Tag Archives: British-setting

Release Blitz: Gideon by Lily Morton

Gideon | Lily Morton

Finding Home #3

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Release Date: 12.05.19

MM Romance

Universal Link: http://getbook.at/gideon

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BLURB

Gideon Ramsay is so far in the closet he should be a talking faun.

A talented, mercurial, and often selfish man, Gideon has everything he should want in life. Fame, money, acting awards – he has it all. Everything but honesty. At the advice of his agent, Gideon has concealed his sexuality for years. But it’s starting to get harder to hide, and his increasingly wild behaviour is threatening to destroy his career.

Then he’s laid low by a serious illness and into his life comes Eli Jones. Eli is everything that Gideon can’t understand. He’s sunny-tempered, friendly, and optimistic. Even worse, he’s unaffected by grumpiness and sarcasm, which forms ninety percent of Gideon’s body weight. And now Gideon is trapped with him without any recourse to the drugs and alcohol that have previously eased his way through awkward situations.

However, as Gideon gets to know the other man, he finds himself wildly attracted to his lazy smiles and warm, scruffy charm that seem to fill a hole inside Gideon that’s been empty for a long time. Will he give in to this incomprehensible attraction when it could mean the end of everything that he’s worked for?

From the bestselling author of the Mixed Messages series comes a story about a man who needs to realise that being true to yourself is really just a form of finding home.

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EXCERPT

“Round the block?” he intones in a gloomy voice.

I nod. “Yes, please.”

The car moves off slowly. He examines my face in the mirror. “You okay, sir?”

I look up, surprised. “Of course,” I say abruptly. Then I ask, “Why?”

He shrugs, returning his attention to the road. “You don’t look so good, Mr Ramsay.”

“Oh Russ, you old charmer, you,” I drawl, slugging some more tequila. “What’s with the ‘sir’ and ‘Mr Ramsay’ business anyway?”

He ignores the question. He’s more passive-aggressive than Taylor Swift. “You haven’t eaten properly for a few days now,” he says instead in a concerned voice.

“I have eaten,” I say crossly.

“Tequila and vodka aren’t any of the major food groups.”

I shrug. “I had a Pop-Tart this morning.”

“You had that yesterday and very charmingly regurgitated it into a jasmine bush earlier on.”

“I’m fine,” I say dismissively.

“I surely hope you are,” he says wryly. “Because you’ve got your hands full tonight.”

I shake my head, thinking of the two men I’m about to get into bed with and looking down at my very disinterested cock. “Russ, you’d need a medium and a séance to bring my dick back to life tonight.”

He laughs loudly and then sobers. “Maybe you should call it a night then. Go to bed on your own for a change, sir.”

“Okay, Nanny McPhee. And maybe I’d be better with a box of tissues and a wi-fi connection.” I sigh. “Actually, that sounds a lot quieter.” I stare blearily at the back of his grey head. “I hope you also know that tagging the word sir on the end of a sentence doesn’t make it any less bossy.”

Gideon-LM-Teaser2 copy.jpgAbout the Author

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Lily writes contemporary romance novels, and specialises in hot love stories with a good dose of humour.

Lily lives in sunny England with her husband and two children, all of whom claim that they haven’t had a proper conversation with her since she bought her first Kindle.

She has spent her life with her head full of daydreams and decided one day to just sit down and start writing about them. In the process she discovered that she actually loved writing, because how else could she get to spend her time with hot, funny men!

She loves chocolate and Baileys and the best of all creations – chocolate Baileys! Her lifetime’s ambition is to have a bath in peace without being shouted by one of her family.

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Release Blitz: Ace In The Picture by Jude Tresswell

Ace In The Picture | Jude Tresswell

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Publisher: Rowanvale Books

Cover Artist: Billie Hastie

Heat Rating: 2 flames

Length: 63,000 words/ 251 pages (paperback format)

It can be read as a standalone but is also the third book featuring the County Durham quad

Release Date: March 31, 2019

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Buy Links

Rowanvale Books

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Waterstones (UK) | Barnes and Noble

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Blurb

Polyamory and asexuality meet in this third tale about a north-east England quad.

