So it’s the writers turn to vote. Writers how important do you think reviews are?
I cannot clearly say how I had entered
the wood; I was so full of sleep just at
the point where I abandoned the true path.
–Dante Alighieri, Inferno 1. 11-12
Puerto Rico, 1973
Oak trees dripping with Spanish moss embraced us from both sides, but not enough to shield us from the prison that would be my home for the next seven months. The high stone walls and neo-Gothic bell tower loomed over us as my stepfather drove his Mercedes through the spiked iron gates and into the sloping, curving driveway.
A spider of dread crawled up my back. Prison indeed.
I couldn’t believe it had come to this. The way things had blown out of proportion. I’d only wanted to contact my dead father. Ask his forgiveness.
My mother reached for my hand from the front seat without turning around to look at me. I stared at her perfectly polished red nails and the glittery square cut emerald on her ring finger. Her fingers flicked, silently pleading for my attention, but I was frozen inside. Her hand retreated.
I stared at the convent, my eyes studying the dark arched windows, the worn, age-blackened stones. The place looked haunted. Perfect for my state of mind. What was my mother thinking?
Something moved behind one of the windows. A face. For an instant my pulse raced at the sheer paleness of it, at the two dark holes that made up its eyes.
“What are you looking at?” Sara, my six-year-old half sister, asked.
I pointed. “A girl.”
She followed my line of vision. “Where?”
“There. High up. In the window.”
She dipped her head so she could have a better look. “I don’t see anything.”
I felt a shiver, but not from the cold. It’s white. It’s watching us.
Then the car moved too close to the building, and the face vanished from view.
“Is this your new school, Paloma?” Sara asked.
I nodded. Sara was the child, female version of my stepfather. Her bottomless dark eyes, framed by velvety lashes, stared at me with misery. “I don’t like it,” she whispered, grabbing my hand.
“It’ll be okay,” I whispered back, and gave her hand a little squeeze.
“Well, here we are,” Domenico said in his strong Castilian accent, stopping the car in front of the entrance. He climbed out and opened the door for my mother. Then he proceeded to take out my suitcases from the trunk.
My mother was silent. She stepped out like a wooden mannequin, her eyes shimmery with unshed tears.
I climbed out, followed by Sara, the gravel crunching under our shoes. The early morning air was cool and a blanket of mist still lingered—not surprising, since the convent was on the outskirts of El Yunque, the island’s rain forest. More Spanish moss hung from the oak trees and rippled in the breeze like long, shivering memories. I could smell the dew on the leaves and the rich perfume of moist earth, redolent of open graves.
I glanced at the ominous clouds. “Beautiful morning.”
An ongoing distant hum resonated all around us. One, two beats passed, before it struck me: Waterfall.
Something within me shut down—or exploded, I couldn’t be sure.
I shut my eyes for a second, wiping out memories of chilled water searing my lungs.
I repeated the eighth multiplication table in my head.
“After you,” Domenico said, interrupting my thoughts.
I wanted to loathe him. Tried to, anyway. I could see what my mother saw in him: a powerfully charismatic, handsome man with the infinite skill to make people do his bidding. My mother, with her small delicate features and petite frame, looked invisible beside him. A mere spectre. But that was just a façade. I knew better.
The big oak door opened and a nun clad in black habit and a wimple came down the steps to greet us.
Sara wrapped her arms around my waist. Her gesture both comforted me and heightened my anxiety. Nuns in habit made me think of great black birds.
“Bienvenidos,” the nun said. Like my stepfather, she also had a Castilian accent. “I’m Madre Estela and I’m second in charge to Madre Superiora. You must be Señor and Señora de Aznar.”
They exchanged small talk. Madre Estela sounded polite enough, but she didn’t offer to shake hands with my parents, which I found strange. Maybe nuns weren’t allowed to shake hands. I wouldn’t be surprised. I noticed the wedding band on her ring finger. Married to God. Absurd.
“You must be Paloma,” she said tonelessly.
“Yes,” I said. Wasn’t it obvious? I didn’t know what else to say.
The cross on her chest caught my attention. It had a crucified Christ on it and I noticed the thorns cutting Christ’s forehead, the little drops of blood glistening on His fragile body.
“Welcome to our school, Paloma.” Her critical gaze scrutinized my makeup, my tight jeans. “I’ve heard much about you.”
I didn’t miss the hint of cold disapproval in her voice. I wasn’t sure how much my parents had complained about my behavior, but considering I had been kicked out—well, actually, kindly asked to leave—my previous school in the middle of October, it couldn’t be good.
