Cassie Dannacher wakes up in a hospital over 1,000 years into the future after her space capsule is retrieved from space. She soon learns that 600 years prior to her arrival, the earth was struck by a plague, killing over half of the world’s population. Naïve and desperate, Cassie, who longs for home and is having trouble adjusting to the new, dictatorial 31st century government, is comforted by Michael Bennett, the 20-year old lead geneticist at the hospital where she was revived.
But why is Cassie in genetics’ hospital in the first place, and why do several of the people around her seem so familiar, including Travel Carson, the hot and edgy boy she is fated to meet? Soon she discovers there is a sinister answer to all of her questions – and that they want something from Cassie that only she can give.
My debut YA novel, Amateur Angel, was released May 1, 2012. The next book in that series, Hollywood Angels, comes out September 1. The first book in my upcoming dystopian trilogy, The Van Winkle Chronicles, will be released by Entangled Publishing Summer 2013.
Mirror X was a pretty good read. Overall, I
did enjoy the concept and do think I would continue with the series. Still, I
did have some issues that prevented me from fully enjoying the book.
But let’s start with the good shall we?
Firstly, I think its beyond cool how Cassie
was revived from cryogenics. Straightaway, I realized that the book was set in
a very futuristic world. Even Cassie’s own time is set a few years into the
future for us. We are not told much of the world then, but it does seem
somewhat similar to what is happening now.
The concept of the story is pretty
interesting, with the problem of infertility being central to the plot. The
whole idea of the lack of privacy is also really cool to read about. To Cassie,
and to the reader, the idea of the L Bands are a terrible invasion of privacy.
To Michael, and the rest of the world, its perfectly fine. Because they don’t
know anything else. I guess it just gets me thinking about stuff like that.
And the science in this book was super
cool. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I just wish I could see all
this science in real life. I do think that Cassie’s world before she was
revived was rather interesting, I would sure like to read more about it. Its
nice that not everyone in power here is unreasonable, which was refreshing. I
am interested in how things will work out in future books. The plot twists here
kept coming and I must say, I didn’t foresee a lot of them.
Still, I wish I could have liked this more
than I did. I mean, the blurb really sounded fascinating. But I felt the
execution wasn’t as good as I had hoped for. It was a little bit draggy at
times, and it was difficult for me to get into the book because I really didn’t
like Cassie. Or Michael. But I especially don’t like them together. Hence, in
many of their conversations (practically most of the book), I found myself
rolling my eyes. On their own, they’re kinda annoying, but acceptable. I just
couldn’t believe the romance. Cassie was rather narrow-minded and even though
she eventually opened up towards the end, and I could understand her rationale
for things, I just couldn’t like her. Michael felt a little bit flat to me.
I guess I would liked Mirror X more if I had enjoyed the characters more? I still think
the concept is really cool, and the ideas raised here, such as the L Bands, the
regions, the problems they face, and the technology is very fascinating.
However, I couldn’t fully immerse myself into the story because there just
seemed to be several holes here and there that was only merely coloured over,
but not filled in properly. Perhaps all my unanswered questions will be
answered in the next few books. I do think I will continue this series, because
it has intrigued me and well, I just have to know what happens next.
Overall it’s a 3/5 star read for me. Wasn’t
fantastic, but it was good enough to keep me reading and to read the next books
in the series.
Genre: Fantasy – Supernatural – Paranormal - Romance
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Date of Publication: May 27th 2014
Word Count: 64,400
Series: Reign of Light #1
For a pirate, nothing is forbidden...except love. To gain her freedom, Charlee must seduce the prince. To save the pirate, Prince Petra must win her heart.
BY HONOR ALONE
A handsome war hero, Prince Petra can have his pick of any lady in the kingdom. A man of virtue, he's saved himself for just the right one. But when the corrupt emperor of Isa Vis kidnaps a duke's daughter to force her into an alliance, Petra sacrifices himself—and his dreams of love—to save her. Betrothing himself to the distant captive, he leads a daring rescue across the stormy South Sea.
But The Light has other plans. On the voyage, Petra runs afoul of Charlee. Once a prisoner, now a pirate captain, the sultry siren holds him captive with more than just her sword. And when she offers a seductive wager—if he takes her body before they reach the City of Light, she wins absolution for her crimes—it is all he can do to hold firm. While he has every reason to bring Charlee to justice, he’s also finally found a woman he wants more than honor. And he can no more trust her than he can trust himself.
Kary Rader is a part-time Twitter sage, stay-at-home mother of three, and slave to the characters and worlds inside her head. Always creative, she's drawn to stories with fantastical worlds and creatures.
With a little bit of magic and divine guidance, there isn't anything that can't be accomplished with words. It's the power of words that creates and destroys.
Vanquishing evil and injustice while finding eternal love in the process is all in a day's work. With the help of her critique partners and master cartographer imaginary places come to life.
Charlee’s mind spun in a whirl. She’d never been one to resist a challenge, which Petra well knew. She’d also never been one to play fair.
She softly took his hand and allowed him to pull her up. As soon as he released her, she leaned toward him. His eyes widened and filled with desire. She let a playful smile touch her lips and licked the bottom one with her tongue. Petra sucked in a breath, but before he could make a move, she shoved him back in the sand and took off running as fast as she could, more laughter spilling from her lips—laughter conspicuously sounding like giggles.
