s okay.

A picture with a sign that says Super Petty

Figure 2 Courtesy of Giphy

Of course, in Reunited with her Blue-Eyed Billionaire, Jamie only thinks she’s over Whit Martin.  Even though she’s gone on to build a very successful career, her first love remains her one true love.  Too bad her revenge plan is a success. Whit takes one look at her in that pink dress and decides that Jamie really is living her best life without him.  

What he’d figured would be a one-night stand had lasted the rest of the college year. Jamie, he’d quickly realized, was prettier, funnier and smarter than most of the girls on campus. Why waste time chasing second best? In fact, he’d almost—almost—suggested they try a long-distance thing, but she’d been so cool about his leaving for Europe that he didn’t. “Who says I’m looking for a commitment?” he’d remembered her saying the very first night they’d slept together.”

How different his life might have been if he hadn’t changed his mind. Looking at Jamie now, it was clear she’d done just fine after he left. He wondered if she ever thought of him like he thought of her, or if he had been relegated to a pleasant but distant memory. His money was on the distant memory.

Excerpt from Reunited with her Blue-Eyed Billionaire

What you end up with is two people in love with one another, but too afraid to admit it. Will working together make them drop their defenses? Or will they blow their chance at happiness a second time? I hope you’ll buy a copy and find out.  

Would you dress up to impress an ex, even if you’ve moved on? Let’s chat in the comments.

A handsome man wearing glasses

Could a reunion at a wedding…
lead to a happily-ever-after of their own?

For billionaire Whit Martin, Jamie Rutkowski is the one that got away. Now, his college girlfriend is back to celebrate their best’s friend’s marriage. As their chemistry reignites into an even greater passion, are they ready to unlock the secrets of their past… if it means a chance at forever?

Available from Amazon, Amazon.uk, Mills & Boon, Harlequin, Apple, Google Play and Barnes & Noble.

Trust Me by Candace Hutton **Excerpt** @rararesources

happy Monday!

Cannot believe that this is the last Monday of January? Where does the time go?🌱

Trust Me

Brooke Anderson never pictured herself as a divorcee at twenty-eight. But when she mentions getting a post-nup to her husband Garrett after one deliciously sex-filled year, he promptly serves her with divorce papers. Admittedly, she could’ve told him about how her father left her and her mother homeless when she was young, and how she’s never been wired to trust anyone. Especially those closest to her. Now, all she wants to do is avoid anywhere he might be so she won’t have to face him again.

 

But she’s not the only one who can’t seem to trust.

 

Garrett Call grew up with parents who married for money and wants no part of a life that puts material possessions above love. He reinvented himself in college, complete with a new last name so he couldn’t be tied to his family’s lucrative business. He never even told Brooke the truth. Admittedly, he could’ve handled the issue of a post-nup better with his ex-wife. Maybe he didn’t count on how much he was going to miss having her in his life. 

 

When their best friends’ wedding forces the exes to see each other again, a dangerous man from Garrett’s world threatens Brooke’s life. And they realize the only way to save themselves is to finally learn to trust each other.

Purchase Links 

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08QCXKLG9

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08QCXKLG9 

Author Bio – Candace Hutton was born and raised on books. She spent a great deal of her teenage years in libraries and bookstores and still tries to sneak off to them as often as possible. Some of her other favorite things are coffee, puppies, and the smell of rain. You can connect with her on Twitter @authorcandace

Social Media Links –  https://twitter.com/authorcandace 

Giveaway to Win a $30 Amazon Gift Card (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494407/?

Excerpt

    Context: Unable to get Garrett out of her system, Brooke proposes one more night of passion between them.

“Come here,” Garrett ordered.

A shiver went down her spine at the command in his voice. She liked when he did that when they were alone. And she loved that when she obeyed him, he fucking worshipped her body.

She moved to stand in front of him and tilted her chin up to look into his beautiful green eyes.

“What is this?” he asked. “Because I’m guessing our little conversation at the table didn’t change your mind.”

