Saturday, November 24, 2012

"Tombstone" by Annie Turner (Western Romance)

Genre:  Western Romance/Adventure

Summary:  With her husband lost at sea and her family dead, Lillie Hayes has nothing but poverty and memories left for her in Boston. Defying this dismal fate, she travels to Tombstone, Arizona, determined to make her fortune at a silver mine her uncle left her in his will. She finds that she may have signed up for more than she bargained for when word gets 'round that she may have struck it rich. The claim jumpers begin to close in and Lillie is quickly running out of options...

Novelette, approx. 15,000 words.


The Golden Horseshoe Hotel had definitely seen better days. Years of heavy use from hopeful miners coming and going had taken its toll. All the curtains were faded and most of the framed pictures were crooked. A single, well used sofa, a dead plant and a chess set being played by an old-timer put the final touches on the lobby.

Determined to make the best of her situation, Lillie did not immediately dismay. In all honesty she had been half expecting to find saloon girls standing around to greet her. The hotel may be shabby but it did seem to be somewhat respectable.

She approached the front desk with purpose. “My name is Mrs. Hayes. A room for one, please. I would prefer the least expensive one available.”

The desk manager had a full head of grey hair and an impassive face. Clearly, he had been a butler in the past because his well-schooled countenance didn’t so much as twitch at her announcement. “How many nights, ma’am?”

“I’m not yet sure. Is there any way I could just pay by the day?”

“Certainly. So long as payment is made in advance.”

Lillie caught the insinuation in his voice and blushed faintly. He had clearly guessed that she was a widow and wanted to make sure she could pay for her accommodations.

“I can pay,” she announced with more certainty than she really felt.

The desk manager’s face still remained neutral. “If you will sign the guest registry here and here, I’ll get you a key.”

“One more thing…”


Lillie wrung her hands together, uncertain about how to proceed. She lowered her voice a tad to ask, “I would like to get working on a silver mine I inherited. Is there anyone… any sort of foreman around… that I could, you know…trust?”

“Ah. I believe you should speak to the gentleman playing chess over there. He would be just the man you need.”

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Contract Marriage" by Gabriella Mahoney (Historical Romance)

Genre:  Historical Romance

Summary:  A marriage has been arranged for Abigail Malton with the awkward Richard Davar. Logical to a fault, Abigail understands that it is her duty to further her family's interests by marrying well. But even she is unsure if logic will be able to crush her secret craving for love. 

Richard is acutely aware of his clumsy moments. And they seem to get worse when Abigail is around. Despite having fallen madly in love with his wife, it seems the only sensible that he do his best to keep her at arm's length. But he soon finds that even the best intentions can go awry...

This novelette is approximately 11,000 words long.


Richard shuddered with visible relief as he watched the Maltons drive away in their barouche. It had taken every ounce of his self-control to not make a spectacle of himself in front of Abigail Malton. His control had only slipped up momentarily as he took a teacup from his mother. A mistake he hoped Miss Malton had not noticed.

For whatever strange reason, fate had decided to make him a clumsy, awkward creature. He would occasionally dribble water onto his shirt when sipping a glass, he tripped over hallway rugs when he wasn’t paying attention and he had a bad habit of dropping things when he was nervous.

These were hardly the quirks that one attached to a dashing, elegant gentleman. But Richard had never aspired to be a beau of the ton. Small talk bored him to tears. He had discovered early on that if he was truly passionate about a subject, he forgot about his clumsiness and was able to interact with others in a somewhat normal fashion.

Coincidentally, by taking on projects that allowed him to become invested, his political career was thriving. He was becoming something of a golden boy in Parliament. His reluctance to take on uninteresting projects was seen by others a high moral standard. And the fact that he would become consumed by a project until it was done meant that he regularly achieved results.

And so when his father had informed him that he was to marry Miss Abigail Malton, he figured it would be best if he approached this marriage the way he did his profession: he would do anything necessary to see this union through and the marriage contract signed. Then his job would be completed, they could go their separate ways and he could spend his energy on his career.

At least, that had been his plan until she visited this afternoon. Richard had no idea what demons took hold but as soon as Abigail had uttered that first sarcastic remark he was besotted.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

"How Julian and Nigel Turned Each Other Gay (Inadvertently), or So They Both Claim" by Avis Black (Gay Romance)

Genre:  Gay Romance

Summary:  Two boys, lunacy, and gayness. Comic Romance.


Julian Morris was not quite happy in his first year at St. Widifroth's-on-Quinapoxet, the school for the blameworthy rich. He had two obnoxious roommates, whom he had grown somewhat used to; semi-interesting classes, or rather classes he hadn't yet managed to fall asleep in; and two parents who couldn't read a school prospectus properly. Why else would they have sent him to St. Widifroth's? Well, it might have been one D too many on his last report card.

“How did you end up here?” he asked one of his obnoxious roommates, Nigel Higginson, in the hangdog manner of one trustee to another.

“Spliffs,” Nigel answered from his bed, where he was lounging shirtless.

“Spliff,” corrected the other obnoxious roommate, Finn Andrews. “It was singular, you said. Or could it be splive?”

