Feed Your Reader: Our Most Anticipated Title of the Year

32275

A small town, a new arrival, and a love that is as undeniable as it is unlawful…

Victoria, Australia, 1891

Anglican priest Matthew Ottenshaw receives his first posting in tiny Dinbratten, two days’ ride from his Melbourne home. Determined to honour his calling as best he can, he throws himself into the footy mad, two-pub town, navigating the dusty streets, learning the gossip, and striking up a friendship with Jonah Parks, the resident police sergeant and local bona fide hero.

A police officer and a priest often find themselves needed at the same place, and Jonah and Matthew’s friendship deepens quickly, as they set about their business of protecting the bodies and souls of Dinbratten’s residents. When a bushfire threatens the town, and Matthew’s inexperience with fire endangers the church buildings, Jonah comes to the rescue, and a reckless kiss in the midst of the chaos takes their friendship to forbidden.

Neither Matthew nor Jonah can go back to the way things were before, but continuing their relationship puts everything at risk: their jobs, their friends, even their lives. In the outback town of Dinbratten where everyone knows everything about everyone else, how can they ever expect to keep a secret this explosive?

“Told with an old-fashioned, authentically Australian wink and a smile…By the Currawong’s Call is also a tale with a very timely message: people in love will marry whether it’s legal or not.” – Australian author Kim Kelly

‘What a lovely book! By the Currawong’s Call is warm and sweet and sympathetic and respectful, with skilled and lovingly descriptive prose. A really satisfying read for a rainy day when you want to feel like there is love and hope even through trying times.’ —Plain Brown, NetGalley

‘a great love story in a historical setting ‘ —Sophie Wittlinger , NetGalley

‘I loved this book. Amazingly moving, so very realistic.’ —Jeannie Zelos, NetGalley

‘This was beautifully written and full of love and hope.’ —Ashley Broome, NetGalley

‘The book is beautifully written and Matthew and Jonah’s developing love has been depicted in a warm and very compelling way’ —Louise Faldon, NetGalley

‘The author gives rich descriptions of the environment and the time period.’ —Melissa Reuter, NetGalley

‘If you like Aussies and a forbidden love trope, this book is for you.’ —Book Reviews, NetGalley

‘I thought the story was really beautifully written. It is very evocative in the way that it transports the reader to life in the outback town.’ —Ije Books, NetGalley

By the Currawong’s Call is available now! 

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Feed Your Reader: Fractured…

32434 (1)

They thought they’d found a refuge, but the battle for survival has only just begun…

Surrounded by the destruction of the human race, Euan, Nick, and Kira find solace in one another, making their underground bunker a haven and a home. Sheltered under layers of steel and cement, they should be safe, but danger isn’t always kept outside — sometimes the enemy is within.

When their electronic warning system detects intruders, Euan and Nick must investigate. Outside, they discover the true terror that is approaching, and Euan must make a terrible decision: stay or go. To stay is to watch the only people he loves perish under the weight of pure evil. To leave is to face his certain death to protect them and potentially save humankind.

Despite all his preparation, skills, and strength, Euan knows that each decision carries the risk that he could destroy them all.

The second book in the Refuge Trilogy.

Fractured Refuge, Book Two, The Refuge Trilogy is available now!
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Friday Five: Welton B Marsland

2836First Published with Escape: November 2017
Favourite Romance Trope: friends-to-lovers
Ideal Hero: smart, quick-witted, brave
Ideal Heroine: smart, quick-witted, brave
Latest Book: By the Currawong’s Call

1. What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

I set out just to tell the sort of stories I’d like to read, but it happens that I’ve always been fascinated with human relationships and how different people interact with and respond to one another, so those tend to be a focus in my stories. I spent important formative time (from a writing point of view) in slash fandoms and learned a lot – about writing, but also about drilling down into what my areas of focus are and what things push my buttons.

