Friday, May 25, 2018

Straight Browsing from the Library: The Renaissance Club by Rachel Dacus

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Rachel Dacus will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.


Would you give up everything, even the time in which you live, to be with your soul mate? That’s the question my heroine, May Gold must answer in this time travel love story. And she has to answer it in three short weeks, on a tour of Italy. A college adjunct teacher, she often dreams about the subject of her master’s thesis—17th century sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini. In her fantasies, she’s in his arms, the wildly adored partner of the man whose passionate art invented the Baroque style. But in reality, May has just landed in Rome with her teaching colleagues and older boyfriend. She considers herself a precocious failure and yearns to unleash her passion and creative spirit. May finds she has to choose: stay in a safe but stagnant existence or take a risk.


In Bernini’s Studio

That smile of his ought to be illegal. She was standing too close to him for a biographer. Nevertheless, she moved closer. “You’ve made him so noble. Really, he wasn’t this beautiful,” she pointed out. From his surprise, she gathered that he wasn’t used to having his work critiqued. Of course, he was Bernini. Only his patrons had the power to criticize his art, and they seemed to universally consider it fabulous. The matter of fidelity wasn’t an issue in his time the way it was in hers.

“I show his stature in his eyes and forehead,” he said. “I reveal the rest of his nature in the face below the nose, where I capture his fondness for feasting. And even that is beautiful.”

“Beauty in his fat jowls?”

He laughed. “They say he has expansive meals.” He ran a loving hand over the clay. “I captured his face when he was about to speak, so you can read his lively thought. Perhaps it was of mutton!”

They both laughed, and she said, “This king’s image is beautiful in your eyes and under your hands.”

“I tried to imagine what would move this man. You’re a poet. You must be able to feel it when the strings of your heart make a music that becomes a stream of light. You stand in that light and fold your hands. If you are sincere, truth comes as the body of an angel. A visitation.”

She stepped closer and bowed. “Cavaliere, you are my stream of light.”

He laughed and pulled her up. “I was simply answering your question.”


Rachel Dacus is the author of The Renaissance Club, a novel called “Enchanting, rich and romantic…a poetic journey through the folds of time.” Dacus’ book Gods of Water and Air is a collection of poetry, prose, and drama. Her other poetry collections are Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, The Pedestal, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Her fourth poetry collection, Arabesque, is forthcoming in August 2018 from FutureCycle Press. Read more on her website: Follow on Twitter: @Rachel_Dacus.

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Straight Chatting from the Library: Old Gold Mountain by Bradley Wright

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A funny thing happened on the way to getting published

Publishing has changed a lot in the last few years. I think my experience with getting my first novel published outside the ‘Big 5’ publishing world has been fairly normal. Close to 400,000 books are published in the U.S. every year and an increasing proportion of them are from small ‘indie’ publishers. I never really expected to get an offer from one of the big publishing houses. I was an unknown author with a quirky book that didn’t fit neatly into any defined genre. I did query some agents but I focused mainly on contacting publishers who allow direct submissions from authors. Those publishers get a lot of manuscripts so it was a slow process. It was almost three months before I started hearing back. When I finally got an offer of a publishing contract from Black Opal Books I jumped on it and signed right away. Black Opal put my book through two rounds of editing and handled all the details of getting it out into the world on all the major online retailers in both print and eBook formats. They’re a small press without a lot of resources though so marketing has been up to me. Marketing is a whole new set of skills to learn but it has been interesting so far. I have contacted a lot of bookstores and mailed a lot of review copies. My experience of publishing with an indie press has been great. I would encourage other first time authors to check out indie publishers, take a look at what kind of books they like, and submit to the ones you think might be interested in your work.


Justin Vincent is a San Francisco based artist who leads a secret double life as a cat burglar. He likes the freedom, money, and self-determination his unusual career provides but also increasingly feels that it is a life he fell into by accident. When a valuable painting is stolen from his lover Valerie, Justin agrees to use his underworld contacts and knowledge of the black market to help. The search leads him to an antiquities dealer who has fallen on hard times and a mysterious European middle man. With the help of his friend Ashna, a skilled hacker, and Gabrielle, owner of an art gallery in Nice, Justin gathers clues that lead him to a mysterious chateau in the South of France and a dangerous web of secrets and lies. To escape with his life and complete his objective, Justin’s skill, luck, and perseverance will be tested to their utmost limit.


