Guest Author Thursday: Cold Dark Night by Joan Hall #newrelease #mystery #supsense #legendsofmadeira

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

Today, I’m excited to have my good friend and Story Empire colleague, Joan Hall, as my guest. She’s here to celebrate the release of Cold Dark Night, the first in a series I’ve been eagerly looking forward to. I’m delighted she chose to send me an excerpt with a character I fell in love with in an earlier novel. This time, Jason Montgomery gets a starring role and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s Joan to tell you more.


Thank you for hosting me today, Mae. I’m excited to be here to tell your readers about my newest release, Cold Dark Night. It’s the first novel in the Legends of Madeira series. Each book begins with a historical event that ties to the present.

Promo graphic for cold dark night shows kindle reader on starry background. Kindle book cover shows gallows lightly imposed on dark starry sky, mountains in foreground

Those who have read my Driscoll Lake series, will recognize a couple of familiar names. Jason Montgomery is one of those characters who took me in a different direction than I originally planned. I’m glad I listened.

When we first met Jason in Unclear Purposes, he was arrogant, self-serving, and caused more than one headache for his boss, Matt Bradford. Now he’s police chief in the small town of Madeira. Will his past ways come back to haunt him?

EXCERPT:

Manuel’s attention turned toward the front. “Uh, oh. You wanted to meet Bridges. Here’s your chance.”

Two uniformed officers approached their table. Jason recognized Officer Daniels. The other was a young man, mid-twenties, with sandy hair and piercing blue eyes.

“Well, well, well,” the officer said, “Guess you’re our new chief. Hope that’s not a beer you’re having. Wouldn’t look good for you to be drinking on the job.”

Jason’s fork made a clamoring sound as he dropped it on his place. “I gather you’re Bridges.”

The young cop pointed to his name tag. “That’s me. Figured the old man here would try to get on your good side.”

Officer Daniels seemed embarrassed. Manuel ignored the comment.

“You certainly aren’t doing anything to merit favor,” Jason said. “But we’ll discuss it later. Right now, you’re interrupting our lunch.”

“Guess it would be in our best interest to find a table.” Bridges grinned at Daniels. “We don’t have the luxury of taking long lunch breaks.” With that, he strode away.

Daniels followed with an embarrassed backward glance.

“So that’s Zach Bridges,” Jason said.

“The one and only. More than once, I’ve wanted to can him, but he does his job. He’s a damn good officer when he’s not acting like a jerk. A little attitude adjustment would serve him well. The man doesn’t show respect to those in authority.”

“Insubordination is reason enough to fire him whether he does the job well or not. Why didn’t you let him go?”

“Politics. His aunt is the mayor’s wife. He’s always quick to remind others of that.”

Jason inwardly winced, remembering times when he’d thrown it in Matt’s face about the Driscoll Lake City Council being responsible for his hiring.

“Another reason I didn’t want your position. I’m getting too old to deal with stuff like that. Comes with the territory, I’m afraid.”

“I knew that would be the case. I can handle Zach Bridges. I’ve seen his kind before. I used to be a lot like him.”

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Cold Dark Night is available on Amazon for the introductory price of .99 through June 15. The price increases to $3.99 afterward, so now is a good time to grab a copy.

BLURB:

New husband, new house, new town… and a new mystery to solve.

Tami Montgomery thought her police chief husband was going to be the only investigator in the family when she gave up her journalism career and moved with him to Madeira, New Mexico. 

But after the historical society asks her to write stories for a book celebrating the town’s history, she becomes embroiled in a new mystery. If she can’t solve this one, she could lose everything. Her research uncovers a spate of untimely deaths of local law enforcement officials. Further digging reveals a common link—they all lived in the house she and Jason now share.

Tami isn’t a superstitious person, but the circumstances are too similar for coincidence. Then she unearths an even more disturbing pattern. And if history repeats itself, her husband will be the next to die.

PURCHASE FROM AMAZON

Connect with Joan:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |   Bookbub  |  Goodreads  |  Instagram

bio box for author, Joan Hall

I can’t tell you how excited I am for Joan and the release of this novel. It combines elements I love—mystery, great characters, historic elements, and folklore. It was a no-brainer to snatch it up the moment it became available, especially at that great introductory price. Help Joan celebrate her book launch by dropping her a comment, then using the sharing buttons to spread the word about Cold Dark Night. Of course, you’ll want to hop over to Amazon and ONE-CLICK your copy, too! 🙂

Fiction Book Reviews by Mae: A Cut Above by Judi Lynn @judypost, Lunar Boogie by C. S. Boyack @Virgilante #bookreviews

Cute striped kitten with open book and eyeglasses lying on white bed

Thanks for joining me for another day of book reviews. I have two fantastic indie releases to share, each part of a series. The first is the debut release for the Karnie Cleaver series, while the second is book number four in the popular Lizzie and the Hat adventures. Obviously Karnie can be read as a standalone, since the series is just starting, but the Hat can as well. Mystery and adventure can be found in both camps!

BOOK BLURB:

Karnie works in her family’s butcher shop. When Donna Amick stalks to the meat display case and tries to pressure her to leave the family business to work for her, Karnie turns her down, flat. But Donna doesn’t like to take “no” for an answer. The next morning, Donna’s body is found behind A Cut Above with a meat cleaver embedded in the back of her head. Detective Carmichael’s top suspect is Sam Lessman, who trained at their shop and then went to work for Donna as a full time butcher. Karnie knows it can’t be him and decides to prove it. Unfortunately, that’s a lot harder to do in real life than it is in the mysteries she reads.

MY REVIEW:

I enjoyed this novel introducing the Karnie Cleaver mysteries by author Judi Lynn. She has a deft pen with cozies, as proven by her Jazzie Zanders series. Lynn scores again with Karnie and her family who own the A Cut Above butcher shop. Once again, Lynn populates her tale with plenty of interesting characters. Aside from Karnie and her family, the reader gets to know several of the customers (regulars) who visit the butcher shop. I love Mrs. Sprunger! Then there’s Matt, the owner of a nearby farm, who is divorced with two small children. It’s clear from the start Matt is set on turning Karnie’s head, but she’s not so easily convinced. As he tells her, she’s “prickly.”

