Saturday Spotlight – Crucible Tea by Natalie Bennett

crucible release bannerTitle: Crucible

Author: Natalie Bennett

Genre: Dark Romantic Suspense

Release Date: January 10, 2019

Goodreads TBR: http://bit.ly/CRUCIBLETBR

crucible (1).jpg2Blurb:

Raelynn Davenport.

An elusive beauty queen with a sordid past.

The Blackwoods.

A prominent family with a graveyard full of tortured skeletons.

The plan couldn’t have been simpler.

All I had to do was swap my big city life and tarnished reputation for a fresh start in a small town. Catching the immediate attention of said town’s heartthrobs was nowhere on my agenda.

Unapologetic about their true intentions, I find myself in the center of a game that has no concept of moral aptitude.

All I wanted was peace.

All they crave is madness.

And in this game, losing isn’t an option.

Not when we’re playing for my life.

Prelude to Affliction  

Buy Links: Kindle Unlimited

crucibleteaser3Universal link: http://mybook.to/CrucibleAmazon

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L9J96HG

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07L9J96HG

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07L9J96HG

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07L9J96HG

Author Bio:

Natalie Bennett is the creator of erotic stories that always come with a warning label. She writes about depraved alpha a**holes and women that love to hate them. Her books don’t follow any specific tropes, have no set word counts, and tend to deviate from traditional HEA’s.

When she isn’t in front of her computer she’s spending time with her husband and their three little boys.

Natalie is an avid fan of caramel frappes, horror movies, Shameless, and of course, reading.

You can find Natalie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Social Media Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7447968.Natalie_Bennett

Facebook: www.facebook.com/nataliebennettwriter

Twitter: www.twitter.com/AuthorNbennett

Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/authornataliebennett/

Website: https://www.nataliebennett.net

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01G8Z4IF8

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cAAY4v

 

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Secret Revenge by TN Lowe

secret revenge bannerTitle: Secret Revenge

Series: Secret & Lies #2

Author: T.N. Lowe

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Release: January 7, 2019

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43084848-secret-revenge

lowetn_secretrevengeBlurb:

How well do you know the people in your life?

Is everyone as they appear or do they live secret lives?

Lena Miller is about to find out no one in her life is as they appear.

Lena was returning to life as she knew it after grieving the loss of her mother.

She has a great job at a local resort that she loves most of the time and friends who love and treat her like family.

That all changes when the resort is sold and a familiar stranger enters her life; changing everything she ever thought she knew about herself, her family, and her friends.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GUdThP

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2GWjSTz

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2H5gOEq

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2GW6rTp

secret revenge promo 12

In The Series: Kindle Unlimited

A Secret to Kill For: Secret and Lies Book 1

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GWjO6h

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2GVRoJA

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2GScY1u

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2GTZzGj

Author Bio: Growing up in a military family, TN Lowe traveled the world – living in the Netherlands, Italy, Missouri, Wyoming, Colorado, and Texas. Currently, she resides in Texas with her husband of twelve years and their two dogs. TN Lowe used to write short stories while in school but chose to pursue a career in health care.  After receiving her degree and working in her chosen field, her life still felt unfulfilled. Returning to her passion, TN Lowe self-published her first novel Saving Ginny in February 2018.

Social media Links:

Email: tnlowe1@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/T-N-Lowe-338656816637880/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tn_lowe

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tnlowe7265/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17719690.T_N_Lowe

Google+: https://plus.google.com/118352108055590796907

Tumblr: https://tnlowe.tumblr.com/

 

The Boyfriend Cruise by DeAnna Wadsworth

The Boyfriend Cruise Tour BannerTitle: The Boyfriend Cruise

Series: A Pride of the Caribbean Vacation

Author: Deanna Wadsworth

Genre: M/M Romance

Release Date: December 25, 2018

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42182914-the-boyfriend-cruise

Blurb:

The Pride of the Caribbean is a cruise ship unlike any other. Paranormals working onboard the enchanted ship hide in plain sight, under the benevolent protection of a demigod captain and his fairy husband.

And this is a shipboard romance unlike any other.

Josh Gilbert’s well-meaning family booked a gay-friendly cruise for Christmas in order to find Josh a steady boyfriend. Hoping to escape the constant parade of bachelors—and the collapsible fishing rod dangling mistletoe his mom keeps in her purse—Josh takes solace in a growing friendship with the ship’s photographer, Nathan. Though Josh is falling for Nathan, he worries it will never be more than a shipboard fling.

Nathan recently became aware of his incubus heritage, and has finally learned how to control his demon side. But Josh has awaken more than just the demon’s need for orgasms–Josh has awaken Nathan’s heart. What’s developing between them is the real thing, but can Josh ever accept Nathan’s promiscuous past… and love a sex demon?

