Release Blitz: A Highland Hogmanay by Meg Mardell #LGBTQ #historicalromance #holidayromance @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: A Highland Hogmanay

Series: Christmas Masquerade, Book Two

Author: Meg Mardell

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 11/23/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 37700

Genre: Historical holiday, LGBTQIA+, historical, Victorian England, holiday, Christmas, Scottish Highlands, lesbian, wlw, mistaken identity, humorous, family drama, interracial, intercultural, road trip, age gap

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Description

The daughter of an Indian raja and renegade Englishwoman, Sharda Holkar, was gifted with a magnificent dowry but little say in her future. Until now. She must endure one more depressing holiday season with her controlling cousins, then she will be free to begin her emancipated life. But her discovery of a plot to marry her off to the preening son of the house has Sharda wondering if her new start should begin at once. When Sharda meets the intriguing owner of a Highland castle at a Christmas Eve masquerade, she wastes no time in forming a plan—she will escape across the Scottish border!

Finella Forbes cannot imagine why a sophisticated heiress like Sharda would even associate with someone who manages a castle for a living, let alone accompany her all the way back to the Highlands in time for the raucous celebration of Hogmanay. But a wealthy buyer is just what Balintore Castle needs. Fin is determined to prove she is just as good an estate manager as her father, but with the negligent lordly owner refusing to do his duty, she needs help fast. When mistaken assumptions jeopardise their initial attraction, Sharda and Fin will need all the mischief and magic of a Highland holiday to discover the true nature of their feelings.

Excerpt

A Highland Hogmanay
Meg Mardell © 2021
All Rights Reserved

“It’s getting quite sticky in here, isn’t it? Don’t these people perspire a lot in their ridiculous costumes? But the fools will insist upon picking characters that require false beards and headwraps and the lot. What do they expect?”

Mr Edward Pilkington watched the white-masked Pierrots and Pierrettes rotating around the Mayfair ballroom the same way he looked at everything else—right down his upturned nose. Of course, on this occasion, he might just be stopping his own mask from slipping.

“I must say, I consider it in poor taste of Lady Belleville to host such a gaudy entertainment on Christmas Eve. There’s enough blinding décor in every home and shop window without humans dressing like a bunch of tinsel ornaments.”

Sharda thought the display of Venetian masks in gold, silver, and red rather complemented the miles of glittering white ribbon their hostess had threaded around her every enormous window and door. But five days of Edward’s persistent company had taught her to neither agree nor disagree with his frequent judgements as both fanned the flames of his perpetual dissatisfaction.

“Perhaps you now see, Miss Holkar, the wisdom of my selection of attire. A simple mask and fancywork vest, and perhaps a sash, is really all that is required on these occasions.”

“For women as well as men?”

Sharda’s costume took its inspiration from the opulent carnival style of Venetian women from the height of that city’s pomp and power two centuries back. Her square-necked black silk gown cut away to a blaze of scarlet underskirt. Tiny stitched-in crystals covered the tight scarlet front bodice as well as her matching silk hat. Jutting out over one eye, the bold topper terminated in a cascade of black feathers that brushed her black half mask. Edward’s mother, one of Sharda’s inexhaustible supply of second and third cousins, had tried to convince her to wear what that lady was pleased to call her “native finery.” But when Sharda had insisted on purchasing a new costume for the ball, Lavinia Pilkington had graciously conceded that the Venetian style looked well on Sharda, for “many ladies of the Italian peninsula are quite of your complexion, my dear.”

The lady’s son was equally talented at giving compliments.

“A bit of exotic finery is not amiss on a woman. Provided she’s young, of course. There’s nothing more displeasing than an old woman got up like the Queen of Sheba. Now, perhaps I can see if these insolent Turks of footmen have some iced sherbet. You must be awfully hot in all your…” The gentleman gestured to Sharda’s hat. “Er, not that you look to any disadvantage or are…” The gentleman sought in vain for an acceptable substitute for sweating.

Sharda suddenly wished she had selected a full mask to hide her private mirth. She should not find it so amusing when Edward remembered, too late, that he was trying to woo her. Though maybe if she did not find the clumsy courtship so funny, she might cry.

“Or perhaps you would like to take the air in the garden, Miss Holkar? And escape this dreadful crush.”

“They seem to have brought much of the garden in here, Mr Pilkington.”

She gratefully caught the crisp scent of the evergreen branches that wrapped every available railing in Lady Belleville’s house. A delicious freshness that made one forget one was in London.

“Hmm, yes, quite. But then you don’t have the same animal noises outside, of course. It’s much easier to talk.”

She had not noticed the noise of the ballroom impairing his ability to talk in the slightest. But she knew what type of conversation he had in mind. He wasn’t the first young man to try to negotiate her out onto a cool veranda.

“Perhaps I would like an ice, Mr Pilkington. If you would be so kind.”

“Yes, of course… Though it will be a dreadful ordeal making my way over to the refreshment area now… No matter. I will see that you get your ice…my lady.”

Sharda took a few calming inhales of the pine-and-wood-polish scent of the Belleville townhouse. Now she could face Lavinia Pilkington, a spare lady fluffed up with a great deal of feathers, descending upon her beside a very grand person in purple.

“Here she is, Lady Belleville. I thought we should have to send some of your splendid footmen in search.”

“That might have proved difficult. I have my own runaway to locate, Mrs Pilkington. My wretched nephew.”

Lavinia trilled a nervous laugh, unable to tell if this was a joke.

“This is my young friend, Miss Sharda Holkar, who is staying the holidays with us. Sharda, meet Lady Belleville.”

“I do like your hat, Miss Holkar. You need a bit of height for such a topper. I, alas, have always extended out rather than up. I do envy women who can carry off such plumage. You are enjoying the ball?”

“Yes, indeed, ma’am.”

“And you’ve been dancing?”

“Not yet.”

“Oh dear, I do like young people to dance.”

“Do not worry, your ladyship. I am sure my son Edward will do the honours soon.”

“Excellent. Now, you must excuse me, for I hear my dear husband’s growl even now. I should make at least a half-hearted attempt to save my guests from his best Scrooge impersonation, should I not?”

Sharda and her cousin each dipped a curtsy—Lavinia’s embarrassingly low—to their hostess as she moved back into the crowd like the prow of a ship easily carving a path through lesser crafts. Sharda was left stranded on an island of two.

“I do hope you truly intend to dance as you promised Lady Belleville. And what did you think of her ladyship? Quite a superior person, I think, but Edward says she wears too many jewels for true breeding. I only wish I had such a problem! Whatever is taking Edward so long, do you think?”

Lavinia had a fidgety manner that made it impossible to relax in her company. After nearly a week as her guest, Sharda was almost as high-strung as her hostess. The prospect of enduring even another five minutes with this wearisome woman was unbearable. Especially as her only reward would be to eat a melted ice and then dance in Edward Pilkington’s sticky grip.

“He promised me he would return very soon. Perhaps I might wait for him in the garden, Mrs Pilkington?”

Lavinia’s eyes glittered behind her feathered mask.

“Ah, yes, that would be an excellent idea. It is far too noisy and hot in here.”

“Should you like to come with me, cousin?”

“Oh, no. No, no. I declare I see my dear friend Mrs, er…Bamtree just over there. But you go right ahead, my dear.”

Sharda needed no further encouragement.

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Meet the Author

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

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Release Blitz: Dublin Bay by John Patrick #LGBTQ #historical #newadult @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Dublin Bay

Series: Tides of Change, Book One

Author: John Patrick

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 10/26/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 87200

Genre: Historical, LGBTQIA+, Historical, Ireland, World War II, PTSD, IRA, espionage, minister, new adult

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Description

In 1939, the world tumbles toward war and the lives of two young men will be forever changed.

James Brennan grew up in the poorest of Dublin’s tenements, turning adversity to advantage wherever he could. But he’s nearly a man now—with a good education at that—and wants more from life than what he can get as a day laborer, or following his father into the factory.

Otto Werner is the privileged son of a German diplomat stationed in Dublin. Otto is destined for great things in the new Europe sure to arise after Germany’s victory in the war. But he’s a lonely young man, living in Ireland with only his father for company, cut off from friends and family back home.

The two teens meet by chance, and each sees in the other a means to advance his own interests. But they quickly become friends, and then—surprisingly, dangerously—more. As the globe spirals deeper into chaos, the love between the young men deepens; but their world is not a hospitable place for forbidden love.

