Spotlight Saturday – temporarily suspended

Every year, I judge the Daphne contest, a contest run by the Kiss of Death chapter of Romance Writers of America. The contest is named for mystery writer Daphne duMaurier, and all romantic suspense/mysteries/thrillers published in 2013 are eligible.

I’m reading my entries now, and since I have to remain anonymous. I can’t write about the books – right now :) Once the contest is over, I’ll be back to let you know what fabulous books I’ve read and new authors I’ve discovered.

Gina Danna – Love and Vengeance

Gina_036I’m thrilled to welcome fellow LoveHistoricals author Gina Danna to my blog today. Her latest book, Love and Vengeance, a romance set in Ancient Rome, will be released next month and will be available through Amazon and other e-tailers.

Welcome, Gina. First, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, I’ve spent the better part of her life reading. History has been my love and I’ve spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, dreaming of writing one. Years later, after receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, writing academic research papers and writing for museum programs and events, I finally found the time to write my own stories of historical romantic fiction.

Now, under the supervision of my three big dogs and three cats, I write amid a library of research books, with my only true break away is to spend time with my other life long dream – my Arabian horse – with him, my muse can play.

The blog is yours. Take it away.

I have long held a fascination with Ancient Rome. Being half Sicilian probably edged me closer to this interest. My family is Italians who moved to Sicily before then finally immigrated to the US around the turn of the 20th century. So when I was talking to a writing partner about her time-travel story, I mentioned the place I’d love to go to was Rome but feared I’d be one of those condemned to die in the Colosseum and she countered with what if someone saved me from it? Hence the opening to Love & Vengeance began.

One of the best parts about writing this story was the research I did for it. I wanted to make Rome come alive again and that meant I got to do my work on reading. Here are some fascinating facts about life in the Roman Empire –

1. The Roman Empire was vast, spanning from Africa to the Middle East to Spain, up into Great Britain, most of Western and part of Eastern Europe. But the focal point for all in the empire was the city of Rome.
2. Romans had their own gods but readily adapted other cultures and worked them into Roman religion. The Greek gods became Roman and had their names changed (except Apollo) to Roman (Zeus now Jupiter, Aphrodite became Venus, etc.).
3. The marble statues of the time were not left as just a figure in white marble but they were painted with realistic colors.
4. The practice up to the later 18th century in modern Europe and the colonies was to enslave your enemies when you won the battle. This is where Rome’s vast number of slaves came from, not by a particular nationality or ‘race’. Many times, these new workers were given new names verses them using their own. These names were Greek with some deviation toward nearby neighbors.
5. A Roman could be enslaved either by the courts for offenses given though this is rare or they could sell themselves into slavery (to become a gladiator) for a set period of time to pay off debt, then be free again.
6. Romans were big in hygiene and physical fitness. They had the public baths, which were gathering places to meet friends and conduct business. Baths were mostly segregated to female or male though a few co-ed ones existed. People bathed daily and preferred the public ones verse one at home from the social aspect.
7. They also had gymnasiums where various games were played, many involving balls in handball, volleyball or other amusements, to be followed by going to the baths. Being physically fit was in the mindset of Roman health. Interesting is the fact what they wore during these contests were similar to today’s swim trunks Olympic male athletes wear and for the women, bikinis.

These are just a few of the fascinating facts about Rome that can give food for thought for a writer. Amazing.

Please tell us about your latest release?

loveandvengeance-gdanna-mdLOVE AND VENGEANCE

Rome 108 A.D., under the Emperor Trajan, is the center of the civilized world. It is a time of sophistication and decadence, a brutal world to their conquered.

Marcus, a Roman citizen sentenced to die as a gladiator, accused by his wife and brother for a crime he did not commit. Yet death eludes him and he rises to become champion of the sands. The title he does not want. He seeks revenge but his victories in the Colosseum bestow monetary rewards he can use to save a beautiful slave, Gustina, from certain death by the beasts. She gives him a taste of love in a world full of lies, betrayal and murder.

But his overwhelming desire for vengeance, for blood and the kill, brings a higher price tag – can he satisfy the demon inside him and face the truth? A truth that will kill the woman he loves?

Excerpt:

Rome 108 CE

A menacing growl followed by an earth-shattering scream bellowed above the rafters. The roar of the crowd snapped her back out of the numbness. The applause echoed through the chambers as particles of sand rained through the wood slats in the ceiling.

