Sunday, January 21, 2018

How Pure Innocence came to be

How Pure Innocence came to be...

I took a serious risk when I began my story so early in my heroine’s life. Most readers of romance wish to begin stories once the young woman reaches an acceptable age for romance. However, Amy’s life begins much differently than a normal baby and the consequences have a lasting imprint on her, her uncle, her friends, and all her many enemies.

I did not wish to tell her beginning in past tense. I wanted you to cry with me as we watch the determined 15-year-old girl who has birthed Amy just five days before, try to care for her child. She is in a terrible state. Her ‘parents’ have tossed her out because she insists there was no man who touched her. The townspeople have thrown stones to chase her from their community. She is hungry and bleeding, but no one will help her. She has ended up on an unstable cliff that could fall at any time.

Colonel John Winston has just returned with many soldiers from his last battle. He sees the young girl pacing near the edge of the cliff. He demands to know who she is, since he had left instructions that no servant was to walk near the cliff. His manservant assures him the girl is not one of his staff.  Then he explains the girl bore a child five days ago but insists no man touched her. Thus, she is Satan’s whore and the child is the spawn of the devil.

When John Winston talks to the frightened and bruised girl holding her child, he discovers the father of the child was his younger brother, who died in battle eight months ago. Now, determined to save the young girl and her baby, John Winston sets about to rescue the girl from the fragile cliff. He will marry the girl, despite her young age, and raise dead his brother’s offspring as his own.

Only he never gets the chance...

Live is like that. While the young girl freezes in fear as she ground about her suddenly drops, she makes a final attempt to save her baby by tossing the child to John, standing on solid ground. Only she didn’t have the strength to toss it far enough. Thus, John’s only recourse is to jump off the cliff and grab the baby. He could only hope that his servant would secure the other end of the rope about his legs and waist to either horse or a tree...

When they pulled John up the new side of the cliff, he discovers the child is alive but starving, so he took her to the nearest farmhouse on his estate. Only the woman of the house refused to nurse the baby. He first threatened to throw them off his lands. Fortunately, Gunter spoke up, providing the birthmark that proved she is a Winston. Finally, the woman, Nell, takes the child in the other room and feeds her. When she returns with the child, she apologizes for ever thinking the child the spawn of the devil. The child is a little angel, just like her mother.

And while Nell genuinely believes this, she is the only woman who does. The townspeople and the housekeeper of the estate, and all the servants continue to believe Amy is the spawn of Satan and must die.

Thus, Amy grows up differently than a normal child. To stay alive, she must evade her enemies. To assist in keeping her alive, John assigns four of his best soldiers to keep watch over here whenever she goes outside. Her favorite times are trying to evade the soldiers while sneaking up on them from behind. By the time this book ends, Amy can evade any servant or townsperson who might try to capture and kill her. She even successfully evades her soldiers at times.

But her talents do not end there. She discovers she has the ability to heal once she understands what is happening beneath the skin.

And what I believe is her greatest gift, is her kindness. Even when servants are mean to her, she will respond with kindness. Even when she goes to Finishing School in Switzerland. The mean girl that controls the school cannot break Amy. Amy is the closest thing to a human angel that you will ever meet.

In the next two books of the series, Amy falls in love with a handsome young man.

In book two, life gets very complicated, and she must marry a different great man to save him and England.
Thus, the sexual contents goes from none to kisses to many sexual encounters over the three books.

And in every book, Amy grows stronger, kinder, & wiser. You will be amazed!

5 Stars Reviews for Pure Innocence, book 1 of
The Extraordinary Life of Amy Winston.

“Ms. O’Connor tells the tale of an extraordinary girl who has the power to heal and the power to change lives with her heart.”

“I loved how Ms. O’Connor gives us a child who loves, no matter what else has come her way. Amy serves as an inspiration for so many of us who have faced tough times. I can’t wait to hear more about Amy and her life!”

“While life does not always go Amy’s way, and sometimes she’s knocked off her sunny rock, Amy always recovers and climbs back up upon her rock. She always prefers happiness to anger.”

“A fun, fast-paced story I couldn't read quickly enough. Packed with endearing characters, I both laughed and cried through the unexpected twists of a plot filled with superstition and self-righteousness.”

“You’ll fall in love with the characters...waiting anxiously for book 2!”
Don’t Miss Out!!!


Want to read an Excerpt?

