As seen in the August issue of Uncaged Book Reviews
Uncaged: You write in several genres, do you have a favorite to write in? Can you tell us a bit about your work?
Yes, I write medieval, paranormal, contemporary and western. I even have started a Young Adult Series. My medieval books usually have a big plot and I like to feature and empower strong women, such as in my Seasons of Fortitude Series and my new Series, Secrets of the Heart.
I also have a twelve-book small town contemporary series about the 12 Taylor brothers who are sons of a preacher but far from saints. Matter of fact, they are nothing but trouble! My Tarnished Saints Series is inspired by things in my life, growing up visiting my grandparents on the lake in Michigan.
Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about?
Well, Seductive Secrets – Book 2 in my Secrets of the Heart Series is now on preorder and will be released on Sept. 26th. This is Willow’s story. She is the daughter of Rook from Ruthless Knight. The Secrets of the Heart Series features the daughters of the triplets from my Legendary Bastards of the Crown Series.
I also happen to have a new contemporary novella on preorder called Finally Home that will be released on Aug. 22nd. This is a book I started writing many years ago. I came across it in a drawer and decided to finally finish it. Smile.
Another book releasing on Sept. 11th is called Scottish Rose and is part of a multi-author boxed set, Rogues to Lovers. Each of the books are new stories that center around the legend of the blue rose. When the rare blue rose blooms, enemies turn to lovers. This book is about the secondary character, Coira, the heroine’s sister, from my book Aidan, part of my MadMan MacKeefe Series.
And one more that will be out as a new book and part of a Christmas boxed set with other authors is my novella Silent Knight. This story is about the baby form my book Summer who was a stillborn. Or so we think. Alex (Peter – but he doesn’t know it) has been stolen and raised by someone else. He has a disability with a twisted leg from birth. This book, after the set is no longer out will be part of my Second in Command Series that gives secondary characters from any of my series their own story so they, too, can have a happily ever after.
Uncaged: On your website, some of your characters have given you some of their favorite recipes. Have you tried them all?
The recipes on my site can all be found as recipes cooked and eaten by my characters – mainly in the Tarnished Saints Series. Yes, I have tried them all because I invented them all. They are meant to be simple and fast recipes for those who don’t like to cook or don’t have time to do it. I think it is a fun idea to read about what my characters are eating and then be able to make it as well. And of course the recipes are named after the characters who make the dish.
Uncaged: Are you nervous, scared or excited (or all three) when you release a new book?
I have published 70 books and have four more right now either on preorder or finished and getting ready to go up for sale. After that many I don’t get scared or nervous anymore. However, it is always exciting to have finished a book and be able to share it with my readers.
Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you take away from them?
When I first started all this I would read every review. Now I have so many from so many different books, I don’t have time for that. One of the hardest parts about being an author is getting a not so great review, and it happens to everyone. Not everything I write is going to be liked by everyone. Just starting out, I would get devastated if I received a bad review and it would shake my confidence and make me never want to write again. Reviewers sometimes can get a lot nastier than they need to be. No one but another author knows how much work goes into writing and publishing a book. We put our heart and soul into them. A bad review is hard sometimes not to take personally because it is like someone calling one of our babies ugly. That said, I have learned a lot from reading reviews and try to take them to heart to make each and every one of my books better.
Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books?
I think the nicest thing is when they say it helps them in some way. Lots of people have terrible hardships in their lives and if reading one of my books lets them escape those hardships just for a while and brings some joy and happiness into their lives, then I am grateful and honored that my books can do this for them. I also love it when they say my stories make them laugh and cry. To evoke emotion from readers in one way or another is always the goal of an author. I like to put a little humor in my books because life is too short not to laugh. There is a lot of humor in my Tarnished Saints Series. And of course the crying part – hopefully those are tears of joy at the end. I often cry my eyes out while writing the end of my books. When that happens, I know it is a good book. I just cried – a good, happy cry – at the end of Silent Knight. I guarantee you all will cry when you read it. To have a lost child come back to life would make anyone cry.
Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite?
Let’s start with least favorite. I HATE doing edits. Anything tedious and monotonous is not for me. I wish I could just write the first draft, hand it over to someone, and say here, fix it up and publish it. But it doesn’t work that way. I write, rewrite, put it through my editing program, send it to my editor, then to my proofreader, then to my review team, and then read it yet another time before it is ever published.
