Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Brave New Earl Nearly Here

It’s two weeks until the release of Brave New Earl, the first book in my new Way to a Lord’s Heart series. This is the story of an earl overcome by melancholy and a determined woman who eventually shakes him out of it.
Widower Benjamin Romilly, Earl of Furness, has given up hope of finding happiness. His wife died in childbirth five years ago, leaving him with a broken heart and a child who only reminds him of his loss.
Miss Jean Saunders, a cousin by marriage, hears rumors that the earl is too bereaved to care for his young son. Her own history has made her particularly sensitive to this story. She arrives on the scene to evaluate his fitness as a father, and if necessary, to take his son away.
Jean's sudden eruption into the earl's household simultaneously infuriates and invigorates him. She may be the only person who can breathe life into his neglected homeand his aching heart.

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Monday, July 9, 2018

To Catch a Texas Star Is Here!

To Catch a Texas Star hit bookshelves and online vendors last week and I’m so excited to have it in readers’ hands at last. This story is different from any I’ve written. This is the first time I’ve created a character who’s an author and I kind of liked that.

An Overview of the Story:

Marley McClain is heading into town one morning and spies a man lying just off the road. She sees that he’s in bad shape so she gets him into the back of her wagon and takes him to her family ranch—the Aces ‘n Eights. Roan Penny lies unconscious for two days then as he slowly recovers, he finds an attraction between him and Marley growing. But first, he has to make the men pay who killed his friend and dragged him almost to his death.

Marley knows that he’s a drifter and doesn’t intend to stick around but her heart tells her she’ll have trouble living without him. Roan is everything she’d looked for but never dreamed of finding. A frightening stranger appears along with foreboding. Then a long-held secret that her parents have kept comes out and shatters everything she thought she knew about herself.

Danger, adventure, and deepening, lasting love make this a story you can’t put down. Will Marley and Roan live to see their happy future? It’s anyone’s guess.

“You’re like those shooting stars. You blaze across my life with such a streak of color and pageantry it steals my breath. You’re my Texas star, Marley Rose McClain.”

Marley loves to write children’s stories that she reads to the orphans in her parent’s care. She wants to get them published but doesn’t know how. Roan tells her about an ad he saw in the mercantile and that sets the wheels in motion.

I loved this extra layer that making her a writer added to the story. The children can’t get enough of what she pens and the stories spark their imaginations.

Here a few of the books they would’ve had access to in 1899:

Cinderella – published in 1697
Aesop’s Fables – published 600 BC
Arabian Nights – the 8th century
Mother Goose – 1729
The Swiss Family Robinson – 1812
Ivanhoe – 1819
Rip Van Winkle – 1820
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – 1819
Grimm’s Fairy Tales – 1823
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – 1865
Little Women – 1868
Robin Hood – 1883
Tom Sawyer – 1876
Treasure Island – 1883

There were lots, lots more. Children had plenty to choose from. One of the stories that one little boy loved of Marley’s was about pirates and Jean Lafitte.

Did any of the dates on these classic books surprise you? For me, I didn’t realize that Aesop's Fables went so far back. That's amazing.

AMAZON  |  B&N  |  iBOOKS  |  KOBO

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Excerpt from Sarah Castille's Strong Hold

Strong Hold, the last book (#5) in the Redemption Series, features the story of Shayla Tanner and Zack Grayson.

Seven years have passed since Zack left Shayla. Seven years of regret and emptiness. Will she ever let down her guard and give Zack a second chance at love?

Enjoy this excerpt from Strong Hold:

 “Christ, Shay.” He scrapes his hand through his hair. “You’ve always been too trusting. Reg Knight is as far from a decent guy as you can get. He’s a piece of scum who plans to use you personally and professionally, and I’m not going to let that happen.”
“It’s my choice. My choice.” I thump my chest, looking away so he doesn’t see how close his comment about being too trusting hit to home. He needs to understand that it’s a decision I have to make, and the price will be mine to pay. “If I want to go out for a drink with him, I will. If I want to fight Gordon, I will. If I want to accept an offer from Radical Power, then I’ll accept the offer, and I’ll be the best damn fighter they’ve ever had.”
“No, you won’t.” He thuds his fist on the low stone wall surrounding the courtyard. “I won’t let him do to you what I’ve seen him do to other female fighters.”
“I don’t need you to protect me.” I struggle to keep my voice low so the people in the courtyard don’t overhear. “I’m not the teenage girl who knew nothing of the world except what you showed her. I don’t even understand what’s going on with you. We’re professional, and then we’re not professional. We’re friends, and then we’re not friends. You’re my coach, and then we have sex, and you run away to Seattle and leave me thinking I’m back to training with Torment and Fuzzy for three whole days.”
“I needed some time to get my head around the fact that all you ever wanted from me was physical.”
My hands curl into fists so tight, my nails bite into my palms. “That’s not fair.”
“That’s what you told me the other night.”
“Right now, I don’t want to get involved. Back then, I wanted everything. I was devastated when you left. I felt like a huge piece of me was missing. I was a young girl in a new city I never wanted to live in, with a new ballet company I didn’t want to dance for, and I’d never been alone before. I always had you.”
“And then you traded me in for him.” His voice rises in pitch. “What were you thinking? I left you so you could have a career, so you could go out and live your life, not tie yourself down to some…what? What did he do? What was so compelling about him that you would get married at fucking nineteen years old?”
Bristling, I throw caution to the wind, giving him information I know I should keep to myself. “He was the company’s artistic director.”
“Jesus Christ.” He groans and tips his head back. “He was your boss.”
“It doesn’t work like that in a ballet company, and you know it.”
I hate this. Zack and I never fought when we were together. We disagreed about things like sports teams—I was a Cubs fan; he supported the White Sox—how long I spent at the studio, or whether my plans to run/jump/ride/dive were too dangerous—yes, they were, and I always did them with Zack by my side.
“I know the artistic director has a lot of power,” Zack says. “I know you don’t get the job in a world-famous ballet company without a shitload of experience and a lot of years behind you. And I know you don’t sleep with a much younger, innocent corps dancer unless you’re a fucking bastard who has no morals and who misuses his power to get what he wants.”
Anger surges inside me. Not because he’s wrong, but because these were the questions I should have asked myself, the red flags I shouldn’t have ignored.
“You didn’t want me,” I shout, the words I have never been able to say ripping from my throat. “What was I supposed to do? It never got better for me. Every day without you was like dying all over again. Even after a year, the pain didn’t fade. I was empty inside, and there was nothing to fill that space, because it was meant for you. Damian was kind to me. He cared. He looked after me, and he helped my career. He wasn’t my soul mate, and he never pretended to be, but in the beginning, we both got something out of that relationship that made us happy.”
If the words that spill from my heart have any effect on him, he doesn’t let me know. Instead, his eyes narrow, and he deepens his tone.
“Do you think I felt any different? Do you think I didn’t feel your loss every fucking day? But I didn’t give up on you. I didn’t throw away a ten-year relationship on the first woman who crossed my path. I still felt you, Shay.” He thuds his fist on his chest above his heart. “Right here. And when I knew I could do right by you, when I could give you everything you deserved, I came for you, and you were gone.”

Friday, June 29, 2018

Every Deep Desire & The History of the Fianna: Part 2

In the Deadly Force series, which includes Every Deep Desire and the upcoming One Dark Wish, a group of disgraced ex-Green Berets are desperate to figure out who's responsible for their dishonor and discharges from the Army while they also battle two disparate enemies.

One of their enemies is known simply as the Fianna. A secretive and brutal army of assassins whose history dates back to pagan Irelend. Last month in Part 1, I wrote about the Fianna from the early Roman invasions up through the time of King Arthur. Today I'd like to jump ahead a bit to more modern accounts of these mythical warriors.

In 1866, a group of Irish soldiers who called themselves the Fianna, assaulted British forts and trading stations in Canada. These are still known as the Fenian Raids. Their goal was to gain independence for Ireland from Britain. These men, after their capture, cited the seven articles of the ancient Fianna army as written in Keating's History of Ireland and Hume's The History of England From the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688.
Since this was during the American Civil War, there's evidence the U.S. turned a blind eye to these assaults and even more speculation that the U.S. government wanted to use these Fianna warriors in unauthorized and unconventional ways. There's no proof these men ever fought for the Union Army, but there is anecdotal evidence that, because of their secretive brutal ways, they were asked to join the Civil War.

