Monday, February 28, 2011


Dear Party Goers,

This might be the end of February's Heart and Flowers party, but not the end of fun. Keep coming back to Champagne Books Blog and enjoy our authors and their offerings of excerpts, book trailers, gifts and more.


Angelica Hart and Zi

And, now, back to our scheduled author!

Title: Light Switch
Author: Lauren Gallagher



I knew my relationship was over when I wore the lacy purple lingerie for my neighbor, not my boyfriend.

Pulling a pair of jeans and a plain sweatshirt over the garter, panties, and bra, I knew. Truth and guilt sank deeper into the pit of my stomach with every passing minute. Tonight was the night.

I went into the bathroom to fix my hair and put on a little makeup. Why I bothered, God only knew, but at least it was a way to pass the time before my boyfriend arrived. The antiquated clock radio on the bathroom counter said it was nearly seven thirty. Alec would be here any minute. With any luck and a little courage on my part, he’d finally be gone not long after that.

He’d be gone, leaving me with Matt.

Not that I had any intention of touching Matt. I’d entertained a few fantasies of taking him to bed, but I’d been with Alec since before Matt and I met. Whatever problems we had, I wasn’t about to fool around on Alec. No, I wasn’t going to touch Matt tonight. We wouldn’t even be in the same room.

In the two years that we’d been neighbors, Matt and I had never touched beyond the occasional handshake or hug. We’d become fast friends, but everything about our close friendship was strictly platonic.

When light and time cooperated, however, he watched me from his bedroom window, which was across the narrow alley from my own.

He looked at me. Alec didn’t bother anymore.

It had started innocently enough. A window shade carelessly left open. A change of clothes. A well-timed glance.

Eye contact and startled gasps from both sides of the alley had ended the moment as quickly as it had begun. For days, we were shy and coy, passing on the sidewalk without looking at each other, the accidental voyeur and unintended exhibitionist who’d been caught in the act.

Beneath the embarrassment, though, there lurked a part of me that found a delicious thrill in that momentary exposure. Perhaps I’d imagined the look on his face in that fleeting second before we’d both turned away in a panic, but I was sure his eyes had widened and his lips had parted with more than just the startle of seeing a random topless woman. Wishful thinking or not, I let myself believe he’d looked because he liked seeing me like that. It had been too long since someone had done so, and right or wrong, I liked it.

Had he been some stranger, I’d have been creeped out and probably invested in blackout curtains.

He wasn’t a stranger, though. He was Matt, and after a few days, I left the shade open again. It took almost a week for him to take me up on my unspoken invitation. One night, while I got ready for bed, surreptitious glances in the mirror revealed the ghost of a silhouette in his window, a dark profile against a darker background, and I knew he was there. He was there, and I wanted him to be. I wanted him to see.

I didn’t look. I didn’t even acknowledge him. But that night, and a handful of nights afterward, he was there.

Tonight, standing in my bathroom as I got ready to drop a long overdue bomb on Alec, I sighed. My shoulders fell, and when they did, the dark purple strap peeked out from beneath my reflection’s shirt. I tucked it away, meeting my own eyes and averting them when my cheeks turned pink.

If Alec noticed what I’d worn beneath my casual clothes, he’d turn up his nose and call it trashy. He wouldn’t see it, though. Even if I lost my nerve and let him stay like I had so many times in the last year, tonight would be like any other. In the best case scenario, we’d wordlessly undress ourselves in the dark so we could have silent, passionless sex before going to sleep a thousand miles apart.

At least, if that happened, there would be just enough light spilling in from outside for Matt to see.

I sighed and looked myself in the eye again. This had to stop. Though Matt and I never touched, nor did we ever speak about this in our friendly, unassuming conversations, the guilt was getting to me. This window-to-window affair of glances wasn’t right.

Holding my own gaze, I took and released a deep breath. Yes, I was going to do this. Tonight. Swallowing hard, I touched up a phantom smudge in my smoky eye shadow and fixed a strand of hair that was perfectly in place.

From down the hall, the crunch of a key and click of a deadbolt broke the silence. The front door opened.

I took another breath, shut off the bathroom light, and went out to meet Alec.

He was just shrugging his jacket off when I rounded the corner. With a quick, expressionless glance, he acknowledged my presence, then hung his jacket in the hall closet. “Sorry I’m late. Got held up at the office.”

“Don’t worry about it. Just gave me a little more time to get ready.”

The next look he shot me was a quick down-up sweep with his eyes, followed by a lifted eyebrow that said nothing if not “that is what you call ‘ready?’”

I shifted my weight, gritting my teeth. Keep it up, sweetheart. You’re making this easy for me.

He put his hand on my waist and kissed me lightly. “So, what’s the plan for tonight?” Another down-up glance scrutinized my appearance before he added, “I assume you want to stay in?”

I pursed my lips, resisting the urge to fold my arms across my chest. “Yes, actually.”

“Sounds good.” He smiled. “I think we still have a few DVDs to watch, don’t we?”

“We do.” I hesitated. “But first, I’d like to… talk.”

His eyebrows jumped. “About?”


“Us?” He shrugged with one shoulder. “Well, okay. Let’s talk, then.” He didn’t sound alarmed.

“How about in the living room?” I gestured down the hall and started in that direction without giving him a chance to object. “Do you want something to drink?”

“I think I’m okay, thanks.” He took a seat on the couch with his arm across the back of it, his usual invitation for me to sit beside him. The thought of that arm curling around my shoulders made my skin crawl.

Instead, I sat toward the middle, creating just enough distance to keep him from wrapping his arm around me. Turning to him, I pulled my knee up onto the cushion between us. His eyes darted to my knee, then met mine.

He cleared his throat. “So, um, what’s going on?”

Wringing my hands, I avoided his eyes. “Just, I…” Come on, Kristen, come on. You can do this.

He put his hand on my thigh, dangerously close to the telltale edge of the hidden garter. “Is this about moving in together?”

“Well, no. I mean, not exactly. It’s…” I wanted to scream with frustration. This wasn’t the first time I’d tried to have this conversation with him, and it wasn’t the first time I’d gotten tongue-tied.

Squeezing my leg gently, he said, “Look, if it's too much for you, it’s okay. We don’t have to do it right now.” His tone teetered between empathizing and patronizing, and I couldn’t tell which way it was intended.

Instead of looking at him, I stared at the subtle ridge my garter made beneath my jeans. “Listen, I don’t think we should move in together. At all.”

“You don’t?” At last, a hint of alarm crept into his voice. “But, why not? I mean, after all this time, wouldn’t it make sense?”

“It would, yes.” I swallowed hard and forced myself to meet his eyes. “If we were planning to get married, or—”

He laughed. “Is that what this is about? Well, if you want to start thinking about getting married instead—”

“No, no, it’s not that.”

He cocked his head. “Then, what?”

Wetting my lips, I whispered, “I don’t think we should move in together because I—” Come on, come on, just do it. Get it out there. “I don’t think we should stay together.” Before he even had a chance to react, the weight of the world slipped off my secretly lace-covered shoulders. Finally.

Alec blinked. “You, what?”

“I don’t think this is working.”

“You,” he paused. “You want to end this?” He gestured at me, then at himself.
“Yes,” I whispered.

“Well, I guess I can see now why you never wanted to move in together.”

I couldn’t blame him for the bitterness in his tone. We’d been discussing it for over a year, and I’d been sidestepping the issue because I’d been trying to work up the courage to tell him I wanted out. Without meeting his eyes, I nodded.

Alec abruptly stood. While I was relieved to have some breathing room, I was afraid he was going to storm out. As much as I wanted him to be gone, we needed to settle this here and now, not set ourselves up for a period of cooling down, followed by another conversation.
He didn’t leave, though. Instead, he paced between the coffee table and the television, running his fingertips back and forth across his stubbled jaw. “I don’t get it.” He shook his head. “After four years, you just want to up and quit?”

“It’s not exactly a conclusion I came to overnight.”

“Oh really? So when were you planning to enlighten me?”

I sighed. “That’s what I’m doing now. This isn’t something I went into lightly.”

“So what the hell is the problem?” he asked.

“I just don’t think we’re…” I trailed off, searching for the word. “Compatible.”

“Of course we are. We wouldn’t have lasted this long if we weren’t.”

And we shouldn’t have lasted this long. “Look, Alec, I’m sorry. I’m not trying to hurt you, but I’m not happy with things. I’m not happy—”

“With me?”

I sighed again. “Yes. I’m not happy with the way things are with us, and I’m ready to move on.”

“I don’t see how you can be unhappy.”

Of course you don’t. You would have to had to pay attention to pick up on that. “I am.” I struggled to keep my voice gentle and calm. “We want different things out of life. Half the time when we’re talking, we’re fighting.”

