The Crystal War: Excerpt

The Crystal War
Tracy Auerbach
(Fragments #2)
Published by: Parliament House
Publication date: April 14th 2020
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy

The line between human and monster is not as clear cut as they once thought.

In the weeks since her escape from the hell of the Eastern Fortress, things have grown more complicated for Kai. She cast her lot with her brother’s self-absorbed boyfriend, who controls the Western Army, but she’s been separated from Finn, the soldier who found a place in her heart.

Finn has defaulted to his signature move: he’s run away; afraid of himself, his new feelings for Kai, and all the terrible truths he’s learned.

Tessa is free in the world for the first time, a force to be reckoned with. She’s gone to the far west and the Dome of Artifacts to seek revenge on the system that ruined her life.

The type ‘A’ soldier who was once a friendly boy named Charlie has been restored to factory settings, a weapon for Aric to use.

The Science Council has unleashed new crystal compounds, more toxic and destructive than anything the world has seen. As Kai and her friends struggle with everything that’s been done to them, they will have to find a way to unite and prepare for the fight of their lives.

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Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Bill’s boots gouged through the sand as he was dragged from the vehicle that had stolen him from the safety of his camp; the hands gripping his biceps were huge and rough. A black scarf had been wrapped over his head, covering his eyes, and a gag stuffed in his mouth.

The toes of his leather boots bumped up then down as the sand’s softness was replaced by cement underfoot. The footsteps of those who dragged him echoed and it registered; he’d been taken indoors.

Hands repositioned themselves on his arms as he was slammed backward onto a cold metal table. Struggling, he tried to yell, but no sound got past the gag. Restraints, large and cold, closed over his wrists and ankles. He bucked and kicked before feather-gentle fingers touched his temples, a sensation vastly different from the rough grip that had previously held him.

The scarf over his eyes was lifted away to reveal slender fingers. He blinked in the harsh light, waiting for his blurry vision to focus. When it did, his heart sunk, and he froze. Struggling had been futile. The woman above him was the rumored head of the New Resistance.

Bill stared into the strange, amber eyes of the woman he had heard about. Over the past few months, whispers had traveled throughout the west; rumors of her beauty and cruelty, and above all, her power: his small army of Resistance fighters had been preparing for her imminent attack.

Everything he had heard about her magnificence was true; golden eyes that sat in a perfectly structured face; tan and well-defined, but not too sharp to be feminine. White-blonde hair stood in spikes over her arched brows. Gunmetal-gray hoops in her ears reflected the light of a small crystal fragment set into a dome lamp over the table. She was dressed head to toe in utilitarian black tactical clothing, but he could still tell that her body was a work of art. He couldn’t guess her height; she seemed tall, with beautifully defined curves and a tiny waist.

“Stop staring, prisoner,” she whispered in a melodic voice. “Looking upon me can’t save you.”

Bill was in a lab, but he couldn’t see much. The halo of light from the single crystal above was dim and focused, but beyond the table he where he lay, details quickly melted into shadows. He could barely make out the hulking shapes of the men who had dragged him from his guard post; only the beautiful, terrible woman was clear. He tried to speak, but his lips fought uselessly against the fabric still in his mouth.

“Do you wish to say something?” asked the woman.

He nodded, and she removed the binding from between his dry lips—he licked them before speaking. “I’ve heard of you,” said Bill, awed. “These past couple of months, everything’s changed.”

“It has. I am changing things. And this is just the beginning.”

“Are you going to make me into one of your slaves?”

“I must have your absolute loyalty. I’ll accept nothing less.”

Bill swallowed, feeling ill with the certainty that he wasn’t going to get out of this, and he saw her smile, as if she knew exactly what he was thinking.

“Why me?”

“Why not?” She blinked momentarily releasing him from the power behind her eyes. “You’re a good soldier; I’ve done my research. You’re exactly what I’m looking for right now. You will come and work for me, just as they have.” She made a sweeping gesture toward the men around them.

“Forgive me, Miss…”

“Raven.”

“Forgive me, Miss Raven, but what makes you think you can you ensure my loyalty?”

“It’s just Raven,” she corrected, her expression unchanging. “And the answer is simple. It’s all about consumption.”

“Consumption?”

“Yes. Everyone is a consumer. Press the right button, and anyone’s loyalty can be controlled. Even yours, soldier.”

“My name is…”

“Not important,” she cut him off.

Bill sighed. He’d had more than enough of being controlled; given over from his foster home to the Eastern Forces, trained to mine for crystals, months of being a type ‘B’ soldier on blue compound, only to be stolen in a raid by the Resistance, and retrained as a guard, led to believe that he was at last working for a higher cause. And now this.

Raven gestured to the soldiers standing in shadow, and Bill craned his neck to try and see what was happening, only to close his eyes, feeling his stomach drop when one of the men approached, holding up a faintly glowing blue syringe.

So, more of the same, then.

“What’s his poison?” asked the man with the syringe.

“Primarily stimulants,” instructed Raven. “Food as a secondary, pre-established reinforcer.”

The man leaned closer, and Bill saw by the light of the glowing crystal fragment that he was young, with a healing but grisly-looking scab that ran the length of his left cheek, ending near his eye.

Bill jerked in his restraints, even though he knew it was futile, and gritted his teeth as the needle pierced the skin of his upper arm. The fire of the compound made its way through his blood, causing him to sigh in relief. It still felt good, every time, even after being off it for months now. It had only taken him a few weeks back at the Eastern Fortress to become addicted to the compound itself, and months for the Resistance to detox him.

Heart racing, his stimulant craving spiked. He refused to beg until the Raven girl held a small vial of pungent-smelling coffee under his nose—then he screamed with want. The compound created an itch that the right thing could scratch, and it felt so good.

“Would you like this?” she asked in a silky, taunting voice.

“Yes,” he whimpered.

“Open up, then.”

Bill opened his mouth, sick with anticipation of the bitter cordial that would bring relief to his burning blood. Every pump of his heart demanded it. He greedily swallowed the wetness on his tongue, but it didn’t taste like coffee.

He opened his eyes and saw that the Raven girl held a vial that was empty but for a glowing residue.

She’s given me Shine. 

Bill stared at his tormentor. It was too late to spit out the horribly addictive drug. Gulping with a heedless greed he usually reserved for coffee, he’d swallowed a good mouthful of it.

