RSS

Monthly Archives: June 2014

Thursday Threads Spotlight on Cold Ambition!

Today’s featured novel is my debut, Cold Ambition, available now on Amazon!

ColdAmbition400

Title: “Cold Ambition” (Jordan James, PI series)
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Heat Level: Sweet
Buy Link: http://www.amzn.com/B00L2OLQPG/

Blurb:

“It was my life-long dream to become a private eye. Little did I know that with my very first case, that dream would become a life-threatening nightmare…”

When Jordan James decided to embark on a career as a private investigator, she never could have imagined that a chance encounter would lead to her staring down the barrel of a gun on the roof’s edge of a high-rise building. As she begins to investigate her first case, the puzzling murder of a prominent businessman that has left Boston’s finest mystified for more than two decades, she finds herself suddenly immersed in a treacherous underworld brimming with betrayal, raw greed, and political subterfuge of international proportions. In the midst of this, she discovers she is falling for her mysterious client despite the hints of his dark past. Can this feisty Southern girl with a penchant for trouble solve this baffling case or is she doomed to become another tragic chapter in an international conspiracy?

Excerpt:

We sat there in silence and heard Ace stumble towards the door and fumble with the lock.
“Yeah?”
“Is Jordan James here?” a muffled voice inquired. I strained to hear, but the distance between the rooms and the closed door made it nearly impossible.
“Who?” Ace laughed. Suddenly, there was a strange sound. It sounded like a firecracker had gone off. This sound was followed by a loud thud which echoed through the apartment. In an instant, Rick and I were on our feet. Rick turned off the light and grabbed the tape from the VCR. I searched the room vainly for a place to hide. Outside the room, I heard shoes echoing on the floor and the sound of doors being opened. Before I had another moment to think, Rick grabbed me and practically carried me to the far corner of the room by the soundboard. Next to the soundboard was a thin wall covered in soundproof foam. Three of the walls had this soundproof foam but the wall contiguous with the door did not. It appeared Ace was still installing it. He pulled it back to reveal a small closet- sized room.
He brought me inside and replaced the wall, closing us in. We huddled together in the corner. Looking around I realized that this was the room in which Ace occasionally recorded. Suddenly, faintly, I heard the door to the media room open. I heard footsteps making their way around the room. After what seemed like an eternity, the intruder spoke.
“She’s not here,” the muffled voice stated. “Yes, she came into the building with Michaels’ kid. No, they can’t be far. Don’t worry. We know where their car is parked.
If not before, we’ll get them when they go back for it.”

Links:
http://www.rachelsharpe.com
http://www.facebook.com/authorrachelsharpe
http://www.twitter.com/RachelCSharpe

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 26, 2014 in Thursday Thread

 

Thursday Thread with author Meggan Connors!

Today’s featured author is Meggan Connors, who has written the novel, Highland Deception.

HighlandDeception2_850

Title: Highland Deception
Heat Rating: Sensual
Genre: Historical Romance
Buy It Now!

Blurb:

When Kenneth Mackay, long-banished rogue and thief, returns to the Mackay holding at the request of his brother, he has no idea what he might find. He certainly doesn’t expect to be confronted with his twin’s imminent death, or with the plan his brother has concocted.
Ten years before, Malcolm made a tragic mistake, and, to preserve the family name—and his own skin—he allowed Kenneth to take the fall. Now that he is dying without an heir, Malcolm plans to atone for his mistake: by giving Kenneth his life back. All Kenneth has to do is assume his brother’s identity. But complicating matters is the unexpected return of Lady Isobel Mackay, the daughter of an English marquess and the wife Malcolm didn’t want.
Isobel barely knows the husband who abandoned her even before their marriage, and she’d long since given up hope on having a real marriage with him. Yet when she returns to the Mackay holding far earlier than expected, she finds her husband a changed man. Despite the hurt between them, Isobel’s heart responds to this man who cares for his entire clan as if there were family. Who, for the first time, cares about her as if she is, too.
Falling in love with her husband had never been part of Isobel’s plan. But when their future is suddenly in peril, Isobel must find a way to save him—from himself and from the deception threatening to tear them apart.

