Friday, April 17, 2015

Interview with NYT Bestselling Author Gena Showalter - The Closer You Come

I'm so happy to welcome back a personal favorite author of mine New York Bestseller, Gena Showalter. Today she's talking about her brand new and first full length after her novella in a brand new series, The Closer You Come.
If you love bad boys with big hearts and Gena, stick around and enjoy our short chat.

  • ISBN-13: 9780373779628
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 3/31/2015
  • Series: Original Heartbreakers Series, #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 44,093


New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter introduces the Original Heartbreakers—three not-quite-reformed bad boys about to meet the women who will bring them to their knees
Just released from prison, Jase Hollister has one goal: stay out of trouble. Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma, sounds like the perfect place for him and his two brothers-by-circumstance to settle down and live a nice, simple life. But model citizen isn't exactly this rugged bachelor's default setting—especially when it comes to a certain hot-blooded Southern beauty…
Click HERE to read the first three chapters on Gena's website.

Praise for Gena:" me every time!"—Sylvia Day, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Showalter writes fun, sexy characters you fall in love with!"-Lori Foster, New York Times bestselling author
"Sassy, smart characters and an expertly woven, unconventional plot, The Closer You Come showcases Gena Showalter in all her shining talent."-Kristan Higgins, New York Times bestselling author
"Showalter makes romance sizzle on every page!"-Jill Shalvis, New York Times bestselling author
"Emotional, heart-tugging, kept me turning the pages!"-Carly Phillips, New York Times bestselling author
"With compelling stories and memorable characters, Gena Showalter never fails to dazzle."-Jeaniene Frost, New York Times bestselling author
"The Showalter name on a book means guaranteed entertainment."-RT Book Reviews
"The versatile Showalter...once again shows that she can blend humor and poignancy while keeping readers entertained from start to finish."-Booklist on Catch a Mate
Here's a Link to Gena's Merchandise page
Read an Excerpt:

Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma
Population 7,437,416 Drive Slow and See Our City, Drive Fast and See Our Jail
Brook Lynn Dillon was not a fan of mornings. Or afternoons. Or evenings. When a girl reached a certain level of exhaustion, every time of day sucked.
She'd bypassed that certain level, oh, about seven years ago when, at the tender age of eighteen, she'd begun working at Rhinestone Cowgirl. Despite what every tourist passing through town assumed, the RC wasn't a strip club, thank you very much, but an up-and-coming jewelry store.
Her five-hour shift always kicked off at the butt crack of dawn, or as her mom used to say, before the rooster crows. Afterward she had sixty short minutes for a little R and R—the Reading and Reviewing of any new past-due notices—before working a ten-hour shift at Two Farms, the only "fine dining experience" within a fifty-mile radius. The description came directly from the owner, never mind that his idea of fine dining was using shiitake mushrooms in the beef Stroganoff instead of regular ones.
Today wouldn't have been so bad if her sister had completed her own shift at Two Farms, but halfway to the finish line, Jessie Kay had taken off without saying goodbye, and Brook Lynn was forced to take over her tables to save both their jobs. At least her sister left a note in her locker.
Don't stay in tonight. Go out and get drunk. Or, you know, at least pretend to be drunk. Your prudish ways are ruining our good name! XO JK
Brook Lynn had never hustled so hard for less reward. Her back and feet ached, and she wanted to go home and fall into some sort of coma even more than she wanted to win this week's lottery. Fifteen million and counting!
But here she was. Her best friend, Kenna, had called to tell her Jessie Kay had taken her own advice and gotten trashed, partying hard at the Glass house, acting as if the male attendees were going to die if she didn't give them a little mouth to mouth.
When Jessie Kay had a few too many "party favors," she became very…popular. A good-time girl. Brook Lynn, Miss Responsible, had never been a good-time anything. Too many worries balanced on her shoulders.
Tonight's worry? Tomorrow's possible front-page headline of the Strawberry Daily: Former Beauty Queen Turned Slacker Fails to Control Her Whoremones— Again.
Not on my watch!
Brook Lynn stepped out of her car, a one-wheel-in-the-grave beater she'd named Rusty. Like a vacuum, her pores opened up and sucked the stiflingly hot air straight into her body, and not even the sweet, addictive scent of wild strawberries and magnolias made it better. She wiped a sudden sheen of sweat from her brow and marched up the dilapidated porch steps, her gaze sweeping over one of the largest homes in the parish.
A hundred-year-old farmhouse in need of brand-new everything. White paint had chipped away, revealing rotten siding. Multiple wood slats had come loose, and the seal on several of the windows had broken, allowing moisture to pool between the panels.
Not altogether beautiful, but the fifty-two-acre spread had come with a greenhouse, a small dairy, two barns, a work shed, vegetable gardens and wild strawberry patches, all surrounded by hand-set stone walls.
Harlow Glass recently lost her family's sprawling estate, and Lincoln West, a newcomer in town, had snapped it up. He was obviously more tech savvy than manual laborish, considering he'd done no actual work that Brook Lynn could see. Which made sense, she supposed. He'd just moved from Oklahoma City to enjoy good ole country living in Strawberry Valley, and it was common knowledge that big, bad city boys spent the bulk of their time sleeping around, coiffing their hair and posting pictures of food on the internet.
Brook Lynn had interacted with the guy on more than one occasion, and shockingly enough, she'd come to admire his dry wit and puffed-up ego. He loved to brag about his own magnificence, but the hint of humor in his tone always saved him from falling over the edge into obnoxious.
Have you ever seen a body this perfect? No. And you never will, Brook Lynn. The good Lord has an A game, and I'm proof.
For a guy who spent all day behind a computer, he certainly was buff. And because she hadn'tseen a body as perfect as his, she hadn't been able to rebuke him. But then, she had yet to meet his two roommates. Maybe they were hotter.
Problem was, West's friends kept to themselves. Not once had she seen them in town. Of course, that hadn't stopped Jessie Kay, who had a habit of looking for love in all the wrong places. She had not only met the two other newcomers to Strawberry Valley—she'd also already slept with one. Beck…something. Gossip claimed he was a player of players and had totally worked his way through the over-twenty-and-under-forty female population in the city before moving here, looking for fresh lady meat.
The other guy… Jase was his name, she thought. Less was known about him. To her knowledge, he hadn't hooked up with a Strawberry Valley resident, though there had been a sighting or two and plenty of interest. Older women whispered he was "hunkali-cious" while younger girls giggled nervously behind trembling hands.
A cacophony of voices seeped through the cracks around the front door. Brook Lynn wiped the dust from the upper panel of glass and peeked inside…and oh…crap. She hadn't expected so many guests. At least thirty people congregated in the living room, drinking beer, talking and laughing, and there were indications of others in the hallway and kitchen. Most were in their mid-to-late twenties, so Jessie Kay had gone to school with them—and the rumor mill about her actions this evening had likely already started spinning. These people wouldn't turn a blind eye to the fight to come, either.
And there would be a sister-versus-sister fight. Jessie Kay always resisted her own rescue.
Brook Lynn reached up and switched her inner ear implants to silent. The devices were a couple of years old but still deemed experimental, used to treat cases of hyperacusis as severe as hers—hearing everyday noises at such a blaring volume, it sometimes felt as if acid had been poured inside her ears. They allowed her to experience a sublime state of deafness whenever she desired. Which she did. Often.
Without bothering to knock, she stepped inside the house. Through a thick haze of cigar smoke, she saw the home's interior hadn't had any work done, either, and was in even more desperate need of refurbishment. Wallpaper had yellowed with age and peeled at the corners. The white shag carpet was stained and threadbare in places. In complete contrast, the furniture scattered throughout looked brand-new, flawless.
Finding no sign of Jessie Kay, she moved deeper into the house, reading lips along the way. A skill she'd honed over the years.
"—would never have guessed he was such a citidiot" the recently divorced Charlene Burns was saying. "But after tonight's antics?"
Citidiot. She had to be talking about West or one of his friends. They were the only city boys to move here in forever.
"I know!" Tawny Ferguson replied with a nod. "It's so, so sad."
"Can we really blame him, though? Smog probably putrefied already damaged brain cells. But Jessie Kay? That girl has no excuse. Trying to steal my Beck before throwing herself at Jase was such a slutty— Oh, hey, Brook Lynn." Charlene flashed a faux-bright smile and even managed an enthusiastic wave.
Brook Lynn held up her index finger and said, "One."
Both girls darted away as fast as their feet would carry them.
