The Transparency of Time by Leonardo Padura @leonardopadura @bitterlemonpub @RandomTTours #RandomThingsTours

Hello lovelies! Today I have an exclusive extract from The Transparency of Time by Leonardo Padura as part of the Random Things blog tour but first a little about the book:

Title: The Transparency of Time by Leonardo Padura

Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press

Date Published: 10th June 2021

Genre: Crime Fiction

Description:

Mario Conde is facing down his sixtieth birthday. What does he have to show for his decades on the planet? A failing body, a slower mind, and a decrepit country, in which both the ideals and failures of the Cuban Revolution are being swept away in favour of a new and newly cosmopolitan worship of money.

Rescue comes in the form of a new case: an old Marxist turned flamboyant practitioner of Santería appears on the scene to engage Conde to track down a stolen statue of the Virgen de Regla—a black Madonna. This sets Conde on a quest that spans twenty-first century Havana as well as the distant past, as he delves as far back as the Crusades in an attempt to uncover the true provenance of the statue.

Through vignettes from the life of a Catalan peasant named Antoni Barral, who appears throughout history in different guises—as a shepherd during the Spanish Civil War, as vassal to a feudal lord—we trace the Madonna to present-day Cuba. With Barral serving as Conde’s alter ego, unstuck in time, and Conde serving as the author’s, we are treated to a panorama of history, and reminded of the impossibility of ever remaining on its sidelines, no matter how obscure we may think our places in the action.

Equal parts The Name of the Rose and The Maltese Falcon, The Transparency of Time cements Leonardo Padura’s position as the preeminent literary crime writer of our time.

Extract:

1. 

SEPTEMBER 4, 2014 

The emphatic first light of dawn in the tropics filtered through the window, projecting dramatically against the wall where the calendar hung, with its perfect grid of twelve squares divided into four rows. The spaces had originally been colored in distinctive tones ranging from spring’s youthful green to winter’s deep gray, a scheme that only a very imaginative designer could associate with something as contrived as the four seasons on a Caribbean island. With the passing months, fly droppings had decorated the board’s motifs with erratic ellipses. Several stains and its ever-fading colors testified to the paper’s constant use and the blinding light that beat down on it every day. A variety of capricious shapes were doodled all over the thing—around the edges, even over some of the numbers, hinting at past reminders that were perhaps later forgotten and never acted upon. Signs of the passage of time and proof of a mind suffering sclerosis. 

The year at the top of the calendar had received special attention and was covered with a variety of cryptic signs. Those numbers specifically tasked with representing the ninth day of October were surrounded by further perplexing sigils, which had been scratched in (more in rage than approval) with a pen just a bit lighter than the original black printer’s ink. And alongside several exclamation points, the digits that—as the doodler only now noticed—resonated with magical, numerological power, the power of perfect recurrence: 9- 9-9. 

Ever since that slow, grim, slippery year had begun, Mario Conde maintained a tormented relationship with the dates at hand. Throughout his life and despite his historically good memory and general obsessiveness, he’d paid little attention to the effect of time’s speed and its implications for his own life and the lives of those around him. Regrettably and all too often, he forgot ages and birthdays, wedding anniversaries, the dates of trivial or major events—from the celebratory to those that evoked grief or commemorated simpler moments—that were or would be important to other people. But the alarming evidence persisted that, among those 365 days squared off by the grid of that cheap calendar, a day lay waiting to pounce that was as yet inconceivable, but threateningly definite and real. The proximity of the day Mario Conde would turn sixty years old caused in him a persistent shock exacerbated by the approach of those notable numbers: 9-9-9. It even sounded indecent (sixty . . . sixty . . . something that lets out air and explodes, sssixttttty . . . ), and this milestone presented itself as the incontestable confirmation of what his physical (creaky knees, waist, and shoulders; a fatty liver; an ever-lazier penis) and spiritual (dreams, projects, diminished or completely abandoned desires) selves had already been feeling for some time: the obscene arrival of old age . . . 

Was he really an Old Man? In order to confirm it, as he stood before the blurry landscape of the calendar that hung from a pair of nails on his bedroom wall, Conde responded to this question with new ones: Wasn’t his grandfather Rufino an Old Man when, at the age of sixty, he took Conde around the city and surrounding areas to cockfighting rings and taught him the ins and outs of noble combat? Didn’t they start calling Hemingway “Old Man” a few years before his suicide at sixty-one? What about Trotsky? Wasn’t he, at sixty, known as the Old Man when Ramón Mercader split his head in two with a Stalinist and proletarian blow from an ice ax? For starters, Conde knew his limits and understood (owing to well-founded or spurious reasons) that he was a far cry from being his pragmatic grandfather, or Hemingway, or Trotsky, or any other famous old codger. As such, he felt that he had reason enough to avoid so much as aspiring to the category of Old Man, capital letters and all, even as he careened toward that painful number, round and decadent . . . No, he was, at best, going to become an old fart. The term was more apt in his case—in the category of possible decrepitude as classified with academic zeal by serious geriatric science and the empirical wisdom of an everyman’s street-smart philosophy.

About The Author:

Leonardo Padura was born in 1955 in Havana and lives in Cuba. He has just released THE MAN WHO LOVED DOGS, his masterpiece about the assassination of Trotsky. Padura has published a number of short-story collections and literary essays but international fame came with the Havana Quartet, all featuring Inspector Mario Conde.

Like many others of his generation, Padura had faced the question of leaving Cuba, particularly in the late 80s and early 90s, when living conditions deteriorated sharply as Russian aid evaporated. He chose to stay. And to write beautiful ironic novels in which Soviet-style socialism is condemned by implication through scenes of Havana life where even the police are savagely policed.

The crime novels feed on the noises and smells of Havana, on the ability of its inhabitants to keep joking, to make love and music, to drink rum, and to survive through petty crime such as running clandestine bars and restaurants.

The Fire God Tour by Michele Sims @dmichele2123 @RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours #Books

Welcome to the book tour for The Fire God Tour by Michele Sims. Read on for more details about this genre-blurring romance! There’s also a chance to win a signed copy of the book (see bottom of this post).

