Category Archives: Contemporary

Act of Grace by Karen Simpson

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Join Karen Simpson, author of the contemporary speculative fiction novel Act of Grace as she virtually tours the blogosphere in October and Novemer 2011 on her first tour with Pump Up Your Book!

About Karen Simpson

Karen SimpsonKaren Simpson is passionate about the craft of writing fiction, the art of quilting, and the discipline of historical research. She received her bachelor’s degree in Animal Husbandry, M.A. in Foreign and International Trade and a M.S. in Historic Preservation. A historic preservationist trained in heritage interpretation and administration, the subjects and themes of her fiction are often taken from the stories she discovers while doing research for museum exhibits. In 2009 Simpson was awarded the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Older Writers Grant.  She is lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Act of Grace is her first novel.

You can visit Karen Simpson’s website at www.karensimpsonwrites, her blog at www.lafreya.blogspot.com or connect with her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lafreya1

About Act of Grace

act-of-grace-mediumWhy would Grace Johnson, an African American high school senior, take a bullet to save the life of a Ku Klux Klansman named Jonathan Gilmore?

The question hovers unanswered over Grace’s hometown of Vigilant, Michigan. Few people, black or white, understand her sacrifice, especially since rumor has it years ago a member of Gilmore’s family murdered several African Americans including Grace’s father. Grace doesn’t want to talk about it, but the decision to speak is not hers to make. Ancestor spirits emerge to insist, in ways Grace cannot ignore, that she bear witness to her town’s violent racial history so that all involved might transcend it.

With hindsight made telescopic by the wisdom found in African American mythology and the book The Velveteen Rabbit, Grace recounts a story of eye-for-an-eye vengeance that has blinded entire generations in her hometown. Faced with the horrific crimes that have disfigured her life, Grace wonders if in the end, she can do as the spirits have asked and lead Mr. Gilmore, the town of Vigilant and her own soul on a journey toward reconciliation, redemption and true grace.

Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE—RISEMr. Gilmore was supposed to have died that day at the Justice Rally, but I got in the way and now people in my hometown of Vigilant, Michigan, are either calling me an Uncle Tom hero or hissing that I’m a double-stuffed Oreo bitch. Actually I’m neither, but I realize now that one of the reasons why people’s attitudes about me are as nasty as dried snot is because there is a critical lack of information about my motives. Those who love me already understand my reasons. For them, it’s enough for me to say the ancestors made me do it. Other folks, however, especially other folks of color, feel I need to testify about why I, Grace Johnson, a supposedly rational African-American high school senior and honor student committed racial treason.

If it were up to me, I wouldn’t say anything. I would just leave everyone in the dark and go on about my business. But, the voices of the ancestors tell me I owe an account of my story as an example of the true meaning of my name. Now, I can blow people off, I can tell them what part of hell to go to and give them detailed directions on how to get there. The ancestors, however, cannot be ignored. They can’t be told to mind their own ethereal business because we, the living, are their business. Pain and suffering have made my hindsight telescopic, so let’s begin at the true beginning, a breath to prime my memory: “Rise, story, rise.

What Reviewers Are Saying

Grace’s intimate narration and folksy-but-modern-Southern-down-home voice immediately pulls the reader into the story. You can’t help but like her: she’s sassy, she’s smart, and when her Nana explains to her that she is to be a conduit for their ancestral spirits, you know immediately that the right girl was chosen for the task.

~Marlon Edwards-The Speculative Literature Foundation

Loved this story. I was even more impressed when I realized that this is Ms. Simpson’s first novel. Her style of writing is just beautiful, as she weaves the character’s stories together in a seamless journey. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but let me just say that this is a timely novel that reveals much about race, gender, and the search for peace across generations. My guess is that there are many among us who will be able to relate to Grace’s journey, as she is challenged by her spirits to push herself further than she ever thought possible. Bravo! I can’t wait for the movie.

~Lisa Ruby

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Karen Simpson’s ACT OF GRACE OCTOBER & NOVEMBER 2011 will officially begin October 3rd and end November 23rd. Thank you for your support!

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Special Agent Kathrin Night Books by K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks has been writing for over thirty years. She penned her first book, a swashbuckling action-adventure based in 17th century France, when she was fifteen years old. Since then, despite working for a living in the electronics industry, Ms. Brooks continued to write. In 2001, she left the high-tech arena in Boston for the Eastern Shore of Maryland to pursue her writing.

That same year, her first novel, Lust for Danger, was published. That action-adventure novel won Ms. Brooks Honorable Mention in the Jada Book of the Year Awards, and invitations to speak at the Maryland Writers’ Association Writers’ Conference, the Bay to Ocean Writers’ Conference, and numerous other venues. She has been honored by the Maryland Writers’ Association three times by participating as a judge in its annual novel contest.

As the business world and health issues took up more of her energy, Ms. Brooks set her sights on moving West to an environment more suitable and affordable to a writing career. Since her relocation to the wilderness of northeastern Washington State, late in 2008, Ms. Brooks has completed the following works which have been published by Cambridge Books: the suspenseful romance, The Kiss of Night (2010), Night Undone (2011) and three children’s books: The Mighty Oak and Me (2009), Postcards from Mr. Pish (2010), and Mr. Pish’s Woodland Adventure (2011).She has six more novels planned in the original Agent Night Adventure Series, two in the Agent Night ‘Cover Me’ series, a horror novel, and a number of Mr. Pish children’s books in the works.

In addition to her writing, Ms. Brooks is an award-winning photographer and poet. Her articles, photographs, poetry, and blogs can be found in books, magazines, newspapers, galleries, and web sites worldwide. She currently writes three different blogs, and is a guest blogger for a number of web sites including CeliacChicks.com and Celiac-Disease.com.

The Kiss of Night

The world’s top anti-terrorist agent has a new mission: dealing with being forced into early retirement by a debilitating injury.

Former Special Agent Kathrin Night fights the demons of her past, present and future while dealing with her new mysterious Russian bodyguard, Agent Aleksey Khovechkin. Sent compliments of the Russian Minister of Defense, refusing his services is not an option. But is Aleksey’s true mission to protect her, or does he have another agenda?

An Amazon.com reviewer says: “This book fills in the blanks in Agent Night’s past and adds a hot romance in present…couldn’t put it down.”

Night Undone

Former Special Agent Kathrin Night is not adjusting to civilian life. More than a year after her career-ending injury, she still can’t get the hang of it. This is wearing thin on her lover, Russian FSB Agent Aleksey Khovechkin, who tricks Kathrin into seeing a psychiatrist specializing in post-military/espionage patients. The therapy doesn’t go exactly as Aleksey hopes, but before he can react, Russia recalls him tomake him an offer he can’t re Before his departure, Aleksey reveals his deepest, darkest secret to Kathrin.