She knows what she wants. She’s happy living alone, working the counter at the butcher shop and producing a video cooking show with tips on how to prepare various dishes using the meats her family sells. Her following is so popular the owner of a new, rival butcher shop tries to lure her away with a chunky salary. Not long after Karnie turns her down, Donna Amick ends up dead, a meat cleaver in the back of her head. Karnie is not a suspect but that doesn’t stop her from trying to discover who is responsible, especially given the woman’s body was dumped behind A Cut Above.

The sleuthing alternates with plenty of family scenes and an evolving relationship between Matt and Karnie. I love his kids, and their dog, Jolly. Isn’t that a great name for a dog?

On the murder end, there are several suspects with motive, plus a second murder to contend with. Then somebody attempts to break into Karnie’s house, and the stakes get higher. The murderer is revealed in a tense and suspenseful moment (some nail biting on my part), and the ending provides a perfect wrap while setting up the characters for more adventure. I for one will be following this delightful series. And as a bonus, the author includes several recipes at the back of the novel. A winner all the way around!

BOOK BLURB:

Lizzie and the hat are back in action, only this time they’re up against the most tragic monster of all, a werewolf.

This adventure is more like hunting an animal, and the werewolf is unlikely to come to any of their musical performances. This puts Lizzie out in the dark corners and wooded areas of the city. It may be more beneficial to get the monster to hunt Lizzie than to stalk him on his own turf. All she has to do is be quicker on the trigger than the wolf is on his feet.

At the same time, the police think they’re after a serial killer. Lizzie tries to keep them alive while also keeping them out of her way. As the body count rises, so do the pressures. It doesn’t help that people are blaming Lizzie and the hat for the killings. This involves an urban myth about them that the locals call Hellpox.

Pull on your boogie shoes and join the hunt. Designed as an afternoon read, this one is tons of supernatural fun.

MY REVIEW:

I’ve followed this series from the start, enjoying the unique blend of superhero antics, supernatural complications, and music a-plenty. Part buddy tale, party mystery, and part adventure, Lunar Boogie is my favorite entry to date for Lizzie and the Hat. This time they’re up against a werewolf on a killing spree, which leads local law enforcement to think they have a serial killer on their hands.

The addition of Joe Yoder, a police lieutenant who talks to his dead wife, brought a new dimension—both on the home front (he misses her terribly) and in crime solving. Normally, the reader witnesses Lizzie and the Hat tracking their quarry, but in this case, we see their progress along with the efforts of the police—and frustrations on both sides. I liked the police procedural element, plus the author’s unique take on werewolves being “the most tragic of all” monsters.

For long time fans of the series, Kevin, the vampire with a lisp, returns for a few scenes and we get more Night Bump Radio (“what goes bump in your night?”). As noted before, Boyack has a vivid and clever imagination. It’s on display here, along with the hat’s trademark snarky dialogue. The banter between Lizzie and her alien sidekick (who has to assume the guise of a hat) is highly entertaining. If you like the supernatural, superheroes, and super snark, grab a copy of Lunar Boogie. You can jump right in without needing to read the previous stories. The author designed it that way. Although the whole series is entertaining, Boyack hit new highs with this one!


5 Stars to Both of These Fun and Adventurous Reads!

Guest Author Thursday: Lunar Boogie by C. S. Boyack #newrelease #superherofantasy

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

Hello, everyone. Welcome to a special Guest Author Thursday. My friend and Story Empire colleague, C. S. Boyack has released a new Lizzie and the Hat novella, Lunar Boogie. I’ll be sharing my 5-star review next week on my blog. In the meantime, suffice to say I loved this story—it’s my favorite Hat novella to date. To tell us all about it, Craig has sent his spokes model and personal assistant, robot girl extraordinaire, Lisa, to share the details. Take it away, Lisa!

So excited to be here today, Mae. I’m excited to be anywhere after 2020, if you know what I mean. I’m on the road because Craig published a new book. This is book number four in the hat series, and it’s titled “Lunar Boogie.”

This one has Lizzie, our budding monster hunter on the trail of a werewolf. She’s really no more special than anyone else, but her partner is a creature from another dimension. He’s trapped forever in the form of a hat. When she wears him, they form a symbiotic bond that allows both of them to accomplish things they couldn’t do alone.

Today’s topic involves that bond, but falls on the side of earning a living. Chasing monsters isn’t the most profitable thing to do, but Lizzie still has rent and utilities to pay. It turns out that many years before he met Lizzie, the hat learned to play the upright bass. He needs that symbiosis, because he doesn’t have hands, but he’s pretty good.

They formed a small cover band, and spend their weekends playing around the country. He uses her fingers to play the bass, while Lizzie sings. This brings some added fun to the stories, because when the bars let out, it’s a pretty good time to chase monsters. It also lets them travel around so all their adventures don’t have to take place in Lizzie’s back yard.

Lizzie is a pretty creative girl, and tries to spend her money at thrift stores and pawn shops. This time she scored a cool jacket and bedazzled it up herself. I get to wear that outfit in my promotional poster. Tell your friends to download the image and feel free to use it as a phone background or add it to Pinterest.

Honestly, I visit with artist Sean Harrington when we make these. I was worried about this poster, because robot girls are a little heavier than the standard issue bass player. It all worked out in the end, and we came up with some fun artwork. This is a scene from a college dance the band played.

Sexy blonde woman in tight black pants,  black ankle boots and black fringe jacket standing on tilted upright bass with python image covering center of bass

The book is way fun. Plenty of banter between Lizzie and the hat like fans have come to expect, and a different kind of adventure. I hope your readers will give it a chance.


