Friday, November 30, 2018

November Book of the Month: The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree by Selina Kray


Summary:
When will She open Rebecca Northcote’s box?

Finding lost poodles and retrieving stolen baubles is not how DI Tim Stoker envisioned his partnership with his lover, Hieronymus Bash. So when the police commissioner's son goes missing, he's determined to help, no matter what secrets he has to keep, or from whom.

When a family member is kidnapped, Hiero moves heaven and earth to rescue them. Even if that means infiltrating the Daughters of Eden, a cult of wealthy widows devoted to the teachings of Rebecca Northcote and the mysterious contents of her box. The Daughters' goodwill toward London's fallen women has given them a saintly reputation, but Hiero has a nose for sniffing out a fraud. He will need to draw on some divine inspiration to rattle the pious Daughters.

Like weeds gnarling the roots of Eden's fabled tree, Tim and Hiero's cases intertwine. Serpents, secrets, and echoes from Hiero's past lurk behind every branch. Giving in to temptation could bind them closer together—or sever their partnership forever.


DI Tim Stoker never saw lost pets and stolen trinkets in his future when he partnered up with his lover Hieronymus Bash so when his boss' son is missing, he jumps at the opportunity to find him.  Hiero in turn is using everything available to find a family member who is also missing.  When the Daughters of Eden come into the mix, will the two and their friends be able to work together to sniff out the fraud as well as find the missing persons?  And what does it mean for Stoker and Bash, when their different tactics get in the way?

I don't often say this, and trust me when I say it because I am a HUGE series reader, The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree is even better than The Fangs of Scavo which is saying something because that was a pretty awesome read in itself.  As fun as Stoker and Bash were when they met, watching them grow together(both good and bad) is even better.  Don't get me wrong, they have a long way to go to truly find their HEA but with Fruit they are well on their way . . . eventually😉.

As for the case, well you know I won't touch on that because in a mystery every little tidbit can be a spoiler but I will say that the author kept me guessing right up to the big reveal.  That doesn't happen very often, not because my ability of deduction is great but I've been reading/watching mysteries since before I knew what a mystery was which means I have seen pretty much everything when it comes to the "who done it?" genre.  The mystery is a lovely blend of fiction and fact with amazing historical accuracies, yes a few liberties were taken but nothing that ruins the historical flavor of the story.

As for Stoker and Bash, well they are absolutely brilliant.  Heat, both in actions and words, is never doubted but their ability to navigate each one's lack of willingness to talk about their pasts with the here-and-now left me in tears as well as giggles.  As for their merry(or not-so-merry) band of comrades, they not only add to the detecting part of the story but the reader also sees just how they are more than allies, they have become a family.  Hiero and Kip may have a long way to go before they are completely open with each other about everything they have seen and done that has made them who they are but in The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree they make giant leaps forward toward that goal.  I for one can't wait to see what the future holds for these two and their family of misfits.

If you are asking me do you have to read The Fangs of Scavo first, I would say yes.  The cases don't connect but the relationships are continuously growing and a few references are made to the Scavo case so not having read book one I feel would definitely leave you, perhaps not confused or lost but certainly missing something.  Selina Kray is most definitely an author to keep your eye on.

RATING: 


When will She open Rebecca Northcote’s box?

Hieronymus Bash contemplated the question posed by the long, red-lettered banner that blazoned over the otherwise quaint fruit and vegetable stall. A sharp tug of the arm from Callie, his ward, brought him to heel. He’d already been struggling to match her brisk pace, having been dragged from his early afternoon repose in the cozy climes of his study into, of all things, the sunshine, or what passed for it on this weak-tea day.

Rays of piss-yellow sun trickled down over the city, tinting the fumes that oozed up from the Thames. Clouds of smog blurred the distant Albert Bridge into an impressionist’s nightmare. A growing crowd choked the small stage erected just before the river’s edge, scuttling in from both directions of Cheyne Walk like ants over a carcass. A bald man with a white mustache that flapped out to his ears checked his pocket watch for the fourth time since Hiero and his companions descended from their carriage.

At the far end of the stage, a squad of low-rank militia struggled to keep a path clear for the Duke of Edinburgh and his bride, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, only beloved daughter of Tsar Alexander II. The newlyweds were, in the timeless tradition of royals everywhere, unfashionably late to the opening of the Chelsea Embankment, the third and final stage of the sewage system that had transformed London’s riverside.

“Look, it’s Bazalgette!” Callie tugged him forward, doing a fine impression of an excitable hound.

“While I admire your enthusiasm, I do wonder if it’s not a tad misplaced.”

Callie scoffed. “Only you would prefer the arrival of some dippy duke over the architect of this entire endeavor.” She threw her free arm out wide. “Can you not spare a moment to admire this feat of engineering? In the place of muddy banks, pavement has been laid, a fence with lampposts erected, with gardens and greenery to come. And running beneath it, the waste of London, and soon an underground train! How can you be so trout-mouthed in the face of such marvels?”

“Not your most persuasive argument, comparing the face that dropped a thousand trousers to a fishmonger’s wares.”

