Pages

Friday, May 24, 2024

Spotlight: Bold: Reign in you Mind, Reign in your Career by Audrey D. Lloyd

Bold: Rein in Your Mind, Reign in Your Career by Audrey D. Lloyd Banner

BOLD

Rein in Your Mind, Reign in Your Career

by Audrey D. Lloyd

 

May 20 - June 14, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Bold: Rein in Your Mind, Reign in Your Career by Audrey D. Lloyd

Bold: Rein in Your Mind, Reign in Your Career is a book about mindset, finding your authentic self, and stepping into your personal power. Leading with your true and authentic self, you significantly increase your chances of success. The search for personal understanding is timeless. Author Audrey D. Lloyd advances a compelling, strategic approach illuminating how to identify, value, honor, and capitalize on your special and unique gifts, talents, and capabilities. In Bold, Audrey D. Lloyd seeks to show that there is no single, defining event that will allow you to succeed. Instead, it is an accumulation of talents, choices, experiences, and actions that drive the true path to success that is unique to you.

In this book Audrey D. Lloyd shows you how to:

  • Tap into your true and authentic self
  • Understand vision (a mental image of what you desire), values (embodiment of your character), value (valuation and impact of your utility, experience, and talent), and how to be valued (to be recognized, compensated etc.)
  • Attain more engagement, power, joy, and success at work by shifting your mindset and taking the strategic path to self-actualization — to realize your full potential.

Bold is the quintessential blueprint for overcoming uncertainty, gaining confidence and clarity in your life and career.

If you are interested in self-discovery and living up to your full potential, Audrey D. Lloyd will show you how to unlock your bold.

 

Praise for Bold: Rein in Your Mind, Reign in Your Career:

"Audrey’s book — indeed her philosophy — is a game changer, inspiring a fresh shift in how we conduct business and everyday interactions. This is a book that will continue to contribute to our ever-changing world through its timely and timeless content."
~ Liz S., Retired HR Executive

"The Concepts in BOLD are tied directly to the Leadership Concepts of my program. I invited Audrey in to focus us on a few of the concepts. She WOWed over 70 students in two sessions! And they want more. I recommend everyone, no matter what you are doing, think you want to do get this book."
~ Kathleen B. Cashman-Walter, President - ICF New Jersey

 

Book Details:

Genre: Non-Fiction
Published by: New Degree Press
Publication Date: February 26, 2022
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 9781637307427 (ISBN10: 163730742X)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | BookBub

 

Read an excerpt:

Introduction

I did not start out bold, but I was always strong. I have experienced great heights and understand the pain of searching to find a way out of the valley to escape being lost.

No single defining event motivated me to search for bold. An accumulation of feelings and prior experiences drove me to the realization that I was not living the life I really wanted. I was not where I wanted to be in my career.

Most of the companies where I’ve worked were good, some were great, and a few were exceptional. I learned fast and was never afraid of a challenge or hard work. Finding opportunities came easily to me. Yet, I did not use this to my full advantage. I was still allowing companies to select me versus playing a more active role in the selection process. At times, I accepted positions that were below my full ability. Looking back, I was passive, too compliant, overly nice, and willing to sacrifice my time, energy, and sleep. I knew all of this but did not do anything to change the outcome.

That all changed after I had a chance to review my notes from a reference check for a new position. I personally knew the references who provided input from over the last seven to fifteen years of my work history. Each reference was asked to provide short answers to specific questions about their prior experience working with me, my general character, and professional impact. I cannot recall exactly how the specific question was worded, but essentially it asked about my experience and expertise. I remember everything slowing down as my eyes met the line that one of my references provided anonymously, which read:

“Audrey is so talented, amazing, and passionate. I only wish she could find the opportunity that is right for her and deserving of her skills.”

Those words washed over me like Niagara Falls. The assessment provoked me.

While I have now achieved success beyond what I believed was possible, it took longer for me to get there. Looking back, I made all the right moves but often made them without fully understanding my own strengths. I had the right cards in my hands, I just didn’t always play them to my benefit.

I was the common denominator in this dilemma. I do not attribute any of my painful lessons or missteps to any person or company other than me. I take accountability for not prioritizing myself and seeking the right culture and environment for me. I am ultimately accountable for my success.

I read those words again, and that was when it hit me. When we hold ourselves accountable, we take back control.