“We wouldn’t fight if you didn’t pick fights all the time.”

I took a deep breath. “I don’t pick fights because I enjoy it. If something’s bothering me, I tell you.”

He exhaled hard. “Yeah, and every damned thing bothers you, doesn’t it?”

“No. Not everything. But enough.” I wrung my hands. “I mean, look at our sex life.”

“What? What about it? We have sex more than most couples that have been together this long.”

“Yes, we do,” I said. “But we never try anything new. There’s no variety. It’s just the same thing, over and over and over.”

He set his jaw. “After this long, I think we’ve tried everything, don’t you?”

“No, I absolutely don’t think we have.”
“What else is there?”

“Haven’t you ever wanted to spice things up? Try something unusual? I’ve suggested a few things over the years, but you haven’t wanted to try a damned thing.”

He shrugged. “I’m perfectly happy with things the way they are.”

“To put it bluntly, I’m not.”

Alec blinked. He eyed me, shifting his weight. “So you’re bored with me, then.” It wasn’t a question.

“I’m bored with our sex life.”

“And that’s enough to make you want to call things off?”

“There’s plenty more to it than that, but that was my first clue that things weren’t going so great. I want to try new things. You don’t. So I’m bored to the point of being miserable.”

“I can’t believe you’d end a relationship like this because of sex.” Alec shook his head. “Am I supposed to be some kinky porn star to keep you entertained?”

“Not at all.” I fought to keep my temper in check. “But it would be nice if you at least looked at me once in a while in the bedroom.”

“In the dark?”

“You could turn on the light,” I snapped. “And maybe when you’re done with that, try doing the same to me.” It was only when he stopped pacing that I realized I’d said the words out loud. My heart pounded. I hadn’t intended to go there, but there was no taking it back now.

“You’re unbelievable.” He threw his hands up. “If there was something wrong with us in the bedroom, why didn’t you bring it up a long time ago?”

“I’ve tried. Time and again. And quite frankly, I’m tired of it.”

“Oh, you have?” He folded his arms and cocked his head. “When? How?”

“Maybe all the times I’ve told you I’d like to try new things? I haven’t exactly kept a list of dates and times, but I’ve brought it up more than once.” I paused. “You either don’t want to talk about it, think I’m concerned about nothing, or turn up your nose at whatever I suggest.”

“Like what?”

“Well, how about when we went to Cabo last year? I suggested fooling around on the beach, on our balcony, on—”

“I’m not going to fuck you in public.” His lips contorted with disgust. “Jesus, Kristen.”

I rolled my eyes. “And what about the handcuffs we bought two years ago, but have never used?”

“We don’t need to use handcuffs,” he said with a dismissive gesture.

“We don’t need to do a lot of things, but I think it would be fun. That’s the kind of stuff I want to try.”

“So, what? Just having sex isn’t enough for you? Now you have to try all that freaky, kinky shit?”

“Why is it freaky?” I shrugged. “Some of it could be fun.”

“No, no, absolutely not.” He glared at me. “I think you’ve been listening to too many stories from that friend of yours.”

“Who? Scott?”

“The one who’s into all that weird crap, yeah.”

I scowled. “He’s told me a few things, yes, but—”

“See? You’ve just been listening to him.” Alec inclined his head, giving me that patronizing look I’d grown to despise. “Normal people don’t do that shit, Kristen.”

Fury coiled in my gut. “Then maybe I’m not normal.”

“Or maybe you’ve just been around that freak too long. I’ve never liked you hanging around him any—”

“I beg your pardon?” I stood, mirroring his defensive stance. “Now you want to dictate who I spend my time with?”

He gave a flippant shrug. “I just don’t like you hanging around that asshole.”

“Why? Because he’s into things you’re not?”

“Or maybe I just don’t like my girlfriend discussing sex with another man.”

“Oh, I can understand that,” I said through my teeth. “She might get ‘ideas’ in her pretty little head about how to fix a lackluster sex life, and she might even try to apply those ‘ideas’ to the relationship she’s trying to save.”

“Yeah, and—”

“Or, heaven forbid, she might just suddenly realize there’s more to sex than a little quiet missionary style in the fucking dark.”

He narrowed his eyes. “I don’t think I’m the problem, then.”

“Neither is Scott. I talk to him because he listens to me. Something you stopped doing a long, long time ago.”

“Fine.” He put his hands up. “You know, between that sick fuck and that friend of yours next door, I figured it was only a matter of time anyway.”

My jaw fell open. “What?”

“You heard me.”

“Are you suggesting that—”

“Are you denying it?” he snarled.

“I have never cheated on you.” Guilt twisted in my stomach. It was true, I hadn’t touched another man, but the temptation had been there. One of the first signs this relationship was in trouble was when I caught myself fantasizing not only about the wild things Scott told me, but Scott himself. Then came the voyeuristic tryst with Matt. Though I’d never touched either of them, the guilt was killing me just the same. I’d cheated in mind, if not in body, which was why this needed to end.

“Never?” Alec broke the lengthy silence that had fallen. “Somehow I doubt that.”

My face burned, no doubt making me look even guiltier than I was. “You don’t trust me?”

“Should I?”

I clenched my jaw. His constant suspicion and distrust were among the countless nails we’d driven into this coffin. Thank God we were finally going to bury the fucking thing.

“Look, I may be frustrated,” I said. “But I do love you, Alec. I wouldn’t cheat on you.”

“But you’ll leave me?”

“Yes.” The word came so easily, so unflinchingly. “Yes. I need to.”

“You know what? Fine.” He glared at me again. “I’ll go, and you can have all the crazy, freakish sex you want. Mark my words, though. In a few months, after you’ve had a little fun and realize how sick it all is, you’ll regret this.”

“Somehow I doubt that.” Our lackluster sex life was the wedge we’d used to finally cleave our relationship apart, but if it had failed to do so, we had plenty more that would have done the job.

“We’ll see, won’t we?” He shifted his weight. “I don’t suppose you’ll let me take my stuff before you kick me out?”

I nodded down the hall. “Go right ahead.”

With a sharp huff, he stormed past me. I followed him into my bedroom.

Now that he was moving, now that he was doing something besides standing there talking to me, his fury escalated, just as it always did. He jerked open the closet door and went about ripping shirts and a coat off hangers and throwing them onto the bed he’d probably expected to share with me tonight.

“I can’t believe you, Kristen,” he said over his shoulder. “You’re really willing to let all of this go because I won’t be a freak like whatshisname.”

“No. The sex is only part of it.”

He slammed a pair of shoes down and kicked the closet door shut. “Really? So what else is there?”

“Well, this.” I gestured at him. “Every time you get mad, you start throwing shit around, slamming doors, yelling at me—”

“Oh, so now I’m not allowed to get angry?” he shouted, turning on his heel and facing me. “Am I just supposed to sit here like a good little boy and let you tell me I’ve just wasted four years of my fucking life?”

I drew back, folding my arms to keep my hands from shaking. “There’s a happy medium between that and flipping out at—”

“I’m not fucking flipping out at you, Kristen,” he snarled, closing the gap between us. “You can’t expect to say this kind of shit and—”

“And what?” I stepped toward him, and to my great satisfaction, he shrank back slightly. “Am I tied to you for the rest of my life? Am I not allowed to move on if I’m not happy anymore?”

“After all this time, the least you could do is put some effort into fixing it instead of running away.”

I flipped my hands out, palms up. “I’m not going to argue anymore, Alec. I want out, I want you out, so just get your stuff and leave.”

He said nothing, but the rage in his eyes almost made me step back myself. At the very edges of my peripheral vision, he clenched and unclenched his fists. For the first time in four years, I wondered if he might just raise a hand to me, and I could neither draw nor release a breath until he muttered a curse and turned back to gathering his belongings.

On his way out, he stopped at the hall closet to yank his jacket off the hanger and put it over his arm. Then he jerked his key off the ring and tossed it on the table by the door.

“Looks like that’s everything.” He opened the front door. “Unless you had anything else you needed to say?”

I shook my head.

He sneered at me. “Not even good-bye?”

“I think we’ve already said that, don’t you?”

Cursing under his breath, he left, slamming the door behind him. I turned the deadbolt and went back into my bedroom, dropping onto the bed and releasing a long breath. Uncomfortable though it was, that conversation had needed to happen for a long, long time. We’d both made our mistakes over the last few years. We’d both caused our fair share of problems in this relationship. At least now, it was over. Thank God, it was over.

With another long exhalation, I looked at the clock. It was barely eight o’clock. Still plenty of time to go out and grab a drink, vent to a girlfriend, do something other than stay home in this silent apartment. With my newfound freedom came the long overdue ability to go out and take care of some of this sexual frustration. Maybe with someone who knew what he was doing. A one night stand had never been so tempting. I could go out. Or I could turn off the light and go to sleep.

