Monday, 2 May 2016

New Release Spotlight: Behind The Marquess's Mask by Kristen McLean

Behind the Marquess's Mask
The Lords of Whitehall #1
By: Kristen McLean
Releasing April 30, 2016
Young Ink Press

Even the mask of an expert spy is no defense against his own heart.

With a reputation as dark as his appearance, Greydon Sharpe, the Marquess of Ainsley, ought to have been the last agent assigned to the daughter of a well-respected Member of Parliament. However, when she is brutally attacked and left for dead, it becomes clear he is the only one with the skills to keep her alive. All it will take are a few lies to keep her breathing long enough to capture the villain. Then he can send her on her way. If she would only behave herself, he might be able to complete his mission before she turns his contentedly miserable life into a chaotic mess.

Marriage is not an option … until it is.

Lady Kathryn Bryant, the adventure-seeking socialite, has no plans to behave. Kathryn would much rather spend her time in subterfuge, nabbing villains and finding clues. However, when her memory is lost in an attack, she has little choice but to trust the handsome Marquess. Though she is almost certain he is hiding something, she is helpless against his disarming smile and warm touch. Eventually, his lies will come to the surface, leaving only one question: Is England’s deadliest spy equipped to save a broken heart?

Link to Follow Blast: HERE

Grey didn’t bat an eyelash as he stared down the barrel twenty feet ahead of him. Surely, Bexley couldn’t be that good of a shot. The man’s hand shook something awful. Perhaps he might get an arm or even a shoulder at this range if he were lucky. There was only a small chance he would get a fatal shot off. Still, there was a chance, and the last thing Kathryn needed was someone else shot and killed in front of her.
Kathryn, you need to leave,” Grey ordered softly.
Absolutely not!” she protested.
Kathryn,” Grey said patiently with a slight tremble. “For once in your life, listen to me.”
For the first time in a long time, he had no desire to die, but if he did die, he could not allow her to witness it.
No!” Kathryn spat out defiantly, stepping out into the middle of the room between the two adversaries.
Grey blanched of all color as he stared at her, crippled with fear before torrid fury took over.
Kathryn, what the bloody hell do you think you are doing?”
Kathryn frowned at him as if she was the one who ought to be angry. Then she turned to face Bexley, who looked more than a little annoyed.
The voice of reason piped up from behind Grey.
Kathryn, you really should not see this,” Nick advised.
I am not leaving.” Her simple, quiet refusal only seemed to unnerve Bexley, who was still aiming straight at Grey’s heart, the heart Kathryn was standing in front of.
You don’t want me to waste my bullet on you, now, do you?” Bexley spat out as his hand flexed over the gun anxiously. “Move aside!” Bexley stomped his foot to emphasize his point, and a small explosion rent the air.

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Kristen has always had a love of novels, with a special place in her heart for historical romance. After reading enough of them to fill a rather impressive library, she decided to write her own. Now she has the pleasure of writing at home, tucked away in a forest with her husband, two children and her cat. Her husband is loving, and impressively patient, her two beautiful children strive to embarrass and exhaust her, and her cat hates everyone, but tolerates—well, she tolerates whoever will feed her.

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New Release Spotlight & Review: The Grass Was Always Browner by Sacha Jones

The Grass Was Always Browner
By: Sacha Jones
Releasing May 1, 2016
Finch Publishing

The Grass Was Alway Browner by Sacha Jones is the story of a strong-willed, smart yet often less than sensible, curious and questioning girl growing up as the middle-child of three children. Her parents are old, and old-fashioned, deeply impractical, idealistic and naive, not best suited to negotiating the rough and rugged terrain of suburban Sydney in the 1970s-80s.

Sacha is not only the middle child, but she is stuck in the middle of the muddle and mess of her family’s situation. She sees and suffers more than her siblings do – or so she feels. However, one advantage of her position is that she is sent to study ballet to treat her asthma, and through ballet she finds a way out of her predicament.

Sacha’s determination to escape her humdrum existence and ‘become Russian’ saw her push through and succeed against the odds (wrong-shaped head, wrong feet, overall wrong build) and a father who is strongly against her becoming a ballet dancer. He describes ballet as ‘a frivolous and selfish pursuit, too focused on appearances.’ His own dreams are focused on a desire to save the Third World. However, in their very different ways, Sacha and her father are more alike than either would care to admit.

In becoming a dancing star, Sacha surprises no-one more than her legendary dance teacher – an actual Russian – Mrs P, Tanya Pearson. However, her father was right about ballet.