Too much. She had him.

Knowing that Shine would quickly supersede his moral compass, he tried to hold onto his terror, his ideals; he tried to retain any part of himself. But as he looked into her expressionless eyes, he began to feel the drug taking hold. Soon, the fear faded, along with all thoughts of fleeing. The world shrunk, leaving room for her alone in his mind. His senses sharpened, overwhelmed by the power of her presence and the Shine’s euphoria.

The rest of the world faded away, and nothing else mattered but his new queen.

I will serve this woman forever.

Author Bio

Tracy Auerbach is an author of science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. As an avid reader with a vivid imagination, she chose to study film, English, and education, and went on to teach and write STEM curriculum for the New York Department of Education. This helped to polish her writing skills and ignite her passion for science fiction and fantasy.

Her first scholarly article, published in Language Magazine, was about the value of active, creative learning in science.
On the fiction side, Tracy’s work has been featured in the online literary journal Micro-horror, The Writing Disorder fiction anthology, and the “(Dis)ability” short story anthology, in addition to her novels.

When she is not teaching or writing, Tracy is usually reading or spending time with her family. She lives in New York with her husband and sons.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

 

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Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze: Excerpt

Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze banner
This is my stop during the book blitz for Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze by Veronica Elle Butler. This book blitz is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The book blitz runs from 25 till 31 March. See the tour schedule here.

Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze
By Veronica Elle Butler
Genre: Fantasy
Age category: Middle Grade
Release Date: 25 March, 2019

Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze

Book Synopsis

Twelve-year-old Chloe Rose lives a quiet, happy life in her hometown Wilmoton, but she’s haunted by the same nightmare night after night—one with guns and swords and lost fathers. When another brewing battle has her town preparing for war, Chloe’s fears are made into a reality. Promises are left unfulfilled, her family is torn apart, and she must leave her comfy life in Wilmoton behind when she and her mother move into the King’s palace. Living in a castle seems like a dream come true, like the new beginning they need, but Chloe’s not convinced. After a series of altercations, Chloe Rose is kicked out, more desperate for hope than ever. To restore what she’s lost, Chloe travels to an enchanted maze where wishes come true and fairies rule. But with evil forces working against her and her new friends, can Chloe complete the trials of the maze or will her heart’s desires be left unfulfilled?

Chloe Rose and The Enchanted Maze is a powerful story of bravery, friendship, grief, and love.

Goodreads

You can buy Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze here:
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Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze is a perfect story for children in military families, mixed race families, or for readers looking for more #ownvoices stories. Discussion questions and teaching materials are available.

Excerpt

The wind sang through the meadow under the open bright skies of Wilmoton, the land advanced confidently with warmth. Each new day, the promise of spring drew near as wildflowers rose from the earth. The Langerfield battle had ended two years ago, and peace had once again returned to Wilmoton. So, Chloe Rose spent some time alone in her special place.

This was where she felt lighter and happier; its warmth spread to her heart. Here, Chloe’s favorite spot was on a little hill in the middle of a meadow that overlooked Wilmoton. It was one of the most beautiful views that her hometown had to offer.

Surrounded by gentle whispers of nature, it was also Chloe’s special place to draw flowers and pick them for her mother. The sun glared down at her from the sky, and the breeze brushed her sun-kissed skin while she let her curly brown locks down. She smiled with every twirl on her dress on the soft-bedded grass. For a moment, everything was peaceful and her heart had a steady, calm beat. Here, she was not afraid of what haunted her thoughts, that which caused her to squeeze her eyes shut to make go away. Nor did she worry about the nightmares that came every night after those thoughts. Everything is brighter and calm here, Chloe thought now.

As time crept up on her, Chloe finished her drawing and brushed the pencil shavings and eraser crumbs from her dress. She walked down the slope of the Meadow and back home to her mother, Catherine. She picked some rosebuds for her mother—Mom likes to watch the petals expand slowly as they bloom. She also grabbed the sketch of her view of the meadow, which she made for her father, Michael.

Chloe’s affection and admiration for her parents were unfathomable. She liked to believe her father had superpowers. Her father was the captain of the Wilmoton’s army. The ongoing dispute between Wilmoton and Cottondale was as old as time. A dispute over land and who owns what and who was the first one on the more fertile land.

Cottondale’s features ranged from cracked sidewalks and deteriorated houses that either had weathered paints along their walls or were in ruins from previous conflicts. Remnants of broken swords and shields littered its fields. The people of Cottondale showed no inclination to repair these damages. Instead, they carried on with their lives in the only way they could, with the hope of reusing the broken swords and broken shields, whenever the situation would inevitably call for it again.

Wilmoton was a quaint town with unsurpassed colorful cottages and a huge bell tower named “Armstrong” at the heart of its harmonious infrastructure. The women learned to sew and weave every day in workshops. The people of Wilmoton were hardworking, and it showed. It was the type of place where almost everyone knew each other and people greeted each other with a smile. Wilmoton was ruled by King Francis II, a kind king who protected his people.

Apart from the never-ceasing war between Wilmoton and Cottondale, Chloe loved living in her hometown. As she skipped along the sidewalk, her pink gown flared up and down in the wind with every bounce. She soon spotted Mr. Andrews with the evening newspaper— a worried look on his face. 

 The Andrews family lived a couple of cottages away from the Roses, and their two daughters Chloe Rose and Thyra Andrews were best friends. Like Chloe’s father, Albert Andrews was in the army, too.

During one of the many conflicts between the two towns, someone abandoned a baby in a wicker basket on the boundaries of Wilmoton. Disturbed by this little bundle of joy’s being abandoned, Mr. Andrews hurried back to his home with the baby, showing her to his wife, Ava, who had no child of her own. Ava Andrews was overjoyed, so they adopted the baby and named her Thyra.

Upon seeing his worry, Chloe waved her hand to say, “Hello, Mr. Andrews!” Her broad smile revealed her glittering brown eyes, which could cheer up any sad face on a normal day. This time, it did not.

“Hello, Chloe,” Mr. Andrews replied in haste, his whole face lit up with worry and confusion. Chloe did not know how to interpret the look on his face, so she continued home.