2. What do you do when you’re stuck with a scene?

Generally, I’ll take a break from it and write a different one for a while. Also, I can’t underestimate how effective it can be, just sitting or lying somewhere quiet and “daydreaming” the scene to try and get into the guts of it.

3. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had to research for a book?

On “Currawong” I lost an afternoon to the surprisingly interesting history of petroleum jelly.

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But the strangest research jaunt ever was for a short, niche fandom fic I wrote called “The Novikov Self-Consistency Principle“. Just for the first ten pages alone I had to research electromagnetism, heavy hardcover books on electromagnetism, strong German liquor, ethnic histories of two different surnames, alcohol laws in Massachusetts and Illinois, the Episcopalians, the chemical makeup of Ecstasy, entactogens and neurotransmitters, the Balkan states, time travel, time dilation, Stephen Hawking, Einstein’s theory of relativity, the Heckler & Koch MP5 rifle, and the statistical occurrence of supernumerary nipples (oh and the Novikov Self-Consistency Principle itself, naturally).

4. Out of all your protagonists, who do you relate to the most?

I relate pretty strongly to my two main characters in Currawong, Matthew and Jonah, even though their personalities are quite different. Weirdly, while writing, even though the whole book is from Matthew’s point of view and it was important I stuck with that, whenever I tried “daydreaming” scenes, I’d always find myself slipping into Jonah’s point of view. My brain, apparently, just found his voice easier to slide into, even while my intellect was trying to tell it “No, no, the other guy!”.

5. Snacks while writing, yes or no? What kind of snacks?

When I’m writing at home (where most of my work is done), no. Lots of tea though. And I mean LOTS OF TEA.

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I do also enjoy writing in pubs and salty snacks might well make an appearance on those occasions.


32275

A small town, a new arrival, and a love that is as undeniable as it is unlawful…

Victoria, Australia, 1891

Anglican priest Matthew Ottenshaw receives his first posting in tiny Dinbratten, two days’ ride from his Melbourne home. Determined to honour his calling as best he can, he throws himself into the footy mad, two-pub town, navigating the dusty streets, learning the gossip, and striking up a friendship with Jonah Parks, the resident police sergeant and local bona fide hero.

A police officer and a priest often find themselves needed at the same place, and Jonah and Matthew’s friendship deepens quickly, as they set about their business of protecting the bodies and souls of Dinbratten’s residents. When a bushfire threatens the town, and Matthew’s inexperience with fire endangers the church buildings, Jonah comes to the rescue, and a reckless kiss in the midst of the chaos takes their friendship to forbidden.

Neither Matthew nor Jonah can go back to the way things were before, but continuing their relationship puts everything at risk: their jobs, their friends, even their lives. In the outback town of Dinbratten where everyone knows everything about everyone else, how can they ever expect to keep a secret this explosive?

“Such a beautifully written, powerful love story” – Cupcakes and Bookshelves

By the Currawong’s Call is available for pre-order now and releases 20 November.

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Exclusive Excerpt: Fractured Refuge

32434 (1)

They thought they’d found a refuge, but the battle for survival has only just begun…

You don’t need to think,’ a female voice whispered.

Euan pulled from Nick’s embrace and looked up.

His attention latched onto an apparition who stood in the doorframe. A female prodigy of indefinable value. A look of disquiet and concern was etched in her features. Kira’s eyes were serious, a reflection of the moment and the feelings that swirled around the room.

She seemed to float towards him. A fantasy in truth. An illusion made real. In her eyes he saw the beginning and end of all things. In her eyes he saw their future. Not his future, because that was over, but the future of the human race. This tenacious, driven, little platinum-blonde spitfire was going to drag humanity back into civility. Kicking and screaming.

Euan’s only job now was clear the path for her.

She stood alongside Nick. Her concentration didn’t waver. She studied him. She comprehended the character of the small, indistinguishable creatures he thought he’d hidden deep within his soul.

