Saturday, June 1, 2013

It's Time for the The Romance Reviews' Sizzling Summer Reads!
It's time for the The Romance Reviews' big summer bash!

Join more than 400 authors and publishers for a month of goodies. Find hundreds of excerpts and over 400 prizes too, including the grand prize of a $100 gift card! (All winners will be notified at the end of the event.)

My prize is an Authorgraphed (signed by me) Kindle copy of book one in my Victorian polyamorous romance: Loving Leonardo.

On the 4th, simply follow the link to The Romance Reviews site and look for my name on the participant list. Then scroll down to my question and choose an answer from the multiple choice.Until then, hop on over for the rest and discover that next great summer read!


The Following excerpt comes from Loving Leonardo - The Quest. But first, Loving Leonardo's trailer to start you off on the story:

Setting the stage:
Up to this point, Nicolas has been plagued by disturbing dreams. His subconscious mind is telling him something isn't quite right. Now in Paris hunting for Leonardo da Vinci's clues, Nicolas, Ellie, and Luca take in the City of Lights determined to make the most of their adventure. They stop to have their fortunes read. Shortly after, Nicolas receives a fateful telegram.

After wine, we moved on to explore the famous Parisian Catacombs. The long-abandoned stone quarry’s underground chambers now held an ossuary with the remains of several million people stacked in a freakishly grotesque collage of bone. As dinner was some hours away, we bought ourselves several portable foods from the abundant street vendors and took ourselves to the Eiffel Tower’s top viewing platform. High above the city, the early November breeze left little doubt winter was coming. We weren’t long up there.

“My goodness, the day has turned cold.” Ellie plucked a hot chestnut from the paper cone and passed the nugget of warmth from one kid-gloved hand to the other.

“Would you rather we return to our suite?”

Laughing, she shook her head and swept a hand to the untidy wall of plastered playbills for the various happenings around the city. “And miss all this?”

Luca popped a peeled chestnut into his mouth. His words steamed as he read a bill plastered to a wall, Axël: A drama by Auguste Villiers.

I knew Ellie enjoyed reading of seductive and sexually attractive heroes. While I hadn’t attended any Villiers theater pieces myself, I had once read a commentary in the London Times suggesting he created Byronic heroes in his works. I took out my pocket watch and checked the time. “The play begins in approximately twenty minutes. We could warm ourselves there, and then return to the hotel for dinner.” I raised a brow to Ellie. “Care to take in a play, love?”

“What a marvelous idea!”


We left the theater an hour later. What a mistake that had been. While the play was entertaining and the theme interesting enough, with its occult undertones, the ending had left a bad taste in my mouth. After finding their treasure, Axël the hero and his heroine Sara fall in love, and then decide their dream is far too magnificent to be fulfilled in the unimaginative reality of their lives. With no dream to live for, they killed themselves as the sun rose and the curtain fell.

Apparently unfazed, my companions discussed the story at length as we walked back to the hotel. I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to our lives, although I was certain the dark thoughts were mine alone. It didn’t help that we passed a mortician’s window with the latest embalming on display as a macabre advertisement to the skill to be had there. Beside the door, a glass frame was filled with memento mori photographs. In general I found the practice of posing the dead in life-like attitudes a disturbing one. Especially the staring facsimile eyes painted upon closed lids.

Seeking a distraction from my thoughts, I used the tip of Eiffel’s tower as a guide and led us across the street and down an alley. We passed a beribboned one-man music show reminiscent of a May Day mummer, a raucous game of Three Card Monte taking place on an upturned dustbin, and Luca received a blatant sexual proposition by a ponce seeking work for his whore. Turning the corner, we chanced upon two women, one young and the other quite old or quite world-worn. Both were obviously Roma, dressed as they were in colorful rustic clothing one might see on country folk. The younger woman rocked a baby. The elder told us in heavily-accented English that her tarot cards held a message for Luca and me.

Unused to gypsies who peddled their wares across Europe, Ellie was enchanted by the idea. She tugged on my sleeve and encouraged a card reading. Luca shrugged and I found myself placing a coin on the scarf-covered folding table.

The elder’s smile revealed several missing teeth. She shuffled her worn cards and said, “The cards speak to you first, Englishman.” These she handed to me and I cut the deck into three piles as directed. I realized then that this deck of cards was not only quite old, it was hand-painted. Restacking them into her hand, she dealt three cards — the three of cups, the six of swords, and the five of pentacles. I looked at the woman expectantly.

I felt Ellie’s eyes on me.

“Well madam, what do the cards say?”

“The cards call for caution, Englishman.” She tapped the three of cups with a gnarled finger. “You’ve gained fortune in love. But this card is your past.”

Ellie looped her arm through mine. I could feel her thoughts. As far as she and I were concerned, it was our present and future.

The old woman tapped the six of swords. “Your plans will be postponed and sadly there is nothing to be done for it.” She stared at the cards a moment then tsked. She shook her head and tapped the last. “The card sees loss and ruin.”

Ellie looked at me with wide skeptical eyes that danced with mirth, the smile tugging at the corners of her lips as she tried to keep a straight face. Luca slapped me on the back in humor, and said, “You’d best watch yourself, Nicolas.”

I chuckled, but my unsettled mind absorbed the woman’s prophesy.

