Fresh Find: Neon Hearts by Stefanie Simpson

Today, I’m so very excited to feature Stefanie Simpson and her upcoming release, NEON HEARTS. She is without a doubt one of my top romance authors of all time. Everything she writes makes me reflect on life, people, society. Her books are thinking, feeling books, couched in her insightful perspective on modern romance.

Love isn’t neat. And Stefanie Simpson’s work captures this so very well.

Pink and blue lit promo for NEON HEARTS by Stefanie Simpson. Text reads: Danger brought love, but hope? 29th March

An interview with Stefanie Simpson

JL PERIDOT: Stef, I understand your writing journey is more like an odyssey. Tell us a bit about that.

STEFANIE SIMPSON: Thank you for having me on your blog, JL! I’ve been disabled for about 20 years, but ten years ago I had a TIA. Up until then I’d been a painter as well as working full time. I had to listen to my body and change how I lived and stopped fighting it.

What happened creatively was I could no longer paint, and as I recovered, I was flooded with ideas. I think my creativity shifted from a physical visual medium to one of words. I went back to work part-time and started writing.

In 2015 my health deteriorated to the point I thought I was possibly not long for the world. I had a real impetus through that to finish and publish something to leave a record of my existence in the world.

I made every mistake possible but through the last six years, I’ve learnt a lot. My approach is that I sit with an idea, think about it almost obsessively, and work through the scenes, all in my head on repeat, then churn out a messy draft. I do endless rounds of edits from big dev to line edits. Often I’ll sit on books for several months, rotating projects depending on how I’m feeling and how well I am.

JL: Tell us a bit about your latest book.

STEFANIE: Neon Hearts is pretty special to me. Writing disabled characters, especially ones that I share a commonality with, has been a long process to feel able to articulate that truth, and I’ve been working on Neon Hearts on and off for about four years. It’s taken on many different versions until I realised what I’d never done was explore acquiring a disability, in particular, a brain injury.

So I shifted the focus from being full suspense to suspense lite, where the action mainly takes place off-page. And what we see is a character exploration of self-love and acceptance through the dynamic of romance.

The hero is also disabled, to a point, and has facial differences through surviving a fire. This trope is not uncommon in romance, and I don’t like how it’s generally treated. It falls into a twisted beauty and the beast mentality, and that backwards superficial concept is usually dehumanising. So I wanted to have this guy who is very scarred and really handsome. He understands trauma and medical trauma, and I think it falls into hurt/comfort in many ways, where he supports the heroine.

 

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Most of the book is drawn from my experiences and existing knowledge of working in the medical sector for a decade, but I tried to get a relatively accurate approximation of how the UK legal system works regarding impact statements and liaison officers and how survivors move through and navigate the system. It makes people relatively inactive. The agency is in the choice to participate.

Bea often finds herself as an inactive protagonist because people have to do things for her, medically or legally, and she’s within a well-developed system one uses rather than dictates. It goes against most writing conventions, so articulating her form of agency within that was a challenge.

JL: NEON HEARTS is part of a bigger body of work, isn’t it? Actually, you have two main bodies of work. What should new readers know about them, and do you have a favourite book of all time?

STEFANIE: The key difference is that NEW CITY SERIES are novels or short novels, in third person and dual perspectives.

I started writing in first person as an exercise and ended up with a bunch of shorter works in single POV. I felt the need to distinguish them as slightly separate but akin with lots of character crossover, so went with A NEW CITY STORY as a spin-off series which also works completely standalone. They felt more immediate, and I think they work out kinkier as a whole series, though that wasn’t intentional.

I can never pick a favourite, it’s usually whatever I’m closest to at any given moment. So that’s NEON HEARTS right now.

JL: So, you’ve had these incredible stories in the works for years and if I’ve heard right, you’re nearing the end of the books you had originally planned? How are you feeling at this point?

STEFANIE: This has been increasingly difficult for me to be honest, my health peaks and troughs and this is the last book in this series, and there are some things I want to do for A NEW CITY STORY if I’m able. I say I’m retiring, but I don’t think I will, what I’m doing though is stepping back from this cycle.

I intentionally chose self-publishing because trad and many presses are not accessible to me. The accommodations I might require, and my health’s instability mean that I have to be flexible for my wellbeing. There’s a lot I can’t do that I’m told I’m supposed to, and it keeps my reach small, and that’s fine with me.

What’s difficult is that I’ve struggled with each publication’s stress versus returns ratio and taken steps back or paused or taken pressure off myself throughout this process, and I’ve been burning out for just over a year now. So to preserve my health, I’m getting off that roundabout.

I might get back on it, and I’m definitely going to keep working, but I’ll have to decide what that looks like when this is finished, but I want to see it out to say, this is what I’ve achieved. I’ll feel disappointed if I don’t.

 

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JL: Now, I have to ask—what has writing been like for you throughout lockdown?

STEFANIE: Pretty much the same as before! I’m housebound and require assistance if I need to go anywhere, and my husband is also my carer. He’s made the garden accessible for me so I can be outside more now.

Usually, we’ll take short trips to places, so obviously, we’ve not been able to do that. Being at home for very long periods is difficult, and the stress that goes with the circumstances is probably the biggest factor. I have lots of coping mechanisms for it, such as designating a weekly routine versus a daily one and keeping it flexible depending on my health.

JL: Finally, what is one thing you hope readers will take away from NEON HEARTS?

STEFANIE: That being disabled is normal. It’s ok. Disabled is not a dirty word. That we deserve love and happy endings. Disabled people are people.

Anyone can become disabled, and society is so fixed on its narrative of us, we’re immediately dehumanised and reclaiming that and making us visible and mainstream is monumentally important.

We’re often reduced to an inspiration meme to make non-disabled people feel better and what I hope comes across in NEON HEARTS is that finding our new normal and the best quality of life we can is important. How that manifests, and accessibility is a struggle, but nobody needs to overcome anything, other than ableism. We are not the villain, we’re not better off dead, and we don’t exist to teach non-disabled people a lesson.