Just tell me what you know of the girl. It may help me calm her down and get her away from the ledge.”
“Well, she’s…or she was…the butcher’s daughter, until she just up and had a baby last week. Took everyone by surprise, for she seemed so innocent. She claimed she’d never been with a man and could not account for how the baby got in her. Since she wouldn’t name the father, and no one stepped up, Mr. Goodheart tossed her out.”
“When was that?”
“Four days ago, I reckon. The townspeople have been shooing her away. She might have come out here just to be alone.”
“No, Dom, I think your first guess was more accurate. She’s trying to gather the courage to end her life. And Dom, if you ever hear of a poor child being tossed out of their house in the future, I am to be told immediately, do you understand?”
“Yes, sir.”
John shook his head. To send a child from her home, where she would certainly come to harm, was inconceivable to John. He stopped about twenty feet before her. “You stay here, Dom.”
“Begging your pardon, sir, but you should stay here as well. That edge could go anytime.”
Recognizing the truth of that observation, he gave the situation further consideration. “Do you think she will come to me if I call her by name?”
“Nay, she’s afraid of people—what with all the stones being thrown at her. You’re more likely to make her leap.”
He dismounted his horse. “Ride back to the squad, gather up all the rope we have and bring me water and the remaining cooked hen from this morning.” He could see Dom thought his instructions a bit daft, but the man didn’t waste time questioning him. He just obeyed them.
John tethered his horse’s reins around the pointy spike of a shale rock jutting from the surface like the angry teeth of a wild beast. He knew only last month, when he had returned for a few days, that rock had laid flat beneath the ground. From this point forward, the ground had already sunk a solid foot and the whole edge could go in a moment’s notice.
He frowned at the thought of the rock yanking his fine stallion over the edge by its rein. He untied the reins from the rock and stroked his horse. “I trust you to stay where I need you.”
The horse whinnied softly, almost as if it was giving his assurances in return.
John turned his attention back to the girl. Her dark hair was wild and matted. In the center of the mats was dried caked blood. No doubt from the stones the townspeople threw.
The girl spoke rapidly in a shrill voice, declaring she was “bad, evil, the devil’s whore, and to go away, go away, go away.”
He suspected the voice was not hers but a mimic of the people who had said these cruel words. Suddenly, her voice dropped lower in a mimic of a man and she quoted dark bible passages about casting out demons.
Dear God, was it possible these were her parents’ words?
“Tell me the name, tell me the name, damn you!” the voice bellowed.
Finally, he heard the girl’s own voice. The pain and misery it held tore at his old battle-weary heart.
“There is no name,” she cried. “There was no man. Only a dream while I rested on the banks.”
“Then it’s the seed of Satan and it’ll not be raised in my house!” her voice deepened and bellowed
Inside the bundle of cloth, she held tight to her chest, a baby’s wail rose, almost as if in protest to her words. The baby’s cry startled her and for one terrible moment, John feared she would toss the child over the edge.
Then her madness dissipated, and she transformed into a young mother fretting over her new child, soothing it with soft words, as she sat down upon the ground. She opened her filthy torn blouse and placed the baby upon her right breast, rocking the child softly while it nursed. Her face held love and adoration for her helpless infant.
John knew he must save this young girl and her baby. She was not yet lost to madness.
A snort from his horse made her turn and look at him. Her eyes filled first with confusion and then terror.
John sat down upon the ground, so he would look less threatening. “I mean you no harm.” He spoke in the soft voice he used to calm war-panicked horses. His words came slow, in gentle tones, letting them sink in through her fear.
She hugged her child harder and rocked faster, but she did not try to run away.
“I want to help you. I can see you are hurt and afraid. You are probably hungry as well. I can give you shelter and food, see your wounds are tended and provide clean clothes for the baby and you.”
Upon comprehending his words, she burst into a torrid of tears and sobs that shook her body so hard he feared she would trigger the collapse of the entire cliff.
“Please don’t cry,” he begged. “The ground you are upon is unstable. I need you to be very, very still until my man returns with the ropes, so that I may rescue you. Will you do that for me? Will you be very still?”
She stopped crying and stared at him. “Why do you want to help me?”
“Because you need my assistance. I can see you are all alone and desperately in need of help.”
“I am, but you will not help me—not once you have learned what I have done.”
“I know that you’ve had a child and were tossed from your home because you would not name the father.”
“I could not name him. There is no father. I have lain with no man. There was only a dream, a wonderful dream of a handsome prince on a white stallion. He declared me the most beautiful lady he had ever seen, and he kissed me and made my body burn with fire. Then I woke up from my shady spot on the banks and I was alone as always. It was the devil, you see. He came to me in my dreams.”
She began to rock again as she held her baby tight against her chest. “That is why you will not help me—because of the dream. I am the whore of Satan and this child is his spawn.”
He feared he’d soon lose her to madness.
“Amy, I don’t think that is true. You are too sweet to be the whore of Satan. Your child is too good-natured to be his seed.”
She looked up at him in shock and stopped rocking. “She is very good-natured and so very beautiful. But what other reason might there be?”
“Amy, I believe the man in your dreams was real. He must have come to you while you slept and lay with you while he distracted you with kisses and sweet words. Can you remember more about his features? For example, what was the color of his hair?”
“The color of yours,” she said. “When I first saw you, I thought you were the man in my dream and you had come to rescue me. But you are not him.”
“No, I am not. But I do want to rescue you.”
She studied him. “His face was smoother than yours and his eyes sparkled blue. And there was a tiny mole on the edge of his mouth.”
Her words stopped his heart. Dear God, she was describing his younger brother, Alexander. Yet, that was impossible. Alexander had died in battle eight months ago and before that, he had remained in London.
A cold sweat swept John’s body. He recalled his butler had mentioned Alexander had stopped in for a moment to change clothes on his ride from Edinburgh to London. That his brother could spare the time to stop and change a pair of grass-stained trousers, but could not wait another ten minutes for his brother to return from a visit to the tenants, had annoyed him greatly. If he recalled correctly, that happened about a month before Alex bought a commission and proceeded to get himself killed on the first day of battle.
Dom’s return interrupted his thoughts. He could see the man’s arrival frightened her.
“It’s all right, Amy. It’s just Dom bringing me rope so I can come rescue you.”
“You don’t need the rope, I can come to you.” She stood up and walked towards him.
“Amy, no! Stay where you are, the ground could give way,” John exclaimed as he pulled the rope about his legs and waist, creating a window-washer’s rope-seat. Even as he secured the makeshift seat, he knew it was already too late. He could see the ground sinking. “Amy run to me!” he screamed and held out his hands.
Amy remained frozen in confusion and fear as she watched the solid ground beneath her feet inexplicably fall away. She looked at her baby, and then looked at John, standing on the new edge of the cliff five feet away. With all her might, she threw the bundle of baby and cloth towards him before disappearing in the cloud of dust and rocks falling into the sea.
Not only had he lost Amy, but the girl’s toss of the child was not sufficient. John dove from the cliff and grabbed the bundle firm against his chest praying to God that Dom had the sense to secure the other end of the rope to Samson or a tree. If not, he’d as likely pull the fellow over and carry them all to their death.
As he continued to fall, he feared Dom had not secured the rope at all. A second later, the rope bit painfully into the back of his legs and gut. Before he could recover, his back slammed into the new side of the cliff. The blow knocked the wind out of him so hard that he almost dropped the bundle in his arms.
Despite his excruciating pain, his focus remained on the child. It was too quiet. He feared he had crushed the child to death or let it slip out, and even now, it hurtled its way down into the sea below.
He heard the former cliff crash into the sea. He could almost sense the moment of Amy’s death and felt a pain rip through his heart. It seemed as if all the angels in heaven cried in a great wail and the sound was not only heart wrenching but downright painful to his ears. The wailing continued even as Dom and others pulled him onto firm ground.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Loyal & True by Laura Strickland

