Friday, March 16, 2018

๐Ÿ“˜๐ŸŽฅFriday's Film Adaptation๐ŸŽฅ๐Ÿ“˜: Tara Road by Maeve Binchy


Summary:
Two women – one Irish, one American – exchange homes for the summer; their unlikely and touching friendship unveils secrets and changes lives.

Ria Lynch and Marilyn Vine have never met. Their lives have almost nothing in common. Ria lives in a big ramshackle house in Tara Road, Dublin, which is filled day and night with the family and friends on whom she depends. Marilyn lives in a college town in Connecticut, New England, absorbed in her career, an independent and private woman who is very much her own person.

Two more unlikely friends would be hard to find. Yet a chance phone call brings them together and they decide to exchange homes for the summer. Ria goes to America in the hope that the change will give her space and courage to sort out the huge crisis in her life that is threatening to destroy her. Marilyn goes to Ireland to recover in peace and quiet from the tragedy which she keeps secret from the world, little realising that Tara Road will prove to be the least quiet place on earth.

They borrow each other's houses, and during the course of that magical summer they find themselves borrowing something of each other's lives, until a story which began with loss and suffering grows into a story of discovery, unexpected friendship and new hope. By the time Ria and Marilyn eventually meet, they find that they have altered the course of each other's lives for ever.


Ria's mother had always been very fond of film stars. It was a matter of sadness to her that Clark Gable had died on the day Ria was born. Tyrone Power had died on the day Hilary had been born just two years earlier. But somehow that wasn't as bad. Hilary hadn't seen off the great king of cinema as Ria had. Ria could never see Gone With the Wind without feeling somehow guilty.

She told this to Ken Murray, the first boy who kissed her. She told him in the cinema. Just as he was kissing her, in fact.

"You're very boring," he said, trying to open her blouse.

"I'm not boring," Ria cried with some spirit. "Clark Gable is there on the screen and I've told you something interesting. A coincidence. It's not boring."

Ken Murray was embarrassed, as so much attention had been called to them. People were shushing them and others were laughing. Ken moved away and huddled down in his seat as if he didn't want to be seen with her.

Ria could have kicked herself. She was almost sixteen. Everyone at school liked kissing, or said they did. Now she was starting to do it and she had made such a mess of it. She reached out her hand for him.

"I thought you wanted to look at the film," he muttered.

"I thought you wanted to put your arm around me," Ria said hopefully.

He took out a bag of toffees and ate one. Without even passing her the bag. The romantic bit was over.


Sometimes you could talk to Hilary, Ria had noticed. This wasn't one of those nights.

"Should you not talk when people kiss you?" she asked her sister.

"Jesus, Mary, and Holy St. Joseph," said Hilary, who was getting dressed to go out.

"I just asked," Ria said. "You'd know, with all your experience with fellows."

Hilary looked around nervously in case anyone had heard. "Will you shut up about my experience with fellows," she hissed. "Mam will hear you and that will be the end of either of us going anywhere ever again."

Their mother had warned them many times that she was not going to stand for any cheap behavior in the family. A widow woman left with two daughters had enough to worry her without thinking that her girls were tramps and would never get a husband. She would die happy if Hilary and Ria had nice respectable men and homes of their own. Nice homes, in a classier part of Dublin, places with a garden even. Nora Johnson had great hopes that they would all be able to move a little upward. Somewhere nicer than the big, sprawling housing estate where they lived now. And the way to find a good man was not by flaunting yourself at every man that came along.

"Sorry, Hilary." Ria looked contrite. "But anyway she didn't hear, she's watching TV."

Their mother did little else during an evening. She was tired, she said, when she got back from the dry cleaners where she worked at the counter. All day on your feet, it was nice to sit down and get transported to another world. Mam wouldn't have heard anything untoward from upstairs about experience with fellows.

Hilary forgave her--after all she needed Ria to help her tonight. Mam had a system that as soon as Hilary got in she was to leave her handbag on the landing floor. That way when Mam got up to go to the bathroom in the night she'd know Hilary was home and would go to sleep happily. Sometimes it was Ria's job to leave the handbag out there at midnight, allowing Hilary to creep in at any hour, having taken only her keys and lipstick in her pocket.

