Excerpt: Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey

Southeastern England, 1815

 I blinked a few times and took a deep breath. Apparently I’d survived.

Shaky, I pressed my hand to the wet gash on my temple as the world around me swirled into focus.

Gunshots. Highwaymen. The carriage crashing to its side. The whole awful encounter raced through my mind like a runaway horse.

The blazing afternoon sun filtered in through a window of the upturned carriage, illuminating disheveled squabs that slumped to my right and left. Dust lay suspended in the air, oddly seasoned by the scent of my lavender perfume. The bottle must have broken when the carriage crashed onto its side.

Wedged between the door and the seat, I attempted to sit up, but my muscles ached in response.

A faint cry took flight on the wind, and my eyes shot fully open. “Isaac!” I clawed at the splintered wood around me. “Isaac? Mama’s here.” I could hear my cousin’s words resounding in my mind as I struggled to get my bearings. “You really should be more careful with the boy.”

I thrust a loose bandbox from my legs and forced myself semi-upright. The movement sent a shooting pain like lightning through my head, and I cried out. My stomach rolled in answer as blood throbbed its way to my forehead. What was left of the carriage I was pinned within swam around me in circles, but nothing would keep me from my son.

Several heart-pounding seconds passed as I pawed through the disheveled interior. Finally I located Isaac’s curly blond head in the far corner. Black spots crept into the sides of my vision as I stared at his motionless form. Was he injured—or worse?

I stretched out my trembling hand just as his eyes popped open. He let out a frantic cry and his gaze found mine. Gasping for air, I screamed, “Oh, Isaac!” Tears spilled down my cheeks as he crawled over the various pieces of luggage and into my lap, my fingers sliding over every inch of his precious body.

“Madam, are you hurt?” A deep voice echoed from somewhere above, but I couldn’t maneuver around to see its owner. My ears buzzed as I drew Isaac close, reveling in the feel of his warm arms.

We had a rescuer, but what now? My entire body throbbed in pain. And—the Palmers! They were expecting us in Dover. Tonight. The horrid highwayman had ruined my carefully laid plans.

Blood trickled down my wrist as I pressed the wound on my forehead. “I don’t think anything is broken, sir . . . only, my head . . . I believe I hit it rather hard.”

“It was a ghastly accident, I’m afraid.” The voice was that of a gentleman, a passerby perhaps? “I’m afraid your coachman has suffered greatly. I’ve bound up his leg, but he has not yet regained consciousness.”

I clenched my jaw. “Indeed, it was ghastly! Did you see the devil who ran us from the road?”

A pause. “Well, yes.” A metallic squeak sounded, and the equipage jolted. “I’ve the door open above you now. I think it best if I come in and assess your wounds before lifting you out.”

Unable to take the sudden flash of bright light, I shielded my eyes with my hand. “That sounds reasonable. My son seems unharmed, though I’m not certain I can move at present. My head is awfully tender.”

The carriage shivered as the man dropped safely into the coach. He pushed my valise out of the way and knelt at my side, bringing his face into view at last. I stifled a gasp as an icy wave filled my chest.

It was him—the highwayman. I clutched Isaac against me.

He held up his hand, his voice adversely tender. “Don’t be frightened. I’m only here to help.”

“Is that so?” I pushed through the burning twinge inching down my neck to dip my chin. “A highwayman with a conscience. What a comfort.”

His hand retreated to the rag covering his nose and mouth, and he mumbled under his breath, “I forgot I still had this thing on. Guess there’s no denying it now.”

“Certainly not.”

He reached up to lower the mask but hesitated as he gripped the cloth. “Perhaps it would be best if we remain as we are—two strangers, nothing more.”

I shrank against the cold glass of the side window, the memory of my terror at the approaching robbery charging my nerves once again. “What is it you want? We haven’t any money . . . or jewelry for that matter. I was on my way to accept a position as housekeeper.” I gave him a hard smile. “You’ve risked our lives for nothing.”

He shook his head, his voice grim. “This entire mishap was just a shocking misunderstanding. I’m dreadfully sorry to have involved you and your son.”

My gaze flicked to the broken window. “And our driver?”

