Artemis. Jessica Cale.

Artemis
by Jessica Cale
Gothic Regency Romance
20,000 words/PG-13
Content warnings: Contains transgender and bisexual characters falling in love, getting married, and enjoying themselves.

Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?

Excerpt

“There are two ways to look at everything.” Charlotte paused for dramatic effect, curling blue fingers over the side of the bridge. “All beginnings are endings in disguise. Place of arrival or means of escape; will I find my end at the bottom, or fall clear through the other side?”

The wind swallowed her famous voice and carried it away, taking the last thing she had of any value. It was the ice in the air that had caused her voice to shake, she reasoned. She was far too cold to feel the fear lurking in her heart, insulated as it was by dread and resignation. It was too dark to see anything but a great growling blackness over the side, but the smell assured her she had reached the right place.

“It’s only a river,” she reassured herself, though the observation brought her little comfort. Ravenous beast or churning waves, it would swallow her just the same. “Would it be better to drown or be devoured?”

She turned to face her audience, but they paid her no mind. Not ten paces away, they shuffled their wings, dark feathers gleaming in the moonlight like polished knives as they pecked at a murky spot beyond. The play had been over perhaps an hour, and now she couldn’t even command the attention of crows.

Her laugh brought a welcome puff of warmth to her lips as she turned toward the river once again. The night was worse than cold, it was merciless, and it carried with it a dampness that seeped into her every pore, chilling her to her bones and invading her weary heart. Perhaps she would freeze before she could drown.

The bridge was as famous as she was, a dubious honor. The fastest way between London and the poorest boroughs to the south, the city’s whores frequently threw themselves off of it as they returned home from long days servicing the wealthier streets in rented gowns and sagging feathers. It got them all, in the end. Perhaps it was not the easiest way to go, but it was there. Living the way they did, all that silver had to look tempting from time to time.

What was an actress but a whore? Her father, a playwright, loved his quill to distraction but had nothing but disdain for the painted players who brought his words to life. The last time she had spoken to him, he’d asked her that very question and Charlotte, in her wisdom, had asked him why he had married one.

“Prescient as ever, Father,” she addressed his memory, straddling the railing of the bridge, the only barrier between her sort and their inevitable end. She didn’t want to die, but what choice did she have? Cast out by her lover and sacked by her theater, she had no family, no income, no future. All she had was an expanding belly and a week to vacate her ex-lover’s rooms.

“A week until Christmas,” she muttered. “Prick.”

She didn’t kid herself she’d be able to get back onstage after the baby came. After ten good years of drawing crowds, she was already being replaced by younger, fresher women, actresses from the country who couldn’t enunciate if she took their jaws into her own hands and moved their lips herself, but didn’t London love a new face? She’d passed for twenty-two for years now, but it was only a matter of time until someone remembered she’d been nineteen ten years ago. Christ.

Before long, she’d be little more than a buttock broker’s bunter. If her child survived, it would be destined for the workhouse.

That was not something she could abide.

“Wesley Thomas Cheltenham Sneed,” she seethed, searching her overdeveloped imagination for a curse befitting the man who had abandoned her, noble by birth if not character.

She let out a long sigh. There was no point to it.

She had met his betrothed. He deserved precisely what he was getting.

The sound of wheels popping over the stones startled her and she gripped the edge, struggling to keep her balance. Oddly enough, she didn’t much care for the idea of falling in.

She clung to her perch as the coach passed, hoping the darkness would shield her from prying eyes. What would it matter if they saw her, really? She was just another Drury Lane Vestal succumbing to the inevitable, after all.

Her jaw clenched in protest at her morose line of thought. She didn’t really believe that, did she?

The wheels stopped.

“Miss Halfpenny?”

Charlotte turned as she heard her name.

The coach was old and cumbersome but meticulously maintained, set high above the street on wheels the size of card tables. Unadorned but for a coat of lacquer, it was dark as the team of blacks that idled before it. The door stood open and a man leaned out, his youthful appearance illuminated by the glass-encased lantern swinging from a hook on the side.

He regarded her with an expression caught somewhere between confusion and terror. “Might I be of assistance?”