Title: The Fire God Tour by Michele Sims

Publication Date: May 29th, 2019

Genre: Romantic Suspense/ Magical Realism

Description:

Miles Moore is obsessed with fire. He can’t help it—it’s in his genes. He’s also the famous performer Ari, an international hip-hop sensation. There are some negatives that come with fame—death threats and life on the road among them—but there’s also a lot of good: fast cars, fast women, international travel, and more money than he can handle. When Bella Wahlberg joins his team as the chief of marketing, she seems like the antithesis of what he’s looking for, so much so that Miles dubs her Belsa the Ice Queen. It would be unprofessional for them to get together, but more than that, she’s unavailable—and deathly afraid of fire. But as they prepare for The Fire God Tour, Miles can tell something is changing. Is he ready to commit himself to one woman? Can fire and ice come together?

EACH BOOK IN THIS SAGA IS A STANDALONE STORY!

Excerpt:

Bella powered down her computer in time to see her phone buzzing with a message: the limo driver was minutes away. After locking the front door just as the driver pulled up, she waited while he parked and got out of the car to open the door.

“Thank you.” She got in and sighed, feeling torn that she had to work on her day off instead of enjoying a long hike; yet also wanting to be seen as a team player. Resolved that even though she’d agreed to do this favor for Darien, she would accomplish it as quickly as possible and get away to enjoy nature with Corey.

Traffic was light and the car arrived at the estate quicker than she expected. The butler, Mr. Curtis, dressed in a black suit with a starched white shirt, dark tie, and spit-shined black shoes, greeted her at the door. She sensed he disapproved of her casual attire as he looked her over, jutting out his chin, giving her a loud sniff.

“Good morning, Bella. Darien left instructions to take you to Miles’s bedroom to get the papers.”

She hesitated a bit but followed him as he walked up the stairs to the space regarded as off limits.

“This is quite unusual, since Mr. Moore rarely allows employees other than Parker, Darien, or myself in his personal space, but I was assured it would be okay for you to go into his private suite of rooms to search for the contracts in question.”

She was also uncomfortable being in Miles’s private space, but Darien had been frantic when he’d called. He knew NeNe would be angry if all the documents weren’t there for her review even if she was on a conference call with them and not there in person. He assured her Miles wouldn’t be at the house and he would handle any fallout if he discovered she had been in his bedroom without his permission.

“He had a date last night and planned to stay at his penthouse in the city,” Darien had assured her on the phone before she’d agreed to do him the favor.

Bella and Mr. Curtis were at the top of the stairs when she began wondering if changing her plans with Corey was such a good idea. She liked the hardware store entrepreneur and was glad things were working out between them. He seemed okay with her work obligations in general, but she shrugged at the gnawing idea that Corey might not be okay with anything out of the ordinary at AriMusic, especially if it involved close collaborations with its CEO.

Mr. Curtis opened the door to the bedroom, and she took in the view of the massive mahogany bed, with etches of rams carved into the posts. Tastefully decorated, the room had touches of black and bold red accents. There was a very masculine feel to the room.

Looking around, she discovered his desk with papers on top of it. What piqued her curiosity was the old-style lamp filled with oil next to an ornate candle on his desk.  She began looking for the papers Darien had asked her to find and didn’t notice the bathroom door opening or the presence of someone else in the room.

“What the—” The loud verbal bomb startled her, causing her to spin around and throw the papers in the air.

Miles abruptly cut off the f-bomb and stood still, a few feet away from her, while she froze as she viewed his nude body. She knew he had a great one, but she’d never imagined she would meet Adonis in this lifetime. His beautiful pecs, six-pack abs, and his.. oh my, made her gasp. His thick muscular legs had her face feeling hot and her heart racing.

“Why are you here, Bella?” He initially made no effort to cover himself.

The papers scattered across the floor, blown by the air currents from the ceiling fan whirling above. “Darien asked for a favor, and he said you wouldn’t be at home. He needed these papers for a meeting later today,” she stammered and tried but couldn’t hide her tremulous voice or the shaking of her hands as she tried to gather the papers.

 Breaking her stare, embarrassed by the impropriety of their meeting, she knelt to pick up the papers scattered throughout the room.

Available on Amazon!

About the Author:

Michele Sims is the “author-ego” of Deanna McNeil and creator of the Moore Family Saga. She loves writing hot love stories and women’s fiction with multigenerational characters. She is the recipient of the 2019 RSJ Debut Author Award, the 2018 RSJ Aspiring Author Award, and first runner up in the Introvert Press Poetry Contest for February 2018.  She is a member of  LRWA, in Charleston, SC, and the NK Tribe called Success.

She lives in South Carolina with her husband who has been her soulmate and greatest cheerleader. She is the proud mother of two adult sons and the auntie to many loved ones. When she’s not writing, she’s trying to remember the importance of exercise, travelling, listening to different genres of music, and observing the wonders of life on this marvelous planet. She is currently working on several collaboration projects.

Michele Sims | FacebookInstagramTwitterNewsletter

A Rafflecopter giveaway

To win a signed Edition of The Fire God Tour click the link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/0e7c6a8f259/?

Check out the other fabulous bloggers on the tour here:

June 7th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

Nesie’s Place (Spotlight) https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

Phantom of the Library (Review) https://phantomofthelibrary.com/

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Sophril Reads (Spotlight) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com

June 8th

@the.b00kreader (Review) https://www.instagram.com/the.b00kreader/

B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

Read & Rated (Spotlight) https://readandrated.com/

June 9th

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

Jennifer Mitchell, Bibliolater (Spotlight) https://www.jennifermitchellbooks.com

The Faerie Review (Spotlight) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

On the Shelf Reviews (Spotlight) https://ontheshelfreviews.wordpress.com

June 10th

@jypsylynn (Review) https://www.instagram.com/jypsylynn

Liliyana Shadowlyn (Review) https://lshadowlynauthor.com/

Where Dragons Reside (Spotlight) https://kernerangelina.live/

@joanna.zoe (Spotlight) https://www.instagram.com/joanna.zoe/?igshid=1xipr7pa6a9zl

June 11th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review Out of Tour) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

The Cozy Pages (Review) http://thecozypages.wordpress.com/

@bookishkelly2020 (Spotlight) https://www.instagram.com/BookishKelly2020/

Misty’s Book Space (Spotlight) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com

Rambling Mads (Spotlight) http://ramblingmads.com

Book Tour Organised By:

R&R Book Tours

#WeGoOnForever by Sarah Govett @sarahgovett @MarotteBooks @RandomTTours #RandomThingsTours #Extract

Today I have an exclusive extract of We Go On Forever by Sarah Govett as part of the blog tour organised by Anne Cater at Random Things Tours. First a little about the book:

Title: We Go On Forever by Sarah Govett

Publisher: Marotte Books

Date Published: 6th May 2021

Genre: YA Dystopian

Description:

A timely and heart-wrenching love story set in a dark dystopian world with echoes of Never Let Me Go and adult as well as teen appeal.