“Unfortunately, he will need a doctor straightaway.” The highwayman gestured to my bent legs lying lifeless among the loose items that had fallen during the collision. “Considering we haven’t much time, it is imperative I check your injuries at once. May I?”

I flinched as he extended his arms.

His voice softened. “You know you’ll have to trust me if I’m to get the three of you out of this.”

He sounded reasonable enough, and someone else might not come along for some time. But I’d not let a man this close to me . . . not since Brook. My muscles stiffened before I forced a nod. After all, what other options did I have?

The highwayman felt along my feet and knees before moving his hands to my arms and around my shoulders. His touch was gentle yet assured and eventually brought a pair of pale blue eyes a few inches from my face. We assessed each other for a quiet moment. The man’s steady gaze was familiar somehow. Did I know him? Surely not.

He gathered Isaac from my chest, then strong-armed me into a sitting position close to his side. “There. Does it pain you terribly to move?”

At first I thought the worst was over, but my ears soon buzzed to life, my stomach churning in response.

Unaware of what raged inside my body, he went on. “I believe there is an inn a few miles ahead—”

All at once my face felt hot, and a black veil dropped over my vision. I tried to warn the man, flitting my hands in the air, but there wasn’t time before I tipped over—straight into his lap.

The unexpected caress of the man’s fingers at my back and on my arm startled me as I woke, and he guided me once again into a sitting position. I thought his subtle touch at odds with the villainous robber he presented on the road moments before, but I was far too preoccupied to remark upon it.

He moved quickly to assess the wound on my head. “I begin to fear you might be concussed.”

“Actually, I feel a bit better now.” But I’d spoken too soon. The carriage seemed to tilt, and I felt the man lower me back onto the side of the coach, which served as the floor at present.

“This is a bit more complicated than I thought. I’m greatly concerned you’ve—What the deuce?” He sprung to his feet and cast a quick glance out the window above before ducking back into the shadow of the coach, Isaac wriggling in his arms. A muscle twitched in his cheek. His voice, however, was composed as he said, “It appears we’re to have company. There are horses approaching.”

The roar I’d heard before swelled within my ears, and I feared I might slip from consciousness once again. The highwayman sought to avoid my stare but couldn’t entirely manage to do so. I wondered if he shared my concern or if something else drove his actions. And those eyes. They were indeed familiar. Struck by a sudden notion, I motioned him near. He leaned toward me and, cautiously, I scrutinized every last curve of his exposed face.

Could it be? Brook? When he’d broken my heart and refused to acknowledge my son about a year and a half ago I thought I’d never see him again. Yet here he was—stooping beside me as if he owned the world. I shifted to mouth his name, but my lips wouldn’t cooperate. Perhaps I’d already fallen within a dream. As I continued searching the eyes that focused on mine, I realized they were not quite as familiar as I’d thought.

The man’s hand was at my chin, his voice urgent. “Stay with me. It won’t be long now till help is upon us.” Footsteps pounded somewhere beyond the black tunnel of my vision. The highwayman shouted up at the open door above us, “We’re in here. Make haste! A woman is injured.”

Then he whispered to himself, “Oh God, what have I done?”

It was not Brook Radcliff speaking beneath that mask. No, the voice was deeper, more refined. In a curious haze, I tugged the rag from the man’s face just as voices crested the open door of the carriage.

“I say! Is everyone all right in there?”

Darkness circled my vision. As the buzzing in my ears drowned out all other sounds, I lay stunned at what my fingers had unwittingly revealed.

It wasn’t Brook who forced my carriage from the road and yelled, “Stand and deliver!” It was his disreputable older brother, Lord Torrington.

Taken from Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey by Abigail Wilson. Copyright © 2020. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Author:

Abigail Wilson combines her passion for Regency England with intrigue and adventure to pen historical mysteries with a heart. A Registered Nurse, chai tea addict, and mother of two crazy kids, Abigail fills her spare time hiking the National Parks, attending her daughter’s gymnastic meets, and curling up with a great book. In 2017, Abigail won WisRWA’s Fab Five Contest and ACFW’s First Impressions contest as well as placing as a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. She is a cum laude graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and currently lives in Dripping Springs, Texas, with her husband and children.

