THE BATTLE FOR IMPERIANA By Rick Stepp-Bolling

THE BATTLE FOR IMPERIANA: PATCH MAN III

With the war in Summia over, Imperiana becomes the new battlefield. Var arrives in Adriat hoping to convince President Gelfson to end his insane attempt to create an army of dead Imperialists and invade Summia to complete his plan of total genocide. Meesha, in an effort to save Ten, travels to Imperiana only to discover Moab has set a diabolical trap for her. Now she must choose between freeing Zefa, her adopted mother, or Ten, the love of her life. One will live and one will die.

 

Get your copy HERE

 

 

My Review:

Five out of Five Stars

I love this trilogy by Rick Stepp-Bolling. It’s been one of my favorite fantasy series. Though all three parts can be read as standalone novels, it’s best if you read them in order. We first learn to care about these characters, Var, Zefa, Ka, Meesha and Ten in Patch Man. Imperial High Command unleashes Ulan, a formidable assassin and mystic who chases the Patch Man and his ragged band of followers through a labyrinth peopled with powerful beings and monsters. Meesha, the one-armed little girl, is the secret key to ultimate victory and peace.

In The Battle for Summia, the second book, the war against Imperiana has reached the point of desperation. The Patch Man has been trapped inside the Source for seven years, unable to use its magic. He knows that Summia’s only hope for survival lies in their ability to recruit warriors from other domains. Meesha is a teenager now, and Ten is the leader of a rebel band. They travel to Haba-Yan in search of the Lore Mistress, Kerash, but find more than they bargained for in the attempt. Meanwhile, the former Imperial assassin, Ulan, has ventured back to the Chunee seeking redemption. What she finds instead may well turn the tide in the final battle for Summia.

With the war in Summia over, Imperiana becomes the new battlefield. Meesha and Ten are adults now. President Gelfson is attempting to create an army of dead Imperialists to invade Summia. His plan is for total genocide. When Ten is captured, Meesha travels to Imperiana to try to save him only to step into a diabolical trap set for her. Now she must choose between freeing Zefa, her adopted mother, or Ten, the love of her life. One will live and the other will die. How can she possibly choose?

Only rarely does a novel come along that has such an emotional effect that it makes me cry. The author managed to bring Var, Ka, Meesha and the rest of the crew to full, three-dimensional life. I felt like I was right there with them, sharing their pain, their determination, fighting their battles. The pace is kept fast from start to finish, tension kept high, and the world building in this series is top notch. I won’t give the ending away, but I can say you won’t be disappointed. I definitely recommend this series for all readers of fantasy/science fiction. If you enjoy gaming, you’ll also enjoy reading all three books in this Patch Man trilogy. Can’t wait to see what Rick comes up with next.

 

Rick Stepp-Bolling, a retired professor of writing from Mt San Antonio College, now resides in Ramona, California, with his wife, Francie, and their collection of rescued animals. He has published four books with a fifth on the way: SMOKE AND MIRRORS (a book of poetry), AUTOCIDE (a collection of short stories), ICARIAN, and his first novel in a fantasy/science fiction series, PATCH MAN, published by Crimson Cloak Publishers. He can be contacted at his website rickstepp-bolling.com.

https://www.facebook.com/RickSteppBolling/
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8424607.Rick_Stepp_Bolling
https://www.linkedin.com/in/rick.stepp.bolling.82796347

 

Patch Man

A prophecy declares a small child will decide the victory between two countries paralyzed by war…

An old man sells magical patches on the ruined streets of Hagra-Dis when a small, one-armed girl begs him to fix her doll. An Imperial missile blast kills the little girl, Meesha, but Var patches her back to life, and they flee marauding storm troopers. Imperial High Command unleashes Ulan, a formidable assassin and mystic who chases the Patch Man and his ragged band of followers through a labyrinth peopled with powerful beings and monsters. Both the pursued and pursuers find themselves in life or death situations when they encounter the Greeter, a mysterious being who controls the entrance to parallel worlds populating the labyrinth. It is in these domains they discover clues to end the war—with little Meesha as the secret key to ultimate victory and peace. Get your copy HERE

 

The Battle For Summia: PATCH MAN II

For Summia, the war against Imperiana has reached the point of desperation. President Gelfson vows to end the fight with the total annihilation of every Summian man, woman and child. Var, the Patch Man, has been trapped inside the Source for seven years, unable to use its magic until now. He knows that Summia’s only hope for survival lies in their ability to recruit warriors from other domains. Meesha, the one-armed teenager, and Ten, the leader of a rebel band, travel to Haba-Yan in search of the Lore Mistress, Kerash, but they find more than they bargained for in the attempt. Meanwhile, the former Imperial assassin, Ulan, has ventured back to the Chunee seeking redemption. What she finds instead may well turn the tide in the final battle for Summia.

Get your copy HERE

 

CRIMSON CLOAK PUBLISHING

**FREE** PATCH MAN By Rick Stepp-Bolling **FREE**

Get your FREE copy HERE

A prophecy declares a small child will decide the victory between two countries paralyzed by war…

An old man sells magical patches on the ruined streets of Hagra-Dis when a small, one-armed girl begs him to fix her doll. An Imperial missile blast kills the little girl, Meesha, but Var patches her back to life, and they flee marauding storm troopers.

Imperial High Command unleashes Ulan, a formidable assassin and mystic who chases the Patch Man and his ragged band of followers through a labyrinth peopled with powerful beings and monsters. Both the pursued and pursuers find themselves in life or death situations when they encounter the Greeter, a mysterious being who controls the entrance to parallel worlds populating the labyrinth. It is in these domains they discover clues to end the war—with little Meesha as the secret key to ultimate victory and peace.

What people are saying about Patch Man:

“After finishing the most current book in this series, I realized I should have written this review long ago, but here it is now. Patch Man almost defies categorization, it’s a rich mashup of fantasy, science fiction, fairy tale, war story, and quest. It’s chock full of fascinating characters each of which seems to have their own special talents. Var, the Patch Man, can use patches of his and his wife, Zefa’s fabrication for all sorts of things. They can open portals in solid rock, the close open doors, they can heal the sick and wounded, and much more. The one-armed girl, Meesha, they adopt in the middle of a battle for the subjection of their country Summia, by a neighboring and apparently natural enemy, Imperiana, has very powerful talents, only barely comprehended as the story begins. These three meet and gather others, Ka, a winged humanoid, Ten, a teenaged boy who captivates Meesha.

The brutal warfare between the countries forces them into a Quest to find the Source who can end the war, and the path is through an underground Labyrinth. where the fun really begins. There are rings of power, dragons, dwarves, grizzles, galgahans, avatars, and magic of every sort. In the Labyrinth are entryways to myriad domains, alternate universes controlled by Greeters These dimensional worlds comprise the Labyrinth Game Quest, which requires each player to solve an independent quest in that domain or face death. Add in Ulan, an assassin from Imperiana, and Ulan, a Lore Mistress, and many varied characters along the way, and you have a rich panoply of individuals striving for ascendency in the author’s world.