"Who'll do it for me when the time comes?" Ria wondered.

"You won't need it if you're going to be blabbing and yattering on to fellows when they try to kiss you," Hilary said. "You'll not want to stay out late because you'll have nowhere to go."

"I bet I will," Ria said, but she didn't feel as confident as she sounded. There was a stinging behind her eyes.

She was sure she didn't look too bad. Her friends at school said she was very lucky to have all that dark curly hair and blue eyes. She wasn't fat or anything and her spots weren't out of control. But people didn't pick her out; she didn't have any kind of sparkle like other girls in the class did.

Hilary saw her despondent face. "Listen, you're fine, you've got naturally curly hair, that's a plus for a start. And you're small, fellows like that. It will get better. Sixteen is the worst age, no matter what they tell you." Sometimes Hilary could be very nice indeed. Usually on the nights she wanted her handbag left on the landing.

And of course Hilary was right. It did get better. Ria left school and like her elder sister took a secretarial course. There were plenty of fellows, it turned out. Nobody particularly special, but she wasn't in any rush. She would possibly travel the world before she settled down to marry.

"Not too much traveling," her mother warned.

Nora Johnson thought that men might regard travel as fast. Men preferred to marry safer, calmer women. Women who didn't go gallivanting too much. It was only sensible to have advance information about men, Nora Johnson told her daughters. This way you could go armed into the struggle. There was a hint that she may not have been adequately informed herself. The late Mr. Johnson, though he had a bright smile and wore his hat at a rakish angle, was not a good provider. He had not been a believer in life insurance policies. Nora Johnson worked in a dry cleaners and lived in a shabby, run-down housing estate. She did not want the same thing for her daughters when the time came.

"When do you think the time will come?" Ria asked Hilary.

"For what?" Hilary was frowning a lot at her reflection in the mirror. The thing about applying blusher was that you had to get it just right. Too much and you looked consumptive, too little and you looked dirty and as if you hadn't washed your face.

"I mean, when do you think either of us will get married? You know the way Mam's always talking about when the time comes."

"Well I hope it comes to me first, I'm the elder. You're not even to consider doing it ahead of me."

"No, I have nobody in mind. It's just I'd love to be able to look into the future and see where we'll be in two years' time. Wouldn't it be great if we could have a peep."

"Well, go to a fortune-teller then, if you're that anxious."

"They don't know anything." Ria was scornful.

"It depends. If you get the right one they do. A lot of the girls at work found this great one. It would make you shiver the way she knows things."

"You've never been to her?" Ria was astounded.

"Yes, I have actually, just for fun. The others were all going, I didn't want to be the only one disapproving."

"And?"

"And what?"

"What did she tell you? Don't be mean, go on." Ria's eyes were dancing.

"She said I would marry within two years. . . ."

"Great, can I be the bridesmaid?"

"And that I'd live in a place surrounded by trees and that his name began with an M, and that we'd both have good health all our lives."

"Michael, Matthew, Maurice, Marcello?" Ria rolled them all around to try them out. "How many children?"

"She said no children," Hilary said.

"You don't believe her, do you?"

"Of course I do, what's the point giving up a week's wages if I don't believe her."

"You never paid that!"

"She's good. You know, she has the gift."

"Come on."

"No, she does have a gift. All kinds of high-up people consult her. They wouldn't if she didn't have the power."

"And where did she see all this good health and the fellow called M and no children? In tea leaves?"

"No, on my hand. Look at the little lines under your little finger around the side of your hand. You've got two, I've got none."

"Hilary, don't be ridiculous. Mam has three lines. . . ."

"And remember there was another baby who died, so that makes three, right."

"You are serious! You do believe it."

"You asked so I'm telling you."

"And everyone who is going to have children has those little lines and those who aren't haven't?"

"You have to know how to look." Hilary was defensive.

"You have to know how to charge, it seems." Ria was distressed to see the normally levelheaded Hilary so easily taken in.

"It's not that dear when you consider--" Hilary began.

"Ah, Hilary, please. A week's wages to hear that kind of rubbish! Where does she live, in a penthouse?"

"No, a caravan as it happens, on a caravan halting site."

"You're joking me."

