Tag Archives: FF

New Release Blitz: Breaking the Surface by Rebecca Langham

Breaking the Surface | Rebecca Langham

The Outsider Project #2

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 13, 2020

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 81,300

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Blurb

Alessia is an Outsider—a member of the not-quite-human community that has recently been released from their underground prison. Shortly after their liberation, Alessia is given an ultimatum: obey all the United Earth Alliance’s demands, or her mother will forever remain a hostage—a mother she’d believed dead for fifteen years. Reluctantly, she agrees, though she has no idea what those demands may be or how she will balance her obligations to the UEA with her responsibilities to her people and her family.

As the UEA tightens its grip on humans and Outsiders alike, it becomes clear that meaningful social change will not be possible without a revolution. Alessia and her peers embark on a mission to discover just how far the government is willing to go to maintain their monopoly on power.

What Alessia and her comrades discover, however, goes much deeper than they’d ever anticipated. Who are the Outsiders, really? What secrets of their destiny lay hidden within a top-secret space station? And why are the Outsiders linked to an emerging disease the UEA seems desperate to keep secret? As they delve deeper, it isn’t only Alessia’s identity that will be called into question, but the fate of the entire planet.

Excerpt

Breaking the Surface
Rebecca Langham © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Lydia wanted so badly to pace, to burn away her fear one exaggerated step at a time, but there was nowhere to go, no floor space to haunt. The Camp had been a sanctuary for them all, keeping her friends safe from unwanted attention since they’d taken their first steps as free people, but now it suffocated her. It may have been off-the-grid, but the complex was also small. Too small.

Given the number of people in the control room, she had to settle for crossing her arms over her stomach and gritting her teeth. But even then, she couldn’t silence the dissenting voice in her head. Something wasn’t right. Why would the United Earth Alliance be demanding a meeting so forcefully?

The UEA had been quiet in the two weeks since the Outsiders relocated from the colonies, granting an eerie yet welcome period of radio silence. Now they’d not only made contact, but threatened legal action if Alessia and the Green Hats didn’t acquiesce to an immediate communication with one of the government’s top advisers.

Lydia’s stomach churned.

As though reading her thoughts, Alessia slid her hand into Lydia’s and squeezed her fingers. Lydia forced a weak smile as she turned. “I don’t trust them.”

Alessia’s face—which, more than ever, reminded Lydia of a finely carved alabaster statue— softened.

“Of course not,” she replied, her tone sympathetic yet firm. “But it may not be wise to ignore the request. This could be nothing more than an administrative issue and I don’t want to invite trouble, not so soon after the release.”

“I don’t think you can ignore it, Ly-dee.” Helen swivelled gently in an office chair, forearms resting on her thighs as she considered her daughter. After all those years without Helen’s presence, hearing that fruity voice still managed to surprise her from time to time. Lydia had believed her mother to be dead for years. Finding out she hadn’t died, but rather become a kind of political hacker, was unsettling to say the least.

Life had changed so much in the last nine months. Alessia did not remain trapped beneath the ground, and Helen had re-emerged from the void.

No longer living with her politician father, even Lydia had been partially freed from the web of her old insecurities and frustrations. Sometimes though, it seemed like those frustrations had dissolved only to be replaced by a whole slew of new concerns. It had been a lot to process.

Helen sighed, a little too dramatically. She reached for a cup of tea she’d left cooling on a nearby bench and cradled it between her hands. “We knew they’d get their claws back in sooner or later.”

“Two weeks,” Lydia huffed. “They only waited two weeks. Please can’t we refuse?” The frustration in her voice exposed Lydia’s raw emotional state in a way she wasn’t comfortable with. Until recently, she’d worked hard to present a subdued version of her thoughts to the outside world. With such a prominent father, she’d had to if she had any hope of protecting herself from those who sought to exploit her. Whether it be to splash her personal life about the goss-channels, or to pressure her to influence her father regarding some political issue or another, there had been no shortage of people trying to use Lydia. It had been a kind of self-preservation to surround herself in the dark veil she’d become enveloped in, making it harder for people to really see her. But then Alessia had burst into her life, a quiet yet powerful blaze of light.

Alessia and the other Outsiders had reached right into her and reawakened feelings and sensations she’d muted long ago.

“Is refusing a good idea?” Peleus looked up from where he sat cross-legged on the floor a couple of metres away from Helen. Peleus had been one of her earliest and most faithful followers and friends, embracing her efforts to slowly change culture in the colony by sharing positive stories and messages with the children. “They’re providing accommodations and integration assistance to the four thousand Os who’ve had their entire existence uprooted. Not taking their meeting might give the UEA reason to withdraw support.” As Alessia’s confidante, Peleus’s presence always lent a certain sense of thoughtful tranquillity to a situation.

Alessia pulled Lydia closer until their bodies pressed together, banishing the air between them and soothing Lydia’s nerves a little. They’d barely had time to catch their breath since Release Day. When they had finally pushed their way through the obscenely large crowd of onlookers in Thracia after the ceremony, they’d boarded an air-transport and come directly here to the Green Hat headquarters in Quadrant Four.