I didn’t go out.

I didn’t turn off the light.

I didn’t go to sleep.

I just took off my shirt and hoped Matt liked purple satin.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Regency Novel, Dangerous Deceit by Romy Gemmell, is due from Champagne Books in May 2011.

Lord Byron
By Rosemary Gemmell

He was the original ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ hero, as his one-time lover, Lady Caroline Lamb, named him. And perhaps he was the model for the moody, romantic hero in famous literature. Think of the dark and brooding men from three of the classics: Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy, Charlotte Bronte’s Mr Rochester and Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff.

Born in 1788, George Gordon, the 6th Lord Byron, went on to epitomise the romance of Regency England. His father was profligate gambler Captain John Byron, who deserted his wife and child, but his mother was Scottish heiress Catherine Gordon and Byron spent his early life with her in Aberdeen. He left Scotland when his great-uncle William died and left him the baronial title and estate at Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire.

Byron began his writing life, and reputation for high-spirited behaviour, at Cambridge. After travelling around Europe and Greece for two years, Byron returned, aged twenty four, and his days of fame and notoriety began. The first and second canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage elevated him to the ranks of literary genius. Byron himself remarked, “I awoke one morning and found myself famous.”

Byron was hugely attractive to women, which cause him a great deal of trouble. Sir Walter Scott described him as having “the remarkable contrast of very dark hair and eyebrows with light and expressive eyes.” Young, aristocratic, a romantic wanderer, and a poetic genius, Byron was in great demand.

But his scandalous love affairs, and rumours of incest, soon brought Byron down. The society who had idolised him began to snub him. With rising debts and hounded by bailiffs, Byron left England in 1816, just 28 years old and at the pinnacle of his fame. He recognised it was partly his own fault. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, ends with the words:

“I planted – they have torn me – and I bleed:
I should have known what fruit would spring from
Such a seed.”

Byron’s stature as a poet continued to grow, especially on publication of Don Juan, a commentary on the society that had rejected him. He finally went to Greece, where he formed the ‘Byron Brigade’ to give support to the Greeks’ fight for independence. They hailed him a hero. Lord Byron died at Missolonghi, aged 36.

His burial was refused in Westminster Abbey and he was buried in the family vault in the church at Huchnall Torkard, near Newstead Abbey. Byron had the last word, however, exposing the double standards, politics and social relations of Regency England in Don Juan:

“Without, or with, offence to friends or foes,I sketch your world exactly as it goes.”


Saturday, February 26, 2011


Leave a comment on any of her days and be entered into a drawing to WIN

Writing a Wrong

By Julie Eberhart Painter

The writer writes and having writ moves on
to other works while those undone can ponder,
miss her touch; the tinkling keys they love so much.

What thinks that writer in the midst of musing,
that search for clever phrases not confusing?
Where will she land that sailing ship of folks and fools,
unwinding there like kittens rolling spools?

Another romance titillates the senses.
Dark tales hold readers in suspense.
A literary gaffe dislodges sleep
induces dreams the reader cannot keep?

It's all within the skills that we unfold,
awaiting choice, expunging trivial from bold.
Our job, if we accept the charge:
Perform the deed the world wants to disparage.

So woe is me, a writer with a verse,
an idea headed out to be accursed.
Exposing muse's heart and mind,
our dreams indifferent and unkind
betray our thoughts when they are left behind.


Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, in which she practices both medicine and law without licenses, and Tangled Web, a story close to her heart.

See Julie’s Web site at ~

Friday, February 25, 2011


Having a good time? We are certainly enjoying the interaction between Champagne Book authors and their readers. Although the month is nearly gone, we hope you continue to enjoy the blog. Stop by often. You never know when there will be a contest. Like today!

Tell us the name of the heroine in CHASING YESTERDAY and win an e-book download. HINT: Watch the video. Oh, put your answer in comments and don't forget to add your email addy.

Have a great day!

We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us at and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a gift and add you to any future mailings.

Angelica Hart and Zi

BOOKS can be purchased at
Champagne Books

Thursday, February 24, 2011



Leave a comment on any of her days and be entered into a drawing to WIN


“Just say you’ll wear the dress and join us for the evening. I know you have the courage to handle the gift in the light it was intended. I would hate to have to call you coward along with stubborn.”

“You make a strong argument.” She fingered the dress with longing. “My curious nature urges me to accept even if I do so with reservations.”

His gaze shifted to her hair. He reached out and fingered a loose curl against her cheek. “I like it much better down.

Whoever decided women should wear their hair tucked away in a crown of curls should be drawn and quartered.”

Just the mere brush of his fingers against her skin made her pulse quicken. With effort, she refrained from leaning into his hand.

“A blood thirsty wizard? What else should I know about you?”

He dropped his hand from her hair. “You need know nothing more.”

His sudden brusqueness made no sense. “No. You’re absolutely right. I think it best we remain polite strangers.” She already feared the chemistry she sensed between them. She feared learning about the man even more. A friendship had the opportunity to develop into much stronger emotions. She silently agreed with Vin. She need know nothing more.

He caught her in his strong arms, crushing the fragile lace between them. “Strangers make the best lovers. With strangers there are rarely any regrets.”

She gazed into his dark eyes and saw pain. “Who hurt you, Vin? Who made you into such a hard man?”

“Man?” He chuckled. “You forget. I’m only half a man. The other half is elf. Elfin faeries view the world from a far different perspective than humans.”

“One of cynicism.”

His hold upon her gentled. “I prefer the term practical. I don’t adhere to philosophies that support double standards. In Alfheim Haven, every Being has an equal say at the Main Court. Simply put, I don’t observe the prejudices abundant in the human realm. With Lucian, the situation would be much different there than here. The Beings would protect and nuture children no matter the circumstances surrounding their birth.”

“While I find it hard to understand Lord Haverett’s prejudice toward Lucian, I must abide by social constraints. Without them, we would all become savages.”

He stroked her forearms. “Like me? Do you find me savage?”


He lowered his lips and swallowed her words. He kissed her with fierce intensity. The dress rustled between them, a bitter token of his regard for her. She melted into his embrace, savoring the taste of his lips, accepting for the moment his mastery over her heart and body. And while her body yearned for more, her heart cried. He would never see her as more than a conquest. And she could never set aside her morals to give into the heady feelings he evoked. For that, she did consider him savage.

She pushed against his chest. He dropped his hands, but held her prisoner with the touch of his lips. She tore her mouth from his. The dress fell to the floor, a pool of shimmering guilt.


Ciara Gold

Available at Champagne Books or All Romance E-books


The Keeper of Moon Haven is available at Champagne Books

and at All Romance Ebooks

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Love In A Cold Month

I've always thought it strange that Valentine's Day fell in one of our coldest months. February is by no means spring in any of the north central or eastern nothern states. And certainly not in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where the Viking and I live. My first husband tended to give me something practial for Valentine's Day, but that's not why our marriage was dissolved (in CA it's a dissolution if it isn't contested.) The truth is he thought all romances were trash and if I insisted on writing one it was either him or the writing.
My second husband (yes, I'm a an optimist, but at least this time I picked another writer), was definitely not the romantic type in person even if he did write romances, but he sometimes did remember Valentine's Day by taking me out to dinner, unless it fell on a Monday because that was his bowling night. But he died.
I've known the Viking from my past ever since I was six and he was seven and I
"skipped" from first to second grade. He has since told me that he fell in love with me then. But though we became friends, we never really dated. And after graduating in 1943, in the midst of WWII, he went into the Navy Pilot program and I went into the Cadet Nurse program. So I became a nurse and he went to college when he got out of the Navy and became a geologist. I married a doctor and he married as well. But over the years we never quite lost track of each other.
By the time we connected again, I was a widow and he'd been divorced for some time. We both were a tad wary of marriage, but we decided to become Life Partners and have been together since 1994 and will be until we die.
There's no age limit to falling in love and in the Viking, I finally found a man who really enjoys celebrating Valentine's Day. Always a romantic card at my place at the table when I get up that morning. At his place, too, as far as that goes--I'm almost as romantic as he is. Until it was better for our health if he didn't buy any more there was candy, too. Not to mention flowers. I used to tell myself it didn't matter, but now that I celebrate the day, it know it's better to. Only if the feeling is there to go with it, though.
Still, why February? Because we need love to keep warm? I vaguely recall a song titled "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm." I think it was popular before I was in my teens. My brother, twenty years older than I, had a dance band, so I do recall some of the songs from his time.
Or just maybe we need something to brighten the cold month besides two President's birthdays.
I have lots of romantic book covers, but instead of the photo coming up when I upload, just the URL for it does, so no hearts and flowers. I do hope every one of you had as enjoyable a Valentine's Day as we did. Now that I think of it, it's probably the fault of the old Romans--or even the Greeks, that the month of hearts and flowers is February.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Leave a comment on any of her days and be entered into a drawing to WIN


Thank you for allowing us to poke and you a few questions. We're certain the readers are anxious to see the face behind THE LANCASTER RULE TRILOGY.