Callie sighed, relinquishing his arm to chase after her muttonchopped idol. Hiero watched her go, marveling at how much she resembled her Uncle Apollo, Hiero’s long-deceased lover who had charged him with her care in character and spirit. Theirs was an unconventional household, where the lady moonlighted as a detective, the servants were part of the family, and the lord of the manor—Hiero himself—was neither a lord nor owned the manor.

“Come now.” Han, his friend and self-appointed keeper, fell into step beside him. The rhythmic taps of his lotus-headed walking stick slowed their pace to a stroll. “You’re no longer catch of the day with Mr. Stoker about.”

“Perhaps if he were about, someone would defend my honor.” Hiero bristled at the mention of his fair-weather paramour, Timothy Kipling Stoker, a detective inspector with Scotland Yard who shadowed them when there was a mystery to solve but otherwise preoccupied himself with... well, finding them another mystery. His dedication to duty exasperated.

“Not likely.”

“No, I rather thought not.” Hiero pressed a lavender handkerchief to his mouth and nose. Mr. Bazalgette’s innovations would have to work much harder to filter out nearly a millennia of filth, the river being a cesspit into which the city had poured every conceivable kind of rubbish, from human to animal to otherwise. A place where sins had been cast off and bodies buried. A few of Hiero’s personal acquaintance.

“Where has your Mr. Stoker taken himself off to this—” Han considered the urinal murk of the embankment and found himself at a loss of an adjective. “—afternoon?”

“I do not presume to know what impulses rule that man.”

“And yet you are the one who rides his... coattails.”

“Only when he deigns to undress for the occasion. Otherwise...” Hiero huffed, his mood irretrievably spoilt by this line of conversation. “I cannot think where I’ve gone wrong with him.”

“No?” Han evidenced something close to a smirk. “It wouldn’t have something to do with meddling in his work affairs, compromising his relationship with his superiors, forcing him into our fellowship, risking everything he holds dear, and then sharing nothing of consequence about yourself, now would it?”

Hiero peered at him out of the corner of his eye. “Nothing of the sort, I’m sure.”

“Ah. Well, then, it is a mystery.”

“Coo-coo! Mr. Han!” a voice trilled at them from behind.

With a pair of heavy sighs, they turned to heed an all-too-familiar call. A hand waiving a white handkerchief fluttered up and down amidst a dense crowd. A grunt from Han parted the sea of surging revelers to reveal Shahida Kala, the latest of Hiero’s charity cases, hopping with the vigor of a spring hare. Her compact figure contained a carnival of personality.

The instant this bright light had beamed into his study on the arm of her father—who served under Apollo in Her Majesty’s Navy—Hiero recognized her for one of the rare people who could steal his spotlight. So he had relegated her to the least enviable position in the household, that of nurse to Mrs. Lillian Pankhurst, Callie’s permanently indisposed mother. But the long days of attic dwelling and reading Richardson’s Pamela ad nauseam had not snuffed a single spark.

Instead Lillian had transformed from bed-ridden depressive into a semifunctional member of the family. Every morning she and Shahida took a two-hour stroll. They cultivated a rooftop garden. Shahida had imposed an afternoon tea regimen on their household, always leading the conversation as Hiero, Callie, and Han plotted ways to return to their preferred solitary occupations. Dinners were always a family affair, but Shahida’s insistence on more healthful, nourishing fare that conformed to Lillian’s new diet had Minnie, their cook, weekly threatening to resign. Callie was the only other member of the household resistant to her charms.

Even Han, cynical, monkish, seen-it-all Han, danced to whichever melody she played. Hiero watched as he bounded over to her, biting his lip at the comical sight of a surly giant bowing to the whims of a pretty imp, but also to keep from emitting a growl of frustration. He glanced back to search for Callie, but the crowd had swallowed her. By now she’d likely clawed her way to the front of the stage and barked questions at a baffled, bewhiskered Mr. Bazalgette, which Hiero thought should be his formal title.

Schooling his features, he joined Han and Shahida’s conversation in medias res and was somewhat aghast to discover them talking about produce.

“... the plumpest, juiciest berries. Artichokes the size of a fist. Fat aubergines and cabbages and cauliflowers, and cucumbers as long as...” Shahida pressed two fingers to her mouth. Hiero didn’t miss how her eyes flickered down. “Well.”

Shameless, that was the trouble. As if she’d snipped the best pages from his playbook and then had the temerity to improve on his notes.

Han chuckled. Chuckled! Hiero hadn’t seen his friend so much as shrug in all the time he’d known him.

“A religious order, you say?” Han asked.

“The Daughters of Eden.” Shahida leaned in, gave him her most conspiratorial smirk. “And I think they might be.” She didn’t even have the grace to straighten when she spotted Hiero. “Oh, Mr. Bash! Mrs. Pankhurst and I don’t mean to spoil your fun. But if you wouldn’t mind, we’ll stay here for a while. We’ve discovered the most—”

“Impressive cucumbers. So I heard.”

“Mrs. Pankhurst is just beside herself. We’ve big ideas for our garden, but this...”

Hiero was unmoved. “And what is it you want?”

“We’ve done our third crate and could fill two more. The crowd is bit much for Mrs. Pankhurst, so I thought Mr. Han might take us back to Berkeley Square? We’ll send the carriage back for you.”

