Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Interview with James J Kaufman - The Conciliators finale of The Collectibles trilogy

I'm so happy to bring to you an author whose become a favorite, James J. Kaufman. He's here today to talk about the final book in his Collectibles trilogy, The Conciliators. If you haven't given this author a try and you love literary fiction, family drama, mystery, suspense and a wonderful story all rolled into three books I urge you to pick up copies of your own. In the mean time please enjoy our conversation!

ISBN-13: 9780989757133
Publisher: Downstream Publishing
Release Date: 09/08/2015
Length: 350pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound


It all started with a blind promise – now Preston Wilson faces a dilemma that will ultimately destroy him or define him.
In The Conciliators, the conclusion of The Collectibles Trilogy, Preston Wilson’s life is once again imploding – this time as headline news, bylined by Katherine Kelly. Under fire thanks to the financial shenanigans of a longtime friend, the CEO finds himself in trouble with the FBI, the Russian mafia, and his creditors. If he doesn’t come up with a plan – and quickly – he could lose everything and find himself, his wife, and his shareholders in prison. Inspired by Joe Hart’s life lessons, Preston sets a new course, vowing to fight for what matters most: his family, his friends, and the Collectibles.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Interview with Sherryl Woods - Willow Brook Road

Please welcome Sherryl Woods to the blog, she hasn't been her personally but I've featured her books here before. Sherryl's celebrating the release of her newest Chesapeake Shores series, Willow Brook Road.

ISBN-13: 9780778317661
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: 09/29/2015
Length: 384pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound/Audible


#1 New York Times bestselling author Sherryl Woods sweeps readers away with the story of a beloved member of the O'Brien family as she claims the life she's always dreamed of
Spirited, spontaneous Carrie Winters has grown up under the watchful eyes of not only her grandfather Mick O'Brien, but the entire town of Chesapeake Shores.
Now that she's home from Europe, a glamorous fashion career behind her and her heart broken, there seem to be far too many people watching to see if she'll live up to the expectations her family has for her.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Isolation by Mary Anna Evans Showcase/Interview/Reivew/Giveaway Partners in Crime Blog Tours


Mary Anna Evans

on Tour September 2015


Archaeologist Faye Longchamp-Mantooth has dug herself a deep hole and she can’t make her way out of it. As she struggles to recover from a shattering personal loss, she sees that everyone she loves is trying to reach out to her. If only she could reach back. Instead she’s out digging holes all over her home, the Florida island of Joyeuse.
In their old plantation home, Joe Wolf Mantooth is surrounded by family—Faye, the wife he loves; their toddler son he adores; and his father, who hasn’t gotten around to telling him how long he’s been out of prison or how he got there—yet Joe has never felt so helpless or alone.
Then a close friend at the local marina is brutally murdered, the first in a string of crimes against women that rocks Micco County. Joe, desperate to help Faye, realizes she is in danger from both her inner demons and someone who has breached the island’s isolation. Local law and environmental officials say they want to help, but to Faye and Joe they feel more like invaders. A struggling Faye reaches back over a century into her family’s history for clues. And all the while, danger snakes further into their lives, threatening the people they love, their cherished home, even the very ground—some of it poisoned—beneath their feet.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Women Sleuths
Published by: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Number of Pages: 284
Series: A Faye Longchamp Mystery, 9
ISBN: 9781464204029
Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads

Friday, September 25, 2015

**Giveaway** Interview with A.M. Sterling & Suzanne Wilson- Immersed in Fire:Trial by Seduction + review

Today I'm happy to introduce the husband and wife writing team of A.M. Sterling plus their co-author Suzanne Wilson. Its rare when I answer a request to review but I had a little spare time and the novel blurb spoke to me so I gave it a try. Boy am I glad I did. Read on to find out why during our conversation and my review that follows. The authors are also sponsoring TWO autographed printed copies for a giveaway, details below.
Plus the authors want to make e-copies available to all who want them click HERE to download your free copy!

