Twelve Months of Romance bundles, new series and a giveaway

I know I haven’t posted in quite a while, but I waited for a reason. I have new releases, bargains and a giveaway to tell you about.

Although the last four stories in my Twelve Months of Romance series have been published, I delayed notifying my readers because I knew I’d be bundling the whole series in January. Why spend $2.99 each when you can get four stories in one book for $3.99?

I broke the series up into three bundles of four stories each and here are the links.

Twelve Months of Romance (January, February, March, April)
Ring Out the Old – New Year’s Day and a new start Jen didn’t want to make
My Lonely Heart – A Valentine’s Day surprise Holly wasn’t expecting
March Madness – You don’t have to be Irish to fall in love on St. Paddy’s Day
April Showers – April cut her hair to change her life, but this is too much

Kindle

Kindle

Twelve Months of Romance (May, June, July, August)
May Flowers – An unlikely friendship that turns into an unpredictable love
The June Bridesmaid – Betty’s plans for seduction (or revenge) have to be put on hold
Fireworks – It’s time for Connie to set off some fireworks of her own
Dog Days of August – All Jan wants is a puppy for her mother, not the love of her life

Kindle

Kindle

Twelve Months of Romance (September, October, November, December)
Indian Summer – Summer doesn’t need a man in her life until she runs into a tree
Raven’s Witch – If there’s one thing a failed witch has to have, it’s a familiar
Thanksgiving Past, Thanksgiving Present -Eleanor returns home in an attempt to face her past
Santana is Coming to Town -Santana loves Christmas and she hopes this will be the best ever

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Kindle

Now for the new series. Zodiac Rising will be a series of twelve short stories, all priced at $0.99. Most people know about their sun sign and many know about their moon sign, but your rising sign is the sign that was ascending over the horizon at the date, time and place of your birth. The rising sign governs your personality, your physical appearance, and your mentality. However, these tendencies may be mitigated by the effect of the planets residing in the first house of your horoscope. I have, however, based each of the leading ladies in the series on the characteristics of their sign as if there were no mitigating factors.

CAPPY – Capricorn

Cappy Capretta lived her life around Stockman’s Furniture and her dreams of some day having her own branch to manage. Although she handled Stockman’s customers with courteous efficiency, she only knew them by the pieces of furniture they bought.

Brant Dalton was just another customer with a problem for Cappy to solve. When he showed up at the store a few days later to thank her for her help, she found to her shock that, when she looked into those smoky, gray eyes, here was one man she couldn’t turn into a recliner or a pair of end tables.

Kindle

Kindle

AQUARIA – Aquarius

Aquaria, conceptual artist (although she’d created nothing), free spirit (although she likes the life provided by her fishing captain father), a woman who wants to get as far away from fish and fishermen as she can. But until she can wheedle the money out of her father, she’s stuck in the tiny seaport town she’d grown up in.

Javier, Javy to his friends and family, loves the sea, and as a third generation fisherman, has no intention of giving up the life he was born for. But when he meets Aquaria, nearly running her down in the dark with his bike, he’s soon faced with a choice that could tear him apart; his love or his life.

Kindle

Kindle

Finally, the giveaway. I have produced two audiobooks from A Slice of Life, my best selling novella, and A Slice of Life Christmas. Yes, I know, Christmas is over, but my tree and my villages (2) and my manger are still up, so I’m still in the Christmas Spirit.

All you have to do is email me at mlake@jobreepublishing.com and ask for your free copies. No entry form to fill out, no drawing, just email me and the first five emails I receive will get a code to redeem for a free copy of each.

Whew, finally finished. Did you stick with me to the end? I hope so. Thanks for your interest.

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Twelve Months of Romance – September

It’s that time again. Maybe the leaves are turning where you live and maybe they’re not, but in Northern Maine, it’s Indian Summer where Summer Malone is feeling pretty darned good about her life. She decides to take a mental health day and ride her dirt bike on the trails around her favorite lake where she meets a deer, a crazy man and a tree, all at the same time.

09 September new 410x640Summer Malone nearly died when she was twelve-years old and since then, she’s felt driven to prove herself. No way is she going to waste the second chance she was given as a child. She works hard and she plays hard. Hiking, kayaking, riding her dirt bike, pushing herself to her physical limits and beyond. When she runs her dirt bike into a tree, it’s Buck Harper to the rescue.