The police suspect Raith Balan of faking a painting. So do money-launderers who sink profits into art. Mike, Ross and Phil, the three men in Raith’s life, must prove his innocence. They’re hampered by their certainty that a member of the Fraud Squad is corrupt.

The senior investigating officer is Detective Sergeant Nick Seabrooke. He knows he is asexual but is he aromantic too?

As Raith’s lovers struggle to keep Raith safe and find the fraudster, the sergeant struggles to understand why the quad is often in his thoughts.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Raith stood in the kitchen in front of the calendar. His gaze shifted from the naked figure depicted on ‘October’ to the highlighted ‘Thursday 12th’ and back again. He pressed a fingertip to his lips, transferred a kiss to the mid-point of the figure’s shoulder blades and ran his finger down the spine—Mike Angells’ spine.

The real-life Mike walked into the room and filled the kettle.

“What are you admirin’?” he asked. “The model or the artist?”

Raith was the artist. “The artist,” he replied. “He’s classy. The model’s okay, I suppose.”

“Cheeky!” Mike admonished.

Changing the subject, Raith asked, “You know what day it is in two days’ time, don’t you?”

“In two days? Well, let’s see… difficult one… It must be Thursday. Aye, that’s right. It was Monday yesterday, so—”

“Stop teasing me! Do you think he’s forgotten?”

‘He’ was Phil Roberts, the man Raith had married 364 days earlier.

“Don’t be daft. Of course not. You know Phil. His middle name’s ‘No fuss’.”

“That’s two names.”

“And that’s two cups of coffee. One for you. One for me,” said Mike, handing over a mug.

“None for me?” asked a third man who, yawning, had entered the kitchen. He hugged the two men already there.

“Sorry, Ross,” Mike apologised. “I didn’t make you one. I thought you were still asleep.”

“No. Just dozy,” said Ross sleepily. “I heard Phil’s car. Is it an emergency, Raith?”

“Not exactly,” Raith replied. “He went in early to cover for a colleague.”

Phil had helped to pioneer a form of rectal surgery that used nanocarbon patches to reconstruct torn tissue. He was a respected consultant at the hospital an hour’s drive away in Warbridge, County Durham.

“I’d better get sorted and get out myself,” said Ross. He was, amongst other things, a gallery proprietor in Gateshead, and his journey to work took longer than Phil’s. He yawned again.

“Are you feelin’ okay?” asked Mike, alert to Ross’s tone of voice. “It’s not like you to sound so unenthusiastic about work.” In fact, it wasn’t like Ross to sound unenthusiastic about anything. He was always lively—he personified keenness.

“I’m dead tired cos I didn’t sleep well. I had a strange text late on. You were already asleep. I don’t think you heard the phone buzz. Strange. Unsettling.”

“Oh?”

“How do you mean?” asked Raith. “We’re not going to get involved with more criminal activities, are we? I had enough of crime fighting last time!”

Even though Mike was no longer a detective with the Tees, Tyne and Wear Constabulary, the four of them were involved in a surprising amount of crime fighting. ‘Last time’ had involved an illegal immigrant, and the tensions that had arisen had threatened the survival of the quad.

That’s what they were: a gay, polyamorous quad. They lived in Tunhead, a hamlet in Weardale in the Durham hills. Once, Tunhead had rung to the sound of workers’ hammers hitting stone. In a way it still did: Ross had turned it into an arts centre full of smiths, sculptors and potters who wanted to escape the North East’s towns.

“Well, we’re not, are we?” Raith repeated.

“No.”

“Good. Well, my creations won’t create themselves. I’d better get off, too.”

In Raith’s case, ‘getting off’ simply meant walking twenty yards to his studio, a converted storehouse.

“You sure he hasn’t forgotten?” he asked Mike again before he left.

“I’m sure.”

“Okay then.”

“What’s that about?” asked Ross after Raith was gone.

“He’s bothered that Phil’s forgotten their anniversary.”

“He hasn’t.”

“I know he hasn’t. He’s takin’ him off on a trip sumwhere—but you know Raith. He needs everythin’ crystal clear and written in capital letters. And sumtimes, so do I. What was this message about?”