Affectionately known by its inhabitants as the Camp, the secure underground complex supported a community of approximately a hundred people. Every one of them had dedicated their lives to undermining the UEA’s ever-worsening abuses of its own laws.

The main control room at the Camp was capacious and circular, with curved desks and ergonomic chairs that hugged the wall. Each workstation offered a user access to the G-Hat virtual network, but to connect with the outside world, one had to utilise the cylindrical, glassy tower in the centre of the room. A reflective pillar when inactive, the hub featured a projector that sent holograms into the middle of the tower as required.

The hub worked much the same way as any Hive wall, but with some modifications helping to prevent hacks into the rest of their system. It was also perfect for situations in which more than one person needed to participate in a communication link. Lydia believed the entire setup was nothing short of spectacular. No doubt they’d been able to develop the untraceable consoles only because of whatever financial support the MacNay Corporation had been providing.

Still, Alessia and Lydia had traded one isolated abode for another. At least this one wasn’t full of protectors or tainted by decades of oppression. Greys had been replaced with blues, locked doors with open spaces, and obstacles with possibilities.

The dormitory was unfortunate, though. Each night, the enticing heat of Alessia’s body rejuvenated Lydia, yet they were acutely aware of the other people sleeping nearby, and so Lydia had accepted the fact they’d have no privacy for the foreseeable future.

In truth, she experienced relief and disappointment in equal measure. They’d only spent a few weeks getting to know one another in the Q4C, after a month of silent glances in crowded corridors. The six months of separation following Lydia’s departure had done little to quiet Lydia’s fears her connection to Alessia wasn’t as strong as she’d thought, that perhaps she’d imagined the whole thing given the immediacy of their attraction. Slowing things down, being with one another without expectation, could be the best way for Lydia to validate the tether between the two of them.

The rest of the refugees had been relocated to government-sponsored accommodations in the major cities of Thracia and New Sydney. Only Peleus and Fermi knew exactly where to find Alessia, and Lydia wanted it to stay that way for the moment, regardless of Alessia’s initial protestations.

The entire world knew Alessia’s face now, and there was no way to predict how she’d be received by the mainstream population or what her own people might expect from her as their de facto leader. Leader.

Lydia rested the side of her face against Alessia’s bicep. Her stomach clenched as she capitulated. “Peleus is right, isn’t he? We should hear them out.”

Alessia kissed the top of Lydia’s head, then nodded. “Yes.” She looked at Lydia’s mother. “Helen, I’m ready.”

Don’t miss Book #1 in the The Outsider Project series, Beneath the Surface, available from NineStar Press

Meet the Author

Rebecca Langham lives in the Blue Mountains (Australia) with her partner, three children, and menagerie of pets. A Xenite, a Whovian and all-round general nerd, she’s a lover of science fiction, comic books, and caffeine.

When she isn’t teaching History to high schoolers or wrangling children, Rebecca enjoys playing broomball and reading.

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New Release Blitz: The Empress of Xytae by Effie Calvin

The Empress of Xytae | Effie Calvin

Tales of Inthya #4

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 30, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 83,500

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy, LGBT, royalty, new adult, magic, paladins, gods, goddesses

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Add to Goodreads

Blurb

Crown Princess Ioanna of Xytae has kept her truthsayer blessing a secret for twenty years. In any other nation, her powerful magic would be cause for celebration. But Xytae’s patron is the war goddess Reygmadra, and the future empress is expected to be a brutal warrior.

Reserved and peaceful by nature, Ioanna knows the court sees her as a disappointment. She does her best to assuage their worries every day, working quietly beside her mother to keep the empire running while her father is away at war. But when news of the emperor’s untimely death reaches the capital, Ioanna finds herself ousted by her younger sister Netheia, who has the war magic Ioanna lacks.

Princess Vitaliya of Vesolda has come to Xytae to avoid her father’s upcoming wedding, which she sees as an affront to her mother’s memory. Vitaliya has absolutely no interest in politics or power struggles and intends to spend her time attending parties and embarrassing her family. But when she saves Ioanna’s life during Netheia’s coup, the two are forced to flee the capital together.

Despite their circumstances, Vitaliya enjoys travelling with Ioanna and realizes that the future empress’s shy and secretive nature is the result of her unhappy childhood. Ioanna is equally unaccustomed to being in the company of one as earnest and straightforward as Vitaliya, for she has spent her life surrounded by ambitious and cutthroat nobles.

Ioanna cannot allow her sister to continue their father’s legacy, and plots to rally supporters to her side so she can interrupt Netheia’s coronation. Vitaliya knows she ought to leave Xytae before the nation is ripped apart by civil war but finds she is unwilling to abandon Ioanna.

But Ioanna’s enemies are always watching…and they’ve realized that Vitaliya is a weakness to be exploited.