Hearts of Caledonia, Book 1

by Laura Strickland

Genre: Historical Fantasy Romance

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

In defiance of her father, Caledonian tribeswoman Barta leads a daring raid against invading enemy warriors. But the fight goes badly, and her beloved war hound, Loyal, is killed. Unable to imagine existing without her dearest companion, she nevertheless must return home and accept blame for her terrible blunder.

For the first time in his life, Loyal is unable to rise and follow his mistress. When he appeals to the Goddess for mercy, she grants him leave to return on one condition: it must be in the form of a man. And only if Barta recognizes him for who he truly is will he be permitted to stay.

Loyal never suspects that, as a man, his connection with Barta will deepen, becoming passionate enough to transcend nearly any change. Will Barta recognize him before he’s lost to her forever?

Why could he not rise?

He remembered the battle—he could see it all now in patterns of black and white. Violence had its own aura as did so many things in the world, a combination of sight and smell. People smelled different when angry or afraid.

He’d fought at Barta’s side as he always had and always would, and taken a number of wounds. They didn’t matter; only her welfare mattered, and his presence at her side.

For him, battle felt like a game, a violent one. So long as Barta remained with him and protected, he cared little what else happened, even to him. He existed to be with her, to protect her—nothing more.

But now she arose from the place where they’d both gone down—where he’d thrown his body in defense of hers—and he could not follow.

For the first time in his life he could not follow.

Oh, unbearable agony. For, faintly, he could still feel her, smell her tears, sense her touch. And he could feel her starting to move away from him, feel her spirit tug at his. They were bound together, always had been, by a silver cord stronger than leather and more potent than magic.


Do not leave me here, Mistress. I cannot rise. I cannot follow you.

Like hers, his spirit howled at the sky.

I’ll admit. I’m fan of Laura Strickland.
Her stories are individually unique. And once I began one, they cannot be put down. This one especially.

However, Loyal and True, was nothing like I anticipated. It is of a past time when Gods and Goddesses could offer boons to humans and even their hounds.

