Sunday, July 05, 2015

Feast of Fates .99 Sale

Feast of Fates
Four Feasts Till Darkness
Book One
Christian A. Brown

Genre: Fantasy Romance

Date of Publication: September 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495907586
Number of pages: 540

Word Count: 212K

Book Description:

"Love is what binds us in brotherhood, blinds us from hate, and makes us soar with desire.”

Morigan lives a quiet life as the handmaiden to a fatherly old sorcerer named Thackery. But when she crosses paths with Caenith, a not wholly mortal man, her world changes forever. Their meeting sparks long buried magical powers deep within Morigan. As she attempts to understand her newfound abilities, unbidden visions begin to plague her--visions that show a devastating madness descending on one of the Immortal Kings who rules the land.

With Morigan growing more powerful each day, the leaders of the realm soon realize that this young woman could hold the key to their destruction. Suddenly, Morigan finds herself beset by enemies, and she must master her mysterious gifts if she is to survive.

Available at Amazon and Createspace

About the Author:

Christian A. Brown has written creatively since the age of six. After spending most of his career in the health and fitness industry, Brown quit his job to care for his mother when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2010.

Having dabbled with the novel that would eventually become Feast of Fates for over a decade, Brown was finally able to finish the project. His mother, who was able to read a beginning version of the novel before she passed away, has since imbued the story with deeper sentiments of loss, love, and meaning. He is proud to now share the finished product with the world.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Talking About Bad Boys- Guest Blog with Vicki Crum

Hi, I’m Vicki Crum! Welcome to my very first Blog Tour, celebrating the release of my paranormal romance, Once in a Blue Moon.
Once in a Blue Moon is a light-hearted romp about the ultimate “bad boy”, and the woman who’s determined not to succumb to his charms.
Every woman loves a bad boy. Even if we don’t like to admit it, there’s just something attractive and infinitely intriguing about men who live life close to the edge. The guy with the chip on his shoulder, a thirst for danger and excitement, one who’s determined to live outside what society calls “the box”. Independent thinkers, daredevils, rogues.
            When James Dean roared onto the scene in the 1950’s, with his smoldering good looks and his I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks attitude, females of all ages were immediately hooked. His tortured persona, packaged in a plain white T-shirt and blue jeans, made women want to heal him, to wrap him in their arms and love away the hurt, destroy the demons inside. Isn’t that why romance readers are so drawn to vampires and werewolves, pirates and cops, firemen and Navy Seals? We love, love, love a rebel, yet who can resist the ultimate protector, a man who will stand between us and the world and come out victorious regardless of the odds? 
            Characters like Rhett Butler, James Bond, the Count of Monte Cristo, Mr. Rochester, Edward Cullen and even Jacob Black, capture a woman’s imagination, fuel her romantic fantasies, and make her yearn to be part of the grand adventure. Whether you like your heroes wounded and vulnerable, or the in-your-face tough guy, I think most of us would agree there’s nothing quite as sexy as the alpha male.
             I have my own favorite alpha heroes, of course. I’ll admit to having quite the crush on Edward Cullen for a while, and Linda Howard seldom created a romantic alpha hero in her novels that I didn’t swoon over. Amanda Ashley, turns out tall, dark vampire alphas that are awfully hard to resist. My current favorite alpha is Finbar Burke, of Nora Roberts’ Cousins O’Dwyer Series. After learning that he is descended from an especially evil demon, Fin is torn between trying to outrun his despised heritage or facing the demon who sired him in order to protect the powerful witch who holds his heart.
            In Once in a Blue Moon, Jake Benedict is a Harley-riding, leather-jacketed werewolf hunk who finally finds the woman he wants to spend his life with, only to be rebuffed precisely because of his bad boy image. Casey’s sworn off Jake’s type forever, and nothing’s going to convince her to give him a whirl. But Jake knows a secret about Casey that, once exposed, will change her life forever.
            Who are some of your favorite literary or cinematic alpha heroe

Once in a Blue Moon
Vicki Crum

Genre: Paranormal romance

Publisher: Rebecca J Vickery
Date of Publication: May15, 2015

ISBN: 1512032964

Number of pages: 171
Word Count: 70,000

Cover Artist: Joshua Shinn

Book Description:

Casey Montgomery’s lifelong addiction to “bad boys” has brought her nothing but heartache. Just as she swears off alpha males forever, a brief, torrid encounter with one of the hottest, Harley-riding, leather-jacketed hunks she’s ever seen leaves her reeling---and worse, jeopardizes her carefully laid plans to meet and fall in love with a nice, dependable nerd.