Arthur is dying. He must transition within the next four weeks or face permanent memory loss.

Alba is studying, preparing to impress the Mentors in an all-important interview. If she’s picked as the next Apprentice she will be reunited with her best friend and

cross the Wilderness for the first time.

They meet and everything comes together.

And everything falls apart.

‘I love reading Sarah Govett’ Dame Emma Thompson

‘This is a hugely original dystopian novel with a thrilling plot and memorable characters you really root for.

Thought-provoking and at times terrifying, this book had me gripped from the start.’ Sarah J Harris (author of Richard and Judy Book Club pick The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder)

‘One of the most intriguing and exciting dystopian thrillers I have read in a long time! This book grabs you from page one and holds on until the last word. A fascinating world filled with beautifully written characters.’ Ben Oliver, author of The Loop

‘Addictive and compelling – I absolutely love this book.‘ Louisa Reid, author of Wrecked and Gloves Off

Praise for Sarah’s previous dystopian trilogy – The Territory: Winner of the Gateshead Teen Book Award 2017 and the Trinity Schools Book Award 2018

‘The 1984 of our time’ Guardian Children’s Books ‘Thrilling and Thoughtful’ The Times

The Territory has been optioned for TV by New Pictures (producers of BBC’s The Missing and Netflix’s The Innocents and Catherine the Great). The pilot is currently being written by Freddy Syborn (Ms Marvel, Disney +).

You can buy your copy here:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/We-Go-Forever-Sarah-Govett/dp/1916152686/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=we+go+on+forever&qid=1620295281&s=books&sr=1-1

Direct from publisher: (You can get it signed with free delivery! UK ONLY): https://marottebooks.bigcartel.com/product/we-go-on-forever

Extract:

ARTHUR

The sky is a rich Matisse-blue and I tilt up my chin to catch the midday sun. I’ve always found September sun to be the most precious – summer’s imminent departure adding an immeasurable sweetness. It’s a day for picnics. For lounging in short sleeves. Not for doctors’ surgeries. Not for results.

A voice calls my name, and I turn away from the open window, back to the reception. For a second I catch my reflection in the gilded mirror that hangs above the desk and I scrutinise my face as a stranger might. Symmetrical, unlined. I haven’t noticed it age in the last two years. The stranger would most likely guess it to be some years younger than the nineteen it is now.

Dr Peters’ secretary ushers me through to his office. I decline her offer of refreshments.

The MRI results are displayed on a screen in the centre of the room, awaiting my arrival. Twelve cross-sections through my brain. A four by three grid. There – second from the top in the middle – a white circle lurks in the right hemisphere. A UFO sighting in an otherwise foggy skyline. I shut the door behind me and Dr Peters plasters on the special sort of smile he reserves for patients holding Level One insurance policies. I sit and the smile widens even further in recognition of my status. 

As heir to the M.A.D.E. conglomerate, I get to see a lot of teeth.

Dr Peters embarks upon small talk, a tapestry of medical and societal aspects interwoven. How am I feeling? How is my father? Are the headaches worsening? Did I manage much sailing over the summer? Did I try this great new seafood place? He’ll give me the name of the owner – another patient of his; it’s hellish to get a table otherwise. And the balance problems?

‘How long?’ I ask, cutting him short. I need the facts. I’m meeting Tommy for tennis at two and I don’t want to be late for the second time running. I might not be at the top of my game but I can still manage to hit a ball.

‘Four to six weeks,’ Dr Peters replies, his smile taking on a frozen quality. I think of icebergs and the Norwegian Fjords.

A month. 

I sit and try to absorb the information. 

Dr Peters picks up a long, thin stick and starts pointing at the screen, punctuating each comment with a sharp staccato rap. The ingratiating smile is gone and he seems more natural, calmer; happier hiding behind a medical lexicon of obfuscation.

‘The results of the biopsy show the tumour to be malignant. The MRI cross-sections here RAP! and here RAP!, show it to be present in the cerebellum, hence the balance control issues. The size indicates a grade 3 tumour, meaning growth is rapid and recurrence after surgery a distinct probability. I would currently place you at 90 on the Karnofsky Performance Status Scale as you are only experiencing minor symptoms, but this is likely to deteriorate rapidly in the next four to six weeks. In my opinion, you should be looking to transition in the next fortnight to ensure no further damage to brain tissue and to prevent potential permanent memory loss and cognitive impairment.’

Two weeks. Damn. I’m supposed to be meeting Parachute to discuss final details on the 25th. I’d still be adjusting then.

There’s a sound of rapid tapping. An object being repeatedly struck at a frequency that makes my nerves tingle. Where’s it coming from? My eyes scan the floor and alight on my right foot. It’s knocking against the metal leg of the chair. I stare at it, detached. An observer.

‘Mr Easton, is everything all right?’ The smile is gone and Dr Peters is looking at me, brow furrowed in concern. He isn’t used to this sort of behaviour. Tommy says he only really takes on Level One patients now. Dealing with lower insurance levels, not to mention the DMWs (Dead Men Walking, as Tommy calls them), and their tiresome anxieties can really interfere with one’s golf.

I don’t answer him immediately. I’m locked inside my head.

‘Mr Easton…?’

His voice has a slight tremor. I’m such a fool. He’s on alert now. He’ll report back to Father for sure. 

‘It’s fine, thanks. I’m fine. I’ll contact the Transition Centre straight away.’

I stand and head towards the door. I’m getting a headache. One of the bad ones. I don’t know why this is affecting me so much. This body has only hosted me for two years, the previous one lasted seven and I felt nothing. Maybe it was a mistake to choose one that was too similar to my Original. Same age: seventeen at time of transition. Same build: broad but not overdeveloped; ‘a swimmer’s body’, the breakdown had said. Same colouring: tanned skin, light brown hair that regains its blonde in summer. Same eyes even – green with flecks of yellow. Too many sames. It’s harder when it fails. I’ll choose something different next time. Get less attached.

I think I’ll cancel Tommy after all. I’m not really in the mood for tennis.

ALBA

I’m sitting next to Curly, willing the Morning Meeting to end. Eventually the screen recedes and the Supervisor twists up the corners of her mouth in a poor imitation of a smile.