Fare for lovers of action and adventure in speculative worlds.” –Larry J. Dunlap (Amazon Reviewer)

“If you enjoy fantasy action genre, then this book is for you. We have magic, adventure and near death experiences mixed with the author’s subtle sense of humor. Within the first chapters, magic is revealed, a one armed child (who may be destined to save the world) is rescued and a flying winged hybrid warrior join forces with a husband and wife. This team is driven from their home into a vast wilderness and soon forced into underground tunnels. In these caverns, many adventures and quests must be faced. Both female and male characters are fully developed and empowered. Toward the end of this read, you will discover how a hundred years of conflict was caused by a culinary concern. I’m sure that all will enjoy this fast paced and well developed story.” —Stephen Hamilton (Amazon Reviewer)

My Review:

Five out of five stars:

Complex story and characters that had me sitting with anticipation on the edge of my seat from start to finish. It’s not often that I find a new author who captures my attention the way Rick Stepp-Bolling did with his Patch Man. He is now on my list of favorite authors and one to watch out for.

You won’t find perfect characters in a perfect world in this story. Meesha, the one-armed girl, is part of a prophecy involving two warring countries, and Var, the old man known as the Patch Man, is destined to help her. They are surrounded by a cast of intensely flawed but likeable characters. We get to watch them grow and step up to the many challenges facing them on a day to day basis.
The story drew me in right from the start when Meesha is almost killed and the Patch Man saves her, taking her back to his home. He has no idea where this will eventually lead or the part he must play in it. This scene and all those that follow are brought to life with vivid detail in setting and non-stop action. We have hybrid creatures, magic, and a strange labyrinth to maneuver through as individual quests are faced. To fail means to die.

I struggled to find areas to be critical of here. There are many characters to keep track of but each one is written in such a way that they become real right from the start. It was easy to move between one scene and the next, the story masterfully woven together for an exciting end. Though this is an obvious series, the story does not leave you hanging in an irritating way. We know more is to come but we’re left anticipating the next installment instead of being frustrated. Can’t wait to read more!

Get your FREE copy of Patch Man HERE

Rick Stepp-Bolling, a retired professor of writing from Mt San Antonio College, now resides in Ramona, California, with his wife, Francie, and their collection of rescued animals. He has published four books with a fifth on the way: SMOKE AND MIRRORS (a book of poetry), AUTOCIDE (a collection of short stories), ICARIAN, and his first novel in a fantasy/science fiction series, PATCH MAN, published by Crimson Cloak Publishers. He can be contacted at his website rickstepp-bolling.com.

https://www.facebook.com/RickSteppBolling/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8424607.Rick_Stepp_Bollin

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rick.stepp.bolling.82796347

Also by Rick:
Autocide: Tales From The Unknown Fork In The Road
Smoke and Mirrors
Patch Man

Books:
SMOKE AND MIRRORS  by Nuvein Press 2009
AUTOCIDE by Claremont Village Press 2014
Anthologies:
BEGGARS CROSSING by Coffee House Writers Group 2013
DARKNESS BREWING by Coffee House Writers Group 2015

Contests:
Urban Ocean Festival (Sponsored by Aquarium of the Pacific) First Place: 2011, 2012.
Whittier Poetry Contest: First Place, 2011

Poetry:

Published by Dirty Dog Press
Statement Magazine (published by CSULA)
Rostrum (published by CCC Academic Senate)

Nuvein on-line magazine
A variety of other small press magazines
Short Stories:
“Chameleon”
“Fire and Ice”
“The Sorcerer”
“Simon Says”
“Autocide”
Nuvein on-line magazine

 

** FREE** “THE DRAGON SLEEPS” by Ellen Read **FREE**

Benedict Archer, who is manager of Thornton Antiques in Melbourne and who has been secretly helping Alexandra learn more about her family business, is also invited. Alexandra asks Benedict and Edith Blackburn, her friend since childhood, to be with her when she approaches her father.

When Edith claims that Benedict is in love with her, Alexandra can’t believe it. In all the time they’d been at Thornton Antiques together, he’d never said a word. Now, Alexandra looks at him differently. Can it be true?

Then a body found in the orchard and, before the weekend is over, a priceless artifact is stolen. Alexandra is determined to discover how these things are connected to the Ming dragon and the antiques her great-grandfather brought with him from Hong Kong so many years ago.

GET YOUR FREE COPY HERE

What others are saying about The Dragon Sleeps

“The Dragon Sleeps is reminiscent of Agatha Christie as others have mentioned; but it was more than that for me. What came to my mind was Nancy Drew which I devoured growing up. Both Alex and Nancy are young women on the cusp; although in two different eras and places, their best friends are very similar and both have a knack for mysteries. Perhaps, I’m reading too much into the similarities. It doesn’t really matter, though. I was hooked. The Inca’s Curse is next…!!!” –Linda L. Oliphant (Amazon Reviewer)

“MC Alexandra was such a joy to follow. Alexandra is very untraditional for her time period, which I absolutely loved. She’s smart as a whip and brave, and determined to carve her own path in life. She’s the kind of character you can root for. I live for strong female characters, and Ellen Read doesn’t disappoint on that account. The author’s love for her homeland, history, architecture, and flowers is displayed with beautiful passion in these pages, and the passion became contagious!

Reading TDS was like stepping into the pages of an old-world Agatha Christie novel. The world Read builds brings the setting, characters, and time period roaring to brilliant life. The romance and suspense left me breathless until the very end.

With amazing story, characters, and historical content, ‘The Dragon Sleeps’ is a luscious literary treat. Highly recommend!” —Kara Harte (Amazon Reviewer)

“The Dragon Sleeps by Ellen Read took me by surprise. How you ask, in a beautiful intriguing way. I don’t read many mysteries, and this one was done so elegantly. The twists and turns throughout kept me guessing. At times I had suspicions on the culprit but never guessed. I didn’t expect to be drawn into the story so quickly, and get so invested in the characters. I could easily envision the surroundings of the The Dragon Sleeps. This story held my attention from page 1. Loved it.” — Amazon Reviewer

My Review:

Five out of five stars

Wow, I felt like I’d been placed in the hands of a masterful storyteller with Ellen Read! In The Dragon Sleeps, the author gives us an expert view into 1920s Australia, which I personally found fascinating. Alexandra is the daughter of a wealthy antiques dealer. She greatly admires her father and grandfather and desires to be a part of the business—not an acceptable job for a woman during this time period. Unbeknownst to her father, Alexandra has convinced their new young employee to teach her about their antique business. Not surprisingly, there just might be a romance blooming between Alexandra and Benedict.

