Friday, 18 March 2016

The Long Way Home (The Southwark Saga, Book 3) - Jessica Cale

Release Date: February 29th, 2016
Genre: Historical Romance, Adult Fairytale, Romantic Comedy, Action/Adventure

A paranoid king, a poison plot, and hideous shoes…it’s not easy being Cinderella.

The Long Way Home is set in the court of Louis XIV at the beginning of the murder scandal that would become known as the Affair of the Poisons. Although this has become an overlooked corner of history, the revelations that arose from this scandal once caused terror throughout France and had serious consequences for hundreds of citizens from all walks of life. So what was it?

The Affair of the Poisons

The Affair of the Poisons was a major scandal that took place during the reign of Louis XIV in France between 1675 and 1682. Hundreds of people were accused of murder, conspiracy, and witchcraft, resulting in the imprisonment, torture, exile, or execution of more nearly three hundred people, many of them prominent members of society.

Madame de Brinvilliers

The Affair of the Poisons is generally considered to begin with the trial and subsequent execution of Madame de Brinvilliers in 1675-6. A wealthy and respectable woman, Brinvilliers was convicted of conspiring to poison her father and two brothers with hopes of inheriting their estates. This was no crime of passion, but a coldly calculated maneuver executed very slowly over the course of years. She went to trouble of installing her own servants in the homes of her father and brothers, and successfully poisoned all three relatives. She had also poisoned her husband and daughter, but gave them both antidotes in a fit of conscience.

This trial called attention to other mysterious deaths and raised fears across the kingdom. When an anonymous note detailing a plot to murder the king was found in a confession box in 1677, paranoia hit fever pitch.

The fears were well-founded. When Madame de La Grange was arrested in 1677 on murder charges, she appealed with information of other serious crimes, leading to the discovery of a vast network of people involved in poison, murder, witchcraft, infanticide, and even Satanism right under the King’s nose.


Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie, the chief of Paris police, followed the accusations to a number of fortune tellers, alchemists, and even renegade priests. If you’re thinking all this was over a little palm reading, think again. Fortune tellers and others were found to be selling poisons and other “remedies” door-to-door or even in shops along with cosmetics and household tonics (think evil Avon lady).
The most infamous of these was midwife Catherine Deshayes Monvoisin, also known as La Voisin, who was arrested in 1679. Following her arrest, La Voisin implicated many of her clients who were prominent members of the aristocracy, including one of the king’s mistresses, Madame de Montespan, the Comtesse de Soissons, the Duchesse de Bouillon, and the Duke of Luxembourg.

Poison and Witchcraft

Although the poisons they were using were potent enough to do away with rivals without any help, it was believed that magic gave the poison its power. We’re not talking about a few little spells, here, either. The magic was believed to come from priests, and a number of unscrupulous priests accepted this kind of work on the side to supplement their clerical livings. For a fee, they would say mass over magic charms and even poison to infuse them with power, regardless of their intended use. If poison of charms made from holy oil or menstrual blood did not prove to be potent enough to achieve the person’s aims, there was also something called an Amatory Mass. What was that, exactly? You probably don’t want to know. If you’re at all squeamish, maybe skip the next paragraph.

At the height of the Affair of the Poisons, there were accusations that certain prominent members of the court, most notably the King’s longest-serving mistress and mother to seven of his children, Madame de Montespan, had employed corrupt priests to perform a ritual called an Amatory mass. While it was superficially similar to common Christian mass, it differed with a few key details. Said over the body of a naked woman (usually the person requesting the magic), it culminated in the sacrifice of a human infant. While the existence of these has not been conclusively proven, testimony of priests thought to be involved is eerily similar.


The investigations into the Affair of the Poisons resulted in the imprisonment, torture, and interrogation of many people, as well as the execution of a further thirty-six. Following the execution of La Voisin in 1680, the king’s minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert helped to sweep things under the rug on the king’s instruction. His Chambre Ardente, a court established to judge cases of poisonings and witchcraft, was closed in 1682 on the king’s instruction because so many courtiers and those connected to them had been questioned and found guilty that he could not abide the scandal.