‘Now, some good news,’ she says, trying to sound light and enthusiastic. It doesn’t suit her. ‘Another one of you has been chosen as an Apprentice. Tomorrow they will travel to the Research City to help their Mentor with the crucial work of cleansing the Wilderness. Praise the Creator.’

‘Praise the Creator,’ we all mumble back, but no one’s putting any effort into it. We’re all too busy scanning the room, seven hundred heartbeats stopped in anticipation. 

Who is it? Who’s been chosen?

‘Will F3526 please approach the stage.’

It takes a second to register who she’s talking about. The Creator assigns us our numbers. To deviate from them is heresy even though nearly everyone apart from the Supervisor and the Guardians does it.

My heart stops as Curly shoots me a quick look of astonishment and then stands up and starts to edge forward through a sea of applause. Curly. Curly. ‘No, no, NO!’ I inwardly scream. I know I should be happy for her, rejoicing too, but all I can think is, Please don’t take my friend. Not yet. I’m going to miss her too much. I know I’m being selfish and I should ask the Creator for forgiveness, but still; it’s Curly. And she’s been my best friend, my only proper friend, since, well, since forever. 

I don’t know why it comes as such a surprise. I always knew she’d be one of the first of our year to be chosen. She’s off-the-scale clever, mastering Further Maths and Physics while the rest of us were still groping around with Newton and his apple. And she’s beautiful. Stunning, even. She has this flawless, dark-brown skin and black curls that just sort of tumble around her face. And when she moves, she kind of glides. All the boys just stare at her. The Guardians too. Ever since she turned fourteen.

The younger ones clap with barely contained excitement. Eligibility for selection starts at sixteen, so to be chosen at seventeen is an incredible honour and it gives them hope that it could be them soon. It’s different with the older ones. The ones in their late twenties. If they aren’t chosen by thirty they’ll be transferred to a different Home. Their applause is mechanical and jealousy palpably radiates off them. If you could see them on a different plane, their eyes would be leaping out at you, shining the brightest green. Me, I just taste bile rising at the back of my throat.  

Eventually Curly reaches the foot of the stage and then climbs the steps to stand at the Supervisor’s side. 

‘Congratulations F3526, you’ve been selected as the next Apprentice. You are to report to the office tomorrow morning at seven. I hope the rest of you take inspiration from her deportment, intelligence and dedication.’ 

The Supervisor doesn’t hug Curly, or even smile at her in any way. She just watches her face – no doubt for evidence of the required level of gratitude. 

‘Thank you. Praise the Creator,’ Curly replies, her voice measured and lyrical as she gives the obligatory response. But she isn’t OK. I know she isn’t. Even before she trips on the last step as she descends from the stage.

About The Author:

Sarah Govett graduated with a First in Law from Oxford University. After qualifying as a solicitor, she set up her own tutoring agency, which specialises in working with teenagers. She began writing after the birth of her first daughter. Sarah is an in-demand speaker at schools and has the support of a network of school librarians, independent bookshops and numerous Waterstones stores.

Keep My Secrets by Elena Wilkes @Elenathrillers @HeraBooks @BOTBSPublicity #Extract #BookPromo

Hello lovelies and happy Sunday! Today I have an exclusive extract from Keep My Secrets by Elena Wilkes as part of the blog tour organised by Sarah at Books On The Bright Side Publicity. First a little about the book:

Title: Keep My Secrets by Elena Wilkes

Publisher: Hera Books 

Date Published: 28th April 2021

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Description:

A life built on lies – now the truth could destroy her

Frankie Turner knows what it’s like to be unwanted; she was brought up in care. Now as a social worker to kids in the same system, she’s someone who understands … But Frankie is hiding an unthinkable secret: one that may have its roots in the murder of a young, beautiful woman fifteen years ago.

Yet the past is out there. Someone knows what Frankie is hiding – and now they’re back to shatter her perfectly constructed life, terrorising her with menacing letters and silent calls to the house she shares with husband Alex.

She may have reinvented herself, but Frankie’s past is back to haunt her – and now, there’s nowhere to run.

A gripping psychological thriller that will have you hooked. Fans of Lisa Jewell and Erin Kelly won’t be able to put this one down.

Extract:

Frankie walks quickly towards her car from the children’s care home. It’s still raining hard and the wind is getting up. The only sounds are the echo of her footsteps on the black tarmac; it’s so dark she can’t see her own feet moving. 

Over in the distance, the bulky outline of Caer Caradoc and the trail of the Long Mynd hills sit blackly against the darkening skyline of the Welsh border. Tucking her chin closer into her jacket, she blips the immobiliser. It flashes a reassuring orange into the ghost outline of the hedges as she drops her case into the back.

There are no streetlamps this far out of town. Slipping into the driver’s seat, she fumbles a little for the ignition as the engine turns over. The squeal of the wipers startles her and sets her heart racing. She finds her hands are shaking. 

I’m not scared, she tells herself. It’s just the adrenaline from all that earlier bravado

You’ve done good today, Frankie. She presses her lips together in determination. Concentrate on that

Taking a deep breath, she begins to pull away. The road is quiet as her car picks up speed. 

Come on, get a grip, Frankie. Thirty minutes and you’ll be home.

It’s Friday, well after going home time and the road is eerily dark. Her car headlights leap awkwardly, illuminating only a small stretch of the black tunnel ahead. 

Letting the air slowly out of her lungs, she tries to relax her shoulders from up around her ears and she glances warily into the rear-view mirror. No one would believe this was the same woman who’d been trying to talk a teenager from a roof just half an hour ago. She wavers a smile at the memory. She doesn’t think that getting up on a line of ridge tiles in the pouring rain is high priority on her regional manager’s job description, but that’s precisely what she did.

She closes her eyes briefly. See? Think about the good stuff and block everything else out. 

The radio fizzes and floats in and out of its station and her eyes sweep again and again into the shadows in the hedgerows. She concentrates hard on the shining road in front of her. But her eyes keep flitting back. 

This isn’t working. 

There’s something about being in the car at night: that feeling of not really being alone. She keeps thinking that there’s something else in here with her—

Her eyes flick up to the mirror. 

That back headrest is just a headrest. She’s fully aware of that. It’s not a man sitting with his head bowed. Don’t be ridiculous Frankie Turner, you’re thirty-three years old, not three.

But her three-year-old self knows that if she keeps watching she’ll glimpse a movement, a darkness that will slowly detach itself, and if she keeps listening she’ll detect the quiet draw and pull of someone breathing.

No. 

Stop it.

There’s no one there. You know there’s not. She chews her lip. You know this because you deliberately checked the back seat.