Buck has never forgotten the little girl he’d carried down the mountain to the rescue chopper some twenty-five years before. And, as a juvenile criminal defense attorney, he’s been rescuing kids ever since. When a crazy woman comes charging up the trail on her dirt bike and skids into a tree right in front of him, he goes into rescue mode once again. Only this time, it’s not a sweet, young girl, but a bossy, arrogant woman who definitely does not want his help.

Available for $2.99 to read on your Kindle

And here’s a sneak peek at the October story of Twelve Months of Romance.

10 October new 410x640Rowena comes from a long line of witches reaching back some two hundred years. So, she wants to know, why is it that her lotions separate, her potions harden and she can’t even cast a simple little love spell? Enter Alan, a raven that Rowena is sure is destined to be her familiar. But when the raven turns into an all too human man, Rowena knows she has failed once again.

Man or familiar, Alan soon realizes it is up to him to rescue Rowena from the two hundred year old legend that keeps her spellbound.

 

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Twelve Months of Romance – August

Time for the Dog Days of August. Having lived in Florida for most of my life, I sure know what that means, so for this August installment of the Twelve Months of Romance series, I felt it was time to set a story in Florida.

If you’ve read my bio, you know I rescued a nine year old Jack Russell Terrier about a year and a half ago (Angelo will be eleven on Halloween and he’s still frisky as a pup), so it was only natural to start the story with two people meeting at the shelter and both wanting to claim the same JRT puppy.

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 All Jan wants to do is get her mother a puppy to help her get over her grief at the loss of her husband, Jan’s father. But when she gets to the shelter to pick up the girl puppy she had her heart set on, Kevin, a freak with a Mohawk and earring, is getting ready to walk away with her dog.

 Jan is still fuming when she gets to work the next morning, and it doesn’t help that she’s expected to train a new employee; the very same freak who stole her dog.

I hope you enjoy this novella length story

 

Watch for Indian Summer coming soon.

09 September new 410x640  Summer Malone nearly died when she was twelve-years old and since then, she’s felt driven to prove herself. No way is she going to waste the second chance she was given as a child. She works hard and she plays hard. Hiking, kayaking, riding her dirt bike, pushing herself to her physical limits and beyond. When she runs her dirt bike into a tree, it’s Buck Harper to the rescue.

 Buck has never forgotten the little girl he’d carried down the mountain to the rescue chopper some twenty years before. When a crazy woman comes charging up the trail on her dirt bike and skids into a tree right in front of him, he goes into rescue mode once again. Only this time, it’s not a sweet, young girl, but a bossy, arrogant woman who definitely does not want his help.

 

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Twelve Months of Romance – July

Fourth of July and time forFireworks, the July installment in the Twelve Months of Romance, series.

You’ve read April and May Winters’ stories (hopefully) and now it’s time for their sister-in-law, Connie, to take center stage. 07 Fireworks new (410x640)

 

Every year, Connie takes two weeks off from work, hoping to find adventure or at least something she’s good at. She’s tried skiing, she’s tried sailboarding, she’s even tried white-water rafting and all she’s succeeded in doing was making a fool of herself. Now she hopes she’ll find what she’s been looking for at the dude ranch. But when she gets off the plane, she finds the man who’s been stalking her at home is headed for the same ranch.

Barry was just as shocked to see Connie as she was to see him. In fact, he was hoping this trip would help him forget that the woman he loved couldn’t stand the sight of him. Now she was here, at the ranch he’d called his second home since he was a kid, breaking his heart all over again.

Amazon (currently discounted to $0.99)

Watch for Dog Days of August coming soon.

 08 August new 410x640

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Giving Myself a Black Eye

No, I didn’t say something nasty about myself or blacken my own reputation in some way. I gave myself a black eye the good old-fashioned way.

 I usually get up at seven in the morning to take Angelo for a walk. Angelo is a ten and a half year old black and white Jack Russell Terrier. We adopted him not long after his ninth birthday and he’s been an absolute joy. Isn’t he cute?

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His first few months with us, he was pretty quiet and shy. I don’t think he even barked until he been with us for two months. Then he started to turn into a typical JRT. Frisky as a puppy.

 There are a lot of dogs in this neighborhood, and many of the other dog walkers joked about how Angelo took me for a walk, not me taking him for a walk. The boy doesn’t know how to walk. He trots, he gallops, he runs full out.