About the Author

Veronica Elle ButlerVeronica Elle Butler is a Middle-Grade Author. Growing up, her childhood dream job is to become a doctor like most children but her life path leads her to a different role; wife, mom, twin daughters in a nutshell . She conceives the idea of an Enchanted Maze one night after reading bedtime stories to her twin daughters. She wants to create a world she could share with her daughters and other children as well, so, she begins to map out her story on a notebook every night when it’s quiet without distractions. Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze pulls the reader into a world of mystery that overlaps our mortal world all consisting of grief, pains of rejection, a curious twist of fate, heart of courage, and forming lasting friendships, she delivers an unforgettable adventure to her readers. She’s an avid scrabble player, enjoys documentaries and, learns along side of her husband the roles of a Military Man when she’s not writing. She enjoys spending time with her daughters and being a Mom. Her twins absolutely love Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze and she hopes every child would fall in love with it as much as they have. To find out more you can follow her on Twitter @MazeEnchanted. Her debut novel Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze will be available in Spring 2020.

You can find and contact Veronica Elle Butler here
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Off Balance: Blitz

Off Balance
Aileen Erin
(Aunare Chronicles #2)
Published by: Ink Monster LLC
Publication date: February 11th 2020
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult

From USA Today Bestselling Author Aileen Erin comes the second book in the Aunare Chronicles.

Broken, beaten-down, and plagued by nightmares, Amihanna di Aetes is surrounded by the Aunare race that makes up the other half of her heritage, but she feels alien amongst them. She’s not sure which is worse: SpaceTech’s overt hatred of Aunare or the Aunare’s covert hatred of halfers. She hears their whispers whenever she enters a room and sees her death reflected in their eyes. Amihanna doesn’t know who to trust anymore, but she hasn’t survived this long by ignoring the warning signs all around her, especially when her instincts are screaming that a familiar choice is coming: flee or fight.

Her parents assure her everything is okay—that there won’t be any reason for her to fight, let alone flee—but with Amihanna’s sudden return, questions arise among the Aunare: who should be blamed for the start of a full-scale war with SpaceTech, how much danger will the war bring, and is Amihanna truly fit to be the next high queen?

Honestly, Amihanna wants to forget all the politics, her betrothal to Lorne, and the possibility of being queen. Her needs are much more basic. All she wants is a solid night’s sleep where she doesn’t wake up screaming with the phantom pain of her skin burning. All she needs is to live without fear of a mob tearing her away from her family. All she hopes for is a chance to dream of a future instead of constantly fighting for her right to live.

And yet, somehow, everything she does leads her back to Lorne. He always seems to know when she’s about to break under the pressures of her new life. His quiet patience is wearing Amihanna’s protective walls down, and she’s terrified of what will happen if they fall.

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EXCERPT:

“Let’s get this one thing straight—I’m not breaking our betrothal contract.” He stalked back to me. “Not now. Not ever. If you want to break it, then we’ll discuss it. They’ve talked a lot about our contract on the news, so I’m sure you have it in your head that I’m planning on breaking it. But I’m not. I haven’t brought it up because you’ve been dealing with enough. I was giving you time, but I’d marry you tomorrow if I thought you’d agree.”

Tomorrow? I had zero clue before this moment that he was completely insane. He couldn’t marry me, especially not tomorrow. I couldn’t be queen.

“What if I want to break our betrothal?” I wasn’t sure I did, but I wasn’t sure I didn’t either.

He strode quickly to me, knelt in front of my chair. I hugged my legs tighter to my chest, but he grabbed my ankles. “Look at me.”

I looked everywhere but him.

“Look at me, please.” He squeezed my ankles and let go. “Please.”

I blew out a breath and rested my chin on my knees so that I could meet his gaze. It was hard to really look at him. Every time I did, I wanted him more and more, and I wasn’t sure how much more I could want him without becoming completely addicted. It took everything in me not to wrap my arms around his neck and pull him to me.

He let go of one ankle and cupped my cheek. “Do you want to marry me?” He was using his low voice, the one that set my skin on fire.

My skin was so bright and my stomach fluttered and flipped and I forced myself to choke down my first immediate response. The dumb one that wanted to slide past my lips effortlessly. I couldn’t answer his question because I didn’t trust myself to give him the right answer. The one that made sense.

All signs of anger melted away from him. His back straightened, he held his head high, his fao’ana stopped flashing, and his skin dimmed a little.

But it was his smile that told me he knew exactly what I’d been thinking.

“This is where being your shalshasa comes into play. I’m as sensitive to frequencies as you are, but even more attuned to yours. I can feel your frequencies as your moods shift. Your immediate answer was going to be yes before you got scared.” He rose just a little, cupping my face with both his hands, and all I could see were his aquamarine eyes.

The color I associated with calm and safety. The color I’d painted the walls in my room on Earth so that I could feel more at home. The color I wanted to get lost in forever.

He brushed a soft kiss on my lips. It was quick, too quick, and it left me wanting more.

“Until you can say no—honestly and without stress—I’m going to assume your answer is yes, and that you just need more time. I don’t want fear to be a part of your decision. Okay?”

He leaned in for another kiss, and I wanted. I wanted it more than anything. But I made myself lean back in the chair, pulling my face from his hands.

“I can’t do this.” The words were shaky, but I’d said them. I had to stop it before this went too far.

“Why?”

“Because…” There were too many reasons.

Because he needed a queen.

Because I didn’t want that much responsibility.

“Because you deserve someone not broken.” That wasn’t the one I meant to go with, but words slipping out of me seemed to be the theme for our little chat.

“You’re not broken. If anything, you’re confused. Which is totally understandable. You’ve been through a very rough thirteen years, and memories that would help you readjust to being home aren’t there. So, you need some time to heal. Which is what I’ve been giving you. I think you’d feel less fragile if you got a decent night’s sleep. If you ate more. If you took a moment to take care of yourself instead of spending twenty hours a day in the gym. Declan and his mission are going to kill you.”

Author Bio:

Aileen Erin is half-Irish, half-Mexican, and 100% nerd–from Star Wars (prequels don’t count) to Star Trek (TNG FTW), she reads Quenya and some Sindarin, and has a severe fascination with the supernatural. Aileen has a BS in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles, and spends her days doing her favorite things: reading books, creating worlds, and kicking ass.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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Book of Enchantresses

Book of Enchantresses 
By Mary Ting
(Book of Watchers, #2) 
Publication date: February 21st 2019
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult

Book Synopsis

Keira is convinced her guardian, Ezekiel, knows more than he shared about her biological parents, and she will do everything she can to find out who they were. She secretly meets the powerful witch Awan at a nightclub and is promised the answers she seeks on one condition: she retrieves the legendary Book of Enchantresses.