ISBN-13: 978-1515096610
Publisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release Date: 08/31/2015
Length: 178pp
Buy It: Amazon

“I didn’t give up my life when I left town with Cade, I began it.” 
From a new team of indie-authors, comes the first of an explosive new romance/mystery series that will leave you gasping for air. 
When shy, awkward, twenty-eight year old Veta Keller met tall, dark and handsome Caden Poe in her brother’s law office where she worked, she would have never dreamed that meeting would lead her on a journey that would span three continents and over 13,000 miles. Caden Poe has been arrested and charged with the murders of five young women in the Los Angeles area. Refusing to be swayed by the flimsy circumstantial evidence that the state has against him, Veta becomes his biggest champion. Cade is out on bail and Veta finds herself falling quickly in love with him...then another girl is found floating in a pool and Cade’s freedom is once again hanging in the balance. With the possibility of Cade returning to jail and even his own attorney believing he’s guilty, Cade and Veta embark on a journey of love, romance, passion…and murder. 

One autographed copy of
Immersed in Fire: Trial By Seduction
to two winners
Good Luck!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

**GIVEAWAY** Interview with Donna Augustine + Review of her new novel The Wilds

I'm so happy to welcome back an author whose become a friend and my new fantasy go to.
She and I are chatting about her debut novel in her new Urban Fantasy series, The Wilds. Enjoy our chat and my review and then stick around because Donna is offering one autographed print copy for a giveaway.

Publisher: Strong Hold Publishing
Release Date: 08/30/2015
Length: 350pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon


I met a Plaguer today, one of the very few who survived the last outbreak of Bloody Death. She said horrible things about me and my companions. We all called her crazy afterward and claimed this was the reason they needed to be locked up. They spread lies that could hurt our fragile world, nearly brought to extinction 150 years ago.
But here's the catch: she was right about me. I have a niggling fear that she was right about my friends, as well. What if the Plaguers are right about the people in charge? What if they are right about everything?
This book is for all the Plaguers, the truth sayers branded and marked as liars, often hunted and sometimes forgotten. This book is for the girl who was right.

The Giveaway is for one
Autographed Print copy of
The Wilds US ONLY
Thanks Donna!
Good Luck!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

**Giveaway** Robin Bielman Blog Tour Take A Risk

Welcome to my stop on the Robin Bielman, Take a Risk Blog Tour. Enjoy learning a bit about each book in the bundle and don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!
There's only a short time left to enter the giveaway!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Interview with debut author C.A. Higgins - Lightless + my review

Today is a very exciting day for me, one of my dear author friends Lisa Verge Higgins' daughter Caitin, a chip off the old block, is releasing her debut novel, Lightless. Its the first in her new Sci-Fi series.
The Book releases one week from today so be sure and pre-order your copy now!
It's my great pleasure to introduce my readers to Caitlin Higgins!!!!
Caitlin its all yours!

Publisher: Random House
Release Date: 09/29/2015
Length: 304pp
PreOrder: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound/Audible


With deeply moving human drama, nail-biting suspense—and bold speculation informed by a degree in physics—C. A. Higgins spins a riveting science fiction debut guaranteed to catapult readers beyond their expectations.

Serving aboard the Ananke, an experimental military spacecraft launched by the ruthless organization that rules Earth and its solar system, computer scientist Althea has established an intense emotional bond—not with any of her crewmates, but with the ship’s electronic systems, which speak more deeply to her analytical mind than human feelings do. But when a pair of fugitive terrorists gain access to the Ananke, Althea must draw upon her heart and soul for the strength to defend her beloved ship.

Monday, September 21, 2015

**GIVEAWAY** Interview-Review-Laura Griffin - Shadow Fall Tracers # 9

Today I'm psyched to welcome back a wonderful New York Times bestselling author and dear friend Laura Griffin whose new novel, number 9 in her fabulous Tracers series, Shadow Fall comes out tomorrow. My favorite scene as always in Laura's novel is that ah-ha scene where she tells all, sorry but you'll have to read the book to find out! :-)
Enjoy our chat about books and writing and my review then Laura has graciously offered one lucky entrant a signed book in her Tracers series, winner's choice!
Contest deets below.