“Claudia thinks we’re arguing because we need to get each other out of our systems.” She dropped her gaze to his lips, studying his perfect mouth. “I think it makes sense.”

He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. When he opened them, he said, “Next time you see your friend, tell her I love her.”

Brooke gasped when Garrett wrapped his large hands around her hips and picked her up to swing her onto the edge of the sink counter.

Was this really a good idea? And more importantly, would once be enough to get Garrett completely out of her system?

My Travels With A Dead Man by Steve Searl **Excerpt** @rararesources

Happy weekend all!

I am loving this title! Do you ever judge a book by its title?

My Travels With a Dead Man

Jane Takako Wolfsheim learns she can alter time and space after meeting a charismatic stranger named Jorge Luis Borges.

Inextricably she falls for Borges. Soon, however Borges’ lies and emotional abuse, and nightmares about a demonic figure, “the man in black,” nearly drive Jane mad. After her parents are murdered, Jane flees with Borges. Both the ghost of haiku master, Basho, and the Daibutsu of Kamakura, a statue of Buddha that appears in her dreams, offer her cryptic advice. Unable to trust anyone, Jane must find the strength to save herself, her unborn child, and possibly the future of humanity.

Purchase Links

My Travels With a Dead Man

https://www.blackrosewriting.com/scififantasy/mytravelswithadeadman

Author Bio –

Steve Searls retired from the practice of law in 2002 due to a rare chronic autoimmune disorder (Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Cell Associated Periodic Syndrome). He began writing poetry in 2001 and, using the pseudonym, Tara Birch, was the featured poet of Tryst Poetry Journal’s Premiere Issue. He’s also published numerous poems as Tara Birch in print and online, including the poetry chapbook, Carrots and Bleu Cheese Dip, in 2004.  Steve was also active as a blogger posting under the name, Steven D, at Daily Kos (2005-2017), Booman Tribune (2005-2017) and caucus99percent (2016–present). Steve’s published essays on Medium include “Clara’s Miracle,” about his wife’s cancer and resulting traumatic brain injury from chemotherapy, and “My Rape Story.” Raised in Colorado, he now lives with his adult son in Western NY.  My Travels With a Dead Man is his first novel.

Social Media Links –

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SteveSearlsAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/StevenDBT

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/steve_searls/

Excerpt

Context: After Jane inexplicably falls in love with Borges they travel to Japan for a vacation. To fulfill a promise to her dead grandmother, Jane has convinced Borges to visit Kamakura to see the famous bronze statue of the Buddha, also known as the Daibutsu.

* * *

We were at the temple of the Great Buddha in Kamakura, and I felt hypnotized.  No, that’s not the right word, but how can I sum up in just one verb what I felt that day seeing the Daibutsu, that massive cast bronze statue of the Amida Buddha, above us on his stone dais?  

The sun was often absent. Rain clouds passed over every few minutes, threatening showers, but failed to deliver on their promises. Yet had a thunderstorm broken out, I wouldn’t have noticed. One would think the shadows, cast by those clouds, would have darkened the glow emanating from its cracked, green tarnished metal skin. Instead, they enhanced the feeling that a living–spirit?–lurked behind the two slits that represented the Great Buddha’s eyes. As I stood there in that plaza, rimmed by the surrounding hills and uncounted trees waving in the swirling breeze, those eyes pierced me to my core. A fearsome intelligence lay behind them that held me rapt by its gentle manner and calm omniscience.

Borges rambled on, lecturing me, as was his wont.  He described the many scenes in which the Daibutsu appeared in Ozu’s films. In addition, he couldn’t help speaking to me of the history of the Kamakura period, when the Emperor lost his power to a famous samurai warlord who established his capitol at the base of this small peninsula below modern day Yokohama.

