30 November, 2012

#Spotlight :: Cera’s Place by Elizabeth McKenna

A story wrapped in love and justice

It was her saloon and her rules – until the day he walked through the swinging doors…
In 1869, San Francisco saloon owner Cera Cassidy offers redemption to any woman looking for honest work. At Cera's Place, men can get a decent hot meal with a whiskey, but if they want anything more, they have to take their desires elsewhere. One summer night, a distraught Chinese girl bursts through the swinging doors with a shocking tale of murder, kidnapping, and prostitution. Outraged, Cera vows to set things right. 
Jake Tanner, a scarred ex-soldier haunted by the horrors of the Civil War, is on a mission to fulfill a friend's dying wish. The trail has brought him to Cera's door. Captivated by her beauty, he wants to join her fight - but will she let him?
Elizabeth McKenna's debut novel is a fast-paced adventure filled with memorable characters that will leave you wanting more. Get lost in a time gone by and fall in love today!

An Excerpt

Across the room, Ginger gestured at Jake several times, while the saloon owner kept her eyes locked on him. Finally, shotgun in hand, Cera came out from behind the bar and approached his table. The room went quiet as everyone waited to see if there was going to be a brawl or an execution. 
“You need to leave—or else.” Facing him squarely, she threw the last word out as if it was her leather glove and the challenge to a duel.
Jake’s jaw clenched at her threatening tone. What in blazes did he do to deserve this? “Do you treat all of your customers this way or have I done something to offend you? I’m just looking for my friend’s daughter. I was told she worked here.” 
“She doesn’t.” 
Her green and gold eyes flashed fire the more she looked—no, glared—at him. Earlier, Jake thought she sparkled. Up close, though, he realized his mistake. It was more than that. She radiated. 
Cera laid the shotgun across one arm, letting it casually point in Jake’s general direction. “Are you not understanding my words, soldier? I told you to take a walk.”
Unwilling to leave until he knew where Daniel’s daughter had gone next, Jake decided to take a risk. “How about if we start over? Let’s sit down, I’ll buy you a drink, and you’ll listen to my story.”
“I own the place. I drink for free,” Cera replied, pointing out the obvious.
“Well, then, you can buy me a drink.” Before she could say no, he pushed her into Ginger’s chair and called the redhead over. 
“Miss Ginger, would you bring us two shots of whiskey, please?”  
Ginger glanced sideways at her boss. After a few moments of consideration, Cera lifted her hand slightly. With a bob of her head, Ginger went to fetch the drinks. Seeing that a gunfight was no longer imminent, the other patrons lost interest and the room’s noise level returned to its usual boisterous level. 
While they waited for Ginger’s return, Jake sized up the saloon owner. Besides the flaming auburn hair, Cera’s Irish heritage had given her porcelain-colored skin. A splash of freckles dotted her cheeks and nose, softening her sharp jaw. He couldn’t tell how full her lips were, as she kept them pressed into a hard line. Though the bodice of her dress was modestly cut compared to Ginger’s, the exposed flesh looked able to please any warm-blooded man. 
Cera thumped the butt of the shotgun against the floor. Startled, he raised his eyes to find the fire in hers had turned to ice. Jake quickly looked away, pretending to study the décor of the room.
Breaking the awkward silence, he motioned with his hand. “You seem to have a very successful business here.”
“We do all right,” Cera conceded in a clipped voice.
Picking up Ginger’s wine glass, he asked, “Do you sell much of this?”
“Not as much as whiskey and beer, of course, but it comes cheap so I don’t fret about it. My partner’s friend is trying to introduce sparkling wine to the region. We offered to help.” Perhaps realizing she was being friendly, she clamped her mouth shut and resumed glaring at him.
Unperturbed, Jake tried again. “I’m surprised by the sophistication of your place considering the neighborhood. It’s quite a dichotomy. ”
“Well, now, there’s some 50 cent words. Looks like the soldier has some education under his gun belt. You mean you’re wondering why I don’t sell whores, don’t you?”
Jake shrugged in response.
“I won’t make money off of someone else’s misery, and whoring is a miserable business. Now you’re wasting my time, Captain. What’s your story? I have a saloon to run and no time for lies.”
Jake shook his head. “What I told Big Red is the God’s honest truth. I’m looking for a girl named Sadie. Before her daddy died, he asked me to give her a locket. I’ve been trying to find her for several years now. I was told she worked here—or used to. If you can tell me where she was headed, I would be much obliged.”
Cera’s fingers wrapped and unwrapped around the shotgun’s barrel a few times. “Ginger said you have proof. Show me.” 
Jake pointed to his pocket and Cera nodded her consent. He carefully brought out a faded photograph and an oval-shaped, gold locket on a thin chain. As he passed the objects to her, their hands touched and his heart skipped a beat. Surprised at his body’s reaction, he thought back to the last time he had truly desired a woman. For the briefest moment, he allowed himself to see his late wife’s gentle smile before pushing away the melancholy memory. 
Motioning to the photograph, he explained, “That was our company. I’m in the top row, second from the left. Daniel—Sadie’s daddy—is in the bottom row, right in the middle. And that obviously is the locket I’m supposed to give her.”
Cera examined the photograph, her eyes flicking back and forth between it and Jake.
“Yes, it was taken before I got this.” Jake ran a finger down the side of his face. Cera’s cheeks flushed and he felt a twinge of remorse for embarrassing her. He had long ago accepted the unwanted souvenir from his war days, but he knew the sight of his scar upset some people.
Cera handed the photograph back to him but kept the locket in her hand. “And you’ve been looking for Sadie for years? Why would you do that? The man’s dead, right? He’s none the wiser.”
“Because I would know,” Jake replied a bit gruffer than he intended.
Cera let out a long breath. “Wait here.” 
When she stood up, Jake reached over and grabbed her wrist. “The locket stays with me.” 
Cera’s eyebrows rose at his demand. “You’re asking me to trust you. Now you have to trust me.”
As he debated inwardly, Ginger interrupted the stalemate. Clearing her throat, she put the shots of whiskey on the table. “Let go of her, Captain. You don’t want this trouble.”
Cera nodded in agreement. “If you are telling the truth, you have nothing to worry about.”
Frowning, Jake pulled his hand away. He hoped he wouldn’t regret the decision.