Amid lush tropical settings, family hilarity, holiday costume parties, sexy snorkeling adventures, gingerbread martinis, and mythical creatures, will Josh get his Christmas wish and find true love?

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GA58cP

Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2EJrFSP

Google Play: https://bit.ly/2rTFTbi

iTunes: https://apple.co/2Cu6YIf

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2R6PyJR

Dreamspinner: https://bit.ly/2T7wacH

What Others Are Saying:

DiverseReader – “Deanna Wadsworth’s storytelling of The Boyfriend Cruise, is a heartfelt tale of love that sees what’s inside of the person and less of what’s on the outside.”

Amazon Review – “I enjoyed a lot of the book. The plot was easy to follow, it was well written, funny and dynamic.”

OMGReads – “Cute story about all sorts of beings who call the cruise ship home. Throw in a little Christmas and the book was fun to read.”

Author Bio:

Deanna Wadsworth might be a bestselling erotica author, but she leads a pretty vanilla life in Ohio with her wonderful husband and a couple adorable cocker spaniels. She has been spinning tales and penning stories since childhood, and her first erotic novella was published in 2010. She has served multiple board positions at her local RWA chapter and is the current President 2017 for Rainbow Romance Writers of America. When she isn’t writing books or brainstorming with friends, you can find her making people gorgeous in a beauty salon. She loves music and dancing, and can often be seen hanging out on the sandbar in the muddy Maumee River or chilling with her hubby and a cocktail in their basement bar. In between all that fun, Deanna cherishes the quiet times when she can let her wildly active imagination have the full run of her mind. Her fascination with people and the interworkings of their relationships have always inspired her to write romance with spice and love without boundaries.

WebsiteFacebookTwitterPinterestGoodreadsAmazonInstagram

You can also find her young adult alter ego, K.D. Worth FacebookTwitter

Buy Deanna’s books at Dreamspinner Press, Decadent Publishing or at any reputable eBook seller like Amazon

Social Media Links:

Website: http://deannawadsworth.com

Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/deanna.wadsworth.9

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/deannawadsworthauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DeannaWadsworth

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/deannawadsworth/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4264579.Deanna_Wadsworth

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/deannawads/

Amazon Author Central: http://.www.amazon.com/author/deannawadsworth

BoyfriendCruise[The]FS_v1 (1) (1)Excerpt:

Chapter One

Day One, At Sea

THE WARM Florida sunshine bathed Josh Gilbert, and he turned his face into it as he walked up the cruise ship gangway, rolling luggage in tow. His weather app said the temps back home in Indiana would reach a balmy fifteen degrees.

Josh still couldn’t believe Mom and Dad had surprised their family—and Josh’s best friend—with a Caribbean cruise for Christmas.

Falling in line behind his older brother, Luke, and his wife, Ramona, the Gilbert clan hauled suitcases and bags of holiday presents onto their new home for the week—the Pride of the Caribbean.

Dwarfed somewhat by the giant cruise liners docked beside them in the Port of Miami, the elegantly appointed Pride made a grand first impression when they entered the lobby behind a slew of other passengers.

“Check out this place,” Luke said, craning his neck, eyes wide.

In awe, they all took in the plush red carpets, crystal chandeliers, and the sleek gold-and-glass banister of the impressive grand staircase. A colossal Christmas tree sat proudly on the first landing, a set of stairs branching to either side and draped in glittering garlands. The tree glistened with white twinkling lights, bows, seashells, and large glass ornaments that, when they caught the light just right, seemed to flicker and dance.

How much did Dad shell out for this trip? Josh wondered.

“Dang, this ship is da bomb,” Aaron muttered in Josh’s ear.

Pleasantly stunned, Josh glanced up at his tall BFF. “No doubt,” he agreed, and then he flinched at something unexpected.

In front of him, two men held hands, chatting with excitement about the cruise.

Though it made Josh happy to see—and more than a tad jealous—openly gay couples in public still surprised him.

If only Josh could ever have something like that in his life.

“Have you figured it out, Josh?” Mom asked, gesturing toward a different couple boarding the ship—two women holding hands.

Puzzle pieces began to fit together, creating a picture Josh wasn’t sure he liked. He narrowed his eyes at his mother. “What’s going on?”

Mom twirled a brown curl around one finger, grinning. Curvy and short—he’d inherited that from her along with the brown hair and eyes—she looked ready to burst.

But Josh’s sister-in-law exploded first.

“It’s a gay cruise!” Ramona cried.

Josh shook his head. “What?”

“We’re gonna find you a boyfriend for Christmas!” Clare announced.

Josh whirled on his sister. “What did you say, Clare?”

She clutched her hands to her ample chest, her curvy figure promising the same weight struggle Mom and Josh suffered. “That we’re gonna find you a boyfriend for Christmas,” his little sister repeated. “This cruise line is gay-friendly, which means there should be plenty of guys for you to have a shipboard romance. Isn’t that great?”

