Tragic Magic – Wards and Wands Book 3 by Rebecca Royce

Tragic Magic
Wards and Wands Book 3
Rebecca Royce


Melanie Syed has seen a lot of things over the years from ancient witch possessions to man-stealing curses and wild magic coming alive, but she’s never actually gone head to head with her own path until it—or rather he calls her for her services as an attorney.

Elliot Boothe is the last scion of the Cursed family. His ancestors have all gone blind and mad, one by one, and now it’s his turn. Determined to end the curse with him, he’s avoided relationships and complications, but Melanie is the one thing he’s desperately needed—a friend.

It’s going to take a lot of legal and spell footwork for Melanie to get the answers Elliot needs, especially when she finds herself the target of assassination and Elliot offers her sanctuary. Can they save each other or was their love tragically cursed from the first?

In this stunning conclusion to the Wards and Wands series, we meet Elliot who is cursed to die young. A curse that no one has ever been able to break.

He requests a visit from Melanie as he’s getting his affairs in order.

This is a favorite scene.

Time seemed to have paused inside the house. The smell hit her first. The cleaning products Elliot’s mother spelled on the house must still be what the staff now used. Lavender. Chamomile. Mint. There had never been a time she’d scented those things that it hadn’t reminded her of the cleaning days. The poor woman had died days after her husband did. Their souls had been truly bound together.

Melanie lifted herself off the ground with a spell. It was habit as much as anything else. If no one walked on the ground, they couldn’t make it dirty. The butler had been walking, but lifted off the ground when she did. Maybe it wasn’t a rule anymore. Maybe Elliot didn’t care if everyone floated or not.

“He’s in his office. Right this way.”

She knew exactly where it was located but followed him just the same as it was polite. She wasn’t a young child learning to fly by dashing through this house when the family wasn’t home. She was here to do a job, even if surely Elliot must already possess a team of lawyers who could do this.

The butler opened the door with a magical wave of his hand and closed it again after she was inside. It shut with a click.

The room, bathed in burgundy, felt heavy, like the air weighed more in here. Elliot stood, his back to her, facing the window overlooking the garden outside. He turned his head slightly as Melanie the entered the room. She gazed for a long moment, taking in the sheer size of him. He’d grown since she’d last seen him. He was broad shouldered, bulky, like he worked out regularly, though he’d been a skinny teenager. His brown hair had been cut short. Whiskers covered his mature face, but he didn’t look old.

He wore dark sunglasses, which told her all she needed to know. The curse really had advanced. Elliot Boothe, the fantasy of her youth, had gone completely blind.

“Melanie Syed.” He smiled, not showing any teeth or moving. “You came.”

She swallowed. “Of course I did. You… ah… requested my presence.” Melanie winced, wishing she could suck the words back in the second she said them. Requested my presence? Internally, she groaned. That was… bad.

He used the desk for guidance as he walked toward her. “Forgive me. I like to stand by the window. I can’t see it, but I swear I can feel the light.” He touched his sunglasses. “I think with you I can actually take these off. You were here with my father when he passed. You know what the eyes look like.”

She nodded before she realized how asinine that was. He couldn’t see her, obviously. “I remember what it looked like. You can take them off.”

“Great. Because it’s like the icing on the cake of this misery that I have to cover up my eyes to not scare little children.” He took the glasses off and set them on the desk. He stared at Melanie from across the room, not quite looking at her but in her general direction. His eyes were totally white. Not just the irises. Not the corneas. The entire socket of his eyes were bright white, like the most intense shade of it ever. Neither snow leopards nor the clouds had anything on what the curse did to the Boothe eyes.

Melanie walked toward him, not letting herself overthink it. His father had fallen into a huge pit of depression when this happened to him. She had to imagine that waking up totally blind one day to nothing but whiteness would make anyone feel lonely.

She squeezed his hand, and he frowned immediately before he dropped their linked fingers. His hands hadn’t been smooth or manicured but tougher, with calluses that made her wonder what he’d been doing to get them. As far as she knew, he’d never had a profession. He invested money, as his father had before him, and had the Midas touch. Melanie had learned a lot of what she knew from his father, but what could he have been doing that would have given him those hands?

“So…” She needed to say something. “This happened early.”

Melanie had always believed the best thing to do was point out the elephant in the room and not pretend it wasn’t there.

He nodded. “Seems to be the case. I… I think it’s for the best, actually. Get it over with. I was tired of it stalking me anyway. I’d determined very early I would be the last person to ever have this curse. If I couldn’t cure it, which I tried to do, believe me, I wasn’t going to pass it on. I’ve been wondering if it’s taking me early as a punishment for not procreating.”

The way he spoke about it—this curse that had plagued the last five generations of his family—was as though it was a living, breathing thing. Melanie didn’t remember his father doing that. But then again he’d lived a full life before it took him down.

“You think the curse… hurried up your punishment… because you didn’t find the right woman to have children with?”

He ran a hand through his hair. “I determined very early on that I wouldn’t allow this to continue. Even before I saw my father taken down to madness, a shell of the man he’d been before, devoid of magic, shaking in a corner. I wouldn’t leave behind any heirs that could take the curse when I died. It ends with me.”
Rebecca Royce. Tragic Magic (Kindle Locations 141-180). Kindle Edition.

Melanie is a fighter and she isn’t going to let Elliot give up. She starts by asking all her enforcer friends for assistance.

She also ends up hiding there as a problem arises with the divorce case she is working on.

I laughed, I cried and held my breath more than once as I read. This is a beautiful relationship with plenty of heat in spite of the curse.

I wish there were going to be more books, I love this world.

5 Contented Purrs for Rebecca!

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Rebecca Royce Rebecca Royce

As a teenager, I would hide in my room to read my favorite romance novels when I was supposed to be doing my homework. I hope, these days, that my parents think it was worth it.

I am the mother of three adorable boys and I am fortunate to be married to my best friend. I live in Austin Texas where I am determined to eat all the barbecue in town.

I am in love with science fiction, fantasy, and the paranormal and try to use all of these elements in my writing. I’ve been told I’m a little bloodthirsty so I hope that when you read my work you’ll enjoy the action packed ride that always ends in romance. I love to write series because I love to see characters develop over time and it always makes me happy to see my favorite characters make guest appearances in other books.

In my world anything is possible, anything can happen, and you should suspect that it will.

I’d love to hear from you!


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Levi’s Legend – Heroes for Hire Book 1 by Dale Mayer

Levi’s Legend
Heroes for Hire
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Dale Mayer


Welcome to Levi’s Legend, book 1 in Heroes for Hire reconnecting readers with the unforgettable men from SEALs of Honor in a new series of action packed, page turning romantic suspense that fans have come to expect from USA TODAY Bestselling author Dale Mayer.

Nothing stays the same…

Since his accident Levi has been driven to find the men who betrayed him. Everything else is secondary. Now he’s recovered, started his own company, and he’s caught the scent of the last man on his list. Only to find the same man intends to finish the job he originally started – and kill Levi once and for all.

Ice has been at Levi’s side every step of his new journey – well almost It’s the places where she hasn’t been that are the hardest. Her relationship with Levi is at a critical point. One wrong word and her hopes and dreams will be gone. They are almost done now.

But she can’t resolve her love life until the man who forced change into their world is taken care of. Only he’s on the attack, and his target is right at the heart of everything that’s important to her, and to Levi.

They’d have to move fast to stop the man who wants them both dead or they won’t have a future at all…

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I took a little break in my reading of SEALs of Honor to read Levi and Ice’s story. They are mentioned frequently in that series and I needed to know them better.

This is the first book in that series and let me tell you it is a doozey! I had assumed an HEA for them but that is not the case as this book begins. Ice has her own suite of rooms, she is Levi’s partner in this business venture, but for some reason they aren’t together romantically.

They’ve got business already and the book opens with what should have been an easy supply run, but wasn’t and they return home to a surprise visitor.

This is a favorite scene.

His grin fell away as his gaze landed on the two very large black vehicles—SUVs, government issued—parked at the front. That could mean either good or bad news. Ice lowered the helicopter, and he hopped out.

Rhodes stood there, talking with four men Levi didn’t know. A passenger door opened, and another man exited the SUV.

A smile broke out on Levi’s face. “Commander Jackson. Good to see you again, sir.”

Jackson smiled, reached out, and shook Levi’s hand. “I’m working for the government now, though not the same type of work. So drop the commander.” He looked around the compound and smiled. “It’s good to see you and your team again. We were in the neighborhood and thought we’d drop off a friend.”

Which also meant they wanted to talk without ears. Interesting. Levi watched as the passenger door on the far side opened.

Alfred walked around the vehicle. Levi’s eyebrows shot up. That man was a mystery in so many ways. He leaves for a family funeral and returns with the brass. A connected man. And a private one.

“Hey, Alfred.” Levi reached out and smacked the older man on the shoulder. “We’re all glad to have you back. Stone’s been handling the office and Ice the kitchen. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how much you’ve been missed.”

Alfred laughed. “It’s good to be here. I’ll go in and say hi.”

“And maybe pick up the pieces,” Levi said with a laugh. “The place fell apart with you gone.”

Turning back to face Jackson, Levi wondered why the ex-commander was here and what exactly he was doing now. The vehicles had government Secret Service written all over them.

“It’s good to be back on my feet again, sir. Even Stone’s more or less on his.” Behind him he heard the steady click of Stone with his racing blade.

“I’m here. I’m here,” Stone said in a gruff voice. “Don’t you worry about me.”

Levi ushered the five men into the compound building. On the main floor they’d set up one room as a big meeting area. He put on a pot of coffee and motioned for everyone to take a seat. He was curious but knew Jackson would talk when he was ready.

While the coffee dripped, Levi sat down directly across from Jackson.

“I didn’t expect to see a compound of this size. Or how well prepared you are.” Jackson nodded. “You’ve built a hell of a place here.”

“Thank you,” Levi said quietly. “Ready for business.” Levi waited. No point in rushing the man.

“And I might have need. If not now, then down the road.” He offered a small smile. “I’ve heard good things about your company.”

Alfred walked over, a notepad in one hand and the coffeepot in the other.

Stone took a seat next to Levi, and Rhodes sat on the other side. Ice and Merk stood behind them. Levi nodded his head. “I’m listening.”

“We could have need of someone qualified, capable, and not connected to any government agency.”

“That’s us.” Levi leaned back, crossed his arms across his chest, and waited.

“But potentially connected to our problem.” Jackson studied Levi as a frown settled on his face. “You know this man I’m hunting.” His gaze swept the table. “You all do. He’s the one who shot off Stone’s leg. And he’s back, here in your neighborhood. Potentially part of a terrorist cell.”

Ice gasped, her gaze zinging toward Levi.