As for the favorite part, I love meeting new readers either at conferences, booksignings, or mainly through facebook. It is a thrill to have fans from all over the world and be able to converse with them. Back in the olden days when I got my first book published almost 20 years ago, it wasn’t like that at all. Another favorite part is being able to have control of my books since I am now independently published. I have a degree in art and love, love, love making my own covers. Every little thing you see on the cover can and will be in the book. I make my covers first and write the book around it.
Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth?
Is there a time I am not writing? I don’t think so. But I do like to garden, go to movies, and just sit and enjoy nature. I like quiet places. One of the most exciting places I’ve been is to Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas in Peru. My husband and I took a trip there and to the jungle right after we were married. The culture of Peru is what inspired my very first book, Eden’s Garden that is no longer in print. My heroine was Peruvian. I also took my inspiration from Peru and put it into my contemporary jungle novel, Curse of the Condor and also my book Praising Pete – Book 7 of my Tarnished Saints Series.
Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you?
I believe in mind over matter and I also like anything metaphysical or paranormal. Years ago my husband and I attended a fire walk. We walked with bare feet over hot coals three times, as well as broke boards with our bare hands. Is that unique enough?
Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?
I thank each and every one of my readers for their undying support. Without them, I would not be able to do something I lover for a living. Fans can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Bookbub. They can read excerpts and find out more about my books on my website. I also invite them to join my Readers’ Group and to sign up for my newsletter.
Thank you, this has been fun!
She is known for writing series and also for empowering women in her novels.
Secrets run rampant in the Highlands and Lady Fia Douglas is the keeper of them all.
Fia looked over her shoulder for the tenth time, watching for Highlanders to jump out of the bushes. Thankfully, she hadn’t seen or heard any. However, she did see several dead Scots and also some dead English soldiers on her way to the secret garden.
Knowing Lord Beaufort would be scouting the woods as soon as the sun rose, she hurried, wanting to check on Imanie and get back before the men found her in the forest all alone.
As she approached the gate to the secret garden, something sparkled from the ground, catching her eye.
“My bracelet!” she said excitedly, jumping off the horse to see Willow’s brass button reflecting in the early morning sun. She scooped up the bracelet, bringing it to her lips for a quick kiss. This had to be a good sign. Everything was going to be all right. “Imanie,” she called out excitedly as she approached the gate. But the smile disappeared quickly from her face when she realized the gate was open and there was a bloody handprint upon it.
Holding the reins of her horse, she slipped the bracelet into her pocket and ventured forward. Was Imanie hurt? Seeing a bloody handprint could only mean one of two things. Either Imanie was injured, or possibly the blood came from someone else.
The handprint looked larger than a woman’s hand. Her head told her to turn around and run, but her heart wouldn’t let her leave until she knew Imanie was safe.
Cautiously and carefully, she entered the garden, ready to jump on her horse and ride away at the first sign of danger. She hadn’t gone more than a few steps into the secret garden when she saw the red and brown plaid of a Highlander on Imanie’s porch. She froze, wondering what a Highlander was doing inside the secret garden.
The man was down on his knees. When he got up, she saw Imanie lying on the ground, and she wasn’t moving.
“Nay!” she shouted, not wanting to believe her mentor was dead. But by the look of fear in the old woman’s open eyes, it told Fia that the Highlander had killed her. She started to mount her horse, but the man’s words made her stop.
“Fia, wait! I need yer help,” he called out.
With one foot in the stirrup, she looked up slowly, wondering how this rugged Highlander knew her name. From across the garden, she recognized his long, dark hair and his stance. His voice was familiar, too. Aye, she knew him. It was the chieftain of the clan of Highlanders she’d met in the woods three years ago. He was the man who stopped his men from killing her. It was because of him she was still alive today.
“Fia, come here. Please,” he called out, collapsing atop a wooden bench on the porch. His head fell back, and she noticed the look of pain on his face. Then she saw the blood on his clothes and the way he held his hand against his side. He was wounded!
“I dinna trust ye,” she called out. “Ye killed my friend.”
“What?” He lifted his head and looked at her from across the garden. There was a slight pause before he answered. “I canna hear a word ye say. Come closer.”
She’d learned from Imanie that when someone pauses before they answer, they are usually lying. She thought about turning and riding away, but she couldn’t leave Imanie. What if she wasn’t dead but only injured? Fia had to find out. She needed to help her.