She was filthy, covered in sweat, blood and grime. What damage could more dirt do? Toes on the dirt floor wiggled as she stared at them. Her hair hung around her face like a curtain, matted with dried blood. Inadvertently, she lifted her hand to tuck one side behind her ear but jerked to a halt, restrained by the iron cuffs around her wrists, bound together with a chain. The same chain connected to the metal collar around her neck. How had she forgotten its weight resting so heavy on her shoulders?

Another scream and the sound of flesh ripping, laughter and clapping became louder above. Fear snaked down her spine and she shuddered.

Gustina sat on the stone ledge, chained with the other miscreants, waiting to be forced up the ramp to the carnage above. If she could just return to the numbness again, where nothing mattered any more. The place she’d escaped to before she’d heard the animals attacking the condemned out there. But she couldn’t silence the roar of the crowds, enjoying the executions as their noontime entertainment. Trembling, she pulled her sluggish legs up, wrapping her joined hands over them, to hold herself as she buried her face in her knees.

****
In the hallway outside the chamber, Marcus stood, flexing his muscles, his arm extended with the metal disk in his hand. It equaled the weight of his sword – a weapon he would not have until it was his turn in the arena. Besides, there was no room in the corridor to swing it, to loosen his arms in preparations for the next fight.

Christians and convicts. What a surly lot. But it was an easy way to feed the vast array of beasts the Empire kept to compete in the games. Did he ever feel sad for the poor souls about to perish by their claws? No. Nor did he mourn the loss of life at the end of his sword.

He was one of the rare attractions people paid to see. He was gladiator. And he soon would be victor of all he opposed on the sands. Marcus’ victories gave him the privileges and money he wanted – as long as it remained wine and women. But not his freedom. Not what he had lost to the Romans. No, the only way to gain that came by victory in the arena and in front of the Emperor. And to earn that opportunity, he’d kill whomever they placed before him.

He closed his eyes as the screams filtered downward. His soul heard them and his body tingled with the smell of blood and dirt. Breathing in the welcoming atmosphere, he exhaled and opened his lids to look straight into the captives’ chamber.

He found her. Sitting, hunched on the small ledge, draped in chain and metal bands, her head down. But when she looked up, through all the muck and grime, her pale blue eyes shined, sparkling and bright. Her unmarred face was a rarity amongst captives dragged to this place, usually after rough treatment prior. He noticed her high cheekbones, a small nose, narrow chin but ripe mouth. Her eyes locked on him and his mouth went dry. When her tongue licked her lips, his body tightened.

He had to have her. Period. Regardless if she was a convict, runaway or Christian, he wanted her.

A guard butted past him, into the room and yanked the chain, pulling all the captives up. Many moaned, some pleaded. She didn’t. She stood straight, pushing her shoulders back, waiting at the end of the line. Her eyes locked on his until the guard turned chain in hand to lead them out.

Marcus stepped back. Instantly, his hand went to his stomach guard and pulled the narrowed pick-knife out of its hidden sheath. As the captives stumbled past him, he extended his foot, causing her to trip. She fell into his grasp. His free hand placed the knife into the lock and with a twist, it opened. His hand covered it to deaden the noise as his other arm encircled her tiny waist and pulled her against him.

“Not a sound,” he whispered. He shoved her to the wall, his massive body hiding hers as he flexed his limbs. The guard stopped at the sound of the loose chain but didn’t look far when he saw the gladiator’s well-muscled body. Marcus glanced at him over his shoulder and gave the man a nod. His status as a victorious gladiator allowed some privilege. The guard shrugged and moved on. The frightened woman gasped for air and shook with fear.

Quickly he lifted her. She was light, lighter than his sword but he knew that couldn’t be. In a swift move, he turned. Next to the doorway sat a covered alcove. He dropped her in it.

“You’ll be safe here.” He looked her over. Her wide eyes, full of fear and mistrust, returned his gaze but she said nothing. He heard the gong of his master calling him – he fought next, after the final execution. “Remain here. I will be back for you.” He touched her cheek, his bulky hand swallowed half her face. Her skin was soft, like silk. Back in the days when he wore silk… He banked the anger. With a final nod to her, he left. He knew she’d be there when he returned.

To leave meant death.

You can learn more about Gina and her books on her website and by following her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks so much for joining me today, Gina, and best of luck with Love and Vengeance. I can’t wait to read it.