Some measures were taken to limit the availability of poisons after the scandal. In 1682, an edict proclaimed that anyone convicted of supplying poison, whether or not that supply resulted in death, would be sentenced to death. Alchemists found themselves under greater scrutiny because of the involvement of a small number of them in the formulation of the poisons, most notably Brinvilliers’ alchemist lover. The same edict restricted alchemy to that conducted with the protection of a permit. Further limits were placed on the sale of arsenic and mercury sublimate, so that they were no longer available to the general public, but only to professions that were deemed to require them.
The Long Way Home takes place in Versailles in 1677, just as the Affair of the Poisons is beginning in earnest. The court is plagued with mysterious deaths, the king fears for his life, and Alice quickly discovers that court is not as virtuous as it appears. 
Lynn Wood Mollenauer. Strange Revelations: Magic, Poison, and Sacrilege in Louis XIV’s France.
Anne Somerset. The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide, and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV.


After saving the life of the glamorous Marquise de Harfleur, painfully shy barmaid Alice Henshawe is employed as the lady’s companion and whisked away to Versailles. There, she catches King Louis’ eye and quickly becomes a court favorite as the muse for Charles Perrault’s Cinderella. The palace appears to be heaven itself, but there is danger hidden beneath the fa├žade and Alice soon finds herself thrust into a world of intrigue, murder, and Satanism at the heart of the French court.

Having left his apprenticeship to serve King Charles as a spy, Jack Sharpe is given a mission that may just kill him. In the midst of the Franco-Dutch war, he is to investigate rumors of a poison plot by posing as a courtier, but he has a mission of his own. His childhood friend Alice Henshawe is missing and he will stop at nothing to see her safe. When he finds her in the company of the very people he is meant to be investigating, Jack begins to wonder if the sweet girl he grew up with has a dark side.

When a careless lie finds them accidentally married, Alice and Jack must rely on one another to survive the intrigues of the court. As old affection gives way to new passion, suspicion lingers. Can they trust each other, or is the real danger closer than they suspect?


Even through five layers of fabric, Alice felt a hand creep across the small of her back. She stepped to the right, the heels of her shoes clattering across the marble step though she attempted stealth. Ysabeau shot her a look of displeasure as she came dangerously close to crowding her. It would not do to crowd Ysabeau.

Again, that dreadful hand. Lower, this time.

If she moved any further from him, she would push a string of ladies into the King’s lap. She had no choice but to stand there, expressionless, as Languedoc fondled her; one more of the palace’s many discomforts.

An idea seized Alice suddenly and she acted upon it before she thought it through. “Sir, I beg you to restrain yourself,” she whispered. “I have a husband.”

“A husband?” Languedoc scoffed, drawing attention to them. “My dear, you might have said.” Still, the lie had the desired effect, causing his hand to pause in midair over her bottom.

Alice looked at her feet, uncomfortable under the sudden scrutiny. “You never asked.”

Ysabeau rapped her flirtatiously with her folded fan. It hurt more than it appeared to. “Alice, you naughty thing! Have you run away?”

Alice shook her head. Not from a husband, at least.

Languedoc eyed her suspiciously, looking for the lie. “I suppose he is some great man? A comte, perhaps?”

This ridiculous question, asked louder than necessary, drew the attention of the rest of the room. Sixty-seven courtiers staring. They could clearly sense ridicule or scandal was sure to follow. They held their breath in anticipation, ready to pounce.

Alice shook her head.

Ysabeau’s face lit up at the attention. “A prince?”

To Alice’s horror, the King was looking at them, listening to the conversation. Alice shook her head.
“English,” Louis stated, his face betraying nothing. He knew very well Alice was not married.

She held his gaze. “Yes.”

“Out with it!” Ysabeau squealed, “Who is he?”

“He’s a soldier,” Alice said to Louis hoping he might use his powers of observation to guess at her reasons for lying. He was a very perceptive man, and already seemed to understand her in ways her family never could. They had spent so much time together over the past weeks she had begun to think of him by his Christian name, though she took care never to address him in such a familiar way.
His gaze flitted to Languedoc almost imperceptibly. “A noble profession,” Louis said. “We have spent a great deal of time within the ranks, as you know. We have on occasion met a number of young men in our cousin’s army. What is his name?”

