Category Archives: Blog and Promo Tours

Blog Tour: ‘The Moonlight Pegasus’ by C.S. Johnson

Welcome to the blog tour for The Moonlight Pegasus, by C.S. Johnson. Perfect for Fantasy lovers!

The Moonlight Pegasus

Publication Date: July 2016

Genre: High Fantasy

 

Sapphira is a desert world with little plant life, where the people live in the shadows of gray sunlight, sickened by the Dark Plague. To cure the people, the Guardian of Dreams sends the Spirit of Truth to bring the light back into his darkened world. In the form of Pegasus, he enters the world through the pure, innocent dreams of Selene, the reluctant princess and heir-apparent to the throne. Now, with her brother Dorian as king, another rebellion is stirring. All eyes are turning to Selene to bring peace through an arranged marriage. However, Selene only has eyes for her true love—her protector, Etoileon. As the rebellion unleashes its fury upon the kingdom of Sapphira and the supernatural forces collide, Selene is caught in the middle of all conflicts—the battle for her world, the battle for her love, and the battle for her very soul.

 

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Excerpt

Etoileon smiled as he pulled out his special gift for Selene—having taken Ronal’s earlier advice, he had a tiny bouquet of deep red ekedlets, small minuscule flowers that smelled like sweet fruit. The ekedlets were tied together with a small yellow ribbon. He’d thought that the small gift would be perfect for her. It had taken him a while to get them, too. He was only allowed into the city, along with the other members of the Palace crew, only twice a month. Etoileon was lucky that he’d known the streets well enough to know where to go so he could get back in time to escort Selene down to the ballroom entrance.

The city was crowded for the opening of the reception. Etoileon had run into more than one person trying to reach his destination, Madame Flora’s Shop. Though he had meant to hurry up, Etoileon slowed down to look around, amazed to see just how the streets had changed to him in so short a time.

He’d been raised on the streets, mostly all alone.

It had been a miracle that he had survived there, let alone to manage to get a job in the Diamond City Palace, considering a job at the palace was a highly coveted position in society. Middle class children often took jobs in the palace, using their connections to be introduced into the flashy world of riches and wealth. After a number of years, they were able to use their earned capital to be educated in the way of society. Using the skills they would acquire from training and teaching of their instructors and parents, the now young adults would be able to be placed in a position where it was likely for a marriage to be arranged or sought after.

Etoileon had none of this.

He had no parents, no real family, few allies … there were plenty of untrustworthy people, enemies, and dangers around every corner. All he had were survival skills, and the good fortune to happen to be in the right place at the right time. As Etoileon leaned back on the tower wall, he thought about the night that he’d met Selene. He did not get too lost in his memories. The Palace was beginning to feel more like home to him as time went on, and his memories of the darker times of his life were beginning to fade.

It was a moment later that the door opened and Selene walked into the Tower room as well.

“Etoileon,” she greeted him, her eyes quickly losing their flicker of surprise and replacing it with an expression of warmth. “I did not think you would be up here this early.”

“You are,” he pointed out, a small smile forming on his face.

“Well,” Selene blushed, “There was something I wanted to do before later.”

“You mean before I came?” Etoileon asked. “What was it?”

“Well … ” Her face had turned even redder, and she looked away as she reached behind her and pulled out a small bag. “I wanted to give this to you later, but I have no objections to giving it to you a little early.”

Etoileon looked down at the bag she placed delicately in his hand. It had been carefully prepared for him, he could tell. The bag was all dressed up, tiny curls of ribbons surrounding the drawstrings of the sack, and made from cheerfully colored fabric.

Selene nodded. “Open it, Etoileon. It’s for you.”

Inside the bag, he found a small silver-framed photograph of Selene and him from a few years ago. It was when he had first undergone his training for the Fighter squad. Selene was sitting in front of him in the picture, while he was standing behind her. He could tell that his eyes had been focused on her; Etoileon figured that he must have missed the camera. His eyes examined the picture closely, running over Selene’s face again and again.

“I don’t remember this picture,” he said slowly.

“It’s from the time that you came storming out of the Fighter’s training room, remember? You were not too happy, I recall. My memory of the reason has faded, but I remember thinking you needed me there,” she said in a hushed voice. “I still come to watch, sometimes.”

