Tag Archives: fiction

The Baker of Brennan #20

Rose paced. She sat and stood and sat and stood. When her stomach growled, she poked at her dinner without taking her eyes off Scott’s for more than five seconds. How dare he go missing? Was it really so difficult to just not do something stupid, or get attacked, or manage to have a tree fall on him, or slip in some mud and hit a rock and crack his skull open-

If she didn’t stop thinking along those lines, she’d drive herself insane. Scott was not dead. She did not just spend two months falling for him so he could go off and leave her. “Goddess bless,” she whimpered to the empty kitchen, “what if he got spooked and ran off?” In many ways, that would be worse. At least if he got injured, it wouldn’t be something he did on purpose to avoid her.

Her stomach churned, and she set the half-eaten pie aside. She snapped her head up when the house creaked, heart pounding and chest tight. It wasn’t the door, and she covered her face. “If your goal is to make sure I really want him, I think we’ve solved that question. Give him back, please.”

No answer came, and she found herself pacing without remembering taking the first step. An eternity later, she forced herself to stop pacing. It accomplished nothing. Waiting accomplished nothing, too. Grabbing her cloak, she tossed the door open and strode outside to… To do something instead of nothing.

With a firm nod to herself, she plunged into the near-dark gloom of twilight, headed for the tavern. Everyone would be there, and Karen would know as much as anyone else. The walk took her past other homes, none of which had any signs of activity. Between two of them, she caught movement as she passed. Something thrashed about in the tall grass the Coopers never bothered to keep tamed.

Patch of grass by Vincent van Gogh

Patch of grass by Vincent van Gogh

She stopped and peered that way. “Hello?” It could be a loose sheep or goat. Or, her mind helpfully supplied, a feral boar or wild bear. One that might have gored Scott and dragged him back to its lair for later dining. He could be alive right now, bleeding to death in a cave. Instead of speaking again when she got no answer, she clucked her tongue like the shepherd did to call the sheep in.

A sheep trotted out of the grass to her, baaing its distress to her. At once, relief and despair crashed over her. Then she noticed a long smear of blood on the ewe’s wool. Scratching its head, she bent to get a closer look, and made out a rough hand shape, one that had been swiped across it. She sucked in a breath and froze.

“Rose?” Sheriff Ben’s voice startled her enough that she jumped and upset the animal. “I thought you were going to- What’s wrong? Why do you have a sheep?” When she didn’t – couldn’t – answer, he approached and saw the blood. “Where did you find it?”

Still too stunned to speak, she pointed and watched Ben tromp to the grasses. He kept going and disappeared from sight. Her heart stopped. If something could take Scott, it could take Ben, too. In a blink, her feet forced her to follow him, as if one doughy baker could make all the difference between life and death for two trained and hardened men.

“Rose,” Ben hissed, “what are you doing? Go to the tavern and send down anyone willing to help.”

“If he’s here, I want to see him.”

“And here I thought you were sensible,” he grumbled. She suspected he didn’t mean for her to hear that. Too bad.

The words shook her out of her fear and let her focus on something besides the blood and what it might mean. “Don’t be an ass.” For good measure, she cuffed his arm. “That’s my Scott out there. Don’t you go getting all-” Unable to think of the proper word to put there, she waved her hands growled at him.

“Fine, fine.” In the swiftly gathering dark, she could almost make out a smirk, though it could have been a grimace. “Just keep quiet.” The scrape of his sword as he pulled it from its sheath made her stumble. A few more paces into the tall grass, a groan slipped past them on the breeze. He froze and held out his empty hand to make her stop.

If that moan didn’t come from Scott, Rose would eat her best loaf pan. It meant he was alive, but hurt. She desperately wanted to run to him and glared at Ben’s hand, preventing her from doing so. Except it didn’t. His hand held no real power over her. Shoving him aside, she hurried forward, not caring about the noise she made.

“Scott? Can you hear me?” She ignored Ben’s string of curses behind her and kept running. Another grunt kept her going past the fence of the paddock that sheep must have escaped from. Ahead, she saw where one of the beams had broken, leaving a hole big enough for the animals to wander through.