My Borges loved to lecture, and most of the time I humored him. Displaying polite, if not obsequious, respect for men was drilled into me at an early age by my Japanese mother. But under the gaze of the Daibutsu, the Great Buddha, I could not endure his prattle.  Over the course of my life, my parents took me to see many famous statues and monuments, including Michelangelo’s David and Christ the Redeemer, which towers over Rio de Janeiro, but none ever affected me as deeply as the Great Buddha of Kamakura.  It was more alive than any living being I ever encountered. Its élan vital immersed me in its embrace. I was awestruck.

“Erected in 1255,” Borges droned on, “to promote the sect of Pure Land Buddhism and create a shrine to attract pilgrims and other devotees, at almost 45 feet in height, it is the second largest Buddha in all of Japan, and the largest bronze cast Buddha in the world outside of China.  A great tsunami destroyed the outer temple in the year–say, are you paying attention to me?” 

“Oh shut up!” I said.  “Just let me enjoy this.” At that moment, I only wished to stay by the Great Buddha forever and bask in its meditative gaze, entranced by the indescribable emotions it evoked.  Borges’ interruption broke the spell.  He walked away in a bad mood, sulking, refusing to speak to me for a good half-hour, though he would have said he left out of respect for my privacy. My Borges could be such an ass, but then, what man isn’t?

I sat on a bench near the Daibutsu while he stalked about, taking photographs with his digital camera.  At one point, a group of Japanese middle school girls, all decked out in their traditional apparel–white blouses, knee length navy blue skirts and red scarves or neckties (the one fashion accessory allowed them)–descended upon the plaza en masse.  They didn’t give the Daibutsu a second look, more interested in talking among themselves, while their teacher went off to purchase tickets for a tour of the Daibutsu’s hollow interior.  More restrained than American children of the same age, their conversations never rose above the level of high-pitched humming, like the sound of honey bees near a hive.   

That changed when a couple appeared with their three-year old toddler in tow. The father, a slender, classic-looking WASP, taller than Borges, carried the boy on his shoulders, while the mother, who appeared Japanese and stood a foot shorter than her husband, described the scene to him.  They spoke English with a Midwestern American accent. 

At once, the schoolgirls, like flies drawn to an open can of Coke, surrounded them, chatting and pointing at the child, who seemed to take their interest in him as his rightful due.  The mother spoke Japanese to them. After a while, she said something to the father. With a great sigh of relief, he raised the boy over his head and set him down among the mass of young girls. Delighted, they erupted in excited outbursts, passing the little boy among themselves as he whirled around and shouted with glee like a miniature dervish. They kept repeating over and over a single word while they giggled, placing hands over their mouths as they did so: “kawaii,” meaning “cute,” though the true definition’s far more nuanced.

The little boy cavorted about the square, surrounded by his admirers. The girls’ movements resembled a flock of birds twisting through the sky on a summer day.  As for the boy’s parents, the woman slumped against the man, who endured her weight like a true stoic.  She kept her eyes trained on her son, but the man looked at the Great Buddha, transfixed, the only other person there as enchanted with it as I.  

Suddenly, I noticed Borges’ absence, and for a moment, feared he deserted me. I almost went in search of him, until I noticed Borges weaving his way through the schoolgirls, his upraised hands holding two cups of macha, a tea flavored ice cream I cherished. He smiled as he approached, handing me one as a peace offering. We sat on the steps and ate our treats, watching the children.  When the teacher arrived with the tickets, the boy’s parents reclaimed him.  The father picked up his son, now much less energetic, and put him back on his shoulders.  The boy rested his head atop his father’s, using his chubby arms to reach around and grab the man’s neck.  With a little sigh, he closed his eyes.

The Friendship List by Susan Mallery **Excerpt** @tlcbooktours @harlequinbooks

Happy Thursday afternoon all!

Excited to share with you today at Excerpt for this amazing book! I will be posting my review on August 9. I don’t know about you but it is books like this that are getting me through these crazy times!🐚

About the Book

[ ] Dance till dawn 

[ ] Go skydiving 

[ ] Wear a bikini in public 

[ ] Start living

Two best friends jump-start their lives in a summer that will change them forever….