Excerpt

The Empress of Xytae
Effie Calvin © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Reygmadra

The Imperial Palace at Xyuluthe buzzed with anticipation. Empress Enessa had finally gone into labor, and the heir to the Xytan Empire would be born within a few hours. The archpriest of Adranus and the archpriestess of Pemele were both there to aid with the birth along with countless members of the imperial court who would bear witness to the historic event.

Reygmadra, Goddess of Warfare and Eighth of the Ten, waited just outside the empress’s chambers, unseen by all who passed. She would not deny she was beginning to grow impatient. She was only here to bless the child, the future empress. Then she would be on her way.

If the child ever arrived.

Reygmadra had no tolerance for children, nor for the tedious conversations that always surrounded a birth—discussions of size, weight, and bodily functions. She had left the empress’s room because she had grown tired of the pointless hysterical screaming, but this was undoubtably worse.

Unfortunately, she could not grant a blessing to a mortal until after it had taken its first breath. This was one of the rules she and her fellow gods had agreed upon when they’d first set out to create Inthya. Even Reygmadra could see the value in this one, for if babies could use magic in the womb, nobody would ever risk giving birth ever again.

Emperor Ionnes was occupied, as always, by his campaign in Masim. He would not return to meet his new daughter for several months. Some of the members of the court were muttering about this, but Reygmadra did not see the trouble. What help could Ionnes be right now? He would only be in the way if he tried to help. At least in Masim, he was serving his nation by leading the army.

She longed to be there, whispering ideas in his ear as he slept, soaking up the power she received when tens of thousands of warriors prayed to her in unison. Of course, the prayers would find her no matter where she was on the mortal realm of Inthya or in the celestial planes of Asterium. But there was nothing like experiencing it firsthand.

Babies seemed to bring out the stupidest, weakest aspects of mankind. One of the Xytans was now relaying a tale of someone else’s labor, and Reygmadra decided to take a walk before she lost her temper and stabbed someone.

She moved through the palace like a specter, her face unseen and heavy footsteps unheard. She was dressed as she usually did when she manifested on Inthya, as a common soldier with short sword and breastplate. If someone did somehow see her, they would think nothing of her.

One of the rooms led out into a garden, and Reygmadra decided she had been indoors for too long. She stepped out into the sunlight, into the fresh air.

Reygmadra didn’t think much of gardens—they were really just a waste of space—but this one was empty, so she would stay for a while. As she moved, she kept an ear to the palace, hoping she would soon hear distant cheers.

“Still waiting?”

A woman dressed as a Xytan noble stood there among the flowers. She had olive-toned skin and long, wavy ebony hair, and her face was impossibly, supernaturally beautiful. The dress she wore was simple but elegant, all wine-colored silk that perfectly emphasized wide hips and a narrow waist. Despite her disguise as a mortal woman, Reygmadra recognized Dayluue—Goddess of Love and Seventh of the Ten.

“It will be a while yet,” said Reygmadra. “Why are you here?”

“I’m feeling neglected,” Dayluue said. “You haven’t come to see me in ages.”

“I’m busy.”

“You’re always busy.” Crimson lips pressed together in a pout as Dayluue adjusted the neckline of her dress aggressively. “Maybe I should call on someone else. I wonder what Nara is doing.”

Possessive rage seized at Reygmadra, and Dayluue began to laugh. But the sound was cut short when Reygmadra grabbed her by the shoulders. A moment later, she had Dayluue pressed between the garden wall and her own body.

“I love it when you get jealous,” Dayluue said breathlessly. “Kiss me?”

Reygmadra brought her lips to Dayluue’s throat. Dayluue tilted her head back, hands clasping at Reygmadra’s hair, and laughed again. “I have missed you,” she said.

“I don’t believe you,” said Reygmadra because expecting strict monogamy from Dayluue was like expecting a bird to refrain from flight.

“I’ll prove it, then.” Dayluue’s eyes sparkled.

“No. I’m busy.”

“I never took you for the sort to get excited over a birth. Or are you finally realizing what I’ve been saying about the population—”

“No. I’m just giving her a blessing, and then I’m leaving.”

“It might be a while,” warned Dayluue. “Labor can last an entire day.”

Reygmadra shuddered. “Awful.”

“Well, they wouldn’t have to do it so often if you didn’t keep convincing them to kill one another.”

Reygmadra rolled her eyes. “Did you come here just to argue?”

Dayluue pressed her lips to Reygmadra’s. “Only if you really want to,” she murmured into her mouth. The scent of her mortal body, flowers and sweat and pheromones, was intoxicating.

They were antithesis to each other, and yet, there was an undeniable symmetry to their domains. They were two primal forces, mindless impulse given sentience. And sometimes the fiery lust Dayluue elicited from her felt identical to the thrill of battle.

Perhaps that was why Dayluue always returned to her. Perhaps that was why Reygmadra did not object to Dayluue’s wandering.

