05 December 2022

The Splattering of Silence by M.M. Gargiulo Book Blitz! #TheSplatteringofSilence #MMGargiulo #XpressoTours @XpressoTours


The Splattering of Silence
M.M. Gargiulo

Publication date: February 3rd 2023
Genres: Adult, Fantasy

Life left Phillip so abruptly, he entered the afterlife with very little sense of self. He managed to find his way to Valhalla, the resting place of warriors, and begins to piece back the story of his life. Shockingly, he manages to find the love of his life, but another stands firmly in his way.

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Driven by Kerena Swan Blog Tour!



Every mother’s worst nightmare
It was only for a couple of minutes, while dropping Noah off at nursery. Little did Melanie realise that leaving her sleeping son in the car would end up being the biggest regret of her life.

A teenage challenge turns sour
For teenager Woody, stealing cars with his new friend helps alleviate the tedium of a life of poverty and boredom. This isn’t what he wants to do with his life but for now, he feels accepted. Except on this occasion, his actions have consequences that could change his life forever. Is it too late to turn his life around?

How far would you go to save those you love?
While DI Paton is on the case of the missing child, he is quickly drawn into a web of deception that hits dangerously close to home. He soon finds himself torn in two, not knowing which way to turn: save his career or his family? Will he be able to crack the case before he himself cracks?

UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Driven-Paton-Investigates-Book-2-ebook/dp/B0BMGS953P

US - https://www.amazon.com/Driven-Paton-Investigates-Book-2-ebook/dp/B0BMGS953P

Read about Driven 


Melanie fiddled with her earring, waiting for a break in Jemma’s monologue to shoehorn a word in. She opened her mouth to speak but one sentence segued into another, with Jemma barely drawing breath. Yes, Melanie was interested in the nursery Christmas party arrangements but now was not the time.

            ‘So, I thought we could do a little nativity scene and—’

‘Look, I have to go,’ Melanie finally interrupted.  ‘Louie might have woken up. He’s outside. He had a bad night so it was a shame to wake him and bring him in.’

‘Outside?’ Jemma looked startled. ‘You should have said.’

Melanie pressed her lips together then hurried towards the door. ‘I’ll catch up with you later,’ she called over her shoulder.

She looked quickly at her older son Noah who was happily playing with the Lego. Thankfully, he hadn’t noticed her heading towards the exit. She left the village hall through the kitchen and out towards the car park at the rear then stopped abruptly on the doorstep, unable to comprehend what she was seeing. Or rather, not seeing. Her new blue Fiesta wasn’t where she’d left it. Admittedly she’d parked it in an inconvenient place, a couple of metres from the kitchen door, but she’d only planned to be away for a minute or two. Maybe someone had moved it. She’d left the keys in it after all.

Melanie scurried around the small car park, looking behind a huge 4x4, her fear building like a migraine. Her car wasn’t there. Ice crystallised in her veins and the backs of her hands prickled as realisation broke through the denial playing in her head. No, no. Surely not. This was a safe neighbourhood. There weren’t robberies in Burrelton. Everyone knew each other here. She turned back to the village hall and stumbled into the kitchen where one of the mums was pouring orange squash into small plastic beakers.

‘My car…’ She couldn’t get her words out properly. ‘Louie.’

It was as though she were retreating into a dark tunnel. The room became a pinprick of light and she felt miles away. The woman turned to stare at her.

‘Are you okay, Mel? You’ve gone a funny colour.’

Melanie grabbed a chair and sat down. ‘Please, ask everyone if they’ve moved my car. Oh, God! What if it’s been stolen with Louie inside?’

‘Louie? Good grief! I’m sure there’s a simple explanation. Wait there while I ask the others. Put your head between your knees. You look like you might faint.’

Melanie hung her head down low, willing strength back into her limbs so she could find her boy. Within a minute several women had crowded into the kitchen and two ran through to the car park. Melanie looked from one face to another, hoping for a smile and an explanation but all she saw was fear. Raw, naked fear.

‘Call the police,’ she whispered as the blood left her brain and she slipped off her chair.