ISBN-13: 9781476779256
Publisher: Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster
Release Date: 09/22/2015
Length: 384pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound


In the ninth romantic suspense novel in the New York Times bestselling Tracers series, author Laura Griffin brings back her elite cadre of forensic experts as they hunt down the most brutal serial killer yet.
Special Agent Tara Rushing arrives at a grisly murder scene and quickly discovers she’s got a serial killer on her hands. The killer is meticulous, making sure to wipe up even the smallest traces of evidence…but the Delphi Center experts are on the case.
The local sheriff has a suspect all picked out—ex-Marine and current security expert Liam Wolfe. Despite all her digging, Tara knows very little about Liam when she shows up at his sprawling Texas compound, which serves as headquarters for Wolfe Security, and she’s surprised by her intense physical reaction to him.

Giveaway is for one signed copy
of a Tracers Novel Winner's Choice
Please use Rafflecopter form below to enter
Good Luck!
Click HERE for the Tracers page on Laura's Website

Friday, September 18, 2015

**Giveaway** Guest Post - Dre Sanders - Baby Not Tonight

Its my pleasure to introduce another new to me author Dre Sanders whose romantic comedy novel Baby Not Tonight is getting some really nice reader reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Today she's taking over the blog with a guest post so sit back and enjoy her chat about some of her random thoughts about her book and her writing.

She has another novel, Unnatural Instincts coming out at the end of the month and she is graciously offering one printed copy of both for a giveaway, details below.
Dre, the floor is yours!!

  • ASIN: B012Z6AZUQ
Publisher:Avant Garde Publishing Company
Release Date: 07/29/2015
Length: 272 pp
Buy It: Amazon

Milla McKool has been dumped by her French boyfriend after five years, losing her chance at love, her rising star status as an executive chef, and Paris. Back in NYC, she’s stuck with a dead end job, an amaretto addiction to make herself sleep at night, and a decidedly jaundiced view of all mankind. The only cure, according to her best friend, is to get back out there. 
Hunter Rossdale has been stuck in neutral for even longer. The handsome, successful investment banker meets his match in Milla, a woman who no longer believes in happy-ever-after. She’s just looking for happy-for-now.

Contest is for One Print copy each of
Baby Not Tonight & Unnatural Instincts
Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter
Good Luck!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Interview with debut author Natalie Harnett - The Hollow Ground

Please welcome debut author Natalie Harnett who is here today to talk about her novel, The Hollow Ground that first released in May as a Hardcover and is now available in paperback

ISBN-13: 9781250067753
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Release Date: 05/13/2015
Length: 336pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound/Audible

The book has gotten some really fantastic press:


We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at your feet.

The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced eleven-year-old Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the black lung stricken Gramp. Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the "curse" laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires. The weight of this legacy rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, decades-old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Interview with author Karen Katchur - The Secrets of Lake Road

Please welcome to the blog debut author Karen Katchur whose here talking about her just released novel, The Secrets of Lake Road.

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: 08/04/2015
Length: 320pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound

*A Library Journal best debut selection*


Jo has been hiding the truth about her role in her high school boyfriend's drowning for sixteen years. Every summer, she drops her children off with her mother at the lakeside community where she spent summers growing up, but cannot bear to stay herself; everything about the lake reminds her of the guilt she feels. For her daughter Caroline, however, the lake is a precious world apart; its familiarity and sameness comforts her every year despite the changes in her life outside its bounds. At twelve years old and caught between childhood and adolescence, she longs to win her mother's love and doesn't understand why Jo keeps running away.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What I did on My Summer Staycation