When they met like this in Asterium, it was a union of selves, of auras and magic, and two becoming one in the way none but their own kind could hope to understand. It was delightful to have Dayluue’s energy surging through her, to feel her own spirit within Dayluue. Reygmadra always came away from these unions feeling softer, lighter. But not weaker. Never weaker.

On Inthya, with warm bodies made of blood and flesh, things were different. On Inthya, Dayluue was in control, and Reygmadra was helpless under her expert fingers.

“Kiss me again,” said Dayluue. “But lower, this time.”

About the Author

Effie Calvin is definitely a human being with all her own skin, and not a robot. She writes science fiction and fantasy novels and lives with her cat in the greater Philadelphia area.

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New Release Blitz: Essex Colony by Lia Cooper

Essex Colony | Lia Cooper

The Moon Mirror #1

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 30, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 36600

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy, LGBT, mutations, scientists, space travel, moon colonists, AI, shifter, interspecies, alien influence

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Add to Goodreads

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Blurb

It’s been 227 days since Essex Colony’s last transmission…

Dispatched to the surface of Essex Prime and tasked with discovering what happened to the colony, Doctor Soran Ingram discovers that most of the colonists are dead and the surviving Executive Officer—Aline Aster—has turned into a ravening wolf-beast. The human survivors claim the XO and her Lunaran fellows went mad and killed everyone, but Soran has her doubts.

Following Aster’s testimony, as well as clues left behind, Soran embarks on a fact-finding mission to retrace the colony’s last steps before disaster struck.

She’ll soon discover more than uncertainty lurks in the dark spaces of the world.

Excerpt

Essex Colony
Lia Cooper © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Federal Standard Days since Last Essex Colony Transmission…227

Essex Colony, Location: Essex Prime/Equatorial 10S, Greenwich Meridian

06:55 AM, Colony Time

Soran stood at the forward port viewing station on board the starship Emery and watched Essex Prime spin slowly below her, a bright blue and green marble hanging in the dark of space. Technically speaking, the planet bore only a superficial resemblance to Earth, but she could see the appeal it must have had for the Earther colonists who had signed on to colonize it for the company. In her time working aboard the Emery, she had learned the importance of superficiality for her Earther colleagues. Something as simple as a color was often enough to evoke an emotional resonance for them.

They had picked Essex Prime for colonization because someone in the company had nicknamed it Earth 3—not to be confused with Earth 2, a planet locally know as L’n’ze-q24—but Soran wondered what they would find when they went down there now. Two hundred and twenty-seven days since since the colony’s last official transmission plus no sign of comms signals since the Emery crossed into local communication range combined into an anxious loop in Soran’s lesser subroutines. Fear, she realized, fear of what they would find.

Essex Prime wouldn’t be the first colony lost to catastrophic failure, whether from some unforeseen natural disaster or a breakdown in the colony’s equipment, or from a dangerous local agent that went unnoticed in the initial planetary surveys. There were a hundred things that could go wrong this far from galactic center.

The ship’s computer beeped at her through the ship’s network to remind her she was expected on the airlock deck in fifteen minutes.

She was dressed in her ground suit and had her go bag packed at her feet—just the essentials. The ship’s sensors hadn’t shown anything out of the ordinary, besides a lack of collected life signs large enough to belong to the colonists. This trip was intended as a brief scouting mission to ascertain the situation on the ground.

<<Contact. Doctor Ingram, did you receive your departure reminder?

Soran shouldered her go bag and acknowledged the computer’s check-in. Externally, she kept her expression blank as she made her way down to the airlock. That fear feeling squeezed at her regulatory system. If she were inclined to hope, she told herself, she’d hope that the colony’s comms equipment had simply suffered a mechanical breakdown and the colonists would greet them on the ground, all accounted for—all of them, but especially one Lunaran in particular. But even as the idea flickered through one of her lesser processes, another part of Soran wanted to shunt it away where it couldn’t hurt her to be disappointed. If she could only match her interior to the smooth expressionless surface of her exterior, then whatever they found couldn’t make that fear feeling worse.

But her interior felt riotous, clenching and twisting tight as her boots crossed the threshold, loud on the docking bay floor. The transport ship awaited her along with the two dozen security and medical personnel scheduled to fly down for the recon.

It had been nearly three years since she’d last seen Aline Aster, but Soran’s memory banks were nearly perfect—far superior to her Earther counterparts’—and she could recall with crisp clarity the feel of the Lunaran’s skin under her cutaneous sensors, the taste of her mouth, the sting of her teeth against Soran’s breasts, and the cadence of her voice winding down as she fell asleep still murmuring the words of a bedtime story from her homeworld. What would it feel like if Soran disembarked on Essex Prime to…nothing. No signs of life, no colony, no Aster waiting with a sheepish explanation for their silence?

But Security Chief Ryan was gesturing at her impatiently to board the transport vessel and Soran did the only thing she could do with this reductive thought string—she cut and pasted it into its own file and then buried it deep below her internal checklist for the mission. They were minutes away from an answer one way or another.