Connect with Abigail through her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Spotlight: La Casa de Foster Hill de Jaime Jo Wright

Hoy interrumpo mi blog, que normalmente es en inglés, con un post en español. La razón por esto es que hoy sale a la venta en ESPAÑOL (!!!) uno de mis libros favoritos, La Casa de Foster Hill. Estoy obsesionada con los libros de Jaime Jo Wright, como ya lo sabrás si sigues mi blog o página en Facebook, así que me faltan las palabras para expresar mi excitación. Llevo contando los días desde que oí que Libros de Seda traduciría el libro. Por eso tenia que compartir la noticia contigo.

Debido al Coronavirus, por ahora solo está disponible para lectores electrónicos, pero dentro de unos meses también deberíamos tenerlo en tapa blanda — y pienso ser la primera en fila para comprármelo. Si te gusta misterio y suspense que te roba el aliento sin convertirse en una historia de horror, este libro es para ti. Pero bueno, basta ya de charla, deja que te cuente de que va.

Sobre La Historia:

Para Kaine Prescott la muerte no es una extraña. Su marido murió hace dos años en extrañas circunstancias y sus súplicas para que la investigación fuera más allá cayeron en saco roto. Para olvidar y empezar de nuevo, decide comprar una vieja casa en la ciudad natal de su abuelo, en Wisconsin. Al ver la casa por primera vez, abandonada y rodeada de misterio, se da cuenta de que quizá se ha precipitado. Y lo peor está por llegar, pues la oscura historia del edificio saldrá a la luz y Kaine se dará cuenta de que ahora sí que no tiene dónde esconderse.
Hace cien años, la casa de Foster Hill no guardaba más que recuerdos dolorosos para Ivy Thorpe. Tras encontrar el cadáver de una desconocida en la propiedad, se ve obligada a investigar de quién se trata. Y al hacerlo, se internará sin quererlo en un mundo peligroso… ¿Podrá desentrañar el misterio que envuelve la casa antes de que de que su vida o cualquier otra se pierdan?

Sobre La Autora:

Jaime Jo Wright es bebedora de café profesional y autora de best sellers del ECPA/Publisher’s Weekly. Vive en las colinas de Wisconsin, desde donde escribe historias románticas con toques de misterio. El café le sirve para alimentar su sarcástica personalidad. Vive en el país de Nunca Jamás con su capitán Garfio, quien le robó el corazón hace tiempo y que no tiene intención de devolvérselo, su pequeña hada Campanilla y un Peter Pan muy travieso. Los cuatro se embarcan juntos en montones de aventuras, lo que no hace sino aumentar su amor por las historias de amor y de intriga.

Conecta con Jaime a través de su pagina web, Facebook, e Instagram.

 

Character Spotlight: Kimberly Duffy’s Nora and Owen

About the Story:

It’s 1885, and all Nora Shipley wants, now that she’s graduating from Cornell University as valedictorian of the entomology program, is to follow in her late father’s footsteps by getting her master’s degree and taking over the scientific journal he started. The only way to uphold her father’s legacy is to win a scholarship, so she joins a research expedition in Kodaikanal, India, to prove herself in the field.

India isn’t what she expects, though, and neither is the rival classmate who accompanies her, Owen Epps. As her preconceptions of India–and of Owen–fall away, she finds both far more captivating than she expected. Forced by the expedition leader to stay at camp and illustrate exotic butterflies the men of the team find without her, Nora befriends Sita, a young Indian girl who has been dedicated to a goddess against her will.

In this spellbinding new land, Nora is soon faced with impossible choices–between saving Sita and saving her career, and between what she’s always thought she wanted and the man she’s come to love.

Meet Nora Shipley

Image Credit: Pinterest

Resembles: Lily Elsie. She was an Edwardian actress and singer

Physical description: Nora is lovely but doesn’t give much thought to her appearance. She is just below average height with a wild mane of brown curls that never behave.

Age: Twenty-One

Job: Nora has just graduated from college. About midway through the book, she secures her first position working as an illustrator and entomologist in a camp.

Favorite Insect: Nora doesn’t have a favorite insect because she appreciates them all. She finds weaver ants particularly fascinating, though.

Loves: Nora loves her work. She loves nature. She’s a little bit hyper-focused and can sometimes become unbalanced because of it. But she also loves her friends and adventure and justice.

