Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Masterpiece by Bonnie Dee

Built from the bottom up: one perfect gentleman.

Man about town Arthur Lawton spends his days pursuing entertainment while shoeshine Joe Sprat labors to better his family’s lives. When an argument about nature versus nurture sparks a wager, Arthur swears to a friend he can turn this working man into a gentleman who will pass at a society function.

Joe is happy to participate in the experiment for a fee but receives more than he bargained for after moving into Lawton’s house. Arthur is determined Joe won’t merely wear a veneer of sophistication but educates him in every way. As he creates his new and improved man, Arthur grows more deeply infatuated with him, while Joe falls equally hard for his charismatic mentor.

Underneath a growing friendship, desire simmers and one day explodes. After their relationship escalates, the pair exists in a dream bubble until the threat of exposure sharply reminds them they belong in different worlds. When the ball is over, each must resume his own life, changed by their encounter but destined for different courses.

Find out if love is strong enough to bridge the gap between peer and pauper in this twist on the tale of My Fair Lady. 

If you have ever seen the film My Fair Lady then you have an idea of what the story behind The Masterpiece is all about.  Arthur and his best mate Granville make a bet to turn a lower class citizen into a gentleman in just a few short weeks.  Joe Sprat just happens to be that lower class citizen who just wants to support his family.  What could happen?

As a history buff I always enjoy a well planned historical where the author shows their appreciation of the past by staying true to the times and in my experience Bonnie Dee is one of the best writers to do just that.  Of course there are always a few minor liberties taken but as a whole the stories she creates paint a very accurate portrayal of the times and Masterpiece is no different.

Arthur may be out to win his bet with his friend but Joe soon gets under his skin and Joe might just be doing it to help his family and become closer to his dream of owning his own shoe store but Arthur soon becomes more than a tutor.  The Masterpiece is a tale of friendship and love filled with just the right amount of angst and drama to get the blood pumping.  Whether or not you are a fan of My Fair Lady or historicals won't matter because as long as you are a lover of great storytelling that mixes drama, heart, and a little humor than Masterpiece is definitely one for your TBR list.


The butler pointed out a chair for him to sit in—not one of the upholstered armchairs but a wooden one with no fabric for him to dirty. He told Joe the master would be in presently then left the room.

Joe sat still for all of a minute but he wanted to see that fancy radiator up close. He pulled aside the screen and studied it then put the screen back and wandered around the room admiring other marvels. There was a fully-rigged sailing ship in a glass bottle on the mantle. Above that, a large portrait of a uniformed man with enormous mutton chop whiskers glared down at the intruder in the house.

“My grandfather, Admiral Cornelius Bingley Lawton. When I was a boy, he would bring me treasures from his trips to all corners of the globe.”

The voice from behind Joe nearly made him jump out of his shoes. He turned to face Mr. Lawton, who had the same striking features and piercing eyes as the man in the painting.

“Please, sit down,” Lawton indicated one of two armchairs facing the fireplace.

“Sorry, sir. I should’ve stayed where I was put, but this room…Cor, I ain’t seen nothin’ like it in me life. ‘Tis a marvel.” He went where Lawton directed and perched on the edge of the chair.

Lawton leaned back in his seat and gracefully crossed his long legs. “You may as well begin to learn proper etiquette. It’s all right to be curious, but one doesn’t generally poke about someone’s house when paying a call.”

The reprimand was not harshly spoken but it embarrassed Joe to be considered so ignorant. “I know, sir. It ain’t considered polite among my sort either. I won’t do it again.”

Lawton studied him with those shining brown eyes. “You understand the terms of my wager with Lord Granville? In six weeks you will attend Lady Granville’s spring gala as my guest. The social elite will be there, peers and politicians, perhaps even royalty. You must be as polished and well-spoken as any man there. If you convince them you’re one of them, the proof will be in invitations to other social gatherings.”

“Yes, sir. I understand.” But he didn’t really. It was an odd measure for winning a bet, especially when that Lord Muckety Granville seemed to be in charge of deciding whether Joe had passed muster or not.

Lawton continued in that smooth voice that stroked like velvet against Joe’s ears, making the hair on his neck and arms pleasantly prickle. “As we proceed with your education, if I should correct you on any matter, it is without malice or intent to demean you. I don’t know how much you know about the social graces I’ll be attempting to impart.”

“Yes, sir,” Joe repeated, as it seemed the safest answer to give to all those high flown, fancy words. He didn’t want to ruin this opportunity to earn twenty quid within his first minutes here. Lawton might choose some other bloke to train up and Joe would be booted out of the miracle he’d lucked into.

“This is about much more than a different way of speaking. There are rules governing even the most mundane behaviors in society, all of which must become second nature to you.”