“What happened to that painting you used to have above the bed?” I asked.

“Above the bed? I didn’t—” Val turned, stopped speaking, breath caught.

A moment later, she whirled, flipped on the light switch, jumped onto the bed, and placed her hands on the wall above the headboard. In the light, I noticed there was a picture hanger still nailed into the wall and a square of slightly brighter paint where the painting had hung. She ran her hands over the bare wall then turned to look at me. Her eyes were manic, her body tense. “Tell me this is some kind of joke, Justin.”

“No joke,” I replied. “Was it there when you left for the gallery?”

“Yes, I think so.” She stepped down off the bed and started frantically pacing the room, looking everywhere. “I’m sure it was.”

“Did you have cleaners scheduled today?”

“No. They come on Wednesdays.”

“Did you leave your balcony door open?”

She looked at me, suddenly focusing. “No. I never leave it open.”

“It was open when we came in. Was it locked?”

“Maybe not. I don’t know. I was in a hurry.”

“Let’s see if anything else is missing,” I said, turning toward the door.

Valerie grabbed my arm, pulling me around to face her. “I don’t care if anything else is missing.” She was on the brink of tears, a tight, almost hysterical, edge to her voice. She raised her hands, placed them over her ears, shaking her head back and forth. “I don’t care. That painting is the only thing I own that I care about, Justin.”


I am a writer and educational technology professional. I lived in San Francisco for the past fifteen years but recently moved to Los Angeles with my wife and five year old son. My first book Old Gold Mountain is out now.

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Straight Browsing from the Library: Welcome to the Apocalypse Trilogy by D L Richardson

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Players. Welcome to the apocalypse"

Book One – Pandora:

The Apocalypse Games is a state of the art virtual game, yet when it traps over 100 players inside, there’s reason to worry – their simulation pods are designed to last 3 days and the artificial intelligence is taking over.

Book Two – CyberNexis:

When rescue finally arrives, the players are transported to an offsite facility to recover from cyber sickness. Not all the players survived and not all is what it seems. What is CyberNexis hiding out in the desert?

Book Three – Primal Scream:

The disaster known as The Event has plunged the world into icy darkness. Humans can’t survive but a group of mutants can. All signs lead back to the simulation pods. What were they really designed for?

Join these characters on an emotional and fast-paced journey to explore what it really means to survive.


An overhead fan rotated against a backdrop of off-white perforated ceiling panels. Warm air wafted in through a circular vent to the right of the fan. The single fluorescent bar light was on – all the time, since this room had once been an office and the light switch was out in the hallway. On the other side of a locked door.

Reis Anderson lay on the bed with his knees bent and his hands behind his head. He stared up at fan and the vent and the light, fixated on them. The world as he knew it didn’t have electricity anymore. What people once took for granted had been taken away.

This room wasn’t an office now, it held a set of metal frame bunk beds like the type in army barracks with a surprisingly comfortable mattress. He ought to have cared about his confinement, but the mattress contoured to his body like nothing else had for the past three months.

Sleeping on hard, cold ground had caused a twinge in his lower back. Plus the bed smelled of fragrance instead of sulfur and dirt. His clothes were soft and his hair washed. When he touched surfaces, they didn’t bear the mark of ash and grime. Also in the room was a small round desk with an upholstered chair on the back wall, seated beneath a framed print of Monet’s famous water lilies. A plush sofa and a wall-mounted TV were on the side wall. This room was decorated like a compact hotel or a fancy prison cell depending on your point of view. Which made Reis wonder how many people his father planned on locking away.


D L Richardson writes speculative fiction. She is currently a self-published author of three YA novels "The Bird with the Broken Wing", "Resident Spy", and "One Little Spell". She is also the creator of the apocalyptic/sci-fi series "Welcome to the Apocalypse", and the novella series inspired by Tales from the Crypt, "The Shivers Novellas".