Over the years, Brook Lynn's count of three had served her very well. The only warning anyone received before her "viper's tongue" was unleashed. It was known for drawing blood and leaving internal injuries few could survive, all because she'd flayed Jessie Kay's ex-boyfriend with a verbal tongue-lashing. Once! But that's all it had taken. A legend had been born, and that legend had only grown—without any real help from her. Nowadays most folks would rather have their nose and mouth stapled shut—after being waterboarded—than clash with her.
A tap on her shoulder sent her wheeling around. "Kenna," she exclaimed, happy to see her friend.
The lovely redhead greeted her with a much-needed hug. "I lost track of Jessie Kay, but I guarantee West knows where she is. That boy has his head on a swivel. Come on."
Brook Lynn followed close behind and wished, not for the first time, that they could just pack up and run away together, leaving the rest of the world behind. But Kenna had a six-year-old daughter to think about. Not to mention a smoking-hot fiancé. And Brook Lynn, well, she had Jessie Kay, who would self-destruct without her.
Well, self-destruct faster.
Kenna led her through an overcrowded game room, where people hovered around a massive, elaborately carved pool table set in the frame of an old car, but no one actually played the game. Probably because a plastic sign hung from an aged chandelier, right over the center of the felt. Touch And Regret.
Another door led to a spacious kitchen. Though the walls were atrocious with an even uglier, darker yellow paper, the appliances were stainless steel and clearly fresh from the factory, the counters a lovely cream-and-rose marble. Someone had done some work in here, and her heart pinged with envy. My dream kitchen in progress.
Kenna stopped and waved her arm toward the sink…where Brook Lynn spotted West. He was in the middle of a conversation with a man she'd never met.
"I've got this," she told her friend.
Kenna cupped her cheeks in an effort to gain her full attention. "You sure?"
"Very. Go back to Dane before he starts hunting for you." Dane Michaelson, once the most sought-after bachelor in town, was now the reason Kenna breathed.
"I happen to like when he hunts me," Kenna said, wiggling her brows. "Think Animal Planet goes wild."
"You make me sick. You know that, right?"
"Don't be jelly. Your time is coming." Kenna kissed her forehead before taking off.
Brook Lynn's time wasn't even close to coming. She had zero prospects. And with that depressing thought, she focused on her quarry. As usual, the sight of West arrested her, even in profile. Not because she was attracted to him—she wasn't—but because, on top of that ultrafine body he liked to boast about, he had a face worthy of decorating the most beloved romance-novel cover. With his shaggy dark hair and piercing, soulful eyes, every unattached female in town was ready to throw herself at him—and many already had. But though he was nice, even charming and supersmart, he could have been standing in a full swatch of sunlight, and darkness still would have clung to him.
She did not need another fixer-upper in her life, and there was no question the guy would require work.
According to Kenna, whose fiancé had the inside tract, West allowed himself to date one woman per year, for two months. No more, no less. When the clock zeroed out, he dumped the poor, dear thing for some reason or other that sounded purely made up and never spoke to her again.
How crazy was that?
The guy with West was just as spectacular in appearance, maybe more so. Masculine and muscular, yet almost pretty. His eyes were a perfect honey gold, though his hair couldn't decide between blond and brown. Not that it mattered. The different colors blended together in beautiful harmony. Even his eyelashes started out black before curling into golden tips.
Brook Lynn read their lips to the best of her ability, considering they weren't looking directly at her and she didn't know their speech patterns, picking up snippets of their conversation and filling in the rest.
"It's only been six months," Honey-gold said.
"Yes, and I want him to survive the next six," West said. "This is going to cause problems."
"Not with me."
West glared at his friend.
"What? What'd I say that's so bad?"
"The fact that you don't know makes it worse."
West and Dane were working on some kind of project together, which meant Kenna, who was never far from Dane's side, and Brook Lynn, who spent what little free time she had with her best friend, had interacted with him more than anyone else in town. A few days ago, she'd asked him flat out why a guy who so obviously enjoyed the fast-paced city lifestyle had moved here—other than it being the greatest place on earth, of course. He'd merely turned on the charm, saying, "Why, to make all your dreams come true. You're welcome."
And now she had to try to get straight answers out of him. Peachy.
Determined, she walked over and tapped West on the shoulder.
He focused on her, a rebuke clearly poised at the edge of his tongue. When her identity clicked, he switched gears and grinned in welcome. "Well, well. If it isn't the girl I want by my side if ever zombies attack."
"When they attack," she corrected. It was only a matter of time. And yes, she was one of thosepeople. A believer. "Where's Jessie Kay?"
The two men shared a look before Honey-gold took her hand and kissed her knuckles. "Hello, beautiful. I'm Beck, and if you'll give me thirty minutes of your time, I'll make you forget your friend and most assuredly your name."
Ah. The infamous Beck. Number two of the bachelors three. "Jessie Kay is my older sister, so I won't be forgetting her, I promise you. But if you seriously possess the skill to make me forget my name, I swear I'll find a way to marry you. Still interested in a hookup?"
Something akin to panic flashed over his features, though he managed to mask it quickly. "Forever with a beauty like you?" he said in the same easy tone. "You're only whetting my appetite, darling."
Women fall for that? Really? She focused on West—before she gave in to the temptation to teach Beck a lesson he'd never forget. "Where is she?"
West pushed out a breath. "You sure you want to know?"
She dropped her chin to her chest, her gaze staying on him and narrowing. "This conversation is fixing to start annoying me."
Beck chuckled. "Fixing to start?"
"Something they love to say here. Just go with it."
West frowned and said to Brook Lynn, "You do realize I'll be breaking all kinds of bro-code rules if I tell you."
"Better you break the rules than I break your face."
"Fair enough." Looking suddenly and inexplicably irate, he said, "She's in Jase's bedroom."
Jase, their other friend? Jessie Kay had turned her sights from Beck to him? Meaning Charlene Burns hadn't been blowing smoke. Great! "Where is Jase's bedroom?"
"Third door on the right," West said, even pointed. Beck slugged him in the arm. "Dude. What if they're still busy?"
Busy? As in exactly what she suspected?
A tightness came over West's features but he shrugged. "Her corneas will burn, but they'll heal."
"Dude," Beck said again. "There is such a thing as privacy."
Leaving the pair to their argument, she stalked out of the kitchen and down a hallway. The couples who'd migrated this way were pressed against the walls, making out, so no one noticed her. She came to the correct door and prepared to knock, announcing her presence…only to hesitate. If Jessie Kay was totally tee-rashed, the guy was taking advantage of her, and if Brook Lynn gave him any warning, he would stop whatever crime he was committing and hide the evidence. He needed to be caught red-handed.
Then again, if she walked in and interrupted two consenting adults while they were getting "busy," her corneas would indeed be burned.
What was more important? Her sister or her eyes?
Okay, then. Decision made.
Brook Lynn turned the knob. Or would have, if it hadn't held steady. Dang it! Locked out.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