Barta’s people are being attacked by the Celtic clans (Gaels), thus she plans a raid to attack them. Only their numbers were far more than her small party could overtake. She was the only one to survive. Even her beloved war hound, Loyal, had died saving her.

Unbeknownst to Barta, her war hound asked the goddess to let him live so he could continue to protect Barta, and the Goddess agreed with stipulations. She would make the war hound into a human male, and if Barta did not recognize him as her hound, then he would lose the right to protect her.

The moment the stranger entered their village, Barta felt a bond with him...

And thus, the riveting tale begins... There are trials and tribulations galore, plus an impossible challenge for “True” (the new name Loyal is given, now that he’s human.)

This story is full of angst and deaths, (which I don’t like to endure) but I could not put this book down. Thus, I cried my way through it, trusting that Laura Strickland wouldn’t leave me in a depression. And I’m very pleased to say it ends with a grand HEA. So, you’ll be happy. Just grab a box of tissues for the troubling times.

I was given this free review copy at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

Amazingly emotional, Unique, and fabulously written.  I give this 5 stars.

Award-winning author Laura Strickland delights in time traveling to the past and searching out settings for her books, be they Historical Romance, Steampunk or something in between. Born and raised in Western New York, she’s pursued lifelong interests in lore, legend, magic and music, all reflected in her writing. Although she enjoys travel, she’s usually happiest at home not far from Lake Ontario, with her husband and her "fur" child, a rescue dog. Author of numerous Historical and Contemporary Romances, she is the creator of the Buffalo Steampunk Adventure series set in her native city. Loyal and True. Is the first book in her new historical Hearts of Caledonia series.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Lady of Steel by Mary Gillgannon

Medieval Ladies series
by Mary Gillgannon

Genre: Historical Romance

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

One rapturous hour sparks unforgettable passion between Lady Nicola and Fawkes de Cressy. The memory of their time together enables Fawkes to survive the horrors and perils of the Crusades and gives Nicola the hope and strength to endure a brutal marriage.

Fawkes returns to rescue the woman of his dreams and finds Nicola enmeshed in a dark web of castle intrigue. Fawkes is so altered by the hardships and cruelties of war, that Nicola fears to trust him with her secrets or her heart.

Surrounded by enemies, the battle-hardened knight and the aloof, wary woman must rebuild the bond between them. Only if they dare let the soul-stirring magic their bodies share grow into love can they escape the sinister plot that threatens to destroy them both.

The tower room seemed much too small. It was like being caged with a wild creature.

He left the table and approached her. Nicola fought the urge to draw back. He seemed to sense her apprehension, for his fierce expression softened. “I don’t want you to fear me, Nicola. Unlike some men, I don’t believe in striking women. Or children. Or anyone smaller and weaker than myself. If I were ever to feel the need the discipline you, I would choose other, more civilized means.”

Discipline her? What did that mean? His words sounded reasonable and reassuring, but there was an edge of warning there. She must find some way to convince him she wasn’t his enemy. She must make it clear she would never deal with him as she had with Mortimer.

Body rigid, her heart pounding wildly, she said, “Milord, you must understand. Mortimer was a brute. There were many times I feared for my life at his hands. Whatever you may have heard of me…” Her hands trembled as she gestured and this time she was glad he saw. “I did what I had to do to survive.” And for Simon to survive.

His expression softened. His dark eyes again flared with violent emotion. “You forget. I knew Mortimer. He tried more than once to kill me. I have no sympathy for him. None at all.”

She let out her breath. Perhaps now they could begin again, and he would stop playing this game of cat and mouse with her. She nodded. “I’m very grateful you understand. I’d worried you might have heard tales of me, stories meant to portray me as wicked and manipulative.”

He watched her intently. “Aye, I have heard tales. ’Tis good you saw fit to reassure me. Perhaps now, perhaps we can…” He let his words trail off and the atmosphere between them shifted. His dark eyes no longer seemed stern and implacable, but smoldered with frank sexual desire. The tension between them changed, erupting with blazing arousal. 

Fire started in her loins and spread outward, making her skin ache for his touch. She tilted her head, awaiting his kiss.

He hesitated, as if even now he feared to take this final step and give into what his body obviously desired. Observing his forbearance, she thought for the dozenth time of how different he was from Mortimer. Mortimer had been a slave to his emotions. This man sought control at all times.

But at last he brought his lips to hers. The blaze took them both.

Mary Gillgannon is the author of eighteen novels, including romances set in the dark age, medieval and Regency time periods. She’s been married to her real-life hero for over thirty-five years. Her two children are grown, so now she indulges her nurturing tendencies on five very spoiled cats and a moderately spoiled dog. Her day job is working at the local public library where she has the gratifying task of overseeing the adult fiction collection. Besides writing, she enjoys gardening (a serious challenge in Wyoming) reading, and travel.