"True, she doesn't care about money. It's not a racket or a job, it's a gift."

"Yeah."

"So it looks like I can do what I like without getting pregnant." Hilary sounded very confident.

"It might be dangerous to throw out the Pill," said Ria. "I wouldn't rely totally on Madam Fifi or whatever she's called."

"Mrs. Connor."

"Mrs. Connor," Ria repeated. "Isn't that amazing? Mam used to consult St. Anne or someone when she was young. We thought that was mad enough, now it's Mrs. Connor in the halting site."

"Wait until you need to know something, you'll be along to her like a flash."


It was very hard to know what a job was going to be like until you were in it and then it was too late.

Hilary had office jobs in a bakery, a laundry, and then settled in a school. There wasn't much chance of meeting a husband there, she said, but the pay was a bit better and she got her lunch free, which meant she could save a bit more. She was determined to have something to put toward a house when the time came.

Ria was saving too, but to travel the world. She worked first in the office of a hardware shop, then in a company that made hairdressing supplies. And then settled in a big, busy real estate agency. Ria was on the reception desk and answered the phone. It was a world she knew nothing of when she went in, but it was obviously a business with a huge buzz. Prosperity had come to Ireland in the early eighties and the property market was the first to reflect this. There was huge competition between the various real estate agents and Ria found they worked closely as a team.

On the first day she met Rosemary. Slim, blond, and gorgeous, but as friendly as any of the girls she had ever met at school or secretarial college. Rosemary also lived at home with her mother and sister, so there was an immediate bond. Rosemary was so confident and well up in everything that was happening, Ria assumed that she must be a graduate or someone with huge knowledge of the whole property market. But no, Rosemary had only worked there for six months; it was her second job.

"There's no point in working anywhere unless we know what it's all about," Rosemary said. "It makes it twice as interesting if you know all that's going on."

It also made Rosemary twice as interesting to all the fellows who worked there. They found it very difficult to get to first base with her. In fact, Ria had heard that there was a sweepstake being run secretly on who would be the first to score. Rosemary had heard this too. She and Ria laughed over it.

"It's only a game," Rosemary said. "They don't really want me at all." Ria was not sure that she was right; almost any man in the office would have been proud to escort Rosemary Ryan. But she was adamant: a career first, fellows later. Ria listened with interest. It was such a different message than the one she got at home, where her mother and Hilary seemed to put a much greater emphasis on the marriage side of things.



Ria's mother said that 1982 was a terrible year for film stars dying. Ingrid Bergman died, and Romy Schneider and Henry Fonda, then there was the terrible accident when Princess Grace was killed. All the people you really wanted to see, they were dying off like flies.

It was also the year that Hilary Johnson got engaged to Martin Moran, a teacher at the school where she worked in the office.

Martin was pale and anxious and originally from the West of Ireland. He always said his father was a small farmer, not just a farmer but a small one. Since Martin was six feet one it was hard to imagine this. He was courteous and obviously very fond of Hilary, yet there was something about him that lacked enthusiasm and fire. He looked slightly worried about things and spoke pessimistically when he came to the house for Sunday lunch.

There was a problem connected with everything. The Pope would get assassinated when he visited England, Martin was sure of it. And when he didn't, it was just lucky and his visit hadn't done all the good that people had hoped it would. The war in the Falklands would have repercussions for Ireland, mark his word. And the trouble in the Middle East was going to get worse, and the IRA bombs in London were only the tip of the iceberg. Teachers' salaries were too low; house prices were too high.

Ria looked with wonder at the man her sister was going to marry.

Hilary, who had once been able to throw away a week's salary on a fortune-teller, was now talking about the cost of having shoes repaired and the folly of making a telephone call outside the cheap times.

Eventually a selection was made and a deposit was paid. It was a very small house. It was impossible to imagine what the area might look like in the future. At present it was full of mud, cement mixers, diggers, unfinished roads, and unmade footpaths. And yet it seemed exactly what her elder sister wanted out of life. Never had she seen her so happy.

Hilary was always smiling and holding Martin's hand as they talked, even on very worrying subjects like stamp duty and the real estate agent's fees. She kept turning and examining the very small diamond that had been very carefully chosen and bought from a jeweler where Martin's cousin worked so that a good price had been arranged.