**Giveaway** Interview/Review- Fated -Donna Augustine

Today I'm so happy to welcome back an author that I found by chance but has introduced me to her wonderful storytelling and I haven't looked back since. She's here today talking about her new novel, Fated and about the Karma series.
Plus she's offering one lucky entrant winner's choice of any of her three Karma novels either
e-book or print. Contest details below.

Donna it's all yours!!!

  • Publisher: Strong Hold Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/17/2015
  • Series: Karma Series, #3
  • Format: eBook


Settling the cosmic score is what Karma was drafted by the Universe to do. But what happens when all the humans start going to the dark side? She’s got to find the source and the most likely suspect is her long time rival, who outclasses her in both power and resources.

Luckily, she’s got a new partner, Fate, but he comes with his own set of complications. The confirmed bachelor has a target of his own.

Winner's Choice of 1 e or print copy
of any of the novels in the Karma series
e-copy Open Internationally
Print copy US ONLY
Please use the Rafflecopter
form below to enter
Thanks Donna!
Good Luck!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Author interview, Jan Moran – Scent of Triumph

Today I welcome author Jan Moran whose new novel Scent of Triumph, a WWII era tale is newly released. Enjoy our conversation about the novel and about Jan too!
Here's my dear friend and fellow blogger, Karen Laird's review on her Blogging Under The Shade Tree blog.