Euan had stood before men with weapons of steel and wood that were held comfortably in their fists. He’d taken the lives of men to save them from destruction. He’d stood on the cliff of humanity’s destruction and watched as it imploded. And yet, when he met the crystal-blue eyes of the tiny woman before him, he was naked, childlike, vulnerable.

Trust us,’ Nick beseeched.

Euan’s gaze flicked between Kira and Nick. He swallowed. Trust them? Could he? His stomach tightened.

Kira’s hands were now on his head. But this time, there was a sensual element. They explored his broad shoulders, his neck. They gently pried under his fingers so she could hold his hands in hers.

Then she knelt so they were eye to eye.

He was going to implode. He was. He knew it. As much as he knew that his heart was filled with the love for both of them, in this moment, his body and mind couldn’t manage the dichotomy of the love for them, and the hate for himself.

Her gaze was all encompassing. ‘We’re going to love you.’

No.’ His voice broke on the single word.

Her voice consumed his world. ‘You’re going to let us.’

You can’t—’

Delicate fingers were placed over his lips. ‘I can. We can. We do.’

No,’ Euan mumbled as his heart shattered.

She whispered, ‘Yes.’

Fractured Refuge, Book Two, The Refuge Trilogy is available for pre-order now:
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Friday Five: Annabelle McInnes

Annabelle McInnes - alternative profile pictureAuthor: Annabelle McInnes
First published with Escape: September 2017
Favourite romance trope: Tortured Hero
Ideal hero (in three words): Alpha, supportive, gentle
Ideal heroine (in three words): Compassionate, brave, curious
Latest book: True Refuge

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?
There is so much beauty when people fall in love. I take great enjoyment from writing these stories, allowing my characters to find their own path and articulating their happy ending. I plot the big elements to my books, but never the small ones. I try not to even think about my characters until I sit down and write. For me, this allows me to get excited about the journey they take me on. I have always read ferociously and across many genres, but romance speaks to me like no other books do. The birth of my son was the catalyst for me to take a risk and start a new manuscript that was focused on the relationships between my characters. That was the first draft of True Refuge. I write romance because I enjoy exploring the precious moments between lovers, where I can tell tales of tenderness and devotion and create happy endings that can be unashamedly enjoyed.

What was the best writing advice you ever received?

I attended Fiona McIntosh’s Commercial Fiction Masterclass in April this year. There were so many small nuggets of information that I found profound, but the most useful was the word count algorithm. Simply put, it’s a mathematical equation to work out how many words you need to write per day to finish your novel. For example, if you are required to write an 80k manuscript and have one year to finish, but can only write three days per week due to family and work commitments, you simply put in the numbers. So, it would look like this:

52 weeks of the year x 3 days = 156

80000 words \ 156 days of the year to write = 512

There you have it, in one year, you will have written 80k and you only had to write 512 words three days per week. Easy right? Of course, this doesn’t take into account a number of factors, including holidays for example. But if you take in it principle and apply it to your requirements, and stick to it, I promise its works! It prevents burn outs, stop and start writing, and helps with writer’s block. This algorithm has been essential to the success of completing my books.

What was your hardest scene to write? Which kind of scenes do you find difficult to write? Which scenes do you enjoy writing the most?
In romance, one of the most important element is the development of the relationship between the characters. For me, the hardest parts to write are the scenes where this plays out physically. Writing these scenes requires focus on many elements. The details of the physical placement of the bodies, the emotion, the tone and the style of writing all play an important part of these scenes. The Refuge Trilogy is a ménage relationship and often has three people intertwined in the act. The scenes must ensure that each character develops emotionally, that their individual’s quirks, mannerisms and physical limitations are detailed appropriately, and finally, that the relationship between the three of them progresses. It is a mammoth task. These scenes are always integral to my story, so the pressure to ensure that they are accurate makes them even harder to write. They are also some of my longest chapters.

But they are my favourite because of many of the same reasons. I relish writing the love that develops between my characters, the importance they place on each other, and highlighting the devotion and dedication that they share for one another. These scenes are often the most beautiful, and I really enjoy letting go with extravagant words for the right moments.