The story begins at the Thornton family home. They are hosting several couples who carry more than a passing interest in some of the antiques stored at their residence. It is here we are introduced to Alexandra and her best friend Edie, and we also learn Alexandra might be developing strong feelings for Benedict. But the budding romance is only a small part of this story, one full of deceit, greed and murder. The hot topic is a brass dragon an antiques dealer named Mr. Zhang sold to Thomas Thornton. When one of the Thornton’s employees is brutally murdered, claw marks visible on his body, some believe the dragon may have come to life. This is especially puzzling when they find blood on the dragon’s claws.

I enjoyed the mystery involved in this story, both with the antiques themselves and the murders taking place around them. The author kept me guessing as to the true murderer (and their motive) right up until the end. Never once did I question the authority about the time period Ellen Read dropped us in, nor her expert knowledge of Ming Dynasty antiques. For those who enjoy murder mystery, detective types, you can’t go wrong with The Dragon Sleeps. I’m looking forward to the next adventure in this series.

Don’t miss out on getting a free copy of this excellent book HERE!

Ellen Read was born in Queensland, Australia. She has always enjoyed reading, even from a young age. As an only child, she made up stories about fairies and little people in other worlds. When she was eighteen, she started writing her first book. Several novels followed, which are now in the proverbial bottom drawer, and Ellen says will probably never see the light of day. She loves to read fiction, non-fiction and poetry and particularly loves history and stories of ancient myths and legends. Authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, and Victoria Holt, the latter of whom wrote gothic mystery/romances, have influenced her own work. Ellen’s other passion is photography. She loves to photograph flowers, landscapes and architecture. Her website features many of her photos. Other interests include music and musical theatre, and dance. Ellen was a ballroom dancing teacher for many years and has also worked in Performing Arts administration.

COMING SOON BY ELLEN READ AND CRIMSON CLOAK PUBLISHING

“THE INCA’S CURSE”

Set in 1928 in Victoria, Australia. The Thornton family made its money in the goldfields during the 1850s and the antiques trade. Thornton Park is their lavish mansion close to Melbourne. They also own a home and a goldmine in Daylesford, in the heart of Victoria, where their close friends, the Bassetti family, are part of a thriving Swiss-Italian community.

Alexandra Thornton has married Benedict Archer. On their honeymoon in Daylesford, Alexandra’s pearls are stolen and within days there are two murders.

Back at Thornton Park, Alexandra discovers a secret compartment in a desk. Inside is a gold and diamond necklace and a letter written by her grandfather, James Thornton. It’s a love letter, Alexandra assumes written to his wife after her death. He claims the necklace is cursed.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS By Karen J. Mossman

Kerry tries to protect her sister, but she can’t protect her mum or herself from Bill, her stepfather. He’s mean and volatile and likes to drink. When she meets Tommy, they fall in love, and she finds out his last girlfriend brought trouble to his nice normal family. Not wanting to jeopardize their relationship and do the same, Kerry tries to keep her secrets behind closed doors.

Eventually, the bruises and the lies tell their own story. She can’t hide the fact Bill is wrecking their family, and deeper family issues threaten to destroy the best thing that ever happened to her—Tommy.

A coming of age story set to a backdrop of seventies music and fashion.

Get your copy HERE

 

What other reviewers are saying about Behind Closed Doors.

“Behind Closed Doors is heartbreaking. I could feel so much of Kerry’s pain as well as the love Tommy had for her. I definitely recommend this story.” — Romaine Heart (Amazon Reviewer)

“This is my first time reading this author. I found this book to be filled with emotion as Kerry shows just how strong of a character she is. It’s wonderfully written and highlights the fact that we don’t always know what is happening behind closed doors. This is an amazing read and I recommend it to everyone…” — Sharon (Vine Voice Amazon)

“The book is a good inspirational romance read. The story has a good story line, and the story is a well written read. The characters are good, and they have good chemistry. The story is an enjoyable emotional romance read.” — Kimberly (Amazon Reviewer)

My review:

Five out of Five Stars

Teenage life is hard enough without adding the problems Kerry must face on a daily basis. She loves her mother and sister and will do anything to try to protect them. But Kerry has big secrets, dark secrets, and she doesn’t want them to ruin her chances with Tommy, a boy she meets from a nice, normal family, not one dysfunctional, like her own. How long can she hide her secrets behind closed doors? How long can she mask the bruises, and the darker story behind them? Will she ever learn to trust Tommy with her secrets?

This author is new to me. I thought she did an excellent job of showing Kerry in a realistic light, her pain, her fear, but also her hope for a better future. In a perfect world, no child would be abused, but we all know this is not a perfect world. The message being given is one of hope for a brighter tomorrow, and taking charge of your own destiny. Karen J. Mossman is a talented author writing a Young Adult story about a taboo subject. Potential triggers involved, though nothing in graphic detail. I definitely plan to read more by this author.

Other novels by Karen J. Mossman. Visit her Amazon Author page HERE

Karen J Mossman has been writing since she was a child, and only went into publishing in 2014.

After spending most of her life in the city, she now resides with her husband and two dogs in Anglesey, off the north Wales coast.

Karen maintains The Magic of Stories website and she also reviews every book she reads on Karen’s Book Buzz Blog.

https://www.facebook.com/karensmagicofstories/

https://twitter.com/KarenJMoss

https://magicofstories.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Claimed by Nicolai

*** NEW RELEASE “CLAIMED BY RAFA” ***

Rafa didn’t think much of the human female when his prince first claimed her for a mate, but her strength of character soon wins him over. He watches with jealous eyes as the love blossoms between them, especially when she begins to swell with the prince’s child. When Rafa’s shaprata begins to mature, and the time arrives for him to claim a mate, he decides to return to Earth to claim a human of his own.

Aaliyah was left devastated when her best friend went missing. Abby was last seen hiking with her faithful German shepherd near one of Oregon’s mountain lakes. Six months later, Aaliyah receives a phone call, the woman on the other end claiming to be Abby, and she wants Aaliyah to drive up to the same lake to meet her … alone.

Emotionally, Aaliyah isn’t as strong as Abby. She’s had a rough childhood and considers herself damaged goods. When the alien tries to claim her, she rejects their union, not sure she is capable of loving a man, even if it means Rafa might die.

Get your copy from Amazon HERE

 

Reviews so far:

“I thoroughly enjoyed Claimed By Rafa (Raiden Warriors Book 2). Definitely a standalone. I read this book without having read Book 1.

Another fantastic book by Denna Holm, whose writing is excellent, as is her world-building. Her characters are engaging and believable. I felt for Aaliyah, who has had a difficult life. Now, she has to make decisions for her future life.