Hilary was excited about the wedding day, which would be on the day before her twenty-fourth birthday. For Hilary the time had come. She celebrated it with manic frugality. She and Martin vied with each other to save money on the whole project.

An autumn wedding was much more sensible. Hilary could wear a cream-colored suit and hat, something that could be worn again and again, and eventually dyed a dark color and worn still further. As a wedding feast they would have a small lunch in a Dublin hotel, just family. Martin's father and brothers, being small farmers, could not afford to be away from the land for any longer than a day. It would be impossible to be anything but pleased for her. It was so obviously what Hilary wanted. But Ria knew that it was nothing at all like what she wanted herself.

Ria wore a bright scarlet-colored coat to the wedding, and a red velvet hair band and bow in her black curly hair. She must have been one of the most colorful bridesmaids at the drabbest wedding in Europe, she thought.

Next day she decided to wear her scarlet bridesmaid's coat to the office. Rosemary was amazed. "Hey, you look terrific. I've never seen you dressed up before, Ria. Seriously, you should get interested in clothes, you know. What a pity we have nowhere to go to lunch and show you off, we mustn't waste this."

"Come on, Rosemary, it's only clothes." Ria was embarrassed. She felt now that she must have been dressed like a tramp before.

"No, I'm not joking. You must always wear those knock-them-dead colors. I bet you were the hit of the wedding!"

"I'd like to think so, but maybe I was a bit too loud, made them color-blind. You've no idea what Martin's people were like."

"Like Martin?" Rosemary guessed.

"Compared to them Martin's a ball of fire," Ria said.

"Look, I can't believe you're the same person as yesterday." Rosemary stood in her immaculate lilac-colored knitted suit, her makeup perfect and amazed admiration written all over her.

"Well, you've really put it up to me. Now I'll have to get a whole new wardrobe." Ria twirled around once more before taking off her new scarlet coat, and caught the eye of the new man in the office.

She had heard there was a Mr. Lynch coming from the Cork branch. He had obviously arrived. He wasn't tall, about her own height. He was handsome, and he had blue eyes and straight fair hair that fell into them. He had a smile that lit up the room. "Hallo, I'm Danny Lynch," he said. Ria looked at him, embarrassed to have been caught pirouetting around in her new coat. "Aren't you just gorgeous?" he said. She felt a very odd sensation in her throat, as if she had been running up a hill and couldn't catch her breath.

Rosemary spoke, which was just as well because Ria would not have been able to answer at all.

"Well hallo there, Danny Lynch," she said with a bit of a smile. "And you are very welcome to our office. You know, we were told that there was a Mr. Lynch arriving, but why did we think it was going to be some old guy?"

Ria felt a pang of jealousy as she had never before felt about her friend. Why did Rosemary always know exactly what to say, how to be funny and flattering and warm at the same time?

"I'm Rosemary, this is Ria, and we are the workforce that keeps this place going, so you have to be very nice to us."

"Oh, I will," Danny promised.

And Ria knew he would probably join the sweepstake as to who would score first with Rosemary. Probably would win, as well. Oddly he seemed to be talking to Ria when he spoke, but maybe she was just imagining it. Rosemary went on. "We were just looking for somewhere to go out and celebrate Ria's new coat."

"Great! Well, we have the excuse, all we need is the place and to know how long a lunch break so that I don't make a bad impression on my first day." His extraordinary smile went from one to the other; they were the only three people in the world.

Ria couldn't say anything; her mouth was totally dry.

"If we're out and back in under an hour then I think we'll do well," said Rosemary.

"So now it's only where?" Danny Lynch said, looking straight at Ria. This time there were only two of them in the world. She still couldn't speak.

"There's an Italian place across the road," Rosemary said. "It would cut down on time getting there and back."

"Let's go there," said Danny Lynch, without taking his eyes away from Ria Johnson.

Afterward Ria could remember nothing of the lunch. Rosemary told her they talked about work, the houses on their books.