We are thrilled to be introducing DI Dave Paton and his son Tommy, the stars of the first novel in Kerena Swan’s new series, to the world. Before coming to Hobeck, Kerena had published three novels, Dying To See YouScared to Breathe and Who’s There? and has built a solid fan base around her writing career thus far. She is a juggler extraordinaire: driving forward a successful care business she runs with her husband yet finding time to write. She loves to write, here and there and everywhere when she’s not working. We don’t know how she does it but we are glad that she does! Kerena talks about her writing, her influences and how she came to Hobeck in this video.

Website: https://kerenaswan.wordpress.com/   

Twitter: @kerenaswan

Facebook : @kerenaswan  · Author

Giveaway – Win a paperback copy of Blood Loss by Kerena Swan (Open to UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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The Venice Secret by Anita Chapman Cover Reveal!


The Venice Secret

One hidden painting. Two women born centuries apart. A secret uncovered.

In 2019, Rachel is stuck in a rut when she discovers what appears to be a Canaletto painting in her grandmother's loft along with a note addressed to Philippa in 1782. With help from Jake at the local art gallery, Rachel endeavours to find out if the painting is an original and uncovers a secret from the past.

In 1780, governess at Chipford Hall, Philippa is offered the role of mistress by Earl Rupert. She escapes to Venice as companion to bluestocking, Lady Cordelia who reveals a secret that changes both their lives. They do their best to keep the secret from Lady Cordelia's social circle, but their nemesis is determined to reveal all and ruin them.

Pre-order Link: https://amzn.to/3ES3oGy 

Publication Date: 7th March 2023

Anita Chapman enjoyed writing stories from a young age and won a local writing competition when she was nine years old. Encouraged by this, she typed up a series of stories about a mouse on her mum’s typewriter and sent them to Ladybird. She received a polite rejection letter, her first.

Many of Anita’s summers growing up were spent with her family driving to Italy, and she went on to study French and Italian at university. As part of her degree, Anita lived in Siena for several months where she studied and au paired, and she spent a lot of time travelling around Italy in her twenties. 

Anita likes to read journals and diaries from the past, and one of her favourite pastimes is visiting art galleries and country houses. Her first published novel, The Venice Secret is inspired by her mother taking her to see the Canalettos at The National Gallery in London as a child. 

Since 2015, Anita has worked as a social media manager, training authors on social media, and helping to promote their books. She’s run several courses in London and York and has worked as a tutor at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College.

Social Media Links – 

Website https://neetsmarketing.com/ 

Twitter: @neetschapman https://twitter.com/neetschapman 

Facebook Page: Anita Chapman Author https://www.facebook.com/neetschapman 

Instagram: @neetschapman https://www.instagram.com/neetschapman 

Tik Tok: @neetschapman https://www.tiktok.com/@neetschapman 

04 December 2022

Better Than Beginnngs by Lane Hayes Audio Release Blitz! @lanehayesauthor @indigomarketingdesign #mmromance


Title:  Better Than Beginnings

Series: Better Than Stories, 5

Author: Lane Hayes

Narrator: Nick J. Russo

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: January 30, 2020

Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 10 Hours 46 Minutes

Genre: Romance, Bisexual, Established Couple, MM Romance, Gay romance

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Matt Sullivan knows he met someone special the night he spots the sexy man on the dance floor. However, he doesn’t know his life is about to change forever. First of all, Matt is straight. Okay, maybe not, but he doesn’t think falling in love and spending the rest of his life with a hotheaded, unapologetically fabulous diva is an option.

Aaron Mendez is confident, smart, and very comfortable in his skin. He knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to go for it. And though he might have reservations about falling for someone newly out of the closet, no one has ever looked at Aaron the way Matt does.

Navigating a relationship has its challenges, but both Matt and Aaron are willing to deal with difficult parents, holiday blues, and learning curves. They know their happy ever after is worth fighting for and that true love is better than good.

*No/low angst, sexy fun! This collection of short stories follows the lives of Matt and Aaron from my first novel, Better Than Good. The end of one chapter is the beginning of a whole new story from ordinary everyday life to an engagement, a wedding, and more. This collection is dedicated to Matt and Aaron fans and those who believe that the real love story happens after the first “I love you”.

Better Than Beginnings Excerpt- From Better Than Wedding

“What’s Saturday?”

“A no-work day. And we’re meeting with our wedding planner. I was worried his ideas would be too pricey, but Vic will be thrilled when I tell him you agreed to spare no expense on the reception.”