Jake Benedict has been around the block enough times to recognize his mate when he meets her, a gorgeous werewolf with a case of latent genes who doesn’t have a clue about her true identity. Jake is just the were to teach Casey about her ancient heritage and coax her feral side into revealing itself.

While Casey can’t resist the intense physical attraction she feels for Jake, she’s determined to freeze him out emotionally. Can Jake break through Casey’s defenses and prove to her once and for all that he’s one bad boy who’s playing for keeps?

Available at  BN  Amazon

          Casey Montgomery snapped to attention, her gaze darting toward the street, as the snarling roar of a motorcycle engine ripped through the tranquil morning. There were two things guaranteed to make Casey sit up and pant like a puppy. One was the deep musky scent of well-worn leather, and the other was that sound—the sound of speed and power that had her blood sizzling like hot oil and a wicked vision of vibrant, seductive man shimmering in her brain. It was a conditioned response she didn’t seem to have any control over.
            Casey’s gaze latched onto the bike, and the broad, leather-jacketed back of the guy who guided it deftly through traffic as though he and the bike were one. She ached with the need to see him better, to learn something about him…where he’d come from and where he was headed. To climb up behind him and hang on tight, feel the warm wind caressing her face and whipping through her hair.
            Heaving her purse into the back of her lime-green VW convertible, Casey slid behind the steering wheel, cranked up the engine, and squealed backwards out of her parking spot. It was fortunate that someone was waiting to pull in behind her, slowing the flow of traffic on the busy downtown Manhattan Beach street.
            What madness spurred her to dash in and out of traffic for the next half-mile or so until she was directly behind the motorcycle, pursuing it down the coastal road out of town, she would never know. But pursue it she did, as if every last brain cell she possessed had turned to rot. For as long as Casey could remember, she’d had a weakness for bad boys. Her affliction went beyond mere feminine curiosity, or even a fascination with what some might call the masculine mystique. No, what Casey suffered from was a serious case of throw-your-good-sense-out-the-window-and-jump-right-in syndrome when it came to this particular brand of men.
            The stranger sat the bike with the confidence and poise of a man certain of his place in the world. He had an aura around him, something indefinable, some kind of mysterious X factor that filled Casey with a wild, reckless yearning to be near him.
            When the road widened, she hit the gas and swung out into the left lane, drawing abreast of him just as a red light up ahead forced them both to slow to a stop. All she wanted was a look at his face. She willed him to turn and look at her, and when he did her breath got all balled up in her chest. His eyes were hidden behind mirrored sunglasses, but what she could make out below the line of his helmet—lean cheeks and a strong, masculine jaw—Casey had to bite her lip against a raw, almost feral surge of attraction.
            The light turned green, and he shot Casey a smile as he revved the powerful engine and took off. She was so rattled by the brief encounter, it was all she could do to keep the VW in her own lane as she stomped on the gas pedal and shot forward after him.
            Dear Lord, what was happening to her? She’d suffered through enough disastrous relationships with alpha-male types that she’d long since sworn off anyone who could even remotely be classified as a bad boy, a maverick, a renegade. A man whose inbred machismo blinded him to any other needs but his own. Even at her lowest point, she’d never behaved quite this irrationally.
            Releasing her death grip on the steering wheel, one shaky hand at a time, Casey dried her sweaty palms off on her skirt. As she did so, she spotted a place to pull off the road in a secluded little turn-out and regroup. With her heart still careening along like an out-of-control bobsled, she steered the tiny convertible over into the right hand lane and off the road.
            After bringing the car to a too-sudden stop, Casey turned off the engine and flipped down the sun visor to squint into the small rectangular mirror. Sure enough, her cheeks flamed as bright as a blood-red sunset. What a mortifying turn of events. Dare she hope the man hadn’t observed her chasing him down like a wild beast?
Casey fanned her face with one hand, while taking a surreptitious glance around. She was parked in a shady nook across the road from a popular local beach. The lure of the ocean and the warm Southern California sun had drawn the usual crowd out to enjoy the early summer day. Ripples of laughter could be heard from across the way, mingled with the occasional bark of a dog and the ever-constant roar of the surf tumbling against the shore.
            Casey’s pulse rate had almost returned to normal when her stomach leapt at the familiar purr of a fine-tuned Harley coming from over her left shoulder. The powerful machine came to a halt about fifteen feet away in a rolling cloud of loose dirt. Casey wet her lips as she watched the most gorgeous man she had ever laid eyes on swing one denim-clad leg over the leather seat and dismount. Her mouth fell open as he ambled toward her, pulling off his helmet to reveal a healthy head of sable brown hair highlighted by an occasional streak of gold. The streaks in his hair and his deeply tanned skin testified to what she already knew—he was accustomed to spending a lot of time outdoors.
            “You all right?” he asked, casually dangling his dark blue helmet from long, lean fingers.
            He stood not three feet from her car, hip cocked to the side, tall and solid and so strikingly handsome Casey thought he must be a mirage.
            Easy enough to find out, she thought, opening her door and stepping out. She’d come too far. There would be no retreat from this humiliating predicament, so she might as well bluster her way through. She reached up with the intent of removing his sunglasses and quickly found her wrist caught in a firm, yet gentle grip. The sharp sound her breath made as it got stuck in her throat echoed loud in the silence.
            “I just wanted to see your eyes,” she said, her voice nothing more than a faint puff of air.
            One dark eyebrow rose above the thin metal rim of his shades. “Yeah? I was wondering why you nearly ran yourself off the road back there.” He punctuated his teasing comment with a deliciously sexy grin.
            Who cared about his eyes? That smile was enough to turn her insides to pureed squash. That and the aroma of leather that jumped out and blind-sided her as he moved in close. Leather and something even more feral. Whatever it was invaded her bloodstream and set every cell in her body on fire.
            He let go of her wrist to cup the side of her face. Casey was ridiculously touched by his
gentleness even as her desire to be as close as humanly possible to this man raged out of control.
            His need suddenly seemed to rear up and collide with hers. Yanking her into his arms, he
pressed close, close enough that she could see every minuscule line and tiny freckle on his face.
Then his mouth crashed down over hers.