Hates: Cockroaches. They are the only insect she cannot abide. She also intensely dislikes when people speak condescendingly to her.

Quirk: Nora becomes almost childlike when observing an interesting or beautiful insect. She gets down on her knees in the dirt, climbs trees, and becomes completely oblivious to what is going on around her

Greatest struggle: Her greatest struggle is releasing the guilt she’s burdened with. She also has a habit of sometimes speaking her mind before thinking.

Goal: Nora’s greatest desire is to wrestle control of her father’s scientific journal from her step-father’s mismanagement. She’s willing to sacrifice almost anything to make it happen.

Family history: Nora’s beloved father died in a traumatic accident when she was a young teen. Her mother, who is sickly and weak, remarried not long after to a man Nora despises. She has no siblings and no other family to speak of except for her step-aunt who has a big personality.

Other: Nora’s relationship with Owen gets off to a rocky start (much the way my relationship with my husband!) She doesn’t think he is serious about his education, or anything really. He never seems to struggle with anything, least of all life. He’s popular and flirtatious and not at all studious. And because of that she thinks he’s superficial and shallow. She’s as surprised as anyone to learn he’s not.

Nora is an introvert with a knack for forthrightness and loves nothing more than working in the Cornell University entomology lab. She does have three very close friends, though. Rose, a zoology student, Bitsy, who studies ornithology, and Anna Comstock, wife to one of Nora’s most beloved professors and her art tutor.

Meet Owen Epps

Image Credit: Pinterest

Resembles: Matt Lanter

Physical description: All-American, boy next door. Owen has blue eyes that remind Nora of the Blue Morpho butterfly. A quick smile, brown hair, and charming everything.

Age: twenty-two

Job: Owen has also just graduated from Cornell with a degree in entomology. He works with Nora at the camp.

Favorite Insect: Owen is fascinated by Phasmids—walking sticks and leaf bugs. He loves that they are able to camouflage so completely, people never figure them out.

Favorite Book: Owen’s favorite book is Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. If he’s going to live a boring life in an office, he at least wants to escape into novels.

Loves: Owen loves having a good time. He enjoys adventure novels and wants to see the world.

Hates: He hates that his father insists he either go into the family business or law.

Greatest struggle: Owen doesn’t really know what he wants to do with his life other than enjoy it. He’s pushing back against his father’s desires for him, but feels like, in the end, capitulation is inevitable.

Family history: Owen’s father is a successful business man who works in publishing. He has a couple brothers who are in law/politics. His mother and grandmother are also a part of his life, but his entire family lives in New York City so he only rarely sees them.

Other: Owen is inspired by Gilbert Blythe. He’s charming, outgoing, fun, flirtatious, earnest, and incredibly loyal.

About the Author:

Kimberly Duffy is a Long Island native currently living in Southwest Ohio. When she’s not homeschooling her four kids, she writes historical fiction that takes readers back in time and across oceans. Her books feature ahead-of-their-time heroines, evocative settings, and real-life faith. Kimberly loves trips that require a passport, recipe books, and practicing kissing scenes with her husband of 20 years. He doesn’t mind.

Connect with Kimberly through her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

 

Interview: Natalie Walters

When you walk into a bookstore, you make a beeline for what section?

I always head to the Christian Fiction section. I’ve had the privilege to meet so many of the CF authors and seeing their books on the shelves is a fun way I feel like can visit them.

Favorite place to write:

Wherever I can seems to be the right answer here, lol. It helps if I get out of the house to write as I’ll use just about anything as a distraction, including laundry!

Go-to writing snack or drink:

I always have tea nearby, hot in the morning and iced in the afternoon.

What does your writing nook look like?

 A hot mess currently. I have notes everywhere, timelines, and a stack of TBR books nearby. Marie Kondo would not approve.

Favorite (doesn’t that word just make you cringe?) writer resource:

Critique partner!! If a writer finds the right one they are to be treasured and my stories are so much better because of mine.

What book is currently on your nightstand?

My Bible. I sometimes keep my non-fiction reads here but I’m not reading any at the moment.

Hard copy, e-reader, audio book:

Hard copy, then audio, then e-reader.

What was the inspiration behind Silent Shadows?