Keira, along with Uriel, Samyaza, Jonah, and her Nephilim friends, must travel to another realm in Gotjawal Forest on Jeju Island to recover the spell book. But nothing is free, and actions have consequences. When Keira’s team returns to their world, vampires attack a demon stronghold. No one knows who to blame, but the fragile peace has been rocked.

And it’s about to get worse—Lucifer has escaped Hell.

Purchase

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Awan

He leaned back against the cabinet, his hands inside his pockets. “First of all, where is my money? That’s the reason I summoned you here.”
“If you have a seat in TO then you won’t have to worry about money for the rest of your eternal life. Think about it, Cain.” He released a deep, bored sigh. “Listen. It sounds very tempting, but I will not risk the peace within the vampire community for my own selfishness. I am the original, but that doesn’t mean I come first. I have to look after my people.” “Your kind are dying out, and you know it. There aren’t many of you left, thanks to the TO.”
He shrugged. “Then let it be so. Perhaps, one by one, the supernatural beings will be extinct. Just like the dinosaurs.” I clenched my teeth and my nostrils flared. “You are a disgrace to your kind. Pathetic. And it’s exactly what I thought you would say, so I brought back up.”
“Awan?” He pushed up from the wall, ready to grab me or shield himself.
Too late.
Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.
Cain looked down at his chest. Five needles.
“You.” He pointed at me but stumbled forward, swaying. “You can’t do this. I didn’t say I’d allow—”
“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’m tired of people telling me what I can and cannot do. I’m a witch, after all. Sisters?” My voice resonated through the room.
Corian and Giselle stepped out of their cloaking spells. “Nice work, sisters.”
“What are you … going … to do … with … me?” Cain spoke slower than before, blinking to stay awake.
I patted his back, causing him to trip and drop to his knee. He’d lost his muscle control.
“Don’t worry, Cain. I’ll take good care of you. After all, you’re going to give me plenty of blood. I’ll make sure you don’t feel any discomfort.” I leaned into his ears. “I’m going to take every single drop.”
“You’re all going … to … He …” He dropped, stomach down.
“We’re already in a hell. It’s just not as hot.” I turned to my sister.
“Pick him up. We’re taking him to Malum’s place. I have a special cell waiting for him.”

About the Author

International Bestselling, Award-Winning Author Mary Ting writes soulful, spellbinding stories that excite the imagination and captivate readers all over the world. Her books run a wide range of genres and her storytelling talents have won her a devoted legion of fans and garnered critical praise. 

Becoming an author happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she had in high school. After realizing she wanted to become a full-time author, Mary retired from teaching after twenty years. She also had the privilege of touring with the Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book: No Bullies Allowed. 

Mary resides in Southern California with her husband, two children, and two little dogs, Mochi and Mocha. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. 

Author Links

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads


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Child of Mine

Child of Mine 
By Jana Richards 
Publication date: February 20th 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

About the Book

Lauren didn’t intend to sleep with her brother-in-law Cole on the day of her husband’s funeral. But now that she is pregnant, she’s not sorry. Cole’s given her a baby, a long-wished-for miracle. He’s been her friend forever, though she never told him or anyone else how unhappy her marriage to his cheating brother was. And she’s afraid to tell the small town that considered her husband a hero that the baby isn’t his.

Cole’s been in love with Lauren since he was sixteen. It kills him that everyone believes the baby is his dead brother’s. All he wants is to claim the baby, and Lauren, as his own. Though she marries him, will Lauren’s heart ever be his?

Lauren must tell the truth or risk losing Cole. Is her newly-discovered love for him greater than her fear of scandal in her hometown?

Purchase

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My Favorite Scene

One of my favorite scenes in CHILD OF MINE, my newest release and book 1 in my Masonville Series, is the wedding scene. Lauren and Cole are getting married in a hastily arranged wedding at Cole’s house a few weeks before Christmas. Only a couple of weeks before the wedding, Cole discovered that Lauren was pregnant with his child. He asked her to marry him, and for the sake of the baby, Lauren said yes. She wants her child to know her father. 

But things are complicated. Everyone in Masonville, including their families, believes the child Lauren is carrying was fathered by her late husband, Cole’s brother. No one, except for Lauren and Cole, know that the baby was conceived on the day of her husband’s funeral.

Like I said. Complicated.

Lauren and Cole have been friends since they were teenagers, and they care about each other and their child. Because of that, Lauren is optimistic they can make their marriage work. But she can’t help feeling a little apprehensive:

She’d thought the ceremony would be simple and quick, no fuss, no muss. But Isabelle and Greta were obviously planning dinner for far more people than she’d anticipated, and now she and Charlotte had beautiful bouquets. Cole was making this into a real wedding. It was as if he’d guessed her innermost wishes. 

For the first time, nervousness made Lauren’s stomach swoop. She desperately wanted to be a good wife to him. More than anything she wanted to make him happy. But they were starting their marriage with a lie that made her wonder if she deserved him. 

Her father spoke. “Charlotte honey, you go first. Head toward Cole and Garrett. They’re standing in front of the fireplace. Lauren and I will follow in a minute.” 

Charlotte squeezed Lauren’s arm before walking out of the kitchen. Her father grasped her hand. She clung tightly to him. 

“Are you ready?” 

She focused her concentration on breathing in and out, willing her sudden nerves to relax. There was no need to be nervous, she told herself. The people gathered were her friends and family and they only wanted the best for them. And she was marrying Cole, her best friend. The thought calmed her. She smiled at her father. 

“Yes. I’m ready.” 

The first thing Lauren saw as she entered the living room on her father’s arm were the flowers. The room was filled with red and white and pink poinsettias. The strains of the wedding march played in the background. The room was filled with people. She saw Audrey and Evelyn, Dr. Waverly and his wife, and Jamie Garven from the clinic. Ella and her sister were there, as were several neighbors, friends, and relatives. 