The rain is beginning to slant in fine shards through the beam of headlights, the skeins twisting down the windscreen, forcing the wipers to dash pointlessly back and forth. She grimaces, screwing up her eyes, trying to peer through the pouring streams.

Home soon, home soon, home soon…

What’s with all this front, Frankie? her head says.  Who are you trying to kid? Just look at you – Look at you in your fancy Range Rover, desperate to get back to your nice upmarket husband and your upmarket country cottage. You’re such a fraud, you know that? Drive as fast as you like Frankie-girl, the past is coming up right behind you.

She swallows and stares hard into the lashing water. All she has to do right now is stay in control and not get spooked. It’s not difficult; she’s been doing it long enough. All she needs to do is stay in control of the car… Of herself… Of her life.

About The Author:

Elena Wilkes grew up in Walsall in the West Midlands and then worked for eighteen years in H.M Prison Service. The people she met there provided the basis for all her novels.

Many of the prisoners there came across as very ordinary people who had committed the most appalling crimes but would, one day, walk straight back on the streets.

This begged the question: how much do we know about anyone, really? The people who live amongst us may seem no different from us at all, but when you scratch a little deeper, you realise they hold some very dark secrets.

Twitter: @Elenathrillers

Facebook: @elenawilkesthrillers

#Excerpt #Amalie by EJ Wood @E_J_Wood @zooloo2008 @QuestionPress #QuestionMarkPress #ZooloosBookTours #Promo

Hello lovelies! I’m very excited to have an excerpt from new release Amalie by EJ Woods as part of the first ever blog tour organised by Zoé over at Zooloo’s book tours! First a little about the book:

Title: Amalie by EJ Wood

Date Published: 15th April 2021

Publisher: Question Mark Press

Genre: Historical Thriller 

Description:

HEY MURDERED FAMILIES
THE FUHRER CANNOT PROTECT THEM NOW

It’s not wise to murder the family of a budding assassin. Created by Auschwitz, her skill is honed by revenge.

A very different type of serial killer is loose in 1950s Europe. In Britain, a Brotherhood of powerful men takes notice and enhances the expertise and artistry of a killer.

DCI John Owen was born to serve. Recruited by MI6, he tracks an accomplished executioner whose love of luxury and the arts is second only to the love of watching an early death come to those who truly deserve it.

Join the chase. Then ask yourself…
Can there ever be only one winner?

Excerpt:

Wiesenthal without a doubt was soon on the rise to becoming one of the most famous Nazi hunters the world would ever see. A survivor of Mauthausen, he began to dedicate his life in the war crimes section of the United States Army gathering evidence to convict German war criminals. He wasn’t about to let anyone who had committed the crimes against humanity just walk away.

Another such man was called Hanns Alexander. Although Alexander was born in Germany during World War 1 into an assimilated wealthy household, his Jewish family had fled to Britain when Hitler’s rise to power threatened his family. His father was a popular doctor who was known to hold elaborate parties for the social elite including Albert Einstein. After the war ended, Alexander was one of the first volunteers wanting to investigate war-related crimes. A deep-seated rage fuelled his interest, and he’d drive around Europe with a dead Nazi strapped to his car. Amalie smiled as she recalled the  memory when she read about his mission, she felt it far more interesting than the capture of Rudolf Höss; the exact details are unknown but he was either beaten by Jewish soldiers or forced to walk naked along a snowy road. However his fate ended, it wasn’t enough, and later he was taken into custody and hanged a short while later. 

William looked into Amalie’s eyes. ‘What will you do when you have completed your quota?’

You can buy your copy here:

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08XQRPJ7C

Amazon USA – https://www.amazon.com/AMALIE-J-Wood-ebook/dp/B08XQRPJ7C/

About The Author:

She’s just a storyteller!

E.J. Wood is a thriller writer from England.

Although British born, she now resides in Spain, speaks English, and Spanish, and is currently learning German.

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

Twitter : https://twitter.com/E_J_Wood

Website : http://www.ejwoodauthor.com/

Amazon : https://www.amazon.co.uk/E-J-Wood/e/B0784K3N4W

Goodreads : https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7050248.E_J_WOOD

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

Pixeldust by T. K. Arispe @rararesources #Promo #Excerpt

Hello lovelies! Today I have an excerpt from Pixeldust by T.K. Arispe as part of the blog tour organised by Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources. First a little about the book:

Title: Pixeldust by T. K. Arispe

Date Published: 20th July 2020

Genre: NA Urban science fantasy

Description:

Maria Elena thought she’d sworn off gaming forever. But she hates her new internship, so her brother Balt convinces her to play Heroes of Avonell, a cutting-edge virtual-reality video game with such complex programming that it’s like the non-player characters are self-aware.

Disappointed with the usual cliché job class offerings, Maria Elena’s character Quinny stumbles through a glitch in the game and ends up in Caed Dhraos, a strange city populated with friendly monsters. Quinny decides to work for the resident dark lord as part of his magic personnel, but she can’t tell anybody she’s playing in off-limits areas of the game—not even Balt. Soon Quinny finds herself getting to the bottom of a mystery surrounding an ancient demon and why Caed Dhraos is suffering from the Blight.

But the artificial intelligences in the game really are self-aware, and some of Avonell’s so-called “heroes” have decided they don’t like humanity very much. The game has gone out of control, and Maria Elena and her new friends have to find a way to set things right. Can she save Avonell – and Earth – while juggling her real job and trying to salvage her crumbling relationship with her brother?

Pixeldust is a dive into a fantastical, fun virtual world where the universe may be made of data, but the dangers, friendships, magic, and lessons learned are very real.

You can buy your copy here: 

https://www.amazon.com/Pixeldust-T-K-Arispe-ebook/dp/B08DD612GR (ebook)

https://www.amazon.com/Pixeldust-T-K-Arispe/dp/B08DBZD91T (paperback)

Excerpt:

Intro: In the MMO Heroes of Avonell, Maria Elena’s player character Quinny has just taken a job working as a lucent mage under the mysterious Lord Zaragoz, in an area of the game Quinny isn’t sure she’s supposed to be in. When Zaragoz’s fortress staff discovers Quinny has pixiedust, she finds out what pixiedust is used for in the dismal city of Caed Dhraos.

As they walked through dimly-lit corridors and down several flights of stairs, the architecture looking much more primitive than the rest of the fortress, Quinny felt an odd sense of foreboding fall over her. She shuddered and had to remind herself that this was just a game and she wasn’t in any real danger. Still, something felt off, in a bad way, and it set her on edge.