I didn’t write this book with an abled gaze, it’s not important to me, I wrote this for me and other disabled people because giving disabled people a happy ending is radical.

Neon Hearts by Stefanie Simpson

Pink and blue lit promo for NEON HEARTS by Stefanie Simpson

Danger brought love, but hope?

Bea strikes up an online friendship with Josh, the mod of her disability support group, as she adapts to her new disabled reality after a serious accident. When the danger that’s dogged her for months closes in, she flees to Josh’s home during a terrible snowstorm, knowing he’s the only one she can go to.

Josh needed to cut ties with his security job and life in Chadford, to seek solace in the hills and valleys of home. His intense connection and friendship with Bea made him second guess his isolated life. He could protect her, but it would take him back to a dark place. Yet letting her go is impossible.

Being apart only makes them see how much they need each other, finding that they don’t have to be strong or alone. They are enough, disabled and scarred, and beautiful.

This romance contains a happy ever after.

Content warning. Depictions of medical care, including coma. References to past medical trauma. References to and a brief description of a car accident. Moderate threat and peril. Suspense-lite, mostly off-page references to crime. PTSD. Brief court case appearance. Challenged ableism. Strong language. Explicit sexual content, including a soft femdom dynamic, masturbation, oral, penetration including pegging.

Available 29th March. Preorder NEON HEARTS.

About Stefanie Simpson

Author Stefanie Simpson wears glasses, red lipstick and her wavy ginger hair in a long, asymmetrical style

old goth. 5 raccoons in a trench coat. anxiety. disabled. she/her. bites. taken. switch. smol dragon. TYPOS #romance #author. Filthy deviant harpy ♡

Fresh Find: Sips & Strokes by Sarah Skye

I am over the moon about the cover reveal for this book. Sips & Strokes is the whisky-flavoured, fake-relationship delight by Sarah Skye, the debut book collaboration between two of my favourite romance authors, Sarah Smith and Skye McDonald from Quick & Dirty Romance.

And because it’s by these two troublemakers, you know this book will be full of gushy lovey-dovey moments, stunning sexy exchanges, and a great attitude and writing style. Here’s the scoop:

Sips & Strokes
Sarah Skye
Publication date: April 20th 2021
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance

Lily Maldonado is screwed. The people-pleasing art professor has been roped into attending her ex’s wedding by her overbearing, image-obsessed parents. Even worse? The woman her ex is marrying is Lily’s childhood bully. She can’t back out, but she’s not sure she can face this nightmare solo.

Enter Calder Ross. The sexy Scot’s abs have graced the cover of many romance novel bestsellers, but the reformed playboy needs a more serious image if he wants to land his dream job as the spokesman for Sonce Whisky. Modeling for Lily’s figure drawing class is step one in the right direction.

After their very adorable—and very naked—meet-cute, Lily and Calder realize that they can be each other’s saving grace. Lily can bring Calder to the wedding as her fake boyfriend to ward off pitying stares. Calder can bring Lily to Sonce events as his fake girlfriend to show he’s the responsible, relationship-minded guy that execs want as the face of their brand.

But the longer Lily and Calder play pretend, the harder it becomes to deny the very real chemistry between them. Will they play it safe and stick to their fake roles? Or will they throw out the playbook completely and risk it all for love?

Add to Goodreads / Pre-order

 

 

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Fresh Find: The Last Dragon by Daryl Devore

The Last Dragon by Daryl Devore

Today’s fresh find is The Last Dragon, a medieval fantasy romance by Daryl Devore, author of hot romances as well as sweet ones. You won’t find steam in this book, but it certainly seems full of heart. Check out the generous “look inside” sample on Amazon—it’ll draw you right in with intrigue and high fantasy action.

Here’s Daryl, sharing a bit about her book and a quirk of the creative process that brought it to life.

Daryl Devore: When Minor Characters Wish to Step Forward

In most stories there are the lead MCs (main characters) who have family and friends. Sometimes, those secondary characters want their place in the sun.

Pariset, a teenager in my medieval fantasy romance The Last Dragon, is exactly that sort of character.

I needed a character to help with a rescue plotline, so I wrote in Pariset. Little did I know, he had no intentions of staying on the sidelines. His playful character wormed his way into more of the story until he ended up partaking in the actual quest and final battle. As an aside, he appears in my next book as well.

Please don’t let any of my other characters hear about this, or I’ll have a lot of characters shouting plotlines and twists in my head.

A knight holds a red rose on the cover of The Last Dragon by Daryl Devore
The Last Dragon by Daryl Devore

The Last Dragon by Daryl Devore

What do dragons, knights and romance have in common? Grab a copy of multi-published author Daryl Devore’s medieval fantasy romance – The Last Dragon and discover the answer.

A sorcerer craving dominance merged with a dragon, the power overwhelmed him causing him to split into three dragons. Demora ruled thought, but was lost in time. Yidithe offered protection, shining like the light of the sun. Ayrradex craved chaos, revelling in destroying souls.

Many knights died, attempting to slay the devil beast. One knight, Prince Hawkyns, did not fear death. He’d lost everything. Away on a mission when Ayrradex attacked his father’s kingdom, Penrythe, Hawkyns returned to find his noble father – feeble and defeated. His wise mother – crazed. His beautiful wife and unborn child – dead. Only a pile of ashes remained for him to bury. He knelt before his King and vowed to slay the devil-beast or be slain.

Derry was born with powers that terrified her parents. They delivered her to a nunnery to be raised in secret. Jathe, a wise sorceress, discovered the young girl and trained her to one day use the secret hidden in her soul.

Legends spoken around campfires hinted the sole way to destroy Ayrradex was when the hearts of a knight and a golden dragon became one. But after a vicious battle with Ayrradex, the golden dragon was thought to be dead.