BOOK BLURB:
Lizzie and the hat are back in action, only this time they’re up against the most tragic monster of all, a werewolf.

This adventure is more like hunting an animal, and the werewolf is unlikely to come to any of their musical performances. This puts Lizzie out in the dark corners and wooded areas of the city. It may be more beneficial to get the monster to hunt Lizzie than to stalk him on his own turf. All she has to do is be quicker on the trigger than the wolf is on his feet.

At the same time, the police think they’re after a serial killer. Lizzie tries to keep them alive while also keeping them out of her way. As the body count rises, so do the pressures. It doesn’t help that people are blaming Lizzie and the hat for the killings. This involves an urban myth about them that the locals call Hellpox.

Pull on your boogie shoes and join the hunt. Designed as an afternoon read, this one is tons of supernatural fun.

bio box for author, C.S. Boyack

You can connect with Craig at the following haunts:
Blog | Novels | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Pinterest | BookBub


I’ve enjoyed each of the Lizzie and the Hat novellas, and have already picked up my copy of Lunar Boogie. It sounds like Lizzie and the (snarky) hat really have their hands full this time! If you’d like to help Craig with his book launch, be sure to use the sharing buttons below, then hop over to ONE-CLICK your copy at Amazon!

Guest Author Thursday: Joan Hall with House of Sorrow #newrelease #mystery #psychologicalfiction @JoanHallWrites

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

It’s my pleasure to welcome good friend and Story Empire colleague, Joan Hall, to my blog today. Joan is here to share her new release House of Sorrow, the introduction to her Legends of Madeira series. You can find my five star review for this fantastic novella that blends history and suspense HERE.

As someone who has an extensive set of books about Robert F. Kennedy, I’m particularly fond the post she’s sharing today. Take it away, Joan!


House of Sorrow: June 1968 & Bobby Kennedy

Mae, thank you for hosting me today. It’s a pleasure to visit today. I’m excited to tell your readers about my newest release.

House of Sorrow is a short-story prequel to my upcoming novel Cold Dark Night, book one of my Legends of Madeira series. It’s the story of Ruth Hazelton, a reclusive older woman who lives in a two-story Victorian house in the fictional town of Madeira, New Mexico. Ruth reflects on her life, particularly when she and her husband Lee first moved to town.

I included some historical events in the book, as well as some personal memories. Most of the scenes occur in the late 1960s. One event is the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy.

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“Senator Kennedy has been shot.” 

I still recall waking up to my mother’s words. Mom often had “premonitions” something bad was about to happen. It happened the day of JFK’s assassination and again with Bobby. She’d been unable to sleep that June night, so she turned on the television to hear the sad news. 

In the days following Bobby’s death, I saw his funeral train on television and remember how crowds lined the tracks between New York City and Washington, DC. I was only ten, but it made a profound impact on me.

Robert F. Kennedy at podium, standing in profile, crowd gathered around him
Bobby Kennedy in Los Angeles shortly before his assassination (public domain photo)

Only two months earlier, I had been the one to first learn of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. I hurried into the other room to tell my parents. It’s safe to say 1968 was a volatile year in America.

A few years ago, my husband and I visited DC and Arlington National Cemetery. Seeing the simple marker and single white cross on Bobby’s grave touched me more than the eternal flame at JFK’s.

Single white cross and headstone on field of green lawn, gravesite of Robert F. Kennedy
Photo by Joan Hall

Some may think this is weird, but when I looked at the surrounding hillside, the last line of the song, “Abraham, Martin, and John” came to mind. I could almost picture the four men strolling together on the hill, and it brought tears to my eyes.

In this passage, Ruth has just moved to Madeira and met her neighbor, Sam. It’s only a few days after RFK died. 

Excerpt:

Sam sat in silence for a few minutes. “Damn shame about Bobby Kennedy.”

“Yes, it was. I watched the funeral on television. So sad for Ethel, especially with her being pregnant. That poor child will never know his or her father.”

“Guess it wasn’t surprising at the number of people who lined the tracks as the train made its way to Washington. Not to mention those at the funeral. President and Mrs. Johnson. Even Nixon was there.”

“Coretta Scott King. You know it had to be hard on her, having lost her husband only two months ago. And Jackie, of course.” Ruth had long been an admirer of the former first lady. She’d watched JFK’s funeral on television and was impressed with Jackie’s poise and elegance in such difficult times. She managed to look classy in her black mourning clothes, her brother-in-law at her side.

“First Jack, now his brother. Not to mention Joe Jr. and their sister. I believe that family is cursed. What do you think?”

“I really don’t believe in curses.”

Sam scoffed. “Curses are real.”

“You think so?”

“I do.” He made a sweeping motion with his hand. “Take some of the people who have lived in this—” Sam shook his head. “Never mind.”

“Lived where? Madeira?”

“It’s not important. Besides, I take it you’re not superstitious.”

“I’m not. This may sound callous, but both President Kennedy and Bobby were politicians and public figures. They were bound to have enemies.”

“That’s true, but what about the other Kennedy children?”

“The oldest brother was killed during World War II. Kathleen’s death was simply a tragic accident.”

“You may be right. On the other hand, Jack’s and Bobby’s assassinations could be part of a conspiracy. They got rid of both brothers. Murdered Martin Luther King. With that war over there, this world is a mess.”

Blurb:

Promo graphic with book cover for House of Sorrow shows porch swing on covered front porch

Dream home or damned home? 

Ruth Hazelton is over the moon when her husband Lee agrees the nineteenth-century Victorian in Madeira, New Mexico, is the perfect home for them. While he starts his new job as police chief, she sets about unpacking and decorating.

But it’s not long before Ruth needs more. She becomes a fixture in the community, making time for everyone, volunteering, hosting events—she’s every bit the social butterfly her husband is not. Through her friendships, she learns several former residents of her home met with untimely deaths. If she were superstitious, she might fear a curse, but such nonsense doesn’t faze her.