About the Author:

Vicki Crum writes both contemporary and paranormal romance. She lives with her husband of 40 years in a small, enchanted seaside community in Southern California. She has two grown daughters and two adorable grandchildren, Bella and Jackson, whom she loves to distraction. Vicki loves to talk to her readers.

Connect at:

Guest Blog and Giveaway: The Fraternity of the Soul Eater by Scott A. Lerner

I am thrilled for the chance to be a guest blogger at your website. I am an attorney and an author from Champaign, Illinois and the title of my newest book is The Fraternity of the Soul Eater. It is fun for the entire family. Okay, maybe not the whole family. Young children probably shouldn’t read books involving human sacrifice and dismemberment.

I love all things Ancient Egyptian and I believe that subject resonates with people from all over the world. King Tutankhamun is like a rock star who generates excitement whenever his remains travel around the country. During the late 1800s through the 1920s, when the mummies were being discovered by English Archeologists, the word was fascinated. You can still find Egyptian Revival silver produced by English and American silver companies from that era on eBay and at antique stores.

The fascination with Ancient Egypt continues to this day. Steve Martin sang King Tut on late night television. The album cover for Journey Escape was an Egyptian Scarab breaking out of an orb. Although I am not a big fan of Journey, the cover art is amazing. I believe it was created by the great Stanley Mouse. We also have the music video by Katy Perry, Dark Horse, filled with Ancient Egyptian motifs.

The movie The Mummy came out in 1932 and new mummy movies have appeared ever since. Some have been scary and others were made for laughs—Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy and Bubba Ho Tep, for instance. There is something about Ancient Egypt that fascinates people.

Why does this topic stir the imagination? Because it touches on so much of what makes us human. Life after death is the idea that mostly draws people to religion. The Ancient Egyptians were obsessed with death. Although we say, “You can’t take it with you,” the Egyptians believed you could indeed take it with you. Grand temples that survive to this day serve as testimonies to one of the most powerful societies the world has ever known. 

