Friday, November 26, 2021

The Complete Mara of the League Series Tour and Giveaway

 


The Witches of Crannock Dale

Mara of the League Book 1

by Thomas M. Kane

Genre: Fantasy 

When an enemy army threatens eleven-year old Mara’s home, she makes up her mind to save her family, one way or another. But when the knights protecting her village arrest her favorite aunt for witchcraft, she discovers that the difference between friend and foe may not be as obvious as she once thought.

This is a story of war and espionage, set in a low fantasy world. It is also about a child getting to know her mother and father in a new way.


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I planted my feet on the worn cobblestones. “Let me go!”

“Shut up.” Mr. Vance dragged me forward.

“Help!” I turned my head to look at the dyer’s apprentice. His ginger hair was cropped almost to fuzz and sweat had soaked through his shirt.

Mr. Vance smiled at the dyer’s apprentice, or maybe it was a snarl. “Hallo, Gus.”

“Help me—”

“I said shut up.” Mr. Vance’s grip tightened on my shoulder until I gasped. His thumb was inside my collar, and I could feel the sandpaper roughness of his skin. “She’s a bit excited. Lucky I found her, or Bel knows what she might have got into. Dangerous for a kid to be about on her own, am I right?”

“Righty-ho, sir.”

“Righty-ho.” Mr. Vance grinned again. “Oh, and tell your master I said hallo. Tell‘m I owe him a pint.”

Gus hefted the handles on his cart and continued down the street. He looked paler than he had looked before, and he kept his eyes fixed on the cobblestones ahead of him. The cartwheels clattered as he passed us by.

Mr. Vance grabbed my other shoulder and shook me. Then he hustled me forward, continuing down the street. He leaned to talk in my ear, and I could feel the heat of his breath. “Who put you up to it? You know I can make you tell me.”

I stamped on Mr. Vance’s foot as hard as I could.


The Rebels of Caer City

Mara of the League Book 2

Throughout five years at a strict boarding school, Mara has turned to her friend Annie-Rose for comfort. Now Annie has disappeared. Mara teams up with two other students – bold Gretchen and soft-spoken Ginny -- to find her missing friend. Together, Mara, Gretchen and Ginny take on a conspiracy involving some of the most dangerous people in their world.

 

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 “These malcontents are eager for a fight.” The High Bailiff snorted. “The ringleaders are plying their followers with cheap ale. They mean to set a drunken mob loose upon the streets.” 

“They do? Oh. Well, that’s what we wanted. Isn’t it?” Callum spoke quickly. “It gives us a pretext—we can chase them off with cavalry.” 

“Cavalry will no longer serve.” High Bailiff Stahl allowed his words to hang in the air. “This rabble appears to have anticipated our plan. They have changed their route. Instead of assembling in the open, where horsemen could have dispersed them with whips, they are converging in the steep streets around Twining Pier. Cavalry will be next to useless there.” 

Callum’s eyes widened. Things were, he thought, slipping out of control. He drew closer to his stout advisor. Stahl, he felt—the man he hated—was also the one man who could protect him. “Well . . . well, alright then. How do we solve this?” 

High Bailiff Stahl drew a document from his valise. “Your Highness, since it will be impossible to suppress this mob in the ordinary way, you must authorize supplemental measures.” 


The Hideous Garden

Mara of the League Book 3

After surviving a fiery assassination attempt, the League’s honorable new ruler resolves to end a twenty-five-year war. Mara, now director of the League’s spy service, warns that he is walking into a trap. As Mara argues for increasingly ruthless policies, she must ask herself whether she likes the person she has become.

This is a story of intrigue and military strategy, set in a low fantasy world. It is also a story of a political marriage which could be more.


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 The door felt warm to my knuckles. My heart beat faster. I assumed it led to the steam grotto. Since a woman’s clothing cut in the Waanling fashion hung on the rail, I guessed Annie was inside. Either that, I reflected, or someone means for me to think so. 