Until the unthinkable happens.

Now, as the end of Ruth’s life draws near, she must find a way to convey her message and stop the cycle to prevent anyone else from suffering in the house of sorrow. 

Purchase Link

Connect with Joan:

Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |   Bookbub  |  Goodreads  |  Instagram

Bio box for author, Joan Hall

I was six when Bobby Kennedy died. I only have a grainy memory of a newscast. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I became fascinated with him, devouring books on his life, and collecting DVDs—both documentaries and TV movies. One of the things I loved best about House of Sorrow is how Joan spins back the clock to bring so many events of the 1960s and early 1970s to life in her story. It’s an entertaining novella which acts as lead in for what promises to be a most excellent series. I recommend heading to Amazon to ONE CLICK and snatch up your copy today!

Guest Author Thursday: Jacquie Biggar with The Seal’s Temptation #newrelease #militaryromance

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

Hi, friends! Today, I have the very talented Jacquie Biggar as my guest. Jacquie is a USA Today bestselling author who delivers wonderful tales of romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction. Today, she’s here to share her newest release, The Seal’s Temptation. Please welcome Jacquie!

image of paperback copy of The Seal's Temptation surrounded by roses and two gift wrapped packages

The SEAL’s Temptation is the long-awaited sequel to Maggie’s Revenge, book 6 in the Wounded Hearts series.

In Tidal Falls, Book 1 of the Wounded Hearts series, DEA Agent Magdalena Holt interrogates Navy SEAL Jared Martin after a violent assault at a Las Vegas casino known to be run by the Russian mafia. Jared is rescued from a night in jail when his Master Chief Frank Stein shows up to save the day. 

Here’s a short excerpt of Frank and Maggie’s first meeting:

Frank leaned back as the door opened and a woman walked in. Okay, this was getting interesting. Either she’d made a wrong turn on her way out of lockup, or he was receiving an early Christmas gift. He was hoping for the second but figured on the first. “I think you made a wrong turn there, sweets, bail paying is down the hall.”

He’d been away from women too long if a prostitute was going to turn him on, but shit. He figured she was tall, maybe five-eight or so, hard to tell though with those screw-me-now leather boots she was wearing. He traced the zipper he could see running up the inside of her leg, almost to mid-thigh. Licking suddenly dry lips, Frank admired the micro mini skirt in a hot pink and the impressive swell of full breasts, barely covered by a slinky white top and three different lengths of a chunky beaded necklace that made him literally sweat as they draped across her nipples.

Her hair was raven black, long and straight and matched her boots for shine. She’d painted the pillowy softness of her lips in the same hot pink of her skirt. When he finally made it up to her eyes, the brilliance and intelligence he could see lurking there let him know what he had already guessed. This was not your average floozy.

Maggie goes undercover as a hooker in order to gain intel on a gang trafficking young girls and drugs in the area. When her cover is blown, Maggie is captured and shipped to Mexico and into the arms of the Sinaloa Cartel. Held as the personal toy of high-ranking official, Chenglei, we learn of her ordeal, and eventual escape in Maggie’s Revenge, book 6 of the Wounded Hearts series.

Both her partner, Adam (who has his own ties to SEAL Team 5) and Frank refuse to give up the search and it finally leads them across the border in time to rescue her on the brink of death.

In The SEAL’s Temptation, Frank has invited Maggie and her DEA team to his ranch in Texas for some recovery time. He wants the chance to get to know this fascinating woman, even though he’s aware of the personal history between Adam and Maggie.

For Maggie’s part, she’s gun-shy around men after her ordeal and isn’t ready for a relationship with either man. When drug runners try to infiltrate the area, it’s up to the DEA team, with help from Frank, to stop them before the opioids go into distribution.

Here’s a short exclusive excerpt from The SEAL’s Temptation:

Jared flopped into one of the burgundy leather accent chairs, a snifter of whiskey in hand. “I say we quit waiting for trouble to arrive and take matters into our own hands.”

Adam glanced around until his gaze landed on Maggie before turning to Jared. “You know we need proof, buddy, or they’ll walk. We need an ironclad case in order to take the group down and put them behind bars—hopefully, for a long time.”

“What makes you think they’re staying in the region? Is there intel you’re not sharing?” Frank crossed his arms and stared Amanda down.

She cleared her throat and lifted her chin. “I’m not at liberty to discuss the details, Master Chief. You’re not active duty anymore. We will try to keep out of your way and ensure there are no casualties while we are here. My team and I are more than capable of handling this operation, but… thank you. I appreciate your input.”

Jared set down his glass and clapped, the sound discordant in the tense atmosphere that had descended on the room. “Great speech, ma’am, but if I recall rightly, you wouldn’t have gotten very far without the Chief when you went to Mexico to rescue your agent not so long ago.”

Maggie winced at the reminder of how her screwup had endangered so many and almost cost her life.

“That’s enough,” Frank said, his gray eyes soft on Maggie’s face. “Fact of the matter is, if you want to play in my sandbox, I’m going to need you to make room for all of us. No offence, SAC Rhinehold, but my land, my rules.”
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Now that I’ve caught you up, here’s the blurb and some links if you’re interested in trying The SEAL’s Temptation:

The SEAL’s Temptation: Wounded Hearts- Book 7 
#WoundedHearts #militaryRomance #Suspense #NewReleases

International | Recommend on Bookbub | Add to TBR List

BLURB:

DEA Agent Maggie Holt knows about Hell

After eighteen months undercover in a Mexican cartel, Maggie is broken. The kickass agent she once was, is gone, leaving her riddled with guilt and nightmares. Forced to take paid leave, Maggie accepts the offer of a vacation on the ranch of the man who’d rescued her from an almost certain death.