She reached the west side of the pool at nearly the same time Petra crested the cliff of the falls. That sneaky prince had found an alternate route.
Their eyes met and locked. She took one step into the water as he dove from the cliff. Her breath caught in her throat. She froze for several heartbeats, the ripples from his splash washing over her toes. Then, out of nowhere, a strong arm rose in front of her, grabbed her leg and pulled her in. She screamed and tried to pull away.
He surfaced in front of her, his arms securely wrapped around her waist. She tried to push and wiggle free, but his arms locked around her more tightly. She tried to splash him, slap him and even butt him with her head, but he captured her hands. Their eyes met unguarded and full of passion. His warm body pressed against hers….
Enter the giveaway here!
A ten-book subscription to Boroughs Publishing’s Lunchbox Romance line sponsored by the publisher
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Isolation depicts a bleak but recognizable future in which the fear of contagion reaches a fever pitch as a bacterial epidemic catapults the US into an apocalyptic crisis.
Touch is outlawed. Mothers like Maggie bind their infants’ hands, terrified they might slip fingers into mouths. Gary, a Sterilizer, uses robots to scour the infected, avoiding all contact with human flesh. Trevor, the Chief Enforcer, watches, eager to report any and all infractions.
One inadvertent touch will change all of their lives.
DENISE R. STEPHENSON resides in Oceanside, CA, but she has lived in all the isolated locales of this novel at one time or another. Her publishing history is primarily academic, though as a member of Attention Deficit Drama, she has written and produced monologs and short plays. This is her first novel.
In my youth I was an idealist. Maybe that’s not that uncommon, but I lived out my idealism as an activist. When the United Farm Workers sought better conditions, I boycotted grapes. When I was in college, I wrote letters to Congress in church-related efforts to feed the hungry. When a friend ran away from an abusive home, I began volunteering at a women’s shelter. In the 80s, when the US and USSR were poised for anhiliation, I organized peace protests against nuclear weapons. Then I went to grad school and found I needed to focus my limited time. I didn’t stop caring, but I read little news, wrote few letters, rarely stood in protest. My values didn’t change, even though I wasn’t acting on them outwardly.
The germs of my novel Isolation came from the fear of a swine flu epidemic in the fall of 2009, changes in behavior that swept through the country, my concerns about the overuse of 99% bacterial killing soaps and sanitizers, and a line that came into my head: “laying a finger aside of his nose.”
The flu that year went pandemic, around the world, but not epidemic; it didn’t wipe out humanity. Though it killed tens of thousands world-wide, that’s a tiny, tiny fraction of the population. The fear, however, was palpable. The Centers for Disease Control in the US and the World Health Organization, among others, mounted campaigns to reduce the spread of the virus by teaching us to sleeve the sneeze and catch the cough. They produced posters about the importance of hand-washing which were bright yellow and still adorn the classroom walls on my campus.
Simultaneously, access to hand sanitizers became ubiquitous in many public places, like grocery stores. Though I’m not a scientist, I worried that we didn’t want to kill all of our bacteria because I knew that we needed it for digestion and to build a healthy immune system. Personally I wondered if we should use all of the 99% bacteria-killing soaps. But I was clearly in the minority.
One day while walking, I heard the line “laying a finger aside his nose” from the “Night Before Christmas” echoing in my head. I imagined a boy who found the children’s story in a box of old things from his mother’s childhood. Seeing Santa touch his nose, the boy recognized the book as contraband, since face-touching was not allowed in his world. He secreted the page under his mattress like the pornography it was until he could show it to a friend. Suddenly I was thinking about a world in which face-touching was prohibited; that reality didn’t seem far off.
Along the way I realized how much our food supply had already been contaminated by sudden and frequent outbreaks of E. Coli and other dangerous bacteria. I worried about the dangers of GMOs, though I knew little of the science. Given that I’d never lost sight of the farm workers I’d supported in my youth and given that I’d been a vegetarian more than once over the years due to concerns about Alar in apples, the way chicken is processed, or the dangers of raw spinach, it wasn’t a difficult leap to make Agri-Biz into the evil backdrop to the dystopia I imagined.
These ideas stayed with me for a couple of years. I read news about the various threads and occasionally wrote short vignettes that I shared with my writing group, but I didn’t imagine I was preparing for a novel until I had the opportunity for a sabbatical.
And even then, I was intent on not saying a novel was my goal. It was too frightening. As a writing center director I created a project which required me to write more than 100 pages of fiction. The intent was to recreate for myself the conditions college students face when they have to write a longer paper than they experience writing in a genre or discipline they have little experience in.
At that point, the stage was set for me to write Isolation. Though at the time, I kept emphasizing that I wasn’t writing a novel, just a long piece of fiction. Secretly I hoped for a novel, but I denied it to everyone outwardly. I didn’t want to fail.
Oh, and the activism of my youth, oddly, writing this dystopian novel has led me back to it—a bit. Promoting my book through social media has led me to follow several bacteria-related entities as well as anti-GMO and food safety advocates. They’re a good source of news as well as marketing oportunities—how life changes.
Hey guys! Welcome to Janine A. Southard's review tour of Queen & Commander and Hive & Heist, books 1 and 2 of the Hive Queen Saga. This is certainly a very different series than what I have read before and I must say, I like it a lot! And I hope you do too:) So without further ado, let's get started.