I put out my candle since I no longer needed it in the lamplight. Then I stripped, hanging Mrs. Portius’ linens next to the fuchsia silks. I thought through how I might react if attackers burst in upon me while I was naked. There was a long-necked bottle of heavy green glass by the tubs which I thought I might use as a weapon. 

I did not actually expect to be attacked. I trusted the spa staff, to the degree that I found it wise to trust anyone. I am anxious, I confessed to myself, because I am about to see Annie. It had been one thing to exchange letters with her once or twice a year from thousands of miles away. It would be another to look into her eyes. 

Nevertheless, I laid my undergarments on the bench and opened the warm door. Vapor rolled out. I entered the room and shut the door behind me, reeling in the heat. Another lantern hung from the ceiling, allowing me to make out pine benches stacked like bunk beds against the rust-colored limestone walls of a compact chamber. Annie reclined on a pallet the height of my shoulders, her body glistening. 


The Rending of the World

Mara of the League Book 4

Give me the summer and I will give you the continent.”
--Un-Jargal Boyan, Supreme Commander of the Waanling Host

Chief spy Mara Bennet's worst fears come true when the Commonwealth of Waan invades her homeland. To complicate matters, Mara and her country's ruler are stranded in a remote northern realm. The two of them must outrun enemy warships on a perilous sea voyage home. Meanwhile fourteen-year-old Princess Deborah finds herself unexpectedly on the throne.

Can Deborah learn to rule in the midst of treachery? Can Mara use her strategic skills to turn back the Waanling onslaught? Will pillaging armies reduce the land to famine? Find out in The Rending of the World.

Rending features seven maps detailing battle plans and troop movements. Its author has eighteen years experience teaching strategic studies at university level. He has published eight non-fiction books on international relations and war.


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 “What on earth is doing it?” Alice folded her fan and used it to point at the noise. 

Princess Deborah did not think her friend’s voice sounded sympathetic. It sounded appraising, perhaps even critical. Thus goaded, Deborah responded in an irritable tone. “It’s just a little Rennish boy, alright? One of the refugees.” 

“A little boy is doing all that?” 

“Uh-huh. He sits in an armchair and leans back until he starts to tip over. Then he rocks forward so the front legs of the chair bang down on the floor.” 

“Doesn’t it bother you?” Alice straightened herself upon the divan. “I do say, if it were me, and that little snot was in my house, I would have a word. Especially if Mama and Papa had gone and left me in charge. My mama would be expecting me to have a word.” 

“You don’t think I’ve tried?” Deborah heard frustration slip into her voice. “Here’s what happens. I have a servant tell his dad to do something. His dad tells him to stop rocking, and right away he does it again. It’s like, I don’t know, he wants to see what his dad will do next. His dad shouts, and he keeps doing it, and it goes on until his dad gives up. Meanwhile, he has five brothers and sisters, and when his dad is busy with him, the rest start in. I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather listen to the chair than listen to the whole lot of them.” 

“Six is far too many.” Alice sniffed. “I’m going to have two children, and they are going to have manners. It’s so much nicer when children have manners, don’t you think?” 

The princess swallowed. If Daddy doesn’t come back, she thought, and if I stay pontifex, I’m going to need heirs. I could have a baby inside of me, not just someday, but soon. I turn fifteen in Buckmoon, and I’ll be sixteen next year. That’s not really too young—a hundred years ago, lots of highborn people had babies at sixteen. Sweet Belthor! Just one more winter and I’ll be sixteen. 

“Still, that’s what Rennish folk are like.” Alice drew a breath. “It’s tedious, you know, talking to someone who doesn’t listen.” 

“I’m listening! I just . . . you’re wrong. It’s not that they’re Rennish.” 

“No.” Alice’s voice was thoughtful. “It’s that they’re common.” 


Thomas M. Kane is a fantasy author living high on a wooded hilltop. He taught international relations at a British university for close to twenty years and brings his insights concerning real-life war and politics into his fiction. He takes a character-based approach to writing, paying attention to his protagonists' personal relationships and inner lives.


Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

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✱✱Book Review✱✱ Harlequin Holiday Romance Tour: Brenda Novak’s KEEP ME WARM AT CHRISTMAS

  

KEEP ME WARM AT CHRISTMAS by Brenda Novak MIRA Books


Maybe this Christmas can thaw his frozen heart—and heal hers.


Hollywood starlet Tia Beckett knows one moment can change your life. Her career had been on the fast track before a near-fatal accident left her with a debilitating facial scar. Certain her A-lister dreams are over, she agrees to house-sit at her producer’s secluded estate in Silver Springs. It’s the escape from the limelight Tia’s been craving, until she discovers she’s not the only houseguest for the holidays. And her handsome new roomie is impossible to ignore.


Momma Says: 4 stars⭐⭐⭐⭐

Keep Me Warm at Christmas is book 9 in Brenda Novak's Silver Springs series, and while I haven't read them all, I've read enough to safely say you can read this as a standalone. But be prepared because it is emotional, probably one of the most emotional Christmas romances I've read this year. Part of that may be due to being able to relate so well with the characters, particularly Seth. Losing a spouse can be all-encompassing and for me, the holidays are the most emotional times of year. That said, I really enjoyed how Tia and Seth were so comforting to each other, offering just what the other needed. There is some trouble for this pair to deal with, but the time I reached the ending, I was getting just how full of the Christmas spirit the book is. The books I've read so far in this series have gone a long way toward worming this town into my heart, and once again, Brenda Novak doesn't disappoint. 



Chapter One



Thursday, December 11


Tia Beckett ran a finger along the jagged scar on her cheek as she gazed into the mirror above the contemporary console on the living room wall. She’d taken down almost every mirror in her own house as soon as she came home from the hospital— broken them all and tossed them out. But she couldn’t do the same here. This wasn’t her home, and there seemed to be mirrors everywhere, each one projecting the same tragic image. 

She leaned closer. It must’ve been the windshield that nearly destroyed her face. 

She dropped her hand. After a month, her cheek was still tender, but she continued to examine her reflection. The woman in the mirror was a complete stranger. If she turned her head to the left, she could find herself again. The shiny black hair that framed an oval face. The smooth and creamy olive-colored skin. The bottle-green eyes with long, thick eyelashes. The full lips, which were her own, not a product of Botox injections. All the beauty that’d helped her land the leading role in Hollywood’s latest blockbuster was still there.

But when she turned her head to the right… 

Her stomach soured as she studied the raised, pink flesh that slanted in a zigzag fashion from the edge of her eye almost to her mouth. The doctor had had to piece that side of her face back together like a quilt. He’d said there was a possibility that cosmetic surgery could improve the scars later, but that wasn’t an option right now. After what she’d been through already, she couldn’t even contemplate another surgery. It’d be too late to save her career by then, anyway. 

Who was this poor, unfortunate creature? Her agent, her fellow cast members for Expect the Worst, the romantic comedy in which she costarred with box-office hit Christian Allen, and the friends she’d made since moving to LA said she was lucky to have survived the accident. And maybe that was true. But it was difficult to feel lucky when she’d lost all hope of maintaining her career just as it was beginning to skyrocket. 

A knock at the front door startled her. Who could that be? She didn’t want to see anyone, not even her friends—and especially not the press. They’d been hounding her since the accident, trying to snap a picture of her damaged face and demanding an answer as to whether she would quit acting. That was part of the reason she’d readily accepted when Maxi Cohen, the producer of her one and only film, offered to let her stay at his massive estate in Silver Springs, ninety minutes northwest of LA. He and his family would be in Israel for the holidays, so he needed someone to house-sit. That was what he’d said. What she’d heard was that she could hide out for a month and be completely alone. And she wouldn’t even have to pay for the privilege. She just had to care for the houseplants, feed and play with Kiki, the parrot, occasionally drive each of the six vehicles parked in the airplane-hangar-sized garage and make sure nothing went wrong. 