Ben caught up and grabbed her arm, yanking her hard enough that she spun and hit the ground on her side. The tumble surprised her and scrambled her head. Lifting her head, she shook it and looked around. Just inside the fence, Ben crouched or knelt over something.

“Is he okay?”

“Rose, go to the tavern right now and get help.”

“Is he…?” She gulped and her eyes burned.

“This isn’t him.”

A fistful of grass helped her clamber to her hands and knees. “I heard him.”

“This man is dead, Rose. You didn’t hear him.”

“Scott. I heard Scott.”

Ben huffed in annoyance. “Rose. Get your head on straight. Whatever killed this man is still out here, and you aren’t equipped to deal with it. Tell everyone we need the militia.”

“But-”

“No,” Ben roared. “Every second you argue with me is a second I could be spending looking for Scott. Go! Tavern, now.”

Rose sniffled and got to her feet, then ran off as quickly as her feet could carry her. If he died because she refused to go when Ben first told her to, she would never forgive herself.

Book Review: Call Girls: Merissa by Emma Jaye

Merissa (Call Girls #1) by Emma Jaye – 2.5 stars

Reading eBooks about BDSM sent by her landlady had become quite an obsession for shy graduate researcher Merissa. Finding out she was living in a building run by a high class call girl, and that most of her fellow residents were also ‘in the business’ was quite a surprise, but not as much as finding out they wanted her to take on an assignment.

Given a choice of working evenings in a dingy soulless call centre, or being tied up and spanked by a gorgeous rich man, didn’t seem to be too difficult a choice at first. It was going to be a straightforward arrangement, she’d give up control and he’d look after her, they’d learn together and then say goodbye. Unfortunately, being a sub isn’t as simple, or as easy as her books suggest.

The website warned that two inexperienced people shouldn’t be together, but with the support of her ‘professional’ friends, this would be alright, wouldn’t it?

Warning: Adult content includes amongst other things, spanking, sensual massage, role play, bondage, rope play and a seriously hot hero.

The Call Girls Series which follows five women as they explore the sometimes dark but always brightly passionate world of paid love. Themes in the series, but not in every book, include FTF, voyeurism, BDSM, multiples (including M/F/M and M/M/F), role play and always a seriously sexy man or two. Although not all the girls have a ‘happy ever after’ they at least a ‘happy for now’ ending.

This particular book isn’t really my cup of tea. I’ve read some assorted BDSM erotica before, and this book falls into the mold of having a submissive woman who needs dominant man, and romance ensues. The woman is relatively poor, the man is wealthy. She’s a graduate student scientist, he’s an architect. Their jobs and interests (outside of sex) are utterly irrelevant except as explanations of their differing wealth and social status.

Far too much backstory exposition opens the book. Once it gets past that, the story goes along until an odd glob of a different character’s backstory appears towards the end. I didn’t need the majority of the information, so it was wasted space.

The erotica itself is what I’d call ‘subtle hardcore’. The descriptions of the actual sex acts are spare, and it fades to black in some spots. This is not a bad thing, but unfortunately, what is there didn’t feel steamy or especially titillating.

I was at no time compelled to turn the page or made to care a whole lot about Merissa. Her thoughts and ideas interested me without intriguing me.

By far, the biggest problem with this book is its need for editing. It has numerous basic typographical errors, enough to distract from the story. My limit is about one per chapter, and this surpassed that handily. It also has jarring shifts in perspective from one paragraph to the next in a few places. Improper speech text formatting helped to further confuse me in a few places.

Because of the problems with the editing, I don’t recommend this. However, people who aren’t as picky as me about grammar who also enjoy BDSM erotica will probably like this.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Strike by @CharlieWood24

Strike: The Hero From The Sky (The STRIKE Trilogy, Book 1) by Charlie Wood – 3 stars

Tobin Lloyd’s life is perfect: he’s a senior at Bridgton High, he’s one of the funniest kids in school, and his only worry is whether or not his latest prank is going to result in yet another detention.

But when he wakes up in the world of Capricious, a place where superheroes are real and attacks by super-villains are just another hassle of living in the city, all of that changes. Suddenly, Tobin’s last year of high school is not going as he expected.