Ironically, these attacks were one of the reasons the provinces of Canada decided to form a single country in 1867. Neither the U.S. (who was at war with itself) nor the ineffectual Canadian Militia could take down the Fianna. It wasn't until the 1890's, when both Canada and the U.S. worked together, that they were they able to eradicate the threat.

As late as the World War II, there were murmurings (aka gossip) by German POWs held in Ireland of a brutal Irish underground army known as Na Fianna √Čireann. The Germans assumed they were part of the Fenian Brotherhood, a rebel offshoot of the men who fought in the early 20th century Irish rebellions. But the locals discounted that story and refused to talk about the young warrior men who lived on the outskirts of society. They were simply known as the Fianna.

It was while reading about the Canadian incidents that I first came across the connection of Shakespeare to the Fianna. Shakespeare was purported to be a secret supporter of Irish Nationalism and these captured men supposedly attempted to communicate in Shakespearean verse instead of Gaelic poetry. This is probably made-up gossip, but I thought it was so interesting that I included it in my own fictional Fianna army.

So, does the Fianna exist now? I hope not.

Did they ever exist? Yes. 

And not just in poetry and myth. From the research I've done, the Fianna was the single reason Rome never conquered the Isle and why the Picts and Scots, and even the Vikings, made few forays into Ireland until the late Middle Ages.

There is one documented historical fact written by the Roman Historian Tacitus. In the first century, around 82 AD, Rome's famous military governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola (who defeated Queen Boudica in 61 AD) sought to invade Ireland with 5,000 men. He even had a minor Irish King willing to betray his countrymen and help him overtake the Island. So, despite resources being stretched thin by battles with the Celts and Picts up in Scotland, he invaded with full confidence that he'd win.

The battle details are sketchy, but between battling the Fianna warriors from the moment they set foot on the Island, to an extremely rare mutiny within the Roman Legion ranks, Agricola lost and was recalled to Rome by the Emperor Domitian. After that, the stories say that the Roman Legionnaires refused to fight in Ireland or simply disappeared before they'd face the Fianna.

There are so many myths and poems written about the Fianna that it's hard to distinguish what was real and what wasn't. But that also gave me a lot of leeway when developing my version of the Fianna Army.

In Every Deep Desire, and the upcoming One Dark Wish, the 21st Century Fianna are a constant source of trouble for the men of the Deadly Force series. In the series, the Fianna are considered a myth by most of the world which gives them tremendous leeway and cover to torment my heroes. 

Since the heroes of the Deadly Force series work outside the law, battling an enemy no one believes exists, they're on their own to survive and redeem themselves. While at the same time trying to fall in love. :)

I hope you've enjoyed learning about the Fianna and I'm happy to answer any questions you may have! 

Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets and their smart, sexy heroines retell Shakespeare's greatest love stories.

Sharon loves to interact on her website www.sharonwray.com as well as on most social media platforms! 

Friday, June 15, 2018

A Flurry of Fictional Fathers

With Father’s Day coming up this Sunday, I was thinking about fathers in some of my favorite books. There’s Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, for example. He’s not a great success as a parent, in my opinion. But Elizabeth loves him nonetheless.
A favorite of mine is Jonathan Chawley in Georgette’s Heyer’s A Civil Contract Mr. Chawley is one of her great characters. A vulgar “Cit,” he blusters and rages, but he’s a complete softie inside. He loves giving gifts and can be reduced to blubbering by his love for his daughter. Yet his employees quake in terror at the thought of his wrath.
I created a strong father figure in my Duke’s Sons series. The duke is mostly off screen through the books, but he enters the plot in The Duke Knows Best.

He smiled at her, and Verity’s breath caught. The Duke of Langford’s wholehearted smile was blindingly charming. It subsumed the smiles of all his handsome sons, and surpassed them. “You’re very welcome to our family, you know,” he said. “And we will make sure you get to join us.”
Verity found she couldn’t speak. She coughed to remind her throat of its proper function. “Th-thank you.”
Olivia appeared at Verity’s side. “Will you try Herr Grossmann, Your Grace? He’s ready for another…subject.”
“I believe you almost said victim, Miss Townsend.”
“I would never be so clumsy.”
“Wouldn’t you? Ah, there’s Conyingham. If you young ladies will excuse me.” He gave them an exquisite half bow and walked away.
Olivia watched him go. “You know those tiresome old men who leer at one and say, ‘If only I were thirty years younger’?”
“Yes?” replied Verity.
“Well, if only he was.”
Verity laughed.