Janine A. Southard
Janine A. Southard writes and edits speculative fiction in between working on videogame projects. She’s attended more than the average number of universities, which she claims is a FEATURE. (“Oxford educated, but Californian at heart.”) She’s also lived and traveled in Europe, the United States, and Japan. Currently, she lives in Seattle with a husband (and a cat) and sings with a Celtic band.
**WINNER 2013 IPPY AWARD -- Silver Medal for Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror E-Book**
On a world where high school test scores determine your future, six students rebel. They’ll outrun society as fast as their questionably obtained spaceship will take them.
Rhiannon doesn’t technically cheat the Test. She’s smarter than the computers that administer it, and she uses that to her advantage. She emerges from Test Day with the most prestigious future career possible: Hive Queen.
Gwyn & Victor are madly in love, but their Test results will tear them apart. Good thing Rhiannon is Gwyn’s best friend. Rhiannon can fix this. Queens can do anything.
Gavin is the wild card. Raised off-planet, he can’t wait to leave again... and he’s heard of an empty ship in orbit. The Ceridwen’s Cauldron.
Both Luciano and Alan fit in the system. They don’t need to leave. Only their devotion to Rhiannon spurs them to join the Cauldron’s crew.
Queen & Commander was an alright read. When I first saw
the blurb for the book, I just knew I had to read it. The first time I saw it,
I forgot the name, which killed me because I spent ages trying to find the book
but to no avail. However, one day I saw an email saying blog tour signups for
this and Hive & Heist, the second book, was open. I may have freaked out a
little heh. Still, after reading the book, while it was very good, I fear it
may have been slightly short of the high standards in my head. It could be just
The concept of the world, with Dyfed, its Hives is
fascinating, albeit a little confusing. I would have appreciated a little bit
more backstory about how all these worlds came about, rather than just trying
to infer from the bits and snippets that I got. Why was space travel necessary?
Why did it seem like everyone was living on space stations of some sort? But I
must say, I’m thoroughly intrigued by how everything functions in society. The
ideas behind the story is very interesting to read about.
As for the characters, they were interesting enough. It was
nice seeing how 6 people came together as a whole Hive and got through some
problems together. Though they had many issues, you see how they learn to live
with each other. Though there is not much teamwork here, I do like how it’s
realistic and not the instant bond that a lot of other teams seem to have.
I really respect Rhiannon. She is so smart and I don’t know,
I like that she isn’t cocky about it. Its like, she knows she’s good, but she also acknowledges
that she has weaknesses and finds people to counter the weaknesses she has. I
don’t know, I just really like her. She didn’t really want to go on the whole
journey, but for Gwyn, she did it, and in so doing, I loved her dedication,
even though at first it was a little reluctant.
One thing that I didn’t like a lot was the writing style. It
was alright, but sometimes something just felt a little bit off, perhaps it
seemed more like I was being told rather than showed. Still, this is my
personal preference. Somehow, there always seemed to be a wall between the
characters and me which prevented me from being fully engaged with the story.
Still, I really did enjoy the book and I really like reading
about the characters. I just really want to see how things play out, whether
they will eventually come together as a Hive or will it all just fall apart. I
think this book has a very unique concept. I am curious though, why Hives, what
made them that way? Who made them that way? Oh, I have many questions
certainly, but I think I can wait patiently (somewhat, okay no I don’t think I
can!) for the answers in the following books.
Disclaimer: I was
provided with a free copy of this book for an honest review. All views
expressed here are mine alone.
Hive & Heist
Queen Rhiannon and her Hive have found safety on John Wayne Station, but with no way to pay their docking fees or Victor’s medical bills, their debts are racking up quickly. Thankfully, Gavin gets a job with American Space Ranger M3L-15-A, who’s hot on the trail of dangerous criminals.
The teens move in with their Ranger benefactor, but when they revisit their ship to pick up personal belongings, they realize their Alcubierre tensor jet has been stolen!
If Rhiannon and her Hivemates ever hope to leave, they must find and steal back what’s theirs. But far from home and among strangers, who can they trust? Will they be stuck on John Wayne for the rest of their lives?
Hive & Heist took place almost entirely on John Wayne
station, and picks up rather soon after the end of Queen & Commander. I
liked Hive & Heist a little more than Queen & Commander, perhaps
because we got to see more of each individual character, some new characters
were shown and there was way more action than in the first book.
Here, we see more of characters such as Gavin, Victor and
Alex, and definitely Rhiannon. Here, Gwyn/Lois is still not talked about much
and suddenly, Luciano seems to have disappeared off the face of the book for
most of it. Still, I think I can understand why, I guess maybe its like a way
of showing how he has gotten more isolated from the Hive? There is also a new
character, Melissa. It took me a while to get used to her, but when I did, I
found that I really liked her a lot. I think she will prove to be a great
addition to the story, but in what capacity? You’ll have to read to find out ;)
There were some parts of the story that didn’t seem to have
much link to anything. I guess it was stuff in the beginning and here and there
that just felt like it was prolonging the story, instead of getting to the
point.. The story was a little draggy at the beginning because it seemed like
there was no direction. But around the middle of the book, the pace began to
pick up and you could see why things were starting to happen or why they had
One thing that I really like in this series is that the
characters are very deep. Even though the character development isn’t explicit,
it does make sense and at the end of the book, you do actually realize how far
the characters have come emotionally and as a Hive. I found the ending to be
especially sweet. Also, the side characters really added some entertainment to
the story. I don’t know, it was just really nice seeing their solidarity and
how they were all loyal to each other.