“What is this place?” she asked, and the darkness seemed to choke her words as they hit the air.

“The oldest part of the fortress,” Zaragoz said. “Most of what you’ve seen so far, my subjects and I built up after we found this place. It was once just an abandoned ruin. We never did find out who had lived here before.”

Finally they reached a corridor that dead-ended at a wall with a faded mural painted on it. As Quinny approached, she inspected the ancient pigmentation, trying to figure out what she was looking at and why it filled her with such terror, like a nightmare. It appeared to be a painting of a black mass with shadowy tendrils that curled out to fill all the space on the wall. In the middle of the mass sat a gaping round maw ringed with sharp teeth.

Zaragoz stood in front of the mural and held up the dust vessel. “Shargothi!” he said. “I bring you pixiedust!”

The mural pulsed with power, and Quinny’s feelings of dread heightened. It was almost enough to make her want to log off of the game, and she wondered why a video game would make her feel so unsettled. It wasn’t real, after all. So why did it suddenly feel so real?

Black mist began to leach from the wall. It was subtle and weak, and seemed to strain as if trying to get more of itself out. A sound like thousands of whispers filled the air, and Quinny found she didn’t want to hear what they were saying.

Two vaporous tendrils latched on to the dust vessel. The top of the vial started to glow, and the sparkling pixiedust coursed out of the vessel and through the tendrils, into the wall. A noise like a satisfied sigh filled the heavy air, and then the black mist withdrew and the wall fell dormant.

“Shargothi thanks you,” Zaragoz said as he gave Quinny back her dust vessel.

The dwarf fastened it to her belt with trembling hands, wondering why she felt ill all of a sudden. “Wh-what was that?” she asked.

“The demon Shargothi,” Rin said. She tried to sound nonchalant, but she shifted her weight as her tufted tail swished nervously.

“Don’t let Shargothi frighten you,” Zaragoz said as they walked back to the lift. “She is benevolent. Someone sealed her away down here long ages ago. When my subjects and I found these ruins and decided to call them home, I discovered Shargothi. I needed her help to build Caed Dhraos back up into a suitable kingdom, but she could not utilize her full power in her weakened state, and required nearly all of our pixiedust to aid us.”

“Is that why you don’t have any pixiedust?” Quinny asked as they boarded the lift again.

“Not quite,” Zaragoz said. “Pixies used to live here in abundance. But when we’d gotten Caed Dhraos up and running, the land began to wither and die. All of the pixies left. We called it the Blight, and none of our magic or engineering could cure it. In fact, lately it’s been getting worse and those chaos beasts have been cropping up.”

“I’m sorry,” Quinny said. “I wish I could do something to help.”

The dark lord looked down at her in surprise, and then he smiled. “It’ll be all right,” he said. “Shargothi told me that she can cure the land. But she’ll need much more pixiedust to do so. So I thank you for your donation.”

About The Author:

T. K. Arispe is an illustrator, gamer, and unashamed nerd with a background in animation and webcomic production, including the webcomic Trainer Wants to Fight! which somehow got its own page on TVTropes. She loves interesting stories, well-crafted worlds, and memorable characters, and is passionate about creating quality, intelligent, slightly offbeat media that everyone can enjoy. Most of her story ideas come from random research binges, usually in the fields of theoretical physics, computer science, or oddly enough food history. She lives in California, where she enjoys not having to deal with snow because it is terrifying.

Social Media Links – 

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

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9833615.T_K_Arispe 

#Excerpt Captain Clive’s Dreamworld by Jon Bassoff #CaptainClivesDreamworld @jonbassoff @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours

Hello lovelies! Today I have an excerpt from Captain Clive’s Dreamworld by Jon Bassoff as part of the blog tour organised by Emma at Damppebbles blog tours. First a little about the book:

Title: Captain Clive’s Dreamworld by Jon Bassoff

Publisher: Eraserhead Press

Date Published: 1st October 2020

Genre: Horror

Description:

After becoming the suspect in the death of a young woman, Deputy Sam Hardy is reassigned to the town of Angels and Hope, which, within its borders, holds the once magnificent amusement park, Captain Clive’s Dreamworld. When he arrives, however, Hardy notices some strange happenings. The park is essentially empty of customers. None of the townsfolk ever seem to sleep. And girls seem to be going missing with no plausible explanation. As Hardy begins investigating, his own past is drawn into question by the town, and he finds himself becoming more and more isolated. The truth—about the town and himself—will lead him to understand that there’s no such thing as a clean escape.

You can buy your copy here:

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/39c2WnU 

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/39he8Qx 

Excerpt:

He drove for five, six hours across a relentlessly barren landscape dotted by tumbleweed, the sun shining cruelly, the highway cracked and discolored. Vehicles appeared every so often and then less often and then barely at all. The radio played hazy country music that became more and more frightening; eventually, he turned it off. Silence except for his own disjointed thoughts. He reached into the console for some beef jerky, the first food he’d eaten that day, tearing open the bag and chewing slowly, all the while staring out the dust-coated windshield. Gripping the steering wheel tightly, he felt like he was the only person in the world. Then, for a quick moment, he squeezed his eyes shut. None of this was real, he decided. Dreamworld. He was just drifting, drifting, drifting… 

North on Highway 23 the directions said, sixty miles until Angels and Hope, but Highway 23 was in bad shape. The letters on the old sign were barely visible beneath the rust, and the asphalt was covered with dirt and shrubs and tumbleweed. He thought about turning around, driving until the world ended, but he needed the job, needed the money, so he pressed down on the gas pedal and crossed over a gully, the bottom of his car scraping against brush. As he drove down the nearly abandoned highway, he couldn’t help but think that things would end poorly. 

His car was bouncing all over the place, and the sun never seemed to lower in the sky. Fifty, sixty, seventy miles per hour. Along the side of the beaten two-lane, there were occasional remnants of the past: a boarded-up motel, an abandoned gas station, a broken-down car. Soon the asphalt of the highway became harder and harder to see, becoming, instead, a dying garden. A murder of crows followed his car, and he heard the disquieting yelps of a coyote. His hands were trembling, sweat dribbling into his eyes. The air conditioner wasn’t worth shit, and that was the way of the world. The farther Hardy drove, the more he saw her face, and the only way he could rid himself of it was by gritting his teeth until his jaw and temples ached. 