 I enjoy our walks. I take him twice a day in the early morning and late evening when the weather is cool and a lot of people are out walking. That gives me at least twenty minutes twice a day of vigorous walking. Good exercise.

 Monday morning, we started our walk a little late. Well, a lot late. I had turned off the alarm at about six when I was finally able to get back to sleep after two hours of not sleeping. I didn’t expect to sleep that late, though.

 So, getting ready for our walk, I put on the two-pocket apron I always wear with his treats and his poop bags (scented diaper bags). Clipped my keys to the ring on the apron, put on sunglasses and a cute hat and I was ready. He’s always very excited about his walk and bounds out of the house like a frisky puppy. He stops halfway down the walk to chew some grass which gives me a chance to close the door behind me.

 It was when he started up again that I realized I hadn’t given him his anti-biotic (he’d just had a tooth pulled the week before) and I was thinking about that and not watching where I was going, or rather where Angelo was pulling me.

 Instead of following the walkway to the driveway, I was cutting across the grass between them. When I reached the driveway, I missed the step up, twisted my ankle and started to lose my balance. I’m pretty sure I would have been able to right myself, but Angelo was in full run and I didn’t have enough presence of mind to let go of the leash and save myself. He yanked me part-way down the driveway while I was still trying to catch my balance and finally, down I went. I did manage to break my fall with my hands, but he was still pulling and there was so much momentum, that my head slammed down on the concrete.

 I was laying on top of his leash and he couldn’t go any further, and why the heck was I lying there when I should have known it was time for our walk? Poor little guy was so confused.

 Blood was pouring out of my forehead and my nose, I could feel my face swelling already so I started to yell for help. My wonderful neighbors all came running and took wonderful care of me, called the paramedics, put a cushion under my head, gave me water and took care of Angelo.

 I’m not really badly hurt and my daughter the nurse came by to clean me up and make sure I didn’t need to go to the ER. But she told my grandson that if I acted crazier than usual (there was a nice-sized knot on my forehead) to call her immediately.

 The swelling on the side of my face and lip has gone down quite a bit, but I’m still drinking through a straw because of the cut on the inside of my mouth, but that really did improve rapidly.

 Oh, but the black eye. The mother of all black eyes. Swollen top and bottom and lovely shades of purple and black all the way around. This morning (the second day), it was completely shut. Now, at about ten at night, it’s three-quarters open. Hopefully, the swelling will start to go down tomorrow.

 But the lovely shades of black and purple will eventually turn to ugly shades of yellow and orange and green and I’ll look even worse than I do now. I don’t mind people seeing me this way, but I really don’t want to have to explain my remarkable stupidity in not letting go of the leash. Angelo wouldn’t have gone very far (remember the treats in the apron?) and I know he would have come back when I called.

 So that’s my sad story. I do plan on going out as soon as I my eye opens sufficiently that I can drive safely, but I think I’ll avoid those places where people know me and are more likely to ask.

 Can’t wait to resume our walks.

 

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Twelve Months of Romance – June

Hah! I’m almost on time this month after being horribly late the last two months. The June book in the Twelve Months of Romance series is now available.

Everyone loves a June bride, but this story is all about Betty who we met in March Madness. Angie is getting married and Betty is The June Bridesmaid.

06 June New (410x640)Betty has never cared about her appearance. Why should she bother when men were always throwing themselves at her anyway? But not Brian O’Malley. He has eyes only for Betty’s friend, Angie, or so he would lead her to believe. Just when she decides to change her look, goaded into it by Brian’s insulting comments, he flies off to Ireland for an indefinite stay.

Betty’s plans for seduction (or revenge) have to be put on hold until Brian returns for his best friend’s wedding. But when Brian finally shows up at the rehearsal, Betty finds her own game turned against her by the handsome, brooding Irishman.

 

In case you missed March Madness you can find the links for the series by clicking the banner image below.

12 Months banner for KB 2

And coming June 20, 2013, Fireworks. We first met Connie in April Showers and then again in May Flowers. Her two new sisters of the heart have found love and now it’s Connie’s turn.

Happy reading!

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Twelve Months of Romance – May

My goodness, May is almost over and I haven’t even said a word about this month’s new title, May Flowers

I introduced May in April Showers. She and April, as you have probably guessed, are sisters. April has found her love and now it’s May’s turn, but (and isn’t there always a but?) finding love at this point in her life doesn’t work with her career plans.