“That doesn’t sound like something I’d say,” I huffed, blowing on a spoonful of chili, then taking a bite. “Mmm. This is delicioso.”

Gracias. Well, someone who looks and sounds a lot like you just agreed to a unicorn ice sculpture at our reception,” he deadpanned.

I snorted. “Yeah, right. You can’t use anything I say in the last few seconds of a playoff game against me.”

“Does that mean no to two champagne fountains too?” He snickered at my stone-faced expression as he reached for his wine. “Fair enough, but you’d better start weighing in before I’m tempted to do something crazy. This isn’t just my wedding, it’s our wedding.”

I turned to fully face him. “I thought we were set. We have a date, a place, and a minister. We agreed on invitations, and we even talked about our honeymoon. What am I missing?”

“The details, Matty! All the details.” Aaron flashed an incredulous look at me and smacked his hand on the island. “Look, you’re busy at work, and I know the last things you think about are table decor and cake toppers, but I’m busy too and I can’t stop thinking about them. And then my head explodes with more choices like roses or lilies, chocolate ganache or buttercream, and don’t even get me started on the seating arrangements. It’s making me crazy!”

“I can see that.” I chuckled and set my spoon aside, snaking my arm around his waist when he glared at me. “Hey, I’m kidding. Tell me what you want me to do. How about if I choose the flowers?”

“Oh, no. Definitely not. I know you too well, Matty. You’d wait until the last minute, then either ask your secretary or my future monster-in-law to help and there’s no way in hell I’d—”

“Hey. No need to get nasty here.” I threaded my fingers through his and kissed the platinum band on his left ring finger.

“I’m sorry. I know I told you I’d handle things, but you’re kind of strict about the budget.”

“One of us has to be if we want to buy—”

“I know.” Aaron leaned against me and kissed my shoulder. “I think it’s a great idea, but the problem is that you don’t really understand how much things are. You need to be part of some of the major decisions, so you get the picture. I have a proposition to make.”

“Oh, boy. What did you do, and how much is it going to cost?” I asked, slipping his glass from his hand and taking a healthy swig.

“Ha. Ha. I didn’t do anything. Yet. But let’s be real—this whole thing is going to cost a fortune, but it’ll be worth it. I’ve already done the bulk of the research, and Vic is a great resource, but I still think we should have a weekly powwow so I can go over things with you before we meet the wedding planner. So we don’t waste time or veer off course…because yes, Vic really did ask how my fiancĂ© felt about a caviar bar.”

“Oh, my God.” I set the glass down and gulped.

“Don’t worry, Papi. I told him it wasn’t your style. But gosh, I could easily get talked into a champagne fountain. It sounds romantic, doesn’t it?”


Aaron snickered at my quick reply and gestured for me to eat. “See the problem? I promise I won’t make any rash decisions, but I need your input on some things if we’re going to make it to the altar without you wringing my neck when I’m ten thousand dollars over—”

“Ten thousand!” My jaw dropped as I widened my eyes comically.

“Calm down. I’m innocent. I’ve been so good it hurts,” he said with a sigh. “But if something is going to hurt, it should be in a good way. And preferably with an orgasm or two. Don’t you agree?” Aaron lowered his hand and rubbed his palm over my half-hard cock.


“We should have our husband-to-be chats once a week to discuss our plans.”

I lifted my hips slightly and cupped his neck to bring him closer. “Good idea.”

“But you’ll have to give me your undivided attention,” he purred as he pulled at the elastic bands of my shorts and boxer briefs. Then he slipped his fingers under the fabric and grabbed my dick. “I don’t want to compete with basketball, baseball, or anything else. It’ll be a special date. Just me and you.”

“Mmm. Yes.” I licked the corner of his mouth, pulled his pajamas and boxer briefs down, and kneaded his ass.

“We can be flexible about the day and time,” he said in a throaty tone, nipping my jaw as he stroked me from base to tip.

“What about location?” I asked, tracing his crack with my middle finger.

“Yes. Anywhere is fine.”


Lane Hayes | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo


Meet the Author


Lane Hayes loves a good romance! An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016, 2017, 2018-2019, 2020-2021 Rainbow Awards. She loves wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.  