Desperate, face slathered with perspiration, Hardy turned the radio back on, hoping for something familiar. Now static, static, static. But at the end of the AM dial, the faint voice of a preacher: “Offer, brothers and sisters. Offer up what is most valuable and precious. Because only then will he offer to you what is most valuable and precious. A reading from Genesis 22: ‘Isaac said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.’ Thus, with Abraham’s knife pressed to Isaac’s throat, the reading ends. Now we know, brothers and sisters, that God’s angels eventually rescued Isaac from this terrible fate. But I am here to tell you that the rescue is less important than Abraham’s unswerving trust. He was willing to kill his own son because of that trust. And you must be willing to do the same. You must be willing to sacrifice that which means the most to you. For in this selfless act, you will be rewarded. But if you are selfish, if you hide your loved ones in the attic or help them escape in tunnels beneath the desert floor, your squirming bodies will be placed in the Lake of Fire, pockets filled with stones…” 

Hardy slammed off the radio, and despite the straightness of the highway the world seemed to be spinning, flashes of his past mixed with flickers of his present, his future vanished forever. Images of crows in the steeple and fire on the highway and rats in his skull. And his own voice, mumbling into his hand: the sins aren’t mine, they’ve never been mine. 

And that’s when Angels and Hope appeared. 

Just beyond an old-fashioned water tower emblazoned with the words “Dreamers Dream” stood a tall, shiny white fence, and beyond this fence the desert ended and the Promised Land began. A place where neighbors greet neighbors in the quiet of summer twilight. Where children chase fireflies. Where porch swings provide easy refuge from the cares of the day. Why, then, was Hardy saddled with the premonition that this was where he’d burn? 

About The Author:

Jon Bassoff was born in 1974 in New York City and currently lives with his family in a ghost town somewhere in Colorado. His mountain gothic novel, Corrosion, has been translated in French and German and was nominated for the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, France’s biggest crime fiction award. Two of his novels, The Drive-Thru Crematorium and The Disassembled Man, have been adapted for the big screen with Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild; Once Upon a Time in America) attached to star in The Disassembled Man. For his day job, Bassoff teaches high school English where he is known by students and faculty alike as the deranged writer guy. He is a connoisseur of tequila, hot sauces, psychobilly music, and flea-bag motels.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jonbassoff 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jon.bassoff 

Website: http://jonbassoff.com/ 

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

#CoverReveal A Chance Encounter by Rae Shaw @rararesources @RaeShawauthor

Hello lovelies! Today I have a fab cover reveal for A Chance Encounter by Rae Shaw that will be released on the 24th March! First a little about the book: 

Julianna Baptiste, a feisty bodyguard, finds her new job tedious, that is until her boss, the evasive Jackson Haynes, spikes her curiosity. Who is behind the vicious threats to his beautiful wife and why is he interested in two estranged siblings?

Mark works for Haynes’s vast company. He’s hiding from ruthless money launderers.

His teenage sister Ellen has an online friend whom she has never met. Ellen guards a terrible secret.

For eight years their duplicitous father has languished in prison, claiming he is innocent of murder. The evidence against him is overwhelming, so why does Mark persist with an appeal?

Keen to prove her potential as an investigator, Julianna forces Mark to confront his mistakes. The consequences will put all their lives in danger.

You can Pre-order your copy here:

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08X1PN4VH

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08X1PN4VH

Now here is the fantastic cover:

You can watch a quick trailer for the book here – https://youtu.be/g2U11opEcqs

About The Author:  

Rae Shaw is a pen name for the author Rachel Walkley.

Rachel is based in the North West of England. She read her first grown-up detective novel at the age of eleven, which proved to be a catalyst for filling many shelves with crime books, which still occupy her home and grow in number whenever she visits a book shop.

As well as crime, Rachel likes to unplug from the real world and writes mysteries that have a touch of magic woven into family secrets.

Social Media Links – 

Rae Shaw Facebook page

Rachel Walkley

#CoverReveal and an exciting announcement! MIMIC by Daniel Cole #Mimic @trapezebooks @DanielColeBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

Hello lovelies and happy Friday! Today I have a fantastic cover reveal of a standalone thriller MIMIC by Daniel Cole author of the Ragdoll series, will be published by Trapeze on the 19th August 2021. I will also be bringing you an exciting announcement for an Daniel Cole fans out there but first a little about the book:

1989. DS Benjamin Chambers and DC Adam Winters are on the trail of a serial killer with a twisted passion for recreating the world’s greatest works of art through the bodies of his victims. After Chambers nearly loses his life, the case goes cold due to lack of evidence. The killer lies dormant, his collection unfinished. Seven years later, DS Marshall has excelled through the ranks of the Metropolitan Police Service, despite being haunted by the case that defined her teenage years. She obtains new evidence and joins Chambers and Winters to reopen the case. However, their resurrected investigation brings about a fresh reign of terror, the team treading a fine line between justice and vigilante in pursuit of a monster far more dangerous and intelligent than any of them had anticipated.

Daniel Cole, author, said: “Sam Eades and the team at Trapeze gave me my big break back in 2016 with the RAGDOLL trilogy, so I couldn’t be more excited to be moving into this new chapter of my writing career together.”

Sam Eades, editor, said: “MIMIC has the winning combination of a killer you love to hate, three flawed but compelling detectives and ambitious storytelling with plenty of jaw-dropping twists and turns. It reminded me why I fell in love with his debut thriller all over again, and marks an exciting year for Danny, culminating with the release of the RAGDOLL TV adaptation this Autumn.”

You can Pre-order your copy here:

www.smarturl.it/Mimic

Now for the amazing cover:

Now as promised the exciting announcement!

Daniel Cole’s bestselling crime novel RAGDOLL greenlit for six-part series,
from the team behind the hit television show Killing Eve!!! 

UKTV has teamed up with Sid Gentle Films Ltd and AMC to announce the greenlight of the new modern-day Faustian thriller Ragdoll (6×60), based on the international bestselling debut novel by Daniel Cole, for its crime drama pay TV channel Alibi. The project will air on Alibi in the UK and AMC in the United States. The pitch black and darkly witty thriller will be adapted into six parts, with a writing team led by Freddy Syborn (Ms Marvel, Bad Education). 