Single mom Ellen Fox couldn’t be more content – until she overhears her son saying he can’t go to his dream college because she needs him too much. If she wants him to live his best life, she has to convince him she’s living hers.

So Unity Leandre, her best friend since forever, creates a list of challenges to push Ellen out of her comfort zone. Unity will complete the list, too, but not because she needs to change. What’s wrong with a thirtysomething widow still sleeping in her late husband’s childhood bed?

The Friendship List begins as a way to make others believe they’re just fine. But somewhere between “wear three-inch heels” and “have sex with a gorgeous guy”, Ellen and Unity discover that life is meant to be lived with joy and abandon, in a story filled with humor, heartache, and regrettable tattoos.  

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Susan

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Excerpt

Silver Pines was the largest retirement community in the Pacific Northwest. There were single-family homes, condos, a golf course, several clubhouses, three restaurants, a workout facility, two pools, tennis and pickleball courts, and a grocery store. Deeper into the multi-acre complex were the independent living apartments, assisted living apartments, memory care and rehab facilities, a skilled nursing home and an outpatient surgery center.

The community hosted weekly garage sales, movie nights and all kind of clubs. The senior center—housed in the largest of the clubhouses—was open to the public.

Unity had discovered it and Silver Pines when she’d first moved back, three years ago. She’d decided to take up knitting, and the senior center had offered a class. She’d enjoyed the company so much, she’d joined the local pickleball league and was a regular at various events. Now, with the exception of Ellen, all her friends were over the age of sixty-five.

She drove through quiet, well-maintained streets. The association took care of all front lawns—freeing the residents from worry. Unity smiled. Maybe Howard should tell his son about the work his lawn business could have here. Not that she was interested. Too many of her friends were trying to fix her up. They liked Unity and wanted to see her “happy.” When she tried to tell them it had been only three years and she was nowhere near over Stuart, they told her she shouldn’t wallow. As if she had a choice about the amount of grief in her life. She also tried explaining that she’d had one great marriage and didn’t need another one, but that didn’t work either. Only Ellen let her be.

Unity turned onto a side street, then another, before pulling in front of a small rambler. The house was two bedrooms and two baths—about twelve hundred square feet. Sadly, Betty had fallen the previous week and broken her hip and would be moving into an independent living apartment.

Betty’s soon-to-be former house, like all the other houses, was on a single level with no stairs. The path from the street to the dark blue front door had a gentle incline. There were no steps anywhere in the house. The doorways were wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Inside the finishes were upscale. There were several floor plans and this was one of Unity’s favorites.

Dagmar met her at the front door. “You’re here. Good. We can get started right away. I went and saw Betty yesterday and got a list of all the things she wants us to pack for her. The movers come in the morning and take care of the rest of it.”

Dagmar, a seventysomething former librarian, had the energy level of a brewing volcano. She wore her straight hair in a chin-length bob. The color varied, sometimes significantly. Currently her swinging, shiny hair was a deep auburn with a single purple stripe on her left side. Her clothes matched her personality—vibrant hues battled prints for attention. She was as likely to show up in a Hawaiian-print caftan as riding pants and a bullfighter’s bolero jacket.

Today she had on a calf-length wrap skirt done in a balloon animal print. Her twinset picked up the lime green of one of the balloons and seemed conservative enough until she turned around and Unity saw a sequined version of the Rolling Stones open mouth logo. As always, reading glasses perched on Dagmar’s head.

“Let’s start in the bedroom. All she wants us to pack up there are her unmentionables.” Dagmar grinned over her shoulder as she led the way through the cheerful living room to the short hallway. “She used those exact words. Unmentionables. What is this? The set of Little Women? I told her unless she had some fur lined G-strings, the movers weren’t going to care, but you know how Betty is.”

