Friday, April 27, 2018

The Duel for Consuelo by: Claudia H. Long

Title: The Duel for Consuelo  
Author: Claudia H. Long
Series: Tendrils of the Inquisition Book 2
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Historical Romance
Publisher: Five Directions Press
Release Date: Aug 9 2011
Editions/Formats: 1st Edition ~ Formats eBook & Print
A heart-stopping story of love and betrayal in the time of the Inquisition.
Consuelo, beautiful healer, is trapped by her family's history of conversion at the point of a sword. Born to a Crypto-Jewish mother, raised as a Christian, and bound to her family's traditions, Consuelo struggles with her loyalties and the pull of the Enlightenment. She sees the possibilities of love and fulfillment, but when her mother's secret is discovered she is forced to put her love and her very life at risk to save her mother.
This story brings the struggle to life and showcases the beauty, terror, courage and sacrifice that honor and family demand in the final decades of the ruthless scourge of the Inquisition.

She was sure she saw a light flicker before she actually heard the door open. She lifted her head, for a moment unsure of where she was. The aroma of the herbs and spices reminded her that she was in the Castillo pantry, an odd enough location to warrant disorientation, without taking into account her exhaustion after the stresses of the past two days. She waited silently, intending to let the approaching figure take whatever it was she was looking for. She assumed it was Cayetana, or even Doña Josefina, come looking for some staple from the pantry. Perhaps a green to make a tea from, to soothe a troubled tummy or a restless sleeper.

The figure turned to the side, going around the couch where Leila lay in deep, sound slumber, and Consuelo started with surprise. The figure was a male, and in an instant she had no doubt it was Juan Carlos. "What are you doing here?" she whispered.
"Shh." He put the candle down on the desk. Consuelo looked up from the pallet. It was on the floor of the pantry so she was at Juan Carlos' feet. She moved to sit, pulling the heavy blanket up with her. She was wearing only her chemise, and her long chestnut hair was braided loosely down her back. This was no way to receive a visitor.
Juan Carlos knelt on the edge of the pallet. "Shh," he repeated. "Don't make a sound. You will wake your mother."
"What do you want?" Consuelo said quietly.
"Consuelo," he said. She waited. "I've been gone so long. I didn't know what I would find on my return." He put his hand on her shoulder and she leaned her face into his arm. She felt her pulse race.
"There is time for this in daylight," she whispered.
"I leave at dawn." He stroked her hair. "Our futures. They are forever intertwined."
Consuelo held her breath, waiting for the words that would justify this visit. No further words came. "Is that what you want?" she asked.
His hand lingered on her shoulder, then slid down to her breast. Her breath caught in and her whole body tensed. "I think you know." He slipped his hand under her chemise.
"Are you out of your mind?" she hissed.
He put his fingers to her lips. "Your mother's hard won rest should not be disturbed. There are few guests left so she would be the only one on this side of the house who would hear us. We could go to my room but I am still sharing it with Leandro and I have no intention of sharing you as well."
"We are not going anywhere. You must have lost your mind." And yet she could not pull away from him. She felt her heart in her ears, her throat close. His hand trailed over her breast and she felt the tip quiver under his fingers, and the icicle of sensation travel down her body.
"You want me. I want you."
"This is madness. We can't."
"Don't be afraid," he whispered.
How can I not be afraid? My life, my world hangs in the balance. He bent down and kissed her on the lips.

Claudia Long is the author of Josefina's Sin, The Duel for Consuelo, The Harlot's Pen, and Chains of Silver. Three of these take place in Colonial Mexico during the Inquisition. She lives in Northern California where currently practices law as a mediator for employment and housing discrimination cases as well as complex business disputes. She is married and has two grown children and one magnificent grandchild.