As war comes closer and closer to home, everything they believe—about themselves, about each other, about the world around them—will be shattered. Will their love for each other survive the pull toward destruction in a world gone mad?

Excerpt

Dublin Bay
John Patrick © 2021
All Rights Reserved

September 1939

I was standing ankle-deep in the murky shallows of Dublin Bay when I first saw Otto Werner. The tide was receding and I was following its path, scraping mussels off the rocks of the breakwater with my dull knife. My feet pulled out of the thick mud with a suctioning plop each step I took.

Otto stood at the far end of the pier above me, enduring the attentions of a woman—his mother, I guessed—as she fussed over him, tucking back his hair, straightening his tie, smoothing his lapels. He was nearly as tall as she was.

Just for a moment, a shaft of sunlight broke through the clouds and spotlighted him, a golden youth descended from heaven.

He looked dressed for Mass, or a wake.

My vantage point was limited by the height of the piled rocks, and I needed a better look. I wedged my wooden bucket into a wide opening between boulders and pulled myself up, slipping on seaweed and scraping my side.

The woman released him, smoothed the front of her coat, then placed one hand on top of his head, as if in benediction. Her other hand gripped her hat as a sudden gust threatened to lift it.

A man who had to be his father stood behind him, looking impatient. The man and his son were both tall, lean figures, with shockingly bright blond hair, although the youth would need to grow several more inches if he was to reach his father’s height. They wore hats of an unusual style. The man carried himself with authority and stood as if on parade. The son was gangly but tried to mirror his father’s pose now that he’d been released from his mother’s arms.

The Cambria mailboat was docked farther down, at the end of the pier, and when I pulled my eyes away from the youth, I noticed dozens of people waiting to board, along with stacked piles of trunks and packages staged for loading. All of the passengers were dressed in finery.

It was an odd time for so many people to be traveling to Wales, less than two weeks after the declaration of war.

I climbed down and stepped back into the shallows to continue my work, moving deeper into the bay as I filled my bucket. The top of the breakwater was just above my head, and all sound from the shore was washed out by the waves breaking against the rocks ahead of me. The sun was suddenly bright again, and the harbor waters shifted from deep purple to green and silver.

Once I’d filled my bucket with mussels, I added seawater and fixed the wooden lid to the top. I made my way back to dry land, green strands of rockweed clinging to my calves below my rolled-up trousers. Small cuts covered my fingers, and sandy grit smeared my face from when I’d leveraged myself up for a closer look at the people on the dock.

As I stepped from the narrow strip of stones above the tide line onto the pier itself, I saw the Cambria pulling away, steam whistling in a high shriek as the screws churned the water. Terns dove into the frothy mix.

The man and his son were still standing on the dock.

I put my bucket down and stretched my shoulders, then picked it up and walked to the harbormaster’s station at the front of the pier. My dad’s cousin, Eamon, worked for the harbormaster, and he was leaning against the side of the building next to my bicycle, finishing the black bread and cheese I’d given him when I arrived. He waved forward the group of children waiting their turn at the rocks, and they raced toward the sand with their jumble of buckets and rakes.

Eamon eyed my haul. “Good take, Jimmy?” he asked between mouthfuls.

“Yes, and there’ll be plenty left for that gang too.” I nodded to the children disappearing down the mudflat.

“Good. I don’t mind holding them off for you, but they need to get theirs too.”

I righted my bike, and Eamon helped me fit the weighty bucket into the square metal cage above my rear tire. “What’s with the mailboat?” I asked.

“That’s the Germans. We got word yesterday of some sort of deal to get them home. The ones who wanted to leave, anyway. Makes no sense to me. I’d rather sit the fighting out right here if I was them.”

I looked to my right, down the length of the dock, and saw the man and his son heading our way. It was obvious they were German now that I knew—sharp-angled faces and oddly cut clothes. Their hats made me think of the Alps. The son glanced back, once, at the Cambria as it made its way through the breakwater and into the bay.

I turned back to Eamon. “Who do you think will win?”

“I don’t know. Plenty wouldn’t mind seeing the Germans give the English a good thrashing, that’s for sure,” he replied.

I thought of my older brother, Liam, who’d been spending a lot of time with his IRA pals before he joined the Irish Defense Force. There was no love lost between him and the English. My dad didn’t offer an opinion. “Keep your head down and tend to your own,” he’d say. “We’ll have enough on our plates with our own Emergency.” But then, he was often half lost in drink and spared little time thinking beyond the next glass.

“Right. We’ll just keep our heads down,” I told Eamon, echoing my father.

The man and his son had stopped at the street, beside a fancy black car with a small German flag on its antenna. The youth kept pointing at me as he spoke with his father. I supposed I looked a proper mess.

I’d just gotten my bicycle rolling, not an easy task with thirty pounds of mussels on the back, when the man called out to me.

“Boy. Stop a moment.” I barely avoided toppling over as I brought myself to an abrupt halt next to them. I stood on my toes, straddling the bike to keep it steady.

“Those are mussels, yes? Are they for sale?” he asked.

I didn’t say anything. They weren’t for sale; they were destined for our stewpot at home. Meat of any sort had become quite dear since the Emergency was announced, with rumors of rationing ahead. Most families like mine had resorted to scavenging what they could. And anyway, mussels were working-people food, so why would this German gentleman be interested?

He must have read the suspicion in my eyes. “My son and I are celebrating our first night as bachelors.” He glanced at the young man next to him. “Isn’t that right, Otto?” Otto. A harsh, foreign-sounding name. Otto remained silent, studying me.

The man turned back to me and continued. “We had them once from a street vendor in France, and Otto loved them, but his mother wouldn’t permit them in the house. She said they were too common.” He seemed to realize that was a mistake, and he looked aside. “That is… I mean, Otto and I both liked them.”

When I didn’t respond, he asked, “How much do want for the whole bucket?”

I still hadn’t answered his question if they were for sale. The son—Otto—was staring at me. I had strands of seaweed wrapped around my legs, and my gritty hair was plastered to the side of my face. I was puzzling through the man’s accent, somehow crisply British yet guttural at the same time. I returned Otto’s stare, wondering if he would sound the same.

His piercing blue eyes didn’t leave mine as he took a step toward me and held out his hand. “I’m Otto,” he said.

Both of my hands had scrapes and cuts and were covered in sand and drying mud. There was no clean surface for me to wipe them.

“Otto…” his father began, before trailing off uncomfortably.

What else could I do? I extended my hand and, as lightly as I could without offending, closed it around his. “Jimmy,” I replied. Then, for some reason, I added, “James.”

“Hello, James. Would you sell your mussels to us? My father and I wouldn’t know where to buy them at the market.” His English was much better than his father’s but sounded more forced, perhaps because he spoke slowly, as if he wanted to be certain of each word before letting it out.

What was it about this strange, foreign youth that fascinated me? He looked to be about my age, sixteen or so. He was a good four inches taller though, and his skin was a smooth, rich cream, without scars or scrapes or sand or mud. He’d removed his hat and his blond curls shifted about in the wind.

His father spoke again and offered a ridiculous price for the bucket. We could buy a real Sunday roast with that, even carrots and potatoes, and have some to spare.

I schooled my expression. “Oh, sure, that’s a fair price for the lot of ’em,” I offered as casually as I could.

The man seemed relieved. “Good,” he said and glanced at his son, as if seeking to confirm he’d done the right thing.

Otto’s wide smile was a surprise. It transformed him somehow.

Something ticked over deep inside me.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

John Patrick lives in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, where he is supported in his writing by his husband and their terrier, who is convinced he could do battle with the bears that come through the woods on occasion (the terrier, that is, not the husband).

John is an introvert and can often be found doing introverted things like reading or writing, cooking, and thinking deep, contemplative thoughts (his husband might call this napping). He loves to spend time in nature—“forest bathing” is the Japanese term for it—feeling connected with the universe. But he also loathes heat and humidity, bugs of any sort, and unsteady footing in the form of rocks, mud, tree roots, snow, or ice. So, his love of nature is tempered; he’s complicated that way.