Unity was used to Dagmar’s whirlwind, take-charge attitude. The first time Unity had come to Silver Pines to take her knitting classes, Dagmar had spotted her immediately. Within ten minutes, she pretty much knew Unity’s life story. By the end of the fifty-minute lesson, she’d introduced Unity to everyone in the class and had invited Unity to a potluck and a pickleball game. They’d been friends ever since.

“I packed up her medications yesterday,” Dagmar told her, pointing to the bathroom. “I’m hiding them at my place until she’s out of rehab. You know that doctor of hers is going to mess with everything and it will take her weeks to get back on track. This way I have a stash so we can figure it out as we go.”

“Because self-medication is always the answer?” Unity asked wryly.

“At our age, it can be.” Dagmar pointed to the roll of packing paper on the bed. “You get going on her Swarovski collection while I pack up the girl stuff. That’s mostly what she’s worried about. Her glass animals and the pictures, of course.” Dagmar’s smile faded. “She won’t have room to hang them at her new apartment. I’ve been thinking that I should put them all in a photo album for her.”

Before Unity could say anything, Dagmar pointed to the paper. “Chop-chop. I have bridge this afternoon and I’m sure you have work you should be doing.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Unity didn’t take offense at the instruction—it was simply Dagmar’s way. She unrolled the paper, then she walked around the small house, collecting the crystal animals in a sturdy box.

Betty had them in her hutch, of course, but also on floating shelves in the living room and den. As Unity gathered crystal swans and frogs, dogs and birds, she looked around at various rooms. The kitchen was recently remodeled, with quartz countertops and stainless steel appliances. There was plenty of storage and a back deck with room for a table and chairs, along with a barbecue.

Have a lovely day! XOXO Berit🦋

Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace by Julie Stock **Excerpt** @rararesources

Happy Sunday all!

Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend! Excited to share an excerpt with you today of what looks like a great book!

Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace

It’s springtime at The Vineyard in Alsace, a new season and a new beginning

After being abandoned by her partner when she falls pregnant, Lottie Schell goes home to live on The Vineyard in Alsace, where she has started a new relationship with the estate’s winemaker, Thierry. Now about to give birth, Lottie’s determined to raise her child and to provide for them both on her own without having to depend on anyone else.

Thierry Bernard is still dealing with his grief and guilt following the death of his wife two years earlier, for which he blames himself. When he meets Lottie, the instant attraction he feels towards her gives him hope that he can move on from the tragedy of his past, as long as he can tell Lottie the truth of what happened.

When circumstances force Lottie and Thierry closer together, they both find it hard to compromise – she’s proudly independent and he’s fiercely protective – and they’re both wary about trusting someone new with their heart.

Can Lottie and Thierry take a chance on each other, move on from their pasts and start over?

Escape to The Vineyard in Alsace once again with this romantic read set in the heart of Alsace’s wine country.

Purchase Link – Amazon

Author Bio –

Julie Stock writes contemporary feel-good romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in 2015, after starting to write as an escape from the demands of her day job as a teacher. Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace is her ninth book, and the second in the Domaine des Montagnes series set on a vineyard.

Julie is now a full-time author, and loves every minute of her writing life. When not writing, she can be found reading, her favourite past-time, running, a new hobby, or cooking up a storm in the kitchen, glass of wine in hand.

Julie is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors. She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.

Social Media Links –

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Excerpt

Extract 5 for Audio Killed the Bookmark

This extract comes towards the end of the second chapter when Lottie is chatting to her friend Ellie at the baby shower. She has managed to escape for a moment until her mum comes to find her. Then her close friend, Sylvie, who she has been staying with is taken ill.

‘How about you? Have you enjoyed the party?’

‘Sort of. It’s just that everyone keeps telling me they know best for me and the baby, and no-one seems to understand that it’s possible to raise a baby on your own.’

‘It won’t be easy, that’s for sure, but you can do it. You’ll need to be organised, I suppose. At least you can return to your job at the nursery in the longer term, and I’m sure Fran will help out with babysitting.’

‘Thanks for being so honest with me. That’s what I think, too.’