A and Zi: To begin, what is the funniest incident you ever had that has to do with your writing?

T. K. : So far to date, nothing funny has occurred but I have borrowed some "mild" moments to incorporate into my books. Usually character traits that I think are funny and normal human behaviour.

A and Zi: If you were to spend a year at sea, and one of your characters could come to life and join you, who would he/she be, and why?

T. K. : Well, so long as I'm not barfing my guts out, and they're not too put off by a green-hued woman with puke stains, well, it would have to be the hero in the book. Duhh, who else, right?

A and Zi: Great response! Seasick, eh? Anywho, have you had any pets in your novels? Or - Do you plan on having any pets in your novels? Or - Would you rather be a cat or a dog and why?

T. K. : I've had two pets written into my trilogy. A dog called Fluffy, and a mangy, flea-bitten cat called Hissy.

A and Zi: You just gotta luv those names! Now, tell us, which superhero would you like to be?

T. K. :The Invisible, come on!! Who would miss (pardon the pun) out on being invisible. Can you imagine the stuff you can get away with? Oh, the possibilities!!

A and Zi: (A tells Zi to stop grinning like the cat who outwitted the bulldog.) What makes you laugh, slapstick or droll humor?

T. K. : Haha! Humour in general makes me laugh, and yes, I've lots of humour in the books. Personally, I like droll humour. Never really been a fan of slapstick.

A and Zi: Finally, and most important of all, what is your favorite pasta and sauce?

T. K. :Mmmm....uh, where to start. Cream sauces, with heaping amounts of cheese. And as for pasta, well, all of them?

A and Zi: Again, thank you for seeing a glimpse into the real T.K. So, anyone ready for lunch? Think we'll have pasta!

Monday, February 21, 2011


Good Morning!

This is week four of our festivities, and we still have more to share with many Champagne Book authors and even more GIVE AWAYS.

As on day one, anyone who joins the Champagne Book Blog today will receive a free e-book! If you leave a comment you'll be part of today's drawing for a free e-book. If you let a friend know about our blog and they join the blog, you'll both be entered into the end of the month drawing for two print books, an e-book and a surprise gift.

Now, for our blog, we offer for your reading pleasure a glimpse into our world.


Some questions for the dueling duo:

Have the two of you being writing together long, and how many books do you have with Champagne? Does chemistry play a big part?

Z: Three questions, gotcha: 1) We have been writing for what seems to be a lifetime together, separately. There have been many titles published since 1996. B) KILLER DOLLS will be our first with Champagne, followed by SNAKE DANCE and CHASING YESTERDAY. This will be at least our eighteenth collaboration. Finally) As a chemistry major in college, I figured out early that the most entertaining of all experiments were the ones that were the most reactive. So, some days I'm the catalyst and others Angelica is.

A: Zi answered the first two, and I never did pass chemistry, so my response is, we can be combustible when we write together, just playing off each other until we believe we found the right formula that will tease emotion out of our readers.

Z: Angelica as a once Philly girl has an edge that bites but never cuts clean. Couple that with my analytical proclivity and we've a formula for sparks.

A: Sparks... sometimes outright infernos. If you'd always do what I said things would be smoother.

Z: Yes they would... but far less entertaining.

A: You got a point.

A: Zi?

Z: Yes.

A: You think she was just asking about how we got together?

Z: Naw, and if she was, it's a secret.

Another question:

Who has inspired you as writers?

A. In truth, Zi has been a great inspiration to me, and a procurer of seeing the truth behind the words, never compromising that truth, even in fantasy worlds there is a logic and theme that has to be recognized and respected. I owe this revelation to him, taming my creative frenzy when it becomes outlandish.

Z: Just read what you wrote... my response is... poppycock... it was not two days ago that you told me I couldn't spell hero if spotted H E R. No one believe her, she is spinning a tale. I work with her. I know her. She's evil in ways you don't understand. Having said that, I feel very fortunate to share writing with her. Thomas Fuller wrote, "When Fortune smiles, embrace her." Thomas must have met Angelica Hart.

A: You're so full of ca-ca.

Z: That's my story and I'm sticking to it. When the corn is ripe, pick it.

Final questions:

Not many authors of the opposite sex could create a world that both could live in for the length of time it takes to write a book. Tell us, how it happened and how do the characters feel about what you came up for them in one of your books?

A: (Blurts) Let's discuss SNAKE DANCE!

Z: Don't I have a say?

A: (Thinks) Mmmm, sure, but let's discuss SNAKE DANCE.

Z: (Does the eye roll, twice) Fine! (Takes a breath and begins) The creative meeting we had brainstorming the fantasy for SNAKE DANCE was an epic adventure in compromising our lack of a willingness to compromise. The world ultimately became a huge extension of Angelica's imagination. The trade-off was that the characters and the conflict reflected mine. Ahhhhh, if it was only that easy. Whereas, the story unfolded naturally and with simplicity, since we both found a remarkable fascination in the iconic tale. But the color, the facade, the tone and texture were occasionally a confounding task. We literally wallpapered our office with page after page after page of ideas and as we constructed the planet Starling we drew from what seemed to be an endless reservoir of cognitive subtext.

A: Did you tell them that we fought... and fought?

Z: Immmpliiiied.

A: There is a point of sexism that has been raised. The most beautiful component of this Angelica Hart and Zi collaboration is that we have a profoundly deep honor and respect for both sexes, and their place in the natural coexistence of relating. Yes, we see the differences, and adore them. We see the formidable instinctual tugs, and enhance them. So, I think I'm comfortable in saying that it's not the negative we feel but the awesome positive nature of a man and woman creating, they believing, truly believing that the world and the love in it have endless possibilities.

Z: One of the most important points of view I maintain is that every female protagonist is complex, strong, has heroine qualities, and can be the every woman. Mind you, this is hard in fantasy but the template is always in place. I will never agree to a mindless female. Furthermore, Angelica and I have agreed that the principle characters must, and I shall repeat, must have a reason to feel love before they do the horizontal snake dance.

A: As for the characters feel: Well, when they're lonely, they hate us. When they're being chased by the bad guys, they hate us. When we poke fun at them, they hate us. But when we arrange in the finale for them to requite the honest pursuit of love in that very special way, they put us on their Christmas card list.

Z: The depth and complexity of both the world and the conflict we placed in that world is the greatest gift we give each other as writers, for from that aforementioned depth, the characters can often and quickly reveal themselves more richly.

A: And occasionally more naughty.

Z: Duh! Why else the complexity.

In closing:

Z: Thank you for reading about us. As one armadillo said to the other while standing on the side of the road, "Be careful, the walk across could get you tired." It is always my pleasure to try to entertain and we hope we entertained you.

A: You actually used an armadillo reference? Have you no shame? We hope you enjoyed our interview. We want to thank anyone who has ever read anything that we wrote. We write for you.


We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us at and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a gift and add you to any future mailings.

Angelica Hart and Zi

BOOKS can be purchased at
Champagne Books

Sunday, February 20, 2011



February 14, 1841, Northampton, England

Gavin Sinclair, Baron Dunleigh, was bored out of his mind.

Why had he come tonight, he wondered, as he watched a bevy of beautiful women whirl around the ballroom in their colorful gowns? He gazed at the guests milling around the lace-covered pillars festooned with red and white roses. All that was missing from the decorations were the ivy leaves advertising the occasion as a prelude to a proposal of marriage. That was the last thing in which he had an interest!

Gavin groaned. Wedlock. Every man here, himself included, had other things on their mind. Still, from the number of people attending this event, Lady’s Sutton’s Valentine’s Ball would be declared a smashing success. It mattered little if some fair maiden tricked her escort into proposing matrimony.

He glanced toward the front arch embellished with smiling cupids, golden arrows and festive hearts and sipped a glass of inferior champagne. How soon could he take his leave without appearing rude?

He patted the pocket of his jacket. At least tonight, he didn’t have to worry about his younger brother. Kenneth’s message had arrived before Gavin left for the ball. The note assured Gavin that although Kenneth had some unfinished business, he would sail on the Valiant Lady in ten days. It would free Gavin from a necessary trip to their Caribbean property.

About time Kenneth began to take an active part in their business enterprises despite his arguments.

“My Lord,” a voice behind him forced him to turn.

He spun toward the speaker. Lawrence Oxley, a good friend of Kenneth’s, stood before him, a worried look marring his effeminate features, his face flushed. Too much drink, or nerves.

“What is it, Lawrence?”