Had he, in fact, used her to escape his duties in Russia, or was his allegiance to her genuine? Determined to see justice served, Kathrin hatches a scheme to help Aleksey while at the same time reviving her career in espionage. The Vancouver Winter Olympics could be the perfect venue for her plan, but can she pull it off without destroying their relationship, causing an international incident, or getting either of them killed? (Sequel to The Kiss of Night)

Author Newton Love says it’s: “A gripping character-driven drama…”

Lust for Danger

She relishes an ocean breeze, the luxury of silk, and the feel of a 9mm gun gripped in her hand. The name’s Night, Kathrin Night, Special Agent for the Bureau of International Trauma Analysts (BITA), a secret division of the United Nations Security Council. The Bureau is directed by someone high up in the U. N. to quietly look into an act of terrorism. But, when this seemingly mundane investigation threatens to expose scandalous political alliances, the BITA is ordered to cease its activities immediately. Feeling justice has not been properly served, asthree suspicious deaths are involved, Agent Night is compelled to dig deeper. On her own time she puts to good use her FBI and Navy Intelligence training, her high-tech resources, and when necessary, her crafty, alluring ways with men. Defying death in situations all over the world, Agent Night discovers a labyrinth of treachery, which leads her to unearth a plot to commit mass-murder on a chilling scale. Can she stop it before it’s too late?

Alex Papajohn, host of AM990’s “The Bookshow” says: “You will like this book a lot.”

The Hand He Dealt by Tanith Davenport

Astra Scott likes to live life to the full. A sorority girl and Gaming Management student, she spends her days studying and practicing guitar, and her nights partying or working at the Fountain Casino, where she has an internship as part of her final semester.

The only blot on her landscape is Ash Drake, her best friend Sasha’s boyfriend. Arrogant, physical and blond, Ash has never forgiven Astra for her rejection months earlier and enjoys annoying her at every turn.

But when Astra’s boyfriend Harry reveals a shocking secret, Astra responds in the only way she can think of: by finding a way to take on a more attractive, masculine role in the relationship. Her experimentation with sex toys finds a surprising outlet in Sasha, but when Ash discovers their secret and wants to get involved, Astra finds herself torn between dislike and desire… and as their undercover relationship grows, Astra finds herself falling in love, a path she feels can only end in heartbreak.

For Ash may be the only man whose own fantasies are a match for hers, but can she knowingly steal his affections from her best friend?

http://www.total-e-bound.com/product.asp?strParents=&CAT_ID=&P_ID=1244

Would you like to win an ecopy of The Hand He Dealt?

One copy is being given away tour wide.

To enter just leave a comment at one or all of the stops along the tour

A winner will be chosen from all the tour stops after the tour ends. The winner will be announced on the Bewitching Book Tours site.

EXCERPT

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A Little Bit of Passion by Beate Boeker

About Beate Boeker

I’m in my forties, married, and have a young daughter. A university diploma in International Business gave me the opportunity to work and live in Hong Kong, the United States, Indonesia, France, and Scotland. I speak German (my mother language), English, French, and Italian fluently.

Right now, I live in the north of Germany and work as a marketing manager. That’s why I know all about the art of choosing a product that fits into the right slot in the market.

It was inevitable that I should work with books sooner or later; I even have it in my name: Boeker is the word for books in the local German dialect and my first name Beate is straight from Latin and can be translated as ‘Happy’. With a name that reads ‘Happy Books’, what else could I do but write romances?

About A Little Bit of Passion

Karen calls herself a modern gypsy because she has split her life into two perfect halves: In winter, she’s a skiing teacher in the Teton Mountain Range, and in summer, she works at her book store on Long Island.

But one Easter holiday, John and his son Gerry join her skiing group, and her perfect universe is shaken. Her e-mails to her best friend Leslie are without restraint, ironic and illogical, furious and funny, sensitive and sad – just like her life.

But can she overcome her need for independence and find a compromise between her free life and the man who might be the love of her life?

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Teton Mountain Range

Dear Leslie,

Do you remember the guy who made me think for the first time that I’m too old to teach skiing? I was so glad when he finished his course last year and took his turtle-y head elsewhere.
Well, he’s back.

I greeted my new ten o’clock group this morning, and the instant I finished presenting myself, he sidled out from behind someone else’s back and stared at me with his half closed eyes. A shiver ran down my spine, and I’m sure I looked as if I had discovered a huge spider amongst the Easter eggs. He must have hidden at the guest-house this morning, or I would have been on my guard.

I turned my back on him as soon as I could, but I knew he continued watching me, his head swiveling from left to right like a hundred year old turtle. That image really fits, right down to the wrinkles all over the face and the folds in the neck. You can’t imagine how stiffly I moved all at once, like a wooden doll, waiting for his first filthy comment.

I didn’t have to wait long. Just as I showed them how to swing into an arc, he muttered in that penetrating voice of his, “Show me again how to swing that hip, baby. It’s so inspiring.”

I ignored him with clenched teeth.

But of course he didn’t let go. He lifted his voice and repeated: “Baby, I said show me again how to swing that hip. I’m here to learn, and you’re here to teach.”

The group stared a him.

A woman called Minnie started to giggle.

I fixed the turtle with a stare as hard as I could. “My name is Karen.”

“Oh, my, baby, I’m so sorry. I forgot. I thought you’d given me leave to call you some other names.”

What could I say? The management has made it clear to me that I have to keep the customers happy no matter what. Every time I complain about the turtle or other types, they say I should “endeavor to be a little bit more skilled in the art of flirting”. After all, the other instructors don’t complain, so it must be me, right? Why, oh why, do so many men think the skiing teacher is part of the package tour?

I closed my eyes and tried to remember why I love my job. The purple mountains. The air like chilled white wine. The joy of flying across the snow. Meeting many wonderful people, teaching them how to ski better. And the nasty ones don’t stay long, so it’s easy to bear. Usually.

I knew I had to put a stop to it right away; he would only make it worse if I laid down now. “I can’t remember giving you leave to call me anything but Karen,” I said and swished around to show them the arc once again.

Without giving them time for comment, I made them go through the motions. It’s a mixed group, aged from thirteen to fifty, I would say. I’ll separate them into beginners and advanced tomorrow, but unfortunately, I have promised Steve to take the advanced group this time, and the turtle is advanced, there’s no denying that.