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | InstagramBookBub


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Line Chemistry, Sophie Fournier, Book Seven by K.R. Collins New Release Blitz! @ninestarpress @indigomarketingdesign #LGBTQIA+


Title:  Line Chemistry

Series: Sophie Fournier, Book Seven

Author: K.R. Collins

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 11/29/2022

Heat Level: 2 - Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 73200

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, sports, family-drama, demisexual, bisexual, ice hockey, teammates, slow burn

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Coming off a season of professional highs and then lows, Sophie is looking forward to a fresh new season. A season without a new coach or long-term injury. A season where everything returns to normal. But even though Sophie has recovered from tearing her ACL, she isn’t back at the top of her game yet.

All her life, Sophie’s father has told her if she isn’t the best, they won’t let her play hockey. On the ice, she has to rely on her teammates more than she’s used to. She has to learn that there is a place for her on the roster, even if she isn’t setting franchise records for points scored in a single season.

And off the ice, Sophie learns that some relationships go beyond hockey. She and Elsa are teammates, linemates, but their partnership is more than that. And maybe, all this time she’s been telling Elsa she wants them to be Condors for life, she’s been asking for something else.

Line Chemistry
K.R. Collins © 2022
All Rights Reserved

Sophie consults the map on her phone and decides this shelter is a good one to stop at for the day. She could push to the next one, try to make it before the sun goes down, but she doesn’t need to. She isn’t like the other hikers on the Appalachian Trail, aiming for Katahdin with a countdown in her head.

She pitches her tent, because the extra work is better than sleeping in the shelter and risking a mouse crawling into her sleeping bag. She makes dinner, a Mountain House meal. The man at the sporting goods store judged her for buying them in bulk. Real hikers dehydrate and carry homemade meals.

Sophie isn’t a real hiker. She eats her beef stroganoff and doesn’t have regrets.

As she cleans her dishes, a loud trio of guys descend on the shelter. They play a vicious game of rock-paper-scissors to determine camp chores. The one who wins smugly reclines on his backpack. He tugs his dirty bandana down, but his hair stays in place thanks to sweat and the grease from going without a shower for days at a time.

He catches Sophie staring and waves. “Do you want to chill with us?”

Sophie didn’t wander into the wilderness for the company, but it’s been two weeks alone with her own thoughts. She leaves her tent platform for theirs.

The guy who invited her lays out his sleeping pad and gestures for her to sit beside him. “I’m Sloppy Seconds,” he says. “This is my second time on the trail.”

The guy cooking looks up with a smirk. “We let him think that’s how he got his name. I’m Three-Sec, because anything’s safe to eat if it’s only been on the ground for three seconds.”

“We let him think that,” Sloppy Seconds says. It’s his turn to smirk, and he dodges his friend’s half-hearted swing.

Sophie smiles as she leans back and watches them. The third in their group assembles the tent, and he waves before he snaps the tent poles together. “I’m Orion.” His shirt is tucked into the back of his shorts, and he has red marks on his shoulders from where his pack straps rubbed his skin. “I like stars.”

Both his companions roll their eyes. Sloppy Seconds loosens the ties on his boots and groans. “It’s been a long fucking hike, and we still have the hardest stretch to go.”

“The Whites.” Orion casts his gaze up at the sky. “Fuck Mount Washington. Fuck Lafayette too.”

Three-Sec stirs their dinner, contemplative. “I would totally fuck Lafayette. You know, if he wasn’t dead and shit. French people are hot. I’d fuck a Canadian too. They’re like knock-off French people.”

“Dude!” Orion glares at his friend. Then, to Sophie, “I’m sorry for him.”

“Sorry or sorry?” Sophie plays up her accents and grins. The sex jokes, the chirping, even the smell, it reminds her of the locker room.

She set out on the Appalachian Trail because she needed a break from being Sophie Fournier, first woman in the North American Hockey League and captain of the Concord Condors.

Last season, she was on pace to have a season the likes of which the NAHL had never seen. She set one record, and she had her eyes set on more when she tore her ACL. She was sidelined by injury, forced to watch rather than participate in the rest of the season.

She was unable to play, but she still had responsibilities. She was still the captain, and her team used her as a barometer. She was still the spokeswoman, not only for her team but for the entire league, and she did interviews and puff pieces, whatever was needed.

When the season ended, a second-round exit against Quebec, Sophie decided she had earned herself a true break. She packed a bag and headed into the woods where cell reception is spotty. She didn’t have to watch other people play hockey and answer questions about how it made her feel. She didn’t have to report to her parents’ house for hours of hockey drills with her dad.