The young man hesitated. Gavin stifled a groan and waited for him to speak, hoping against hope that Kenneth was not involved in another fracas.

“Sir, I’m sorry to bother you, but...” He glanced at the crowd and murmured, “Someplace not so--so crowded?”

Gavin led him to a small alcove off the main hall.

“Better?” he asked.

The young man nodded and gulped--hard.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t keep this to myself a minute longer. Kenneth will want to kill me, but I do believe you ought to know.”

Gavin scowled. Damn! Kenneth was up to something, something not good. He’d been correct in assuming his younger brother was in trouble, yet again.

“Well, man, what is it you think I should know?”

Once again Lawrence cleared his throat. “He’s getting married. Going to Gretna Green.”

An Elopement! Gavin swore. The fool!


“Tonight, my Lord!”

The hot burn of anger raced through Gavin. How dare his younger brother try something like this?

Lawrence cowered before him and Gavin assumed it was because of his expression.

“I see…” His words rolled out of his mouth like bits of live coal.


“Midnight,” Lawrence croaked.

Gavin pulled his pocket watch from his vest and glanced at it.

“I could have used more time to stop this affair.”

“Sorry, my Lord. It took some time to find you.”

“I take it that you know who he intends to wed and where.” Gavin tossed the words out.
Damn! Kenneth had been nothing, if not trouble, from the moment Gavin assumed his care immediately after the death of their parents. Their verbal battles were legion.

Lawrence swallowed again, his Adam’s apple bobbing against his stiff collar, “Where, but not whom. Oh, I’ve seen the girl but I don’t know her name. She had her come out this year. You had to have met her.”

“I was at my Caribbean plantation last summer so I missed the season. Don’t you know anything about her?”

Lawrence seemed to be studying the floor for answers. Again, he cleared his throat.

“I know she was sponsored by Lady Sophia Palmer.”

Gavin swallowed choice words and slapped his hand against his forehead.

“Sophia Palmer. My Gawd, that woman is a menace, an eccentric of the first water. She’s anything but a lady. Have you no other information?”

“The girl’s father is in the military,” Lawrence murmured, as if that information might have some value.

“Anything else? Anything at all?”

Lawrence shook his head and eased out of the alcove. Gavin almost smiled at the boy’s apparent need to escape.

“All right,” Gavin said. “At least tell me where my brother is meeting this person.”


Saturday, February 19, 2011


Look for more from Ciara on February 24

Leave a comment on any of her days and be entered into a drawing to WIN



Vin turned away from the cluster of faeries. He’d learned many things since becoming the Keeper, one of which was to use a firm hand when dealing with the Beings of Alfheim Haven. As a result, he rarely bowed to another’s will. He glanced down at the translucent quality of his hand and bit off an oath.

The blasted woman continued to read. Her throat must be hoarse by now. Time flowed differently in Alfheim Haven. A minute in the human realm equated to nineteen minutes here, sometimes even more. She must have read that story for almost three hours. If anything, she was tenacious.

He walked slowly. Her voice pulled at him. He resisted. Doesn’t she have anything better to do with her time?

By the time he reached the keep, his skin was completely transparent. He swung his cape over his shoulder and yanked the front door open with more force than he intended. He must rein in his temper and not give into the human emotion.

I won’t go. She can read until she has no voice and still, I won’t go.


His mother’s gentle voice broke through his thoughts. His eyes met hers. A flitting worry etched her features before it fled from view. “She calls to you again, doesn’t she?”

He rolled his eyes. He should have never told his mother of his visit to the human realm.

“Just because she calls, doesn’t mean I must go to her. I won’t be manipulated.”

His mother turned her head away, but not before he caught her gentle smile. She studied the flowing fabric of her gown with more interest than it deserved. “Vin, when you saw the woman, did you think to ask her name?”

His mouth gaped. He clamped it shut. Awiergan! What had he been thinking? How would he find her when he bridged to the human realm if he didn’t know her name? Mefylleth drew near, and he wouldn’t have much time to locate the girl or the book. “Aye, but she managed to avoid telling me. It’s an oversight I intend to correct. Have no fear, Mother, this situation will resolve itself soon. I give you my word.”

Before he could change his mind, he disappeared from her sight and into the timeless void that would take him to the human realm—and the nameless woman who summoned him.


Ciara Gold

Available at Champagne Books or All Romance E-books


The Keeper of Moon Haven is available at Champagne Books

and at All Romance Ebooks

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Leave a comment on any of her days and be entered into a drawing to WIN


Here is another fresh and original excerpt from the Lancaster Trilogy. Check back on the 23rd for a wee interview with T. K. Toppin.

Excerpt from The Lancaster Rule Trilogy: Excerpt from The Eternal Knot: (From Josie’s POV during a luncheon with Elena)

She greeted me with a wide spread of her arms. At her wrists, several gold bracelets jangled and caught the afternoon light. She’d been lounging on a bench, posing, seemingly enjoying the gardens when I had walked in and stood aloofly motionless. A true stage diva, she played her part perfectly. Upon seeing us, she allowed her face to light up with pleasure and airily walked towards us, certain that we’d see her near-naked body through the sheer dress. Even Loeb, conservative and stoic as ever, proved he was still a man and not a robot, flicked his eyes to keep time with her jiggling boobs.

I would have rolled my eyes if I didn’t have to maintain a pleasant face.

“Madam Lancaster,” she beamed with a wide smile. Someone no doubt had briefed her that she was not allowed to shake my hand, as she stopped short at five feet and brought her hands together by her famous bosom. “A pleasure. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I fear, I made a nuisance of myself yesterday.”

“Ms. Greco,” I nodded and offered the gift that I really felt like flinging at her—but that would be wasteful. “A small token in honour of this afternoon.” Smiling just a fraction and making sure it reached my eyes, I placed the small box on the neatly laid table. A small part of me was impressed with my hard-practiced ‘wife of the President’ manner. I was getting quite good at it.

“Oh, so very kind. My thanks. Please, I insist you call me Elena.” She fluttered about the table, indicated I sit, and summoned her mechanical housekeeper for refreshments.

When the housekeeper arrived, I wasn’t surprised to see a replica of a young Greek god-like man. This time I nearly did roll my eyes. The next thing that happened was a perverse thought that had me wondering exactly what this droid was really used for. It was known to happen, after all, where droids were used to fulfil certain fantasies. I stole a discreet look at its crotch to see if it was so equipped and nearly choked on my own tongue. Engorged now had a completely new meaning. I casually glanced at Elena as she spoke with him, and made a mental picture of her in bed with this droid. I nearly shuddered at the thought.

Elena fussed and fretted with instructions, insisting on champagne and specifying that it had to be ice-cold or she’d be very upset, then sent the droid off with a flick of a finger. Envisioning a long afternoon, I glanced at Loeb, who still looked completely occupied with the floral arrangement. I wished for once, I were someone else.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Look for more from Julie on February 26

Leave a comment on any of her days and be entered into a drawing to WIN


Excerpted from Mortal Coil by Julie Eberhart Painter: The first “love scene” between our hero, Bill, and our heroine, Ellen, who have been working together to solve two murders in her work place. She’s a widow with a precocious ten-year-old named Patti.

~ * ~

There was nothing like physical activity to allay anxiety, so Friday afternoon, Ellen took off work early to tackle cleaning the kitchen and laundry room floors. She had only an hour left before Patti would come in and undo her efforts. She didn’t want her daughter skating around on the wet floor. Ellen had changed into old jeans and a loose-at-the-neck blue T-shirt. Her feet were bare.

Public radio was running a fundraiser, so she turned the living room stereo to the country western station—music to clean by. Ellen had opened the garage doors to take advantage of the warm, dry breeze blowing from the west. She danced around the kitchen, pushing the mop in time with the music. About half of the kitchen corners were now free of dirt, a testimony to what Millie would call Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She’d moved the kitchen table into one corner and stacked the chairs on top. A rap on the screen door alerted her to a visitor.

She unhooked the screen and motioned Bill inside.

“Watch the wet spots.”

“What are you doing?” he asked, raising his voice to be heard over the loud music.

“Cleaning the floor,” she said, raking the back of an arm over her wet forehead and wiping her hands on her jeans.

“Isn’t there an easier way?” Bill asked. “How about the old Irma Bombeck trick?”

“Any solution in a storm. What is it?”

“I’ll show you. Do you have any old towels?”


“You need to put old terrycloth towels on your feet and dance around the floor.”

“Well, I’ve got the music. Let’s see if I can get some towels.” She placed the mop back in the wheeled bucket she’d borrowed from maintenance and headed for the garage. All the old towels Patti used to wash the car had been washed and dried and left on top of Tom’s abandoned toolbox. Grabbing a handful, she came back into the kitchen.

“Demonstrate,” she said, handing the bunch to Bill.