“As it is my carriage, I rather think it will return for me regardless.”

That got her attention. “Of course. If you’d like us to stay—”

“Let us see these berries from heaven.” With a sweep of his hand, Hiero directed them back toward the stall that had earlier piqued his interest. “Their Majesties will wait upon our leisure.”

A long line of enterprising vendors hawked their wares along the edge of Cheyne Walk, hoping to entice royal watchers to purchase a bit of refinement for their life. One stall lined up its dainty little bottles of oils and perfumes like Russian nesting dolls. A mini royal portrait gallery sold likenesses of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their progeny in a variety of poses. The gentleman scooping iced lollies for the children had his work cut out for him on such a tepid day, Hiero thought. The pub with a street-side stand offering hot tea and cider already did brisk business. A few watercress girls fought against the crowd’s undertow, but their wares looked shriveled as seaweed compared to the glorious bushels of the Daughters of Eden.

Even Hiero had to admit, upon inspection, the quality of their produce astounded. Fat and luscious, their fruit allured like the bosom of an opera diva, ready to smother and enthrall. Their vegetable stalks evidenced a virility that would put most molly-houses out of business. Little wonder their customers meandered around the baskets like lovestruck swains. Their bounty conjured images of orgies culinary and carnal. Hiero didn’t doubt there were more than a few serpents lurking about this tiny Eden, eager to defile a peach or two.

All of this was overseen by a trio of women dressed in immaculate white uniforms that somehow defied the city’s grime. Hiero drifted away from his companions to better observe these wyrd sisters. The tallest was also the least remarkable, a stout but cheery woman with farm-worn hands and hard-earned streaks of gray in her brown hair. She milled through the customers, answering questions and nudging reluctant buyers toward the register.

A skittish dove of a girl dutifully kept the ledger and the cash box, cooing her thanks before slipping some sort of pamphlet into people’s baskets. Her crinkly hair had been woven into two winglike braids that perfectly framed her heart-shaped face. A sprinkling of dark freckles contrasted with her pale-brown skin, all but disappearing when she blushed.

Which she did whenever the third sister glanced her way. “Willowy” did not do this petite, flopsy woman justice. A willow branch would look as leathery and stiff as a whip compared to her wispiness. Near-translucent skin and stringy cornsilk hair completed the otherworldly effect. Hiero almost questioned whether she was really there, such was the nothing of her regard. She appeared to have no occupation other than to pose under the sign in a demure attitude. The crowds gave her a wide berth, and little wonder. Nobody wanted to mingle with a possessed scarecrow.

Except possibly meddlesome not-detectives stuck on a boring outing with friends who had abandoned him for some phallic parsnips and a walrus architect.

Just as Hiero made to pounce, the waif leapt as if lightning struck. Eyes ravenous, mouth agape, hair billowing in an invisible breeze, she stared into the buzzing hive of customers. Transformed in an instant from trinket to spear, her astonishment gave color to her cheeks and heft to her bearing. She appeared somehow taller, bolder, a colossal spirit crammed into a compact package: a genie unleashed from its lamp.

All the better to bedazzle you with, my dear, Hiero thought.

Hieronymus Bash, professional cynic, knew a performance when he saw one. He read again the red sign that screamed above her head: When will She open Rebecca Northcote’s box? But there was no box he could see, and if this woodland sprite was Mrs. Northcote, he’d eat Han’s walking stick. These Daughters had lured in quite a crowd with their sensuous produce. Was she the serpent come to tempt them? And if so, to what end?

Hiero shuttered his natural radiance to watch the spectacle unfold. The pale sister glided, arms outstretched, into the maze of crates, eyes fixed on her prey. Hiero hissed under his breath when she stopped at Lillian Pankhurst. In a state of docile confusion at the best of times, Lillian continued sorting out a mess of string beans, oblivious to this starry-eyed suitor. Han, ever protective, moved to Lillian’s side just as the sister shrieked...

“Daughter! You are found!”

The woman at the ledger jumped to her feet. “Juliet?”

“I’ve heard your spirit call to us these long nights, and now you have come home!” Juliet continued at eardrum-splitting pitch, making herself heard to all in the vicinity and probably those across the Thames. “Welcome, Daughter, into Her grace and light! Welcome home!” She hugged a startled Lillian with impressive fervor for one so slender. Lillian, looking to Shahida for a cue, patted her on the back.

A frowning Han caught his gaze from across the way, but Hiero signaled he would play Polonius behind the curtain. Hopefully without the knife in his gut.

“Don’t fear, Daughter. You are among friends,” Juliet nattered on. “We have come to shepherd Her back to Eden through our good works, and, by your pallid cheeks and trembling hands, I can see that you are eager to play a part.”

“Oi!” Shahida hollered, shoving her way between Juliet and Lillian. “Mrs. Pankhurst gets three square a day, and her arthritis is much improved. I dare anyone here to say otherwise.”

“But her spirit, dear girl, droops like a flower too long out of the sun.” Juliet backed away a step to address the customers, every one of which stood rapt. “She knows how this frail woman has struggled. She has heard her prayers and her anguish. She has shone Her glorious light into her, lit her like a beacon for her sisters to find. She is a Daughter, called upon to continue Her good work and bring about a second Eden!”

