Friday, December 27, 2013

I Thee Wed by Savannah Leigh


Happy Release Day!!!


I Thee Wed

by Savannah Leigh


Drew and Lily sitting in a tree (or a church garden)
K-I-S-S-I-N-G (and then some)
First comes sex
Then comes marriage
Then, well, we’re just not sure what comes next.

Lily Kramer accepted Drew Hamilton’s marriage proposal but it wasn’t a traditional proposal. He wants her to marry him so his mother, who has dementia, will know that he got married. Lily, an over-thirty wedding planner, doesn’t see any other offers of marriage in her future so she accepts. Now she has to plan a wedding that looks and feels like a real wedding, but isn’t.  Drew doesn't want a relationship, but he wants it to look like he and Lily are married, including living together, so that everyone believes.

Will they be able to pull it off? Will Drew’s mother succumb to the dementia before the wedding? Will Lily be able to shield her heart and still have the wedding of her dreams?

**This is the follow up novel to With This Ring.**


Kathie's Review:


This is the final book in the two story arc of debut novelist, Savannah Leigh. Book one, With This Ring, ended in a nice place, no cliffhanger, and this one takes off where that one ended. 


Lily has agreed to Drew's proposal and then the shock hits. This makes for some good times as we see them both come to terms with how this fake engagement/wedding is going to happen. Since they both are so into each other, maybe they could make this more? 
There is plenty of steam between them, that's for sure. And sweetness, too. 

I  enjoyed the supporting characters and was looking forward to the "bad girl" getting what was coming to her. It was a sweet moment.


This is a fun romp for a cold afternoon. 


*Disclosure: It was my pleasure to help edit this story






About the Author:
Savannah Leigh is a small-town girl with big city dreams. She has always had a love of romance novels and never thought she would actually be able to publish one of her own. Savannah is inspired by photos of shirtless men on the internet, hot actors in steamy scenes, and her own fantasies. A lover of wine and Bailey’s Irish Cream, Savannah enjoys spending time with friends and reading steamy novels.



Connect with Savannah:
Facebook
Twitter: @savannahlbooks
Goodreads

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Innocence by Elise de Sallier

By Elise de Sallier
Publication Date: Dec, 17th 2013
Category: Romance/Historical/ Regency
ISBN paperback:978-1-61213-200-6
ISBN ebook: 978-1-61213-201-3
Available from TWCS Publishing House, Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, B&N.com

Summary

Forced to flee her father's brutal heir, Miss Anneliese Barlow masquerades as Lisa Brown, a commoner, in the grand country mansion of the Duke of Worthington. Discovering the life she'd known was a virtual fairy tale, and reality a dark and forbidding place, Lisa faces danger at every turn.

Captivated by the beautiful maid, the duke's heir, Lord Marsden, decides the only way to keep the new girl safe—and close—is by offering her his protection. With her reputation ruined and all hope of returning to her previous station seemingly lost, Lisa surrenders her virtue, finding unexpected passion in Nathaniel's arms.




Despite her misgivings about the dubious morality of the role, she accepts the position of Nathaniel's mistress, but the future is fraught with uncertainty. If her identity is uncovered, Lisa's innocence won't be the only thing that's lost.  




Kathie's Review:
Did you ever read a Barbara Cartland novel? I've read more than I can count, loved them. Innocence, by Elise de Sallier, is in the same genre, historical romance. And I loved it just as much as those novels.
Innocence is aptly named. Lisa is incredibly naive and has no clue what most of the things that Nathaniel mentions he wants to do with, and to, her are. She's sheltered, as were all of the girls of that time frame. I loved that she went to a maid to find out just what some of that stuff meant. At the time she was working as a maid, too. And that was an eye-opening experience. The servants of the time worked long hours for little pay and even less time off. It certainly gave her a deeper look into how her world ran.
I wanted to smack Nathaniel. He gave her choices...but none of them were really good ones. It's all in the tone, you know? And he played Lisa like a harp. She gave in to the one choice that he wanted her to take...and she was honest enough to acknowledge that she wanted it, too. Even though she had little idea of what was involved.
Nathaniel learns from his errors. I like that in my heroes. And he does get that smack, not literally, but well enough! "...his knees buckled..." Yes, that was a great moment in the last few pages of the book.
There are steamy scenes in Innocence, as Nathaniel teaches her about herself. The scenes were love scenes, not flat erotica. I liked that very much. As did Lisa!
This book really is full of the things that I read historical romances for. Innocent maiden, gorgeous hero, steamy scenes, and at least the start to an HEA.
Innocence is the first book in a two part series. The ARC ended rather abruptly, but the book itself gives us the first chapter of book two. Lisa and Nathaniel's story continues, and I'm looking forward to getting those few loose ends tied up.
Well done, Ms. de Sallier! This is a great first novel!
*Thank you, NetGalley and TWCS, for the opportunity to read Innocence


