15 August, 2018

#SpecialFeature :: Read an #Excerpt from Anon. by Bhavani Iyer



*** Special Feature - August 2018 ***


About the Book:
Welcome to Calcutta of the sixties and the seventies.

Meet Debottam, the genius vagabond son of a wealthy zamindar.

Meet Urbish, the ambitious dreamer whose father is a fisherman.
Walk with them through the red earth of Shantiniketan.

Visit the jazz clubs of Park Street.

Experience friendship redefined by two people who have only one thing in common writing.

But one is willing to kill to write and the other is willing to die.

Anon. Short for Anonymous.

After all what’s in a name?


Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Excerpt:

Deb lay on the grass outside his hostel building, flouting the ten p.m. deadline, unwilling to return to the cage of his room and the two other unknown faces occupying it, just yet. He looked up at the sky, as the voices of the young men singing their nightly Rabindra Sangeet travelled through the still night air towards him. He listened absently to the nightingales of habit and a feeling of absolute and utter alienation descended on him. He looked up at the night sky to save him. The song over, the young men moved into their respective rooms, and silence swooped down on the landscape like a powerful eagle on an unsuspecting prey. Deb felt overwhelmed by a need to get away, to escape the boundaries of what seemed like a beautiful vast cage, but a cage nonetheless.
He got to his feet and moved into the darkness farther and farther away from the others, from people and demands on his attention, his time, and his mind. He got to the gates of Shantiniketan, which were locked for the night. The lone watchman had packed up and left, not expecting any visitors. Or escapees.
Deb stood at the locked gate and hesitated for a moment. The romance and impetuosity of his action
had suddenly met with a stumbling block which seemed to rouse him from his reckless state of mind, albeit fractionally. Deb stood there, wondering which would be easier to scale—the gate or the wall—when a voice broke in through the darkness.
‘Is there someone waiting?’
Startled, Deb whirled around to see who it was and a moment later, saw a tall, young man leaning against a tree, watching Deb.
‘What?’ Deb asked, annoyed and irked at the intrusion.
‘You’re running away in the middle of the night from a place that doesn’t bind you in any way. There must be something wonderful waiting for you outside.’
‘Who the hell are you?’ Deb asked.
‘My name is Urbish. We’re in the same class.’ Urbish moved out of the shadows and stood by Deb, looking at him with such unruffled and mature calmness that it highlighted Deb’s whimsical spontaneity, making it seem like an immature and childish act of rebellion.
Deb quelled the urge to snap at Urbish and looked at him closely, wondering how he had never noticed Urbish before. Even in the dark, with the moonlight playing a coy bride, draping and shedding her veil at will, Deb couldn’t miss Urbish’s remarkable movie-star looks and his composed, restful demeanour utterly contrasting with Deb’s own restive, agitated edginess.
‘Deb . . . Debottam,’ Deb finally offered.
‘I know. We call you The Rolls-Royce Kid.’ A beat and then, ‘Speaking of which, since you seem to be leaving her behind, can you tell me where your car keys are?’
The silent splendour of Shantiniketan was broken a moment later as the two young men burst into laughter.
A sound so natural and so full of simple beautiful happiness that it hung in the air like invisible dewdrops long after they had stopped laughing. And for some strange reason, Deb once again felt at peace with the world.
A cheery little surge of high-voltage energy coursed through his innards, so potent and real he could feel its movement. He looked around him, at the darkness, at the gate, at the wall, and knew he didn’t want to leave.
Not just then, not just yet. He wondered if that made him abject and pathetic or just weak-willed and easily influenced.
Once again he thought of his father and wondered what he’d say.
Urbish fell into step alongside Deb as they both walked back towards their hostel.
‘There’s no one.’ Urbish looked at Deb, nonplussed.