“Are you ready to resume your senior year of high school?” Stress on resume.
“I can’t wait,” I said. There was no point in being nice—or pretending to be. That just wasn’t me. I felt miserable and couldn’t hide it. Besides, I could tell from our short exchange that she’d made up her mind not to like me long before meeting me, and I had the sinking feeling that no matter what I said or did, her opinion wouldn’t change. I had already been stamped in her Inquisition book, tagged a criminal.
Madre Estela’s stony eyes moved to Sara. My little sister’s arms clutched my waist even tighter. From the nun’s expression, I could tell she was wondering if I had infected Sara with whatever plague ailed me. She dismissed us and turned back to my mother and stepfather. “Madre Superiora is expecting you in her office. Let’s not keep her waiting, shall we not? Don’t concern yourselves with the suitcases. Someone will come for them shortly.”
They thanked her and followed her up the steps.
“I don’t want to go in,” Sara said.
“It’ll be okay,” I said. I glanced at the window. I wanted to see the pale face again. But there was nothing.
A drop of rain hit my cheek and I wiped it off. Then I held Sara’s hand and together we walked up the steps and through the arched doorway.
I felt my throat closing up.
Seven months wasn’t that long, was it? Besides, Thanksgiving break was just around the corner. Six weeks, to be exact. I had already marked my calendar. I couldn’t wait. I would go through the motions, no need to make friends that I’d never see again. When you get close to people, you end up getting hurt.
Excerpt 2 (from Chapter 9):
Madre Estela remained standing by the door. “Get a bucket and fill it with water.”
Her hypercritical eyes sliced through my self-worth as I grabbed one of the metal buckets, lifted it into the sink, and turned on the faucet. I watched, transfixed, as the water gushed like a torrent spurting from an open artery. The cold spray raised goosebumps on my arms.
Madre Estela snapped her fingers. “Move.”
As I hauled the bucket to the door, some of the water slushed over the edge and splattered to the floor.
“Add the detergent,” she said stiffly, irritated by my clumsiness.
I chose a green bottle, twisted the cap, and poured. The acrid pine smell stung my nostrils.
“Get a sponge and a brush from there. Get going. We don’t have all evening—unless you want to work in the dark.”
I gritted my teeth, but pretended not to be bothered. I suspected that the one thing that this nun couldn’t stand was indifference.
Outside, it was almost dusk. In spite of the intense screeching of the coquíes, the drum of the waterfall hit my ears. It was louder now than the last time I’d been here. How was that possible?
I felt a drop of rain. Great.
Madre Estela put one hand out, palm up. “My, my. What’s this?” She looked chagrined, and I suddenly realized why. If it rained, I would have to go inside, ruining her plans. “What are you standing there for? Start scrubbing.”
I was tempted to throw the bucket of greenish water at her face. Instead, I prayed for rain as I walked across the rose garden. Once at the gate, I glanced back at her.
“You’ll work until I come for you, understood?” she said, hands on hips in her usual stance. She pointed to one of the second-floor windows. “I’ll be watching from there.”
And that was it. She was gone.
For a moment I just stood there. If only my friends could see me now. They would never believe it.
I opened the gate and walked into the graveyard. The statue of Gabriel greeted me, its face fiercer in the dusk. The temperature must have been in the low seventies. I was glad I had my cardigan.
Suddenly, the garden lamp post lit up. I turned, startled. I wasn’t sure if it had automatically switched on or if someone, maybe Madre Estela, had done it from indoors. I glanced up at the second-floor window, expecting to find her face. I had the chilling sensation of being watched. There was nothing. The windows glowed with yellow light, a multitude of feral eyes keeping guard.
However, behind one of the ground-floor windows on the right, a figure appeared. Tall, blurred. Madre Superiora? I was sure that was her office. Yet, something about the shape of the head and the shoulders made me think of…Rubia. What was she doing in Madre Superiora’s office?
Just as abruptly as it’d appeared, the figure vanished from view.
The incident left me strangely unsettled.
I splashed some of the water on one of the tombstones and got to work. The sound of hard bristles against stone blocked the hum of the waterfall. Almost.
Go away, damn it.
As I crouched to work on a second tombstone, doing my best not to get wet in the process, something shifted at the edge of my vision. I jumped to my feet, my heart thudding. Gabriel. Its wings had rippled with movement.
Dear God…what’s happening to me?
I rubbed my forehead and grimaced, my fingers shaking.
I felt another drop of rain. If it was going to rain, why didn’t it? The sky was playing with me, too. Mocking me.
I cursed the clouds and started scrubbing again.