Far from home and pretty sure he’s gone insane, Tobin must join a strange group of companions (including a beer-drinking dog and a genius, three-foot-tall robot) as he desperately tries to find a way back to Earth. However, that may be even harder than Tobin knows: a mysterious super-villain named Vincent Harris has big plans for the planet Earth…and Tobin is the only person standing in his way.

A carefree, C-student class clown is the world’s last hope? Yikes.

This book is also available as part of the complete Strike Trilogy.

A quick read, this book didn’t grab me and demand that I read it, but it did entertain me. The story is simple and straightforward, following a clear path for the creation of a new superhero. It’s action and adventure without a lot of emotional baggage.

I found it a little spare. It depicts a smartass, underachieving teenager well, but does so without delving deeply. Tobin is somewhat shallow in the development sense, making him feel a little vague at times. I got the feeling the author was quite fond of Orion, and of Kepler, as both seem lovingly crafted, moreso than any of the other characters. The rest of the secondary characters are spotty at best.

The rules of the superpowers are quite vague, making it difficult to grasp the characters’ limits and impossible to figure out how they might die and what the stakes really are. The MacGuffin – aside from how it gets into the hero’s hands, which is cute – pushed me one suspension of disbelief too far. I would have preferred for Tobin to have more agency and make greater sacrifice of some kind.

Despite all that, I recommend this for anyone who likes YA urban fantasy, especially those who enjoy superhero stories. If you’re not into YA, you’ll probably want to pass.

Book Review: Dead Drunk by @Dead__Drunk

Dead Drunk by Richard Johnson – 4.5 stars
Charlie Campbell was your average, balding, thirty-year-old alcoholic with a dead-end job and a penchant for shambling through life one mistake after another. However, none of that mattered following the sudden arrival of a mysterious sickness that brought with it infected mobs of zombie-like creatures thirsting for the flesh of the living.

Trapped in a Chicago apartment the morning after a raucous bachelor party, Charlie and his old fraternity buddies must battle for survival against the cannibalistic horde, a military invasion and their own rampant stupidity.

With supplies, common sense and brain cells dwindling by the hour, the motley crew — including a racist cop, a Sri Lankan used car salesman, a stoner landlord and a pet raccoon — must pull out all the stops to avoid joining the ranks of the dead.

If you like zombies, action and humor, crack a beer, pull up a barstool, and prepare for one wild ride.

Everything that this book promises is delivered. It’s a zombie novel about a guy I wound up rooting for even though he’s a loser. The humor is lowbrow, the beer flows freely, and the silliness quotient is high (literally, part of the time). In many places, this book is entirely preposterous, and that’s exactly how it should be.

I found myself laughing out loud at several points. Although the antics of the survivors can be over the top at times, it’s still hilarious. Be forewarned there is a lot of drunk guy humor, guy sex humor, and some drug humor. These guys drink, use assorted drugs, and talk about sex and genitalia a lot.

A few scenes did bother me a tiny bit, ones depicting mildly disturbing violence. Obviously, there are zombies, so there’s violence, and that’s not what I’m referring to. The survivors engage in and discuss some morally questionable activities that sensitive readers will blanch at. Their choices aren’t always the ‘heroic’ ones, which is probably the reason any of them manage to survive.

The only things I actually disliked about this book were some odd scenes out, all of them jam-packed with backstory. One of them even confused me, because I had no idea what was going on until the end of the chapter. Aside from the one major hiccup, the tale is woven well and the characters are well done.

I recommend this for people who like Shaun of the Dead and similar stories.

Book Review: Slow Burn: Zero Day by @BobbyAdairBooks


Slow Burn: Zero Day by Bobby Adair – 5 stars

A new flu strain has been spreading across Africa, Europe, and Asia. Disturbing news footage is flooding the cable news channels. People are worried. People are frightened. But Zed Zane is oblivious.

Zed needs to borrow rent money from his parents. He gets up Sunday morning, drinks enough tequila to stifle his pride and heads to his mom’s house for a lunch of begging, again.

But something is wrong. There’s blood in the foyer. His mother’s corpse is on the living room floor. Zed’s stepdad, Dan is wild with crazy-eyed violence and attacks Zed when he comes into the house. They struggle into the kitchen. Dan’s yellow teeth tear at Zed’s arm but Zed grabs a knife and stabs Dan, thirty-seven times, or so the police later say.