‘No one waiting outside,’ Deb said. ‘No one at all.’ The words were soaked in wry melancholy. Urbish was silent.
‘Don’t you want to say “I told you so”? I know I would have.’ Urbish merely grinned in answer.
‘If you’re the kind who’s always right, I don’t think I’d particularly like to know you more,’ Deb said, a lopsided grin lending incredible softness to his face.
‘I’m not the kind who’s always right. But I don’t think you’d like me much anyway. I’m the kind that usually wins.’ Urbish’s smile took the sharpness off his words but retained the edge. He then added, ‘I was stuck for an end to my story for Ava-di, so I decided to take a walk. I’ve found what I wanted.’ He looked at Deb. ‘Have you finished your story?’
‘I haven’t started,’ Deb replied, smiling.
Urbish looked shocked, and yet seemed somehow pleased. ‘The class is at ten in the morning. It’s too late.’
‘I have all night,’ Deb shrugged.
‘You don’t really care, do you?’ Urbish asked, almost enviously. ‘I wish I had the luxury.’
‘I don’t know if I care about winning or being liked most by the professor,’ Deb replied, thoughtful,
earnest, wanting to give an honest reply. ‘But I do know that the world seems a better place, more tolerable, brighter, more vivid, more dazzling after I have created something that wasn’t there before. For that story, that piece of writing, that poem, that essay, I am the Maker. And that I care about very, very much.’

About the Author:
Bhavani Iyer started her career with Advertising as a Trainee Copywriter with a leading ad agency, iB&W Advertising. She then moved to journalism and had worked as the editor for the film magazine Stardust. She made her screenwriting debut with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black. She has collaborated on the screenplays for Bhansali's Guzaarish, Vikramaditya Motwane's Lootera and the Indian version of Fox's hit show 24 (Indian TV series). She has also written the critically acclaimed Raazi, a spy drama that has been lauded for its sensitive depiction of cross-border espionage set during the India-Pakistan war of 1971.
She lives in Mumbai with her boyfriend, three dogs, and a cat.
Anon. is her first novel.



Giveaway:
3 Paperback copies of Anon. up for grabs for Indian Residents

a Rafflecopter giveaway

11 August, 2018

What Is It About Pirates? by Helen Hollick







Pirates have fascinated people for several centuries. The Master Terrorists of their age, the sailors of the early eighteenth century who went ‘On the Account’ hoping to gain a fortune often led a short, but exciting life. Albeit one supplemented by rum and debauchery. But how much is fact, and how much is fiction? Helen has written a series of nautical Voyages based around her fictional pirate, Captain Jesamiah Acorne and his ship, Sea Witch, but her latest UK release in paperback is a non-fiction book – Pirates: Truth and Tales published by Amberley Press, which explores our fascination with the real pirates and those who are favourites in fiction. Today, Helen drops anchor for another interesting addition to her on-line two-week Voyage around the Blogs with a pirate or two for company…

What is it about the Caribbean pirates of the early 1700s that compels us to dress up like them in fancy dress, or as near accurate detail as possible for re-enactments or festivals? Why do we have this fascination with the men (and a few women) who were thoroughly nasty – even evil – terrorists, murderers, rapists and thieves?

Hollywood, TV drama and novels are to blame, especially after the recent upsurge of interest when the first Disney franchise of The Pirates Of The Caribbean hit our screens with that scallywag scoundrel Jack Sparrow, portrayed by actor Johnny Depp. Even the baddies in that movie were likeable, loveable chaps! But that was the point of the movie, The Curse Of The Black Pearl, it was intended as family entertainment fun.


My own series of nautical adventures, the Sea Witch Voyages, follow the same theme, tongue-in-cheek sailor’s yarns, although written for adults, as they do include a darker, adult side with adult content. Again, intentional. As one Amazon reviewer (nicely) put it: “The story itself [Sea Witch] was surprisingly original. A work like this is always going to draw the inevitable comparisons with Jack Sparrow’s big screen adventures, but this is exceedingly more down to earth and possesses far more soul and charm. The two main characters were fresh and endearing, especially Tiola and their relationship and struggles leant real weight to this exciting tale. I’m quite thrilled about having several more of their stories to explore in the future.” Words which I am delighted with, of course.