It is also Rafa’s story. He must claim a mate. He’s travelled to Earth specially to find Aaliyah. If she rejects him, he will die, and not just from a broken heart.

Time is of the essence as they journey from Earth through space to new worlds.

I recommend this fast-paced book to those who love fantasy, sci-fi and a great love story.

A definite 5 Star read.”– Ellen Read (Goodreads)

 

“The writing and editing of this novel was clean, with few if any typos that I caught in the ARC version of the manuscript. The world building was excellent, with me the reader getting a vibrant look at this intergalactic society and many different alien species. The characterization was excellent, with both hero and heroine being vibrant, sympathetic individuals. The development of the romantic relationship was natural and organic, and sensitively done considering the trauma in the heroine’s past. the plot and pacing was exciting, with me turning pages rapidly to find out what was going to happen next. This novel contains medium angst and high stakes, which is one of my preferred narrative structures for a romance novel. This novel used the Mars Needs Women trope, the Abused Heroine trope, and the Mating Bond trope. I really enjoyed the longer length of this sci-fi romance. Many are too short, in my opinion. The world building, plot, and pacing were four stars in this novel. The characterization and the development of the romantic relationship were also four stars. The combined score of this novel was therefore four stars. This novel ends on a Happy Ever After ending instead of a cliffhanger, so that is a big plus to this novel. I recommend this novel to fans of sci-fi romances that use the Mars Needs Women tope and read a bit like an adventure novel or travelogue. I plan to buy myself a keeper copy of this novel.” — Jennifer (Goodreads)

“A brilliant book. After reading the first book in the series I was excited to read this one.
SPOILER/TRIGGER WARNING there are parts where rape and child abuse come up more than once, if this is a trigger for you then I wouldn’t advise reading it.

Other than that it was a great read, the main characters have a lot to work through and traitors to find. They do though and they have a happily ever after. If you haven’t read the first book then do, it would be very difficult to follow the characters and storyline otherwise. It was very well written, the plot following on nicely from the first. I look forward to reading the next book 8n the series when it comes out.” — Tasha (Goodreads)

EXCERPT

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Rafael Abeden stared with jealous eyes at the happy couple. Nicolai, his best friend and future king, swung his new mate around in a circle, both laughing. How desperately Rafa craved what Nicolai had with Abby. Raiden warriors were unable to mate with females of their own kind, too much risk of bearing weak children. When their time came, they must claim a female from another species, as Nicolai had done with Abby.

“My friend,” Nicolai called out when Rafa stepped into view. “I’m glad you’re here. We have wonderful news.”

Rafa forced a smile, aware little warmth reached his eyes. Nicolai would notice, but Abby didn’t tend to be so sensitive to his moods. Rafa pounded his chest with a fist, tipping his head without lowering his eyes before the crown prince for the House of Nekbet.

Nicolai clapped him on the shoulder, frowning. “What’s bothering you, Rafa? You look like you want to hit someone.”

“Nothing, Nicolai. What is your news?” he asked as Abby stepped up next to his prince. Now was not the time to discuss his problem. Abby didn’t approve of the methods Raiden warriors used to claim a mate.

Abby grinned, her hand rubbing her lower stomach. “I’m pregnant, Rafa,” she said, wrapping her arms around Nicolai’s neck.

Nicolai grinned almost as broadly as his mate. “I hope we have a son first, but a daughter will also be welcome.”

“You better be happy with a daughter or you won’t get another chance for a son,” Abby growled.

Nicolai laughed, tugging his mate up against his side.

“Congratulations, I’m very happy for you both. It will be nice to have young ones in the palace again.” He glanced away for a moment, fighting against his own rising pain, his jealousy. “May I speak with you for a few minutes, Nicolai?” Rafa avoided Abby’s curious gaze when he added, “Alone.”

“Of course,” Nicolai replied.

Rafa glanced up, finding Abby studying him thoughtfully, her bottom lip pulled behind her front teeth. “I’ll be inside,” she murmured, rising on her tiptoes to kiss Nicolai on the cheek. “Come find me when you’re finished talking.”

They both watched Abby walk toward a gate that led to the palace, her long blonde hair braided and woven into a pattern that marked her as a princess for the House of Nekbet. Rafa knew he would never be able to offer his bride such a title. A commander’s mate didn’t receive a title, but it didn’t mean he would love her any less.

“What’s bothering you, my friend?” Nicolai asked. “You know I don’t keep anything from Abby. You could have spoken in front of her.”

Rafa held back a sigh. “Not over this. My shaprata has begun to swell. I don’t have much time left.”

“Oh,” Nicolai said, his eyes widening. “I should have guessed. You’ve been distracted over this past month.” He took a deep breath, clapping his hand to Rafa’s shoulder as they began to walk. “Do you have a specific type of female in mind?”

“I wish to return to Earth.”

Nicolai froze, dropping his hand back to his side. “Abby will fight us over this, my friend. How much time do I have to try to convince her?”

“Three months, no more.” He should have approached Nicolai sooner, but Rafa had hoped he was mistaken. A shaprata only matured once in a Raiden male’s life. If he couldn’t find a suitable bride to claim from another species, he would be forced to accept a Raiden. Either that or die.

Nicolai motioned for Rafa to accompany him as he headed toward the palace. “Call the Qadira back immediately. Arrange to have her stocked for a lengthy journey.” The Qadira was Nicolai’s personal ship. Rafa knew they would be gone for at least four months, possibly longer. “This could work in our favor,” Nicolai continued. “Abby has been asking me to take her home to visit her family. My mate is intuitive, however. We won’t be able to keep our true motive hidden for long.”

“And if she can’t be persuaded?” Rafa asked, knowing how angry Abby had been when Nicolai claimed her.

“Don’t worry about it. She’ll come around, especially when she sees for herself the negative effects a maturing shaprata has on one of our males. Abby has a kind heart, Rafa. She likes you and won’t want to see you suffer.”

He hoped Nicolai was right, though Rafa wasn’t so sure. Regardless, he no longer had a choice in the matter. The shaprata beneath his tongue burned worse every day. Soon he wouldn’t be able to talk or eat. When that happened, a painful death wouldn’t be far away. He had to find and claim a mate, inject her with his essence, and he craved a human, one exactly like Nicolai’s Abby, beautiful in an alien way, but most importantly, strong, intelligent and fun.

 

CHAPTER 2

 

Aaliyah Walker pulled her Ford Fiesta into the parking lot of the store at Crescent Lake Junction. She reached with trembling fingers for the door handle, hating going out in public. Though not exactly an agoraphobic, it had never been easy for her, especially after Abby disappeared. Her best friend. Her only friend. She’d gone up in the mountains to hunt mushrooms one day with her dog and never returned. These past months had been a nightmare.