Alice gulped. “He is very young, Your Majesty, he would not be of any interest.”
Louis’ eyebrow quirked. “On the contrary, any husband of yours is of great interest to me. What is his name, Madame?”

Alice’s hands shook. Languedoc was a snake, of that she was certain. She knew little of the other courtiers present, but she could guess at their feelings toward the English. Louis’ feelings toward them varied on the day. Could she be endangering Jack with a lie?

Louis waited patiently. Alice had to answer him.

She took a breath and said the only name that was in her heart. “Jack Sharpe.”

Louis’ lips twitched. A hint of a smile, and then it was gone. “How fortunate. He’s here.”

“Impossible,” she blurted without thinking.

“You doubt your king?” Louis frowned.

Alice bowed her head. “I do not, Your Majesty, I only reserve my joy. It is a common enough name.”

There was something in the look Louis gave her. A challenge. He addressed the hall. “Bring him to us.”

“He is my guest,” a courtier near the back spoke up. “I will fetch him forthwith.”

“Who is that?” she asked Ysabeau.

“Achille Archambault, the Marquis de Saint Croix.” She sniffed delicately. “No one you need trouble yourself with.”

The conversation around them resumed in pockets of whispers behind fans and gloves. Alice shrunk under the speculative glances turned her way. Ysabeau, bored, watched the queen with an odd balance of jealousy and pity. An English soldier was of no interest to her.

Languedoc loomed to her left. He affected disinterest, though his skepticism was more obvious than his perfumed powder. Civet, she now knew. A musk favored by gentlemen and ladies alike. It was meant to smell like desire, but to her it just smelled like a squeezed cat.

She focused on the details of the people around her, such as the hairpin that was about to fall out of Madame Montespan’s formidable coif; anything to distract from the hammering of her heart. The Jack in question could not possibly be hers.

But if he was...

Alice found herself praying he wasn’t. She wanted to see him to satisfy herself he was well, but not like this. After nearly five years, the first thing he would hear of her would be a lie. A stupid, thoughtless lie that would betray her dearest wish and greatest secret.

Alice fought the urge to cover her face. Whether it was him or not, she would never recover from the embarrassment.

The ladies in front of her must have known ridicule would swiftly see her from Court. Neither would meet her gaze. The one on the right wore violet and her hair was powdered nearly white and studded with jewels the size of eggs. Her companion on the left wore blue and her hair was a softer shade of gray and was crowned with two real doves arranged in artful, decaying flight.

Two sets of boot heels clicked down the corridor. Alice held her breath.

The crowd parted as the Marquis de Saint Croix entered the room accompanied by a tall, young courtier dressed in black.

She let out a breath. Not Jack.

Still, there was something familiar about his gait, the quick, even clip of his steps. Alice peered around the dead doves to really look at him as he approached.

He was far taller than Jack had been, though she supposed it was likely he might have grown in five years, as she certainly had. He was lean and elegant, with an angular face, a soft mouth, and a fetching little divot in his chin.

As he removed his hat to make his bow to the king, he revealed a head of thick black hair, curling madly in all directions. He settled a confused dark gaze on her as he stood.
A rather familiar confused dark gaze.


“Really brilliant writing that's so engaging with such endearing characters! I especially love the way Jack and Alice are both so devoted to each other! I was totally absorbed in this exciting and fascinating world Jessica Cale created from the very first paragraph to the last! I read this all in one sitting, staying awake late to finish, just had to!” – Romazing Reader

Buy links:

Google Play:

Find the rest of the series here:

Rafflecopter: Win a 7” Kindle Fire. Open from 2/22-3/21.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author

Jessica Cale is the award-winning author of the historical romance series, The Southwark Saga. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in North Carolina.