Clean shaven and slight of form, she might have mistaken him for a boy, albeit a remarkably pretty one. His hair was short and neat, dark as his horses. His jaw was angular and his mouth more serious than generous, but his eyes were bright and pale. She never forgot a face. She tried to place his.

“Somerton.” She smiled as the name came to her. She was face to face with the reclusive Earl of Somerton.

He alighted from the coach and approached her as though she were a frightened animal. “Please, will you come down from there?”

His voice was mellow, sweet, and very expensive. It sounded like tea with the Queen. He held out his hand.

She took it with only a moment’s hesitation and he visibly relaxed as she climbed down. He was taller than she would have guessed and elegant as a dancer, not a thread out of place on his immaculate suit. Even his cravat looked as though he’d just tied it.

There was something odd about him, but she couldn’t quite place it. He was unlike any man she had ever been near, too composed, too perfect. “You’re freezing,” he observed, the vapor of his breath the only cloud in the night. “May I escort you home?”

She shivered, remembering her unfortunate circumstances. “I don’t have a home anymore.”

His eyebrows drew together in concern, or perhaps distaste. “Then I suppose you shall have to come to mine.”

Charlotte blinked, taken aback. “With all due respect, Lord Somerton, if you’re looking for a poke, you can piss off. You’re a handsome bloke, but I’ve had quite a day.”

The only hint that he had heard her was the slight widening of his eyes.

They were silver, just like the river.

He cleared his throat. “I meant no disrespect, Miss Halfpenny, only it is very cold and I hate to think of you out here on your own. Would you consent to joining me for supper? I give you my word as a gentleman that I will not touch you.”

She looked him over, seeking signs of good character in the shine of his boots and the fit of his coat. His character may be questionable, but his tailor was a damned genius. He was leaner than most and held himself with a grace that was both authoritative and arresting in its beauty. It was his eyes that drew her gaze once again. She saw no ill-intent there, but a sort of quiet desperation that mirrored her own.

He was lonely.

Her heart began to thaw even as her mind warned her against accompanying strange noblemen back their homes in the night. A man of Somerton’s standing could drown her himself in sight of the King and half of Parliament and never get done for it.

She shrugged off her foreboding. There’s no harm in it. You were about to drown yourself, remember?

“You wouldn’t mind? Your wife isn’t likely to welcome an actress to her table.”

“I’m not married, and you’re most welcome. Indeed, I would be honored to have you as my guest. I am a great admirer of your work.”

Charlotte blushed at the compliment. Somerton had seen her? “I do not have the most spotless of reputations. I would not wish to cause you dishonor.”

He raised a dark brow playfully. “My household is very good at keeping secrets.”

Something about the way he said this made her want learn them all.

“I would be delighted to join you, Lord Somerton.”

His smile was a mystery, a shadow on the face of the moon.

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Under the Full Blooded Moon. Diane Saxon.

Under the Full Blooded Moon

Blurb

Since he lost his father and his childhood at the age of ten to a witch’s curse, cynical journalist Stuart Caldwell has searched the world in his quest to find the key to his family’s centuries-old curse.

What he finds when he lands on the Scottish island of Breggar is far from what he expects. Instead of a battle to the death with the cruel enchantress he believes resides there, Stuart finds he’s the one in the firing line, and the target is his heart.

Excerpt

Prologue

Kilchoan, Mainland Scotland 1672

Swathes of wet hair clung and tangled around her face in a heavy curtain, enough to obscure her view as another spasm seized her. Pain far worse than she’d ever imagined wrenched through her, and clutched deep into her belly to tear at her insides.

Pride refused to allow her to cry out.

As she surfaced, she snatched another lungful of air. The frigid waters chilled her to the bone, sending a fresh rash of shudders through her between each painful contraction.

The villagers crowded closer, faces twisted with fear and rage. People she’d known all her life, people she loved. Women she’d tended in childbirth, and men whose wounds she’d healed.

The sentiment turned vicious as the sun dipped below the horizon and the moon rose in the darkened sky.

After a full day of her tied to the ducking stool, their disgust in her was palpable at not obtaining the confession they sought.

How could she confess to something that wasn’t true?

She’d never consorted with the devil.

