Thursday, December 31, 2020

Kari's Top 20 Reads of 2020

 Thank you to all of the authors that kept me sane this year. 

 I wouldn't have made it through 2020 without books for escape!

In no particular order, here are the top 20 books that I read in 2020.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Spotlight: Excerpt & Giveaway of Truly Madly Plaid by Eliza Knight

by Eliza Knight
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: 12/29/2020
USA Today bestselling author Eliza Knight takes you into the heart of the Highlands, where these warriors are prepared to give up everything in the fight for their country.
Annie MacPherson’s world was torn apart when her family’s castle was ravaged during the war. Determined to aid her countrymen, she braves the battlefield and finds gravely wounded Lieutenant Craig MacLean. Soon her heart belongs to the fierce warrior.
As the English dragoons draw closer to Annie’s makeshift hospital, Craig knows they have to escape together if they’ll have any chance to survive. But when they come face-to-face with the enemy and Craig is imprisoned, Annie will have to risk everything she has to save the man she can’t live without.
History and adventure come to life in Eliza Knight’s thrilling Scottish Highland romance. Annie is based loosely on Anne MacKay, Anne Leith, and Lady Maxwell, who risked their lives to protect Jacobite soldiers by hiding them, healing their wounds, and helping them escape from enemy forces.

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April 5, 1746 
This was a mistake. 
Every hair on the back of Lieutenant Craig MacLean’s neck stood on end, as though each one wielded its own sword against the enemy. 
Without the protection of the fortress walls, they were sitting ducks tromping through the forest. An army with most of its men on foot would not be able to escape should a legion of redcoats cut off their path. 
Winter had not stopped the sieges. Winter had not stopped death. 
A vulture flew overhead, accompanied by two cronies as they cut a wide circular path in the graying sky. Were he and the men the dead meat they sought? 
“We should go back,” he said to Graham MacPherson. “Your invitation was appreciated, but I’ve no’ got a good feeling about this.” 
There was no telling when Cumberland’s men would make their move, and if the men were inebriated from drink and tired from too much celebrating, they’d not be ready for an attack. 
Graham chuckled and tossed the end of a stick he’d been chewing at Craig. “Ye’re afraid of a few birds, are ye?” 
“I’m no’ afraid of anything.” 
“Let loose, MacLean. The men need to have some fun, and so do ye.” 
The very last place that Craig wanted to be was riding toward Cullidunloch Castle. It wasn’t that he didn’t like castles or his host or the warm feast that Graham had promised or the ale that was certain to be flowing. 
Craig liked all of those things quite a lot. More than a lot, if he were being honest. Toss in a bonnie wench or two to flirt with, and he’d be in his own version of heaven. But Cullidunloch Castle wasn’t only home to his best mate. It also happened to house a woman he’d been working hard to avoid for months. Graham’s sister Annie was very beautiful and very irksome. She was as brilliant as she was irritating, and despite that brilliance, the lass had conveniently forgotten the single encounter the two of them had shared. 
He hadn’t forgotten. How could he? And now he was descending upon her home—her and Graham’s home—to partake of their hospitality. Her hospitality. If she was willing to give it. 
Hospitality he would really like to have, considering he hadn’t had a warm bath in weeks. He’d only managed to keep himself from smelling like a chamber pot by swimming—when the lochs weren’t covered in a sheet of ice. His clothes were getting stiff from use, and he was fairly certain that his last good pair of hose now had a hole where his big toe was greedily trying to squeeze through. 
At least right now they weren’t dealing with snow, though it was only early spring and another storm was inevitable in the Highlands. The temperatures had been rising steadily, enough so that the men in his regiment weren’t so fearful of freezing to death anymore. Unless of course it snowed tonight and Annie MacPherson tossed him out with the last of the evening’s rubbish. He wouldn’t put it past her. 
Craig would have to make nice with her, though he found the very idea absurd. Graham didn’t need to know what a termagant his sister truly was. He’d never told his friend what had happened when he’d found Annie retching after battle. 
To everyone else she encountered, Annie was sweet as sunshine. Even the men she had to stitch up while they writhed in pain called her their angel—men in his own regiment, men he’d trained and led into battle. She was lauded for her nursing skills and her bedside manner, which stung even more. Of course he sent his men to her to be mended; she was the best damn healer he’d ever seen. 
And that was about all the amount of niceties he’d extend. Why had he been the only unlucky fellow to have encountered her waspish side? 
He would never be caught openly acknowledging the bonniness of her face. The way her chin curved into a petite point or the way her eyebrows arched delicately over her mesmerizing eyes. Eyes that were the most incredible amber color. 
Bloody hell
Every time he looked at Annie, every time she smiled, he saw that derisive sneer she’d flashed at him the night he’d tried to help her. He’d seen a side of her he was certain no one else had, and he’d run as far as he bloody could—after making sure she was safely taken care of, that was. 
He wasn’t a complete monster. 
But he was quite all right with her believing he was, if that meant she’d stay the hell away from him. 
“Is the pottage breakfast no’ agreeing with ye?” Graham’s teasing voice cut through Craig’s thoughts. 
He snorted. “I’ve an iron stomach, lad.” 
“Lad? I think I’ve got a year or two on ye. And ye forget we’ve been living together on campaign for months. Bean pottage is no’ your friend, mate.” 
Craig snickered. “Are ye saying that ye’re in need of a latrine?” 
Craig was glad for his friend’s distraction. Though he didn’t want to talk about beans or what happened after he ate them. 
“Annie’s sure to have a hearty meal for the lot of us this evening.” Graham sounded so wistful, as though he were talking about something more fantastical than food. Like the war ending with Prince Charles Stuart sitting on the throne. Now that was something to long for. 
Craig’s smile faded, and he nodded, having hoped to avoid any further conversation about Graham’s chit of a sister. 
“I’m honored to be your guest.” This much was true. 
“Honored?” Graham let out a guffaw. “Ye’re my brother in arms, mate.” 
While they’d known each other for years, they’d become closer friends after having saved each other’s arses at the battle at Falkirk the January past. 
“I’m certain Logan will want to spar with ye,” Graham was saying of his younger brother, who’d been sent home from the front with a grave injury. “And Annie, she’ll be there to sew ye up.” 
Craig laughed, but only half-heartedly. If he had his way, he’d keep Annie the length of a jousting stick away from him—preferably farther—at all times. 
Excerpted from Truly Madly Plaid by Eliza Knight. © 2020 by Eliza Knight. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