 Here’s an excerpt.

 May was so relieved that her older sister April had found happiness at last. She was even more relieved that April no longer resented her. They had grown so close while April had an unprecedented three men pursuing her. Thank goodness she’d finally settled on one! Tony Cavallo.

May couldn’t help that she was beautiful. And the most annoying thing was that lame April showers bring May flowers joke people were always pulling on them. As if May wouldn’t even be here without April.

She looked in the mirror one last time before leaving for work. What she saw was platinum blonde hair (natural, of course), pink cheeks (also natural), rosy lips that never needed lipstick and dark brown eyes like the soft center of a sunflower.

But she was much more than that, she thought resentfully, and she’d spent her adult life proving it. She was not quite twenty-five years old and already Deputy City Clerk. In ten years, she expected to take over the City Clerk’s office when her boss retired.

She kept her curly hair long, so she could sweep it back in a severe style, and she wore tailored business suits in conservative colors to work. Her male co-workers had learned early on that she was off limits. She’d been through a disastrous love affair in college with her roommate’s drop-dead-gorgeous brother that left her wary of men in general, and men who were too good-looking in particular.

One of April’s admirers, Richard Antonik, was too gorgeous to be believed. Spiky blond hair, eyes that changed from blue to gray and back again, and enough European charm to knock a girl’s socks off. Just not this girl, May thought.

April had liked him, but not as a boyfriend. When he’d rushed back to Poland to be with his critically-ill father, April had breathed a sigh of relief. He and May had corresponded by email several times, and Richard was due back soon.

The other man, Barry Chambers, had been more persistent. He’d given April a two-carat diamond engagement ring. He was good looking too, with lots of wavy chestnut hair and gray eyes. But he left April cold. Neither she nor April were able to figure out what it was that made Barry propose to her. It certainly wasn’t passion.

And speaking of passion, there was her future brother-in-law, Tony Cavallo. Six feet of hot Italian male. The scars on his face and neck, earned honorably in Iraq, only made him look more darkly dangerous. May liked Tony a lot, and during the rocky days of April’s courtship, she’d met and liked his sister Connie even more.

April and May owned the house they’d lived in together for the last few years, and May had been concerned that she wouldn’t be able to keep up the mortgage payments without April’s income. Not to mention that she hated to lose April since they’d become so close.

Tony had solved that problem by suggesting they build a bedroom and bath on the back of the house for him and April. Tony was studying to be an architect and engineer, and he’d quickly sketched out the plans. Much taken with their future son-in-law, Paul and Patricia Winters had offered the couple the money to build the addition as a wedding present.

Enough thinking about the past. If she didn’t get a move on, there would be no future for her with the city. Not that she was ever late, but she liked to be settled at her desk, her computer already booted with a cup of black coffee, ready for the day at least ten minutes ahead of schedule.

Hurrying out the door, she stopped when she saw Richard coming up the walkway carrying a vase filled with yellow-and-white tulips. Her eyes widened as she was forcibly reminded of how beautiful he was. Not too tall, maybe four or five inches above her five-feet-six but with a compact, muscular build that was very appealing.

“Richard!” May exclaimed, “I didn’t expect you back today. April isn’t here.”

May wondered what the man was doing here so early in the morning. She’d already told him that April and Tony would be getting married as soon as the addition was complete.

“I am not here to see April.” He bowed slightly and held out the flowers to May. “I just wanted to thank you for your concern about my father. Your emails were most welcome during a very trying time for me and my family.”

May took the flowers, touched by his thoughtfulness.

“Thank you, Richard,” she smiled. “Are you going back to work at La Belle Femme soon? I hope they held your job for you.”

“Yes, they were very kind and understanding. I go back to work tomorrow, and already my schedule is full,” he smiled back at her.

May couldn’t help the warm feeling that spread through her at that smile, but she immediately determined not to let this man affect her. What was that old saying? Beauty is as beauty does. She’d already seen what beauty could do.

“Thank you for coming by, Richard, but I really must be off to work.”

“Yes, of course. Please give my regards and best wishes to your sister and her fiance.” Richard bowed once again and turned to walk her to her car. He opened the door and handed her in, bowing once more after closing the door for her.