Then she saw Cole standing next to the fireplace, and she didn’t see anyone else. He was her beacon, her lighthouse, and she made her way toward him like a ship to safe harbor.

Starting a marriage with a lie is not the ideal way to begin married life. Lying to their friends and family and their hometown is one thing. But lying to each other about how they feel about each other could mean their marriage is over before it begins.  

About the Author

When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist.

In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada with an elderly Pug/Terrier named cross Lou. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.janarichards.com

Author Links

Website | Facebook | Twitter | BookHub | Goodreads

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Three Mages and a Margarita: Blitz

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Three Mages and a Margarita
Annette Marie
(The Guild Codex: Spellbound #1)
Publication date: September 14th 2018
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy

Broke, almost homeless, and recently fired. Those are my official reasons for answering a wanted ad for a skeevy-looking bartender gig.

It went downhill the moment they asked me to do a trial shift instead of an interview—to see if I’d mesh with their “special” clientele. I think that part went great. Their customers were complete dickheads, and I was an asshole right back. That’s the definition of fitting in, right?

I expected to get thrown out on my ass. Instead, they…offered me the job?

It turns out this place isn’t a bar. It’s aguild. And the three cocky guys I drenched with a margarita during my trial? Yeah, they were mages. Either I’m exactly the kind of takes-no-shit bartender this guild needs, or there’s a good reason no one else wants to work here.

So what’s a broke girl to do? Take the job, of course—with a pay raise.


Note: The three mages are definitely sexy, but this series isn’t a reverse harem. It’s 100% fun, sassy, fast-paced urban fantasy.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT

When I gazed vacantly at her, Clara visibly paled. “Tori, what’s your class?” “My class?”
She pressed her hands to the bar top, eyes wide. “Your class, what is it?” “You mean at the community college? I’m taking—”

“No, your mythic class!” She shoved my card under my nose, even more frantic. “Why doesn’t your license have a mythic identification number? You’re registered, aren’t you?”

“Registered for what? Clara, I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.”

“Oh my god.” Panic flashed in her eyes. “I don’t believe it. You’re human.”

I blinked again. Squinted. Rubbed one ear like I might have misheard. “Beg your pardon?”

Clara dropped my ID on the bar and hid her face behind her hands. “Darius is going to kill me. Why didn’t I check your ID last night? I’m an idiot.”

“Clara,” I said, alarmed and confused in equal measure. “I swear it’s a real ID. I’m twenty-one, old enough to bartend, and—”

“That’s not the problem,” she moaned. “How did you even find out about this place? I never should have—but you were perfect. You weren’t scared of anyone—not even Aaron! I thought you were some badass mythic who wanted to bartend, but you—”

“Get over yourself, Aaron.” Kai’s angry voice rose over Clara’s. “We’re not doing this your way—not again. Your plans always end in fireballs and explosions.”

Fireballs? Explosions? I glanced at them as Aaron snapped, “What’s wrong with that?”
“Tori.” Clara’s panicked tone drew my attention back to her as Kai and Aaron continued to argue. “Last

night, did you see anything?”

“Huh?”

“Did you see anything … unusual?”

“Did I see anything unusual?” I repeated blankly. “Like what?”

“Say that again,” Aaron shouted furiously, “and I’ll toast your pale ass to a healthy crisp!”

His hand shot into the air—and fire burst from his fingers. The red flames danced across his skin, sparks raining down on the table. Curling his hand into a fist, he cocked his arm back, aiming for Kai.

“Aaron!” Clara shrieked. “Put your fire away!”
He froze in mid-motion, his fist still blazing. “Clara? What’s wrong?”

“Put it out!” she yelled, her voice high with panic. “Now!”

He flicked his fingers open and the flames vanished. “Jeez, don’t get your panties in a twist. I wasn’t actually going to roast him.”

“Just—just shut up for once in your life, Aaron!” Clara pressed her hands to her head like she was trying to squeeze her brain. “This is already bad enough.”

“What’s bad?” He pushed back from the table and strode over, Kai and Ezra on his heels. “What’s going on?”

I didn’t move, my eyes fixed on his hand—his hand that had been engulfed in flames. Did that count as unusual?

“I screwed up,” Clara groaned, covering her face again like she couldn’t stand to see me. “I didn’t check her ID yesterday.”

Aaron slid my driver’s license off the bar top and read it. “Victoria Dawson? Your name is Victoria?” I shook off my shock to scowl at his sniggering tone.
Kai plucked the card out of Aaron’s hand. “There’s no MID number.”
“Is it a fake ID?” Aaron asked with amusement. “Did you hire a rogue, Clara?”

“Worse,” Clara whispered. “She’s human.”

The three guys stared at me, and I stared back without the slightest idea what the hell anyone was talking about. But more important than the incomprehensible conversation was the fact Aaron’s hand had been on fire, and I couldn’t figure out how it could possibly have been a trick.

“No way,” Aaron finally said. “What’s your class, Tori?” I pointed at his hand. “Was that real fire?”
“Oh, shit,” Kai muttered.

About the Author

Annette Marie is the author of Amazon best-selling YA urban fantasy series Steel & Stone, its prequel trilogy Spell Weaver, and romantic fantasy trilogy Red Winter. Her first love is fantasy, but fast-paced adventures and tantalizing forbidden romances are her guilty pleasures. She lives in the frozen winter wasteland of Alberta, Canada (okay, it’s not quite that bad) with her husband and their furry minion of darkness—sorry, cat—Caesar. When not writing, she can be found elbow-deep in one art project or another while blissfully ignoring all adult responsibilities.

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One Thousand & One Lies: Blitz

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One Thousand & One Lies 
By Yumoyori Wilson 
(Reapers of Beauty #1) 
Publication date: September 8th 2018
Genres: Adult, Fantasy

Book Synopsis

 

Lies.

Words of deception that assist in manipulating a person, group, lover, or foe. With each lie that leaves our lips, a plot morphs into a quick exchange, and the end result? Death.

Some call us Reapers of Beauty. Others think we assist the Angel of Death. Assassins? Murders? The list of what we term ourselves are endless. To us, this life is nothing but a job. One we have no control over what we do or whom we kill. That was how I’d lived my life for 25 years, and I presumed it would always be that way…until last night.