I would have liked to see more of why Luciano changed his
mind at the end though. I felt it wasn’t really explained well and I guess
because he hardly appeared in this book, it would have been nice to see some of
his thoughts about it. A lot of his scenes seemed to be cut short and there
wasn’t much that I could gather from him. He’s still kinda annoying to me
though haha. Victor was a true hero here. I think he really grew up from the
needy, selfish boy we see in Queen & Commander. Here, he actually began to
take responsibility for himself. Gavin stepped up to his position pretty well
and it was really nice seeing how he started working well with Alex to do some
pretty cool things. Especially good, given that they didn’t really like each
other from the start. I love Alex, I’m not saying anything more about that
haha. But he’s really cool and I feel he is the most mature out of all of them.
There is a subplot here involving other Queens, which I don’t
want to say too much about, because I think it would be a spoiler. But through
it, I think a little light is being shed on the whole Hive structure. I am
certainly very interested to see how that plays out eventually! Alright so it
might involve a little bit about science and biology which I am actually quite
interested in haha. And I think it could actually be key to figuring out how
All in all, Hive & Heist was pretty good. Though a
little slow initially, when it got started, it became really good. I am looking
forward to seeing more of their adventures in the future, though I’m still
trying to find where all this ties into the grand scheme of things. I will
definitely be reading the next few books. The concept is simply too intriguing
to not continue.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book for
an honest review. All views expressed here are mine alone.
After a blow to her head, Sarah Marks awakens in a strange bed with a strange man and no memory of how she got there. Her handsome bedmate, Lord Eastleigh, tells her she’s suffering from amnesia and the best course of action is to travel home with him until she recovers her memory.
Lord Eastleigh has his own reasons for helping Sarah and keeping her close. Reasons he cannot tell her. As they struggle to restore her memory, their undeniable, inadvisable attraction grows—until Sarah finally remembers the one thing that could keep them apart forever.
Kathleen Bittner Roth creates passionate stories featuring characters faced with difficult choices, and who are forced to draw on their strength of spirit to overcome adversity and find unending love.
Her own fairy tale wedding in a Scottish castle led her to her current residence in Budapest, Hungary, considered one of Europe’s most romantic cities. However, she still keeps one boot firmly in Texas and the other in her home state of Minnesota.
A member of Romance Writers of America®, she was a 2012 Golden Heart® finalist. You can find Kathleen on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and her website at www.kathleenbittnerroth.com.
She lay on her side, her trembling fingers tucked beneath her cheek. If the galloping of her heart grew any louder, she was certain to awaken whoever he was before she could make her escape.
Who was this man?
Where was she?
Her befuddled mind tried to sort things out. Nothing came. Nothing at all.
Why can I not remember?
She had to get out of here, get out the door at least. Door? Where was it? There had to be one, but since she couldn’t locate it by simply moving her eyes, it must be behind her. If only she could manage to slip out of bed without waking him. She moved a bare inch.
He flopped onto his back with a small groan.
Oh, Heaven help me! She lay rigid for what seemed an eternity. Whoever he was, he appeared to be fully dressed, in clothing befitting a gentleman—at least based on what she could see from the shoulders up, for his shirt was white and he wore a gray pin-striped waistcoat. She was fairly certain she was clothed as well since the blue sleeve on her bent arm looked like a day gown, not a nightrail, but at the moment, she dared not move anything but her eyes.
He shifted again, facing her, and she held her breath until his returned to soft, rhythmic whiffles. She studied his face, so close as to be nearly blurred. Rich brown hair curled over his forehead and around his ears while a fringe of dark lashes lay against chiseled cheeks. An aristocratic, aquiline nose rested above a set of full lips, slightly parted. Still no recognition.
She eased backward again, shifting her weight ever so carefully. Pressing one foot against the cold floor, she slid from the bed and backed away.
A board squeaked, sounding like cannon shot in the quiet room.
His eyes opened.
“Oh!” A quick glance at the door, and she scrambled backward, one hand flailing behind her.
He rose on an elbow. “What are you up to?” Despite the sleep in his voice, authority rumbled through it.
Afraid to take her eyes off him, she felt around for the door’s latch. “Who are you?”
He cocked a brow, and his expression grew quizzical. “Are you quite serious?”
“Last I knew, I was Augustus Malvern, Lord Eastleigh.” Remarkably clear brown eyes studied her. “Door’s locked. Key’s in my pocket.”
“Where am I?” she croaked. “How did I get here?”
He scowled. “At the Golden Hen, near Hampshire. You don’t recall?” When she shook her head, he threw back the covers and stood. His height and the breadth of his shoulders nearly swallowed the small room.
The room swayed—or was it her doing the wavering? She braced her shoulders against the door.
His booted feet pounded the floor, closing the distance between them. He wore his boots to bed? He paused before her and canted his head, puzzlement reigning in his regard of her. Reaching to her temple, he gently fingered a bump.
She gasped at both the pain and his touch, and craned her head away from him. Whatever had occurred, she feared him.