I had another sensation of being watched and this time, yes, it was Madre Estela behind the window. I pretended I hadn’t seen her and tried to keep focused on the task at hand. The water had turned blackish with grime.
I don’t know how long I scrubbed. I lost track of time. But it was dark. My back and shoulders were sore and my hands stung from the harsh detergent.
Madre Estela was long gone from the window.
Half panting, I sat down on the edge of the tombstone and tossed the brush aside in disgust. I looked at the statue again, but it was motionless. I turned to the windows again, my eyes slowly moving from one to the other.
From one to the other.
Expecting to see the face. Wanting to see it.
Yet, that weird sensation of being watched, again.
My gaze shifted to the woods, to the exact place where the cemetery ended and the forest started. There was a path there. Narrow, obscured by the trees. For a long moment I sat, mesmerized. Then I stood up and began to approach it. The breeze picked up as I got closer, carrying with it the cool, slightly pungent smell of the waterfall.
I stopped at the very edge, the darkness enveloping me, the dampness seeping through my clothes.
The wind sighed, rustling the leaves and fluttering my hair.
Icy breath, on the back of my neck.
I’m in here… a voice whispered from the shadows.
I spun around in terror.
Then I hit something hard.
Excerpt 3 (from Chapter 11):
The foliage swallowed me. Sodden leaves gave under my shoes. Twisted limbs and giant ferns reached out to scratch my arms, my legs.
“Adelita!” I called, hastening my pace.
Flash of white ahead.
“Adelita!” No response. “Damn it. It’s getting freaking dark!”
Voices? I halted, panting.
Then broke into a run again. The mist, carried by the waterfall, clung to my lashes, my cheeks, my lips. I tasted its bitterness on my tongue.
“I’m here!” Adelita called.
I slowed my pace. Toward the end of the path, fibrous vines hung from branches like a curtain of snakes. I pushed them aside and staggered forward. Slowly, I looked up.
Against the blackening sky, the monster roared, cradled by twisted, stunted trunks and wisps of fog, looming over me in all its brutal magnificence. Its crystalline waters gushed ferociously, cascading into a murky, swirling pool that spiraled into a descending rock-studded stream gurgling with white iridescent foam.
A cloud of spray enveloped me, cold and impersonal like the wings of some giant bat. Had it not been for one of the vines, I would have fallen to my knees.
Cold water, sucking me down, searing my throat, my eyes. Can’t see, can’t breathe; his hands grab me; blackness, like tar, steals its way down my lungs, spreading its web and filling every corner, every crevice; utter agony before oblivion settles—
The sight of Adelita, standing at the edge of the pool, shook me out of my trance. She was very still, her skirt puffing from the thundering falls.
“Step back!” I shouted.
Slowly, Adelita lifted her arm and pointed to the center of the waterfall. “She’s in there.”
“Who?” When she didn’t answer, I answered for her. “The ghost? Your invisible friend?”
Adelita lowered her arm. She seemed to have fallen into one of her sudden spells.
“Is that who you were speaking to?” I said urgently.
She was silent.
“Adelita,” I coaxed. She was about ten yards from me. I took one step toward her, my toes curling. “Please… step back.”
“She wants to speak to us,” Adelita said, moving closer to the edge.
“What’s wrong with you? Stop!”
She turned her head to look at me. When she smiled, her teeth looked unnaturally white, as if the iridescence of the foamy water reflected on them.
I edged a little closer and extended my hand. “Please.” I clenched my teeth. “I can’t come any closer,” I said, stressing each word. I squeezed my eyes shut, willing reality to go away, willing it all to be a nightmare. But when I opened my eyes, Adelita’s toes stood just over the edge. For an instant, as if suspended, she seemed to sway, before she opened her wings like an angel about to take flight.
“No!” I sprang forward and seized her arm. She twisted, lost her balance and clutched at my gold chain—“No!”—The gold snapped. I grabbed her shirt and jerked her toward me. We staggered in a drunken embrace before stumbling to the ground. My hand groped wildly around my neck, but my pendant, the most precious object I possessed, was gone. I searched for it on my hands and knees, my flesh sinking into the cold, wet earth.
Then I stood and stared hard at her.
Smudged with dirt, she sagged against a moss-covered boulder. “It’s in there,” she said, her gaze lowered, pointing to the water.
“How do you know?”
“I saw it fall,” she said.
A jolt of nausea hit me and I held my stomach. “That can’t be.”