Shahida let out a trill of laughter three octaves too high. It effectively pierced the balloon of hot air Juliet had been huffing and puffing.

“Angel with a flaming sword you’re not, ma’am. Sorry.” Shahida locked an arm around Lillian. “Stick to the fruit and veg.” A pointed look directed Han to escort their charge away.

“But I haven’t finished the beans...” Lillian muttered as they disappeared into the gaggle of onlookers.

“Shame!” Juliet bellowed, beseeching the yellow sky. “Shame! It is the burden of womankind.” The customers moved into the space vacated by his friends, and Hiero followed, curious as to how she would spin such a public defeat. “The prophet Rebecca Northcote warned against it in her great bible, The Coming of the Holiest Spirit. Too often we ladies wait upon the actions of others. Are made to feel shame and guilt and worthless when we do act. Allow others to lead us astray, away from the truth in our hearts. We pay the price for the sins of our fathers and brothers and husbands. But She... oh, She is coming to deliver us from these injustices, from our fears and torments. As our Holy Mother Rebecca divined, if we join together, Daughters, and build the garden, She will come to save us all. She will gift us with her light!”

“Amen!” the ledger-keeper cried, having abandoned her post to shove pamphlets into the hands of any who would take them.

“Thank you, Mother!” the other sister seconded, lifting a basket of golden pears for all to see.

Juliet scanned the crowd. “You reap of the bounty we offer, but you do not know of how we labor in Her name. To prepare for Her coming, our prophet Rebecca chose each of Her Daughters with care. And though a shame-filled few will deny Her, everyone is welcome to hear Her message and to contribute however they can.” Hiero swallowed a snicker as she gestured to the donation tin. So transparent. “If you are committed to peace and prosperity, if you would see heaven retake the Earth, then I invite you to heed our prophet Rebecca’s call. And She will shine Her light upon you for all the days of your life.”

Juliet seemed to resist taking a bow, but only just. She gave each customer a final angelic smile, then returned to her perch beneath the red sign. A few of the curious chased her with questions; a ragdoll sag and a vacant stare shut them out. Instead the ledger-keeper, who introduced herself as Sister Nora, gathered them around the donation tin before addressing any queries.

“And?” Han appeared beside him, sudden as Banquo’s ghost. “Showstopper or second-rate?”

Hiero rubbed a thumb over his knuckles. “Better than a pair of poncy royals cutting a ribbon, but only just.”

“Fit for a return engagement?”

“Perhaps. Their setup is commonplace, but she does have a certain je ne sais quoi.”

“Enough to en savoir plus?”

“Time will tell. You know how religion turns my stomach. But their focus on Lillian was...”

“Agreed. That Sister Juliet read her too easily.”

Hiero nodded. “Could have been instinct.”

“Or she saw a mark.”

They shared a look weighted by their years of friendship and experience, a partnership of equals who knew, without another word, how to protect their own.




Author Bio:
Selina Kray is the nom de plume of an author and English editor. Professionally she has covered all the artsy-fartsy bases, having worked in a bookstore, at a cinema, in children’s television, and in television distribution, up to her latest incarnation as a subtitle editor and grammar nerd (though she may have always been a grammar nerd). A self-proclaimed geek and pop culture junkie who sometimes manages to pry herself away from the review sites and gossip blogs to write fiction of her own, she is a voracious consumer of art with both a capital and lowercase A.

Selina’s aim is to write genre-spanning romances with intricate plots, complex characters, and lots of heart. Whether she has achieved this goal is for you, gentle readers, to decide. At present she is hard at work on future novels at home in Montreal, Quebec, with her wee corgi serving as both foot warmer and in-house critic.

If you’re interested in receiving Selina’s newsletter and being the first to know when new books are released, plus getting sneak peeks at upcoming novels, please sign up at her website.


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📘🎥Friday's Film Adaptation🎥📘: Timepiece by Richard Paul Evans


Summary:
April 3, 1912. "Is this life, to grasp joy only to fear its escape? The price of happiness is the risk of losing it." So reads one of the many wise entries in David Parkin's diary in Timepiece, which traces the miraculous lives of David and his wife MaryAnne as they discover the power of love, loyalty, forgiveness -- and a long-forgotten keepsake that will change the fate of their family for eternity.

"Of all, clockmakers and morticians should bear the keenest sense of priority-their lives daily spent in observance of the unflagging procession of time... and the end thereof." -DAVID PARKIN'S DIARY. JANUARY 3, 1901



Chapter One
"Of all, clockmakers and morticians should bear the keenest sense of Priority-their lives daily spent in observance of the unflagging procession of time ... and the end thereof. " --DAVID PARKIN'S DIARY. JANUARY 3, 1901

When I was a boy, I lived in horror of a clock-a dark and foreboding specter that towered twice my height in the hardwood hallway of my childhood home and even larger in my imagination.

It was a mahogany clock, its hood rising in two wooden cues that curled like horns on a devil's head. It had a brass-embossed face, black, serpentine hands, and a flat, saucer-sized pendulum.