About the author:
ELIZA KNIGHT is an award-winning and USA Today bestselling author of over fifty sizzling historical romances. When not reading, writing, or researching, she chases after her three children. In her spare time she likes daydreaming, wine-tasting, traveling, hiking, and visiting with family and friends. She lives in Maryland.
Author Website:

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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Spotlight: Excerpt & Giveaway of The Stormbringer by Isabel Cooper

Author: Isabel Cooper
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: 12/29/2020

Sentinels spend their lives fighting the monsters that prey upon humanity.

Deep in the wilderness, a lone Sentinel discovers a handsome warrior in ancient clothing, held in an endless sleep—Amris, hero of the world’s last great battle. His discovery can only mean one thing: the Traitor God is gathering his armies again, and everyone they love is in terrible danger.
Amris has been trapped in dreamless sleep for centuries. Now he’s awake…and so, it seems, is humanity’s greatest threat. Determined to save the world from being swallowed by the Traitor God’s oncoming storm, Amris and his rescuer, the fiercely beautiful Darya, must learn to trust each other—and the powerful bond that’s formed between them—as they fight their way through a land swarming with danger to get word back to their allies before it’s too late…
Fans of The Witcher and Ilona Andrews will love this epic tale of adventure and romance.
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The world was silent, and that itself told Amris the spell had worked—not that he’d ever doubted Gerant’s skill, whether at magic or elsewhere. It was a different matter, though, to be transported, in the space of two breaths and two words, from the screams and crashes of a pitched battle to utter quiet, save for a single voice. 
Because the voice wasn’t Gerant’s, nor any that he recognized, Amris’s reflexes carried him backward several steps and brought his sword up in front of him. He realized that the person who’d woken him was human and not Thyran, and hastily readied himself to defend rather than striking out, but it was a close thing. 
The woman hissed and darted backward herself, moving with more than human speed or grace. 
She was more than human. That became apparent as soon as Amris saw her eyes, unnaturally bright green and glowing in the dim light. Her skin was paper-white, her braided hair dark around it, and those could be human enough, but the eyes were a different matter. 
“Easy, there,” she said. Her accent stretched the vowels out more than Amris was used to, and the words came more quickly, but he could understand her rightly enough, particularly when she held up her hands, palms out. “I’m on your side.” 
Anyone could say so. “What side is that, pray?” Speaking felt odd. Gerant’s magic had kept his muscles from degeneration through however much time had passed, so he felt no worse than a little stiff, but just as sound had taken a moment to become words, Amris had to think at first: move the tongue this way for w, the lips and throat so for i
The woman shrugged. “The side that doesn’t love the Traitor. The Order of the Dawn, the Sentinels… I think we were starting when you—” She waved a hand. 
When he trapped himself in time in a desperate bid to stop the murderous warlord. “Yes. Only just.” 
Still Amris didn’t lower his sword: the woman aside, there was no virtue in dropping his guard before he knew the situation. He did let the rose fall from his gauntleted fingers, and used that hand to pull off his helmet, a necessary compromise between defense and intelligible conversation. 
The state of the hall became clearer to him as he did so—the years’ worth of dust and cobwebs, as well as the silence. The woman’s clothing—plain dark leather pants, jerkin, and gloves over a shirt of brown cloth—was plainer than he was used to, without even the embroidery that most peasants wore. Practicality, given where she was, or ascetism? 
