#CoverReveal “She Wears the Mask” by Shelly Stratton

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SHE WEARS THE MASK

BY SHELLY STRATTON

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No one can ever really know what lies behind the mask . . .

Gripping and moving, She Wears the Mask is a novel about two women from two very different worlds, both burdened with secrets from their pasts, who form an unexpected bond…

1950s Chicago: Angelique Bixby could be one of many fresh-faced sales girls working along the Magnificent Mile, but she’s unique. She’s a white woman married to a black man in 1950s Chicago, making her stand out among the tenements on the South Side where she lives. Despite the challenges the couple faces, they find comfort and strength in their love for one another. Angelique is content, as long as she has her Daniel by her side and their baby in her arms, until she loses them both—one to death and the other to dire circumstances.

1990s Washington, D.C.: Angelique Crofton is a woman of privilege. A rich, aging beauty and mother of a rising political star, she has learned to forget her tragic past. But now that she is facing her own mortality, she is finally ready to find the daughter she left behind, remember the young woman she once was, and unearth the bittersweet memories she had long ago buried.

Jasmine Stanley is an ambitious lawyer—the only black woman at her firm. She is too busy climbing the corporate ladder to deal with her troublesome family or their unresolved issues. Tasked with Angelique’s case, Jasmine doesn’t know what to make of her new client—an old debutante with seemingly too much time and money on her hands. Jasmine eagerly accepts the challenge though, hoping if she finds Angelique’s long-lost daughter, it will impress the firm’s partners. But she doesn’t count on the search challenging her mentally and emotionally. Nor does she expect to form a friendship with Angelique, who is much more like her than she realizes—because Jasmine is harboring secrets, too.

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EXCERPT

Chapter 1

 Angelique

 November 9, 1950

Chicago, Illinois

 

She will never get used to the sound of the “L” train.

Angelique realizes this for the umpteenth time as the train thunders above her and she ducks her head and clutches the collar of her wool coat in a white-knuckled grip with one hand. While crossing the street under the train tracks, she doesn’t look up—too frightened to witness its passage. She focuses her runny eyes instead on the puddles of melting snow where the halogen lights from bars and the late-night delicatessen glow. Her eyes then drift to the bundle in the basket she holds.

Hearing the steady click-clack of the train wheels, the seismic rattle of metal beams, and the whoosh of air as it passes will never become background noise to her, no matter how long she lives in the “Windy City” to some or “Chi-Town” to others—but it did for Daniel. He laughed at her the first time she cringed when the train passed their bedroom window.

“Look at you,” he drawled that first night they slept in their apartment. “It’s just a train, sugar. It can’t hurt you none.”

But what did Daniel know? Even though he’d grown up on the alfalfa fields of North Carolina with dirt under his nails and the sweet stench of manure in his nostrils, he’d been a city boy at heart. The “L” was practically a Mama’s lullaby, lulling him to sleep at night, while it became her torturer, yanking her awake every time her eyelids would drift closed.

When she did sleep, the train would haunt her dreams—those hungry steel wheels gnashing at the tracks, sending up sparks into the dark night. Her mind’s eye would see the train barreling at high speeds over Logan Square, Hyde Park, and Chinatown, like it was searching for her, leaving quaking windows in its wake.

She dreamed of standing with other commuters waiting to head Uptown, only to have someone accidentally shove her. She’d go tumbling off the platform, onto the train track, and get hit by the “L,” yelling for help as she watched it approach. She dreamed of Daniel riding on his way to work at the stockyards, and one of the train cars would derail and go careening to the busy street twenty feet below. She would wake up screaming, and Daniel would wrap her in his strong arms, pull her close, and let her tremble in his embrace.

After a while, she started to sleep with a pillow over her head to finally get some rest, hoping to drown out the sound of the train at night. Unfortunately, it also drowned out their baby’s cries. Daniel had to shake her awake and tug the pillow from her head a few times.

“She’s hungry, sugar,” he would say, bringing their baby girl to her.

She would turn onto her back, prop the pillow behind her, tiredly undo the ribbons of her night gown, and lower the infant to her tender breast, yawning and staring out the window at the passing of the “L” as she nursed.

Ultimately, Daniel would be proven right. It wasn’t the train she should’ve feared, but the street car. That’s what took her man away in the end. The sound of the trolley bell would be the harbinger of death for him, not the screech of train wheels.