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Whiskey Rebellion by Liliana Hart

Welcome to another Spotlight Saturday. This week, I’m reading Whiskey Rebellion by best-selling author Liliana Hart. This is the first book in the Addison Holmes mystery series, and right now, it’s free on all platforms.

Whiskey Rebellion
 
 
 
Title:      Whiskey Rebellion
Author:   Liliana Hart
Genre:   Cozy mystery

 
 
 

Description:

My name is Addison Holmes, and I teach history at James Madison High School in Whiskey Bayou, Georgia. You might be under the assumption that my life went to the dogs when my fiancé left me at the altar for the home economics teacher, or when I got notice that my apartment building was going to be condemned, or even when I was desperate enough to strip to my unmentionables to earn some extra cash. The truth is that I’m pretty much used to disasters following me around on a daily basis, but I could have gone without finding my principal dead in the parking lot of a seedy gentlemen’s club.

After the initial shock of finding my first dead body, which included throwing back shots of Jack Daniels like it was water, I decided to take stock of my life. I was in a desperate situation and if the school board ever found out I’d been a stripper, even a bad stripper, I’d be jobless as well as fiancé-less and homeless. Fortunately, I had a friend who felt sorry enough for me to give me a job doing some surveillance work at her detective agency. Not to mention the fact that I was now able to stick my nose into other people’s business for a good cause, find a murderer, and pick up helpful tips from an incredibly attractive detective.

Come check out my story and be thankful your life is relatively normal.

Buy links:     Amazon     Barnes&Noble     iBooks     Kobo     Google Play

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Heather Boyd – An Accidental Affair

HeatherBoyd_AuthorPicI’m delighted to welcome fellow LoveHistoricals author Heather Boyd to my blog today to answer a few questions about herself and tell us about her latest release, An Accidental Affair.

Welcome, Heather. Thanks for visiting.

Hi Margery! Thanks so much for the invite to be interviewed. For those who don’t know me I’m Heather Boyd – Australian, author, wife, mum to two boys, and cat slave. I write sizzling regency romance novels and also co-blog with the lovely Margery at www.LoveHistoricals.com

1. What do you like best about being a writer?
I have a screensaver on my laptop that reads: “I’m not crazy. My reality is just different than yours.” I love that I make up stuff for a living. I am the matchmaker of endless distinguished rogues and wenches. I have dumped a heroine in a pond, shot a villain, and set up many a clandestine liaison. What’s not to love!

2. Do you have other talents?
What is talent – a natural aptitude or skill? I can sew, cook (without poisoning the family), grow a vegetable garden (but still kill potted plants). I like to learn and usually can figure what I want to know with two exception. I can’t draw to save my life or sing very well though I love to belt out a tune when alone or driving. LOL

3. What genres do you prefer to read?
Ooh, I read pretty widely. Romance of course (any genre, heat level and couple combinations if the story intrigues), science fiction, fantasy, kids books, 200 year old tomes. Much like everyone else I expect. But I confess I don’t understand the appeal of Zombie stories: earl kisses dead debutant’s hand and keep a part of her forever. *shudder* LOL I’m willing to give it a try but I think I’d need a recommendation.

4. What’s your least favorite part of the writing process?
Being so wrapped up in the story that my fingers can barely keep up with the conversations between my hero and heroine. My imagination doesn’t have an off-switch sometimes so I can be awake at four in the morning and come up with snappy banter with no way to write it down. A pity I have no way to magically type without leaving the comfort of my bed.

5. What are you working on now?
Although An Accidental Affair only published last week I am already deep in work for the next Distinguished Rogues Novel, Keepsake. It’s my first husband and wife romance and I am loving the struggle of bringing two very stubborn people together.

AnAccidentalAffair6. Tell us about your latest release.
The idea for Arabella and An Accidental Affair sprung from the last book in my Wild Randalls Series, Hunting the Hero. Arabella was the best friend character in Hunting the Hero who played matchmaker for the hero of that book and, although I didn’t think much of it at the time of writing, she got so much interest from readers that it quickly became clear that she needed her own space and her own Distinguished Rogue in the form of Merrick. Here’s a peek at the story:

Widowed beauty, Arabella Lawson, Lady Farnsworth, knows the value of independence after being trapped in a marriage that left her unfulfilled. Although she longs for a lover at last, she’s expected to chaperone her flirtatious niece during her first season. However, given the way the girl keeps disappearing every chance she gets, there is little hope of a good or speedy result. While searching for her charge yet again, she blunders into one of Lord Rothwell’s scandalous assignations. This time it’s Arabella’s turn to be on the receiving end of his hungry kisses, and she’s far from prepared to make the most of the opportunity.