I still need you there, he thought. But he could not say that. So instead, he looked over at her intently, and said, “Thank you.”

“So you like it?” Her smile seemed to brighten up the entire evening sky.

“Very much,” he nodded. “That must’ve been the day that Master Norio told me in front of everyone that I had been poorly trained and it would be a miracle if I amounted to anything.”

Selene’s sad smile flitted to her lips. “Poor Master Norio. That has to be the most incorrect he’s ever been.”

Amazon

Enter to win a copy of this epic fantasy HERE!

About the Author

author-pic

C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me

 

CS Johnson | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

 

Blog Tour Schedule

September 9th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

I Love Books and Stuff (Spotlight) https://ilovebooksandstuffblog.wordpress.com

Read & Rated (Spotlight) https://readandrated.com

The Reading Chemist (Spotlight) https://thereadingchemist.com

September 10th

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com

My Bookish Bliss (Review) http://www.mybookishbliss.com

Crossroads (Review) http://www.crossroadreviews.com

Lunarian Press (Spotlight) https://www.lunarianpress.com

September 11th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

Reading Nook (Spotlight) https://readingnook84.wordpress.com

The Voluptuous Book Diva (Spotlight) http://www.thevoluptuousbookdiva.com

The Bookish Mrs. Harding (Spotlight) http://thebookishmrsharding.home.blog

September 12th

I’m into Books (Spotlight) https://www.imintobooks.com

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

J Bronder’s Book Reviews (Review) https://jbronderbookreviews.com

September 13th

Tranquil Dreams (Review) https://klling.wordpress.com

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Reviews & Promos by Nyx (Spotlight) https://nyxblogs.wordpress.com

Sophril Reads (Spotlight) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com

 

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Blog Tour: ‘Station Fosaan’ by Dee Garretson

StationFosaan

I’m thrilled to share with you all today, Station Fosaan (Book #1 of the Torch World series) by Dee Garretson. This exciting book is best described as Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan meets Jules Verne’s The Lost World. I have an excerpt for you to read and a chance to win all sorts of book swag AND a paperback copy of the book!

station fosaan

 

Station Fosaan

Publication Date: February 14th, 2017

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/ Space Opera/ Post-Apocalypse

 

 

Scientists and their families stationed on the remote planet of Fosaan were promised a tropical vacation-like experience. But Fosaan, devastated from an apocalyptic event nearly 300 years ago, is full of lethal predators and dangerous terrain. Earthers are forbidden to go beyond the safety zone of their settlement and must not engage the remaining reclusive Fosaanians, native to the planet. 16-year-old Quinn Neen is about to do both of those things.

During an unsanctioned exploration of the planet, Quinn discovers a Fosaanian girl named Mira stealing food from his family’s living unit. But before he can convince her to show him around, scientists are taken captive, leaving Quinn and the other young Earthers at the mercy of space raiders.

Quinn must go from renegade to leader and convince Mira to become an ally in a fight against an enemy whose very existence threatens their lives and the future of Earthers stuck on Fosaan and at home.

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Excerpt

I turned to go back when a flash of white caught my eye. Startled, I dropped the stick and then tripped over it. A girl, a Fosaanian girl, stood clutching a wafer loaf to her chest, a cloud of long shimmery white hair quivering. In fact, all of her was shivering. She was soaked, water dripping off her. I could see her wet footprints all over the kitchen. Her silvery eyes held mine and I couldn’t think of a thing to say. I wasn’t usually so speechless around girls with incredible eyes, but I’d never encountered one I didn’t know in my own quarters.

“What are you doing?” I finally managed to croak, even though it was obvious she was taking the loaf, or more accurately, stealing the loaf. Fosaanians never came out onto the Earthers’ floating compound.

“I’m sorry,” the girl said, putting the loaf back on counter and edging to the door.

“No, wait!” I didn’t mean to shout, but my words came out too loud. The girl froze like I had issued an order, though I could tell she was ready to bolt. “It’s okay,” I said. “I mean, if you’re hungry, take it.” Picking the loaf up, I held it out to her, hoping it would convince her to stay for a little while. She would be the first Fosaanian I had talked to, if I could get her to talk. The small population of Fosaanians, the descendants of the few who had survived the planetary apocalypse, kept away from all of us Earthers, except for the ones who worked at the supply depot or who delivered the iridium sulfide. None of those could be called the least bit friendly.