To this day, I can recall the simple and proud incantations of its metallic chime. At my youthful insistence, and to my father's dismay, the strike silent was never employed, which meant the clock chimed every fifteen minutes, night and day.

I believed then that this clock had a soul-a belief not much diminished through age or accumulated experience. This species of clock was properly called a longcase clock, until a popular music hall song of the nineteenth century immortalized one of its ilk and forever changed the name. The song was titled "My Grandfather's Clock," and during my childhood, more than a half century after the song was written, it was still a popular children'stune. By the age of five, I had memorized the song's lyrics.

My grandfatber's clock was too large for the shelf, so it stood ninety years on the floor, It was taller by half than the old man himself, tho' it weighed not a pennyweight more. It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born, and was always his treasure and pride, But it stopp'd short never to go again when the old man died.

My fear of the hallway clock had its roots in the song's final refrain.

But it stopp'd short never to go again when the old man died.

When I was young, my mother was sickly and often bedridden with ailments I could neither pronounce nor comprehend. With the reasoning and imagination of childhood, I came to believe that if the clock stopped, my mother would die.

Often, as I played alone in our quiet house after my brothers had left for school, I would suddenly feel my heart grasped by the hand of panic and I would run to my mother's darkened bedroom. Peering through the doorway, I would wait for the rise and fall of her chest, or the first audible gasp of her breath. Sometimes, if she had had an especially bad day, I would lie awake at night listening for the clock's quarter-hour chime. Twice I ventured downstairs to the feared oracle to see if its pendulum was still alive.

To my young mind, the clock's most demonic feature was the hand-painted moon wheel set above its face in the clock's arch. Mystically, the wheel turned with the waning moon, giving the clock a wizardry that, as a child, transfixed and mystified me as if it somehow knew the mysterious workings of the universe. And the mind of God.

It is my experience that all childhoods have ghosts.

Tonight, just outside my den stands a similar grandfather's clock-one of the few antiques my wife and I received from MaryAnne Parkin, a kind widow we shared a home for a short while before her death nearly nineteen years ago. The clock had been a gift to her on her wedding day from her husband, David, and during our stay in the mansion it occupied the west wall of the marble-floored foyer.

David Parkin had been a wealthy Salt Lake City businessman and a collector of rare antiquities. Before his death, in 1934, he had accumulated an immense collection of rare furniture, Bibles, and , most of all, clocks. Time-marking devices of all kinds-from porcelain-encased pocket watches to hewn-stone sundials filled the Parkin home. Of his vast collection of timekeepers, the grandfather's clock, which now stands outside my doorway, was the most valuables marvel of nineteenth-century art and engineering and the trophy of David's collection. Even still, there was one timepiece that he held in greater esteem. One that he, and MaryAnne, cherished above all: a beautiful rose-gold wristwatch.

Only eleven days before her death, MaryAnne Parkin had bequeathed the timepiece to my keeping.

"The day before you give Jenna away," she had said, her hands and voice trembling as she handed me the heirloom, "give this to her for the gift."

I was puzzled by her choice of words.

"Her wedding gift?" I asked.

She shook her head and I recognized her characteristic vagueness. She looked at me sadly, then forced a fragile smile."You will know what I mean."

I wondered if she really believed that I would or had merely given the assurance for her own consolation.

It had been nineteen winters since Keri, Jenna, and I had shared the mansion with the kindly widow, and though I had often considered her words, their meaning eluded me still. It haunted me that I had missed something that she, who understood life so well, regarded with such gravity.

Tonight, upstairs in her bedroom, my daughter Jenna, now a young woman of twenty-two, is engaged in the last-minute chores of a bride-to-be. In the morning, I will give her hand to another man. A wave of melancholy washed over me as I thought of the place she would leave vacant in our home and in my heart.

The gift? What in the curriculum of fatherhood had I failed to learn?

I leaned back in my chair and admired the exquisite heirloom. MaryAnne had received the watch in 1918 and, even then, it was already old: crafted in a time when craftsmanship was akin to religion-before the soulless reproductions of today's mass-market assembly.

The timepiece was set in a finely polished rose-gold encasement. It had a perfectly round face with tiny numerals etched beneath a delicate, raised crystal. On each side of the face, intricately carved in gold, were scallopshell-shaped clasps connecting the casing to a matching rose-gold scissor watchband. I have never before, or since, seen a timepiece so beautiful.

From the dark hallway outside my den, the quarter-hour chime of the grandfather's clock disrupted my thoughts-as if beckoning for equal attention.

The massive clock had always been a curiosity to me. When we had first moved into the Parkin mansion, it sat idle in the upstairs parlor. On one occasion, I asked MaryAnne why she didn't have the clock repaired.

"Because," she replied, "it isn't broken."

Treasured as it is, the clock has always seemed out of place in our home, like a relic of another age-a prop left behind after the players had finished their lines and taken their exits. In one of those exits is the tale of David and MaryAnne Parkin. And so, too, the riddle of the timepiece.


Prequel to the television movie, "The Christmas Box." Tells the story behind a beautiful old watch that an old friend of Richard Evans, bequeathed to his daughter as a wedding gift.