At those words he slowly sat forward, his tone low. “I just saw him in Mexico …” He glanced over at Ice. “We barely got out with our lives.”

The rest of the men straightened, frowning but silent.

In as few words as possible, Levi explained what he and Ice had just survived. When he was done, the room fell quiet yet again. Levi kept his gaze on the new arrivals.

Jackson eyed him carefully, then gave a slow nod. “That’s very interesting. Now how did he know you would be there?”

“No idea,” Ice snapped. “We haven’t had a chance to find out. But Rodriguez escaped again, the lucky bastard.”

“Are you saying he’s running a cell around here?” Levi asked. “Because, after today, I’d be more inclined to believe that if he’s in the neighborhood, he’s more likely after me … and not whatever you think he’s doing here. And, if he’s involved, he’s in charge. Rodriguez was never one to play second fiddle.”

“I’m thinking he’s killing two birds with one stone.” Jackson smiled, but it was a slow twisted version of the real thing. “We think he’s aligning himself with a Middle East group. Building an army here on US soil to target US landmarks. He has connections on both sides of the border. About you, I don’t know,” he admitted. “Rodriguez could also be serious about taking you out—before you become a bigger problem. If you plan to keep going after him, he can’t afford to leave you alive.”

Silence hung in the room.
Mayer, Dale. Heroes for Hire: Books 1-3 (pp. 27-30). Valley Publishing Ltd.. Kindle Edition.

Nothing is ever simple and Bullock comes to help shore up the security in the compound just in time to help with some investigating.

A new addition also comes to the compound, the sister of an active duty SEAL who is down on her luck.

Lots of action, surprises and soul-searching for Levi and Ice make this a page turning read. I’m glad I bought this as a collection so I can dive into book 2.

5 Contented Purrs for Dale!

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Coming Soon!

Dale Mayer

Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).

She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!

To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.

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Devlin – SEALs of Honor Book 12 By Dale Mayer

SEALs of Honor Book 12
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Dale Mayer


A four man unit brushes up against Mason and his ‘Keepers’ unit. Sparks fly from the beginning as not one of the men are looking for romance. But there’s no choice – cupid has a soft spot for SEALS and he’s lined his sights up on Devlin next. 🙂

The right place at the right time… or the very wrong place…

As part of a group helping to training Afghan soldiers, Devin is doing additional training on how to use the latest drones. But when a murder is committed on the base and suspicion is thrown on the drone’s designer, he can’t stop himself from helping her. When they return stateside, another employee in the same company is murdered. Once again suspicion falls on the designer. And as tension climbs, Devin wonders who will be next…

Bristol didn’t want to take her latest drone models to Afghanistan, but she was behind schedule and her bosses were pushing.

Then disaster strikes, and she’s the one everyone blames. She loses her research and her best friend, and now she’s determined to find out who did this… no matter how dangerous it is.

The killer isn’t done. He got what he wanted but there’s more that he needs… and he’ll kill to get it. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time…

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Nothing like a fire to disturb a Military encampment. One that has a body.

Devlin and 2 others from his team as well as Mason four of his men are here for training on some new drones. Devlin is particularly interested in talking to the engineer who designed them.

Bristol is on a deadline, one that has been seriously impacted by this training. The company buying her drones insisted on this exercise and refused her the time off, so she was working on the project as well.

Devlin has been by her side since she identified the body as that of her friend and assistant Colleen. Mason also gets involved since she is one of Tesla’s best friends.

This is a favorite scene as Brett, one of the company’s representatives gets involved in her being questioned by the MP’s.

Bristol stood tall and straight in the center of the tent. She was not offered a chair. Not a good indication.

“I believe you gentlemen have some further questions for me?”

Several MPs sat at the table on the far left side with Bristol in the middle of the room. Others stood to the right, watching the proceedings, almost like a trial. Devlin had no problem taking two steps to stand at her side. The man in the middle seat looked up at her, his gaze hard and cold.

“There’s been some discrepancy between your statement and that of someone else.”

“And whose is that?”

“We’re not at liberty to say.”

“And yet I’m being judged and not allowed to face my accuser?” She kept her voice cool. “Gentlemen, I have not lied in any way, shape, or form.”

“And yet you led us to believe all was well at your company.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “At my company it is. If you’re asking about at ENFAQ Ltd., that’s a different story. You never asked me about the atmosphere or the relationship between me and that company. So I’m not sure where you assume that answer is from my lips.”

The middle MP lifted a sheet of paper. “It says here you were, indeed, asked that question, and you said you were perfectly happy at the company, and, as far as you knew, there were no problems in terms of working relationships there.”

She held out her hand. “I’d like to see that please.”

He handed her the statement.

She looked at it, then snorted. “Are you telling me that you can’t see this is a different handwriting from up above? My signature on the bottom, when I wrote that, did not have that paragraph included. And besides, I would’ve been happy to tell you what the working atmosphere was like between me and the company. And it’s … tense.” She stepped back and crossed her arms.

The MP looked over the sheet of paper and said, “That’s a serious charge, to say somebody altered your statement.”

“I don’t care how serious a charge you think it is. That statement was added after my signature.” She glared at him. “Therefore, anything you say or do at this point will be suspicious, and as such, you have a problem on your side of the bench.”

The men seated at the table put their heads together.

“I’d like to face my accuser myself.” She turned her gaze, zooming deliberately to a man standing on the right side. “Brent, could you please answer that?”

The man Devlin had met earlier straightened and glared at her. “Answer what? You’re the one being interrogated.”

Her eyebrows matched her lips in a sneer. “And how is it that I’m being interrogated? My friend was murdered. My research was stolen. Did they look at you for that?”

He cast a look around in shock.

“How could you possibly blame me?”

“And yet you apparently have no trouble blaming me.”

“I didn’t. I just said they should look at you a little closer.”

“Which is blaming me.” She turned back to the three men watching the conversation avidly. “What you need to understand is that the research was mine. I’m under contract to the company, but I own that particular project until it’s completed and handed over. He essentially owns it upon completion. It is not completed.”

“But it should’ve been,” Brent said in frustration. “You’re behind schedule.”

She snapped, “Yes, but I still have ten days left on the extension. Ten days. That’s it. And why is it that I’m behind? Because you didn’t supply the help you promised and indeed, are contracted to, nor the materials you were also contracted to.” She stood in the middle of the room and tapped her foot on the floor. “To tell them to examine my motives for losing my own research is just too unbelievable.”

“Well, as it’s insured, and if you’ve lost it, there would be a huge payout, it makes sense.”

“If my software doesn’t work, my name and reputation go down the drain.” Her glare deepened. “And, of course, if I don’t make my deadlines—”

“Which you’re not.”

“With a thirty-day override still counting down, of which I have ten days left,” she added in a hard tone. “Then I owe you a percentage of the contract for every day I’m late. But it’s not to that point yet, as I still have ten days to complete it.” She snorted and waved her hand. “However, my research is missing, my assistant has been murdered, and I am in real trouble of meeting my deadline. That means I’ll pay a hefty penalty, even though I did all the work.” She took a deep breath. “So in what way in hell would murdering Colleen, my friend and assistant, and losing my research help me?” She lowered her voice to a lethal softness and added, “If anyone here benefits from this nightmare, it’s you.”
Mayer, Dale. SEALs of Honor: Books 11-13 (pp. 227-230). Valley Publishing Ltd.. Kindle Edition.

This is only the beginning and I love how so many SEALs come together to help Bristol.

Devlin is now finding the meaning of Mason’s ‘Keepers’ and he only had a brief encounter with that team.

Plenty of tension as their investigation turns up more and more issues, lots of suspense and intrigue as well. Bristol and Devlin manage some romance and the heat definitely flames up in more ways than one.

I love this book and this series. I am starting the next book now.

5 Contented Purrs for Dale!

Click the Cover for Buy Links and More!

Dale Mayer

Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).

She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!

To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.

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Exquisite Sin – Iron Horse MC Book 6 By Ann Mayburn

Exquisite Sin
Iron Horse MC Book 6
Ann Mayburn



I thought once I finally fled the strict confines of my old church I’d be free. Safe from the demons masquerading as holy men. Unfortunately, there is just as much evil in the real world as my former home, and the demons that want to destroy me are still on the hunt. My hero comes from the most unlikely of places, a knight in black leather who is ready to lay down his life for my own. My church may have called him a sinner who was leading me into damnation, but to me he is my salvation.


I’ve spent my life alone, my heart and soul claimed long ago by the Iron Horse MC. My loyalty to them was unquestionable before a certain freckled angel entered my life. Now my devotion to my club is torn between doing what my President wants, and what my woman needs. It kills me that I’m forced to leave her side when she needs me the most, but if I stay with her much longer I’m going to get her killed. Except my absence doesn’t make her any safer. By the time I figure out the true threat comes from within, it’s too late to do anything but pray to a God who turned his back on me long ago for a miracle I don’t deserve.

(Exquisite Sin is part 2 of Hustler and Lyric’s story. Exquisite Innocence SHOULD be read first. For your greatest reading enjoyment, I’d suggest you read the series in order, starting with Exquisite Trouble. In the Iron Horse MC series there is a big long story arch that spans the various books)

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This is the long awaited conclusion of Hustler and Lyric’s story.

Lyric is a favorite character of mine, I have been rooting for her to get away from her churches compound since we first met her. She’s out now and learning a world that is foreign to her. However she is still in a bit of danger and Hustler is her protector, her guard and the love of her life.

Hustler is an officer of the Iron Horse MC, he really shouldn’t be involved with Lyric, but he couldn’t resist her. Now he truly belongs to her. With the knowledge that there is a traitor somewhere in their ranks and the pastor of Lyric’s church still on the loose, he has to team up with Sarah and Swan’s dad Mike to find answers. Unfortunately this will take him from Lyric for an extended amount of time.

This is a favorite scene.

She softened in my arms and placed a kiss on my goateed chin. “You’re right, I am greedy for you. I can’t help it. It’s like…it’s like I’ve been starving for you all these years. A piece of me I never knew was missing until I found you.”

Closing my eyes, I buried my nose into her hair as satisfaction settled over me. When I was with her, I was at peace. The restless animal inside of me that kept me always searching for more was finally content, at least for the moment. All too fucking soon, I’d have to leave my woman, and I did not like it one bit, but I had no choice. The threat against Lyric had to be eliminated, and I personally wanted to be the one to torture good Pastor Middleton to the brink of death before Mike finished the job. While I wanted to be the one to kill Pastor Middleton and his putrid flock of evil fucks, Mike had claimed that right instead. Considering he’d known Lyric since practically the day she was born and considered her his kid, I’d agreed to let him have it.