Although it gives Sacha the escape she desires, there is a heavy price to pay. And when she sets off for London to further her dance career, it is in part because the Australian dance scene betrayed her trust.
Award-winning playwright, poet and novelist Stephanie Johnson says of The Grass Was Always Browner, “Nineteen seventies suburban Sydney comes winningly alive in Sacha’s light-hearted girlhood memoir of boundless optimism, pink milk, tutus, triumph at the Eisteddfod and a horse in the back garden.”

The Grass Was Always Browner is a laugh-out-loud memoir and a cautionary reminder that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.

Link to Follow Tour: HERE

The Grass Was Always Browner by Sacha Jones (Finch Publishing) (994 words)

Ballet My Way
…Because no one else in my family, least of all Auntie Robin, would have been likely to recommend I do ballet. And indeed when Mum took me along to meet the Russian yes, Russian! – ballet teacher at our local dance school to have my potential for dance assessed, she was highly sceptical too, and quickly took Mum aside to tell her: ‘I am sorry, Mrs Jons, but she is not billt for barllet’, looking my way with a pitying smile, and speaking with a slightly terrifying accent.
Fortunately Mum was able to impress upon this straight- talking Russian, who was none other than ‘Mrs P’, aka Tanya Pearson, formerly Tatiana Jakubenka of Moscow and future recipient of the Order of Australia Medal for services to dance, that it was a matter of life and death that I do ballet. But, Mum insisted, she need not teach me how to dance, merely how to breathe a little easier.
And so it was, on this rather more modest basis, without expectation on either side that I should ever learn to dance, that I was accepted into Tanya Pearsons Northside Ballet Academy early the following year…
Standing backstage, waiting for the adjudicator to ring her bell to announce she was ready for the next dancer, dressed as an absentminded professor, I was not feeling entirely confident. Not my usual relaxed self. The dancers backstage had laughed heartily when they’d seen me dressed in character, in such a non- sneering way that it seemed they thought I had given up, which was a little off-putting. But I couldnt blame them; I didnt exactly feel primed for dancing gold. The adjudicators bell finally rings. My ‘Absentminded Professor is announced by the convenor and I cringe hearing how odd that concept sounds broadcast to a theatre full of ballet dancers, their teachers and parents, not to mention the all-important adjudicator. But there is no turning back now. I brace myself for the music to launch itself without introduction, relieved at least that the dance is not technically demanding.
When the first note sounds I lunge onto the stage en pointe, wobbling my head to the wonky music, stumbling along the diagonal to finish slightly off-centre. The audience chuckle immediately, which is a bit of a surprise and throws me a little. I should have been expecting it, but I wasnt somehow. Ballet eisteddfods are such competitive environments, especially at the senior level, that the last thing you expect from the audience is laughter, even when you’re dressed in a grey wig and stick-on moustache. The laughter makes me want to laugh too, but I know I shouldnt; my moustache might fall off. I do my best to stay in character and maintain a level of composure as I carry on my wonky way and the audiences chuckling turns quickly to full- blown laughter. I am careful not to stare at the adjudicators writ- ing light glowing in the centre of the dark sea that is the audience, normally the focal point of your presentation. I have decided it would not do for an absentminded character to eyeball the adjudicator. Instead I fix my absentminded gaze somewhere off to the side, and bumble on.
The whole theatre is laughing now, even the girls back- stage, who I can see watching me from the mezzanine level where the dressing rooms are, laughing with their mouths wide open. They really must be glad I’ve taken myself out of the running. I have to bite down hard on my tongue to stop from catching the laughter bug, while struggling to hear the music and remember my steps, which are carefully choreographed to look absentminded but are not in fact absent of mind, as it were. When I fall to my knees and crawl under the old desk, knocking over the test tubes on top (not breaking them) and emerge the other side on my knees, with a befuddled look straight to the audience, I really cant hear the music for the laughter. The walls themselves appear to be laughing. Its a wonder they dont crumble and fall down. Nothing would surprise me now.
I am truly dancing deaf, doing my best from memory to shuffle here, stumble there, pausing with a troubled frown, trying to recall my last genius inspiration (tricky), all without clear musical cues, and feeling genuinely befuddled, which probably adds to the humour of the performance. But the audience has got the serious giggles now and cant stop whatever I do. I could probably do a strip tease and they’d carry on laughing. Perhaps thats not a good example. I am just about biting my tongue off trying to keep a straight face, as even the worry about having lost the music is not enough to make my situation seem anything but hilarious.
Somehow I make my way to the end of the dance that is marked, not by the last note of music, but by the applause that erupts over the top of the laughter that doesnt stop. I stop when I hear it and stand to face the audience, trying to stay in character with a genuinely befuddled look on my face. It is customary to curtsey at the end of your dance – if you’re a girl. I just remember in time that today I am not a girl but an old man and should bow instead, which I do with my head at an absentminded angle, which produces more laughter and applause.
Finally, I shuffle off stage into the safety of the wings with some relief, as the laughter and applause continues behind me. ‘That was brilliant!’ the girls backstage say to me, practically pushing me back on stage to take a second bow. I shuffle back on, genuinely dazed, wondering if the world has gone a little bit crazy. Nobody ever takes a second bow in an eisteddfod and your competitors never tell you ‘that was brilliant’…