“I should tell you two things right off,” said the woman. “You might want to sit down first.” 
Amris shook his head. “Best to face it on my feet.” 
“All right,” she said. “First, you’ve been…” Another vague wave of her hand. “Stuck. For a hundred years or so.” 
She’d spoken wisely when she’d advised him to sit. The knowledge traveled up through his feet as well as in through his ears, making the room spin around Amris, and yet it seemed not to reach his head or his heart. The sweat of battle was still wet in his hair, he still felt his cuts and bruises, and the rose on the floor was as fresh as it had been when he’d plucked it for Gerant. 
That reached head and heart both. Gerant was as human as he. Had been as human, rather—in a hundred years, a babe in arms would grow, sire or bear their own children, see grandchildren, and die, and Gerant had been a man in his prime when they’d parted. He’d be long dead by now. 
They’d both known that parting might be forever. Toward the end, any farewell might have been the last. Amris had never pictured it taking this form. 
“Here.” The woman took a small metal flask out of her boot and brandished it in his direction. 
The contents tasted roughly as they smelled. Amris had been a soldier long enough to swallow, nod his thanks, and trust that his throat wasn’t truly on fire. “Strong.” 
“I keep it to clean out wounds.” One eyebrow quirked, and her mouth twisted in a wry smile. “I’d say this counts.” 
“Truth.” A hundred years. A hundred years, and only now had somebody come to awaken him, but the hall was empty otherwise. “Before the second, lady,” he said, “was there another man nearby? There, roughly speaking?” He gestured to the place where Thyran had been standing at the last. 
“No,” said Darya, peering at it, and then frowned. “But…wait.” 
A small, uneven mound of gray powder lay heaped on the stone. Darya knelt and touched it with the tip of a gloved finger, feeling the texture as much as she dared. “Ash,” she said, “and—yes, bone. Bits of it. Wait.” There was a larger shape within the ash, but that wasn’t entirely why she’d stopped. As many shocks as it had gone through, her mind was still capable of calculation. “You’re looking for Thyran, aren’t you?” 
The question sounded completely absurd. Thyran had shaped, bred, or summoned an army of things, led them against humanity, and cursed the world to years of barren cold when he’d begun to lose. Thyran was the Father of Storms and Abominations. He wasn’t somebody people looked for. 
“Then you know of him,” Amris said, utterly serious. 
“Bad children and old wives everywhere know of him. The Order taught us a little more of the real histories.” Beneath the ash lay a long finger, five-jointed, with a black talon at the end rather than a nail. Burial in the ash had kept most of the insects away and held off some rot, but the finger was still fairly disgusting. She grimaced. “Was he human at the end?” 
“Mostly, in appearance,” Amris said slowly. He knelt beside her, squinting in the dim light. “Far harder to kill than mortals, or even any of his creatures.” Slowly he breathed out, sending ashes scattering. “And one of his defenses was dark fire.” 
Excerpted from Stormbringer by Isabel Cooper. © 2020 by Isabel Cooper. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

About the author:
During the day, ISABEL COOPER maintains her guise as a mild-mannered project manager in legal publishing. In her spare time, she enjoys video games, ballroom dancing, various geeky hobbies, and figuring out what wine goes best with leftover egg rolls. Cooper lives with two thriving houseplants in Boston, Massachusetts.
Author Website:

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Monday, December 28, 2020

Books I Didn't Finish - December Edition

Instant Karma:  I was about 4 pages into tis book and I had to stop. The main character was so annoying.  I had a feeling that she was someone who never took responsibility for her actions.  I just didn't care enough to find out how it all worked out.