Dad and Luke squirmed, as if caught in the women’s schemes too, or perhaps they feared Josh’s response. Dad was an aged version of his eldest son, as tall and lean as the rest of the family was short and round.

“It’ll be fun, Josh,” Luke assured him, shifting from foot to foot. “No pressure.”

“Yes, pressure,” Ramona insisted, slapping her husband on the arm, her white teeth as dazzling against her brown skin as her white sundress. “He’s getting on board single, but he’s not leaving that way.”

Aaron laughed, and Josh glared at him.

“And I have just the trick,” Mom said, rummaging in her giant purse.

Unable to believe his ears, Josh frowned at Dad. “Were you in on this?”

Before Dad could answer, a stranger stepped in front of Josh. Middle-aged and overly tanned, he wore a lecherous grin.

“What’s this?” the stranger asked. “Mistletoe?”

Then shocking Josh into a stupor, the man kissed him right on the lips.

“What the—” Josh recoiled.

“Name’s Brian,” the guy said, still grinning. “Find me later for a dance.”

Then he slipped into the crowd of passengers.

“What the heck?” Josh spun to face Mom.

Grinning like a fiend, she had a children’s fishing rod in her hand, and rather than a worm dangling from the hook, she’d hung a clump of mistletoe.

“What are you doing?” he cried, too stunned to be as angry as he should’ve been.

“Getting you a man,” Mom said, her face serious now.

Josh set his rolling suitcase on all four wheels and then crossed his arms to glare at her. “You are certifiable, you know that?”

“Certifiably the best matchmaker you know,” she quipped. “Ask Clare and Luke how good I am.”

Luke threw an arm around his pretty wife, and they shared a loving kiss. “Luckiest man in the whole world that Mom introduced me to her tennis coach.” After six years of marriage—sans kids, though not for lack of trying—Luke and Ramona were living the high-end life with their goldendoodle, Fred.

Patting Josh on the shoulder, Clare sighed. “Seriously, dude, you should let Mom pick a guy for you. She has the gift.” Clare’s husband, William, was the son of a lady in Mom’s bunco group. They were married last Valentine’s Day.

“No,” Josh declared, waving his hand in a sweeping gesture of finality. He couldn’t argue against Mom’s success thus far, but Mom would not be how he found his first real boyfriend.

“You can find me a boyfriend, Mrs. G.” Aaron took the fishing rod from her and waggled it over his own head. “Mistletoe, boys!”

Sure enough, Josh’s attractive friend soon had a line of four guys waiting to kiss him. Josh’s face flamed with embarrassment when the third guy added some tongue action and a grope on the ass, which Aaron didn’t seem to find offensive at all.

Josh would die a million deaths if some guy kissed him like that in public—especially in front of his family.

Mom laughed and took back her fishing pole. “You don’t need any help,” she told Aaron, who was still whispering something in bachelor number three’s ear.

Josh pointed at his mother. “Keep that thing away from me.”

“You’re such a party pooper,” she scolded.

“That’s enough,” Dad decided. “Let’s find our rooms.”

As the Gilbert clan moved forward, much to Josh’s further horror, Ramona announced, “Single hot gay guy coming through!”

“Ramona,” Josh hissed, face on fire.

“It’s my job to take pictures of all the single hot guys on this cruise ship,” a sultry voice said from off to the left.

Josh jumped and turned, shocked by the camera pointed at him.

Click.

The lens lowered, and the hottest man Josh had ever laid eyes on was grinning at him.

Tanned, blond, and straight off a Ralph Lauren yacht, the man wore white pants, a navy jacket, and a red ascot. He was tall, lean, and broad in the shoulders, with green eyes a man could get lost in and a face like Adonis himself!

“Uh…?”

“Nathan Bradshaw, shipboard photographer,” the man introduced himself, his blond hair glistening in the sparkling lights of the chandelier.

Or maybe Josh just imagined it glistened. The guy was startling to look at.

Nathan extended a well-manicured hand. “Welcome aboard the Pride.”

“Uh…?”

“This is Josh,” Ramona piped up, bodily pushing him closer to the handsome stranger.

A warm hand, soft but firm, took hold of Josh’s.

“He’s single,” Clare said.

“Is that so?” Nathan drawled, shaking Josh’s hand and not letting go. “Well, so am I, Josh. It’s very nice to meet you.”

“Yeah, um… you too, Nathan.” That’s when clarity came to Josh’s stunned brain. He scowled at his meddling family. “You guys, just stop,” he hissed, dropping the man’s hand like a house afire.

Clare’s big brown eyes widened innocently. “What?”

Nathan chuckled, and Josh’s face heated further—if such a thing were possible.