Ross pulled a face and explained. When he’d done so, Mike could understand his concern.

“He wouldn’t be so stupid, Ross… Would he?”

“Not stupid, Mike, but he’s gullible. He doesn’t always think. I just don’t know.”

***

The message stayed in Ross’s mind during the forty-mile drive to the gallery and he couldn’t forget about it once he was there. Some of Raith’s paintings hung on the gallery walls. They were mainly of Weardale’s waterfalls. After heavy rain, the falls transformed from gentle trickles into rushing, gushing powerful forces of nature that the four men knew could kill. They’d seen them kill.

Raith loved to paint the waterfalls. From a distance, his torrents looked alive. The effect was linked to his use of colour. Raith was a tetrachromat; he could see a host of hues in what, to most people, was a single shade. He painted for himself, though, not for fame or money—he had plenty of both, due to his skill with clay not brushes. Several of his wares were on show at the gallery, most tagged ‘sold’ with a price that would feed and clothe all four men for a long, long time. His sensually erotic sculptures, modelled on Mike and Phil, were always in demand and beautifully, lovingly executed. But today, Ross gave Raith’s erotica a miss. He stared, instead, at the waterfalls.

What might induce Raith to produce a piece of work “with intent to deceive”, as the legal phrase was?

That was what the worrying message had suggested. That Raith’s were the hands and eyes behind a painting that the police were interested in. They thought it was a fake. For the umpteenth time, Ross asked himself why?

Raith didn’t need fame and he didn’t need fortune, but did he need the challenge of outwitting the experts? Of copying another artist’s work so accurately that no one would notice the difference?

Surely not. Momentarily, Ross’s dark mood lifted. The only challenge Raith was likely to rise to was the one of finding ways to spice up the quad’s evening meals. Two nights ago, he’d ‘accidentally’ stumbled near the saucepan with a teaspoon of chilli flakes in his hand.

“Oh, look! They’ve fallen in,” he’d said apologetically.

Ross smiled when he thought about it, but anxiety soon returned. Could Raith be feeling resentment? Sometimes, that was the driving force behind a fraud. Failed artists whose work had been refused once too often. Failed artists who took I’ll show them! literally.

No. All Raith’s resentments were little ones that quickly blew over—feeling nagged for not doing his turn on the house-keeping rota, being yelled at for leaving clay-covered dirty washing on top of the pile of clean laundry. Raith took umbrage easily, but he’d be smiling again within the hour. And anyway, he wasn’t a failed artist. He was a very successful one.

He was a strange mixture though. That complexity was part of his attraction. It was part of what made him Raith. His skill was undeniable, but his mental health was fragile— ‘bloody unhinged’ was how Mike would describe Raith in less charitable moments. He could be unpredictable. He could be very violent. He had another side, though, and it was what Mike and Phil and Ross adored about him. Canny, clued up, an ex-con hard as nails… but at the toss of a coin, as loving, as sweet and as trusting as anyone they had ever met. Mike was as loving, and often as sweet, but trusting? No. Mike was ex-CID. It wasn’t in his nature to be trusting.

Which was why Mike was already making phone calls.

About the Author

I’m not Nick Seabrooke, the ace in the picture, but there are some firsthand truths peeping through the fiction.

Like Nick, I’m ace and happy with it, but also, like Nick, I’m wavery on that ro/aro line–and that can cause some soul-searching. If the picture painted in the story is a very narrow one, it’s because I didn’t want to stray too far from what I know. The quad, however, is totally imaginary.

I blog at https://polyallsorts.wordpress.com . There are posts about asexuality, polyamory, beer, tattoos, book covers, and many other story-related items.

There are photos of the Durham countryside, the setting of the stories, too. I’m always happy to receive and respond to comments. Well, if they’re friendly ones!

Author Link

Blog/Website

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Complex and beautifully phrased romance

grounded-t-kostova-customdesign-jayaheer2016-smallpreviewGrounded by Teodora Kostova

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Teodora Kostova has an incredible talent for putting you into the heads of her characters and making you feel all their emotions.