It was an easy assignment. A task I was confident in executing. Yet his stunning eyes pulled me in. His addictive aroma made me sigh in bliss. Those silky strands of hair felt so nice to touch, and those lips held a level of satisfaction that made my body hum for more.

A forbidden attraction that has led me astray. Or should I change that to attractions?

A thousand lies. That is all it takes to become a Reaper, like me. For the sake of protecting this mysterious group of men from my master who wants them dead, it’s time for me to play the game and turn the tables for the sake of freedom.

Will I survive? Maybe not, but I guess I’ll die trying.

Let the game begin…One Thousand and One.

AUTHOR NOTE:
Please Be Advised:
1001 LIES- Reapers of Beauty is an 18+ Series that contains dark themes which include sexual assault, child abuse, and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.

 

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About the Author

 

Yumoyori Wilson is from Toronto, Ontario. She’s a full-time author who loves to write many different genres. On her down time, she bothers her Mom and likes to drink bubbletea while reading and playing video games.

 

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Cutie Pies and Deadly Lies Blitz

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Cutie Pies and Deadly Lies 
By Addison Moore 
Publication date: September 13th 2018
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Romance

Book Synopsis
HILARIOUS cozy mystery from the New York Times bestselling author Addison MooreMy name is Lottie Lemon and I see dead people.Okay, so I rarely see dead people, mostly I see creatures of the dearly departed variety, aka dead pets. And for some reason those sweet, fluffy albeit paranormal cuties always seem to act as a not-so-great harbinger of deadly things to come for their previous owner. So when I saw that sweet orange tabby twirling around my landlord’s ankles, I figured Merilee was in for trouble. Personally, I was hoping for a skinned knee—what I got was a top spot in an open homicide investigation. Throw in a hot judge and an ornery detective that oozes testosterone and that pretty much sums up my life right about now. Have I mentioned how cute that detective is?

Lottie Lemon has a bakery to tend to, a budding romance with perhaps one too many suitors and she has the supernatural ability to see dead pets—which are always harbingers for ominous things to come. Throw in the occasional ghost of the human variety, a string of murders and her insatiable thirst for justice and you’ll have more chaos than you know what to do with.

Living in the small town of Honey Hollow can be murder.

From the NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author, Addison Moore—Cosmopolitan Magazine calls Addison’s books, “…easy, frothy fun!”

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Excerpt

I see dead people.

Okay, so I don’t see dead people—at least not on the regular—I see dead pets. Yes, pets. At first, I had no idea what these hologram-like beasts were up to until after an unfortunate run of something akin to trial and error that I concluded each dead pet was some sort of a harbinger for its previous owner, a very, very bad omen if you will. Sometimes I see them floating around willy-nilly in a crowd and it’s hard to decipher exactly who the bad luck is coming for. But on occasion, I see them attached firmly to the side of whoever the incoming disaster is set to strike. I’m not sure why this is my lot in life. In fact, my lot in life hasn’t been so stellar in general. My birth mother thought it was a brilliant idea to leave me on the floor of a firehouse, and that’s where a brave and thankfully curious firefighter spotted me, waddled up and squirming. It just so happens that I was adopted by that sweet man, Joseph Lemon, and his wife, Miranda, and gifted a book-loving big sister, Lainey, currently Honey Hollow’s lead librarian, as well as a feisty and shenanigan-prone younger sister, Meg, who is also known as Madge the Badge on the Las Vegas female wrestling circuit. And being that Las Vegas and all of its glittery wrestling venues are a good distance from Honey Hollow, Vermont, we don’t see her very often.

But back to that strange gift of mine, or curse as it more often than not feels like—I have zero clue where it came from or why, or even the major significance of it. A part of me has always believed that something alarmingly supernatural occurred around the time of my birth, and that’s exactly why my birth mama decided she so desperately needed to offload a seven-pound chunk of bad luck.

The very first time I put the furry-dearly-departed and outright chaos together was when I was seven and I saw the flicker of a barely-there turtle swimming next to Otis Fisher’s ear. Later that day, Otis fell from a tree and broke his arm. At the time, I wasn’t too sorry about it either. That boy had a mad hankering for pulling on my pigtails. And as fate would have it, the boy who lived to tease me, one day admitted to having a mad crush on yours truly. And post that amorous admission we dated on and off for about three years. If I thought that boy was annoying in elementary school, he outdid himself in high school. In fact, Otis—or Bear as he’s affectionately known around these parts for having once chased off a black bear before it could invade and devour an entire herd of innocent tourists who were on a leaf peeping tour—is one of the reasons I left Honey Hollow to begin. No sooner did my high school diploma cool off than I hightailed it to New York—Columbia University to be exact—where I’ve had the displeasure to ogle other people’s dead pets.

I’m quick to push what I’ve affectionately dubbed the New York Disaster out of my mind as I take a step outside of my apartment. It’s a duplex, actually, and my landlords, the Simonson sisters, live upstairs. They’re the primary reason I’m headed out on this unforgivably crisp September morning wearing my Sunday best, even though it’s smack in the middle of the week, Wednesday. Usually, I’d be happily snug in my favorite jeans, sporting my comfiest sweatshirt with my hair in a ponytail, and on my way to the Honey Pot Diner where I’m currently employed as the chief baker, not that there’s anyone baking underneath me but, hey, I like the title. Instead, I’m stuffed in a pencil skirt, two sizes too small, and a blouse that looks as if I swiped it off a mannequin at Goodwill, partially because I did. Okay, so I don’t own many Sunday clothes per se, but only because the local church is all about casual attire. They’re far more concerned with keeping your soul free from the flames than they are about your accruements, but I digress. I’m not headed to work or any holy house in the great state of Vermont. I’m headed to court—small claims court to be exact—all the way over in Ashford County.

Just as I’m about to head to my beat-up old hatchback, I spot both the aforementioned Simonson sisters at the foot of the driveway squabbling amongst themselves about who knows what—most likely me. It is me they’re hauling to court after all, and over something completely ridiculous.