Danny was twenty-three. His uncle had been a real estate agent. Well, he had been a bit of everything in a small town, a publican, an undertaker, but he also had an agent's license and that's where Danny had gone to work when he left school. They had sold grain and fertilizer and hay as well as cattle and small farms, but as Ireland changed, property became important. And then he had gone to Cork City and he loved it all, and now he had just gotten this job in Dublin.

He was as excited as a child on Christmas Day, and Rosemary and Ria were carried along with him all the way. He said he hated being in the office and loved being out with clients, but then didn't everyone? He knew it would take time before he'd get that kind of freedom in Dublin. He had been to Dublin often but never lived there.

And where was he staying? Rosemary had never seemed so interested in anyone before. Ria watched glumly. Every man in the office would have killed to see the light in the eyes, the interest in every word. She never inquired where any of her other colleagues lived, she didn't seem to know if they had any accommodation at all. But with Danny it was different. "Tell us now that you don't live miles and miles away, do you?" Rosemary had her head on one side. No man on earth could resist giving Rosemary his address and finding out where she lived too. But Danny didn't seem to regard it as a personal exchange; it was part of the general conversation. He spoke looking from one to the other as he told them how he had fallen on his feet. He really had the most amazing bit of luck. There was this man he had met, a sort of madman really called Sean O'Brien, old and confused. A real recluse. And he had inherited a great big house on Tara Road, and he wasn't capable of doing it up, and he didn't want all the bother
and the discussing of it and all so what he really wanted was a few fellows to go in and live there. Fellows were easier than girls, they didn't want things neat and clean and organized. He smiled apologetically at them as if to say he knew that fellows were hopeless.

So that's where he and two other lads lived. They had a room each, and kept an eye on the place until poor old Sean decided what he was going to do. Suited everybody.

What kind of a house was it, the girls wanted to know?

Tara Road was very higgledy-piggledy. Big houses with gardens full of trees, small houses facing right on the street. No. 16 was a great old house, Danny said. Falling down, damp, shabby now. Poor Sean O'Brien's old uncle must have been a bit of a no-hoper like Sean himself, it must have been a great house once. You got a feel for houses, didn't you? Otherwise, why be in this business at all.

Ria sat with her chin in her hands listening to Danny and looking at him and looking at him. He was so enthusiastic. The place had a big overrun garden, and an orchard even at the back. It was one of those houses that just put out its arms and hugged you.

Rosemary must have kept the conversation going and called for the check. They walked across the road back to work and Ria sat down at her desk. Things don't happen like this in real life. It's only a crush or an infatuation. He's a perfectly ordinary small guy with a line of chatter. He is exactly like this to everyone else. So why on earth did she feel that he was totally special, and that if he got to share all his plans and dreams with anyone else she would kill the other person. This wasn't the kind of way people went on. Then she remembered her sister's wedding the day before. That wasn't the way people went on either.

Before the office closed Ria went over to Danny Lynch's desk. "I'm going to be twenty-two tomorrow," she said. "I wondered . . ." Then she got stuck.

He helped her out. "Are you having a party?"

"Not really, no."

"Then can we celebrate it together. Today the coat, tomorrow being twenty-two. Who knows what we'll have to celebrate by Wednesday?"

And then Ria knew that it wasn't a crush or an infatuation, it was love. The kind of thing she had only read about, heard about, sung about, or seen at the cinema. And it had come to find her in her own office.

*********


Film
Two women -- one American, one Irish -- make a house swap that alters their respective destinies.

Release Dates: October 7, 2005 - Ireland
March 26, 2006 - USA
Release Time: 97 minutes

Cast:
Olivia Williams as Ria Lynch
Andie MacDowell as Marilyn Vine
Iain Glen as Danny Lynch
August Zirner as Greg Vine
Stephen Rea as Colm Maguire
Maria Doyle Kennedy as Rosemary Ryan
Sarah Bolger as Annie Lynch
Johnny Brennan as Brian Lynch
Eileen Colgan as Nora
Jean-Marc Barr as Andy Vine
Alan Devlin as Barney McCarthy
Brenda Fricker as Mona McCarthy
Ruby Wax as Carlotta
Jia Francis as Heidi Franks
Maeve Binchy (cameo) as a restaurant patron



Author Bio:
Maeve Binchy was born in County Dublin and educated at the Holy Child convent in Killiney and at University College, Dublin. After a spell as a teacher she joined The Irish Times. Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982, and she went on to write more than 20 books, all of them bestsellers. Several have been adapted for film and television, most notably Circle of Friends and Tara Road, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. She was married to the writer and broadcaster Gordon Snell for 35 years, and died in 2012 at the age of 72.