Excerpt

She ignored Grant’s angry protests behind her and ran for her husband’s bedchamber. Slamming open the door, she stumbled inside.
Malcolm lay in the great bed. Alone.
Alone. She tried not to speculate about what meant.
His breathing was shallow, as if he’d been running. As the door bounced back and closed, his sky-bright eyes shot up and met hers.
No, not sky-bright. Darker, the color of the forget-me-nots that bloomed in the gardens in spring. The color of the night sky as it lightened with the first rays of dawn.
“Milord.” She gasped for breath.
Malcolm had never looked at her like he did now. This time, when he studied her, it was as if he didn’t dislike what he saw.
Being honest with herself, Malcolm had never disliked her. After all, the term dislike implied a depth of feeling he almost certainly lacked.
“Wife.”
Isobel flinched.
Grant was suddenly at her back. “Sir, I apologize. She’s faster than you’d think.” He laid a hand on her shoulder, as if to steer her from the room.
She shook him off.
“Indeed.” Malcolm smiled, and a charming dent in his cheek appeared.
How had she not noticed that before?
“We will leave at once.” Grant took her by the arm.
She wrenched out of his grasp. “I’m not going anywhere. Not until I have my audience.” She glanced around the room and saw no sign of Malcolm’s mistress.
“Lady Mackay,” Grant began.
Malcolm held up his hand. “‘Tis fine, Grant. I can always make time for my lady wife.”
Isobel barked a hollow laugh, alleviating the ache, just a little.
“Are you certain?” Grant’s eyes shifted from Isobel to Malcolm and back again. A wrinkle formed between his brows, and the muscle in his cheek worked as he ground his teeth together.
He’d only ever done that when he was agitated or anxious.
But there was no reason for that, as Malcolm had never truly cared enough to keep secrets from her in an attempt to spare her feelings. Nor had he ever forced others to do the same.
Malcolm’s eyes met Grant’s, and something passed between the two men. Her husband gave Grant a clipped nod. “If you’ll excuse us, Grant.”
Grant released his breath slowly. His eyes narrowed first at Malcolm, then at Isobel. Scowling, he bowed his head. “Mackay,” he said stiffly. He turned to Isobel. “Lady Mackay.”
Isobel watched him go then waited until the door had closed behind him. “So, where is she?”
Malcolm arched a dark brow. “Where is who?”
“You know. Her.”
He lifted a single shoulder, as if she didn’t have a right to know. “I doona ken.”
The silence that fell between them was deafening, damning.
Finally he said, “Your arrival was unexpected.”
She breathed a mirthless laugh. “I have no doubt.” She expected him to look ashamed, but his expression didn’t hold even the slightest hint of remorse. She swallowed against the betrayal rising in the back of her throat and tried again. “Why are you abed?”
“I’ve been ailing. Naught to fash yourself over.”
She approached his great bed tentatively. “Ailing how? Has your cough worsened?”
He glanced down at his coverlet and then brought his gaze back to her face. “For a time, aye. I believe I’m on the mend now.”
Isobel pressed her hand to his forehead, then his cheek. His skin felt cool beneath her palm, if a little damp.
His breath hitched, then he cleared his throat. “Satisfied? As you can see, I am on the mend.”
“Perhaps,” she whispered. She ran her hand around to the back of his neck, then descended to his back.
He wore a thin linen shirt, unsuitable for the cool nights of the Highlands in late fall. She placed her hands between his shoulder blades. He was thinner than she remembered, but there was no mistaking Malcolm’s unique strength.
“Breathe,” she said, and then reminded herself to do the same.
Malcolm.
“I hardly think—”
“If you want me to leave you be, you will appease my curiosity. Breathe.”
Malcolm tilted his head up and studied her.
She fought the desire to look at him for as long as she could before meeting his gaze. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw something in his eyes she hadn’t seen before.
Curiosity.
“Breathe, milord.” Heat spread up her neck to her face, and, to keep her free hand from shaking, she clenched a fist. The warmth of his body seeped through his nightshirt, scalding her hand not with fever but with something else.
The corners of his lips tilted upward before he smoothed his features. He paused for a moment too long, then held her gaze as he took an extended, deliberate breath.
She shoved the raging emotions aside and forced herself to view him as a person who needed her help.
She felt no hint of the cough that had been nagging him before she’d left.
Swallowing hard, she slid her hand between the linen and his skin, against his chest.
His heart rate kicked up.
“Breathe.” She struggled to force the word out.
I feel nothing. Nothing. He needs my help.
She closed her eyes and listened to his breathing, feeling the rise and fall of his chest beneath her hands, the steady beating of his heart. His skin scorched hers.
Her mouth dried, her tongue thick and heavy. She removed her hand. “You seem to have mended nicely.” Even to her own ears, her voice sounded strangled.
His gaze searched her face. “Aye.”
Isobel cradled her hand against her chest and stepped back from the bed, nearly tripping over her own feet. “I will leave you now, sir.”
Malcolm gave her a clipped nod. “Very well, my lady wife.”
“I—I will be in my chambers should you require me.”
He didn’t laugh, as he normally would have. “Then I shall find you there if I do. Or I will send for you.”
She backed up a few paces, bumped into a trunk, and immediately turned her attention to her skirt, trying to smooth wrinkles undoubtedly permanent from long days of travel. It was better than looking at Malcolm.
“By your leave.” Her eyes locked on the floor as she dipped into a hasty curtsy and fled.
The moment the door closed behind her, she put her back against the cold, stone wall, cradling the hand that had touched him as if she had injured it.
She’d touched his skin, felt the heat of his body, and the responding heat of hers.
He hadn’t forced her hands away. He hadn’t mocked her.
Instead, for the first time since their marriage, he’d called her wife.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Thursday Thread