It just so happens that last summer at the county fair my blueberry buckle pie won the coveted blue ribbon in its division, and it seemed as if all of Ashford County were thrilled for me, at least all of the townsfolk here in Honey Hollow. But the Simonson sisters were decidedly not enthused in the least. Sometime between the taste test and the judging, someone edited my entry to read Simple Simonson Pie and crossed out the all-important part about the blueberry buckle. Regretfully, a riot of laughter ensued, mostly from the fine, and, might I add, intuitive folk here in Honey Hollow, but I swear on all that is holy that good time only lasted about three thrilling minutes before I made the correction. Although, to hear Mora Anne and Merilee tell it, the aftermath not only bruised their egos and reputation but managed to cause a retail apocalypse down at the shop they own and run. It turns out, The Busy Bee Craft Shop was short on patrons and dollar bills alike and had a difficult time paying its rent last month, so the only logical solution they could come up with was to sue me for every last red cent.

Both sisters are dressed head to toe in long velvet coats with ruffled shirts peeking out from underneath like a couple of throwbacks from some long-forgotten steampunk era. It’s eerie the way they choose to dress alike each and every day despite the fact they’ve been on the planet for twenty-six long years—and twenty-seven respectively. I know this because I happen to be the exact same age as Merilee. We’ve all grown up together, but the way they treat me you’d think they were my bitter and scorned elders.

Merilee snarls as if she were rabid. “Well, look who’s here? If it isn’t Honey Hollow’s favorite jester who will soon be performing live in court.” Those narrow slits she calls eyes light up like cauldrons. The sisters have always held a witchy appeal to me, what with their long, dark, stringy hair and bony, long fingers. The fact they look as if they suck on lemons day and night doesn’t exactly help their plight. “Are you ready to have your bank account turned inside out?”

I scoff at the thought. If they think this is the day they hit a financial jackpot, they’d better think again. Working shifts at the Honey Pot Diner doesn’t afford me much of a bank account. The only thing in my savings at the moment is enough to cover my rent and Pancake’s Fancy Beast cat food. I’ve had Pancake now for over a year, and he officially qualifies as the greatest love of my life.

I glance over to the living room window where he’s currently monitoring the situation while licking his paw. Pancake is a butter yellow Himalayan with a rusty-tipped tail and dart of a line running between his eyes. He is a precious little angel now that he’s no longer using my leather ottoman as a scratching post and chewing down all the cables and cords he could get his hungry little paws on. The entire apartment has been cat-proofed, and Pancake hasn’t forgiven me yet.

An icy breeze picks up and the row of liquid ambers and maples that lines the street shed the first smattering of red and gold fall leaves. I steal a moment to take in the glory of nature on full display around the two wicked witches determined to make my life a living hell. Our little corner of Vermont has a habit of turning into a golden and ruby wonderland this time of year, so much so that the leaf peeping keeps the tourists coming in strong right up until winter.

Speaking of tourist traps, the Honey Hollow Apple Festival is coming up later this month, and I’ve been asked to supply the pies for the occasion. After my shift was over at the Honey Pot last night, I baked two dozen personal-sized caramel apple pies—cutie pies as I like to call them—and I need to deliver them straight to the orchard this afternoon because the owners requested a sample for their employees. My guess is they want to be sure my baking skills are up to snuff before they live to regret the decision come the day of the festival. But I guarantee they’ll far from regret it. In fact, the only thing they might regret is not ordering enough to keep up with demand. It took me weeks to perfect the right combination of caramel and spices, and I even threw in a handful of crushed walnuts into each tiny pie to give it a little crunch. But it’s that buttery caramel that steals the limelight from those golden delicious apples. It’s so smooth and creamy, my best friend Keelie and I spent an hour last night licking the bowls clean ourselves.

I can’t help but sigh over at the two beady-eyed siblings who relish my financial undoing. “I won’t be having my bank account turned in any direction this morning because there isn’t a judge on this planet who would side with—” I’m about to lay into the Simonson sisters with every colorful word in my lexicon when something akin to a flame flickers around Merilee’s ankle. For a brief and fleeting moment, I think it’s simply a stray leaf, but suddenly that flicker materializes into the clear outline of a long-lost, dearly departed orange tabby that I’m guessing once belonged to one of the shrews before me.

“Ha!” Mora Anne scoffs as she takes a step in close. “She can’t finish the sentence because she knows she’s guilty. Just admit it and whip out your checkbook. Save us all the trouble of driving to Ashford. We’re meeting with Darlene Grand this afternoon to secure a booth for the festival. We don’t have a lot of time to dilly-dally with you over a handful of change. Hand it over right now and we can all get on with our day.”

I take a moment to scowl at the surly sisters. Since when is three thousand eight hundred dollars a handful of change? And if it’s so darn piddly, why bother to sue me to begin with?

The ghostly cat twirls around Merilee’s left foot before pausing to look up at me, and I would bet my life that feisty feline just smiled. The pets I see are never skeletal or gruesomely decomposing but clear as vellum versions of themselves in their plush and fluffy prime. On the rare occasion, I do see a once-upon-a-person, but neither the pets nor the people breathe a single word to me. I’m guessing the lack of vocal cords has something to do with it. And, believe you me, I am more than grateful.

I’ve only confided my strange gift to one person, and she wasn’t family at that. Nell Sawyer is my best friend’s grandmother, and she might as well be mine. She’s been that kind to me. If my mother knew about my morbid third eye, she would tie me to a stake and light the flames just trying to usher the dark side out of me. And, well, considering the fact my mother has a way of spreading an errant word around town—you would think she were aspiring to be the biggest gossip Honey Hollow has ever seen—I’m not too sorry I’ve never broached the subject with her. But Nell seemed as understanding as she was intrigued, not one ounce of judgment spilled over from that woman. I’m not sure why I told Nell and not my sisters, or Keelie, Nell’s granddaughter and my BFF, but something about Nell’s sweet round face has the power to pull even the darkest secret from my soul.

“What’s the matter?” Merilee chides with a bony hand set over an equally bony hip. “Cat got your tongue?”

I glance down at the curious cute little kitty. “Yes, as a matter of fact, it does. I’m guessing luck is on my side today.”And not yours, I want to say. “I’ll see you ladies in court.” I bite down a smile as I give one last look to the tiny poltergeist licking its ghostly paws.

Who knows? Maybe Merilee will trip on the courthouse stairs—and if she does, I hope to see it.

Aw heck, maybe she’ll skin a knee.

 

About the Author
Addison Moore is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author who writes contemporary and paranormal romance. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan magazine. Previously she worked as a therapist on a locked psychiatric unit for nearly a decade. She resides on the West Coast with her husband, four wonderful children and two dogs where she eats too much chocolate and stays up way too late. When she’s not writing, she’s reading.