Can Prince Hawkyns’s bravery and Derry’s powers end the reign of the devil-beast’s terror?

Excerpt

Hawkyns shifted his weight away from the tree trunk and then let it swing Pariset closer. “On the next swing, go!”

The relief was instant in his hands and arms when Pariset jumped to safety. Fear filled his gut as he waited for a call.

“I’m safe. I’m safe.” Relief was evident in the boy’s voice.

Hawkyns heaved a sigh then pulled himself up and inched back towards the main part of the tree. He rested just above Pariset. “Hey lad, were ye trying to fly like a bird?”

Pariset shook his head. It took a moment for his voice to be heard. “I don’t like to be flying. On the good ground is where I belong.”

Hawkyns laughed. “Then let us get ye back down? Are ye hurt? Can ye climb?”

“Not hurt. Shook up a bit. But I be climbing since I was a tot.”

Giving Pariset the respect he had just earned, Hawkyns did not school him on how to climb down. Hawkyns knew, at that moment, the boy had just moved one pace closer to manhood.

Hawkyns dropped the last few feet and landed next to Pariset. The boy was on his knees, retching into the soil. When there was silence, Hawkyns asked, “Ye done now?”

“Aye.” The answer was weak and unsure. Pariset stood on wobbly legs.

“Can ye walk?”

“Aye.” He moved one pace, dropped to his knees and retched again.

“Can ye crawl to that tree and we’ll rest until yer body settles?” Hawkyns sat back against a tree. He did not laugh. He did not grin. As a lad, he had experienced that moment of total fear and he knew Pariset just need a moment to recover.

Pariset sighed as he settled next to Hawkyns and rested against the tree.

“The ground is good?” Hawkyns asked, rubbing his aching shoulders.

“Aye.”

Wishing to distract the boy’s thoughts from what had occurred, Hawkyns said, “So how did ye find us?”

“Derry. She came to me in a dream. She told me where to come.”

Hawkyns raised his eyebrows. “Why?”

“I know not why. But I am here.”

About Daryl Devore

Two writers in one. Daryl Devoré writes hot romances with sexy heroes and strong heroines and sweet romances with little to no heat. She has several published books available on Amazon in ebook or print book and available at other book retailers via Books2Read.

Daryl (@daryldevore) lives in an old farmhouse in Ontario, Canada, with her husband and 2 cats. Daryl loves to take long walks on her quiet country road or snowshoe across the back acres, and in the summer, kayak along the St. Lawrence River. She has touched a moon rock, a mammoth, and a meteorite. She’s been deep in the ocean in a submarine, flown high over Niagara Falls in a helicopter, and used the ladies room in a royal palace. Life’s an adventure and Daryl’s having fun living it.

Fresh Find: Fireflies at 3am by Danni Thomas

Fireflies at 3am by Danni Thomas

Today’s book was an insta-add to my to-read list. It’s a dark and somewhat heartbreaking look at human nature, and yet something about it makes me hopeful — that maybe this kind of honesty about who we are could help save us from ourselves.

There’s also a giveaway for this book (ending Fri 18 Dec), which you can access at the end of this post.

Fireflies at 3 am by Danni Thomas

E-book copy of Fireflies at 3am on a flatlay of dreamy photos
Fireflies at 3am by Danni Thomas

‘Fireflies at 3 am’ brings a landmark new genre to the world of literature. It’s a book with the flow of poetry but the ebb of short stories – rightfully called “Shoetry”.

This creation takes you to the roots of humanity – stripping back the veneers of life, society and interaction to see people and their ways in an entirely new light.

Published: December 12th 2020
Genre: Poetry

About Danni Thomas

As a child, he was known to cook up stories to save his little ass or to pass his exams. Then he grew up a bit, only in age and size, and went to college. There, he wrote plays, won a few awards and was told to try his luck in advertising. Some kind soul, who had limited knowledge about advertising, told him that this field was all about wearing jeans to work and late-night parties. He needed no further persuasion, and without losing any more time, got into advertising.

Over the last 18 years, he worked at some of the biggest advertising agencies in the world, made some memorable ads, won international recognition for his work, and learned how to manage acid reflux. Life was OK, but he decided to complicate it by writing a book.

People nowadays avoid him like the plague lest he ask them to review his work. His children have started studying harder and his wife has taken up baking so that they can escape his nagging requests, every now and then, to read what he’s written. But all said and done, none of that has dampened his spirits. Currently, he is looking forward to selling over a million copies and is busy convincing each of his friends to buy more than 3 copies of the book. Sucker.

Enter the giveaway!

Text in image: Xpresso book tours. Reach for the stars!

Fresh Find: The Pornographer’s Apprentice by Lisabet Sarai

I’m honoured to be taking part in Lisabet Sarai’s book blast for her latest release, The Pornographer’s Apprentice, a steampunk erotica novel featuring BDSM, menage, Victorian delights, and a feminist heroine.

Here’s Lisabet to tell us a little more…

Born Again Victorian

by Lisabet Sarai

Sometimes I think I lived a past life in the Victorian age. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been drawn to architecture and costumes from the period. My siblings used to tease me about how much I liked “gingerbread” houses. In my high school yearbook picture, I’m wearing a high-necked, 1880’s style blouse with an antique cameo brooch at my throat. I’ve been a huge fan of Gilbert and Sullivan – the consummate chroniclers of Victorian culture – since I was introduced to their operettas at age five. I had devoured the complete Sherlock Holmes before I turned fifteen.

Although I haven’t yet found the patience to write a full-fledged Victorian historical novel, my erotic romance Miranda’s Masks features a parallel plot that unfolds in nineteenth-century Boston. I’ve also penned a number of steam punk stories, all set in an alternative Victorian world with more advanced technology than actually existed (although in fact the latter half of the eighteen hundreds was a hotbed of invention and entrepreneurship). Possibly due to all the nineteenth century fiction I’ve consumed, I find it surprisingly easy to write dialogue and description that can pass as Victorian. I certainly can’t produce the same level of authenticity for any other historical era.