She didn’t take the loaf, but she didn’t run either. Instead, she stood there looking around the room, clearly curious.

“I have an even better idea,” I said, trying to come up with one. “How about I fix us both something to eat? I’m hungry too.”

Amazon| Barnes & Nobel| IndieBound

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Station Fosaan giveaway

For your chance to win a paperback copy of Station Fosaan and all the cool swag shown above, click the link below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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I write, and read, and then write some more. I live in Ohio with my husband, two children and two cats in a cluttered house surrounded by semi-wild gardens.

I grew up in Mt. Pleasant, a small town in Iowa, spending my time outside playing in the woods, or helping my father build his offbeat inventions, and writing stories. When it came time to decide on a college, I thought I would try out city life for a change, and so I moved to Massachusetts to attend Tufts University, where I obtained a degree in International Relations.

Degree in hand, I quickly realized I was not meant to work inside in an office, and because I had become obsessed with plants, I decided to get a degree in Landscape Horticulture, as a way to get back outside. I worked as a landscape designer and taught landscape horticulture classes for several years before returning to writing.

Dee Garretson

Twitter: @deegarretson

Facebook: @DeeGarretsonBooks

Instagram: @deegarretsonauthor

StationFosaan

Blog Tour Schedule

August 12th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

The Caffeinated Reader (Review) https://www.thecaffeinatedreader.com

August 13th

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

The Bookworm Drinketh (Review) http://thebookwormdrinketh.wordpress.com/

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

August 14th

B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com/

Reading Nook (Spotlight) https://readingnook84.wordpress.com

Tsarina Press (Review) https://www.tsarinapress.com

August 15th

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

J Bronder Book Reviews (Review) https://jbronderbookreviews.com/

August 16th

On the Shelf Reviews (Review) https://ontheshelfreviews.wordpress.com

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Blog Tour: ‘The Great Jewel Robbery’ by Elizabeth McKenna

THE GREAT JEWEL ROBBERY
by Elizabeth McKenna
* Cozy Mystery *

Title: THE GREAT JEWEL ROBBERY
Author: Elizabeth McKenna
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 210
Genre: Cozy Mystery
**********
 
Mystery with a splash of romance…
Chicago Tribune reporters Emma and Grace have been best friends since college despite coming from different worlds. When Grace is assigned to cover an annual charity ball and auction being held at a lakeside mansion and her boyfriend bails on her, she brings Emma as her plus one. The night is going smoothly until Emma finds the host’s brother unconscious in the study. Though at first it is thought he was tipsy and stumbled, it soon becomes clear more is afoot, as the wall safe is empty and a three-million-dollar diamond necklace is missing. With visions of becoming ace investigative journalists, Emma and Grace set out to solve the mystery, much to the chagrin of the handsome local detective.
______________________

The handsome stranger held the mini-mart door open for me, and I gazed up into twinkling, meadow-green eyes. I kid you not. I had read about twinkling eyes in more than one romance book, but this was the first time I’d seen them live and in action. He was dressed for an early-September day on the lake with plaid swim shorts to his knees and a white T-shirt hanging around his neck. My eyes shifted to the “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” sign that was displayed prominently in the gas station’s window. I checked his feet. At least he was wearing sandals.

I must have been staring too long because Grace pushed me from behind. The bare skin of my shoulder inadvertently brushed across his well-defined, caramel-colored chest and something akin to a spark sent heat rippling down my arm. When a curve of his lips revealed straight, white teeth perfect for biting things, I mumbled an apology and hurried to the snack aisle.

“Hi, Tom,” he called out to the cashier, confirming that he was a local. “I’m on pump six, but I need to grab a few things.”

Tom nodded. “No problem, dude. Take your time.”

“What type of chips should we get?” Grace asked, bringing my attention to more pressing matters than my tingling skin.