Twitter  @CLongnovels

Monday, April 23, 2018

Josefina's Sin by: Claudia H. Long w/Creative Post

Title: Josefina’s Sin
Author: Claudia H. Long
Series: Tendrils of the Inquisition Book 1
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Historical Romance
Publisher: Five Directions Press
Release Date: Aug 9 2011
Editions/Formats: 1st Edition ~ Formats eBook & Print
A thrilling and passionate debut about a sheltered landowner’s wife whose life is turned upside down when she visits the royal court in seventeenth-century Mexico.
When Josefina accepts an invitation from the Marquessa to come stay and socialize with the intellectual and cultural elite in her royal court, she is overwhelmed by the Court’s complicated world. She finds herself having to fight off aggressive advances from the Marquessa’s husband, but is ultimately unable to stay true to her marriage vows when she becomes involved in a secret affair with the local bishop that leaves her pregnant.
Amidst this drama, Josefina finds herself unexpectedly drawn to the intellectual nuns who study and write poetry at the risk of persecution by the Spanish Inquisition that is overtaking Mexico. One nun in particular, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, teaches Josefina about poetry, writing, critical thinking, the nature and consequences of love, and the threats of the Holy Office. She is Josefina’s mentor and lynchpin for her tumultuous passage from grounded wife and mother to woman of this treacherous, confusing, and ultimately physically and intellectually fulfilling world.

At the far end of the room, a door I had not previously noticed opened, and all fell silent.  Before us stood a tall woman, almost as tall as Manuel, with luminous black hair piled high into a complicated twist and held with glittering barrettes of amethyst and silver.  Her huge eyes were the same eerie jet, under perfectly arched coal-colored brows.  Her skin was pale, almost ghostly, and she was so thin that her skin stretched taut over her aristocratically bony nose. She had a tiny, rosebud mouth that nearly vanished under the sway of her eyes.
The women curtsied; the nuns inclined their heads.  I knew what to do, Angelica having tutored me in that courtesy, at least, and I dropped into a deep curtsey before the Marquessa.  “Who is this?” she said, her voice high and thin.  I looked up, knowing that she meant me.  Angelica led me forward.
“Marquessa, this is Doña Josefina Maria del Carmen Asturias de Castillo, wife of Manuel Castillo.  She has come to pay her respects.”
“I kiss Your Mercy’s hands,” I said.
She laughed, a reedy, almost wheezing sound.  “Your Mercy?  That’s for priests, silly woman. 
Call me Your Highness, like everyone else!”  

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Redeeming the Stepbrother by: Andrew Grey w/Creative Post & Giveaway

Title: Redeeming the Stepbrother
Author: Andrew Grey
Series: A Tale from St. Giles Book 2
Genre:  M/M Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: April 10 2018
Edition/Formats Available In: eBook & Print
Family can be a blessing and a curse, but for artist Florian, it’s a nightmare he longs to escape.
As chief designer for Bartholomew Artist Porcelain, Florian specializes in painting birds. He also watches them in the wild to distract himself from his short-tempered mother, at least temporarily. Florian’s heart is too soft to leave his stepsister, Ella, to suffer alone. Still, he can’t help dreaming about one day finding happiness and love.
When Count Dieter von Hollenbach arrives in town to visit a friend and present an award, he isn’t looking for romance. Then again, he doesn’t expect someone as perfect as Florian to come into his life. To make sure Florian is all he seems and that their connection is genuine, Dieter keeps his title to himself.
But he isn’t the only one with a secret.

At a masquerade ball to celebrate the award, some of the masks fall away, but those that remain in place could destroy the love beginning to grow between them.

