Release Blitz & Excerpt: Plenty of Fish in the Sicilian Sea + Giveaway

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Plenty of Fish in the Sicilian Sea
by Stefania Hartley

Heat Rating: Simmering

Sexometer: 1
Word Count: 43,630
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 179
Genres: CHICK LIT, COMEDY AND HUMOUR, CONTEMPORARY, EROTIC ROMANCE, THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

 

Sicilian marine biologist Serena Ingotta has never understood men, but when she uncovers a mafia factory polluting the sea, it only adds to the things that confuse her.

Twenty-four-year-old Sicilian scientist Serena Ingotta has always misunderstood men, from her workaholic anti-mafia judge father to the Catholic seminarian she’s hopelessly in love with. Interning in a marine biology lab alongside her irritating colleague Enrico, she discovers an illegal polluting factory that is possibly connected with the mafia.

When it turns out that their boss is going to cover up the story, she publicly denounces him at a science conference and gets expelled from the lab. Alone and ostracized, Serena’s attempts to find love and expose the factory seem to be failing epically until she finally realizes that everything she has been searching for was just under her nose.

Reader advisory: This book contains instances of minors with firearms.

Excerpt

Serena jangled the lab keys inside her bag and smiled. The cheerful clink told her that, even without a salary, a job description or a coat peg, she belonged there. The sound echoed in the silent corridor. There was no tapping of wooden soles, no irritated voices, no whispered gossip at that time in the morning. There was just her, the pickled coelacanths and the embalmed, startled pufferfish to greet her through the glass cabinets.

She stuck the key into the lab door and tried to turn it, but it was already unlocked. Strange… I’m usually the first in. As she opened the door, she found the tall green shutters gaping open and a gust of wind slammed the windows shut with a tinkling of glass.

“Hi, Sery!”

“Enrico?” He was perched on his stool, hunched over the wooden workbench with his grubby lab coat unbuttoned, as attractive as the Hunchback of Notre Dame. He straightened, turned toward her and blinked as if he were only just waking up. He usually turned up around ten o’clock. “How come you’re here so early?”

“Just to spook you. No, not really. I just suddenly thought, Shit, we have to finish our research by the end of the week, and I freaked out. Are you freaked out too?”

“A bit. Mostly about your sudden interest in our work. I thought I’d never get any help from you.”

He smiled. “I’m here to the rescue, baby.” He thrust a fist in the air, and Serena groaned inwardly. He was even wearing a Superman T-shirt.

She took off her motorbike helmet and put it down on the floor under the coat pegs. “Maybe we’ll get our own pegs after the conference.”

He shook his head. Coat pegs were for staff, not unpaid interns. “I wouldn’t hold my breath, Sery. We’re out of filter paper and we can’t order more until next year’s funding arrives. I don’t think either of us is getting a job here anytime soon.”

“Hold on. If we’re out of filter paper, what are you using for filtering?” she asked, pointing to the funnel dripping a red liquid into a conical flask on their workbench.

“Hand towels.” He grinned.

She clutched her head. “You can’t do that! No wonder our results—”

“Just joking.” He grinned, winking. “I’ve cut the discs in half so we have enough. If you pour carefully, they do the job just fine.”

“Please, don’t make a joke like that again. Not now.” They only had until Friday to persuade their boss to submit their research to the upcoming Marine Biology Conference. If they presented their research at the conference, they could put it on their CVs and maybe they’d get a research bursary or—if dreams ever came true—a permanent research position. Two years of unpaid work in Schettino’s lab would not have been in vain. “Right. Let’s get to work.”

By the time Giovanna and Titti arrived after dropping their kids off at school, Serena and Enrico had dissected the fish samples, isolated the gill tissues and filtered the extracts. Giovanna and Titti were research associates—with coat pegs, name badges and monthly salaries—but they were too nice for Serena to wish that they accidentally cut their own heads off while dissecting a fish so that she could have their jobs.

Cornetti to see us through today,” Giovanna announced, putting down a parcel wrapped with the paper from the café downstairs on a nearby bench. The heavenly buttery scent of the Italian croissants temporarily flushed the smell of the fish samples from the room. Yes, Giovanna is definitely too lovely to hate.

“Shall we have a break?” Enrico suggested hopefully.

“I want to see the spectrophotometer’s results first, but you can,” Serena said.

Enrico hesitated but picked up a cuvette with fish juice instead of a cornetto with custard and walked over to the spectrophotometer in the far corner of the room. Enrico called out the machine’s readings and Serena entered them into her laptop.

“How are things going here?” Professor Schettino suddenly appeared behind them. The boss never arrived before eleven o’clock. He must be early because of the conference deadline.