 

To Be True

Some people are not aware of the importance of searching for and discovering their proper and true role in life.
—Chin-Ning Chu (Chu, 1994)

Choosing to leave the ranks of a full-time employee (FTE) to independently pursue organizational change management (OCM) consulting and executive coaching required careful consideration and considerable courage. I remember thinking, Before I make the final decision to leave a full-time job with benefits, I’d better speak with someone who can help me weigh my options. The representative from EAP (Employee Assistant Program) was laid back, casual, and unassuming.

“So, what’s going on?” she asked. Then she listened without making a sound as I spoke. I was listening as well. Then she calmly and empathetically said, “Maybe you just don’t want to do it.” She was so neutral in her response that I could not tell if her reply was a question or a comment. Either way, she was right. I did not want to do “it.” I did not want to play it safe anymore.

The lessons of the past taught me many valuable lessons about myself, the importance of company culture, making brave choices, and finding the proverbial “right room.” The decision to take my power back and become more aware of what I want and what is right for me was a significant turning point in my life. Like a baptism, I decided to give up the old to embrace the new. I changed the way I value myself, the way I have selectively designed my career, and the choices that define my world.

The good that came out of the experience is a clear understanding of who I am, what I value, and how critical engagement is for living and for work. What came out of this experience was the motivation for unlocking my “bold.” Self-appreciation and understanding underscores the belief that when you show up as your true and authentic self, you will almost guarantee your success.

Further on in the book, we will discuss the Bold Value Equation (BVE), a “needs analysis” that compares what you are willing to give and what you expect from an employer in exchange for your expertise, time, and value. These needs reflected the “season of my life,” which represented more mature goals and aspirations than my younger, less-confident self. I was no longer willing to sacrifice my time, health, and autonomy. Reaping financial rewards without making a meaningful contribution to the company was no longer enough, nor was it worth it if my skills, experience, and knowledge were not fully needed, leveraged, and appreciated. After all, we all have financial, emotional, social, and environmental needs that must be recognized and satisfied in the workplace—and we have the authority to make choices that are required in order for us to move ahead in life.

 

Moving Ahead

Life continues even after making big decisions. Taking accountability and making peace with our decisions frees us from the burden of thinking there must be a right or wrong. On the path to becoming bold, moments like these test our resolve, define our character, and show us who we really are in the moment of choice. We emerge stronger by recognizing and honoring our truth.

Insights like these—along with the teaching of my parents, hands-on experience in OCM, and executive coaching—led me to write this book. I have dedicated my career to helping individuals and organizations change and transform.

This book is written with you in mind. All throughout, I will make the case for why intentionally identifying and leveraging your bold creates a powerful competitive advantage, not by telling you what you need to be or do but by telling you how to do less of what you are currently doing.

As a certified International Coaching Federation (ICF) coach and global consultant with over twenty-five years working with some of the world’s best companies, I under- stand the issues and the significance of company culture as well as what is required for individuals to transform their lives. I have designed transformation strategies for some of the world’s largest companies and trained leaders globally on communication effectiveness and issues management, in addition to having the honor of spending hundreds of hours deeply listening to and coaching individuals around the world.

In these pages, I will share true stories along with lessons and insights I learned working in corporate America. I want to recognize that at times I am vague and do not offer the tantalizing details of conversations that occurred at many of the companies where I worked. I do this to honor the value of confidentiality and to illustrate the bold move of taking the high road and moving away from the drama, as rehashing, reliving, and rumination do not offer a path forward. In fact, reliving such negative and often toxic events steals our joy and weakens our power.

Many of the structured processes and frameworks that I have included are inspired by my work in OCM and coaching. I am giving you the best of both worlds, as I have sat in many of the same places where you may find yourself today. I am now able to look at things objectively through the lens of both the employee and the expert, and this duality allows me to be empathetic and honest.

As an executive coach, I spent hundreds of hours listening to the stories, aspirations, hurts, and triumphs of my clients. I heard joy, pain, pressure, and disappointment in their voices. I saw dreams and spirits on the brink of breaking. I witnessed breakthroughs, setbacks, and personal victories. In coaching I follow, encourage, and challenge each one of them to achieve the goals they have established.