He watched her drive away and thought again that May was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. Again, he knew that he would never lose his heart to such beauty, no matter that she seemed a genuinely nice person. His hands clenched and unclenched as he thought of that mass of platinum curls he’d seen when she wore her hair down. His palms literally itched to get his hands in her hair … professionally, of course.

 05 May New (410x640)

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Twelve Months of Romance – April

I know I’m late with this announcement, but here is the April book in the Twelve Months of Romance series. I wasn’t late publishing it; just announcing it.

April04 April new final Showers

April Winters may be older but she’s tired of coming in second to her beautiful young sister. When she decides to chop off her hair in protest, she gets more than she bargained for. Not one, not two, but three men pursuing her. For once, she wishes they’d seen her sister first so she wouldn’t have to choose.

And if that’s piqued your interest, here’s the beginning.

April hated her name.

She hated that she was born in April and named April. She hated April showers. And most of all she hated it when someone said, as they inevitably did upon meeting her, “April showers bring May flowers”.

And yes, her younger, prettier sister was named May. The one they always said was as pretty and sweet as a spring flower. Okay, so May was more than pretty, and wasn’t she just the sweetest thing on two legs, but April wasn’t exactly the mean, ugly stepsister. She could be sweet when she wanted to.

May had naturally-platinum blonde hair and big, dark sunflower eyes. April had blonde hair too, or had. Now it was helped along by monthly visits to the salon. May’s hair curled naturally around her heart-shaped face, while April’s hair was straight and fine, and had always resisted the strongest of perms. One time her mother had taken her for a professional perm, and on the way back to the car the curl started to fall out. By the time they got home, there was no curl left at all.

April sighed, and shoved her hair out of her eyes, supposedly her best feature. They were blue: a deep midnight blue that, in certain lights, looked almost black. Today was the day she was going to make people look at her eyes. First, a visit to the salon for a cut. And not just any cut; it was all coming off. There would be no more than an inch all over. Her eyes would absolutely be the first thing anyone would see. And if that didn’t work, she was getting permanent eyeliner and lashes. The only makeup she would wear would be eye makeup and maybe a touch of lip gloss. She wanted those blue babies to be visible from a block away … in the fog.

April didn’t have to look out the window to see if it was raining; she knew it was. It had been coming down all night, and it was no gentle patter either. That’s okay. This year, she was totally prepared. This year, there would be no thirty days of runny red nose and watery eyes. She’d gotten a set of rain gear good enough to protect her on a crab boat in the Bering Sea. Well, maybe not that good, but she had a calf-length mac with a hood, and knee-high rubber boots. Fashion be damned … at least for this month. She was going to stay healthy, and she was not — repeat not -- going to worry about the weather.

And just to make sure she arrived safely and relatively dry at her appointment, April had ordered a taxi. It would be absolute luxury to be driven right to the door of the salon with the driver opening the door for her.

And where was the damned taxi anyway? He was late, and April was jittery enough about her decision to chop off her hair. Not to mention she was beginning to sweat in her rain gear. She was wearing slacks and a sweater under the mac because the April weather could turn unexpectedly chilly. She’d become an expert on April weather.

At last, she heard a horn blaring and hoped it was her taxi. Although the man could have come to the door with an umbrella for her. Of course, she had her own — overkill, she knew — but that wasn’t the point.

She slung her bag over her shoulder, grabbed her umbrella and keys and made a mad dash out to the curb. She guessed immediately that the driver wasn’t going to be a gentleman at all. He hadn’t even opened the door for her from the inside. And, dammit, he hadn’t even unlocked the doors. She pounded on the window until he turned around. She mouthed unlock the door until he finally understood and flashed her a brilliant smile.

Wow, that was a million-dollar smile if she ever saw one. She had to ask him what kind of whitener he used. In the meantime, she was getting soaked standing out here in the rain. Not soaked, but water was running in rivulets down her mac, and she felt as if she was getting soaked.

She barely heard the locks click over the pouring rain and hurried to get into the back seat of the car. As soon as she shut the door, the driver threw a towel at her. She was momentarily grateful to have something to wipe her face and hands with (she should have bought the waterproof gloves) until he spoke.

“Wipe off your raincoat. You’re getting the seats wet.”

Just another surly cab driver, she fumed to herself. She wiped herself off as best she could, but not for his sake. For the sake of the passengers who might otherwise have to sit on a wet seat.

“Would you like to go somewhere, or should I run the meter while you decide?” he asked, looking at her in his rearview mirror.

