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: 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!