John and his husband enjoy traveling and have visited over a dozen countries, meeting new people, exploring new cultures, and—most importantly—discovering new foods. After such travels, John invariably comes down with a cold. During a trip to Japan in 2019, he was amazed by how many people wore surgical masks in public to protect both themselves and others from viruses. “Gosh,” John thought, “wouldn’t it be great if we’d do this in the US?” John sometimes regrets the wishes he makes.

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New Release: Lashes and Lace by D.A. Maddox #eroticromance #historicalromance @evernightpub

“The Contract of Seven Days’ Service is now open.”

When Lady Sophia Parsons reads the notice in the window of the haberdashery at Devon’s Mill, she has no choice other than to answer the summons. She is expected. Indeed, Lord Albion Rayment will have no other, for Sophia’s family is deeply in his debt, and he has loved her from afar for years. But Lord Albion is no longer merely the suitor her father turned away. He is Master, and she is only Patience. Before the week is over, the once and future lady of Scrivenshire will learn to be his maid-of-all-things, and much, much more.

In a world that prohibits women any say in their destinies, “Patience” must find courage and independence for the first time in her life—while Albion, if he has his way, will tear down the twisted traditions of his fathers and earn Sophia’s love.

Be Warned: BDSM, spanking, public exhibition, anal sex, m/m and f/f scenes, flogging, paddling

Get it at Evernight Publishing

EXCERPT

“Have you never been punished this way before?” he asked. “Your mother, perhaps? A schoolmaster or mistress? Answer without speaking.”

I shook my head, sniffling.

He walked around to my left flank, the riding crop in hand. To my further humiliation, without Lord Sculsbury impeding my sight, I could now see myself in the wall mirror. My face was livid pink, the blush extending over my shoulders. I looked down to where the contract had been. I saw only the table, nothing more.

“Keep your head up and your eyes open,” he said, tapping the crop over the wood next to my splayed fingers. “I want you to see the effect this experience is having on you. I want you to remember it, Patience.”

I obeyed. I watched myself, hair down in twin curtains at either side of my face, tremble before him.

“I would never do this without reason,” he said, running the flat leather slap pad of the crop down my spine, taking his time, starting at the back of my exposed neck, tracing the raised flesh at the center of my back in a slow line. “You have called upon the house of a gentleman without an escort. More than once, you have spoken out of turn. Do you agree that these charges are both accurate and fair?”

I nodded, miserable and afraid.

“Tap the table with your fingers for yes. Rap with your knuckles for no.”

I tapped once, using all four fingers. My back muscles clenched, a quick spasm under the caress of the crop. I whimpered.

“Have you any defense? If so, I shall allow you to make your case.”

I had none. I rapped the table. I was guilty.

“You’ll note that I, myself, have not touched you—only the crop touches you.”

He passed it under me, stroking my belly with it, causing me to draw in breath deep.

You never use it on your horses, I thought, desperate with dread. Why must you use it on me? I’ll do whatever you say. Let me repeat the promise. Please, allow me to appeal to your better nature. I’ll be good.

But I tapped the oakwood with my fingers, acknowledging his adherence to his own rules—and, in the mirror, saw my mouth open in a thoroughly horrified O as he brushed the thing under my breasts, then passed it over my erect nipples.

“Your father has never had the strength to properly correct you, dearest Patience. But I do. And you have the strength to bear it.”

Release Blitz: Godsend by Elvira Bell #eroticromance #historical #gayromance @pridepublishing @firstforromance

 

Godsend by Elvira Bell

Word Count: 36,520
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 154

Genres:

EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
HISTORICAL
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS

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Book Description

 

Ari and Vidar are Viking warriors and blood brothers. Will handsome thrall Elric break their bond…or make it even stronger?

When young Saxon Elric is sold to Norse slave traders, he thinks that his life is over. He is brought across the sea to the settlement of the Norsemen and becomes the chief’s thrall, and neither the chief nor the warriors are lenient with him. Two of the warriors are different, though—Ari and Vidar. Elric senses that their bond goes beyond mere friendship, and wishes that he himself had someone who would care for him.

Ari and Vidar have been lovers for years, but they have to sneak away whenever they want to be together. Vidar is next in line to be leader, as the chief’s nephew, but he’s shy and insecure and only feels at home on the battlefield. Ari looks different than the other warriors, since his mother was of foreign descent, and he’s had to learn how to stand up for himself.

The two of them are blood brothers, linked together forever, but even though they are lovers they can’t go against the taboo that prohibits free men from being passive during sex. Ari feels that something is lacking, and Elric’s arrival gives him an idea—what if they invited Elric to join them in bed? The thought excites him, and Elric himself seems eager to please.

The only question is how Ari is supposed to get Vidar to agree to letting another man into their relationship…

Excerpt

“It’s coming, lad. Your first day as a free man.”

Hrodgar’s heavy hand slapped Elric’s shoulder. His grin was as wide as when he’d told Elric about the birth of his youngest child.

“I know.” Elric smiled back. He’d be embarrassed to admit just how often he’d studied the lone apple tree behind the byre this spring. Not that Hrodgar would find it odd—Hrodgar was the one who had struck that deal with him, after all, that balmy night five years ago when he’d found Elric stealing from his crops. Elric had no trouble recalling the strong, burly farmer grabbing him by the neck and shaking him so hard that the carrots he’d hidden under his tunic fell to the ground. “What do you think you’re doing? I could kill you for trying to steal from me. I have the right.” Elric had cried and begged for his life, exhausted by fatigue and hunger and that hollow pain in his chest that had been there ever since his parents died. He’d only been fifteen, a half-grown boy who had never stolen before. And Hrodgar had sighed and made him a proposition. “Stop your crying now, all right? I won’t hurt you, if you agree to become my slave for five years. After that, you’ll have paid for what you’ve done and you’ll be free to go. Five years from now, on the day when the apple tree blossoms.” He had nodded to a large tree outside the field—even in the dusk, Elric had seen the white flowers shine like stars. He’d agreed, and Hrodgar had become his master.

But not for much longer. It had been almost five years. The crown of the apple tree was exploding with flower buds.

“Strange,” Hrodgar said, shooing away some crows. “To think that you’ll be gone soon.” They were at the edge of the field, the barley tickling Elric’s hands when he touched it. They’d been getting plenty of both sun and rain this summer—it would be a good harvest. A bearable winter.

But he wouldn’t be here for it. “I could stay until the harvest’s all done and—”

Hrodgar shook his head. His hair was like polished copper, thick and wavy. “No such thing. A deal’s a deal. If you’ll come with me to the market tomorrow, that’s good enough. Make sure the chickens stay in their place until I’ve found a buyer for them.”

* * * *

They left for Bristol the next morning. Hilda was unusually kind, handing Elric a piece of fresh bread to eat on the way. Hrodgar’s wife had never spoken much to him, though she seemed to appreciate having him in the house. Her children were too young to be of much help and working the field was hard. It would be years before they could help their father out.

No, Hilda had always had little to do with him—but Hrodgar was different. In a way, Elric thought of him as a friend. What would have become of him if Hrodgar hadn’t taken him in? He’d had no one to turn to. In Hrodgar’s household he was a servant, certainly, but he ate with the family and slept on a sheepskin by the hearth. It was a better life than the one his parents had been able to give him. The work had made him strong, though he’d never be big and threatening like Hrodgar, and Hilda’s food had put a bit of meat on his bones. In those five years his body had transformed. He was still slender, but his hands were tan and veiny like a man’s, and when he flexed his arms they swelled with muscle. Just like Hrodgar’s.

“Going to be a fine day.” Hrodgar wiped his brow and called for the oxen to move faster. “Plenty of people in town, I should think.”

Elric had been to Bristol Market many times, and he was excited about the trip. Before he’d come to Hrodgar’s house, the only people he’d met were his parents and a couple of neighboring families. His first visit to Bristol had been a shock. There weren’t that many houses, but the people had been far more than he could count—merchants trading their goods and buyers eager to get their hands on livestock, pelts, jewelry and fancy garments. Some of the merchants spoke in strange tongues, and when Elric had asked Hrodgar where they were from, he’d shrugged.

“From all over the world, but do you think I know what they call their lands? Some of them are from the north, though, from lands of eternal snow. You and I wouldn’t survive a day in a place like that.”

Now Hrodgar handed him the reins and reached for the pack by his feet. “Best eat before we get there.” He brought a sweet-smelling loaf to his mouth and chewed off a chunk. Elric reached into his pocket and had a taste of his own bread. It was so soft that his teeth sank into it—he’d never had anything better. All the bread he’d eaten before had been stale and dry.