When writing Pirates: Truth and Tales I set out to balance the what really happened in that Golden Age, against the lighter side of fiction and on-screen drama. I blended the chapters about the reality (neatly, I hope) with excerpts from fiction and sections about our beloved fictional characters. But novels and movies depicting what is, essentially, a fairy-tale view are very different from what was the reality.

Pirates were often driven into plundering merchant ships through poverty, necessity and opportunity. As sailors they mutinied if aboard a ship with a miserly captain, or became pirates when the choice was ‘join us or die.’ Only one of the more famous pirate captains, Edward Lowe, was known to be a criminal before he turned pirate. Several pirates were cruel, evil men, (especially Lowe.) Some were women. All were thieves and murderers.

Life in the 18th century was not easy for anyone except the gentry and the wealthy merchants. Poor food, dirty and cramped living conditions was the norm for the majority of people. Work was hard to find. Convicted criminals were hanged. They were the lucky ones, for few survived the depravation of gaol or transportation to the other side of the world – to the plantations of the American Colonies, for Captain James Cook was not due to ‘discover’ Australia until a good many years later than the early 1700s.

At the start of the 18th century, the world was opening up, new countries, new goods, were being found. Gold and other riches from the crumbled South American Empires funded the wealth of Spain and Europe, although most of it was spent on financing wars. The relatively new North American Colonies were emerging as lucrative tobacco, sugar and cotton plantations. The world’s oceans were becoming busy trade routes with ships getting bigger and faster, and the temptation to acquire ill-gotten plunder was an attractive prospect. Where there was trade, there were pirates. There still is.

There was all kinds of valuable stuff for the taking. The Prize was the ultimate goal; a heavily laden East Indiaman on her way home from the East Indies, or a Spanish Galleon ploughing across the Atlantic from Mexico to Spain, her hold groaning with treasure. Pursuit at sea could last from anything between an hour or two to several days, but the Prize had to be an easy target, one that would surrender without putting up a fight. Pirates had fast ships, guns, and bravado by the bucket-load. They made a noise, a lot of it, and a great amount of intimidation, shouting and jeering, banging anything that came to hand. The wise captain of a pursued ship gave in quickly, showed where the goods were stowed and made no resistance. Put up a fight, however, and pirates could turn nasty. Very nasty.



With a hold filled with looted booty the destination for any pirate crew was the nearest town that had an adequate harbour with taverns and brothels a-plenty. Few pirates became rich for most of them spent their ill-gotten gain almost as soon as they gained it. Many pirates were riddled with sexual diseases. Nearly all were permanently drunk. A pistol shot or the hangman’s noose awaited most of them. It was a short life, but, apparently, a merry one.

I’ve written five novels in my Sea Witch series, six if you count an e-book novella (When The Mermaid Sings) with the next adventure, Gallows Wake, half completed as I write this. And I have written Pirates: Truth And Tales, a factual book with excerpts from fiction, but the question remains: why this fascination that we have for pirates?

If ever I discover the answer, I’ll let you know.

You know I'm bad, I'm bad - come on, you know
(Bad bad - really, really bad)
And the whole world has to
Answer right now
Just to tell you once again,
Who's bad...
Michael Jackson’s words sum pirates up very well.
The real pirates were bad. Really, really bad.

© Helen Hollick

Pirates: Truth And Tales published in paperback in the UK July 2018 and November 2018 in the US – but available for pre-order.

Buy the Books: Amazon Author Page (Universal Link) viewAuthor.at/HelenHollick

Sign up for Helen’s Newsletter and be entered for an annual prize draw.
One name ‘picked from the hat’ in December will win a £10/$10 Amazon gift voucher.

LINKS:
Twitter: @HelenHollick



Follow Helen’s Tour:
These links will take you to the Home Page of each blog host – Helen says thank you for their interest and enthusiasm! For exact URL links to each article go to Helen’s website:  www.helenhollick.net  which will be updated every day of the tour.