You know yourself best. Understanding this is essential to understanding the difference between leading and being led. While the information and thinking shared in this book have resulted in positive change and success for many of my clients, I will always take the position that you are the leader in your life, and this book is most valuable when you use it as inspiration in customizing a strategy that best suits you. If you find the models and processes helpful, you can use them as is or as a guide. Ultimately, remember that your talent, passion, mindset, and actions are the most important ingredients for catalyzing your success.

I wrote this book for the following reasons:

  • I hope and trust that it will motivate you to explore and unlock your true potential.
  • I truly believe “bold” is a powerful concept that anyone can access and use to improve their career and life.
  • I wish this book existed earlier in my career.
  • The timing of the book and the topics covered coincide with the current needs of many individuals who are at a crossroads in their lives and in their careers. This book is a resource and tool for reflection and planning.
  •  

    Several factors are driving the need for a bold mindset:

  • In the face of an increasingly complex, turbulent, and uncertain future, there is a need to cement your focus, power, and the resolve that is required to succeed.
  • Given the accelerated and changing nature of work, you need to become more autonomous, independent, and confident in who you are and in the value you provide.
  • Understanding yourself at your core will enable you to learn, adapt, and evolve. This is the secret to sustaining “your bold.”
  •  

    We will discuss:

  • Why tapping into your true and authentic self is essential to your career and living your best life.
  • The importance of understanding your vision (a mental image of what you desire), values (embodiment of your character), value (valuation and impact of your utility, experience, and talent), and how you want to be valued (being recognized, compensated, etc.).
  • How you can use your bold to serve others.
  •  

    I kept the following four profiles in mind when writing this book:

  • Individuals who are tenured and who have mastered technical success but are in search of balance and greater fulfillment.
  • High performers on the cusp of unlocking their brilliance and attaining the next level of success, but their goal is often elusive, as “something” is standing in the way.
  • Middle managers who serve on the frontline of leadership but are often overlooked due to a lack of a personal strategy for promotion and success.
  • Individuals who are successful in getting a job but struggle to find the right lasting opportunity.
  •  

    I hope this book will help you:

  • See and appreciate your value and the bold in others.
  • Increase your confidence.
  • Own your choices and your career.
  •  

    Your Call to Adventure

    Nothing in life occurs by chance. I am guessing you may have found this book because you are searching for clarity, change, or direction. You sense from the cover that this is not your “typical” career book outlining exactly what you need to say or do. Perhaps you already own a few of those books, yet you are in search of more introspection. You are nuanced, after all, and the world is much too complex for rote advice.

    You are at a place in your life that requires individual and purposeful consideration and planning. The time has come for you to do the deep introspection that only you can lead.

    This book is simply a tool to inspire, illuminate, and affirm your personal strategy to live boldly.

    I hope you will accept my invitation to stay open and curious about learning about yourself. Come along with me to explore what is possible when you realize your bold. Everything in this book is simple to apply but not always easy to achieve.

    The difference between living boldly and ordinarily is like night and day. With a heightened level of awareness and commitment, you will start to see yourself and the world around you differently. Others will sense and see it too, but most importantly, you will experience it for yourself.

     

    Introduction to Bold Reflections

    Each chapter is carefully selected and arranged to help you grow and transform at your own pace. Use chapter takeaways and powerful questions to gather insight to develop your strategies and action plans.

    As you take on the challenge to bring forward the best version of yourself, reserve the time and find a quiet space to reflect. I recommend you keep a pen and notebook or voice-record app close by to record your thoughts and reflections at the end of each chapter.

    What do you hope to learn about yourself by reading this book?

    ______________________________________

    ______________________________________

    What intrigues you the most about your reaction to the introduction of bold? Why?

    ______________________________________

    ______________________________________

    Are you ready?

    ______________________________________

    ______________________________________

    ***

    Excerpt from Bold: Rein in Your Mind, Reign in Your Career by Audrey D. Lloyd. Copyright 2022 by Audrey D. Lloyd. Reproduced with permission from Audrey D. Lloyd. All rights reserved.

     

     

    Author Bio:

    Audrey D. Lloyd

    Audrey D. Lloyd, PCC, is a gifted ICF-credentialed executive coach, organizational change management and business transformation expert, speaker, inventor, futurist, and universal citizen. Drawing upon her extensive coaching and global experience, she presents compelling reasons to believe in oneself and how to take a strategic approach to unlocking our true brilliance, personal power, and joy.

    Catch Up With Audrey:

    BoldCochee.com
    Goodreads
    Instagram - @bold_practitioner
    Twitter - @adlloyd

     

     

    Tour Host Participants:

    Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and opportunities to WIN in the giveaway!