“I believe I told the dispatcher where I was going,” she replied haughtily. “La Belle Femme on Main. Do you know it?”

“Yeah, I know it. Pretty pricey. You don’t look like you can afford a place like that.” His sister, Connie, was a stylist there, and he knew by the tips she brought home to their widowed mother that her services didn’t come cheap.

“Well, I’m not exactly rich, but I care about how I look, so I sacrifice other things to be able to afford it.” April was feeling pretty snippy towards this guy. He had no right to get personal, and she had no idea why she’d even told him that.

“Okay, okay. Don’t bite my head off.”

He reached over to start the meter and she noticed how muscular his forearms were. She’d always had a weakness for muscular forearms.

* * *

And coming soon, in about a week as a matter of fact, the next installment, May Flowers.

05 May New (410x640)All her life, May knew that her older sister resented her beauty, but now that April has found the love of her life, they’ve grown much closer. All May wants to do now is help April plan her wedding and devote herself to her career. But fate has other plans for her as an unlikely friendship turns into a love that she hadn’t foreseen.

 

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March Madness – Twelve Months of Romance

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day – March Madness – the third in my Twelve Months of Romance series.

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It’s St. Patrick’s Day, the one day of the year when everyone wants to be Irish. Even Angie Sorelli. But what Angie really wants is to meet her new neighbor, red-haired Irishman Brian O’Malley. Too bad Brian’s best friend, darkly handsome Tommy Roventi, sees Angie first.

Here’s a nice, long excerpt to get you started.

Looking in the mirror for the twentieth time wasn’t going to change anything, but Angie looked anyway. What was a nice Italian girl doing trying to wear Kelly green? Just because it was St. Paddy’s Day didn’t mean she had to go around looking all sallow. No matter what her friends said, more make-up didn’t help at all.

Valentine’s Day. Now that was a holiday color she could get into. She looked terrific in red. On Fourth of July, she wore red, white and blue; her best colors. On Christmas, she wore red again. And what happened to that nice forest green they used to have at Christmas? All the tissue paper this year was lime green. Ick!

Halloween. Black? Yes! Maybe with an orange belt. Something away from her face; all those yellow-based colors made her look like a cantaloupe. With her round face and round eyes, she didn’t need the comparison.

Her friends said she was obsessed with color. Ever since she’d read her mother’s old book, “Color Me Beautiful,” she had made sure to buy clothes in her best shades. She even redecorated her apartment so she would have the proper background. She’d taken a lot of teasing over that. But why shouldn’t a girl try to look her best?

Now here she was, all in Kelly green with green, shamrock cookies to take to her neighbor, and she felt like a honeydew melon. But she had to meet him today. This was it. Her one excuse was the day when everyone was Irish, just like Brian O’Malley.

She’d been watching him since he moved in a month ago; tall, fiery red hair, emerald green eyes. She’d hoped he was Scots, but Irish was second best. Ever since that book about the big Scot and his time-traveling wife came out, a lot of the romance novels had featured red-haired Highland warriors, and Angie had soon become addicted to them. She knew the only man for her had to have flame-colored hair or he was no man at all.

She’d just had her twenty-fifth birthday and knew she was on the downside of her twenties. Her one true love better come along soon.

Then Brian O’Malley had moved in. He wasn’t her ideal man by any means. He was tall, but his shoulders sloped (it would be difficult to lay her head on one without sliding off). He was slim, almost skinny, but maybe once he got some of her good Italian cooking in him, he’d fill out. And of course, he was Irish instead of Scots. Still, he had that all-important red hair and a girl on the slippery slope to 30 couldn’t be too choosy.

With a sigh, Angie lifted the plate of iced cookies and headed out the door. He probably had plans for the evening, and she needed to catch him before he went out.

Of course there was the fact that they’d never even spoken. She was pretty sure he’d never even noticed her, but as Mom always said, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

She patted her hair one last time, walked out the door and heard the lock click behind her. Keys. Purse. Keys in purse. Purse on table.

Oh, no! she groaned to herself. Just what she needed, to look like an idiot in front of Brian the first time they met. On the other hand, Mom always said when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. The perfect excuse to knock on his door and ask for help. So, what was she doing with a plate full of cookies? Angie was thinking fast but nothing was occurring to her. If she was supposed to be taking them somewhere, then she couldn’t give them to Brian.