  • ISBN-13: 9781250048905
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2015
  • Pages: 384


When French perfumer Danielle Bretancourt steps aboard a luxury ocean liner, leaving her son behind in Poland with his grandmother, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. The year is 1939, and the declaration of war on the European continent soon threatens her beloved family, scattered across many countries. Traveling through London and Paris into occupied Poland, Danielle searches desperately for her the remains of her family, relying on the strength and support of Jonathan Newell-Grey, a young captain. Finally, she is forced to gather the fragments of her impoverished family and flee to America. There she vows to begin life anew, in 1940s Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt:

A rose, the symbol of love, the queen of the perfumer’s palette.
How then, does the perfume of war intoxicate even the most
reasonable of men?
—DB (From the perfume journal of Danielle Bretancourt)
Danielle Bretancourt von Hoffman braced herself against the mahogany-paneled stateroom wall, striving for balance as she flung open a brass porthole, seeking a moment of respite she knew would never be. A damp, kelp-scented wind—a harbinger of the storm ahead—whistled through the cabin, assaulting her nose with its raw intensity, but the sting of salty spray did little to assuage the fear she had for her little boy.
Nicky was only six years old. Why, oh why did I agree to leave him behind? She had wanted to bring him, but her husband had disagreed, saying he was far too young for such an arduous journey. As a trained scientist, his arguments were always so logical, so sensible. Against her instinct, she had given in to Max. It was settled; in their absence her mother-in-law, Sofia, would care for Nicky on their old family estate in Poland.
Danielle kept her eyes focused on the horizon as the Newell-Grey Explorer slanted upward, slicing through the peak of a cresting wave. The ocean liner creaked and pitched as it heaved through the turbulent gray waters of the Atlantic on its voyage from New York to England. Silently, Danielle urged it onward, anxious to return home.
Her usually sturdy stomach churned in rhythm with the sea. Was it morning sickness, anxiety, or the ravaging motion of the sea? Probably all three, she decided. Just last week she’d been so wretchedly ill that she’d seen a doctor, who confirmed her pregnancy. The timing couldn’t be worse.
She blinked against the stiff breeze, her mind reeling. When they’d heard reports of the new agreement between Germany and Russia, they’d cut their business short to hurry home. Had it been just two days since they’d learned the devastating news that Nazi forces had invaded Poland?
Someone knocked sharply on the door. Gingerly crossing the room, Danielle opened the door to Jonathan Newell-Grey, heir apparent to the British shipping line that bore his family name. His tie hung from his collar and his sleeves were rolled up, exposing muscular forearms taut from years of sailing. A rumpled wool jacket hung over one shoulder.
Danielle and Max had met Jon on their outbound voyage to New York several weeks ago. They had become good friends, dining together regularly on the ship, and later in the city. Well-traveled and physically fit, Jon loved to explore and dine on fine food, and insisted on taking them to the best restaurants in New York, as well as little-known nooks that served authentic French and German fare, assuring Max and Danielle of a salve for their homesickness after their relocation. During their time in New York, Max worked tirelessly, tending to details for their pending cross-Atlantic move, so they both appreciated having a knowledgeable friend to call on for help.
With his gregarious yet gracious manner, Jon had helped them find a good neighborhood for their family, introduced them to his banker, and even explained some of the odd American colloquialisms they couldn’t understand, as they all laughed together over well-aged bottles of his favorite Bordeaux. They had all climbed the Empire State Building together, and one night they saw a play on Broadway, and even danced to Benny Goodman’s big band into the late evening hours. Jon also went to the World’s Fair with them, where their crystal perfume bottles were featured in a potential business partner’s display. Danielle and Max were both glad they’d met Jon, a man who embraced life with spirit and joie de vivre, and they looked forward to their new life in America far from the threat of Hitler’s forces.
But now, with news of the invasion, Max and Danielle’s guarded optimism for their future had turned to distress over their family’s safety.
“Bonjour,” she said, glad to see Jon. “Any news yet?”
“None.” He pushed a hand through his unruly chestnut hair, droplets of water spray glistening on his tanned face. “The captain has called a meeting at fifteen hundred hours for all passengers traveling on Polish and German passports.”
“But I still hold a French passport.”
“You’ll need to attend, Danielle.” His hoarse voice held the wind of the sea.
“Of course, but—” As another sharp pitch jerked through the ship, Jon caught her by the shoulders and kept her from falling. He moved intuitively with the ship’s motion, a testament to his years at sea.
“Steady now, lass,” Jon said, a small smile playing on his lips. He stared past her out the porthole, his dark eyes riveted on the ocean’s whitecapped expanse. Blackened, heavily laden clouds crossed the sun, casting angled shadows across his face.
Embarrassed, Danielle touched the wall for support. She recalled the strange sense of foreboding she’d had upon waking. She was blessed—or cursed—with an unusually keen prescience. Frowning, she asked, “Can the ship withstand this storm?”
“Sure, she’s a fine, seaworthy vessel, one of the finest in the world. This weather’s no match for her.” He turned back to her, his jaw set. His usual jovial nature had turned solemn. “Might even be rougher seas ahead, but we’ll make England by morning.”
Danielle nodded, but still, she knew. Anxiety coursed through her; something seemed terribly wrong. Her intuition came in quiet flashes of pure knowledge. She couldn’t force it, couldn’t direct it, and knew better than to discuss it with anyone, especially her husband. She was only twenty-six; Max was older, wiser, and told her that her insights were rubbish. Max wasn’t really insulting her; he had studied science at the university in Germany, and he simply didn’t believe anything that couldn’t be scientifically proven.
Jon touched her arm in a small, sympathetic movement. “Anything I can do to help?”
“Not unless you perform miracles.” Jon’s rough fingers were warm against her skin, and an ill-timed memory from a few days ago shot through her mind. Danielle loved to dance, and with Max’s encouragement, she and Jon had shared a dance while Max spoke to the captain at length after dinner. Danielle remembered Jon’s soft breath, his musky skin, his hair curling just above his collar. He’d been interested in all she had to say, from her little boy to her work at Parfums Bretancourt, her family’s perfumery in the south of France. But when she’d rested her head against his chest, it was his skin, his natural scent, which was utterly unique and intriguingly virile, that mesmerized her.
A third-generation perfumer, Danielle had an acute sense of smell. Her olfactory skills were paramount in the laboratory, but at times this acuity proved socially awkward. Jon’s scent still tingled in her nose, taunting her dreams, its musky animal appeal relentless in the recesses of her mind. His memory crept into her mind more than she knew it should. After all, she told herself firmly, I am a happily married woman.
Danielle forced the scene from her mind, took a step back out of modesty. She caught sight of herself in the mirror, her thick auburn hair in disarray, her lip rouge smeared. She smoothed her celadon green silk day dress—one of her own designs her dressmaker had made—and drew her fingers across her pale skin. “I’ve been apprehensive about this trip from the beginning.”
“Have you heard anything else from your mother-in-law?”