     

     

    Don't Miss Your Chance to Win Coaching Sessions! Enter Today!

    This is a giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Audrey D. Lloyd. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

     

    Find Your Next Great Read at Providence Book Promotions!

    Thursday, May 23, 2024

    Release Blitz: Excerpt from Marrying Olivia by Morgana Bevan


     

    Buy Now!
    Direct https://bit.ly/4aESYsj
    Amazon https://amzn.to/3J6FycN
    B&N https://bit.ly/3PPrUhS
    Apple https://apple.co/4ajQKyL
    Kobo https://bit.ly/3U4m7re
    Google https://bit.ly/4cKch55
    Universal https://books2read.com/MarryingOlivia
    Add to Goodreads Here! 
     
     A rockstar romance that began with a teenage crush...and led to an unexpected "I do."
    Lewis
    I've spent years perfecting the art of keeping people at arm's length. But Olivia, with her angel's voice and her heart on her sleeve, slips past my defences like they're made of paper.
    She makes me want things I never thought I could have. Love. Commitment. A future. But the price of fame is high, and I don't know if I'm strong enough to pay it.
    Olivia
    All I’ve ever wanted is to share my music with the world. But I never imagined I'd get to open for The Brightside, the band I've idolised since high school. And I definitely didn't expect to fall for Lewis, their sexy bassist who once graced my teenage bedroom walls.
    One wild night in Vegas, and we wake up hitched. Now I'm torn between my teenage fantasy and the fear of getting my heart broken by a man who's never had to let anyone in.
    Can we turn this accidental marriage into a forever kind of love?
    Marrying Olivia is a steamy, opposites-attract rock star romance about a small-town singer and her teenage crush turned accidental husband.
    For readers who love watching sparks fly, navigating the challenges of fame, and proving that sometimes, the biggest risks lead to the greatest rewards.
     
     
     
    Excerpt
    Copyright 2024 Morgana Bevan
     
    “It’s a date,” he confirmed, his eyes crinkling at the corners. God, he was adorable. And sexy as hell. And interested in me.
    Our date. The words sent a giddy thrill through me as we resumed walking. This was really happening. I was going on a date with Lewis.
    If only teenage me could see me now...
    The giddy combination made me bold.
    “One condition though.”
    His brow furrowed. “Anything.”
    I bit my lip, looking up at him through my lashes. “You let me make it up to you. For this morning.”
    His pupils dilated, his fingers tightening on mine. “Yeah?” He rasped, his voice gone gravelly. “And how do you plan on doing that?”
    I pushed up on my toes, bringing my mouth to his ear, my breasts brushing his chest. I heard his sharp intake of breath and grinned. “Thought I’d leave that up to your imagination...”
     He groaned, his other hand coming to my hip, tugging me flush against him. “Keep that up and we won’t make it to dinner,” he warned darkly.
      
     
    About Morgana Bevan


    Morgana Bevan is a sucker for a rock star romance, particularly if it involves a soul-destroying breakup or strangers waking up in Vegas. She’s a contemporary romance author based in Wales. When Morgana’s not writing steamy celebrity romances with gorgeous British rock stars and movie stars, she’s travelling the world, searching for inspiration.
     
    Follow: Website | Facebook | Reader Group | TikTok | Instagram | Goodreads | Bookbub | Amazon | Newsletter | BingeBooks | Verve Romance

    Wednesday, May 22, 2024

    Review: Off the Hook by Julie Olivia

    Author: Julie Olivia
    Publisher: Self
    Publication Date: October 2024

    I need a nanny, but I may need her more
    I know about my reputation as Never Harbor’s secluded single dad. But I have everything I need: my imaginative son, my dog, and our remodeled cottage by the sea.

    That is, until my nanny quits.

    My brother’s ex-fiancee, Wendy Darling, is an elementary school teacher with a free summer. The last thing I need is to get tangled in his mess, but my family thinks she’s a perfect fit for the job. Turns out, she fits in better than I could have imagined.

    Wendy is nothing like I expected. She’s kind and adventurous, with a beautiful laugh that washes my worst nightmares away. She pushes past my silence and sees more of my true self than anyone has in years. And my six-year-old son is falling for her just as quickly.