Abby, the reason why she was sitting in this rinky dink junction. Her friend had called out of the blue, begging Aaliyah to drive up to Crescent Lake and meet with her. Begged her not to say anything to her parents until after they talked.

“Fuck, Abby, what the hell are you doing?” Aaliyah sat for a moment with her feet outside the car door, half surprised there wasn’t more snow on the ground. Though technically spring in the valley, one never knew what would happen at five thousand feet this time of year.

What if she’d been sent on a wild goose chase? It had sounded like Abby, but what if it wasn’t really her who’d called? She would have driven all the way up here for nothing.

Placing her head on her knees, Aaliyah took a few deep, slow breaths, attempting to slow her racing heart, then pushed to her feet, not meeting anyone’s eye as she entered the store. Abby had asked her to bring a couple slices of pepperoni pizza and a Pepsi to the lake, her favorite food and drink. It’s part of what helped convince Aaliyah to take a chance and drive up here.

Setting the Pepsi down on the counter, she tried to ignore the strange looks by the cashier as she ordered three pieces of pizza. The lady behind the counter acted like she’d never seen a black woman before. Aaliyah shook her head as she held out her money, the beads in her cornrows clacking softly.

God, you better be there, Abby.

“You okay, sweetie,” the lady behind the counter asked, a tall thin woman with short dark hair and razor-thin eyebrows. She must have noticed how hard Aaliyah’s hands shook when she passed over the money. “You in trouble? You need me to call someone for you?”

“I’m good,” she whispered. “Just tired.”

“You sure?” she said, counting out the change.

Aaliyah nodded, grabbing up the pizza and pop before she started bawling like a baby. “Are the roads open to the lake?” she asked.

“Yeah, they’re clear. We’ve had a pretty mild winter this year. Not much snow. You should be fine. You meeting someone there, sweetheart?”

“Yeah. Thanks, I better go.” She made a mad dash to her car before the panic could take full control. She got behind the wheel, shutting the door before she broke down completely, trying to ignore the woman who watched her from inside the store, her expression worried. Okay, so maybe she isn’t racist. “I need to get a grip,” she whispered, slipping the key in the ignition.

“God, Abby, what am I gonna say to you? Why didn’t you call a week ago?” Aaliyah groaned, scrubbing at her face with her closed fists before she backed out of the parking lot. She turned down the familiar road to Crescent Lake, the lake only a few miles away.

It took about ten minutes to reach the spot Abby had told her about, the pizza cold by then, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. The roads had been clear of snow, but there were still deep banks where the plows had piled it up over the winter. She had to park hugging the side of the road because the turnout where Abby wanted to meet was blocked by deep drifts. It would probably be okay. Not like there was a ton of traffic this time of year.

Aaliyah grabbed the pizza and pop, shivering as she exited the warmth of her car. She walked carefully down to a picnic table, glad she’d worn snow boots this morning as she struggled to get past the deep drifts. The lake itself was peaceful, beautiful even, and, as she sat at the table, which was thankfully clear of snow, she could almost relax and enjoy the view. There weren’t any boats out on the water, though maybe fishing season hadn’t opened yet. A tiny bit of weight lifted off her chest, allowing her to breathe normally again.

Aaliyah’s stomach growled, and she glanced over at the pizza, tempted to take a bite or two. Abby wouldn’t mind. They’d often shared food in the past. Instead, she cracked open a Pepsi and took a long drink, a few bubbles fizzing in her nose. A light wind kicked up, and she wrapped her coat tighter around her, thinking this better not be someone’s idea of a sick joke.

“Hey there, girlfriend, long time no see. I’m so glad you came.”

Startled, Aaliyah gasped, spilling the pop as she jumped up from the table. She didn’t stop to question where her friend had come from. “Abby, is that really you?”

“Yeah, it’s me.”

Aaliyah slapped a hand to her mouth, shocked. She ran at Abby, throwing her much shorter body into her friend’s strong arms. Then the anger struck, and she stepped back, scowling at Abby. “You ass, I thought you were dead!” she yelled. “How could you do that to us, Abbs? Oh, my God, your mom and dad, Sam. We were all sick about it.” Aaliyah started to shake, and it had nothing to do with the cold.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Liyah.” Abby pulled her back into her arms, squeezing tight. “It’s a long, long story and I’m gonna need some time to get through it.” She held Aaliyah until she stopped shaking so hard. “Is that my pizza?” Abby tugged on one of Aaliyah’s long braids. “Come on, let’s eat, okay. You don’t know how long I’ve waited for a slice of real pizza, even that crummy store-bought stuff.”

Aaliyah backed up enough to give Abby room, but she refused to let go of her, keeping her arm hooked tight through Abby’s.

“You want one?” Abby said. “You like pepperoni, right?”

“You go ahead,” Aaliyah said, wanting Abby to hurry up and eat so she could get some answers to her many questions. She still needed to tell Abby about her family, the thought twisting her stomach into knots again.

They sat in silence for about ten minutes, Abby obviously enjoying her cold pizza and Pepsi. When she finally finished, folding up the napkin and wiping her mouth, Aaliyah narrowed her eyes, her anger rushing back again.

“What the fuck, Abby! I mean, What. The. Fuck!” She pushed away from the table, leaving Abby sitting there with her mouth hanging open. Aaliyah didn’t care. “You scared the shit out of all of us. My God, who just goes and runs off like that, not telling anyone anything? Not calling. Your dad thought a fucking bear got ahold of you. You know how sick he felt, thinking he was gonna find a damned half-eaten corpse in the mountains? Where the hell did you go, Abbs?”

Abby bit her lower lip, rolling it under. “I’m sorry. I didn’t have a choice in the matter.”

“What? Were you kidnapped? Abducted? Cause that’s about the only excuse I’m gonna take right now. I’ve been so angry with you. Why didn’t we get a ransom? It’s not like we weren’t expecting one.”

Abby raised her eyebrows, her mouth quirked. “Uh, well, minus the ransom part, that’s about exactly what happened, only probably not in the way you’re thinking.”

Aaliyah stopped her rant, horrified. “Oh my God,” she whispered, feeling faint. “Oh, baby, I’m so sorry.” She wrapped her arms around Abby. “Did they…?” Her voice broke. “Oh, God, did they rape you, baby? Did you get caught up in one of those human trafficking deals? How did you get away? Are you hiding out? Is that why you wanted me to meet you here?”

“No, nothing like that. They actually treated me good. Or most of them anyway. I have to admit it took a bit of time to accept what happened.”

“Accept? Why would you ever accept it?” Aaliyah forced herself to take a step back. She frowned, gazing up into her friend’s pale face. Abby didn’t act particularly upset about being abducted. “They? How many were there?” When Abby started to look uncomfortable, she pressed, “What’s goin’ on here? Are you still in trouble?” Aaliyah took a good look around, but she didn’t see anyone. “We can leave now, go to the police and report them.” Except the police had never been much help with her problems. “Come on, my car’s right there. Let’s just go.”