Twitter: @JessicaCale
Newsletter sign up:

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Stiletto Secrets - Bella J

Fairy Tale Bastards #1
By Bella J
Release Date:  04/25/16
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Adult Fairy tale

Nicholas Blake is your typical class A, rich bastard who loves getting what he wants. He’s spoiled, selfish and enjoys all the lavish pleasures life has to offer—especially those that involve women and getting naked. Nicholas’ life is just damn near perfect. But one night out on the town with his friends and everything changes. One encounter with a stripper in stilettos who fittingly calls herself Cinderella, and his life suddenly doesn’t seem so goddamn perfect anymore.
As if that isn’t enough, there’s also Emma, the new maid in his father’s mansion that immediately piques his curiosity with her sweet smile and blue-green eyes. He finds himself drawn to her and wants nothing more than to seduce her into his bed, to make her his. But he just can’t seem to stay away from the stripper that makes him burn in ways he never knew possible.
The more he starts to care for Emma, the stronger his obsession grows for Cinderella.
Insane? Absolutely.
Twisted? Yes.
Completely screwed up? Hell yes.
A decision needs to be made; he needs to choose. But will Nicholas be able to make that choice when he finds himself all tangled up in a giant cluster of love, lust and stilettos?



“Pick one.”
Nicholas jerked his head to the left in the direction from where the woman’s voice came, and noticed the dark-pink curtains.
“Pick one what?” He scanned the room.
“The shoes. Pick a pair,” a soft, sultry voice replied.
Then Nicholas noticed movement behind the curtain. Whoever it was dragged her hand along the fabric while leisurely pacing, apparently waiting for him to choose.
Instantly intrigued, he glanced at the cabinet and then back at the curtain. “You want me to choose a pair of shoes?”

“Yes, pick a pair and I will wear them.”
Nicholas felt a little tingle in the back of his neck when she spoke. He had only been in this room for five minutes and whoever was behind the curtain already had all his attention.
He moved a little closer to the curtain. “You know, a lot goes into choosing the right pair of shoes. For example, I’d need to know what you’re wearing first.” He tried to get a better look at the woman behind the curtain, but the fabric was just too damn dense for him to make out anything other than a silhouette.
“Why don’t you just pick a pair under the assumption that I’m not wearing anything,” she replied with soft, smoothly spoken words. Somehow it reminded him of melted chocolate.
“Why don’t you let me see for myself what you’re wearing?”
“That’s not how it works, Mr. Blake.”
The curtain swooshed a little as she moved behind it.
Nicholas turned to the glass cabinet with the shoes. How in God’s name was he supposed to choose? It was like telling a kid to choose one item in Willy Wonka’s candy factory. Im-fucking-possible.
After inspecting each pair, he finally opened the door and reached for a white pair of stilettos with a little diamond bow on top. A simple design, but it was the pair with the sharpest heel, and Nicholas loved those damn heels.
“So what do I do with these?” Nicholas inspected the shoes more closely.
And then a hand reached out from the other side of the curtain. Nicholas noticed the freshly manicured nails and beautiful dainty fingers. “Now you give them to me, and take a seat, Mr. Blake.”
Nicholas looked to the chair before handing her the shoes.
“On the table next to the chair you will see a pair of handcuffs and a blindfold. You need to sit down, lock one of the cuffs around your hand, put on the blindfold and then place both hands behind the back of the seat.”
Nicholas frowned. “Okay, I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with this. I thought this was a show. How am I supposed to enjoy the show if I can’t see anything?”
“Mr. Blake, I have three different types of shows I present. See, feel, and touch.”
“See, feel, and touch?” he mimed silently with his mouth.
“You can’t experience all at once.”
“Well, I’d sort of feel cheated then.”
“When you lose one of your senses, the other senses get heightened, Mr. Blake.”
Nicholas could not get over the beautiful sound of this woman’s voice. It was like her voice had a direct line straight down to his cock.
He started to leisurely pace around the room. “So I’m just curious, which show did my friends book me for?”
“Feel,” she replied.
Being the smart-ass that he was, Nicholas asked, “Isn’t that kind of the same thing as touch?”
“No, it’s not. With touch you would be allowed to use your hands, guided by me of course. With feel, you will only feel what I want you to feel.”
Okay, now he was really damn curious.
As he turned to the table and eyed the contents, he contemplated what his options were. Either he turned around now and then got labeled as a pussy by his friends, or he could put on the mask and the cuffs and see where this all went. But honestly, there was no way in hell he would be able to walk away now.
“What will it be, Mr. Blake?”
Nicholas shrugged and picked up the cuffs. “I guess we should get this show started then.”