    Being with Wendy can never happen. Not when my younger brother is her ex-fiance. Not when she’s so close to our family. Not when our small coastal town gossips the way that it does.

    But after so long in the dark, Wendy makes me feel something. Falling for her feels a lot like flying instead.

    I know happy endings only belong in fairy tales, but I’m close to stealing one for myself.

    Off The Hook is the first book in the Never Harbor Series.  It's also kind of a Peter pan retelling.  Very loosely.  Wendy is a teacher who is on break for the summer and Jasper needs a nanny for his son.  Being an old friend of the family, Wendy might be the perfect fit.

    I thought this was a sweet romance.  I loved how Wendy and Jasper got to know each other.  Even though, Wendy had always been a fixture among the family, Jasper and Wendy had not spent a lot of time together.  It was fun watching them let go of their preconceived ideas.  I also really enjoyed seeing Jasper finally ask for help.  The child in this one wasn't annoying.  The relationship he and Wendy developed was very cute.  I loved his obsession with pirates.  I didn't love Peter's character.  He is definitely a man who needs to grow up.  But, then I guess his namesake did as well.  I defitnely recommend this one.




    Sunday, May 19, 2024

    Review: Dark Corners by Megan Goldin

    Author Megan Goldin
    Publisher: St. Martins Press
    Publication Date: August 2023

    Terence Bailey is about to be released from prison for breaking and entering, though investigators have long suspected him in the murders of six women. As his freedom approaches, Bailey gets a surprise visit from Maddison Logan, a hot, young influencer with a huge social media following. Hours later, Maddison disappears, and police suspect she’s been kidnapped—or worse. Is Maddison’s disappearance connected to her visit to Bailey? Why was she visiting him in the first place?

    When they hit a wall in the investigation, the FBI reluctantly asks for Rachel’s help in finding the missing influencer. Maddison seems only to exist on social media; she has no family, no friends, and other than in her posts, most people have never seen her. Who is she, really? Using a fake Instagram account, Rachel Krall goes undercover to BuzzCon, a popular influencer conference, where she discovers a world of fierce rivalry that may have turned lethal.

    When police find the body of a woman with a tattoo of a snake eating its tail, the FBI must consider a chilling possibility: Bailey has an accomplice on the outside and a dangerous obsession with influencers, including Rachel Krell herself. Suddenly a target of a monster hiding in plain sight, Rachel is forced to confront the very real dangers that lurk in the dark corners of the internet.

    I wasn't a big fan of Night Swim, but I when I picked up Dark Corners, I didn't initially know that it  was a sequel to Night Swim.  I think that you could read this one as a completely stand alone book.  The only thing that the two really have in common is Rachel Krall, the true Crime Podcaster.   I did end up really liking this one.

    Rachel ended up being a much better written character in this book.  I ended up really liking her and would actually read another book with her in it. You get to know her much more and she grew on me.  Maybe it was making her the main character that gave her more depth.  The mystery was also really good. It's got some twists and kept me guessing.  I would recommend this one.  You can totally disregard Night Swim and just read this one.  You'll like Rachel a lot more.

    Saturday, May 18, 2024

    Spotlight: Excerpt from The Library Thief by Kuchenga Shenjé



    Author:
    Kuchenga Shenjé
    Publication Date: May 6, 2024
    ISBN: 9781335909695
    Hardcover 
    Publisher: Hanover Square Press
    Price $29.99

    Buy Links:

    HarperCollins

    BookShop.org

    Barnes & Noble

    Amazon



    The library is under lock and key. But its secrets can't be contained.

    A strikingly original and absorbing mystery about a white-passing bookbinder in Victorian England and the secrets lurking on the estate where she works, for fans of Fingersmith and The Confessions of Frannie Langton 


    1896. After he brought her home from Jamaica as a baby, Florence's father had her hair hot-combed to make her look like the other girls. But as a young woman, Florence is not so easy to tame—and when she brings scandal to his door, the bookbinder throws her onto the streets of Manchester.

    Intercepting her father's latest commission, Florence talks her way into the remote, forbidding Rose Hall to restore its collection of rare books. Lord Francis Belfield's library is old and full of secrets—but none so intriguing as the whispers about his late wife.