She also turned on the lights in the main house at night—Maxi didn’t yet have them set up on a timer, like those in his yard—so that it looked occupied since she was staying in the guesthouse, which was smaller and more comfortable. But that was probably unnecessary. There wasn’t a lot of crime in Silver Springs. Known for its boutique hotels, recreational opportunities and local, organic produce, it was sort of like Santa Barbara, only forty minutes away and closer to the coast, in that there were plenty of movie moguls and the like who had second homes here. 

Still, he couldn’t have left Kiki without a caretaker. And safe was always better than sorry. He also owned an extensive art collection that could never be replaced, so she figured he was wise to have someone watch over it, just in case

Whoever was at the door rapped again, more insistently. Maxi had given the housekeeper and other staff a paid holiday. Even the gardeners were off, since the yard didn’t grow much during the cold, rainy season. The entire estate was essentially in mothballs until Maxi returned. And no one Tia knew could say exactly where she was. So why was someone at her door? How had whoever it was gotten onto the property? The front gate required a code. 

“Hello? Anyone home?” A man’s strident voice came through the panel. “Maxi said you’d be in the guesthouse.” 

Damn. Those words suggested whoever it was had a right to be here, or at least permission. She was going to have to answer the door. 

“Coming,” she called. “Just…give me a minute.” She hurried into the bedroom, where her suitcase lay open on the floor. She’d arrived in Silver Springs two days ago but hadn’t bothered to unpack. There hadn’t seemed to be much point. There didn’t seem to be much point in doing anything anymore. She hadn’t bothered to shower or dress this morning, either, and she was wearing the same sweat bottoms, T-shirt and socks she’d had on yesterday.

Yanking off her clothes, she pulled on a robe so that there’d be no expectation of hospitality as she scurried back through the living room. Still reluctant to speak to anyone, she peered through the peephole. 

A tall, slender man—six-two, maybe taller—stood on the stoop. His dark hair had outgrown its last haircut and stuck out beneath a red beanie, he had a marked five-o’clock shadow, suggesting he hadn’t shaved for a couple of days, and a cleft chin almost as pronounced as that of Henry Cavill. He was a total stranger to her, but he had to be one of Maxi’s friends or associates, and she should treat him as such.

Bracing herself—human interaction was something she now avoided whenever possible—she took a deep breath. Please, God, don’t let him recognize me or have anything to do with the media. 

The blinds were already pulled, so she turned off the lights and cracked the door barely wide enough to be able to peek out with her good side. “What can I do for you?” 

His scowl darkened as his gaze swept over what he could see of her. He must’ve realized she was wearing a robe, because he said, “I hate to drag you out of bed at—” he checked his watch “—two in the afternoon. But could you let me into the main house before I freeze my—” catching himself, he cleared his throat and finished with “—before I freeze out here?” 

Assuming he was a worker of some sort—she couldn’t imagine why he’d be here, bothering her, otherwise—she couldn’t help retorting, “Sure. As long as you tell me why I should care whether you freeze or not.” 

The widening of his eyes gave her the distinct impression that he wasn’t used to having someone snap back at him. So… maybe he wasn’t a worker. 

“Because Maxi has offered to let me stay in his home, and he indicated you’d let me in,” he responded with exaggerated patience. “He didn’t text you?” 

“No, I haven’t heard from him.” And surely, what this man said couldn’t be right. Maxi had told her that she’d have the run of the place. She’d thought she’d be able to stay here without fear of bumping into anyone. She’d been counting on it. 

“He was just getting on a plane,” he explained. “Maybe he had to turn off his phone.” 

“Okay. If you want to give me your number, I’ll text you as soon as I hear from him.” He cocked his head. 

“You’ll…what?” 

“I’m afraid you’ll have to come back later.”

“I don’t want to come back,” he said. “I just drove six hours, all the way from the Bay Area, after working through the night. I’m exhausted, and I’d like to get some sleep. Can you help me out here?” 

His impatience irritated her. But since the accident, she’d been so filled with rage she was almost relieved he was willing to give her a target. “No, I’m afraid I can’t.” 

He stiffened. “Excuse me?” 