Who are some of your favorite fictional fathers?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Gunslinger's Vow is the first in a vibrant, sensual historical Western Series, featuring runaway brides searching for freedom in the Wild West.

Having previously published series in Regency England, I'm stepping into the American Old West! Check out the BookPage's article where I explain why I made the change. And...

Enjoy this excerpt from The Gunslinger's Vow!

“Why’d you leave?”

Her blue eyes met his, and the emotion in them hit hard to his gut.

“Boston or Montana?” she asked softly.

Suddenly uncomfortable with how personal the conversation had become, Malcolm shrugged. He wasn’t sure which option might be the less intrusive of the two.

“There was a time I thought I’d live my entire life in Montana. If you’ve ever spent any time there, you’d know it is beautiful country.” Her eyes went dark as she stared into the flickering flames, and her voice lowered with memory. “When I went East, I didn’t want to like Boston. It hadn’t been my choice to go. But I made friends, which is something I didn’t have much of in my childhood, and I started to appreciate the opportunities a big city could offer.”

She laughed, a warm sort of throaty chuckle. “My Aunt Judith scolded me countless times for my curiosity. I had a ceaseless compulsion to explore every corner of the city, the culture, the people. So very different from what I’d known before, but beautiful in its own way. Eventually, I came to love Boston.”

“More than Montana?” He shouldn’t want to know. He wasn’t even sure where the question came from

Her eyes met his. Gold flames danced in the blue of her gaze. “I guess that is what I am hoping to find out.”

Malcolm looked at her. Really looked at her.

Her boots were dusty, as was her split skirt and the shirt she wore under the oiled slicker he’d bought her. She’d pushed the wide-brimmed hat off her head, and it hung down her back by the thin cord around her neck. Her dark hair was just barely secured at the back of her head in a loose knot that allowed fine wisps to fall against her face and neck. She had dirty hands and a weary gaze, yet she displayed the hint of a smile about her mouth.

Despite her dishevelment, the fine Eastern lady who’d boldly strode into the Painted Horse Saloon was still there. She was present in the woman’s elegant posture and the refined way she spoke. In her quiet dignity and feminine softness.

It’s just that Malcolm was seeing something else besides all that. A light of adventure in her eyes, competence in her manner, and a deep, barely perceptible yearning.

There was more to this woman’s story than he’d first suspected. And even more going on in that head of hers than what she shared with her deceptively easy manner and light conversation.

After a few moments of returning his silent stare, she broke eye contact with a flutter of thick eyelashes and an almost rueful curl at the corner of her lips. “What about you, Malcolm Kincaid?”

He leaned back and eyed her with a lifted brow. “What about me?”

“Where do you come from?”

“Are we sharing our life stories now?”

Her gaze flicked back up to meet his. “I don’t need to know everything, but a little something wouldn’t hurt. We are going to be together for a couple of weeks, after all. Is there a reason we must remain strangers?”

Malcolm felt a rush of heat though his blood. Her innocent words reminded him of just how much he’d like to get to know her. Just not in the way she meant. And not in any way he intended to explore.

No matter how badly he wanted to taste that sweet mouth of hers.

He cleared his throat. “I ain’t got much to tell.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“Not much I want to tell.”

She smiled. “That sounds more truthful. You like your privacy. I understand. Perhaps you can just tell me how you came to be a bounty hunter.”

Malcolm shook his head. The woman was relentless.

“I am not going anywhere, Malcolm. You may as well open up a bit.”

Damn him, but he liked the sound of his given name on her lips. “I just sorta fell into it,” he answered gruffly.


He tossed her a heavy scowl for her persistence, to which she responded by grinning widely.

“I was looking for someone else when I happened upon a man I’d seen on some wanted posters in the last town. I wouldn’t have bothered with him, but he issued a challenge I couldn’t refuse. He lost, and I claimed the bounty.”

“Why on earth would he challenge you?”

Malcolm shrugged. “He said he didn’t like the way I talked.”


He smiled at her incredulous tone. “Why? You like my Texas drawl?”