A former singer and musician, she credits this stage experience for her ease of public speaking, conducting writing workshops, and appearing on panels. Her books don't feature the usual tropes and this has earned her many loyal readers.

When she's not writing she enjoys playing music, watching Netflix, reading, gardening, and walking the dog.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Straight Reading from the Library: The Trail to Love by Tina Susedik

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Jack Billabard, mourning the loss of his wife and baby in childbirth, vows to never to love again. After their funeral at Fort Laramie, he rides into the Wyoming hills beyond the ranch he built for his wife. Through his grieving tears, an ancient tree appears, giving him the hope he doesn't believe is possible. For the next four years, he acts as a guide on the Oregon Trail, taking families to a new life while his looms lonely and stagnant.

The night before her abusive husband’s death, an ancient tree appears in Sarah Nickelson's yard as she agonizes over how to survive her marriage. The tree gives her hope she can’t help but reject. After all, a tree doesn't just appear out of nowhere. After her husband 's death, and with no options as a widow in Independence, Missouri, Sarah decides to travel to Oregon City as a Mail Order Bride.

During their trek west on the Oregon Trail, Jack and Sarah encounter one another, each afraid of being hurt again. Can they survive dogs and puppies, wind and rainstorms, Indians and unfavorable fellow passengers, while their love blossoms? Will the tree fulfill its promise?


A well written, fun and romantic romance, The Trail to Love was a good read for any old west romance fan!

I liked the strength Sarah shows from the start. She's lucky, too, as she seems to be surrounded by good friends old and new (from her home originally to the trail).  Life was tough for women then, and it was heart warming to see them pull together.

Jack was wallowing a bit in depression.  I get that he lost his wife and unborn child during childbirth, but I had a little bit of a struggle believing that such a young, vital man would decide he'd never fall in love again. Still, he didn't fight that hard against his attraction to Sarah. *grin*

Horace was the only character that didn't ring 100% real to me.  He reminded me a bit of the old time melodrama villains who ran around twirling their moustaches before tying the girl to the train track. Still, he was necessary for a good amount of the conflict in the story. 

The soul mate tree figures into this story some and I love that it was included during their first love scene.  As a dog person, I do wish we'd seen more of the dogs (and puppies)!  It was a cute tidbit that sort of got lost as the time on the trail progressed. 

I did like this story very much. I loved Sarah and Jack (and Sarah's son, Tommy) as well as the strong secondary characters.  This author's strength is clearly her ability to create a setting and characters that feel real and three dimensional. A good books! 4 stars.


Shaking his head, Jack moved to the next wagon, checked the supplies, argued with the husband to lighten the load, then moved on. As he approached the middle of the line, a woman held the hand of a small boy. She glanced over her shoulder.

Jack's heart slammed in his chest, and his vision blurred. For four years, he'd carried the memory of the woman by the strange tree. But that had been a dream. Hadn't it?

The boy tugged on her skirt, and she bent to say something to him. Wisps of blonde hair tumbled from her bun, touching the bonnet hanging down her back. A premonition hit him like a horse’s kick to the stomach. Was this the widow woman? Please don't let this be the widow woman. His legs and hands shook as he approached. Hell, he was a man, and she was just a woman. He shouldn't be nervous to talk to a woman, should he?

With a deep sigh, he slapped the side of his leg for his dog, Avery, to follow, then pulled back his shoulders and strode over to the woman and her wagon. The only thing he could do was his job. He tipped his hat.

"Ma'am. I'm Jack Billabard. I'm here to check your supplies and equipment. Can I meet with you and your husband?"

The woman reached out her hand. She wanted to shake his? That was a first. Women didn't usually shake hands. Must be one of those progressive types. Her hand and fingers were slim, almost delicate. When she slid her palm into his hand, warmth spread up his arm.