She was able to be Sophie, without any of the external pressure she usually faces. It’s time to return, though, and catch up on everything she missed. There is a new season on the horizon, and she has a list of things to accomplish.

The shortlist: reclaim her point streak record from Chad Kensington, remind the league the Fournier era is far from over, impress her coach, and win the Maple Cup.


Sophie emerges from the woods and returns to a world with indoor plumbing. Her first order of business is a long shower, as hot as she can stand it. Next, she checks in on what happened while she was avoiding all hockey, world, and personal news.

The Indianapolis Renegades won the Maple Cup. It makes them the first team with a woman to do it since Concord in 2014. Alexis Engelking is the only American woman currently in the NAHL. She’s also the highest drafted out of the six women in the league. She’s loud, she’s brash, and she’ll barrel over anyone who stands in the way of what she wants.

She should text Lexie to congratulate her. Sophie is the one who has tirelessly campaigned for the women of the league to support each other. They’re scattered across divisions and conferences, but with a small number of them, it’s important to be united.

Still, Lexie came into the league two years after Sophie, determined to be everything Sophie isn’t. She doesn’t only want to prove herself the better player, she wants to prove Sophie is bad. They trained together last summer, both of them fueled by competition and spite, but they don’t have an easy relationship.

Sophie tosses her phone aside, text unsent, and wrinkles her nose as Chad Kensington’s post-win interview autoplays on her computer. His hair is plastered to his head with sweat and champagne, messy but hiding his receding hairline. His cheeks are splotchy, and a smile stretches across his face. She wants to punch him. It should be her team celebrating, not his.

“This has been a big year for you,” The National Sports Network reporter says. “You broke Sophie Fournier’s point streak record, won the Maple Cup, and secured yourself the Alain Benoit as the MVP of the playoffs. Which of those means the most to you?”

Sophie exits the browser before she has to hear his answer.

Last season, she broke Bobby Brindle’s point streak record with twenty consecutive games where she scored a point. She tore her ACL in the twentieth game. While she was hurt, Kensington went on a heater and set a new record—twenty-one games.

If she puts up a point in each of her first two games this season, the record is hers again.

It’s selfish, everything a hockey player shouldn’t be, focused on personal success instead of team success, but she wants it anyway. As if to make up for it, she picks up her phone and calls Lexie to congratulate her in person.

Lexie picks up with a vehement, “Fuck you!”

“Excuse me?” Sophie asks.

“Fuck. You.” Lexie draws the words out as if Sophie hadn’t heard her the first time. “I win the fucking Maple Cup and what does everyone ask me? If Sophie Fournier was healthy, would you still have won? What do I have to do to get out of your fucking shadow? You better stay healthy this season. I’m going to beat you at the Winter Games and then beat you in the Maple Cup Finals. Maybe then people will finally shut up about you.”

Lexie hangs up and Sophie stares at her phone for a long minute before she gingerly sets it on the counter. Maybe it’s best to give Lexie some space.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

K.R. Collins went to college in Pennsylvania where she learned to write and fell in love with hockey. When she isn’t working or writing, she watches hockey games and claims it’s for research. Find K.R. on Twitter.


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A Forest of Stolen Memories Callie Thomas Book Blitz! #XpressoTours @XpressoTours


A Forest of Stolen Memories
Callie Thomas

Publication date: December 2nd 2022
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

A royal wedding turns to disaster when a curse goes awry. A victim of the Sorcerer’s prophecy, Roselyn’s memories are instantly erased, leaving her panicked at the altar. Confused, she flees to the place her prince fears most—the enchanted Mistbrooke Forest. Danger lurks closer than she can imagine, forcing her to seek help from a dark stranger who may be the key to recovering her lost memories. Can she break the curse without breaking her heart?

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I didn’t care that he was a prince—they would not force me to marry a stranger.

Yards of white lace, patterned with roses over a white satin gown, clung to the top half of my body, then fanned out around me. Dazed, I stared at them, confused why I couldn’t remember a single detail about my dress. Or about myself.

Who am I? Why could I not remember?

“Rose? Darling?” the handsome prince whispered, his words warm like honey, coaxing my eyes to his. So familiar . . . those silver eyes lined with impossibly long sandy-brown lashes. They matched his styled hair, which curled around his golden crown, not a strand out of place.