Image of Elise de Sallier
Elise de Sallier met the love of her life when she was only sixteen, married him three years later, and recently celebrated her thirtieth wedding anniversary. Needless to say, she is a big believer in living Happily Ever After. With a lifetime's worth of experience behind her, Elise also believes great relationships don't just happen, they take work . . . which doesn't mean writing about them can't be a whole lot of fun!

After surviving all manner of health obstacles while raising a family and nursing her elderly grandmother--her writing namesake, though she'd have been shocked by her granddaughter's steamy love scenes--Elise established a career as a counselor and family therapist. Seeking an escape from the stresses of her work, she discovered the world of fan fiction, and her timid writer's muse began to make its voice heard. Two point three million hits, over fifteen thousand reviews, and an e-mail from an acquisitions editor at The Writer's Coffee Shop later, and Elise's life found a new and fascinating direction.

A romantic fiction addict from way back, writing her own historical and paranormal romances--and having others read and fall in love with her characters and the worlds she creates--is a dream come true. Elise likes to see her characters grow, experience passion and adventure, tackle some difficult issues, and find lasting love . . . eventually.



Enter to win your own copy:




Connect to the Author- TWCS Book PageTWCS Author PageFacebook



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Series or Serial? via Write Divas

You know when I tag a book a SERIES? I want you to know that I don't mean a SERIAL. What's the difference? Here's my article for Write Divas that explains what I mean:


Kathie’s Corner: Series or Serial? (via http://writedivas.com)
Series or Serial? What’s the difference? Quite often an author will call their books a series.  But sometimes they’re wrong because, in fact, it’s a serial. What is a serial? Think comic book. Think fan fiction. Think soap opera. There is a place…

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Holiday Anthology via Exquisite Quills

This is a FREE Anthology @Smashwords:


A Holiday Anthology
Vol. One
Exquisite Quills

This is a FREE (on Smashwords) collection of short Christmas stories By Exquisite Quills Authors and Friends. It has been written for adults who love romance stories but is family friendly. Each story is unique and is meant to give a sampling of the writing of that author. From contemporary to historical, the Exquisite Quills authors and friends wish you a happy holiday filled with wonderful books.












I'm going to cheat, just a bit, by quoting the review of one of the authors in the anthology, Jennifer Garcia. She gave me permission to share her summary filled review at Goodreads:

Jennifer Garcia says:

Several wonderful short stories by wonderful authors. These stories are so short but, yet, tell so much. I don't want to give anything away, but I'll give a tiny bit. I truly enjoyed them all so very much. 

The first story, Christmas Knight by Victoria Adams, was a very clever, sweet story about Santa Claus or is it? Imagine if it really was, so cool.

The second story, Star of Wonder by Rose Anderson, was a bit of a historical and painted the scenery so beautifully. 

The third story, The Kissing Ball by E. Ayers, was a great story about some disappointment. A kind I'm sure we've all felt at one time or another. Great story. 

The forth story, The Christmas Risk by Beverley Bateman, letting your wall down. Not comparing the past with the present. Loved this. 

The fifth story, Fallen in Love by Helena Fairfax, rekindling love again during the holidays such a sweet read. 

The sixth story, Snow Job by J.D. Faver, avoiding the love of your life because of the heartbreak they caused. I wanted more of this, it has a great premise. 

The seventh story, Christmas Miracle by Jennifer Garcia, this is actually mine and I won't rate it. Decide for yourself. :)

The eighth story, Highland Hogmanay by Romy Gemmell, yum, men in kilts and finding love at a wedding. Love this. I'd love to read more of this as well. 

The ninth story, Almost Christmas by Vonnie Hughes, a great historical, Regency era, loved it. So good, could have easily been extended into a novella. 