She also manages to pass a subtle commentary on just how we treat our military veterans, home and abroad, and also on the futility of a war that no one can remember the justification for.

Greg’s experiences as an RAF pilot are expertly drawn out, placing the reader in the heat and destruction of the conflict in Afghanistan. We also live through the emotionally draining effects of being the one left at home.

With so many family members and friends in the various branches of the UK’s military, I could relate to this a lot. It’s an ordeal being the person serving’s rock, especially when dealing with crises of your own.

I think it was perhaps a tad overlong, Shane’s many moments of introspection could have been reduced a bit but, overall, there was so much other excellent story building, I let it ride.

I preferred this to Cookies in the end, but it was a close call. Greg and Shane just shaded it with the super cute epilogue.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Spotlight On: Grounded by Teodora Kostova

Grounded | Teodora Kostova

Cookies Series #2

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Series: Sequel to Cookies but can be read as a stand-alone

Length: 85K

Release date: January 17, 2019

Cover photo: Varian Krylov at Strangeland Photography

Cover Design: Jay Aheer at Simply Defined Art

Available on Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07MQSN3WG

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Grounded-Teodora-Kostova-ebook/dp/B07MQSN3WG

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Blurb

A chance encounter.

A passionate night.

An intense connection.

When medical student Shane Sanford and RAF pilot Greg Becker meet the air between them sizzles with mutual attraction. There’s nothing holding them back as they give in to their desire.

But once their paths lead them into a different direction, neither of them can forget the intense connection they’d shared.

When fate brings them together again a year later, they have a choice to make: try and make a long-distance relationship work or let this be a one-night stand again.

With war, tragedy and fear standing in their way, can Shane and Greg overcome the challenges life keeps throwing their way? Is their bond strong enough to survive?

Is love enough?

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Theodora’s comments on the book

Grounded is a sequel to Cookies, but it’s Shane and Greg’s story and can be read on its own. I’ve had this book in the works for what seems like ages now. It was a difficult book to write, not only because of the subject matter but also because it doesn’t follow the typical romance novel arc.

I had a lot of decisions to make while writing this book, but in the end I just left the characters tell their story as they wanted. I feel that’s the most organic way to do it, especially because I’m a linear writer and have to follow the story as it happens.

What I can say for sure is that Shane and Greg are one of the most intense couples I’ve ever written. Their bond is so strong that as I was writing I felt nothing could hurt them or break them apart. As it often happens, I turned out to be wrong.

But don’t worry, HEA/HFN are guaranteed in all my books, so they eventually get there, but at what cost?

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About the Author

Teodora is a bestselling, award-winning author writing across genres, but has a soft spot for contemporary romance. As a passionate and vocal supporter of equal rights, LGBTQ+ themes are explored in most of her novels.

A Creative Writing and English graduate, Teodora began writing full-length novels in college, but only got the courage to show some of them to the world long after she graduated. She’s now been published by several publishers in five languages, and has attended book signings around the world.

She loves travelling, and her wanderlust has inspired several of her novels. Her other passion is musical theatre and she can often be found in London’s West End trying to score a last-minute ticket for a musical.

When she’s not writing, Teodora loves watching anime, rearranging her enormous bookshelves or walking around London, always looking for a cosy, quirky coffee shop to settle in with her Kindle and a cup of tea.

 Social Media

Website: www.teodorakostova.com

Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/author/teodorakostova

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Teodora_Kostova

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

Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/245720345600711/

Instagram: www.instagram.com/teodorika1

Newsletter: https://goo.gl/gwytxF

Email: teodora@teodorakostova.com

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Complex narrative deeply surrounds this romance from Garrett Leigh

43188699Cash by Garrett Leigh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From ‘The Beautiful Game’ in Lucky to Blood Sports in Cash, Garrett Leigh’s new release takes readers through a tumultuous narrative which may be confusing to those not aware of all the ins and outs of Fox Hunting and the saboteurs that come along hand in hand.

This isn’t typical romance genre fare, there’s a deeper understanding to this story of how far under a saboteur can get involved in trying to disrupt a hunt and the unusual lengths some hunts go to try and get round the present ban on hunting foxes with packs of more than two hounds.