She gives a bleak, dark chuckle at the irony as the “L” finally . . . mercifully passes overhead, leaving behind the distant sound of rattling metal and fluttering newspapers. She can hear her baby girl, Emma Jean, crying now and see her squirming in the basket at her side, making it hard not to drop the basket and the baby from her sore fingers. She holds fast though, and continues to walk in the cold and through the melting snow. Her leather shoes—one of her few remaining pairs—are covered in rubber booties, but the booties have holes in them. The shoes are now damp and she suspects her feet are starting to freeze. Her toes are stinging like they’re being poked by tiny needles. She wonders if she will develop gangrene, but she doesn’t stop to check her feet. She’s already walked this far. May as well keep going.

“Hey, lady! What you doin’ out here with that baby?” a voice slurs, startling her and making her pause for the first time.

Angelique turns to her right to find a figure lurking in a doorway. An old Negro man with weathered skin stumbles out of the shadows like someone has given him a hard shove. He clutches a half pint of Old Forrester in his dirty hand. He’s wearing several layers of clothing, all of which are either shredded, riddled with holes, or covered with stains. The rank smell of alcohol, body odor, and urine drifts from him like an atomic cloud. He narrows his bloodshot eyes at her.

She stares back at him, tugging the basket close to her side, but she doesn’t respond. She turns back around and starts walking again.

“Cain’t you hear that baby cryin’?” he shouts drunkenly after her and she starts to walk faster. “Shouldn’t be out here in the cold with no baby no way! Take it inside!”

When she nears the end of the block, she is almost at a run, jostling the infant in the basket and making her cry louder.

“Crazy cracker wench!” his voice howls against the growing wind.

Angelique is finally a block away. She stops at an empty wooden bench to regain her breath. She sets the wicker basket on the bench, sits beside it, and takes out Emma Jean. She holds her against her chest, cooing to her and rocking her softly. Emma Jean is no more than a little round face engulfed in blankets under the street light. Big brown, watery eyes gaze up at her. After a few minutes, the wails quail to whimpers and the whimpers die down to hiccups. Emma Jean’s eyes close. Long dark lashes like her daddy’s sweep her cheeks. Eventually, Emma Jean quiets, asleep again.

This is when Angelique begins to lose her nerve, feeling the familiar warmth of her baby girl against her body, seeing Emma Jean slumber so blissfully in her arms.

Her vision begins to blur as the tears well. She sniffs and a nose that was already chapped red from the chill and the wind, becomes even redder.

“I can’t do this. I can’t do this,” she whimpers, shakily rising to her feet, leaving the basket on the bench. She lurches back toward the corner with Emma Jean, and sees the outline of the drunken bum leaning against a brick wall, watching her from a distance like a specter in the dark.

Seeing him again, she suddenly remembers the empty shelves in the kitchenette cabinets back at her apartment and the icebox filled with one block of cheese and a bottle of milk that is about to go bad. She remembers the “Rent Due” notice tacked to her front door. And she remembers that she can’t return to her plush sales girl job thanks to Mr. Mullan. She probably will never be able to show her face, let alone work anywhere at the posh stores on State Street again. Odd jobs at night clubs and seedy bars won’t keep her and Emma Jean from starving. She could very well find herself on the street like that bum. She must move on and start all over again, but her baby girl will not be able to move on with her. Emma Jean does not fit into her life anymore. Not after the mess she’s made of it. That is why she is here to procure her daughter a new life—a better one.

She lowers the infant back into the basket, nestling her in the soft blankets, careful not to wake her again. She adjusts the envelope beside the baby, the one containing a note, a picture of Daniel, looking dapper in his Army uniform, and a lock of her own hair.

Angelique blinks through her tears and starts walking again, continuing to her destination.

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ABOUT SHELLY STRATTON

Shelly Stratton is the penname an award-nominated author who has published almost a dozen books under another pseudonym.

She is married and lives in Maryland with her husband and their daughter. Visit her at her web site http://www.shellystrattonbooks.com to learn more about her work.