About the Author:

Bella J lives in Cape Town, South Africa with her husband, two kids, & chihuahua. Her love for writing started in eighth grade when she received her first writing assignment—which she flunked. But the positive side of her failure—her newly found passion for writing. The negative side—now she’s completely spaced out half of the time living in her little pretend world of romance, love, & insanely hot heroes
Get in Touch


Resplendent Ruin (Resplendence #1)

Resplendent Rush (Resplendence #2)

Resplendent Rage (Resplendence #3)
Release date: 03/28/16

Friday, 11 March 2016

#Sorcery and Sword Fights in Vanquished by @Laurel_R_books #fantasy

Blurb: Three strangers brought together by war.

The Ulanesh—vicious soldiers from the underrealm—are invading the forest and destroying everything in their path. Standing against the enemy, Evrenor is a captain in the Quennin army and has been tasked by his king to find allies. He enlists the aid of the ancient sea sorceress Valkaria, whom he wakes from a curse that has entombed her at the bottom of a lake for a thousand years. She must regain her powers after a millennium of disuse or else watch everyone around her die.

Evrenor finds another ally in Damir, a woodsman whose people are so reclusive that outsiders consider them myths. The tree-talking woodsmen can blend perfectly with the forest, and they are deadly with their daggers. Damir is ready to take down the enemy, but he has to strike before the vision he’s had of his own death comes to pass.

An awakened sorceress, a mysterious woodsman, and a cunning army captain—will their combined forces be enough to vanquish the enemy?

Available from:

Amazon UKAmazon USOmnilitB&NKoboiTunesInktera


Evrenor kept a close eye on Valkaria as they moved along the rough trail through the woods. Looking at her fresh face, it was difficult to imagine that she had been born over a thousand years ago. He wondered if she realized how much time she’d lost trapped inside the lake. Should he tell her? Perhaps when she was a little stronger?

Glancing behind him, he saw that Hyvril and Antyar were looking after her now. He hadn’t even needed to tell them to do so. They had taken it upon themselves to protect her on each side. Such good men, he thought. He was glad to have them on this mission. Although there hadn’t been any sightings of the enemy for days, he couldn’t be certain when they might appear.

As Evrenor led the way over the nearest hill, the woods widened around him, and the air wasn’t nearly so still.

“I’m sorry we didn’t bring more suitable clothes for you, Lady Valkaria,” he heard Hyvril say behind him.

“It doesn’t matter,” she replied. “I prefer dry and warm over suitable, and I’ve decided I like these clothes.”

“We expected a man,” Antyar added more bluntly. “The legends said nothing of the great sorcerer being a woman.”

Evrenor glanced back to see her reaction and caught the wry amusement that danced across her face.

“No, they wouldn’t have, would they?” she said. “There’s no feminine form of the word sorcerer in my language, so they would have had to go out of their way to make a point of it. Besides, I’m the only one.”

Evrenor saw his men exchange glances. So this, then, really was the great sorcerer? Although he knew there couldn’t have been two bodies magically buried in the lake, he had accepted that there might have been some sort of mix-up. Apparently the only mistake was a lack of a gendered noun in the seaside language.

Valkaria certainly spoke and carried herself with dignity, but how could so delicate a creature possess the great powers of legend? The lady seemed to inspire protectiveness among his men, not awe and reverence.

“My father, Lord Valkinor,” she explained, “was a sorcerer of exceptional skill. They said he could make the ocean touch the sky or build the dunes with a thought. He saved our isle from the windstorms and the towering waves, and he was well loved by his people. Some even worshipped him as a god.

“It was hoped that one day he would pass his gifts to a son, who would continue his rule. But fate, it seems, had a will of her own. She gave him nothing but daughters. My father decided to break with the old ways, and he turned to me, the eldest of his daughters, to salvage his legacy. He passed the art of his magic to me, saving me from a life as a common oracle, and with it, he passed me his rule.”

“Didn’t that cause conflict?” Hyvril asked.

When a long silence ensued, Evrenor looked at her again. Her face was solemn, and she looked as if she was troubled by dark memories.

“Yes,” she whispered. “Yes, it did.”