Release Date: December 22, 1996(Made-for-TV)
Release Time: 100 minutes

Cast:
Naomi Watts as Mary Parkin
Kevin Kilner as David Parkin
James Earl Jones as Lawrence
Ellen Burstyn as Maud Gannon
Mercedes Villamil as Andrea Parkin
Richard Thomas as Richard Evans
Jonathan Tabler as Barker
Michael Goodwin as Father Mike
Richard Fullerton as Officer Brooks
J Michael Hunter as George Gibbs
Mary Lucy Bivins as Catherine
Scott Simpson as Gannon



Author Bio:
When Richard Paul Evans wrote the #1 best-seller, The Christmas Box, he never intended on becoming an internationally known author. His quiet story of parental love and the true meaning of Christmas made history when it became simultaneously the #1 hardcover and paperback book in the nation. Since then, more than eight million copies of The Christmas Box have been printed. He has since written eleven consecutive New York Times bestsellers. He is one the few authors in history to have hit both the fiction and non-fiction bestseller lists. He has won several awards for his books including the 1998 American Mothers Book Award, two first place Storytelling World Awards, and the 2005 Romantic Times Best Women Novel of the Year Award. His books have been translated into more than 22 languages and several have been international best sellers.


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Release Blitz: All I Want is You by DJ Jamison

Title: All I Want is You
Author: DJ Jamison
Genre: M/M Romance, Holiday Romance
Release Date: November 29, 2018
Cover Design: Jay Aheer at Simply Defined Art
Summary:
One kiss under the mistletoe destroyed a friendship. Will another Christmas kiss remake it into something better?

Eli hasn't been home since he left at eighteen with a heart aching from his best friend's rejection and his father's intolerance. But when his father reaches out, Eli figures it's time to make peace with his family. He doesn't expect to come face-to-face with Turner too -- or to learn that the straight friend he'd foolishly loved is actually bisexual -- but once the shock wears off, he knows exactly what he wants for Christmas.

Turner's life isn't everything he'd once planned, but he's happy to be the shoulder his loved ones lean on. They keep him busy, which is just as well since none of his dates have really clicked. He hasn't been able to connect with anyone the way he did with his former best friend. When Eli shows up for the holidays after years away, Turner doesn't know what hit him. But he knows one thing: This time, he wants to give Eli a reason to stay.

All I Want Is You is a friends to lovers, second-chance romance with an HEA.


Turner kissed him, and Eli’s heart exploded into a frantic pace. Turner’s lips were on his, finally. And all his anger, all his disappointment washed away on a wave of endorphins.

This felt right. It was as if he’d been holding his breath for eight years, and he could finally exhale.

But it was over too soon. Eli hadn’t gotten a taste of Turner’s tongue, the kiss quick and chaste. He hadn’t gotten to run his fingers through his hair. Hadn’t put his hands on him at all.

Nothing but their lips had touched, and it was the single, best kiss of his life.

“I’d like us to be friends again, real friends,” Turner said. “Even after you leave again for California.”

Oh, right. Eli would be leaving. Turner would be staying. Nothing had changed.

His racing heart slowed. Grew heavy. Thudded hollowly.

“Friends,” he repeated.

“I know you’re not staying long,” Turner added. “So, it’s just a kiss. Between friends.”

“A friendly kiss,” Eli said.

Turner chuckled. “Yeah.”

“Okay,” Eli said.

And yet he sensed something more between the lines of Turner’s spoken words. Honesty, yes, but also yearning. Could it be possible that Turner wanted him as much as he’d always wanted Turner?

There was only one way to find out.

Eli wrapped a hand around the back of Turner’s neck, tugged him close, and kissed him hard. If he was only getting one kiss, he was going to make it count. He was going to kiss the daylights out of Turner and decide for himself how much Turner Williams wanted Elijah Harp.

D.J. JamisonAuthor Bio:
DJ Jamison is the author of more than a dozen m/m romances, including the Ashe Sentinel series and the Hearts and Health series. She writes a variety of queer characters, from gay to bisexual to asexual, with a focus on telling love stories that are more about common ground than lust at first sight. DJ grew up in the Midwest in a working-class family, and those influences can be found in her writing through characters coping with real-life problems: money troubles, workplace drama, family conflicts and, of course, falling in love. DJ spent more than a decade in the newspaper industry before chasing her first dream to write fiction. She spent a lifetime reading before that, and continues to avidly devour her fellow authors' books each night. She lives in Kansas with her husband, two sons, two fish and, regrettably, one snake.


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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Release Blitz: Home for Christmas by RJ Scott

Title: Home for Christmas
Author: RJ Scott
Series: Texas #9
Genre: M/M Romance, Holiday Romance
Release Date: November 28, 2018
Cover Design: Meredith Russell
Summary:
Can Connor show River a real family Christmas?

When Connor finds River on the roof of the campus admin building, he doesn’t know what to do. His friend is drunk, and shouting into a snowstorm, a bottle of vodka in his hand. The easy part is getting River down; the hard part is insisting River comes home with Connor for Christmas.