Gossip may paint Merrick Bishop, the Earl of Rothwell, as a notorious scoundrel when it comes to women, but this season his intentions are honorable. Duty bound to marry, he’s determined to discreetly court an open-minded bride and prove the gossipmongers wrong by being on his very best behavior… until in his frustration, he mistakenly kisses the wrong lady and discovers that everything about the encounter feels so very right. Merrick never once believed he had a chance with shy Arabella, and when the unthinkable happens, she turns to him not for an affair or hopes of marriage but for his friendship and protection from her own family.

Can a rogue with a reputation for breaking hearts convince a widow who only hopes for an affair that their feelings are not only the stirrings of desire but the beginnings of the deepest and truest love?

Want to read more? I have a PDF excerpt on my website or you can visit me on Wattpad to see the first three chapters and vote.

Thanks so much for interviewing me, Margery.

I really appreciate you taking the time to join me today, Heather. Best of luck with An Accidental Affair.

AUTHOR BIO:
Bestselling historical author Heather Boyd believes every character she creates deserves their own happily-ever-after, no matter how much trouble she puts them through. With that goal in mind, she weaves sizzling English set love stories that push the boundaries of regency era propriety to keep readers enthralled until the wee hours of the morning. Brimming with new ideas, she frequently wishes she could type as fast as she conjures new storylines. While writing full time north of Sydney, Australia, Heather collects dust bunnies in all corners of the house and does her best to wrangle her testosterone-fuelled family into submission. You can catch up with her at www.heather-boyd.com, Facebook and Twitter.

BUY LINKS:
Heather on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1gmKOn1
Heather on Apple iBooks: http://bit.ly/1cjMtwJ
Heather on B&N: http://bit.ly/1gJMEOI
Heather on Google Play: http://bit.ly/1i2ZTzr
Heather on Kobo: http://bit.ly/1gOQDfn
Heather on Smashwords: http://bit.ly/NfUVBn

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Spotlight Saturday: Fools Rush In by Shirley Jump

Welcome to another Spotlight Saturday. This week, I’m reading Fools Rush In, a novlla written by Shirley Jump.

Fools Rush In
 
 
 
Title:      Fools Rush In
Author:   Shirley Jump
Genre:   Contemporary romance

 
 
 

Description:

A novella from bestselling author Shirley Jump. This short, contemporary romance will make you laugh and then sigh in satisfaction at the end. The story is approximately 10,000 words, so is perfect for a quick, afternoon read.

Buy links: Amazon    Barnes&Noble

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Anna Markland and Fatal Truths

I’m thrilled to welcome author Anna Markland back to my blog (you can see her previous post here). Not only is she a fellow Canadian, she’s one of the fourteen members of Love Historicals, a group of authors I’m honored to be part of.

Thanks for visiting again, Anna. The blog is yours. Take it away.

Thanks for having me as a guest, Margery. Great to visit with a fellow Canadian.

I’d like to talk a bit about the medieval practice of exchanging good faith hostages. It was common for allies to exchange hostages as a guarantee of support. Children were often chosen for this role, especially those of royal houses. They were deemed to be valuable assets that a king would not jeopardise.

There is a well documented incident which illustrates how such an exchange can go horribly wrong.

In February 1119, Eustace and Juliana of Breteuil, formerly allies of Henry, threatened to rebel unless they were given the castle of Ivry-la-Bataille. Juliana was one of King Henry’s many illegitimate children.

Henry promised Eustace the fortress and, to show good intent, exchanged hostages, Eustace and Juliana’s daughters being exchanged with the son of the castle’s constable.

According to the chronicler Orderic Vitalis, Eustace then blinded the constable’s son, whereupon Henry allowed his illegitimate granddaughters to be blinded and mutilated.

Eustace attempted to mobilize his forces and defend Breteuil against an attack by Henry; despite this, Henry took the city and Juliana fled, after unsuccessfully attempting to kill her father Henry with a crossbow.

This tale also illustrates how brutal life could be in those days.

FatalTruth_CVR_MEDMy latest release, Fatal Truths, is based on a hostage exchange. It is the long awaited story of Alexandre de Montbryce, grandson of the hero of my first book, Conquering Passion.