    Then one night, the library is broken into. Strangely, all the priceless tomes remain untouched. Florence is puzzled, until she discovers a half-burned book in the fireplace. She realizes with horror that someone has found and set fire to the secret diary of Lord Belfield's wife–which may hold the clue to her fate…

    Evocative, arresting and tightly plotted, The Library Thief is at once a propulsive Gothic mystery and a striking exploration of race, gender and self-discovery in Victorian England. 


    Excerpt:




    The story starts with a scandal that I thought would end my life. Fortunately, my scandal didn’t kill anyone. In fact, it pales in comparison with what I went on to discover at Rose Hall. 

    Thus far, the way I see it, in any good life you need to die several times to really lead a life worth living. There are little deaths and there are big deaths. My tale has both—and the real tragedy would be if this story were to die with me. 

    I was lying when I swore I would take this secret to my grave. I had no right to promise that.

    *



    Granger’s Bookbinders,

    143 Long Millgate,

    Manchester,


    Rose Hall,

    Lancashire,

    November 20, 1896

    Dear Mr. Granger,

    I trust this note finds you in good health and that business is as steady as when last we met some years ago.

    I write to you with an unusual commission. I will not trouble you here with the details of my current circumstances. Since the untimely death of my beloved wife, Lady Persephone, it seems the fates are in conspiracy against me. Suffice it to say that I find myself now in need of your excellent services and on a far grander scale than before.


    The library at Rose Hall is, as you are aware, extensive. I am proud of the rarity and quality of the books it now houses, a collection that I have painstakingly curated over many years. I now find myself in the unhappy position of seeking a buyer for my collection. Many of the books, due to their age and mishandling by less cautious owners, are badly in need of restoration. There are perhaps some two hundred such artifacts. The nature of my circumstances make it necessary that this work be carried out to the highest quality and with the greatest rapidity. Since no bookbinder in the North West possesses skills equal to yours, I thought of you at once.

    Please inform me as soon as you are able whether it is within your means to accept such a commission.

    Your obliged and affectionate friend,

    Lord F. Belfield




    I fell in love with the feel of the cotton before I fell in love with the books. Leather felt too masculine and reptilian. Cloth was so much warmer and didn’t slip out of my hands as easily. As a child I played underneath the tables and made toy families from the scraps that fell at my father’s boots. 

    He would never talk to me about where the cloth we used came from, nor the contents of the books we worked on. There were a lot of things my father wouldn’t tell me, and rather than keeping me ignorant, his silence made me more curious. And fortunately, I was surrounded by the means to nourish that curiosity. 

    Most of the time we spent together as I grew up was in silence, folding, beveling and smoothing. I sometimes wished my fingers could be as thick as his; he didn’t grimace when schooling leather and cloth into precise lines under his digital tutelage. I tried to be like my father, but all the books he left lying around gave me opinions.



    * * *

    I arrived at the front door of Rose Hall looking more ragged than I would have liked. My breath was far from fresh, and the hair pins and clips I had used to imprison the frizzier strands had been loosened by the bumps of the rickety carriage. I had been dropped at the top of a tree-lined drive that was at least a quarter mile long, if not more. The December mists obscured my vision, and I could only just make out the shape of a grand house, the likes of which I had only really seen on biscuit tins in the windows of Manchester’s new department store, though I had imagined them as I read Brontë, Austen and Radcliffe. Even with the curls of mist in the air, I could tell this was a very English dwelling. As I approached it my feet slipped and shifted on the gravel, unused to navigating such terrain after only walking on cobbled streets and across wooden floors.

    Lord Francis Belfield of Rose Hall had been my father’s long-standing customer. He was the only man I’d ever seen look luxurious without any air of pomposity. The men of Manchester were not known for wearing velvet, so the sheen of his jackets always marked him out as distinguished. It felt completely fitting that Rose Hall was an ode to symmetry and a more tasteful example of the grandiosity of the mid-eighteenth century. It was an early Georgian home of Lancashire sandstone. Even though my father hadn’t mentioned it, the period of the building’s erection and the mercantile success of Lord Francis Belfield were all I needed to know to deduce that the building and its grounds had been purchased with plantation wealth.

    I knocked on the forest-green door and left my suitcases on the ground, hoping that looked more elegant than being strained down by the weight of my clothes, books and binding tools. In my pocket, my fingers found the folds of Lord Belfield’s letter. I inhaled, recalling once more the story I had so carefully rehearsed.

    The door opened and a pair of prominent blue eyes glared at me through the crack. “Well?”

    “Miss Florence Granger for Lord Francis Belfield, please.”