I stared at the swirling pool and thought I saw it twinkling in the depths. I squeezed my eyes shut—for an eternity, it seemed—before I spun and grabbed Adelita and shook her violently. “You’re lying! That’s what you do. You lie.” I kept shaking her. I wanted to hurt her, hurt her. That was the only way to ease my pain.
She started whimpering, in a manner not unlike my sister Sara. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she kept saying.
I shoved her away and reeled backwards. I felt breathless, delirious.
I glanced one more time at the swirling pool, before I grasped her muddy hand and we headed back. She didn’t resist, an obedient, repentant little child.
By the time we got back to the graveyard, it was already dark. The lamp post cast an iridescent glow on the white roses and tombstones.
To my dismay, Madre Estela had just stepped out of the garden gate and was marching in our direction. With the light behind her, her face was a black mask. But her chin was high and her stride purposeful.
As if out of habit, she went for Adelita first. “What are you doing here? You haven’t done any of your chores.”
I stepped forward and shielded Adelita with my arm. “This isn’t her fault,” I said quickly. “I told her to come and help me.”
She bared her teeth. “Help do what?” she said, her eyes sweeping over our dirt-covered hair and clothes.
“We heard voices coming from there,” I said, gesturing. “We thought one of the girls had gotten lost, so we decided to take a look.”
This made her pause, but only for an instant—before her hand came down, hard and brutal. I staggered backwards, more from shock than pain. No one had ever slapped me before. I touched my burning cheek and just stared at her.
“Voices here, voices there,” she said, disgusted, as if she couldn’t stand to hear more of it. “There are no voices, do you understand? No voices,” she repeated, as if she were trying to convince herself of the fact. “You should know better than listen to Adelita’s lies.”
Adelita didn’t even flinch when Madre Estela twisted her ear. I thought she was going to wrench it off her head right in front of my eyes.
“Pick up the things and go change immediately, both of you,” she ordered, “before you catch pneumonia.”
Before we went inside, I glanced back at Madre Estela. The vegetation rose up behind her, dark and menacing. Her eyes seemed strangely unfocused. She was clutching her wooden cross and murmuring a prayer. A gust of wind rattled the branches.
Themes in the JTR Victims Series
(Although this list is rather dry reading, imagine they are not just themes in a set of novels, but aspects of a reality that had an impact on the lives of real people)
Women’s issues and how they evolved in Victorian England
1)Women as the property of their husbands, having to obey, with little or no recourse against physical, psychological, or sexual abuse.
2)The slow evolution of these issues in Victorian England.
3)The worth of a woman in society having much to do with the worth of the man to whom she is wed.
4)The relative worth to society and employers of single middle-aged women with no family ties.
Poverty and social conscience
1)The relief system—the workhouses, out-relief, casual wards, and infirmaries.
2)Opinions based on social Darwinism that helped maintain a class system. The oppression and suppression of those of a lower station in a class system.
3)The various approaches of the innumerable beggars in the streets.
4)The use of child labor.
5)Scavengers of Victorian London, such as bone grubbers, toshers, pure finders, and mudlarks.
6)The struggle for survival in a time of societal change, great advances in technology, and a rapidly changing economy.
The industrial revolution and unemployment
1)The advantage employers had over workers with high-unemployment during the industrial revolution: low wages, abusive practices.
3) Piece work for manufacturers, such as finishing articles of clothing, making small items, adhering labels, or whatever small factory work a laborer might take home to be done in spare time or by children in the evenings. The term “piece work” comes from the fact that the worker is paid by the completed piece.
4)The dangers of the workplace in a society with few industrial and employment safety regulations: exposure to poisonous chemicals, powered equipment, and the stresses of highly repetitive labor over long work shifts with little variety.
1)The availability of drink (considered by many in that time another form of food).
2)Alcohol used to treat water to make it potable. Such water is given to children even at a very early age.
3)The use of alcohol to dampen feeling and the escape intoxication provides.
4)The bargaining alcoholics do with themselves as the disease creates ever more physical and social difficulties for the sufferer.
5)The availability of opium in various forms for children and adults.
The evolution of education for the children of the poor—the slow introduction of mandatory education.
Who engaged in prostitution and why the practice could seem attractive—see all categories above.
Alan M. Clark’s Jack the Ripper Victims Series is comprised of five novels, one for each of the canonical victims of the murderer. These stories are not only meant to appeal to those interested in the horror that was the Autumn of Terror, but also those interested in the struggles of women in the 19th century. They are well-researched, fictional dramatic stories meant to help readers walk in the shoes of the victims and give a sense of the world as each of the women may have experienced it. The timelines for the stories run mostly concurrently, so it doesn’t matter in what order the books in the series are read. They are simultaneously drama, mystery, thriller, historical fiction, and horror. They are novels concerning horror that happened.
