Mia: Being pregnant and still angry at her father isn’t the best recipe for making the perfect wedding. Can Emmie work her magic to give her daughter the wedding she dreams of?
Nevaeh: Marrying Braxton is supposed to be the happiest moment of her life, but his parents have other plans for their son.
Arella: Her wedding to Jordan is all planned out, but the nightmares of what happened with her uncle continue to haunt her. Someone is still trying to torture her, but Garon Steel is dead. Who could be left that wants to hurt her?
Shaw: Will marrying her rocker be the small, intimate experience she’s hoping for? Or will the paparazzi turn it into a three-ring circus?
Doe: Why does it feel like everyone is planning her future…but her?
Trinity: After all the heartbreak she’s suffered, this wedding must go off without incident. She refuses to start her life with Jarrett anyway other than flawlessly.
Piper: Her childhood nemesis is now the love of her life. But all eyes are on the groom, making sure he doesn’t pull any of his old stunts and break her heart. Everything has to go perfectly, or her parents will make sure Cannon loses more than just his freedom.
“We invited you here to get to know one another a little better,” Lana said in a cool tone. “But I’ll have the waiter show you out if you speak to my daughter like that again.”
“Your daughter is nothing but a home-wrecking little whore.” Mom’s gaze traveled up and down Lana’s slender body. With her hair free from gray and only a few lines on her face, she didn’t look like she should have an eighteen-year-old daughter. Hell, she looked more like Nevaeh’s older sister than her mom, but Lana had been in her twenties when they’d had their first of five children. “And I’m sure the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
“Ah, fuck,” Nevaeh whispered. “Things are about to get crazy.”
The words hadn’t fully left her mouth when her mom swung back and delivered a punch direct center to my mother’s face. My mom screamed in pain, while the entire restaurant seemed to gasp in shock as one. Blood poured out from around her fingers and splattered on her designer dress.
“If you ever call my child a whore again, a broken nose will be the least of your worries, bitch,” Lana seethed, shaking out her hand.
Drake grasped her hand, inspecting it for any damage she may have caused herself. Briefly, he lifted his head and snapped his fingers at a waiter. “Get my angel a bag of ice for her hand,” he commanded before turning his focus back on his wife’s already-bruising knuckles.
“You need to have a better rein on your wife, Stevenson,” my father grumbled.
Slowly, as if he were a predator capturing his prey in his sights, Drake turned his head and looked at Miles. I heard him gulp at the feral look in the rock legend’s blue-gray eyes. “I suggest you take your bitch wife and go, dickhead. Before I start spilling your dirty secrets here in this packed restaurant with people who know you.”
“Belinda,” Miles snapped. “Let’s go.”
Even holding her still-bleeding nose, my mother was able to toss her hair back and hmph as she walked past Lana. With a little growl, Lana started to grab for her, but Drake stepped into her path, lightly tightening his grip on her injured hand. “Easy, Angel. You already made your point.”
The waiter returned with the bag of ice—and the manager. “Sir, I’m afraid you and your party will have to leave, or I will be forced to call the police.”
“Gladly,” Drake gritted out. “If you allow trash like that in here, then I’m sure the food isn’t nearly as good as your accolades claim.”
“Sir,” the manager began again, a look of outrage on his face. “Please don’t make more of a scene.”
Carefully releasing Lana’s hand, Drake pulled out his wallet and extracted several bills. Tossing them on the table, he lifted his chin at the waiter who had brought the bag of ice. “For you, kid.”
—Hopelessly Devoted to Nevaeh
Terri Anne Browning is a Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY bestselling author. She writes contemporary romance featuring rockers, bikers, and mafiosos–but mostly about the strong female characters who rule what has become known as the Rocker Universe.
Terri Anne lives in Virginia with her husband, their three demons–err, children– a Frenchie named Ciri and a chatty as-sin bird named Raven.
Top 5 Questions
Q: How do you “dress down?” Favorite fuzzy slippers? Add a pic!
A: An anime or oversized shirt with anime pajama pants. Sometimes a cardigan or hoodie.
Q: What hobbies do you have?
A: Reading is top of the list. But I also am huge into watching Turkish, K-Dramas, and C-Dramas. I prefer those over American TV.
Q: Who is your closest adult friend, and how do you relate to them?
A: My husband is my best friend. Maybe because we were friends before we started dating. But he is the one I trust the most with every dark secret and every deep emotion I feel. He’s my rock, the one who holds me up when I don’t have the energy or the will to stand on my own.
Q: What bands do you like? Do you even pay attention?