Or more precisely, fourteen hours later, she’d be staring into the malformed face of an answer while that fear in her chest crushed her heart into the sliver of a black hole.

Soran didn’t have a single word in her mouth as she stood next to SC Ryan outside the detention cell, staring in at what remained of XO Aster. Soran had to think of her—it like that or she was afraid the anguish would overwhelm her. She’d never lost someone with a personal—and emotional—connection to her before, and she wasn’t sure that her software had been properly programmed to handle that sort of emotional upheaval. The last thing she could afford to do would be to lose herself here on the ground, especially in front of SC Ryan.

“They found…it lurking around the edge of the forest. At the backside of the emergency compound,” SC Ryan said in a deep, bland voice, his eyes heavy on XO Aster’s hunched form. “Took enough electricity to stop an animal twice as big to subdue and facilitate capture.”

Soran swallowed around the bile in her throat. “And you want me to…?”

Ryan glanced at her finally, with a scowl, and said, “I don’t— Chelsea wants you to find out if it can talk. Find out why it killed the settlers. If there are any other Lunarans running around out there still. Probably a waste of time, but seeing as there’s nothing else for you to do down here, I figure you can’t hurt anything. Maybe ask it if this was their plan all along.”

“Who? The Lunarans? You don’t really think this was intentional?” Soran angled her face so she could glimpse Ryan’s expression without looking at him directly. She knew it unnerved the Earthers when she stared at them too closely.

“From what the survivors have told us—” he began.

“XO Aster is a survivor,” Soran insisted, choosing to ignore that part where she showed little resemblance to her former shape and sentience.

SC Ryan snorted and thrust a thick, calloused finger at the barrier separating them from the detention cell. “That’s a fucking monster,” he said.

“If that were true then what is the point of me—”

“I’m getting tired of your attitude, Ingram,” SC Ryan interrupted. He shot her a narrow-eyed look, a quick up and down that took in her entire person and always made Soran feel like a bug under a microscope—even if the Security Chief had probably never touched a microscope before. “You’re the ship shrink. Ask your questions, see what information you can get out of it, and report to Chelsea. Those are your orders. Don’t think about it too much; that’s not what they pay you for. Just collect the fucking data.”

Soran watched him leave, the door shutting behind him with an ominous clang that seemed to resonate in her perfectly shaped enamel plated teeth. She stared down at her boots, straight and shoulder-width apart, holding her up while her processor counted the individual beats of her circulatory system. A minute passed, or what more felt like a quarter of an hour, before a hoarse voice scraped across the air between her and the detention cell.

“S’not safe.”

A shiver raced down her spine. Soran looked up and met Aster’s all too familiar eyes, her circulatory regulator thumping painfully against the metal ribs of her geneered skeleton.

About the Author

Lia Cooper is a twenty-something native of the Pacific Northwest, voracious reader, pop-culture addict, and writer. She cultivated an early interest in writing through fandom and completed writing her first full length novel with the help of NaNoWriMo.

In the years since, she’s dabbled in catering, barista-ing, and working as a pastry chef before finally returning full time to the thing she loves most: storytelling.

When she’s not glued to Scrivener, Lia enjoys playing video games with friends and reviewing books for her booktube channel.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

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New Release Blitz: A Town Called Noelle by MK Hardy

A Town Called Noelle | MK Hardy

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 2, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 30,200

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon

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Blurb

Just a few days before Christmas, high-flying city exec Brooke Hawkins is forced to return to her small home town due to the death of her mother, who she hasn’t spoken to since she left for college over a decade before. The town, Noelle, is as full of the Christmas spirit as its name suggests. Brooke is more of the “Bah, Humbug” persuasion.

She has a funeral to attend, property to sell, and she wants to do it and leave—preferably before December 25th. Unfortunately, the weather and the pace of small-town life both conspire to keep her right where she is.

Small-town baker Holly Jackson gets a nasty shock when she receives the news, just days before Christmas, that her little shop is about to be sold from under her by her late landlady’s estranged daughter.

In the years since her husband died in a tragic accident, she and her daughter Maya have been getting by, healing and rebuilding. Holly was beginning to really enjoy life again. She doesn’t plan to let some woman she hasn’t seen since high school come in and ruin everything.

When Holly and Brooke cross paths, sparks fly—and not in a good way. Brooke is determined to sell up and get out of town—and outrun her bad memories in the process. Holly is determined to make her business work.

When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, can the spirit of Noelle change minds… and melt hearts?

Excerpt

A Town Called Noelle
MK Hardy © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Nine Days Till Christmas
“Goddammnit, where’s the friggin’ windshield wipers on this–oh, finally.”

Brooke sighed in relief as the automatic wipers came on just in time to swipe the sudden veil of snow off the windshield, allowing her to see the long, empty road ahead of her. The forecast had cautioned there might be scattered snow showers, but this had come out of nowhere, turning the onerous drive into a slightly more nerve-racking prospect.

She barely drove any more in the city, and the rental car was an unfamiliar make, with buttons and toggles and a slick GPS system she hadn’t even bothered to turn on. There was only one road where she was going, and she knew it well.