Frank Stein knows the signs of PTSD, he’s suffered the symptoms himself as Chief Petty Officer of SEAL Team Five. Honorably discharged from duty, Frank has found peace at the family ranch and hopes it will do the same for Magdalena. Ever since he’d first met her when she was interrogating his buddy, Jared, Frank has been fascinated by the raven-haired beauty and wants the chance to see where their relationship could go.

Adam O’Connor is Maggie’s partner. He knows her. He loved her once and could again, if she’d let him in. But he’s also angry she took the chances she did by going undercover against orders. And now, things are different. She’s different.

When a right-wing militia group infiltrates the area, will DEA Agent Maggie Holt, her partner, Adam O’Connor, and ex-SEAL Chief Frank Stein be able to set aside their differences to stop them before someone dies? And who will Maggie choose, the handsome cowboy, or her charismatic DEA partner?

Photo of author, Jacquie Biggar

AUTHOR BIO:

Jacquie Biggar is a USA Today bestselling author of romance who loves to write about tough, alpha males and strong, contemporary women willing to show their men that true power comes from love. She lives on Vancouver Island with her husband and loves to hear from readers all over the world!

In her own words:

“My name is Jacquie Biggar. When I’m not acting like a total klutz, I am a wife, mother of one, grandmother, and a butler to my calico cat.

My guilty pleasures are reality tv shows like Amazing Race and The Voice. I can be found every Monday night in my armchair plastered to the television laughing at Blake and Adam’s shenanigans.

I love to hang at the beach with DH (darling hubby) taking pictures or reading romance novels (what else?).

I have a slight Tim Hortons obsession, enjoy gardening, everything pink, and talking to my friends.”

She has been blessed with a long, happy marriage and enjoys writing romance novels that end with happily-ever-afters.

Connect with Jacquie at:

Amazon | Website | Facebook | Newsletter Twitter | Pinterest | GoodReads | Bookbub
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Jacquie has a way with characters and words as you can tell from those excerpts. I’ve read several books in her Wounded Hearts series and have enjoyed them all. It sounds like she has another winner on her hands with The Seal’s Temptation. Please help Jacquie celebrate her release by dropping her a comment and using the sharing buttons below to spread the news!

UNIVERSAL PURCHASE LINK

Book Spotlight: Dead on the Delta @KnowltonSBooks @SunburyPress #suspense #thriller

An open book with rays and orbs of light shooting from the pages

Hi, friends. Welcome to another Book Spotlight, featuring author Sherry Knowlton of Sunbury Press. Sunbury is a traditional publishing house not far from my location in Pennsylvania. I’ve agreed to share books from their authors that align with the interests of my blog readers—mostly mystery, suspense, thriller, and supernatural-themed works.

Today, I’m spotlighting, Dead on the Delta. Take a look and let me know what you think in the comments below. Please drop Sherry a “hello” as well. She’ll be popping in to chat. I love the setting she chose for this novel. What do you think? Exotic, much? 🙂


Book cover for Dead on the Delta by Sherry Knowlton shows lie lying in grass

Book Blurb:
Alexa Williams is about to spend four months doing lion research in the African bush with her boyfriend Reese. She looks forward to witnessing the elemental life and death struggle of the wild, but she never imagines she’ll become one of the hunted on the remote Okavango Delta.

Botswana protects its wildlife with strict policies and an entire army deployed to combat poaching. So Alexa and Reese are shocked when poachers wipe out an entire herd of elephants. At the site of the mass slaughter near their lion project, they promise authorities that they’ll watch for suspicious activity as they travel the Delta.

When the country’s strict wildlife conservation policies come under debate in the capital, tensions flare and Alexa begins to suspect the ongoing poaching incidents may be about even more than the illicit ivory trade. Especially when a close friend dies when caught in the crossfire.

After an alarming series of near escapes, gunmen attack the safari camp where she and Reese are staying, and Alexa must brave wild animals and the dangerous labyrinth of Delta channels in a desperate attempt to save the hostages, including the man she loves.

Book Links:
Sunbury Press | Amazon

Author, Sherry Knowlton

Author Bio:
Sherry Knowlton is the author of the Alexa Williams suspense series, including Dead of Spring and Dead of Winter. Passionate about books at an early age, she was that kid who would sneak a flashlight to bed at night so she could read beneath the covers. All the local librarians knew her by name. When not writing the next Alexa Williams thriller, Knowlton works with her health care consulting business or travels around the world. She and her husband live in the mountains of Southcentral Pennsylvania.

Author website

Book Review Tuesday: The Prince’s Man, The Prince’s Son #epicfantasy #fantasyromance @DeborahJay2

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Happy Book Review Tuesday. I hope the weather is tolerable in your part of the world. February has been most unkind to the northeast, bringing non-stop snow, snow squalls, and freezing rain and sleet. Needless to say I’ve hunkered down indoors whenever possible–a great time for reading. Today I have two novels in a wonderful fantasy series to share. As the log line for these books say . . . “Think James Bond meets Lord of the Rings.”

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Book cover for The Prince's Man shows image of long-haired handsome young man in cloak on horseback

The Prince’s Man
Five Kingdom’s Book 1
by Deborah Jay

One of the best fantasy novels I have read in ages, The Prince’s Man combines court intrigue, nefarious plots, and dazzling realms. Rustam (Rusty) Chalice is a debonair dance master who lives a double life as a spy in the service of his prince, while also frequenting the beds of highborn ladies.

His life takes a turn when he is forced to team with Dart, the court’s royal assassin—a woman—with the goal of transporting a sickly elf across hostile, mountainous territory. Through the arduous journey, all three characters undergo brutal transformations and evolve as they are tested time and again, forced to rely on one another. At the same time, threats to the throne involve a traitorous noble, an illegitimate heir, and a diabolical torturer. There are layers upon layers of plot, all woven neatly together for a satisfying conclusion in this first book of what promises to be a stellar series.