The romance in this is also a more complex one as it is so intricately entwined with that of the book’s message about blood sports.

It fluctuates between intense passion and understanding to dislocation and mistrust and all points in between and I honestly don’t think this will be for everyone.

My own opinion is that is exceptionally detailed, an incredibly strong narrative with great pacing and the characters are compelling but I’m not actually sure if I can say it’s a ‘sit back and chill’ read.

I have mixed feelings about the behaviour of hunt saboteurs in the same way as I have similar feelings about the hunts themselves. I’m not sure that two wrongs ever make a right and illegal activity shouldn’t be condoned on either side.

I think in this instance there is clearly a right and a wrong side to be on however, as it befits the storyline being told and it is told well.

Both Cash and Rae are engaging and equally frustrating men, with their own foibles and unique stubbornness and they play well against the other when they’re on the same page but also when they’re on the outs.

There’s wonderful extended cameos from Dom and Lucky, who are on hand throughout to offer up their own brand of unasked for help and advice but also unwavering loyalty and friendship.

There’s a fully fleshed out set of secondary characters and a clever plot which unveils itself steadily throughout.

So, while I haven’t 5*-ed this one, that’s more down to my own experiences growing up in a Yorkshire market town surrounded by active farming communities and my journalism history of being an agricultural correspondent and rural affairs specialist.

I perhaps have a slightly different view than most of the fox as a creature capable of devastating destruction as well as the beautiful subject of much wildlife photography. Not that I think chasing them to exhaustion with a pack of hounds is the solution either mind.

This is a brilliantly drawn narrative but focused on a subject I’m not truly at ease with and it’s certainly coloured my own enjoyment.

Ultimately I think the message about illegal hunting practices outweighed the romance just a little bit for me to thoroughly enjoy the book as a whole fully.

However, we do also get a sneak peek into book three of the series which is beyond tempting and I can’t wait to find out more about how that will play out.

#ARC kindly received from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Review Tour: Trusting Jack by Ruby Moone

Trusting Jack | Ruby Moone

MC Securities #1

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 45,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Meredith Russell

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Blurb

 

With only a few days to go until Christmas, Michael Cross has to admit there is something amiss about his latest employee, Jack Whelan.

Quiet, jumpy, thin… he never seems to eat. He is also incredibly gorgeous with dark spiky hair that Michael aches to touch. But as his boss, Jack is off limits. And when it comes to relationships, he…well, he sucks.

Jack Whelan is at the end of his tether. He’s living rough in the middle of winter, and paying off a massive debt, so getting a job with MC Securities is a lifeline. His new boss is also the hottest guy ever. Geeky, broody, and scarily clever.

When Michael stumbles upon the reality of Jack’s life, he offers to help. But as Michael’s feelings deepen, and Jack’s terrible past catches up with him, Michael has to decide between believing in the awful truth that is staring him in the face, or trusting Jack.

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Dec 10  OMGReadsKimmers’ Erotic Book BanterDec 12 – Amy’s MM Romance ReviewsDec 14 – Mainely StoriesBook Corner ReviewsThe Blogger GirlsDec 17 – Mirrigold: Mutterings & MusingsMegan’s Media MelangeSexy Erotic XcitingDec 19 – Scattered Thoughts & Rogue WordsBayou Book JunkieDec 21 – Valerie UllmerBook Review by Virginia LeeLillian FrancisGay Media Reviews

About The Author

My name is Ruby Moone and I love books. All kinds of books. My weakness is for romance, and that can be any kind, but I am particularly fond of historical and paranormal.

I decided to write gay romance after reading some fantastic books and falling in love with the genre, so am really thrilled to have my work published here. The day job takes up a lot of my time, but every other spare moment finds me writing or reading.

I live in the north west of England with my husband who thinks that I live in two worlds. The real world and in the world in my head…he probably has a point!

Social Media

Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/RubyMoone/?ref=bookmarks

Twitter – @RubyMooneWriter

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

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New Release Blitz: The Island Angel by Alex Slorra

The Island Angel | Alex Slorra

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 10, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 72,900

Genre: Contemporary, thriller, fraud, conspiracy, framed, stranded, Lindisfarne, lesbian

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Purchase

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Synopsis

Jessica was a successful IT Director, but now she is on the run. Accused of fraud and orchestrating her company’s downfall, she travels as far as the island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland before breaking down.