The Loop:  I DNF'd this one at about 65%.  The book started off strong with an interesting premise.  Then at about the halfway mark, it spiraled into a mess.  I had no idea what was going on.  I hated all of the characters.  I skipped to the end and was so glad I didn't invest any more time to end up with that ending. 

Stuck-up Suit:  This book was a mess.  The biggest thing that I couldn't get out of my mind while reading was what person actually has a phone without a password or lock on it?  Both main characters were annoying.  I couldn't see them together.  I had no interest in watching this couple try to fall in love.  

Cold Vanish:  I usually love true crime or books like this about missing people.  But I found this one really boring.  I also ended up reading some controversial things about the author from the family and what he did to write this book.  I decided I didn't want to support this book if the allegations were true.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Spotlight: Excerpt & Giveaway of Walking the Edge by Sue Ward Drake

Author: Sue Ward Drake
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication December 2020
On the knife edge of danger in the streets of New Orleans, these rugged men call the Big Easy home, and they’ll do whatever it takes to protect their own.
Ex-army ranger Mitch Guidry never should have let his brothers talk him into joining them in the Big Easy. Particularly when they have him going head-to-head with the very last thing he needs: a feisty redhead who has more opinions than even his hard-headed brothers. Loyal and overprotective to a fault, Catherine Hurley will do everything she can to stop Mitch from finding her fugitive brother... and yet, he can't get enough of her.
Cath should be furious with the overbearing ex-ranger who shows up on her doorstep looking for her brother. Sure, Mitch Guidry is hotter than a Louisiana summer and pushes every one of her buttons, but he's also an immediate threat to her family, and family is everything to Cath. Unfortunately, the only way to save her brother is to stick to Mitch like glue. But sharing close quarters with him while they search for her missing brother together proves to be more than a little challenging…particularly when it comes to protecting her heart.
Sue Ward Drake takes you on a wild ride through the steamy streets of New Orleans in this action-packed, sexy romantic suspense!
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Here is a Sneak Peek:

Cath extended her hands to indicate the old city around her. “The French Quarter has been lived in for three hundred years. Some early inhabitants still linger. For you ghost doubters, I bet you’ll come away from our walk believing. At least a little.”  
The sound of pounding feet drew everyone’s attention to the man running toward them. She urged her customers closer to the entrance of Pere Antoine Alley, but the jogger stopped under a street lantern right in front of her.  
Her blood sizzled. She’d seen this tan windbreaker, this dark cap of hair, and the body probably capable of two hundred push-ups before breakfast. Exactly forty-five flipping minutes ago. Like metal to a magnet, her body veered into his force field until…his fierce gaze pinned her with a laser-tag blast.  
Cath staggered under the impact, the earlier butterflies fluttering back to life. He stood as still as the wrought iron fence behind him, his big hands hanging beside powerful thighs. For now. Any minute he could spring into action.  
Within seconds of busting into her apartment, he’d barged past her and pushed her brother against the stove. Then when Les bolted out the door, this guy had followed in a heartbeat.  
No. Back up the reel.  
They’d stared at each other for a Guinness-record-setting second then, and now his whole body seemed to hum like a live wire. He’d found her brother inside her house. Did that mean he could arrest her, too?  
Her throat closed up, and a clamp squeezed all the air from her lungs. She braced, waiting for him to grab her hands and lock on cuffs.  
A cough from one of her group jolted her.  
The clock on her two-hour ghost tour ticked away, and she had to make sure the travel website guy would have nothing but raves.  
“Listen…” Cath raised a finger to her lips. “If you’re quiet you can sometimes hear a man singing.”  
The tourists followed her down the flagstone walkway. She turned around to speak again but slammed her mouth shut. Of all the gall.  
The hunky bounty hunter stood front and center. The hard angles of his features cast a pattern of light and dark across his face, and danger flashed from him in neon lights. For one insane moment when his body had brushed hers in the apartment alley, she’d sensed he might kiss her like the prince waking up Sleeping Beauty. He’d awakened something, alright. Cath squared her shoulders and cleared her throat. “Excuse me, this is a paid tour.”  
“Is it too late to join?” His rich baritone melted into her hungry pores like chocolate sauce on a sundae.  
Days. Weeks. Months too late. 
Not for a minute did she believe him to be a rabid fan of haunted houses or an avid collector of ghost stories, but she needed all the dinero she could earn to pay for Les’s lawyer. She eyed the bounty hunter. “Would you like to buy a ticket?” 
“You take plastic?” His long—sensual—mouth lifted. The masculine assurance in his smile ought to send her back straight up. Instead, the heat coming off him poured into her private places.  
“Of course.” They conversed like polite strangers, not people who’d been forced to interact under extreme conditions. She wanted to know what had happened with her brother, but she couldn’t ask in the middle of her tour. “I didn’t say anything at the time, but you can pay now for your previous tour, if you like.” 
“My previous tour?” The confusion in his eyes disappeared when he realized she meant his bounty hunter visit to her apartment. He shrugged all friendly-like. “I can always contest the charge if it’s not correct.” 
Of course, he would.  
“Nah. Consider it lagniappe.” Cath turned to her tourists and explained the old New Orleans custom of grocers giving customers a little something extra. Handsome would likely never know if she charged more than normal, but she prided herself on running an ethical business. “What’s over is over.” Please
One eyebrow rose. “Are you sure about that?”  
Positive. She lowered her head to avoid the sight of his disturbing physique. “If you give me an email address, I’ll send you a receipt.”  
“No need. I’m good.”  
Good at his job? Good at flirting? Good in bed?  
Or all three. She handed back his credit card. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Mitchell Guidry.”  
“I doubt we’ll ever be on a first name basis, Mr. Guidry.”  
“You underestimate me.”  
She was coming to see the truth in that.  
Excerpted from Walking the Edge by Sue Ward Drake. © 2020 by Sue Ward Drake. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