Hysteria driven, they leaned in closer to scream their blood lust.

“Kill the witch, kill the witch.” The terror of the moment was overcome with something far more important.

Another stab of pain seized her body, forcing her to contort once again, but she pried open her eyes and met his frigid, slate-gray gaze across the wide expanse of water.

Tall and regal in his gentleman’s finery, there was no trace of the passionate lover she knew so well. His handsome features were carved into a cold mask.

He could say something. In silent entreaty, she begged him to intervene. He could save her.

He chose not to. Instead, he took hold of his pregnant wife’s hand and turned away to stare up at the night sky.

Her heart died long before her body.

Tears flowed unheeded down her cheeks to streak through the slime of mud coating her skin as she sucked deep breaths into her lungs, ready for the next duck of the stool into the stinking, fetid depths of the river. She knew it was all in vain.

Death was upon her.

Moya drew on her last ounce of strength and concentrated. Every muscle in her body contracted as she bore down to push, while her power waned. The ducking stool plunged once again, to submerge her into the icy depths and steal her breath away. The burn in her chest spread while she held the air in her lungs for as long as she could, but it was pointless. She closed her eyes and forced her muscles to relax. Her body floated a little above the stool. The ropes stretched in the cold and the wet. Moya raised her hips high, and her attention never wavered as she remained centered on this last, essential feat.

Little effort was required to weave the curse, for any witch knew a curse did not need to be spoken aloud. Instead, she focused the last of her energy to accomplish her final deed.

Eyes wide again, she stared up through the dark murkiness of the water, into the night sky, where blood smothered the full moon and spread its tendrils out to blur beneath the overpowering cast of light.

She recognized her death written in the blood. Death and rebirth. She took cold comfort in the knowledge her curse had worked.

Agony clenched her body. She drew her lips back from her teeth and expelled the final, desperate clutch of air she held in her lungs. In a wild, frenzied scream, distorted by the bubbles, the sound carried to the surface. Ice froze the blood in her veins to numb her mind and dull the pain as she expelled the bairn from her womb in a cloud of thick mucus and crimson blood. It bloomed through the dark waters while her child spewed into the evil world.

The heat of her own blood stroked a tender warmth over her frozen hands in farewell as Moya floated, lifeless, to the surface.

The full moon, obscured by a blood-soaked cloud, transformed the land into a desolation of deep shadows and dark craters while the scarlet waters around Moya turned inky black as it bubbled and steamed in the chill of the Scottish night.

With proof of the witch’s existence, their screams pierced the dark as the villagers fled to hide behind closed doors and deny the wrongdoing they’d taken part in that night.

Buy Links

 

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/2t68wnl
Amazon.com Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2taBQd7
Kobo http://bit.ly/2t62Adz
AppleiBooks http://apple.co/2uyWv7k
Barnes&Noble http://bit.ly/2sBrfmH

 

Where to Find Diane Saxon

Website – http://dianesaxon.com/

Blog – http://dianesaxon.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/authordianesaxon

Twitter –  https://twitter.com/Diane_Saxon

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7122072.Diane_Saxon

Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Diane-Saxon/e/B00DDL4C5W/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Pinterest – https://uk.pinterest.com/DianeSaxonAuthr/

 

About the Author

Diane Saxon lives in the Shropshire countryside with her tall, dark, handsome husband, two gorgeous daughters, a Dalmatian, a one-eyed kitten, a ginger cat, six chickens and a black Labrador called Beau, whose name has been borrowed for her hero in For Heaven’s Cakes.

After working for years in a demanding job, on-call and travelling great distances, Diane gave it all up when her husband said, “follow that dream”.

Having been hidden all too long, her characters have burst forth demanding plot lines of their own and she’s found the more she lets them, the more they’re inclined to run wild.

 

 

 

Night Lover is FREE at KindleUnlimited!

It’s not too often I get to tell you about a freebie.

For a limited time, my paranormal romance Night Lover is FREE at KindleUnlimited!

Grab it while you can here.