But now she was at his door and raising her hand to knock. And Mom was saying, There’s no such thing as a little white lie. A lie is a lie.

Please, Mom, just this once? A tiny little fib? She begged.

The door was opening and she raised her head to look up at the 6’4” she expected and saw … nothing.

“Hi. Looking for Brian, right?”

Angie adjusted her line of sight and realized that very masculine voice was coming from a short little guy. Not only short (okay, maybe 5’9” or 10” wasn’t all that short), but so obviously Italian. The last thing she wanted in her life was another Guido. She’d had more than enough of those introduced by her mother, her godmother, her Aunt Jenny, her Aunt Philomena, her Aunt Rosie, her cousin Theresa, her cousin Anna, etc., etc., etc.

“Not necessarily,” she sniffed. “I live a couple of doors down and I locked my purse inside my apartment.”

“Who is it, Tommy?”

“Just some cute little cupcake that locked herself out,” Tommy called into the apartment. “I think this is a job for the Mafia. No Irish need apply”

Angie felt her temper rising at being called a cute little cupcake, and in such a patronizing manner! Whoever this guy was, she didn’t want him helping her.

“Never mind,” she said, icily, flashing those dark Italian eyes at him. “I’ll find the super.”

Just then Brian came to the door. If he was as nasty a piece of work as his friend, Tommy, then he wasn’t going to get any cookies. She thought she wouldn’t give them to Brian anyway because he might share them with the little creep.

“I’m sorry, Miss. My friend is sometimes a little crude,” Brian apologized, smacking Tommy on the back of the head.

“Aww, c’mon, Bri. You know I didn’t mean anything by it.” He turned back to Angie. “Look, these locks are a piece of crap. I’ll have your door opened for you in no time.”

He gave Angie a cocky grin which did nothing at all to reassure her. But Brian was urging Angie to accept the offer.

“I promise, Miss, Tommy will get it open for you. He’s the best.”

“At what?” Angie asked skeptically. “Breaking and entering?”

Tommy and Brian looked at each other, grinning.

“Look, Lady, you’re lucky I’m here. I’m good at what I do and I work cheap. In fact, I’ll work for cookies.”

There was that cocky grin again. It was beginning to annoy her. All she’d wanted to do was meet Brian and now this … this … crook turns out to be his friend, maybe even his best friend.

Tommy didn’t wait for her to answer but went back inside to get his tools.

“Which is your place?” Tommy asked when he came back.

Still fuming (and still carrying those stupid cookies), Angie led them down the hall. Watching Tommy open an impressive set of lock picks didn’t reassure her at all. It didn’t take him more than a minute to get the door open.

The next thing Angie knew, Tommy had the lock completely off and was installing a brand new deadbolt. He even put one of those plate things on for extra security.

“Hey, Tommy, that’s the lock you were going to put on my door,” Brian protested.

“I think the little lady needs it more than you do,” Tommy told him.

“Thank you,” she told him grudgingly. “You really didn’t have to go to all that trouble. I mean, putting on a whole new lock and all.”

“All part of the service, Ma’am,” Tommy tipped an imaginary hat.

“How much do I owe you?”

“I think we already discussed payment.” Tommy took the plate from Angie and bit into a cookie. “Pretty damn good.” He grinned at Brian. “She can cook, too, and I think the little lady intended these delicious treats for you, my friend.” He winked at Angie. “Am I right or am I right? Old Bri here gets all the good ones since you girls started reading about those hot, red-haired warriors.”

Angie’s face was flaming. She’d had enough of this guy. Probably the kind that hung around with a nice man like Brian hoping to pick up the crumbs. He certainly couldn’t get a nice girl to go out with him on his own!

Brian could see that Angie was getting pretty hot under the collar. He knew a bit about Italian tempers since he’d been best friends with Tommy since second grade.

“Cut it out, Tommy,” he said mildly, cuffing his friend on the shoulder. “I’m Brian O’Malley,” he said, holding out his hand for Angie to shake, “and this idiot here is my best friend, Tommy Roventi.”

“I’m Angie Sorelli,” she smiled, shaking Brian’s hand and letting go of her mad … at least as far as Brian was concerned. His hand was large and warm and, though strong, had none of the callouses of a man who worked with his hands. She wondered what he did. Mostly she saw him leaving when she was coming in from work.

“Look, Angie, I’m on my way to work. I have to go in early tonight because of St. Paddy’s Day. Why don’t you come along? You’re all dressed for it.”