My hero suffers from a movement disorder that his doctors are struggling to diagnose. My own daughter has a movement disorder (different than Colton’s) and I watched her struggle to understand how to deal with her body failing to the point that her future became uncertain. I wanted to write a story that revealed how the Lord can use our setbacks to bring us to where we need to be in life, giving us a new hope for a future that is better than we imagine.

Favorite part of writing Silent Shadows:

Writing the characters. This story has some of my absolute favorites!

Hardest part of writing Silent Shadows:

Making sure I brought authenticity to Colton’s struggle but also showed strength and vulnerability in his weakness.

Image Credit: Pinterest

Image Credit: Pinterest

If Silent Shadows was turned into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?

My character inspiration for Colton is Stephen Amell and for Pecca it’s Alexa Pena Vega.

What is next?

I’m currently working on a new series about a private agency based in Washington, D.C. The Strategic Neutralization and Protection Agency ensures America that what they don’t know, won’t hurt them. This series has a great team of specialists that I think readers will enjoy getting to know and the suspense will be on a more national and global scale, which I think is going to be a lot of fun!!

About the Story:

Pecca Gallegos moved to the tiny town of Walton, Georgia, to protect her son and escape the dangerous lifestyle that once defined her. When a series of strange circumstances evolve into threats, Pecca finds herself confiding in an unlikely ally–her stubborn patient.

Army veteran Colton Crawford is desperate to recover from the undiagnosed disorder that is ruining his life, and his instincts are on high alert when threats against his nurse and her son force him to take action. But Colton’s involvement only ramps up the danger when he uncovers a family secret revealing that whoever is after Pecca is closer–and more deadly–than they realized.

Connect with Natalie through her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Interview + Giveaway: Jill Lynn

When you walk into a bookstore, you make a beeline for what section?

Christian romance. Shocking, I know! 😊

Favorite place to write:

In my comfortable chair with my white noise on.

Go-to writing snack or drink:

I drink water with apple cider vinegar in it. (Weird, but it helps me with numerous health issues.) I also love fizzy water with flavoring and chips would be my big temptation.

What does your writing nook look like?

I’m finally getting an office in our house – my children moved bedrooms to make it happen, and I’m so excited about it. It currently needs a paint job, but I’m hoping to tackle that soon.

Something you must do or have to write:

I often have to have the kitchen picked up so that I can think. Weird but true.

What book is currently on your nightstand?

I’m reading a book about visual learners. I started reading it because of my son, but now I’m realizing how much it also pertains to me.

Hard copy, e-reader, audio book:

I prefer paperback but I read on my e-reader quite a bit. I’m pretty terrible at listening to audiobooks.

What was the inspiration behind Her Hidden Hope?

When Evan was only an idea while I was writing Jace’s story, I almost had him pass away when they boys were younger. But then the idea of him overcoming a trauma took hold, and that’s how he became an amputee and got his own story. And I’m so glad he did!

Favorite part of writing Her Hidden Hope:

I had a lot of fun with Sawyer and the dog, Belay. They caused some trouble and made me laugh.

Hardest part of writing Her Hidden Hope:
I struggled with the conflict in this story at first, and I ended up doing quite a bit of editing and rewriting. That always makes for a tough time!

Image Credit: Pinterest

Image Credit: Pinterest

If Her Hidden Hope was turned into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?

Catherine Lowe for Addie and whoever this handsome fella is for Evan. I found him on Pinterest and he was the exact fit. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out who he is! 😊

What is next?

I’m currently working on the 6th and final book in the Colorado Grooms series. I’m excited to dream about what’s next! So readers will have 2 more books coming out in this series before it comes to an end.

About the Story:

She once trusted him with her heart…but will she ever trust him with the truth?

With only two weeks to renovate her family’s Colorado B and B, struggling single mom Addie Ricci can’t turn away help. Especially not when it’s her handsome high school sweetheart, Evan Hawke, who’s offering to pitch in. As they repair the B and B, Addie and Evan also begin rebuilding their relationship…until a secret from their past threatens to bring it all crashing down.

Giveaway:

Click on the image or Rafflecopter link to enter.

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**The winner is Danielle H.! Please claim your prize within 72 hours or another random winner will be selected.**

Connect with Jill through her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.