Friday, April 29, 2022

Book Spotlight: Beheld: Godiva's Story By Christopher M. Cevasco


A darkly twisted psychological thriller exploring the legend of Lady Godiva’s naked ride.

Having survived a grave illness to become one of 11th-century England’s wealthiest landowners, Godgyfu of Coventry (Lady Godiva) remains forever grateful to the town whose patron saint worked such miracles. She vows to rebuild Coventry’s abbey and better the lives of its townsfolk. But the wider kingdom is descending into political turmoil, and her husband, Earl Leofric, starts to break under the strain. Godgyfu finds her own plans unravelling the moment she meets Thomas, a Benedictine novice with perverse secret desires. Three lives become dangerously entangled in a shocking web of ambition, voyeuristic lust, and horrid obsession. Can Godgyfu escape the monk’s menacing wiles and Leofric’s betrayals to secure her future in a changing kingdom? Perhaps, but first, she faces a dark test of wills leading her perilously closer to a legendary ride...

Trigger Warnings:

Sexual situations, psychological abuse, violence, brief references to suicide.


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 Christopher M. Cevasco

Christopher M. Cevasco was born in New Jersey and spent a memorable decade in Brooklyn, New York, but he feels most at home in medieval England, Normandy, Norway, and Greenland. A lifelong passion for history and fiction led him to earn degrees in Medieval Studies and English and later to embark upon a writing career that merges these two loves.

Chris was the founding editor of the award-winning Paradox: The Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction from 2003 to 2009. His own short stories appear in such venues as Black Static, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Distant Echoes (Corazon Books, UK), and the Prime Books anthologies Shades of Blue and Gray: Ghosts of the Civil War and Zombies: Shambling Through the Ages.

A long-time member of the Historical Novel Society, Chris currently serves on the society's North American conference board as registration chair for the upcoming 2023 conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Chris lives with his wife and their two children in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: The Lake Pagoda by Ann Bennett


Indochina 1945: Arielle, who is half-French, half-Vietnamese, is working as a secretary for the French colonial government when the Japanese storm Hanoi. Although her Asian blood spares her from imprisonment, she is forced to work for the occupiers. The Viet Minh threaten to reveal dark secrets from her past if she won’t pass them information from her new masters.

Drawn ever deeper into the rebels’ dangerous world, will Arielle ever escape the torment of her past? Or will she find love amidst the turmoil of war?

A novel of love, loss, war, and survival against all odds.

Trigger Warnings:


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The Lake Pagoda – Extract from Chapter 4

They moved on beyond the prayer hall to another square where the great red-brick pagoda soared above them, its eleven roofs jutting out from the walls at regular intervals, with the still, white Buddhas looking down impassively at them from each level. Arielle leaned back and stared up to the top of the pagoda where a marble lotus soared even higher into the sky.

In front of the pagoda was an altar, where more incense burned and people had laid flowers, candles, and fruit as offerings.

‘Come, let us meditate and pay our respects to the Buddha,’ said Ba Noi, laying her lotus flower on the altar, stepping back and sitting down on the stone floor, lotus style. Arielle followed suit, laying her incense, candles and flower on the altar, then sitting down beside her grandmother. It was hard to force her unaccustomed legs into the lotus position, even though she was several generations younger than Ba Noi who managed it with ease.

Arielle closed her eyes and tried to settle her mind, allowing the chanting of the monks in the monastery, the discordant clang of the temple bells and the gentle voices of other worshippers to calm her down. They sat for ten or fifteen minutes and during that time, try as she might, Arielle couldn’t empty her mind of thoughts. It kept returning to Etienne again and again. What was he doing now? Where was he? Had she been wrong about him and wrong to trust his assurances about his business? What did the future hold for the two of them? At last she heard Ba Noi getting to her feet, so she gave up the struggle to meditate, but she vowed to return to the temple. It felt good being here, connecting with her mother’s faith, letting the calm of this spiritual place permeate her soul.

‘Come, I need to go home now,’ said Ba Noi. ‘I am tired and I need my bed.’

‘Me too,’ said Arielle, a feeling of trepidation creeping through her at the thought of the huge, empty house she must go back to, alone but for the reticent servants.