“Hilda must’ve meant to give this to you.” He glanced at Hrodgar, who wiped crumbs from his beard without looking at him. “It’s much too nice for me.”

“Oh, maybe she did.” Hrodgar grinned, still without meeting his gaze. “But you have it.” When he reached for the reins, his warm hand landed on top of Elric’s. Hrodgar pulled away as if he’d been burned. For the remainder of the trip, he was oddly quiet, and Elric wondered if maybe it had something to do with their hands touching. Ever since he had joined Hrodgar’s household, he’d felt a tingling in his chest every time the other man spoke to him. At first he’d thought it was pure childish admiration, nothing more. By now he knew better. They’d spent every day of the last five years together—alone in the field all day, then sometimes heading down to the brook on hot summer evenings to rinse off the sweat. The image of Hrodgar’s brawny, hairy body was etched into his mind. And he had thought, more than once, about the fact that he was a slave and that he had to do whatever Hrodgar asked of him. Including sharing his bed.

Hrodgar had never requested it. But if he’d asked, Elric wouldn’t have refused.

They reached Bristol some hours later and Hrodgar found a place for his cart in the crammed street. There were people and animals everywhere and the smell of dung mixed with that of roasted meat and beer. And something else, a smell that seemed to whisper to Elric from far away—tar from the huge, slender ships anchored by the shore.

“Watch the goods for me, will you?” Hrodgar seemed hurried, and when he squeezed Elric’s shoulder, his grip was painfully hard. “Just going to… I’ll be back soon.” He disappeared into the crowd. Off to take a leak, probably—but when he wasn’t back a long while later, Elric got worried. He hadn’t been robbed, had he? Part of him wanted to go and check what had happened, but he couldn’t leave the cart.

Then, finally, Hrodgar returned. He was with some men in strange clothing—it took a while before Elric recognized them as Norsemen. They were all bearded, with heavy woolen cloaks and cloak pins that shone in the sunlight. One of the men was older than the rest, with long gray hair and steely eyes. Hrodgar discussed something with him, both of them gesturing wildly. What was that about? Why would the Norsemen have any interest in a simple farmer’s goods?

“Hrodgar!” Elric called when the men were within earshot. “What’s going on? Are they giving you trouble?”

Hrodgar exchanged a look with the gray-haired Norseman, then made a gesture in Elric’s direction. Before he had time to realize what was happening, Elric was seized by two young Norsemen and his hands were tied behind his back.

“What—help! Hrodgar, help me!”

Hrodgar looked at him. His face was empty, as if they’d never met. “I’m sorry,” he said, but there was no emotion behind his words. Turning to the gray-haired man, he said, “Silver. You promised me silver and I want it now.”

The gray-haired man called out a command and another man came forward with a leather pouch that he put in Hrodgar’s outstretched palm. It wasn’t until then that Elric understood. He’d been sold. Hrodgar had sold him to slave traders.

“You bastard!” Tears of rage stung his eyes as the Norsemen dragged him through the crowd, away from Hrodgar and the cart. “You lying bastard!” He kicked and thrashed. The Norsemen laughed, shoving him between them like a plaything, talking in their twisted language.

He was their slave. And he would never see Hrodgar again.

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About the Author

Elvira Bell

Elvira Bell lives in Sweden and spends most of her time writing, reading or watching movies. Her weaknesses include, but are not limited to: vintage jazz, musicals, kittens, oversized tea cups, men in suits, the 18th century, and anything sparkly.

Elvira writes m/m romance and has a penchant for historical settings. She adores all things gothic and will put her characters through hell from time to time because she just loves watching them suffer. It makes the happy endings so much sweeter, after all.

Find out more at Elvira’s website.

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New Release Blitz: The Glass Demon by Catherine Curzon & Eleanor Harkstead #PNR #historicalromance @totally_bound @firstforromance

The Glass Demon by
Catherine Curzon & Eleanor Harkstead

Book 2 in the The de Chastelaine Chronicles series

Word Count: 66,464
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 245

Genres:

HISTORICAL
PARANORMAL
ROMANCE

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Book Description

What you can’t see could kill you.

When Cecily arrives at her new home with her fiancé, Raf, she’s looking forward to a happy life with all her fears behind her. No longer a put-upon drudge, she is loved and free, ready to explore their new world.

After a summer spent battling the forces of darkness, Raf’s happy to get back to the garden of his chaotic ancestral home. There are flowers to tend and vegetables to harvest and he’s determined to create a perfect sanctuary for Cecily to call her own.

But when a demon made of glass escapes from an ancient church window, the peace of their idyllic village is shattered. Neighbour turns against neighbour, crops turn bad in the soil and flies blacken the air. As a child lingers between life and death, bewitched by the glass demon’s bite, Raf and Cecily must remind the villagers of what really matters and unite the community in a battle to send their infernal tormentor back to hell.

Excerpt

They’d been travelling since early that morning, and Cecily had wrapped herself up in a blanket to keep warm in Raf’s rattly Austin 7. A frost was silvering the landscape when they had set off but once the sun had pushed above the hills and its light had strengthened, the earth had emerged from under its icy crust.

Cecily had never been to Yorkshire before, and certainly never to Acaster Garrow. It almost seemed like a fable whenever Raf mentioned it, and their journey from Devon had been such a long one that Cecily had been half-convinced they’d never arrive.

But eventually Cecily noticed a change. Seagulls swooped overhead and the air took on a briny tang. And once they’d crested a hill, Acaster Garrow was laid out before them, as vivid as a drawing in a child’s book.

Beyond the clustered white cottages and little fishing port and the pointed spire of the church was the wide-open expanse of the sea, gentle waves lapping over its surface and washing against the edge of the sandy beaches. Fishing boats bobbed on the horizon, a little welcoming committee for the returning hero and his new companion. This was her home now, a place where she would love and be loved.

“Smell that fresh air,” Raf declared with a merry smile, drawing in a deep breath. Trapped in the school that had been her prison, Cecily had never seen anyone actually look happy to be home, but she knew that she was seeing it now. “And there’s the sea!”

Cecily gasped. “It’s beautiful. It’s so beautiful, I’ve never seen anything so beautiful before! Where’s your house, Raf? Can we see it from here? Will you show me? Show me everything!

The car puttered to a halt and Raf peered out through the windscreen. When he turned his glittering gaze on Cecily, she felt once more that almost overwhelming surge of love for him that had become her balm and blanket, her comfort when she had thought all hope was gone. They had saved each other in so many ways.

“Right, Miss Sissy Pincombe,” he said. “We can see my house plain as the nose on my admittedly handsome face. But which one could it be? What’s your guess?”

Cecily sat forwards on her seat, her nose almost pressed up against the windscreen. She squinted, and as she did so her vision blurred and the village turned into a daub of colour—the many greens of the trees and grass, the grey stone and the darker grey sea. And—

Cecily shot back in her seat in surprise. She opened her eyes and pointed down into the valley below them. “There—isn’t that your house? All those flowers, all those reds and purples and yellows!”

A blossoming garden in the creeping autumn cool. It can only be Raf’s house.

“That’s it! Our little nest. The de Chastelaine family pile!”

Little? Hardly.

Set a short way outside the village, with its kaleidoscope of a garden ending in the cliff edge, Cecily could see a large, rambling stone house. It was just as she had seen it in her mind when Raf had asked her to use her powers as a sensitive to picture it. It had huge chimneys and a long tree-lined drive, and although it was not more than three storeys high it was wide, which gave it an open, welcoming aspect. The curl of smoke rising from one of the chimneys put her in mind of a cosy fire and she shivered with anticipation. She was coming home.

No wonder I thought it was a hotel when I pictured it.

And all those flowers, and—surely it can’t be blossom, not at this time of year—but from where Cecily sat, she was certain Raf’s garden boasted fruit trees covered in white and pink fluff. A very particular sort of fruit tree, Cecily decided.

And in that garden she’d plant the lavender cutting she’d brought from Devon, though it would seem a paltry little thing next to all those flowering giants.

“What do you think?” Raf asked, his voice filled with the same excitement that Cecily felt at the sheer sight of the place. “It’s missing a bit of southwest lavender and a gorgeous chatelaine called Sissy, but apart from that it’s a nice old place.”