It might seem strange that I’m so attracted to things Victorian. Given my interest in sexuality (both literary and personal), I probably would have had difficulty adapting to the prudish societal norms of the time. Of course, perennially popular Victorian erotica like The Pearl and My Secret Life suggest that there was a quite a gap between what people professed in public and what they did in private (or in the company of like-minded libertines).

That’s my theory, anyway: that the Victorians were a far lustier group than they pretended. That’s certainly true of the characters in my Victorian-themed novels, including The Pornographer’s Apprentice.

A woman with her eyes obscured, dressed in Victorian garb, on the cover of The Pornographer's Apprentice by Lisabet Sarai

The Pornographer’s Apprentice by Lisabet Sarai

She wants to build sex toys… if they’ll let her.

In prudish, patriarchal Victorian England, nineteen year old prodigy Gillian Smith finds a secret society dedicated to the erotic arts. She’ll need both her intellect and her physical charms to earn the permanent position she craves.

If you like steam punk erotica with a kinky feminist bent, you’ll love The Pornographer’s Apprentice.

The Toymakers Guild series: Defying the repressive morality of the Victorian era, the Toymakers Guild uses advanced technology to fabricate bespoke sexual artifacts for the discrete pleasure of select clients. Its members are not only brilliant engineers but also sexual renegades seeking freedom from the prudish society that surrounds them. These are their stories.

Excerpt

Amelia rested her hands on Gillian’s bare shoulders and leaned in to kiss her. Bold as brass, the intruder used her tongue to tease Gillian’s lips open, then plunged inside. With distinctly unladylike ferocity, she took possession of Gillian’s mouth.

Thoroughly awake now, and more aroused by the second, Gillian met Amelia’s kiss with equal passion. Meanwhile, confident that Amelia would not object, she reached out to cradle and caress the woman’s full bosom. Amelia’s magnificent breasts, far more opulent than Lettie’s, felt wonderfully firm and pliant in her hands. The taut nipples that poked through the thin cotton nightdress spoke volumes about their owner’s excitement. Gillian gave one nub a light pinch. With gratifying swiftness, it hardened further.

“By the gods, you’re delicious,” Amelia sighed. Her mouth slid away from Gillian’s to nibble along the jaw line, then she licked her way down Gillian’s throat to the hollow between her breasts. “Every inch of you,” she added.

Gillian rolled both of Amelia’s nips between her fingertips. She gave them a tug. Amelia released a choked cry, then dove in to suckle Gillian’s teats.

Now it was the young apprentice’s turn to moan, as bright pleasure shimmered from her peaks down to the valley of her loins. She tightened her thighs for a moment, savouring the friction that created against her throbbing clit. Then she spread her legs wide, baring her secret garden to the other woman’s eyes.

“Take me,” she pleaded. “I’m wet as rain for you, Amelia.”

About Lisabet Sarai

Lisabet Sarai became addicted to words at an early age. She began reading when she was four. She wrote her first story at five years old and her first poem at seven. Since then, she has written plays, tutorials, scholarly articles, marketing brochures, software specifications, self-help books, press releases, a five-hundred page dissertation, and lots of erotica and erotic romance – over one hundred titles, and counting, in nearly every sub-genre—paranormal, scifi, ménage, BDSM, GLBT, and more. Regardless of the genre, every one of her stories illustrates her motto: Imagination is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

You’ll find information and excerpts from all Lisabet’s books on her website, along with more than fifty free stories and lots more. At her blog Beyond Romance, she shares her philosophy and her news and hosts lots of other great authors. She’s also on Goodreads, Pinterest, and Twitter. Join her VIP email list.

Fresh Find: Beneath the Sleepless Stars by Charisse Nicolle

When I first held Charisse Nicolle’s debut paperback in my hands all those years ago, I didn’t think I could be prouder of my friend and colleague. Now, many house moves later, that book has vanished, but the pride and friendship lives on. Charisse tells me her novel is today more polished than ever, and re-launched last year on Amazon.

I asked if she’d mind sharing it with all of you. Here’s what she had to say…

Beneath the Sleepless Stars by Charisse Nicolle

Will a love thought lost to the endless gaze of sleepless stars awaken once more?

By daylight, Sapphira is an aspiring young designer, trying desperately not to end up in the family antiques business. The discovery an heirloom necklace hidden beneath the floorboards leads her to an encounter with the fabulously wealthy billionaire-about-town, Lincoln Scorpeone.

By starlight, Sapphira now finds herself amorously entangled in Linc’s fabulous world. Yet the closer they get, the more she is haunted by cryptic dreams of a stranger warning her that she is courting danger.

When an unexpected proposal causes her dreams and reality to spectacularly collide, the truth of Sapphira’s heritage exposes the false facades of all those closest to her. Believing the necklace holds the key to her family’s secrets, she escapes to London in pursuit of answers.

On a chilly starlit rooftop she meets the enigmatic Declan. Sensing he is intertwined with her nebulous dreams, Sapphira is drawn to the beguiling green-eyed barman.

Yet just as Sapphira begins to awaken the secrets of her bloodline, she finds herself pursued by a Hunter – who has returned from the shadows to enact a centuries-old revenge.

To survive, Sapphira and Declan must join forces and fight to overcome an immortal feud that lays claim to both their hearts.

Beneath the endless gaze of sleepless stars, will dreams be all they ever have?

Green eyes peer through a starry night sky on the cover of Beneath the Sleepless Stars by Charisse Nicolle

Excerpt

‘Crummy English weather,’ I muttered.

‘Don’t need a penny for your thoughts then,’ a soft male voice murmured behind me. Startled, I turned, realising that in my quest to feel free I had not thought to consider sinister axe wielding maniacs who lurked about on London rooftops on chilly nights. I could make out a figure in the shadows, leaning casually against the main large chimney. My pendant jolted into high alert and the hairs stood up all along my arms.