“We’re getting together the last results,” Enrico said confidently.

“Great. I want to see all your results by lunchtime.”

“Sure.”

After that deadline was issued, the cornetti weren’t mentioned anymore.

Just before midday, Schettino shouted from his office, “Enrico, Serena, are you done?”

They looked at each other. “Almost!” Enrico called back.

It was a very early ‘lunchtime’ for Italy. They entered the last few results into their table and clicked on the button that would create a curve of best fit. But what came out was not a curve by any standard.

“I’ve calibrated the machine three times!” Enrico protested, waving his arm in the air.

“I don’t think our results are wrong. The repeats are very close to each other.”

“Then why does our data make no sense?”

“It does make sense. Negative results disprove the hypothesis.”

Enrico twisted his mouth. “Negative results aren’t exciting enough to be presented at a conference.”

“Schettino will agree that science doesn’t have to be sensational. Come… Let’s show him.” She got up with her laptop and marched to Schettino’s office-cave. Enrico followed her. “Here are our results,” she announced, putting her laptop down on their boss’ desk, which was scattered with printouts crossed through and scribbled on in red pen. Enrico stopped on the threshold and leaned against the door jamb.

Schettino adjusted his reading glasses, put down the red pen and looked intently at the graph. “Ah,” he said, pushing his wheelie chair back and dropping his glasses to look intently at Serena.

Serena waited for a more comprehensive comment, possibly with some indication of his appreciation.

“So, what’s your conclusion?” he asked, shrugging.

“That there’s no correlation between heavy metal concentration in fish and distance from the shore.”

Enrico stepped into the room. “We’ve calibrated the instruments before every batch of measurements, we’ve repeated each reading at least three times and…we’ve worn gloves.”

“Uhm”—Schettino pursed his lips—“perhaps you need to plot against depth instead of distance from the shore.”

“Why? What’s wrong with our results as they are?” This was not how she had imagined the conversation would go.

“Not impressive enough to go to a conference. The selection committee won’t give you even a five-minute slot to present it. Nobody is interested in you having an idea and proving that it was wrong, Serena. I don’t care what you plot your results against, so long as you find a correlation of some sort. Otherwise, I won’t submit your work to the conference. It’s as simple as that.” He stood up, which made him a lot taller than her—but not Enrico.

“But the submission deadline is on Friday,” Enrico protested.

“You don’t have to come to this conference. There’ll be many others.”

But we’ve worked for two years with the promise of being allowed to submit to this conference.

“We’ll turn the research around by Friday.”

Schettino smiled. “I’m looking forward to seeing it.”

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About the Author

Stefania Hartley

Stefania Hartley, also known as The Sicilian Mama, was born in Sicily and immediately started growing, but not very much. She left her sunny island after falling head over heels in love with an Englishman, and she’s lived all over the world with him and their three children.

Having finally learnt English, she enjoyed it so much that she started writing stories and nobody has been able to stop her since. She loves to write about hot and sunny places like her native Sicily, and she especially likes it when people fall in love.

Her short stories have been longlisted, commended and won prizes. Plenty of Fish in the Sicilian Sea is her second novel, after Sun, Stars and Limoncello.

You can find out more about Stefania on her website, and on the Sicilian Mama’s Blog. You can also listen to Stefania’s podcast.

Giveaway

Enter to win a fabulous gift package and a FREE Stefania Hartley romance book!

Stefania Hartley’s Plenty of Fish in the Sicilian Sea

STEFANIA HARTLEY IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GRAB YOUR FREE STEFANIA HARTLEY ROMANCE BOOK! Notice: This competition ends on 26th January 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Book Blitz & Excerpt: Lost in L.A. + Giveaway

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Lost in L.A.

by Amy Craig

Heat Rating: Simmering
Sexometer: 2
Word Count: 91,876
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 353
Genres: CONTEMPORARY, CHICK LIT, EROTIC ROMANCE

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She agreed to a fake relationship to shield her feelings, but their rules don’t address his secrets or the magnitude of what they can build together.

Wylie’s beachside yoga classes feel like the California dream, but when an eviction notice sends her scrambling for a new place to live, she realizes that life on the streets isn’t for the faint of heart.

She strikes a promotion deal with a food truck vendor named Nolan, but an impromptu kiss proves she wants more than a side of fries from the man. He asks her out, but she demurs, knowing she can’t handle a relationship right now. When her SUV gets towed, Nolan helps her recover the vehicle and proves his heart of gold by renting her a room in the plush compound he calls home.