I was smitten with all three of the lead characters, especially Rustam who undergoes the most compelling transformation of all. You can’t read this book and not be caught up in the lives of Jay’s rakish spy, Risada, Elwaes, and so many others. Even the secondary characters are fleshed out and vibrantly written. We meet so many along the journey, yet each leaves a distinctive mark.

The writing is exquisite, layered with beautifully detailed descriptions of enthralling realms, fantastical creatures, and breathless adventure. Every bit as riveting are the cloak-and-dagger machinations of several royal houses and the cruel manipulations of power-hungry men who seek the throne. From the moment I opened the first pages, I was sucked into the author’s expertly crafted world of intrigue and danger. A truly engaging story. Although book one delivers a wrap to the story as presented, I look forward to continuing for the full scope in books two and three. Highly recommended!

5 Stars

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Epic Fantasy > Fantasy Adventure > Fantasy Romance

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The Prince’s Son
Five Kingdoms Book 2
by Deborah Jay

Book cover for The Prince's Son shows image of long-haired handsome young man in cloak on horseback

The second book in a series, The Prince’s Son picks up where the first book left off. Rustam Chalice is once again in the thick of things as he leads a bridal caravan delivering the older of twins to her intended. Nessa, the younger twin, joins her sister for the journey, along with their maid and friend, Enya. What starts off as a simple journey soon twists into nightmarish proportions, especially for the girls when they are abducted by a vile clan chief.

As in the first novel, I was enthralled by the deftness of the author’s writing, her ability to weave scenes that kept me on pins and needles, and a plot that leaves the reader eagerly flipping the pages.

Whether Jay is writing a beautiful descriptive passage or one rife with danger and raw brutality, her talent places the reader in the heart of the scene. She did an excellent job of wringing emotion from me. I alternately cheered, recoiled, wept, and felt the same broken, joyous, or determined fortitude of the characters. Some are truly abhorrent, and the author didn’t shy from showing that side of them. Others, heroic, complex, resilient.

The relationship between Rustam and Lady Risada will always be the heart of the story for me, but there are layers upon layers of plot threads in this deftly built world. There are several surprises in store, plus a wonderful “comeuppance” for one of the more loathsome characters. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey in book three!

5 Stars

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Epic Fantasy > Fantasy Adventure > Fantasy Romance

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Aren’t the covers for these novels positively gorgeous? I’m thoroughly smitten with Rustam and Lady Risada and look forward to reading more of their story in book three. Rumor has it Deborah has a fourth (and final?) novel in the works for this series. I’ll be grabbing it on pre-order as soon as it’s available. Book three, The Prince’s Protege is already waiting on my Kindle.

Thanks for joining me for another Book Review Tuesday. Wherever you are, stay warm, and happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: The Forgotten by D.L. Cross, The Culmination by Gwen Plano @stacitroilo @gmplano

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Thank you for joining me for another Book Review Tuesday. Today, I am featuring titles from two of my Story Empire colleagues–Staci Troilo (D.L.Cross) and Gwen Plano.

From aliens to military coverups and political intrigue, these novels will keep you flipping the pages and scrambling to reach their exciting conclusions!

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The Forgotten
by D. L. Cross

Book cover for The Forgotten shows large space ship on angry sky hovering over Grecian-inspired building

If you’re unfamiliar with the Astral Conspiracy series, The Forgotten is a great introduction. If you’re already a fan of Astral, this story is a treat—icing on the cake, so to speak. As with the series itself, the action is fast paced, an adrenaline rush of danger and intrigue. Cross delivers excellent characters in Colonel Jack Morley and CORE director Victor Cannon.

A clever prequel, The Forgotten delivers all the elements that makes Astral so mind-blowing—Titans, Reptars, Reclaimants and Separated to name a few. Whether you’re new to the series or not, there are several surprises in store. Of special note, I have to mention the plot thread involving Cannon and Tiny. It kept me glued to the pages! The Forgotten is another great entry in a spectacular series, but it reads as either introduction or standalone. I positively loved the ending!

5 Stars

AMAZON LINK NOTE: This novel is FREE, so scarf it up!
Genre: Alien Invasion Science Fiction > Colonization Science Fiction

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Book cover of The Culmination shows silhouette of couple holding hands with young girl in pigtails, war tanks in background

The Culmination
by Gwen Plano


Book three in a series, The Culmination reads easily as a standalone novel. A political thriller, that addresses denuclearization, tensions in the Middle East, and the fate of refugees, much of the story echoes current headlines. The plot is complex involving multiple heads of state, along with the strategical give and take of political maneuvering on a global level. The author clearly put an extensive amount of research into this book, and it shows. Adrenalin-fueled scenes alter with more cerebral moments, and even a few romantic interludes.

I especially loved the evolution of the relationship between the two central characters, Margaret Adler, VP of the United States and Ivan Smirnov, acting President of Russia. During the course of the novel those titles change, and we learn more about each, including richly developed backgrounds. I was thoroughly invested in the difficulties Margaret and Ivan faced, both on personal and political levels. Their scenes together were among my favorites of the book. There’s also a young refugee child who factors into the story and who stole my heart.

5 STARS

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Military Thriller > War Fiction

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I want to send a huge round of applause to Staci and Gwen for keeping me entertained with such adrenaline and emotion filled reads. These are definitely two books you want to add to your TBR!

Guest Author Thursday: Emily Fortney with The Dark Ruler #newrelease #fantasy #youngadult

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

Hello, and please welcome Emily Fortney back to my blog. Emily and I originally met in a local writing group, and I’m delighted to help her with the launch of her newest release The Dark Ruler. Isn’t the cover gorgeous? She also has a special offer for you at the end of the post.

Here’s Emily to give you some background on The Dark Ruler and her Camilla Crim series!

cover of The Dark Ruler shows young girl on horseback, sword strapped over shoulder, castle in background

It is great to be back on Mae’s blog and talking to all of you! When I was here last summer, I was sharing about my young adult fantasy book, The Sacrifice of One. I was re-launching that book at that time. Yes, you read that right, it was a RE-launch. After years of sitting on this book and just focusing on my writing, I decided to rebrand it and widen the distribution. All during the re-launch, I was also working on a brand new book in that series called The Dark Ruler. Well, I’m back again to announce that The Dark Ruler officially released this week! 