    I took in the lines, too many for the face of someone who was still clearly a young man. The hand holding the door open was rough and calloused.

    “He is expecting me,” I added.

    “No ’e is not.”

    I blinked, having not expected resistance this soon.

    “I assure you I arrive here at the request of Lord Belfield himself. I am from Granger’s of Manchester.”

    The door widened and there stood a long-limbed boy of no more than twenty. His movements were almost feline. The way he handled the door without effort despite its apparent heaviness was quite a marvel.

    “We are bookbinders. I’ve been sent to care for your master’s collection.” I retrieved the letter from the pocket of my coat and held it out.

    He made no move to take it, but instead chewed his bottom lip, realizing there was truth to my words but clearly unconvinced by me. A female tradesperson at the door to Rose Hall was probably not a common occurrence.

    “Young man, I excuse you of your impertinence, but I have been traveling for some hours and would like to rest,” I told him, trying a sterner approach. “Please fetch your master.”

    “’E don’t rise before midday most days anymore. You can wait in the kitchens, if you like.”

    Now it was my turn to falter. I had no way of assessing how appropriate this was. Should I be seated in the parlor? If I allowed myself to be taken to the kitchens, was I aligning myself with the downstairs staff? I was an artisan, not a servant. But a sharp ripple through my stomach made the decision for me.

    “Very well, so long as your offer comes with a cup of tea.” I sighed and crouched down to pick up my suitcases.

    “No, m’lady. I’ll tek those.”

    He ushered me into the reception hall, lifting my bags up to his sides as if they weighed nothing at all. The door chuffed itself closed behind us with a low groan. The darkness of the perimeter indicated that there was no draft coming through, nor a single sliver of light. A curtain hung to the right of it and the man gave it a sharp tug. It concealed the entrance entirely once pulled across, an odd choice. It gave the sense of being sealed into the house somehow—not being able to see where one could escape.

    Stepping into the hall, I was compelled to look up. It was a huge atrium, with dark green textured walls and candles placed at regular intervals which gave the illusion of a warm, close space. He led me over a black-tiled floor, underneath a vast yet delicate brass chandelier aglow with coppery bulbs. At the back of the hall, under the bifurcated staircase, he opened a hidden door which led down to the kitchen. Before I had reached the bottom the herbaceous and deeply woody smells of the kitchen came wafting up to greet me. It was divine. But when we reached the flagstoned room I saw there was nothing on the stove; I could only imagine that months of cooking in a room with such small windows had baked the scent into the walls.

    I was seated at a wooden table facing an array of copper pans and white jugs with the high windows behind me. It was clearly a kitchen intended for many staff, but there was none of the expected bustle. Where was everyone? I shifted uncomfortably as I cast about for something to say, before realizing that I didn’t know the young man’s name.

    “What is your name?”

    “Wesley.”

    “Wesley what?”

    He gave me a strange look. “Bacchus. Wesley Bacchus. I’m the footman.”

    He was telling me that as a footman, his surname did not matter. Of course there was no reason that I, as a craftswoman, should know the intricacies of these hierarchies, but I sat in silence, not wanting to betray myself further by speaking again.

    I was grateful when the cook came in some minutes later—from a pantry, I imagined—but she barely looked in my direction, merely banging a pan of water onto the stove. My stomach growled something fierce when she entered, almost as if my belly knew that I was meeting the person in charge of feeding the house.

    I waited for her to acknowledge me, while Wesley continued to look on with a smile playing about his lips. But she only retrieved a mug and a caddy, before placing a steaming tea in front of me with a snort. My shoulders slumped. I hadn’t expected to be treated as a lady, but had hoped for at least some respect. Would my father have received such a poor greeting? I sipped the tea, grateful for its sweetness and warmth as the cook clattered about with her back to me. As I finished, she returned to the table with a thick slice of ham sandwiched between two slices of bread. There was also a large apple on the plate and in her other hand was a pewter cup of water. She’d clearly heard my stomach. But her face showed no compassion as she laid the blessed offering on the table.