When you consider the technology, how could they have built the great pyramids or the sphinx? Maybe some of the ancient spells and magic were real. Maybe it is possible to reanimate the Ancient Gods and bring them into the modern world. If so, perhaps a new Egyptian Dynasty might exist in modern society. The Fraternity of the Soul Eater explores that possibility.

The Fraternity of the Soul Eater
A Samuel Roberts Thriller
Book 3
Scott A. Lerner

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Thriller

Publisher: Camel Press
Date of Publication: June 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60381-289-4
ASIN: Not yet available

Number of pages: 218
Word Count: 57k words

Cover Artist: Sabrina Sun

Book Description:

It’s been a while since Samuel Roberts was called upon to save mankind, and he’s getting restless. His girlfriend Susan thinks he’s a danger junkie, and he’s worried he has a hero complex. He’s back to his usual small-town lawyerly duties in Champaign-Urbana, handling divorces and helping people beat DUI raps. But then a young fraternity pledge calls. During an initiation ceremony he witnessed the live sacrifice of a young woman, but he had so much alcohol in his system that no one believes him. Except Sam. Lately Egyptian lore has been creeping into his life, his dreams, and his movie preferences, and he’s pretty sure he knows why. Evil is knocking on his door again.

Is the call welcome? Why can’t Sam be satisfied with his comfortable legal practice and gorgeous redheaded girlfriend? Maybe it’s because he knows that, as inadequate as he may feel to the task, he and his friend Bob may be humanity’s only hope against ancient supernatural forces combined with modern genetic engineering. Come hell or high water. Or in this case, the underworld or subterranean pyramids.

The Fraternity of the Soul Eater is the third book in the Samuel Roberts Thriller series, which began with Cocaine Zombies and continued with Ruler of Demons.

Available at Amazon


She was wearing tight black jeans and a low-cut cropped T-shirt that exposed ample cleavage. A golden ankh dangled between her breasts. On one forearm was a tattoo of a bird I assumed to be a lark, and on the other, a tattoo of a hawk. Her bright blue eyes matched her hair. She was striking looking but by no means beautiful. A slight muffin top was made more visible by her short shirt, and she had apparently broken her nose at least once in her life. She smelled like sandalwood and cinnamon.
I would never cheat on Susan, but I had to admit there was something sexy about Lark. I tried to put my prurient thoughts away and deal with the issue at hand. Also, the ankh made me wonder if she was playing for the other side. I was not a big fan of birds, which for me had always been a harbinger of bad luck.
“So what is it that you couldn’t tell me at the courthouse?”
“I’m a graduate student at the University of Illinois and heard from a friend about Chris’s case. I went to the preliminary hearing to get more information.”
“That’s fine—it’s an open courtroom—but I can’t tell you the specifics of his case.”
“I am here to help you, not the other way around.”
“Cool!” I leaned back in my chair, trying to look casual. “Tell me what you know.”
“My sister was at a party at that fraternity three years ago. She has not been seen since. I believe she was killed there. I can’t prove it, but I have been trying to ever since.”
“Did you call the police?”
“No, I called Pizza Hut.” She sighed. “I’m … sorry. This whole thing …. it’s hard to talk about. Yes, I called the police and the FBI. I even hired a private investigator.”
“No luck?”
“None. In fact, they all told me to let it go.”
“I take it from the fact you are here that you didn’t ‘let it go.’ ”
“You take it right. I was attending the University of Iowa. I was close to getting an MFA in fine arts but I transferred to the University of Illinois a year and a half ago. I’ve been investigating the fraternity ever since.” As she spoke Lark moved her arms about in quick gestures, reminding me of the bird she was named for.
“What have you learned?”
“For starters, I believe your client.”
She hesitated, as if pained by what she was going to relate. “Last year I dated a guy named George Hammond. He was a rich kid, kind of a geek, but he was okay. I essentially stalked him until he agreed to go out with me. At first I was only interested because he was pledging the fraternity. I know I was using him, but he was using me too. When he got accepted into the fraternity he told me a few of their secrets.”
“Any chance I could chat with George directly?”
She shook her head, a little violently. “Not unless we hold a séance. I’m sorry. I appreciate you speaking with me, and I don’t mean to be sarcastic. George died in a car accident. Actually, he was murdered, but I can’t prove it.”
“What did he tell you?”
“Every fall the fraternity sacrifices a girl. Their choice is based on her not having much in the way of family or money. They want someone who won’t be missed. The organs are removed as though she is to be mummified. Since there’s no pyramid to bury them in, the bodies are not wrapped or mummified or even kept.”
It was difficult to absorb what she was telling me. “That is nightmarish. What the hell do they do with the bodies?”
She jerked her shoulders up and down in a shaky shrug. “Who knows?”
“Why would they do such a thing?”
She looked mournful now. “George didn’t know. It may have been to test the pledges’ loyalty to the fraternity. He said they would commit the murder at a hidden temple and that the members would have to chant ancient prayers as part of some strange ritual. The leaders of the fraternity told him that the girls’ souls were being fed to the ‘Soul Eater,’ but George didn’t think they were serious.”
“Do you believe what George told you?”
She looked me hard in the eye. “My sister is missing.