Abby shook her head, her hair a little stiff with the strange weave job down her back. Aaliyah kept her hair in cornrows, but her kinky hair tended to be a mess if she didn’t. She’d never known Abby to braid her hair, let alone weave it. “Look, Liyah, this is gonna be awkward at first so I’m just gonna jump in here and say it, okay?”

“Yeah, I kinda wish you would. You’re making me nervous here, Abbs.”

Abby smiled, but there was a hint of worry behind it. “I was abducted by . . . oh, shit, this is gonna sound crazy. I was abducted by aliens.”

Aaliyah didn’t react at first, not sure she’d heard right. “Uh, you mean someone from another country, right? Human traffickers? Can’t believe they’d bother stalking the damned mountains. I mean, how many young women would be out hiking alone?” Well, obviously Abby had been. “How did you get free?”

Abby sighed, her shoulders slumping. “I never said it was human traffickers. You did. I’m not talking about human aliens. I’m talking about alien aliens, like from outer space.” She rolled her lip under again, her blue eyes worried.

Aaliyah snorted, then laughed. “Are you seriously trying to fuck with me right now? I am so not amused here.” She sniffled in the cold air, then cleared her throat. “So, let me get this straight, you’re trying to say little green men from outer space abducted you? Oh, my God! Do you have any freaking idea how crazy that sounds?”

“Well, they aren’t green, and they aren’t exactly little, but yeah, that’s about right. Most of them, the men anyway, are over seven feet tall, and parts of their skin kinda resembles a . . . well, a lizard’s, to be honest. No tail or anything like that, but . . . well, you’ll see. I’m hoping you’ll come back with me. I know you don’t have a lot to keep you here and we could have a lot of fun, Liyah. I admit I was pretty freaked out at first, but once I got to know everyone and realized they weren’t gonna hurt me, it wasn’t so bad. It’s hard to explain. You need to see it for yourself. I’m talking Star Trek times a hundred here.”

She’d lost her freaking mind. Whatever had happened during these past few months, Abby had totally lost her shit. Aliyah needed to get her down to a hospital, see what types of drugs her kidnappers might have used on her. She nodded, deciding to play along, and walked over to loop her arm through Abby’s, trying to guide her toward the car. “I love your hair, by the way. You decided to take a few tips from me, huh?”

Abby reached back to finger her braids, refusing to take a step. “Uh, actually, Nicolai did this. It’s sorta tradition with his people, a royalty thing. I don’t think you’ll have to change your hair style, though.”

Aaliyah smiled, nodding. “Okay, that’s good, I guess. I like my hair just the way it is.” She took a deep breath and looked around. Maybe for the first time in their long friendship, it wasn’t Aaliyah in trouble. “It’s pretty up here and all, but maybe we should drive down the mountain before it gets dark.”

Abby sighed. “You don’t believe me, do you?”

“Well, you have to admit it’s a bit much to take in.” God help her, Abby was obviously having some sort of mental breakdown. Now wasn’t the time to say anything about her family. Her sister, Samantha, would be happy to see her if they didn’t end up keeping Abby in the mental health ward at the hospital. “Come on, Abbs, let me take you down to see Sam.”

A pained look entered Abby’s eyes. Okay, maybe she already knew. Aaliyah rolled her bottom lip with her teeth, a nervous habit she’d picked up from Abby and Sam.

Abby turned to walk down by the water. Given no choice, Aaliyah slowly followed. She’d left her cell phone in the car, though she wasn’t sure there would be a tower up this high. They were both quiet as she fell into step beside Abby. Every now and then, Aaliyah would reach down and pick up a flat stone, skipping it across the water.

Finally, Abby stopped and turned to face her. “I guess I’m just gonna have to prove it to you.”

“Prove what?” Aaliyah reached up to rub the back of her neck, feeling like someone was watching her. But no one else was here except Abby. Then it dawned on her that there wasn’t another car. “Uh, exactly how did you get up here, Abbs? Did someone drop you off?”

“No, we were . . . beamed, I guess is the easiest way to describe it. I can’t say I’m thrilled with that sort of travel, but we thought you might freak out if we flew a shuttle down. They’re quite large and hard to hide. I was afraid you wouldn’t get out of the car.” Abby looked up at the sky, a few fluffy clouds hanging in a bright blue sky. “We came on a ship called the Qadira. It’s a spaceship, Liyah, and it’s absolutely huge. I swear the thing is as big as a small city.” She chuckled. “Guess it needs to be big though. You’ll understand when you meet them.”

“What? You’re not making any sense.” Did she honestly believe she’d been abducted by aliens? Obviously so.

“I brought two guys down here with me. They’re from a planet called Raiden. One of them is my . . . husband. The other one is his best friend. I want you to meet them.”

“Your what?” Aaliyah glanced around again, not seeing anyone. “Uh, where are they?”

“They can camouflage their bodies, blend in with the trees and brush around us. It’s why you can’t see them right now.”

“Oh, Abby, you’re starting to scare me here. Let’s just go, okay. I wanna go home now. You need to go see Sam.” This story sounded crazy, yet Aaliyah could swear she could feel eyes on her, watching her every move. She rubbed at the prickly sensation on the back of her neck.

“Nicolai told me it would probably be easier to just take you up there, but I wanted to try talking to you first.” Abby stepped forward and grabbed both Aaliyah’s hands. “Baby, I want you to know that we won’t force you. If you decide you want to go back home, then I’m gonna let you go, okay? I want you to come with me to the ship. Just check it out.”

“Abby?” Aaliyah said, trying to tug her hands away. Movement over Abby’s shoulder drew her attention to one of the large pines, small piles of snow around the outside edges. She blinked, seeing the outline of a man form against it. A huge man. It hadn’t been there before, she felt sure of it. Then another took shape a few feet away, this one against some heavy brush, both gigantic men, much taller than Abby, and definitely more muscular. “Abby!” she cried out, jerking one hand loose to point, her body primed to run. “What the fuck is that?”

“Please don’t be scared, Liyah. You’re killing me here. Let me introduce you to them. I swear they won’t hurt you.”

“I want you to let me g-go, now. I w-wanna leave. You promised you’d let me leave.”

The two men remained blurry, just vague outlines until they stepped up beside Abby. They weren’t human, their faces not ugly exactly, but definitely not human, the brows more pronounced, the cheekbones too sharp, their mouths too wide. Eyebrows weren’t made of hair, but some type of raised colored scales. The eyes were weird, coal black with slitted red pupils. Their black hair was worn long and loose over broad shoulders, the texture courser than a regular person’s. Their skin coloring was mainly bronze, though they also had these strange patches of beaded black skin with a diamond-shaped pattern that matched the color of their eyebrows, one of the men with red and the other dark orange. It ran down the sides of their necks, their shoulders, and….