Nigel squinted at Finn. “Only after I've smoked too much.”

“Why were you sent here?” Finn asked Julian.

“Igneous rocks and isosceles triangles. I have trouble with 'i' things.”

“Such as 'information'?” said Nigel with a grin. Finn sniggered. Nigel stood up and plucked a book off a shelf. Uneasily, Julian watched him open it.

“Here's something that's about your intellectual level.” With great sarcasm, Nigel read, “Once upon a time there were four little rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.” He looked over the top of his book to gauge the effect.

Julian waited.

“Well?” prompted Nigel.

“It's some sort of fairy tale, isn't it?” said Julian.

Finn howled.

“Holy God,” Nigel exclaimed. “How can you not know what story this is?”

“My parents never read me fairy tales when I was younger,” replied Julian, feeling lost.

Finn let out a deep groan. Nigel's face became one big grimace. Higginson swayed on his feet a moment, like a man hesitating on a diving board, then leapt forwards and downed Julian with a thud. The two boys landed together on Julian's bed with Nigel on top. Winded, Julian gasped, “What's this for?”

“So you can see the pictures,” replied Nigel. He propped himself up on his elbows. “'They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree.'”

Julian bore this forced fairy-tailing with patience. He thought the story rather thuggish in its crude Victorian way, exactly the sort of thing a parent would read to toughen up a child for St. Widifroth's. He did like the pictures, though.
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Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Tragedy of the Virgin Bride" by Xavier Edwards (Paranormal Romance)

Genre:  Paranormal Romance, Historical

Summary:  After centuries in the extended family, the old manor — once a castle — looks like it is to finally pass from the family line. For Josephine, this is just the latest tragedy she has had to face and, from her point of view, there is nothing but heartbreak in her future.

All it not as it seems — leaving Josephine struggling with the massive upheaval to her normal routine. Amongst this, she continues to hope for final redemption with her husband.


Of all the tragedies in the family, there was one that stood out above all others.

The family was just at the peak of their power and influence. A marriage had taken place between the eldest daughter of the lord of the castle and a young man from a respectable family who had only recently been knighted. The entire village had turned out to celebrate the wedding, with many being invited back into the great keep for the wedding feast that would go long into the night, before the bride and groom would retire to consummate the marriage.

Up to the midpoint of the feast the day had been perfect, and it looked like the happy couple would enter married life on the best possible terms. It all changed when the great keep door was violently thrown open and a breathless horseman in bloodied and damaged armour crashed to the floor in front of the top table. What happy chaos had marked the feasting collapsed into complete silence as the gathered host waited to hear what momentous news had nearly cost this man his life. If it wasn’t important enough, he was sure to see the inside of the dungeon for having disrupted the wedding feast.

After excusing himself to the lord, he turned to the newlywed couple and addressed the knight. A revolt had arisen, led by a traitorous duke who, with the support of some complicit barons, had raised an army and was preparing to take on the King. The urgent call had gone out for all men under arms to ride for the border city to prepare for a decisive battle. Immediately. The lord of the castle tried to argue for a night’s grace to allow his son-in-law a night with his bride. It was the King’s order, so, as the knight prepared for departure, he and his bride said a tearful goodbye at the top of the grand staircase. He promised her he would return for her, turned and left for his duty.

The battle never happened. The rebels moved around the site selected for battle and destroyed the loyalists’ supply caravan. From that point on there were running skirmishes as the loyal forces tried to regroup. Several smaller castles were besieged, this one among them.

Days turned into weeks, then into months, and the siege continued. News managed to filter in that the rebels had faced several significant defeats elsewhere and that the young knight was just now leading men to come and break the siege. It couldn’t happen quick enough, as the defenders were running low on supplies and it looked like the curtain wall wouldn’t last much longer against the bombardment from the besiegers.

Preparations were made for the lady to make her escape in the night and she re-attired herself in her wedding dress so that she would be properly dressed when she met her husband again. It was now that the wall fell and attackers streamed into the castle grounds. Unknown to the defenders, a small squad had already entered the keep via the postern gate and the cellars, and were working through the keep, looking for a quick way to end the battle.

The first sign of their presence in the lady’s bedchamber was the several inches of steel blade that now protruded from the lady’s abdomen. The sword was withdrawn, replaced by a spreading stain. She ran screaming through the upper galleries, searching for a defender, making her way towards the keep entrance, reaching the landing of the grand staircase before finally falling, drained of life, watching in pain as men fought to the death on the floor below her.

While she could still draw breath, her husband appeared in the doorway of the keep and fought his way inside. Once he saw what had happened, he moved all out of his way to reach her. Crossbow bolt after bolt found him as he reached the stairs and made his ascent. He was finally felled by several bolts agonisingly short of his bride. Both were mortally wounded, stretching out their hands for a final touch, tears of love in their eyes. She was in her virginal wedding dress, awaiting him making it through the lines.

Stained red as her life ebbed from her, the dress would become her shroud as the last breath drained from her. Her husband struggled to at least touch his bride but his life gave out and the couple died, so close to each other with the tragedy of not gaining that last touch. All around them the battle raged. The main bloodline of the family died with them.

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