A: My playlist is a little bit of everything…except country. For some reason, I just can’t stand country at the moment. Bands like No Resolve, Anthony Mossburg, BTS, Sia, and Citizen Soldier are just a few off the top of my head that are always playing while I’m working.
Q: What do you find most relaxing? (Not as in stress relief, but as something that actually calms you down.)
A: My husband’s touch. I can be having a hard time, the weight of the world crushing down on me, then he touches my hand, it all just fades away, and I can breathe again.
Retired Navy SEAL Ryan Hunter is adjusting to his new civilian life.
Bored out of his mind, a steamy night on the dance floor leaves him hopeful about the future until he finds out the Blue-eyed beauty is Ivy, the little sister of one of his best friends.
Vince makes it clear he doesn’t want Ryan anywhere near his little sister, but when Ivy’s life is threatened, Ryan is the only one he can trust to keep her safe.
The waters rise and boil as Ryan tries to keep it professional, as they are thrust into the seedy criminal world of Seattle, where things are not what they seem. When the secrets that have been surrounding them come crashing down, they must be careful who they choose as their allies. As the battle begins, they will have to fight for their lives, but when the dust settles, not everyone may be left standing.
Neffie Rae lives in Utah with the love of her life and soulmate. Together they have three beautiful kids and one fur baby. Neffie has a deeply rooted love of reading and telling stories. She’s always been one to be making up stories from all sources of inspiration. She wrote her first short story at nine and hasn’t been able to give it up.
Outside of reading, she’s a bit of a hermit and has a great love of nature and animals of all kinds. Stick her in a small cabin in the mountains by the water, and she’s in heaven. Music has always been a mistress in her life. Give her a soulful tune, and she’ll spin you a story of love, passion, or heartache.
Everyone knew that when she stepped up to the crease, she always came out swinging…
Tara Wadhwa, Captain of the Indian Women’s Cricket team, was living the dream. She got to play the sport she loved and to live close to her friends, the family of her heart. But when her friends start to fall in love, a sliver of loneliness works its way into her heart pushing her to make a reckless mistake. Nikhil Upadhyay, owner of a pristine reputation and the nation’s best fixer, is called in to save the day. Fix Tara’s reputation and babysit her till she brings home the World Cup. A dream assignment for a man who otherwise spent way too much time cleaning up far messier situations. Until he met his newest client and the dream turned into a nightmare… Can Tara work past her childhood grooming to see that there could be a life beyond the game? Can Nikhil see the value of the girl behind the polished façade he was working on presenting to the world? And will the two of them ever stop fighting long enough to allow their simmering attraction a chance to come out and play?
For when the Bad Girl met the Good Boy, she realised, that just this once, she wanted to let her inner ‘wicked’ out to play. And we all know what happens when Tara Wadhwa steps up to the crease…
“Tara, this is beyond damage control. For the next few months, you will do whatever Nikhil asks you to do. No arguments, no semantics.” The weight of what they were asking of me started to press down on my shoulders, but I just squared them and tried to act unaffected by it all. Like I always did. Like I always would. No one needed to know what it cost me. Not because I was ashamed of it but because they didn’t care. “Okay,” I murmured, letting my public persona slide back into place. My tiny spurt of rebellion had been duly squashed. Now it was time to make amends. My entire future, my entire life was at stake. Because I was nothing without this game. “When do we begin?” “Now.” Manisha said, moving towards the door. “Now?” Panic flared inside me as I stared at the door. “I haven’t even changed out of the clothes from last night’s fiasco or had a chance to wash up or-” “Tara.” Manisha’s firm voice cut off my rising hysteria. “He doesn’t care if you look a mess. That’s what he’s here for. This is his job. To clean up the mess. All of it.” Like I was what a puppy had pooped out in the middle of the living room rug. And this nerdy looking guy was going to clean it up and hide the evidence. Temper was starting to spark again eating into my resolve to be well behaved. Wonderful. I’d lasted all of five minutes and I hadn’t even met this fixer guy yet. How was I going to keep this up for months? “Now,” Manisha said. “I’m not going to say it again. Behave.” When had she said it before, I wondered, as the door opened almost in slow motion. And Black Suit walked in. My gaze travelled from his perfectly polished black shoes to his perfectly pressed black suit. Was he wearing the same outfit as his resume picture, or did he just own replicas of one outfit which he wore every day? God, this guy gave new meaning to the definition of nerd. And then my gaze rose further and met amused chocolate brown eyes set in a face that devoid of life had been ordinary but lit up with spark and laughter like it was right now… Hot nerd. Black Suit was a very hot nerd.