Aaliyah screamed, her eyes starting to roll as one of them moved quickly around Abby to her side. She didn’t feel the ground when she started to fall, just a tiny prick to her neck before everything faded away, leaving behind a feeling of weightlessness.

 

 

A 38 DAY EDUCATION by John E. Guzzardo

For one student, college is about to become the education of a lifetime.

When Jay Ferragamo becomes Editor of The Scope, South Central College’s campus newspaper, he quickly learns the financial disaster he’s been handed. Rather than giving up, Jay embarks on a mission to secure the needed funds to revive the newspaper, and receives a lesson in both campus and small-town politics. Complicating matters, Jay learns the source of The Scope’s financial travails; thievery by a former staffer who belongs to one of the college’s most generous families. Calling this person to account will mean not only exposing one of the most notorious scandals in the city’s history, but could also destroy Jay’s college career.

Will Jay be able to get The Scope back in business and get justice, or will he and his newspaper become the big story?

Get your copy HERE

What others are saying about A 38 Day Education!

“A 38 Day Education took me back to the feeling of being young and idealistic but uncertain how to meet challenges that you never could have imagined existed. I was rooting for Jay to find a victory as he worked and puzzled out how to cope with the rules both written and unwritten. It seemed pretty hopeless each time another catastrophe dropped in Jay’s lap to wonder, “How the heck is he going to cope with that one?” He always did and never in a way I might have guessed.” – Lynne Murray—Amazon Review

“Once the ride “really started” I couldn’t stop reading. The rest of the characters mesh like clockwork into their roles. Craig Johannsen is my favorite – Jays voice of reason in this story. The rest of the newspaper staff is solid and steadfast as college students can be. Even Cassie Owinger, who comes across as seriously ditzy and out of it, has her moments of brilliance. The real fun is between Tasha Davidson and Madeline Duncan, two backstabbing sorority girls, as well the rest, including angry politicians. Also juicing things up are back door deals, failures, emotional ups and downs, sex (yes it has a little and it’s a toned down sort of steam), romance and even some triumphs, though incomplete, which round out the story.” – Twihard Tanya—Amazon Reviewer

MY REVIEW:

Five out of Five Stars

Jay Ferragamo is a young college student who is forced to grow up fast when he takes over as Editor of The Scope for South Central College. The paper was left with no funds because of a thief—the daughter of one of the college’s most generous families. Dealing with college and small-town politics becomes a headache he’s not sure he’s ready for.

I enjoyed following Jay Ferragamo in John Guzzardo’s A 38 Day Education. A very realistic view of campus life for a young college student. We watch as Jay struggles to deal with complicated issues that could end up destroying his college career if he isn’t very careful.

My college days are far in the past, thankfully, but this story brought back many memories. A great read by a talented author. Definitely worth taking a look.

 

John E. Guzzardo has been writing, in one form or another, for over 20 years. His writing career began in high school, continuing to college as Editor of his campus newspaper from 1994 through 1996, and again in 2011. After moving to Atlanta he signed his first publishing contract the day after a major snowstorm stuck, crippling the city. John received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from Georgia Southwestern State University in December 2017. John spends much of his free time writing, playing with his cats, and enjoying different blends of coffee. His favorite writers include David Barry, Peter David, and indie author Olivia Gracey.

John returned to the Tampa Bay area in 2018 from Atlanta, where he moved in 2013. He has also lived in Cleveland, Ohio and Northeast Pennsylvania. He has been married for more than 20 years and enjoys spending time with his wife, Tanya, and their cats.

**FREE TODAY: HOUSE OF PAIN**

 

Get your copy HERE

Maggie Shelbador is a half-breed succubus with a heart. Though raised inside one of the worst whorehouses in the world, all she wants is to find one man who will love her despite what she is. She dreams of one day being free of her nightmarish life but fears no man will ever truly trust her.

The year is 3515 and most of the world has been destroyed by a combination of natural disasters and man’s neglect. The whole human race faces extinction. To survive, the leaders of the day approach demons for help, not understanding the high price they will be forced to pay. Normally bound by the summoner’s magic, the demons know Maggie is the key to giving them free access to Earth.

Daniel is a widower with a young son. He is out hunting one day when his settlement is attacked and his son abducted. He tracks them to House of Pain, not realizing a trap is being set for him. Though tortured, Daniel refuses to break when they try to force him to prostitute himself—until a beautiful blonde woman is brought into the room, her power stripping away his self-control.

REVIEWERS ARE SAYING:

“House of Pain, by Denna Holm, is a dark, provocative and devilish book that will leave you lusting for more! … I loved Holm’s writing style. It was dripping with tension, drama, romance, and a dark-side that I truly found intriguing. Her story did not drag on, the scenes moved quickly, and I did not want to put it down. I found it quite easy and fun to read! Be certain you are one who is down for some macabre, some romance and some sexiness in this fantasy fiction novel.” — Literary Titan

*

“This is a post-apocalyptic, Wild Western themed, paranormal romance/adventure where love alone keeps the evil at bay.

What a mouthful! But it is so worth it. Magdalena is a half succubus in 3515 CE. A time that is roughly 1500 years from now and a time that the world is sill recuperating from a nuclear war. The war was egged on by demons who wanted access to our realm. These demons are not your average fallen angels. They are nasty, evil critters that live in an even nastier realm that they are unable to leave without a summoning from a human and not able to stay here for long.” — Diana the Book Nerd

*

“Fighting against her demonic powers, Maggie succeeds – most of the time – to keep her soft, gentle human side at the forefront. With her sidekicks, Noah and Thomas, to help her, Maggie feels safe in knowing that her virginity will remain in tact. Then along comes Daniel. Daniel, searching for his 5 year old son, finds himself a prisoner in the House of Pain. The Bledel twins, who are the owners of The House of Pain, are evil to the core. Their Demonic Master orders them to bring him Maggie. Now the twists and turns begin when the twins lead Maggie through the maze of tunnels, in the House of Pain, and show her the chained up Daniel. What happens after their encounter changes Maggie’s way of life. I loved reading about all the characters in this book. I hope there is a follow-up.” — Amazon Reviewer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHASING MORTALITY By Ricky German

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“I am your death Aedan, and so you are drawn to me…”

Aedan, an immortal sidhe, must journey through the land of mortals in pursuit of the one who has cursed him: a mysterious creature known as Linet. Aware that Linet’s sanity is quickly deteriorating, it is a race against time to find her before she becomes something that can bring ruin upon the lands of Eriu.