“Not since we spoke in New York. And my mother’s last cable said they haven’t arrived.” When she and Max had heard the news, they called Max’s mother, Sofia, and told her to leave immediately with Nicky for Paris, where Danielle’s parents had a spacious apartment in the sixteenth arrondissement, a fine neighborhood in the heart of Paris. Sofia’s voice had sounded dreadful; they hadn’t realized she was so sick. What if she isn’t well enough to travel? Wincing with remorse, Danielle fought the panic that rose in her throat, fearful for her mother-in-law.
 “They have to get out of Poland.” Jon touched her cheek.
Reflexively, she turned into the comfort of his hand, inhaling, her heart aching, his scent—at once both calming and unsettling—edged with the smell of the sea and a spiced wood blend she normally could have recognized in an instant. But now, Nicky was ever present in her mind. Danielle pressed her eyes closed and stifled a sob.
“Max is resourceful,” Jon said, trailing his hand along her face. “He’ll manage.”
But can he? she wondered. Max had planned everything, from organizing their move to New York, to returning to Poland to close their home. He’d arranged their immigration to the United States, and he was also trying to bring their most valued employees with them for the business. He’d made everything sound so sensible.
Max was German, born in Berlin to an aristocratic family. When Max was young, his mother had inherited her family’s estate and crystal and glass factory in Poland. Sofia and her husband, Karl, along with Karl’s orphaned nephew, Heinrich, moved into the castle, which had originally been built as a wedding gift in 1820 for Sofia’s ancestors. While the men set about rebuilding the factory and the business, Sofia tended to the home, a masterpiece of romantic English neo-Gothic style. After Max and Danielle married, Danielle had thrown her considerable energy into helping Sofia restore the grand salons and chambers, the arboretum, the gardens and ponds. And yet, Danielle missed her craft, retreating whenever she could to the perfumery organ—a curved workbench with rows that held essential oils and other perfumery materials—she had installed in their quarters, to conjure her aromatic artistry in solitude. Perfumery fed her soul; her urge to create could not be repressed.
The ship pitched again, sending the porthole door banging against the paneled wall. Shifting easily with the vessel’s sharp motions, Jon caught it, secured the latch.
He moved toward her, and she could almost sense the adrenaline surging through his muscular frame. Leaning closer, he lifted a strand of hair limp with sea mist from her forehead. “If I don’t see Max, you’ll tell him about the captain’s meeting?”
“We’ll be there.” She caught another whiff of his sea air–tinged skin, and this time a vivid sensory image flashed across her mind. A leather accord, patchouli, a heart of rose melding with the natural scent of his skin, warm, intriguing . . . then she recognized it—Spanish Leather. An English composition. Trumper. But the way he wore it was incredible; the parfum blended with his own natural aroma in such a fascinating manner. She was drawn in, aching to be swept farther into his scent, but she quickly retreated half a step. This is not the time.
His expression softened and he let her hair fall from his fingers as he studied her, his dark-browed, hazel-flecked eyes taking in every feature of her face.
Danielle stepped back, and Jon’s gaze trailed back to the sea, his eyes narrowed against the sun’s thinning rays, scanning the surface.
She matched his dark gaze. “Something unusual out there?”
“Might be German U-boats. Unterseeboots. The most treacherous of submarines. Bloody hell, they are. But don’t worry, Danielle, the Newell-Greys always look after their passengers.” He left, closing the door behind him.
U-boats? So it was possible. She touched a trembling finger to her lips. But that wasn’t the only thought that made her uncomfortable. Jon’s friendly, casual way with her increasingly struck a chord within her. Fortunately, Max was too much the aristocrat to make a fuss over nothing. And it is nothing, she thought. She loved her husband. But that scent . . . her mind whirred. Fresh, spicy, woodsy . . . I can recreate sea freshness, blend it with patchouli . . . .
Abruptly, the ship lurched. Cutlery clattered across a rimmed burl wood table, her books tumbled against a wall. She braced herself through the crashing swell, one hand on the doorjamb, another shielding her womb. There were so many urgent matters at hand. Our son, our family, our home. She pulled her mind back to the present.
When the ship leveled, she spied on the floor a navy blue cap she’d knitted for Nicky. He’d dropped it at the train station, and she’d forgotten to give it to Sofia. She cradled it in her hand and stroked it, missing him and the sound of his voice, then pressed the cap to her nose, drinking in his little boy smell that still clung to the woolen fibers. Redolent of milk and grass and straw and chocolates, it also called to mind sweet perspiration droplets glistening on his flushed cheeks. They often played tag in the estate’s lush, sprawling gardens, laughing and frolicking, feeding the migratory ducks that visited their ponds, or strolling beneath the protective leafy boughs of ancient, towering trees. She brushed away tears that spilled onto her cheeks.
She picked up her purse to put his cap inside, and then paused to look at the photograph of Nicky she carried. His eyes crinkled with laughter, he’d posed with his favorite stuffed toy, a red-striped monkey with black button eyes she’d sewn for him. Nicky was an adorable bundle of blond-headed energy. A streak of fear sliced through her. She stuffed the cap into her purse and snapped it shut.
The door opened and Max strode into the stateroom, his proud face ashen, his lean, angular body rigid with what Danielle knew was stress.
“Jon just left,” she said. “There’s a meeting—”
“I know, he is behind me,” Max said, clipping the words in his formal, German-accented English. He smacked his onyx pipe against his hand, releasing the sweet smoky scent of his favorite vanilla tobacco.
Jon appeared at the door. “Shall we go?”
The muscles in Max’s jaw tightened. He slipped his pipe into the pocket of his tailored wool jacket. “I need a drink first. You, Jon?”
“Not now, mate.”
Max moved past Danielle to the liquor cabinet, staggering slightly as the ship pitched. He brushed against her vanity and sent her red leather traveling case crashing to the floor.
Danielle gasped. Bottles smashed against one another inside as the case tumbled. The lid burst open, and scents of jasmine, rose, orange blossom, bergamot, berries, vanilla, cedar, and sandalwood exploded like brilliant fireworks.
“Oh, Max, my perfumes.” She gathered the hem of her silk dress and sank to her knees, heartsick. These were all the perfumes she had with her; she could hardly remember a day when she hadn’t worn one of her parfum creations. She knew Max hadn’t meant to destroy her precious potions, but now there was nothing she could do but gather the pieces. With two fingers, she fished a crystal shard and a carnelian cap from the jagged mess. “Max, would you hand me the wastebasket?”
“I, I didn’t mean to . . .” Looking worried, Max turned away and reached for the vodka, sighing in resignation. “Just leave it, Danielle. The cabin boy will see to it.”
Jon knelt beside her. “Did you make all these?”
“Yes, I did. And the case was Max’s wedding gift to me.”
“These are beautiful works of art, Danielle. Max told me you were once regarded as the child prodigy of perfumery.” He took a sharp piece from her. “Don’t hurt yourself, I’ll send someone to clean this up while you’re gone.”
She caught his eye and mouthed a silent thank-you, then rose and opened the porthole. A gust caught her long hair and slapped it across her face, stinging her flushed cheeks. Staring at the ocean, a quiet intuitive knowledge crept into her consciousness. It’s true, she thought, and spun around. “Jon said there might be U-boats out there.”
She watched Max pour a shot, then pause with his glass in midair, his intellectual mind whirring, weighing the probabilities. She knew her husband well; she saw his eyes flash with a moment of intensity, then clear into twin pools of lucid blue as he decided the odds were against it. “Impossible,” he said.
“Anything is possible.” Jon brushed broken crystal into the wastebasket and straightened.
Danielle’s thoughts reeled back over the morning. “Is that why we’ve been zigzagging?”