“I’m in love with it already!” Cecily put her arm around Raf and rested her chin on his shoulder. “You’re such a clever gardener. How do you get your garden to look like that in the autumn?”

“Transylvanian magic!” That’s probably true. Raf turned his head and kissed Cecily’s nose. “Ready to go home?”

“Yes!” Cecily clapped her hands. Then she bit her lip, suddenly shy. “Sorry, darling… I don’t mean to carry on like an irritating child…”

“Is that a joke? That’d better be a joke.” He reached up his hand and rested it on Cecily’s cheek. “You’ve got years and years of fun and silly and being loved to make up for. I love you, Sissy. You can be as excited as you like!”

“As long as you’re sure you don’t mind?” Even if she and Raf were in love, Cecily had spent so long with a husband who had been indifferent to her at best that she still wavered. Sometimes she forgot she could be herself now, beholden to no one.

Raf shook his head. Then he grinned, showing those sharp canines that were a clue to his rather unusual heritage. “You’re free. And you’re now one half of Britain’s foremost spiritual operative team. You’re a woman to be reckoned with!”

Cecily sat up straighter in her seat, but she was still a little unsure. It was such a welcoming scene yet she still felt trepidation. She shouldn’t, but she could only think her unease stemmed from the prospect of being around new people in an entirely different environment from what she had known before. “And the people in Acaster Garrow, they won’t mind you’ve brought me home?”

“You’re joking? They’ll probably throw a party!” With that, Raf’s car set off down the hill and they continued on the final leg of what had been a monumental journey. With Raf’s sprawling home in sight Cecily felt nothing but a wonderful sense of homecoming, of belonging in a place she had never even seen except in her mind’s eye. The few people they passed welcomed Raf with a wave or a cry of greeting or, in the case of an elderly man on a bicycle and a younger man fitting a gate to a pasture, a signal that clearly meant they were due a catch-up in the pub.

“How will I ever meet everyone? And remember their names?” Cecily laughed awkwardly. “Is there a fête? Maybe I could win them over with my biscuits.”

“Don’t worry about winning folk over. We’re a nice bunch,” he assured her as the car rolled to a halt before a pair of tall and elaborate wrought-iron gates. In them she saw flowers and leaves, intricate boughs on which birds perched and—Cecily smiled—from which slumbering bats hung by their toes. “If you want a fête, we’ll have a fête. Anything for my lass.”

Cecily stared at the gates. Their home lay beyond. “Do you ever have garden parties? Perhaps we could throw one? I’d love to meet the people in your village.”

“I love a party!” Raf climbed from the car and opened the unlocked gates before joining her again. “Shall we have a Welcome Sissy party?”

“Maybe!” Cecily grinned. Up ahead she could see the roofs of Raf’s house. Their house, she reminded herself. Their vast house, in fact. Though autumn had by now taken hold of the land, the lawns on either side of the driveway were verdant and the flowers still blossomed in every colour of the rainbow. The house could have been imposing but instead it already felt homely, as welcoming as Raf’s arms.

As Raf piloted them up the sweeping driveway and the house grew nearer through the trees, she was surprised she had thought it could have been a hotel when she’d first spied it from the hill above the village—it was a happy home, she could sense it.

“Home at last!” The car drew to a halt and Raf finally turned the engine off. Cecily’s attention was drawn to the large door, dominated by an ornate door knocker in the shape of a single monstrous, reptilian eye. “Shall we get the kettle on?”

Please, I’m gasping!” Cecily turned to Raf with a beaming smile. Then she paused. “Is there tea? And is there anything in for dinner? I can rustle up something from tins, and maybe if you have a vegetable patch too I can pick some potatoes or carrots, and perhaps—”

Cecily stopped herself. She didn’t need to be nervous about going into her own home. And she was no longer shackled to a husband who pilloried her for the tiniest housekeeping mistake.

“There’s tea and there’s probably something to eat. If there isn’t we’ll nip down the pub and see what’s cooking. There’s always at least a pie,” Raf told her. This was life now, a world where there was nipping to the pub and holding parties and not worrying about every speck of dust. Raf helped Cecily from the car but this time he handed her what looked like an ancient key. “I’ll grab the bags in a bit. Captain, would you do the honours and unlock your home?”

Cecily gladly took the key. When she closed her eyes a multitude of faces whirled by her as if they were on a fiendishly quick carousel, men and women, in bonnets, ruffs, cravats, tricorns and hoods, leaving their mark through the centuries. People who had once held that very same key and, like Cecily, called this house their home.

She went up the low stone steps to the front door, and with one last look around her—at the large windows and the abundant garden—she put the key in the lock and turned. The old, heavy door creaked open and as it swung wide Cecily blinked at the sight of her new home.

And the door knocker blinked back.

Of course it didn’t. How could it?

But it did.

“Welcome to your new nest,” Raf announced. “I hope you’ll love it here.”

“I already do, I—” Cecily glanced back at the knocker. It was unmoving, but somehow she sensed it watching her. “Where did you find that?”

“Do you like him? Great-granddad a few times over got him from John Dee in a card game.” Raf closed the door. “He keeps an eye on the place.”

“As long as he’s friendly!”

Cecily sighed happily and leaned back against the front door, not quite able to believe that they were finally here. And almost in one piece. She glanced around the hall, unsure what to look at first. The place was bursting at the seams with what she assumed was Raf’s collection of artifacts and bric-a-brac gathered on his journeys around the world and brought back to assume a space beside the ephemera his family had left in the house before him.

“You certainly have a lot of…things.

“That’s true.” He laughed. “Lots and lots of things!”

“Is the whole of your house like this?” Cecily stared at an antique taxidermied owl inside a glass dome which stared back at her. Although unlike the eye on the door, it didn’t blink.

“Not all of it.” Raf slipped his arms around Cecily’s waist. “Some of it’s cluttered!”

The parts of the wall that Cecily could see were wood-panelled, peeping out from behind a suit of armour, what looked like flags or sailcloth, decorated shields, umbrellas, netting, scattered footwear, a brass elephant, half-unpacked tea crates, a tennis racket in need of restringing, framed portraits and landscapes in oils and watercolours, spears, a dented violin, a small Egyptian casket and objects that Cecily had never seen before in her life. Just what purpose did that ornately carved and clearly ancient stone disc have, with its square-featured face at its centre, its tongue poked out as if it didn’t appreciate her staring? Just how many generations of de Chastelaines had contributed to the array of random items in the house?

Cecily planted a kiss on Raf’s cheek. “I can’t tell you how glad I am to see such a mess—it’s brilliant!”

“Honest?” He widened his eyes, teasing her. “You’re not going to produce a duster and tell me to get tidying? It’s spotless though, that much I can say for sure.”

“It doesn’t feel dusty, that’s true.” Cecily peered into the knight’s visor, then stepped away. This was the sort of house where someone might peer back.

“That’s because of the lovely lady who takes care of me and might still be here but might’ve tactfully gone home even though she’s desperate to get a look at you.” He spun Cecily across the floor in an impromptu dance. “The house likes you!”

“It feels happy here!” Cecily laughed. “And I can’t wait to meet your housekeeper either! Now, let’s see…kitchen this way? There’s a lot of joy in the kitchen, I think…”

But Raf was standing very still, his nose twitching as he turned his head this way and that. For a moment Cecily’s heart leapt with trepidation, then he gave a little smile and whispered, “I smell…carbolic soap. So Mrs Hodge is here. And beer and perfume and—” He wrinkled his nose and fanned his hand in front of it. “The trawlermen’ve been gutting fish! But even I shouldn’t be able to smell that— What do you sense?”

“A crowd.” Cecily reached for Raf’s hand. “Is your house very haunted? Only…there’s so many of them!”

“Those aren’t ghosts!” Raf entwined his fingers with Cecily’s and together they approached a closed door. He kissed her cheek then threw the door wide open with a cry of delighted excitement.

Cecily tottered back in surprise because there in front of her was a room crammed with people. Complete strangers, all cheering, waving a home-painted banner on a sheet of canvas that said WELCOME HOME!!

“Erm…”

Cecily grabbed Raf’s arm and tried to hide behind him, but being a few inches taller than him, she knew she must only have made herself look absurd.

“Look at you, you daft whatsits!” Raf laughed as he looked at the assembled faces. “I’ve missed the lot of you!”