He wrung out the mop and set it aside. Soaking and pulling the towels through the wringer, he handed them to her one by one. “Okay. Put a towel under each foot and dance like you were dancing, slide, two, three, four, slide...”

Ellen smiled. “Terrific.”

Just then the announcer went to a commercial. They stood there looking at each other waiting for more music. Ellen dropped two more wet towels and stepped on them. Bill shucked his shoes and socks and dropped his towels. The next tune was a bouncy number that set Ellen’s head bobbing.

“More like this,” he said, sliding and dipping in dance mode. “Ever do the Texas two-step?” Bill called over the twanging guitars.

“No. But I’ve seen the contests on TV.”

“It’s a lot of fun. When I was stationed in San Antonio, we used to go to a bar where they had a dance floor. I learned how to do it while my friends lost their money, and sometimes their drinks, riding the mechanical bull. Keep the towels on your feet and put your hand on my shoulder. Take my left hand.”

Ellen placed her hand on Bill’s shoulder. He encircled her waist. She took his hand; warm, wet fingers entwined.

"Okay. On the count of four.”

He crushed her against his rib cage, his big hand on her back guiding her. They started out. “Kick your heels when you turn. Centrifugal force will hold the towels on.”
They bopped around the large kitchen. Soon Ellen was swinging her hips, pumping her hand and feeling very good about floor cleaning.

The linoleum glowed, wet with the water their weight squeezed from the towels. As they came to the end of the number, Bill slid backwards and spun Ellen twice. Her footing gave way, and she headed for the floor. When she grabbed on tighter to break her fall, Bill lost his balance and came down next to her. The bucket rolled rapidly across the kitchen, hit the opposite wall and tipped. Water spread across the floor, making a dirty wave before it receded toward the lowest corner. The dampness crept up their splayed legs from heel to calf. They looked at each other and laughed.

“I can’t believe it.” Ellen giggled. “You kicked the bucket.” More laughter. And Ellen remembered that this was the first time in a long while that she had used that phrase without feeling guilty.

Bill, out of breath, heaved himself up and grabbed for Ellen’s wet hand. As he tried to pull her, he slid and crashed against her, his feet extended. He put his head on her shoulder and pretended to cry. “It’s your turn to save me.”

They were sitting on the wet floor screeching with hysterics, pushing and wiping their eyes, out of breath from exchanging puns, when Patti walked into the kitchen from the school bus.
“Mother! Who made this mess?”

Through giggles, Ellen tried to explain the new floor-cleaning technique, but she was laughing so hard not much came out.

Patti shook her head. “You two should grow up.” She picked her way between the puddles and headed down to her room, calling over her shoulder, “I hope you don’t think I’m going to clean that up.”

“The only adult in the place,” Bill said.

How did she get so... old? Ellen worried.

Bill smiled. “Let’s try to stand up. I think we’re on our own with the cleaning.” He got to one knee and stood cautiously, pulling Ellen to her feet. The next dance played in the background. “Tennessee Waltz.” Ellen threw the rest of the towels down toward the wet corners. Let the “Georgia rats” (opossums) that occasionally infiltrated the basement take a shower; she was dancing.

They mopped and danced, easing their way across the kitchen on shoes of towels. Having circumnavigated the kitchen, Bill reluctantly bent over, picking up the sopping linens.

“What do I do with these?” He asked holding the rags aloft.

“Toss them in the washer over there.”

He opened the louvered doors and dropped them into the top loader.

“Well thank you, I think. I’ll never look at the kitchen floor the same way again,” Ellen said, shaking her pant legs loose.

“I would hope not.” He grinned.

Another, slower tune, a mournful, country waltz, played from the stereo. Bill held out his arms. Embracing Ellen, he placed his cheek to hers.

His rough face sent prickles of excitement up and around her hairline. As they danced, he pulled her closer. Every beat, his heart throbbed through her ribs, seeking comfort. He nuzzled her cheek, working his way to her lips. She relaxed against him. He was holding her up, scrunching her T-shirt and the flesh of her back in his big warm hands. He pressed her against him, flattening her breasts into his chest. They kissed. He tasted of wintergreen, her favorite flavor. His pineapple aftershave steamed around her in the humid kitchen. She closed her eyes, enraptured by the moment.

“One more kiss?” he whispered. “Then I must get back to the station. I’m way past my lunch break.”

They kissed again, long and tenderly, exploring each other’s lips and mouths. Bill ran his hands down her sides and circled her waist with his fingers. She felt validated—
a woman again—in a way she hadn’t felt since Tom was killed.

Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, in which she practices both medicine and law without licenses, and Tangled Web, a story close to her heart.

See Julie’s Web site at ~

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Author of the Year 2008, 2009 and nominee for 2010
Book of the Year Nominee for SHADOW OF GUILT



As a decorated officer, Eric Emerson is honor bound to defend the helpless, and trained to survive against a ruthless enemy, yet these skills were useless to protect his family from a faulty legal system. Riddled with guilt, he’s torn between his combat experience and the rules governing society. The conflict shatters his marriage, his job, and his sanity, until she saves him from his demons. Together, they stumble upon the Osiris study, a secretive government report that predicts a dire future unless there are draconian sacrifices. The attempt to unravel the mysterious nature of the study targets them for assassination until, once again, Eric embraces his dark side. The revelation about Osiris demands a horrific choice: ignore what they’ve found or become the seed to mankind’s survival, but at a terrible cost.


BOOM! The explosion ripped the three-man team off the ground and tossed them into the air. Eric slammed face first in the sand. He pushed up on his knees, pressed the detached flap of flesh back down on his forehead, wiped the blood from his eye, and fought the pain hammering inside his skull. He turned toward his friend, but Mac was gone, only a hole remained where he had been seconds before. He saw Duke lying in the sand ...

The sound of the vehicle pulling into the driveway brought him out of the dream and back to the kitchen in his small house. Eric stood up from the table, walked over to the window above the sink, and stared at the two figures in the black car. The glow from the streetlight was insufficient to see their faces,
but he knew, there in the passenger seat, it was her. The head of the passenger disappeared below the edge of the car window. When the head of the driver leaned back, Eric gripped the sides of his coffee mug. He watched for a moment to confirm his suspicions, and then he closed his eyes and lowered his
head. He fought the impulse to end it all, to rush outside and set things straight.

Perhaps she’s right. Maybe if I had been here, things would have turned out different.

He took a deep breath, started to glance out the window one last time, but instead returned to his seat at the table, and waited.

Eric tapped his knuckles on the table as he sat alone in the dark. His eyes bored into the kitchen door until he heard the key turn in the lock. He listened to the door close and the light footsteps as they echoed through the small two-story house and advanced on his position. When the entry to the kitchen opened, the woman flipped the light switch and was startled.

“Damn, you scared the hell out of me. I didn’t know you were home from your trip. Where’s your car?”
“In the garage.”

“Why are you sitting in the dark?”

Eric surveyed his wife’s attire: the three-inch heels, the opal earrings he gave her on their first anniversary, and the strapless black dress. The same outfit she used to wear only when they went out, the one that made him proud she was his and no one else’s.

“It’s a bit late to be coming in, isn’t it? Where have you been?”

Karen paused for moment, tossed her keys on the counter, and responded without looking at her husband. “I was out with friends.”

“Do I know these friends?”


“It’s really getting old, to come home to an empty house every night, and find out you’ve been with your…friends.”

“Then stop traveling everywhere for that damn job. Besides, why the hell should you care what I do when you’re gone? I’m aware you’re not alone on those trips. I know you take one of your sluts with you, like that red headed major.”

Eric stood up. He scanned the hard expression on his wife’s beautiful face, the glistening black hair he longed to stroke. He glanced at the tight lips that once smiled whenever he was near, the soft lips he needed to touch, to taste. “No matter how many times you accuse me of infidelity, it doesn’t make it true. I swear I have not been with any other women during our entire marriage. Can you say the same for yourself?”

With an expression barren of emotion, Karen ignored the comment and turned toward the doorway to leave, but not without making one final cutting remark. “I don’t believe you. You haven’t been with me for a long time, so you must be screwing someone else. As always, this conversation has given me
a headache. Don’t wake me when you come to bed, or when you go jogging in the morning.”

Eric remained alone in the kitchen with only the light beneath the doorsill stretching across the floor. While he stared past the door into the next room, he whispered to the only woman in his life, “Where did it go, Karen? You loved me once. Is it so easy to forget what we used to have, together? I still
remember. I’ve tried hard not to let it go, but it becomes more difficult each day.”