Her expression lit up at the confession. “I should have guessed. I once met a man from Houston, and you do have a similar manner of speaking.”

“Houston is a far cry from where I grew up.”

“And where was that?”

He stiffened. It had been years since he’d thought about the cotton farm where he’d grown up. He and Gavin had basically agreed when they’d left that there was no reason to ever bring up the subject of their beginnings.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said with a tight jaw.


“Leave it.”

She closed her mouth sharply and stared hard at him across the flames. Darkness had fallen while they’d talked, and the night was close around them. The fire lit her face and cast sharp shadows beyond. It was clear that she wanted to press the matter, wanted to insist he tell her everything. The woman’s curiosity ran as deep as her stubborn nature. But his past was something Malcolm preferred to leave alone. There was nothing but pain and loss behind him.

After a bit, she lowered her gaze. “All right, I am sorry for prying.” Her blue eyes lifted again to catch his, and something in her expression twisted around his insides. “But yes, I do like your drawl.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Excerpt from Lynnette Austin's Must Love Babies

Must Love Babies, a heartwarming new contemporary romance series, features the Wylder brothers, bachelors who find themselves with unexpected bundles of joy...

Boutique owner Molly Stiles has no time for relationships, but when Brant Wylder is left to care for his sister’s baby, Molly can’t resist helping him. 

Enjoy this excerpt from Must Love Babies

On her way to the store, Molly drove past Annabelle’s Inn. Slowly. No Brant. No black Camaro. She told herself she wasn’t disappointed, that the feeling in the pit of her stomach was relief.

As she walked into the grocer’s, she admitted he was a temptation she’d find hard to resist. And speaking of temptations, Molly tossed a package of Oreos into her grocery cart. Rounding the corner, still working to convince herself she was glad Brant was gone, she almost ran over him.

He hadn’t left town!

Mortified, her hand instinctively flew to her hair. Why hadn’t she taken time to do more than run a brush through it? Or to change into something other than purple leggings and her favorite faded blue sweatshirt?

Brant, on the other hand? Seeing him last night in that black tux, a girl could have melted simply catching sight of him. Today in worn jeans that hugged his hips and butt and a forest-green, long-sleeved T-shirt, he looked rugged, badass, and every bit as delicious. Tux or jeans? How did a girl decide?

A high-pitched squeal caught her attention, and her eyes darted to the grinning baby.

Molly’s shocked gaze flicked to Brant and met his incredible eyes, the color of grass after a summer rain and fringed with the long, thick eyelashes women are never lucky enough to be born with. The baby in his cart shared both.

Her forehead creased in a frown, then her stomach hit the floor as dread filled her.

His sister. Did Brant have the baby because she’d—deep breath—because she’d died?

“Brant? Your sister. Is she okay?”

He nodded, and her world righted itself.

“Molly, meet my nephew, the unpredictable, unrivaled champion sucker of the pacifier, Jax Wylder.”

“Is Lainey doing better this morning?”

“She made it through surgery. While she heals, Jax and I are spending some quality time together, aren’t we, kid?”

Jax’s grin widened.

“Don’t let that smile fool you. The little bugger’s a tyrant,” Brant warned before he shifted his attention back to the baby food section. “Look at this. How can there be so many things to feed a toothless kid? Shouldn’t they just drink milk from a bottle…or from their mama?”

A whimper erupted from the baby, and Molly watched as Brant spun, wild-eyed, to his nephew.

“Oh no, champ, not now. You don’t want to look like a wuss in front of this beautiful lady. Remember what Frankie Valli said. Walk like a man.”

Molly watched, mesmerized, as the five-o’clock-shadowed male picked up the small baby. When he held him close, swaying and patting his back, singing the Four Seasons song, she went all tingly.

Jax quieted, his tiny fingers finding the pocket on Brant’s T-shirt.

Over the baby’s head, Brant shot Molly a look. “Frightening that somebody would trust me with this little guy, isn’t it?”

“Looks like you’re doing fine.”

“Looks can be very deceiving. I’m flying by the seat of my pants—and YouTube videos. Aren’t I, Jax?” He disentangled the baby’s fingers from his pocket and kissed each one.

Molly sighed.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” She blushed. “Nothing at all.”

Brant kissed the top of his nephew’s head. “Right here?” He pointed. “The consequence of sex.”