But every gaze was on Cecily. And in those gazes she saw such happiness, such joy, that it tugged at her heart. They weren’t judging her or sizing her up—this gathering was a welcome for her as much as for their returning hero.

Cecily gave the crowd a tentative wave. There were women in their housecoats, fishermen in their smocks, one or two ladies in coats with fur collars and one or two gents in pinstripes, the milkman, and men in their battered best clothes, children balanced on hips and—last but not least—a vicar.

Cecily stood self-consciously on the old, uneven flagstones in her new heeled shoes, trying her best not to look as gawky and awkward as she felt. “Hello, everyone,” she said.

“This is Miss Cecily Pincombe,” Raf told them. “My business partner. And my sweetheart, in case any of you saucy Yorkshiremen are plotting a wooing!”

Raf was met with laughter from some quarters and knowing looks from others.

“Pleased to meet you.” Cecily executed a careful curtsey and someone cooed an awww.

As she straightened up a woman stepped forwards and gave a little curtsey of her own. As plump as a pudding and even shorter than Raf, the lady wore a coat and neat hat upon which a rather fancy collection of fruit was perched.

Fresh fruit, Cecily realised.

“Mrs Hodge!” Raf threw his arm around the lady. “Sissy, this is Mrs H, the world’s finest housekeeper. Mrs H, this is Sissy, the de Chastelaine chatelaine!”

“I’ve heard so much about you, Mrs Hodge.” Cecily tried to still her nervous tremble as she held out her hand to Raf’s housekeeper. But she didn’t sense any animosity in Mrs Hodge, just warm kindness.

“Call me June,” Mrs Hodge said in rather proper tones, as though she were addressing a senior member of the royal family. “And don’t listen to anything that one tells you about me, he’s full of mischief.”

“I had noticed!” Cecily grinned at Raf. “I do hope you won’t change anything with me being here—I would hate to spoil your routine. I like to bake but I won’t get in your way, and I’m very tidy. I always clear up after myself, I promise.”

“Ha! Good luck with tidy and Rafael in the house!” But the look on her face was nothing but affectionate indulgence and she shook her head. “Well, you’re welcome here, love. You don’t worry about my routine, I’ll fit in with you. The larder’s stocked with enough to feed an army—or one Rafael. And if he’s told you he’s no good in the kitchen, he’s not lying. Happen it’s time you had a few lessons, young man, Miss Pincombe hasn’t come here to wait on you!”

“Dad said this would happen. Ladies gang up, he told me!” Raf laughed, earning a supportive nod from the men in the room. “I see it all now!”

“Well, I’m glad to see you back, lad, and with such a lovely girl on your arm,” Mrs Hodge replied, having clearly forgotten her theatrical voice in favour of a rather more natural Yorkshire one. “We’ve all been wondering about the pair of you!”

“Raf’s been looking after me,” Cecily told her. “And he had a scrape, but—all’s well. All’s very well.”

“And your father’s written this very morning,” Mrs Hodge said. “He’s in Morocco of all places, says to tell you he’ll be home after Christmas and he’ll call in to meet his lovely new daughter-in-law to be.”

Cecily heard someone clear his throat close beside her and she glanced up to see the vicar. Now he had approached and beyond his dog collar, she could see he bore a striking resemblance to Raf. He had the same bright blue eyes and dark hair, the same small stature. But unlike Raf, Michael’s hair was tidied and pomaded, and there was something of the cloisters about him, as if he rarely went outside.

“Reverend Michael!”

He nodded. “Welcome to the village, Miss Pincombe. And my dear brother, home again!”

Michael clasped Raf in a tight hug and a stream of quick Romanian filled the air. As they parted Raf took his brother’s face in his hands and kissed him once on either cheek. A look passed between them, as though Michael was checking that his brother really was safely returned to him. He alone knew the full story of what had happened on that last night at Whitmore Hall, of the vines and the devil who had lurked among them. Cecily knew that Michael alone shared the secrets of the Hall because she had taken down Raf’s letter for him, saving him the struggle with penmanship that his word blindness presented.

“Home at last,” Raf told him with a beaming smile. “And in one piece.”

“My prayers have been answered,” Michael said, his accent devoid of Raf’s Romanian twang. He sounded like some of the teachers Cecily had known at Whitmore Hall. “You look well after that long journey of yours, both of you.”

“We travelled the scenic route,” Raf admitted. It had been a scenic route that included a good many cosy inns and comfortable beds. “Sissy, this is Mike! I know you know that, but I’m doing things sort of properly.”

“Welcome to the family.” Michael gave Cecily an assessing glance. Then he whispered something to Raf.

‘What a lovely lass.’

“Lass? I’m a lass?” Cecily chuckled. She’d picked up Raf’s thoughts again, like hearing a distant voice through static on the wireless.

Michael glanced at Raf, surprised and somewhat flustered. “Erm… That is to say, a lovely lady…”

My lass. With…serious hearing skills. You don’t even have to speak and she hears it.” Raf put his arm around Cecily’s waist, but she knew there was nothing but love in his tease. Her late husband had believed her to be his possession. To Rafael de Chastelaine, the dhampir with Transylvanian and Yorkshire blood in his veins, she was an equal. “Where’s Mim?”

“Mim? She’s elbow-deep in her Women’s Institute jam-making,” Michael said. He clasped his hands together, a pious gesture which Cecily supposed came second nature to him, given his calling. “She sends her best, and she’ll be over to say hello later. And bring some jam, too. She makes excellent jam, Miss Pincombe.”

“Please call me Cecily.”

Michael nodded. “Then I will—Cecily.”

“Give her our best.” Raf grinned and Cecily realised that his brother didn’t have the teeth. Only normal teeth. “I’m sure you’ll be nipping up to sample her jam!”

“I shall indeed, but—now look, will I be reading the banns on Sunday? Mim has been talking about doing your wedding flowers, but you haven’t mentioned a date…” Michael’s hands were still clasped, his voice still gentle, but his knuckles had whitened. He raised an expectant eyebrow and glanced back and forth between Cecily and Raf.

“Just like a vicar!” laughed a tall, wiry man with a luxuriant black beard as he slapped his hand on the reverend’s shoulder. He looked like a fisherman, Cecily decided, in his cap and sweater. “Let’s have a party first and talk weddings later!”

A cheer went up around the kitchen and Raf told his brother, “Don’t you fret, vicar, we’ll be good!”

As drinks were poured and cake sliced, Cecily smiled and said hello and tried to remember everyone’s names, but she heard Michael’s voice through the hubbub as he said to Raf, “And you’ll come to the church as soon as you can? I don’t mean for a wedding. It’s just that there’s something I need you to see.”

“Is it an important something?” Raf took a sip from his bottle of dark brown ale. “A tomorrow something or a today something?”

Michael leaned closer to Raf and whispered, rather loudly, “Today. I had no wish to worry you during your convalescence, but…there’s something rather bad, I fear, in my church, and that’ll never do.”

Raf glanced back at Cecily and smiled, but she knew him well enough to know that he would go. And she would love him all the more for it. “Then I’ll come over later. What time will you be there?”

Michael took his watch from his waistcoat pocket and tapped the face. “Six o’clock.”

“Whatever it is, we’ll sort it,” Raf promised him. He patted Michael’s arm. “Don’t worry.”

Michael spoke to him in Romanian again, a farewell, Cecily supposed. He waved to her as he hurried out of the kitchen and was gone. Before Cecily could say anything to Raf, she had a glass in one hand and a plate of cake in the other and Mrs Hodge was introducing her to everyone. Raf was never far away from her in the kitchen, just as he had stayed close as they journeyed from the south-west to the far-flung North Yorkshire coast. Not watching and policing, but simply being near. They had become bound to each other in the most wonderful way, lovers, in love, dipping into shops and restaurants, hotels and guest houses on their adventure, not so much learning to be a couple as discovering that it was simply an instinct.

And sometimes, when Cecily was least expecting it, a little bat would swoop down and sit on her shoulder.

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About the Authors

Eleanor Harkstead

Eleanor Harkstead likes to dash about in nineteenth-century costume, in bonnet or cravat as the mood takes her. She can occasionally be found wandering old graveyards. Eleanor is very fond of chocolate, wine, tweed waistcoats and nice pens. Her large collection of vintage hats would rival Hedda Hopper’s.