‘I didn’t realise anyone else was up here.’ That’s right, point out to Jack the Ripper that you are up here all alone. You really are on the ball tonight.

‘Understandable. I try to be rather unnoticeable.’ His voice had a distinctly Irish lilt to it, but somewhat diluted, sounding like he had lived in London for a long time. A memory awakened, tingling at the edges of my brain, but I was too preoccupied with my safety to acknowledge it.

By who? Your other slasher victims? ‘Is that because you like to skulk about in the shadows?’

‘Skulking? Hardly. This is my space you’re invading. I claimed this rooftop long ago.’

I judged the distance between myself and the door. I sidled along the wall a little to the right. If I dodged to the other side of the main chimney from where he stood, then I could make the door in about five bounds.

‘I didn’t realise one could take a lease out on a rooftop. Is that a British thing? I may have to consider that option myself if this week doesn’t improve.’ I took one step more to the right to improve my getaway angle. The pendant chain, well concealed beneath my hoodie, hummed with electricity against my neck, a sure sign something was afoot.

‘We all need a place to come and be ourselves. Sharpen my axe skills. That kinda thing. Are you – are you trying to move away from me?’ he suddenly asked, his tone of voice incredulous.

Oh God, he really is an axe murderer and I’ve made him angry. ‘Stay away from me! I know Tai Chi!’ I yelled, commencing my escape plan.

‘Wait – what?

I made the first three bounds successfully before my foot managed to hook on a cable feeding off one of the antennae, plunging me into a collision course with one of the smaller chimneys. My complete lack of any kind of athletic ability was shining gloriously through once again. I couldn’t even escape when my life depended on it. I cried out and instinctively brought my hands up to protect my face as I braced myself for the inevitable impact. But at the last moment when I should have connected with something flat and brick, I found myself pressed up against something broad and soft. Strong arms grabbed my shoulders and kept me upright. My hands gripped cotton that had that well-worn, favourite t-shirt feel to it. And smelt faintly of sweat. His face was bent down, checking to see if my ankle was okay. I gripped his t- shirt and wondered how he could not be freezing on a night like this. Yet I could feel his warmth emanating through the fabric, smouldering beneath my fingertips.

I looked up into his face which was barely inches from my own.

It was angular with strongly outlined cheekbones, one of which bore a small jagged scar. Slightly chapped lips framed a set of perfect teeth. A small indent cleft the bottom of his square chin. He had a goatee, but not in the preppy trimmed way, just in a “forgot to shave for a few days” way. He looked to be in his late twenties, his hair concealed beneath a dark grey beanie, his one consolation to the cold night. A cheeky smirk played across his mouth, yet his dark eyebrows were furrowed in concern across his eyes. Oh, but those eyes. In the dim light I could see that they were an intoxicating green. Like a choppy sea on a stormy day, inviting you in but capable of pulling you under; you could lose yourself entirely.

He turned from examining my ankle. Our eyes connected and my world suspended completely.

I was certain that in that instant, my heart stopped beating, my lungs stopped breathing. Instead the vehement humming that had reached fever pitch within the necklace unexpectedly surged free, consuming my whole body and powering me with life. The force of it overcame me and I was transfixed, feeling utterly exposed before him, vulnerable and laid bare, as though he could see right through to my very soul with those shining eyes. It was an unsettling and intrusive feeling and yet I could not avert my eyes from his. Just when I felt certain I would be completely overwhelmed by his gaze, he blinked, his eyes clouding over; I was released, and the connection passed. My heart rate slowly settled, as the power pulsating within me retreated once more to the containment of the pendant. I drew a ragged breath. A haunting memory triggered in the recesses of my mind, but I was incapable of coherent thought. His eyes remained intense, like unfathomable storm clouds, a fortress to protect what lay beyond.

‘Are you alright?’ As he spoke his breath caressed my wind burnt cheeks. I opened my mouth, intending to answer smartly ‘oh you have no idea just how much better I am now thanks’, but the word axe came flashing back into my mind. He was clearly now trying to lull me into a false sense of security. But I wasn’t falling for that.

Reviews from Goodreads

“I was completely hooked from the first page, an enticing romance fantasy”

“A captivating read and true page turner”

“An intriguing urban fantasy romance… I didn’t want to put it down”

“Creating a genre within itself, Beneath the Sleepless Stars is well worth the read”

“I really enjoyed this debut novel and I can’t wait for the next one!”

About Charisse Nicolle

I am an indie writer hailing from the sunset coast of Australia. When not pondering my next storyline, or the countless possible ways GoT could have ended, I am an ardent U2 fan, blatantly inept skier, and the only person I know who can make any garment more creased by attempting to iron it.

I have been known to apply a Star Wars quote to any given situation, prefer DC over Marvel any day, and believe the best story recipe combines sprinklings of mystery, spoonfuls of laughter and generous dashes of romance.

Beneath the Sleepless Stars is my first published novel.

Fresh Find: Building on Broken Dreams by Lyndell Williams

Lyndell Williams once published a blog post titled, Muslims do that?!

It about summed up my astonishment and delight when I first stumbled upon her work. Her stories depict Muslim couples navigating love and sensuality within their unique cultural and social environment. They’re about sex, love, faith, passion… all the goodies you want in a romantic, erotic piece of art.

It’s with great excitement that I’m getting to participate in the book blitz for her latest release, Building on Broken Dreams. Here’s everything you need to know about this erotic suspense romance.

A white man kisses a Black woman on the cover of Building on Broken Dreams by Lyndell Williams

Building on Broken Dreams by Lyndell Williams

He’s everything she wants, but can she trust another man?

From award-winning writer and bestselling author Lyndell Williams, a steamy romance that tests the boundaries of faith and yearning.

If Maryam Avery stays in New York for one more day, she will die.