Remember going back to school and the first thing your elementary teacher had you do was write an essay about your summer vacation? I certainly do and since this was one of the best vacations I can remember I decided to do just that for my blog readers. So sit back and have an armchair view of - - WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER STAYCATION--

Im not a good traveler so most vacations are Staycations, most are for the most part enjoyable, relaxing and well to be honest pretty boring. So this year I had a brainstorm and decided the best thing to do would to become a real tourist, only in my own hometown. Since I live in the greater St. Louis Metropolitan area there were many choices but I also didnt want to run myself ragged.
So welcome to

St. Louis is loaded with fun things to do whether you're a year round resident or your just visiting and I decided that checking some of those off my list was a great way to spend my summer vacation. One great thing about taking vacation the week of Labor Day is that after the Monday holiday all the kids are back to school, the Malls, theatres and retail shops are not crazy busy. And if youre lucky the weather has taken a turn towards the cooler.

One of the most fantastic things about all the things I
ll mention today is that they are entirely FREE!

Some of you may know that St. Louis was the location for the 1904 Worlds Fair which was held in our fabulous world class Forest Park which opened in 1876 and totally revamped for the fair. The only permanent building built for the fair opened as The Palace of Fine Arts and today is Our St. Louis Art Museum.

1904 St. Louis Worlds Fair Palace of Fine Arts

 The statue of St. Louis, French, King Louis IX stands at the front of the museum and keeps a constant vigil over patrons. The Art Museum houses some fantastic permanent displays, artifacts and paintings and has a collection of more than 33,000 works and often is the sight of special exhibitions. For current and upcoming exhibitions click the link-


The lawn in front of the museum is called Art Hill and in the winter it's the first place kids and adults go for first class sledding.

For a leisurely relaxing lunch we headed over to The Boathouse. Since the park opened in 1875 boating has always been a popular pastime on the lake in Forest Park. Today you can rent a paddleboat to cruise the lake and on Thursdays in summer you can enjoy a Moonlight Paddleboat Picnic. The current structure was erected in the early 2000s. For more information about the Boathouse click the link-

The next stop on our Forest Park tour was the Missouri History Museum. The museum opened in 1866 and has been in its current location The Jefferson Memorial building since 1913 built with profits from the Worlds Fair.
The History Museum has many permanent exhibits like Seeking St. Louis and The 1904 Worlds Fair. Plus a continuing revolving door of exciting temporary exhibits as well.
Click the link for more information about The Missouri History Museum-

The last historic stop on my staycation was the world renowned Cahokia Mounds. The pre-Columbian site located at Cahokia was a once thriving Native American community between 600 and 1400 AD and the largest Mississippian culture north of Mexico. There are at least seven permanent excavations going on at anytime at the site from all over the world. The current museum opened in 1989 and houses a fantastic lifelike display of what Scientists think life was like for these folks plus many artifacts found at the site. Cahokia Mounds is a National Historic Landmark and is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Cahokia site also has a wooden structure called Woodhenge which was used to make astronomical sightings. Patrons can access the museum and Monks Mound, the largest earthen structure at the Cahokia site. For more information click the link-

So do you like to travel or are you more of the Staycation variety like me?

Monday, September 14, 2015

**Giveaway** Guest Post Sheri Fredericks - Monica Beggs Blog Tour

Welcome to my stop on the Monica Beggs Blog Tour - Enjoy a guest post by author Sheri Fredricks an excerpt and a tourwide giveaway.

  • ASIN: B013MDA9HU
Publisher: Amazon
Release Date: 09/04/2015
Length: 242pp
Buy It: Amazon

Famous porn star Monica Beggs has wrapped up another grueling on-location movie shoot when the Colombian cartel attempts to kidnap her. Their guns are as real as the price on her pretty head. 
Former Special Ops and present day surfer, Finn Daniels recognizes a lady in distress when he sees one—especially when it’s his adult film crush being hustled out the door. He’s no longer in the business of busting up the underworld, but that doesn’t deflect his moral compass. 