Originally from the south-east of England, Eleanor now lives somewhere in the Midlands with a large ginger cat who resembles a Viking.

You can follow Eleanor on Facebook and Twitter

Catherine Curzon

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian who writes on all matters of 18th century. Her work has been featured on many platforms and Catherine has also spoken at various venues including the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, and Dr Johnson’s House.

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, writes fiction set deep in the underbelly of Georgian London.

She lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

You can follow Catherine on Facebook and Twitter and take a look at her Website.

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Catherine Curzon & Eleanor Harkstead The Glass Demon Giveaway

ENTER TO WIN A FREE CATHERINE CURZON & ELEANOR HARKSTEAD ROMANCE BOOK! Notice: This competition ends on 13TH July 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

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Release Blitz: To Light a Fire by Kristian Parker #GayRomance #historicalromance @PridePublishing

To Light a Fire by Kristian Parker

Book 1 in the Speak Its Name series

Word Count: 19,038
Book Length: NOVELLA
Pages: 82
Genres:

EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
HISTORICAL

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Book Description

 

Frank never thought he would find love…until he met his friend’s servant.

It’s 1922 and Frank Harris has finished his exams at Cambridge. He had planned on going home to his parents’ Midlands shop until his friend Charlie Fitzwilliam issues a surprise invitation to stay at his family’s stately home.

Frank has nursed a secret attraction to Charlie since their first meeting and can’t resist a chance to spend time with him, but once there, it’s Tanner, a manservant, with whom he instantly falls in lust.

Charlie tries to force a local girl on Frank, and although Frank knows he should keep up appearances, it’s Tanner who sets a fire in him.

To Frank’s astonishment, Tanner is attracted to him too, and their mutual passion kindles, then burns strong. Only, their feelings must remain a secret—discovery would mean the ruin of them both.

But how long can love that blazes this bright be hidden?

Excerpt

Cambridge, 1922

“Come on, Harris. Don’t be a chump. You can read your precious architecture books at my place. I don’t know why you’re bothering, anyway—we’ve done the blasted exams.”

So spoke Charlie Fitzwilliam the third…or maybe the fourth, standing there in all his glory. As usual, the rest of his gang flanked him and glared at me. It didn’t do to say no to Charlie. I had been in awe of him for four years at Cambridge.

The polar opposite to me, he could make a boy feel awkward just by entering a room. Blond, muscular and his parents owned most of one of the bigger counties just outside London. I, on the other hand, had dark hair, could have been described as a little on the skinny side and certainly didn’t come from the right side of the tracks.

“Go on, Harris,” said one of his henchmen. They followed him everywhere, doing his dirty work and hoping against hope some of that Fitzwilliam magic would rub off on them. “Charlie will be bored if you don’t.”

“Why don’t you go and entertain him then?” I said gruffly.

It had been made clear when we started at university that I would be the lackey of the group and it didn’t do to let me forget it. Charlie’s lot were Harrow boys for whom Cambridge had been a natural next step. My place had been paid for by my parents saving hard and me getting the best marks possible at school.

My parents had several shops in Leicester, the middle of England, where I’d grown up and nothing ever happened. When I’d come to Cambridge, I’d been an awkward eighteen-year-old who had no idea how to use the right cutlery or which wine went with fish. Charlie had taken me under his wing, the others had been jealous and so my runt-of-the-litter position had become firmly cemented.

Charlie had more money than he would ever know what to do with. University was just a diversion, a chance to drink heavily, romance often and generally live a crazy life. The dire state of the economy didn’t come anywhere near him, happening only to other people.

An invitation to go to his house in the country could not be refused, and I found myself tempted by some time alone with him. Besides, I couldn’t apply in earnest to architectural partnerships until I knew my marks for my degree. We had sat our final exam last week and could only wait until August, when we would graduate.

I had planned to go home and help in the shops, but I would only be taking hours from our workers who needed them more than me.

“Just think of it. You can dig around my father’s books to your heart’s content.” Charlie clapped his arm around me, causing me to blush. He knew he had his fish on the line, and a grin creased the sides of my face.

“Fine. A week, no more.”

Charlie held up his hands. “A week is all I want from you. Mummy has demanded my presence in bloody Portugal after that. I’ll be dragged around endless vineyards in search of the perfect grapes for the perfect port. Oh, well done, old man. I hate being stuck in that house on my own. It’s just so boring.”

Having made the decision, I told my parents, and they were fine with it. They wanted me to get as much out of life as possible. Me having the chance to hobnob with a load of posh people would be a talking point for my mother for the rest of the year. God help her customers. They would soon be sick of hearing it.

With a heavy heart, I packed away my books, to send them home to my parents. I would never stand in this bedroom again. I had been lucky to get a set of rooms to myself—most of the other undergraduates shared. I would miss this tiny bit of independence. It might be cliché, but I had arrived a boy and was leaving a man. Charlie and his cronies were still like boys and probably always would be.

I had never gone in for the carousing life. Charlie had a reputation for smuggling girls from the local town into our halls. More than once he had persuaded me to let him use my room for a bit of privacy. As usual he had a henchman, or two, standing guard, and I would find a corner and retreat into my books. It amazed me why Charlie and his gang bothered with me at all. I must have been so boring to them, but Charlie had somehow bonded with me. On his own, when he wasn’t being an insufferable show-off, he could be quite good fun. We were both studying architectural history together. Charlie didn’t know his Christopher Wren from his Antoni Gaudi, and we’d spent many a late night sorting out his essays. In reality, I would write them for him, but I used to live for those nights. Charlie generally sat on the window ledge smoking and chatting while I scribbled away. The public image of Charlie could be hard to get past, but when he did let a person in, a decent chap lay beneath..

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About the Author

Kristian Parker

I have written for as long as I could write. In fact, before, when I would dictate to my auntie. I love to read, and I love to create worlds and characters.

I live in the English countryside. When I’m not writing, I like to get out there and think through the next scenario I’m going to throw my characters into.

Inspiration can be found anywhere, on a train, in a restaurant or in an office. I am always in search of the next character to find love in one of my stories. In a world of apps and online dating, it is important to remember love can be found when you least expect it.

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Book Blitz: Saving Kimi #HistoricalRomance @hibrookestanton

Saving Kimi
Brooke Stanton
(Forbidden Romance, #4)
Publication date: October 13th 2020
Genres: Adult, Historical Romance, Western

From a RWA award-winning and #1 bestselling author comes a scorching new historical romance!

Scandal is second nature to outcast Kimimela Wallace…and so are the passions she can’t deny.

Fleeing a forbidden desire in the small Oklahoma town where her white father raised her, Kimi escapes to the Cheraksaw Reservation to be with her mother—and quickly finds herself in the arms of her childhood friend, Soaring Falcon. But no sooner does she arrive than her mother forces her out to make it on her own. The only thing to do is to take work she doesn’t want…as a governess for hard-hearted widower, Alex Randall. But the rumors and the reputation Kimi fled in town follow her there. And so does her curiosity as Mr. Randall stirs new desires in her when she discovers his shocking secret. Then tragedy strikes, and Kimi must risk everything to save both men. But deciding who will win her heart may mean stripping away the one thing she values most—her freedom. Can she give up one love for another, or will passion and forbidden desires lead to more than she thought possible?

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EXCERPT:

“You’re a good man, Alex.” Kimi’s gaze was steady, urging him to meet it.

Finally, he spoke. “Have you ever been in love?”

Kimi was startled by the question. “I . . . I don’t know. Love is confusing.”

He turned to her. Their hands still touched. “Love is the simplest thing in the world.”

Kimi’s gaze fell beyond Alex. “Not for me.”

“Because you were promised to Chayton and he chose another?”

Kimi snapped her attention back. “I was never attached to him, and I do not yearn for his love.”

“It’s not a bad thing. Being in love is wonderful.” His chin dropped and he pinched his brow. “When the person loves you back. Chayton would be a good match for you. He obviously cares for you.”

“You cannot comprehend, Alex. For men like you, life is uncomplicated. You’ve never had the likes of Mrs. Johns throwing aspersions at you since you first understood what an insult was. It muddles everything. Even love.”

Their gazes locked. Pain was in his eyes, and for a moment Kimi wondered if he thought of his dead wife. Since he’d been injured, all she’s wanted to do is relieve him of his hurts, and so she did something quite shocking. On an impulse, she rocked forward and kissed him squarely on the mouth.