Trapped in an abusive relationship with the manipulative and cruel Raad, she can feel her life closing in around her. After he chases her from her home and family, Maryam flees to Philadelphia, searching desperately for a new beginning, something to help rebuild her spiritually and physically.

When she meets the mysterious Adam, things are thrown off-kilter. A successful businessperson with his own past that he is fleeing from, he is everything that Maryam wants. But can she trust another man?

Doubt gives way to desire. They find themselves in a whirlwind romance, and for once, it seems like everything will work out.

Until Raad turns up.

Release Date: 14 October 2020
Genre(s): Erotic romance, romantic suspense, erotic suspense, interracial romance, Muslim romance, BWWM romance

Excerpt

Maryam finished cooking and stood in the hall, holding a thermos of hot coffee in one hand and an egg sandwich half-wrapped in aluminum foil in the other. How angry was he? What is he going to do to her?

Adam strode toward her, grumbling and fumbling with his belt buckle. “Eight months of work shot to hell.” He stopped. His glower transformed into a grin that reached his hazel eyes. “What’s this?”

She plastered on a smile and batted her lashes at a speed almost matching the cadence of her heart. “I thought you could take it with you.”

His shoulders relaxed. He held her face in his hands. “You’re something else, Mary. You know—” he sprayed her lips with kisses “—I owe you a honeymoon. How about I arrange one?”

“I’d like that.”

He pressed her backward, pinning her between his body and the wall. The heat reignited and waved through her, burning away any fear or anxiety. He might have been angry, but not with her, and he would not take it out on her. She balanced the sandwich and mug in her hands. Her breathing got heavier with each nip to her neck. “Adam.”

He stepped back and reached into her robe. “Mary,” he groaned and yanked her panties from her hips while uttering a dua. Already moist white lace and satin fell to her feet. He propped against the wall across from her and ripped open his pants snap and zipper. “When you same my name like that, I got to have you.”

“But your friend.”

“Will wait.” His rough hands spanned up her thighs and clenched her rear, lifting her. His breath rushed into her ear. “I want you now. Do you want this D or not?”

His throbbing stiffness titillated her fiery folds. “Yes.” She locked her legs around his hips at her ankles and squeezed his broad shoulders as he stretched and filled her. “Adam, please.” She slowly blinked at the bobbing picture of Mecca hanging on the opposite as he bounced her on his stiffness. The movement of their bodies fed a mounting desire. Their first time together had been so tender. He had eased her fears and brought her to ecstasy. Now, the raw lust surging between them infused every inch of her in a way she had never felt before. It was all so glorious. She tucked her heels under his tense bottom, stilling his thrusts and unleashing a carnal shriek from deep inside. He soon roared in release and set her down. She panted, leaning against the wall and letting her legs drop.

He trailed pecks up her neck before stealing her air with a lingering kiss on her lips. He pinned her gaze while adjusting and closing his pants. “You don’t know what you do to me, Mary. I’ve never wanted someone so much.” He disappeared into the kitchen. Water ran for a moment before he came back, taking the thermos and crushed sandwich from her hands. “I’ll be back in time for the next prayer.” He offered salams and bit into it, strutting away and disappearing into the morning light, flooding the opened door.

About Lyndell Williams

Lyndell Williams is an award-winning writer and bestselling author. She is a cultural critic with a background in literary criticism specializing in romance. She is an editor, writing coach and mentor. She has been published in peer-reviewed journals and writes for multiple online publications.

Top 10 romantic comedies for a lovely night in

Romantic comedies have become a minor obsession of late, and the last couple of years have given me plenty of top notch favourites I’d recommend to anyone (and everyone) who’ll listen.

I’ve left out synopsis links, as I’m sure everyone has their own sources they prefer to use for looking up movies. But a quick Google search on any of these titles will give you enough of a teaser for these great films.

You folks ready for a good night in? Let’s do this!

10. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

This is a grown-up romantic comedy that explores relationships and the reinvention of self that happens after they come to an end. It’s painfully and relatably cringeworthy in parts, which only adds to its endearing qualities. In 2018, GQ confirmed that it does very much “hold up” after a decade. I’d say it’s well on its way to becoming a classic.

Starring: Jason Segel (and his dick), Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Russell Brand, Jonah Hill.

9. Isn’t It Romantic

Rebel Wilson shines in the role of an underappreciated architect who gets knocked unconscious during a mugging, only to wake up and find herself in a real-life romantic comedy. This movie is at once an eye-roll at and a tribute to the genre, offering as many romance feels as send-ups of our favourite tropes.

Starring: Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Priyanka Chopra, Adam DeVine

8. Friends With Benefits

A great take on the standard friends-to-lovers/FWB storyline. Don’t expect any deviations from the form or formula, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this film won’t be worth your time. What I got from watching was a serve of great characters, powerful chemistry between them, an under-the-skin satisfying HEA, and a movie hangover that lasted for weeks.

Starring: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone

7. I Love You, Man

When you need a break from boy-girl love and conflict, but still want the same feel-good vibes, turn your eyes to this bromantic comedy. The setup is a groom-to-be in search for the perfect best man for his wedding. The punchline is a touching hetero boy-meets-boy best-friendship story set against a romantic backdrop.

Starring: Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Jaime Pressly, Andy Samberg

6. Silver Linings Playbook

Back when I first watched this, I didn’t have the vocabulary to express or even really understand why I liked it. It just struck me as this quirky left-of-centre love story with wholesome feels for people in dark places. Since coming to understand it as a romantic comedy within a mental health context, I’ve liked it even more. This one’s currently on my “to re-watch” list next time I’m down for a lovely night in.

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker

5. The Wedding Singer

Say what you want about Adam Sandler. He was great in this very sweet romantic comedy with Drew Barrymore. I was surprised to learn that there are a lot of younger viewers who don’t know it. I guess it’s a bigger blast from a more distant past than I thought. Wanna know what us silly-headed crush-prone teens found funny in the 90s? Here’s a good example.

Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore

4. The Big Sick

If you like your romance interwoven with family drama, this thoughtful romcom might be the one for you. Based loosely on the real-life love story between Kumail Nanjani and writer Emily V. Gordon, this is a highly praised indie flick with great inter-cultural notes and exquisitely subtle HEA.

Starring: Kumail Nanjani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano

3. The 40-Year Old Virgin

A hilarious, slightly absurd, and all too endearing comedy a middle-aged man’s hangups about sex, and how they affect his newfound relationship. I would consider this as much about male friendship as it is about romance, but neither theme takes away from the other. It’s a lovely piece of feelgood comedy, well worth watching.

Starring: Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Romany Malco, Catherine Keener

2. Always Be My Maybe

When I first put this on, I was expecting something wacky and run-of-the-mill. After all, that’s the flavour of American comedy I’ve come to associate with the person who recommended this to me. What I got instead was an astonishing gem of a romance infused with sarcasm, adorable cringe moments, and a bit of ridiculousness thrown in.

Starring: Ali Wong, Randall Park, Keanu Reeves, Daniel Dae Kim, Michelle Buteau, Vivian Bang

1. Long Shot

This movie has been described as a “gender-reversed Pretty Woman”, except the guy is a writer instead of a sex professional. If this isn’t enough to tempt you, know also that the lead characters are very believable and relatable, with great chemistry. This movie is full of tender moments as well as raunchy adult comedy, and of course, an oh so satisfying ending.

Starring: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen

Fresh Find: Arresting Jeremiah by Amber Daulton

Today’s fresh find is Amber Daulton’s newest book, Arresting Jeremiah, a 98k super hot romantic suspense published by Wild Rose Press. Here’s everything you need to know about the second instalment of the Arresting Onyx series, where to find the book, and how to get your hands on the first book in the limited time sale.

A blonde woman and a mysterious man on the cover of Amber Daulton's new book, Arresting Jeremiah

Arresting Jeremiah by Amber Daulton

Injured Parole Officer Jeremiah “Jim” Borden never expected Calista Barlow, the sassy blonde waitress he’s craved for months, to ring his doorbell. She slips into his heart—and his bed—but he’s obsessed with a gangland investigation that threatens his career and maybe even his life.

Calista doesn’t trust easily, not with a daughter to protect and the stalker who keeps calling her. After her violent ex-boyfriend returns, she finds solace in Jim’s arms.

Jim may have to forego his need for answers to protect the ready-made family he adores, but how will he and Calista escape an unseen enemy that is always one step ahead of them?

  • Series: Arresting Onyx (Book 2)
  • Release date: 14 October 2020
  • Genre: Romantic suspense
  • Length: 98k words
  • Heat rating: 5 flames

A couple get intimate in bed. Text in image: The heat of his mouth, the spark of his touch, and the love in his eyes set her body and soul aflame.

Blurb

Calista entered her bedroom and her mouth dropped open. Oh, God.

Her date reclined on her bed as though he starred in a photo shoot. Candlelight flickered across him. The sultry gleam in his eyes arrested her, holding her captive. His sexy smile weakened her knees. None of her past lovers rocked a pair of classic black slacks and a crisp white dress shirt like he did. His chest hair, a few shades darker than the locks on his head, poked from the parted fabric and teased her.

How would that thick hair feel against her nipples? Soft? Coarse? Just right?

Jim was spread out for her pleasure like a Christmas present. She wanted to unwrap him, layer by layer. Maybe he should unwrap himself, so she could enjoy the show.

She let her gaze travel the length of his body to the bulge pressed against his zipper. Perfect. He was hard already. She licked her suddenly dry lips.

“Stare all you want, but it’s more fun to touch.” He patted his thigh, the invitation clear.

“I’m tempted.” She cocked her hip. “I guess the blueberry clafoutis can wait, but you’re a little presumptuous to think this is how the night would end.”

Then again, she did mention having breakfast together. What did she expect him to think?

“End? Honey, we’re just getting started.”

She laughed, grasped the hem of her blouse, and pulled it over her head. Her favorite perfume scented the room, and she picked up the bottle. “You like?”

“Hell, yeah. A lot.”

She sprayed a few drops on her fingers, caressed the pulse at the base of her throat, and dragged her touch down between her breasts. His guttural growl teased across her nerve endings, shooting rockets through her belly. She shimmied her skirt down her hips and kicked aside her heels. A red-satin bra-and-panty set sheathed her body. She locked her hands together behind her back before involuntarily covering her breasts and stomach.

“Damn, look at you. Come here, Calista.”

Content: woman in jeopardy, man in jeopardy, single mom, family, violent ex, investigations, police procedural, criminals, gangs, drugs, urban romance, HEA, no cliffhangers, standalone, series

Get this book

Or would you like to read book one first? Arresting Mason, book one in the Arresting Onyx series, is now on sale for .99 cents—limited time only.

Text in image: Sale alert, 99 cents, Arresting Mason by Amber Daulton

About Amber Daulton

Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through The Wild Rose Press, Books to Go Now, and Daulton Publishing, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats.

She lives in North Carolina with her husband and demanding cats.

author Amber Daulton smiles at the camera

Fresh Find: A Merman’s Choice by Alice Renaud

Let me tell you about the latest addition to my TBR, A Merman’s Choice by Alice Renaud. I’m not an experienced fantasy reader, let alone a shifter or merfolk fantasy reader, but after finishing an emotional contemporary fantasy recently, I find myself wanting more—more of a universe I can relate to while pushing the boundaries of mundane reality.

It’s an honour to feature this guest post by Alice Renaud today, as she tells me about the book that started her Sea of Love series. Keep an eye out for book 3 in the series, Mermaids Marry in Green, coming out later this year!


A Merman’s Choice: Book 1 in the Sea of Love series

By Alice Renaud

It started with a dream. An aquatic vampire was chasing a girl underwater. She was terrified. She was close to drowning, and she thought that the creature would kill her. But instead, he saved her life.