The tenth story, The Unexpected Gift by Susan Jaymes, a lot of moms and wives could related to this story. Loved the gift at the end. 

The eleventh story, Shooting Star Holiday Express by Gemma Juliana, little girl, magical train, finding love around the holidays. Loved this story as well. 

The twelfth story, The Christmas Gift by Jean Lamb, a small snippet from a historical novel. Very intriguing and would love to read more. 

The thirteenth story, A Faery's Wish - A Mini Christmas Faery Tale by Jane Leopold Quinn, a Christmas miracle in a faery world. Loved this sweet story. 

The fourteenth story, Joyeux Noël by Zanna Mackenzie, a secret Santa of sorts and office romance. Sweet and fun. 

The fifteenth story, Gifts to Treasure by Kaye Spencer, and what a way to end this great anthology. A Scrooge of sorts that has to learn the hard way who he is. I'd love to read more about Mike. 

Just want to say how honored I am to have been included in this anthology with all of those amazing authors. Great mix of stories, a little of everything. 


I agree, several of these are great little gems! I really enjoyed the first one, Christmas Knight. Is he Santa? Maybe!

Many of the stories gave us things to think about, heroes to swoon over, moments to sigh over, and Christmas Joy to, well, enjoy! While there is romance, it's all family friendly. I like seeing the different writing styles of authors. Makes me definitely want to read more by many of these fine authors.

I do have a little quibble. In my mind, anthologies should be filled with short, COMPLETE stories. Snow Job is the first chapter of a full length novel. I didn't appreciate not knowing that until I got to the explanation of that fact. Especially since the rest of the stories are complete. Well, Highland Hogmanay is rather like a prologue for a full length novel. That was fine because the content gave us enough to count as a short story.

Other than that one, I enjoyed curling up with a cup of chai latte, a good shortbread cookie, and these stories. A lovely way to revel in the Christmas Spirit. Grab your free copy now!




Free at Smashwords in an assortment of formats

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Renewing Hope by Jennyfer Browne


rh-cropped-ebookversion.jpg (1862×2702)

Happy Release Day!!!!

The Second Novel in the IN YOUR WORLD Series
By Jennyfer Browne

The journey for Kate Hill and Nathan Fisher continues…

Kate Hill hopes to leave her English past behind her in order to be accepted by the Amish of West Grove, and marry her love, Nathan Fisher. But as she struggles to win over her Amish neighbors, she discovers that the sordid past of the Bishop’s son has caused a rift in the small community. Shunned for living the English lifestyle, Benjamin Yoder finds a friend in Kate, and wonders if there is hope in returning to the Amish life he misses.

Nathan Fisher wants his old friend, Benjamin, back with the Amish for many reasons- by forgiving Benjamin his English transgressions; surely the community will accept his Kate. With the Bishop’s steadfast obstinacy towards the English blight on his flock, it will be up to Kate and Nathan to heal their community by bringing home the son of the Bishop and renewing hope in the Amish through forgiveness.


Kathie's Review:


This is book two in a three book arc. It does not end with a cliffhanger. Book Three will continue with Benjamin, who I really came to love in this book.

While I tagged Renewing Hope as "inspirational," I want to let everyone know there are some steamy scenes. I firmly believe that inspirational can have elements of heat. And the heated scenes are very well done, within marriage even! I think this is one of the sweetest, yet hottest, wedding nights I've ever read. 

Ms. Browne has done her Amish research. Seeing the way these people live, day to day, joyful in the Lord, was a revelation. Being Amish doesn't mean they don't have faults, and those are shown by selfish characters, characters who have a hard time forgiving, characters who only see black and white. So, humans! 

Magnus, the horse, totally steals the show. He deserves every handful of oats that he gets.

My editor brain couldn't quite be turned off. I would have deleted a few bits, and would have made sure that the repetitive use of words was at a minimum. But still, this was a very enjoyable read and I look forward to reading Benjamin's story! I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy reading a warm, fulfilling romance.