    With one last assessing glance at me, Wesley left, and the cook returned to the stove, making it clear she had no intention of speaking to me. I decided I could forget my manners just as she had hers, and devoured the most delicious meal I’d had in weeks. Salty ham on pillowy bread, with a delightfully sour apple and water that tasted like it came from the purest spring to cleanse my palate. After greedily wiping the crumbs off the plate with one of my fingers, I took out A Christmas Carol from my coat pocket and started reading until the words on the page began to blur. The beast of a carriage I had traveled in overnight had creaked with the strain of being drawn up even the slightest incline. Combined with the cold that jolted me from slumber, I had only been able to sleep in fits and bursts.

    I awoke, suddenly, with my head on my crossed arms in front of me and my wrist soaking wet from my dribble. The plate and pewter cup had been taken away and Wesley was standing above me, a mocking smile about his thickish lips.

    “I’m sorry to wake you, Miss. Lord Belfield says he’ll see you now.”

    Wesley led me back upstairs, and down a corridor. As we passed a tall, gilded mirror, I stopped, horrified by my reflection. My hair, after only days left to its own devices, was now once again completely untamed. My eyes were bloodshot with fatigue and my skin was pale, making my freckles stand out. Hastily, I tried to force my frizzed hair back beneath its pins as Wesley stopped too. He watched me with amusement until I had done the best I could, and we continued on our way.

    I thought back to the last time I had seen Lord Francis Belfield. His best features were his long fingers, which were always encased in tight kid gloves that he never took off. Oh, and the smell of him! Rich pepper with a botanical soapy undertone, which always impressed me. Not in a way that would make me swoon. He’s not the kind of man a girl like me is meant to fall in love with. No, what I felt was awe. A man of his fortune had surely seen more of the world than most. He’d have tales of Saint Petersburg, Constantinople and Siam. If only I could ask him. The need to convince him of my employability made doing so inappropriate.

    The door opened onto the parlor, and immediately I could see that the man I remembered from our shop was very different from the man who sat in front of me. He was wearing a turmeric-colored silk waistcoat embroidered with indigo plants, paired with dark trousers. He had clearly dressed hastily, and a thread toward the bottom of his trousers was loose and trailing on the floor by his feet. I inhaled deeply but could not catch the spiced vegetal scent that usually accompanied his presence. He was much thinner than when I had last seen him, and his eyes drooped as if he had suffered many a sleepless night. He stood up from his seat to shake my hand but returned to it quickly as if he couldn’t bear to hold himself up for too long.

    “My name is Florence Granger, sir,” I began, but he waved a hand.

    “Yes, yes, I remember you. But why has your father sent you all this way without an escort? It must have been a frightful journey.”

    “Oh, no, Lord Belfield. The journey was fine.” I cleared my throat to make space for the bigger lie. “My father sent me to complete the work on your collection that you requested.”

    He looked at me aggrieved. Offended, even. The way his forehead crumpled made me more aware of the thinning hair at his temples. Even disheveled, he was no less handsome. However, I pondered whether he might feel a sense of loss for the way he used to look. On my previous viewings of him, he looked like someone who was used to being seen and spoken of as a very handsome “young” man. Although he wasn’t superbly weathered, he now had the face of a man who had endured. A sad wisdom brought the tops of his eyelids a little lower. His jawline was a bit less tenderly set because his teeth were more used to being gritted together from stress. I supposed it was grief. He had lost his wife less than a year before, after all, leaving him with only his son.

    “Why on earth would he do that? This hasn’t even been discussed. Had he accepted the commission, I would have had the books sent to Manchester.”

    Ah. This I had not considered. I remembered the words on the letter. I was sure that it was an invitation to stay and restore the library. My mouth was dry as I prepared my next lie.



    Excerpted from THE LIBRARY THIEF by Kuchenga Shenjé. Copyright © 2024 by Kuchenga Shenjé. Published by Hanover Square Press, an imprint of HarperCollins.





    Author Bio:


    KUCHENGA SHENJÉ is a writer, journalist, and speaker with work on many media platforms, including gal-dem, British Vogue and Netflix. She has contributed short stories and essays to several anthologies, most notably It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and Other Lies), Who’s Loving You and Loud Black Girls. Owing to a lifelong obsession with books and the written word, Kuchenga studied creative writing at the Open University. Her work is focused on the perils of loving, being loved and women living out loud throughout the ages. The Library Thief is the ultimate marriage of her passions for history, mystery and rebels. She currently resides in Manchester, where she is determined to continue living a life worth writing about.


    Social Links:

    Author website: https://kuchenga.com/ 

    GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/32054609.Kuchenga_Shenj_ 

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/kuchengcheng 

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