“Everybody needs a cheering section,” Nathan said. Then he gestured to the whole Gilbert clan. “Everybody, get closer. Let’s immortalize the moment you began the best vacation of your life.”

Josh squished between Clare and Ramona, while Dad, Aaron, and Luke took the back and Mom the far left. Josh somehow managed to say “cheese” along with everyone else while Nathan snapped a few pics.

Nathan looked at his display. “Perfect. Now, let’s get one of each couple.”

“We’re a couple.” Ramona pointed at Luke, then Mom and Dad. “And so are they. Those three are all flying solo.”

“So you said.” Nathan eyed Josh with a sideways grin that could almost be described as predatory.

Josh’s cheeks warmed, and he couldn’t smile. I must be losing my mind. This is all some sort of twisted dream. Please wake up. Wake up!

But nothing happened, except Aaron and Clare posing on either side of him and Nathan raising the camera again.

“C’mon, smile for the camera,” Nathan prompted, and somehow Josh managed to suck in his gut and smile.

Looking only at Josh, Nathan stepped toward them. “The pictures will be displayed on the viewing screens near the purser’s desk at 7:00 p.m. tonight. They’re available for purchase anytime during the cruise.” He leaned in close and whispered, “But just a tip, they go on sale the last day, so keep track of the numbers for the ones you want.” Not leaning out of Josh’s personal space, Nathan winked at him. “Just don’t tell anybody or it might get me fired.”

Josh swallowed, nervous all of a sudden with how close Nathan had gotten and how delicious his cologne smelled. Like honey or something else equally warm and inviting. Josh couldn’t quite place it, but he liked it. Before he could get another chance to identify the alluring fragrance, the gorgeous photographer had slipped back into the crowd, smiling and flirting with the next group of passengers.

For a hot second, Josh had imagined Nathan was actually flirting with him, but he quickly pushed such thoughts away.

It’s his job to flirt. Get over yourself!

“He was handsome,” Mom said.

He flinched at her hovering behind him, and then he frowned at her. “So is Brad Pitt. Doesn’t mean he wants me.”

She scoffed. “Oh, if Brad Pitt ever saw this face, he’d switch teams, for sure.”

And then, to Josh’s horror, she pinched both of his cheeks.

Hating it when she did that, but grateful she didn’t add her usual “just look at these chipmunk cheeks,” Josh wriggled out of her grasp. “Don’t pull on my skin. You’ll give me wrinkles.”

She scoffed again. “You’re only twenty-seven. What do you know about wrinkles?”

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Aaron chimed.

Yeah, it was bad enough that at twenty-seven Josh had never had a real boyfriend. The last thing he needed was premature wrinkling. His family was already going to make him prematurely gray.

“C’mon,” Dad said. “I’m tired after all the driving. Let’s get to our rooms and get settled. I think there’s a manhattan somewhere on this ship with my name on it.”

Several crewmembers with tablets mingled in the crowd, giving directions to staterooms. Dad made a beeline toward a man in a Santa hat, holding a tablet, who stood beside a distinguished-looking fellow in a captain’s uniform.

“Welcome aboard,” the man with the tablet said. Though he looked almost Mom and Dad’s age, his tanned skin was flawless and his hair a rich brown. “I’m Raoul, your purser, and this is Captain Leonides.”

“Welcome aboard,” the captain said, with a tip of his hat. He was quite handsome, in an exotic Mediterranean sort of way, with the faintest hint of gray at his temples. Definitely looked competent to captain their ship, a man born to be at sea.

I might die of embarrassment, but at least not from shipwreck.

“Thank you,” Dad said, and everyone else repeated similar greetings. “We’re the Gilbert family. I believe we have four rooms booked.”

Raoul swiped a few times and tapped on his tablet. “Yes, the Gilberts. You are in cabins F1, 2, 3, and 4, on the Fiesta deck. Very nice accommodations you’ve chosen. Some of our finest suites, each with ocean views and balconies.”

“Balconies?” Luke cried, sliding down his shades, his brown eyes wide. “How much money did you spend on this, Dad?”

Dad raised a hand. “You know it’s rude to ask that. This is your Christmas present, and I want us all to have a great time. I even got us the unlimited drink package.”

“Woo-hoo, margaritas, here I come,” Aaron declared, raising his hand for a high five from Clare, which she returned after a slight frown.

“You guys better have a great time,” Mom said. “Because none of you are getting birthday gifts from us this year.”

Josh laughed. Dad had an overly generous spirit, but Mom kept a tight rein on the family purse strings. She might have married a renowned heart surgeon, but she never forgot the trailer she was born and raised in. She passed along the value of money to all of her children—well, maybe not to Clare. As the youngest and the only girl, Clare was more than spoiled. Dad had bailed her out of credit card debt twice that Josh knew of.

“No birthday present for me? Mrs. G, that’s just cruel,” Aaron cried.