One lucky commenter from the tour
will win an e-set of Sheri’s entire backlist!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Interview with Kate Forsyth - The Wild Girl

I'm so pleased to welcome back fantastic fairytale reteller, children's and adult novelist Kate Forsyth whose graciously agreed to come back and talk about her latest novel, The Wild Girl. No it's not about Girls Gone Wild, but about the real wife of Wilhelm Grimm Dortchen Wild.

ISBN-13: 9781250047540
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: 07/07/2015
Length: 496pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound/Audible


One of six sisters, Dortchen Wild lives in the small German kingdom of Hesse-Cassel in the early 19th century. She finds herself irresistibly drawn to the boy next door, the handsome but very poor fairy tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm. It is a time of tyranny and terror. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hesse-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Forced to live under oppressive French rule, Wilhelm and his brothers quietly rebel by preserving old half-forgotten tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small over the land.

Read an excerpt:

Into the Dark Forest

The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, 1805–1806
So they walked for a long time and finally came to the middle of the great forest. There the father made a big fire and the mother says: 'Sleep for a while, children, we want to go into the forest and look for wood, wait till we come back.' The children sat down next to the fire, and each one ate its little piece of bread. They wait a long time until night falls, but the parents don't come back.
From 'Hänsel and Gretel', a tale thought to have been told by Dortchen Wild to Wilhelm Grimm before 1810