‘What are you two doing all the way over here?’ Lottie’s mum appeared in front of them, wagging her finger dramatically.

‘We’re catching up and I needed a sit-down,’ said Lottie.

Her mum pulled up a chair and looked from one to the other. ‘How’s everything with you and Henri?’ she asked Ellie.

‘Fine, thanks, Madame Schell.’

‘Oh, do call me Christine, no need to be so formal. It’s been a wonderful party, Lottie, hasn’t it?’ She went straight on, without waiting for Lottie’s reply. ‘You’ve had so many presents. People have been so kind, and all those things will come in very handy once the baby’s born and you can’t get out as much. Your dad and I would be so happy to have you at home again, you know, and I could help you, make life easier for you.’

‘I know, Mum, but I’ve told you I want to stay here. My life is here now, what with my job at the nursery, and with Thierry living here, too.’

Her mum leaned towards Lottie, a worried look on her face. ‘I wish you’d reconsider. I don’t think you’ll be able to manage everything on your own, especially when the baby is first born. And have you thought about money? You won’t be able to go back to work straight away, and babies are expensive.’

Lottie was saved from having to answer when a cry rang out from the other side of the Salle. All three women turned and her mum rushed away to see what had happened. Lottie struggled to her feet and slowly made her way over to the gathering crowd.

‘Should we call an ambulance?’

At the sound of her mum’s panicked voice, Lottie nudged her way through the guests to find her with Fran on either side of a distinctly pale-looking Sylvie, who was sitting on a chair with her eyes closed. Lottie’s heart sank at the thought that something terrible might be wrong with Sylvie, who’d been so good to her. She looked around for Chlöe, knowing she would be frightened to see her grandma like this, and spotted her hiding under a table.

‘It’s okay, Chlöe. Your dad will be here soon and he’ll take your grandma to the hospital for a check-up, and then everything will be fine.’

Chlöe crawled out and Lottie put her arm round her, trying to soothe away the child’s fears as much as her own.

‘Didier’s on his way, Sylvie,’ Fran said. She put her mobile away and took hold of the older woman’s hand. ‘Everything’s going to be all right.’ She glanced up at Lottie, with fear in her eyes, and the only thing Lottie was sure of was that everything in her life was about to change.

Pauper and Prince in Harlem by Delia C. Pitts **Excerpt** @rararesources

Hello book friends!

Hope you had a wonderful weekend! My weekend was perfect filled with relaxing and reading!

Pauper and Prince in Harlem

A vulnerable kid. A brutal enemy. An addled ally. Blood runs cold on Harlem’s hottest summer night when Drive-by assassins shoot up a crowded playground, killing the teenaged friend of private eye SJ Rook. Only fourteen, the kid was smart, affectionate, and alive with potential. His sudden death strikes the cynical Rook through the heart. Was this boy the victim of a cruel accident? Or was he targeted by gang hit men in a ruthless display of power?

To find the killers, Rook must enlist the help of another teen, Whip, a mysterious runaway witness. Whip is a transgender boy whose life on the streets has drawn him into the realm of a violent mob kingpin. Damaged by his mother’s rejection, Whip doesn’t want to be found. Not by the cops or by community do-gooders. And certainly not by Rook, a resolute stranger with vengeance on his mind. Rook’s search for the elusive kid becomes a dangerous trek through the meanest corners of his neighborhood.

Racing from desolate homeless camps to urban swamps, from settlement houses to high-rise palaces ruled by greed and corruption, the determined Rook pursues his quarry. An unexpected twist in the detective’s relationship with his crime-fighting partner, Sabrina Ross, threatens to derail his mission. Noble tramps, vicious thugs, and a pint-sized trigger woman also complicate Rook’s efforts to protect Whip. When a mob prince and a hobo hold the boy’s life in the balance will Rook’s grit and imagination be enough to save Whip and bring the killers to justice?