 

COLD AMBITION: The Making of a P.I.

It is said that people write what they know. Based on my own personal experiences, I would venture to say this old adage is true. Jordan James, the main character of Cold Ambition, the first book in the Jordan James, PI series, did not appear out of thin air. She did not come to me in a prophetic dream. She came, instead, from life experiences.

ColdAmbition400

I’ve often said that Jordan lives the life I might have led had my own life taken a different turn. I say this because there are many similarities between Jordan and myself. We’re both from New Orleans, love New England, are so fiercely independent that this trait has been, on occasion, mistaken for stubbornness (although I personally don’t see it), and dreamed, at one time, of becoming a private eye, thanks in large part to the ’80s hit show, Magnum, PI.

While there are many similarities between us, there are also many differences. These differences exist because Jordan James is not me. In fact, she is not even the same girl she was when I first began writing this novel. She is, in my opinion, far better.

As the story has progressed, she has transformed from a simple character on paper to a strong, independent woman determined to make it on her own while following a life-long dream. I look forward to readers getting to know Jordan as she begins this new journey, a journey filled with fun, excitement, and many, many new life experiences.

“COLD AMBITION” Excerpt

My name is Jordan James, and I am a twenty-four- year-old woman. I just wanted to get that straight from the beginning. I am well aware that Jordan is commonly a boy’s name, but for some reason my parents decided that a normal name like Melissa or Amanda would not suit me. Regardless, my name has not caused me any trouble since an unfortunate teasing incident in the third grade. In fact, it has been quite useful in my line of work. But again, I digress.

I’m originally from a suburb of New Orleans but moved to the Northeast to attend Brown University. I spent four fabulous years in Providence and graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in psychology. Like most bright- eyed, eager graduates, I assumed jobs would be thrown at me as soon as I was handed my diploma. I assumed that I could take my pick. The world was my oyster. To make a long story short, my ideas and reality did not match. After several frustrating months of searching, I decided to move to Boston. I thought this city would provide me with all of the wonderful opportunities I had been unable to find in Providence. When it didn’t, I settled and took a job as a waitress at a small Italian restaurant along the Freedom Trail near the Old North Church to make ends meet. It wasn’t a bad job; the tips were good, and the owners were wonderful. In fact, they became quasi-parents to me when I didn’t know anyone else in Boston, but I wasn’t satisfied. This job wasn’t what I had spent four grueling years studying for.

After work each evening, I went home to my one- bedroom apartment on Sewall Avenue, counted my tips, and then spent many hours searching online for different career opportunities that might be available to someone with my credentials. Unfortunately, I had already looked into most of them and during an economic crisis, good jobs can be hard to attain. I started saving religiously and continued the search for my dream job.

After I saved up a decent amount of money and recruited the reluctant help of my parents, I decided to go into business for myself. What career did I decide on? What job could possibly stimulate me intellectually and help me provide for myself in a manner that I could finally be on my own, both physically and fiscally? Private investigation. Yes, I decided to set up shop as a P.I. Now, one might wonder, what could have possibly led me to believe that I could make it as a P.I.? Another valid question is: why did I want to become one in the first place? The answer to both questions can be summed up in one word: Magnum. I grew up watching re-runs of the classic 1980’s show and was enthralled by both his career and his lifestyle. It was exciting and thrilling. He lived in Hawaii, drove a Ferrari that he didn’t own, and lived on an expansive oceanfront estate free of charge. Who wouldn’t want a life like that? With the black belt in Tae Kwon Do that I had earned in college, I felt more than prepared to take on a potentially dangerous job. However, even with my black belt and my education, my choice of career received less than enthusiastic responses.

“No one is going to hire a woman to investigate anything,” my father stated when I called him with the news.

“Oh, that is such a dangerous job. You could be killed! What’s wrong with the restaurant? In fact, what’s wrong with moving back home?” my mother inquired. I must admit I shuddered at the thought.