Where is your favourite place to write?
My favourite place to write is at my desk in my study. When I write in the mornings before the family wakes, I am able watch the sun come up and the flowers open to greet the day. Sometimes, the rabbits will hop past as they get their breakfast. It’s quiet, I’m usually not too tired, and the words flow more freely. It’s a beautiful time of day. 

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What’s the thing about writing that surprised you the most?
I have found the most surprising element to be that I can no longer read for pleasure as much as I used to. The books I read now no longer have swooning couples on the cover, but facts and figures. I spend my nights learning about marketing, branding, web design, the art of writing and advertising. I am inspired by other authors so I still read romance, but I find I can get caught up on their style, prose and plot and it is harder to lose myself in the narrative. My buying habits have changed as well. I am more inclined to take a chance on a new author, buy a book which supports diversity, or is in a sub-genre that I normally wouldn’t read. I also am more inclined to contact an author and let them know how much I enjoyed their book.


32434 (1)They thought they’d found a refuge, but the battle for survival has only just begun…

Surrounded by the destruction of the human race, Euan, Nick, and Kira find solace in one another, making their underground bunker a haven and a home. Sheltered under layers of steel and cement, they should be safe, but danger isn’t always kept outside — sometimes the enemy is within.

When their electronic warning system detects intruders, Euan and Nick must investigate. Outside, they discover the true terror that is approaching, and Euan must make a terrible decision: stay or go. To stay is to watch the only people he loves perish under the weight of pure evil. To leave is to face his certain death to protect them and potentially save humankind.

Despite all his preparation, skills, and strength, Euan knows that each decision carries the risk that he could destroy them all.

True Refuge, Book One, The Refuge Trilogy is available now:
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Fractured Refuge, Book Two, The Refuge Trilogy is available for pre-order now:
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Exclusive Excerpt 2: By the Currawong’s Call

32275

A small town, a new arrival, and a love that is as undeniable as it is unlawful…

‘You kissed her.’ Matthew was surprised to let the words out. They’d been searing little troughs of ugliness into his mind for at least the past hour, as time ticked longer into the evening, but he hadn’t planned on giving actual voice to them.

Jonah looked up at him as he removed his shirt and flung it on top of his jacket. ‘Well, technically,’ he said, ‘she kissed me.’ For a moment, it looked like he was about to grin, but the expression died before any of his features could commit to it.

Matthew swallowed and tried to keep his breathing calm. His memory flashed back to the kerfuffle in the main road that afternoon, how firmly Jonah took control of the situation, soothing the giant horse and catching Miss McMillan in his arms as she swooned. How obviously and understandably impressed she must have been with the gallant policeman who’d come to her aid. Of course she kissed him.

Jonah swore softly at his boots as he fumbled with them. He unbuckled his holster and laid the gun and baton on the table. Onto his trousers next, he swiftly unbuttoned them and slid them down his legs and off, letting them fall over the back of the chair with the rest of his uniform. He steadied himself against the table and lifted first one foot and then the other, removing his thick woollen socks and haphazardly stuffing them into the tops of his empty boots.

‘You were her dashing hero today,’ Matthew said softly, his words coming out on a shallow sigh. ‘Just like you were my dashing hero during the fire.’ He looked at Jonah standing before him in nothing but his union suit. ‘I of course understand her compulsion in wanting to kiss you for it.’ He tried to say it as dispassionately as he could muster.

Jonah squared his shoulders, standing his ground there beside the table as he took in Matthew’s words. ‘I hope you remember,’ he said, ‘when you kissed me in yer sacristy that day, how when you went to pull away, I grabbed at ya and dragged ya back in for more?’ Matthew stayed silent, so Jonah went on. ‘Just want you to know, alright? When she pulled away? I let her.’ And with that, Jonah turned his back and walked over to the washstand.