*Thank you, Jennyfer Browne, for the opportunity to read Renewing Hope




EXCERPT
~~~~~

It was nearly a week before Nathan finally convinced me to walk with him in the waning afternoon. I had run out of excuses to avoid the side of the barn that had once offered us a pleasured moment of privacy. Stepping off the porch with him I held myself stiffly as we walked toward the shade of the barn, my eyes watching the dead stalks for any movement other than the fluttering afternoon breeze.
It was when I jumped at Nathan’s hand on mine that he frowned and stopped just out of sight of the house.
“What is wrong?” he asked, concern etching his features. “You look fearful.”
I swallowed and glanced past his shoulder to the mocking wave of corn. He glanced behind him, still confused.
“That’s where he took me,” I whispered. “I haven’t been able to get that out of my head. I have nightmares.”
Nathan’s eyes widened and he pulled me toward the house again with care.
“I did not know it frightened you,” he said and continued to hold my hand with a protective grip, even in view of the house. As if daring propriety further, he leaned in and kissed me on my temple.
“I will fix this,” he said and sat me back on the swing, his arm wrapped around me.
Although it should have been avoided for propriety’s sake, I took comfort in his embrace. It pushed away the tension and for the rest of the night, I felt as safe as I should have when I was with him. I made a promise to myself when I went to bed that night to stand up to my fear so that Nathan wouldn’t have to worry about me.
I was surprised the next morning when I stepped outside with Emma to milk the cows and discovered Nathan already in the field closest to the barn, his horses rigged up to one of Jonah’s larger machines, and already the first row of corn by the barn had been cleared from the earth. Behind him in the large wagon stood a man I recognized and was surprised to see working amongst the Amish.
Benjamin Yoder. I remembered him from the Gathering, seemingly months ago. Benjamin was the old friend of Nathan’s who had helped find me.
The Bishop’s son.
He was still dressed in English clothes, his dark hair grown out since the last time I had seen him and a wavy mess from the work. It was obvious he knew how to work the machinery. I wasn’t quite sure why he was here, but as Nathan looked up and spoke to him, I could tell the two had somehow resolved their differences. They smiled and called out to one another, working well as a team to complete the task at hand. Both were already soaked in sweat and Nathan’s concentration was such that he didn’t even notice Emma and me standing to watch him.
I jumped when I heard Jonah beside me.
“I woke up to find them hitching up the horses,” he said and looked toward the machine as it drew near. “Nathan is a good man to you.”
I nodded and felt my eyes burning as I stood there.
Nathan was clearing the field because it frightened me.

~~~~~~


About the Author

Jennyfer Browne has always been a sucker for a good love story- a complex recipe with a dash of dashing, a pinch of heroism, and a hefty dose of outside forces that test young lovers. Seasoned with tears and laughter, followed by a sprinkle of happy sighs fill out the perfect recipe.
Jennyfer also enjoys pie.
Ms. Browne lives in California with her wonderful husband and adoring son, where she enjoys the beach and sailing off on further adventures. A member of the Romance Writers of America and blessed with an overactive imagination, she writes sweet and savory romances with a twist of tart that always come to a happy ending.


Fire on the Water by P.J. Parker



 A Companion To Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 


By P.J. Parker
Category: Drama
Publication Date: 12th December 2013 
ISBN paperback: 978-1-61213-196-2
ISBN ebook: 978-1-61213-197-9

Book Summary 

Rachel, a young American biographer researching the life of Mary Shelley in Montreux, Switzerland, is entangled and consumed by the escalating threads of her investigation. Shards of Shelley’s creation are exhumed from the past. Precious memories are hacked and sutured to the unthinkable. The unblemished flesh of the one she loves is stripped back to reveal what lies beneath—aspects of Frankenstein incised and ripped from the nineteenth century and transplanted into her own.
Through a landscape of archival documents, the contents of a trunk unopened for generations, and a spiraling progression of dismembered cadavers and uncertainties, Fire on the Water: A Companion to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein interweaves Rachel’s search with the plot of Frankenstein and the horrific occurrences of the summer of 1816 when Mary Shelley dared to dip her quill into the ink of her darkest of waking dreams.
The truth is given life.


Kathie's Review:

I was fascinated by this premise and then I was drawn in from the first page...to the last. I'm not one to read horror stories and have never read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. So while I did know most of what to expect, this was still new to me.

I loved how we see what might have inspired Mary to write her book as we walk with Rachel in the here and now. The way the two story lines met, diverged, and met again kept me enthralled. At one point I had no clue just who we were reading about; was it Mary? Or were we with Rachel? And I loved it.

Truly a superb mystery, filled with suspense, and also a romance that tugged at my heart.

I highly recommend this, and will be reading it again.