She gathered the cards again and shuffled them. After Luca cut the deck into three piles, she laid them out as before. The first was the two of cups. “Your recent past shows harmony, man of Venice.” Luca nodded, apparently missing the fact the woman knew where he was from. I hadn’t missed it. There was nothing in his accent that hinted at a particular region of Italy. She set the next card beside the first. It was the eight of wands. “There is jealousy in your life now,” she told him.

He looked at me and then at Ellie. There was no jealousy between us. Proof again these mystic pastimes were nothing more than parlor games. The last card was the king of cups. She looked up into his face and for the first time I realized she had a glass eye that didn’t quite move with the other. The real eye looked him up and down, and the perusal made me very uncomfortable. I couldn’t say why that was, even if I’d been asked. She suddenly scooped up the cards and declared the reading completed.

Luca chuckled. “Madam, you’ve not read my last card.”

The baby fussed. The older woman turned to the younger and said something in a language I did not recognize but possessed rounded syllables found in the Latin languages. Romanian, perhaps. The young woman nodded and replied, then bared her breast to suckle her babe. She said, “The king of cups tells of a powerful man—”

The old woman voiced something that effectively stopped the younger mid-sentence.

How strange. We looked at one another. Ellie dug into her reticule and set a coin on the table. “I’d like my fortune read too, if you please.”

The old woman shook her head.

“Why not? I’ll pay.”

Chuckling, Luca set another coin on the cloth. Obviously deliberating, the old woman stared at the coins and pursed her lips. In the end, the prospect of more money won out. She shuffled the cards and set the deck on the table. Her one eye moved from person to person, at last settling on Ellie. She told her, “One card only, lady.”

Ellie turned over a single card and set it on the scarf. The lovers in reverse. The old woman said, “Separation,” and quickly scooped up the deck and scarf and snapped the folding table closed. The card reading was officially over.

“Wait, what does that mean?” Ellie asked obviously confused.

I hooked my arm in hers and said, “It means nothing my dear, it’s merely a game.”

The gypsy cackled. “A mistake many make.”

I tugged Ellie away. “Come love, let’s see about our dinner.”


During the French Revolution, art once commissioned and hoarded by the privileged became the property of the citizenry. The dining hall’s vaulted ceiling sported numerous panels undoubtedly taken from the aristocracy. There was no option for intimate dining, with the long tables set to accommodate more than one thousand guests. We found ourselves taking our meal beside a world of nations. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle raved over the Grand’s culinary excellence, and the hotel’s kitchen staff did not disappoint. Our meal was superb.

To my right sat a rather sallow character whose clothing held a faint note of opium smoke. I introduced myself and for the effort got the salt passed to me. Then I introduced myself and my wife to the English couple directly across the table, a veritable Jack Sprat and his wife. In the din, I couldn’t quite make out their names — Anders, Landers, or Flanders — but it didn’t matter. The less-than-friendly wife was too absorbed in finding fault with an exemplary meal. Four times did she call for our server to complain about how cold her soup was and how hot her salad was, as well as how fishy the fish tasted, and she asked him to inform the cook that the peas were still in their pods.

Ellie nudged my knee with hers. Mrs. Anders-Landers-Flanders’s complaints were laughable because we’d been served a cold soup of potato and leek, an intentionally hot salad of roasted pepper and ham, a pheasant course in cream that was by no means a fish course, and haricots verts which were obviously green beans and not unshelled peas. The poor sod of a husband never once raised an eye from his plate while the woman complained; rather, he ate with increased speed. I assume he hoped to cut and run to the men’s salon for cards and cigars. The thought was born out a moment later, when he declined the delicious raspberry and chocolate trifle, briefly kissed his wife’s cheek, and said, “I’ll be playing cards tonight my dear, don’t wait up for me.” In response the woman tasted the trifle and said, “My word, can I not find one decent morsel to eat in this city?”


I had just removed my tie when came a quiet knock at our door. A chasseur met me with a silver tray in hand, upon it a telegram. I tipped the man and closed the door behind him. Confused, I turned to my companions. “I can’t imagine what this is about.”

Luca and Ellie both drew close as I unfolded the paper. It was from Mrs. Fletcher. I read it aloud.

My Dear Boy, Come home. Thomas has been injured and is not expected to survive. Come home. We need you. MF

Ellie laid a hand on my arm. “I’ll pack straightaway.”

I could barely breathe. My dear Thom not expected to survive. Needing the anchor of her love, I pulled Ellie to me and hugged her fiercely. An instant later, Luca’s warm body enfolded me as well. Choking back my misery, I said to him, “I’m leaving now. Bring Ellie.”

Winding her arms around my waist, she protested, “No. Nicolas, my place is by your side.”

Luca said, “As is mine.”

I shook my head. “I’m needed there now.” Willing her to understand, I gathered her hands in mine. “I’ll not see you travel the channel at night. Wait until morning, the crossing is safer then.” I kissed her knuckles then turned to Luca. “I don’t know what I’ll find at home. I know you understand.” I knew he did because I read it in his eyes. Society had a dark underbelly where men of our ilk were concerned. Thom’s dire condition might very well have to do with his homosexuality.

He nodded and kissed my cheek softly. “I do. We’ll follow in the morning.”


Rose Anderson ~ Love Waits in Unexpected Places

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  1. Missed you for this month's IWSG posting!

  2. Thank you for the reminder about the Sizzling Hot Books at TRR. They always have such a wonderful party!


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