The fact that Mimi, Mike’s wife and someone who also loved Lyric like her own, would have killed me if I tried to deny Mike what he wanted also motivated me to step back.

That woman could slice a man’s balls off one millimeter at a time with her sharp ass knives.

“Yo, Hustler, you’re gettin’ tight on time if you’re gonna catch your flight,” Sledge yelled from the doorway of the clubhouse.

I held up my hand in response, watching Lyric as I said, “I promise I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

She leaned back, giving me a view of the deep valley between her awesome tits. “I know you will.”
Mayburn, Ann. Exquisite Sin (Iron Horse MC Book 6). Kindle Locations(1746-1760). Honey Mountain Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Lots of players in this one, that if you’ve read Ann’s other series you will know. The Cordova’s make an appearance as does a Bratva member or two.

Of course all the Iron Horse Mc guys are there as are Mike and Mimi. Birdie and Mouse and well just about everyone plays a part as this book closes out a major chapter.

Lots of hold your breath action, white hot melt your kindle heat and plenty of twists and surprises.

Don’t miss this book!

5 Contented Purrs for Ann!

Click the Cover for Buy Links and More!

Ann Mayburn Ann Mayburn

With over forty published books, Ann is Queen of the Castle to her husband and three sons in the mountains of West Virginia. In her past lives she’s been an Import Broker, a Communications Specialist, a US Navy Civilian Contractor, a Bartender/Waitress, and an actor at the Michigan Renaissance Festival. She also spent a summer touring with the Grateful Dead-though she will deny to her children that it ever happened.

From a young Ann has had a love affair with books would read everything she could get her hands on. As Ann grew older, and her hormones kicked in, she discovered bodice ripping Fabio-esque romance novels. They were great at first, but she soon grew tired of the endless stories with a big wonderful emotional buildup to really short and crappy sex. Never a big fan of purple prose, throbbing spears of fleshy pleasure and wet honey pots make her giggle, she sought out books that gave the sex scenes in the story just as much detail and plot as everything else-without using cringe worthy euphemisms. This led her to the wonderful world of Erotic Romance, and she’s never looked back.

Now Ann spends her days trying to tune out cartoons playing in the background to get into her ‘sexy space’ and has accepted that her Muse has a severe case of ADD.

Ann loves to talk with her fans, as long as they realize she’s weird, and that sarcasm doesn’t translate well via text.

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Desi’s Diamond – Heroes For Hire Book 19 by Dale Mayer

Dezi’s Diamond
Heroes for Hire Book 19
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Dale Mayer


When opposites attract… anything can happen…

Dezi was a plain-and-simple type of guy. He loved working for Levi’s company and had enjoyed the jobs he’d been given so far. When a businesswoman contacted Ice over, well, ice, … things got interesting.

Diamond was an exclusive jewelry designer, born and raised in the industry, working within her father’s diamond company. When a custom-designed item was checked before shipment, she realized the piece wasn’t her workmanship. Somehow someone had forged her work and had slipped it in the shipment as a replacement.

However, the theft and forgery quickly escalate to kidnapping and armed robbery. Dezi and Diamond need to figure this out fast, before something else gets added to the list: murder.

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I am way behind in this series, but I love it so much I had to get this one.

Dezi doesn’t think he’ll find anyone and the couples at Levi’s compound are so in love it reverberates through everything. He’s been away on assignment but really wants some time close to home and this next assignment is perfect. Within driving distance and his partner the only other single member of the team Vince.

Diamond is the one who designed Ice’s engagement ring for Levi. By accident she has discovered that one of her pieces is a fraud. In order to keep her reputation intact she contacts Levi and Ice to find out what’s going on.

Dezi and Vince are staying near her in Houston as the do the initial investigating. Now Diamond does work from home on occasion so they need to see that layout as well.

This is a favorite scene as they see her backyard.

Now here she was, having survived a second day with the men around, although they’d been gone most of the morning. They had popped in at noon with another zillion questions. They had asked if she would be available tonight, which worried her, but she had answered, <em?>Yes, if necessary. Now she hoped there was no sign of them. The last thing she wanted was to have this idyllic scene destroyed with talk of forgeries and betrayal and kidnappings and hackings.

As soon as that thought crossed her mind, her doorbell rang. She groaned, knowing instinctively who it was. She wandered around the sidewalk to the front yard. And, sure enough, it was Dezi and Vince. She called to them. They both turned, and she said, “Come on around back. Otherwise I’ll have to go through the house, and I’ve got wet feet.”

They followed her to the backyard. She could hear Dezi’s sigh of happiness as he surveyed her sanctuary. She turned to look at him, seeing the serenity already settling into his soul. She nodded. “And that’s why I have this.”

He looked at her, his gaze full of understanding. “You’re blessed.”

She tilted her head. “I am. At least I know it.”

He smiled. “Do you mind if I wander?”

She wafted her hand in the direction of the pathways. “Go for it.” She headed back to the table and picked up her wine.

Vince studied the pool and the tile pattern on the inside. “It’s one of your designs, isn’t it?”

She looked at him in surprise and smiled. “Yes, absolutely. But you’re the only one who has ever noticed.”

He chuckled. “Dezi noticed. We looked at your place on Google Maps first. He got close enough to see a blurred image of the tile pattern. And he recognized it immediately. Only as I stand here— now with the knowledge that it is— can I see it.”

She filed away that information. “I had no idea Google Images were that good.”

“They can be very good. We also have access to a lot of satellite imagery. What we were considering was whether the designs could have been taken from your home.”
Dale Mayer. Dezi’s Diamond (Kindle Locations 701-718). Valley Publishing Ltd..

It somehow amazes me that so many people are unaware of how things can be compromised in this age of technology. Diamond, as she talks to Dezi , finds more an more interactions that include people that could be at the root of her issues. Although more and more it looks like an inside job.

There are many twists and turns that lead to quite the surprising resolution. Dezi and Diamond turn up the heat pretty quickly and her father coming for a visit certainly adds some intrigue.

I am going back to start this series from the beginning, I want to be sure I don’t miss a single one!

5 Contented Purrs for Dale!

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Dale Mayer

Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).

She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!

To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.

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Trouble in Paradise – Familiar Legacy Book 6 by Rebecca Barrett

Trouble in Paradise
Familiar Legacy Book 6
USA Today Bestselling Author
Rebecca Barrett



Key West is paradise–unless you’re the dead woman in the Toucan Suite. The Hemingway cats, Megs and Bartholomew, who wander the grounds of the B&B, think Liberty Anderson was a spy. But spying on whom? And why? Trouble, the black cat detective, must decipher their cryptic communications and piece together a motive for murder.

Ginger Browne runs the B&B on a shoestring. The Paradise is her home, her history, and her refuge. An unsolved murder could be the kiss of death for this native Conch’s struggle for financial and emotional security.

Trout Richardson is one of the many recluses who came to Key West to escape his past and work as a charter boat captain. Was Liberty merely a charter to him? Or is there more to their relationship?

Both Trout and Ginger resist their mutual attraction, but Trouble knows they’re on an irreversible course toward love and redemption. Trouble must help them resolve the mystery of Liberty’s murder and steer them down the path toward each other.

All while a killer roams the island paradise of the Conch Republic and a lost treasure is up for grabs.

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Trouble’s human Tammy Lee, is off on a cruise. She leaves Trouble with her friend Ginger who owns a delightful Bed and Breakfast called Paradise. If you’ve been reading these books along with me you’ll know that Trouble is the son of a famous cat detective named Familiar, and he appears to have the same skills.

When Charter Captain Trout Richardson shows up looking for the woman who booked his boat, Ginger finds her guest, Liberty Anderson, deceased on her bed. Not a very good way to start a day in Paradise.

As the investigation begins, Trouble of course is in the middle of everything. I really love that every chapter begins with Trouble’s musings or interactions.

This is a favorite scene as he meets a couple of Hemingway Museum Cats.

I slip through the front door of the Paradise on the heels of a policeman. The grounds of the bed and breakfast are lush with foliage and I’m briefly distracted by a rather large iguana. He must be at least two feet long, tail to nose. We engage in a Mexican standoff, his beady eyes unflinching, but one flick of my tail and he darts away.

At the rear of the house is a narrow back porch that runs the length of the building. On the southeast corner a staircase runs up the east side to the second floor. At the top of these stairs, lying on his back, sprawled across the landing, is a very fat, gray cat. Beside him is a petite gray with white markings.

As I top the stairs, the petite gray ceases her complaining and turns her crossed-eyed gaze on me. Obviously curious about the cause of the sudden silence, the fat cat opens his eyes.

“Who’re you?” he asks.


He wriggles and squirms until he can get his feet under him and he strolls over to me. “We won’t have any trouble around here, you hear?”

I suppress a sigh. “My name is Trouble.”

The female begins to purr, moves beside the fat cat, and touches her nose to mine. Her eyes are very disconcerting.

“I’m Megs,” she says.

The fat cat muscles her to the side. “Where’d you come from?”


“What’s that? Wetumpka?”

“A city.”


They stare at me as if I had said the moon.

I know Ginger doesn’t own any pets. “Where’d you come from?”

The female motions with her head toward the east. “The museum. We’re Hemingway cats.”

The tone of her voice suggests I should be impressed by this revelation. When she gets no reaction from me she holds up her paw, a bodacious seven toes displayed for my edification, and glances at the fat cat. “Show him, Bartholomew,” she says.

Bartholomew grunts and lies back down, ignoring me and Megs.

She sidles up to me and rubs along the length of my body, purring all the while. “So, what brings you to Key West?”

I confess vanity made me say it. “Murder.”

Bartholomew lifts his large head, opens his eyes, and stares at me. Megs does a funny little quick step, right paw over left paw, left paw over right, three times in rapid succession.

Still unimpressed, Bartholomew says, “Who’d you kill, a mouse?”

Then he grins. That rather deflates my ego. “No one,” I say, “I’m a detective.”

“Wow.” Megs moves right up in my face. “You mean you solve crimes? Catch murderers?”

“Precisely. You may have heard of my father, Familiar?”

Bartholomew grunts, lies his head down, closes his eyes, and rolls onto his back.

“Are you on a case? Are you on a case?” Megs does her little dance.

Normally I play my cards close to my vest, but given that Megs and Bartholomew appear to use the premises as they wish, I see the benefit of putting them in the know.

“Where were you both last night?”

“You are on a case!” Meg’s crossed-eyes almost twirl like a whirly-gig in her excitement. “Is it murder?”

“Yes, I’m on a case and it’s most definitely murder.”

“Oh, oh, oh! Can I help? Can I be your sidekick?”

“What you can do is tell me if you were on the grounds of the Paradise last night and anything you saw.”