Whether the Highlander was lying or not, Fia had to take the risk. Imanie would do the same for her. The woman had risked her life that day in the forest when she took on the entire clan of Highlanders with just a bow and arrows to try to save Fia’s life. Fia owed it to her to do the same in return.
Tying the reins of her horse to a tree branch, she slowly walked toward the cottage, keeping her eye on the mysterious man.
“Why are ye here?” she asked, making her way closer to Imanie.
“It doesna matter,” he mumbled. “I am sorry about yer friend, but I had nothin’ to do with it.”
Fia dropped to her knees, checking Imanie for any sign of life but couldn’t find a one. Imanie was dead! Tears filled her eyes. She brushed them away with the back of her hand. Taking a closer look, she saw blood on Imanie, but it didn’t seem to be from her. The woman’s body was not cut or stabbed. The blood was on Imanie’s clothes as well as bloody fingermarks around her neck.
“Ye killed her!” Startled and shocked by her discovery, Fia jumped to her feet.
“I dinna kill her, lass.” The Scot got up off the bench. When he took a step toward her, she backed away. His body towered over her and his silver eyes bored into her, holding her in place. “I was wounded by the English and came here lookin’ for help. The old woman was goin’ to sew up my wound, but before she could, she dropped dead at my feet.”
“How do ye expect me to believe that?” she spat. “I see yer bluidy fingerprints around her neck. Ye strangled her, didna ye?”
“Blethers, ye are a silly lass.” He gripped his side again and let out a low moan. “Why would I kill the only person who could help me? Look at this, if ye dinna believe me.”
He removed his hand from his wound, causing her to gasp when she saw the amount of blood leaking from his side.
“Y-ye’re hurt,” she stammered.
“I told ye that. Now help me by sewin’ up my wound, and I will help ye by buryin’ yer friend.”
“I dinna ken,” she said, still being very suspicious. “Mayhap ye have half yer clan hidin’ inside the hut.”
“Och, ye try my patience.” He swiped his free hand through the air in a dismissing nature. “If I had anyone at all inside the cottage dinna ye think I’d have them sewin’ up my side instead of me standin’ here bleedin’ to death while I argue with ye?”
“I suppose ye’re right,” she said, looking down at Imanie, feeling her heart break. She should never have left her here alone yesterday. “What happened to her?”
“I dinna ken. She clutched her chest and fell like a rock. It was all so sudden.”
“It must have been her heart.”
“Will ye really help me bury her body?”
“I promise,” said the Highlander.
“All right,” she agreed, bending down and using her hand to close Imanie’s eyes. She leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “I am sorry I wasna here to help ye when ye needed me,” she whispered to the woman. Then she stepped around Imanie and made her way to the door of the hut. “The needle and thread are in her sewin’ kit in the house. It will be better if ye come inside while I sew ye up.”
He followed her into the cottage and collapsed atop Imanie’s bed with a loud thump.
Fia filled a basin with water and found some old rags, bringing them over to the bed along with a needle and thread.
“Have ye ever done this before, lassie?” he asked as she threaded the needle.
“Nay,” she admitted. “But I ken how to stitch, and I have tended to the wounded in other ways before.”
“Then let’s get this over with,” he grumbled, removing his weapon belt and lying it on the bed. With his eyes fastened to her, he reached behind his back and drew his sword. Her heart about stopped until she saw him toss it on the bed and heard his next words. “Help me off with my tunic.”
“What?” She wasn’t sure she wanted to help the man undress.
“Well, did ye think ye could sew me up right through my clothes?”
“Of course no’,” she said, feeling foolish. She put down the needle and thread and reached over to help him remove his tunic.
“Alastair,” he said once his chest was bare.
“My name is Alastair MacPherson.” He feigned a half-smile. “I thought if I was goin’ to be half-naked and on a bed with a bonnie lassie and all alone, ye should at least ken my name.”
“Oh. Yes, I ken yer name. I remember it from the day ye saved me in the woods three years ago.” She cleaned his wound while she spoke.
“One guid turn deserves another, right?”
“Somethin’ like that.” Fia inspected his wound, pushing the needle through his skin.
He bit back a curse and closed his eyes while she sewed him up. “What is this place and why are ye even here alone?”
“It’s a secret garden,” she told him. “My cousins, sister, and I would sneak out of the castle to meet here with Imanie.”
