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Ardent is here!

Releasing February 1, 2017 from Manifold Press!

Hot Italian Renaissance painters. Do I really need to say more?

 

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What it’s about:

In the village of Torrenta, master painter Morello has created a color that mimics the most expensive pigment of all, the crimson red. Master Zeno, from strife-ridden Medici Florence, tells him the color gives him a competitive advantage – but Morello must be careful. Fraud is ever-present in the dye and pigment markets.
 
As they work together in Torrenta, Morello falls hard for Zeno’s assistant, Benedetto Tagliaferro, a young man of uncommon beauty and intelligence. Benedetto is still fixed on his old lover, the master painter Leo Guisculo, and cannot return Morello’s affections.
 
But when Leo dies in a terrible accident, it’s to Morello that Zeno and Benedetto turn for help. And Morello soon finds that in Florence, every surface hides layers of intrigue.

75,600 words of Historical Romantic Suspense in passionate Renaissance Italy

A Sneak Peek:

The village of Torrenta, Tuscany, June 1475

Morello

The sun thrust warm fingers into the ancient Tuscan earth. The gray-green leaves of the olive trees shimmered, and the woods beyond beckoned Morello to abandon the painters’ workshop for their cool refuge.

In the growing heat the apprentices inside settled into an afternoon nap, curled on benches in dark corners behind him. The harsh fumes of linseed oil and varnish had irritated Morello all morning, and he was unable to sleep in the miasma. Perhaps before their visitors from Florence arrived, he might escape the heat. A long tramp in the woods pulled at his bones.

He reached for the walking stick behind the door, but a horse’s whinny stopped him, and a man’s voice called out. When no one stirred within to answer, he cursed the sleepers and stomped back through the shop, thwarted. In the lane in front of the workshop, two men removed packs from their horses.

“Good day, Master Zeno!” From the doorway, Morello called to the older of the two. “You made good time!”

At the sound of Morello’s voice, the apprentices roused themselves from sleep and peered around him.

The gray-haired master raised his hand and smiled. “Good day, Master Morello.”

Master Zeno’s companion, a tall young man with flowing golden hair, took the older man’s pack for him and shouldered the straps of both.

“Take their horses to the stable and fetch Master Franco,” Morello ordered the apprentices, and they hurried to obey.

Master Zeno’s journeyman brushed dust from the sleeve of his sweat-stained linen shirt, slapped more dust from his long thighs, and ran a forearm across his brow. His smile was uncertain as his glance met Morello’s.

Donato stood at the window yawning and scratching his stomach. He shaded his eyes for a better look into the misty glare of the afternoon. “Who’s the beauty with the master?”

Donato’s fellow journeyman Primo jumped to his feet and crowded against Morello in the doorway. “Can it be? He’s brought Tagliaferro?”

Donato groaned. “The man you’ve been mooning about since you last went to Florence, Primo? You’ve only just finally shut up about him.”

Morello ignored them. His irritation over his interrupted walk had vanished. Primo’s garlic- and onion-laden breath on his neck registered only remotely. He gazed out at the man from Florence, who, in Morello’s memory, had once been a long-legged boy with a head of yellow fluff too big for his skinny body. Morello stepped out into the sunlight that appeared to pour itself over the grown man, and stretched out his hand in greeting. Maintaining frank eye contact, Benedetto Tagliaferro adjusted the packs and took his hand.

When flesh met flesh, Morello stumbled – at least, his heart did. As if the wind from the beating wings of the love-inspiring putti he had painted just that morning pushed them toward each other.

“Do you remember me?” Benedetto asked with the shadow of that boy’s grin.

About Heloise West:

Heloise West, when not hunched over the keyboard plotting love and mayhem, dreams about moving to a villa in Tuscany. She loves history, mysteries, and romance of all flavors. She travels and gardens with her partner of thirteen years, and their home overflows with books, cats, art, and red wine.

Where to find Heloise:

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GoodReads

Happy New Year! We Survived!

  If you can see this, you’ve made it through 2016. Or at least, 2016 on the east coast of Canada. Hoisting a glass to you all in hopes of a better 2017.

My resolutions haven’t changed much. Keep fixing up the house. Buy a newer car, as this one is getting up there in years. Take the kid on a trip, since she’s never been farther than my mother’s in her life. And try to get back to writing, which given that it’s another job on top of the two I have already… urgh. But, houses must be repaired and bills must be paid. I’ve requested a schedule change at job one to give me a day every two weeks home with no distractions. So a new resolution for this year is to make that work for me, lol. And, I’m hiring people to do these things, instead of trying to do it myself, because it’ll get done faster and better.