About the Author:

Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of criminal law and family law. Lerner’s first novel and the first Samuel Roberts Thriller, Cocaine Zombies, won a bronze medal in the mystery/cozy/noir category of the 2013 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Awards. The second book in the series is Ruler of Demons. The Fraternity of the Soul Eater is book 3. Book 4, The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest, will be released on Halloween, 2015.

You can find Scott online at:

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Spotlight and Giveaway Angel Lover by Tricia Skinner

Angel Lover
Tricia Skinner

Release Date: 6/30/15

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

Tagline: There's no danger greater than falling for your enemy...

Book Description:

The Nephilim are bound. Their powers cursed. But half-angel Kasdeja will do anything to free them from Heaven's tyranny. When Kas is approached by a striking, mysterious woman, she tells him his greatest enemies hold the key to his freedom.

Mariel keeps herself shrouded in secrets, using them to hide her true self. For she is not just employed by the Renegades--enemy fallen angels—she is a double agent, working on the sly for Heaven. Her directive is to seduce the gorgeous Nephilim—despite her insecurity about such sensual acts.

For Mariel is playing a dangerous game, and falling for Kas could only cause trouble; her assignment isn't just seduction. It's destruction.

Add it on Goodreads

Purchase at    Amazon    BN    Entangled

Excerpt 2:

The Nephilim grabbed Mariel's shoulder and squeezed. “You’re coming with me.”

Training instincts kicked in. She slammed her elbow into his abdomen and cracked the back of her fist into his throat. Kasdeja coughed but recovered too quickly. He reached for her again, and she blocked his arm with hers. He switched to his other arm, and she matched the move.

She had once fought demons on the plains of Damascus. She’d hunted dark elves in their underground cities. She’d survived the ambush that had left her team—her friends— dead. No way on earth would a lone Nephilim bring her down.

Desperation fed her, and Mariel pressed her attack, but suppressed her strength. If she could do some damage, she’d make it back to the Renegades while Kasdeja remained alive. She spun a roundhouse kick toward the half angel’s stomach, but he knocked her leg aside. He smoothly dodged her punches but purposely avoided leveling a few of his own.

She grappled for a way to end the fight. This was a mistake, and she wondered why she refused to cause him unnecessary harm. Feigning a jab to the left, she struck his face on the right. His head snapped to the side, his long, loose hair flying. A lucky hit.

Kasdeja swept one of her legs. Twisting, she narrowly missed a face-plant into the pavement and rolled away from his boot before it collided with her side.

The fight had moved them deeper into the parking lot. Half a dozen cars and trucks, parked inside and outside the painted lines, made maneuvering dicey. The Nephilim’s arm came around faster than she expected and slapped her into a spin.

Mariel reached toward the blades hidden in her boots but changed her mind. She stared at him and caught the stormy menace in his eyes. Distracted, she failed to avoid the back of his arm as it drove into her stomach.

The air whooshed from her lungs and Kasdeja pressed in, not giving her time to regain a breath. He locked his large hands over her wrists, lifted her off her feet, and shoved her, suspended by her wrists, against a brick wall. A sunburst exploded behind her eyes. Agony blasted through her body and escaped her mouth in a sharp cry.

“Damn you. I should bury you,” the assassin said in a choppy voice.

About the Author:

Tricia Skinner is an author of passionate dark fantasy. She is a features writer for Fresh Fiction and a project manager for Short Fuse. She began her writing career as a business reporter and wrote for The Detroit News, Investor’s Business Daily, MSN, and The Houston Chronicle.