30th July: Cryssa Bazos  https://cryssabazos.com/ Dropping Anchor to Talk About Pirates
31st July: Anna Belfrage  https://annabelfrage.wordpress.com/ Ships That Pass…
1st August: Carolyn Hughes https://carolynhughesauthor.com/blog/ Pirates of the Middle Ages
2nd August: Alison Morton   https://alison-morton.com/blog/ From Pirate to Emperor
3rd August: Annie Whitehead https://rwranniewhitehead.blogspot.com/ The Vikings: Raiders or Pirates?
4th August: Tony Riches http://tonyriches.blogspot.co.uk/ An Interview With Helen Hollick (and maybe a couple of pirates thrown in for good measure?)
5th August: Lucienne Boyce http://francesca-scriblerus.blogspot.com/ Anne and Mary. Pirates.
6th August: Laura Pilli http://fieldofbookishdreams.blogspot.co.uk/ Why Pirates?
7th August: Mary Tod https://awriterofhistory.com/ That Essential Element… For A Pirate.
8th August: Pauline Barclay http://paulinembarclay.blogspot.com/ Writing Non-Fiction. How Hard Can It Be?   
9th August: Nicola Smith http://shortbookandscribes.uk/ Pirates: The Tales Mixed With The Truth
10th August: Christoph Fischer https://writerchristophfischer.wordpress.com/ In The Shadow Of The Gallows
11th August: Debdatta http://www.ddsreviews.in/ What Is It About Pirates?
12th August: Discovering Diamonds https://discoveringdiamonds.blogspot.co.uk/ It’s Been An Interesting Voyage…
13th August: Sarah Greenwood https://www.amberley-books.com/blog Pirates: The Truth and the Tales
14th August: Antoine Vanner https://dawlishchronicles.com/dawlish-blog/ The Man Who Knew About Pirates


ABOUT HELEN: 

Helen moved from London in 2013 and now lives with her family in North Devon, in an eighteenth century farmhouse. First published in 1994, her passion now is her pirate character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne of the nautical adventure series, The Sea Witch Voyages. Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (UK title A Hollow Crown) the story of Saxon Queen, Emma of Normandy. Her novel Harold the King (US title I Am The Chosen King) explores the events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, set in the fifth century, is widely praised as a more down-to-earth historical version of the Arthurian legend. She has written three non-fiction books, Pirates: Truth and Tales, Smugglers in Fact and Fiction (to be published 2019) and as a supporter of indie writers, co-wrote Discovering the Diamond with her editor, Jo Field, a short advice guide for new writers. She runs the Discovering Diamonds review blog for historical fiction assisted by a team of enthusiastic reviewers. 
Helen is published in various languages.


08 August, 2018

#SpecialFeature - #Review :: Anon. by Bhavani Iyer



*** Special Feature - August 2018 ***


About the Book:
Welcome to Calcutta of the sixties and the seventies.

Meet Debottam, the genius vagabond son of a wealthy zamindar.

Meet Urbish, the ambitious dreamer whose father is a fisherman.
Walk with them through the red earth of Shantiniketan.

Visit the jazz clubs of Park Street.

Experience friendship redefined by two people who have only one thing in common writing.

But one is willing to kill to write and the other is willing to die.

Anon. Short for Anonymous.

After all what’s in a name?


Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

My Review:

Going into Anon. by Bhavani Iyer I had no idea about what to expect. With two acclaimed movies (Black & Raazi) under her belt as the screen writer, I guess all I was expecting was entertainment. Other than that, I kept an open mind about the book.

Anon. sets up the story of two friends in the backdrop of 60’s in Calcutta & Shantiniketan. Urbish and Debottam had nothing in common if their background was to be compared. One came from an impoverished family while the other was the son of a Zamindaar. Their friendship is held together in place because of their love for words and interest in writing. Even then they are only willing to go to two very different extremes to fulfill their dream. Will their friendship stand the test of time? Will either of them be able to fulfill their dreams?