She looked up, pulling the thread as she did so. She had started feeling comfortable around him and had already told him too much. She had to be careful. “Never mind. I shouldna have even told ye that.” She put her head down and continued to sew. “What happened to ye?”
“I was stabbed with a sword,” he told her, sounding as if he thought she was daft even to have to ask.
“I can see that. It looks as if ye were lucky since the wound is mainly in the skin. The man wasna a guid aim. Why didna the person who wounded ye, also run ye through again to make sure ye were dead?”
Her statement must have sounded cold and cruel to him because he made a face before he answered. “I suppose it was because he was too interested in stealin’ my horse.”
“Then ye have no way to get back to yer clan?”
“Half my clan has left without me by my orders, and the other half is either dead or have been taken prisoner by the English.”
“Aye, I ken. Lord Beaufort brought the prisoners to the castle before sunup. There was one who was claimin’ to be chieftain.”
“Dinna tell me,” he said, gritting his teeth and inspecting the job she did on his wound. “I am sure it was Brohain. Ye remember – the one who wanted to kill ye.”
“Yes, he’s the one.”
“Help me wrap this wound, and I will make guid on my promise and bury yer friend.”
“Ye are weak and need to rest,” she told him, tearing a bed sheet and wrapping up his wound. “I will cover up Imanie with a blanket and be back with my cousins and my sister. We will bury her.”
“Nay,” he said, starting to get off the bed. He moved too fast and grimaced. Then he shook his head and sat back down. “Dinna bring any Sassenachs here. I will bury her myself.”
“All right,” she agreed so that he would stop fighting her. She had to get help and wouldn’t be able to do it if he was keeping such a close eye on her. “I will dig the hole. Please, lay back and close yer eyes. I will tell ye when the hole is ready and ye can help me move her body.”
“Nay, I am the man. I will do it.” He reached out and gripped her wrist, causing her to struggle.
“Stop that,” he commanded.
She panicked and fought him, raising her knee and hitting him right in his wound.
“Bid the devil!” he cried, letting loose of her hand and using both hands to hold his side. His eyes closed while he leaned back against the wall.
Through the open door, the sunlight streamed into the room. It was already daybreak. Fia had to get back to the castle quickly. If she didn’t, Lord Beaufort would be sending out a search party for her. She couldn’t take the chance they’d find the secret garden or Imanie. She also didn’t want them to find Alastair because they would most likely kill him if they did.
Scooping up the blanket from the bed, Fia hurried out to the porch without bothering to close the door.
“I will be back, Imanie,” she whispered, covering her mentor with a blanket. She wasn’t sure what to do. Imanie was dead, and there was no evidence that the Highlander hadn’t killed her. She needed to get help and back to the castle quickly. “I will miss ye, my guid friend,” she said, kissing Imanie on the head for the last time. Then, getting to her feet, she ran for her horse.
The first book in a new series and it starts the series off very well. This book really moves along well after the events in the blurb. Alastair is finding it hard to ignore his growing feelings for his captive. But when he discovers her heritage, she becomes the pawn that will free his father from a rival clan. But he’s finding it harder and harder to let Fia go.
Fia, struggles with the idea that the Scots and English are going to war, and uses her training as a member of the Followers of the Secret Heart to try to save lives. But lying to Alastair is starting to eat away at her as her feelings for him grow.
A nice original storyline, that brings tension, secrets, lies, betrayal and love. An entertaining read from cover to cover. And the reader will fall in love with Cerberus. Reviewed by Cyrene
4 1/2 Stars
Lady and the Wolf
A twisted, tangled, romantic retelling of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood
Lord Hugh de Bar, known as Wolf, has been cursed and shapeshifts into a wolf at night. He vows to kill the man responsible for his torture, Earl Roland Chaserton of Tavistock, but the man has avoided this confrontation by staying locked away in his castle in hiding. But when the man’s granddaughter appears in the woods alone at night, Wolf realizes he can take her captive to lure the earl out of hiding so he can kill him. However, he needs to proceed with caution since the girl is armed with a crossbow and skilled at killing wolves – and also very alluring.