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Review Tour: Winter Cowboy by RJ Scott

Title: Winter Cowboy
Author: RJ Scott
Series: Whisper Ridge, Wyoming #1
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: February 25, 2018
Cover Design: Meredith Russell
Summary:
Micah Lennox left Whisper Ridge after promising the man he loved that he would never return. But the only way he knows to keep his pregnant sister and nephew safe is to go home. Spending winter in Wyoming opens too many old wounds, but he's on the run from justice which can't be far behind, and this is his last chance at redemption.

After a hostage situation leaves Doctor Daniel Sheridan struggling with PTSD, he returns to Whisper Ridge. Joining his dad in family practice is a balm to soothe his exhausted soul, and somehow, he finds a peace he can live with. That is until he meets Micah in a frozen graveyard, and the years of anger and feelings of betrayal boiling inside him, erupt.

Two broken men fight and scratch for their lives and that of their families, and somehow, in the middle of it all, they find each other.

Is it possible that love can be rekindled and become a forever to believe in?


When Micah Lennox promised the man he loved he would never return he intended to keep that promise but now he has to protect his pregnant sister and nephew. Whisper Ridge and the family ranch is the safest place he can think of to do just that.  Dr. Daniel Sheridan has returned to Whisper Ridge after a hostage situation has him living with PTSD and a certain level of survivor's guilt.  The last thing he wants to hear is that his former lover has broken his word to stay away.  Will Micah and Daniel be able to leave the past where it belongs and find a new future living in the same community or will the heartache and pain of long ago win out?

First, I just want to say a huge thank you to RJ Scott.  Not only is the book amazing but because of its awesomeness, I had an amazingly entertaining and relaxing trip to the Mayo Clinic.  It turned one of those "routine" days with Mom's doctors(you know the kind where you have to be there at 7am for blood, than 9 for an x-ray and then sit around till 4pm for the doc) into . . . well like I said it was just relaxing and entertaining, I got more than a few sideway glances when I gasped or grinned like a chesire cat but I loved every minute of it, so once again Thank You, RJ for making a long strung out day not so long and not so strung out.

Now as for the story, don't think because I used the term "relaxing" that its all sunshine and unicorns, oh no quite the opposite really.  Winter Cowboy is full of drama, heartache, and tears BUT its also jam packed to overflowing with amazing characters, incredible settings, second chances, and heart.  I'll admit that Daniel grated on my nerves at times with putting all the blame on Micah for the past, which I won't spoil, but I am going to say as a reader hearing both sides if I was in Daniel's shoes I would like to think I would be more honest about the situation but I can't say for certain I would do it differently.  Sometimes fate has their own clock, we may not agree with how its set but it usually gets us where we need to be and when.  I will admit I loved how both Micah and Daniel had issues to deal with and accept, more often than not it comes down to one character with the problem and the other "dealing" with it but not these boys they are both looking for a second chance.

I just want to finish by saying I have read many books and many authors over the years, both as a blogger and my personal reads and I have a small list of authors who continually ingratiate the secondary characters into a story to make them more than just window dressing, page filler, or fodder for the bad guys and RJ Scott is at the top of that list.  Whether its a character that will probably be at the center of a future tale(๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜‰hint, hint at Neil๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜‰), family that gives the main characters reason to return, or that judgmental couple you really want to knock on their ass.  They all add something that makes the journey better and has left me hungry for more from Whisper Ridge, Wyoming. I can't wait to see what RJ has in store next for this ranching community.

RATING: 


Chapter 1
2009, Daniel
A figure stood beside Isaac’s grave and I knew immediately who it was.

There was no marker yet for the boy who had died two weeks ago and who would forever be nineteen. Flowers marked his resting place, but snow had long since covered them and softened the raised earth so it wasn’t as obvious against the gravestones around the figure. A car accident had taken Isaac, killed him on impact, and his family grieved for a future that would never be realized.