“Sex?” Her mind blew a fuse.

“Makes a guy think.”

It was making her think, too. And they weren’t thoughts she should be having.

“You can’t leave me alone with all this.” He swept a hand, indicating the mile-long aisle of baby foods and supplies.

Palming a jar of food, he gave it the evil eye. “The label says number two is for a six-month-old. Jax is seven. Do I still buy him a two? Or do I bump up to a three?”

“Brant, I don’t know any more about this than you do.”

“Isn’t it genetic or something? Part of a woman’s DNA?”

She smiled ruefully. “No. I don’t have younger siblings, no nieces or nephews. And before you ask, I never babysat. I have no experience whatsoever.”

“But you must love babies. I mean, who doesn’t?”

Jax let out a loud burp.

She laughed. “I do. Even burping male ones.”

“Quinoa and kale? Seriously? That’s like sending the kid off to some sissy spa. Real men don’t eat this stuff.” Shaking his head, he dropped it into the shopping cart along with a bag of organic pears and spinach mix.

They moved to the diaper section, and Brant groaned. “So does Jax need supersoft swaddlers or sensitive swaddlers?” He moved on to the next box. “Or maybe this twelve-hour protection that promises to keep him snug and dry for that long? That would cut down on the diaper changes.”

He glanced at Jax, who had found a piece of lint on his blanket that fascinated him. “I don’t think so. These must be for older kids with more bladder control.”

“Actually,” Molly said, looking closer at the boxes, “I think they’re sized by weight.”

“Okay, that makes it easier.”

“Do you know how much he weighs?”

“A little less than a car tire, so I’d say about seventeen, eighteen pounds.”

“Seriously? That’s how you figure weight?”

“Hey, I’m a car man. It’s what I do.” His shoulders slouched. “Give me a rusted-out car, and I can make the thing sing. Yet standing here in the baby aisle, I’m practically paralyzed for fear of screwing up.” He tipped his head and scanned the ceiling. “If somebody’s watching this on camera, you have my permission to laugh your butt off.”

Friday, June 1, 2018

Cowboy SEAL Redemption: An Excerpt

Cowboy SEAL Redemption is the second in the Navy SEAL Cobwoys series featuring three former Navy SEALS injured in the line of duty. It's the perfect blend of rough-and-tumble cowboys and honor-bound Navy SEALs.

Jack Armstrong and Rose Rogers strike a deal - she'll pretend to be his perfect loving girlfriend while his family is in town and he'll provide her bar with extra security. As their ruse starts to feel real, both must face the pain of their past. Can their troubled hearts find their way to redemption?

Enjoy this excerpt from Cowboy SEAL Redemption!