I cannot but help deviate from my usual reviewing style and instead of commenting on the characters first, I’d like to shake things up and talk about the author’s style of storytelling and language. It is beautiful. I had heard a lot of stories about Calcutta in 1960s and 1970s thanks to my mother. So while I already had some idea about the city in those times, the author’s language and narrative made the city come alive in my mind. The little nuances about the society back then really helped me ‘live’ through the story with Urbish and Debottam. The author’s language is impressive and she has this style of describing things with simple words that create a very realistic picture in the reader’s mind.

The characterization in the book has been done to perfection. Each of the two protagonists got ample time and development and their oddities only made them feel more real. Urbish and Debottam are such clashing personalities that they provide the readers with quite an entertainment. If Urbish is calm wind on the summer evening then Debottam is the storm that hits hard. They kind of complement each other in a way and balance each other out. The supporting casts got enough of the limelight to make their contributions to the story. I quite liked Moyna too.

The book was an emotional one that got me so caught up at moments that it actually left me with a slight hangover. I loved almost everything about the book. If I had to nit-pick something about the book it would the climax of the book. I kind of felt something was out of place or just that it wasn’t a hundred percent of what it could be. I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone with an interest in contemporary fiction.



About the Author:
Bhavani Iyer started her career with Advertising as a Trainee Copywriter with a leading ad agency, iB&W Advertising. She then moved to journalism and had worked as the editor for the film magazine Stardust. She made her screenwriting debut with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black. She has collaborated on the screenplays for Bhansali's Guzaarish, Vikramaditya Motwane's Lootera and the Indian version of Fox's hit show 24 (Indian TV series). She has also written the critically acclaimed Raazi, a spy drama that has been lauded for its sensitive depiction of cross-border espionage set during the India-Pakistan war of 1971.
She lives in Mumbai with her boyfriend, three dogs, and a cat.
Anon. is her first novel.



Giveaway:
3 Paperback copies of Anon. up for grabs for Indian Residents

a Rafflecopter giveaway

03 August, 2018

#BookReview - To Hell and Back by Anurag Anand

To Hell and Back by Anurag Anand
A mindless road-rage incident leaves a young and promising entrepreneur dead. Is it an accident, or a cold-blooded murder, planned to absolute perfection? 

Namrata, a young professional, is enveloped by all the quintessential elements of life in the fast lane—a staling marriage, an extramarital affair and eyes full of dreams, until a fun evening turns into a chilling nightmare for her.

Renu, a girl living in a world marred by regressive customs and dated practices, has resigned to the patriarchal ways of her world, until they begin to cast their malicious shadows on her unborn child.

Their worlds, although separate, intersect each other in a single strike of tragedy that none could have imagined. It is then that this story begins and sends everyone’s life on a dizzy tailspin…

Will they be able to get back to their safe and secure lives?

To Hell and Back is a fast-paced thriller that will not only keep you on tenterhooks till the very end, but it shall also rattle your beliefs on how ‘crime-proof’ the world that you live in truly is.


First, a road rage situation that claims the life of Akash, an entrepreneur, and makes the headlines on every major media outlet in the country. Second, a dreamer and a professional girl in Namrata yearns for more from her life. Third, a quiet and submissive girl in Renu turns to a rebel when another life dependent on her needs her to fight. Three lives, three personalities and three very different fates. After Akash’s life is cut short, the focus lands on Namrata and Renu… what threads can bring them together when they live such different lives at all levels? And does fate truly control everything?

The book had me intrigued right from the blurb. A male author writing about two very different lives lead on by two very different female characters... Can he do justice? Or would it end up feeling like every other male voice that stereotypes women? Also, the burning question in my mind while going into the book was how the ‘death’ of Akash could bring these two women together?

It turned out that I quite enjoyed reading the book. Both Namrata and Renu had their quirks and charms. Namrata is a bold and independent woman who likes to question everything. Renu is a self-conscious housewife who is used to having the patriarchal norms run her life. Their individual stories ran parallel to each other giving each of them the time and space to grow till it is time for their stories to intersect. And when it does, the readers are taken for a ride. While I wouldn’t say that the characterization of the protagonists has been done to perfection, it was quite close. There are some secondary characters thrown in to provide not only a variety in characters but also help provide different perspectives on the same situation.