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Sometimes when I commit to reading an early readers copy, I don't always pay much attention to the blurb and this is one such time. This amusing memoir by Sacha Jones is such a refreshing change of pace from the books I normally read, which sent me on a surprisingly nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Ms Jones writing style is witty as she takes us on a journey during the highs and lows of her childhood in suburban Sydney, Australia. She recalls humorous incidents, backed up with hilarious dialogue along with some not so fun reminders of growing up during the late 60's, 70's and early 80's. As a similar aged Brit, who grew in UK, I wasn't expecting to recall any memories similar to the author's, yet we share some rather surprising coincidences in our lives despite growing up at the opposite side to the world. It was so easy to identify with what she experienced...the emotions of growing up, some heartfelt and some heartbreaking. Also triggers which reawakened dormant memories long buried away...Romper Room, pink Nesquik...!

This is definitely a book you just need to read! I don't want to give too much away and inadvertently reveal spoilers. What I can say is The Grass Was Always Browner is a wonderful reminder of times gone by or a delightful incite about the era for the younger reader whether you live in Australia, UK or beyond.

***arc generously received courtesy of Finch Publishing via Tasty Book Tours***

Sacha Jones has a PhD in Political Theory from the University of Auckland and has variously taught politics, preschool and dancing. She lives with her family on the outskirts of a proper forest (in Auckland, New Zealand) and returns as often as it will have her to the land of fake forests and improbable fruits where she grew up (Frenchs Forest, Sydney).

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Spotlight: Guardian Of Paradise by W.E. Lawrence

Guardian of Paradise, by W. E. Lawrence, is a historical romance novel filled with action and adventure. It was published in October 2014 and is available for sale on Amazon.

In 1888, Kira Wall, surviving daughter of missionaries swept away in a tsunami, lives a primitive, but enjoyable life with natives on an isolated island in the South Pacific. But her serene world is turned upside down when an Australian merchant ship, commanded by the sinister Captain Darcy Coleman, arrives with an overabundance of modern and lavish goods. Kira suspects ill intent. Chief Ariki refuses to listen to Kira’s warning, forcing her to uncover the real plan of the captain on her own. Unfortunately, she has a distraction. A six-foot tall, blond, and handsome distraction. Trevor Marshall, doctor and botanist, hopes to find exotic plants on the island to research new cures and medicines. He is dedicated to science, but when meeting the strong-willed, beautiful Kira Wall, he’d prefer to spend time researching her—all night.

The captain thwarts Kira’s attempts to call him out at every step, turning the village chief against her. With only Trevor and her best friend Malana by her side, she stalks the captain and his officers through the dense, predator infested jungle, toward the island’s inactive volcano. Frustrated by her failure to reveal the captain’s true intentions, Kira begins to think maybe she’s wrong about everything. Then an explosion and earthquake bigger than anyone on the island has ever seen renews her resolve. Was the blast natural or man-made? She is determined to prove it was the captain’s doing. Kira races against time and the island people’s naivety to stop the captain from destroying her home and killing everyone she loves.

Praise for Guardian of Paradise:

Lawrence blends romance, action, and beautiful scenery into an alluring concoction.” – Kirkus Reviews

There's mystery, intrigue, danger, romance; everything you could want in a story. This is definitely a book, and author, that deserves more attention.” – Charli Denae

Reading this book is a great escape and will not let you down.” – Susan Scarcella

This book was so good! It had a very sweet romance, but it also had a great, adventurous plot that pulled me in, and had me dying to find out what would happen next. I read the whole book in one day.“ – Jessica Hatfield

