Spotlight & Excerpt: Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar + Giveaway

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Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar

by Jess Wells

Genre: Magical Realism, Historical Fiction


In 1865 in the shanty town of Tartatenango, the Caketown Bar is owned by the extraordinary Jaguar Paloma, matriarch of a village that is home to raucous miscreants, cast-off mothers, muleteers, and forgers. Amid drunken monks, a roaring trade in faked marriages just for fun, and the Romani, all balance on the knife-edge between legality and the illicit. Paloma’s life is honed by this community, as their lives are affected by her mystery and magic.

Co-founder of this extraordinary gathering is Orietta Becerra. Breathtakingly beautiful and ambitious, her distillery builds the success of Caketown. But when she crosses the tracks and marries the town’s mayor, her double life severs her friendship with Paloma and the town starts to pay the highest of prices.

Adding to this land of chaos and feminine power is a forger, a murderer, the darker shade of the female heart, and a Civil War that claims men before their time.

Caketown – men want to destroy it. Women want to play in it. The township itself has to fight on all sides to survive.

Told in evocative magical realism, Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar is a tale of wronged women who stand up to be counted.

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jaguarpalomacaketownbar - excerpt

After the government had burned it to the ground, it was hard to imagine the Caketown Bar surrounded by a raucous shanty town, home to cast-off mothers and unclaimed children, filled with lively mirth and mayhem together, where every day was a celebration even if not a holiday, where peacocks cawed from the backs of donkeys, and women’s wigs and bunting were playthings for the monkeys in the trees when they stopped playing catch with the dogs. Flowers of unknown origin bloomed in the night and then flew away, and blue mist or green fog rolled in without warning. It was a town where morning was heralded by a rum cask being rolled across a dance floor, and the groggy question of who had arrived in the night; evening announced by the sizzle of lightbulbs in bent sockets and men slapping the dust off their pants with their hard-working hats, women putting a baby to the breast and finally sitting down. Tartatenango, Spanish slang for Caketown, hosted every traveling circus and any Romany family who roamed the southern country of Calexicobia, every soothsayer and shabby hawker of medicinal nonsense, any run-away from the army, convent, or hostile home. No one was turned away for being muddy or misshapen or ragged. Everyone was welcome until proven unworthy and it was just assumed that everyone was on their second chance: at the Caketown Bar, sharing stories of the past was much more intimate than nudity.

In the beginning, seekers from the north trekked through the jungle, veered off a minor mule-train road just after the third hollow acacia tree and followed a wide animal track to find it. Burdened with sadness and loss on top of their possessions, they trudged toward the little town whose name was whispered among the laundresses or spoken low by the cook after a glance over her shoulder. The midwives knew of it, the women of the theater troupes and Romani spoke of it late at night.

Those who used the snaking Magdalena river that was its western boundary had an easier time finding it. The river was calm and narrow at this spot before growing wide and wild as it headed north toward the sea. Boaters set their sights on a beach between two enormous white boulders that were smooth and firm like the breasts of a new mother in the morning.

Its founding was more a protest than a selection. Paloma Marti, who was six foot five, at seventeen far younger than she looked because of her surprising height, saw the hungry glare and familiar danger from the boatmen and two male passengers on the barge she was riding. When the ringleader flashed a knife under the guise of cleaning his nails, she abandoned her small bag and dove off the side of the boat, swimming toward the inviting boulders.

Jess Wells is the author of six novels and five books of short stories, winner of the Bronze Medal in the 2020 Foreword Reviews Indies Award for Adult Fiction/Romance, the recipient of a San Francisco Arts Commission Grant for Literature, a four-time finalist for the national Lambda Literary Award, and a member of the Saints & Sinners Literary Hall of Fame. Her work has appeared in more than three dozen literary journals and anthologies, has been reprinted in England and translated into Italian and Dutch.