October 1805
Dortchen Wild fell in love with Wilhelm Grimm the first time she saw him.
She was only twelve years old, but love has never been something that can be constrained by age. It happened in the way of old tales, in an instant, changing everything forever. It was a fork in the path, the turn of a key, the kindling of a lantern.
That afternoon, Dortchen had gone with her friend Lotte to visit Lotte's aunt, Henriette Zimmer, who was a lady-in-waiting to the Princess Wilhelmine. They had been accompanied by Lotte's mother, Frau Grimm, and three of her brothers, Karl, Ferdinand and Ludwig. It was a long walk back to the Marktgasse from the vast green park of the palace, but no one suggested hiring a carriage. The Grimms were poor, and Dortchen certainly had no money in her purse. It was both scary and wonderful to walk through the forest at twilight, imagining wolves and witches and bears and other wild beasts lurking in the shadows.
'Look at Herkules,' Lotte said. 'He's all lit up by the sun.'
Dortchen turned and walked backward, staring back up at the palace, square and grand on its low hill, with six heavy columns holding up a great stone pediment. On the crest of the mountain behind was an octagonal building of turreted stone, surmounted by a pyramid on which stood the immense statue of Herkules, symbol of the Kurfürst's power. As the sun slid down behind the western horizon, Herkules sank back into shadow. Light drained away from the sky.
'Hurry up, girls!' Frau Grimm called. 'It'll be dark soon.'
Supper, Dortchen thought. She turned forward again and quickened her steps. 'I mustn't be late or Father will be angry.'
'He won't mind once he knows you've been with us, surely,' Lotte said.
Dortchen did not like to say that her father did not approve of the Grimm family. There were far too many boys for his comfort, and, besides, they were as poor as church mice. Herr Wild had six girls to settle comfortably.
The shadowy forest gave way to parkland, then the long, straight road ran between wide plots of gardens, each confined behind stone walls, the gateposts carved with the initials of the owners' long-dead ancestors. They approached Dortchen's family's garden plot, where she had been meant to spend all afternoon, weeding and hoeing. She ran in and caught up her basket and gardening gloves, then hurried to catch up with Lotte, who turned to wait for her, one hand clamped to her bonnet.
The road led inside the medieval walls, the cobbles bruising Dortchen's feet. The jutting eaves and chimneys and turrets of the buildings were dark against a luminous sky. The first star shone out, and Dortchen thought, I wish ...
She hardly knew how to frame the words. She longed to have someone of her own to love – a friend, a twin, a soulmate. She glanced at Lotte, at her thin face and the curly dark hair so unlike Dortchen's, which was thick and fair and straight. Lotte was only thirteen days older than Dortchen. Almost close enough to be twins. They had both been born in May 1793, the year that the King and Queen of France had their heads chopped off and the people of Paris had danced in streets puddled with blood.
Dortchen had always been fascinated by the story of Maria Antonia of Austria, who had become Marie Antoinette of France. She sometimes imagined herself as a beautiful young queen, dressed in white, dragged to the guillotine through a jeering crowd. In her daydream, Dortchen was rescued at the last moment by a daring band of masked heroes, led by a handsome stranger with a flashing sword. He threw her over the saddle of his horse and galloped away through the crowd, and the guillotine was left thirsty.
She wondered if Lotte ever imagined herself a condemned queen, a girl in a story.
Warm light spilt from the upper windows. The smell of cooking made Dortchen's stomach growl and her pulse quicken in anxiety. 'Let's hurry – I'm hungry.'
'I'm always hungry,' Lotte said. 'And all we have to eat is sausages. Sausages, sausages, every day.'
'It's better than stone soup, which is what I'll get if I'm home late.'
The small party reached the Königsplatz, its six avenues radiating out like the spokes of a wheel. In the centre of the square was a marble statue of the Kurfürst's father, the Landgrave Frederick, famous for having sent hundreds of Hessian soldiers to die fighting for Great Britain in the American Revolution.
'Did you know that there's an echo here?' Dortchen told Lotte. 'If you shout, you'll hear your voice bounce back six times.' She stood in the centre and demonstrated, much to the amazement of Lotte's three brothers, who at once came to stand beside her to test the echo too.
'Ja!' they shouted.
Back came the faint echo: Ja, ja, ja, ja, ja, ja.
'Ja! Ja!'
Ja, ja, ja, ja, ja, ja ...
The church bells rang out and Dortchen remembered the time. 'Come on, I'm late. Father will skin me alive!' Catching Lotte's hand, she ran down the cobblestoned avenue that led through the crooked houses towards the Marktgasse. The gables shut out the last of the light, so they ran through shadows, with only the occasional gleam of candlelight through a shutter showing the way.