 

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Truth in Lies Blitz

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Truth in Lies
By Jennifer DiGiovanni 
(The Generators, #2) 
Published by: Evernight Teen
Publication date: September 7th 2018
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult

Book Synopsis

 

Cara Scotto is living a secret life. She hates holding back the truth about her supernatural powers from her family and friends, but tells herself it’s the only way to protect them. When she struggles to control her surging energy levels, she fears someone will uncover pieces of the truth in her lies.

Intent on learning how to best use her new abilities, Cara trains with her boyfriend Alex, hoping to increase her speed and strength. Though Alex and Cara vow not to let fear rule their lives, they can’t forget Ian, the supernatural scientist intent on uncovering Cara’s true potential, and wonder what his next step will be. They won’t need to wait long before he strikes again.

Soon, the answer becomes clear—someone needs to step up, eliminate Ian, and replace him. Until now, Alex has avoided the underground supernatural networks, but he realizes that agreeing to take over Ian’s position may be the only way to secure the future he and Cara dream of having.

 

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Excerpt

“Why are you so happy?” Nate asks when I jump in his car and shoot him a smile. Typically, he’s carting my semi-conscious body back and forth to Amber Lea High. Most mornings he shakes me awake after he pulls in the school parking lot.

“Alex is coming home … he’s taking me to the prom … it’s a sunny day…” I list the simple pleasures in life that would make any eighteen-year-old girl happy.

“Back it up. You’re dragging the most eligible bachelor on the East Coast to your prom?” Nate acts like this is the first time he’s hearing about it. He must not listen to the one-way chatter I keep up on our drives home from school when I’m actually awake.

Puzzled, I ask, “Who else would I take to the prom?”

“I don’t know. A friend, maybe. Not Alex.”

“Nate, have I done anything without Alex in the last four months?”

He makes a careful turn on Main Street. “No, but seriously, Cara. Aren’t you a little beyond a high school prom?”

I hold up a hand to stop him. “Don’t ruin this for me.”

But he plows ahead, undaunted. “Aren’t those boring DeMarsh charity events enough for you?”

“Are all of my friends there? Do I get to wear a prom dress?”

“Does it matter? You’re with Alex. The so-called love of your superhuman existence. Tell him to buy you a prom dress and you can wear it around town this weekend when you go on a coffee run. Or better yet, invite your friends to his house and have your own prom without people staring at him all night long.”

My chest pangs. Is Nate putting a voice to what Alex really feels? But, wouldn’t Alex tell me the truth? He’s never complained about going to the prom with me. And I went with him to Crestview’s prom a month ago, although we spent most of the weekend driving around the city, scoping out apartments for next fall, so we can live as close as possible to each other, though we’re attending different colleges. “Can’t I just be normal for one night?”

“No, you can’t. Want to know why?” Nate presses the brake pedal and turns to me. “Because you’re not normal! You never were normal although you tried to ignore that fact for the last eighteen years.”

About the Author

I’m the author of contemporary and light fantasy books for teens. Aside from writing fiction, I’m also a freelance writer and a small business owner. After graduating from college with a dual major in Business and English, I started out in the business world and eventually returned to school for my MBA. But, I always seemed to choose jobs that involved a lot of writing.

Today, I spend my days managing a small business and writing. Some days I write more than others, but I try to spend my mornings working on fiction. I also like to hike and run. Often, I’ll challenge myself to learn something new, from archery to video games to guitar, and call it future book research.

My most recent work-in-progress was named a finalist in the Serendipity Literary Agency YA Discovery Contest. It’s about a girl who was cured by a medical miracle and a boy who never received the miracle he so desperately wanted.

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The Hope of Azure Springs: Book Blitz

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THE HOPE OF
AZURE SPRINGS 
by
RACHEL FORDHAM
Genre: Inspirational Historical Romance 
Date of Publication: July 3, 2018
Publisher: Revell

Number of Pages: 336

ABOUT THE BOOK: Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won’t be able to do it alone.

For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He’s determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.
Welcome to the charming town of Azure Springs, Iowa, where people care deeply for one another and, sometimes, even fall in love.
 
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PRAISE FOR THE HOPE OF AZURE SPRINGS: “In her promising first novel, Fordham assembles an endearing cast of characters in the rugged Midwest plains for a tale about surviving and thriving. . . .Fordham depicts heartbreaking emotional and physical suffering, while beautifully illustrating the power in simple acts of kindness to foster healing, hope, and happiness.”
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EXCERPT: PROLOGUE
FROM THE HOPE OF AZURE SPRINGS

Iowa, 1881

     She dead?”
     Em heard a man’s voice from somewhere above her. A strange thumping pulsed through her with each word he spoke. Her throat burned, screaming for water, but she could not cry out.
     “There’s life in her. Not much of it though,” a second, raspier voice answered. She felt a hand press against her throat and then move over her body, gently probing. “She’s bleeding pretty bad.”
     “Gunshot?” the first voice asked.
     If only her eyes would open, and she could see them. Straining, she struggled to pull her heavy eyelids open. Finally, bits of light darted in front of her eyes, but she could not focus. The faces above her were fuzzy and indiscernible.
     Fear swept through her, suddenly waking her battered body. Afraid the men from before had returned, she opened her eyes wide, finding strength that only moments before she had lacked. With thrashing arms, she flailed at the men. Her arms flopped about but offered little defense—she was too weak from blood loss. And then they moved no longer, subdued by large, strong hands.
     “Easy, girl. We aren’t going to hurt you. We just want to help. Take you into town, that’s all. There’s a good doctor there.” The man’s deep voice sounded gentle, but still she did not trust him. Voices could be deceiving. Arms could hurt as well as help. She knew these things well.
     Soon she felt her body being raised above the ground, and moments later the hard planks of a wagon became the resting place for her injured frame. Too weak to move, she lay looking at the sky, wishing there were a way to end the agony, but knowing that for Lucy she would fight on.
     Once the wagon lurched forward, she lost track of everything again. The wheels bouncing over ruts made her pain so intense that everything closed around her and then faded to black.
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Fordham started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She’d pull a book from the shelf, but they’d insist she make one up. She hasn’t stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.

 
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