At the time I had that dream, I was determined to write contemporary romance stories with alpha male billionaires/sheikhs/princes and virginal heroines. I had no room for an aquatic vampire. After three failed attempts however, I realized that I didn’t really want to write contemporary romance, and that I didn’t like alpha types that much. I really wanted to write a fantasy story. So the vampire resurfaced. He didn’t quite fit the story I wanted to write though, so I took away his fangs and bloodthirsty nature.

He became Yann, a young shape shifting merman. His people have lived incognito alongside humans for centuries. Their existence must remain a secret, and they are forbidden from revealing their true nature to humans. They are forbidden from befriending humans… dating humans… marrying humans. But Yann saw a young woman drown when he was a boy, and has sworn that he will never again let a human perish. So one summer he rescues a blonde swimmer in distress, Alex. This gesture changes his life for ever, and sets his people on a new path.

“A Merman’s Choice” is filled with the landscapes and atmosphere of Brittany, in Western France, where I grew up, and Wales, my mother’s country, where I spent most of my childhood holidays. But it is also a story about family expectations, intergenerational conflict, and the difficulties young people face when they defy the traditions of their community.

They say you should write what you want to write, not what you think you should write. It was true in my case. Unlike my billionaire sheikhs and princes, the merman found a publisher, Black Velvet Seductions (BVS) and my first book, “A Merman’s Choice” was released in January 2019.

After Yann came the story of Rob, another shape shifting merman who works as a cop among humans in “Music for a Merman”. Rob’s father is the most traditional of all the elders, but when Rob has to arrest a sexy eco-warrior, he falls prey to a powerful attraction… so powerful that he will risk everything for the woman he loves.

The third book, “Mermaids Marry in Green”, focuses on a feisty mermaid, Caltha, because why should the boys have all the fun? She’s busy ruling the three mermen Clans, but a handsome warlock turns up and asks her to come with him to London to capture a water monster… of course she can’t say no. And if you saw him, you wouldn’t say no either! The last story is “The Holiday Mermaid”, a seasonal short story included in the “second chance at love” romance anthology “Desire Me Again” by Black Velvet Seductions, which will be out this fall. Do mermaids celebrate Christmas? You’ll have to read to find out!

A handsome merman holds out his hands on the cover of A Merman's Choice by Alice Renaud

A Merman’s Choice by Alice Renaud

For centuries the shape-shifting mermen of the Morvann Islands have lived incognito among humans. But one of them, Yann, has developed some bad habits. Like rescuing humans, even when doing so risks revealing his true nature. When he fishes Alex out of the sea, he doesn’t expect her to reappear eight months later, and turn his life upside down by asking him to be her guide.

Alex is determined to fulfil a promise to her dying grandmother, by gathering pictures and stories of the Morvanns. But she soon discovers that, on these remote Welsh islands, legends have a habit of becoming true!

Over the course of a few days, Yann and Alex grow close. But some mermen hate humans. Their hostility, and Yann’s secret, threaten to tear the couple apart just as they are discovering that they are soul mates. Can Yann overcome the obstacles in his path and make the right choice?

Excerpt

The girl wasn’t swimming any more. Yann’s sonar gave him a clear picture of her distress. She was flailing. Sinking.

Fear punched him between the ribs. Just a few minutes earlier, she’d been splashing in the shallows, laughing and humming to herself. That music had rippled around him, brightening his journey. Now the sea was snuffing that light out. No! He wouldn’t let it happen. His webbed hands and feet churned the water, and he shot towards her like a torpedo.

Not this one, sea. Not this time.

She came in sight, slim and lovely, with long bronzed limbs and hair the colour of sunshine. But her eyes were closed, her movements slow, hesitant, as if she were falling asleep. His fear hardened into cold, sharp dread. He poured all his energy into the last powerful strokes. He’d almost reached her, when his eye caught the shadow, beyond the crystal surface, out there in the dry world. He sent a sound wave. It came back with an image, and the icy blade inside him twisted: two-legged shapes on the beach. Humans!

If they saw him, they’d know him for what he was. His people’s secret, kept for thousands of years, would be out.

The girl’s head vanished under the waves. To hell with that. He couldn’t let her drown.

He grabbed her and dragged her back to the surface. She thrashed in his arms and coughed up seawater. Intense relief swept through him as he hugged her to his chest. He’d sworn he’d never again swim by and let a human drown, and he’d kept his promise. If the young woman’s eyes remained closed, he might even get away with it. He wanted her to breathe, not scream in horror at the sight of his dark grey face.

He looked up. The shapes on the beach had gone. Another miracle, or perhaps he’d only imagined them. What if they came back? A fresh stab of anxiety propelled him through the surf. He lay the girl down on the sand, cushioning her head on his arm. Her round breasts, encased in the turquoise bikini top, rose and fell in a regular rhythm, but her skin felt clammy under his hands. He scanned the beach in vain for something to cover her with, and saw the motorbike. A sleek, sporty number, well camouflaged among the grass-covered dunes.

Shit. He retracted the webs between his fingers and toes, but his body would take at least twenty minutes to shift from the aquatic shape to the human form. And even when it did, what would the humans think, if they found him naked next to an unconscious girl?

Alice Renaud, author of A Merman's Choice

About Alice Renaud

Alice lives in London, UK, with her husband and son. By day she’s a compliance manager for a pharmaceutical company. By night she writes fantasy romance about shape shifting mermen, water monsters and time-travelling witches. Her first book, “A Merman’s Choice,” was published in January 2019 by Black Velvet Seductions. It is the first book in a fantasy romance trilogy inspired by the landscapes and legends of Brittany and Wales. The second book, “Music for a Merman,” is out now and the third, “Mermaids Marry in Green” will be released later this year. Alice has also written a short story, “The Sweetest Magic of All,” included in the BVS “Mystic Desire” anthology, out now. Alice loves reading and writing stories, and sharing them with anyone who’s interested!