They returned along the walkways to the yellow gateway where they put on their shoes and bowed their heads to the monk as they went through the gates. As they did so, a man stepped out from the shadows beyond the gate. He was dressed all in black and he came forward bowing his head respectfully to Ba Noi.

‘Good evening, phu nhan – madame,’ he said. Ba Noi stopped, a smile spreading across her face.

‘Good evening, Xan. Nice to see you here on this beautiful evening. I hope you are well. This is my granddaughter, Arielle. Madame Garnier, in fact.’

The man turned his attention to Arielle, and she felt his serious, dark eyes sweep down her body, scrutinising her from head to toe, like the beam from a searchlight. He held out his hand and she took it, feeling the warmth and strength of his as she shook it.

‘Good to make your acquaintance, Madame Garnier. I read about your wedding in the newspaper the other day. Your husband is … an important man,’ he trailed off but still he held her gaze. She looked away, the honesty in his look felt intrusive somehow.

‘He is just a businessman,’ she said, wondering how and why this man knew about Etienne or was interested in their marriage.

‘Of course. Well, phu nhan, Madame Garnier, very nice to see you. I must go and do my devotions now. But perhaps I will see you here again one evening soon?’

‘You will, of course,’ said Ba Noi, putting her hand on Arielle’s back to usher her to the gate. As they walked away, Arielle felt those black eyes boring into her back.

‘Who’s that?’ she asked. ‘He’s a bit intense, isn’t he?

‘Oh, I often see him here,’ said Ba Noi. ‘He is a very nice man. But he has every reason to be serious. He is a communist. Fighting the corner of exploited workers all over Indochina. He is very passionate and serious about his cause.’ 

Ann Bennett

Ann Bennett was born in Pury End, a small village in Northamptonshire, UK and now lives in Surrey. Her first book, A Daughter's Quest, originally published as Bamboo Heart, was inspired by her father’s experience as a prisoner of war on the Thai-Burma Railway. The Planter's Wife (originally Bamboo Island) a Daughter's Promise and The Homecoming, (formerly Bamboo Road), The Tea Panter's Club and The Amulet are also about the war in South East Asia, all six making up the Echoes of Empire Collection.


Ann is also author of The Runaway Sisters,The Orphan House, and The Child Without a Home, published by Bookouture.


The Lake Pavilion and The Lake Palace are both set in British India in the 1930s and 40s. Her latest book, The Lake Pagoda, set in French Indochina in the 30s and 40s, will be published in April 2022.


Ann is married with three grown-up sons and a granddaughter and works as a lawyer. For more details, please visit

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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Where the Gulls Fall Silent by Lelita Baldock


A small fishing village, a shunned healer, her daughter, tradition, superstition, and a world set to change.

Kerensa lives with her mother, the healer Meliora, on the edge of a small fishing community on the Cornish Coast.

The townsfolk, who work the fish runs of pilchard and mackerel that make their way up the Atlantic coast, call on her mother for help with their ailments, but never for her company.

Kerensa does not know why.

Curses and superstitions whisper around her as she grows into a competent young woman, fighting for her place amongst the people of Porth Gwynn.

But what has caused the rift between her and the town?

And can their traditional way of life survive in the face of changing winds?

Where the Gulls Fall Silent is an historical fiction that explores the lives of the fishermen and women who made their living from the rough Atlantic Ocean; the hardship they faced; the secrets that divided them; and the community spirit that pulled them through.

A story of love, loss, hope, and second chances.

Trigger Warnings:

Adult themes, mentioned sexual assault


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Mackerel Pasties

Porth Gwynn, Cornish Coast 1852

The high noon sun beat down on the port, a gentle breeze swirled about the rippling currents of the bay, and the children ran.

The white sand of low tide puffed beneath their feet, their squeals of laughter pealing out across the water. Two mothers, skirts hitched to their thighs, arms wet with the sea they’d walked out to meet, looked up from their nets, sun-browned hands shielding their eyes to watch the children pass, then, heads shaking, bent back to their task. The men did not look up from the slimy silver flash of pilchard bodies that squirmed within their catch.