CONNECT WITH SHELLY

AUTHOR SITE | FACEBOOKTWITTER | INSTAGRAMAMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

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#CoverReveal “First Second Coming” by Jeff Pollak

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Book One In The New God Series
Supernatural Suspense, Romantic Suspense
Date Published: August 1
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
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In 2027 the deity known as NTG – short for New Testament God – retires after more than two thousand years of minding the store for his employer, Milky Way Galaxy, Inc. The new god, a planetary turnaround specialist, must decide whether Earth’s dominant species should or should not be included in his plan to bring the planet back into full compliance with Milky Way Galaxy, Inc.’s planetary operation standards.
Earth’s new God introduces himself to humanity by unexpectedly appearing on the Ram Forrester Hour talk show. Ram, an atheist, and co-host Brendali Santamaria, a devout Catholic, are stunned. God’s interview, beamed worldwide, shocks and infuriates viewers. They learn that a sixty-day conference will take place in Los Angeles to determine whether humans are capable of helping him implement his planetary turnaround plan. All mankind must do to earn a coveted spot in this God’s good graces is eliminate religious violence forever, without his heavenly help. Failure means extinction.
God designates Ram and Bren as the conference’s only authorized media reporters. This assignment, fraught with peril, ignites their romance. Not only must the harried couple attend the conference meetings by day and do their show at night, they must also outwit a fanatical religious group bent on killing them. When rising conflicts within the conference intensify, it’s up to Ram and Bren to do whatever it takes to protect their budding romance and mankind’s very survival.

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About the Author

Jeff Pollak grew up in Riverdale – not the one in the Archie comics and movies, the one in the Bronx. After graduating college in Buffalo’s often frozen tundra, he moved to Los Angeles to thaw out and learn to play golf without losing the ball in snow drifts. While there, a law school accepted him into their night program. Now retired from life as a civil trial litigator, Jeff lives in the Crescenta Valley where the closest Jeff comes to winter is his sporadic attendance at hockey games.
FIRST SECOND COMING, Jeff’s debut novel, was inspired by 9/11. Like everyone else, Jeff was transfixed by the unfolding tragedy. Unlike everyone else, Jeff had clients in the World Trade Center, his law firm had given annual seminars at Windows of the World, at the top of the building, and he’d become familiar with some of the staff. While watching the WTC collapse, the thought “earth needs a new God who’s a planetary turnaround specialist,” came to mind. Over the ensuing decade, this odd idea germinated in the deeper recessions of Jeff’s overactive brain until this story hatched in 2015. Jeff’s been writing it ever since.
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#CoverReveal “The Middle-Aged Virgin in Italy” by Olivia Spring

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Can a holiday romance lead to long-term love?

When Sophia moves to Tuscany to join the hot Italian-stallion she’s fallen head over heels in love with, she dreams of an idyllic life filled with passion, pasta, sunshine and her favourite gelato.

But will the reality live up to the fairy-tale?

The Middle-Aged Virgin in Italy is a fun, sexy sequel about stepping out of your comfort zone and keeping the spark alive in a relationship. If you like Sophie Kinsella and Sophie Ranald, you’ll love the latest novel in Olivia Spring’s page-turning, romantic comedy series.

Pre-order today and get ready to join Sophia on her Italian adventures!

PreOrder Links

KINDLE UNLIMITED

Amazon UK

Amazon US

The Middle-Aged Virgin, the first book in the series is available to read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited  – https://amzn.to/2w2UbZu

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Author Bio

Olivia Spring is a British, London-based writer of contemporary women’s fiction, sexy chick lit and romantic comedy. Her uplifting debut novel The Middle-Aged Virgin deals with being newly single after a long-term relationship, dating, love, sex, friendship and living life to the full.

Olivia published three novels in 2019: Only When It’s Love, Losing My Inhibitions and Love Offline. The Middle-Aged Virgin in Italy, the hotly anticipated sequel to her debut novel will be released in July 2020.

When she’s not writing, Olivia can be found baking or making regular trips to Italy to indulge in pasta, pizza and gelato and of course, seeking inspiration for her next book!

Twitter     Facebook     Instagram     Website     Bookbub

#CoverReveal “Sandy (Vested Interest)” by Melanie Moreland

Title: Sandy

Series: Vested Interest
Author: Melanie Moreland
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: June 11, 2020
Cover Design: Melissa Ringuette of Monark Design Services


Behind every successful man there is a woman.