Tina Susedik is an award-winning, multi-published author with books in both fiction and non-fiction, including history, children’s, military books and romances. Her favorite is writing romance stories where her characters live happily ever after. She lives in Northwestern Wisconsin and is a member of Romance Writers of America, Wisconsin Romance Writer's of America, Wisconsin Writer’s Association, and Sisters In crime. Her twentieth book will be released in November with her Chandler County book, Missing My Heart. Tina also write spicier romances as Anita Kidesu.

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Straight Browsing from the Library: Asta and the Barbarians by Becca Fox

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Asta heard about King Torvald's crusade and watched her people fortify the town's defenses, but she never imagined foreign invaders would come to her peaceful shores. In one fateful night, she loses everything she holds dear and somehow gains the favor of the warrior god. Has he given her the tools she needs for revenge or does he have a greater plan in store?


“Find another reason to live,” Bryn urged. “There has to be some drive within you, something you still want or need.”

Suddenly, a new goal blossomed in my mind. A need that burned away the desire for death. I would excel in this hellish academy. I would be nominated for King’s Defender. I would become the greatest, most skilled warrior anyone on this damned island had ever seen. And when the general came for my graduation, I would slaughter him and his precious king.

Bryn’s jaw dropped when he registered the new light in my eyes. “You mean to kill the general, don’t you?”

“I’ll end this accursed crusade,” I said. “If I die in my pursuit, so be it. I’ll see justice served on those who’ve wronged me.”


Becca Fox was that strange girl in high school, who always seemed to have her nose in a book. She didn’t talk much because, more often than not, she was daydreaming about different fantasy worlds. During class, under the guise of taking notes, she wrote scenes for her works in progress.

Becca is a bit more social now but still enjoys reading, writing, and daydreaming. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, a fat orange tabby cat, and a forever-puppy. She has published three books to date, I Dare You to Love Me (a young adult romance), In the Dark (a new adult paranormal romance), and Asta and the Barbarians (a new adult fantasy.)


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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Straight Chatting from the Library: Judy Higgins

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What are your favorite TV shows?

I watched every episode of “Foyle’s War” twice, and some episodes more than that. Then someone recommended “Midsomer Murders.” I’m sure that eventually I’ll also see all those episodes more than once just as I did with “Foyle’s War.” I’ve watched the first episode of “The Vikings,” and suspect that might also become a favorite. We’ll see. My parents refused to get a television until after my brother and I left for college, so I never got into the habit of watching TV. Often, I go several days without turning it on at all.

What’s your favorite meal?

Sometimes my friend and I get together, sit on her deck, and have a gin and tonic along with pistachios. Then we have Brie and pate. For dessert, we have pistachio ice cream. This is absolutely my favorite meal. It’s always accompanied by lively conversation, solutions to solve what’s wrong with the world, and what I plan to do when I become Education Czar. (My second grandson plans to be President of The United States, and he has promised to make me Czar of Education.)

When I was growing up in South Georgia, my favorite meal was fried chicken. Alas, the friend chicken we had growing up is no longer available. They’ve done something to the chickens and they taste nothing like they did! With the fried chicken meal went home made biscuits, candied sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, and blackberry cobbler made from fresh, wild, hand-picked blackberries.

If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about?

I am writing a series of novels: Bucks County Mysteries. They will all take place in a tiny town called Goose Bend, located in Upper Bucks. There are two main characters. First, there is Jacob Gillis, a young attorney of thirty-one who returns to Goose Bend after a stint in Africa. He is an environmental attorney and hopes for atonement after burning down the town when he was a twelve year old. As you can imagine, there are some problems here and things don’t go as planned. Jacob’s godfather is Detective William Laskey, a dedicated bachelor (I believe it’s book four before you find out the story behind this), a Quaker, and Jacob’s surrogate father since Jacob’s father died when he was ten. There’s another “sort of” main character. Dr. Zuela Hay is a professor of Shakespeare and Jacob’s “honorary” aunt. My agent asked me to tone down Zuela because the was “too far out there.” He didn’t buy when I protested that she was actually based on a real person. Reluctantly, I toned her down.

Is there a writer you idolize? If so, who?