Canadian soprano Renata Bruno is tired of waiting for her big break. Unfortunately, her boss, the conductor of a chamber ensemble, sees her as little more than background material. When she learns of an opportunity to sing solo with a different troupe in England, she knows she must seize it. Especially when she hears the group is to perform Mozart’s Requiem, her favorite work.

As soon as Renata decides to make her move, a strange, sultry presence invades her life. She begins dreaming of a man, one who makes love to her, bewitching her. It isn’t long before her night lover leaves startling proof of his nocturnal presence, making her doubt her senses.

To compound her discomfort, she learns her new conductor is the college boyfriend who broke her heart years ago. As Renata grapples with old hurts and renewed passion, she must also fend off the increasingly fervent advances of her night-time visitor. She realizes she is under the influence of an incubus, a sexual demon.

It becomes harder to resist the incubus when she learns he has a name and had a tragic history. The more she discovers about his past, the more she realizes they are linked in more ways than one. Renata begins to rediscover love and her sense of faith, but will it be enough to save her night lover from an evil curse? And will it destroy her in the process?

Excerpt:

When I saw the face in this painting, I gasped, feeling as if someone had punched me in the gut.

Him.

It was the portrait of a man, much in the style of a Gainsborough painting. Full-length, it displayed the man in Regency dress. Tall Hessian boots reached up over his pants, accentuating his height. A waistcoat peaked out from under his soft blue riding coat. I looked up to the face above the coat, clean-shaven and somehow boyish with its round features. His hair was the color of honey and quite curly, with long sideburns travelling down his cheeks. Although he bore a fashionably serious countenance, his blue eyes smiled.

It’s him.

The man from my recurring dream, the man from the theater mezzanine in Toronto. I blinked several times, not believing my eyes.

I couldn’t move. I returned the stare of the man in the portrait. A friendly face, it still managed to unnerve me. The artist must have been a master because its subject seemed to be looking right at me. His pale eyes bore into mine. As I continued to gaze at my dream man, other objects in the background began to blur. The portrait frame and the wallpaper behind him dissolved into nothingness. I could only make out the man, and his gaze seemed to issue me a challenge, daring me to look back at him. My head swam. My tongue grew thick. Pain shot through my stomach and I clutched it so I wouldn’t keel over.

Lizzy came out of nowhere and bounded up behind me. “What’s up? Ooh, he’s cute.” She, too, had noticed the portrait. She also saw how intently I stared. “Hey, are you okay?”

“No.” I couldn’t look away from him, couldn’t stop myself from raking my gaze over every painted inch. “It’s him. The man from my dream.”

“Yeah, right.” She frowned.

Finn walked up to us and put a hand on my back, oblivious to my shock. “So you’ve found the lord of the manor.”

“Huh?”

“Hugh Dawlish, scion of Dawlish Manor. The women in the ensemble love this portrait because they think he’s, ah…easy on the eyes. So, shall we rehearse?”

I let him lead me away, but I couldn’t stop looking back at Hugh Dawlish’s portrait.

He was real. Not a wraith from my imagination.

Real. And dead.

Lizzy elbowed me. “You look like you’re going to pass out.”

“I’m fine.”

As we left the room, I looked back once more. The eyes of Hugh Dawlish followed me. I shivered.

A slight smile played on his lips.

Night Lover…available exclusively at KindleUnlimited!

Lori Whitwam. Dead End Road.

Title: Dead End Road
Series: Vengeful Things #1
Author: Lori Whitwam
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release: July 4, 2017
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Kindle Unlimited
A writer, a musician, an unexpected love…and a killer who wants to destroy it all. 
Reclusive author Abby Delaney never dreamed she’d meet her rock-n-roll fantasy Seth Caldwell in her quaint, lakeside town…or that his love might be deadly.
Seth is weary of road trips, endless parties, and dead-end relationships, but what choice does he have? Songwriting and performing are all he knows. Then he meets Abby and finally finds a heart he can’t stand to break. 
But forget small-town tranquility. An attempt is made on Seth’s life, and another mysterious death hits eerily close to home. Everyone’s a suspect, he’s taunted with ominous messages, and it’s only a matter of time until the killer finds his mark. 
What if the only way to keep Abby safe is to do the one thing she can never forgive—walk away? 
As the noose tightens, one thing becomes clear…
If the killer isn’t found soon, Seth and Abby will take their love to the grave.
Lori spent her early years reading books in a tree in northern West Virginia. The 1980s and 90s found her and her husband moving around the Midwest, mainly because it was easier to move than clean the apartment. After seventeen frigid years in Minnesota, she fled to coastal North Carolina in 2013. She will never leave, and if you try to make her, she will hurt you.