The ramshackle house was still unlivable—especially in the winter months—but sometimes in the summer, Rose could come out here and spend the night if she didn’t mind the mice.
Eventually she’d fix it up completely, not just the random little repairs she knew how to make. For now, regardless of how ugly it was, it was her escape. Her secret. The bar was her power, and this place was her sanctuary.
“Did you bring me here to kill me? Because that looks like the only possible thing you’d want to ‘show me’ at this place.”
“Hey, that’s my baby you’re talking about there. Be careful. And get out.” She slid out of the car herself and took a deep breath of the beautiful Montana summer night. These short stretches of summer weeks, when a person could go outside without a coat, always felt like magic. It was that brief period of time every year when she could pretend she lived somewhere warm and inviting.
“Seriously. What is this place?” Jack asked, stepping out of the car and looking around the starlight-dappled yard.
“This is my house,” she said, spreading her arms wide.
“I thought you lived at the bar?”
“I do. For now. Once I get this place fixed up and maybe promote Tonya to manager, it’ll be my full-time house.”
“Why’d you bring me to your house?”
She ignored that question and walked toward the pond. Jack needed a little recalibration. When you were stuck in a bad way of thinking, after a bunch of bad things happened to you, you needed to break free.
She had no business being the one to offer him a little solace, but she had solace, and growing up in a world empty of it meant she gave it when she could. No matter how often she tried to convince herself she was so much harder than all that.
She pulled her shirt up and over her head and let it fall to the ground. She didn’t miss the little squeaking sound that came out of Jack’s mouth when she did it, but she kept moving for the pond. Once she reached the bank, she shimmied out of her jeans.
“What are you doing?” he demanded.
She turned to face him, putting her back to the water. Moonlight shone on the sharp lines of his face—that perfect nose, high cheekbones, everything about him so angular and masculine, his expression so serious and stern. Even across the yard, lit only by the full moon, she could see the emotion in his eyes.
She’d been a little hard on him back at the bar, talking too frankly about Dad’s heavy fists, because this guy had his share of troubles. Even if they weren’t the same, even if they didn’t quite compare. But trouble… oh, she was intimately acquainted with trouble, and what Jack needed was to find himself a little of the right kind.
That was one thing she had in spades.
So she flashed a grin and hoped he could see it in what little light they had. And then she jumped backward into the icy-cold water of her pond. No amount of Montana summer sun could warm this up, but it wasn’t the sort of cold that would kill you. It was the kind of cold that reminded you that you were alive.
That was what Jack needed. She dove deep into the water, reminding herself of that, before coming back up to the surface.
She stood, letting her toes sink into the mud, the water lapping at her chin. “Your turn,” she called to him.
“I am not jumping into a pond. I thought I was the drunk one.”
“Come on. I promise it will change your life. I bet you’ve never been skinny-dipping.”
“I am not skinny-dipping. And, just for clarity, you aren’t either. You still have your underwear on.”
Rose laughed, stepping farther into the center of the pond, where she had to tread water to keep her head above the surface. “Okay, strip down to your skivvies and jump in.”
“I’m not stripping down to anything.”
“I thought you had some sense of humor in there. I guess I should’ve brought Gabe.”
Jack stepped forward with an irritated grunt and pulled his shirt over his head.
Rose regretted very, very deeply that it was the middle of the night and there was no daylight to see the whole of him. Because what little she could make out was…
“Is that a tattoo?” she called, squinting at the mark on his bicep.
He stepped to the edge of the pond, and she could see the downward turn of his mouth. “Yes, I have a tattoo.”
“And here I thought you were Mr. Clean-Cut.”
“I was drunk when I got it.”
She laughed at that. “You’re drunk now. Lose the pants and jump in.”
“I’m not taking off my pants.”
“You can’t swim in jeans.”
“Sure I can.”
“What are you so afraid of?” she returned, scooping her hand through the water and trying to splash him.
“My scars are not for public consumption.”
That shut her up for a second. Which was good, because she was letting this giddy feeling overtake her, and then she’d say stupid things and probably do stupider ones.
“This public can handle it. Take off your pants and jump in the pond.” Because she didn’t know how to be sweet or sympathetic, which was likely what Jack needed. Someone like Felicity, who would know how to give him a little peace and comfort that didn’t involve threats and icy water.
Who did she think she was, really? Like she was ever going to know how to help some former Navy SEAL who had voluntarily signed up to fight far away from home. He’d actually been brave enough to want to do that. She’d only ever fought because she didn’t have a choice, and sometimes she hadn’t fought at all.
She opened her mouth to tell him to forget it—maybe she’d even choke out an apology. Of course, that was when he decided to take off his pants anyway and jump in beside her.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Pleasure of Re-reading

Recently, I had the urge to re-read an old favorite book – The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer. And not for the first time. In fact, I don’t even know how many times I’ve read it over the years.

And why is that, I wondered. What do I go back to some novels again and again? Why is it so comforting to re-visit these stories? Obviously, I know what’s going to happen from one page to the next. There are no surprises lurking to amaze me.
I decided that there are two main reasons, for me, to go back to a book. First, I want to spend time with the characters. It’s like getting together with old friends, moving into their world for a while. I feel the same way about Sherlock Holmes and Frodo and Sam as about the Darracotts. And many others.
And equally important, it’s the language. The two are inseparable. A writer doesn’t create memorable characters without a striking style. The way Georgette Heyer puts words together fills me with joy. For example,
In her view, Vincent was a dangerous blade, with a viperous tongue, and a deplorable influence over her impressionable young son; but after spending three hours in an atmosphere of deepening gloom, she would have been much inclined to have welcomed the arrival of Beelzebub himself.
Who could resist such a sentence? And Heyer keeps them coming throughout the book, right up to the hilarious tour de force ending. I never tire of her mastery.
            What are your favorite re-reads?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Every Deep Desire & the History of the Fianna: Part 1

Every Deep Desire is the first in the Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets and smart, sexy women redeem Shakespeare's greatest love stories.