Jane Austen. I love her wit, her style, her . . . .everything! My favorite book is, you guessed it! Pride and Prejudice. I also loved Thomas Hardy, although I haven’t read his books in many, many years. I wanted to direct a movie based on Tess of the D’Urbervilles, but Polanski beat me to it. Mine would have been much better than his.

How did you come up with the title for this book?

A local attorney agreed to spend some time with me, answering several questions having to do with legal issues in the book. Although, Jacob is an attorney, my questions had more to do with the special prosecutor pulled in to try the murder case in the book. The attorney graciously spend two different mornings with me, answering my questions and making suggestions. At some point, he used the phrase “Once a bell is rung, you can’t un-ring it.” I knew immediately that Unringing the Bell would be my title. In the book, Jacob Gillis accidentally caused a devastating event in Goose Bend when he was twelve-years-old. He returns to town as a thirty-one-year old, hoping for atonement. When he is offered the opportunity to clear his reputation as a trouble-make, he jumps at it. Instead, he once again finds himself in trouble, only this time if he can’t figure out an answer to his dilemma, he’ll lose not only his career, but his reputation forever.


In the small town of Goose Bend, Pennsylvania, people don't forget. Especially something as sensational as 12-year-old Jacob Gillis burning down the town. Nineteen years later, Jacob returns, hoping for redemption. Instead, he finds himself entangled in a murder investigation. The prosecutor, taking advantage of Jacob's involvement with the victim's beautiful sister-in-law, threatens Jacob with loss of career and reputation if he doesn't play by his rules. Only by outwitting the prosecutor can Jacob save his future.


When Jacob Gillis was twelve years old, he burned down the town of Goose Bend, Pennsylvania. The fire didn’t actually consume the entire town – only two blocks of the four-block business section went up in flames – but when the folks in Goose Bend spoke of the incident, they persisted in saying that Jacob Gillis, abetted by his friend Charlie Garrett, burned down the town.

Jacob watched Laskey walk back to the Sequoia, his limp barely detectable, and for the thousandth time he wondered why his friend kept what had happened to his foot a secret. But there were some places Laskey didn’t go – formidable Laskey with his gruff manner and hard-muscled body. He was a private person and sometimes a grizzly bear, but he had a goose-down heart which he tried like heck to hide. But Jacob knew.

Laskey grasped the arms of his chair and pushed his feet hard against the floor to contain himself. For a brief moment, the thought had rushed through his head that a jail term for assaulting a DA would be worth enduring for the pleasure of smashing Inglehook’s head against his desk.

Laskey squared his shoulders, turned around, and looked Jacob in the eyes. “Don’t get yourself in a mess, Jake. Extrication isn’t always possible.” He started for the door.

“Give back the painting,” he called over his shoulder. “And Jake,” he paused and twisted around. “Don’t ever mistake pretty wrappings for the quality of the gift inside.”


Judy Higgins was born in South Georgia where she grew up playing baseball, reading, and taking piano lessons. To pay for her lessons, she raised chickens and sold eggs to neighbors. She attended Mercer University for two years, and then Baylor University from which she graduated with a BA in German. She received her MA in German literature from The University of Michigan. After teaching German for several years, Judy decided to become a librarian and earned an MA in Library Science at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.

Judy’s life took an exciting turn when she left her teaching job in Pennsylvania to be Head of Library at the Learning Center School of Qatar Foundation. She lived in Qatar for eight years, enjoying the experience of living in a different culture and traveling to exotic places during every vacation. Recently, she returned to the United States and lives in Lexington, KY. Judy has two children, Julia and Stephen, two children-in-law, Jim and Erin, and four grandchildren: Kyle, Jon, Karina, and Addy.

Judy’s first book, The Lady, was a finalist in the 2012 Amazon Break-out Novel Award. The first two novels of her Bucks County Mysteries, Unringing the Bell and Bride of the Wind are available March 1, 2018. The series is set in an imaginary small town in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Call me Mara, the story of Ruth and Naomi, is scheduled for publication in March, 2019.