When I asked the turtle to take his turn, he managed to brush by me and yelled, “Oh, my, I’m so sorry, Kare-een, I lost my footing.”
My face burnt so much, it’s a wonder I didn’t melt a hole into the snow, but I clenched my teeth and didn’t comment.

Next came the youngest of the group. He made a very creditable arc, and when he pushed past me on his way back, I said “Well done”.
The youngster cast me a glance and said in a low voice “Don’t mind that jerk.”

Underneath his red cap two gray eyes fixed me earnestly. He has lashes every female will envy, thick and long and straight. But what floored me was the spattering of freckles across his nose.

I swallowed and promised myself to dispatch the turtle somehow, to avoid spoiling that kid’s Easter holiday.

So if you read about the murder of a turtle in the Teton Mountain Range, make sure you get a good attorney, because it’ll be hard to wriggle out of this one.

Love,
Karen

*Come back tomorrow for Five Things You Didn’t Know About Karen, the main character in A Little Bit of Passion*

The Bone Trail by Nell Walton

Join Nell Walton, author of the mystery thriller The Bone Trail as she virtually tours the blogosphere in April 2011 on her first tour with Pump Up Your Book!

About Nell Walton

NellNell Walton is an avid horsewoman and also owns two wild horses, both of which came from a herd near Elko, NV. She is also the founder and managing editor of the online equestrian news magazine, The AllHorses Post (www.allpetspost.org/allhorsespost). She has degrees in journalism and biology from the University of Arkansas, spent many years as a professional journalist and worked as an intern for former President Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas. She lives in East Tennessee on a small horse farm with her husband, four horses, one donkey, two cats and two dogs. The Bone Trail is her first novel.

Find her on Twitter, Facebook and at her blog The Bone Trail.

About The Bone Trail

Bone TrailInspired by actual events, The Bone Trail is the story of investigative journalist and horsewoman, Kate Wyndham, who is sent to northern Nevada to do a story on the disappearance of two wild horse advocates. When Wyndham attempts to gain information from the FBI and local authorities she is stonewalled.

She turns to Jim Ludlow, a local rancher who lives on an Indian Reservation near where the advocates disappeared. Ludlow, a Shoshone Indian horse “whisperer” agrees to try to help Wyndham and they begin a search for answers that may cost them everything the hold dear – it may even cost them their lives.

Buy The Bone Trail in Paperback
Buy The Bone Trail on Kindle

Read an Excerpt

On the afternoon of the last day of Lindy Abraham’s life, she stood leaning against an old Jeep Cherokee, once red, now faded to kind of a dusky umber, tapping her heel impatiently against a tire. She waited in the Nevada desert in the middle of June; it was hot, and her peach colored cotton tank top stuck unpleasantly in the hollow between her narrow shoulders. She reached into the Jeep and dug around in her cluttered purse until she found a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Pulling a cigarette free, she lit it, took a drag and exhaled a puff of smoke that hung in front of her face like a shroud. It is at least 109F, she thought, and while her long dead mother used to say of the heat in Georgia, ‘Well, it ain’t the heat so much as the humidity,’ Lindy knew that this desert heat today was just plain HOT. She felt like a cornmealed fish that had just hit the grease at a summer fish fry.The dry air had long lost the slightly herbal, earthy scent that comes with the desert morning. The flat plain, dotted here and there with low sagebrush, could be breathtaking at dawn, but now, at noon, it looked like the devil’s own playground. The mountains in the distance were now barely discernable through the heat shimmer coming off the dirty, salt colored sand.

The air conditioner in the Jeep had long since gone to the great A.C. cabin in the sky, so there was no relief to be gained by sitting in the idling vehicle. Lindy glanced into its interior. Julia Evans, her plump, cherub-faced friend, was still crouching miserably in the passenger’s seat with the door open, trying to convince herself that the small scrap of shade from the Jeep’s roof was actually helping to keep her a little cooler. Julia was very fair-skinned and pretty, with blue eyes and dark hair, and the sun was no friend to her. She had pulled her boots off in an attempt to cool off and rubbed the instep of each foot periodically with an ever-shrinking piece of ice from the cooler. Lindy’s, skinny, brittle frame, with its sun damaged skin, slightly crooked teeth, shoulder length blond hair and muddy brown eyes was a stark contrast. At first glance, Lindy struck people as very grim looking, but when she smiled (which was rare these days) her face completely changed and showed a bright gentleness that was startling.

What Reviewers Are Saying

“Although this book is written as fiction, those readers who keep track of what is happening to the American Mustang in our western states will recognize the “facts” in the story. This book is creative, well researched and written by someone who cares about what is happening to our wild horses. The story is one that the professional horseman can relate to and would have to agree that it is a job “well done.” There is truth, intrigue, human emotions, fantasy, and yes even a love story in this story … something for everyone.”

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Angel Lost by F.M. Meredith

Angel Lost

Join F.M. Meredith, author of the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery/crime series, as she virtually tours the blogosphere with the latest book from this series, Angel Lost (Oak Tree Press, March 2011), in March on her eighth virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book.

F.M. Meredith pic 2

About F.M. Meredith

F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of nearly thirty published novels. Her latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, from Oak Tree Press, is Angel Lost. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com.

You can like Marilyn on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Marilyn-Meredith/276444167416.

About Angel Lost

As plans for her perfect wedding fill her mind, Officer Stacey Wilbur is sent out to trap a flasher, the new hire realizes Rocky Bluff P.D. is not the answer to his problems, Abel Navarro’s can’t concentrate on the job because of worry about his mother, Officer Gordon Butler has his usual upsets, the sudden appearance of an angel in the window of a furniture store captures everyone’s imagination and causes problems for RBPD, and then the worst possible happens—will Stacey and Doug’s wedding take place?Angel Lost cover

Read an excerpt!

Chapter 1

“Officer Wilbur, are you listening?” Detective Doug Milligan fixed his blue eyes on Stacey.

She squirmed in her seat and felt the heat rise up her neck to her cheeks. The honest answer was “no” because she’d been thinking about plans for their coming wedding, certainly not the topic being discussed at the shift change briefing. She quickly back-tracked to what she last remembered—the man who exposed himself to female joggers on the beach. Since she figured they might have gone onto another subject without her realizing, she decided to be honest. “Sorry.”

The others in the room stared at her. Doug’s partner, the nearly bald Frank Marshall had a bemused expression on his face. He unwrapped a stick of gum, folded it, and put it in his mouth. Chewing gum had replaced a smoking habit. He winked at her.

Stacey figured he guessed what she’d been thinking about. Having everyone speculating about her private life had been one of the reasons Stacey vowed never to date anyone on the Rocky Bluff P.D.—a vow she’d broken when she and Doug had been mutually attracted to one another.