A Brutal Chill in August
The First Victim of Jack the Ripper
by Alan M. Clark
Genre: Crime Horror
Print Length: 348 pages
Publisher: IFD Publishing
Publication Date: December 7, 2019
We all know about Jack the Ripper, the serial murderer who terrorized Whitechapel and confounded police in 1888, but how much do we really know about his victims?
Pursued by one demon into the clutches of another, the ordinary life of Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols is made extraordinary by horrible, inhuman circumstance. Jack the Ripper’s first victim comes to life in this sensitive and intimate fictionalized portrait, from humble beginnings, to building a family with an abusive husband, her escape into poverty and the workhouse, alcoholism, and finally abandoned on the streets of London where the Whitechapel Murderer found her.
With A Brutal Chill in August, Alan M. Clark gives readers an uncompromising and terrifying look at the nearly forgotten human story behind one of the most sensational crimes in history. This is horror that happened.
Apologies to the Cat’s Meat Man
The Second Victim of Jack the Ripper
Print Length: 158 pages
Publisher: IFD Publishing
Publication Date: June 9, 2017
This novel is part of the Jack the Ripper Victims Series. Each novel in the series is a stand-alone story.
Annie Chapman led a hard, lower-class life in filthy 19th century London. Late in life, circumstances and her choices led her to earn her crust by solicitation. After a bruising brawl with another woman over money and a man, she lost her lodgings and found herself sleeping rough. That dangerous turn of events delivered her into the hands of London’s most notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper.
Contrasting her last week alive with the experiences of her earlier life, the author helps readers understand how she might have made the decisions that put her in the wrong place at the wrong time
Say Anything But Your Prayers
The Third Victim of Jack the Ripper
Print Length: 224 pages
Publisher: IFD Publishing
Publication Date: June 11, 2017
This novel is part of the Jack the Ripper Victims Series. Each novel in the series is a stand-alone story.
An imaginative reconstruction of the life of Elizabeth Stride, the third victim of Jack the Ripper. The beast of poverty and disease had stalked Elizabeth all her life, waiting for the right moment to take her down. To survive, she listened to the two extremes within herself–Bess, the innocent child of hope, and Liza, the cynical, hardbitten opportunist. While Bess paints rosy pictures of what lies ahead and Liza warns of dangers everywhere, the beast, in the guise of a man offering something better, circles ever closer.
Of Thimble and Threat
The Fourth Victim of Jack the Ripper
Print Length: 168 pages
Publisher: IFD Publishing
Publication Date: September 28, 2017
In Victorian London, the greatest city of the richest country in the world, the industrial revolution has created a world of decadence and prosperity, but also one of unimaginable squalor and suffering. Filth, decay, danger, sorrow, and death are ever-present in the streets. Catherine Eddowes is found murdered gruesomely in the city’s East End. When the police make their report, the only indicators of her life are the possessions carried on her person, likely everything she owned in the world. In Of Thimble and Threat, Alan M. Clark tells the heartbreaking story of Catherine Eddowes, the fourth victim of Jack the Ripper, explaining the origin and acquisition of the items found with her at the time of her death, chronicling her life from childhood to adulthood, motherhood, her descent into alcoholism, and finally her death. Of Thimble and Threat is a story of the intense love between a mother and a child, a story of poverty and loss, fierce independence, and unconquerable will. It is the devastating portrayal of a self-perpetuated descent into Hell, a lucid view into the darkest parts of the human heart.
The Prostitute’s Price
The Fifth Victim of Jack the Ripper
Print Length: 342 pages
Publisher: IFD Publishing
Publication Date: August 30, 2018
A novel that beats back our assumptions about the time of Jack the Ripper. Not the grim story of an unfortunate drunken prostitute killed before her time, but one of a young woman alive with all the emotional complexity of women today. Running from a man wanting her to pay for her crimes against his brother, Mary Jane Kelly must recover a valuable hidden necklace and sell it to gain the funds to leave London and start over elsewhere. Driven by powerful, if at times conflicting emotion, she runs the dystopian labyrinth of the East End, and tries to sneak past the deadly menace that bars her exit.
Although THE PROSTITUTE’S PRICE is a standalone tale, and part of the Jack the Ripper Victims Series, it is also a companion story to the novel, THE ASSASSIN’S COIN, by John Linwood Grant. The gain a broader experience of each novel, read both.