So, as a gift from me to you, for surviving this absolute shit of a year, I give you:

A Nutty Interlude(maybe some slight spoilers? not really. Like Vince is ever going to leave Nathan, right?)

“I’ve never had a real tree before,” Vince said through a mouthful of pine needles. He spit out the branch trying to feed itself to him and peered down the trunk at Nathan. “Now I know why.”

“It’s just a few needles,” Nathan said. “They’ll clean up easy.”

“We should have done this tomorrow. Who takes down the Christmas tree on New Year’s Eve?”

“In my family, it’s a survival requirement.” Nathan was about to explain, when the explanation himself burst out of the tree and landed on Vince’s head. “Luke!” Nathan yelled. “Get off him or you’re spending New Year’s outside!”

The squirrel, a gray-backed cousin of Nathan’s, spun in a circle, digging his claws into Vince’s scalp as he turned. Vince’s eyes started to tear up with pain and the tree slipped out of his grasp when he tried to wipe them. The tree rolled and tipped sideways, and Nathan was pulled off-balance on the slippery front step.

Whoosh! Down he went, bumping over each step with the tree sliding merrily after him and his Cousin Luke yelling excited squirrel obscenities into the chill air.

“Nathan! Nathan? Are you okay?” Vince fumbled his way past the branches splayed over the step and fell to his knees beside Nathan.

“Yeah,” Nathan wheezed. Visions of acorns danced around his head for a moment, unlike the pleasant ones at Christmas, then slowly faded.

Cousin Luke bounded up the tree to sit on Nathan’s chin and peer worriedly at his face, only accidentally sticking his little front paws up Nathan’s nose once. He chittered once, asking if Nathan was okay, and Nathan chittered back that he would, but Luke wouldn’t be if he didn’t get a grip on himself. Luke shot back an angry chitter and spun to race back into the house.

“We better go after him,” Nathan said and began to fight his way out from underneath the tree. “He’ll get into something, for sure.”

“Well, I guess 2016 is having a last go at us,” Vince said as he helped Nathan to his feet. “You sure you’re all right?”

“Yeah. This isn’t the first time Cousin Luke did something landed landed me with a bruised butt.” He smiled and cuddled into Vince’s arms. “You may want to check me over later to make sure there’s no permanent damage.”

“Already in the works.” Vince held him close. “Let’s get the tree out to the end of the driveway and then we can plan our own personal fireworks.”

As they dragged the tree over the lawn, Nathan decided that no matter how bad 2016 had been, he still had Vince, and if even Nathan’s family hadn’t chased him away, then maybe it wasn’t an entirely moldy year after all.

Surprise! It’s Just a Week by Jena Wade

Jena stepped into the breach for another author and her new book, Just A Week, has come out a week early! (I could make the obvious pun, but it’s already been done, lol.)

It’s a cute story, kind of an opposites attract/don’t judge a book by its cover/you never know where you’re gonna find love theme. Very simple, but sweet and endearing. It’s on for $2.69 for its debut week. 🙂

JenaWade_JustAWeek_COVERLGLoose Id

Blurb:
Just a week is not enough time to fall in love, but Fate doesn’t care. Seth’s carefully crafted plan for how his life will go doesn’t include falling in love with a guy in his horrible hometown. He wants to start a new life anywhere but at home. Until Maddox storms in with his multi-colored hair and carefree attitude.
Long distance relationships don’t work and Seth isn’t into gambling with his future. But the more time he spends with Maddox, the more he’s willing to throw caution to the wind. Now his plan for the rest of his life has been turned upside down and seems to include things Seth never thought possible, including a lifetime of happiness in his hometown.

Excerpt:
I headed out the door and grabbed the book I started a few days ago out of my car. In high school I would always go to the park and read when it was nice out. My parents were happy knowing I got fresh air, and I was happy just to get lost in the world of whatever book had captured my attention.
I found my usual bench unoccupied. Thank goodness. It sat underneath a giant oak tree that provided a good amount of shade. About a hundred feet away sat a set of playground equipment for kids. Since it was Sunday evening, there weren’t many kids around.

The screech and clicks of skateboards on metal had me looking around like I’d just entered a parallel universe. What the hell?

Where there used to be old basketball hoops with raggedy nets, there now stood a half-pipe and other random obstacles used for skateboarding tricks. A half dozen teenagers and young adults whizzed around each other. Some on boards, others on rollerblades. All of them moving at high speed.

There was a lot of laughing, and every so often someone shouted, “Check this out,” before trying some stunt on the rail, usually resulting in a fall or stumble.

Squealing kids on a swing set I could drown out. But this, I wasn’t so sure about. It was new. And distracting.