“Dear God,” he muttered, and turning on his heel, strode to the window. Flinging the faded curtains aside, he backed off as a cloud of dust motes swirled about. He brushed at his shoulders, stepped again to the window, and clasped his hands behind him.
Despite the grime on the bubble-filled glass, the morning sun, still pink and fresh from its rising, shone through bright and clear. Off to the right, a rooster crowed. Lord Eastleigh turned an ear in that direction. “Let me get this straight. You do not recall where you are, or how you got here?”
“No…no, I do not.” Despite her faltering voice, she stiffened her spine and gathered courage.
“Have no fear, madam. I won’t harm you.” His voice had gentled, and for whatever reason, she wanted to trust his word. “And except for that nasty lump, which I did not inflict, none has come to you.”
When she said nothing in response, he asked, “By any chance, do you know your name?”
She took in a breath and managed a strong voice. “Yes. Sarah Marks.”
He whipped around, a deep frown furrowing his brow.
She touched the nasty bump on her head and hissed. “How…how did I get here?”
“We rode in a hired carriage, which was overtaken by thieves. We walked here—or rather, I carried you a good deal of the way.” His voice softened measurably. “Do you recall any of those events?”
Her mouth formed a silent, “No.”
Fighting the panic trying to take root again, she perused the room. A dingy space, this. One window, an iron bed with a small, raw-wood table alongside, a few hooks on the wall—one holding a man’s dark jacket and what looked to be a white cravat draped over its shoulder. A robin’s egg blue cape hung over the back of the single chair in the room. A matching hat rested on its seat, while black kid gloves were stacked beside the bonnet. Tucked neatly beneath was a pair of black walking boots. Everything appeared well-made. The dress she wore matched the blue-sprigged muslin lining the cloak.
His scowl faded. “You suffered a blow when you stepped between me and the thieves—”
“Good heavens, why would I have done such a foolish thing?” She fingered her wound again.
“Folly, I would suspect.” He lifted a brow. “Or perhaps you are so adamant regarding right and wrong, you could not stand to see someone’s life threatened?”
She stared boldly at him while she fought to keep her chin from trembling. “I do not have the slightest idea how I would react, sir. In fact, I do not know if I am adamant about much of anything at all.” Oh, her heart wouldn’t hold out much longer—neither would her knees. “Please, sir. What can you tell me about me?”
Closing the distance between them, he reached out and swept back a tendril of hair that had caught at one corner of her mouth, grazing her cheek with his thumb as he went.
Lord, his touch was gentle, soothing in fact. And his scent. So clean. But an odd tremble moved through her. Any desire to lean into his hand dissipated. Instead, she stiffened and stepped away, her heartbeat kicking up. Something told her that it was not just this man, but all men she feared. Could that be why she’d left her home? “Please, do not touch me.”
“Beg your pardon. I’m not much good at this sort of thing. Not that I’ve ever been in such an odd predicament before.” The crease between his eyes deepened. “As I said, I mean you no harm. You are obviously suffering amnesia from the knock on your head.”
“Me? Amnesia?” Dear blessed Mary!
He nodded. “You seemed in possession of all your faculties when you nodded off for the night, but now—” He shrugged a shoulder and made his way back to the window. “You’re likely feeling as though pieces of your mind have been scattered to the four winds, but I caution you not to panic or things could very well worsen.”
“How could you possibly know how I might feel?” Her words sounded like ice cracking.
He glanced over his shoulder, perused the length of her with those fathomless brown eyes, and turned back to the window. “I suffered from amnesia following an injury in the Crimean War, so I recognize the same in you. My own experience taught me to tread lightly while recovering, so as not to suffer setbacks. Or worse, lose the past entirely. There are chunks of my memory still missing.”
Her mind a blank, Sarah nonetheless managed to maintain her dignity. “Tell me whatever you know. How we came to be traveling together. Where I am from.”
She studied him for a moment and then said, “How did a man such as you, a lord, come to be traveling on a public coach?”
He turned and leaned a shoulder against the window’s sash, making it impossible for her to see him clearly with the halo of sunlight surrounding him. “I rode in a hired coach because I was on my way to a ship for…ah…an extended holiday on the Continent.”
“How did I come to be in the same conveyance? Was I on my way to the sea as well?”
“You were traveling by way of one of those over-crowded public coaches. You, and what I assumed was your companion, were bemoaning the dire conditions, and since we were headed in the same direction, I offered both of you my carriage. While you were an innocent, I’m afraid the other woman was not. She used being amidst your proper company to soundly dupe me.”
“Was she the thief who injured me?”
He shook his head. “Her thieving friends lay in wait down the road a measure. Suffice it to say, you and I lost everything, including the hired carriage since the coachman teamed up with the filthy lot. He exchanged transportation for a cut of the bounty, the blackguard.”
Her teeth slid over her bottom lip. “Did we turn back to the coaching stop from whence we came, or did we travel forward? Was where we came from my home?”
“Insightful questions.” Eastleigh sketched a slight bow in deference, his curly locks tumbling over his forehead. “I overheard you tell the other woman that the stop where we encountered one another was your third, but you did not disclose to her your starting point.” He scoured the small room with disapproving eyes. “And as for this rather questionable inn, we were nearer here than turning back.”
“Then what?” She brushed her hands down her hips in an attempt to cease their quaking.