Lady Winifred (Red) Chaserton has defied her grandfather’s orders and sneaked out of the castle to investigate a mysterious hidden door in a knoll that she’s seen on one of the hunting trips with her grandfather’s knights. Alone in the dark and without an escort, she has only her crossbow to protect her. But when she feels she’s being followed by a wolf, the handsome lord of Babeny appears to protect her instead. She is intrigued by the presence of Lord Hugh de Bar, and lets down her guard. However, things aren’t always as they seem, and when she’s taken captive by him she realizes there is more to this dark lord than meets the surface. He says he despises her for killing wolves and being the granddaughter of his archenemy, yet his eyes tell her a different story. His gaze devours her – and she feels like he wants to eat her.
Will magical forces come between a lady and a wolf, or bring them together instead? And will the de Bar family finally find redemption from the dark magic that has been bestowed upon each of the siblings and brought turmoil into their lives?
Danger lurked in the forests of Dartmoor, and it went by the name of Lord Hugh de Bar.
Lady Winifred Chaserton of Tavistock made her way on horseback through the woods, sure she heard the soft pitter-patter of animal paws trailing behind her. The night was dark and the forest foreboding. Branches reached out like the bony fingers of a harpy, trying to snag the cloak she wore – her grandfather’s cloak. She’d taken it from his chamber, wearing it as a disguise should she be noticed as she left the protection of Castle Chaserton’s walls.
Without a torch to guide her way, Winifred kept to the rough path. She did not need a light, because she knew this trail by heart.
It was a cool, autumn evening and the trees had started to turn to shades of blood red, amber yellow, and fire orange in the past few weeks. The winds lately had loosened many of the leaves, and they’d been dropping to the ground faster than enemies at the hand of her warlord grandfather, Earl Roland Chaserton.
The horse’s hooves crunched the dried leaves, and the sound of crickets filled the air as she bravely forged forward without an escort. No one knew of her whereabouts except one guard back at the castle who had sworn to keep her secret.
With her crossbow slung over her shoulder and a quiver of bolts at her side, Winifred felt well protected from any evil that might be lurking behind the trees. Or following her.
With a mission to fulfill, she wouldn’t stop until she found her answers.
Slowing her horse, she glanced over her shoulder trying to get a glimpse of the animal that was following her. The night sky was occasionally lit by moonbeams spilling out from behind the passing clouds. The long cloak she wore fell over the sides of her white horse. It billowed out around her as she kicked her heels into the sides of her horse and rode hard through the forest. The damp night air felt heavy all around her. The breeze bit at her flesh. But its sting was naught compared to the teeth of the bloodthirsty wolf lying in wait somewhere in the shadows.
Rumor had it, Lord Hugh de Bar of Babeny was a wolf in disguise. He was said to be able to shift from the form of a human to that of a wolf at will. While in his animal form, he was naught more than a bloodthirsty killer looking for innocent young maidens to stalk. Or eat. She’d heard many stories of the infamous knight from traveling scribes. Each time the stories were told, the tale grew in enormous proportions.
None of it mattered because she refused to believe in such nonsense. She surmised these were only tales of terror devised by her grandfather to keep poachers out of his forest – and to keep her inside the castle walls.
Even if this man sounded darker than a midnight sky, she had nothing to fear. Her crossbow could take down a wolf from quite a distance.
A snap of a twig from behind her told her that her assumption was correct. She was being followed. The light of the full moon broke through the clouds and lit the path, enabling her to see the way to her destination just up ahead.
It was a place she passed by every day with her grandfather’s men when they entered the forest to hunt. And every day, Sir Bradley disappeared somewhere with a basket of food in his hands. Then he’d return – with the basket empty. She needed to find out where he went each day and why he’d lied to her when she’d asked him about it. There was something he was hiding, and she had a feeling her grandfather was behind it all.
Her grandfather, Roland Chaserton, Earl of Tavistock, was as ornery as the day was long. He was a brave warrior, but it seemed as if something about these woods had him spooked lately. It had been almost a year now since he’d set foot in the forest. If he knew she was making this trip in the middle of the night and unescorted – he’d probably send her off to a convent just to keep her locked away. That’s why she’d waited until after her grandfather was well in his cups and fast asleep before she ventured out.
In return for a kiss, the guard at the gate kept her secret. A small price to pay for the knowledge and discovery she’d gain from this little journey.
The horse came to a stop, and Winifred listened intently. A low growl from behind her had her grabbing for the crossbow at her side. It was a small, lady’s crossbow and much easier to load than a knight’s weapon that would take more muscles to use than she had in her entire body. Her grandfather had his master craftsman construct it for her five years ago when she’d turned sixteen. She’d been trained by the knights to use it and could hunt just as well as any of her grandfather’s men.