“Yes!” Megs does her little dance. “We were a…”

“Megs!” Bartholomew growls and rocks back and forth until his great weight shifts and he is once again on his feet. “We were at the museum, in our beds in the cat house. We weren’t spying on anyone.”

“Oh, right.” Megs says, as she looks from me to Bartholomew then back to me. “We weren’t violating the court order. Honest.”

“Court order? What court order?” Hello. What have I uncovered?

“What are you talking about?” Bartholomew asks. “We’re cats. We know nothing of legal wranglings and officious secret agents.” He suddenly discovers a need to groom between his toes.

Megs lowers her gaze and moves to the corner of the landing, gazing out across the back lawn. She won’t look at me.

Well, something is afoot here, but it must take a back seat to the matter at hand. Whatever these two know could be vital to finding a killer.
Rebecca Barrett. Trouble in Paradise: Familiar Legacy #6 (Kindle Locations 307-344). KaliOka Press.

This tale gets more intriguing as you turn the pages. Adding to the murder there is also the occupant of the ‘Bird Cage’ room that keeps expecting phone calls. Plus some someone is looking for something, causing even more havoc for poor Ginger.

Fast-paced and fun with intrigue and suspense, plus some romance aided by Trouble as well.

I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.

5 Contented Purrs for Rebecca!

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Rebecca Barrett

Rebecca Barrett writes historical fiction, romantic mysteries, post-apocalyptic fiction (writing as Campbell O’Neal), children’s stories, and short stories of life in the South. An avid reader all her life and a product of “front porch” socializing, she became a story-teller at an early age.

Her current novel, Trouble in Paradise, features that handsome, sleek, black cat detective, Trouble. The game is afoot in Key West, Florida and there’s a dead body in the Toucan Suite of the Paradise B&B. This is Rebecca Barrett’s second book in this series written by multiple authors (The Mad Catters) who follow the antics of super-sleuth Trouble as he lands in first one crime scene then another. Of course, the humans help a little. These romantic mysteries are fun and light hearted and just perfect for a beach read or a rainy day.

Meow Baby – Wards and Wands Book 2.5 by Rebecca Royce

Meow Baby
Wards and Wands Book 2.5
Rebecca Royce & Ripley Proserpina


Set in the Wards and Wands Universe, Ripley Proserpina and Rebecca Royce offer up a witchy love story sure to melt your hearts. When a strong willed woman takes in three stray cats she has no idea they are the Addington Brothers, her neighbors who have been torturing her for years and are now cursed to walk on four feet.

While she’d never have believed it possible, all the Addingtons want now is to show Michaella they can be trusted with her heart. What happens next will change not only their four lives forever but the witching world everywhere.

**Meow, Baby was previously released in the charity anthology Petting Them**

This book was so much fun! The Addington brothers are Michaella’s neighbors, and they aren’t very good ones. They constantly make a mess of her property and make fun of her as she tries to clean up. She can’t use magic because she doesn’t have much. What she does have is usually expended as a healer at Prestige, a private hospital where she is employed.

When she comes home one day to find three black cats, she immediately offers them sanctuary. Feeding them and keeping them safe.

After lying to a couple of shady characters that inform her they are looking for the Addington’s cats, she decides to take them to work with her.

This is a favorite scene.

“I will miss you guys. It is sort of nice to have someone to talk to.” Drained didn’t begin to describe how she felt right then. But there was no choice. She had to make it work like she always did. Her patients were counting on her.

“You know what? Do you guys want to come make some old people’s day? They love pets. It’s good for them, soothing.”

Butch yowled, and Tough joined in. She didn’t think they liked the idea, but Panther, tail whipping from side to side, ambled toward her and rubbed against her leg. “You’ll do it?” she asked.

Panther rubbed against her again, like he was in agreement with her.

“Awesome!” She leaned down and stroked him from head to tail tip. His butt lifted in the air, and she gave him a little scratch at the base of his tail. “I’m going to take a quick shower and then we’ll go. See if you can talk your brothers into joining us!”

Michaella ran, by which she meant, she walked quickly, upstairs. Along the way, she stripped out of her clothes, leaving them wherever they fell. One benefit of living alone was no one cared if she was naked, and no one cared if she made a mess.

She guessed the other side of the coin was that no one cared period, but she was trying to focus on the positives. In record time, she was dressed, showered, and downstairs.

The cats, however, were nowhere to be found. “Panther!” She made a kissing noise with her lips, but the house was silent. Michaella walked through the living room to the kitchen and found Tough, Panther, and Butch on her counter top. In front of them was a raggedly opened box of granola bars. “Did you—?” She glanced at the cabinet where she’d stored them and sure enough, it was wide open. She picked up

Rebecca Royce; Ripley Proserpina. Part of Petting Them Anthology (Kindle Locations 325-330). Kindle Edition.
the box. It was open, but none of the bars were. Shrugging, she pulled one out. “I should eat breakfast. Thanks guys. I’m going to pretend you got that out for me.”

Butch meowed, like we did, dummy.

“Be nice,” she muttered. She took a bite and through a mouthful of brown sugar and nuts asked, “Who’s coming with me?”

Panther hissed at his brothers, and to her delight, all three jumped off the counter and strolled to the door. “All of you?”

Panther stared at her. “Right! All of you. I don’t have a carrier, so I’m just going to pick you up and one-by-one place you in my car. Okay? No train rides for kitty-cats.” She peered out her door. “No creepy creeps outside. But just in case, let’s go fast. I don’t want Mr. Slicked-Back-Hair showing up.”

Michaella picked Panther up. “Dang, you’re heavy.” He adjusted himself, placing his paws on her shoulders. It allowed one of her hands free so she could open the door. She had expected this to be more of a process. Like—with the cats running under the sofa or knocking vases of flowers off of side tables. It didn’t matter that she didn’t own a vase or have any fresh flowers sitting in water. It was one of those things that happened when chasing an animal.

But they didn’t. Butch waited for his turn, and then Tough, and soon they were on their way. Michaella rolled into Prestige and surveyed the still-empty parking lot. “You guys are so great to do this. Thank you.” In that moment, as she thanked the cats she’d kidnapped (catnapped?) from her neighbors, Michaella decided she needed to get a life. This whole going to work, going home, do nothing thing was turning her into a crazy lady.
Rebecca Royce; Ripley Proserpina. Meow Baby. Petting Them Anthology (Kindle Locations 317-343). Kindle Edition.

It’s while they are here that she finds they have been transfigured in a way that could be permanent.

We get to see Lawson as he is the enforcer who comes to reverse the Addington brothers back. I love Lawson, he manages to put them in their place right away.

There is another issue though, the guys have realized something since Michaella took them in, they need to apologize and also convince her to give them a chance. Not to mention finding the folks that turned them to begin with.

A totally enjoyable romp with lots of giggles and serious sizzle.

5 Contented Purrs for Rebecca and Ripley!

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Coming Soon!

Ripley Proserpina

Ripley Proserpina spends her days huddled near a fire in the frozen northern wilds of Vermont. She lives with her family, two magnificent cats, and one dog who aspires to cat-hood. She is the author of the Reverse Harem series, The Searchers, Midnight’s Crown, and the young adult/fantasy duet, Wishes and Curses.

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Rebecca Royce Rebecca Royce

As a teenager, I would hide in my room to read my favorite romance novels when I was supposed to be doing my homework. I hope, these days, that my parents think it was worth it.

I am the mother of three adorable boys and I am fortunate to be married to my best friend. I live in Austin Texas where I am determined to eat all the barbecue in town.

I am in love with science fiction, fantasy, and the paranormal and try to use all of these elements in my writing. I’ve been told I’m a little bloodthirsty so I hope that when you read my work you’ll enjoy the action packed ride that always ends in romance. I love to write series because I love to see characters develop over time and it always makes me happy to see my favorite characters make guest appearances in other books.

In my world anything is possible, anything can happen, and you should suspect that it will.

I’d love to hear from you!


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The Right Sort Of Man – Marriage Bureau Book 1 by Allison Montclair

The Right Sort Of Man
Marriage Bureau Book 1
Allison Montclair


First comes love, then comes murder.

In a London slowly recovering from World War II, two very different women join forces to launch a business venture in the heart of Mayfair–The Right Sort Marriage Bureau. Miss Iris Sparks, quick-witted and impulsive, and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge, practical and widowed with a young son, are determined to achieve some independence and do some good in a rapidly changing world.

But the promising start to their marriage bureau is threatened when their newest client, Tillie La Salle, is found murdered and the man arrested for the crime is the prospective husband they matched her with. While the police are convinced they have their man, Miss Sparks and Mrs. Bainbridge are not. To clear his name–and to rescue their fledging operation’s reputation–Sparks and Bainbridge decide to investigate on their own, using the skills and contacts they’ve each acquired through life and their individual adventures during the recent war.

Little do they know that this will put their very lives at risk.

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This is the debut novel for Allison Montclair. Set in post-war London, she successfully has you planted in those war torn streets as this tale unfolds.

Gwen Bainbridge, a single mother who is under the watchful eye of her mother-in-law. This woman who has taken custody of her child is controlling and demanding. As such Gwen is trying to build a new life so she can take back control.

Iris Sparks is former military and is extremely secretive about her role in the war. She does seem to have various contacts and skills that are impressive. Right now she is focusing with Gwen to bring couples together in London. The Right Sort of Man is their agency and they screen their applicants and set about matching them.

One such match goes totally awry when the woman turns up dead and the man they matched her with charged and jailed.

Gwen doesn’t believe he’s the culprit and persuades Iris to help her find the real murder.

There are many twist and turns as their investigation links many shady characters to the deceased.

A page turning read with lots of suspense, family drama, and a surprising resolution.

I hope there are more books planned for these characters, I truly enjoyed them.

Keep reading for an excerpt that will have you wanting more.

5 Contented Purrs for Allison!


Tillie climbed the stairs from the Bond Street Station out to Davies Street, blinking in the afternoon light. She had directions, but the directions were from Oxford Street, and she didn’t know whether that was to the right or left.

She felt like the overwhelmed child that she had been the first and last time she had come to Mayfair, when her dad took her on a special shopping expedition after a rare successful day at the track. She dragged him into shop after shop, looking at all of the clothes, the toys, the sweets, her voice a non-stop series of squeaks and squeals while her dad beamed at the happiness he had produced all because the favourite in the fifth race at Kempton Park had snapped a foreleg and the long shot managed to skirt the subsequent pileup of horses and jockeys and push its nose past the other survivors. Two horses were put down after that race, and three jockeys went to hospital, but Dad came out of it forty quid ahead, so tragedy be damned.

She wasn’t even certain what he had bought her that day. Some pretty printed dress, she thought. Probably from Dickins and Jones. One that she outgrew within months, because Dad would never think of buying a size or two up, but that day was still the best of her life. So far.