*Thank you, NetGalley and TWCS, for the opportunity to read Fire on the Water.



Introducing
P.J. Parker

P.J. Parker was born and raised in rural Australia. With a bachelor of science in architecture from the University of New South Wales, he has traveled and lived extensively around the world, focusing on cultures of historic interest and buildings of architectural significance before transitioning into a career as a fraud analyst and programmer with a leading international financial institution. An avid reader and researcher, P.J. undertakes his writing with a passionate and exacting attention to detail.



Giveaway:




Praise for Fire On The Water

The impossible has been done... a really great novel inspired by a really great novel.
-ARC Review, Goodreads


There were some particularly great moments in this story. Times when your own heart is beating as fast as that of the character you are experiencing things with. I loved that the author balanced moments of excitement with a deep back story of Shelley's research and composition of her famed novel. 
                                 -ARC Review, Goodreads



Publication Date: 12th December 2013
Sales Information
Fire On The Water is available in paperback and ebook at Amazon, B&N.com, The Writers Coffee Shop Publishing House online: http://ph.thewriterscoffeeshop.com/books/detail/109, and available in ebook format on iTunes and Kobo. 


Fire on the Water: A Companion to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Friday, December 13, 2013

Desprite Measures by Deborah Jay

Happy Release Day!

.



By  Deborah Jay


Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Caledonian Sprite Series, #1
Word Count: 94,000
Cover Designer: Alexandria N. Thompson, GothicFate.com
ISBN: 978 – 1494404864 (paperback available very soon)
ASIN: B00H6UKH5A


On the surface she's a cute and feisty blonde, a slender pocket rocket fitness coach. But Cassiopeia Lake has a secret; she's really a force of nature – an elemental.

Water sprite, Cassie, has lived undisturbed in her native Scottish loch for eons. Now, one encounter too many with modern plumbing has driven her to live in human guise along with her selkie boyfriend, Euan. It’s all going fine - until a nerdy magician captures Cassie to be an unwilling component in his crazy dangerous experiment.

Escape is only Cassie’s first challenge.

She’s smitten by her fellow prisoner, the scorching hot fire elemental, Gloria. But how do you love someone you can never touch?

And what do you do when your boyfriend starts to hero-worship your persecutor? Not to mention that tricky situation of being the prize in a power contest between two rival covens of witches.

So when Gloria’s temper erupts and she sets out to murder the magician, can Cassie keep her loved ones safe from the cross-fire, or will she be sucked into the maelstrom of deadly desires and sink without trace?



 Excerpt:

The drive into town seemed to take forever.

In truth, it took no longer than any other time, but I was impatient. I’d chosen the Audi Quattro this time—no point making things easy for Liam—and I was frustrated that I could not use all the power the sleek little beauty offered me. Every driver who delayed me by even a fraction of a second had me fuming at the wheel. By the time I turned into the club’s paved driveway, I was as near boiling point as it is prudent for a sprite to reach. A discreet parking attendant, whom I suspected doubled as a bouncer, pointed me to an empty bay, and then directed me to the head of the stairs leading down to the basement club. Not wanting to arrive looking flustered, I paused to gather myself.

Hair still caught in pony tail band. Check. Dress neckline showing equal expanse of skin either side of cleavage. Check. Hem straight and not quite riding high enough to show that I hadn’t wasted mass on fashioning underwear. Check.

Ready to go, I stepped one well-shod foot onto the first step down. And froze. Involuntarily, my body ceased to function. My mind blanked and a chill of fear iced my veins. I gazed numbly at the slender, dark figure lurking at the base of the stairs until he glanced away, freeing me, permitting life to return to the lifeless.

My paralysed brain shot back to working order. Recognition of the figure chilled me all over. Vampire.

Not something you see every day in downtown Inverness, but I’d encountered enough of them in the distant past to know one when I saw one. And to know the horror of being trapped by their gaze, unable to move or even to think.

This one, darkly handsome and with more than a passing resemblance to a youthful Bryan Ferry with his ever-present hint of a sneer, glanced at me again but without interest. Vampires prefer their blood more full bodied than the pseudo-stuff that runs through my counterfeit veins.

Somewhat troubled at finding his sort here, I was, however, still determined to continue with my evening’s plans. I descended, brushing past the cold figure in his immaculate Armani suit. A body-wracking shiver ran down my spine, even though I knew I was in no danger from him.