With another growl and a snap of a twig, her horse became spooked and reared up, pawing the air with its hooves. She managed to stay mounted. Gripping her legs around the animal tightly, she regained control.
“We’re almost there,” she said to the horse in a calm voice. At the same time, she grabbed for a bolt from the quiver at her side. A shadow darted through the underbrush, sending a shiver up her spine.
It was a wolf! There was no denying that. Perhaps it was only a feeling, but something told her this was no ordinary wolf. Mayhap all the stories of Lord Hugh de Bar had filled her with fear after all. Because suddenly, she couldn’t get the silly notion out of her head that the dark lord of Babeny was stalking her.
The last traveling bard at the castle told her Lord de Bar – or Wolf as everyone called him, ate young girls such as herself out of nothing more than boredom on a slow day of battle. He was rumored to have bloodlust in his veins and couldn’t sleep nights unless he killed a girl a day. She only hoped the story wasn’t true because she didn’t fancy dying anytime soon. Especially not before she could uncover her grandfather’s secret.
* * *
The girl would be a tasty morsel in more ways than one. Lord Hugh de Bar craved her body more than any man had the right to. Then again, he wasn’t just any man. Right now, he was in wolf form.
He was also a knight and a lord, and one of the most feared men in all of England. Sadly enough, over the past year, everyone had forgotten the man he used to be and had started referring to him simply as Wolf.
The Earl of Tavistock was to thank for his wretched reputation. The earl – and his witch.
Wolf ran on all fours in his animal form, following the girl’s trail through the woods. She’d passed him, wearing a long, dark cloak. He’d hidden behind a bush so as not to alarm her, so he’d seen nothing more. However, his senses were sharp enough that he didn’t need to see her to follow her path. Through the darkness, he spied his companion wolf – his twin brother, Arnon, just up ahead. With a small nod, he gave Arnon the signal to track her.
Wolf’s bloodlust had grown stronger in the past year. His soul, as well as his senses, were now tied to his cursed wolf form. There was nothing he could do to control it. When the moon was full like it was tonight, everything within him felt intensified.
His hatred for the man responsible for all this, Earl Roland Chaserton, was growing immensely. Each day for the past year, Wolf had imagined many ways to kill the earl. He knew the man’s scent perfectly. It was something he’d never forget, as it was embedded in his mind. The earl had tortured him as well as Arnon when he’d taken them as prisoners of war.
Tied, caged, poked, whipped, and left for dead, Wolf thought his life couldn’t get worse until they’d also been cursed by the earl’s witch. To the earl, a mere death in his dungeon wasn’t enough. The man wanted them to suffer as much as possible until they died. He and Arnon would have perished in the dungeons of Tavistock if an anonymous person hadn’t helped them escape.
Yes, the earl’s scent was embedded in Wolf’s mind. With it, came the bloodlust as well as pain every single damned day of his life.
The earl never came to the woods anymore, knowing Wolf would be waiting for him. Tonight was different. Wolf smelled the man’s unforgettable scent, and he was no longer patient for his vengeance. Tonight, he’d kill the bastard. Hopefully, with the earl’s death, Wolf’s curse would somehow be broken at the same time, as well as Arnon’s.
He ran after the girl, hoping the earl was with her. But it didn’t take long to realize the girl was alone. A sudden sense of disappointment immersed him. The rage pounding in his temples slowed, but the anger still flowed through him like a hot poker in his veins.
The earl’s scent was strong tonight. Then, on the breeze, his senses picked up the scent of rosewater and honeysuckle as well. Damn! Now the girl had his lust growing as rapidly as his rage. Didn’t she know how dangerous it was for her to come here alone? He could kill her in his wolf form or even take her in his man form, right here in the woods. No one would be the wiser. It would sate his lustful appetite. And though the knight in him told him it wasn’t a chivalric thought or deed, his animal instincts begged to differ.
His thoughts melded with those of his twin again as he searched the animal’s mind for a clear vision of his prey. Able to read Arnon’s thoughts, Wolf knew the girl they followed had long, red hair, a petite frame, yet a curvy enough body to tighten any man’s groin just thinking of her. He thanked Arnon silently in his thoughts for this tidbit of information.