“A private eye? Good luck with that one,” scoffed my older sister, Alicia, the pediatric neurosurgeon. She had graduated from an in-state university and set up her practice within thirty miles of my parents’ residence. She was always the good one.

Despite the negative feedback, I decided to forge my new life in the home of our country’s forefathers, where liberty was conceived and it was decided that freedom was considered worth dying for. Unfortunately, the cost of living had gone up substantially since Paul Revere had galloped into history with his famous midnight ride. Finding a reasonable apartment in an area that didn’t have the police on speed dial was difficult. Finding an office that didn’t put my unborn children into debt would be a miracle.

I learned, however, that perseverance pays off. My landlord owned an office building near Fenway Park with a tiny, unrentable office. It was smaller than all of the other offices in the building and, therefore, considered undesirable. I investigated this situation and found out that my landlord had been unable to rent it for over a year and a half. This was the perfect opportunity for me to put that minor in communications to work. Although it took nearly a month, I was able to logically convince Mr. Chambers that if he were to rent the office to me at five-eighths the normal price for six months, it would be beneficial to us both. Eventually, he saw it my way. He says it was actually because I nearly drove him to jump into the Charles River because of my incessant nagging. I like to believe it was due to my keen negotiating skills.

So, on November 3, nearly a year and a half after graduating, I unlocked the door to my office, turned on the light, and smiled at the black letters freshly inked to the opaque glass in my door—Jordan James, P.I. Now all that I needed were clients. As fate would have it, someone was looking for a P.I., someone whose case would affect not only my career but my very existence.

Available Now on Amazon!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 18, 2014 in Reflections

 

Thursday Thread with Author Linda Bennett Pennell!

Today’s featured author is Linda Bennett Pennell, who has written the novel, Confederado do Norte.

1136704_orig

Title: Confederado do Norte by Linda Bennett Pennell
Genre: Women’s Historical Fiction due for Release July, 2014

Other Books:

Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel now available from Soul Mate Publishing

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

Website: http://www.lindapennell.com/

Twitter: @LindaPennell

Back Cover Description for Confederado do Norte:

October, 1866.
Mary Catherine is devastated when her family immigrates from Georgia to Brazil because her father and maternal uncle refuse to accept the terms of Reconstruction following the Confederacy’s defeat. Shortly after arrival in their new country, she is orphaned, leaving her in Uncle Nathan’s care. He hates Mary Catherine, blaming her for his sister’s death. She despises him because she believes Nathan murdered her father. When Mary Catherine discovers Nathan’s plan to be rid of her as well, she flees into the wilderness filled with jaguars and equally dangerous men. Finding refuge among kind peasants, she grows into a beauty, ultimately marrying the scion of a wealthy Portuguese family. Happiness and security seem assured until civil unrest brings armed marauders who have an inexplicable connection to Mary Catherine. Recreating herself has protected Mary Catherine in the past, but the latest crisis will demand all of the courage, intelligence, and creativity she posseses simply to survive.

Excerpt from Confederado do Norte

Chapter 1

I dreamt the dream again last night. In the small hours, I awoke in a tumble of bedclothes and bathed in perspiration despite the howling snowstorm blanketing the city. I rearranged quilts and plumped pillows, but sleep remained elusive. My mind refused to be quiet.
As often happens after such a night, I felt unable to rise at my usual hour and remained abed long after the maids cleared breakfast from the morning room. My daughter-in-law, bless her heart, meant well. I told her it was ridiculous to bring the doctor out on such a frigid day, but apparently the very old, like the very young, are not to be trusted in matters of judgment. After the doctor listened to my chest, a studied sympathy filled his eyes and he gently suggested that perhaps I should get my affairs in order. No doubt he wondered at my smile for he couldn’t have known I have no affairs other than my memories and the emotions they engender.
Unlike most elderly persons, I don’t revel in slogging through the past. It isn’t wrapped in pretty ribbons or surrounded by a golden aura. Instead, its voices haunt my dreams, demanding and accusatory. Until recently, I’ve resisted their intrusion into my waking life, but I now believe the past can no longer remain buried in nocturnal visions. It must be brought out into the light of day. From its earliest moments onward, the past’s substance must be gouged out, pulled apart, and examined bit by bit until its truth is exposed. While total objectivity may not be possible, I have concluded that committing the past to paper is my best hope for sorting facts from imaginings. Perhaps then I will achieve the peace that has so long hidden its face from me.
You see, when I was quite young—only a girl really—I killed four people. Two were dearly beloved, one was a hated enemy, and the last was a dangerous criminal.