This area was marshy during part of the year and I had to be careful where I walked so I didn’t sink into the muck, but it was perfect for birds of all kinds.
I wasn’t disappointed. I emerged from the tall reeds to spot a great blue heron about twenty feet away. It was beautiful, and I didn’t want to scare it, but I also wanted a picture. I had ideas for a series of works featuring the impressive bird—tall, statuesque, shining in the sunlight.
I slowly moved back into the reeds, lifted my camera to position it between the long grass stems, and began snapping pictures. It was stunning, and I’d gotten enough to be able to represent the detail I wanted when a splash startled the bird and it flew away, darting over the water.
“Scheisse,” a deep voice swore. I knew the word from my high school class as a version of “shit,” but wondered why I was hearing German. Another splash came, louder than the first, so I slowly worked my way forward to see what the trouble was.
“You scared the bird,” I scolded and then saw a man, taller than me. He had to be well over six feet and was dressed like someone out of a forties period movie, with a wool hat, a coat complete with elbow patches, and puffy pants. His boots and legs stuck in the mud almost to his knees. An old pair of binoculars hung around his neck. I bit my lower lip to keep from laughing.
“Will you help me?” he asked, and I slowly made my way closer.
“Got yourself in a mess, didn’t you?” I was careful not to get caught in the same bog. “You have to feel before you step.” I managed to get close enough to take his hand. “Pull up one foot and try not to lose your boot.”
“I am.” He lifted his foot, the sucking sound loud in the stillness. He got the foot loose and stepped toward me.
“Hold on.” I bent down a bunch of the reeds. “Step on those.”
He did and got his other foot loose, though this time the mud nearly got his boot. It hung on his foot as he swung around, and he tugged it back on and stepped onto the grass.
“Come this way.” I led him through the reeds, back toward dry ground and the cars.
“I think you come here often,” he said, swatting cakes of mud off the knees of his pants.
I wondered if that was some German version of the old pickup line for a second, but tossed the thought away.
“Yes. I’m familiar with the area. I watch the birds so I can paint them.” I took a step onto solid ground, mud all the way up my boots but sparing my pants. Good. There would be hell to pay if my pants were caked with mud. “I’m Florian.” I held out my hand.
“Dieter,” he said as he shook my hand.
I stomped my feet to get some of the mud off my boots. They would dry soon enough and the mud would flake off pretty easily. “On vacation I take it? Judging by the accent and all.”
“In a way.” Dieter pulled off his hat, exposing light blond hair down to his shoulders that would make a model green with envy. “I’m here on business and decided to take some time to see the sights.” He held up his binoculars. “I study birds back in Bavaria and wanted to get a look at some of yours here. I didn’t realize there would be hazards.” He smiled a little, and I relaxed. At least Dieter had a decent sense of humor to go along with an amazing smile and eyes the color of the sky. My cheeks heated as thoughts of what I’d like to do with his full pink lips went through my head.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Chains of Silver by: Claudia H. Long w/ Interview & Giveaway

Title: Chains of Silver
Author: Claudia H. Long
Series: Tendrils of the Inquisition Book 3
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Historical Romance
Publisher: Five Directions Press
Release Date: Mar 15 2018
Editions/Formats: 1st Edition ~ Formats eBook & Print
Crypto-Jews, secret Jews of Spain and Mexico, are still very much in danger in 1721. Fourteen-year-old Marcela Leon's parents are dragged away to face the last auto-da-fé of the Inquisition in colonial Mexico. Although her parents survive, Marcela’s life is forever changed. Sent to the Castillo hacienda for her protection, Marcela has difficulty grasping that safety requires silence about her beliefs. Her forthright speech and budding sexuality lead her into situations beyond her comprehension, ending with her exile to the northern silver-mining town of Zacatecas, where she becomes housekeeper to a Catholic priest.
Marcela grows up to be one of the richest, most powerful women in Zacatecas, adjusting to her separation from her mother and the loss of her religion. But she can neither understand nor forgive her mother’s obstinacy and abandonment. Her husband's death unleashes a new cascade of disasters, and Marcela at last recognizes and appreciates the source of her mother's power, and her own.

“Marcela, I told you there would be no Judaizing in this house. Yes,” he said, gesturing to Consuelo, “she can teach her children whatever she wishes, but I told you, I am the master of this house, and I will not have my children indoctrinated with your heresy. Consuelo has respected my order, but you have not.”