He eyed her movement. “Then we stumbled in here after dark. With a crowded inn, we were fortunate to capture the only room available.” He looked around the sparsely furnished space with a look of distaste. “You are known below as Lady Eastleigh, by the by.”
She glanced at the bed and her lips pursed. “You should have slept on the floor.”
“Bloody hell on the hard floor!” He winced. “Beg pardon, a slip of the tongue.”
Her hand crept to her throat. “But we are perfect strangers.”
He paused as if in thought while regarding her through narrowed eyes. “You were not opposed to sharing a bed in order to get the rest we needed. We were both fully clothed, and it’s not as if such an undertaking is an uncommon practice.” He raked his hair back from his brow and heaved a sigh. “God knows if I’ll be able to hire something out of here today that will give either of us a modicum of comfort. We have a long road ahead, so I thank you for not insisting I take to the floor.”
“To where do you intend this carriage take us?” Renewed panic hammered her heart in her chest.
He rubbed the back of his neck. “To my home in Kent.”
She gasped and fought to regain her composure. Perhaps parts of her memory had been misplaced, but her instincts told her that traveling alone with a man to his residence was highly inappropriate. “I could not go there with you, sir. It isn’t done.”
His regard of her intensified until her skin felt seared. “Then tell me, madam,” he said in little more than a murmur, “where else am I to take you?
From inside the carriage, Eastleigh scanned plowed fields bursting with the promise of spring. A dull beat at the base of his skull told him another megrim was about to roll through his head like a thundering herd of horses. He took in a long, slow breath and counted down from ten on the exhale, as he’d been taught.
What the devil had he been thinking leaving Easton Park? He had no business traveling even five miles from home, let alone trying to tour the Continent for three months with the idea of bringing home a bride. And painful as it was to admit, he was not ready to take on a wife, after all. Blast it all, Doctor Hemphill had been right. He rubbed at the back of his neck. Now he had to return home as quickly as possible and deliver the doctor yet another patient. “I am fully aware this might well be the worst day of your life—”
“That, sir, I would hardly know,” she interrupted softly.
“Your pardon.” He ran a sweaty palm down the side of his leg. Damn the headache. Another breath, another count of ten. No, he should never have left home. But he had to hold himself together at all costs. The responsibility sitting before him wouldn’t know the first thing about getting them to Kent if he sickened. “Madam, I know what it is to awaken not knowing anything with regard to one’s self. If you wish for no conversation, we shall have none, and I shall leave you to yourself for the duration, or we can muddle through this together. Lord knows, I’m giving it my best.”
Fringed lids closed over those great blue eyes, and her head fell back against the squabs. A tear trickled from one eye and trailed into her hair. He checked an urge to reach over and wipe it away—along with her pain. Instead, he fished inside his coat pocket, retrieved a handkerchief, and gently tucked it in her hand.
She pressed the square of cloth to her temple and looked again out the window. “Do you know the road from here?”
“Not as yet, but I’m told we’ll turn onto a main highway near noon. I know that particular route well.”
“Will we reach your home today?”
“Hardly,” he responded. “We’ve a two-day ride, but there are far better inns ahead.”
“I refuse to be Lady Eastleigh tonight.”
He couldn’t help the chuckle. “You’ll become my youngest sister, Rose.”
“We shan’t share the same room.”
He lifted a brow. “And if there is only one available?”
She said nothing but overtly perused the interior of the carriage.
He patted the hard seat. “Indeed. This will serve, if necessary.”
“Rose lives with you?”
Her chin lifted. “Is there a Lady Eastleigh at home?”
“God, no!” He nearly laughed. “Mum will act as chaperone.”
She went back to staring out the window.
Lord, but even under duress, she was a lovely sight. “I should warn you of my family before we arrive.”
Good, he’d managed to distract her from her predicament. He grinned. “Everyone should have fair warning of the Malverns.”
She tilted her pretty head. “Tell me of your parents.”
Oh, wouldn’t he like to pull her onto his lap and murmur his response in her ear? “Father’s illness confines him and my mother to their estate, which lies an hour north of mine. Mum, who lives with me, is actually my grandmother. Mum is…that is—” Devil take it, he sounded like a schoolboy.
“She raised you?”
He laughed outright. “Isn’t that a rich thought, but no. Mum is a bit…shall we say…” He scratched his head. “We aren’t quite sure whether it’s her age or the gin she tipples, but suffice it to say, her memory isn’t much better than yours.”
When her cheeks flushed, he could have kicked himself. “Sorry, ghastly turn of words.” Bloody hell, where was her sense of humor? She’d likely not had much to begin with, since an amnesiac’s personality rarely changed. “She’s called Mum, by the by, because she fancies herself the Queen Mother and thinks my mother to be the Queen. Whenever Mother visits, we refer to her as Your Majesty. Pacifies Mum, it does.”
He swallowed another chuckle. “When I sent a messenger to alert Doctor Hemphill, I also sent word to Mum. Hard to tell how you’ll be greeted.”
Slowly, she turned her head his way. “What an odd way of putting things.”
A corner of his mouth curled. “Isn’t it though, madam?”
She turned back to looking out the window.
They grew quiet for a long while, with only the rattle of chains and the grind of the wheels on the hard-packed road to keep them company.
Despite the dire circumstances under which they traveled, Eastleigh found himself once again occupied with the exquisite profile of the woman who called herself Sarah Marks.