Six people have been murdered, dismembered and sewn into the shape of one grotesque body — nicknamed the ‘Ragdoll’. Assigned to the shocking case are DS Nathan Rose, recently reinstated to the London Met; his best friend and boss, DI Emily Baxter; and the unit’s new recruit, DC Lake Edmunds. The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by sending them a list of his next victims, with Rose’s name among them. And with those victims to protect, our heroes soon come under intense public scrutiny. A darkly funny, gruesomely imaginative serial killer thriller, Ragdoll also captures the fascinating but flawed friends struggling with the consequences of institutionalisation and trauma. 

Filming will commence in Spring 2021 around London and air in late 2021. Cast will be announced at a later date. 

Daniel Cole says; “’With “Killing Eve”, Sid Gentle Films have already demonstrated an uncanny ability to walk the line between black humour and gripping TV. They bought the rights way back, before I even had my first book deal, and their passion for the project hasn’t wavered since. They got it from the off, and I feel that RAGDOLL couldn’t be in safer hands.”

Freddy Syborn says; “I hope RAGDOLL will be a visually exciting, darkly funny thriller in which the personal is the political. Above all, I hope our characters can make you laugh, then break your heart.” 

Sally Woodward Gentle, Executive Producer, Sid Gentle Films says; “I am so excited that we are embarking on this twisty and sophisticated piece with Freddy and the team. AMC have already proved themselves to be brilliant partners and we can’t wait to work with Alibi.” 

Philippa Collie Cousins, Commissioning Editor, Drama, UKTV says; “RAGDOLL is a dystopian, mesmerising, wickedly funny piece of hard-boiled detective screen fiction. It invites the audience into a timeless world of crime thriller, sending us on a rollercoaster ride with flawed, compelling Rose, his best friend/cop partner Baxter and rookie Edmunds. Together, they tread a maverick route to the truth in a broken world, with touches of Raymond Chandler meets Tina Fey in their memorable banter. Beautifully designed, this atmospheric project mirrors the pure evil, suspense and attention to detail of Silence of the Lambs.” 

Emma Ayech, channel director for Alibi adds: “I am thrilled to be bringing this exciting series to Alibi and to be working with such great partners in Sid Gentle Films and AMC. RAGDOLL is a dark and twisty murder mystery that will hook our viewers with its macabre sense of humour and addictive plot; it will be a great addition to our growing slate of brand-new British crime drama.” 

I can safely say I’ll be looking forward to the TV series!

About The Author:
Daniel Cole is the Sunday Times bestselling author of the RAGDOLL series, with over half a million copies sold worldwide in 35 territories. Daniel has worked as a paramedic, an RSPCA officer and the RNLI, and now writes full-time.

#BlogTour #Extract The Lazarus Child (Blood Riders 3) by Jay Raven @JayRavenAuthor @rararesources

Hello lovelies! Today I have an exclusive extract from the latest book by Jay Raven, The Lazarus Child, as part of the blog tour organised by Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources but first a little about the book:

Title: The Lazarus Child (Blood Riders 3) by Jay Raven

Date Published: 28th January 2021

Genre: Historical Horror

Description:

To save his missing daughter a distraught slayer must venture deep into the heart of darkness

Legendary vampire hunter Anton Yoska is on the edge, tormented by the rumour that the precious child he once thought dead is still alive and lost in a world of monsters.

One creature alone knows for sure what happened to Gretchen, but Terek Modjeski won’t divulge his secret – revelling in the twisted power over his long-time foe.

Despairing and drinking heavily, Anton stumbles from near disaster to near disaster as he puts his team in jeopardy, testing their friendship and loyalty to snapping point.

Only one diabolical solution is possible – to confront Terek in his maximum security cell and force the bloodsucker to end his game of cat and mouse. But making the cunning infernal talk will mean employing brutal methods that go against every code Anton has ever lived by, forcing him to become as much of a demon as the leeches he hunts.

Face to face with the evil, taunting vampire, the desperate slayer takes a decision that will change his destiny forever – sending him hurtling into danger to confront a terrifying truth about his lost child that risks not only his sanity but the future of mankind.

You can buy your copy here: 

Extract:

In this extract Crown Princess Stephanie, wife of Transylvania’s tyrant ruler Leopold, is unhappy about having to attend a reception at the Russian embassy. But she has darker worries too…   

Stephanie had also, to her chagrin, lost the argument about not using the hideous golden coronation coach to transport them there.

It had been delivered from the city museum an hour before and, as she swished across her dressing room and peered down from the window, she saw that it was currently sitting in the palace courtyard, being polished to a state of gleaming vulgarity under the illumination of a line of flaring torches.

Leopold’s family had never had what might be described as refinement, and the coach’s ostentatious wedding cake design was testament to their predilection for grandiose gestures.

She also noticed a lone figure wandering about the carriage in awe, the young man approaching it tentatively but not quite bringing himself to touch the gilt coachwork. He seemed lost, bewildered, and she found herself feeling sympathy for him. 

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Berta blurted, pressing her nose up to the glass. “Just like something from a fairy tale.”

Stephanie agreed, but the maid’s observation made her uncomfortable. The young man was barely older than a child, and in the fairy-tales that her grandmother had told her – the old, terrifying, traditional tales, not the modern, sanitised happily ever after versions – terrible things happened to children, fate being no protector of innocents.

“Ready?” Leopold’s voice broke into her foreboding. “It’s time we were off. I want to be fashionably late, but not one minute later.”

She narrowed her eyes, as she studied her husband framed in the doorway, modelling his full state ceremonial outfit with a swagger and poise that just managed to stay on the right side of ridiculous. 

He’d have been truly handsome but for one small detail – the sly look he was unsuccessfully attempting to hide. 

“I’m not going,” she declared.

He breathed in heavily. “I thought we’d sorted this out,” he said wearily. “I have no choice but to attend.”

“But I DO have a choice,” she pointed out. “And I’m not moving from this spot until you tell me what is going on with that bewildered-looking boy down there. What are you up to? Just what are you scheming?”

She could see him weighing up the consequences of refusing to answer, then considering a fabrication that would placate her.

“And don’t lie to me,” she warned. “I always know when you are playing fast and loose with the truth.”

His pained sigh told her that she’d won.

His explanation moments later made her wish she hadn’t.

About The Author  – 

Jay Raven is the author of Gothic chillers and historical horror reminding readers that the past is a dangerous place to venture, full of monsters and murderous men. He blames his fascination with vampires, witches and werewolves on the Hammer Horror films he watched as a teenager, but living in a creepy old house on the edge of a 500-acre wood may have something to do with it.

Social Media Links – 

website www.jayraven.com   

twitter: @JayRavenAuthor
facebook: www.facebook.com/fantasywriterjayraven/