Alex is a rich and powerful Norman nobleman, haunted by a troubled past. He has sworn never to marry.

Elayne arrives from Scotland, masquerading as nursemaid to her own children, handed over by King David as good faith hostages. Neither she nor her children are who they purport to be and only lies can keep them alive.

Here’s an excerpt.

ELAYNE DUNKELD FUMED INWARDLY, but held her tongue as she and the children were ushered into the opulent chamber assigned to them, surprised not to hear a key turn in the lock when they were left alone.

Tears threatened as she sat Claricia on the bed, tossing her playd onto a chair. The warmth of the familiar woolen garment had strengthened her during the interview with the Comte. It was a link with her homeland. She combed her fingers through her hair, stifling the urge to scream out loud.

“What’s wrong, maman?” Henry asked, clamping his arms around her thighs, his head on her belly.

Elayne blinked away her tears. She had to be strong for her children’s sake. She stroked her son’s blonde hair, thankful for once that he and Claricia had inherited their father’s coloring, then lifted him to sit on the high bed. Sitting between her twins, she hugged them to her, finding solace in their warmth. “You cannot call me that, Henry, mo mhac. Both of you must remember. It’s a game. If all is to go well here, no one must know I am your maman. Always call me Elayne.”

“Oui, maman,” they chorused.

No use reprimanding them. They were babes, and bone tired. It had broken her heart to see them in chains. Was she expecting too much? But much had been expected of her. “Your grandpapa Dabíd explained to you why we have been sent here.”

Henry nodded as she pulled off his boots. “We’re stages.”

“Hostages,” she corrected. “Do you remember why?”

Claricia yawned. “Grandpapa was angry with Queen Maud.”

Henry shrugged away from his mother when she tried to help him with his doublet. “I can do it. Grandpapa said we have to be ind—indep—”

“Independent,” Elayne supplied. “Good. I’ll help Claricia while you prepare for bed. Perhaps the servants have put your nightshirt in the armoire.”

Henry wandered over to the armoire, naked in the warm chamber. Elayne smiled wistfully, thinking of the future when her son would be a man—no longer comfortable strutting bare-arsed in front of his mother and sister. She prayed they would all live long enough to see that day.

“I ‘member,” Claricia said, content to let her mother undress her. “Grandpapa was angry ‘cos Queen Maud ‘manded stages even though he promised to help her.”

Henry came back to the bed tugging his nightshirt over his head. “So we’re playing this trick to help Grandpapa.”

Out of the mouths of babes. It was a cruel irony that her father-by-marriage, the great King Dabíd mac Choluim had been only too anxious to consign his bastard’s children to Normandie.

Pick up your copy now on Amazon.

Find out more about Fatal Truths on Anna’s bookshelf and learn more about Anna and her other books on her website and on her page on the LoveHistoricals site. Follow her on Twitter and Like her on Facebook.

Thanks for joining me today, Anna. Best of luck with Fatal Truths. Sounds like a great book. I can’t wait to read it.

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Spotlight Saturday: Shadow of Death: A Laura Nelson Thriller by Patricia Gussin

Welcome to another Spotlight Saturday. This week, I’m reading Shadow of Death: a Laura Nelson Thriller, written by Patricia Gussin, a new-to-me-author.

412DmfJDunL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

 
 
 

Title:      Shadow of Death: A Laura Nelson Thriller
Author:  Patricia Gussin
Genre:   Thriller

 
 
 

Description:

Pull a trigger and everything changes. Medical student Laura Nelson had just finished examining her first patient when she is forced to make a split-second decision that will alter the course of her life – forever. One life will end, and one life will never be the same. But keeping her dreadful secret will be one of the toughest challenges Laura will ever face. With a persistent and perceptive detective hot on her trail and a host of eerie incidents suggesting that maybe her secret isnt really a secret, Laura is drawn into an unseemly web of peril, deceit, and treachery and is forced to risk both her freedom and her sanity. Will her deadly secret come to light, or must she live forever in the shadow of death? Set amidst the upheaval and smoldering chaos of the Detroit riots of 1967, Shadow of Death is a haunting tale of unrest, fear, and consequences. Hailed as a stunning debut novel, Shadow of Death provides a spine-chilling glimpse of what lurks in the shadows.

Buy links:     Amazon        Barnes&Noble     

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