Raised in Detroit, Tricia graduated with a BA degree from the nationally acclaimed Journalism Institute for Media Diversity at Wayne State University. She earned a Masters of Liberal Studies – Creative Writing degree from Southern Methodist University and will obtain a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in 2017.

Diversity in genre fiction is dear to Tricia’s heart. She is represented by Laurie McLean, co-founder of Fuse Literary Agency.

When not writing, Tricia can be found reading, lifting weights, or geeking out over games, movies, and music. She has a Tom Hiddleston obsession, and she is Team Vader. Her family includes three Great Danes (so far).


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Spotlight and Giveaway: The Perfect Wife by Amber Lake

The Perfect Wife
Amber Lake

Genre: Historical Romance

Publisher: Ice House Publisher

Date of Publication: 06/18/2015

ISBN: 978.84.16384-21-1

Number of pages: 130

Cover Artist: Borja Puig

Book Description:

A society full of rules, but when it comes to love, there is no written rule.
Charlotte Wilcox, an unfortunate baronet’s daughter, has been living with her father in a small village since her mother died when she was still a kid. Although she is happy at home and the fact of remaining single at 23 is not a worry for her, her relatives put pressure on her to find a husband who provides for her.

With that purpose, she travels to Bath, where her aunt Margaret is responsible for educating her so that she can get a proper marriage proposal.

Charlotte thinks that the strict norms that govern aristocratic members of society are ridiculous and old-fashioned. Thus, she is afraid that she will never become the perfect wife that her aunt expects and that every gentleman wishes.

At the first ball she goes to, she meets Edward Holne, viscount of Eversley, and all the rules that her aunt had taught her will be useless before the attraction between them.

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Bath, Somersetshire, March 1831

“…The perfect wife has always in mind that the husband’s happiness is her greatest concern even if she has to give up to her own happiness. This success is enough to bring her absolute bliss.
She neither asks the husband any explanation about his words or actions nor complains if he arrives home late. She keeps in mind that he is the master of both her and the house.
She always lets her husband speak in the first place and she listens to him carefully since any topic he brings up is more important than the ones she could ever think of. When he lets her talk, she does so in a humble and plain tone without expanding on typical women trivialities that end up boring and exasperating the husband.
She does not overwhelm him with domestic problems or with her interests and hobbies, which are insignificant compared to those of men…”