Noelle, Michigan, was the sort of place known only to those who lived there—or those who’d left. One of those lower peninsula towns far enough north to feel isolated, and not close enough to any Great Lakes to be of interest to anybody.

The first hour on the road had been fine, a relatively clear run. Now it was getting dark the temperature had dropped like a stone, and Brooke regretted not paying the extra to fly into Traverse City instead of Grand Rapids. It wasn’t like her, really, to sacrifice time and effort to save money, but this time, for this trip, she hadn’t been able to keep her mother’s voice out of her head.

“I’m not paying an arm and a leg to fly into that glorified back yard just to save an hour’s drive!”

Still, it would be fine. She’d seen snowploughs parked in rest stops she’d passed, and her destination was a straight shot up the road. She resisted the urge to drive a little faster; the sooner she got there, the sooner she could leave.

A dark object loomed ahead. Almost too late, Brooke noticed it was stationary, pulling sharply to the side to miss it. A car horn screamed as she slid back into her own lane just in time to miss a vehicle coming the other way. The snow was coming down properly now, and people were clearly getting stupid. Including you. Eyes on the road.

Brooke pulled into Noelle at five minutes to eleven. She could barely see for the swirling snow but even if she could’ve she knew there wouldn’t be much there—a few shops, a stop sign at the town’s only four-way intersection, tidy sidewalks rapidly being covered in a thick blanket of white. Carefully she steered down one of the side streets where she had once ridden her bike, chased by jeering bullies. Now it was home to a B and B she hoped was still open to late check-ins.

Nearly every house on this street and every other she’d driven down was lit up. In Noelle, people took “the season” seriously. Even back when Brooke was a kid folks didn’t much care what precisely you were celebrating, but there was an expectation that one way or another you would double your bills in December turning your house and yard into an electrical fire hazard.

She pulled up outside Lakeview Guest House (the name was an outright lie) to find herself greeted by a twinkling facade adorned not just with the obligatory string of coloured lights along the eaves but a large Santa Claus waving merrily from the wall.

“Wow. Talk about tacky,” she muttered, throwing on her parking brake and then pulling her coat collar up and opening the door. Snow swirled around her as she emerged from the car and retrieved her suitcase from the trunk; there was enough blanketing the ground to make rolling the case up the front path a physical impossibility. Instead she lugged it with her as she tried to avoid any patches of black ice that might be lurking underneath—the last thing she needed right now was a twisted ankle.

She remembered the late hour only a split second after she’d pressed the doorbell. A loud “ho, ho, ho!” rang through the house’s interior. Brooke winced. Not the best first impression. Still, the inside porch light came on almost right away, so at least she hadn’t woken her host. Only most of the guests, probably. A few moments later an older woman wearing a navy housecoat opened the door.

“You must be Ms Hawkins.” Brooke, still cringing from the doorbell moment, found herself momentarily lost for words, but the woman simply reached to take her case from her unresisting grip. “C’mon, we’re letting the weather in.”

The woman led her not to any sort of reception, but rather through to the dimly lit kitchen at the back of the house. The table lamp and book at the breakfast bar pointed to the landlady’s previous location, but now she put the case down by the door and moved over to the coffee maker. “Hot chocolate? Herbal tea? You’ll want something after that drive…”

“Some bourbon?” Brooke said wryly, reaching up to ruffle the snow out of her tousled bob.

Her host’s response was a chuckle. “Hot chocolate, then,” she said, pressing the relevant button on the machine, which was an automated multi-function affair. In moments, it poured no doubt underheated and watery brown liquid into the waiting mug. Perhaps she spotted Brooke’s expression, as she hastened to reassure her. “There’ll be proper fresh-brewed coffee in the morning,” she said. “I keep this around for emergencies. And workmen.”

“It’s not the first time I’ve been described as an emergency,” Brooke said as she accepted the mug, wrapping her hands around it. It might not’ve had any booze in, but it was still welcome after a long drive, and she let the silence stretch out as she sipped, looking around herself with idle interest. The inside of the house was no less festive than the outside, with obviously handmade snowflakes adorning the kitchen cabinet doors.

“That weather’s certainly an emergency—it’s come down fast out there. Expect we’ll be snowed in for days.”

This got her attention. “Snowed in? But I saw the snowploughs out just a couple of hours ago—they’ll have the streets cleared by morning, surely.”

“Running to stand still if you ask me—you wait and see. I know a proper blizzard when I see one and this snow’s settling in for the long haul.”

Just my luck. Outwardly Brooke managed a bland smile. “I guess we’ll see. The municipal building will still be open though, right? They wouldn’t close just because of a little snow.”

“Oh, I expect so, as long as the power’s on.”

Meet the Author

MK Hardy is the pen name for two geeky women living and writing together in Scotland. They’ve been writing partners for eleven years and life partners for nine. When they’re not typing frantically at one another they like to walk the dogs, cuddle the cats, drink cocktails and play boardgames.