About the Author
Author and illustrator, Alan M. Clark grew up in Tennessee in a house full of bones and old medical books. His awards include the World Fantasy Award and four Chesley Awards. He is the author of seventeen books, including twelve novels, a couple of novellas, four collections of fiction, some of them lavishly illustrated, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. Mr Clark’s company, IFD Publishing, has released 42 titles of various editions, including traditional books, both paperback and hardcover, audiobooks, and ebooks by such authors as F. Paul Wilson, Elizabeth Engstrom, and Jeremy Robert Johnson. Alan M. Clark and his wife, Melody, live in Oregon. www.alanmclark.com Visit his blog: https://ifdpublishing.com/blog
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!
I have finally plucked up the courage to end my books in a blog tour – see the link and info below. If you’re a blogger, or would like to host me/my books on Facebook please sign up. It’s free to be a host – and you get a chance to win in the giveaway! 4th Feb – 4th March 2020. There will be review copies available, plus you’ll be provided with the materials to post if necessary.
Welcome back to author Francis H Powell – please tell us your news.
My big important news in recent times, is that after a long wait, my new book Adventures of Death, Reincarnation and Annihilation, finally got published, by Beacon publishing.
I have written a lot of short stories, a lot of them revolve around “death”. While living in Paris, I saw a writing competition, which required writing about the last person on earth. I sent three stories, the last of which they really liked, but it arrived too late to be published. This sent me on the course of writing about world annihilation. It also introduced an unlikely science fiction element into my writing.
At some point I decided to group all my stories that connected with death into a book.
I decided to try to write a story that would exceed my normal page length. It is called “the Master”. The story is a bit like a Russian doll; it contains stories within stories. Finally we never really know who the Master is, even he is unsure of his own identity. This story covers the element of reincarnation, the Master is an old soul, who is re-discovered by a young girl who he was involved with in his previous life.
Despite the title; not all the book is doom and gloom, there are quirky characters, unfortunate happenings and attempts at wit.
I have a follow-up, which I am working on at the moment. It is far more shocking than Adventures of Death, Reincarnation and Annihilation, it is called “I am the priest killer”. It is set in different times, the past, the present and the future. I don’t know where the idea came from, but the title seems like a newspaper headline from some trashy journal.
I started off by writing about a psychopathic priest killer, then moved onto a female priest killer, a story set in Italy in the past. I decided I wanted a real contrast so I created a druid priest killer, set in Celtic times. Finally and more recently I have been writing about the future and a woman who more kills the priest’s faith, similar to the way Winston Smith is persecuted in 1984.
Some parts have involved research, because for example they are set in the past in Italy. I have also researched Celtic culture including the role of a druidess and medicinal remedies. So writing a book also involves learning and investigation. In this work I describe battles, which is something new to me. I am a history teacher, and love history, which certainly has impacted some of the stories.
At the moment I am trying to plug my book, as much as I can, so as to engage as many readers as possible.
Born in 1961, in Reading, England Francis H Powell attended Art Schools, receiving a degree in painting and an MA in printmaking. In 1995, Powell moved to Austria, teaching English as a foreign language while pursuing his varied artistic interests adding music and writing. He currently lives in Brittany, France writing both prose and poetry. Powell has published short stories in the magazine, “Rat Mort” and other works on the internet site “Multi-dimensions.” His two published books are Flight of Destiny and Adventures of Death, Reincarnation and Annihilation
Out Now—Moonstone by Lucy Felthouse (@cw1985) #reverseharem #rh #whychoose #ku #kindleunlimited
Do you love reverse harem romances? Love Christmas books? Then check out Moonstone!
Moonstone is a standalone contemporary reverse harem romance, which is part of the Jewels Café series—all of which can be read as standalones.
Christmas gifts aren’t the only surprises Ginny is going to get this year.
Moonstone Guinevere ‘Ginny’ Miles is in Silver Springs visiting her parents for the holidays. They moved to the town five years ago, and adore their new life here. Used to the hustle and bustle of London, England, Ginny isn’t convinced at first—what’s so great about a small town in Upstate New York, anyway? Despite her own opinions, it’s clear to Ginny the move has done her parents the world of good—they look years younger. There’s clearly something magical about this town.
Following some exploration of her own, Ginny discovers Silver Springs has its charms—Jewels Cafe is amazing, for starters, as is its pumpkin spice latte. Ginny’s drunk a lot of lattes in her thirty-three years, but nothing quite like this.
Her taste buds are still tingling from the tasty treat when she comes across a broken-down truck on the way back to her parents’ place. And when she spots the three gorgeous guys with the vehicle, it’s not just her taste buds that are tingling.