About the Author:
A published author with Harlequin India – Mills & Boon India Collection and Juggernaut, Shilpa Suraj’s books have hit both the Hot New Releases and Bestseller lists on Amazon. Her next novel, tentatively titled ‘Wrong,’ has been contracted by Rupa Publications and will release later this year. She is also part of the Flipped Anthology by Harper Collins and had an audiobook book Insta Reddy release with Storytel.
She is, amongst other things, currently working on ‘Frazzled and Fabulous,’ a humorous, true-to-life parenting story that is part memoir and part nonfiction.
An avid reader with a passion for creative writing and storytelling saw her participating in writing competitions at school and dabbling in copy writing for an ad agency as a teenager. Twenty years in the corporate space, including a stint in Corporate Communications for Google, India, and a spell at entrepreneurship all hold her in good stead for her multiple current roles of author, mother and Head of Human Resources & Public Relations at an architecture and interior design firm.
When Inaya Khan is told she’s meeting a boy for marriage, the last thing she expects is for beetroot juice to play spoilsport. As CEO of Ixora Skincare, Inaya has achieved money, fame and power all at the age of twenty-seven. But to her mother, the only labels that apply to her are overweight and unmarried.
A CEO himself, but of a struggling startup, Ayaz Ahmed has no time or energy to even think of marriage. Until his mother shows him Inaya’s picture and he’s instantly smitten. Despite a disastrous start that included beetroot juice spewage, multiple suitors for Inaya’s hand and judgy onlookers, Inaya and Ayaz are instinctively drawn to each other.
Until Ayaz finds out that his company is being taken over by none other than his prospective bride-to-be. Ayaz may be smitten but he isn’t stupid. And he most certainly isn’t letting Inaya take his precious company from him.
Can love find a way to survive in the heart of business deals, mergers and acquisitions? Or will this bad girl have to go rogue to bring her own ‘Ranveer Singh’ home?
Keeping my face as blank as possible, I sat down and tried my best not to sit too close to him. He sat down as well, a smile on his face, looking sheepish because my mother and his family were looking at us keenly.
‘Sameena, there’s someone I wanted you to meet,’ Ammi said to his mother and taking the hint, both his parents got up and walked away with Ammi, leaving the two of us alone at the table. We weren’t alone per se, because there were so many people around but I still felt my stomach tie up in knots.
Whenever I was in Bangalore, a part of me forgot that I was the CEO of a successful company and not just my parents’ daughter. I had spoken to thousands of men probably, men who worked for me, men whom I had interviewed for jobs at my company, vendors and marketers, and other CEOs. But here, all that was swept away as I became Naseem and Aftab Khan’s younger daughter. Their younger unmarried daughter.
Straightening my back, I turned to him, really hoping there wouldn’t be another disaster like the one that had nearly ruined my dress. I briefly wondered where Ayaz was. Maybe he’d been embarrassed enough to leave.
I put him out of my mind and turned to the man I was sitting with. He looked at me appraisingly, his eyes resting on my shoulders and then glancing down my bare arms. Women were wearing short, strapless dresses here at the party. This was nothing compared to that. I gritted my teeth, thinking that if he was going to shame me for my outfit, I was going to throw this…this…I picked up the glass of juice on the table and sniffed it slightly and then nearly gagged. It was beetroot juice.
About the Author:
Andaleeb Wajid is a hybrid author, having published 40 novels in the past 14 years. Andaleeb enjoys writing in a number of different genres such as young adult, romance, and horror. Andaleeb’s recent novels All Drama No Queen and Mirror, Mirror were published by Penguin Random House and Duckbill respectively in 2021. Andaleeb’s romance trilogy Jasmine Villa Series is being published by Westland in February 2023. She has an upcoming YA horror novel with Harper Collins later in 2023.
One is a brave soldier, the other a deadly terrorist. A camera will decide which man survives.
The Major is a seasoned field agent, and neutralising a target is routine for him. But everything about Operation Turquoise, from the target to the weapon, is disturbingly unconventional. Alone in a foreign country, the Major must execute each stage of his mission with utmost precision. There is no Plan B.
The Poet has a way with words—and warfare. His voice echoes in thousands of homes worldwide, yet few have ever seen him. Endowed with a sharp mind and evil intent, the Poet has orchestrated many spectacular terror attacks in Asia and Africa. His latest mission has the Indian intelligence fraternity on its toes.
Ridden with risks, Operation Turquoise will bring the two men head to head—and only one will survive.
The Major, 6.2’ lean and fit with short black hair, was like any regular Indian man, unless he was on duty; then he became the job.