About the author:
Sue Ward Drake has lived in most of the different neighborhoods of New Orleans, including the French Quarter. She was forced to leave during hurricane Katrina, but still counts as friends a wide spectrum of the city’s inhabitants. Though she now resides minutes from the mountains, her heart will always belong to the Big Easy.

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Saturday, December 26, 2020

December Mini Musings


Custom Built:
  This is the first in the Fast & Fury series.  It's a spin-off of the Knights of Fury series.  I enjoyed the romance in this one.  Crow and Bronte had great chemistry and I loved their epilogue.  The MC doesn't play a huge role in this one, but Bronte does find out some secrets about her father.  The poor girl goes through a lot in this book, but handles it all with great strength.  I definitely recommend this one.

Mine Till Midnight:  So this one ended up being OK for me.  I did like the family dynamic between the Hathaways. They had been through so much yet I could feel the love and caring between them all.  I also liked Cam and everything had did for Amelia.  I just didn't love Amelia.  She was just too stubborn for me and kind of meh.  There was a lack of chemistry between the couple.  The ending was cute and I probably will continue with the series.

The Blood Gospel
:  I previously DNF'd this book.  Not remembering that I had, I picked it up recently on audio.   I ended up loving it and am glad I gave it a second chance.  It's an interesting and unique take on vampires and religion.   There were lots of twists and tons of action.  The characters were interesting and I cared about what happened to them.  I also liked that none of the characters were necessarily safe in the story.  This was a great way to start off the series.
A Lord Apart:  This is the second book in the "Way to a Lord's Heart" series.  I loved Daniel and Penelope's story. They were very cute together.  I loved how Daniel made Penelope feel better about the "scandal" in her life.  Their fall into love was seamless and really sweet.  I highly recommend this one and can't wait to dive into the next one.

Innocent Blood
:  This is the sequel to The Blood Gospel.  I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first book. It felt like nothing happened for a large portion of the book. But it was still an interesting read.  There is much more religion tie-in with this book.  I felt like there was more in the way of a "treasure hunt".  I enjoyed the aspect immensely.  We are also introduced to new characters as well as continuing with the ones from the first book.  This is a trilogy, so I'll probably read the final story to see if the world can be saved.

Dark August: I have mixed feelings about this one.  I feel like the first half of the book dragged.  I almost DNF'd it.  But at about 50%, the pace picks up and the mystery actually gets pretty good. There were twists and turns and I figured everything out along with the main character.  I would recommend trying this one out.  It did end up being an enjoyable debut mystery.  It just needed a little bit better pacing.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Wishing You a Merry Christmas!