His thumbs rubbed in a soothing motion across my knuckles, my fingertips trapped in his grip. I tugged my hands, his eyes narrowing at my struggles as his hold turned painful.

“Please let me go,” I cried out.

He slid closer, so close that his warm breath caressed my cheeks, and I inhaled his lemon scent. Fear rooted me in place, the feeling of confinement strangely paralyzing. His eyes trailed over my features with heated possession, stopping to linger at my lips. Releasing one of my hands, he reached his gloved fingers for my face.

Did he think he could kiss me just because he wished it?

Not if I had anything to say about it!

Callie Thomas was born in California but moved away immediately after, living in more places in the United States than she can remember. Even now, she can’t stay in one spot too long, but you can usually find her on the sandy shores of someplace tropical, possibly with a coconut drink in her hand. Callie has been writing since middle school when her teacher caught her writing stories instead of vocabulary words in her 7th grade English class. Plagued by doubt, she went in a completely different direction and graduated college at George Mason University with a Bachelor of Science in Graphic and Web Design. But the stories never stopped. Older and wiser (she hopes), she is finally ready to take a leap of faith with her writing. She recently published her first Vella series, A Forest of Stolen Memories, and is currently writing her first novel, The Captain's Daughter.

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A Chaperoned Christmas Christmas Masquerade, Book Three by Meg Mardell New Release Blitz! @ninestarpress @indigomarketingdesign #LGBTQIA+


Title:  A Chaperoned Christmas

Series: Christmas Masquerade, Book Three

Author: Meg Mardell

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 11/29/2022

Heat Level: 1 - No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 47400

Genre: Historical, LGBTQIA+, historical/Victorian England, romance, holiday/Christmas, English countryside/Devonshire coast, homecoming, bisexual, lesbian, polyamory, masquerade ball, family gatherings, horses, non-explicit, reunited, coming out

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Candida Damerell avoids two things at all costs: her former hometown, Salcombe Bay, and her former lover, Broderick Carlyle. She’s worked too hard to shake off her sad family history in Devonshire and become a premier London hostess. To think she nearly threw it all away for a bohemian charmer like Broderick! He never understood Candida’s need to keep their secret romance, well, secret. Unfortunately, this holiday season, the fates seem determined to thwart her best efforts at self-preservation.

Broderick Carlyle is not surprised to see his estranged lover on the same coastal railway platform a fortnight before Christmas. Who else could tempt him into such a backwater at this dangerously jolly time of year? Not the country rustic whose need for Society chaperones is the alleged reason for the visit. What Broderick is not prepared to learn is that this windswept bit of coast is where Candida grew up. Even more alarming? The “country rustic” is none other than an earl’s daughter from the neighbouring estate.

Lady Sophia Luscombe has no intention of leaving her beloved Devonshire and her new horse breeding business for smelly, snobby London, especially not under the guidance of two Society chaperones. What if they managed to get Sophie married at last? No, she will distract her sophisticated visitors by making them fall in love with each other. The intimate entertainments of a West Country Christmas will make it easy to force the two together. It would be the perfect plan—or it would be if only the too-perfect Candida were not Sophie’s secret first love.

Just as the web of cross purposes frays to breaking point, a masquerade ball arrives to give these fierce spirits one last opportunity to tell the truth in time for Christmas. Is it too late for a second or even a third chance at love?

A Chaperoned Christmas
Meg Mardell © 2022
All Rights Reserved

Devon, 1879

Candida would have known that black, slim-fitted Saville Row greatcoat on those broad shoulders anywhere. Anywhere, that is, except on the platform of a backwater railway station two weeks before Christmas. The man who possessed such an enviable combination of shoulders and coat would never be stamping his feet on these chilled cobblestones beside the cooling steam engine. He would not be looking about irritably for a porter. No, Broderick Carlyle’s greatcoat must even now be hanging in the cloakroom of one of his exclusive gentlemen’s clubs on the Strand or else flowing behind him as he rode one of his equally well-turned-out horses in London’s fashionable parks. Or else, as Candida had spent the last year trying not to imagine, tossed over some strange sofa or bedpost.