Chapter 2

My story begins at the end of a terrible war, one that destroyed many lives and much property. But for that war and a handful of newspaper editorials and advertisements, my life would have turned out quite differently. Sometimes it seems no time at all has passed since I was a nine-year-old child standing on the deck of a ship watching home disappear over the horizon.
Warm Gulf breezes tugged at the brim of my bonnet, setting its ribbons dancing. Leaning over the Alyssa Jane’s railing, I stared back in the direction of Mobile Bay and pretended I could see the dock where my beloved Bess stood, probably still waving. Mama, her pretty features marred by a furrowed brow and down turned mouth, paced beside me.
“Mary Catherine MacDonald! Get down before you fall overboard. All we need right now is another crisis. And stop wiping your nose on your sleeve.”
Mama didn’t seem to understand anything anymore. Before we left home, she was calm and kind. Afterward, she snapped at the least little thing. I threw her a hateful glance, but she had already turned away, so I stubbornly leaned a little farther out over the railing. The wake trailing behind the Alyssa Jane looked like a blue-green path lined on either side by mounds of ginned cotton, a path pushing me away from the only life I had ever known. Only my sniveling broke the silence of that October morning.
A swish of crinolines brought Mama beside me. She grabbed my arm and whispered through clenched teeth, “Mary C., I told you to get off that railing. Go below and stay there until you can do as you’re told!”
I stomped across the deck, pausing once beside the mainmast to scowl over my shoulder. It was all so unfair. I hadn’t asked to be dragged along on this blasted trip. I wanted Bess. I wanted to go home, no matter how damaged it was, no matter who ran the stupid government. I wanted to be anywhere but here. But Mama turned away from me. She wasn’t even going to watch to see that I did what she said. Her indifference was like a slap in the face.
As I jumped through the open hatch leading below deck, the pungent odor of pine tar mixed with burning kerosene assailed my senses. I hated the smell. Besides making me slightly queasy, it reminded me of how final my losses were. Nothing at home smelled like the interior of that old tub. I hit the steps at a near run with plans to fling myself into my hammock and stay there forever. It would serve them right if I just upped and died. I bowled along toward the sleeping area blinded by tears and the sudden gloom of the narrow passageway.
Without warning, I crashed headlong into a pair of wool-encased legs. The trousers’ owner and I struggled momentarily in an awkward dance. With a standoff in the making, he harrumphed once, picked me up by my arms, deposited me on the other side of him, and stepped toward the hatch.
Tears forgotten, I tugged on his retreating coattails, ready to let him see my displeasure. Hooded eyes with ink black irises stared down in return. He didn’t look particularly angry, but authority hung about him like a mantle.
I swallowed, choked back what I intended to say, and instead muttered, “I’m sorry for running into you.”
He gazed at me for a moment and then simply nodded before turning away. The Reverend Jonas Williams might be a man of God, but his unsmiling countenance raised the hair at the nape of my neck as though someone stepped on my grave. Mama often fussed that Bess planted too many of her superstitions in my fertile imagination. I was now old enough to understand that some of what Mama said was true. But the Reverend Brother Williams still affected me like a haint. A slight shudder slithered down my spine, as though my body was trying to rid itself of his effect. I turned and fled down the hallway toward our sleeping quarters. Many months later, I would come to see this encounter as an omen, a foreshadowing of all that came afterward.
We passengers, immigrants one and all fleeing the defeated South, slept in a large open area that most likely was used as a cargo hold in the Alyssa Jane’s younger, more prosperous days. Most of the canvas partitions separating the fifteen or so families from one another had been drawn back in hope of allowing fresh sea breezes from the few portholes to circulate. Unfortunately, the plan wasn’t meeting with much success for the air remained stale and fetid with the odors of sweat and bodily functions.
I slumped on the edge of my hammock and kicked at the floorboards, allowing tears to drip from my chin unabated. Life wasn’t at all how it was supposed to be. It hadn’t been since the day Papa rode away to war. He looked so handsome in his gray captain’s uniform. He sat on his favorite stallion at the head of his unit and rode toward a conflict that everybody said would be over by Christmas. Everybody had been terribly wrong.