 From our quarantined houses to yours. 

 Have a Merry Christmas. 

 May Santa bring you your next favorite book!


Kari & Autumn

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Spotlight: Excerpt of Earl's Well That Ends Well by Jane Ashford

Author: Jane Ashford
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: 12/29/2020

This beautiful, clean Regency romance from beloved author Jane Ashford takes you to a glittering world of revelations and romance, where a lonely earl can find love where he least expects it…

Arthur Shelton, Earl of Macklin, has helped four young noblemen recover from grief and find love, but he's learned to live his own life as a widower. Yet when he returns home after traveling, his estate feels too empty, and he quickly heads to London. There, he encounters Teresa Alvarez de Granada, a charming Spanish noblewoman and is immediately entranced. 

There is no room for earls in the quiet, safe life Teresa has finally found for herself. The earl might be charming and handsome, but she knows firsthand how dangerous attraction can be. The more determined Teresa is to discourage Arthur, the more entangled they get, and it's only a matter of time before her respect for him starts to feel a lot like love.

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Enjoy this excerpt:

It was a lovely spot. The carpet of blue blossoms wound back into the trees like rivulets of color, beckoning one deeper into the shade of branches in new leaf. A stream ran nearby, the gurgle of water blending with birdsong. The blossoms’ sweet scent filled the air.

Senora Alvarez turned in a circle to take it all in. “Maravilloso!” She held out her arms as if to embrace the landscape and laughed. 

It was the first time Arthur had seen her really laugh, and he found it glorious – the musical sound, the flash of her dark eyes, the joyous gesture, the curve of her lips. She seemed lit from within, as if a shadow had been whisked away and the brilliance inside revealed. This was how she should always be, he thought, glowing, carefree. To be the thing that made her happy – that would be an achievement!

“I have been meaning to take up some cobbles behind my house and make a place for a garden,” she said. “Why have I put it off? I must do it at once. This is…comida para el alma. Food for the soul.”

Removing a few cobbles sounded meager. Arthur had gardens galore at his estates. He wished he could give her one. But a garden wasn’t like a jewel, to be handed over. Even if she would easily accept gifts, which she would not.

“I think Mr. Dolan would be glad to pull them out,” she went on as if the plan was unfolding in her mind. 


Senora Alvarez turned as if she’d forgotten he was there. “One of my neighbors is a builder.” 

“Ah. Friend of yours?” He was not, of course, jealous. That would be ridiculous.

The query seemed to arrest and then amuse her. “He is, along with others on my street, ever since we rid ourselves of Dilch. That canalla bullied Mr. Dolan’s son.”

And she had stopped it. Arthur had never known a woman so self-sufficient. She had a life he knew nothing of, a network of friends. He felt he wasn’t quite one of them, and this galled.

“People talk and do small favors for each other now. It is pleasant.” She walked deeper into the wood, looking right and left as if to drink everything in. She was enraptured, and Arthur found himself envying a swathe of flowers. The idea made him laugh.

Senora Alvarez looked over her shoulder at him. “You find this amusing? That people should be kind?”

“Not that.”

She raised dark eyebrows.

“I was laughing at myself.”

You were?” She sounded surprised. 

“Why shouldn’t I? In particular.”

“You are an earl.”

“And that means I cannot be ridiculous? The title conveys no such immunity. Alas.” He smiled at her.

For some reason, she looked uneasy.

“And I have found laughter the remedy for a great many ills,” Arthur added. Senora Alvarez seemed mystified, or…annoyed? That couldn’t be right. Why should she be? Just a moment ago she’d been delighted. “Is something wrong?”

“You puzzle me…sometimes.”

“But I am the most transparent of men,” he joked. He was so pleased to learn that she thought about him that he added, “What do you wish to know? I have no secrets.”

Her expression revealed his mistake. Senora Alvarez didn’t care to discuss secrets. She had too many of her own. “I ask nothing of you,” she replied, turning to walk on. 

Disappointed, with her and himself, Arthur followed. Tom had wandered off, as he tended to do. There’d been no sign of him since they left the carriage. They were alone in a world of color and birdsong and scent. Perhaps the peaceful beauty of the place would soothe her temper, Arthur thought. But he didn’t know what would gain her confidence.