Handsome Ryan Strickland, the public relations officer for Rocky Bluff P.D., reached over and patted her hand. “We know you have more important things on your mind with your wedding less than two weeks away—but since there’s a pervert who decided to make jogging on the beach an unpleasant experience for females, maybe you ought to pay attention, since it does fall under your job description.”

Shrugging and grinning, Stacey said, “What can I say? You’re absolutely right, my mind was elsewhere. Sorry. I’m listening now, but I did hear most of it.” She absently caressed the tear drop diamond in her engagement ring.

The group around her murmured and she heard a few chuckles. In attendance besides Doug, Frank and Ryan, were most of the patrol officers on the daytime shift, including Gordon Butler. Sergeant Abel Navarro and the men who worked the evening hours were still there too.

Stacey was thankful Chief McKenzie was absent. He might regret making her head of the Vice team—a team that so far consisted only of her.

“We’ve had our third complaint in the last two weeks about a man on the beach exposing himself to unsuspecting female joggers.” Doug glanced at the notes on his desk. “It’s probable that the same thing has happened to others, but they haven’t bothered to report it.”

He looked so much younger since he’d shaved his mustache. Stacey remembered when she first came on the department almost every officer had a mustache; now most were clean-shaven. Without the mustache, Doug’s dimples were even more prominent. She shook her head, time to pay attention and stop admiring her future husband.

Doug continued. “This guy is a real scumbag. He usually fondles himself and talks nasty to the victims. None of them could remember exactly what he said because they immediately ran away. The last young woman, a Claudine Graham, reported that the man started following her. I think this pervert is getting braver and may attack a woman.”

“Is there a pattern? Does he do this at any particular time?” Stacey asked. “Do you have an accurate description?”

“That’s what I was talking about when you spaced out on us.” Doug’s grin softened the sting of his words. “This has always happened early in the morning, between 6:30 and 8 a.m. Seems all three victims like to jog before going to work. Yes, we do have a description, a white male, anywhere from late twenties to early forties, close to six foot tall and around 200 pounds. Wears a watch cap so don’t know his hair color.”

“What do you want to do about the suspect? Put someone on beach patrol? Maybe I could start jogging during that time period and catch the pervert in the act.” Stacey knew if anyone but Doug was in charge he would jump at the chance to use her as a decoy. She could tell by Doug’s hesitation that he wasn’t thrilled by the idea.

Abel Navarro spoke. “That’s a great idea, Wilbur.”

“I suppose it is,” Doug smoothed back his dark hair and tapped on the desk with his pen. “We’ll provide you with back-up.”

“Probably won’t be necessary. It’s cool in the morning. I can carry my gun and cuffs in my jacket.” Though Stacey was small, five foot four and one-hundred five pounds, people still talked about the time she took down a nearly three-hundred pound would-be bank robber. Luck had played a big part in the arrest, plus the suspect had been shocked by a petite female having the guts to confront him. All the men in the bank, including the security guard, had cowered. No matter, the incident had given her a status in the department she was quite happy to have.

“At least call in before you head out. That way, a unit can be close by if the suspect crosses your path.” The scowl on Doug’s face made it obvious he wasn’t pleased with the idea.

One of the uniformed officers, a recent transfer from LAPD, raised his hand. Stacey had to think a moment to remember his name. Vaughn Aragon, that was it. She didn’t know much about him except that he’d told a couple of guys that he wanted to get away from big city crime. Sandy-haired and lightly-freckled, he wasn’t as short as Abel Navarro, but was at least three inches under six-foot. She guessed he was at least thirty, maybe older. She’d heard he was recently divorced. Although he didn’t look Hispanic, he could speak Spanish, the main reason he’d been hired.

When he was acknowledged by Doug, Aragon said, “I worked a similar case in L.A. at Venice beach.”

Doug nodded. “Why don’t you and Wilbur work on this together.”

Swell, she was going to be saddled with someone she didn’t even know. Aragon turned in his seat and grinned. Without any enthusiasm, she smiled back.

The meeting continued as a rash of burglaries in the wealthiest part of Rocky Bluff were discussed. In each case, the thief had found easy access to the expensive homes. Possibly the owners felt unwisely secure because of the location.

Some of the oddest happenings of the day were also brought up, from the report of a poisoned squirrel dying on a front lawn, two peacocks strutting down a residential street interfering with traffic, and a woman who thought her boyfriend was missing but was found asleep in their bed.

When the meeting was over and those on the late shift headed toward their police units.

Aragon approached Stacey. “How should we go about this?” He seemed nervous.

Stacey motioned to the chair near hers. “Why don’t you tell me how the similar case you were on was handled.”

He turned the chair around and straddled it. “It was a lot like this one. Pervert approached from the opposite direction on the beach like he was taking an early morning stroll. When he neared the female jogger, he’d open his coat and grab himself. Usually made some kind of nasty suggestions, though most of his victims didn’t hang around long enough to hear what he said.”

“Did your guy ever try to attack any of these women?”

“No, we caught him right away.”

“How did you do it?”

“Pretty much like you suggested. One of the female cops jogged along the same stretch of beach and the very first time she did it, the guy approached her. I’d been sitting farther up the beach watching with binoculars. She exchanged words with him and I got there in time to help with the arrest.”

Stacey nodded. “Hopefully, it’ll go that way for us too. Tomorrow’s my day off and I have too much to do to give it up.”

“Stuff for the big wedding day, right?” Aragon displayed his full set of slightly crooked teeth in an enormous grin.

She decided to ignore his question. He didn’t know her well enough to tease her, but the police department was like a small town, everyone liked to gossip. Right now, her upcoming wedding to Doug was the hottest topic. Too bad there wasn’t a gruesome murder to grab everyone’s interest. She couldn’t believe such a thought popped into her mind. She shook her head.

“We’ll start day after tomorrow. Meet me at the condemned pier at seven a.m. I’ll point out the places where each of victim had her encounter with this jerk. That should help us choose the best spot for you to watch while I jog. If nothing else, I’ll get some exercise.”

* * *

Doug caught up with Stacey in the parking lot. “How about coming back to the house for awhile?”

Stacey grinned at him. “As much as I’d like to, I think I better get home. I’ve got a lot to do tomorrow.”

“I know, but do you have time for a cup of coffee at least? We could stop at the diner. I wanted to talk to you about this pervert. I’m not so sure I want you to be a decoy.”

“Okay. A cup of coffee.”