The author has done a great job in setting up the plot. It is done perfectly to keep the readers guessing. At no point did I lose sight of where the story was headed. For some of the readers though, there are a bunch of twists and turns waiting in these pages that a more experienced reader may be able to spot early on. But I have to say, I was expecting more from the climax. With the kind of build up the book has right from the beginning, I was expecting goosebumps at the final revelation. Instead it fell a bit bland when compared to the rest of the book. That is the only point where the book did not meet my expectations.

All in all, an entertaining read…


Review Copy received from the Author


#BlogTour - Path To Passion by Nana Prah


💛 BOOK RELEASE💛
Title: Path To Passion
Author: Nana Prah
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

💛


Blurb

The man who broke her heart . . .
Is the man she now needs more than ever!
Heir to his family’s global empire, branding genius Miguel Astacio turns everything into marketing gold. Only his best friend’s sister seems immune to his magic touch. Until Tanya Carrington comes to him to save her floundering nightclub. Miguel is ready to rectify past mistakes. But will his supreme sacrifice win the heart of the woman he loves? 

Add to Goodreads: https://goo.gl/hbCASz



Buy Links

Barnes and Noble: https://goo.gl/5gx7Mx




EXCERPT

Miguel’s blood heated as she gave him a wavering smile. She was just too beautiful, with clear skin marked only by a dark mole at the corner of her nose, angled dark eyes and full lickable lips.
“I mean,” Tanya continued, “I won’t even be able to recognize the place when its completed. Everything sounds incredible, but I may have to draw the line at the cages for dancers.”
He thought she might. “Trust me, if we charge people to dance in them, they will pay. The one rule is that they have to keep their clothes on.”
 “We’ll see.” She stared at the screen again with her eyes unblinking “Um…” She rubbed the back of her neck and a light sheen of sweat broke out on her forehead. “How much will this cost?”
Now for the heavy convincing. He got up and stood beside her to point at the CCTV screen showing the dance area, which had filled up a little more in the hour they’d been going over his ideas. “I can see this place packed, people waiting all the way up the street trying to get in. VIP area filled with actors, musicians and pro athletes flying in to experience it.”
Unable to resist, he leaned close so they were almost cheek to cheek. Her heat and honeysuckle perfume floated into him, and he turned his head so his starving lips could caress her one more time. He kissed along her jaw until he met the sensitive area of her neck, where he teased her with gentle nips until she moaned. She sprang as far away from him as the room would allow.
What had he been thinking? Why did she affect him this way? She took away his willpower like no other woman had ever done. Thinking became almost impossible when she was around. The desire to smooth his hands over her incredibly silky soft skin drove him to get closer, but he stayed rooted to the spot, watching her rub the goose pimples from her arms.
“Answer the question, Miguel.” He was pleased to hear her voice quiver. “How much will it cost?”
He’d rather discuss the turbulent heat swirling between them, but if she wanted to ignore it then he should, too. “You’ve heard the saying that you have to spend money to make money, right?”
Her slow nod brought her hair forward. He watched as she brushed back the strands he wanted to filter his fingers through, bringing her close so they could fall into the attraction drawing them together.






CONNECT WITH NANA


01 August, 2018

#SpecialFeature - Anon. by Bhavani Iyer



*** Special Feature - August 2018 ***


About the Book:
Welcome to Calcutta of the sixties and the seventies.

Meet Debottam, the genius vagabond son of a wealthy zamindar.

Meet Urbish, the ambitious dreamer whose father is a fisherman.
Walk with them through the red earth of Shantiniketan.

Visit the jazz clubs of Park Street.

Experience friendship redefined by two people who have only one thing in common writing.

But one is willing to kill to write and the other is willing to die.

Anon. Short for Anonymous.

After all what’s in a name?


Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon


About the Author:
Bhavani Iyer started her career with Advertising as a Trainee Copywriter with a leading ad agency, iB&W Advertising. She then moved to journalism and had worked as the editor for the film magazine Stardust. She made her screenwriting debut with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black. She has collaborated on the screenplays for Bhansali's Guzaarish, Vikramaditya Motwane's Lootera and the Indian version of Fox's hit show 24 (Indian TV series). She has also written the critically acclaimed Raazi, a spy drama that has been lauded for its sensitive depiction of cross-border espionage set during the India-Pakistan war of 1971.
She lives in Mumbai with her boyfriend, three dogs, and a cat.
Anon. is her first novel.




Giveaway:
3 Paperback copies of Anon. up for grabs for Indian Residents

a Rafflecopter giveaway

30 July, 2018

#Spotlight - Redemption from a Dark Past by Kelli A. Wilkins


An Inside Look at… Redemption from a Dark Past
The latest historical romance from Kelli A. Wilkins


Hi everyone,

Today I’m sharing a look at the making of my latest historical romance, Redemption from a Dark Past.

When I sit down to write an historical romance, I never know where (or when) my story will take me. I’ve written romances set in the Old West, the Minnesota wilderness, Colonial Pennsylvania, and Celtic Scotland. Redemption from a Dark Past takes place in another unique locale, the Kingdom of Hungary.

For me, the setting conjures up images of brooding castles perched on treacherous mountaintops, tiny villages, medieval stone cities, vampires, and Prince Vlad. Although the book does not take place in Transylvania specifically, this atypical location appealed to me. It seemed like the perfect place for a Gothic novel filled with secrets, danger, deception, and superstition.

I enjoyed creating the cast of unusual characters and setting the stage for the drama that’s about to unfold. Right from the start, we meet Lord Sebestyen Adrik and learn that he’s a troubled hero who has hidden himself away in his isolated castle. He’s depressed, guilt-ridden, has an unsavory reputation, and is the subject of nasty rumors spread by superstitious villagers.

The heroine, Katarina, is feisty, clever, and anything but superstitious. She dismisses tales of evil spirits and ghosts, and doesn’t have time for old wives’ tales. She’s ambitious and wants to leave her pathetic job on the goat farm for better things. When she learns that she’s about to be forced into marriage to a much older man, she jumps at the chance to be Lord Adrik’s companion—despite all the terrifying stories she has been told. Katarina’s boldness and intelligence make her the perfect person to free Sebestyen from his dark past.

When I set about creating the mysterious Lord Adrik, I wanted to make him a flawed and sympathetic hero. He has two physical ailments (one most romance heroes never have) as well as several psychological scars. And as if they weren’t enough problems, he also has a reputation as a murderer (among other things). At the start of the book, he has just about given up on life and any hope of being happy. By giving Sebestyen all this “baggage” I made him vulnerable and provided him with lofty goals to reach.

As I wrote, I added layers of secrets, built suspense, and created numerous plot twists and turns. Readers follow Katarina’s adventures and are not sure what—or who—to believe. Can Magda the surly, gossiping cook be trusted? How did Lady Adrik die? Is the castle really haunted? What happened to Lord Adrik’s previous companions? Are the rumors about him true? Katarina is left alone with Sebestyen every night, should she fear for her safety? Everyone says she should!
Over the course of the book, Katarina draws Sebestyen out of his shell, and just when she thought she knew him, she uncovers a disturbing secret he’s been hiding from her. Katarina tries to make sense of it all, while following her heart.

Not everyone in this story is exactly what (or who) they seem to be, and this adds another level of mystery and intrigue to the book. Combining all these elements into a sensual, Gothic romance was a lot of fun, and I hope readers will enjoy this trip into “the Dark Lord’s lair.”

Here’s the book summary, a short excerpt, and links.