Beneath his crossed arms, Matthew’s heart banged a tremulous staccato, letting Jonah’s quietly defiant statement sink in. He watched, in the dim light, as Jonah bent at his washstand, brushing his teeth. Such a mundane act, yet it was an action Matthew had never before seen him perform. The casual intimacy of the moment, of the fact Matthew was sitting here in Jonah’s cottage, on Jonah’s bed, the knowledge that the two of them were actually about to sleep in the same room together for the entire night, even wake up in one another’s company – it all suddenly felt momentous.

‘I thought you might’ve slept with her,’ he said toward the fire.

‘I might’ve done,’ came the gruff response. ‘Hell, six months ago, I would’ve done. But with the way things are now…’

Marsland’s pen is playful but there are some serious questions asked. What is a hero? What does courage really look like? What are the shapes of true love? It’s refreshing, too, to read an erotically charged romance that’s not all about the sex.”
– Kim Kelly, Historical Fiction Author

 

By the Currawong’s Call is available for pre-order now and releases 20 November.

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Exclusive Excerpt: By the Currawong’s Call

32275

A small town, a new arrival, and a love that is as undeniable as it is unlawful…

‘Who would you say my friends are in Dinbratten?’

Matthew was momentarily stumped by the apparent change of subject and it took him a second or two to dredge up a name. ‘Um. George, I suppose? Or Albie at the pub?’

‘I’m a trooper,’ Parks said, as though that fact had been somehow forgotten. ‘My presence tends to make people uncomfortable. Like they’re immediately looking for what the trouble or the danger is as soon as I walk in a room. I think I make them feel a bit guilty, even if they’ve never done a bad thing in their whole life. And I can’t help thinking,’ his voice dropped slightly, ‘that men in your line of work must have it something similar.’

For a moment, Matthew couldn’t think what to say in response. He’d never before encountered such an attempt at solidarity. ‘I think I understand you, Sergeant,’ he said evenly. He glanced down at the bottle in his hand and smiled. ‘Though I must say, I’ve never had anyone offer me a gift of, well, sex before.’

‘Eh.’ Parks took the bottle back. ‘People see the cassock and the collar and they forget there’s a man underneath ’em, I s’pose.’

‘But not you?’

At the question, Parks paused with the bottle partway to his mouth and gave Matthew a penetrating look. ‘I see ya.’

On the receiving end of that look, Matthew felt a little hot under the aforementioned collar and realised belatedly that he had managed to get slightly tipsy. He cleared his throat. ‘It’s Sunday tomorrow…’

‘Don’t be offended if half the town are too hungover to turn up.’

Matthew smiled at that. His face was still feeling warm. ‘I think I’ll be bidding you goodnight now, Sergeant.’

Parks crossed his arms over his chest, liquor bottle nestled in the crook of his left elbow. ‘You called me Jonah earlier.’

Had he? Yes, Matthew remembered, he had. ‘You still call me Father,’ he pointed out.

‘So I do.’ One side of Parks’ mouth pulled up in his quirky grin. When it didn’t seem likely that he was going to say anything else, Matthew took a shuffling step back toward the door.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘goodnight, then.’

‘Goodnight,’ Parks returned. ‘Matthew.’

Matthew fumbled the doorknob and took his leave.

By the Currawong’s Call is available for pre-order now and releases 20 November.

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Bi-Visibility: Highlighting Some Favourite Bi-Characters

by Welton B Marsland

(Editor’s Note: September 23, Bi-visibility Day, has been marked each year since 1999 to highlight biphobia and to help people find the bisexual community)

Writing my novel, By the Currawong’s Call, it was important to me that I show the character of Jonah Parks as quite obviously bisexual. Even after falling in love with a man, he continues to admire women and female sexuality – I was determined to avoid the bi-erasure that’s all too prevalent in popular culture. Often, the fluidity of human sexuality is ignored in favour of absolutes (television, in particular, seems most fearful of the simple little word “bi” and rarely brings itself to acknowledge it).

As September is Bi Visibility Month (with September 23rd Bi Visibility Day), I’d like to celebrate four unabashed bisexual characters from screens large and small.