Along with hundreds of pumped up youth in their late teens, he became a gentleman cadet at the National Defence Academy (NDA) just before the 80s decade ended. It was a career decision like becoming a doctor or engineer for him. But his training at the academy transformed him for life. His profession became more than a mere job to him.
Every time he donned the crisp green army uniform, his soul took on a new life. Any task assigned to him become a responsibility he had to fulfil, irrespective of the odds.
As a young lieutenant, eager to challenge his own abilities, he volunteered to become a Special Forces Paratrooper. This required another year of intense training.
The opportunity to join the Special Group, India’s secret special force unit that took on assignments that the government could not acknowledge, came soon after. Completing the additional training and becoming a member of Col Bhatti’s team of Special Group soldiers known as the Mavericks was the single most cherished accomplishment of his life.
It was also the decision that put an almost definite expiry date on his life.
Now the tasks that he undertook were not only dangerous but also top secret. The day he failed at an operation, that day he ceased to exist. But this reality didn’t deter him or weaken his resolve because his failure also meant the success of a serious threat to India’s national security. As long as he breathed, he could not let that happen.
For Operation Turquoise, he found himself in the land of the Pharaohs disguised as a tourist but he had no time for sightseeing. He had to hunt a man who had not been sighted in years.
From his NDA days, he was known for his ability to disguise himself. On this mission, this skill was put to the ultimate test. His disguise had to work for his mission to succeed. Being a Krav Maga expert, hand-to-hand combat was another one of his strengths that came in handy when an unexpected development threatened to derail the mission.
While among friends and colleagues, he was a regular person who cribbed about cancelled leaves and poorly planned field operations. He criticised aspects of the armed forces he found wanting and had realistic expectations about what the government of India could offer him in lieu of field support.
He was single, and had always worked in an all-male environment. Even the mention of a woman in the background made him doubt the credibility of the plan for the mission. But no matter what his misgivings, once given a responsibility he makes it his mission to complete it.
About the Author:
Rani Ramakrishnan writes contemporary thriller novels. In another lifetime, she was an entrepreneur, a management professional, a trainer, even an author of study materials for distance education. She is an occasional blogger and a regular bookworm. Two things influence her writing: people she met and the places she has visited.
She lives in Coimbatore, a picturesque city on the foothills of the Nilgiri Mountains, in South India. She loves the outdoors and of late, she has developed a healthy passion for marathons.
A Beckoning Hellfire, written by the talented J.D.R. Hawkins, transports us inside the heartland of the Great Civil Battle, revealing the brutal reality as a trooper. The story has an interesting starting point. On New Year’s Eve in 1862, David Summers, the protagonist, discovers that the Union Troops murdered his dad. In a moment of wrath and a desire for vengeance, David takes the heroic step and enters the Confederate Military, intending to get revenge. But, it is not as easy as it sounds. Hawkins kept the readers engaged till the end with her extraordinary skills. It is a must-read for everyone!
Using the backdrop of the Civil War, the author gives a harsh picture of the war horrors. The book shows how men in the field turn completely barbaric, looting the dead, and striving hard to survive in the wilderness. The story is dark and sad and brings out the emotion of pity. It is well written and shows excellent research to create the feel of nineteenth-century America.
A Beckoning Hellfire is book two in a trilogy that focuses on a family in Alabama during the American Civil War, sometimes known as the War Between the States. This is a behind the scenes look at the way the conflict affected southerners who were not big plantation holders or slave owners. There are some exceptionally realistic battlefield scenes, as well as examination of the field hospitals. Mass grave burials, as well as an examination of the toll that the conflict took on both man and horse. This war, which often divided families and called personal moral codes into question, was one of the first where photography was used to record the grim scenes on the battlefield, rather than an artists rendition. Echoes from this war and the circumstances surrounding it echo through U.S. politics and social attitudes today. This book is a reminder of the human lives that were deeply affected at the time.
I’d like to wish everyone a very happy holiday season! Please keep in mind all of our military personnel who are overseas and missing their families this Christmas. One of my favorite songs is “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” which was written by a soldier during WWII. Listening to it makes me cry every time!
The holidays can be a difficult time of year for some, as the following excerpt demonstrates. Losing a loved one during this time of year is especially painful, and sometimes lonely. I think the first Christmas after a loved one passes away is the hardest. I know from experience, since I just lost my mom last year.
The following excerpt is the opening chapter from my book, A Beckoning Hellfire. It takes place on Christmas Eve, 1862. What should be a joyous time has turned into tragedy. While we celebrate the birth of our Lord, let’s also keep in mind the hardships that many have experienced during Christmas.