Though Doug suggested she ride with him, she declined. Driving her yellow VW, she followed his black SUV. When they’d met, Doug drove a red vintage MG he’d restored. The SUV didn’t seem like the right vehicle for him. Unfortunately his pride and joy had been sunk in a lagoon by a suspect. Though it had been fully insured, he’d replaced it with the SUV, reasoning it was more suitable for a family man. Perhaps he was right as there was plenty of room, even for the times his two children might visit.

They parked in front of the diner located on Valley Drive, the main street of Rocky Bluff. A favorite with cops and civilians alike, the diner, aptly called The Gathering Place, stayed open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. According to the newspaper clipping framed on the wall, the establishment opened its doors in 1939. It was laid out like many diners of an older era, with a counter down one side and booths on the other. Through the years, each new owner had rejuvenated it with a paint job, new curtains and decorations.  Though everything was fresh and clean, the latest version reflected an earlier time with blue and white gingham curtains and shelves filled with old-fashioned kitchen equipment like old toasters, mixers, bread boxes and cheese graters. The waitresses wore blue and white gingham aprons, though underneath most wore white blouses and dark slacks.

Once Doug and Stacey settled in their favorite booth at the back of the room, with steaming cups of coffee in front of them, she said, “Don’t say anything about the pervert on the beach. It’s my job to take care of these kinds of cases now.”

Reaching across the blue and white speckled Formica table-top, Doug took one of her hands. “That’s not what’s bothering me. We really don’t know much about this new guy, Aragon. I’d be much happier if someone else was going to back you up.”

“Like who? Gordon?” Stacey’s blue eyes twinkled.

“No, as much as I like Butler, he’d probably botch the whole thing.”

“Sounds like Aragon has a lot more experience than Gordon. I really don’t see how anything can go wrong.”

“Something can always go wrong.”

Nodding, Stacey squeezed his hand. “Yes, and it can go wrong with weddings too. That’s why I have to go home early tonight and really concentrate on everything that I still have to do. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.”

Doug sipped some coffee. He’d be so happy when he and Stacey were finally married and she and her son Davey lived with him. “Sometimes I wish I hadn’t agreed to a big wedding.”

She shook her head. “You didn’t and we aren’t having one. This is a small ceremony in the church with only our relatives and close friends.”

“Close friends meaning all the police officers who don’t have to work along with their wives and kids.”

“And my mom and dad and Davey.”

“Of course.” He sipped his coffee and swallowed hard. “It just seems the plans keep expanding.”

Stacey raised her eyebrows and tipped her head. “Sounds like you’re getting nervous. You aren’t having second thoughts are you?”

“Absolutely not. I can hardly wait.” They’d already picked out matching wedding rings and gotten their marriage license. He wished they could have a simple ceremony at the court house, but Stacey and her parents were adamant that their wedding be performed by their minister and in the church.

He studied Stacey. Her short honey colored hair curled slightly around her elfin face that was nearly devoid of make-up. She was so different than his first wife. Though beautiful, Kerrie couldn’t stand the fact that he was a policeman. When one of their best friends was killed on the job, that was the end of the marriage. Stacey filled the void left by his divorce. Of course he missed his kids, but Stacey’s six-year-old son, Davey, helped ease that pain. He was eager to be a full-time father again.

She frowned. “That’s good because I’ve spent a lot of time and money trying to make everything perfect.” When she broke into giggles, Doug knew she was teasing.

“I thought we weren’t planning anything extravagant.” Every time she started talking about what she was doing, it made him nervous. No doubt their ideas of a small wedding weren’t the same. He hadn’t been asked to foot the bill for anything and, so far, had only paid for the rings. It wasn’t the expense that was bothering him. He’d already experienced one big wedding and the outcome wasn’t good. He was hoping a much smaller event and their love would result in a lasting commitment.

“Trust me, sweetheart.” A smile lingered on her full lips. “It will be far from extravagant, but I do want it to be nice. My plan is to make our special day something we’ll both remember.”

Read the reviews!

“This is a suspenseful story with a bit of religious mysticism thrown into the mix—just enough to broaden the plot and provide added depth to the characterizations. It should appeal to a wide range of readers and will provide a satisfying reading experience thanks to the author’s smooth and fluid writing style.”

–Kit Sloane

Stilettos & Scoundrels by Laina Turner-Molaski

About Laina Turner-Molaski

Laina Turner-Molaski is a business woman, mom, author, Professor, and a major supporter of shopping. She has an undying love for shoes and coffee, which is why she created her main character and alter-ego Presley Thurman.

With many letters after her name and a ton of student loan debt, she is always working to pay the bills. While she enjoys her day job, her passion is writing, and she uses a lot of company time writing her fiction or working on her social website for women, Chiczofrenic.com. She is hoping to sell her book before she gets fired from her day job for goofing off.

Laina is currently living in Indiana, with her family, and is always writing something, whether it’s blogs, articles, business journals and books or ideas for her next novel. She is continuously doing what she loves which is writing or drinking coffee.

You can visit her website at LainaTurner.com

About Stilettos & Scoundrels

Presley Thurman, a sassy, thirty-something red-head, was looking to reinvent herself. She didn’t allow the fact she was recently fired to bother her – she was ready to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a writer. Presley is a lover of shopping and Starbucks, and even though she sometimes had bad taste in men, she always had great taste in clothes. Not looking back on corporate America, Presley decided to follow her dream.

With her feisty nature and a spirit to not “sweat the small stuff,” she was ready to tackle any challenge (even if she had no idea how she would pay the bills). When her friend Trevor offered her a job with his online magazine to interview public figures, she jumped at the chance. However, the new job turned into something unexpected when the U.S. Senator she was slated to write about was murdered – in her home town!

Presley was excited – she hadn’t seen so much buzz since the spring sample sale at Saks. She was ready for this adventure, even if it didn’t seem to fit neatly into her life. She couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be in the middle of the buzz. Presley was determined (not to mention curious) to find the killer and write her story. After all, she couldn’t afford her shoe habit without a job and she was certainly not one to shy away from danger.

The only thing standing in her way was an old high school fling, Cooper Sands, head of the Senator’s security. He was not actually standing in her way, but because of his good looks, he was the biggest distraction and one she was having the hardest time overcoming. Cooper felt it was too dangerous for Presley to look for a killer and tried to distract her with reliving the past; which Presley found more dangerous than any killer. While she attempted to resist Cooper’s good looks and charm, Presley was able to discover the Senator’s wife, Helen, had been having an affair… with her best friend’s boyfriend!

Did Helen kill the Senator? Or was it the Senator’s love of gambling that got him killed? And what was Cooper’s secret tie to the mob boss Garrison Palazzo? Presley was betting her favorite pair of Manolo’s she will find the killer… but will time run out!