Is Ginny’s vacation in Silver Springs about to get a whole lot more interesting?
Buy now or read in Kindle Unlimited: http://books2read.com/moonstoneJC
Add to your Goodreads shelves: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48280273-moonstone
Moonstone Guinevere Miles—known as Ginny to people who didn’t want to incur her fierce and everlasting wrath—heaved her suitcase off the luggage reclaim belt with an “Oof!” and placed it on the floor, a sigh of relief escaping her. At least the thing had wheels—she didn’t really have the energy for carrying a heavy suitcase all the way through Customs and out to Arrivals. The long, tiring flight had seen to that. No matter how much she tried, no matter how exhausted she was, she simply could not fall asleep on a plane. Ever. Eye mask, ear plugs, meditation, bloody whale music—nothing helped. She’d long since resigned herself to staying awake while snores from other passengers emanated around the cabin. At least it had only been about seven and a half hours since taking off from Heathrow—she couldn’t imagine what state she’d be in if she ever flew any longer than that—to Australia, New Zealand or somewhere.
Doubtful that would ever happen, though. It had taken long enough for her to get her backside out to the east coast of America, where her parents had been running a retreat since retiring five years ago. But then, things were different now, weren’t they? Which was why she was even here in the first place—it wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
Thinking of her parents brought an inevitable smile to her face, and inserted a little more spring in her step. Despite the energy and mood suck that had been the flight, she was excited to be here. She was eager to see her parents, and to find out exactly what they’d built up over the last five years. She’d seen photos and videos, but it wasn’t the same as actually being there.
When they’d first announced they were using their retirement nest egg to open a retreat in Upstate New York, she’d been floored. Who the hell retires, only to take on a massive project like that? Surely the whole point of retiring is to wind down, enjoy some free time, relax? But no, her mum and dad—who, to be fair, had never been what one would call conventional—had set their hearts on it. They’d had a huge purge of their belongings, sold their cars and house, and jetted off across the pond, leaving Ginny shocked and not a little bereft. She’d been so used to having them close by and had quickly realized just how much she’d taken that for granted.
At the same time, her own career had taken off and she’d become so busy that her parents’ sudden distance hadn’t made the blindest bit of difference. She barely saw the inside of her own flat, never mind her friends and family. This was the first Christmas she’d had off work since then, too, and she was looking forward to spending it with her parents more than she could put into words. They’d been big on the festive period ever since she was a baby, and as such, Ginny’s brain was stuffed full of warm, fuzzy memories of Christmases past. They’d been useful to get her through the last five crappy ones, too, where a microwaved ready meal was the best she could hope for, if she hadn’t managed to wangle a free meal from the place she’d been working at at the time.
Her smile widened, and she walked faster still—God, just how big was this bloody airport?—desperate to see her mum and dad and start the Christmas holiday with a bang. Anticipation rushed through her. They’d have turkey and roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, mounds of vegetables, desserts laden with enough calories to last them until Valentine’s Day, Christmas carols, amazing decorations, a beautiful tree, fairy lights…
And Santa Claus. Two of them, in fact, jumping up and down enthusiastically and waving wildly at her, with not a rotund belly in sight.
Ginny was so excited, she couldn’t even be bothered with the embarrassment she might have felt at being greeted in a public place by her parents dressed up in Santa outfits. Plus, nobody knew her here anyway, so who cared?
She scurried around the barrier, almost flipping her case in her haste to turn a corner, then covered the remaining distance between them in seconds flat and released the handle of her suitcase. A series of squeals and exclamations went up—from all three of them—and then everything went dark as Ginny was enveloped in a warm, fluffy embrace, her face crushed up against what she suspected was the white fur trim on her mother’s jacket, and kisses rained down on her. It was all she could do to suck in oxygen as she was squeezed and squeezed them right back. She was assailed by the scents of clean clothes, shampoo, perfume, and cologne—all perfectly lovely smells by themselves, but somewhat overwhelming all at once. Unintelligible murmurings reached her ears, but she didn’t bother to reply since she had no idea what was being said. And she didn’t need words, anyway. All she needed at that moment in time was to soak up the enormous outpouring of love she was experiencing.
She was so bloody happy, she thought she might pop.
Eventually, her parents loosened their hold enough so she could step back and actually look at them. She took in her father’s handsome face, his steel-gray hair—or what she could see beneath the hat, at least—his wide grin, and her mother’s long, light gray, waist-length plaits, the glint in her eyes and the glow of her skin.
“Guys, you look fantastic! If this is what retirement does for you, I think I might sign up now.”