We had stopped for snacks on our way to the Twelve Gables Bed & Breakfast to avoid paying minibar prices. Grace was covering a charity ball being held at the Brauns’ lakeside mansion in Fontana, Wisconsin, for the Chicago Tribune, and I was her plus one. Besides the black-tie affair tonight, guests could spend Saturday through Monday relaxing by the pool or boating on the lake. It had sounded like a cushy assignment to me, but to Grace, it was another perfect example of how people used her connections to get what they wanted.

Having grown up with the fashionable people her editor wanted to feature, she was stuck on the Life & Style desk, though she yearned to write a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative article on some injustice in the world. Since Edward and Ivy Braun were family friends of Grace’s, this weekend’s assignment immediately went to her. She hated using friendships in this way, but she couldn’t refuse her editor if she wanted to keep her job.

“Maybe Chex Mix and Doritos? You choose.” I already had spied a lone glazed donut in the bakery case next to the register, and I was an enthusiast when it came to sugary confections.

I wandered through the other aisles while I waited for her to decide on a snack. Grace didn’t eat junk food often, so what to get was a serious decision worth slow and thoughtful deliberation. Based on her furrowed brow, we would be here for a while.

Mr. Green Eyes plopped three bottles of water and a Gatorade on the counter. “Gimme that donut too, please.”

I stopped so abruptly that my left ankle gave out, and I had to grab the metal handle of a nearby drink cooler to steady myself. I limped over to Grace. “That guy is buying my donut!”

She blinked her eyes slowly at me. “Your donut? Don’t they have more than one?”

“Probably not.” Yes, I was being petty. It was only a donut, but once I committed to sugar, I liked to follow through.

“Just pick out something else.” She pointed to a pack of chocolate chip cookies with an expiration date two years in the future. “Get those.”

My nose scrunched in revulsion. “I’d rather eat sawdust. The taste would be the same but with fewer calories.”

“Emma,” she said in her best schoolmarm voice. “You realize that Chef Porter will be laying out a whole table of luscious desserts for us to gorge ourselves on tonight?”

I did, but I didn’t know how to tell Grace that sometimes the frou-frou desserts of her people turned me off. Sometimes a girl just wanted a glazed donut. It was safe and comforting, and right now, I needed all the comfort I could get.

We had met freshmen year at Northwestern University in Journalism 101 and became instant friends despite being from different worlds. I was on a financial-need scholarship. Her father had a building on campus named after him. I was so nervous that I had forgotten a pencil. She had ten and gave me two “in case one broke.” We’ve been inseparable ever since, always living together and now working as reporters at the Tribune. She was like the sister I never had but without all the petty fighting.

She finally chose some corn chips and sashayed to the checkout.

“Excuse me,” I said to the cashier. “Do you have more donuts? Preferably glazed.”

The cashier’s bored eyes shifted to the bakery case and then to me. “Nope.”

“Are you sure? Maybe you have more in the back somewhere?”

“Ryan got the last one. Maybe if you hurry, you can buy it from him.”

Grace snickered beside me.

I pulled the bag of chips out of her hands and slid it across the counter. “We’ll just take this.”

By the time we got outside, Ryan, a.k.a. The Green-Eyed Donut Thief, was gone.

 

Elizabeth McKenna’s love of books reaches back to her childhood, where her tastes ranged from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to Stephen King’s horror stories. She had never read a romance novel until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene). She combined her love of history, romance, and a happy ending to write Cera’s Place and Venice in the Moonlight. Her contemporary romance novel, First Crush Last Love, is loosely based on her life during her teens and twenties. The Great Jewel Robbery is her debut cozy mystery, and she hopes readers will like it as much as they have enjoyed her romances.Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and a sassy Labrador. When she isn’t writing, working, or being a mom, she’s sleeping.

Elizabeth loves to connect with readers!

Website: http://elizabethmckenna.com/

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

Twitter: @ElizaMcKenna

Instagram: @elizabeth_mckenna_author

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/Elizabeth_McKenna

 
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Release Tour: ‘Sightseeing in Manhattan’ by C. Lesbirel

RELEASE TOUR for Sightseeing in Manhattan by C. Lesbirel

Hannah-Rae Dodd is fresh out of a bad relationship has some big decisions to make and if NYC is where she’s going to stay. Matt Miller’s passion for dance has the ability to make him forget about the troubles that await him off the stage. When chance circumstances bring them together, will dancing bring them something more than either expected? The ninth book in the addicting 425 Madison Avenue series, is now live. Read Sightseeing in Manhattan by C. Lesbirel today!