Tom Jones Club by Kathy Holmes

Kathy Holmes: She often says that she was “Born in the City of Angels, raised on Walt Disney, and inspired by the dreams of both.”

Maybe she should say something about being conceived in San Francisco, but it doesn’t sound quite as poetic. Her agent said that she had a poetic, almost lyrical writing style and she’ll be forever grateful to her for saying that.

Kathy grew up halfway between Disneyland and the beach with influences from nearby Hollywood during the Mad Men era. No wonder there’s usually some sort of retro scene in her writing.

Her mother was part Betty/part Joan –  sometimes she was a full-time stay-at-home mom – sometimes she had to girdle herself up with garters, hose, and heels and take the plunge into the male chauvinistic office politics of that era.

Kathy’s step dad was a mix of Elvis and Don Draper – southern California-style. She ventured all over southern California on the back of his motorcycle – no wonder her favorite Mad Men scenes are the ones where Don Draper is visiting SoCal.

It’s also no wonder she sometimes feels like Sally Draper – about the same age back then. She understands the father issues since Kathy didn’t formally meet her sailor boy father until after the age of 40 and subsequently wrote Myths of the Fatherless. Kathy wonders what will become of Sally. As for Kathy, she found her way back to the place of her conception and worked for advertising agencies, printers, and publishers in San Francisco, leading to a career in the high tech world of Silicon Valley.

Tantalized by the tropics since Adam Troy set sail on the Kon Tiki in James A. Michener’s “Adventures in Paradise,” Kathy has traveled to tropical destinations such as Hawaii, Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Asia Pacific. Eventually, she moved to Florida where she wrote and secured representation for Real Women Wear Red. She also wrote for Walt Disney World and the Orlando Sentinel.

The Tom Jones Club begins in Orlando and finds its way to Las Vegas. But no surprise there – the first time she saw Las Vegas she about seven-years-old when her step dad, attempting to quit smoking, drove the family to Las Vegas to keep his hands busy playing craps. Somebody said that this was the funniest bio they’d ever read, and she happens to agree with them about the “playing craps to quit smoking” part.

Life is fully of ironies because she’s now living in Las Vegas with her husband and their three furry kids.

*** Dedicated to her paternal grandmother, Rev. Freda Walker Holmes, 1915-2000 – who said “never give up, in spite of age or the naysayers, and “attitude is just how you see things.” As you can see, “Cattitude is everything.”

About Tom Jones Club

International wine director Lucky Stryker, the “Lucky Lady,” is lucky in the boardroom, but unlucky in love. But the last thing she expects is to land in the arms of a cowboy during the Tom Jones Club convention. A hot week with a cowboy in Las Vegas is one thing—eternity is another.

Fearing that any woman he gets involved with will leave him–the way his mother left his father–Eric Blake chooses women who are guaranteed to fulfill that prophecy. And Lucky Stryker is no exception.

When Lady Luck throws the red hot dice, Lucky and Eric cash in on a red hot sizzling romance. So when their pasts catch up to them, and neither is who they appear to be, they are forced to answer these questions, “Can their hearts keep the promises their bodies have been making?” and “Will they finally get lucky in love?”

Lucky was called a Keeper by one agent and The Tom Jones Club won a query submission contest by another agent.

PURCHASE your digital copy at Bookstrand, Mobipocket, Nook Book (BN.com), and amazon.com (Kindle available now – Print – available late December on amazon.com)

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Excerpt

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Lancelot’s Lady by Cherish D’Angelo

When palliative care nurse Rhianna McLeod is given a gift of a dream holiday to the Bahamas from her dying patient, billionaire JT Lance, Rhianna has no idea that her ‘holiday’ will include being stranded on a private island with Jonathan, an irritating but irresistibly handsome recluse. Or that she’ll fall head over heels for the man.

Jonathan isn’t happy to discover a drop-dead gorgeous redhead has invaded his island. But his anger soon turns to attraction. After one failed marriage, he has guarded his heart, but Rhianna’s sudden appearance makes him yearn to throw caution to the wind.

To live fully in the present, Rhianna must resolve her own murky past, unravel the secret that haunts JT, foil the plans of a sleazy, blackmailing private investigator and help Jonathan find his muse. Only then can Rhianna find the love she’s been searching for, and finally become…Lancelot’s Lady.

About Cherish D’Angelo

When romance author Cherish D’Angelo is not busy relaxing in her hot tub, sipping champagne, eating chocolate-covered strawberries or plotting romantic suspense with scintillating sensuality, she is ruthlessly killing people off in her thrillers as bestselling Canadian suspense author, Cheryl Kaye Tardif.

Cherish’s debut romance, Lancelot’s Lady placed in the semi-finals of Dorchester Publishing’s “Next Best Celler” contest and went on to win an Editor’s Choice Award from Textnovel. Currently living in Edmonton, Alberta, she enjoys long walks on the beach, except there aren’t any around so she has to make do with trips around the hot tub or a vacation to a tropical paradise. And margaritas.

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Chapter 1

Pacing in the expansive marble foyer of Lance Manor, Rhianna McLeod tried to calm her nerves as she waited for her life to change. One man’s decision would determine her fate. Would she have a new job and a place to call home? Or would she be sent packing?

A tall, thin man in a dark gray suit approached her.

“Are you Mr. Lance?” she asked, holding her breath.

The man smiled and fine lines crinkled the corners of his warm brown eyes. “I’m Higginson, Mr. Lance’s butler. He’s resting at the moment. Perhaps you can leave your name.”

Rhianna blinked back tears. She couldn’t be turned away. The trip to Florida had taken most of her savings and she didn’t have enough money to fly back to Maine. Besides, if it weren’t for Mr. Lance’s letter, she wouldn’t even be in this predicament.

“But Mr. Lance is expecting me. I’m Rhianna McLeod, the palliative nurse he contacted. In his letter he said I’d have the job if I came here.”

“I’m dreadfully sorry. Mr. Lance already has a nurse.”

“But I don’t have anywhere else―”

Somewhere in the stately mansion something crashed to the floor. Before Rhianna could comment, a crystal-shattering shriek pierced the air. This was followed by a terrible wailing sound.

The butler groaned. “Oh, no. Not again.” He rushed off in the direction of the commotion.

Unsure of what to do, Rhianna took a determined breath and followed him. When they passed beneath a pillared arch and into a long hallway, she saw a reed-thin elderly man dressed only in a threadbare blue plaid bathrobe. It gaped open in the front, threatening to reveal more than just a hairy chest. Beside him, a plump woman in white scrubs was trying her best to calm him down, even though she was dripping wet and very upset.