Back on the shore, the children closed in. The leader, Rewan Lobb, a boy of about ten summers, dark of hair and eye, whirled a kerchief above his head in defiance and grinned, before leaning to his task and putting on speed. He loved to tease the little ones. Near the back of the pack Kerensa Williams, small and fair, loped, her uneven gait hindering her pace, but not her determination. Gerens, a smaller, lighter version of the boy with the kerchief, kept pace beside her, uninterested in defeating his older brother and claiming the kerchief, just happy to be part of the group. Suddenly, Derwa lunged, hand brushing along Rewan’s untucked shirt, almost catching him. Rewan spun, running backward for a few steps, taunting. Then, without warning, he spun round, feinted left then darted right up the naturally rocky outcrop that lined the bay. Long legs cleared the rocks quickly, landing on the pebbled streets of Porth Gwynn. On the top he paused, jogging on the spot, watching his pursuers as their shorter legs navigated the rocky climb. Derwa cleared the gap first, Rewan let out a laugh of delight and shot ahead towards the cluster of stone cottages that hugged the bay’s edge. Just coming to the rocks Kerensa looked up, a heavy frown on her face. She watched Rewan gliding fast along the foreshore, his eyes checking over his shoulder periodically, focused only on those upon his heels. The rocks would slow her, the pebbles too. Sand was more forgiving to her uneven gait.

Kerensa decided.

She shot left, running as fast as her mismatched legs allowed, skirting the line of the rock barrier. Confused, Gerens paused, one foot already placed to climb. He watched. The shoreline before him curved in. He saw Rewan moving along the curve, saw Kerensa matching his direction, but from the inside of the curve. He understood. Slowly Kerensa came up closer to Rewan, then in line, then, amazingly started to slowly pull in front. Rewan did not look down to the beach, his eyes saw only Derwa, closely followed by Cardor and Treeve. Letting loose a whoop of delight, Gerens set off along the beach, following Kerensa’s path.

Kerensa’s breathing was ragged and her right foot ached abominably, but she would not stop. Ahead of Rewan now, the end of the bay was approaching, changing suddenly from flat sand to rocky cliff face. Rewan would veer inland, circling through the cottages and huts, back towards the centre of town. She had to intercept him before then. It was time to make her move. Taking a deep breath and bracing herself for the pain, Kerensa bolted right, leaping onto the rocks, hands and feet splayed to scramble up the incline. A sharp edge caught her hand, slicing the tender skin of her outer palm. She didn’t notice, didn’t stop, eyes fixed on the top of the climb, on the street, on her goal.

Scrabbling she cleared the rocks, pulling herself up to standing. Rewan’s head was turned, watching the other children, his loping stride bearing down on her fast. Kerensa braced herself, feet planted firmly, hands out ready to snatch the kerchief.

She didn’t see Kenver, running down from the fish sheds, but Gerens did. Eyes wide he tried to call out a warning, but it was too late.

It all happened at once. Rewan looked forward and saw Kerensa standing in his path, shock loosened his mouth as he tried to slow his forward pace. Seeing his body twitch, anticipating his next move, Kerensa lunged to the side, arms reaching, just as Kenver hit the pebbled streets, the momentum of his downward run affording him no opportunity to change direction and then – bam!

All three children came together at once in a ball of limbs, bones, scrapes, and cries of shock.

The pebbled street came up to meet Kerensa’s cheekbone. She rolled with the impact, the wind knocked from her lungs, coming to a stop on her side, the weight of someone else’s legs sprawled across her waist. The legs moved and Kerensa sat up. Kenver, whose legs had landed on her, stood up, shaking with rage.

“What the hell Rewan?” he shouted. “Look where you’re bloody going!”

 Sat in the dirt of the street Kerensa brushed down the front of her cotton dress, checking for tears, her nimble fingers finding one just above her knee. She inspected it quickly, it would need a patch. Something to do before mother comes home…

Kenver looked over at her, “You all right there Kez?” he asked, offering her his hand to stand. Kerensa ignored him, pulling herself to her feet, wobbling slightly. He looked away, back to Rewan, laying on his side, face away from them. He hadn’t moved.

The rest of the children arrived, circling around the trio, Gerens coming up the rocks behind Kerensa. Silently he stood by her side, eyes quickly scanning to check she was all right. A small graze on her cheek was slowly welling with blood. He knew better than to say anything, though.