This is book #3 in my Camilla Crim series. It’s actually been almost three years since I released a new book, so this is a big deal for me and I’m really excited to tell you about it. 

Let me introduce you to my leading lady, Camilla. How shall I describe Camilla? She’s stubborn and talks without thinking, but she’s also fiery and passionate. In The Dark Ruler she’s on a mission to kill the Supreme Ruler, Quinten Warwick, and free the people of Elmyra from slavery. Unsurprisingly, a slew of mysteries lie between the walls of the capital city where the Supreme Ruler resides.

Things are little more complicated than that straight forward goal. Because Camilla has a mother with suspect intentions. After abandoning Camilla when she was just a toddler, Portia weasels her way back into Camilla’s world and has taken to meddling with her life. Although a very powerful witch, Portia is intent on drawing little ol’ Camilla to her side. The problem is, Camilla doesn’t know why her mother is suddenly interested in her, and frankly, she doesn’t care. She wants nothing to do with her mother.

For those of you who’ve never read any of the books in this series, let’s back up. Before Camilla had problems with her mom and found herself taking on the role of a Supreme Ruler assassin, she worked at the national farm, being treated as little more than a slave. Camilla even bears the brand of Quinten Warwick on her arm. She’s a peasant, a nothing. 

Everything changes when she finds out that her brother is being hunted down for a murder she knows he didn’t commit, or at least she’s pretty sure… All of that plays out in The Sacrifice of One. (Stick around until the end of this post for a special offer on this book!)

Book cover for The Sacrifice of One by Emily Fortney, a young adult fantasy novel, showacs attractive young woman with long hair

First, I’d like to draw the veil and take you behind the scenes of The Dark Ruler and the process I took to write this book. Like all of you, last year was different for me. Here in America, COVID struck in early March. Literally the week that everything shut down was the same week that I left my 9-5 job of nearly 10 years to write part time. Leaving my job was pre-planned and had nothing to do with COVID. It was a weird time of transition for me. 

The point is, I wrote The Dark Ruler during the pandemic. The lack of social gatherings really cut down on my commitments and I was able to spend a lot of time at my laptop clacking away. For me, this book is a positive part of 2020. It helped me survive it in a way and I’m not sure I could have written it as quickly as I did without quarantine. 

As an author I often get asked what inspired me to write my books. That question is hard to answer. A million things have inspired me. In the case of The Dark Ruler, I had been thinking over this plot for years. The skeleton of this installment was in my head even while I was writing the earlier Camilla books. But I will let you in on one major inspiration. It’s a little bit of a spoiler, so let’s keep it hush hush

In 2019 I married my best friend. The development of our relationship and our actual wedding event inspired certain parts of The Dark Ruler. There is of course a romance element to the Camilla books and much of that storyline in this book, is inspired by my own experiences of falling in love. I’ll stop before I get too gushy on you!

The Dark Ruler is available NOW! Make sure you go grab your copy. New to the series? You can read book #1, The Sacrifice of One, for FREE by CLICKING HERE and signing up on my email newsletter. If you love The Sacrifice of One, there are 3 more books in the series you can binge on!

One more thing. As a special gift to Mae’s readers, if you sign up for my email newsletter, not only will you get a FREE eBook copy of The Sacrifice of One, but I will send a bookish sticker pack to the first 50 people that sign up. 😊 Just shoot me an email at emily@emilyfortney.com and let me know that you signed up and came from Mae’s blog. Put your address in the email, and I’ll mail you a sticker pack! Sign up HERE

It’s been a blast to chat with you all today. Thanks again to Mae for letting me post and tell you about my new release. You can read the full blurb of The Dark Ruler below and connect with me on all the social medias.

Happy reading!

~Emily


BLURB:
A wicked man sits on the throne in Elmyra’s capital city, and Camilla is determined to end his reign by any means necessary. Blinded by her determination, Camilla will abandon her life in Bear Gap and join forces with Reed, a man she doesn’t know as well as she thought. Their plan? To kill The Supreme Ruler of Elmyra.

The plot to assassinate Quinten Warwick will lead them through treacherous terrain and down the infamous Thief Road to the capital city of LilyAye. Once there, they must join with the LilyAye rebels and find a way to put an end to the country’s dark ruler.


Photo of author, Emily FortneyAuthor Bio:
Emily has come a long way from building forts in the woods behind her childhood home. She’s the author of the The Sacrifice of One, the first book in a thrilling, young adult fantasy series. Born and raised in central Pennsylvania, Emily currently resides with her husband and shelter cat, and is vigilant about keeping her house well stocked with dark chocolate.

Connect with Emily at the following haunts:
Website | Email Newsletter | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Wattpad

PURCHASE THE DARK RULER:
AMAZON
APPLE BOOKS | BARNES & NOBLE | KOBO

Thanks for joining Emily and me today for the launch of her book. I hope you enjoyed her post as much as I did. Camilla certainly sounds like an interesting heroine. Don’t forget to take Emily up on her offer for The Sacrifice of One, then hop over to Amazon grab the latest in this series. Please help Emily spread the word by using the sharing buttons below. Drop her a line and say hello! 🙂

 

The Culmination #NewRelease #MilitaryThriller @gmplano

Hello, friends. It’s been a full month since I’ve blogged, but taking time off for NaNoWriMo made a huge impact on my WIP. I hope to get back in the swing of things eventually, but December will likely be sporadic for me. The company I work for is undertaking a physical move to a new location and life is chaotic right now. If you don’t see me about in the blogosphere for a few days, I’m likely up to my ears in packing and unpacking, LOL.