Alec Scudder

Appears in: Merchant-Ivory’s adaptation of E.M. Forster’s classic novel Maurice

maurice_web

Played by: Rupert Graves

In both book and movie, Alec Scudder, a working class gamekeeper, is there long before we or Maurice notice him. He emerges from the narrative slowly and naturally, making us blink and wonder how we could possibly have missed him – Maurice must have felt the same way. Scudder is truly one of my favourite characters in all of literature, so brave and determined and self-accepting. The sacrifice he makes for love, for the possibility of “a happier year” is awe inspiring. D.H. Lawrence may have created a more famous gamekeeper over a decade later, but Forster’s is the one that makes my breath catch.

“First time I see’d you, I thought, I wish I had that one. And it is so.”


Saxa

Appears in: Spartacus TV series

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Played by: Ellen Hollman

Many TV shows over the years have used a bisexual female character to quickly and cleanly tick a diversity box. They just seem so much more palatable and non-threatening, don’t they? Wonderfully, there is nothing in the least bit “non-threatening” about Saxa, a slave from Germania freed by Spartacus’ growing army to become one of its most formidable warriors. Saxa approaches her love life with the same fearlessness she approaches a battlefield, and yet still retains her capacity for tender moments. She lives large, like most of the Germanic characters in Spartacus, never shrinking from anything.

“I rival any fucking man.”


the Earl of Rochester

Appears in: the movie Plunkett & Macleane

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Played by: Alan Cumming

The real Earl of Rochester wrote bawdy verse and outraged Georgian society with his hedonistic lifestyle. This Rochester doesn’t pen any poetry, but quips and puns his way through this rollicking romp, holding his own amongst highwaymen and villains, and wishing he was holding someone else’s. With an eloquent smirk and an eye as sharp as his dress sense, this Rochester believes in justice and friendship and is prepared to draw his sword on a bad guy in order to save the day.

“I swing EVERY way.”


Crowley

Appears in: long-running TV series Supernatural

MarkSheppard

Played by: Mark A. Sheppard

King of the crossroads, the Demon King of Hell, Crowley is a slippery character. What his true sexuality is might be anyone’s guess (do demons truly even have one?), but he’s certainly an equal-opportunity flirt and takes great delight in procuring those seal-the-deal kisses from desperate souls. One of the few Supernatural characters who seems to see everything that’s going on, even the unspoken and unacknowledged, and isn’t afraid to make a pointed remark about it. Friend? Foe? Fuckbuddy? Only Crowley himself could ever know for sure.

“Your choice. You can cling to six decades of deep-seated homophobia or, just give it up.”


32275A small town, a new arrival, and a love that is as undeniable as it is unlawful…

Victoria, Australia, 1891

Anglican priest Matthew Ottenshaw receives his first posting in tiny Dinbratten, two days’ ride from his Melbourne home. Determined to honour his calling as best he can, he throws himself into the footy mad, two-pub town, navigating the dusty streets, learning the gossip, and striking up a friendship with Jonah Parks, the resident police sergeant and local bona fide hero.

A police officer and a priest often find themselves needed at the same place, and Jonah and Matthew’s friendship deepens quickly, as they set about their business of protecting the bodies and souls of Dinbratten’s residents. When a bushfire threatens the town, and Matthew’s inexperience with fire endangers the church buildings, Jonah comes to the rescue, and a reckless kiss in the midst of the chaos takes their friendship to forbidden.

Neither Matthew nor Jonah can go back to the way things were before, but continuing their relationship puts everything at risk: their jobs, their friends, even their lives. In the outback town of Dinbratten where everyone knows everything about everyone else, how can they ever expect to keep a secret this explosive?