River doesn’t have a family, or any place outside of college that he calls home. Not that it matters to him; he’s happy being alone for Christmas in his budget motel, watching reruns of Elf. Only, Connor keeps telling wildly improbable stories of the perfect family celebrations at his parents’ ranch in Texas, and it’s wearing River down. He didn’t ask to be kidnapped. He didn’t want to fall in love with the entire Campbell-Hayes family. But he does.

From one Christmas to the next. This is Connor’s year to rescue River, and himself, for them both to mess things up, make things right, fall in lust and finally, for Connor to show the man he loves what being part of a family can mean.


Chapter 1
Connor skidded to a stop.

The cold December wind whipped around his face, ice and snow knifing into his skin, and at first, he couldn’t make sense of what he was seeing.

Maybe he should have stopped, called 911, shouted for help, but it could’ve been too late, so he’d acted on instinct alone. He’d taken the four flights of stairs at a run, reaching the roof and throwing the door open. His lungs burned from the freezing air and his voice had gone. What now?

Why was River on the roof in nothing but jeans and a T-shirt, clearly drunk? Why was he standing on the ledge, his feet spread, his arms wide, and a bottle of vodka in his hand?

When the girl from his floor told him she’d seen River go up to the roof, he thought she’d meant something else. He often went up there to read or watch life go by. But not in a snow storm.

He didn’t expect to see River standing on the ledge in the snow.

Don’t scare him. He’ll stumble and fall. He might jump.

A gust of air slapped Connor. River swayed to the left but righted himself with the casual grace of a gymnast. River wouldn’t fall by accident. Hell, Connor had seen him balance on one hand on a diving board, perfectly still, before falling gracefully and accurately with spins and pikes into the water below. He’d never seen River falter.

“River?” Connor asked, only an inch from grabbing River’s shirt and holding him tight. He saw River tense, but he didn’t wobble in surprise or slip and fall to the ground.

“I canbalance. Look at me.” River sounded so damn proud of himself.

Connor took a small step forward, finally being able to hold River’s shirt, hoping to hell that would be enough to stop River from falling.

“Come down, buddy.”

River lifted the bottle over his head, sloshing alcohol over his hair, his tongue flicking out to catch any that ran over his face.

“Fuck,” he shouted.

Connor tugged at him, not knowing what else to do. “Come back,” he said, loud enough that River actually looked at him.

“Leave me alone,” he said.

“I’m not leaving you on the roof,” Connor snapped and got a better hold of River, hooking a finger into his belt. River wasn’t a big guy, a diver’s body, no more than five ten and a buck sixty soaking wet, but if he fell, would Connor be able to hold him long enough to save him?

River pulled against Connor’s grip, and for a second the world stopped turning as Connor had to use his entire body weight to keep him upright. Something about the action must have scared River. He cursed and rocked backward, but he still wouldn’t come down.

“Come down,” Connor pleaded. “You’re scaring me.”

“You think you gotta save me? Huh?” River threw his arms wide again, more alcohol sloshing over the top of the bottle. “I don’t need saving.”

“I want you to come down.” Connor tried for calm. What was he doing? He should have called the cops immediately when he spotted River. Or firefighters, negotiators? Or whoever the hell should’ve been here. He’d seen things like this on the television, the mediator knowing all the right things to say and do, standing by River and connecting him to his family or childhood or his faith. All Connor knew was that he needed to pull River down, use the only thing he had going for him; the fact that he was bigger and stronger.

“I like it up here!” River explained with another wide gesture. He wobbled a little but righted himself immediately.

“Come down, Riv.”

“Saint Connor tries to save everyone,” River shouted, ending with a hysterical laugh. He was clearly losing control of himself, and even if Connor did have the words to talk him down, he thought maybe he’d just yank River back onto the concrete roof of the building and worry about injuries later.

But River wasn’t finished. “Even if they don’t need saving!”

“River!”

“Who the hell cares if I can balance, huh?”

“I care,” Connor shouted back. This was so out of character.

“Yeah, right, telling me what Christmas and family is like for you, making me see it in my head, and then leaving me here alone.”

“River, please.” Connor tugged him, but River wouldn’t move back.

“Leaving me here, alone, because that’s all anyone ever does. They fuck off, leave me, and what happens when college is over, huh? What happens when I lose that?” He lifted one clenched fist to the sky. “Fuck you!”

Connor had never heard River curse like this, and he was done with holding on to him. So evaluating where they would end up if they fell backward and not caring how much it hurt, he yanked, hard. River tumbled with him, arms flailing and the vodka bottle slipping from his grasp and falling into the tub of snow-covered plants on the roof patio. The two of them fell onto the roof, Connor using his body to cushion River’s descent, getting his arms full of an icy cold man, the breath forced from his lungs when they hit the ground.

Connor enveloped him in his arms and locked his hands in place, fighting a frozen, wet, drunk River. He wouldn’t get free. Connor had his pappa’s height, a rancher’s build, and he was a solid anchor in the wind and snow. There was no point in River fighting, and somehow he must have realized he couldn’t get free and went still in Connor’s arms.

All Connor could think was that he’d wanted River back in his arms for a long time now, but he’d expected soft lighting and mood music, not driving winds and snow.

“What the hell are you doing?” Connor demanded.

“Let me the fuck go.”