On his journey Aedan must come to grips with the culture of Milesians, mortals whose ways seem primitive and futile to his sensibilities, a race that still harbors resentment after the war between the two peoples a century ago. Still, Aedan must study their mannerisms, in the hope that he can understand the spark that so drives them, a spark that his own kind had lost long ago.

My Review:

Five out of five Stars

If you are interested in Irish folklore about the Tuatha De Danaan, then this is definitely the book for you. I felt this talented author definitely did his homework before he wrote these facinating stories in Chasing Mortality. We learn about a creature who was once human but only wants to fade away, and he’s willing to kill anyone who tries to remember him. We meet a familiar who is willing to kill to protect the woman who takes care of him. Also a creature who shows up as an apparition to unwary travelers at an Inn. Three days later they disappear, never to be seen again. In another we have a man who marries a tree, but the tree is much more than it first appears. We have changelings, and mad queens, and portraits that cause people to go insane. Legend says the Tuatha De taught mortals about architecture, the arts, and magic, but they also brought us their darker abilities, including dealings with necromancy. This is a unique read as it is a series of short stories that work to come together as a novel. You feel the tension build in each story as time quickly runs out for Aedan, who has been cursed by the mysterious Linet. I learned a lot about the sidhe and their darker side as the cursed Aedan tries to track down Linet, but we also learn they weren’t all heartless when it came to dealing with mortal humans. I personally enjoyed each and every one of the stories in this novel and can’t recommend it high enough. It’s definitely one you’ll want to take a chance on.

Ricky German is an aspiring writer and professional desk jockey.  When not doing either he is a keen practitioner of aikido, of which he is a black belt, and spends time hiking the moors and woodlands, exploring the paths less travelled. He is also torturing his neighbors with an ill-conceived attempt to learn the violin. Ever the escapist, he is currently evading real life to work on Aedan and Linet’s world in the form of several short stories.

His story VICTIMS OF VANITY won joint first prize in Crimson Cloak Publishing’s 2016 short story writing competition and is published in the anthology compilation of the best entries THE RIDER.

https://www.facebook.com/ricky.german

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THE DRAGON SLEEPS By Ellen Read

Get your copy HERE

Benedict Archer, who is manager of Thornton Antiques in Melbourne and who has been secretly helping Alexandra learn more about her family business, is also invited. Alexandra asks Benedict and Edith Blackburn, her friend since childhood, to be with her when she approaches her father.

When Edith claims that Benedict is in love with her, Alexandra can’t believe it. In all the time they’d been at Thornton Antiques together, he’d never said a word. Now, Alexandra looks at him differently. Can it be true?

Then a body found in the orchard and, before the weekend is over, a priceless artifact is stolen. Alexandra is determined to discover how these things are connected to the Ming dragon and the antiques her great-grandfather brought with him from Hong Kong so many years ago.

What secret has remained hidden at Thornton Park for the last eight years?

What people are saying about The Dragon Sleeps!!

“The Dragon Sleeps is a murder mystery, romance and historical fiction mixed with bits of ancient Chinese legend and mythology. Alex has astute observation skills when it comes to reading behavior and expressions. She is also intuitive in discerning what isn’t said… The characters are solidly built, however, it doesn’t take long for Alex to peel back some of the layers to reveal their true nature underneath. The romance between Alex and Benedict develops quickly under the watchful eye of Edie, Alex’s best friend. I enjoyed reading how this love story unfolded. Stardust now has a whole new meaning for me… Yes, I Googled “Stardust “!” — Linda L. Oliphant, Amazon

“Reading TDS was like stepping into the pages of an old-world Agatha Christie novel. The world Read builds brings the setting, characters, and time period roaring to brilliant life. The romance and suspense left me breathless until the very end. With amazing story, characters, and historical content, ‘The Dragon Sleeps’ is a luscious literary treat. Highly recommend!” — Kara Harte, Amazon

“Ellen Read weaves a remarkable tale of mystery and murder. Set in the 20’s the reader is whisked away to a glamorous time of dashing men and daring women. Alexandra Thorton is a women confident in herself and devoted to her family. When murder invades her world and precious family artifacts go missing she is determined to see justice. There is mystery, action and a dash of romance; a sure recipe for a great book. Ellen has a wonderfully descriptive writing style that captivates the reader. I recommend you pick up a copy today.” — Amazon reviewer

MY REVIEW:

Five out of Five Stars

Wow, I felt like I’d been placed in the hands of a masterful storyteller with Ellen Read! In The Dragon Sleeps, the author gives us an expert view into 1920s Australia, which I personally found fascinating. Alexandra is the daughter of a wealthy antiques dealer. She greatly admires her father and grandfather and desires to be a part of the business—not an acceptable job for a woman during this time period. Unbeknownst to her father, Alexandra has convinced their new young employee to teach her about their antique business. Not surprisingly, there just might be a romance blooming between Alexandra and Benedict.

The story begins at the Thornton family home. They are hosting several couples who carry more than a passing interest in some of the antiques stored at their residence. It is here we are introduced to Alexandra and her best friend Edie, and we also learn Alexandra might be developing strong feelings for Benedict. But the budding romance is only a small part of this story, one full of deceit, greed and murder. The hot topic is a brass dragon an antiques dealer named Mr. Zhang sold to Thomas Thornton. When one of the Thornton’s employees is brutally murdered, claw marks visible on his body, some believe the dragon may have come to life. This is especially puzzling when they find blood on the dragon’s claws.

I quite enjoyed the mystery involved in this story, both with the antiques themselves and the murders taking place around them. The author kept me guessing as to the true murderer (and their motive) right up until the end. Never once did I question the authority about the time period Ellen Read dropped us in, nor her expert knowledge of Ming Dynasty antiques. For those who enjoy murder mystery, detective types, you can’t go wrong with The Dragon Sleeps. I’m looking forward to the next adventure in this series.

Ellen Read was born in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She has always enjoyed reading, even from a young age. Books took her into a world of wonder and enjoyment that the real world could never quite provide. She loves to read fiction, non-fiction, poetry. She particularly loves history and stories of ancient myths and legends. Authors such as Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, and Victoria Holt, the latter of whom wrote gothic mystery/romances, have influenced her own work.

In her childhood, Ellen always made up stories. At first, she wrote poetry and short stories, and then wrote her first novel at 18. After a few novels, an agent in London took her on but the agent was made redundant before she’d secured a contract with a publisher. At that time, Ellen became heavily involved in the performing arts world and found less time to write. She loved all her work and experiences there but wanted to write more and get published. When Ellen moved towns, just over three years ago, she decided that would be the start of her new writing career. She wrote a novella, Love The Gift, while moving, which she self-published. Then she started The Dragon Sleeps, the first book in The Thornton Mysteries.

Ellen’s other passion is photography. She loves to photograph flowers, landscapes and architecture. Her website features many of her photos.

www.ellenread.com

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