What happens when you’re the woman behind an entire team?

Sandy Preston has been den mother, friend, confidante, and the guiding force behind the men of BAM for years. 

Now they have new lives, and hers has drastically changed. 

Can she move on and find love a second time around?

Will the men she considers family accept the changes?


NOTE: Sandy will be available in 
Kindle Unlimited on June 14, 2020





BAM – The Beginning (Download Free)
Bentley
Aiden – Kindle Unlimited
Maddox – Kindle Unlimited
Reid – Kindle Unlimited
Van – Kindle Unlimited
Halton – Kindle Unlimited

NYT/WSJ/USAT international bestselling author Melanie Moreland, lives a happy and content life in a quiet area of Ontario with her beloved husband of twenty-seven-plus years and their rescue cat, Amber. Nothing means more to her than her friends and family, and she cherishes every moment spent with them. While seriously addicted to coffee, and highly challenged with all things computer-related and technical, she relishes baking, cooking, and trying new recipes for people to sample. She loves to throw dinner parties, and also enjoys traveling, here and abroad, but finds coming home is always the best part of any trip.  

Melanie loves stories, especially paired with a good wine, and enjoys skydiving (free falling over a fleck of dust) extreme snowboarding (falling down stairs) and piloting her own helicopter (tripping over her own feet.) She’s learned happily ever afters, even bumpy ones, are all in how you tell the story.
Melanie is represented by Flavia Viotti at Bookcase Literary Agency. For any questions regarding subsidiary or translation rights please contact her at  flavia@bookcaseagency.com

New York Times/Wall Street Journal/USA Today International Bestselling Author

Into The Storm – Moreland Books Inc
Beneath The Scars – Moreland Books Inc
Over The Fence – Moreland Books Inc
The Contract – Moreland Books Inc
The Baby Clause – Moreland Books Inc
The Amendment – Moreland Books Inc.
My Image of You – Loveswept/Random House
Vested Interest Series – Moreland Books Inc
It Started With A Kiss – Moreland Books Inc
An Instant Connection – Moreland Books Inc
Christmas Sugar – Moreland Books Inc
An Unexpected Gift – Moreland Books Inc. 
Changing Roles – Moreland Books Inc.
The Summer of Us – Moreland Books Inc.

Anthologies: 
Love Happens
What the Heart Wants: An Opposites Attract Anthology
The Sirens of SaSS
Paperback Writers
One Hot Summer
Australia
Take Me To Bed



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#CoverReveal “See All Evil (Academy for the Wicked #1)” by Majanka Verstraete

Title: See All Evil

Series: Academy for the Wicked #1

Author: Majanka Verstraete

Genre: New Adult Reverse Harem / Academy / Paranormal Romance

Release Date: June 2, 2020

On my eighteenth birthday, a zombie-like version of my mother told me I was invited to join the Academy for the Wicked.

Hours later, the diner I worked at was overrun by creatures that shouldn’t exist. Alec, a warlock, who appeared out of thin air and made a glass levitate – which is probably the least of his powers. A demon named Christian, the culprit who was behind my mother’s zombie-like episode this morning. Damian, the vampire, who promptly killed my manager, and Tristan, a necromancer who could summon the dead, and the most mysterious one of them all, a mesmer called Ronan.

All of them swore they would protect me from the nightmare that has haunted me for years: the red room, the throne of blood, the Queen of Maggots. I have had the same horrible nightmare for years, but now it seems the Queen of Maggots is no longer confined to the world of dreams…

With five gorgeous guys eager to protect me, I should feel safe, but the Academy is unlike anything I’ve ever had to endure. The students and teachers all keep secrets, and the Academy itself is a deadly trap.

To survive my first semester at the Academy of the Wicked, I will need to figure out who and what I truly am, and why the Queen of Maggots wants me dead…

Pre-order SEE ALL EVIL here!
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Author Bio

Majanka Verstraete studied law and criminology, and now works as Legal Counsel. Writing is her passion ever since she learned how to read.
She writes about all things supernatural, her books ranging from children’s picture books to young adult novels, all the way to new adult academy and reverse harem books.
Check out her website for more information about her current series and her upcoming projects: http://majankaverstraete.com

 

Giveaway

Win an eBook copy of SEE ALL EVIL upon its release!