Still Rewan hadn’t moved.

Rewan?” Kenver called again, voice wary now, his initial fury replaced with a twinge of fear. Slowly the children stepped forward, inching towards their leader. Rewan, the oldest of their group by at least two summers, son of the town’s most successful fisherman, who would inherit the fine boat known as the Silver Sea, whose last summer of childhood was now waning… what if?

Kenver reached down, gripping Rewan’s shoulder, “Rewan, say something,” he pleaded, then rolled his friend’s body onto his back.

Rewan’s face was split wide in a huge grin of amusement, his body shaking with mirth. He was laughing, laughing uncontrollably. And he laughed, and laughed, and laughed and laughed.

Lelita Baldock

Lelita Baldock is an author of historical fiction and crime fiction.

She has a passion for dark stories, with an unexpected twist.

It was during her years studying English Literature at University that Lelita discovered her love of all things reading and writing. But it would be another 15 years before she would take up the challenge and write her own novel.

Her debut novel, the historical fiction Widow's Lace, is an Amazon best-seller.

Her follow up, The Unsound Sister, saw her take a different direction in her writing, trying her hand at crime fiction, and has been warmly received globally.

Her third novel, Where the Gulls Fall Silent, a traditional historical fiction set in mid-1800s Cornwall, is out now.

Lelita also runs a blog and newsletter featuring fellow authors and other creatives.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: The Douglas Bastard (A sequel to The Black Douglas Trilogy) by J R Tomlin


The Black Douglas is dead. With Scotland's greatest knight no more, the throne is up for grabs as enemies try to devour the kingdom.

An orphaned youth returning from exile, Archibald, the Black Douglas's bastard son, fights for a land being torn apart from within and without. If Archibald is to survive, he must learn to sleep with a claymore in his hand and one eye open because even his closest friend might betray him...

This is an adventure set in the bloody Second Scottish War of Independence when Scotland's very survival is in question.

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At first light the next morning, we rode out. The wind rattled in the green-clothed branches and tossed flowering heather and gorse bushes, but even early, the day was warm. The French force was joined in the long column by a hundred of Sir William's men who had awaited his return. I rode just behind him and Sir Arnaud, who led the way. I threw off my cloak and bent my head back to bathe in the sunshine. The horse between my legs might only be my palfrey, Broiefort, but I rode with knights, and we were going to war.

Soon we followed the edge of the River Edam, where reeds along its edge bowed beneath the breeze. The sun had just gained its noonday height when we sighted Cupar Castle. The English-held fortress stood atop a small hill, its honey-colored walls drenched in the yellow sunlight.

The fields around the castle town had been plowed, but no one worked them as we rode by. A burned orchard of apple trees stood like blackened tombstones, a reminder of a past battle or siege. Wisps of smoke drifted from the smoke holes in some of the thatched roofs, but nothing moved in the street. Not even a dog barked or a hen scratched as we passed. The bell in the church belfry was silent.

"Leave it be," Sir William commanded the men. "We are after bigger game.”

"It is not an impressive castle," Sir Arnoul said. "Surely, it has no more than fifty men.”

"Not impressive but strong enough. A burn flows nearby to keep the moat deep, and the walls are thick. It has a well, so plenty of water for a siege." Sir William bared his teeth in a wolfish smile. "But I expect them to surrender.”

Guards in armor moved behind the merlons on the ramparts. Above them, at the top of the keep streamed a long white standard with England's cross of Saint George.

John de Bracy, a French squire, and William Fraser led the way, splashing through the shallow flow of a narrow stream carrying the banners. The rest of the column followed close behind us.

"Where should we camp?" Fraser asked.

"There." Sir William pointed. "Blocking the road to the castle gate. Have someone help Archie set up my tent at the top. Fraser, you plant my banner." He motioned to the side. "Baggage there and horse lines behind. Let us wait to unload our baggage to see how long this will take.”

Gorse dotted the brae where we sat ahorse, and a hawk slanted away from us, gliding toward the charred remains of the orchard.

"We should post pickets," the French commander said.

"Aye. I dinnae expect an attack, but then we didnae expect one at Dupplin Moor, so we will set them out. Have them set up a barrier on the road with guards behind it. Then let us give the commander some time to consider the fact that no help will be coming.”