Jon shot a look at Max. “Smart one, your wife. Not just an artist, I see.” One side of his mouth tugged to a reassuring grin, shifting the deep cleft in his chin. “I’ll grant you that, Danielle, but it’s just a safety measure. U-boats aren’t a threat to passenger liners.”
Pressure built in her head. “Like the Lusitania?”
“A disaster like that couldn’t happen today,” Jon said, rubbing the indentation in his chin. “Every captain checks Lloyd’s Register. It’s clear that we’re a passenger ship. Even so, there are rules of war; an initial shot across the bow must be fired in warning. And England is not at war.”
“Not yet.” Max tossed the vodka down his throat and gave a wry, thin-lipped grin. “So is that why you have been holding court in the stern, Jon?”
“I confess, you’re on to me, old boy. But seriously, we’d have time to signal to a vessel that we’re not armed. Even a submarine must abide by these rules of war. Even the Nazis.”
Nazis. The word filled Danielle with dread. What the Nazis were doing to Jews in Germany was unconscionable. New laws required that yellow stars for identification be sewn onto clothing. Imagine. Jewish businesses were being destroyed, entire families beaten or killed. These were German citizens, many of whom had lived in Germany for generations. It didn’t matter how educated they were, whether they were young or old, wealthy or poor. A chill crept along her spine. “We’ve taken too long, Max. We have to get Nicky and your mother out now.”
“The Polish army is not yet defeated, my dear,” Max said quietly, pouring another shot. “Try to have patience.”
“How can you be so calm?” Her voice hitched in despair. Her father was from an old French family, long recognized in French society. Danielle’s mother was Jewish, so by German law Nicky was one- quarter Jewish. “You know what could happen to Nicky.”
“We’ve been over this. Nicky is just a child.” Max looked weary, the prominent veins in his high forehead throbbing as he spoke. “You were raised in your father’s faith, you are Catholic. Nicky was also baptized. How would the Nazis find out anything different?”
But she knew they had ways. She pressed her hand to her mouth, consumed with worry and guilt. Why did I agree to leave Nicky?
Max gulped his drink, and then glanced at Jon. “We should go now.” Max walked to the door. Without turning he paused, his voice thick. “I am sorry for your perfumes, Danielle. I am sorry for everything.”
Danielle sucked in her breath. Max only drank when he was frustrated. when he had no clear answers. And he seldom offers an apology. To him, it was a sign of defeat, a sign that his scientific mind, or measured actions, had betrayed him. Max took pride in providing financially for his family, their well-being was his constant concern, especially that of Nicky, his beloved son. Danielle was the heart of their marriage, and she always felt safe with him. Except today, she thought, fear gripping her body like a vine. Today is different.
Jon opened the door, held it for them. She snatched her purse and followed Max.
Passengers jostled past in the crowded corridor and Danielle could feel anxiety rising in the air like a heat wave, smell the sour perspiration— like coddled milk left in the sun— emanating from panicked, angry passengers. Ordinary perspiration smelled different when tainted with fear. “Rotten Krauts,” they heard people say. She saw Max stiffen against the verbal assaults.
When they came to the open-air promenade deck, Danielle glanced out over the sea, but she could see little in the gathering mist.
Jon followed her gaze. “We’ve got a heavy fog rolling in.”
The air held the ozone-scented promise of rain. “It’s so dim,” she said. “Jon, why aren’t the running lights on?”
“We’re blacked out for security.”
There’s more to it, she thought, her neck tightening with trepidation.
They arrived at the first-class lounge, where tense passengers crowded shoulder to
shoulder. Jon excused himself to take his place near the front as the owner representative. A hush spread when the grim-faced captain approached the podium.
“Thank you for your attention,” the captain began. “Two days ago, Hitler’s Nazi Germany violated a European peace agreement. Now, on the wireless we have a reply from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.”
He nodded to a crew member. The loudspeakers crackled to life and a nervous murmur rippled across the room.
England was on the airwaves.
The radio announcer was speaking about Poland. “Blitzkrieg,” he called the German attack on the country.
“Lightning war,” Max translated, shaking his head. He flexed his jaw, and Danielle could see veins bulging from his temples as he sought to control unfamiliar emotions.
“Oh, no.” Danielle turned her face against Max’s chest, the tentacles of terror slithering into her brain. It has begun, she thought, and so horribly. She trembled. My poor Nicky, dear Sofia. Mon Dieu, what’s happening to them? How frightened they must be.
Max slid a finger under her chin and lifted her face to his, wiping tears from her eyes with an awkward gesture. “It’s my fault, I should have already relocated our family. I didn’t realize this would happen so quickly.”
The tortured guilt in his expression tore at her soul. He has failed. All his plans, all his actions, were to protect our family. She averted her eyes from his pain, trying to calm her breathing as people wailed around her.
The radio crackled again. “And now, Prime Minister Chamberlain.”
“This morning the British ambassador in Berlin handed the German government a final note stating that, unless we heard from them by eleven o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us.”
Chamberlain’s voice sounded burdened, yet resolute. “I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently, this country is at war with Germany.”
A collective gasp filled the room, and Danielle sank against Max for support. He wrapped his arms around her, murmuring in her ear. “We’ll find them, they’ll soon be safe.” But is he reassuring me or himself?
At the end of the broadcast, the captain stepped aside and Jon strode to the podium. Jon’s baritone voice boomed over the murmuring tide. “Tomorrow, when we arrive, Newell-Grey agents will be available to assist and accommodate you. We shall keep you informed as we receive additional information.”
Danielle pressed a hand to her mouth. Who knew it would come to this? A sudden clamminess overtook her, and her nausea returned with unbridled force. Tearing herself from Max, she bolted through the crowd, bumping against other passengers as she raced to the outer deck. She reached the railing, leaned over, gulped for air. Her stomach convulsed in a dry heave as the wind whipped the celadon scarf from her neck.
“Danielle,” Max called, following her. Jon rushed after them.
I can’t stand this, she thought, anguish ripping through her as images of Nicky and Sofia filled her mind. Max and Jon reached her side, and the three of them stood gazing through the shifting fog into the bleak waters below as Danielle clung to the railing, one arm clutching her abdomen, pressing her fevered cheek against the cold metal railing for relief.
Max draped an arm across her shoulders, rubbing her back, and looked across at Jon. “Her morning sickness is much worse with this pregnancy.”
But Jon’s eyes were fixed on the ocean. His face froze.
A sleek, narrow wake rippled the broken surface.
“What the—” began Max.
 “Good God, get down,” Jon bellowed. He leapt across Max and Danielle, his powerful body crashing them to the deck.
Danielle hit the wooden boards with such force that her shoulder cracked and her eyes blurred. My baby, she thought frantically, curling instinctively around her midsection, wrapping her arms around her torso and drawing up her knees to shield her unborn child.
In the next instant, a violent impact shot them across the deck. An explosion ripped into the bowels of the great ship. Screams pierced the haze, and the ship’s massive framework buckled with a roar.
“Torpedoes,” Jon shouted. He crushed his hand over Danielle’s head and cursed under his breath. “Stay down.”
An icy burst enveloped them like a sheet and soaked them to the flesh. Danielle gasped in terror. Mon Dieu! She could hear Max scrambling behind her, sliding on the slippery deck. Protect us, she prayed, keeping her head down and pressing her chin against her chest.