Charlotte closed the book and let out an inelegant snort out of exasperation. The more she read, the more she thought its content was ridiculous. How was it possible that aunt Margaret stood up for such nonsense?
She had lent her the guide and told her to read it thoroughly absorbing all its instructions dealing with the main rules of behaviour that should govern her future life of married woman. However, she didn’t think she could carry them out; she even doubted that some rules were actually right. Her father had raised her to think and act with complete freedom as long as it didn’t harm her fellows. He had also taught her to make a source of satisfaction out of her knowledge, to be proud of her intelligence and her enthusiasm to learn and reason, and she wasn't ready to sacrifice everything in or- der to find a husband. She preferred being single rather than becoming a brainless puppet in the hands of a man that was going to decide what she had to say or do. This was such a humiliating idea that she was unable to accept it.
She was very fond of her aunt and she appreciated her efforts to marry her to someone, but she agreed that this attitude was neither proper of an impeccable spouse-as she claimed-nor the guarantee of the marriage stability.
Ever since she arrived in Bath two weeks before, her aunt never stopped trying to polish her unruly personality and rustic manners. That was something she was always re- minding her. She also trained her for social practice in or- der to come across successfully during the social season that had just started. Everything was designed to get a proposal, which was the main reason for her being there. Charlotte imagined that her aunt was making much more effort than she originally thought in order to transform her into a fair lady. Even tough, she knew that her pride was preventing her from admitting it and, of course, from giving up.
With a resigned but light-hearted sigh, she closed her eyes and fell into a snooze induced by the calmness the delicious lunch had made her feel. That was another one of the rules she denied to follow: the austerity in the diet as the guide indicated which her aunt resolved to defend so that it forced her to usually sneak in the kitchen and have an extra food supply to help her get by such sort of penance. Margaret insisted that a polished lady had to be very sparing with meals and this fact tormented her. Yes, greediness was a sin, but even having a bite to eat was too much, so she had decided, together with the cook’s complicity, to provide herself with all she needed in order not to starve to death while she was at that house.
She also disagreed with waking up at dawn to ride a horse around the park. According to her aunt, it was an elegant and useful habit considering that at that time many single gentlemen devoted their time to such a healthy hobby. And, even if no one had ever talked to her, maybe due to the fact of passing her very quickly, Margaret didn’t lose heart and insisted on it every day. Anyway, one nonsense after another she wasn’t easily bearing.
“Have you gone completely mad, child?”
This yell behind her back surprised Charlotte, who hastily stood up and looked at her aunt with an expression of total misunderstanding.
“How do you dare lie down on the lawn and exposing your face to the sun? I had almost managed an acceptable skin!” She angrily regretted. “Now you’ll have to put on the brightening concealer again otherwise you’ll look like a peddler tonight, with all your face blackened by soot.”
Charlotte was terrified when she knew what was expecting her-more than an hour standing still with a horrible mush on her face made of a mixture of honey, lemon juice and ground oat. This process had repeated daily, every morning and every afternoon, and she didn’t see any expected results anywhere.
“It’s only been a while, Aunt Margaret. Besides, I am not undergoing again that torment. If my possible candidates don’t like my appearance, that is because they aren’t suit- able to even consider them.” She complained with a surly voice. She was used to life at the countryside with the healthy sun caressing her face and colouring her cheeks. She didn’t understand the determination in making it lighter until showing a pale skin just like the one of the sick, however fashionable it was.
“Don’t say stupid things, kid. That colour only gives away your rural origin and you shouldn’t be very proud of it. A real lady tries to cover her face from the sun, otherwise she takes the risk that people think she is in the street all day instead of being at home waiting for her husband or taking care of her guests, as every good married woman must do.” She emphasised.
“But I’m not married, if you remember.” She replied with a certain resentment. She was again talking nonsense. She did felt proud of her origins and she missed her home in the countryside.
“I perfectly remember that, Charlotte. My obligation is in- deed to get you married. Moreover, that rule applies to future spouses too.” She reminded her maliciously.
Charlotte gasped loudly, annoyed by her aunt’s words. “Stop complaining and follow me to your room. I’ll try to fix the damage you've made. And don't make those inelegant noises, please; you look like a mare neighing.” She told her off irritated while she walked into the house with quick determined pace.
With bad attitude though, Charlotte had no choice but to comply with the categorical order. She had promised her father that she would obey her aunt and learn everything she taught her and she was willing to patiently bear every sacrifice that promise required.
When they arrived at the room, Margaret started giving orders to the maids and Charlotte, resigned as she was, pre- pared herself to bear the long hours of torture in order to get the appearance every elegant lady should have, according to Aunt Margaret’s rules.
“I’m afraid that if you don’t do your part to improve your appearance and manners, you’ll never have an acceptable gentleman propose to you. I will regret disappointing your father, who has entrusted me with the task of marrying you, but every single day it seems to me a tall order. Of course, it is not completely your fault. It was him who, against my opinion, insisted on taking on your education after my beloved sister’s death. I should never have allowed him to raise you in that small village doing everything you pleased.” She regretted while she spread that sticky mass on the girl’s face.