Chapter 1

South Pacific island of Alofa, two days sail northeast of Sydney, Australia 1888

Kira’s heart leapt to her throat as the blare of the lookout’s conch horn shattered the tranquil morning. Startled blue and red lories sprang, squawking from the palm trees, their wings thrumming the air as they fled. Macaque monkeys jumped limb to limb, screeching and chattering from their jungle perches. Another blast of the trumpet sent even the fiddler crabs on the beach scurrying for the safety of their holes.
She glanced to the cliff overhead, dropped her fishing net, and rushed up the sandy path toward the island’s observation post. The rest of the villagers would be taking cover until the men determined the extent of the threat. With her pulse pounding and her feet working to find traction on the steep, winding grade, images of pirates raiding the village flashed through her mind. The horror of women and children screaming while their men fought to protect them with only spears and clubs sent the chill of danger up her spine.
When she reached the large flat rock high above the harbor, she found the stocky form of Kupe, the tribal chief’s son, standing with hands on hips, his black Polynesian eyes fixed on the bay. Wearing only a pair of worn, light-colored pants, extending mid-calf and a cloth headband to hold back his wiry dark hair, he remained still.
“What is it, Kupe?”
“Ah big ship is com’n in tee harbor,” he answered without turning.
“A large ship is coming into the harbor,” she corrected. She squinted into the morning glare of the sun. “Are they pirates?”
She studied the movements of the enormous shiny wood boat with three tall masts. Two wide painted stripes, one cream at the waterline and one black just above, encircled the ship. A complicated system of shroud rigging hung like webbing from the cross spars down to the deck rails.
“I do not think so. Ship is too big,” answered Kupe. “Tey have dropped their sails. Tey come in slow. Not hurry.”
She lifted her hand to shade her eyes. Men lined the ship’s bow, all clothed in the same white bell bottom pants and loose-fitting gray striped shirts. Peering into the clear water, they tried to determine the depth of the harbor.
“They fly the Australian flag and take their time. Pirates not tat careful.”
Kira spotted the dark blue fabric flapping in the breeze above the quarterdeck; the British Southern Cross embroidered in the upper left corner. Her heart sank. “If they’re who I think they are, they might as well be pirates. In fact, it would probably be better if they were.”
Kupe turned his head and gave her his big brother-like stare. She and Kupe were not related, in fact, Kira was originally from Australia. Still they shared the same competitive bond of siblings. “What are you talk’n about, Kira?”
“I’m afraid it’s one of those merchant ships from Sydney. They’ve come to trade.”
“Tat would be good news. Tey have come to trade goods for our crops.”
She fought the sour feeling in the pit of her stomach. “If we let them, they will take a lot more than we have to give.”
Kupe’s eyes narrowed. “Our crops are plentiful. There is more than enough to trade.”
“You don’t understand. We have to be careful. Most of these merchants are selfish and greedy. They’ll take advantage of our people.”
The corner of his mouth turned up in the hint of a smile. “Tey will not be that bad.”
“They will be, if we let them. What’s even worse, they think nothing of tramping our fields while they’re gathering the fruit, leaving them scarred.”
He shook his head. “You always think tee worst.”
She glared sideways. “I know what I’m talking about. My parents warned me of these kinds of people. I’ve seen for myself what they have done. I was young, but I saw the damage they cause.”
He turned his gaze back to the ship. “We can take care of ourselves.”
Kira grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him forcing him to look her in the eyes. “Listen to me. If this were a ship of raiders, I know our men would protect us. But this is different. Worst of all, the more merchants who find out about us, the more outsiders will come. Our home will never be the same and we have nowhere else to go.”
He shrugged free of her grasp. His large flat nostrils flared. “You make no sense. Tradors have come here before. Our people have pleasure in their visits. It has been a long time since tee last merchants came.”
She dropped her arms. “It hasn’t been long enough.”
Glancing down, Kupe held out his hands. “Look at my pants. Tat is how long it has been. I hope tey brought new ones.”
Though he had a strong build, his round brownish-tan belly threatened to burst the tattered breeches. Everything about Kupe was big; his head, body, even legs. They matched his huge heart and his consuming desire to provide for his people. Kupe being the future ruler of the tribe, Kira only feared for his overtrusting nature and inability to perceive a disguised threat.
Looking at his worn pants, she would have laughed if she weren’t so angry. “You just don’t see the danger.”
Kupe set his jaw. “Enough, as long as the outsidors show us tey mean no harm, tey will be treated as guests. We will welcome them.”
“I said enough. We must call off the warning and greet our visitors before I tell Chief Ariki they have come. He will want to prepare to meet their leadors.”
She smirked. “Your father is also too trusting of strangers.”
Kupe shook his head again. “Our people had visitors long before you came… good and bad. You should have more faith in people.” He turned down the path toward the harbor beach, then stopped and looked over his shoulder. “Are you com’n?”
She picked up a stone and with a loud grunt, hurled it over the cliff. “Yes, I’m coming.”

W. E. Lawrence graduated in 1978 from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with a BS in business administration. He has run a successful home health care supplies distributorship for the past twenty-three years.

Passionate about God, writing, reading, family, sports, politics, and America, Lawrence currently lives in Davidson, North Carolina, with his lovely wife and their two wonderful children.

W. E. Lawrence enjoys writing historical romance novels filled with action and adventure. He published his debut novel Guardian of Paradise in October 2014.

Readers can connect with W. E. Lawrence on