With infection burning in his blood, Zed is arrested for murder but the world is falling apart and he soon finds himself back on the street, fighting for his life among the infected who would kill him and the normal people, who fear him.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a zombie tale for those of us who don’t want or need to see a little girl in blood-smeared overalls with vacant eyes advancing on the hero, forcing him to shoot her in the head and agonize about it afterwards. This book actually reminded me a lot of the Left 4 Dead and Zombie Driver games in some sections, which is a compliment, because it managed to keep the tone light despite the subject matter.

The hero, Zed, is a decent guy with no real zombie apocalypse survival skills, but a heap of sense and a delightful hit of idiocy. He’s the kind of idiot who does the right thing because it’s the right thing and doesn’t necessarily think through the consequences or see the trap in it. When he does see the trap beforehand, he can’t come up with an alternative and plunges headlong into it. This is my kind of dumbass.

I found the writing amusing and quick, and Zed has a good voice. As there always are, I found a few bits that didn’t gel quite right, but the rest of it was so entertaining, I didn’t care. I foresee that his sidekicks, Murphy and Jerome, will be an endless source of amusement for the rest of the series and look forward to watching Slow Burn unfold.

The only people I don’t expect to like this book are those who can’t abide by swearing, or have issues with zombies overall. Go into it knowing it’s not the most serious book out there, and you should have a blast. It’s a great, quick, summer beach read.

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Announcing Damsel In Distress

I am pleased to announce Damsel In Distress is live and ready for the world on Amazon, in both ebook and trade paperback. This is a story documenting the life of Sabetia, a girl raised by her mother to be good and quiet and obedient. When her father starts noticing she’s growing up, he fobs her off on the first suitor he finds worthy to avoid dealing with his own darker impulses.

Jason, the husband, takes her into his home when she’s only fourteen. This is an acceptable age – if a little young – in the Four Kingdoms of Ilauris, where the power of a woman is measured by how well she marries and how many children she produces. Jason is handsome, suave, and much older and more experienced. It all starts so well.

In some places, this book will trick you into thinking it’s a romance. In others, epic fantasy or adventure. Sabetia isn’t prepared for any of it. She’s just a girl, after all, and one who’s lived her whole life behind the walls of luxury. Her black and white view of the world doesn’t fit in the harshness of glaring reality, and her strength will be tested, over and over.

It can also be found listed on Goodreads. Watch for a blog tour, coming soon.

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The Baker of Brennan #13

The door creaked open and banged shut to announce Kent returning again. “Everybody says the fruit stuff is good. I think it’s motivating them to work faster.”

Ada pulled the last clean pan out of the washbasin. Rose picked it up and dried it with a towel so they could use it again. “Good. Are those survivors still helping out?”

She really only wants to know about Scott,” Ada said with a wide grin.

Rose rolled her eyes and glared. “I do not. I couldn’t care less about him.”

He’s good at lifting things and carrying them.” Kent got himself a wedge of cheese and an apple from a cupboard. “Sheriff thinks it’ll be done in just a few days. Damage wasn’t too bad, so he says, even if it looks like total destruction to me. I guess they want real bread, though, so it’ll be done as fast as everyone can manage it.”

A knock on the door drew everyone’s attention. Rose nodded for Kent to answer it, because her hands were full pouring batter into pans again. When he did, he spoke briefly to someone outside, then stepped aside and let her in, the door slamming shut behind her. A red, fur lined cloak covered most of her up, and when she pulled her hood down, Rose didn’t recognize her. She could be anyone with her light brown hair and green eyes. At a guess, the woman was about Rose’s own age of twenty-six, maybe a little older, and she worked outside a lot.

Are you Rose Becker, the town’s baker?”

She says the Sheriff sent her,” Kent supplied.

Rose nodded, curiosity piqued. “That’s me. Who might you be?”

Aine Runstrais, Countess of Howling

Marie Antoinette im roten Jagdkostum by Joseph Kreutzinger

Aine, the Countess of Howling.”

Genuine nobility right in her house. Rose blinked several times, then set down her bowl. “Excuse me, milady. I didn’t recognize you. Can we offer you anything? Tea or…um…tea?”