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Spotlight: Red Roses, by Katie Ward

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Red Roses
by Katie Ward

Autumn is stuck in a rut and desperate to escape the fears that bind her to the life she’s grown to hate. Back home and living with her parents after university with a degree that seems to count for nothing, she knows something has to change. After a chance meeting with a stranger at the beach, she makes the spontaneous decision to move to Dublin and chase her dreams. However, what Autumn doesn’t realise is that she has just made the decision that will lead to her death. But does a short life have to mean an unsuccessful life? Will she be able to make it count?

Red Roses is a compelling and uplifting story that shows the true beauty of life, love and friendship.

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Author Bio
Katie Ward always knew she wanted to write for a living. However, she was told by her careers advisor that “it might be more appropriate for you to work in a shop”. When Katie didn’t get the grades she needed to get into college, she negotiated a three month trial. After successfully completing the course she secured a place at her first choice university to study Journalism.

After realising she wanted to be an author, Katie moved to Dublin where she worked her way up from receptionist to Executive Assistant at Merrill Lynch. Katie continued to write in her spare time, submitting her short story into the “Do the Write Thing” competition being run by Irish TV show ‘Seoige and O’Shea’. This story was originally written when Katie was 14 after she was inspired by an article in her favourite teen magazine. Katie was the only non-Irish author selected to have her story published in an anthology of the same name which reached 19 in the Irish Best sellers List. Katie was also shortlisted for a competition judged by MAN Booker Prize winning author Roddy Doyle which was run by Metro Eireann newspaper.

Katie currently lives in Devon with her cat (aka ‘Her Royal Fluffiness’) where she sings in a community choir and has recently taken up Archery. Katie’s favourite author has been Roald Dahl since she was a child as she loves the dark edge he brings to his books. On the flip side though, Katie loves Disney, magic, unicorns and a good rom com film at the cinema with her friends.



Win a signed painting by Katie Ward’s illustrator and a signed copy of Red Roses (Open INT)

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Spotlight: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar – by Isabella May

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Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar
by Isabella May

River and Alice miss Somerset. Christmas isn’t Christmas without family and friends, even when you live in quaint Cornwall.

When River’s Aunt Sheba dies unexpectedly, leaving him her ancient VW campervan, nostalgia nudges him and Alice back to Glastonbury – and the surrounding villages – to rediscover their roots whilst serving the most decadent hot chocolate and delectable gingerbread from their renovated ‘bar on wheels’.

A bar on wheels complete with a fold-up stage to host local talent competitions rivaling anything Simon Cowell could dream up, even if he’d gorged on a truckle of Cheddar cheese!

As the villagers sip their cocoa and ice their gingerbread houses amidst the festive backdrop of song, dance, and slightly more unconventional talents, River and Alice find themselves in an unexpected race against time:

Zara, their chocolate supplier is leaving Glastonbury on the twelfth day of Christmas, keen to put a string of disastrous relationships behind her to make a fresh start.

Bruno, their gregarious and gorgeous baking supplier is secretly smitten with Zara – ticking every box on her New Year’s wish list.
If only they can get them together for one experimental kiss under the mistletoe…

They’ve even enlisted their customers’ help in their mission to wrap this budding romance up in all the jingle bells and whistles. How hard can it be?

So, ho, ho VERY tricky, as it turns out…

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Author Bio:
Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. She grew up on Glastonbury’s ley lines and loves to feature her quirky English hometown in her stories.

After a degree in Modern Languages and European Studies at UWE, Bristol (and a year working abroad in Bordeaux and Stuttgart), Isabella bagged an extremely jammy and fascinating job in children’s publishing… selling foreign rights for novelty, board, pop-up and non-fiction books all over the world; in every language from Icelandic to Korean, Bahasa Indonesian to Papiamento!

All of which has fuelled her curiosity and love of international food and travel – both feature extensively in her cross-genre novels, fused with a dollop of romcom, and a sprinkle of magical realism.

Isabella is also a Level 4 Pranic Healer and a stillbirth mum.

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Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks
Instagram – @isabella_may_author

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