Dickins and Jones was bombed during the Blitz. She read about it the morning after it happened, thinking about being there with Dad back in—’28? ’29? She cried when she read about it, cried like she was a little girl again, she who had never shed a tear when friends and family were lost. It was as if the Germans had attacked her best memory.There it was, on the left. Oxford Street! She reached into her handbag and pulled out the scrap of paper with her directions.It was June, 1946. The war was over, and Tillie La Salle had come back to Mayfair to shop.

Only this time, she was shopping for a husband.

A right, two blocks, and another right brought her to her desti- nation. She gawked when she saw it. It wasn’t the appearance of the building itself that caused her astonishment. It was very much an ordinary, turn-of-the-century structure with bricks of a dull, almost muddy red, four storeys with not much in the way of falderal in the edging of the windows or the parapets. But it was the only building still standing on this particular block. On both sides, piles of rubble and a few ruined walls lay where similar buildings once stood, bracing their surviving neighbour. To the right, a solitary bulldozer was scooping up shattered pieces of brick, concrete, and wood and unceremoniously depositing them into a waiting lorry.

She walked past, wondering which phase of the German air assault had devastated this particular block, and what quirk of Fate had missed leveling the very building containing the goal of her journey.

The driver of the lorry was leaning against the cab. He caught sight of her, then took off his twill cap and waved.

“’Allo, gorgeous!” he shouted. “Give a working man a smile!” “You don’t look like you’re working at the moment,” she replied.

“They also serve who stand and wait,” he said. “Fancy a cuppa?” “Some other time,” she said.

“Name’s Frank,” he said, giving an exaggerated bow. “I’m here all week.”

“Save some love for the wife,” she advised him.

He laughed and replaced his cap, his wedding ring prominent. She sighed and continued to the building. On the front by the entry was a small collection of signs advertising the occupants. Amidst a few drab placards for accounting and typing services was a cheerful light green one with large hand-painted yellow letters reading, the right sort marriage bureau. miss iris sparks and mrs. gwendolyn bainbridge, proprietors.

Tillie hesitated, then thought how easily she had just been accosted in the street by a married man.

“No faint heart, Tillie,” she admonished herself. “This is why you came.”

She took a deep breath, then walked through the door.

There was no reception, merely a cramped hallway with a daunting set of stairs to the right and a narrow passageway directly ahead that vanished into darkness with alarming rapidity. An elderly, un- shaven man in dingy overalls was mopping the floor. She ignored him and turned her attention to the building directory.

“If you’re looking for a husband, they’re on the top,” called the custodian, his sporadic yellow teeth flashing in what she assumed he meant to be a friendly smile.

“I see that,” replied Tillie, spotting a smaller version of the green placard. “Thanks. Don’t you think there ought to be more light down here?”

“No point,” said the custodian. “It’s all vacant, innit?”

She took the stairs, initially at a nervous trot to get away from the gloom of the ground floor and the vaguely menacing demeanour of the custodian. By the time she reached the top, her pace had slowed considerably.

This hallway was brightly lit, however, and in the middle of it, she saw yet another green sign proclaiming her journey’s end. She paused to catch her breath, then walked up and rapped on the door. The woman who opened it was her height, a brunette maybe six or seven years past Tillie’s twenty-two. She gave her a quick, inquis- itive look, then smiled.

“Miss La Salle, is it? Come in, come in.”

Tillie found herself ushered in and plopped onto a wooden chair that creaked ominously. There were two desks in front of her on either side of a single window. They looked like they themselves had served during the war, perhaps seeing combat in some skirmish against German furniture, and now sat battered but unbowed, the one on the left jammed against the wall for partial support, a book stuffed under one leg which was noticeably shorter than the others.

The room itself was painted the same soothing light green as the placards. On the wall to the right hung photographs of happy couples at their weddings, with announcements from the Guard­ ian and the Evening Standard taped to their frames. There was an ancient filing cabinet in the corner that could have told tales from previous wars to the two desks.

“How do you do, how do you do?” rattled off the woman. “I’m Iris Sparks; call me Sparks, everyone does. So nice to meet you, and you’re perfectly on time. You made it up the steps, hurrah! The first hurdle on the path towards happiness is those steps. They’ve been wonderfully firming for my legs, I must say. I’ve lost eight pounds since we started up. This is Mrs. Bainbridge, my partner.”

From behind the desk on the left, a very tall woman rose gracefully and came over to shake her hand.

“How do you do, Miss La Salle?” she said.

Tillie tried not to gape. Mrs. Bainbridge was elegant, blond, and wearing an impeccably tailored silk suit that must have been sealed in a cedarwood closet for the duration of the war to have been resurrected so perfectly. The woman had a patrician air that was com- pletely out of place in this small, solitary office, yet seemed wholly at ease in spite of it. She could have stepped from the pages of the Tatler, or been the slumming aristocratic sidekick in a Jessie Matthews musical, lacking only the art deco sets for the appropriate back- drop.

Sparks noticed the young woman’s attempts not to stare and grinned.

“Impressive, isn’t she?” she commented. “Don’t worry, she’s one of us.”

“I’m sorry,” stammered Tillie. “I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“Not at all,” Mrs. Bainbridge reassured her as she resumed her seat. “Now, you are looking for a husband.”

“That’s right,” said Tillie.

“Then you’ve come to the right place,” said Sparks, sitting on the edge of her desk and picking up a pair of typed forms. “Business first. Before we ask you a single question, we want you to know what you are committing to, and more important, what services we provide. We are a marriage bureau, one of two such in London, li- censed to arrange meetings between eligible single people. For an initial fee of five pounds, you receive our unwavering efforts to find you a suitable husband. We currently have eighty-three single men on file, as well as ninety-four women, all of whom have been sub- jected to questioning by Mrs. Bainbridge and myself—”

“Which is rigorous,” interjected Mrs. Bainbridge.

“As you will see for yourself,” continued Sparks. “We cannot, of course, guarantee that marriage will result from this.”

“Or that happiness will result from marriage,” added Mrs. Bain- bridge. “That would be up to you.”

“But we’ve already had seven weddings result from our efforts in the three months since we’ve opened,” said Sparks.

“Seven!” exclaimed Tillie. “In only three months? Such short engagements!”

“The war is over, and people want to start normal life up again in a hurry,” said Mrs. Bainbridge. “And there has been so much loss and devastation—”

“Oh, yes,” said Tillie. “It’s amazing this building’s still up.”

“Incendiaries to the left of us, doodlebug to the right,” said Sparks. “Yet here it is, and here we are.”

“It’s why we chose this location,” said Mrs. Bainbridge. “Something about it says hope, don’t you think?”

“It does,” agreed Tillie. “I hope there’s some hope left for me.”

“For five pounds, there will be,” said Sparks. “Now, there’s one
more part of the contract, and this is the catch. Should you end up marrying a man who you met through our efforts, then each of you will pay us a—call it an achievement fee.”

“How much?”

“Twenty pounds.”

“Twenty quid?” exclaimed Tillie.

“Each,” said Sparks.

“That’s an awful lot,” said Tillie.

“But don’t you see, that’s the incentive for us to work so hard on your behalf,” said Mrs. Bainbridge. “It will be in all of our best interests to find you the right sort of man.”

“Moment of truth, Miss La Salle,” said Sparks, holding up the papers in her hand. “Five pounds and a signature, and we shall commence your quest for matrimony. Are you with us?”

“Well,” said Tillie, considering. “It can’t be any worse than what I’ve been going through.”

“It will be so much better,” said Mrs. Bainbridge confidently. “Right,” said Tillie, opening her handbag.

She counted out five pounds and handed them to Sparks. “Bravo,” said Sparks. “Come sign your contracts. There’s one for you, one for our files.”

She handed her a pen and vacated the desk so that Tillie could sign. Tillie looked over the contract carefully.

“One question,” she said. “How do I know you don’t grab the best boys for yourselves?”

“We have a firm policy of never dating clients,” said Sparks. “We even put that in the contract. Item seven.”

“You really did,” marveled Tillie. “It seems like you thought of everything.”

She signed them both, then handed them and the pen to Sparks. “Well done,” said Sparks, sitting behind her desk and taking out a steno pad. “Now, let’s find out more about you. We have your name, and you gave me your address when you phoned for the ap- pointment. Ratcliffe Cross Street. That’s in Shadwell, yes?”

“Shadwell born, Shadwell raised, and I work there as well,” said Tillie.

“You like it there, do you?” asked Sparks.

“I want to get out of there as soon and as fast as I can,” said Tillie fervently. “I will settle for a lesser man if he lives far from Shadwell. Find me a farmer up north, and I’ll learn to herd ducks with a willing heart.”

“I don’t think we have any duck-herding farmers at the moment,” said Sparks.

“I’ll take any spare dukes or millionaires you have lying about, then,” said Tillie.

“I’m afraid we’re fresh out,” said Mrs. Bainbridge, smiling.

“Let’s start with the basics,” continued Sparks. “Religion?”

“Church of England,” said Tillie.

“Looking for the same?”

“I suppose. I don’t go enough. I wouldn’t mind Catholic, if he’s continental and a gentleman.”

“So, French, Italian . . . ?”

“I’ve got some French in me.”

“We suspected as much from the name,” said Mrs. Bainbridge.

“Yeah, that’s a dead giveaway,” said Tillie. “A couple of Free French soldiers tried chatting me up, but I don’t speak a word of it.
Didn’t stop them from trying, though, did it?”

“So, Catholic acceptable,” said Sparks, writing it down. “But not Irish,” added Tillie hastily.

“But not Irish,” repeated Sparks.

“I mean, I don’t want you to think—”

“My dear, we do not judge,” said Mrs. Bainbridge. “Your preferences are respected here.”

“Right,” said Sparks. “Education.”

“In school until I was fourteen. Wasn’t good at it, and my family needed me to work, so I quit and got a job.”

“And you’re currently working in Shadwell.”

“Yes. At a dress shop.”

“Do you sew, then?” asked Mrs. Bainbridge. “Make alterations and such?”

“We have a tailor,” said Tillie. “He’s the owner and does all that. I can help out in a pinch, but mostly I’m the shopgirl. I show the ladies the styles, make recommendations, keep the books.”

“You’re like us, only with dresses,” commented Sparks.

“Although we don’t offer alterations,” said Mrs. Bainbridge.

“Perhaps we should.”

Tillie giggled at the idea, and she and Mrs. Bainbridge began trading suggestions that quickly became ridiculous. Iris took the opportunity to jot down a quick assessment of their new client.