But there was more, and he stilled his thoughts to listen. She rode a white horse with an expensive tooled-leather saddle. Its trappings bore a knight’s crest of a chevron in the colors of red and gold. The upside down V had two swords in the gold partition at the top, while a Volant or flying charge of an eagle filled the bright red center.
Wolf’s heart leaped in his chest. This was the crest of the earl. There was no doubt this girl was somehow connected to him. She also carried a basket with something inside. Throwing back his head, he sniffed the air with his long, wet snout. Just a whiff told him she carried sweetmeats, mutton, and freshly baked bread along with some of the castle’s finest wine.
Food and drink of the nobles and a horse with trappings bearing the earl’s crest were all too tempting. The scent of the cloak on the wind was so strong it was as if the earl were standing before him right now. His senses reeled, threatening to consume him.
Wolf continued forward, melding Arnon’s thoughts with his own. They’d always been close and could read each other’s minds as well as feel each other’s pain. While Wolf was able to shapeshift, Arnon hadn’t been so lucky. His brother was trapped in the form of a wolf – a curse far worse than his own.
Close in around the front of the girl, he told his brother in his mind. I’ll come around the back. As he quickly approached, he stopped in his tracks, coming thru the foliage and seeing her clearly now in the bright moonlight. Her back was toward him, but he noticed that she reached for something. When she lifted the object his heart sank.
This girl – this beautiful girl, was sporting a lady’s crossbow! The only people who were allowed to hunt in these woods were the earl’s men. And the only woman he knew of who carried a crossbow was none other than the granddaughter of the wretched earl himself.
Wolf tried to send his brother a warning, but Arnon’s anger for the earl blocked his message. He felt Arnon’s anxiety as his own.
Wolf’s steed was tied up nearby where he’d left it while in his human form. It would be difficult to try to shift back at a time like this, and he’d have to fight the urge to stay in wolf form. A plain tunic and hose, as well as his sword, were tied to his steed. The question was – would he have enough time to pull this off before the girl tried to shoot him or Arnon?
He’d heard from his men she’d taken down quite a few wolves in the past year on the nobles’ hunting trips. She knew how to handle a crossbow and had no qualms about killing a wolf.
He sat down on a bed of moss and closed his eyes, willing himself to shift. The change started, but he kept returning to his wolf form every time he lost his concentration.
With the sickening stretching of his bones, the air became even colder as his fur disappeared. Before he knew it, he was covered in sweat. His body shook like a leaf. It usually took a few minutes to regain composure and for his vision to clear after his shift. There was no time for that now.
Naked, he pushed to his feet and stood on wobbly legs – two legs – as his body had returned fully to that of a man.
“Lady Winifred,” he whispered her name on the breeze, forging forward to collect his clothes from his travel bag. He donned them quickly and mounted himself in the saddle, turning his horse and heading to where his senses led him – right to the girl.
He kept pace with her, hidden behind brush and trees, never letting on that he was there. All the while, he tried to reach Arnon with his mind to warn him, but his body and senses were dulled right after his shift. Wolf was the most vulnerable at times like this and felt more helpless than he’d ever felt in his life.
It was late and dark. She continued forward on horseback, riding through the woods faster than she should without a torch to light her way. This girl was so naïve not to be escorted by at least one or two of her grandfather’s guards. And she was so stupid to wear a cloak drenched in the earl’s undeniable scent around wolves that wanted the man dead.
He raced forward on his horse, feeling the wind in his long, black hair. At the same time, he felt the wind against Arnon’s face, too. Wolf had little restraint right now, but his brother – being an animal and nothing more – had none. Arnon would kill the girl if someone didn’t stop him. Rushing forward, Wolf only hoped he wasn’t too late.
A retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, in the form of a historical fantasy romance. Two families, enemies for the belief that the once allies, were deceived into believing in the lies of a powerful witch, who cursed the de Bar family. Hugh, known as Wolf and his twin brother Arnon take on the brunt of the curse, with Arnon in wolf form and Wolf being able to shapeshift from wolf to human. Lady Winnifred is the granddaughter of the enemy clan, and Wolf believing if he captures Lady Winnifred, as he vows to kill her grandfather, who cursed them.
This is a shorter story, I read it in one sitting, and it’s a twisted and sexy look at the original fairy tale – and an entertaining read. The romance was a bit quick and a little unbelievable, but this is a fairy tale. I will definitely be looking forward to more in this series. Reviewed by Cyrene