I wondered what he was doing here. Perhaps it was simply a good place for him to get a carry-out meal.


Buy links: 



Deborah Jay writes fast-paced fantasy adventures featuring quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.

Living mostly on the UK South coast, she has already invested in her ultimate retirement plan – a farmhouse in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands where she retreats to write when she can find time. Her taste for the good things in life is kept in check by the expense of keeping too many dressage horses, and her complete inability to cook.

Her debut novel, epic fantasy THE PRINCE’S MAN, first in a trilogy and winner of a UK Arts Board award, was published in July 2013, with THE PRINCE’S SON due out summer 2014.

Urban fantasy, DESPRITE MEASURES, is the opening novel of the projected five book CALEDONIAN SPRITE SERIES. 

She also has non-fiction equestrian titles published in her professional name of Debby Lush.







Desprite Measures (The Caledonian Sprite Series)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Under These Restless Skies by Lissa Bryan Cover Reveal

Coming soon, a new historical romance from Lissa Bryan set in the days of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Under These Restless Skies.



Synopsis:

Will Somers has always thought himself unlovable. When he encounters a creature of myth and magic, he seizes the chance to finally have a wife and family of his own. Emma is a selkie—one of the immortal fae-folk of the sea—bound to Will by the magic of her kind, and eager to learn about life on land. She has to learn to adapt quickly to human customs, because Will is headed for the court of Henry VIII, to serve as the king’s fool. It’s a glittering, dangerous world, where a careless word can lead to the scaffold and the smallest of gestures is loaded with political implications. Anne Boleyn is charmed by Emma’s naïveté and soothing selkie magic and wants Emma for her own fool. Can Will protect his newfound love from the dangers that lurk in every shadow? Circa regna tonat: around the throne, the thunder rolls.





Release Date: February 20, 2014

And now, for the cover!



Excerpt:

They came to the doorway of the presence chamber. Fermor gave his name to the steward.
The man flipped through a list. “Oh, aye. Fermor.”
“Correct, my lord. I am come to bring His Majesty a gift.”
“A fool, was it?”
Fermor gestured at Will. “And a fine one at that.”
The steward did not seem impressed. “Go and come again tomorrow. His Majesty is in a temper today.”
The king’s visit with his sister must not have ended well. Fermor sputtered, panicking as he saw his chances slip away.

“ ’Twould seem the best time for him to be regaled by a fool’s antics,” Will noted.
The steward stared at Will for a moment and then gave a slight smile. “This way.” He led them through a tapestry-covered door through the empty presence chamber. Will paused, awed by the sight of the throne—the symbol of the king’s power—wide and heavy, gilded and jeweled, set on a carpeted dais. Beside it was a smaller throne for the queen, and over both were canopies bearing the coat of arms of each. The steward bowed to the empty throne as they passed, and they copied him before continuing out into a smaller gallery.
“Tarry here,” the steward instructed. “The king is at cards with the Lady Pembroke. You will be called to him when he is finished.”
Will’s stomach churned. He’d never felt less amusing in his life, and his wits were logy. A horrifying thought occurred to him. If he was unable to persuade the king to take him on, he wouldn’t be able to keep Emma. He couldn’t take her with him if he returned to the comedy troupe. Panic made his mind blank for a moment, and he did not hear his name called. Fermor elbowed him, and Will stumbled to his feet and followed the steward into a chamber.
Will didn’t have much of a chance to survey his surroundings. He had an impression of tapestries over dark wood paneling and the glitter of gold, but his eyes were on the floor in front of two figures seated in x-shaped chairs. He knelt.
“Your Majesty, Lady Pembroke, if it pleases Your Graces, I present Master Richard Fermor and Will Somers.”
“Rise,” the king said. Will stole a glance at him and saw a large, but still muscular man with thinning reddish-blond hair, dressed in a dark brown velvet doublet, ornamented with pearls and gold frogs. The king had gained weight in the last few years, and to disguise it he had widened the shoulders of his surcoats. Will had to admit the effect was powerful. His large codpiece jutted up from the center slit of his doublet, also meant to convey power, or at least, virility. His eyes were small, a piercing blue-gray. Will caught a glimpse of them before he lowered his gaze to the floor.
“So, Fermor, you have brought me a fool.” The king’s voice was low and gruff, and he didn’t sound much interested. The lady seated at his side wore a French hood and an initial pendant attached to her strand of pearls, the letters “AB” twined together. She was garbed in a dressing gown of brilliant scarlet, trimmed in ermine. It was casual raiment only the highest nobility was entitled to wear outside their own bedchamber, but Anne Boleyn was now royal in all but name. Just weeks ago, the king had created her Marquess of Pembroke, the highest noble title in the land. She patted the small dog in her lap.
“Aye, your majesty,” Fermor said. “If it pleases Your Grace.”
“Well, fool, what can you do?”
Will was startled. He hadn’t expected the king to speak to him. “I—I can juggle, Your Majesty,” he croaked. “I can make jests, tumble, and sing a little.”
“Let us see it, then.”
Will’s hands trembled as he withdrew the balls from his bag. “If it pleases Your Majesty,” he started. He straightened his shoulders as best he could, and said in his haughtiest tone, “I, Will Somers, am the best juggler in England.”
The king snorted and Will hoped it was from amusement. He fell into his act, bragging about his abilities while seeming to lose track of his juggling and keeping the balls in the air seemingly by accident alone. He was grateful he had performed this particular act so many times, because he thought he’d completely forgotten his lines, but they slipped from his mouth of their own accord, and his limbs seemed to move themselves. The king guffawed a couple of times, and he thought he heard Anne laugh at one point. Will ended with one of the balls balanced on the tip of his nose, before dropping it into his hands and sweeping low into a bow.