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Review Tour: Little Love by Siobhan Smile

Little Love | Siobhan Smile

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Release Date: 12.11.19

Buy Link:

https://books2read.com/LittleLove-SSmile

Add to Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48388738-little-love

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Blurb

When the perfect little stumbles into your life, what are you to do?

Lindy Rubin performed every task per her strict routine. She was speeding towards forty and becoming bored with her orderly life. When she began to assess the emptiness of her personal life, she hadn’t expected the surprise destined to arrive.

Was it fate that brought her a beautiful girl with teary, azure eyes to her doorstep? If so, who was she to deny her Little Love help in her moment of need?

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Excerpt

I flipped through the channels where I was seated crossed-legged on my couch. I forced myself not to stop on every news channel to check in on my clients and if their fuckery made the news before it came to me. I was determined to find something fun to watch. My takeout container of cheesecake sat untouched on the coffee table. I had on my favorite and well-worn men’s pajama set. I tossed the remote onto the cushion beside me. I was about to stretch out on the couch when my doorbell echoed through the house.

When I dropped my feet to the carpet, it started again, and I frowned as I made my way to the front door. I opened it and froze when the tiny plump woman with a red, tear-stained face started yelling at me.

“Asshole, if you didn’t want to go on a date with me, all you had to do was say so. I may not be skinny or all that pretty, but texting to say you wouldn’t show up wouldn’t have cost you anything. You’re such an ass, you motherfuc—Oh.” Her bright blue eyes widened to comical size, and she was frozen on my stoop.

I was caught between confusion and amusement as she fully focused on me. She was dressed in a cute, pale blue dress with puffy sleeves, and her curly hair was in a messy bun. She was adorable. I’d never wanted to cuddle a woman at first sight as much as I did right then.

“Hello, little love. Bad day?”

“You’re not Clarence.”

“No, I’m Lindy, I live here.”

“Clarence doesn’t live here?” She nervously wrung her hands and looked everywhere, but at me. Even leaning to the side to glance behind me like the man who stood her up would suddenly appear.

“No, just me.”

“Oh.”

About The Author

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Siobhan Smile is an author of happily ever afters with a twist. They features characters of all sizes, shapes, sexualities, gender identities, and races. Reading a Siobhan Smile book lets you escape for a few hours whether that is to an alien world or a contemporary setting, you’ll find something outside the norm.

Writing books for Siobhan is more than simply telling a story, it’s a way for everyone to see themselves get a HEA.

Social Media

Amazon Author: https://www.amazon.com/Siobhan-Smile/e/B07YRL1Z7G/

Facebook Author: https://www.facebook.com/SiobhanSmileAuthor/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/siobhan-smile

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New Release Blitz: Double Six by Brenda Murphy

Double Six |Brenda Murphy

Rowan House #5

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 18, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Length: 63,500

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Add to Goodreads

Blurb

Elaine MacLeod, the most feared and revered Mistress of Rowan House, is frustrated. Overworked, still hurt and angry over the departure of her long-term lover, she refuses to admit Rowan House needs another Mistress to accommodate their guests. Unconvinced anyone will be able to meet her high standards, Elaine grudgingly agrees to audition the sole applicant, Petra Grendhal.

Robin Broadacre would do anything for the woman who rescued her from certain death at the hands of her previous employers. When she volunteers to assist Petra with her audition, Elaine is forced to reckon with her desire for Robin.

Drawn to Petra’s fiery strength and icy demeanor as well Robin’s devotion, Elaine finds herself torn between her passion for both women. When Petra disappears on a trip to Oslo, Elaine and Robin’s search leads them to menaces from Robin’s past and a fight for their lives.

Excerpt

Double Six
Brenda Murphy © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“Are you sure this is what we need?” Elaine lowered the hairbrush and shifted her gaze to Martha’s face, reflected in the dressing table mirror.

Martha quirked her mouth. “We’ve been over this. Just give her a chance. You can’t keep up with our client requests.”

Elaine tossed the brush on the top of the dressing table. “Because you and Lucia don’t help.” She swept her titian hair back and up into a high ponytail.

Martha handed her an elastic. “We’re not having this argument again. Lucia and I are finished with that side of the business. We can’t keep putting people off or they’ll find other houses to visit.

Elaine knotted a hunter-green ribbon in her hair. “Oh please. Like they could find anyone like me. Or what we offer here.” She shoved away from the vanity and turned to face her sister. “Fine. We’ll see how she handles herself. But the timing sucks.”

Martha placed her hands on her sister’s shoulders. “We had to work with the dates she gave us. Lucia thinks she’d be a good fit. We’ve had our trip planned for a long time. We trust you to make a good decision.

Alone. Again. “I’m not worried about making a wrong decision. Who’ll sub for her? Benita and Fallon are on holiday. No one else likes heavy pain play.”

Martha grinned wickedly at Elaine. “Maybe you could give it a go?”