The gurgle of the stream grew louder, and then there it was, a thread of clear water tumbling over rocks. Bluebells, ferns, and mosses bent over the banks. Soft moisture wafted through the air. Senora Alvarez breathed it in. “Hermosa,” she said. 

She was, but Arthur was not foolish enough to voice his opinion. He could not resist stepping closer.

A partridge erupted out of the bracken with a violent whirr of wings. Arthur started, twisted one boot heel on a stone, missed his footing with the other, and stumbled toward the stream.

She caught him with an arm about his waist, stopping his slide to a certain dunking. They teetered together on the bank. He held onto her shoulders to regain his balance. Though she was much smaller, her grip was strong, her footing solid. She could hold her own and more. Her body felt soft and supple against his as they came safely to rest. 

Arthur looked down. Her face was inches away. Her dark eyes were wide, her lovely lips slightly parted, as if primed for a kiss. She raised her chin. He bent his head to touch them with his, an instant of exquisite pleasure. 

She jerked away, nearly sending him reeling once again. Her expression had gone stark. All the beautiful animation had drained out of it. “Do not play such games with me,” she said.


“I told you that what I said at the theater meant nothing!”

“So you did,” replied Arthur, stung. “And I heard you.”

“Yet you try to take advantage.” 

“The bird startled me. I tripped.” 

“Into my lips.” Her tone was contemptuous. 

 “I beg your pardon. In the moment I thought you…”  

“You know nothing about me. But I will tell you that I despise tricks like that.”

“It was no such thing.”

She made a derisive sound.

She had no grounds to address him with such disdain, to practically call him a liar. “Do you doubt my word?”

“I observe your actions,” she answered, moving away from him. “Where has Tom gone?”

“I have no idea.”

“Tom?” she called. “Where are you?”

“Here,” came the reply from downstream “Come and see. There’s a waterfall.” 

Senora Alvarez walked away. 


Excerpted from Earl’s Well That Ends Well by Jane Ashford. © 2020 by Jane Ashford. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author:

Jane Ashford, a beloved author of historical romances, has been published in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, and Spain, as well as the United States. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. Visit her online at She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Author Website: 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Spotlight: Awaken by Demelza Carlton

: Demelza Carlton
Narrator: Mary Sarah
Length: 3 hours 37 minutes
Publisher: Demelza Carlton2020
Genre: Fantasy; Romance
Series: Romance a Medieval Fairytale, Book 6
Release date:  Aug. 29, 2020

Synopsis: A sleeping beauty. A kingdom frozen in time. Only one can save them all.

Once upon a time...

Lord Siward intended to go hunting, but when he stumbles upon a ruined castle and accidentally wakes the mysterious maiden sleeping inside, he knows his holiday is over.

With the kingdom in trouble, Siward should be protecting the realm, but every time Rosamond looks at him, he gets lost in the girl's green eyes. Who is the mysterious beauty, and why does he feel she holds the key to the kingdom's deliverance?

Buy Links 

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About the Author: Demelza Carlton

USA Today bestselling author Demelza Carlton has always loved the ocean, but on her first snorkelling trip she found she was afraid of fish.  She has since swum with sea lions, sharks and sea cucumbers and stood on spray-drenched cliffs over a seething sea as a seven-metre cyclonic swell surged in, shattering a shipwreck below.   Sensationalist spin? No - Demelza tends to take a camera with her so she can capture and share the moment later; shipwrecks, sharks and all.

Demelza now lives in Perth, Western Australia, the shark attack capital of the world.

About the Narrator: Mary Sarah 

Voice Arts Award Nominee, Mary Sarah has garnered attention for her powerfully evocative, multi-character work which spans time and place.

With a penchant for dialects and love of culture, Sarah has spanned the globe working with rich characters set across genres of the classics, historical fiction, medieval romance, poetry, fantasy, non-fiction and children’s literature. Relz Reviewz states in reference to Tamara Leigh’s ‘The Unveiling,“ her mellifluous tones, superb voicing of emotions in dialogue and varied and accurate accents of both male and female make her a pure joy to listen to,” while her narration of “A Lady in the Smoke,” was cited as, “masterly!”

Classically trained at The Riverside Shakespeare Academy and The Royal Shakespeare Company, Sarah loves to get to the heart of words in order to release their power and finds great comfort in the beauty of stories to transform and speak to us.! Sarah loves the power of story telling to awaken our hearts.  Says author Claudy Conn (Lady X), “Her acting is simply sublime.”