As they approached the dueling pair, Rhianna tried to remember everything she could about her potential employer. In the past year, the tabloids had been filled with stories of multi-millionaire JT Lance and his fight against an aggressive disease, a cancerous brain tumor that made him an unruly and difficult patient. From what she could see, the rumors were true. Once exuding strength, confidence and perhaps a touch of arrogance, JT now looked frail and helpless.

“JT?” the butler called out.

“Higginson, get this woman a towel. She spilled my water.”

“I did not spill it,” the nurse snapped. “Mr. Lance refuses to take his meds or draw a blood sample. Now he’s having a temper tantrum. He threw that water pitcher at me.”

JT’s eyes flared. “That’s because you keep trying to poison me, you old bat!”

“I am not trying to poison you,” the nurse sputtered. “The medication will help―”

“How the hell do you know what will help me? Half the time, you keep me so drugged that I don’t even know who I am when I look in the mirror. The other half, you’re busy taking my blood for your tests.”

JT turned his back on the nurse and staggered toward Higginson, oblivious of the broken glass and water on the floor.

“Sir!” the butler warned.

With a resigned sigh, JT leaned against the wall for support. Then he caught sight of Rhianna. His mouth gaped and electric blue eyes lit up like twin lanterns.

“Anna,” he whispered. “You came back.”

He moved toward her and she suddenly found herself wrapped in his scrawny arms. Her first reaction was panic. It gripped her around the throat, strangling her. She wanted to fight him off, but then something strange happened. Calmness washed over her and she felt connected, a sense of belonging. For once in her life, she knew what it felt like to be welcomed home.

But this isn’t my home.

She pulled back, embarrassed. “Mr. Lance, my name is Rhianna McLeod. I’m the nurse from Maine. Remember?”

“Nurse?” He studied her face and something akin to recognition flickered in his eyes. “Ah, yes…”

“What’s going on, sir?” Higginson asked.

“I’ll explain later. First, I need a drink.”

Higginson gave Nurse Simpson an apologetic look. “Get Mr. Lance a fresh jug of water, please. I’m sure he won’t let his temper get out of control now that he has company. Will you, sir?”

All eyes watched as the portly nurse waddled down the hall. Her disappearing act seemed to make the old man extremely happy.

JT nudged Rhianna. “That woman’s a vampire.”

“As you can see,” Higginson said, “Mr. Lance and the nurse don’t exactly get along.” He turned to JT. “Let’s get you back into bed before you end up on the floor―again.”

“Come along, Anna.” JT took her hand. “You can visit while Higgie tucks me in.”

Rhianna stifled a laugh. Higgie?

When she caught his eye, Higginson shrugged.

She followed the two men up a spiral staircase, her shoes clicking on the Italian marble steps and echoing around her. When she entered a handsomely decorated suite accented with polished mahogany and brass, she sucked in a stunned breath.

The suite was larger than four bedrooms put together. A plush sitting room with two suede sofas and a wall of bookshelves greeted her first. Double French doors with glass inserts opened into the bedroom area. On one side of the bedroom, an open door led to a massive walk-in closet that held rows of suits, dress shirts and ties in every shade, and a shoe collection that would be the envy of any man on Wall Street. Another door opened into a bathroom ensuite featuring a Jacuzzi, a glass and tile shower and a sauna room. A sliding door on the other side of the spacious bedroom led out onto a small balcony overlooking a delicately scented rose garden. Between two tall windows stood a huge carved bed, a work of art in itself. A tan-colored suede armchair was positioned next to it―probably for the nurse―and a kaleidoscope of pill bottles lay scattered across the nightstand.

“What do you think, Anna?” JT asked once he was settled in the bed.

“I think it’s definitely a man’s domain.”

Nurse Simpson returned, carrying a plastic jug of ice water. Shoving the pill bottles aside, the woman set the jug on the nightstand and crossed her arms, every muscle in her face pinched in disapproval.

JT dismissed her with an impatient flick of his hand.

In the doorway, the nurse hesitated. “Mr. Lance needs his rest. Even if he doesn’t think so.” Sensing competition, her eyes narrowed in Rhianna’s direction. “Or anyone else, for that matter.”

“Maybe we should talk later,” Rhianna mumbled.

“Nonsense,” JT said. “Stay with me a while.”

The butler glanced toward the door. “Nurse Simpson, why don’t you take a break for an hour or two?”

JT nodded. “Anna will take good care of me.”

As the door slammed shut behind the nurse, Rhianna took a step closer. “Mr. Lance, my name is Rhianna McLeod.”

“Rhianna?” JT sighed. “Well, yes. I guess you are.”

Confused, she turned to Higginson. “I don’t think he remembers writing me about the nursing position. He even contacted the hospital I used to work in and―”

“I hate it when people talk as if I’m not in the room,” JT fumed. “Of course I remember you, uh…Rhianna. And I do want you to be my nurse. Higginson! Make up the Rose-Mist Room for Ms. McLeod. She’ll be staying with us indefinitely.”

“Are you sure?” Rhianna asked, surprised. “You may want someone more experienced. I’ve only worked in one hospital and one nursing home before coming here.”

Higginson cleared his throat. “Have you checked her references, sir?”

“References are for untrusting fools. It’s my blasted memory that’s disintegrating, not my eyes.” JT eyed the door. “And references sure didn’t make a difference with Nurse Dracula. Which reminds me…see that the old bat gets a nice severance package.”

As the butler’s footsteps faded, Rhianna was at a loss for words. “I…uh…thank you.”

“You can thank me by getting my pills over there.” JT pointed to the nightstand. “The ones in the red bottle.”

She fetched his medication and quickly scanned the bottle. The prescription was for Vicodin, a narcotic pain reliever. She shook out two pills and poured a glass of water before approaching his bedside.

“Thank you, Ann―Rhianna.” His breathing was strained.

“Are you feeling all right, Mr. Lance?”

“JT, my dear. When you call me Mr. Lance, I feel so damned ancient, like some old geezer waiting to croak.” He chuckled at his own joke.

After he was resting comfortably, she sat down in the chair and studied him. His thinning gray hair and handsome face suggested the rather dashing young man he must once have been. A once-strong jaw line, now softened by age and illness, still held traces of stubbornness. But it was his eyes, bright and kind, that held her attention. They seemed sad. Tired and sad.

“Now, Rhianna, tell me a bit about yourself.”

“Well, I grew up in Bangor, Maine, and graduated―”

“Not the technical interview stuff, dear. I want to know about you. What are your goals, your dreams?”