The pads of his lips were soft, but unmoving. Kimi released him, but kept her gaze steady, unapologetic.

“Why did you do that?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

He exhaled, long and slow. “You’re mixed up in the life and death of this unusual situation.”

“Don’t tell me my mind.” Kimi prickled. “I make my own choices.”

And to prove her point, she tucked her knees and folded forward, pressing her lips solidly to his again, her hands on either side of his face. No sooner had she enjoyed this delicious connection than Alex pushed her gently but firmly from him.

“Kimi, we can’t. You’re too young. Barely nineteen. Will would have my hide. I’d have my hide.”

“Most women I know are married by my age,” Kimi protested.

“I don’t mean you’re too young to be with a man—I mean you’re too young for me. You should be with someone like Chayton. Young, vibrant. Not old and damaged.”

“I’m not talking about marriage.”

Alex’s eyes widened. “Kimi, you sometimes are very shocking.”

“Am I wrong that something passed between us when you found that photograph in my room? I saw it in your eyes. I see it now.”

Alex shifted away. “It’s unseemly to discuss this. I told you I didn’t mean to have those photographs. I’m horrified you found them. Oh god. I’ve ruined you. Men and women . . . they don’t, er, it’s not like what you saw in the picture. I mean, if they’re married, perhaps. But—”

“Indian women lie with Indian men when they’re not married.” At least that had been the way before the settlers came. Kimi wasn’t sure how often it happened now. But if she looked at Chayton as an example, it was still something that was done.

Alex rubbed his hand over his face, exasperated. “You weren’t raised like that. You were raised in society.”

“You’re wrong. My mother has always been a great influence. I feel the blood of my ancestors strong in me. And I don’t see what’s wrong with these cravings. A kiss never hurt anyone.”

Alex scooted to the other side of the room, and sat near the supplies.

Kimi crossed her arms over her chest, annoyed. “Do you desire me? Or do you not like the native blood in me?”

“Stop.” Alex sharpened his gaze. “My rejection has nothing to do with that. We shouldn’t even be speaking of these things. It isn’t proper. This is all highly disturbing. If I didn’t know you better, I’d think you were hysterical.”

“What if I am? Nobody would fault you for taking me.”

“I’m not ‘taking you.’”

Alex winced, gripping his injured arm. The makeshift bandage on his bicep seeped blood.

“Come here,” Kimi said.

“I think it’s best if I stay where I am.”

“Your bandage needs changing.” Kimi unrolled a fresh bandage and opened a jar of antiseptic.

Reluctantly, Alex sat beside her, his back ramrod straight. Kimi unrolled the soiled cloth from his forearm, cleaned his wound the best she could, then wrapped it with the fresh bandage.

When she was done, she sat back, but he stayed at the edge of the mat, rigid. Kimi fiddled with the edge of her ripped hide skirt, which ended several inches above her knee. Alex scanned his gaze up her thighs and then took the edges of the blanket and folded it over her legs, covering her naked skin.

He tucked his good arm under his head and spread his long body on the wood floor, beside the mat.

“Let’s rest. I think that bump may be having an odd effect on your sensibility.”

Author Bio:

After her own misadventures in New York City, LA, and London, Brooke Stanton now lives in Dallas, Texas. She’s the bestselling and award winning author of the Bloom Sisters and Forbidden Romance series. Visit her website brookestantonbooks.com.

Get a FREE copy of the prequel, IGNITE, here: http://ilovemyfans.info/ignite-download/

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Behind the Iron Cross by Nicola Cameron #historicalromance #eroticromance #newrelease @YesItsNicolaC

In the hedonistic wonderland of Cabaret-era Berlin…

…where money can buy you anything you desire…

…and love comes with a pink rose and a practiced smile…

The year is 1923, the Great War is over, and Berlin has become the manic playground of Europe’s elite. Against a glittering background of nightclubs and hot jazz, a sensual American heiress, a wounded playboy, and a desperate German army officer forge a decadent pact of pleasure. But their nights of uninhibited passion soon lead to a forbidden emotional connection, one that will threaten their future … and their lives.

Excerpt available here.

  • Historical Romance, Erotic Romance, MMF
  • Word Count: 105,000
  • Heat Level 4
  • Published By: Belaurient Press

Where to Buy

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords


Excerpt

Kat followed her men, feeling incredibly relaxed and happy. All of her worries about Schoengraff, the wedding, and her future at Tracy Electric felt like they had been trapped behind a thick, clear wall. She knew they were still there, of course, but they didn’t plague her at all.

And seeing both Friedrich and Sam’s trousers bulging from the kissing and canoodling in the hubble-bubble den was doing wonderful things to her own desire. As soon as the car started moving Sam fell on the colonel like a hungry beast, mashing their mouths together and driving his tongue between Friedrich’s lips. His hand snaked down, cupping the German’s undoubtedly aching cock and squeezing it.

It seemed only right to join in. She leaned closer to Friedrich, pressing her breast against his arm as she nibbled and sucked on his earlobe, whispering filthy things into his ear. He gave Sam a last kiss and turned to her, groaning as she undid a button on his shirt and slid her fingers inside to caress the skin there.

Sam moved back in, biting at Friedrich’s neck then soothing the sting with a lick. A fleeting thought crossed Kat’s mind, a wish to have both of her beautiful men naked and in bed with her. All three of them creating a tangle of bodies and limbs, so close that no one could tell where one ended and another began, and to hell if it shocked all of Bridgeport and its stuffy, stodgy society.

At some point the car stopped and the door opened, Horst looming in the opening. The next thing Kat knew they were up in the suite. How, she had no idea, but she was absolutely delighted by it. She led her men into her bedroom, kicking off her shoes as she went.

Laughing, Friedrich fell on Sam, pushing him into the bed and kissing him greedily, opening his mouth to the American’s. “You feel so good,” he said softly, dropping soft kisses over the other man’s chin, cheeks, nose. “Why do you feel so damned good?”

“I don’t know, but I’m glad I do,” Sam murmured. “You feel even better, angel.”

“Mmm.” Friedrich writhed, rubbing against Sam’s lean body. “Too many clothes.”

“I can help with that,” Kat said. She started unbuttoning his shirt, laughing as her fingers fumbled on the tiny mother of pearl discs.

Friedrich stared up at her, naked adoration on his face. He lifted a hand, brushing her cheek with a tender finger that sent shivers down her spine. “You’re so beautiful, Kätzchen. So strong, like a goddess.”

Kätzchen—kitten. Tonight, she would accept that once-hated nickname, especially since he finished up by calling her a goddess. “Clothes, colonel. Let’s get you out of them.”

She quickly stripped him, leaving him naked and gorgeous on the fine sheets while Sam fumbled with his own clothes. Friedrich looked down at his magnificent cock, already hard and pearling a drop of pleasure at the tip, and laughed at it. Sam joined in, and Kat followed. Everything felt wonderful.

The men rolled into each other’s arms and started kissing again, hands roaming muscular bodies and caressing, squeezing, stroking as she watched. It was wickedly delicious, the sight of these two beautiful creatures pleasuring each other. She stripped slowly, reveling in the heightened sensation of her skin as it was exposed to the room’s cool air. She dropped her chemise, then her corselet to the carpet, peeling off the fine silk stockings last and draping them around her neck like a stole. They caught on the chain there. Mustn’t snag the stockings. There were things she could do with them, wonderfully dark and heady things.

She unhooked the chain and tossed it and the key onto the bedside table. Crawling onto the bed, she gently pushed Friedrich onto his back and away from Sam, slithering down into his arms. “My turn,” she purred.

His eyes were thin rings of blue around wide black centers, the eyes of a child on Christmas morning who had just seem the mountain of presents awaiting him. “So beautiful. You’re so beautiful.”

She stroked his cheek, feeling the fine prickle of his beard. “So are you, my colonel. The most beautiful man, isn’t he, Sam?”

“Oh, yes,” Sam said thickly, kissing his way down Friedrich’s chest. “Absolutely gorgeous.”

She wanted to kiss Friedrich again, taste his mouth, feel his tongue dancing slickly around hers as they shared breath and heat. A faint voice in the back of her head murmured something in a warning tone, something about discipline and too much indulgence. She didn’t care. She wanted this beautiful man, and she was going to have him.