“I can’t let some stranger into the house, not unless Maxi specifically asks me to.” Even if this guy was telling the truth, forcing him to leave would not only bring her great pleasure, it would give her a chance to feed Maxi’s parrot before hiding the key under the mat. Then there would be no need for further interaction. He wouldn’t see her, and she wouldn’t have to watch the shock, recognition and pity cross his face. 

Pity was by far the worst, but none of it was fun. 

“If I have the code to the gate, I must’ve gotten it from somewhere, right?” he argued. “Isn’t it logical to assume that Maxi is the one who gave it to me?” 

“That’s a possibility, but there are other possibilities.” 

“Like…” 

“Maybe you hopped the fence or got it from one of the staff?” His chest lifted in an obvious effort to gather what little patience he had left. “I assure you, if I was a thief, I would not present myself at your door.”

“I can appreciate why. But I’m responsible for what goes on here right now, which means I can’t take any chances.” 

“You won’t be taking any chances!” he argued in exasperation. “If anything goes missing or gets damaged, I’ll replace it.” 

What was there to guarantee that? “The art Maxi owns can’t be replaced,” she said and thought she had him. Maxi had told her so himself. But this stranger said the only thing that could trump her statement. “Except by me, since I’m the one who created most of it in the first place,” he said drily. 

“You’re an artist?” she asked but only to buy a second or two while she came to grips with a few other things that had just become apparent. If he was one of the artists Maxi collected, he wasn’t some obscure talent. Yet…he couldn’t be more than thirty. And he certainly didn’t look too important shivering in a stretched-out T-shirt, on which the word Perspective was inverted, and jeans that had holes down the front. 

“I am,” he replied. “And you are…the house sitter, I presume?” 

She heard his disparaging tone. He wondered who the hell she was to tell him what to do. He thought he mattered more than she did. But that came as no surprise: she’d already pegged him as arrogant. She was more concerned about the fact that Maxi might’ve referred to her as a menial laborer. Is that the way her former producer thought of her now? It was only a few months ago that she’d been the most promising actress in Hollywood. Certainly she’d attained more fame than this snooty artist—when it came to having her name recognized by the general public, anyway. 

But what did it matter how high she’d climbed? She’d fallen back to earth so hard she felt as though she’d broken every bone in her body, even though the damage to her face was the only lingering injury she’d sustained in the accident. “I’m house-sitting, yes. But, like you, I’m a friend of Maxi’s,” she said vaguely.

Fortunately, he didn’t seem interested enough to press her for more detailed information. She was glad of that. 

“Fine. Look, friend.” He produced his phone. “I have proof. This is the text exchange I had with Maxi just before his plane took off. As you can see, he says he has someone—you—staying in the guesthouse, but the main house is available, and I’m welcome to it. If you’ll notice the time, you’ll see that these texts took place just this morning.” 

Her heart sank as she read what he showed her: I have someone in the guesthouse. Just get the key from her. 

“How long are you planning on being here?” she asked. 

“Does it matter?” he replied.

It did matter. But this was Maxi’s estate, and they were both his guests, so she had an obligation to treat him as well as he was accustomed to being treated. “Just a minute,” she said and muttered a curse after she closed the door. There goes all my privacy.


Excerpted from Keep Me Warm at Christmas by Brenda Novak, Copyright © 2021 by Brenda Novak, Inc. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.





New York Times
bestselling author Brenda Novak has written over 60 novels. An eight-time Rita nominee, she's won The National Reader's Choice, The Bookseller's Best and other awards. She runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity that has raised more than $2.5 million for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). She considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life. 



Better Together Tour and Giveaway

 


Better Together

A Cruisin' Around Novel

by Natalie-Nicole Bates

Genre: Mystery Romance

Dharma had a feeling she shouldn’t go on the cruise her parents booked for her as a gift. For one reason, she hates water.

But after everyone forgetting her birthday and the death of a close friend, Dharma decides to take the ten-day vacation along with her flighty friend Arielle.

Almost immediately, Dharma catches the eye of a handsome Hungarian interpreter, and the sparks fly!

That is until Arielle vanishes from the cruise ship.