Eric listened to the clock on his nightstand, and resisted the need for sleep. He knew it waited in the shadows of his nightmare. After two hours, he lost the battle. While he slept, the vision that hounded his dreams for so long returned: the fawn grazed toward the edge of the woodland, unaware of what lurked
just inside the trees. In an instant, the beast lunged onto his prey. While it consumed her innocence, Eric was helpless. Chained to an oak tree, he was forced to observe while the demon mocked him. He could only watch from the hill as he lost her forever to that ruthless bastard. He ripped at the chains as they cut deep into his skin. He struggled against the bonds until the shackles that had imprisoned him all these years were covered with his blood. He ignored the gnawing pain, pushed against the tree with his feet, until the steel tore deep into his flesh and exposed the bone, but the chains remained, stopped him from saving her. Eric looked away and closed his eyes, but the tears continued to pour down his cheeks. The beast grunted with pleasure as it wrested the life from her small slender body. Eric screamed in agony, but no one was there on the lonely hill to listen. While he watched her die alone, he wept. Eric sat up in his bed. The nightmare left him soaked in sweat. He gazed at his wife lying next to him, and started to reach for her. He needed to feel her soft skin, touch the taut ridge that flowed down her back. He yearned to be absolved of his guilt, or to achieve some semblance of comfort, but he pulled back, afraid of being rejected, again.

He felt alone, as always, all alone. He got up, walked into the spare bedroom, and curled up on the bed. Eric lay motionless, staring out the window at the stars in the night sky, until the tremors from the nightmare disappeared. After thirty minutes he fell asleep again, by himself, in the dark room

Monday, February 14, 2011


This is week three of our festivities, and we still have more to share with many offerings from Champagne Book authors and even more GIVE AWAYS.

Anyone who joins the Champagne Book Blog today will receive a free e-book! If you leave a comment you'll be part of today's drawing for a free e-book. If you let a friend know about our blog and they join the blog today, you'll both be entered into the end of the month drawing for two print books, an e-book and a surprise gift.

Today, Allison Knight presents the perfect blog for this day of Hearts and Flowers, and she will be giving away a copy of ROSES FOR MY LADY. Just leave a comment and be entered into today's drawing!


There are all kinds of legends about Valentine's Day, why it started, when and how. Some predate the celebration of that day to early pagan times. But, calling it Valentine Day originated from a priest who was martyred during the reign Claudius of Rome. Valentine was a Christian priest, and it is said the emperor Claudius didn't want married men in his army. Valentine defied the emperor and married couple anyway, army or not. After Valentine tried to convert the emperor to Christianity and failed, he was martyred. In 469 AD, February 14th was set aside as the day to honor his death.

So, why is this the day to declare your love or exchange notes announcing your undying devotion? Well it seems the night before he was killed, Valentine wrote to the jailer's daughter, a young girl who had befriended him, and signed his message, "In love, Valentine". But the practice of exchanging love messages on the day itself, really didn't start until the end of the middle ages. The Duke of Orleans, an important French Duke, claims the title of sender of the first Valentine. He was lock up in the Tower of London, after he fought the English - and lost. The Duke thought himself quite a poet, and the story goes, he sent his wife a love poem on February 14th while he was imprisoned.

This is why legends are just that, legends. True, the Duke of Orleans wrote poetry, lots of it. True he married a couple of times but his first wife died three years after the marriage, long before he fought the English. True he was locked up in the Tower of London as well as a lot of other places while France tried to gather the ransom demanded by the English king. However, was he married at the time he was imprisoned and did he indeed send a love note to his wife on February 14th? The actual recorded time line of his life makes you wonder, because there's no recorded marriage at the time he supposedly sent that poem. However, he is credited with sending the first Valentine. You decide.

And since that time Valentines of all sizes and shapes have declared a forever kind of love to one's sweetheart. I couldn't resist using a Valentine which ends up in the wrong hands as a basis for "Roses for my Lady."

Let me wish you all a happy Valentine's Day.

See another excerpt from Allison's ROSES FOR MY LADY on February 20!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Leave a comment and be entered into a contest for a free e-book from Tanya!




Introduced ~ Amy (formerly known as Sausage) Wellington

Pepper Wellington, according to her daughter, was cursed with being interesting. It was infuriating, really, because her mother seemed to be completely incapable of doing anything boring or normal—which resulted in Pepper naming her one and only daughter something truly horrendous and unforgivable. She named her daughter Sausage. Not only was Sausage donned with a horrible name, but she was also cursed with hair as bright as brushed copper. Both these things became a curse to her, although her mother seemed to only notice the issue with her name.

“Oh, have a sense of humor,” Pepper said time and again to her daughter as she grew up. “Sausage is a terrific name. You’ll never meet another Sausage, I guarantee you that.”

Pepper had been right, which was why, at the tender age of nine, Sausage (in bright red pigtails and a homemade tie-dyed t-shirt dress) had marched in to the local police station and demanded that her name forever be changed to Amy. There were Amy’s everywhere, and very few of them as far as she could tell, were interesting. They did not officially change her name; Sausage had to wait until she was eighteen for that, but she thought she’d made her point.

Now, at the tender age of twenty-nine, Amy had completely transformed herself. Gone were the Goodwill clothes and handmade sweaters. Gone were the hippy communes and artist retreats her mother had dragged her to. Gone was the red hair cascading down her back. It had grown into a nice dulled auburn, and she wore it up in a clip, securing most of its color and sheen from sight.

In the last decade since her escape from her mother’s abundant bosom, Amy had gone to a respectable college and taken all the suggested classes. She majored in Business Administration and wore clothes purchased from Talbots in an array of colors ranging from khaki to grey to black, which she accented with pink. Gradually, the pink took over her wardrobe, not least of all because it was a color her soon-to-be-mother-in-law hated. Amy didn’t really care for pink, but it seemed to her to be so wholly different from her childhood that it was now a color she found inexorably drawn to, the way diabetics were sometimes drawn to sweets. Sausage—or rather, Amy—now worked for a local hotel at the front desk where she managed not to be impressive or promoted…and she had just met the man of her dreams: the very boring, very predictable, Peter.

Peter did not know Amy’s true origins. He could not even guess at her genesis and relation to a woman who read auras and believed (even at the age of sixty-three) that sex should be enjoyed frequently, loudly, and with many different partners. Nor could Peter guess that his wife-to-bes true name was Sausage, so that together--married--they would be Peter and Sausage Johnson…the association with penises here so painful to Amy that she dared not think about it. And she dare not tell her beloved that she was not plain, dull Amy, but had a past much darker, much more interesting than he could ever dream.

Amy’s greatest fear was that he would find her out and decide he could not marry her. And if he could not marry her, then she would not be able to stick to her timeline of married by twenty-nine, pregnant by thirt, and first born by thirty-one. The earth would tilt off its axis! Amy needed, above anything, a life that was predictable. A life, then, without her mother.

Had the choice been left to her, Amy wouldn’t have invited her mother to their wedding at all. She’d even contemplated hiring someone to impersonate her mother so that her secret could be kept safe, but it was not to be.

Peter had seen the pictures kept at the bottom of her dresser drawer when he’d calmly been searching for the box of condoms she kept hidden there.

“Hey, there, Amy,” he said (he often addressed her with her name no matter the situation). “Who’s this lady with the crazy hair?”

She’d had to explain that the woman with the red Afro was her mother, and then quickly disguised the reason for the t-shirt that read “Cunt Is My Favorite Four-Letter Word” as a t-shirt protesting that very word and using irony as a tool.

“My mom,” she’d explained, “is a radical Christian.” He’d nodded once, pushed the photos back under her white cotton panties, and then slowly unrolled the condom over his penis that he then inserted into her with medical precision. Precisely four minutes later, they’d each used the facilities, pulled on their clothes, and gone to Red Lobster for their Friday night fish fry.

Amy thought he’d forgotten her mother entirely until they’d been drawing up the guest list. “Amy, dear,” Peter’s mother Melody said softly. “Why, we haven’t invited any of your family. Please don’t tell me that you’re separated from your family.” Peter’s mother said the word ‘separated’ the way one would say ‘cancer’, with a horrified whisper.

“Separated! Goodness, no!” Amy laughed shrilly. “Why, my mom is so excited to come to the wedding. And my father, rest his soul, died when I was two.”

Peter’s mother smiled a soft understanding smile, and clasped Amy’s hand, never realizing that Amy had told two lies: 1) her mother had no idea there was a wedding as Amy hadn’t spoken to her in nearly a decade and 2) her father was not dead, but was alive and only reliable in his heroin addiction. He was currently living in Prospect Park in New York City. And by saying living in Prospect Park, Amy didn’t mean he had an apartment there. No. He pretty much lived in the park. That was a sad tale and best left in the dark.

Peter rubbed Amy’s shoulders. He always rubbed them a bit too hard and always in the same place, one hand placed on each shoulder--squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. “Two months, Amy! Just two more months and I will finally meet your mother and we will be Peter and Amy Johnson.” Squeeze-squeeze.