“Well done, Master Fool,” the king said, and he seemed a bit more jovial than he had when Will first entered the room. Or perhaps it was wishful thinking on Will’s part. “But tell me this: I have fools already who can juggle and make jests. Why would I wish to have you at my court? What have you to offer that they do not?”
The answer popped from Will’s mouth as though he had rehearsed it. “Because I will do something none of your council, lords and ladies, nor servants will do.”
The king lifted an eyebrow. “And what might that be?”
“I will tell you the truth, Your Majesty.”
Fermor gasped. Anne burst into laughter. “Oh, I do like him.”
The king cast an amused glance at her. “Is that so, Master Fool? Then perhaps you are worth it, after all.”
“But you must make an oath to me,” Will said.
The king’s eyes narrowed a bit, but he calmed when Anne giggled at Will’s audacity. “What?”
“You must swear it, as the word of a Christian king.” Will’s mouth was as dry as paper and his heart thudded in his chest, but he continued. “You must swear to me, on your honor, you will never hold it against me when I tell you the truth.”
The king stared at Will, his mouth agape, and then he burst into laughter. He slapped his knee and elbowed Anne, who gave him a sharp glance at being prodded by his arm, before she laughed along with him as a courtier trained to echo the king’s mirth.
“You have my word,” the king said, as he accepted a perfumed handkerchief from one of his serving lords to wipe away the tears seeping from his eyes. “Or must I write it out and put my royal seal to it?”
“Your word is sufficient for me,” Will replied.
“I am flattered at your trust, Master Fool,” the king said in solemn tones and burst into guffaws once again. “Go and have my steward find you rooms. Have you a wife?”
“I do.” Will’s mind whirled. He hadn’t expected this, and he didn’t want Emma to live at court, but there was nothing he could do. Refusing lodgings offered by the king would be a gross insult.
“Bring her tomorrow,” the king commanded. “I wish to see what the wife of a fool looks like.”
“Much like every other wife in England,” Will said, and that sent the king into laughter once more.
“Go, and come back on the morrow.” The king waved a hand at the steward. “Find him some decent garb, and some for Milady Fool as well.”
Will bowed deeply and followed the steward from the room. “And for you, Fermor,” he heard the king begin before the door was shut behind them. Will’s knees gave out and he collapsed to the floor. His head swam in sick circles. He sat back on his heels and looked up at the steward. “Pray, pardon,” he rasped.
The steward gave a slight smile. “You are not the first to react in such a manner.” He held out a hand and Will stared at it in surprise. The steward was a lord, and here he was, offering a hand to a baseborn commoner. Will took it, and the steward helped him to his feet and drew him near.

“If ever a man needed to hear the truth,” the steward whispered, “ ’tis that man in there.” He drew away again, and his manner was once more brisk and officious. “Follow me.”
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