Safe in London, Broderick Carlyle and his greatcoat would never learn that, though genial, porters in this little patch of the English southern coast did not hurry to collect a first-class passenger’s luggage. They did not compete with one another, as they did in London, for a tossed tuppence. Probably because there was only one of them. And that sprightly lad with the grey beard was busy unloading Candida’s own trunks and hatboxes. There were quite a few of them. She needed extra armour for this visit.

God, was there any place on earth colder than an abandoned railway platform? Candida pulled up the collar of her new winter coat in a forlorn attempt to block the chill. Made of modish alpaca wool, the deep-green coat fitted tightly all the way through her hips, and she could scarcely move the garment an inch in any direction. Usually, she enjoyed showing off her figure, when properly corseted of course. What was the point of forgoing treats otherwise? But, looking at the rippling folds of the gentleman’s greatcoat, she suddenly wished she might have thick folds of fabric to wrap and swirl about her.

As if sensing her desire, the man with the coat and the shoulders pivoted towards her on his impractical half boots of shining patent leather. The swirl revealed a number of disquieting facts. A flash of telltale crimson lined his unbuttoned greatcoat, a distinctive suit of monochrome check visible beneath the coat’s flowing heft. His unforgettable dark eyes were wary. The man did not know the Devonshire countryside, but unfortunately, Candida knew him.

No. No, no, no! It was bad enough that she had alighted at Kingsbridge Station for the first time in a decade. Fate wouldn’t force her to face two ghosts from her past simultaneously, would it? She was already braced against the gentle assault on the senses from the invigorating countryside air of her girlhood. The inimitable blend of sea-perfumed, winter-fresh air blew up the estuary from the English Channel. Was she now going to be forced to face her most adult of indulgences at the same time? Apparently, yes. There, not a dozen paces away, was the man with whom she’d foolishly tried to have a discreet affair last year. At least, it was supposed to have been discreet.

There was no time for Candida to upbraid herself for the umpteenth time for that disastrous attempt at playing the merry widow. The reason for her self-inflicted defeat was stalking towards her.

“My dear Mrs Damerell.” Broderick Carlyle cut her a leisurely bow, his dark hair sliding over his brow. “I thought I had forsaken all the delights of Town when I recklessly boarded this somnambulant train. But here I see we have imported into this rough wilderness one of Society’s best blooms.”

Candida did not much care for his allusion to her hothouse beauty. Not when she was so close to the coast’s wild magnificence. But she kept the smile on her face and inclined her head. “You do me too much credit, sir. Devon doesn’t need my adornment. But I’m sure the county is honoured to have lured one of London’s great clubmen out of the metropolis.”

This had been their pattern for the past year whenever they had accidentally met. They would smile and exchange quips—and then she would go home and seek out the dark meanings behind Broderick’s artful compliments.

He laughed in that low, insinuating way only she seemed to ever notice. “No mean feat, luring me from the safety of civilization in wintertime. But it’s admiration of Lady Belleville that brings me here. Well”—he winked—“admiration mixed with a touch of fear.”

“Sorry. Did you say Lady Bellville asked you to come to Kingsbridge?” A coincidence? Her rapidly accelerating heartbeat disagreed.

“Yes. It seems she has friends in these parts. You know the type of country gentry, titled but hopelessly out of step. Anyway, there’s an unmarried daughter of the house, and I suppose they’re making one last attempt to prevent her from going on the shelf.”

Candida forced her fingers to relax at his dismissive appraisal of the Luscombes and especially of Sophie Luscombe as some desperate spinster. Broderick didn’t know her. Or that Candida did. Or she had. Sophie wouldn’t be the same exuberant, courageous girl Candida had last seen on her own wedding day a decade ago. Life had a way of making girls like that grow down rather than up. Candida made her tone as droll as his. “And you’ve arrived with the feather duster to chase away the cobwebs?”

“I would never phrase it in quite such a, ah, ticklish way”—another impudent wink—“but that’s the sum of it. Accustom the girl to being around one of London’s great clubmen and then escort her up to Town in a fortnight for the masquerade ball.”