"You know the man?"

Sir William swung from the saddle. "I ken him—William Bullock is his name. He is a cleric who likes fighting more than praying. He's nae fool, I promise you.”

Joaquim of Kinbuck slapped me on the shoulder and showed me how to set up the central pole and tie off the guy ropes for the round tent. It did not take long. The banners were planted and flapped listlessly in the slight breeze. Just a few clouds scudded over the summer sky.

As soon as the tent was set up, Sir William called me to help him out of his armor. As I unbuckled his greaves, Fraser stuck his head through the open door and said that there was a rider coming carrying a flag of truce. Apparently, Bullock wanted to talk. "And that means he will surrender.”

"It does?" I asked.

My lord unsheathed his sword and held it up to examine its edge. “Aye."

The next day we met Bullock halfway between the camp and the castle. Sir William and Sir Arnoul brought Fraser to witness the negotiation. Over thirty, wide-faced and burly, William Bullock rode ahead of two of his own men. When we all dismounted, I gathered the reins and tied their mounts to the limbs of a dead tree, then went back to listen.

"Sir William Douglas, I ken, but you, sir, I do not.”

The Frenchman raised his chin slightly, looking down his nose. Sir Arnoul dAndeneham.

Bullock sniffed. "Am I supposed to be impressed that the French have come to your aid, Douglas?”

"It might do well to be," Sir Arnoul said in a hard voice.

"I am not the one who needs aid, Bullock. John de Strivelyn broke the siege on Cupar last year, but he is now with King Edward in the Low Country. So, where will your aid come from? Not from Perth. It is besieged. How well are you provisioned for a long siege?”

"Well enough to wait until the English arrive." He thrust his chin toward the empty fields. "How well-provisioned are you, Douglas? How long can you wait for food from those fields?”

"It was not only men that I brought back with me from France. I have gold enough to buy what we need here or from France if need be." Sir Williams smile was grim, and he gave his scrip a pat that made it clink with coin. "And how long has it been since you and your men were paid?"

"You think I can be bought?”

 "I think that you would rather fight for the son of Robert the Bruce than the son of the coward John Toom Tabard. But mayhap you need persuasion to realize it.”

Bullock shrugged. "Balliol is a weakling like his father was before him, mayhap even worse. But is the son of the Bruce any better, a child hiding in France? Why should I fight for him?”

"King David will be back in Scotland soon enough. I saw him . . . talked to him only a week ago. I tell you, he will be a real king, not an old man with a limp cock. He has grown into a man and a fighter. He is good with a sword and has already ridden to battle with King Philip."

I smiled to myself at the description of David.

Sir William continued, "Forbye, I can use that French gold to pay the wages of men who want to help us take Perth. I also control an estate in Lothian that might be a reward for someone who realizes he wants to fight for our true king.”

Bullock had a thoughtful look on his face. "So you really believe young David will return soon.”

"He will," Sir Arnoul said. "My King has agreed to give him ships to return with armor and weapons and more aid later if he needs it. Give him another year, two at the most, and he will be back in Scotland.”

Bullock rubbed his hand over his chin. He turned to look behind him at Cupar Castle and back again at Sir William. Finally, he said, "I want a full years pay as castellan of Cupar and six months' pay for the men who agree to follow me. Moreover, I have an idea for taking Perth that will make me worth it.”

They haggled a bit over the price, but within an hour, a deal was struck. We mounted and rode back. I wondered if it would always be so easy.

Back in Sir Williams tent, they talked, and he said it was not just the Scottish and French forces in front of the castle and some promises that persuaded him. Other Scots fought across Scotland, pushing out the English, ravaging the land north of the Forth, so there was no food for English armies nor for their strongholds. They had fallen one by one. Now Sir William, Sir Arnoul, and Bullock debated how many men to leave holding the castle, what provisions it still held, and when to leave for the last English stronghold north of the Forth—the walled and moated city of Perth.


J. R. Tomlin

J. R. Tomlin is the author of nineteen historical novels.

She has close ties with Scotland since her father was a native Scot, and she spent substantial time in Edinburgh while growing up. Her historical novels are set, for the most part, in Scotland. Her love of that nation is traced from the stories of Robert the Bruce and the Good Sir James her grandmother read to her when she was small, to hillwalking through the Cairngorms where the granite hills have a gorgeous red glow under the setting sun. Later, her writing was influenced by Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo, Nigel Tranter, and Sir Walter Scott.