But what a cruel thing is war. To separate and destroy families and friends and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world. To fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world¼My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men.
—Robert E. Lee, letter to his wife, December 25, 1862
“Here it is! Come quick!”
David sauntered across the dead grass toward his little sister. Amused by the way she was jumping up and down like a nervous flea, he couldn’t help but grin. Obviously, she was too excited to care that her petticoats were showing from under the brown coat and green calico dress she wore, or that her long auburn hair had broken free from its bondage as her bonnet slid from her head and dangled down her back.
“Which one, Josie?” he asked, stifling a snicker.
She planted her feet and pointed to a small yellow pine near a cluster of sweet gum and ash trees. “Right here!” she exclaimed.
Glancing down at the sapling, he gave her a crooked smile. “Well, that’s a mighty fine tree, but ain’t it kinda scrawny?” He estimated the pine to be three feet tall at most.
Josie frowned at her older brother, who had one eyebrow cocked from under his slouch hat. His hands were tucked into his brown trousers, and his linen shirt hung loosely on his tall, lanky frame. “No,” she said, “ it’s jist right. We’ll string some corn on it, hang some nuts and berries on it, and it’ll look right smart in the corner of the front room.”
With a shrug, he said, “All right. If you reckon this is the one.”
She nodded, her bright blue eyes reflecting her elation.
David relished the moment, for he knew Christmas was her favorite holiday. He had only heightened her anticipation on the way out to the woodlot by reminding her what would happen that evening, how Santa would be stopping by later when she was sound asleep. Of course, he had no explanation as to how eight tiny reindeer could pull a sleigh all the way to Alabama. Josie promptly informed him that she wasn’t a child any longer. She was all of thirteen, and didn’t believe in those farfetched stories anymore, but he knew better. She would be lying in her bed tonight, listening and waiting.
“Well, go on now, cut it down!” Josie insisted.
He put his thumb and forefinger to his lips and gave a high, shrill whistle. Noticing how the gray sky was growing darker, he looked over at the edge of the clearing where they stood and saw the underbrush rustle. Suddenly, two hound dogs bounded out of the trees, followed by a gangly young stallion.
“Come on, Renegade. Over here,” he called out to the colt, who responded by cantering to him.
Josie giggled at the sight. “Your dumb horse thinks he’s a dog!”
“He ain’t dumb. I’ll wager he’s a lick smarter than you are, li’l sister,” David teased.
The horse blew and stomped his front hoof.
“Why, that’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of. And not only is he dumb, he looks right silly, too. He can’t decide if he should be spotted or palomino!”
David observed his horse for a moment. Renegade’s face was piebald. His dark chestnut coat was highlighted with white spots and patches concentrating on his underbelly, and his mane and tail were light flaxen. He had white socks up to his knees. His unusual eyes were brownish green. David remembered how he had heard that a horse with strange-colored eyes like Renegade’s was considered sacred and chosen by the Cherokee Indians. Several people had noticed the strange coincidence, and his other sister, Rena, also frequently commented that he and his horse had the same colored eyes.
“I reckon he knows what he is,” David remarked. “Besides, he’s unusual, and that makes him unique.”
“Oh, he’s unique all right,” Josie said, giggling again. She pulled her hair back from her face and replaced her bonnet.
David untied a saw from a leather strap attached to Renegade’s saddle. He knelt down, quickly sawed through the little tree’s trunk, picked it up, and tied it across the saddle’s seat. His two black and tan dogs sniffed around the tree’s sawed off stump. Suddenly, they both lifted their noses into the air with their ears pricked. They bolted across the open clearing, baying at an unseen curiosity as they disappeared into the woods.
“Caleb! Si!” David hollered after the two hounds. “Well, there they go,” he observed wryly. “All right, Renegade, take it on home.” He patted his horse on the shoulder.
Renegade nickered softly, shook his head, and trotted off in the same direction as the two hounds.
Josie gasped. “Look, David! It’s startin’ to snow!” She tilted her head back and stuck out her tongue, trying to catch snowflakes on it.
“Come on, you do it, too,” she coaxed him.
He obliged his little sister by imitating her.
Josie laughed, spinning around with her arms extended while snow fell silently down around them.
“Oh!” David clasped his hand to his face. “One fell in my eye!”
He couldn’t help but smile, although he was careful not to let her see, and snorted to cover up his delight. “Well, I’m right glad you think it’s so funny.” He looked at her, trying to keep a straight face. “Come on, Josie girl. We’d best be gittin’ on back.”
He allowed her to go ahead of him as they started on the bridle path that cut through the woods.
“Let’s sing Christmas carols!” she said. “That new one we heard last year. Jingle Bells!”