Her mother, Deborah, gave a nonchalant shrug—which, given her attire, was way more amusing than it should have been. “What can I say, sweetheart? I feel fantastic. I’ve got so much more energy than I ever had in London, even when I was much younger.” She shrugged again. “It’s the retreat, I’m sure of it—the moment your father and I first set foot there all those years ago, I felt there was something magical about it. Silver Springs is the most wonderful little town, and we’re lucky enough to live and work in the most spectacular part of it—though it hardly feels like work.”
Ginny gave her mother a kiss on the cheek, then turned to her father, Charlie. “And you, Dad? You look twenty years younger, but how do you feel?”
His face took on a beatific expression. “The same as your mother, kiddo. Exactly the same. If I’d known just how wonderful it would be, I’d have thrown in the towel and moved out here years ago. Decades, even.” He grabbed the handle of Ginny’s case in one hand, then looped the other around her neck and pulled her in to drop a kiss on her chin-length blonde hair, which he then ruffled. “I’m so thrilled you’re here, Moony. You’re going to love it in Silver Springs. Just love it! Come on, let’s get going. We’ve got a long drive ahead of us, and the weather’s on the turn.”
Ginny bit back comments on both his use of her childhood nickname, and his messing up of her hair. She didn’t want to dampen the almost euphoric mood that seemed to float between the three of them—a combination of being pleased to see each other, and her parents’ obvious appreciation of their new home. Though five years was hardly new anymore, was it? She really should have visited before now, but the circumstances had been impossible. Now they weren’t, and she was here, in the bosom of her family, at Christmas time, and it was going to be magical.
And, at some point, she’d enlighten her parents about the fact she had nothing in particular to rush home for, either. But that could wait. No need to burst the happy, everything-is-perfect bubble just yet. She’d let them all enjoy their first Christmas together in years before thinking about that.
They made their way out of the airport building. The cold air slapped Ginny in the face, momentarily taking her breath. Her slight gasp drew her mother’s keen eye. “I hope you listened to me, sweetheart, and brought warm clothes with you. It’s even colder up in Silver Springs, you know.”
“The car’s not far,” her dad piped up. “I’ll get the heating on as soon as we’re inside, and we’ll soon have you snug as a bug in a rug.” He tipped her a wink, and warmth flooded her veins. She hadn’t realized until now just how much she’d missed her wacky yet lovable parents. They might be unconventional, but they’d given her a wonderful childhood. When she’d reached adulthood, they’d remained incredibly close, with them managing to achieve the perfect balance of loving and supportive without being controlling. They’d let her forge her own path, make her own mistakes, and had been there to help pick up the pieces without uttering so much as a “I told you so.”
They’d definitely earned this idyllic new life they’d carved out for themselves, and she couldn’t wait to experience it for herself, if only for a little while. Though she wasn’t sure how much fun there was to be had in the back end of beyond. It was hardly going to be lively. Perhaps it was a good thing she was only here for an extended holiday.
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Lucy Felthouse is the award-winning author of erotic romance novels Stately Pleasures (named in the top 5 of Cliterati.co.uk’s 100 Modern Erotic Classics That You’ve Never Heard Of, and an Amazon bestseller), Eyes Wide Open (winner of the Love Romances Café’s Best Ménage Book 2015 award, and an Amazon bestseller), The Persecution of the Wolves, Hiding in Plain Sight and The Heiress’s Harem series. Including novels, short stories and novellas, she has over 170 publications to her name. Find out more about her writing at http://lucyfelthouse.co.uk, or on Twitter or Facebook. Join her Facebook group for exclusive cover reveals, sneak peeks and more! Sign up for automatic updates on Amazon or BookBub. Subscribe to her newsletter here: http://www.subscribepage.com/lfnewsletter
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Yay! Echoes of a Song came top in the NN Light Fantasy category for best book reviewed in 2019!
Check out some of these awesome reads.
Echoes of a Song
A dozen tumultuous years after the dramatic events at the Paris Opera House Raoul, Comte de Chagny is still haunted by the mysterious Opera Ghost – the creature of legend who held staff at the Opera House under his thrall, kidnapped Raoul’s lover and murdered his brother. In Raoul’s troubled imagination the ghosts of the past are everywhere, and strange and powerful music still calls in his dreams.
Madness, obsession and the legacy of the past weave their spell in this short, tragic tale based on the Phantom of the Opera.
Available on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and many other stores on the link below.
Universal Link https://books2read.com/Echoesofasong
Amazon .com http://amzn.to/2E7Cdu0
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