When JR isn't writing, she enjoys hiking, playing with her Westie, and killing monsters in computer games. In addition to spending time in Scotland, she has traveled in the US, Europe, and the Pacific Rim. She now lives in Oregon.

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Saturday, April 23, 2022

Audiobook Spotlight: Scribbler Tales Presents: Escape from Berlin by Mary Ann Bernal, narrated by Jack Nolan


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Escape from Berlin

Mark Dresdner’s cover is blown, forcing him to flee East Germany, yet he refuses to leave the woman he loves. Finding the border crossing blocked and the enemy closing in, will he evade capture or be forced to make the ultimate sacrifice?



Aelia gives herself completely to the man she loves, revealing a life-threatening secret, trusting her husband unconditionally, but is he deserving of her trust?

Deadly Secrets

Lysandra seeks a new life in America, hoping to forget her past, but an accidental meeting with a man who knows her true identity endangers her happiness.

Murder in the First

As judge, jury, and executioner, Bethel decides the fate of the man responsible for her plight, but things go terribly wrong, and the predator becomes the prey.

The Ritual

Devona’s initiation into a modern-day pagan sect on All Hallows’ Eve sends the terrified young woman fleeing for her life amidst a raging storm. Escaping the sacrificial altar, will she survive the tempest?

Listen to an excerpt HERE


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Thursday, April 21, 2022

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: The Professor’s Lady (The Thompsons of Locust Street, Book 3) by Holly Bush


Meet the Thompsons of Locust Street, an unconventional family taking Philadelphia high society by storm…

1870 Kirsty Thompson is determined to begin her own business bringing beloved Scottish fabrics and yarns to Philadelphia but first, she must meet the men and women who weave the plaids and spin the wool. How will she ever escape her protective older siblings and sail to Scotland?

Albert Watson is a medical doctor focusing on research, especially that of Joseph Lister and his sterilization techniques. He speaks at universities in America and in England while visiting his London relatives. As he prepares to sail for just such an engagement, Kirsty Thompson boards his ship to beg him to take her with him. What’s a gentleman to do? Albert cancels his trip across the ocean to escort Miss Thompson back to Philadelphia and finds there is danger afoot for her and her family.

Soon he comes to realize there is also danger for his heart, even for a man who rarely pulls his nose from a medical journal. He finds himself unable to put Miss Kirsty Thompson out of his thoughts, where they belonged, because certainly a beautiful, ambitious, and charming young woman could have no interest in him. Or could she?

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  ¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´


 “Would you l-like to take a turn about the deck, Miss Thompson?” Albert asked when their dishes had been cleared away. “The afternoon is warm, but there’s always a breeze on the w-water.”

They’d not said another word to each other as they drank their tea and coffee and nibbled on the food on the platter. Not after she’d asked him why he was stuttering. He could not tell her that her presence made him nervous and in turn made him trip over his words. When he’d taken her into dinner at the Pendergasts’ those months ago and had been seated beside her, he’d said little, only opening his mouth to eat his food. Miss Thompson had carried the conversation without him, and he had been entranced.

“That would be very pleasant, Mr. Watson.”

He followed her to the door and offered his arm when they were outside. She wrapped her hand around his elbow as they walked side by side, occasionally having to separate to walk single file when others passed on the narrow walkway. It was at one of those single-file moments that Miss Thompson nearly went overboard.

“Oof,” she cried when a man in rough clothes bumped her toward the railing, but the barrier she was beside wasn’t the same as most of the railing on the rest of the ship. She was pushed against a two-foot-wide gap strung with two loose lengths of chain and hooks, hung low, used when the boats docked to onboard supplies, he guessed.

Albert grabbed her by the waist, thankful that the ship was not rolling on waves and that his arms could reach her in time. He had an unpleasant vision of diving into the churning water to rescue her.

“Oh my dear Lord!” she cried as he pulled her back against his front and steadied himself with his hand wrapped around a pipe overhead. He felt her shuddering breath as she leaned against him, letting him take all of her weight. He glanced over his shoulder, looking for the man in the rough clothes and saw him round the corner with a look and a nod.