They burst out into the Marktgasse, the three Grimm boys racing past them, Lotte's stout mother panting behind. Dortchen saw at once that the windows of her father's shop were dark, and he had hung the quail's cage out the upstairs window. Her spirits sank.
A lantern bobbed across the square towards them. Behind it were two young men, dark shapes in long coats and tall hats. They strode up to Frau Grimm, arms spread in greeting. 'Mother, where have you been?' the younger one asked in mock reproof. 'We got home to a dark, cold house and an empty larder.'
'Jakob, Wilhelm, you're here at last.' Frau Grimm embraced them warmly.
'It's my other brothers.' Lotte ran forward to greet them, and Dortchen followed shyly. In the glow of the lamp, she saw two young men, both thin and dark and shabbily dressed. The elder of the two had a serious face, with straight hair hanging past his ears. The younger was the more handsome, with pale skin, hollow cheeks and wavy dark curls. He laughed at Lotte and swung her around by the hands.
Dortchen forgot about her father, forgot about being late, forgot to breathe. The world tilted, then righted itself.
'Lotte, not so wild! You're not a little girl any more,' the elder brother reproved her. Dortchen knew that he was named Jakob and that he was twenty years old, for Lotte had spoken often about her clever brothers.
'Don't scold, Jakob,' Lotte protested. 'I haven't seen you in such an age.'
Frau Grimm patted his shoulder. 'Look at you, so tall and manly. We've been so worried. What took you so long?'
'Professor von Savigny and I had to come the long way, through Metz,' Jakob replied. 'Strasbourg is full of French soldiers.'
'The Grand Army is on the move again? I thought Napoléon was all set to invade England,' Ferdinand said. He was the fourth of the five Grimm sons, seventeen years old, with the family's dark hair and thin, sensitive face.
'I guess he's changed his mind,' Jakob replied drily.
'Do they march against Austria?' eighteen-year-old Karl demanded.
'I suppose it was to be expected,' nineteen-year-old Wilhelm said. 'Austria did invade Bavaria, after all.'
'The French move so swiftly,' Jakob said. 'Napoléon left Paris after us, yet overtook us on the road. They say he drove for fifty-eight hours, only stopping to change his horses. The ostlers had to throw water over the carriage wheels to stop them from melting.'
'You saw the Emperor? What is he like? Is it true he's a dwarf?' Ludwig asked. At fifteen, he was the youngest Grimm brother and three years older than Lotte.
'He's not tall by any means, but one hardly notices. There's such a presence about him. His eyes, they're full of fire ...' Jakob's voice trailed off.
'What about the Empress? Was she very beautiful? Are her dresses as shocking as they say?' Lotte wanted to know.
'Indeed, I'd be sorry to see you emulating her clothes, as half of Europe seems to do. If you can call a few wisps of muslin "clothes". As for beautiful – she wears so much rouge you cannot see her skin at all!'
'I wish I could have gone with you to Paris,' Wilhelm interjected. 'It was lonely at university without you.'
'I'm glad to be back with you all again,' Jakob said. 'Stimulating as Paris was.'
'We're glad to have you back too,' Ludwig said. 'Although you'll miss the house at Steinau. We're all very cramped here in Cassel.'
'We were cramped in Marburg too, I assure you,' Wilhelm said. 'At least it's not so hilly here. At Marburg, we had to climb hundreds of steps every day just to get around. And sometimes you'd walk in through the front door of a house and find yourself on the top floor!'
Dortchen waited for a chance to say her farewells. She was eager to get to the safety of the kitchen before her father noticed her absence, yet she found their talk of the outside world fascinating.
Wilhelm sensed Dortchen's eyes on him and glanced her way. 'But who is this? A friend of yours, Lottechen?'
'Oh, that's one of the Wild girls,' Karl said. 'There's a whole horde of them across the way.'
'It's Dortchen,' Lotte said. 'Dortchen Wild. She lives above the apothecary's there.' She waved her hand at the dark shop, with its mortar and pestle sign hanging outside.
'It's a pleasure to meet you, Dortchen. Is that a love name for Dorothea?' When Dortchen nodded shyly, Wilhelm went on. 'One of my favourite names. My mother's name, you know.'
'It's really Henriette Dorothea,' Dortchen said. 'But no one calls me that.'
'It's a very pretty name, both the long and the short versions,' he answered, smiling.
'What about Charlotte?' his sister demanded. 'Isn't that your favourite?'
'I like them both. Two very pretty names.'
Dortchen felt heat rising in her cheeks. 'I have to go. Thank you for taking me to afternoon tea, Frau Grimm. Bye, Lotte.' She hurried down the alley that divided her father's shop from the building in which the Grimms rented an apartment. Within seconds she was hidden in darkness, but she could hear the conversation of the Grimm family behind her.
'She seems very nice,' Wilhelm said. 'How lovely to have some girls living right next door, Lotte.'
'I hope they are sensible, hard-working girls, not like those silly friends of yours in Steinau,' Jakob added.
'Their father is very strict and keeps them close,' Frau Grimm said.
'She's very pretty,' Wilhelm said.
Dortchen smiled and clasped his words to her like something small and precious.