Amy flinched not only at the squeezing, but the repetition of her name, which still, somehow, all these years later, felt as if it belonged to someone else.

~ * ~

Amy had hoped that in those intervening two months, Peter would forget about the existence of her mother. Sadly, he did not. In fact, he seemed to insert mention of her mother’s existence into every banal conversation they had. So much so that Amy began to look over her shoulder fearful that Pepper had somehow materialized in her living room. For the time, Amy was safe. And then, “Say, weren’t you going to invite your mother?” Peter asked. And, “Where’s the invitation to your mother,” and “Of course, with your mother coming and all we can have a fine family picture.” So after much hemming and hawing (internally only; externally she didn’t make a sound), Amy picked up the phone.

She held the phone in her hand, considered dialing the number, and then placed it gently on the receiver. She picked it up again, studied the earpiece and then noticed there was a bit of grey film over it. Peter had greasy hair. Or perhaps a greasy face. At any rate, grease was involved and it was disturbing. Deeply so.

She rummaged in her purse until she found one of the prepackaged wipes she used to clean everything from her glasses to the computer screen to the mirror to, now, a phone receiver. She scrubbed. Then put the phone back in the cradle. She picked it up again.

“You call your mother, yet, Amy?” Peter called from the living room. He was watching News Hour on PBS and eating popcorn. He always watched News Hour on PBS and ate popcorn; on the weekends, he was at a loss as to what to do until he’d started recording News Hour and then he’d simply watch his favorite segments. Amy found this two-hour fixation unbearable and would try to make herself busy. After fifteen or so minutes, though, Peter would call for her and she’d have to sit next to him and not listen to him crunching away and not forget to keep smiling and not, God help her, fall asleep. Tonight, she’d said she was calling her mother. And she was. Any moment now.

“Just left a message!” she called back. “It must be Bingo night!” She laughed and it was tinny and false-sounding. Peter’s silence in response made her breathe easier: he’d seen nothing amiss. Amy was lying all the time now, it seemed, thanks in no small part to her mother, or as she sometimes still called her: Mummy. “Mummy” was a joke they’d had from when they’d stayed up all night drinking White Russians, pretending to be English (in homage to her boyfriend Graham’s nationality). “Oh, Mummy, could you pass the Earl Gray,” she’d giggled. “Why, yes, cheerio dear daughter, I shall do that expressly.”

Mummy. The thought of it, the remembered conversation, made a little corner of Amy’s heart ache, though she didn’t like to admit it. Don’t focus on that. No. Focus on the truth. The truth was Amy hadn’t spoken to her mom since she was seventeen and still her mother was fucking up her life. Even that, the word ‘fucking’, a word Amy would never, ever employ, she now thought of freely. It was her mother’s fault. It was all Mummy’s fault. Just thinking about her mom brought out her inner Evil. For example: tonight, the lies came effortlessly. Hadn’t Amy said cheerfully: I’ve left a message! It’s Bingo night! My mummy will be so happy to finally meet you! She’d called these things to Peter as if they were true.

Lies humped like rabbits it seemed.

There was another word: humped. She hadn’t even thought of humping in ages. She never thought of humping period! And now her mind was a flurry of humping. Peter did not hump her. What they did was far more clinical. Peter and she performed intercourse with each other…though to be honest, sometimes Amy followed it up with a little solitary manipulation of her own in the bathroom. But all of this was just a digression. She needed to focus. She blamed her mother again. When she thought of her mother, her mind wandered. She worried it was genetic.

Internally Amy said: “Just pick up the phone, Sausage, and call your mother!” And then externally, she’d gasped. She’d referred to herself as that ‘other person’ and if she thought of herself as ‘Sausage’ how long would it be before she slipped and Peter found out the truth? She was not Sausage anymore! She would never, ever be a sausage. She didn’t even touch the stuff anymore. Not even chorizo. And she liked chorizo.

She sighed. She picked up the phone. Her fingers punched in the number. She never even paused to consider that all these years later her mother might have a new phone number…but she was not so lucky.
“Sausage, love, you still breathe like a sick horse.”

That was her mother’s greeting. No, “Hello, how are you, I’m sorry.” No. In fact, Amy hadn’t even said a word so how did her mother know?

And in answer to the question Amy did not voice, her mother responded, “Caller ID, honey, though it says Amy Wellington. I never did figure out why of all the names in the universe you chose one as plain as Amy. Everyone and their brother is named Amy.”

Amy inhaled sharply. Her mom continued. “So, are you pregnant? Or just getting married?”

She felt the word forming in her throat before she was able to croak it out “Married”.

A pause. She heard something familiar, the striking of a match. Her mother, yoga connoisseur and sometime vegetarian, was probably getting high. Well, actually, maybe that was harsh. She’d never actually seen her mother get high, though she suspected it. She could, however, almost smell the incense burning. Her mother said that it realigned her chakras. “Okay, then, pet. My only request is that I want to wear my stilettos and a red dress. If you’re okay with that then I will be there with bells on.”

“No bells,” Amy said. “And only if the stilettos are short.”

Another pause, an exhale, and then her mother said the words that started it all: “It’s a deal.”

~ * ~

Amy was obsessed with weddings. Ever since she was a girl, she’d dress up in white and pretend to walk down the aisle, until her mother caught her and tried to get her to participate in her Wiccan friend’s Mayday celebration. Amy (at twelve) might have danced around the Maypole if her mother hadn’t given her the details of its symbolism: “It’s phallic, Sausage. Do you know what I mean by phallic? Really, you’re dancing around an enormous penis, pointing straight to the heavens. Hallelujah!”

No. No maypoles. Amy preferred to bring her own symbolism to her wedding ceremony. It was the final act to wipe away her past and begin new, as a bride, a wife, and someone not at all connected to Pepper Wellington. She wanted to be someone who was not Sausage Wellington, but Amy Johnson. She would marry Peter and she would be dressed in a perfect white dress that was so flouncy she could be mistaken for a princess. And in her arms she would carry red roses.

They would marry in Leelanau, a small peninsula in northern Michigan--in fact surrounded by Lake Michigan where the waves would create a musical beat to the procession. She would kiss Peter just as the sun set behind them in a burst of oranges and pinks. There would be starlight and dancing, a fire pit on the beach. Laughter. Music. In short, there would be magic. She had every detail worked out and recorded painstakingly in her three ring binder, separated by wedding details: Invitations, Cake, Vows, Clothes, Rings, Music, Food, Beverages, Registry, Gifts, People to Invite. And the final tab--People Not To Invite--which included just two people: Pepper, and Amy’s first love, Graham Lillibridge. Graham was of some kind of mishmash heritage that resulted in a voice that was deep and slightly accented and a personality that could only be termed as thus: Graham Lillibridge was a complete and utter cad.

Amy slept with the book, brought the book to the bathroom with her, had it sit by her when she ate. It went wherever she did and as the Big Day approached every detail was coming true. Except, of course, her mother was now invited. Graham, though, was certainly not invited. He was probably married, or divorced, or had a mistress, and was in jail or recently released. There was no way she’d see him again. So she needn’t worry.

The thought that she needn’t worry led her to worry and to think again of Graham. They were seventeen. They were in love. The kind of love you only feel in your life when you are young and stupid and, Amy supposed, very vulnerable. She tried not to think about his bare chest under her fingertips or the way he said her name or the way he kissed her or how he smelled, somehow, of wild trillium. Really, it was impossible not to think of him and the day when she left him; when she left her mother; when she left her life far, far behind her. It was a sad story. One Amy would not share with anyone except with herself, late at night, when Peter lay snoring next to her.

In her dreams she’d sometimes awaken gasping because Graham was kissing her and she could feel his lips pressing against her. But it was more than his lips. She felt a pressure covering her whole body, as if he lay on top of her. “Am I hurting you?” he’d asked, the one time he was entirely gentle. “Oh, yes,” she’d said. And then: “Hurt me a little bit more.” Even now those words haunted her. Pathetic. Ridiculous. Twisted. And, yes, hot. Very hot.

That was when people still knew her as Sausage. Graham called her “My little, spicy Sausage.” Not original, no, but she liked it. She liked him. Sometimes, even now, she missed him. She ached for him the way she imagined one could miss a ghost limb.

She would not think of him though. She was getting married! She, Amy Wellington, was getting married to dear, predictable, hairy Peter! And wasn’t it just grand? Wasn’t it just romantic?

She ran her finger over Graham’s name and then in one clean swipe, ripped the page entirely from the binder. Of course he wouldn’t be at the wedding. Just, unfortunately, her mother. She needed no other reminder of him. Best to make him disappear completely.

(Even though the page was torn, crumpled and tossed in the garbage, his name still existed in that binder. It whispered on every page, in every white space, in every letter of the alphabet. A ghost limb, indeed.)