I’d just left my brother, Chris, in the hospital, broken beyond repair in the same accident. At least we had the possibility of a future with him, even though the road to recovery would be hard. He was still in a medically induced coma, not yet awake to know he’d lost his leg, or that fire had marked his face. But he would wake up. They told us he’d live.

No one had asked me where I was going when I’d left Chris’ room, each of us lost in various stages of shock and grief, and we all dealt with what had happened in our own way. I’d needed to connect with Isaac. Needed the peace to balance the loss and guilt that ate away inside me.

Isaac dead on impact, Chris’ future destroyed, and in front of me, hunched over Isaac’s last resting place, was the man responsible for it all.

The man who left my bed in the dead of night to become a murderer.

Micah.

He was huddled into his coat, the January ice bitter by the buried, hands forced into his pockets, and his hood pulled around his face. Micah must have heard me, because he glanced my way, startled, grief written on his face. And then his expression changed.

He stepped toward me, his expression full of something like hope.

“Daniel?” he said. “Is Chris okay? No one will let me see him.”

He stopped walking when I didn’t reach out for him and looked at me uncertainly.

“His leg is gone, down from his knee,” I explained dispassionately, and then touched my face, “and his burns are bad, the left side of his face from his temple to his chin.”

“Shit. Shit.” Micah bent at the waist, as if he couldn’t breathe, and he was crying.

“How is it you don’t have a mark on you?” I asked, still eerily calm, and utterly focused.

He took his hand from his pocket, and pulled up his sleeve, exposing bandages. “I was burned,” he began. He dropped his hand when I didn’t comment, forced it back into his pocket, wincing as he did so.

I imagined the burn hurt a little, maybe even a lot, but he was there, as whole and real as when he’d left my bed on that terrible day.

In my mind I saw Chris in the hospital, the covers raised over the cage which protected his surgical site, then dipping lower where his ankle should have been. I saw a clear image of Isaac the day before he died, knocking for Chris and grinning at me as if he had the greatest secret to tell his best friend.

And here was Micah, telling me he had slight burns on his arm? The same man who’d told me in one breath that he loved me and then had stolen my car, driving it into a bridge and killing one boy, leaving another maimed and in a coma.

My fist flew, clenched aggression targeting Micah’s face, his cheekbone, and I heard a satisfying crunch. He staggered back a step, but he didn’t go down, and he didn’t take his hands from his pockets. I was too fast. I hit him again, blood flecking his face, dissipating into the icy air. He moved again, the force of my blows shoving him back.

Still, his hands remained in his pockets, and he was unnervingly quiet, taking my hits as if they were nothing at all. Another punch connected with his lip and split the skin, and this time he grunted in pain. He staggered backward toward the next grave and bent back over the stone marker with the force of that final blow. I stepped closer. I hit him again, connecting with his jaw, but the hit wasn’t hard. There was nothing to it; he didn’t move away.

“You took my car,” I yelled, right in his face.

“You said I could borrow it,” he pleaded.

I raised my hand to hit him again, but he winced, and closed his eyes, and I wanted him to look at me. “Open your damn eyes!”

He did, and he wouldn’t avert his gaze, naked grief in his expression.

“Daniel, please listen.”

“You’ve destroyed Chris’ life.”

“I know.”

“You need to leave Whisper Ridge, and never come back. I don’t want to see your face, I don’t want Chris to ever see you again. You understand?”

“I understand,” his tone low and broken.

“You will never come back here.” I shook him. He was smaller than me, thinner, lighter, and I shook him so hard his head snapped back. “Promise me!”

“I pr—promise,” he said through tears.

I was disgusted by him, hated him, wanted to kill him right there on Isaac’s grave.

“I hope they lock you up and throw away the fucking key!” I was still shouting, and he didn’t move, just stared at me with those pale eyes, red and wet from crying. He wouldn’t stop crying. “Don’t fucking stare at me!”

I shoved him one last time, and then before I could work out what the hell I was still doing there shouting at him, I pivoted and turned my back on him, and on Isaac’s grave, and the entire carnage.

Author Bio:
RJ’s goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.

RJ Scott is the bestselling author of over one hundred romance books. She writes 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.