Another explosion rocked the ship. Wood and metal twisted with a grating screech as the ship listed to the starboard side, rolling like a wounded whale. The ship groaned and folded under her own weight, frigid salt water pouring into her open wounds.
Jon struggled to his feet. “Take my hand, Danielle, we must reach the lifeboats. This way, Max.” Jon dragged Danielle behind him. “Nazi bastards.” He stopped, and pulled his shoulders back. He turned to face the dazed crowd behind him.
“Attention.” Jon’s voice rang with urgent authority. “We must proceed quickly and calmly to the lifeboats.”
Amid the chaos, people turned to follow.
Danielle reached for Jon’s hand again, stumbling on something in her haste. She wiped stinging water from her eyes and blinked. A woman she’d met yesterday lay bloodied at her feet. She smothered a scream, and then reached down to help the woman.
Jon caught her arm. “Don’t, it’s no use. She’s gone.”
“No, she can’t be,” Danielle cried. She’d never seen a dead person before. Except for the blood soaking the deck beneath her, the woman appeared merely unconscious. This can’t be happening. Then she saw that the back of the woman’s skull was gone and she started to retch.
Jon shoved his handkerchief into her hand to wipe her mouth. “Keep going,” he yelled.
Soon they came upon a lifeboat that dangled above them like a toy.
“Max, give us a hand, we haven’t much time. Danielle, wrap your arms around the rail.” Jon slicked his wet hair back from his eyes and grabbed a line. Max fought for balance, staggering to the lifeboat.
Water poured over the rail and mixed with the dead woman’s blood, sloshing across the deck and staining it a deep crimson. All around them people slid across the tilting deck, screaming in hysteria. Danielle lost her balance, along with one leather pump that tumbled into the pandemonium. She kicked off her other shoe and clung to the railing.
Jon and Max began to toss life vests from the boat into the crowd.
Danielle’s heart raced at the sight of the life vests. “Are we . . . are we going to sink?”
Jon’s jaw twitched. “Just put on one of these.”
“But I can’t swim,” she cried, her voice rising with fright.
“You won’t have to if you’re wearing this.”
Despite her panic, Danielle fumbled with the strings on the vest. Jon and Max worked feverishly to free the lifeboats. Within moments, several crew members arrived and began to herd women and children into the boats.
Max checked her vest, tugged her knots to strengthen them, and kissed Danielle while the first boat was lowered. “Go now, I’ll see you soon.”
She peered at the lifeboat and terror gripped her chest. No, not this. She’d never liked small crafts, had nearly drowned off one when she was a child. Danielle stood rooted in horror at the thought of climbing into a boat.
 Jon waved his arm at her. “Get in,” he roared, his voice gravelly.
She turned to Max, her eyes pleading with him. “Max, I can’t.”
“Yes, you can. I’ll be right behind you, my love.” Despite the bulky life vest, Max pressed her to him and kissed her again, reassuring her.
Jon grabbed her arm with such force that Danielle yelped with pain. “Danielle, people are waiting.”
“No, Jon, I– I can’t get into that boat. I’ll stay with Max.”
“Bloody hell, you will.” Jon’s eyes flamed with urgency, startling her. “For God’s sake, woman, get your wits about you. What happened to your famous French courage?”
Max threw Jon a wary glance, and then nodded to her. “He’s right, you must go now.”
Indignant, Danielle jerked her arm from Jon. “I’ll show you courage.” She stepped into the boat, barefoot, still clutching her purse.
As she settled unsteadily into the boat, a man with a sobbing young child rushed toward them. “Please, will someone take my boy?”
 Danielle thought of her own little boy, shot a glare at Jon. “I will.” She reached for the frightened child.
“His name is Joshua. You will take care of my boy?”
“I give you my word.” She prayed someone would do the same for her Nicky, if need be. She hugged the tearful child, sweet with a milky smell, to her breast. Joshua was the same size as Nicky and it was all she could do to keep from calling his name.
Jon gave the signal and the lifeboat plunged into the choppy ocean. Danielle squeezed her eyes shut and bent over the boy to protect him as a wave hurtled toward the boat and broke against the wooden bow, blasting them with an icy shock and plastering their hair and clothes to their skin.
Her teeth chattering, Danielle looked back at the great ship. She was taking on water fast. All around them lifeboats crashed into the sea amid the most heart-wrenching cries she’d ever heard.
She strained to see through the fog and the frantic crowd, but couldn’t spot Max or Jon. The Newell- Grey Explorer, the fine ship that bore Jon’s family name, was giving way, slipping to her death. For a moment, the ship heaved against the crushing weight of her watery grave.
Danielle’s eyes were glued to the horrific scene. Then, she remembered something she’d once heard. We’ve got to act. Alarmed, she turned to the young crew member with them. “When a ship goes down, the force can suck others down with it. We’ve got to get out of here.”
Dazed with shock, he made no reply.
Frustrated, she turned to the elderly woman next to her. “Here, take little Joshua, hold him tightly.” She gave the woman her purse, too.
Another woman let out a cry. “But what will we do?”
“We’ve got to row,” Danielle shouted. “Who’ll help me?” She had watched her brother Jean-Claude row often enough. Surely I can manage this, she thought desperately.
A stout Irishwoman with coppery red hair spoke up. “I might be third class, but I’m a first-class rower.”
“Good.” Danielle’s resolve hardened and she moved into position. She tucked her soggy silk dress between her legs, its dye trailing green across the white deck, and grabbed an oar.
“Together, now stroke, and— no, wait.” When she lifted her arms to row, the life vest bunched up around her neck, inhibiting her movement. She glanced at little Joshua and realized he had no life vest. She tore the vest strings open, shrugged out of it, and gave it to the elderly woman. “Put it on him.”
“All right, now stroke,” the Irishwoman called. “Steady, and stroke, and stroke.”
Danielle pulled hard against the oars, struggling for rhythm, though splinters dug into her hands and her thin sleeves ripped from the strain.
They were some distance out when she looked up. The immense ship, the jewel of the fleet, gave one last, mournful wail as she conceded defeat. The ship disappeared into the Atlantic blackness, leaving only a burgeoning swell of water and a spiral of smoke in her wake.
Where’s Max? And Jon? Did they make it off the ship? She couldn’t watch anymore; she turned her back to the ship, numb to the cold.
And there, in the distance, she saw it. A strange vessel was breaking the surface. As it crested, she saw on its side in block print the letter U and a series of numbers. A U-boat. Treacherous, Jon had said. And deadly.
Danielle narrowed her eyes. So, this is the enemy, this is who holds Poland—and my family—captive.
A scorching rage exploded within her and sent her to the boat’s edge, her hands fisted white, shaking with fury. Look at them, surveying their handiwork, the bastards. Steadying herself on the bow, she cried in a hoarse voice into the gathering nightfall, “Someday, there will be a day of reckoning for this. C’est la guerre. And I’ll never, never surrender.”
“You tell ’em, dearie,” yelled the Irishwoman. As Danielle and the other lifeboat occupants stared at the U-boat, a mighty force began to gather below them. Silent as a thief, a swift undersea current drew water from beneath the bobbing craft.
Danielle sensed an eerie calm.
She turned and gasped.
A wall of water, born of the wake of the Newell-Grey Explorer, rose high behind them.
The wave crashed down, flipping the lifeboat like a leaf. Grappling for a handhold, Danielle screamed, and then plunged into the swirling current. The lifeboat completed its airborne arch, and an oar hurtled toward her. She tried to twist away, but it cracked her on her head, stunning her to the core.
Her moans for help were muffled as she sank into the frigid depths. She flailed about, desperate to swim the short distance to the surface, but her efforts only sucked her farther into the unrelenting sea. At last, she felt nothing but the icy claws of the Atlantic. Her breath gave way and she slipped into darkness.