In addition to writing, Judy’s passions include travel, tennis, elephants, and playing the piano.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Straight Chatting from the Library: A Maiden's Honor by Josanna Thompson

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Josanna Thompson will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.


High Fashion during the Ottoman Empire

If you ask historians and fans of historical fiction about pre-twentieth century women’s fashion, they are likely to describe 18th century courtiers dressed in elegant gowns. Others may describe the sweet dresses worn during the Regency period. I imagine that they would all say that no self-respecting woman wore breeches – ever. That was European fashion. The Ottoman women had a very different definition about what was considered fashionable during that age. The fashion sensibility from both cultures shared similarities.

The Commonalities of European and Ottoman fashion:

Here's what Ottoman and European fashion had in common:

• Women from both cultures covered their bodies from head to toe.
• They also dressed in layers.
• Women from these regions wore a chemise, except Ottomans called theirs, gömleks. The design was similar in that the garment hung loosely from the woman’s shoulders and reached her mid-calf.
• Women wore hats and shoes.

That's the extent of the similarities between the two cultures.

Now for the Differences:

The Ottoman women didn’t wear corsets or stockings. Instead, they wore loose-fitting trousers called salvars, which tied at the waist and were cuffed around the ankles. The next layer consisted of a cream-colored, silk shirt called a bürümcük. These shirts were worn draped over their salvar and were often floor-length. The inner kaftan or entari served as the outer layer to the Ottoman woman’s attire. This was a long-sleeve jacket with a u-shaped neckline. The kaftans were usually made from brightly-colored brocaded silk, or velvet, or a brocaded silk with silver or gold thread woven into the fabric. In the winter, their entaris were lined with luxurious fur, like sable. Finally, Ottoman women always wore veils to cover their heads and faces whenever they went out in public.

While fashion evolved throughout the ages in most cultures, women’s fashion in the Ottoman Empire didn’t change much until the mid-19th century. After that, women adopted aspects of Parisian fashion into their own styles. Their fashion has evolved ever since.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed this article about women’s fashion of the Ottoman Empire. Stay tuned for future blogs containing glimpses into the world of A Maiden’s Honor.


Sarah Campbell is a rarity among women in her time. Raised by her Scottish father and the natives of a remote island in the South Pacific, Sarah and her father embark on a perilous journey to Scotland. Their crew betrays them and murders her father for the purpose of selling Sarah into slavery. She is rescued by an unlikely hero, Hassan Aziz, the most feared pirate on the Barbary Coast. She quickly discovers that she is unprepared for the complex world that is suddenly thrust upon her. Sarah must find a way to survive in a world that intrigues and terrifies her.


Cora studied Naa’il. “May I ask you a personal question?”

“That depends on the question.” Naa’il’s posture stiffened.

“Do you love your second wife?”

“Yes,” Naa’il said without hesitation.

“Don’t you owe it to her to investigate whether or not she was telling the truth?”

“I know what I saw. Our laws are clear, Cora. Samina must be punished,” Naa’il said bitterly.

“Then I suppose that I should be put to death too.”

“This is different,” Naa’il snapped.

“Why? We are not related, yet we are alone. We have even shared a bed.”

“You are my slave; you must obey me.”

“I see.” Cora grimaced. “Regarding your wife, permit me to give you something to ponder.”

“Continue.” Naa’il flicked his hand in the air.

“Why do you post a guard outside your wife’s door?”

“He is there to protect her.”

“Precisely. When a soldier hears a scream from the person that he is assigned to protect, he is not going to hesitate to ascertain why, for he fears that delaying, even for a moment, may kill her. Likewise, when a woman is frightened, she is not going to delay her scream long enough to cover herself, especially if an intruder is attacking her. My point is Your Excellency, if you love your wife, love her enough to try to confirm her story. If she is truly innocent, then perhaps she and her guard deserve mercy.”


Josanna Thompson is the author of A Maiden's Honor and The Woman from Eden series. She has lived in many different places in the United States, including the Southeast, the Midwest, California, and the Northeast. When she is not writing; she enjoys traveling, exploring, and scuba diving.

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