My ruminations, while sad and haunted, didn’t last long, for my mind turned to more immediate indignities and irritations. I hated staying below deck. I hated the stench. I hated the isolation. I hated the boredom. When I figured enough time had elapsed that it was safe to go above again, I bolted back into the fresh air. Mama now leaned on the stern railing, her gaze fixed on the faint line where the sky’s lighter blue met the Gulf of Mexico’s deep azure. She sniffed once as I approached and turned unusually bright eyes on me.
“Are you feeling better, child?”
When I nodded, she gripped the railing and resumed her observation of the horizon slipping away behind the Alyssa Jane. I eyed her for a moment, before sidling up beside her.
“Mama, why couldn’t Bess come with us?”
Her arm slipped around my shoulders and gave a little squeeze. “Why, darlin’, you’ve been told at least a thousand times. Bess has got to stay in Georgia.”
I jerked away from Mama’s grasp. “That’s not fair! She’s part of our family.”
A pained expression filled her eyes and her lips parted, but no words escaped. Her head lifted slightly and her gaze locked onto the space behind me.
“Mary Catherine MacDonald, you will not raise your voice to your mother.” Mama drew a quick breath as Papa strode to her and took her hand. His attention then returned to me. “No slave has ever been part of our family. It’s unthinkable! Furthermore, Brazil doesn’t allow slaves to be imported anymore. ” The more he spoke, the harder his voice sounded and the more clouded his face became. He concluded with sharper words than I had ever heard him use before. “So stop whining about that nigger mammy of yours and learn to live without her.”
Surprise made me momentarily mute, but my heart pounded and the sun was suddenly much hotter on my upturned face. I drew a couple of rapid breaths so hard that my cheeks puffed in and out. “Bess is too part of our family. I love her and she loves me. You love her too, don’t you Mama?”
A rosy flush crept over Mama’s face and her gaze darted around at the other people on deck. I ignored the warning in her eyes. “Bess took care of me all my life. That makes her part of our family.” Heady with righteous indignation, my eyes narrowed and I delivered my coup de grace. Jabbing an index finger in Papa’s direction, I yelled, “And besides, Bess isn’t a slave anymore and you damn well know it.”
My words rang across a suddenly silent deck. People turned from their own conversations, shook their heads and stared at us. The only sound I could hear was the blood thumping against my eardrums.
Papa’s face blanched. He stooped down until his eyes were level with mine and gripped my upper arms, nearly lifting me from the deck. My head snapped back and forth while he hissed, “You will not speak to anyone, most especially your mother or me, in that manner. Do you understand?” My hands went numb as his grasp tightened. “Now, stop your crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
Only when he stopped speaking did I notice tears streamed down my cheeks.
As we swayed in silence on the Alyssa Jane’s deck, Papa’s grip slackened and the fire in his eyes burned less brightly. “Besides, your aunts need Bess to cook and clean their house in town. At least that’s one thing that escaped Sherman’s destruction.”
Papa got a far off look in his eyes. His hands released me and dropped to his side as he straightened to his full height.
I knew better than to speak again. Spying a cargo box lashed to a railing on the main deck, I slunk down the steps and made my way to it. I wanted to stay up top rather than breathe the stale air below decks, but I also couldn’t bear being near my parents at that moment.
Papa’s present personality still caught me off guard. Before the war, he rarely raised his voice or hand to me. In truth, I was rather spoiled and cossetted. I begged for pretty dresses and china faced dolls by the dozens. Sometimes, I actually got them too. Now, we were on a ship bound for a place where they didn’t even speak English just because some stupid newspaper advertisements promised defeated Southerners free land. All I wanted was to go home, to have life the way it used to be.
Home. The way it used to be before Papa and Nathan decided they would not endure Yankees and carpetbaggers, our former enemies, being in charge of everything.
I was only five when the War Between the States began. Our old way of life now seemed like a gauzy dream—pleasant upon waking, but dissipating when you reached out to grasp it. Afraid of losing the last tenuous hold on that dream, I invented a little ritual, hoping it would glue fading images to the pages of my memory. Now that Papa and my mother’s only surviving brother were dragging us away from Georgia never to return, the ritual’s importance had taken on the stature of an obsession. I closed my eyes and once again conjured up my earliest memories.