Certainly a pretty girl, she thought. Bright-eyed, naturally perky when she smiled, good teeth when she laughed, although she was missing one on the top left. Iris wondered what circumstances led to that blow to the mouth. Miss La Salle knew how to wear makeup to good effect, just the right amount of powder and rouge without being garish or common. Nice raspberry red lipstick. And her clothes—the jacket was a lovely light blue cloth bolero with an abundance of white trim; her collar was of a cheerful polka-dotted pattern; her kiltie was a riot of pleats, stopping below the knee, with a good set of taupe nylons clinging to a good set of gams. And sen- sible shoes, as a shopgirl must have.

“Now, as to the type of man you are looking for,” Sparks said. “You mentioned wanting to abandon Shadwell. How far would you be willing to go?”

“How far can you send me?”

“Australia,” said Sparks.

“Australia?” exclaimed Tillie.

“India. Burma. Africa . . .”

“We have several clients who were here for the duration of the war, and wish to return home, a blushing bride by their side,” added Mrs. Bainbridge.

“Oh,” said Tillie. “I never even thought . . . I mean, my Mum and Dad are still here. If anything happened to them . . .”

“Then you’d want to be able to see them quickly,” finished Mrs. Bainbridge. “We understand entirely. Family is important.”

“To some,” said Sparks. “Age?”

“Not, you know, doddering about. Fit. Able. I’m not a nursemaid, am I?”

“Certainly not,” agreed Mrs. Bainbridge. “Any limit?” “I suppose forty? Fortyish?”

“Ish,” muttered Sparks, writing it down.

“Now, this one is somewhat delicate,” said Mrs. Bainbridge. “Most of our bachelors served our country. Not all of them emerged unscathed. We have men who lost limbs . . .”

“Oh, dear,” said Tillie.

“We have a lovely gentleman who was badly burned,” said Sparks. “It’s startling when you first meet him, but within minutes of speaking to him, you completely forget about it.”

“So, our question is would you consider one of these wounded or disfigured heroes?” asked Mrs. Bainbridge.

“I know that I’m supposed to say yes, of course,” said Tillie. “That I would do anything for the lads. But I’m the one who would have to live with them forever, aren’t I?”

“You are,” said Sparks.

“I’d like, you know, I’d like a bit of something to look at while I’m doing the wifely duty,” said Tillie. “It’s what they want from me, so why shouldn’t I be the same?”

“You’re saying that looks are important,” said Mrs. Bainbridge.

“I suppose they shouldn’t be,” said Tillie. “But I’ve had men chasing after me since I was too young, and it had nothing to do
with my personality.”

“Wouldn’t you rather be wanted for your personality?” asked Mrs. Bainbridge.

“Yeah, I would,” said Tillie. “It’s why I came here, isn’t it? And I know that I just said I want a man who looks all right, so bad on me for being confusing. He doesn’t have to be a heartstopper. I just want something more than the bare minimum. And if he’s missing a leg, he won’t even be that.”

“We’ll see what we can do,” said Mrs. Bainbridge. “Any other physical preferences?”

“All of his hair still on his head,” said Tillie promptly.

“Noted,” said Sparks. “Height?”

“Be hard to find one shorter than me,” said Tillie.

“Oh, no, it isn’t,” said Sparks. “We have several.”

“Well, save them for the girls who like short men,” said Tillie. “Right,” said Sparks. “If they run to fat . . .”

“We all will eventually,” said Tillie. “With luck and no rationing.
I don’t mind a bit extra around the waist.”

“Interests? Hobbies?”

“Never had time or money for any,” said Tillie.

“Anything you don’t want in a gentleman?”

“No gambling. No drinkers.”

“Smokers?” asked Sparks.

“As long as he shares,” she said, grinning. “Ciggies are my secret vice.”

“Right, that should give us enough of an idea to pair you up with someone,” said Sparks.

“How long will it take?” asked Tillie.

“We’ll be in touch with a suitable candidate by this afternoon’s post,” said Mrs. Bainbridge. “You should be hearing within two to three days.”

“That quick?” exclaimed Tillie. “I won’t even have time to get my hair done.”

“Your hair looks fine,” Mrs. Bainbridge assured her.

“Oh, Lord, I’ll be in all of a dither waiting,” said Tillie. “It’s rather exciting, isn’t it?”

“That’s all part of the experience,” said Mrs. Bainbridge, rising to shake her hand once more. “So nice to have met you, Miss La Salle.”

“Likewise,” said Tillie. “Ta ta.”

“Ta ta,” said Sparks.

Iris watched Tillie leave, then drummed her fingers on her desk. “What?” demanded Gwen.

“A hunch,” said Iris, getting up. “Be right back.”

She walked out of the office and peered down the stairwell. Tillie was one storey down.

“Miss La Salle,” called Sparks. Tillie looked up at her in surprise.
“One last question, if you could wait one second,” said Sparks.

She hurried down the stairs to where Tillie was waiting, then looked around to make certain they weren’t being overheard.

“Yes?” said Tillie.

“Stockings,” whispered Sparks. “What?”

“Help a girl out,” said Sparks conspiratorially. “I ruined my last pair, and I’m short coupons. Have you got a place?”

“It’s illegal,” said Tillie indignantly.

“Come on,” said Sparks. “Everyone’s got a fiddle. I’m desperate for them.”

“You’ll find me a nice bloke?” said Tillie.

“I have the perfect match in mind already,” said Sparks. “You’ll like him, I promise.”

“Well,” said Tillie, biting her lower lip while she considered. Then she smiled. “All right, then. There’s a pub called Merle’s on Wapping High Street. There’s a spiv named Archie, usually sits at one of the tables in the back with his mates. Tell him Tillie sent you, and he’ll fix you up.”

“Thanks,” said Sparks. “You’re a lifesaver.”

“Anything else?”

“No,” said Sparks. “Back to work for me.”

“Ta, then. Remember, no short men!” “No short men.”

“If I wanted a jockey, I’d go to the Derby,” said Tillie, and she disappeared down the stairwell.

Iris climbed back to their office and returned to her desk. She moved her Bar-Let typewriter to the center of the desk, then rolled a piece of foolscap into it.

“Did your hunch prove correct?” asked Gwen.

“It did,” replied Iris as she began typing her notes of the interview.

“What was it about?”

“Her stockings.”

“Were her seams not straight?”

“The seams were straight,” said Iris. “The girl is crooked.”

“I thought so as well,” said Gwen. “Something about her struck me as shady.”

“She’s a shady lady from Shadwell,” sang Iris. “And you oughter see her shimmy and shake!”

“The music halls lost so much when you retired,” murmured Gwen. “How did her stockings set off your alarms?”

“That she had them. And that skirt—more pleats than a dozen honest English girls have, much beyond regulation.”

“I never thought about that,” said Gwen.

“Well, let’s be honest, dear, you have a ton of clothes—”

“Certainly not.”

“All that I’m saying is that having used most of my coupons on this tweed suit, which I needed for this venture of ours, I am painfully aware of when another girl shows up wearing something non- reg. You, with your fabulous pre-wardrobe, are not.”

“I could loan you—”

“No, thanks,” said Iris. “I would have to stand on Miss La Salle’s shoulders to fit into one of your lovely frocks.”

“I was going to say stockings.”

“Same problem,” sighed Iris. “Oh, if I had your legs, I could get places in half the time. Why did you think she was—oh!”

There was a man standing at the door, wearing a dustman’s coverall, his cap in hand.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to intrude,” he said. “Is this all right, or do you need to make an appointment?”

“You’ve just made one,” said Mrs. Bainbridge, stepping from behind her desk to usher him in. “I am Mrs. Bainbridge. This is my partner, Miss Sparks.”

“How do you do?” said Sparks.

“’Ow d’you do?” returned the man. “Name’s Alfred Manners, though me mum says I got none, ha ha!”

“Ha ha,” echoed Sparks.

“How may we help you, Mister Manners?” asked Mrs. Bainbridge, directing him to the chair.

“I been passing by, regular-like,” he said, sitting down. “Keep seeing the lovely green sign, think to meself, Alf, maybe they got a girl for you.”

“Maybe we have,” said Mrs. Bainbridge.

“So, I finally decided to see what’s what,” he said. Then he looked at them expectantly.

“What’s what is we are a licensed marriage bureau,” said Mrs. Bainbridge. “We have a growing clientele of both sexes, and we seek to find couples who would be amenable—”

“Amenable. What’s that?” asked Manners.

“Compatible,” said Mrs. Bainbridge, pausing as he continued to look at her blankly. “Suitable for each other.”

“The Right Sort!” he said, brightening.

“Exactly,” said Mrs. Bainbridge. “Now, there is an initial fee—” “How much?”

“Five pounds, then—”

“Five quid!” he exclaimed. “Just to meet a girl? There’s mott shops that charge less.”

“Not just any girl,” continued Mrs. Bainbridge determinedly. “One that we believe will match up with your personality and preferences.”

“Are you saying I got preferences?” said Manners indignantly.

“What you prefer, what you like in a woman,” said Mrs. Bainbridge as Sparks suppressed a grin.

“Oh,” said Manners. “Think you could fix me up with that bird who just left? She was a bit of a looker, no argument.”

“Which bird?” asked Sparks.

“The one what was ’ere before,” said Manners.

“Mister Manners, we maintain the privacy of our clientele,” said Mrs. Bainbridge. “As we would maintain yours should you choose to join us.”

“I don’t have five quid on me,” said Manners.

“Then let me provide you with one of our adverts,” said Mrs. Bainbridge, taking one from a pile on her desk and giving it to him. “Should you wish to avail yourself of our services, you may make an appointment.”

“Right,” he said, taking it. He glanced over the two of them ap- praisingly. “Are you two on the list?”

“We are not,” said Sparks quickly.

“Pity,” he said, leering. “But never say never, right?”

“Good day, Mister Manners,” said Mrs. Bainbridge. “We hope to be hearing from you shortly.”

He put his cap back on, touched two fingers to the brim in salute, then sauntered off.

They waited until they heard his footsteps fade down the stairwell.

“Never,” said Gwen.

“Never, never, never,” said Iris, and the two of them began to giggle.

“Oh, dear, he was dreadful,” said Gwen. “I’ll bet you tuppence he doesn’t come back.”

“No bet,” said Iris. “No woman is worth five pounds to him.” “You know, I believe that is the first conversation that I’ve ever had with a dustman,” mused Gwen. “It’s wonderful how broadening an experience this life is. He smelled much better than I would have expected.”

“We’re in Mayfair,” said Iris, finishing her notes. “Even the dustmen are upper-class.”

“Mott house,” said Gwen thoughtfully. “Is that what I think it is?”

“What do you think it is?” asked Iris innocently. “A, um, a house . . .”

“A house is a house, certainly,” said Iris.