Uncommonly refined for a country girl, she was. And prettier than anyone had a right to be, given the circumstances. Loose tendrils of flaxen hair framed a heart-shaped face one would expect to appear drawn. But she looked refreshed—and fragile as spun glass, yet pugnaciously strong.
“You stare at me, sir,” she said, without turning his way.
“My apologies.” Fighting an impulse to squirm, he rested his elbow against the window’s ledge and thumbed the edge of his broken tooth—an old habit he’d long ago given up trying to break. How could he not help but look at her? Bloody hell, despite her prim and perfunctory manner, she captivated him.
A thought struck him that there hadn’t been a mirror back at the inn. “Your eyes match your cape. Are you aware of their color, madam?”
She shrugged, her cornflower blue eyes reflecting the sunlight passing through the carriage. “I should care little about my looks, my lord, when I have more dire things to ponder.”
Blast his stupidity. “Of course, but since your eyes are striking enough to comment on, I thought you might like to know.”
His gaze drifted to her pink mouth that formed a plump circle and had yet to return to its natural shape. Pure lust shot up from nowhere. Had they come together this morning under other circumstances, he would have found her kissable-looking lips irresistible. And in all likelihood, he’d have found a way to entice her into settling on his lap, where he would have entertained the both of them on this tedious journey.
Another turn of her head, and she spied where he stared. She let out a small gasp.
The wave of pleasure that had run through him at the sight of her sensuous lips evaporated like morning mist off a sunlit pond.
Bugger! He took to watching the spring flowers along the roadside and unobtrusively managed his breathing exercises. “Once again, my apologies. Although I have experience with amnesia, I’m finding it exceedingly difficult to deal with it in another.”
Thoughts of what he’d endured over his many months of recovery swept through him like an angry gale. He didn’t want those particular memories, thought he’d brushed them aside, but he found they only lay in hiding for as quickly as they could descend upon him. Damnation! He couldn’t get home soon enough. And blast it all, he’d even left his powders behind.
He searched for words to alleviate the uncomfortable silence. “Do not dwell on your situation or try to think beyond this moment or you’ll only buy yourself trouble.”
Pain washed across her countenance. He was right—she had been trying to make sense of things.
Her chin quivered until she set her mouth against it, but she said nothing. “You’ve been trying to imagine your future and you cannot.”
She gave a slight nod. “So it would seem.”
“Which is normal.” Good God, what had he got himself into?
“You cannot project into the future because you have no memory of your past.”
She let out a burdened sigh and tucked a stray lock behind her ear with gloved fingers that had a tremble to them. “I do not understand.”
He had to keep her talking, keep her mind off her dilemma lest she panic. He leaned forward. “It’s impossible to imagine a future without using your past as reference, so you must live in the present until your memory returns. Actually, in the whole of my recovery, learning to exist in the moment turned out to be the most valuable thing I gleaned from my experience.”
He resisted a terrible urge to rest a comforting hand over hers. “Think on it—what do we really ever have but this moment?”
Her shoulders visibly relaxed. He offered her a small grin, pleased she made sense of what he tried to convey. “The physician who saw to my recovery has retired on a parcel of my land. I sent a courier ahead, so Doctor Hemphill awaits your arrival.” And so does Mum, with whatever opinions she’ll have in the matter.
Sarah rubbed the back of her neck. “Perhaps I should be thanking the good Lord someone with knowledge of this condition rescued me, but I am too angry with Him at the moment.”
Guilt wound its way through Eastleigh. Had he never left home, this wouldn’t have happened—to him or to her. “Does that mean we might enjoy a truce?”
Her refined features took on even more softness. “Between you and me, at least.”
Something hitched low in his belly. He managed a smile, “Good,” and realized he’d also managed to dispense with the headache. He was pain free at the moment—except for the constant throbbing in his right leg, which he’d learned to live with—bloody swords. They should be outlawed in battle.
She studied him for a long moment. “You may call me Miss Marks.” She clasped her gloved hands tightly together. “I presume I’m unmarried since I wear no ring.” Oh, dear, she was back to thinking of her predicament. “Or was one taken from me in the robbery?”
He shook his head. “They took a pair of ear bobs from you is all.”
“Of any worth, could you tell?”
“Not much, I would suspect.” He offered her a bit of a smile and then propped his elbow on the window sill.
My, but he was handsome—and growing more so with every passing hour. His upper teeth were white and even, except for a small triangular chip where a front tooth butted against the other. A small scar ran alongside his upper cheek. She regarded his supple fingers while his thumb fiddled at that broken tooth, something she’d seen him do often during the ride.
When he caught her staring, he dropped his hand. “For what it’s worth, madam—”
He shifted in his seat and frowned. “I shall call you madam until I have grown used to the other.”
Her heart went to galloping again. Lord, she had to take her mind off her predicament if her sanity was to remain intact. She took in a slow breath and exhaled just as slowly. “Tell me of your siblings.”
He nodded, seeming more at ease with this question. “I’m the first of four sons and four daughters.”
“Your rank? Certainly not a duke if your father remains alive.”
His eyes sparkled whenever he smiled. “Ah, a knowledge of ranking. You see? Your memory will trickle in as it chooses. I am merely a viscount. My father is an earl.”
“Tell me of your four sisters.”