Raves & Reviews 

 “Elizabeth McKenna’s writing immersed me deeper and deeper into the story and she delivers a beautiful, intriguing tale…I loved Jake and Cera’s emotional journey for justice and love, they touched my heart and I was rooting for them. Elizabeth McKenna delivered a powerful and captivating read with Cera’s Place. Supported by a striking and witty cast of characters Cera’s Place is entertaining, it is a thrilling read that kept me riveted to my chair from start till finish!” Marissa on Goodreads / Amazon / Marissa’s Book Lounge

 “An awesome debut! A love story that will carry you back to a very exciting time. It turned out to be really different from what I was expecting…All the characters were very well developed and believable. The story was paced well and descriptions sent vivid pictures to my mind. This story is a romance but it is wrapped in a very suspenseful mystery. There are a few steamy moments too. A perfect story for me. I was unable to put it down. For a debut novel it is definitely worth 5 stars! I am looking to reading more by this author.” Lori Caswell on Goodreads/Escape with Dollycas/Amazon

 “I loved this book, and I’m very glad I had the chance to read it. The author’s style of writing is really up my alley and I would read books by her again. The story was a good one and it was a compelling situation. I would recommend this book to everyone!” Natalie Kozaczka on Goodreads
 “This is very well written. It takes a little bit to get into it but once you are in you just can’t get out until the end. I love all of the characters in the book. Each and every one of them really make the book pop. You will enjoy this book if you choose to purchase it.” Renee on Amazon

 “This was an historical novel full of the suspense that is usually in a modern thriller/crime drama…From that point on I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to more stories from the talented Ms McKenna.” Mrs. Condit Read’s Books on Goodreads/Amazon

 “I highly enjoyed reading the adventure of Jake and Cera.” Katherine on Goodreads

 “Enjoyed very much! Great plot and a good read.” L. Kito on Amazon

 “By the end of the second chapter, my heart was in my throat, and I cared about these characters and what they were doing. The characters are interesting and believable, the storyline is good…The plot moved along mostly believably, and there was lots of action.” Rhonda on Amazon

 “This isn’t the typical historical romance I read, but it was definitely just as enjoyable! The reason this one was so different was because Cera, the main character, was the owner of a saloon and she was a hard-headed female instead of the normal damsel in distress girls that are normally in historical romances. It was also cool how this story took on a crime/mystery genre when Cera was trying to catch the bad guys in town who were selling Chinese girls…It was quick, but Cera’s Place still leaves you with a nice, romantic story you can’t help but get lost in.” Jessica on Goodreads

 “The plot is interesting, even gripping, with some of the action sequences keeping you on the edge. The characters are alive, authentic, having distinct personalities and talking like real people. The scenery is beautifully described…” Dascalu on Amazon

 “I expected this book to be full of steamy romance & captivating love scenes – I was not disappointed!” Kathleen on Amazon

 “Elizabeth has done a wonderful job writing this book…This is not just a simple love story, it has a soul.” Aditi on Amazon and Goodreads

 “I love historicals, and this definitely didn’t disappoint!…All in all, it was a great read with excellent characters!” Brea on Amazon and Goodreads

 “The characters were very believable and the story moved along at a nice pace…I enjoyed the story very much and I look forward to Ms. McKenna’s next story.” Bridget on Goodreads

About the Author

Elizabeth McKenna is a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company. She never read romance novels until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene).

She had always wanted to write fiction, so when a psychic told her she would write a book, Elizabeth felt obligated to give it a try. She combined her love of history, romance and a happy ending to write her debut novel, Cera's Place. She has also written a short story titled, The Gypsy Casts a Spell, which was published in the February 2012 issue of eFiction Magazine. You can read the short story on her author website 

Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and sassy Labrador. When she isn't writing, working, or being a mom, she's sleeping.

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