“Of—ill repute,” finished Gwen, blushing deeply.

“Ill repute?” gasped Iris. “You mean—a bordello?”


“A brothel?” “Stop it.”

“A whorehouse!” wailed Iris melodramatically, pressing the back of her wrist to her forehead and swooning in her chair.

“You’re making fun of me,” said Gwen. “You knew what it was right away.”

“I did,” said Iris. “But I have the benefit of a Cambridge education.”

“Which class did you learn it in, I wonder?” said Gwen. “Are you done with that form?”

Iris pulled it from the typewriter and handed it along with Miss La Salle’s signed contract to Gwen, who read them over, then paper-clipped them together and put them inside the file cabinet in the corner behind her.

Iris took a pair of index cards, then placed a piece of carbon paper between them. She rolled them carefully into the typewriter, then typed in a short summary of Miss La Salle’s preferences and incidentals. When she was done, she separated them.

“Your turn for the carbon,” she said, handing the bottom one to Gwen. “Now, tell me—why did you think she was wrong?”

“Something about her responses,” said Gwen. “Not that she was lying so much as she was leaving some things out.”

“Do you think she warrants further vetting?” asked Iris.

“I don’t think that she’s an adventuress,” said Gwen. “But we do want to make certain we’re not foisting a criminal upon anyone. We have our reputation to maintain.”

“I’ll make some calls,” said Iris. “Should we hold off on the matching?”

“No, let’s go ahead,” said Gwen. “We promised her a quick result. If your friend with the police finds anything, we can always contact the gentleman candidate and cancel. I will say, she speaks well for one of her background. I would have expected some dropped h’s.”

“She has aspirations to higher things,” said Iris. “Right, let’s get cracking, shall we? Miss La Salle is Female Candidate Number 102.” They each wrote it on their index cards, then placed them in green metal index boxes labeled F. Then they each moved another box labeled M in front of them. “Ready?” asked Gwen.

“Ready,” answered Iris.

“Then begin,” said Gwen. “And no short, bald Irishmen, as tempting as that would be.”

Iris began looking through her cards at the eligible bachelors. She found one she thought might do, pulled out the card and studied it, then placed it to the side. She glanced over at Gwen.

“No peeking,” said Gwen without looking up.

They each proceeded until they had three cards in front of them. Iris gave her group one more perusal, then switched the second and third ones. Gwen waited, her order undisturbed.

“Shall I go first?” she asked. “Please do.”

Gwen held up a card. “Sydney Collins,” she said.

“Interesting,” commented Iris. “Yes, I can see it now. He didn’t leap out. Right, my third choice is Morris Cannon.”

“Hmm,” said Gwen. “You don’t like him?”

“I think we can do better.”

“Give me your second choice.”

“Alex Renbourn,” said Gwen.

“Mine as well,” said Iris, grinning and holding it up. “Are we about to have a great-minds moment?”

“Let’s savour it, shall we?” suggested Gwen.

She took her final card, clutched it to her bosom, closed her eyes, and inhaled deeply. Then she turned it towards Iris.

“Yes!” cried Iris, holding hers up. “Dickie Trower!”

“I love it when this happens,” sighed Gwen. “Now, tell me why you chose him.”

“He’s an accountant, but he comes from working-class people,” said Iris. “Not a snob at all. He’s shy with women—remember how he kept blushing being in the room with the two of us? But he’s also on the move up, so Tillie will be more than happy to hitch her wagon to his rising star, or whatever that expression is.”

“You make it all so mercenary,” complained Gwen.

“I call it practical,” declared Iris. “It’s a step up for him, and she
keeps the books at her shop so she’ll impress him with her economy as well as her looks. Now, on what ethereal plane did you put them together?”

“I think she’s a diamond in the rough,” said Gwen. “Mister Trower, underneath his shy exterior, can see the real value of people. He will see hers.”

“But you thought she was shady.”

“I think she’s had a hard life,” said Gwen. “I think that she’ll be forever grateful to him for making her a better one.”

“Then we are agreed.”

“We are,” said Gwen, reaching for her stationery. “Could you pass me a sheet of carbon?”

“Press hard,” intoned Iris. “You are making a copy.”

Gwen wrote out a letter to Mister Trower, detailing how to contact Miss La Salle, then sealed the original in an envelope, which she addressed and stamped. She put the copy in the cabinet with Mister Trower’s file.
“Earned our pay today,” she commented.

“Which reminds me,” said Iris, gathering Tillie’s banknotes. “Do you want a George or an Edward?”

“Which Edward?”

“The Eighth.”

“George, then.”

“Right. One for you, one for me, three for the kitty.”

She handed a pound over to Gwen. Then she crouched under her desk and slid open the false panel concealing their strongbox. She unlocked it, let the three pounds fall into it, then relocked it and closed the panel.
She straightened up, then looked at her watch.

“Shall we close up?” she asked. “No more appointments.” “Might as well,” said Gwen.

They collected their coats and left, Iris locking the office behind her.

“Walk with me as far as the park,” Gwen asked as they emerged from the building.

“Gladly,” said Iris.

They walked to Oxford Street, where there was a post box on the corner. Gwen popped the letter to Mister Trower inside, then set off to the west. Iris had to walk quickly to keep up with the taller woman, but Gwen noticed and slowed her pace.

“Thanks,” said Iris.

She took a deep breath and looked up at the clear sky, then sighed.

“Here we are, two girls in Mayfair with the evening ahead of us. It’s the height of the season, and we’re both going home,” she said. “How sad is that?”

“We’re not girls anymore,” commented Gwen.

“Neither are we old maids,” said Iris.

“Speak for yourself,” said Gwen.

“Stop that immediately,” Iris said. “All right, say it’s seven or eight years ago. What would you be doing right about now?”

“I’d be changing from a cocktail dress into an evening gown,” said Gwen, looking dreamily out into the distance.

“Which one?”

“The Molyneux, I should think. It was made of crêpe-de-chine the colour of sea-foam, which brought out my eyes smashingly.”

“And where would you be going?”

“Oh, to some ball or other. Lady Londonderry’s, Lady Cunard’s, maybe one of Mrs. Corrigan’s bashes at the Dudley House. Ever go to those?”

“One,” said Iris. “Had an encounter with the son of the American ambassador there. He was over visiting, an absolutely scrumptious lad. Fairbanks had thrown him a party, I think at Grosvenor House, but I missed that one. I spent half the party at Mrs. Corrigan’s getting my date drunk enough for me to ditch him so I could slip off with the American.”

“Did you succeed?”

“I can tell you nothing about the second half of the party.” “Naughty girl,” said Gwen. “Which fiancé was that?”

“I was between fiancés at the time,” said Iris. “I don’t even remember who I came with. Someone rich enough to get me into the party, but too dreary for me to leave with. Oh, no! What is it?”

Tears were streaming down Gwen’s cheeks.

“I was wearing that dress when I met Ronnie,” she whispered.

“Oh, golly,” said Iris, seizing her hands. “I didn’t mean to—”

“No, no,” said Gwen. “It was a lovely memory. I miss him so much.”

“I know, darling,” said Iris.

They came to the northeast corner of Hyde Park, where the Marble Arch stood proudly and incongruously in what was essentially a glorified roundabout. Batteries of anti-aircraft guns still remained in place on the park grounds, their barrels pointed at the eastern skies.

“I think I’ll walk through the park while we still have the light,” said Gwen.

“Be careful, dear,” said Iris. “I will. See you tomorrow.”

“Gwen, let me find you someone,” Iris said impulsively. “I can’t possibly—”

“It’s been two years,” urged Iris. “You can’t keep on like this. No one will think the less of you if you begin a new chapter.”

“I can’t,” said Gwen. “Let’s keep helping others write their own books, all right?”

“All right,” said Iris. “And remember our watchword: The world must be peopled!”

“The world must be peopled,” echoed Gwen, smiling.
They went their separate ways, Gwen through the park, Iris heading north.

* * *
It was pleasant enough, Iris thought, to stroll through Marylebone with the air finally cooling down as the sun began to set. Her flat was in a brick block on Welbeck Street, just past Bentinck. She was on the third storey, which meant no balcony but some late morning sun if she chanced to be home on a late morning.

She climbed the stairs, turned her key in the lock, stepped inside, then paused, wrinkling her nose slightly.

There was an unfamiliar scent in the air. An eau de cologne, but not one she recognized.

She dropped her keys noisily into the dish on the table in the hall, the sound covering for her easing a stout cricket bat from the umbrella stand. She gripped the handle with two hands and stepped into the sitting room.

It was empty. Which, she realized uncomfortably, left only the bedroom.
She took a deep breath, then kicked the door open and sprang inside, ready to send the intruder’s head across the boundary.

The man in her bed looked up at her, then at the bat.

“I thought your game was golf, Sparks,” he said calmly, setting down the book he was reading when she came in.

“Left the mashie at Grand-Dad’s,” she returned, panting slightly. “You had better not have lost my place.”

“Traitor’s Purse,” he intoned dramatically. “Campion with amnesia. Far-fetched from the start. Where’ve you been all day?”


“You poor dear! Any business?”

“One new customer, one unlikely potential. How are you?”

“I am not quite certain yet. Are you going to put the bat down?”

“I haven’t entirely given up on the idea of braining you.” “Fair enough. There is a present for you on the bureau.”

She glanced over to see a small embossed box. Still holding the bat raised with her right hand, she opened the box and peeked inside.

“Vol de Nuit!” she exclaimed. “Guerlain’s back in production,” he said.

“Lovely. I accept your offering, Andrew, and will place my bat gently on the floor as a gesture of good faith. Is that your cologne I’ve been smelling?”

“Yes. Thought I’d go back to it now that they’re making it again.
What do you think?”

She came over, sat on the bed and sniffed his neck, then rested her cheek on his bare chest and gazed up at him.

“It’s nice enough,” she pronounced. “But I like your natural scent better. When did you get in?”

“This morning.”

“You should have told me. I could have met you at the airfield.”

“First, I didn’t fly into Croydon. Second, my comings and goings
are not meant to be general knowledge.”

“Your damn protocol plays havoc on a girl’s nerves. You’ve been in Cologne and Paris, based on your shopping spree. Where else?”

“Can’t tell you. Let me help you with that.”

“Thanks. Does Poppy know you’re back?”

“Rang her up. Told her I was exhausted from the flight and would be staying in town.”

“Mistress before wife. I’m honoured.”

“You’re not my mistress. You’re my lover.”

“Same thing.”

“Not at all. A mistress is in it for the money. A lover for love.”

“You pay for the flat.”

“So that there can be love.”

“Does Poppy get a bottle of Vol de Nuit?”

“Wouldn’t suit her. I got her Mitsouko.”