Lawton leaned forward now, his arms resting on his thighs and his gaze even more powerful. Joe felt it pressing against his chest like a hand. “But beyond that, there is a certain way you must carry yourself, with poise, confidence and dignity. I know quite a few pedigreed men, especially young bucks, who lack that air of quality. I want you to outmatch those of the highest breeding, to show what you are capable of through sheer willpower. Can you do that?”

Joe began nodding even before Lawton finished speaking. He hadn’t felt the force of someone’s words this way since his mum used to drag him to church where the minister’s sermons on hellfire seemed directed at him. While that had scared the bejeezus out of him, Mr. Lawton’s words lit him on fire. I will become that man, the one with poise and confidence.

“Yes! I’ll do my very best for you, Mr. Lawton.”

Lawton slapped Joe’s knee. “Good man.” He leaned back, but Joe still felt that warm touch.

“We’ll start from the skin outward.” The gentleman lightened his tone. “A bath and a fresh set of clothing. My tailor will come tomorrow to take your measurements for new clothing. For this evening, you may wear some of my clothes.”

Joe noted his host’s linen shirt, soft woolen trousers, jacket, and silk waistcoat, and had the silly thought of joining Lawton inside those clothes. He ducked his face to hide his smile at the absurd thought.

Lawton rose and went to the wall to press a button. “This is how you must summon a servant should you need one. A bell rings in the kitchen, letting the staff know in which room service is required. I’m fairly certainly Merton is hovering out in the hall just now, waiting to show you to the guest bedroom, and then to the washroom where a bath will be drawn.” He frowned. “You are familiar with indoor plumbing? You’ve had a full bath before, not just washed up in a basin?”

What sort of conditions did he think Joe lived in? “Yes, sir. I’ve had tub baths. Not so large as yours, I imagine.” In a shared washroom for everyone on that floor and with lukewarm water only a few inches deep. “I believe I can manage.”

Lawton smiled and acknowledged his tone. “Sarcasm is a gentleman’s rapier with which he fences daily. Point to you.”

Merton came to collect Joe, and Joe lost track of time as one new experience after another rushed at him. He barely had time to take in the beautiful bed and lovely furnishings in the guest room before he was shown to the wash room.

There, he stood thunderstruck, staring from a huge claw-foot tub on a raised platform, with spigots for both cold and hot water, to the plush towels hung on a rack for the bather’s convenience, to a large sink with an oval mirror in a curved frame above it.

His reflection gaped back at him, as grubby as a ragpicker or a homeless beggar. No wonder Lawton took him for an ignorant bum rather than a workingman who made a more or less adequate living.

“Do you require aide with your bath, Mr. Sprat,” Merton interrupted his thoughts. “I could send Mr. Lawton’s valet, Jackson, or one of the footmen.”

“I can wash meself, thanks much.” Joe cleared his throat and mimicked Lawton’s plummy drawl, “You may leave now, my good man.”

With the door closed behind Merton, Joe stripped off his clothes and tested the steaming water. He’d never in his life had so much water to splash around in except for an occasional swim in the filthy Thames on a hot summer day. He put in a toe, then a foot, then submerged his whole body right up to the chin in that glorious warmth. With a sigh, Joe closed his eyes and fell back, dousing his head. For a few moments, he floated underwater, allowing the heat to seep into his very bones and the water to soak the grime of the streets off him. Heavenly bliss!

At last he reached for the flannel and the fragrant bar of soap and began to scrub. He would step out of this bath a new man, ready to take on the world—or at least the better half of it. He would make Mr. Lawton proud with how easily he learned grammar and good manners. And he would make his mum even prouder when he opened a shop of his own at last.

Author Bio:
I began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, I was the designated ghost tale teller. I still have a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat.

Writing childish stories for my own pleasure led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, I dreamed of writing a novel, but at that time in my life didn't have the necessary focus and follow through. Then life happened. A husband and children occupied the next twenty years and it was only in 2000 that I began writing again.

I enjoy dabbling in many genres. Each gives me a different way to express myself. I've developed a habit of writing every day that's almost an addiction. I don't think I could stop now if I tried.



Monsters Among Us by Amanda Strong

Title: Monsters Among Us
Author: Amanda Strong
Series: Monsters Among Us #3
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Release Date: June 26, 2017
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
What if the fate of the world lies with the monster—not the hero?

The world is shifting, and Sammy has complete control. But as hidden truths surface, she starts to doubt everyone who is close to her. The Ancients and Kory have been harboring dark secrets, and it could mean war between the Dragon Fae and the Irukas. With the Defenders as her devoted soldiers, Sam must make some difficult decisions. Should she save the world… or save herself?

Blake won’t give up on Sam. He knows he can’t trust Tonbo anymore, or the web of lies he’s been thrown into. If he hopes to save Sam, he must find the real reason Kory created the bug army. Turns out there could be something far worse than bloodthirsty bugs buriedon the islands, and Blake will have to fight his own inner demons if he wants to save those he loves—including Sam.