She patted his cheek rather than pinching it, Josh noted. “Oh, well, maybe for you.”

“That’s fair,” Clare muttered to Josh, and he wisely said nothing.

Clare might be spoiled and bad with money, but Josh adored her. And since her husband was currently in Afghanistan fighting for their freedoms and she would be spending her first Christmas as a married woman without him, he kept the comment to himself that she shouldn’t worry. Daddy’s girl always got a present.

A large, stoic bellman loaded their suitcases, gift bags, and wrapped presents onto a trolley, grunting a “No” when Dad tried to help. Raoul gave him instructions to deliver their things to the suites, and the man lumbered toward an elevator.

Raoul snapped his fingers, and as if out of nowhere, a very petite woman with a bright smile and a pink streak in her hair appeared.

Aaron jumped back and put his hands to his chest. “You just came out of nowhere, didn’t you?”

“I’m little,” she quipped.

“Penelope dear, please show the Gilbert family to their suites,” Raoul told her.

She grinned impishly. “Right this way, family,” she said in a cheery voice. All but floating up the grand staircase with her hands at the small of her back, Penelope led them to their rooms.

“Have you sailed with us before?” Penelope asked Dad, gazing up at him with big doe eyes she batted coquettishly.

“No, first time.” Dad smiled down at her, seeming smitten with how cute and tiny she was.

“Isn’t she adorable?” Mom whispered to Josh.

“Yeah, sure, I guess,” he said. For a flash, Josh thought Penelope frowned at him, but the change in her face happened so quick he probably imagined it.

Penelope was very pretty, but her long eyelashes were as fake as the pink streak in her blonde hair. The glitter across her brow and eyelids might’ve been unprofessional, but this was a gay-friendly cruise. He wondered if she was on the rainbow, but couldn’t be sure with the way she giggled so flirtatiously with Dad.

“Here is the first suite,” Penelope announced, pausing outside F1. She studied Josh and Aaron. “I pick this one for you two.”

“Um, okay,” Josh said, figuring it was her attempt at being cute and the rooms were assigned.

The act worked on Dad and Luke, if the way they tilted their heads and smiled at her were any indicator—as if they couldn’t decide if she was real or not. Regardless, Luke had better stop staring or his feisty wife would smack him one.

But when Penelope opened the first room, all their eyes went straight to the spacious suite and dazzling view.

Josh gasped.

“Holy ocean view, Batman,” Aaron exclaimed.

The room was gorgeous, not cramped like the cruise he went on for spring break in college. They each had a double bed, and there was a sitting area with a couch, a door that probably led to the bathroom, and sliding doors that opened to a balcony, which currently faced the Port of Miami. Towels folded into wreaths with soaps for ornaments and big red bows lay on each bed. A pretty Christmas tree with blown-glass ornaments that seemed to glisten and dance in the light was perched on the table between the beds. Mirrored closet doors visually doubled the space, and much to Josh’s surprise, their luggage had already arrived.

“Wow” was all Josh could say.

Dad and Mom grinned, and rubbernecking behind them, his siblings had eyes as wide as their mouths.

“Have fun, boys,” Penelope sang.

Josh pulled out his wallet to tip Penelope, but Dad raised a hand. “No, no, save your money for souvenirs.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

Aaron went up and hugged first Mom, then Dad. “Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. G. Can you adopt me?”

Mom laughed. “I think we did that a long time ago.”

“Moving this way, family,” Penelope announced. “Let’s see which of you get the next room.” Then she flitted away, the rest of the Gilberts following and her voice fading like tinkling sleigh bells as their suite door shut.

Once alone, Josh and Aaron exchanged looks.

“This is going to be the best vacation ever,” Aaron declared.

Josh put his hands on his hips. “Fess up. Did you know Mom and Dad booked a gay-friendly cruise to find me a boyfriend?”

Aaron waved him off. “Why are you looking a gift horse in the mouth?” He was tall, fit, and had the prettiest dark curls and blue eyes—which was why he never had a problem scoring a date.

“I’m not.”

“You are.” He made a beeline to the balcony door and slid it open, filling the suite with warm, salty air. “And yes, I knew it was gay-friendly, and the girls have this notion that you’ll have a shipboard romance and fall in love. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. All I know is that you’re the luckiest SOB on earth to have a family who would pick a gay cruise line just for you. And your mom even booked us all mani-pedis this afternoon. Your dad and Luke are getting massages. Bet they’re hoping that little pink pixie, Penelope, is the massage therapist.” He snorted at his own joke, obviously noting the same thing Josh did about the way Dad and Luke had been enraptured with the woman.