 

Only on Amazon + Read for FREE on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US ➝ https://rebrand.ly/SIM_425Madison

Goodreads ➝ http://bit.ly/425Mad9SIM

 

About Sightseeing in Manhattan

 

HANNAH-RAE

On stage at a Magic Mike theme night with the music blaring and her hands trailing the oily, well-defined abs of another man is where Hannah-Rae realizes that maybe she isn’t as heartbroken about her cheating ex as she had first thought. She had known she needed to make some big decisions about life before flying out to NYC, she just hadn’t expected her heart would be calling all the shots.

 

MATT

He didn’t know why or how his passion for dance had come about. All he knew is that when he was on that stage throwing shapes down, he felt so alive in the moment that he almost forgot about the fact that his little sister was sick and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. Almost.

When chance circumstances bring us together, will dancing bring us something more than either of us expected?

 

After all, 425 Madison Avenue is the perfect place to fall in love.

*Each story is completely standalone.

 

Excerpt

Copyright @ 2019 C. Lesbirel

 

Letting go with one of his hands, he slides his fingertips up my back and to the nape of my neck. Some of my hair tangles between his fingers and he squeezes gently, pulling me up toward him again to meet another waiting kiss.

He spins me back around and commands me to take hold of the wheel and not let go. I do as I’m told and cling to it, not even caring about the direction or thinking about anything other than how good his hands feel, now that they are both free to roam over my body. He traces them over my hips and spans my waist before tracing up to the curve of my breasts and cupping them each, over the top of my cardigan.

“I like this, pink suits you,” he whispers softly into my ear.

“I guessed it was pink from the feel of it. It’s light and soft, like cotton candy.”

“It’s cute. Sometimes you look cute. I thought that when I picked you up. Now you don’t look cute, though.”

“I don’t? Then how do I look now?”

“Breath taking.” He says the word so easily that it sounds natural and believable. Even if I don’t believe it myself, he makes me feel like the most beautiful woman in the entire city.

My long waves blow free in the evening breeze and it’s eerily quiet with the noise of the city in the distant background. “Your curves are the sexiest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on,” he murmurs as his hands come to rest on my waist, pinching gently as though trying to control himself. I’m not sure I want him to.

 

 

Author Info:

 

Clare Lesbirel is a lover of all things pink and fluffy with a huge obsession for Happy Ever After’s. This includes most romance novels, country songs and Hallmark Movies. She lives in England where she spends most of her time reading or dreaming up new love stories. She first published with her best friend under the pen name, Autumn Ruby in 2018 and won a handful of indie author awards. It is the love and support of the friends she has made along the way that has led her to follow her dreams of publishing sweet, sexy stories that celebrate the relationships of the perfectly imperfect.

Clare loves to befriend those who are equally as obsessed with hot alpha’s as she is, so be sure to catch up with her via her Facebook page or Instagram.

Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Bookbub

 

 

About the 425 Madison Series

Welcome to 425 Madison Ave the perfect place to fall in love. Nine delicious romances set in fast-paced & sexy NYC just waiting for you to read.

The series features stories from some of your favorite romance authors: Leigh Lennon, MK Moore, Allie York, Aubree Valentine, Kay Gordon, Lauren Helms, Sylvia Kane, Katy Ames, and C. Lesbirel.

Join these authors as they come together, each with a standalone romance for you to enjoy.

Featuring some of readers’ favorite tropes: second-chance romance, best friends sibling romance to a good ol’ enemies to lovers romance. We’ve got you covered with a sports romance, a fake relationship and even an ugly duckling or two. Don’t forget a brother’s best friend and falling for your soul mate. Maybe a little love triangle as well. Each tale offers you something new, something different. After all, 425 Madison Avenue is the perfect place to fall in love.