Purchase Links:

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pauper-Prince-Harlem-Agency-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0831RD7P5

US – https://www.amazon.com/Pauper-Prince-Harlem-Agency-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0831RD7P5

Author Bio – Delia C. Pitts is the author of the Ross Agency Mysteries, a contemporary private eye series including Lost and Found in Harlem, Practice the Jealous Arts, and Black and Blue in Harlem. She is a former university administrator and U.S. diplomat, who served in West Africa and Mexico. After working as a journalist, she earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago. She has published more than sixty fan fiction titles under the pen name Blacktop. Pauper and Prince in Harlem is the fourth novel in the Ross Agency Mystery series. The fifth, Murder My Past, will be released in 2021. Learn more at her website, www.deliapitts.com

Social Media Links – Website: www.deliapitts.com Instagram: deliapitts50 Twitter: @blacktop1950

Giveaway to Win 5 x PB Copies of Pauper and Prince in Harlem (Open to USA Only)

*Terms and Conditions –Only USA entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494375/?

Excerpt

Outnumbered and surrounded, Harlem private eye SJ Rook falls into a dangerous trap when he confronts a violent hoodlum in a homeless camp.

“Link stepped closer, his tobacco-drenched breath smearing my face. He was two inches shorter and fifty pounds lighter than me. Hard and straight like iron rebar. Dark eyes, flat as tarnished dimes, shimmered between narrowed lids. He ran two fingers over scarce black whiskers on his chin. Shoulder twitched; elbow jutted. The tip of a switchblade bit skin at my throat. “Give me a name, old man. If I like it, I might let you go with just a scratch. Or two.” He nudged the knife towards my Adam’s apple.

“Rook.”

Link stroked the knife down my shirt placket, slipping the blade under the first button. “What kinda name is that?” He flicked and the button popped into the air. “Some kinda superhero street handle?” Sniggers tickled my ears from both sides.

“The name my father gave me.” The blond kid hooted at my claim, but I kept eyes on the chief. “Tell me what I want to know, and I’ll leave you in one piece. Link.”

“Bold.” The thin boy lowered his voice. “You awful bold for a trapped man with a crip leg.”

“Link. What’s that short for anyway? Chain Link? Missing Link?”

He sliced two more buttons from my shirt. The white disks scurried like roaches across the wooden floor. When Link nodded, the hoods behind me jammed my arms again. Pain darted from shoulders to groin. The shirtfront gaped, sweat streaking dark on my undershirt. Link flicked the knife again, the gash in the damp fabric left my skin exposed but intact.

He pressed the blade behind my left ear, drawing it toward my jaw. Spittle sprayed over my right cheek as Link’s stooge spoke: “Whatchu gonna do to him, Link? Like you done to that calico kitten last week?”

Fire threaded through my flesh as blood dribbled past my collarbone. Link chuckled. ” He don’t need two ears, do he? Any more than that cat did.”

A crooked shadow rushed past my right shoulder. ” Drop it, boy.” The words grated over a deep rumble. ” You break the peace of this camp again, you gonna pay a high price.”

Empires Reckoning by Marian L Thorpe **Excerpt** @rararesources

Happy Wednesday all!

It is definitely starting to heat up around here! How is summer going in your neck of the woods? Got a little treat of an excerpt for you today, enjoy.

Empire’s Reckoning: Book I of Empire’s Reprise

How many secrets does your family have?

For 13 years, Sorley has taught music alongside the man he loves, war and betrayal nearly forgotten. But behind their calm and ordered life, there are hidden truths. When a young girl’s question demands an answer, does he break the most important oath he has ever sworn by lying – or tell the truth, risking the destruction of both his family and a fragile political alliance?

Empire’s Reckoning asks if love – of country, of an individual, of family – can be enough to leave behind the expectations of history and culture, and to chart a way to peace.