He was playing with that broken tooth again. “Perhaps there are only three. We aren’t certain at times.” When her brow rose, he laughed. “Willamette came along smack in the middle of a raucous bunch of boys. Being profoundly stubborn, she insisted on dressing and acting like her brothers and does so to this day.”
“Mother claimed the name Willamette, shortened to Will by her brothers, did the deed, so my other sisters were named after flowers—Rose, Iris, and Violet.”
Sarah fought to recall if she had any siblings.
Frustrated, she heaved a sigh.
Eastleigh leaned forward. She caught his scent. Familiar, but of what, she couldn’t put to tangible thought. His hand covered hers. The heat emanating from his fingers went right through her. She tried to pull away, but he held her steady.
And as if in defiance, he leaned even closer. “You are here, as am I, as is John Coachman,” he said in a low, commanding voice. “As are the flowers beside the road, the blue sky overhead.”
His scent and the intimacy of his hands upon hers sent another shockwave through her.
“Here and now is truly your only world, madam, as much as it is my only world, with or without our memories intact. Will you send yourself to Bedlam trying to recollect your past and worry over your future? Perhaps you might try trusting that I know of what I speak and force your thoughts to remain in the present.”
“You’re right, of course.” Oh, she had to exercise a little faith that somehow this would all be set to rights, or she would surely fall apart. Her hand beneath his relaxed. “Thank heavens it was you that I ended up with in this miserable condition.”
He let go of her and leaned back, regarding her through heavy lids. “Pray, tell me more.”
Those velvet-edged words may as well have been his fingers trailing over her tingling breasts and settling beneath her skirts. God help her if keeping her mind in the moment meant focusing on him
For eighteen year old Krissa Channing a government ruled pairing with Braiden Connor and a move to Headquarters were her set fate. Until Braiden's sudden disappearance threatens Krissa’s entire future.
After months of endless worry, Krissa has an unexpected meeting with Duke, a perfect suitor that could offer her the future she’s always dreamed of. Just when she begins to regain hope, Braiden returns.
Now, Krissa must find where her heart truly lies. Torn between two loves, she must decide which of their worlds she belongs in. But is such a decision even possible when the choice rests between freedom and love?
“I wasn’t ready.”
“Ready for what?” The enforcement was stern with his questions, simple and to the point. He was certainly not trying to make small talk.
“To be paired. I freaked out a little. I needed to see what a Single’s life was like.” Braiden’s responses flowed out of his mouth with such fluidity.
“And you thought the best option was to run away to find your answer? We would have granted you access.”
Braiden made no reply, and instead remained eerily quiet.
“Well, what did you find, Mr. Connor? That the Sweeper life isn’t a desirable one? That one is much better off following our rules and regulations?”
“A Sweeper’s life is not what I want.”
Although he was saying everything I’d always wanted him to say, something about it was off. He responses seemed so, rehearsed.
“I wasn’t thinking clearly. I’m sorry for any trouble I caused. It won’t happen again.”
“It better not. You’ve been assigned to this district, and you have been paired with Krissa. You’ll be on probation for the next year, which means one slip up and you’ll be in the Sweeper unit permanently, or worse. Understood?”
“Yes Sir.” This time he wasn’t mocking the officer. He looked ashamed.
“Krissa, do you agree to these terms?” Did I really have another option? If I didn’t agree, I could end up single, but would a life with Braiden make me happy? Yes, I still loved him, but how was I to let him ease back into my life after all the hurt he caused?
He is a master strategist, but she’s laying siege to his heart...
Vivacious Lady Katherine Granville is the toast of the ton, but society's most eligible miss secretly yearns for her childhood love, an untitled loner who vanished long ago after her father forbade their marriage.
After years abroad, the dark and brooding Edward Stanhope returns to England a changed man. No longer a second son with no prospects, his battlefield strategies have won him an earldom. His return should be a victorious one, but the new Earl of Randolph is battling secret demons that no one can discover. Least of all, Kat.
When the man she can't forget reappears at her betrothal ball, Kat's perfectly arranged future is thrown into tumult. Edward remains cold and distant, hoping she'll marry a man worthy of her. But nothing is settled when Kat sets out to win back her first love. Can the new Earl of Randolph resist the woman he's loved for so many years?
Diana Quincy is an award-winning television journalist who decided she’d rather make up stories where a happy ending is always guaranteed.
Growing up as a foreign service brat, Diana explored many countries before settling down in Virginia with her husband and two sons. When not bent over her laptop or trying to keep up with laundry, she enjoys reading, spending time with her family and dreams of traveling much more than her current schedule (and budget) allows.
Diana loves to hear from readers. You can follow her on Twitter @Diana_Quincy or visit her website at www.dianaquincy.com
My name's Victoria and I love to read! And I guess no matter how busy I am, I'll always find time to read because you can't stop a passion, can you? I love netball, especially shooting, there's just something so peaceful about it, isn't there?
I started blogging in 2011, around November. I've fallen in love with it. Blogging about books just is so fun. Of course, I haven't been the most active of bloggers due to school:( Hopefully that will change now that I'm finally free!
But above all, I love my Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior. I've put my trust in Him. Because I know that no matter what, He will never forsake me nor leave me.
If I have inadvertently used any of your material without proper linking, do contact me immediately and I will take it down at once/link the material to you, whichever you prefer. I do try my best not to use any copyrighted material (especially for photos) but sometimes I lack attribution due to ignorance.