For more information, visit the series website ➝ www.425madisonseries.com

Follow the series on Facebook ➝ https://www.facebook.com/425MadisonSeries

 

Did you miss the first eight books in the series? You can read them here:

Book #1 – https://rebrand.ly/MLC_425Madison

Book #2 – https://rebrand.ly/LMLY_425Madison

Book #3 – https://rebrand.ly/JSR_425Madison

Book #4 – https://rebrand.ly/TFH_425Madison

Book #5 – https://rebrand.ly/BF_425Madison

Book #6 – https://rebrand.ly/LUC_425Madison

Book #7 – https://rebrand.ly/BFM_425Madison

Book #8 – https://rebrand.ly/AIL_425Madison

 

This release event is brought to you by Forever Write PR – Forever your source for all your writing needs. https://www.facebook.com/ForeverWritePR/

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Blog Tour: ‘By The Light of Embers’ by Shaylin Gandhi

BY THE LIGHT OF EMBERS 
by Shaylin Gandhi
* Fiction *

Title: BY THE LIGHT OF EMBERS
Author: Shaylin Gandhi
Publisher: Briar Rose Publishing
Pages: 382
Genre: Historical Women’s Fiction
 

It’s 1954, and twenty-two-year-old Lucia Lafleur has always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps. While sock hops and poodle skirts occupy her classmates, she dreams of bacteria and broken bones—and the day she’ll finally fix them.After graduation, a letter arrives, and Lucia reads the words she’s labored a lifetime to earn—”we are pleased to offer you a position at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.” But in the midst of her triumph, her fiancé delivers a crushing ultimatum: forego medical school, or forego marriage.

With fractured hopes, she returns home to Louisiana, expecting nothing of the summer of ’54 but sweet tea and gumbo while she agonizes over her impending choice. There, she unexpectedly befriends Nicholas, a dark-skinned poet whose dignity and intellect are a salve to her aching heart. Their bond, initially forged from a shared love of literature, soon blossoms into something as bewitching as it is forbidden.

Yet her predicament deepens when a trivial misunderstanding between a local white woman and a black man results in a brutal lynching, and the peril of love across the color lines becomes chillingly real. Now, fulfilling her lifelong dream means relinquishing her heart—and escaping Louisiana alive.

 

 

Praise for By the Light of Embers!

“Gandhi’s passion and creativity spill forth onto every page of this book, creating a truly magnificent and brave narrative.” — Entrada Publishing

“I genuinely don’t know any other way to describe this book than to say it’s beautiful.” – Lacie, Amazon Reviewer

“There are also books that you want to keep reading no matter how painful or heartbreaking or just downright unfair the endings are…because life’s got those moments and Shaylin Gandhi brings them out so well in her characters that you cannot help but grab that box of tissues and still smile in between scenes.” – Dora, Amazon Reviewer

“Beautifully atmospheric, you’ll cry your heart out…” – Kay Smillie, Amazon Reviewer


https://amzn.to/2Z8tGOD
______________________

Bellefontaine, Louisiana, 1945

 

It was the first dead body I’d ever seen.

Thick July heat pressed in, sticking my dress to my skin, while steam rose from waters as dark as motor oil.  Cypresses held the sky aloft, and there—in my little haven in the bayou, where the marshy ground turned firm and the old fallen blackgum slowly fell to pieces—lay a man with skin like molasses.  Black eyes stared upward, fixed on eternity.

He shouldn’t be here.  That was my first thought.  Nobody else knew the way into the secret heart of the swamp, through the sucking mud and tangled underbrush.  Yet here he was.

Something squirmed in the shadows of his mouth, and I pressed my hands to my stomach.  If I threw up, Mother would be angry.  I already had mud on my dress, which was bad enough.

Lured by horrified fascination, I stepped closer.  What happened?  Was he murdered?  I couldn’t tell.  The dead man lay so still that he gave the impression of something missing, rather than something there, as if he were nothing but a yawning void or a cicada’s left-behind skin.  Empty.

I knelt.  Up close, his flesh was ruined, his body swollen, his right hand chewed to shreds.  Faint rustling drifted from his mouth—worms definitely wriggled inside.  I leaned in and studied the wreckage of his face.  Something familiar…

I jerked backward, sprawling to the ground.  More mud on my dress.  But it didn’t matter—no, because this dead man was no stranger.  This was Tom Fletcher.

And I hated Tom Fletcher.

True fear fluttered in my belly.  I couldn’t be alone with him, not even if he was dead.  I had to get away, across town to the big house, and tell Etta.