Redemption From a Dark Past

Lord Sebestyen Adrik has an unsavory reputation as a madman, murderer… and worse. Lonely and searching for love, he seeks the companionship of local young women, hoping one of them will ease his torment and bring him the happiness he longs for. Katarina is his last chance—but will she fear him like all the others? Or is she the one who can lift his curse?
Desperate to avoid a forced marriage, Katarina agrees to become Lord Adrik’s latest companion, despite the rumors she has heard about him. She discovers the “Dark Lord’s” secret past and realizes he’s not the monster everyone thinks he is.
As their love blossoms, she renews his passion for life—yet they cannot escape the ghosts of the past.
When a meeting of the nobility goes horribly wrong, Sebestyen’s world unravels, and his enemies plot to destroy him. As all seems lost, a mysterious stranger arrives at the castle. Sebestyen must decide if he is a friend or a foe…and if he can find redemption in his love for Katarina, or lose her and everything else that he holds dear.

* * *

The excerpt:

Sebestyen winced as he propped his right leg on the padded footstool. He had a crackling fire before him, his belly was full, he’d drunk almost an entire bottle of wine, and yet he was not content.
Another girl had arrived. He had another chance to find happiness, but he didn’t dare get his hopes up. She would probably be another sour disappointment like all the others. Each failure drove a dagger deeper into his heart, and yet, he persisted.
But why? Why did he put himself through the pain, the hurt, and the humiliation of buying another companion? Perhaps it would be best if he accepted the fact that he was cursed. He’d never be happy, never know love again.
He watched the flames and sipped his red wine. The rumors about him had spread throughout the countryside. Lukacs was right when he’d told him that the villagers would not allow their daughters to come here, no matter what enticements he offered. He’d almost given up, but then Lukacs had written with the news that Katarina had volunteered to be his companion. Why? Surely she knew the stories about him.
Despite the tales circulating in the villages, he had never harmed any of the young ladies who came to the castle. If anything, he was generous. He bought them new clothes, fed them, and paid them well. He certainly wasn’t a rapist or a drinker of virgin blood as he was portrayed in the stories.
“But am I the monster they say I am?” he wondered aloud.
He stared at a painting on the far wall. Two boys in formal dress, one with light blond wavy hair, the other with black hair, posed with a black and white dog. He raised his glass in a silent toast to Tristan. The portrait was commissioned when he’d been, what? Ten? And Tristan was nearly fifteen. Those were good times, when life was easy.
Now he was all alone, trapped in this miserable castle and forced to suffer with the boring duties he had inherited from his despicable father. It wasn’t fair. He’d had different plans for his life, plans that included travelling, marrying a woman he loved, and being happy. Instead, he sat here every night drinking himself into a stupor, hating his life, hating his very existence.
He closed his eyes and leaned back in the leather chair. Perhaps Katarina could redeem him and lift his curse. If she did, she would earn riches beyond her wildest dreams. If not, he would suffer bitter disappointment yet again. “Why do I even try?” he whispered. “I’m doomed.”
* * *
Katarina stood in the parlor doorway, clutching her skirts. The large room was lit with three candles, and firelight cast long shadows on the walls. One story about His Lordship seemed to be true; he did live in the dark. She heard a low growling noise coming from the corner. What was that? Did Lord Adrik have a vicious dog?
She stepped into the parlor and spotted a figure slumped in the throne-sized chair near the fire. A white ruffled sleeve hung over the armrest. A moment later, she realized the noise was coming from Lord Adrik. He was fast asleep and snoring.
Had she kept him waiting too long? She had eaten her fill of meat and potatoes and even tried the greens and biscuits. His Lordship hadn’t been interested in talking to her before, so why he had summoned her here?
She touched his arm. “Lord Adrik?”
He jerked awake. “Dammit! What is it?”
She reeled back. “I finished eating and—”
“Your name again?”
“Katarina.” Had he forgotten about her already?
* * *
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books.
Her romances span many genres and heat levels, and she’s also been known to scare readers with her horror stories.
Kelli’s writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative guide filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.

Her historical romance, Redemption from a Dark Past, was published in June of 2018. This full-length Gothic novel is set in the kingdom of Hungary in 1723 and blends a sensual romance with mystery and suspense.
Look for more romances, horror stories, and an online writing class coming later in 2018.
Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor.
Visit her website www.KelliWilkins.com and blog http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/ to learn more about all of her writings. 

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