Candida’s worst fears were confirmed. She was about to spend two weeks in the countryside with Broderick Carlyle. At Christmastime.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meg moved from the US to England because she fell in love with the Victorians’ peculiar blend of glamour and grime. After a decade of exploring historical excesses in a prim scholarly fashion, she realized that fiction is the best way to delve into that period’s great female-focused and LGBT+ stories. Weaned on the high-seas romances of the 1990s, Meg’s lost none of her love for cross-dressing cabin boys but any tolerance for boorish heroes. She’s delighted to now have a whole raft of quirky and queer characters to cheer for on their quest for Happily Ever After. She frequently breaks off writing for an Earl Grey tea (milk not lemon). She’s trying to learn Polish and Portuguese at the same time. She plans to escape Brexit Britain.

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The Daredevil by @authornadiahan Book Blitz! #nadiahan #TheDaredevil #XpressoTours @XpressoTours


The Daredevil
Nadia Han

(WaterFyre Rising, #2)
Publication date: November 30th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Loving her is his biggest risk . . . and also his biggest reward.

Daring, clever, and gorgeous, Royce Viktorsson is a volcanologist who lives life on the edge between the thrill and the pulsing calm before the storm. His unsteady lifestyle masks the man who is seeking to heal the hole in his heart. Nothing has offered him resolve . . . until her.

The lightning that illuminates his soul.
The thunder that stirs his heart.
The lava that ignites his blood.

Thoughtful, alluring, and guarded, travel blogger Michelle Yates is emotionally unavailable thanks to the monster in her closet. Traveling allows her to see the beauty in the world, making her forget the ugliness in her life. One man yanks on that closet door and helps her claim back her self-worth.

The friend who becomes her lover.
The hero who defeats her monster.
The savior who defines her destiny.

As their romance churns, danger erupts, whipping out secrets that demand the truth, but the daredevil is willing to risk everything to defend those important to him.

The Daredevil is a friends-to-lovers, fake-dating, forced proximity, destined moments, billionaire hero, and a suspenseful contemporary romance. It is Book Two in the WaterFyre Rising series but can be read as a standalone.

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In a blink, he pounced on me, pushing me back onto the couch with his body covering mine. He gripped my wrists and lifted them above my head. Heat spread all over my body as I sensed the bulge pressing into me.

“You cheated, and that calls for a punishment.” His eyes pinned me, while a mischievous smirk slid onto his face.

“I didn’t cheat,” I breathed as my nipples pebbled under my thin bra. “There weren’t any rules about fake injuries. I just maneuvered around you.”

“You manipulated my concern for you. We’re going to set hard rules for next time.” He shifted his body, pushing one of my thighs up with one hand while still gripping my wrists with the other. I was at his mercy, and there was something sexy about that.

“Not my intention—”

His hand ran over my thigh and squeezed my buttock. “Oh, it was your intention, just like this is my intention.” His free hand slipped under my ass, pushing my core into his hard cock.

I let out a moan as his cock throbbed against me, trying to punish me with need. God, I wanted him so badly. Grinding my hips against him, I studied his face.

He growled with satisfaction. Did he realize we were starting a new game?

“I should’ve known you’re a she-devil. All this wild hair and the wicked glint in your eyes should have given me a clue.” He pressed his face into my hair and inhaled. “I love the way you smell.”

The need to touch and feel him surged in me. With my legs, I squeezed his ass, making my claim. “A she-devil is the perfect match for a daredevil, don’t you think?”

“You’re driving me crazy, Michelle. What game are we playing now? How to seduce Royce?”

How had he known? A wild guess? It didn’t matter.

His eyes had darkened to a gorgeous mossy color. “Seduce away, angel. You know how to turn me on.”

Royce swallowed, and the movement of his Adam’s apple increased the need in me. I’d always considered a man’s shoulders to be the feature I couldn’t resist, but right now, his Adam’s apple became the switch that lit me up.

I pressed my lips to the masculine bump on his throat and kissed it.

He crooned. “I’ll accept this defeat.”

“Willingly? You had no choice. You lost.” My voice vibrated against his throat.

He veered back, creating a slight distance between my lips. “I love that you wanted to win so badly.”

I needed to win because I wanted to know what he feared. That desire trumped everything else. “I like to win.”

“So do I.” His eyes flashed with heat. “Since l lost, I have to either answer a tough question or do something that frightens me.” His body shifted, opening my thighs wider, not acting like someone who had been defeated.

Nadia Han is a dreamer, a visionary, and a believer in karma and kindness. She lives in New England with her family and spends most of her time crafting stories. When she’s not writing, she practices yoga, reads, explores nature, and eats all kinds of foods.

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