“That is not true!” I exclaimed. “I did nothing of the sort! Who said this? Was it that whore, Martha?”
“Watch your mouth,” Juan Carlos said.
“Joaquin?” Consuelo said.
“No, Marcela. Not Martha. Badilón. My son. And he would not lie.”
“Consuelo just said I wouldn’t either. And I didn’t. I don’t. I didn’t. What did he say?” I could hear my voice out of control, and those tears I had stopped earlier now flowed freely. “I never…”
Joaquin narrowed his eyes. “Are you calling my son a liar?”
“Wait,” Consuelo said, holding up a hand. “What did he say, Joaquin?”
“She told them some heretical story about a queen named Jezebel. A Jewish queen. The queen of the Jews.”
They stared at me. “Doña Consuelo,” I appealed. “You know that story, don’t you? It’s in the Bible. It isn’t heresy.”
“Which gospel?” Joaquin asked.
I swallowed. “Not in the gospels. In the Bible. Kings.”
“The Bible of Moses? The Hebrew Bible?”
“It’s the first part of the Bible! The part with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve aren’t heresy, are they?”
“Don’t get smart with me!” Joaquin was red under his brown skin, and a vein pumped in his temple.
“Marcela,” Consuelo said, “it’s a story from the Bible. But you must only tell stories that are in the Christian part of the Bible. Don’t you understand that?”
I shook my head. “It’s one of the only books we had. I read every word of it. I didn’t know some stories couldn’t be told.” I wiped the tears that wouldn’t stop.
“Don’t cry,” Joaquin said. “You disgust me. As you yourself said, you’re not a child anymore.”
Joaquin’s words stung. The words had been said under much different circumstances. And they didn’t escape Consuelo. “What’s this?”
Juan Carlos rose. “As of this morning, Joaquin wanted to marry Marcela.”
I spent the night awake in my room. For the next three days I did the chores I normally did, took the little ones, changed the diapering cloths, and helped Columbina, Ernesto, and Josefina-Merced with their letters. I ate with the family and was treated, if anyone deigned to notice me at all, like a ghost. I did not reenter Josefina’s office.
On Sunday the entire family went to Mass. Joaquin said nothing to me, looked through me. I was not given charge of any of the children, and no one spoke to me except as absolutely necessary. When the midday meal was served, Joaquin cleared his throat.
“Marcela, you will be leaving us. I have written to your mother, and she has agreed. You will be traveling to Zacatecas, in the north, where you will keep house for my brother Neto. He is a priest in that city and in need of a housekeeper. You leave tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? I will be going home tomorrow?”
“No, you will not be going home at all. Your mother has agreed. It is too dangerous for you in Hermosillo still, and she hasn’t the means to protect you.”
“Or feed you,” Juan Carlos added.
Joaquin shook his head. “I will see to it that your family doesn’t starve. But you will be leaving, and taking your troublemaking ways with you. Your mother was not pleased by our report, you must know.”
I was so taken aback that I was silent.
“She should not have been surprised,” Juan Carlos said. “She herself has beguiled the entire city of Hermosillo, glowing as she does. It seems the apple did not fall far from that tree.”
“Nothing to say? No gratitude?” Joaquin said.
Finally I found my tongue. “Your report?”
“She brought you up to be a decent girl. She has no idea where you got the wiles to attempt a seduction. She is ashamed of you.”
“A seduction? It was you! You who kissed me!”
Consuelo laughed shortly. “You have a lot to learn, young lady. If your mother didn’t teach you, this will. A girl’s virtue is her only worth in a man’s eyes.”
“An unfair comment,” Juan Carlos said.
“Hardly. And your virtue is yours to defend, Marcela. By God’s grace, Joaquin saw through your wiles.”
I could not speak. My defense of my blamelessness would fall on deaf ears, not the least of which were my own. I had enjoyed the kisses, I had wanted more of them, and not only to benefit my family. I stared down at my hands, my face suffused with shame.
Consuelo said my name softly. “A stint in the mountains, away from bad family influences, will do you a world of good. You are a smart girl, as smart as a boy, and as unscrupulous. But your heart is good, and you will grow into a better woman away from here.” I could not meet her eyes. “In any event,” she went on, “it is decided. So go pack your trunk, and say your prayers. Zacatecas is a mining town, its citizens are rough-hewn, but the air is reported to be good and the future is yours to make of it what you will.”
A mining town in the mountains, far from my mother. I could not imagine a worse sentence for my crimes. I didn’t know which of my two sins was the greater: drawing the eye of a powerful man or telling the story of a queen.