Charlotte bit her tongue to avoid replying to her aunt. How did she dare criticize her father, who had taken the bur- den of raising and educating a 10-year-old child when her wife died? Margaret, who wished to take care of her, had al- ways reproached him for this decision and she criticized him for not knowing to raise her child appropriately. However, Charlotte appreciated that her father had held his ground before his sister-in-law and let her live in Parham, the small village where she was happy during her 22 years of existence without worrying about her future.
Nevertheless, some months before, Margaret convinced him of the need of finding Charlotte a husband. Thus, she wouldn’t depend on George, his brother and heir of the house and lands, when her father died.
Charlotte didn’t want to be a burden for her family. Her brother had a wife and two children to feed. Her sister-in- law didn’t like that solution either, so that she agreed on Margaret’s idea and persuaded her father-in-law to take Charlotte to his matchmaker sister-in-law. Even if she didn’t completely agree on the idea of marriage, she complied with her father’s wish and traveled to Bath. She only set one condition: if after three months she didn’t get married, she would come back home.
Charlotte was fully aware that she had little chance of get- ting married and especially in such a short time. Being the child of an unlucky baronet and being already 22 without standing out for her beauty, which Margaret was always re- minding her, made the chances of getting married-as her family wished-even smaller. The fussy aristocrats hardy ever married someone that wasn’t the same as them or that didn’t give a substantial dowry, in case they needed funds. There was more to be said from local nobility and rural land-owners. Not only did they expect that their future wife would come together with a bulky bag of money, but they also required that she provided them with social contacts among the upper class.
She didn’t have neither one thing nor the other. She could only provide great knowledge on the wild flora of the county and on the study of medieval texts. This wasn’t a very appropriate cultural background to find a husband-as her aunt claimed-nor was her being prone to argue, her little willing to obey and her revolutionary ideas-mainly that a woman could look after herself if she got the chance to try. Margaret thought that all these facts were the reason why she was still single at her age, so she had to make an effort if she didn't want to see another year passing without finding a husband, which was something that every woman longed. Every single day she spent in the city, she appreciated more and more her reduced rural world. There she led a simple and nice life helping her father with his studies on botany and throwing herself into the literary club she had set up, formed by other girls around her who were fond of reading. The even had the chance to count on the experienced involvement of Professor Davis, recently retired from teaching and a great authority in history and medieval literature. At the club, she didn’t feel as the dumb bumpkin that her aunt usually stated.
After those two weeks at her aunt’s, she started to regret having accepted to take part in this project. The task of get- ting ready for marriage was more and more difficult to her and, obviously, it was giving her little satisfaction if it implied giving up her hobbies and learning stupid things that seemed to be totally necessary to be a perfect wife.
She had had to learn to serve the tea properly, to dress adequately depending on the time of the day and the event she was going to, to keep a smile on her face without suffering any jaw ache, to train herself into embroidery and difficult points of stitching that would make an impression to her fellow women, to recite boring verses without looking like a choked goose, to learn by heart the protocol and re- fined expressions to entertain her guests. Luckily, she had enough practice to get through those lessons without the least difficulty, but she felt overwhelmed by the load of things she ignored and that Margaret said “they were very important to become a real lady”. This was something she was far from being and the reason why her aunt hadn’t dared taking her to any relevant event.
During all that time, her rare social life had reduced to strolling around that beautiful city and to attending to several visits. That was the first night she was going to attend to an important event and she couldn’t help being nervous. It was about a ball in the house of the Earl and the Countess of Newbury. They were important members of the local upper class and it was one of the most select and largest ball of the beginning of the season.
Her aunt Alfred, Margaret’s husband, was good friends with the earl and that’s why he invited him to all his parties. In fact, she had happened to meet the countess in a visit to the museum and she thought she was very nice. She had even invited her, together with her aunt, for tea in her great residence. At the meeting, the kind lady showed interest in her hobbies and confessed that she also liked Gothic literature. Charlotte was glad to see that they had that interest in common, but she was even more delighted when she saw her aunt’s surprised expression. She didn’t considered it suitable to spend time with these novels. The fact that lady Newbury, who was considered a flawless lady and a good example by Charlotte’s aunt, liked those kind of pastimes typical of the working class must have caused her a big shock.

About the Author:

Amber was born in a village by the seashore in Murcia (Spain) a long time ago and now she is living in Cartagena with her husband and children. She has a B.A. in History and she also has a degree in Teaching. She works in the university in the same city where she lives.

Since she was a little girl she has been passionate for literature. She lapped up everything she could get her hands on and very soon she began to create in her mind her own stories, tales, short stories and drafts of ambitious young novels.

Her studies, her work and her family were the reasons why she put on hold those literary dreams for several years, although she kept on embodying on paper some ideas that she wished her own novels would talk about. Fifteen years ago she resumed her old dream and she started to write regularly. She sent her stories to some competitions, where she won a few prizes, and also to different publishing houses.

In 2008 she saw how her dream came true with the publication of her first novel. Other novels followed that first one, such as El escolta in 2010, Buscando a la esposa perfecta, in 2012, El escolta (new version) in 2014 and some others. Thanks to all these novels, she has been very lucky to see how her readers have warmly welcomed them and this fact has made her very proud.

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