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Free Prequel Novella

Download the Prequel Novella to Academy for the Wicked for FREE!

Two ways to get your free novella:

  • Join Majanka’s mailing list by going here to my blog, and signing up in the sidebar! All you need to add is your email address. As an added bonus, you’ll get monthly updates about my latest releases.
  • Go here and download immediately!

Happy reading!

#CoverReveal “Hart of Vengeance: A Second Chance Romance (The Hart Series)” by S.B. Alexander


Love is the deadliest enemy of all.
Convicted murderer Denim Hart swears he didn’t kill one of the most notorious gang leaders in Boston. When he’s released, his first order of business is to clear his name. But he has no clue where to begin. The only witness who could help him disappeared before his trial began. 
He might not need the witness when the FBI offers him a deal to expunge his record in exchange for his help. But Denim isn’t a snitch, and no way is he interested in helping The Feds take down his older brother. No matter how many times Denim tells them no, he’s caught in the middle with no way out. 
Yet, the FBI is the least of his worries. There’s a contract out on his head. Now, his plan to reconnect with the woman who tortured his dreams for the last eight years is thwarted. Under no circumstances can he let her back into his life. Not until it’s safe.
If Jade Kelly doesn’t find a job soon, her next home will be in some dark alley in Boston. It’s critical she doesn’t screw up her interview with one of the most prestigious law firms in the city. Getting the job might be easy, but keeping it quite another, especially when she learns her potential boss, Kelton Maxwell, is representing the one man she never expected to see again—the one man who walked away from her in high school. The same man who’s incarcerated for murder. 
As soon as Denim reappears in Jade’s life, she’s unsure if she should run for the hills or run straight into his arms. She could never resist his seductive charm, and she quickly learns it’s not his sexy ass she needs to run from, but the dangerous gang leader who wants her dead.
Hart of Vengeance is a standalone second chance romance. If you love nail-biting suspense, family drama, a bad-boy hero, a story with twists and turns, and set on the dark streets of Boston, then you’ll love Denim and Jade’s HEA story. 
This book is suited for mature audiences.

Bestselling author S.B. Alexander writes young adult and new adult romances that span the sub-categories of coming of age, sports, paranormal, suspense, and military fiction. Her writing is emotional, angsty, and character driven. She’s best known for The Maxwell and The Maxwell Family Saga series.
S.B. or Susan as she likes to be called is a navy veteran, former high school teacher, and former corporate sales executive. She’s a lover of sports, especially baseball, although nowadays you can find her glued to the TV during football season.
When she’s not writing, she’s a full-time caregiver to her soul mate of twenty-one years who got a bad deal in life when he was diagnosed with ALS. Her motto: “Life is too short to waste. So live every moment like it’s your last.”


#CoverReveal “E.V.I.E. Anthology”

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Anthology Title: E.V.I.E. 13 Slayers, 13 Missions

Release: October 6, 2020

Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy

Cover Art Donated by JMN Art with Covers by Julie

Cover Photography Donated by CJC Photography & Model Jackie Coleman

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BLURB

13 Slayers. 13 Missions. 13 Standalone Stories Set within a Universe of Violence.

Welcome to the world of E.V.I.E.
A place where vampires come to die.

These Slayers don’t play. They’re fierce, badass, and court the creatures of the night. Some protect our existing reality, while others venture to realms far away to hunt down bloodsucker bounties. Each plot and twist comes at a price.

There will be blood.
There will be death.
There will be forbidden affairs.

These stories have bite and feature passion and kickass heroines.

Enter if you dare.
And don’t forget your stake.

This is a limited edition charity anthology. All proceeds benefit Best Friends Animal Society, and each story includes a Happily Ever After/Happily For Now ending.

Introduction by Addison Cain

Stories by:
Amelia Hutchins
Anna Edwards
Ariel Marie
Claire Marta
Dee Garcia
Elle Christensen
K Webster
Kimbra Swain
Lexi C. Foss
Lily Archer
Mila Young
Rochelle Paige
Sandra R. Neeley

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PreOrder Links:

Universal Link: books2read.com/EVIE

iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/e-v-i-e/id1508203045?ls=1

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/e-v-i-e

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w?ean=2940162690146

Amazon: https://geni.us/9Pw6X0

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