One young man in particular stood out. Mostly because he had bright orange hair that spiked in every direction, possibly looking like it could impale a person if they were to touch it. Like a cactus. He also looked a bit older than the teenagers that surrounded him, which might explain why they all seemed to look up to him like he was a god.

He wore a black zip-up sweatshirt, though it was warm enough to go without, and jeans that were skintight.

Once I started watching him, I noticed that the other skaters watched him too. He had talent. He kept his balance well, and his moves seemed effortless. While the other skaters floundered and wobbled as they zoomed around, he kept calm and collected.

I didn’t understand the appeal of skateboarding, especially on a half-pipe. What was the purpose of putting yourself in harm’s way like that? Might as well throw myself down a flight of stairs if I wanted to break a bone.

Orange-haired Guy stood on the deck of the half-pipe. He stared down the slope below, his face unreadable. He didn’t call the others to gather around and watch, though I had a feeling they would anyway.
He took a deep breath and hopped on his board.

I held my breath, like I was the one up there. I watched in wonder as he gained momentum, back and forth, up and down the half-pipe. Once he had enough speed he began his flips. It looked amazing to me. Him flipping in the air, his feet staying on the board as he spun, then landing perfectly to do it all over again. I guess I had never bothered to watch any skateboarding before. Maybe I would have if they had looked like this skateboarder.

The Romance Reviews Awards–Go Team Nathan!

squirrel ARe coverNuts About You has been nominated in The Romance Reviews Awards for this year, but it needs votes to keep moving through the rounds of the competition. If you like the nutty little rascal, and think that Nathan is a winner (I know Vince thinks he is), could you pop over here and click the blue Nominate This Book button at the top of the page?

Nathan and Vince and I thank you with all our hearts. (Sigh. Charlie’s in the corner laughing his tail feathers off at us. I swear I’m putting crazy glue on that feeder.)

Tuesday Tickle: Kev 'n Mo

Yep, still tanking NaNo. Really resenting the dayjob now. Fingers crossed we get a storm day on Thursday–not that I’ll have time to NaNo even if we do, but it’ll let me catch up on some of the dayjob stuff that’s hanging around my neck like a millstone.

Have I mentioned I’m not enjoying this job right now? Grrrr.

Anyway, here’s a small piece from the NaNo novel, which takes place just after Christmas break, until I change my mind about that. 😛 Mo proposed a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship to Kev, which Kev–of course–shut right down. Until the weekend after everyone gets back…

One busy week after he’d gotten back, Mo was having a lazy Saturday night watching videos and sipping on beer. Some of Todd’s Programming friends had dragged him out trolling for women and Mo had the room to himself.

Todd had invited him along, but Mo hadn’t felt like going out, though he couldn’t put a finger on why. Still, slightly-illegal beer and Monty Python made for a decent night.

Bzzzzzz. The vibration of his phone startled him away from a second go-round with the mosquito-hunting sketch. He picked it up with one hand while hitting pause with the other and checked the caller id.

Kev. Wonder what he wants? Mo thumbed open the message.

Were you serious the other day? About the you know what?

The you know what? That was funny. Kev needed to get over talking around the subject of sex if he was going to shrink people’s heads. Yes, he sent back.

Mo waited, his stomach knotting with anticipation. Time stretched, and he wondered if Kev had chickened out, or if he’d gotten called away for something. Then his phone buzzed again.

Well, what are you waiting for?

Fun, fun, fun! This is why I’m so cranky about work, which I normally love. But it’s not leaving me any time to spend with these two guys who make me laugh.

Maybe over Christmas…

Tuesday Tickle: Bite Me Tender–Let's meet Glyn's grandmother!

First off, I’m going to give you a link to a blog that made me snarf my coffee this morning. Pucker Up Buttercup. My computer is still recovering from the caffeine spike. Thank you, ma’am, for making my day! Not only that, but when I opened up the page to get the link so I could put it in here, I swallowed some of my ever so healthy salmon and rice supper the wrong way. Now I’m sitting in front of the computer eating ice cream and recovering from my near brush with death. So, when I gain ten pounds, it’s all gonna be her fault.

For today’s Tuesday Tickle, we’re going back to the werewolves. This little bit comes from the second chapter. Glyn’s grandmother, who is a full blooded witch, comes to visit, because she’s worried about Glyn. Unfortunately, Gram usually causes as much stress as whatever situation she thinks she’s helping with… (By the way, Glyn has some OCD tendencies, from issues around his diluted witchblood.)

“Hi, Gram.” He kissed her cheek and pulled out a chair for her, which she ignored in favor of wandering around his kitchen.