“You start,” he prompted.
“Dashin’ through the snow…”
He joined in. Their voices grew stronger in unison.
“In a one-horse open sleigh…”
They came to an empty field, and trudged through, stepping over mud puddles while they continued singing.
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…”
Their house stood quaintly at the far end of the field. Smoke circled from its two chimneys, dissolving into the gray sky. The sweet smell of burning hickory reached out, inviting them closer. From a distance, the structure appeared to be two separate cabins sitting side by side, but upon closer observation, one could see that they were connected by a covered breezeway. Each section contained two rooms and a fireplace. A wide flat porch on the front of the split log building served as an entryway. The tin roof, which seemed to expel heat in the summertime, also managed to repel snow during winter months.
The cold, damp air encroached upon brother and sister. As they sang, their breath escaped, floated out across the fields, and vanished in phantom gusts.
“Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!”
On the last note, Josie’s voice jumped an octave. They laughed at their grand finale and walked around to the front of the house, where Renegade was waiting patiently for the tree to be removed from his saddle. A buckskin horse stood beside him.
“Whose horse is that?” Josie asked.
“It looks like Bud Samuels’ horse.”
David and Josie looked at each other, wide-eyed. “Pa!” they both exclaimed.
Josie sprang onto the porch, burst through the front door, and went inside while David untied the small yellow pine. He set it aside, pulled the saddle from Renegade’s back, and removed his bridle.
“Go on into the barn, Renie,” he said. “Or you’ll be one big ole snowball in a minute.”
The colt blew and trotted around the side of the house.
David carried his tack into the breezeway. He placed it on a horizontal board, which was supported by a plank on each end. Collecting the tree, he heard the sound of Bud’s voice coming from inside.
“I had some trouble gettin’ here,” Bud was saying as he entered. “But I convinced the Home Guard to follow me home so’s I could show them my furlough paper.”
David produced the tiny tree. “I know it’s small,” he said with a grin, “but Josie insisted, and…” The sight that befell him inexplicably filled him with dread. His smile faded. He looked around at the faces before him and let the tree fall onto the wooden floor. Warmth from the fireplace did nothing to relieve the chill that grasped him. “What is it?” he asked.
“Come in, darlin’, and close the door,” his mother said from her high-backed chair, which sat near the empty corner they had readied for the Christmas tree. Her brown skirt encircled her like a puddle. Her dark brown hair, streaked recently with gray, was parted in the middle and contained in a white cotton hair net. She clenched her hands in her lap, and her lips were pursed. The flickering firelight accentuated the grooves on her face, which, for some reason, David had never noticed before. After closing the door behind him, he looked at Rena, who was sitting beside the hearth. She vacantly stared back, her violet eyes welling up with tears.
“Rena?” he asked her.
She looked away and hugged Josie, who had taken the chair beside her.
David walked across the room to their neighbor, Bud.
“It’s a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Samuels,” he said, shaking the man’s hand. “How’s Pa? Is he comin’ home for Christmas, like he wrote?”
“Have a seat, David.” Bud’s eyes filled with concern. He scratched his straggly, graying beard.
Obeying the command, David slowly sank into a chair, keeping his eyes fixed on Bud’s face.
“I’m afraid I have bad news.” Bud cleared his throat, then slowly, deliberately said, “Your father’s been killed at Fredericksburg.” He looked down at the floor. “A little over a week ago. I know he was lookin’ forward to seein’ y’all. I’m…immensely sorry.”
He pulled a folded piece of yellowed paper from his coat pocket. The gray coat was torn and tattered in places, not at all like the beautiful piece of clothing that had been provided to him nearly two years earlier. His trousers and the kepi he held in his hand were weathered, too.
“Miss Carolyn, Hiram wanted me to give you this here letter…in the event of his death.” He solemnly handed her the note.
Squeezing her eyes shut, Carolyn held it to her mouth. Tears streamed down her weathered face. “Thank you, Bud,” she finally said. “You’ve been a good friend to my Hiram. I know he appreciated you dearly.”
Bud nodded. “Please let the missus or me know if there’s anything we can do,” he offered, and walked toward the door.
“I surely will.” Carolyn wearily stood, followed him to the door, and walked him out.
Bud placed his kepi on his head, untied his horse, mounted, and galloped off down the lane. The rhythm of hoof beats faded.
Turning from the doorway, Carolyn somberly gazed at her children. Her two daughters came across the room to hug her. The three of them burst into tears. Carolyn gazed at her son, who was sitting motionless across the room, his handsome young face drained of color, his hazel eyes growing a darker brown.