Purchase Link – https://relinks.me/B086SFY7WB

Author Bio –

Not content with two careers as a research scientist and an educator, Marian L Thorpe decided to go back to what she’d always wanted to do and be a writer. Author of the medieval trilogy Empire’s Legacy and the companion novella Oraiáphon, described as ‘historical fiction of another world’, Marian also has published short stories and poetry. Her life-long interest in Roman and post-Roman European history informs her novels, while her avocations of landscape archaeology and birding provide background to her settings. Empire’s Reckoning is the first of a planned trilogy, Empire’s Reprise.

Social Media Links –

http://www.marianlthorpe.com

https://www.facebook.com/marianlthorpe/

Excerpt

Sorley, the narrator of Empire’s Reckoning, is a musician (scáeli) and teacher, among other roles. He is preparing to travel north to consult with his equivalent at new school, but in this scene, he has seized an opportunity to speak to Tamm, who at eighteen is the oldest student, about a delicate, dangerous matter.

We spent the morning teaching, and after the meal at midday, Druise went to talk to the guard, while I returned to the plans I had been working on earlier. I’d mostly completed them, and until Cillian approved what I had given him, I didn’t have much more to do. I had done the accounts just a few days before. I had best go speak to Anndra, I thought, not that he needs me to. It gave me an excuse to go out into the sun and air.

I stopped to watch the game, the students happily chasing the ball around on what was usually our training ground for swordplay and archery. Gwenna wasn’t among them, I noticed; probably with Lena, preparing for travel. “Tamm,” I said, seeing the opportunity, “a word?”

“I suppose they won’t kill each other if I stop watching for a moment,” he said with a grin.

“I’m not so sure. You can watch while we talk.”

“Catriona will stop them if it gets too wild,” he said. Catriona was the next-oldest student, a redhead who spoke every language we taught fluently. She was a torpari girl, from central Linrathe, and more than once I had caught Lena watching her.

“Had Turlo not said he had been true to Arey all his life,” she’d said, “I would swear she was his.”

“She could be, I suppose,” I had replied. “He did travel through Linrathe on his way north to find the route to Casil, and Arey was dead by then.”

“We’ll never know,” she had said. Turlo, and his scout Galen with him, had simply disappeared a year after the Taiva. He’d been commanding the Ésparian troops on the Sterre, and had gone to look for weaknesses in the defences where the earthen dike met the Durrains. No one ever saw either of them again. Lena believed they had attempted to go east across the mountains, following the route she and Cillian had taken in exile: a decision almost certainly fatal, in autumn.

“Tamm,” I began, “last night at dinner, your views on the constraints on us as adults were thoughtful. May I ask if you have learned that equally from all of us, or perhaps in one certain way from me?”

Surprise — or fear? — flashed in his eyes. He looked around, but there was no one in hearing distance. He did not speak for some moments. I too had learned from texts and discussions in my years at the Ti’ach that my desire for men as my bedmates was neither unnatural nor universally scorned, but it had made me no less frightened to reveal my nature in Linrathe and Sorham. The Ti’acha had made little headway in changing opinions in this area, except among the scáeli’en, and Ruar.

“Perhaps,” he said finally. “An example set by you and the Captain, I believe.”

“Beyond what we have taught you about music?” He nodded. “I’m pleased we have given you guidance,” I said. “Tamm, I’ll speak a little more freely now, and from experience. You will need to be very careful in Linrathe and Sorham. Both beatings and blackmail are possible, and not infrequent.” His head came up.

“You?”

“The beating, yes,” I said calmly. “The extortion was attempted, but I had been warned, and saw what was planned.”

“How can I know what — who — is safe?” he whispered.

“A difficult question. Easier for a musician; the scáeli’en are more accepting, and you’re more likely to find others of similar tastes among them. You’re a good enough musician to mix with them, and perhaps that is all you should do, until you are older, and more experienced.”

His eyes were turned towards the game, but I didn’t think he was seeing it. “Lord Sorley? Thank you.”

“I would have benefitted, had someone said this to me, and others I know, when we were young men,” I said. “I would save you what we went through, if I can.”