She has worked in public libraries, written advertising copy for wastewater treatment equipment, and managed a holistic veterinary clinic. Her current day job, conducted from her World Headquarters and Petting Zoo (her couch) is as a full-time editor for indie authors and small publishing houses.

Her dogs are a big part of her life, and she has served or held offices in Golden Retriever and Great Pyrenees rescues, a humane society, a county kennel club, and her own chapter of Therapy Dogs International.

She has been a columnist and feature writer for auto racing and pet publications, and won the Dog Writers Association of America’s Maxwell Award for a series of humor essays.

Parents of a grown son, Lori and her husband were high school sweethearts, and he manages to love her in spite of herself. Some of his duties include making sure she always has fresh coffee and safe tires, trying to teach her to use coupons, and convincing the state police to spring her from house arrest in her hotel room in time for a very important concert. That last one only happened once—so far—but she still really, really appreciates it.


HOSTED BY:

When characters wake you up at 5am.

Early this morning, it rained. And I mean, IT RAINED. There was howling, a torrential downpour and all the general misery that is caused when the weather wakes you up at 5am. Hubby jumped out of bed, convinced our house was drifting down the street on a wave. The children moaned from the recesses of their stinky rooms. The cat then decided it was a great time to remind me her bowl needed refilling. Needless to say, it feels as if I got no sleep.

However, my sleep was rather light even before the storm hit and it’s because I was obsessing over which direction to take a character in my current work-in-progress. I must have tried to fall asleep for at least an hour, mulling over this particular heroine. Eventually, I did drop off.

Ah, the sweet bliss of being able to forget one’s writing woes for a while!

Then the rain hit. It began to pound my window, like some demon out of a Stephen King novel.  My eyes flew open. Once I realized the cause of the commotion was a storm, and not the apocalypse, I closed my eyes once more.

No sleep.

Guess which thoughts once again invaded my brain?

Do I want to change the heroine’s back story? Do I even like her back story? Is it compelling enough? What about the hero’s source of angst. I don’t think it’s “angsty” enough. Will the heroine like him? Do I even like the heroine? Is she nuts? Am I nuts? Boy, this rain is loud. Did locusts just fly by my window? What about her hair? Should I change the color of her hair? I don’t think I like it anymore. Will my readers relate to a woman with that color of hair? Who the hell cares about hair anyway? I’m hungry. Am I always this hungry at 5am? I’d like a bowl of cereal. Would my heroine eat cereal? I don’t think she’s the sort of person who eats cereal. I have to pee….

I guess this whole post just proves a couple of points.

Falling asleep to a gentle rain can be soothing, whereas waking up to a storm is the opposite of soothing.

Also, writers are weird.

 

Looking for some great romances to review?

Let’s face it. Some of us love to share how we feel about the books we read. As an author, I can tell you we appreciate every review, no matter how short. It means so much to us when someone takes the time to pen a few words about our works.

Are you looking for some great romances to review? Look no further!

Simply head over to  http://bookboyfriendbedhop.com/free-readreview-books/ and sign up for the ones you’d like. You might even find one of my paranormal romances among this list (hint, hint, Predator’s Kiss!)

Have fun, happy reading and thank you!

 

 

A new home for A Good Man.

Some books go on winding journeys before they find their homes.


My contemporary romance A Good Man, book 1 of my Handymen series, has been contracted by Limitless Publishing and I’m thrilled.

This book was previously contracted by Samhain Publishing and since their closure, I was eager for it to find a great home. Thanks to the good folks at Limitless, it has now.
Featuring three handsome contractor brothers from Toronto, and dealing with hero Michael’s PTSD, it’s a story with a lot of heart. I hope it finds a home in the hearts of many readers.

Stay tuned for details on dates, cover pics and more!