“Jesus, are you trying to kill yourself?”

River attempted to wriggle free. Connor’s grip didn’t falter in his hold. With his arms securely around River, he shuffled them back so they were protected by the low wall. He wanted to get them back inside, but he wasn’t ready to let River go yet, and the door was at least ten feet away. What if River wriggled free and ran for the ledge? The idea of River on the ground, twisted in death, blood… Connor didn’t want to think about it. He opened his coat, one-handed, and then pulled River closer, trying to get as much of the material to go over him, attempting to keep them both warm. River’s skin was like ice. How long had he been standing up there?

“What were you doing?” he demanded, but River didn’t reply, only burrowed deeper into Connor’s hold. This was stupid. He needed to get them off the roof, or he needed help. His phone was in the car. The campus was emptying for Christmas. It was ten a.m., snowing. What the hell was he going to do now?

“I have no one,” River muttered, then laughed and buried his face deeper.

“What do you mean? Talk to me, River.”

“No.”

“We need to get inside.”

How the hell do I get River inside?

He imagined struggling with River’s weight, trying to get him down four flights of stairs and across to his room. Maybe if he could just get him to the car, with its heated seats and the warm air blower and the coffee in a flask that Connor had made for the start of his journey back to Dallas. Then he could call someone, the cops or a doctor? That seemed like a plan, a focus. He scrambled to his feet, bringing River with him, and stumbled inside. As soon as the door shut, warmth hit them, prickling at his exposed skin, and he moved toward the radiator, still gripping River’s belt. He let go of him long enough to remove his jacket and place it around the shivering man’s shoulders.

River buried himself in the coat, and Connor went into disaster assessment mode. He’d seen hypothermia back home at the D, and it wasn’t pretty. He remembered his pappa saying there were signs to look for, and when Jack spoke, Connor always listened. He pulled up the facts he could remember. Did River have hypothermia? His teeth weren’t chattering, and he wasn’t talking at all, so it wasn’t obvious if he was slurring. Then, even if he did talk and his speech was slurry, how could Connor tell how much vodka he’d drunk? Connor tried to remember the symptoms. The college hospital wasn’t far away. He could drive there, and they would help.

Why the hell did I leave my phone in the damned car?

“It’s okay. I’m okay.”

“No, you’re not.”

“You can go,” River said dully. He wriggled closer to the radiator.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“But you are,” River murmured. “You kissed me, you got me off, and now you’re leaving today.” Then he hid his face in his hands. “Shit, shit, shit.”

Wait. Was this about what happened at the thanksgiving party?

Is this my fault?

Connor didn’t usually drink that much, but he’d had one beer too many at the party, to the point where he had all the courage he needed to wait for River to come out of the bathroom.

“Can I kiss you?” he’d asked, and River had stared at him, stone-cold sober and narrow-eyed.

But then, holy shit, River had pushed him back into the nearest bedroom, shut the door, and the kiss had turned into something more, hands tangled in hair, the two of them kissing and rutting against each other until they were coming in their jeans. Really unromantic. Nothing more than getting off, and River had left before Connor could even get his breath back. Not the best of outcomes. Then River had ignored him. Not returning texts, no more study sessions in the library, and he’d even missed the last lecture of the semester.

All of that told Connor on thing: River wasn’t interested in anything more with him. But that didn’t mean they weren’t still friends. They sat in silence for a few minutes, River’s face still buried in his hands, and he was clearly crying.

What the hell should I do now? 




Author Bio:
USA Today bestselling author RJ Scott writes stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, a happily ever after.

RJ Scott is the author of over one hundred romance books, writing emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

She’s always thrilled to hear from readers, bloggers and other writers. Please contact via the links below.


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EMAIL: rj@rjscott.co.uk



Home for Christmas #9

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Release Blitz: Santa Daddy by Keira Andrews

Title: Santa Daddy
Author: Keira Andrews
Genre: M/M Romance, Holiday Romance
Release Date: November 27, 2018
Cover Design: Dar Albert/Wicked Smart Designs
Summary:
Mall Santas aren’t supposed to be hot.

Hunter Adams is hopelessly adrift after college. He’s still a virgin, can’t find a real job, and has no clue what to do with his life. In desperation, he returns to his humiliating old job as an elf at the Santa's Village in his hometown's dying mall. The Santa on the job is an unexpectedly sexy lumberjack, twice Hunter's size and age. He makes Hunter feel very naughty—too bad he's grumpy and intimidating.

Years after the tragic death of his partner, Nick Spini has his beagle and long, hard days on his Christmas tree farm. That’s plenty. But he can’t refuse a loyal friend’s plea for help and finds himself filling in as Santa at the local mall. Despite Nick's attempt to stay aloof, the beautiful, anxious young man playing elf brings out his long-dormant daddy instincts.

When a surprise blizzard traps them alone in Nick’s isolated forest home, their attraction burns even brighter. Will they surrender to the sizzling connection between them and find the release and comfort they crave?

Santa Daddy is a holiday gay romance from Keira Andrews featuring an age gap, steamy m/m first times, daddy role-playing and light spanking, Christmas romance feels, and of course a happy ending.


Author Bio:
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said:

“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”


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