In a world filled with mistrust and lies, Blake and Sam must unearth the truth and face their own fears and weaknesses. If they don’t, their lives—and the fate of all humanity—will hang in the balance.

I stared in disbelief. The Irukas surrounding the island had obviously summoned the waters in an effort to stop the oncoming soldiers. However, once on shore, the hordes of bugs jumped to their feet and then to the skies. The new ones looked more like Jaxon, liked they’d been formed from dragon fae, missing the brown skin and black hair my Defenders had. And they all wore black markings on their chests, like some kind of tattoo.

“Impossible!” I gasped. “Where did these bugs come from?” I couldn’t wrap my mind around what I was seeing.

Luckily for me, Jaxon and Kalepe went into battle mode, calling out commands and rushing to grab stashed weapons. In the distance, I heard several seashells blown, echoing along the shoreline and alerting everyone we were under siege.

Jaxon pulled me aside. “Fly from here and warn Kory. He’s in the underground bunker.”

“I don’t know where that is,” I answered, feeling completely off step.

“I’ll take her,” a Defender near us called.

“Thank you, Tomas,” Kalepe called back. “Warn Kory to stay put. Don’t leave their secure place. We’ll come get you when it’s clear.”

He nodded, and we flew away from the oncoming fight… but not fast enough. A bug slammed into me, smashing me to the ground, sending my face skidding across the ground and filling my nostrils with sand.

I gasped and pushed back, trying to free myself from the claws pinning me down. Then, I heard a sound like something slicing through a cow’s hide, followed by a thud to my left. I turned and stared at the bloody head of my captor. His eyes rolled to the side as his tongue went slack in his mouth.

I shot up in the air, shaking and nauseated.

“Fly!” Tomas roared, obviously the one to save my life.

I didn’t need to be told twice and raced after him, both of us switching to camo and diving deeper into the jungle.

What made you pursue writing? How old were you when you starting writing?
I’ve loved writing my entire life!  I wrote my first complete novel at sixteen, which sits happily in a box, never to see the light of day.  It’s just plain awful!  I took a big break from pursuing my dream of being published as college, marriage, kids, and life happened.  In 2011, thanks to a friend, the writing bug bit me again, and I’ve been obsessed since!

Who were your inspirations as a writer? Favorite authors?
There are so many incredible authors who have inspired me over the years!  If I had to pick a few I’d go with John Bellairs, Mary Higgins Clark, Orson Scott Card, Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, Cassandra Clare, Stephenie Meyers, J.K. Rowling, Gaston Leroux (Phantom of the Opera).  There are many more!

How long does it usually take you to write a book?
I wish I could say three months, but alas, it’s more like six months to a year by the time I start to the time it’s polished and ready to be published.  I need to get faster!  Something I’m working on now ;)

Do you have an interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know if it’s a quirk, but I have to use a mouse!  I can’t stand using my laptop’s touchpad.  When I write, I prefer to sit at my desk, with a big glass of water and/or cup of herbal tea, a few snacks (sometimes just chocolate).  The other thing about me is, when I’m writing, I get so cold.  It doesn’t matter the temperature in my house, or what season it is.  I end up freezing!  So after a minute or two of typing, I usually end up throwing on a hoodie, wrapping up in a blanket, and cranking up the pellet stove fire behind me.  I have a pair of awesome fuzzy slippers that are more like booties (they go up to my knees).  One day, while cleaning out the closet, my husband was like, “What are these? Can we throw these away?”  I’m like, “No way!  They keep my toes so warm while I write books!”

Author Bio:
Born in Dekalb, Illinois, Amanda Strong has called Utah, Arizona, Hawaii, Virginia, and now New Mexico home. She has loved to spin tales since childhood. It was not uncommon to find her hiding in some random corner, scribbling away in her spiral-bound notebook, with her bright pink glasses. You could say some things have not changed.

Amanda signed with Clean Teen Publishing in the fall of 2013. She is the author of two paranormal, YA series: The Watchers of Men and Monsters Among Us.

The first novel in The Watchers of Men series, The Awakener, debuted in October of 2013. It has been an Amazon number one best seller in three Young Adult categories. Book two, The Holy and The Fallen, released May 12th of 2015. She is currently working on book three, The Watcher’s Mark, releasing spring of 2016.

Hidden Monster released November 4th of 2014, and it finished as a Finalist in the 2014 USA Best Book Award: Young Adult Category. It is book one of a brand-new young adult, sci-fi thriller series called Monsters Among Us.

When Amanda isn't writing, you can find her chasing her three rambunctious children around the house and spending time with her wonderful and supportive husband. On some occasions, you can still find Amanda with her not-so-pink glasses, hiding in a corner reading her favorite young adult fantasy novels or working out only to blow her diet by eating ice cream.


Monsters Among Us #3


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