Elaine rolled her eyes at her sister. “The switch gene is not in me. Go on, go on your holiday. I’ll figure it out.” Somehow. Damn, I miss Roxy.

Lucia and Myfanwy stood next to the car, their breath visible as they chatted in the frosty gray morning. Millie loaded the last of their luggage into the trunk and closed the lid gently. Martha placed her hand on Elaine’s forearm. “You have our itinerary. We can return if it’s an emergency”—she straightened to her full height and squared her shoulders—“but we are not to be disturbed unless it is.”

Elaine rolled her eyes at her sister. “Yes, sister dear, goddess forbid I interrupt your honeymoon. Like you haven’t already had one. I won’t bother you.” She let the devil show in her eyes. “I expect you’ll be tied up.”

Martha settled her fedora on her head. “I’m not going to waste my time replying to that, and please for the love of all that’s good, try to get along with Petra. We don’t have any other candidates.”

“So we should settle?” Elaine placed her hand on her hip.

“No one is saying settle. What I am saying is do not make a snap judgment. Or piss her off so much she leaves.”

Elaine shrugged. “If she can’t stand the heat…”

“Martha, we need to leave now.” Lucia spoke over Elaine, her voice a soft command. “I’m sure Elaine and Petra will sort things.”

“See, even your Miss agrees.” Elaine smirked at Martha.

Martha smiled at Elaine, not giving her the argument she craved. “Try it some time. You might find you like it.”

“Ha. A cold day in hell. Go now or you’ll miss the ferry.”

Martha gave Elaine a quick hard hug before she hurried down the steps to the car.

 About the Author

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows, and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not swilling gallons of hot tea and writing, she wrangles two kids, two dogs, and one unrepentant parrot.

She writes about life, books, and writing on her blog Writing While Distracted.

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Release Blitz: A Hive of Secrets and Spells by Ellen Jane

A Hive of Secrets and Spells | Ellen Jane

A Cupcakes & Sorcery Novel

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Release Date: October 25, 2019

Buy Link:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07YFJ8F2F

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Blurb

Cupcakes, romance, and lovable canines abound in Heather and Sinead’s next adventure, but it isn’t all fun and games.

The girlfriends are investigating a very personal kidnapping, and the threatening notes left behind accuse Sinéad and her punk-rocker twin brother of hiding something.

But after solving their first mystery together last Christmas, this one should be a piece of cake.After all, no one’s been murdered this time, and their witch-sorcerer rivalry is a thing of the past. Except it turns out there is a murderer, and a jewel thief as well, and why on earth does everyone keep talking about bees?

It appears Starford is a lot more exciting than Heather’s home town of Old Wetchhaven, and Sinéad’s insistence that Heather move in with her brings a whiff of trouble to their private paradise. Can Heather adjust to life near the big city? Or will the mounting secrets prove too much and turn their second case into their last?

A Hive of Secrets and Spells is a witch cozy mystery with a sweet lesbian romance and heart-warming magic.

Excerpt

“Look who’s come crawling back,” Cian said with a grin, holding out two steaming ceramic mugs of coffee to Heather and Sinéad.

He picked the third mug up from the brick fence he leaned on and stood to join them. They were meeting a couple of blocks down from the Dunnes’ house so as not to raise suspicion.

“Do I look like I’m crawling?” Sinéad asked with narrowed eyes, accepting the cup and taking an appreciative sip.

“Physically? No. But emotionally?” Cian gave a contented sigh and rested his hand over his heart. “Contrition is a beautiful thing.”

“Your ego is a beautiful thing. Does it take performance requests?”

Heather laughed at the disgruntled expression on Cian’s face. Sinéad hid her smile behind her coffee mug, her eyes crinkling with laughter. She wore a new necklace today, its small tile pendant an abstract swirling design she must have painted herself because when Heather looked at it, she felt revitalised, almost peppy. Sinéad’s magic was particularly strong when it came to mood spells, something only sorcerers could do.

About The Author

Ellen Jane Phillips is an Australian indie author of WW romance. She loves writing about LGBTQ women who experience complex lives, emotions, needs, and desires. Her books are written for people who crave love stories where friendship is just as important as romance, and who want to experience cosy warmth with a hint of mystery, magic, and emotion.

You can find her writing under two pen names: Ellen Jane, and E.J. Phillips. If you like light, cosy WW romance suffused with magic and mystery, Ellen Jane is the pen name for you.

If you prefer something a little heavier, and you like your WW romance tinged with magic and tender angst, E.J. Phillips is the one you want. When she isn’t writing, you can find her walking the dogs, playing D&D, or bemoaning the number of days since she last ate nachos.

 Social Media

Website: www.ellenjanephillips.com

Instagram: http://instagram.com/ellenjanewrites

Tumblr: https://ellenjanewrites.tumblr.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ellenjanewrites

Giveaway

Win one of 2 packages with e-copies of Magic, Murder & Mistletoe, A Hive of Secrets and Spells & A Match Made at Christmas by Ellen Jane.

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