About the Author

Laurel Richards is a fiction author with a passion for shifters, space travelers, and other memorable characters. She has gathered inspiration from lots of different sources throughout her life and is here today to share her imagination through storytelling. Laurel writes sci-fi/fantasy, paranormal, and the occasional funny mystery, all with various degrees of romance mixed in.

Hashtags: #fantasy #swords #sorcery #magic

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Locked Box


Julia Bennett isn’t having a great day. Funding for her video game is running low, her IT job is sucking her dry and to cap it all off she’s locked in a police station with the very handsome, extremely married guy she’s been avoiding at all costs. 

Max Connor isn’t having a great year. He’s getting divorced, his best friend is squatting in his spare room and his inappropriate crush on the IT girl is getting dangerously out of hand. And that was before he locked the two of them in an evidence room for the weekend. Surrounded by three decade’s worth of drugs, guns and floppy disks, Max and Julia are forced to confront the heat that lies between them with dangerous, funny and occasionally toe-curlingly sexy results.

Teaser: Gaming, cider and RAM are all things young IT woman Julia Bennett understands. Her agonising crush on a seemingly married cop? Not so much. Julia’s been avoiding Max Connor for six years but now they're spending the weekend trapped in an evidence room full of whiskey and mice. 

Locked Box is a novel about two people with an unspoken connection who are forced to look each other in the eye and say “I really, really, really want to make out with you.” 

Author Bio

Eve Dangerfield has loved romance novels since she first started swiping her grandmother’s paperbacks at the age of fourteen. Now she writes her own unapologetically sexy tales about complex women and gorgeous-but-slightly-tortured men. Eve currently lives in Melbourne with her lovely sister and a rabbit named Billy. Locked Box is her second novel.


“Hey! Hey! Is someone in there?”

It was a man’s voice, calm and controlled and Julia knew it was a cop. Relief blasted through her, so all-encompassing she could barely speak. She slapped at the door trying to tell her would-be rescuer she was alive and in need of evacuation.

“Hang on a second,” the cop barked. “I’ll go get the spare keys.”

There was a pounding of feet as her rescuer dashed away. Julia inhaled, trying to calm her racing heart. The footsteps returned. Whoever this guy was, he was quick.

Julia swiped a hand across her sweaty forehead. “Oh my god please let me out.”

“Don’t worry Henri, I’ve got this.”

So the cop thought the actual evidence supervisor was the one entombed in Brenthill’s evidence room? That was awkward, then again who cared? He could think she was Humphrey B Bear if it got him to let her out. 

There was an agonizing rattle of keys, a muttered curse and then the door clicked open. 

Julia didn’t think she’d ever heard a sexier sound. She and the cop turned the handle at once, jamming the door. Julia laughed and let go, allowing him to open it. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m going to nominate you for Cop of The Ye--”

It was him. Of course it was him. She was locked in a room, making a total dick of herself. Why wouldn’t it be him? Julia’s mouth went dry as Senior Constable Max Connor’s gaze flicked over her flushed cheeks and quivering mouth. His eyes were as dark as Julia remembered, black you could barely make out the pupil.

“Julia? What are you doing in here?” His voice was so low and deep she could practically feel his voice reverberating in her bones.

“I-I...” She stared blankly up at Max wondering if she’d remembered to wear mascara today.


Max’s expression was a mixture of amusement and disdain as though he couldn’t figure out how someone could be quite so ridiculous. Julia cheeks burned hot and she knew that if she’d been given the choice she’d have gladly starved to death in the property office to avoid this situation.


Buy links:

Friday, 4 March 2016

Mother's Day Magic

A message from Allyson R. Abbott.

I love to buy books as presents. I wanted to find a book that would let my mom know how much I appreciate her. As an author, I decided to write the story to say how much I love her. I told my friend what I had planned to do. Grace, also an author, wanted to do the same. We set out to write our two stories, but Grace suffers with MS and it became so bad she had to stop writing. I sent out an appeal to authors worldwide to write stories for Mother's Day, and to donate 10% of every book sold to MS. My call was answered by 13 special authors and our Mother's Day Magic box set was born. Read these beautiful stories and help stop a crippling disease––MS!

Buy Links