“You want me to come to your job?” Angie asked. “Won’t your boss mind?”

Brian laughed at her confusion. “No, Dad won’t mind at all. I work for him at O’Malley’s. I thought everyone knew O’Malley’s.”

“Oh, well, of course,” Angie stammered, embarrassed again. “I’ve never been there. My family and friends mostly go to Fratelli’s.”

“Then you’re in for a treat, little lady,” Tommy put in. “You need to get away from the peppers and hang out with the fun people. Nobody knows how to party like the micks.”

“Look, Mr. Roventi,” Angie speared him with her eyes. She had her hands on her ample hips and moved close enough to be in Tommy’s face. “I am not your little lady or your cute cupcake or any of those other names guys like you use to put down women.”

Angie took a deep breath, prepared to cut this little man down to the size of an inch worm.

“Okay, okay!” Tommy exclaimed. “I give!” He turned back to Brian. “She’s all yours, my friend, and good luck to you. This is why I never date Italian girls.” He turned around to Angie and handed her his card. “Here, in case you have any trouble with the lock.” He thrust the ill-fated plate of cookies back in her hands, dropped the new keys on top of them and left. “Oh, and one more thing,” he turned back to her to add, “that green makes you look like a honeydew … if I may use the term honey to such a sensitive soul as yourself.”

Angie watched him stomp off down the hall, waving over his shoulder.

“See ya’, Bri.” He didn’t bother with the elevator, but pulled open the door and clattered down the stairs.

“Wow, some friend you have there, Brian,” Angie sputtered. How dare he say such a thing to me!

Still fuming, she looked down at the card in her hand, half expecting to see a prisoner wearing striped pajamas. What she did see was a tastefully laid out card with a discreet logo advertising Thomas Roventi, Master Locksmith; 24 Hour Service.

Brian easily guessed the trend of her thoughts. Most people didn’t take to Tommy’s rough ways at first, but he really was a great guy. He just had this huge chip on his shoulder.

“How about it? See you at O’Malley’s later? Unless you have other plans, of course.”

“My mom’s cooking corned beef and green potatoes.” Angie wrinkled her nose at the thought. “She always does, every year.”

“Italian corned beef? That must be a real treat,” Brian laughed.

“The corned beef isn’t so bad,” Angie giggled. “It’s the green potatoes that get me.”

“I don’t think I’d care much for them either.” Brian wrinkled his nose. “The cookies were for your family?”

“I always bring something,” she temporized. Was it really a lie? She did usually bring something but she had a chocolate cake in the shape of a shamrock with green icing ready to take to her parents. She wasn’t lying, not really.

What would Mom say about that?  Angie sighed to herself. Sometimes she wished Mom would stay out of her head.

“Look, why don’t you take the cookies?” Angie asked Brian. “I have more.” At least that was true.

“Okay, thanks.” He smiled at Angie, showing dazzling white teeth. “So, you’ll stop by tonight?”

“If I can get the green potatoes off my teeth,” she laughed.

Brian dropped the keys into her hand and took a cookie. “These are good,” he complimented her, popping another one into his mouth. “See you later, Angie.”

“Later,” she replied.

She watched Brian go into his apartment before leaning against her door with a sigh of contentment. Tommy Roventi notwithstanding, the meeting had been a success, and Brian O’Malley was even more charming than she could have imagined.

* * *

Like it? There are about 95 more pages of March Madness available here.

 

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Penmarric by Susan Howatch

This is the first historical I read by Susan Howatch many years ago. As you probably already know, she’s my favorite author and I loved rereading it on my Kindle.

Penmarric tells the story of the Plantagenets, Henry II through John I, but set in the tin mining country of Cornwall. Penmarric is the manor house that represents England and the Castallack family history mirrors that of the Plantagenets.

Being a history buff, I enjoy seeing how Howatch handles the various historical events in a fictional setting. It’s interesting that she implies that (using the real names) Geoffrey  was not Henry II’s biological father. The only place I’ve ever read that was in The Conquering Family by Thomas B. Costain. (Just noticed Costain’s books have been kindleized but they are very, very pricey.)

Even knowing the history as I do, Howatch’s writing is so powerful that the story seems fresh and new and I feel like I’m floating through the Middle Ages.

If you haven’t read Howatch before, Penmarric a good place to start.

 

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