No, thank you.” She smiled politely. “I’m here as an advance rider on my husband’s behalf, checking on the nearby villages. The Count doesn’t strictly rule these lands, but the storm was pretty bad, and it’ll be days before the Baron can get his own estate dug out. The Sheriff said that Brennan will be fine, except that the baker’s stores were nearly destroyed, and the town relies on you?”

Rose stared at her, wondering what kind of Count sent his wife out to scout for him. For that matter, what kind of Countess actually went and did it? She cleared her throat after a few seconds of empty silence. “Right. Yes, that’s true, though those hard-headed men won’t admit they’d be best off with a little more help than that. Oh, no, Rose is the only one who needs help. Go see the woman who won’t get married and show off how great it is and how much she- Er…um.” She scowled, annoyed at herself for running off her mouth in front of a Countess.

To her surprise, Aine laughed. “Aren’t men such a pain in the ass?” She flipped her cloak off, revealing a slim frame wrapped in thick pants, a long riding coat, and boots. “If they want to suffer a little, that’s fine. I’m here to find out what you need right now, to cover until the Baron is able to get here and do his job. We can get a wagon through tomorrow. He’ll still be digging out his stables three day from now.”

We can’t really afford-”

Aine raised a hand to cut her off. “Don’t worry about it. Keltran keeps an account for emergencies, and the Baron will pay us back. So, what do you need to see you through the next week?”

Rose could have kissed the Countess. “Ada, can you take care of this? I’ll make up a list. Is that the Count? Keltran?”

Yes. Count of Howling and Captain of the Howling Coyotes. Also a little too big for his britches sometimes.” She smirked, then waved a hand to dismiss the subject. “I offered to have the Company come down and help with the rebuilding, but your Sheriff declined. I think I’ll have them ‘escort’ your goods anyway, and suggest they volunteer to pass the time. Nothing like honest work to keep a mercenary out of trouble in the middle of winter.”

Rose chuckled. “Our Sheriff could use a good kick in the pants.” She looked around for paper, but didn’t have high hopes. Most of her paper already had recipes written on it.

Here.” Aine produced a sturdy leather scrollcase. “Use what’s in there.”

The case held rolled up paper and sticks of charcoal wrapped in a small towel. She set to work, scribbling down what she felt confident would tide them over for a week. Flour, milk, eggs, sugar, yeast, salt, and butter ought to cover everything they needed to survive until she’d be able to really get what she wanted. While thinking about the quantities, she went back and crossed out eggs, since she always got them from Brenna in the afternoon anyway. If all the chickens froze to death, there’d be a much bigger panic, and they’d be asking for chickens. She also crossed out milk, for the same reason.

Are you a mercenary, milady?” Kent offered Aine a wedge of cheese, but she turned it down.

No. I was, before my son was born, but now I take care of the keep while the Company is out.”

They all stared at her. Ada was the one who asked, “Really?”

Yes,” Aine smirked. “Really. Cavalry, as in mounted combatant. I can still hold my own with a spear and a sword, but I’m a little out of practice with archery these days.”

Kent’s mouth hung open. Ada stood there blinking stupidly. Rose frowned at her. “I didn’t think anyone let women do those sorts of jobs. I mean, aside from the weir- Uh, ones that go into adventuring.”

‘Let’?” Aine huffed out a laugh. “If I waited around to be allowed to train for mounted combat, I’d still be back home, chafing my hide. No one ‘let’ me do anything. I kicked Keltran’s ass around until he submitted. That’s why I married him,” she said with a gleam in her eye. “He figured out that I don’t take orders.”

Rose genuinely liked this woman. “You sure you don’t want to annex Brennan?” She tucked her list and the sticks back into the case and handed it over with a smile.

We’ll think about it.” Aine winked and tucked the case away. “The Company will be in town sometime tomorrow. I’ll see about getting a message to the Baron to let him know you need real help here, too. He might get his men to work a little harder. Don’t hold your breath. Good luck, Rose, and the rest of you.” With a swish of her cloak, Aine left the house, shutting the door behind herself so it didn’t slam.

Wow,” Ada said.

Kent nodded. “She’s kind of crazy.”

Rose grinned and thought of Scott. “I like the idea of getting a man to submit.”