Chagrined by Aaron’s speech, Josh shuffled his feet, studying his sandals. He knew he was lucky. Aaron’s family would never go on a ship like this. Especially his father. The man could barely look at Aaron sometimes. His mom and brother were never cruel, but Josh always sensed they weren’t sure how to take the flamboyant Aaron. Sometimes, if Aaron had too much to drink, he’d cry or bitch about them, saying he felt more love from Josh’s family than his own.

Evidenced by the coin Dad put out for this trip, the Gilberts viewed Aaron as family too.

“Yeah, I know I sound ungrateful—”

“You do.”

“But I hope they don’t run around the ship looking for a man for me. That will be so humiliating. And that mistletoe fishing pole? What the heck?”

“That mistletoe got me a hot date for the Christmas costume party tonight. And your family means well,” Aaron said, leaning on the railing and tipping his face up to the sun.

Not a fan of heights, Josh popped his head out onto the balcony. “Nice view. I won’t be sitting out here.”

“Why not?”

“Haven’t you heard about all the people who fall off cruise ships?”

Aaron scoffed. “Only jealous husbands push their wives overboard. That would never happen on a gay ship.”

Josh chuckled but wisely stepped inside. “Promise me you won’t go on the balcony after we’ve been drinking, ’kay?”

“Okay, worrywart, as long as you promise to let loose. Have fun.” Aaron gave Josh a shimmy. “This is a cruise custom designed for us!”

“Okay, I promise to have fun.”

“Ground rules.” Aaron sprawled out on the bed closest to the balcony, lacing his fingers behind his head. “If the Do Not Disturb is on the door, we won’t interrupt any hookups. Any overnighters, we have to okay with the other, that way one of us can sleep in Clare’s room.”

“Okay.” Josh laughed, doubting very much he’d have an overnight guest.

“And no fucking in each other’s bed,” Aaron added. “I love you, but even I have standards.”

“I’m fine with whatever,” Josh said. “We both know you’re the only one who’s going to be hooking up in this room. I should probably just move my stuff into Clare’s room right now.”

“You don’t know that. You could meet the man of your dreams.”

Josh scoffed, his mind revisiting a pair of green eyes and golden hair sparkling in the sunlight…. Nope, never gonna happen. “Yeah, like I’m gonna meet the man of my dreams.”

“You never know what could happen.”

“I’m too fat.”

“No, you’re not. I know how hard you’ve been trying to lose weight. You look amazing.”

“I could stand to lose another twenty pounds.”

“Don’t,” Aaron scolded. “I hate it when you get down on yourself.”

“It’s just the truth.”

“Says you. Just try and chill out for once. Don’t worry about your waistline or whatever rules you’ve made up in your head. Just go out there and have fun. Who knows? Maybe something magical will happen.”

As he unpacked, listening to Aaron list all the activities and excursions the ship offered, Josh knew he could be a stick in the mud. Well, in comparison to Aaron, anyway. But he’d been looking forward to a relaxing vacation with no computers, deadlines, or spreadsheets, and no worries. He didn’t even have to worry about any homophobes on this trip.

His thoughts alighted again on the cute photographer, Nathan.

Maybe this boyfriend cruise might not be so bad.

His family loved him enough to pick this ship, and honestly, until this moment, a shipboard romance hadn’t been an option. He hadn’t been on board half an hour and he’d already been kissed once—even if he wasn’t pleased with Mom about it.

This ship was full of potential for a guy like Josh.

Aaron was right. Josh needed to let loose this week. He’d waited his entire life to find romance, so if a chance presented itself, he should not squander the opportunity.

Even if that meant his family embarrassing him all over the Caribbean.

Merry Christmas!

As those of you who have read my blog for years know, my husband is a Veteran of the Armed Forces.  Every Christmas I play this video in honour of those serving for their country around the world.  Thank you for your service and thanks to the families who miss them this Holiday Season.

~Tina

Tina’s Touring – Darla M. Sands

I’m over at my fellow Writer Zen Gardener and friend Darla Sands today talking about my book, “Finding Your Path to Publishing”.   Please join me.

http://darlamsands.blogspot.com/

Tina fnl

Keeping Faith by Beverley Oakley

KF BO BannerKeeping Faith

Fair Cyprians of London Series (Book 3)

By Beverley Oakley

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Keeping Faith bannerAbout Keeping Faith:

“My beautiful Revenge.”

Four years ago, Faith’s mysterious benefactress falsely accused her of stealing and deposited her in Madame Chambon’s exclusive brothel.

There, Faith was to learn how to entrance London’s noble gentlemen with her learning in philosophy, politics, and art.

Her body was to be saved for the greatest enticement of all: revenge.

Faith doesn’t care what she has to do. She lives only to fulfill a bargain that will set her free.

But when Faith is recruited as the muse of a talented, sensitive painter whose victory in a prestigious art competition turns them both into celebrities overnight, she discovers the reasons behind her mission are very different from what she’d been led to believe.

Now she is complicit in something dark and dangerous while riches, adulation, and freedom are hers for the taking.