Scrambling back like a spider, I made it halfway to the edge of the clearing before my panic subsided enough for me to think.  Tom was bad, yes.  But Etta was good, with her warm cookies and warmer words.  I didn’t want her to see his vacant face, those eyes full of nothing.

I straightened up, brushed myself off, and tried hard to be brave.  Even so, I stood there a long time.  Closing Tom’s eyes seemed impossible, but for Etta’s sake, I had to.  She shouldn’t remember her husband like this.

I forced my feet to move.

When I got close, Tom’s cold obsidian skin stole the warmth from my fingers.  One eye had retreated into his skull and his lids didn’t fit together right, but when I finished, the blank stare was gone.  He looked more peaceful, somehow.

Then I wiped my hands on my dress, went to the water’s edge, and threw up in the bushes.

*          *          *

“Lucia, child, what’ve you gotten into?  The pigpen?”  Etta Fletcher put big hands on big hips and laughed, her teeth flashing white in her round, dark face.  “I’ll hear your mama cryin’ from here when she sees that dress.”  She clucked her tongue and turned away.

The plantation’s kitchen was the same as ever, with its crackling hearth and billows of sweet steam.  Etta stood at the stove, frying something in a dark iron pan.  Oil popped and sizzled.

“Cinnamon rolls,” she said.

My stomach soured.  For once, I didn’t want sweets.  I just wanted Etta to turn around and listen, and I wanted to be brave enough to tell her.  While I gathered my courage, the kitchen door opened, and Etta’s son strode in, setting a dirty, tool-filled bucket on the spotless floor.

I shrank back.  Nicholas terrified me, just like his father.  He straightened, fixing me with creepy yellow eyes.  At nineteen, he was six years my senior, but might’ve been a hundred for his size.  He was as black as his papa and larger than any grown-up I’d ever seen.

“Ma,” he said.  “What’s she doing here?”

Etta glanced over her shoulder.  “She’s come for a treat.  An’ since she’s mudded her dress, I might take pity and give her two.”

With a wink, she offered a fragrant roll.  It coiled in her hand like a snake, oozing vanilla cream.  From the doorway, Nicholas gave me a look like he’d found a cockroach in his gumbo.

Vomit still coated the back of my throat.  I stared at the pastry as a sticky glob of icing plopped to the floor.  “Tom’s dead,” I said.

Etta’s grin slowly died and her brows drew together.  “What?  My Tom?”

I nodded, wishing Nicholas would disappear instead of staring at me like that.  He made me want to crawl in a hole somewhere.  “I found him in the swamp.  He’s dead.”

Though Nicholas’s expression didn’t change, he quit looking, at least.  His terrible yellow eyes shifted toward his mother.  Etta’s cinnamon roll fell in slow motion, landing topside down and squirting cream across the weathered floorboards.

Silence.  Nicholas caught at his mother’s elbow, but she shook him off.

I wondered why she didn’t cry.  My mother cried over nothing—stained dresses, rain flattening her hair.  But Etta stood straight and wiped her hands on her apron.

“You show us, child,” she said.  “You gone show us.”

 

SHAYLIN GANDHI secretly stole her mother’s copy of Clan of the Cave Bear at age ten, and fell madly in love with love stories. Now, as an author, she still can’t get enough, and the tales she spins all center around affairs of the heart. To her, that’s what makes a story truly worth telling.Besides writing, she tries to stamp her passport at every opportunity. Traveling has been a lifelong passion, and she’s lucky to have done it a lot. Shaylin and her husband once spent an entire summer living in their van while touring the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and Alaska. Her most memorable trips often tie in with writing: her books are usually inspired by majestic places that stole her breath.

In addition, Shaylin practices medicine, scuba dives, plays the piano, and once rode her bicycle from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. She now lives in Denver with her incredible husband, their identical twin daughters, and two adorable rescue dogs. They can usually be found in the mountains, either hiking up or skiing down.

You can find Shaylin online at www.shaylingandhi.com or on Twitter @shaylingandhi. Please get in touch—she would love to hear from you!

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: www.shaylingandhi.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/shaylingandhi

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shaylin.gandhi.71

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

 
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