**Only .99 cents!!**

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Natalie-Nicole Bates has worn all the hats in the publishing world – reader, reviewer, author, and now small publisher. She has the ability to see the point of view of everyone involved with the love of books.

With a taste for the darker side, Natalie-Nicole’s favorite genres are Dark Victorian, Steampunk, and Dark Paranormal. Her interests include collecting Victorian-era photographs, Frozen Charlotte Dolls (her latest batch was just delivered from a German excavation site after being buried underground since about 1860), and antique poison bottles. She loves exploring and photographing cemeteries – the older, the better!

She makes her home in a rural little village in England.


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Gateway to Dark Stars Tour and Giveaway

 


Gateway to Dark Stars

by Kate Haley

Genre: Horror, Action, Adventure 

Slaying monsters. It ain’t much, but it’s honest work.

In the age of jazz and bootleg liquor, black magic is making a big comeback. Luckily, the scourge of demons and cultists are keeping Doctor Vincent Temple in business. Even the Mafia are having trouble with monsters, and they’ve hired Temple to sort it out. Cash is cash, and the old Doctor has never been one to turn his nose up at a job, no matter who’s paying. This time luck is smiling on him. The gangsters are tangling with a cult Doctor Temple has been stalking over a personal matter, but when reconnaissance turns into rescue can he save the world before things become too personal?

The Witcher meets Cthulhu in this gruesome, high-octane adventure. Snatch up your copy now and get ready to slay some demons!

The thugs, because no matter how they presented themselves Lucy knew they were thugs, gave polite half-nods of agreement. Ferro turned back to her. “Your father’s been a thorn in my side for years, signorina. He should have taken better care to make sure we never met.”

She’s helping Vincent!” Tony interrupted. “She’s here because she was trying to help sort– ugh!” Tony doubled over and sank to his knees as one of the thugs punched him in the gut.

Manners, Antony,” Ferro warned him against further interruptions. He shook his head. “My sister’s boy. You’d think she would have raised him better.” He spoke as if by way of an apology, and then shrugged away the inconvenience. A slight smile teased the corner of his thin lips as he saw the way Lucy flinched to look at the young man groaning on the ground. “Unfortunately, signorina, these docks are terribly unsafe. You’re going to have to come with us.”

No,” Lucy tightened her grip on the rifle. “You don’t want that.”

It’s my obligation as a gentleman to make sure you get home safely, child.”

I don’t need help to go anywhere,” she retorted. “But you’re going to need mine. I’m the only one of us that can kill what’s sneaking up behind you.”

Ferro laughed. “Signorina, you do me a disservice if you think I’d fall for that.”

Lucy just waited. It was almost upon them now. One of Ferro’s goons screamed as he was suddenly hauled into the air. The imp that had snatched him was snarling hungrily. The gangsters turned as one with shouts of fear and alarm.

Get it!” Ferro roared.

All of them drew their guns and fired straight into the ugly monster’s chest. It didn’t even flinch. It shrieked at them and then hauled its struggling captive closer. Lucy took aim. She wanted to prove a point, but she wasn’t going to let someone get eaten to make it. She fired. Imp brains exploded in a bloody cloud over the gangsters. They all turned to her. She stared down their wild eyes and slack jaws from behind the barrel.


Kate Haley is a speculative fiction author who works predominantly in fantasy and horror.

While currently content to fill her days with writing and table-top RPGs, her grander plans involve world domination. Something akin to the tyranny of the greatest city atop the Disc would be an acceptable standard. She believes a super-villainous overlord would be an upgrade, given that our current villains lack style and imagination.

After all, super-villainy requires Presentation.

If you like her references, consider reading her books. Peruse the website for short fictions and merchandise, and join the mailing list for early access and exclusive cool stuff.


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Personalized signed copy of the book & an art print of the lead character by the illustrator,

$10 Amazon giftcard

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The Complete Mara of the League Series Tour and Giveaway

  The Witches of Crannock Dale Mara of the League Book 1 by Thomas M. Kane Genre: Fantasy  When an enemy army threatens eleven-year ol...