“How very even-handed of you.”

“I got her a smaller bottle.”

“Now, you’ve made me love you again,” she said, sliding under the covers next to him. “Are you, by the way?”

“Am I what?” “Exhausted?”

“No,” he said, pulling her to him. “But I hope to be.”

Allison Montclair grew up devouring hand-me-down Agatha Christie paperbacks and James Bond movies. As a result of this deplorable upbringing, Montclair became addicted to tales of crime, intrigue, and espionage. She now spends her spare time poking through the corners, nooks, and crannies of history, searching for the odd mysterious bits and transforming them into novels of her own. The Right Sort of Man is her debut novel.

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The Runaway – Savage Mountain Men Book 2 – A Reverse Harem Novel By Mika Lane

The Runaway
Savage Mountain Men Book 2
A Reverse Harem Novel
Mika Lane


I was a hunted woman.
Taken in by 4 mountain mercenaries.

Accepting their help was a mistake.

Why? Because mercenaries trust no one. They’re scarred and damaged men.

And now they won’t let me go. Or stop punishing me… for something I didn’t do.

Think life with hired killers is fun? Think again

This naughty, over-the-top romance includes 4 hulking mountain men with checkered pasts and doubtful futures, claiming the one woman they can’t live without. If you love outrageous stories that a bit of spanking, tying up, voyeurism, and tough military dudes, this might be the book for you.

Mari was helping her friend out of a very dangerous situation when everything went to hell. She has to run with a gang after her for what she’s done, but she’s being followed and needs help.

Derek and Christian are on their way home from a mission when they stumble upon the little beauty. Feisty, yet scared, she takes a seat next to them when her bus makes a rest stop. Hearing them discuss needing a housekeeper, she jumps at the chance. With these men around she could be safe.

This is a favorite scene.

As we got back on the road, I pulled out my cell to let Luci know I was okay.

No signal. Great. Guess I was in one of those dead zones.

“So what about you guys?” I asked.

Silence greeted me, and the guys glanced at each other quickly.

Okayyy… “We have a place on Savage Mountain. Nice place, remote and private, quiet and peaceful,” Christian said.

“How many of you are living there?” I asked.


Christ, this was like pulling teeth. I leaned forward, onto their seat, to see if I could better engage them. “What do you do for a living? How do you get by up there?”

Dutch answered after another glance, his voice no nonsense and flat. “We’re pretty much retired.”

“Oh.” Retired? What, did they win the lottery or something? “Well, that’s nice. Retired from what?”

This time Dutch turned to face me. “We’re retired from the military. We lead simple but satisfying lives.” Then he turned back around, like that answered everything.

Okay. Guess that was the end of that line of questioning. Still, it didn’t make sense. I mean, the guys weren’t old enough to be twenty-year retired military, and neither seemed the kind to be medically retired either. So… what the hell?

I allowed myself one more question. I didn’t want to risk getting kicked out, especially since I had no idea where we were, or what the hell Savage Mountain was.

“Hey guys?” I asked.


“Um, do you think we’ll pass a place with some food? I didn’t eat back there at the truck stop, and am kind of starving.”

“We can’t stop,” Christian said, a lot more warmly than Dutch was. “Too risky. You’ll have to wait until we arrive at the cabin. Sorry. We have food at the house and you can eat when we get there.”

Eh. I’d survive. I lay down on the Jeep’s backseat, bunching up my purse to use as a pillow. Before I did, however, I dug the biscuit out that I’d swiped off my breakfast plate and sunk my teeth into the soft, buttery dough. It was comforting in a discomforting way. I mean, how could something be so delicious and pleasing when everything had just been pulled out from under me?

I thanked my lucky stars these guys had crossed my path, and fingers crossed, they’d feel just as grateful that I’d stumbled into theirs. Even if it were short term, they’d become a lifeline I hadn’t seen coming.
Mika Lane. The Runaway: A Contemporary Reverse Harem Romance (Savage Mountain Men) (Kindle Locations 432-453).

Of course saying that nothing but her cleaning would be on the table, but in reality these guys were hot and she is no saint.

This book heats up quickly and stays that way, we also have a bit of a conflict between Mari and the cook just to spice things up a bit.

Lots of interesting twists and revelations as this story unfolds. I look forward to the next installment in this series.

5 Contented Purrs for Mika!

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Mika Lane

Writing has been a passion of mine since, well, forever (my first book was “The Day I Ate the Milkyway,” a true fourth-grade masterpiece), but steamy romance is now what gives purpose to my days and nights.

I live in magical Northern California with my own handsome alpha dude, sometimes known as Mr. Mika Lane, and an evil cat named Bill.

A lover of shiny things, I’ve been known to try to new recipes on unsuspecting friends, find hiding places so I can read undisturbed, and spend my last dollar on a plane ticket somewhere. I also drink cheap champagne and have way too many shoes.

I’ll always promise you a hot, sexy romp with kick-ass but imperfect heroines, and some version of a modern-day happily ever after.

I LOVE to hear from readers when I’m not dreaming up naughty tales to share. Join my Insider Group  below, So we can get to know each other better.

Curse Reversed – Wards and Wands Book 2 by Rebecca Royce

Curse Reversed
Wards and Wands Book 2
Rebecca Royce



In and out of institutions for over a decade, Eleanor St. Vincent can’t get the episodes racking her to stop. Half-witch, and lousy spell caster, she doesn’t picture much of a future. Then one day, Mitchell Sharpe catches her eye.

Mitchell Sharpe never dreamed he’d need the Prestige Institute. A year spent under a hex cost him everything, and he has no idea where to go from there. The last thing he expected to find was love.

Their happiness is short-lived as societal demands and ancient curses threaten to cave-in all they want to build. The deck might be stacked against them, but Mitchell and Eleanor will fight for their second chance at life…and love.



If you started with Hexed and Vexed, you’ll remember Mitchell had been Hexed and it was removed by the enforcer. As a result of having the hex reinforced repeatedly for a year, he is in Prestige. Prestige is a specialized hospital for taking care of witches with unique issues.

Eleanor gets loud and violent, but never remembers what happened. She loses that time, there is no curse or hex they can find and have attributed it to her being half human with no real power.

This is a favorite scene when she and Mitchell introduce themselves.

It was past time to return to her room. There wasn’t a frozen yogurt machine anywhere to be found. That was really too bad.

She left, turning down the hallway toward the direction of her room. This time it was numbered 55A. That meant she was in the A ward and room fifty-five.


She turned at the sound of Eyebrows’ call as he ran down the hall toward her.

She stood still, the weight of the world settling on her shoulders. Things were hard. They always were. For a minute, she’d forgotten.

“You were just going to leave?” He scrunched up his face. “Without answering my question.”

“It’s not a day for answered questions.” Sleep called to Eleanor. She’d crawl into bed. When her eyes closed, she’d be back in Egypt, under the pyramids with her mother, laughing as they took impressions and planned for a future that wouldn’t include lying. Even if they’d both known that wouldn’t come.

He ran a hand through his hair. “You answered mine and then I… I was rude. I apologize.”

“I never should have asked you to begin with. But what can I say? I’m crazy.”

He winced. “There you are again with that word. I’m in here because I was hexed for a year. Hexed to break up with my fiancé, who I then left at the altar, and to marry another woman who wanted to use me for my social power to advance herself both politically and within her career. Every day for a year she hexed me. I said and did horrible things to the woman I loved, until she lost her love for me, and is now married to someone else. Then I stumbled upon some enforcers who took the hex off me and woke up to discover a year had passed. That I’d been… forced to do things I never would have done. Both emotionally and physically. And I’d lost everything. I’m having a little trouble dealing with that. Also, there are ramifications to having been hexed that long that the doctors here can help me with.” He cleared his throat. “Or were able to help me. We’re talking about sending me home very soon.”

Well, in all of the things Eleanor could have imagined for this perfect looking man she hadn’t thought that would be the answer at all. She stared up at him. He was taller than she’d thought when he’d been sitting. At least six-foot-two since he stood higher than her father who was six-foot-one inches, if she remembered correctly.

“That really, really sucks.” Sometimes there was nothing else to say.

He snorted before he outright laughed, throwing his head back when he did. “Yeah… it does.”

She nodded at him. If anyone understood being out of control, it would be this man. “Have a nice evening.”

“Hold on, will you come out again? I don’t know your name.”

Some of the ease from before moved through her. “I don’t know yours either.”

“There’s a good way to remedy that. I’m Mitchell Sharpe. And you’re No-first-name-given St. Vincent.”

She still held to the idea of him being seriously cute. How had any woman replaced him in so little time? Oh, what did Eleanor know about relationships anyway? She’d never had one. Not ever. She never would. Even if she wasn’t nuts, half-breeds didn’t fall in easily with witches when it came to love, and she had too much magic for the humans to accept her. But none of that mattered since she was, in fact, nuts.

“I’m Eleanor. I don’t suppose we’ll see each other again. You’re leaving, and they don’t let me out much.”

He shook his head. “You don’t seem dangerous to me. So whatever you did to get out today? Do it again. Let’s be friends while we’re both in here. I want to ask you more about that tattoo.”

She looked down at the symbol. “Ah, it makes sense then. Why you want to hang out.”

“Maybe I just like you.”

Eleanor held up her wrist. “Maybe you just like tattoos.”

He laughed again. It was an easy sound. And because nothing was easy—not in this place or outside the walls—she ran down the hallway to her room, unsure what she was escaping.
Rebecca Royce. Curse Reversed (Kindle Locations 205-239). Kindle Edition.

Things get very interesting once Mitchell is released and he starts investigating Eleanor’s tattoo and the language she speaks when she loses time.

We meet many interesting characters and see some favorites from Hexed and Vexed as Eleanor’s grandparents take her away from Prestige and hire former enforcers Stefan and Kim to watch over her.

Fast-paced and suspenseful as the mystery of her ‘illness’ unfolds and her relationship with Mitchell heats up.

I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!

5 Contented Purrs for Rebecca!


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Coming Soon!


Rebecca Royce Rebecca Royce

As a teenager, I would hide in my room to read my favorite romance novels when I was supposed to be doing my homework. I hope, these days, that my parents think it was worth it.

I am the mother of three adorable boys and I am fortunate to be married to my best friend. I live in Austin Texas where I am determined to eat all the barbecue in town.

I am in love with science fiction, fantasy, and the paranormal and try to use all of these elements in my writing. I’ve been told I’m a little bloodthirsty so I hope that when you read my work you’ll enjoy the action packed ride that always ends in romance. I love to write series because I love to see characters develop over time and it always makes me happy to see my favorite characters make guest appearances in other books.

In my world anything is possible, anything can happen, and you should suspect that it will.

I’d love to hear from you!


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