Nobody had ever asked her about her dreams. For nearly two years, she had hidden herself in the nursing home in Portland, afraid to let anyone too close. Afraid to dream.

In that bedroom, sitting beside a dying man, she found more than an employer―she found a friend. Tentatively, she told him bits and pieces about her life. It started slowly, like a gurgle of water bubbling up from the center of the earth.

Within an hour, Rhianna had told him all about her childhood, about the terror she had endured, and the fear and abuse that had drained her soul of all self-worth.

‘Cherish the Romance’ Virtual Book Tour for Lancelot’s Lady

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 to Sunday, October 10th, 2010
The BIGGEST online virtual book tour EVER!

Follow Cherish as she visits various blogs and chats about everything from writing to creating a pen name to the evolution of one of her most hated characters, Winston Chambers.

‘Cherish the romance’ virtual book tour = over 100 STOPS in 15 DAYS!

Enter to WIN a KOBO eREADER!

FREE ebooks given to those who comment with email address at most of my blog stops. Also during the tour, bonus giveaways and other prizes, including a grand prize giveaway of a Kobo eReader, will be given away. View the prize list & rules.

So grab a drink — coffee, chai tea or a margarita — and join the party!

The Unexpected Son by Shobhan Bantwal

About Shobhan Bantwal

Shobhan HeadshotShobhan Bantwal calls her writing “Bollywood in a Book,” romantic, colorful, action-packed tales, rich with elements of Indian culture. Born and raised in India and now an American citizen, Shobhan had an arranged marriage and writes about that topic and other controversial social topics unique to India. THE UNEXPECTED SON is her fourth book.

Shobhan’s articles and short stories have appeared in a variety of publications including The Writer magazine, Romantic Times, India Abroad, Little India, U.S. 1, India Currents, and New Woman. Her short stories have won honors and awards in fiction contests sponsored by Writer’s Digest, New York Stories and New Woman magazines. To read her stories, articles, favorite recipes, and more, go to her website: www.shobhanbantwal.com

The Unexpected Son

About The Unexpected Son

What happens when a woman who’s realized her dreams wakes up to a shocking truth? A mysterious letter turns Vinita Patil’s contented American life upside down. It tells an impossible story: she has a grown son in India, a child she was told was stillborn 30 years ago. Now his life may depend on her.

Revealing her secret past to her arranged-marriage husband could mean losing him forever. Nonetheless Vinita is compelled to return to her battle-scarred town in India to meet her hitherto unknown son—perhaps even save his life—and pray for the faith of the family she leaves behind.

Read an Excerpt

PrologueThere was something odd about it, despite its plain and inconsequential appearance. Vinita gazed at the mystery envelope for a long moment, weighed it in the palm of her hand. Her instincts were prickling. It went beyond mere feminine intuition.

She didn’t receive any letters from her family in India anymore. Cheap long-distance telephone rates and email had put an end to that somewhat antiquated form of communication.

The smudged postal seal on the envelope read Mumbai—one of India’s largest and most populous cities—a place Vinita was very familiar with. The envelope had that typical “India” look—multiple postage stamps in various colors and sizes; thin brown paper; and the sealing flap placed over the vertical edge, unlike the American style horizontal edge. But it didn’t look like the occasional wedding invitation or the quarterly statements from the bank where she and husband maintained a small account in rupees.

There was no return address, but it was sent to her attention—neatly hand-printed. She slit it open with her finger and eased out the contents—a single sheet of white ruled paper. Her hands shook a little. She wasn’t sure if it was anticipation or anxiety. Or both.

The message was brief—a few lines penned in blue ink. She scanned it quickly, trying to ignore the tingle crawling up her spine like the cautious progress of a venomous spider. The subject matter was bizarre. The writer’s name was missing. The trembling in her hands edged up a notch.

Only minutes ago, it had looked like any ordinary Saturday morning—a day to recoup after five hectic days of poring over spreadsheets, memos, and databases till her eyeballs ached and her back turned stiff as cardboard.

This morning, lying in bed, through drowsy eyes she’d watched the first shimmering rays of sunlight poke their fingers through the window blinds. The sound of the wind whistling through the pale green spring foliage was a sign of a brisk but sunny April day.

May, her favorite month, was right around the corner. The dogwoods and azaleas in the neighborhood, weighed down by fat, succulent buds, attested to that. Spring was always such a buoyant season, so full of promise. It had brought a contented smile to her lips.

Reminding herself that it was time to emerge from the warm cocoon of the down comforter, she’d sat up in bed, stretched like a slothful kitten, and leaned back against the headboard. She’d managed to grab more than two extra hours of sleep. Her reward for waking early on weekdays.

Her husband was on a business trip to Detroit, and wasn’t due to return until the following week, so she had the weekend to herself. She’d planned to indulge herself by brewing a cup of scalding masala chai—strong tea delicately laced with her own blend of five spices instead of the usual coffee-on-the-run on weekdays at the office. Then she was going to eat lunch at the taco place and do some shopping at the mall.

Working late the previous evening had prevented her from looking at the mail right away. Exhausted, she’d tossed the stack of correspondence on the nightstand, eaten a quick meal of leftovers, and gone straight to bed.

Now, as she sat on the bed in her aqua print pajamas and checked the mail before getting dressed, she wondered if the weekend of self-indulgence she’d been looking forward to was already beginning to wilt and curl at the edges. The tacos and the shopping spree no longer appealed.

Who could have sent her the odd message? An old friend? An acquaintance? She blew her disheveled bangs out of her eyes to read it again, more carefully this time. Perhaps there were clues she had missed the first time.

My dear Mrs. Patil,
I am writing to tell you about your son. He is suffering from myeloid leukemia. Many years ago, I had made a promise that I will never reveal anything about him, but this is a serious matter. A bone marrow transplant is his last hope. My conscience will not allow me to let a young man die without having a chance to try every possible treatment. Your brother may be able to give you all the details.
I leave the matter in your hands.
Best Regards & Blessings,
A well-wisher

Who was this nameless letter-writer? And why had he or she chosen to remain anonymous? Something about the message was disturbing.
How could someone spring something like this on a total stranger? Whose son were they talking about, anyway? Was it possible the letter was erroneously mailed to her? But what if it wasn’t a mistake and she was indeed the intended recipient?

Was this someone’s idea of a sick joke? But then, why would they spend over forty rupees to mail something all the way to the U.S. as a mere prank? Everything about the letter spelled serious intent. This was no hoax …

What Reviewers are Saying

“Bantwal is a magical storyteller. The characters are so tangible that you miss them when you finish reading The Unexpected Son.” — BookPleasures