October 1805
Dortchen hurried through the gate in the wall and into the garden. A cobbled path led between wide beds overflowing with herbs. An old holly tree filled one corner, its branches weighed down with berries. Their servant, Old Marie, always picked holly at Christmas-time and put it on the mantelpiece in the kitchen, though if Herr Wild had known he would have ordered her to throw it on the fire. Dortchen's father thought such things pagan nonsense. The only reason holly grew in his garden was because it was a useful herb in winter, when most others were dead. Holly leaves relieved fever and rheumatism, and the powdered berries would purge a blocked bowel.
At the back of the garden were the stables and sheds. Apple trees were espaliered against the south-facing wall. As Dortchen hurried up the path, her boots bruised the thyme and hyssop and sage that spilt over the cobbles, releasing their scents into the night air.
Light illuminated a narrow window on one side of the kitchen door. Dortchen peeked through. Inside, Old Marie was busy at the fireplace. She was called that by everyone, to differentiate her from Dortchen's youngest sister, who was called Little Marie, or Mia. Old Marie was a stout woman in her late fifties, with round cheeks rosy and wrinkled as a winter apple. She wore a coarse calico apron over her brown stuff dress, and a white cap that covered most of her grey-streaked hair. Dortchen opened the door and slipped into the kitchen, a blast of hot air hitting her chilled cheeks. Mozart the starling swooped down to land on her shoulder, trilling a welcome. His dark wings were all starred with white, like snowflakes.
'Good boy,' Dortchen said and stroked his head with her knuckle.
'Good boy,' Mozart repeated. He was named after the composer, who had had a pet starling who'd learnt to whistle the last movement of his Piano Concerto in G. Although Old Marie's starling had never mastered a concerto, he had many words and sounds and songs, and chattered away all day long in a most endearing way.
'Dortchen, sweetling, where've you been?' Old Marie cried.
'Pretty sweetling, pretty sweetling,' the starling chirped.
'I've been that worried,' Old Marie went on. 'It's past the hour already. You know how your father hates to be kept waiting. Röse has come down once already to see where supper is. Quickly, take off your shawl and wash your hands, then you can ring the bell for me.'
'Does Father know I've been out?' Dortchen asked, putting down her basket and lifting Mozart down so he could hop onto his perch.
'I don't think so – he only went up from the shop ten minutes ago. He and your brother have been going at it hammer and tongs ever since. The whole house was shaking.'
As Dortchen took off her shawl and bonnet and hung them up, she said, 'Sometimes I think Father doesn't like us very much.'
'Bite your tongue,' Old Marie responded at once. 'How can you say such a thing, when you live in this fine big house, with all this good food to eat? Yes, he's a little gruff, your father, but he works hard and looks after you, which is more than can be said for many fathers.'
'He never buys us any treats or lets us do anything fun,' Dortchen pointed out.
'Better than taking you out into the forest and abandoning you, like the father of the little boy and girl in that story,' Old Marie said.
'I suppose so,' Dortchen replied. 'Though at least they got to have an adventure. We never go anywhere or do anything.'
'You call almost being eaten by a witch an adventure? Be glad for small mercies, Dortchen, my love, and pass me the salt.'
Dortchen did as she was asked, her mind wandering away into a deep, dark, thorn-tangled forest. She imagined leaving a trail of white stones to help find her way home. She imagined tricking the witch.
Still daydreaming, she began to get down plates for their dinner from the oak dresser. The kitchen was a long, low room, lit by smoky tallow candles and the orange roar of the fire. Heavy beams supported the brown-stained ceiling, with washing lines strung between them flapping with the week's laundry. Iron ladles and pots hung from hooks from a long oak shelf above the fireplace. The shelf itself held pewter bowls and tankards, and heavy ceramic jars of salt and sugar and oil.
A roasting jack, made of cast iron, stood before the fireplace. A complex set of wheels and pulleys kept the roast turning evenly, its juices dripping down into a pan. Old Marie heaved the roast beef off the jack and onto a platter, her round face red and damp with perspiration, then swung the boiling pot of potato dumplings off the fire. Dortchen hurried to help her, ladling boiled red cabbage into a tureen.
The kitchen door swung open and Mia rushed in. 'Old Marie, Mother's having a spasm. Where's supper? It's nearly quarter past.'
'I had trouble with the fire,' Old Marie said. 'The wind's in the wrong quarter.'