“Hello, Glynnie. I see nothing’s changed here.” She rearranged the canisters on the counter and, while Glyn was putting them back in order by size, she reorganized his set of chef’s knives on their magnetic strip, leaving some pointing up and some down, the small ones mixed up with the large.

Glyn followed behind her, setting everything back in it’s place and trying to ignore the gleam of amusement in her eyes. She knew what she was doing. But witches were witches and buttons, real or psychological, existed to be pushed, regardless of the aftermath. Chaos suited them.

Lady, why had he thought this was a good idea? Less than three minutes and he could already feel his own brand of witch-crazy raising its ugly head and sniffing the air. At this rate, Levi would come home to find him in his birthday suit, painting runes on the walls and singing children’s songs in three different languages while Gram played the bongos and made the furniture dance. Levi hadn’t left him the first time it happened, but he wasn’t sure he had enough credit left in that account for a repeat performance.

She near drove me into the Butterscotch Palace, trying to write her. Hard to keep control of a character that’s supposed to be subtle and chaotic–she even hid things from me! But it was an entertaining experience and she ended up adding a lot to the story. I’m glad she poked her nose in. But I still have no plans to invite her for tea.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on Velvet Panic and MC Hana, for their VIB award posts! Keep an eye here, as well, as I’ll be doing another Loosey Goosey Review during one of the next few posts, on Erin Lark’s upcoming BDSM romance, Stray.

Don’t forget to pat the cat!

Kitty

Tuesday Tickle: A Knight in Shining Kevlar

ROFL, my horoscope for today: You’re able to complete outstanding tasks that require your undivided attention, the expert way you’re able to achieve results impresses others, inspiring you to tackle new interesting ideas that turn up. Opportunities arise for you to make collaborative plans and a concerted effort to progress further, whilst utilizing the degree of proficiency expected of you.

Sounds like a plot bunny alert if I every heard one. Makes me a bit nervous of what the rest of the day holds–I’ve already been muckled onto by a few of the rabid little beasts.

I’m still a little Gollum-like about my header and I thought I’d pass along a link to another blog with an Erin Lark header. Anna Zabo writes paranormal MM erotic romance. Her first book, Close Quarter, is published by Loose Id.

Today’s Tuesday Tickle comes from a contemporary MM erotic romance/suspense story, set in the fictional city of Hillsboro. (Gotta love random name generators.) Ross is a high school teacher, on a field trip to the local police academy. Ben is a detective and member of S.W.A.T., currently on medical leave after being shot, and is teaching at the police academy to avoid losing his mind due to boredom.

This scene is a prime example of when the more southern head sneaks out and takes control while the northern head is still trying to figure out how to deal with the situation. Ben asks for a volunteer to try out a simple throw and the students convince Ross to try it out (because nothing makes students happier than seeing their teacher ‘tied in knots’, as Ross would say.)

“I don’t think we’ve really been introduced. I’m Ross.” Ross held out his hand to shake. Ben took it in his and, for an instant, it seemed as if the whole world had narrowed down to that point of contact between them. Glancing up to check out Ross’ expression, he thought he saw the same shock on the other man’s face. Quickly, he broke the contact and gestured towards the center of the mats.

Once there, Ben asked Ross to lie down. It was obvious that he’d never taken any martial arts because, while he dropped to the mat with the ease of youth, he didn’t have Ben’s practiced coordination. Ben stood back for a moment and considered his next moves.

“Okay, so what do I do?” Ross asked, looking up at him. Ben could hardly stand to look. Ross looked like a wet dream come to life, lying there with his legs bent and splayed, brown hair spread out on the mat around his head. Ben’s thoughts started running in circles, substituting a variety of settings for the mat and the suddenly-too-crowded-for-his-taste gym.

Yep, this was a smart idea, Flores. Pretty obvious which head is doing the thinking today. Was he turning into a complete idiot, all for the sake of cocoa colored hair and caribbean eyes? Damn!

Ben licked his lips nervously, watching as Ross’ eyes dropped to Ben’s mouth and he copied the movement of Ben’s tongue. Did he even realize he was doing it? Maybe not; his eyes had that same slightly dazed look that Ben was sure his own had.

Oh, this was such a bad idea. He’d bet it was exactly what a moth felt like flying around a bright light. You didn’t know if it was a flame or just something shiny, but it was so damn pretty, you really didn’t care.

Just a quick introduction to the guys and still pretty much a first draft. Hope you enjoyed it! Friday night’s post is my contribution to The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, where I’m going to talk a bit more about Bite Me Tender and the characters (and I do mean characters–like the crazy ones that show up at family reunions!).

Have a great week!

Kitty