But it wasn’t him the man had nodded at, he realized quickly. It was a well-dressed man walking past them just now.

“Miss! Be careful of your steps!” the man said with a solicitous air. “Allow me to escort you somewhere to sit down.”

Watson pulled her back tight against him, his arm holding her flush to him as she took a breath to speak. “I’m the young lady’s escort,” he said.

Other passengers had gathered in the crowded area, many asking what had happened and pointing to the two loose chains. She was shaking against him as one woman recounted the event; she’d been walking behind them and had seen it all.

“Come,” the well-dressed man said with a smile, his hand outstretched. “I’m sure you both would like to get somewhere less crowded. Follow me.”

Watson turned, pulling her against his side, and headed the other direction, watchful as he made his way that he avoided the man in the rough clothes.

“Mr. Watson! Please slow down! I cannot keep up!”

“I need to get you to my stateroom,” he said and looked down the narrow stairwell that led to his rooms.

“What? Oh no! I cannot go into your rooms. I cannot. Release me!” She turned to leave him and saw a face she recognized, a woman who was an acquaintance of her sister-in-law, and often on the society page of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Edith Fairchild was her name.

He took her by the shoulders and turned her to face him, taking little note of the other passengers around them. “Miss Thompson, settle yourself. The man who bumped you? That was not random. He pushed you. You.”

The blood drained from her face. “What are you saying?” she asked, quickly forgetting the woman now observing them.

“Come with me. Hurry now. Hold up your skirts. I don’t want to trip on them as we descend.”

She hurried down the steps, holding her dress up and away from the stairs. He stayed close to her as they went down the hallway and quickly opened the door to his room. He followed her inside, snicked both locks closed, and took a deep breath.

“What do you mean, he pushed me? It was just an accident, was it not?” Her words trailed to a whisper.

“I don’t believe so,” he said as he looked around the room, mostly consisting of a bed, a door to a small washroom, and another to Clawson’s room.

Miss Thompson dropped down on to his bed, holding her small purse at her waist. “What do you believe?”

Holly Bush

Holly Bush writes historical romance set in the the late 1800’s, in Victorian England, and an occasional Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Connect with Holly at and on Twitter @hollybushbooks and on Facebook at Holly Bush.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Sea of Shadows (Sea and Stone Chronicles, Book 2) by Amy Maroney


1459. A gifted woman artist. A ruthless Scottish privateer. And an audacious plan that throws them together—with dangerous consequences.

No one on the Greek island of Rhodes suspects Anica is responsible for her Venetian father’s exquisite portraits, least of all her wealthy fiancé. But her father’s vision is failing, and with every passing day it’s more difficult to conceal the truth.

When their secret is discovered by a powerful knight of the Order of St. John, Anica must act quickly to salvage her father’s honor and her own future. Desperate, she enlists the help of a fierce Scottish privateer named Drummond. Together, they craft a daring plan to restore her father’s sight.

There’s only one problem—she never imagined falling in love with her accomplice.

Before their plan can unfold, a shocking scandal involving the knights puts Anica’s entire family at risk. Her only hope is to turn to Drummond once again, defying her parents, her betrothed, even the Grand Master of the Knights himself. But can she survive the consequences?

With this captivating tale of passion, courage, and loyalty, Amy Maroney brings a lost, dazzling world to vivid life.

Sea of Shadows is Book 2 in a series of stand-alone historical novels packed with adventure and romance.

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Summer, 1459

Rhodes Town

They passed through the Sea Gate with the jostling crowd and descended toward the harbor. Azure waters shimmered within the embrace of the honey-colored stone seawalls. The canvas sails of windmills along the eastern wall turned in the wind.

The heavy iron chain that separated the harbor from the sea had been released. Sleek galleys, ponderous merchant ships, and battered fishing vessels entered the harbor one by one. Sailors fanned out over the decks and riggings, their commanders shouting orders. A fisherman’s wife screamed a curse at the gulls circling her husband’s small craft. 

Anica eyed the place where Colossus had once straddled the entrance to the harbor. She wondered for the hundredth time how the great bronze statue had been constructed and assembled—or if it had even existed. Perhaps it was just a figment of some ancient storyteller’s imagination.