“David,” she said, her voice filled with the sorrow that had now overtaken the room.
He looked over at her, his face blank with grief-stricken shock. Finding no comfort in her anguished expression, he glanced up at the ornately-carved mantle clock, the one his father had given to her as a wedding gift. It read ten minutes past five. Beside it sat a framed tintype of his father, adorned in Confederate glory, ready to march off to victory, but now he was never to return. David’s eyes wandered, and he noticed things he’d taken for granted before: the raised oval portrait of his paternal grandmother on the wall, the paintings of flowers his mother liked so well that hung on the opposite wall, the fieldstone fireplace that his father had built, and the pine furniture that had been there ever since he could remember. Somehow, all of it seemed irrelevant.
Moving numbly, he rose and walked across the room to pick up the little tree he had dropped earlier. A tiny pool of water remained where it had fallen. He carried the tree outside, leaving a trail of moisture that splattered onto the floorboards. The cold winter air, uncluttered with snow, barely whispered, its breath deathly quiet and still. Dusk was rapidly approaching.
David hurled the tree as hard as he could. It landed with a rustled thud out in the yard. Without pausing, he walked into the breezeway past his mother and sisters and grabbed a kerosene lantern. He carried it outside, lit it, and threw it at the pine. The glass shattered upon impact. Kerosene trickled out onto the tiny branches and within seconds, flames engulfed the little tree. He stoically watched tongues of fire consume the sapling. Slowly, he turned to face his mother and sisters, who were standing on the porch, watching him while they wept.
“I reckon we won’t be celebratin’ Christmas after all,” he said, his voice raspy with distress.
Impending darkness engulfed his heart. Feeling the need for solitude, he walked around the house toward the barn, vaguely hearing his mother call out to him. The sky opened, releasing icy rain. He stomped past the pigpen and the chicken coop. Upon reaching the old wooden barn, he went inside and blinked several times before his eyes adjusted to his dim surroundings. He caught glimpses of shadows dancing off the walls and up around the rafters. A pungent combination of dry, clean hay and musty wood enveloped him. The rain rattled down upon the barn’s tin roof and sounded like a thousand tiny drums. Three cows studied him with soft brown eyes. One mooed a welcome as he walked past them.
Sidestepping bales of hay stacked near the stall door, David paused to shake off cold drops of moisture that clung to his shirt and ran his hand over the top of his head, wiping the rain from his dark brown hair. A large Percheron, standing in the stall next to Renegade, gazed at David with his ears pricked.
“Hey, Joe Boy,” David said softly to the tall white gelding.
The draft horse sniffled at David’s pockets but seemed to lose interest and shuffled to the other end of his stall when David didn’t offer a treat like he usually did. Renegade looked up from his fodder and nickered softly. David walked over and gently stroked his muzzle. “I’m sorry I put you through all that trouble of bringin’ home a tree.” Anguish and anger welled up inside him. Searing-hot tears streamed down his cheeks. His hatred seethed. His grief was overwhelming, and he could hold it back no longer. Sobs escaped him. He grasped onto his horse’s mane, burying his face in Renegade’s neck. The colt stood quietly, seemingly to console him.
My novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, just acheived #2 rating in Civil War books on Amazon. My publisher, Westwood Books Publishing, has been pushing to get this book rated as #1 on the Amazon bestseller list. Hopefully, that will happen soon!
Part of their marketing campaign is to get more reviews for the book. Here are a couple of five-star reviews that it recently received.
A Beckoning Hellfire: A Novel of the Civil War by J.D.R. Hawkins brings one of our country’s devastating times to life. David Summers is angry, hurt, and wants revenge. He can’t fathom a war that would have killed the man he idolized. His passion now is to make everyone pay who represented a small part in the death of his father. As he fights this war, brother against brother, father against son, he realizes there isn’t glamour or pride when you win a battle. The destruction and despair are unimaginable.
I found J.D.R. Hawkins a skillful writer as she brings the Civil War alive with a fierce reminder of our country torn apart. A Beckoning Hellfire is well-written and a fascinating novel. The characters are just as you would imagine them with hopes, dreams, and disappointments. They strive to live one more day and to keep their family and friends alive. People will show their true light during their darkest days. History lovers will enjoy this novel.