This team of ex-Special Forces soldiers, accused of vicious war crimes, is determined to prove their innocence and desperate to find the enemies who want to destroy them. Before time runs out and their enemies attack again.
Photo by Thomas Tucker on Unsplash
One of these enemies is a private army of brutal assassins known as the Fianna led by a man called the Prince. Rafe Montfort, the hero of Every Deep Desire was once a Green Beret who left his unit to work for the Prince, and has returned to Savannah, GA to protect his wife and his men he left behind. The problem is the Fianna have never let a man go and they're not about to start now.

As the story unfolds Rafe's wife Juliet, and his men, learn who and what the Fianna are, and today I'd like to introduce you to the real Fianna of Pagan Ireland that was the basis for my fictional army.

Since there's more history than one blog post can cover, this is Part 1 of the tale and I'll conclude the post next month. :)

Photo by Ricardo Cruz on Unsplash

The original Fianna army was made up of small bands of warriors in Ireland, led by Fionn mac Cumhaill (a semi-fictional character who may be a composite of early Irish warrior Kings), and made famous in the Fenian Cycle of Poetry (the first of the four Irish mythical cycles of poetry).

The Fianna and their legendary exploits were based on earlier folk tales of lawless young men and women who lived on the edges of society, often second and third sons and daughters of noblemen. These young people, incited by Druid priests, took up arms to fight the first Roman Invaders. 

There are a few primary sources discussing these bands of soldiers that date from the 1st century Roman period through the 17th century. Many of these sources are discussed in Geoffrey Keating's History of Ireland published in 1634. There is also a Roman soldier's diary account about a group of Irish warriors who spoke only words found in the books of ancient Gaelic poetry, fought naked, and were so vicious they supposedly drank the blood of their dead. 

Photo by Jonathan Bowers on Unsplash
There are also references to Fianna warriors in monastic manuscripts from the 5th -12th centuries, written in old Irish (Gaelic), and found in a monastery on the Isle of Iona along with the Book of Kildare (a precursor to the Book of Kells).

So who were the Fianna and why were they so admired and feared?

According to legend, in order to join the Fianna, the naked recruits were put through horrendous physical tests such as gauntlets and being buried up to the shoulders with one arm free where they'd have to fight off twelve attackers at once. Or the buried man would hold a shield while nine warriors threw spears at him. If wounded, he failed. Sometimes failure meant death. 

Another story states that a recruit's long hair would be braided and he'd be hunted through the woods. If at the end of the hunt he cracked any branches or a single hair was out of its braid, he failed. Then he'd have to leap over a branch as high as his chin, pass under one lower than his knee, and pull a thorn out of his foot while running without slowing down. But the biggest test was intellectual. Every warrior had to be a trained poet and would be able to speak only in verse in Gaelic and Latin.

Photo by Dmitrij Paskevic on Unsplash
The Fianna are immortalized in Irish myths, poems, and English histories up through the 17th century. There are even stories written about knights who fought in the Crusades of 1101 AD who wore the wolf sigil of Fionn mac Cumhaill. Some historians argue that these Fianna knights fought for the favor of St. Brigid of Kildare. These knights were the first of the Fianna to become Christians. 

This story has led historians to wonder if these Fianna Knights helped usher in the age of Chivalry since St. Brigid gave storytellers the original source material for Guinevere (of the King Arthur tales) and the concept of chivalry. Fianna stories show up in some of the earliest King Arthur Legends, and I even found a reference to a story about the Fianna fighting with the Spartans in Greece.

So what does this have to do with Rafe Montfort in Every Deep Desire? Rafe is a 21st century Fianna warrior who trained naked in winter and suffered the gauntlet of eighty men for the sole purpose of protecting his wife. These warriors also speak in verse. Except in this world, the men speak in Shakesperean English instead of Irish Poetry. I guess someone decided that would be easier. :)

Part 2, next month, will be all about the Fianna in the American Civil War. Fiction or nonfiction? It's hard to tell which makes the Fianna stories both exciting and unnerving!
Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets and their smart, sexy heroines retell Shakespeare's greatest love stories.

Sharon loves to interact on her website www.sharonwray.com as well as on most social media platforms!