There, an American, Anna Meyer, takes her in and offers kindness without questions. As they become closer, Jessica soon discovers Anna has her own much bigger problems and a past that comes knocking.

Excerpt

The Island Angel
Alex Slorra © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Anna’s eyes were shut tight. She held a coffee cup in both hands below her chin.

It had been a mistake, a huge rotten awful mistake, and now, as some additional sadistic punishment, Anna would have to pay. No, make that two mistakes. First, marrying him, and second, buying an overpriced dump she couldn’t afford to sell.

She remembered a third, signing the divorce papers without really understanding what they had owed on the farm. No, the last wasn’t a mistake. It was the only way out.

Forcing herself to lift her gaze above the rim of her cup, she focused on her mother across the table. Tourist season had not yet started, and they were the only people in the Crown Hotel.

“Honey, sell and come back to the States,” her mother pleaded.

“You know I’m not doing that!” Anna slammed down her cup, before noticing the shock on her mother’s weary face. “I’m sorry.”

Her mum had flown all the way from Michigan after hearing how distressed she’d been on her daily calls home. “Anna, how are you paying the mortgage at the moment?”

Anna leaned back in her seat. “In the divorce, John signed the house over to me with enough money for six months. So, right now, I only have four months left.”

“I don’t understand why you would agree when you don’t have any income. He’s a lawyer, you should’ve asked for a lot more.”

“Mom, I’d expected to get the business going, you know, I told you… And I wanted to see the back of him. But now, I couldn’t even sell up if I wanted to. When I had it valued, the farm was worth thousands less than what we paid for it. And then I found out what we owed. If I sell, after all the costs, there’d be nothing, and I’ll still owe what is on my cards.”

Anna rested her chin on her chest, and her blonde hair fell forward, concealing her eyes. She hated that her marriage had ended. Hated that all her plans to turn the old farm into a business were now broken. Her sanctuary had become a burden.

“Oh, darling, talk to John. Can’t he—?”

“Mom, I’m not talking to him.”

A moment passed before her mother continued. “Why not come back home and wait for prices to go up? They always do, you know.”

“I can’t. I feel safer here. Abbie is safer here.”

Her mother leaned forward. “Just come back. It would be all right. He won’t bother us, I’m sure.”

“He was released last month, you said. And he’s still in Michigan?”

“As far as I know… But enough about that. You know, you could just default on your house payments, and it’ll be repossessed. The banks won’t chase you.”

Anna had considered the idea of going back home, but she couldn’t face it. She knew the fear would return. Especially now he’d been released. She had to keep Abbie safe. But also, the thought of being a barista at twenty-nine, while listening to whispers about her British husband leaving her for a younger woman, made her stomach turn. She’d rather drown in the cold North Sea outside her kitchen window.

She put on a brave smile. “Well, I’ve got four months. Things will improve. Maybe I can make enough from pony trekking this summer.” She didn’t want to worry her mother more than she had, so she didn’t mention she only had one pony and the stable’s roof needed to be repaired. It was another thing she couldn’t afford.

“There you go.” Her mum squeezed her hand. “Darling, do you have a friend here to help you?”

“Yes, a few.” It was a blatant lie, but she couldn’t have her mother concerned that she was alone. The truth was the people here weren’t very friendly. They seemed to stick together in groups as if they might catch the Black Death from someone new. Being the American who had bought a croft on their holy island, she hadn’t been welcomed into the tight-knit community.

Anna reached into her pocket to retrieve her watch and check the time. The strap had broken earlier in the day, and it wasn’t as if she needed it. She had her phone, and there was always a clock somewhere. It was just, since she was sixteen, she’d always worn it. The thought reminded her of her older sister, Emma, and caused tears to well up in her eyes.

She blinked to clear them and forced herself to damp down her emotions before her mother noticed. “I’m sorry Abbie wasn’t here to say goodbye.”