In my mind’s eye, I looked down on the Oconee River from the deep porch of an unpainted dogtrot farmhouse. Cotton fields that came right up to the house stretched out as far as I could see in every direction on our side of the river. The house and the farm wouldn’t have been terribly grand by most people’s lights, but it was home and, therefore, my whole world. The clapboard house and outbuildings existed only in shadowy visions after the war. While I retained only a few hazy memories of the farm, one stands out clearly. It is of Mama’s favorite rose bush to which I did some considerable damage one spring by picking off all the buds before they even broke color and for which I received the first spanking of my life.
A few other people lived on the farm in tiny houses out back of the barn. They were the colored slaves, most of whom worked in the fields, but of their faces, it was only Bess’s that mattered to me. My Bess, who lived in the house, and who took care of me, and whom I loved as much as I did my mother.
My clearest memories of my parents before the war were that Papa spent his days with the field hands and that Mama loved music. Beautiful music filled the house when she played her pianoforte. Sometimes when Bess brought me into the parlor to say goodnight, Papa would be sitting beside Mama, kissing her neck as she played and she would be smiling at him in the special way she reserved only for him. I think they must have been very happy. They laughed a lot back then. Then, the war came. Nobody and nothing was ever the same again.
Papa had come back from the war haunted by what he had seen and the losses he had endured. For a time, we thought he had permanently lost his mind. These days, it didn’t take much to rile him. Mama said not to mind, that he just had so many worries it made him harder to live with than before. Even so, I still couldn’t understand why he spoke so cruelly about Bess of whom he’d always been so fond. My papa’s sunny nature was the most important thing destroyed by the war.
As the days under sail passed into weeks and America became nothing but a memory, Papa’s disposition evolved. To everyone’s relief he seemed more like his old prewar self. The farther we traveled, the more his mood lifted so by the time we docked in Jamaica to take on supplies, his good days outnumbered the bad. I even saw him and Mama kissing under the stars one night when they thought no one else was on deck.
The Alyssa Jane was an old clipper fallen on hard times, reduced to ferrying passengers and commodities along the trade routes extending from ports in the southern United States to destinations in the other Americas. Its confined space provided limited opportunities for me to get into trouble, so I was allowed unaccustomed freedom. The morning we sailed toward Kingston Harbor, I hung over the portside railing from the moment the city’s outline came into view.
Footsteps running up behind caused me to turn and I lost my balance. Papa grabbed a handful of my skirts. “Mary Catherine, you’re going to topple into the water if you keep this up. Get off that railing and put your feet squarely on the deck or you can go below and stay there.”
Instant compliance and a sweet smile seemed to go a long way these days, so I did as I was told. I didn’t want this new/old version of my papa to disappear again.
We passed through Kingston Harbor’s narrow mouth with sails snapping, pushed along by Caribbean breezes. In the distance, I could make out the familiar marks of human habitation trailing along the waterfront, but nothing in my experience had prepared me for Jamaica. Low emerald mountains surrounded an oval bowl of aquamarine water that rolled gently forward to kiss sand the color of cotton just breaking from the bole. Within minutes of entering the harbor, the city’s buildings became distinct and grew in size. A little thrill swept through me as the old clipper bumped against the dock and the sights and smells of Kingston spread out before us like a feast awaiting revelers.
“Papa, please, why cain’t I go with y’all?”
His mouth became a thin line. “Because Kingston isn’t particularly safe.” Then he placed his arm around my shoulders and pointed to the opposite side of the harbor. “Did you know that a wicked pirate city used to be right over there? An earthquake destroyed Port Royal. The whole city simply fell into the sea.” Papa grinned and his eyes grew big. “Why, I’ve heard you can see pirate ghosts rising from the water when the moonlight is just right.”
This was my old Papa, the one I hadn’t seen since war was declared. I slipped my arms around his waist. “Oh, Papa, you’re just so silly sometimes. Everybody knows there’s no such thing as ghosts.”
Papa smiled and picked me up, swinging me around like he used to when I was little. When he placed me on the deck again, I pressed my advantage.
“Please cain’t I go? Please?”
“You’re cutting me in half.” Papa pulled my arms away from his middle and smiled. “If it means that much to you, I guess it won’t hurt for you to go into town. But you absolutely must stay by your mama’s side. When she says it’s time to return to the boat, there will be no arguments. Understand?”
As I stretched up to plant a kiss on his cheek, angry shouts and the percussive report of a
pistol rang across the harbor.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 5, 2014 in Thursday Thread