But what value are these if her heart has become a slave to the man she is required to destroy?

keeping-faith-e-readerExcerpt: Chapter One

“What did you learn last night?”

“A gentleman must always believe he knows best.”

Confident that her answer was pleasing, Faith reached across the table to help herself to a macaroon but a sharp slap across the back of the hand stopped her progress by the silver teapot.

Her smile of feigned contrition was rewarded with a raised eyebrow from Madame Chambon. Not an invitation to partake of a macaroon, unfortunately. The table laden with eclairs and petit fours in Madame’s private sitting room was merely for show.

“Greedy girl, Faith! You can eat at the Dorchester tomorrow and I daresay you won’t even spare a thought for the other girls who are justified in being somewhat jealous of your cossetted life.” Madame sniffed as she patted one of the grizzled, orange curls of her elaborate coiffure. Faith suspected a squirrel’s pelt had made its contribution. “I’m sure they wonder every day why you never have to stir yourself – or anyone else, for that matter – to get your fine clothes or a roof over your head.” Madame Chambon piled three macaroons onto her already laden plate before making a sweeping gesture that encompassed the furnishings of her surprisingly decorous private sitting room with its gold tasseled green velvet curtains and flock wallpaper. “What have you told them, Faith? About why you are here, I mean?”

Faith’s stomach rumbled as she gazed from the prints of the famous artists that lined the walls to the fine fare in front of her, ordered from Fortnum and Mason. These monthly sessions in table manners were supposed to give Faith the practice she needed to deport herself like a lady when eating in public. However, under Madame’s guardianship, Faith never actually got to try the specialties.

“Answer me, Faith. In all the three years that you’ve been here, you’ve had to do precisely nothing to justify your existence. Surely the girls have questioned you? I have my own version of the truth for them, as you know, but I’d be interested to hear what you have to say.”

Faith didn’t answer. She already knew how lucky she was, but Madame was not ready to drop the subject, despite having just crammed an entire chocolate éclair into her mouth. Faith just managed to make out the muffled words, “Every night you lie peacefully in your bed while the other girls have to earn their livings.”

Lying peacefully in her bed was not how Faith would describe the restfulness of her slumber. She was kept awake every night by the grunts and cries of ecstasy that penetrated the thin walls of her attic chamber.

Still, she’d finally learned when it was wise to respond meekly, so she bowed her head and stared at her neat kid gloves while dreaming of the delicacies Mrs. Gedge would order for them when Faith really was dining with her at the Dorchester Hotel the following afternoon. The Sacher Torte Mrs. Gedge had ummed and aahed over before finally choosing the baked Alaska from the sweets trolley last month still haunted her. However, since part of Faith’s tutoring included how to win over reluctant gentleman ‘and make them wild with wanting’ which is how Madame phrased it, then surely Faith could persuade her American benefactress to order the Austrian chocolate specialty?

She was so busy rehearsing her words for tomorrow that she almost missed Madame’s prophetic and appalling statement.

“Well, Faith, the time has come for you to start earning your way, now.”

Faith brought her head up in shock. Was Madame teasing? When it appeared not, she gripped the table edge as she struggled for composure. For so long she’d known the reckoning would come. Yes, and with three years preparing for it, she’d believed she could meet it head-on with the necessary fortitude.

But there’d been no warning.

She began to shake, biting into her bottom lip and clasping her hands in her lap to try and keep secret the manifestations of her terror from Madame who’d only be spurred onto gloating and make her suffer even more.

“Mrs. Gedge reported last month that she wasn’t entirely happy you were ready for what she has in store for you when she took you to tea, Faith.” Madame chewed noisily, unperturbed, it seemed, by the crumbs that landed on her gaudy vermillion skirts.

Faith didn’t suggest that Mrs. Gedge’s dissatisfaction was perhaps the fault of Faith’s tutor – the one sitting in front of her – who knew nothing about deporting herself as a lady.

With a dainty gesture using only her forefingers, Madame Chambon raised her plate and licked at the crumbs that had not been dislodged before saying, “Fortunately, Lady Vernon is recovered at last from her long indisposition and has agreed to forget your rudeness to her from six months ago. In fact, she’ll be here shortly. Yes, she’ll soon have you passing the scrutiny of the most discerning duchess.” Madame gobbled down another macaroon with as much finesse as the dogs Faith’s father used to goad into fighting each other after they’d fought over the scraps from the scrubbed wooden table at the farm. Not that there’d been many scraps with ten children to feed.

“Should we not have waited for Lady Vernon?” Faith suggested, daringly. But she had to say something to stop herself from launching into a volley of querulous questions about exactly what form this ‘having to earn her own way’ might take.