“I understand. The timing wasn’t good,” her mum offered. “It was nice to see her on the weekend. It must cost a lot to have her go to boarding school?”

Anna shook her head. “It’s free. The council pays, it’s the local government. There’s no secondary school on the island and, because of the tides, it’s nearly impossible to cross and get back during a normal school day. So, kids older than ten have to go to the boarding school on the mainland. Right now, there’s only three students from the island who do it, though.”

“She’s happy there?”

“She never says she doesn’t want to go back and she’s picking up an English accent.”

“I noticed.” Her mum chuckled. “She’s becoming an English rose. Emma would be proud.”

Anna didn’t want to disagree. At fourteen, Abbie was more like a thistle than a rose, at least with her anyway. One minute they were fine and having fun, the next they would be at loggerheads. Perhaps, in the holidays, things will be better between us.

Anna remembered why she had looked at her watch and touched her mother’s arm. “It’s time for your bus.”

“I wish I could have stayed longer.” It was her mum’s turn to lie. Anna knew her mother thought England was too cold, as well as expensive and inconvenient.

Anna’s mother got up and took hold of the handle of her cabin bag. “I know you don’t want my help with money, but it’s there if you need it. And do come home. I worry about you and Abbie.”

“I know. But you don’t need to. We’re fine, really.”

Outside, they hugged goodbye. It was still pretty cold for mid-May, and the wind cut through the fibres of Anna’s burgundy all-weather coat. She buried her hands in her pockets and watched as her mother boarded the small bus that would cross the mile-long causeway back to the mainland before the tide covered it.

Anna’s hair was blowing into her eyes. She brushed the wavy strands aside, before bursting into tears and darting back in the direction of her home.

Hurrying through the small village with her head down, she soon left the few buildings of the hamlet behind.

The island was small, only a few miles in both directions. In the winter, no more than a few hundred people braved the North Sea storms. Spring was not much better, with high tides and cold easterly winds from Norway. It was a suffering romantic’s paradise. For Anna, only the suffering part seemed true now. She passed the ruins of the old monastery, said to be the birthplace of Christianity in Britain. Beyond it, waves crashed against the rocky coastline.

She tried to put her predicament into words, but all she could think of was a swimming lesson from her grandfather at his cabin in Michigan. As was the tradition, Grandpa Brent had the job of teaching the younger family members how to swim. Anna had begged her way out of swimming until, at eight years old, her mother insisted she must learn. It was apparently a necessary life skill.

So, there she was standing in her newly purchased white-and-pink one-piece at the end of the dock with Grandpa Brent behind her. He was explaining how to move her arms and legs. Looking back, she should have questioned why the man was fully dressed. Next thing she knew, he’d picked her up by her waist and had thrown her off the end of the dock into the lake.

Anna would have drowned if it wasn’t for the end of a bamboo fishing rod the old idiot offered her when she managed to surface. She’d desperately grabbed the thin yellow pole and used it to get back to the dock. Sobbing and hunched over, having literally been fished out of the water, she looked at the person she had trusted and screamed at him before running back into the cabin where her mother and older sister were making lunch. She still hadn’t learned how to swim and, now, she felt like she was underwater again.

On the exposed barren land, she followed a single-track road that hugged the jagged coast until Lindisfarne Castle could be seen on the south-eastern corner of the island. It was perched on a pinnacle, half-hidden by sea mist.

Anna found some solace in the old fortress, knowing it had been there for four hundred years, withstanding all that had been thrown at it. But more so, it comforted her knowing people had lived, worked, and survived in its walls. If they could, so could she. She turned down a narrow muddy lane and scampered towards the eighteenth-century farmhouse that was her home.

Meet the Author

Alex is a lesbian fiction novelist based in the UK. She grew up in Canada and completed a BSc degree in Nova Scotia, before moving back to work in central London. Alex has also lived in the United States and France.

Since a young age, she has consumed a mixture of historical fiction, fantasy, and romance. Alex enjoys music creation, photography, painting, and the guitar, but most of all, things she doesn’t understand.

For her, writing is a way to inspire virtues that should happen more often. Follow Alex on Twitter.

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