Today, I’m super excited to welcome friend and Story Empire author, Gwen Plano, with her latest release, The Culmination. I read the first two books in this series and enjoyed them both. I’ve already grabbed my copy of The Culmination and am looking forward to seeing how this adventurous series ends. Please welcome, Gwen!

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Mae, and for helping me launch The Culmination, a new beginning. Just a couple of days ago, it went public on Amazon and I’m super excited. To celebrate, the Kindle edition is on sale at 99¢ through December.

So, what’s the book about? The Culmination can best be described as a military thriller. It tackles difficult topics such as denuclearization, the power struggles over oil in the Middle East, as well as the ever-present danger of war. Readers will find themselves sitting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, walking in the historic Red Square, and laughing with children in an orphanage in Turkey. They will glimpse the horror of war and watch the give and take of a negotiated peace. Readers will also meet the two Heads of State who fall in love and subsequently commit themselves to creating a world in which all are family.

I never expected to write this book, but in some ways, I had no choice. The characters crowded into my office and insisted that I listen to them. In a very real way, they wrote the book. I simply tapped the keys.

kindle reader with book  The Culmination, a military thriller shows silhouettes of couple holding hands with young girl, military chopper in background

BLURB:
The Culmination, a new beginning is the third book in The Contract thriller series. After an assassination attempt on an Air Force base in northern California, tensions mount. Heads of state meet to craft a denuclearization agreement. The meetings between these nuclear powers take a murderous turn. A nefarious conspiracy re-emerges and leads the characters into the heart of the Middle East, where they encounter the unexpected and find a reason for hope.

EXCERPT:
Margaret Adler, the Vice President of the United States, has flown to Moscow at the request of Russia’s president. She is met by his son, Ivan. Upon seeing him, Margaret flashes back on her experience as a soldier in Afghanistan and wonders if they crossed paths at that fateful time. Margaret begins the conversation…

“It’s possible we were there at the same time. Maybe we were in the same locale.”

“Are you serious? Really? Why would anyone willingly recall such bloodshed?” Ivan’s eyes lower, and he glances to the side.

She presses, “I keep thinking we’ve met. Would you humor me and think back with me?”

“I don’t like such games.” Ivan’s response sounds gruff, and Margaret steps back as her agents step nearer. “Besides, I’m not sure what that would accomplish. This is one nightmare I choose not to recall. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He glares at her.

Margaret nods. “I understand, of course. But if we can travel back in time, perhaps we might decide if we can trust one another.”

He shakes his head and scoffs, “I can’t imagine that to be possible.”

“Isn’t it worth the effort to find out?”

Her persistence wears down his obstinacy, and begrudgingly, he agrees. Ivan stares off into the distance.

Margaret notices his grimace and realizes he’s gone back to the battle.

She lowers her voice and says, “A shell hits the building I’m in, and I rush outside. I can’t see through the clouds of dust and debris. People scream. People run. I hate this place, and it hates me.

“I call to my men, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ There’s gunfire, and we’re unsure which direction to run. I can smell the blood, the sweat, and the fear. It’s musty and thick; it lingers and gags me. Sand and bodies lie beneath my feet. I stumble and recoil at the horror that I meet. I see a female soldier among the masses. She moans from the hit she received. I reach for her arm to pull her up, but the limb is all that follows me. I retch and call for my men.”

Kindle book The Culmination beside map of Middle East with magnifying glass over map

Pomoch’ yey!” Ivan yells. “And my men help her. They put a tourniquet on her arm, and we move on.”

Margaret holds back the shock that she feels and looks at Ivan. He keeps his eyes closed, and he appears to be caught in a battle.

Margaret says, “Another explosion. The shell lands close to me. My face is on fire, and I get thrown backward. I can’t move.”

Ivan reacts with a gasp and reaches for his face, now frozen and white and trembling.

Margaret says, “I’m being moved—my body dragged. The Afghan Northern Alliance is helping me.”

Ivan’s jaw clenches, and he holds his shoulders rounded and slumped. Resignation floats across his face.

Margaret notices his instability. He teeters. She calls out, “Soldier, lean in. Lean in!”

Ivan leans into Margaret. She wraps her arm around him, and time becomes fluid. Ivan chokes out tears, first in agonizing bursts, and then in sobs—loud and wrenching.

Margaret draws Ivan closer. They now stand cheek to cheek, tears blending. “Ivan,” she says. “Ivan, what do you feel?”

He doesn’t respond.

Again, she asks, “Ivan, what do you feel?”

His words are halting, “Failure. I could do nothing. I was only there to arrange for more armaments.”

“All right, what else do you feel besides failure?”

He holds her tighter. “Useless. I’m barely a man now. My body has betrayed me; it is broken.”

“There’s more, Ivan. Tell me what else you feel.”

“Sadness. So many are gone. My friends, my enemies. Gone. And for what?”

“The remorse of a soldier. I understand. There’s more.”

He flounders and struggles to regain composure.

“Ivan,” Margaret says. “What more do you feel?”

He pulls her close and whispers, “I feel hope—hope that maybe the treaty will work. It has to. It must. Maybe the countries are serious about ending this horror. That is my hope.”

Margaret nods. “You’ve identified your purpose.”

Ivan clasps her left arm, and at the firm feel of the prosthesis, he jerks away.

He opens his eyes and looks into hers. “You’re the one, aren’t you? The one we stopped and helped.”

“Yes. You saved my life.”

Contact with Gwen at the following haunts:
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Author Page

Bio box for Gwen Plano

Book Links:
Letting Go into Perfect Love
The Contract between heaven and earth
The Choice: the unexpected heroes
The Culmination, a new beginning

Whether you’re new to this series, or have been following from the start, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating with Gwen on her release. And what a deal at .99c! Please use the sharing buttons and help us spread the word about The Culmination. Don’t forget to GRAB YOUR COPY and drop Gwen a comment. Thanks for visiting today. I wish you happy reading!