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New Cover Reveal: A Beltane Gift by Holly Barbo

Title: A Beltane Gift
Author: Holly Barbo
Series: Quick Reads - Beyond Time #1
Genre: Paranormal, Short Story
Release Date: April 2, 2016
Cover Design: Darkmantle Designs
Summary:
A paranormal short story set in Scotland, with cultural heritage at its heart.

Summer in Scotland, and Mari is working on an archaeological dig of a Viking burial ship during Beltane, a time of the year when the veil shrouding the spirit world thins.

What could possibly go wrong?

A Beltane Gift is a contemporary story with historical elements and a wee bit of the paranormal. It won first prize in the PGP Short Story Competition in August 2015. It is also available as part of the anthology Tendrils.

A Beltane Gift, Beyond Time: Book 1, is a story that begs for more. You can follow Mari as she searches for answers in A Bell for Valor. And watch for additional adventures in the Beyond Time series of Quick Reads.

A Quick Read book is a short story available as a single small book. In both ebook and paper format, it is a perfect small gift or for escaping to another place and reality when you only have a tiny block of spare time.


A wisp of a sound snatched her attention and she looked up, startled. The red fox stood just inside the circle of light cast from her fire. The source of the sound came from what it held in its jaws.

Standing, she moved toward the fox, anticipating it would run away. The fox allowed her two steps toward it, then slowly lowered its head and deposited a small animal on the ground before drifting back a few paces into the shadows.

It was a kitten of approximately two months of age, with long hair, bushy tail, ginger-colored thick fur around the head and large paws, but the rest was in shades of black and gray tiger stripes. It studied Mari with eerily intelligent heather-blue eyes. She approached the little animal and held out the back of her hand to be sniffed. In a quiet voice, she spoke to the fox. “Why do you have a kitten and why bring it here?”

A strange, almost atonal, voice came from the archeological dig. “Tha kitten is here 'cause I asked Ruadh ta bring it.”

She whirled, seeking the source of the voice.

It came again. “T'was ah good name an tha fox appreciates it.” Emerging from the shadows was the unsubstantial form of a Viking.

With wide eyes she watched... speechless.

“My greeting ta ye, Mari. Ye're ah descendant...” The spirit chuckled, “Many times an hundreds o' years removed, yet ye bear ah resemblance ta my beautiful Leda.”

Author Bio:
Holly Barbo's world is shaped by her love of family, the beauty of the nature and an irrepressible curiosity that frequently has her turning over rocks and questioning what she finds. This sometimes sends the reader down a rabbit hole into an alternate view of the world than what they expected. Holly’s mind can be an interesting place.

Her motto: Weaving Alternative Worlds with Threads From Today.



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Release Blitz: Out of the Ocean by Lynn Michaels

Title: Out of the Ocean
Author: Lynn Michaels
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: March 15, 2018
Cover Design: Decorous Anarchy Studios
Summary:
Cal Bigsby spent his life working the fishing boats and ignoring who he really is and what he needs to be happy.

Prescott ‘Scott’ Vandenburton is being primed to take over Daddy’s company, but he craves a life of his own. His only escape is sailing his yacht.

When a freak storm hits, both are forced to think about life from a whole new perspective


“Well, we do have some food here,” Scott said, as Cal sorted the nets.

“Yep.”

“I have some crackers and a can of smoked oysters. Want that for breakfast?”

“Nope.”

“Aren’t you hungry, Cal?”

Cal grunted. “You need to ration that food. Who knows how long we’ll be out here.” There was no way Cal was going to take food from Scott. He couldn’t.

“Uh…you mean we.”

“Huh? No.”

“Don’t grunt at me. This is serious. You’re sharing this food with me. Now what do you want to eat?”

Cal ignored him. Scott meant well, but his own instincts wouldn’t let him compromise. No matter what happened, Cal had to do everything he could to protect Scott, make sure he survived. Nothing else mattered. “Have some crackers, Scott. I’m busy.”

Author Bio:
Lynn Michaels lives and writes in Tampa, Florida where the sun is hot and the Sangria is cold. Lynn is the newest addition to Rubicon Fiction, and she loves reading and writing about hot men in love. She writes paranormal and contemporary MM Romance.


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