 

Spotlight On…Jessica Jefferson’s Taming Miss Tisdale

Today I’m interviewing fellow Soul Mate Publishing author, Jessica Jefferson, about her novel, Taming Miss Tisdale.

TamingMissTisdale2_850

Q: How long have you been writing?

A: I’ve always been a writer. I remember my third grade Teaching Assistant asking if I’d dedicate a book to her someday. I actually went to college with every intention of pursuing writing while teaching, but of course life got in the way and my course veered slightly. A couple years ago I was reading and thought – why not? So, I took it up again.

Q: Tell us about your road to publication.

A: When I was younger, I had aspirations of writing really thoughtful, insightful critiques on the human condition. Years later after I hadn’t written that book, I figured out—I’m not that kind of writer. I like good times, fast dialogue, and romance. So, I hammered out a really bad historical and sent it out for some feedback a couple years ago. From that I made some major edits to what became my first book, which I sent off to a couple contests. It did pretty well in the Windy City RWA contest, but one of the editors from Soul Mate read my sample from a Virginia RWA contest. Funny thing is, the editor actually requested a manuscript, but for some reason I was never able to open up that judging sheet. Months later I just happened to be reading through my emails and was finally able to read the request. Soul Mate was young, but had some real talent on their roster, so I signed with them.

Q: What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

A: Soak up as much information as possible from those who are more experienced. I learn something new every day from the PAN group site, the Soul Mate author site, and my co-bloggers from the Embracing Romance website. I’m not shy asking for advice, and I welcome criticism. I think writing is a profession that requires you to check your ego at the door if you want to improve.

Blurb for Taming Miss Tisdale

Miss Tamsin Tisdale believes herself to be completely unsuitable for London life. After a myriad of social mishaps, and the potential ruination of her family name, she’s shipped away to her cousin’s northern estate. Only after she accepts the type of existence Society dictates she must follow will she be welcomed home.
Marcus Winston, the Duke of Grayson, has a lackluster reputation. The last in a dying line, he’s endured a protected life—rank with privilege, but encumbered by isolation. After a brief encounter with rebellion, he learns the devastating consequences of his carelessness and willingly accepts living life from inside his gilded cage.
However, a chance meeting with the brazen Miss Tisdale gives Marc the opportunity to reinvent himself into the man he’s always dreamed of being. But when his deception comes to light, and ghosts from both their pasts threaten to unravel the intimacy they’ve come to cherish, will either of them set their fears aside long enough to embrace love? Or will Miss Tisdale’s stubbornness divide them?

Excerpt

Marc watched the faint outline come across the dense morning fog, becoming more discernible as it approached. The tall, thin figure was riding along at a perilous speed, given the morning’s lack of visibility. He thought perhaps it was some gangly young man misguided in the fog. It wouldn’t be the first time someone accidentally stumbled upon the vast property that made up his family’s immodest estate.
Then the fog parted in an almost biblical manner, revealing his gross inaccuracy.
Were those . . . breasts?
Marc closed his eyes and thought for a moment. Typically, women didn’t ride alone at such an hour and they certainly didn’t wander unexpectedly across his property. It’d been quite a while, his last birthday to be exact, since his last intimate encounter with a woman—a gift, compliments of St. Regis—so there was always the possibility that perhaps his half-drunk, sex-starved mind had conjured up the sensual image.
He shook his head, opened his eyes, and looked back again toward the horizon.
Yes, those were most certainly breasts.
And she was most definitely not a young man. The woman’s riding habit pulled taut against her body as she raced toward him. Her hair was blowing behind her—various hues of auburn and gold, like wild flames curling about in the wind. Then a decidedly feminine voice burst through the morning’s silence, interrupting his self-doubt.
“Oh, thank goodness I found you!”
This was no mirage. She was indeed very real.
And very loud.
Marc watched, dumbfounded, as the girl—no, woman—slowed her approach. “Pardon?” he called back, certain he couldn’t possibly have heard her correctly.
“I’m so happy I’ve found you,” she repeated, nearly breathless. “Well, not you specifically, anyone really. I’ve been riding in circles for close to an hour now, and I’d just about given up all hope of finding someone when I spotted you. My cousin warned me about the altitude of these hills and how I mustn’t underestimate the density of this blasted fog. Of course, I didn’t listen and got myself thoroughly turned about. You see, I’m forever regretting not listening.”
She rode closer still and he could see her quite plainly now. She was tall and lanky, her riding habit revealing a rather trim frame. His focus quickly shifted from her slender build to her smile. It resembled nothing of the demure, timid smiles he’d become accustomed to seeing within his social circles. This smile was wide, revealing a number of straight ivory teeth, and seemed to extend to every facet of her face. Even her eyes, large and dark, appeared to be smiling.
Were they brown?
No, blue.
They were an impossibly dark shade of blue.
Then she gave her head a little shake, throwing a mass of unruly ginger curls over her shoulders, captivating him entirely.

Jessica Jefferson Picture

Jessica Jefferson makes her home in northern Indiana, or as she likes to think of it—almost Chicago. She is heavily inspired by classic sweeping, historical romance novels, but aims to take those key emotional elements and inject a fresh blend of quick dialogue and comedy. Visit her at http://www.jessicajefferson.com for more of her random romance musings.

Fall in love with romance again . . .

Links

http://www.JessicaJefferson.com and http://www.embracingromance.com
Like me at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jessica-Jefferson/545243542195152
Follow me at https://twitter.com/authorJessicaJ/
Add to your Goodreads shelf at http://tinyurl.com/mfnbyk8/
Compromising Miss Tisdale and Taming Miss Tisdale available now on Amazon!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 1, 2014 in Spotlight On