“Told with an old-fashioned, authentically Australian wink and a smile – including even a couple of laugh-out-loud japes – By the Currawong’s Call is also a tale with a very timely message: people in love will marry whether it’s legal or not.” – Kim Kelly

“By the Currawong’s Call is warm and sweet and sympathetic and respectful, with skilled and lovingly descriptive prose. A really satisfying read for a rainy day when you want to feel like there is love and hope even through trying times.” – Plain B, NetGalley

“Stars: five, Its a story to savour, a book to re-read later and had an epilogue I loved.” – Jeannie Z, Reviewer

“This was beautifully written and full of love and hope.” – Ashley B, NetGalley

By the Currawong’s Call is available for pre-order now.

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Feed Your Reader: Love Brings Light to the Darkest Places

32049 (1)
Book one in an emotional, erotic, dramatic trilogy about a world gone to hell, and the hell we hold inside…

The human race has been all but wiped out, along with our best traits: compassion, empathy, and generosity.

Euan is a survivor. In a dystopian wasteland infused with violence and cruelty, he protects something invaluable. His love for Nick and the solace that comes with the connection keeps him from destruction, and offers him that most elusive and dangerous emotion of all —
hope.

But happiness comes at a price and a hunting trip leaves Nick vulnerable to the evil that still infects the world. When Euan returns, he finds Nick broken and bloody, irrevocably damaged in both body and soul.

Now Euan’s only goal is to find a place for Nick to heal, a safe place, a refuge where they can rest, recover and repair their love. When they risk a raid on an abandoned house, they discover the unthinkable, the rarest treasure of all. A woman.

“an amazing dystopian read” – Deborah, Goodreads

Read Annabelle’s moving story about her inspiration behind this trilogy.

True Refuge is available now!
Fractured Refuge, Book 2 of the trilogy, is available for pre-order.

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Exclusive Excerpt 2: True Refuge

32049 (1)

Book one in an emotional, erotic, dramatic trilogy about a world gone to hell, and the hell we hold inside…

‘Come here,’ he ordered.

Kira jerked like a startled rabbit. A tiny kit suddenly aware that the wolf was in her burrow. This time, she did attempt to take that step back, only to find herself boxed in by Nick’s finely muscled frame.

At Euan’s tone, he had moved in behind her. The need for a second serving less imperative to meeting their desires. His blond hair waywardly fell over his brow, his green eyes glittered with comprehension and sympathy. Nick still battled the demons that seared his soul with hot iron brands, but he’d set that internal torture aside, as well as his bowl of food, to meet Euan halfway to protect and nurture the woman caught between them.

Over Kira’s head, their gazes connected, clashed, tangled in an almost visceral melding of minds and understanding. After everything they’d suffered. Because of everything they’d suffered. On this, they were in agreement.

‘Both of you,’ Euan continued. ‘Come here.’

Nick nudged Kira in Euan’s direction. They moved as one until she was pressed between the two of them. Nick’s defined arms banded around her waist, while Euan’s heavily muscled limbs wrapped around both of them. It was an embrace of solidarity, one of hope, to herald the start of a relationship that, at that point, only two parties were aware of.

Euan bent and rubbed his nose, lips and chin back and forth over the crown of Kira’s head. The delicate strands of her hair caught in the bristles of his beard. Under his palms, Nick’s shoulder blades rose and fell. The mixed scent of intoxicating feminine essence and masculine exertions flooded his senses. Kira’s soft puffs of breath fluttered against the cloth of his shirt at his chest.

He wanted to protect them, shield them both from the horrors of the world they now resided in. A reality that was terribly close to their door. He’d become their safeguard, the impenetrable wall that buffered them from the truth and sheltered them from their enemies. He inhaled slowly. His eyes drifted closed while he comprehended the beauty he held in his arms. He began to unravel the thoughts that twisted in circles inside his mind ever since he’d first seen the little sprite appear out of the trees. He was old enough to know himself, to know what he wanted. He wasn’t a man who got hung up on the direction of the moral compass of a defunct society. So he knew without hesitancy, that he wanted them both.

Together. Forever. Or for as long as this life allowed.

True Refuge releases 20 September 2017.

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