A RECONNING HELLFIRE, A Novel of the Civil War, Kindle Edition by JDR Hawkens. The author has set forth a coming of age tale of a young farm boy in the horribly difficult time of the Civil War between the states. His father has joined the Army of the Confederate States of America and left him to manage the large but somewhat hardscrabble farm in western Alabama with the help of his sisters and mother. Unfortunately, he is killed and the family is informed just before Christmas shortly before his 18th birthday that was to occur the following year. With a typical display of the bitterness exhibited between residents of the northern and southern states, plus an anxiousness to “get into the action existent in almost all young naïve young men, he is determined also to join in the bitter fighting to “gain revenge on the Yankees:” The story unfolds following the young man’s subsequent enlistment and experiences as he becomes one of the many young men involved in the gradual expansion of the deadly hand-to-hand combat of a member of the Southern cavalry fighting under the flamboyant and highly successful J.E.B. Stuart. His plight is made worse by his actions immediately before leaving for the army, but aided in many ways by his lifelong close friend who joins with him and his unusual horse that has been his companion for many years. Discussion: The author is the well-known as the eminently well-qualified one of the few women writing in this area of American literature, and once again has provided readers with a well-researched, well-written, mostly poignant story of one series of actions that could have taken place during the conflict. It is a story of the common soldier with only an occasional glance into the lives of the cavaliers and the storied lives lived by the wealthy plantation owners and that from which came the Southern Officers. Instead it depicts the farmer, blacksmith, storekeepers and others who made up the largest proportion of the soldiers involved in the horrendous conflict. It is not a story for the delicate reader and, as are any descriptions of battle scenes as they truly exist, subject to a goodly amount of repetition or repetitive-like description. However, the informed reader will learn much he/she may not previously known about the substitute foods and other innovative moves the southerners ‘manufactured’. It is a well-worthwhile addition to the collection of stories of tis great American conflict.
5* thoughtful addition to the American Civil War literature.
From bestselling Author Sapna Bhog comes a new romance series of friendship, loyalty and betrayal.
He never expected to run into her…
SHAURYA RAJPOOT is a man of many secrets. A sudden meeting with Myra Gupta changes the course of his life. Bound by a vow to his family, Shaurya keeps her at a distance…until she shatters all the barriers between them. Staying away from her soon becomes impossible, resisting her…unimaginable.
She wasn’t prepared for him…
After losing the only man she ever loved, MYRA GUPTA has gone through life barely living and merely surviving. But all that changes when she meets Shaurya Rajpoot. Fascinated and intrigued by him, Myra is drawn by his loyalty, silent strength and quiet reserve. She yearns to get to know him better. However his past, his family and their bitter history keeps getting in the way of them being together.
But when the past collides with the present and secrets are revealed, will love be enough? Or will one lie—the biggest deception of all—destroy Shaurya and Myra forever?
28 yo Myra Gupta lost the man she loved more than four years ago. Post that traumatic ordeal, she’s focused all her energy into her work as the head legal counsel for a huge company. Her work requires her to move cities and she does so with the single aim to begin her life afresh and to move beyond the past. But a chance meeting with a stranger at the airport, changes her life. Suddenly, Shaurya Rajpoot is everywhere she is.
Very soon, Myra is battling feelings for the only man who can possibly help her overcome her past and fall in love again.
A rising star in Dubai’s construction sector, Shaurya Rajpoot’s main goal in life is to protect his family from an old enemy. After being betrayed by the woman he loves, he never wanted anything permanent with another woman ever, until he bumps into Myra. She makes him feel again and soon Shaurya is fighting his growing attraction for the one woman who works for his family’s enemy.
Including her in his life is hard, keeping her away even harder. But with his family’s history and his past in the way of their happily ever after, Shaurya has to decide if he can take a risk and confide in Myra about everything.
About the Author: Sapna Bhog is an author from India who writes contemporary and historical romance novels. As a self-proclaimed die-hard romantic, her books are filled with swoon-worthy heroes and feisty heroines who clash all the time, but do get their happy ever after. Sapna has always surrounded herself with books and when she is not writing she is reading. Originally from Dubai, she now lives in Western India with her husband, kids and a Siberian Husky. Sapna gave up a successful IT career and took a foray into writing and has never looked back since. Her favourite pastimes are reading, writing, traveling and shopping—not necessarily in that order. She loves to hear from readers.
I’d like to officially announce that my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, has a new cover! This is in conjunction with my acquiring a new publisher.
It has been so much fun to reinvent my book and to breathe new life into it! A Beckoning Hellfire has been re-edited and improved. This book has received several awards and has earned many five-star reviews. It is the second book in the Renegade Series (the first is A Beautiful Glittering Lie). Stay tuned, because the third book in the series, A Rebel Among Us, will soon come out with a new cover as well.
Thanks so much for your continued support and interest in my books. I’m always fishing for reviews, so if you are interested, please let me know and I will send you a PDF!