Once on the quays, they drew near an enormous merchant ship. A short distance away stood a group of knights in black tunics emblazoned with the white eight-pointed cross of the Order. Seabirds soared overhead, their plaintive cries mingling with the voices of the sailors, fishermen, merchants, and others who milled about.

Papa bent down to murmur in Anica’s ear. “How many today?”

She looked at him with delight. “You wish to play?”

He nodded, smiling. It was a game they played, honed to perfection over the years. They each got one point for Catalan or French, two for Arabic or Hebrew, three for Armenian, Russian, or any Balkan language, four for English or German, and five for any language completely unintelligible to either of them. They had not played the game since her brother’s death.

“One point for French,” Papa said, cupping a hand to his ear, pointing in the direction of the knights. “And another for Catalan.”

Before Anica could respond, the knights began moving in their direction.

Heleni pushed her headpiece back so her luxuriant black hair gleamed in the sun and her face was naked to the world. At this, Mamá came to life. She took hold of the trailing edges of her daughter’s headpiece and tugged it forward.

“Mamá, it’s so hot!” Heleni protested, batting away her mother’s hands.

“Cover your hair, or we leave at once,” Papa warned her, his expression darkening.

Heleni pouted, crossing her arms over her chest as Mamá arranged the folds of cloth around her face.

The knights paused in front of them, watching Heleni’s antics with amusement. Anica’s face burned with shame. Why did her sister have to draw attention to their family in this way? She moved forward, partially blocking their view of Heleni, and raised her chin.

“I notice many families standing along the quay,” one of the knights said in French, his tone silky and polite. “What brings the townsfolk to the harbor?”

Anica stared at him in astonishment, her protective instincts derailed. He had a finely wrought face, with heavy brows over startling blue eyes, and a clean-shaven jaw. And he looked very young—like her, he had likely not yet seen twenty winters.

She felt her sister take a breath to speak and squeezed Heleni’s hand in warning.

“The whole town turns out when a merchant fleet arrives,” Papa responded, also in French. “There is much to see and hear. And goods on display.”

“What kinds of goods are you in search of today?” the knight asked, his eyes sliding from Papa to Anica and back again.

“When the vessels unload their cargo, we’ll see what’s on offer and make our choices, sir,” Papa said coolly.

“My father is an artist, seigneur,” Anica interjected, giving Papa a pointed look. These knights were all nobles. A mere “sir” would not do. “Sometimes merchants bring materials he needs for his work.”

“An artist, you say,” the knight mused. “I shall need ornament in my quarters. Perhaps I shall visit your atelier and see your work, then. I’ve heard there are few here who speak French the way it ought to be spoken, but you and your daughter prove otherwise.”

Papa looked taken aback. “I bring examples of my work to patrons, seigneur. It’s easier that way.”

A flicker of disappointment arose in the man’s eyes. “I am Émile de Chambonac,” he said. “From the langue of Auvergne. I shall lodge at the Inn of the French until my home is ready—ask for me there.”

The knights were divided up into languesor tongues—depending on their kingdom of origin, each one responsible for different duties within the Order. Anica could never keep straight what each tongue actually did, nor did she care to. The less time spent thinking about the knights, the better. Their presence was a continual reminder of war, of preparations for the siege that everyone believed would come one day soon from the shores of Turkey.

“I will look forward to it,” Papa said.

“Good day to you all,” the knight replied, his gaze lingering on Heleni. His lips quirked as if he were holding back a smile. “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

Anica glanced sideways at her sister. Heleni’s mouth was slightly open. She was studying the knight under half-lowered lids, an expression of abject admiration on her face.

Papa gave the knight a curt nod. “Thank you, seigneur. Good day.”

With obvious reluctance, the knight bowed and moved away.

Amy Maroney

Amy Maroney studied English Literature at Boston University and worked for many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction. She lives in Oregon, U.S.A. with her family. When she’s not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, dancing, traveling, and reading. Amy is the author of The Miramonde Series, an award-winning historical fiction trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail. Her new historical suspense/romance series, Sea and Stone Chronicles, is set in medieval Rhodes and Cyprus.

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