Madame Chambon pushed aside an untouched plate of bread and butter to reach for another chocolate éclair and sighed. “There was just so much food on the table it seemed unnecessary to wait if her ladyship was going to be late. Ah! And here she is.” Madame’s orange painted mouth turned up at a knock on the door. “Shoulders back, Faith! And make sure you don’t talk with your mouth full.”

Since this was not a danger, Faith supposed there might be some compensation in having to face her former nemesis who surely must subscribe to the belief that learning table manners required one having to eat.

Madame threw her arms wide in a welcome as the door opened to admit the new arrival. “Good evening, Lady Vernon. We’re so glad you’ve recovered from your chest ailment,” she gushed. “A good rest has done you the world of good. Why you look ten years younger. Just as you do every time I see you, in fact. And we’re indeed humbled that you’ve consented to return.” Madame simpered at the elderly woman, dressed all in black who looked, Faith thought, even more wraith-like than usual as she pinned up the veil of her bonnet and took the seat at the table proffered by Madame who went on, “I’m sure you’ll feel even better once you’ve heard Faith’s heartfelt apology.”

Faith blushed under the scrutiny of the two pairs of expectant, unforgiving eyes, and glanced longingly at the remaining macaroon.

Yes, there were times when it was worth being abject. She mightn’t mean what she said, but if the last three years under Madame Chambon’s roof had taught her one thing, it was how to sound heartfelt and sincere when she felt anything but.

“I’m sorry for my rude comments about…” Faith hesitated. Perhaps it was best not to stir up old memories. While it must be perfectly obvious to anyone who met Lady Vernon as to why an earl’s daughter could remain a spinster into her sixtieth year, it hadn’t been in anyone’s interest – Faith’s least of all, it turned out – for Faith to have gone into quite such specific and extensive detail regarding her thoughts on the likely reasons. “I behaved like a child, though it’s such a long time ago, now, I can barely remember what was going through my head at the time. I was only seventeen and, in those days, prone to losing my temper but now I’m eighteen and, thanks to all your efforts in teaching me how to act like a lady, Lady Vernon, I’m so far from the rude and impulsive young thing I was before, you’d not recognise me today. Thanks to your thorough tutelage, I am determined that I will never speak out of turn, to you, or anyone. Indeed, I have changed! I truly believe that confronted by a table of delicacies like this, for example, I would certainly not embarrass you or Mrs. Gedge or any lovely young man or his mother who might take me out to tea by any show of greediness or lack of restraint.”

Lady Vernon’s eyes remained fixed firmly on Faith for the duration of this speech with no indication of how forgiving or otherwise she might prove to be.

After a long silence, she spoke. “Restraint?” She sniffed. “Restraint is the most important requirement of any young lady, Faith. I’ve told you this many times, so I’m glad it’s a lesson you claim to have finally learned.”

With her eyes fixed on Faith, she reached towards the remaining macaroon that sat lonely on its plate just in front of them both, her long-fingered hand hovering just above. “Please pass that to me, Faith. I can’t seem to reach it.”

Wordlessly, Faith complied, schooling her features into impassivity while she railed inside, I hate you! I hate you! as she watched Lady Vernon transport the coconut confection to her thin, bloodless lips.

“Delicious,” Lady Vernon murmured. “In fact, I believe it is the best macaroon I have ever tasted? You must surely agree, Faith, since the plate is now empty.”

She looked pointedly at the two remaining crumbs that clung to the edge of the fine china as if to imply that Faith had eaten the rest. Then she indicated the plate of bread and butter near Madame Chambon. “Please eat, Faith. Madame Chambon and I have a leisurely afternoon at our disposal. She and I will partake of the remaining chocolate eclairs –” Her pointed chin wobbled slightly, whether from the suppression of mirth or the swallowing of bile, Faith could only guess, “while you make good work of the bread and butter with all the ladylike restraint you’re so anxious to prove.”

beverley-eikli-author-pic-copyBeverley Oakley’s Bio:

Debutantes, widows and the occasional courtesan test society’s boundaries in Beverley Oakley’s wicked, passionate historical romances dripping with scandal, intrigue, and suspense.

 

Her Fair Cyprians of London series is about a group of determined and clever courtesans at a high-class Soho brothel who use their wit and beauty to avenge past betrayals – and who find lasting love along the way.

 

How can there be a happily ever after? is a question many a reviewer has asked before admitting to being delighted and satisfied by the unexpected plot twists and surprise endings – just like in Beverley’s own life. You can read more on her website.

 

Beverley’s Social Links:

 

Website: http://www.beverleyoakley.com/

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/BeverleyOakley

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/5989577.Beverley_Oakley

 

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Tina’s Touring

Tina fnlToday I’m over at Amber Daulton’s Blog talking about my new book, “Finding Your Path to Publishing”.

https://amberdaultonauthor.blogspot.com/2018/12/book-spotlight-finding-your-path-to.html

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