Faced with a bevy of overachieving new roommates, Wylie tries her best to impress the neighborhood elites. When an elderly couple stops by unannounced, she takes her act a step too far and pretends she’s Nolan’s girlfriend. When he asks her to play along to help him close the deal on a commercial kitchen, she agrees to mask her feelings, but their rules don’t address his secrets or the magnitude of what they can build together.

Reader advisory: This book deals with homelessness. There is a scene of attempted mugging, a gunshot injury, references to suicide, an implied abusive relationship and a brief scene of sexual harassment.

Excerpt

Wylie stood in the shadowed hallway of the two-bedroom apartment, her fist clenched as she brainstormed ways to fight an eviction notice.

Dottie, her roommate, was texting her from the security of the bathroom.

Couldn’t she face me? After four months of cohabitation, Wylie knew very little about the woman. She mostly found it funny when the overpaid nanny confiscated candy from her sugar-restricted charges, retreated to the bathroom and savored the contraband where no one could see her. Today, Wylie struggled to find humor in the situation. Breathing through her frustration, she released her fist and sank to the floor. “The wrappers in the trashcan give you away,” she whispered. “We both know what you’re doing in there.”

She looked down the hallway and focused on the living room couch where Dottie’s orange-and-white cat luxuriated on the corduroy fabric, as smug as its owner. White mini-blinds cast stripes of sunlight on the room’s beige carpet, valance drapes and dusty brass fixtures. As a native of Santa Monica, Wylie understood that the furnished apartment on Montana Avenue and Fifth Street relied on its location to attract tenants. The nineteen-hundred dollars a month sublease let her walk to the beach where she taught yoga, but the cat paid nothing for his sunlit pleasure. Maybe I’ll take you with me. I could hold you for ransom until Dottie adds me to the lease.

The cat yawned.

You’re right. You’re not worth the trouble.

Steam seeped beneath the bathroom door, as nebulous as her counterarguments and self-doubts. Ignoring the tacky feel of the semi-gloss paint, she leaned against the bathroom door and pulled her fingers through her long blonde hair. This is what I get for being too trusting and naïve. I should have put my name on the lease. I should have known better than to get myself into this mess. I could find Dottie a boyfriend. A girlfriend. Whatever. Threaten to reveal her undocumented cat. Light her bed on fire. She laughed and released her hair to cover her mouth. Shit, that wasn’t appropriate.

She rapped on the bathroom door. “Dottie! Let’s talk about this situation like grown women. I’m this close to finishing two-hundred hours of professional certification and landing a full-time job with benefits. What am I supposed to do now? Live on the streets?”

Her ostensible roommate remained silent.

“There has to be another alternative.”

The faucet ran as Dottie added hot water to her tub, ignoring their shared utility costs and the environmental impacts of her two-hour bath. “What’s done is done. Cousin’s in and you’re out.”

Wylie exhaled, finding it impossible to reason with a woman who lacked the courage to face her. “This isn’t right. Don’t you have to give me some notice or something? Don’t you even feel bad about what you’re doing?”

“Not really.”

She hung her head. It doesn’t matter if she stays in that bathtub until the floor caves in. Her name’s on the lease and she calls the shots.

“I know I promised you a year—”

Wylie’s hope soared.

“But we all thought my cousin would fail her semester at UC and have to repeat it. Maybe, like, twice. Now that she’s graduated, she’s decided to come to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career.” The plastic snap of a toiletry bottle echoed in the tiled room. “My aunt called and told me this morning. What am I supposed to do?”

“Tell your mom you already have a roommate? One who’s never been late paying rent?” She considered kicking down the door and upending the bubble bath all over Dottie’s head. “A roommate who changes the litter box for the cat you’re not even supposed to have in the apartment!”

“Leave Snickerdoodle alone.”

Wylie eyed the cat. “I love animals.”

The cat stood, repositioned himself and presented his ass to Wylie.

Wylie stared at the bathroom door. “This is bad karma!”

“Sorry, kid.”

“Your cousin will never make it to her auditions on time.” Her words sped up and she stood, hoping her hard-won native logic could override the aspirations of a wannabe actress. “Your cousin needs to live in one of the San Fernando Valley neighborhoods. The Central and Eastside neighborhoods would be even better if she’s looking for a deal.”

“She’s a trust-fund kid.”

“She might decide this apartment isn’t a good fit. I don’t want you to end up with zero roommates. Maybe she could sleep on the couch for a while.” Water sloshed on the other side of the door and Wylie crossed her fingers, hoping her magnanimous offer cloaked her desperation.

“That’s the thing. My cousin wants the second bedroom. My aunt already wired me six months of rent.”

Of course she did. Wylie bit her lip and decided to play her final card. “I guess I could take the couch.”

The bathwater stilled.

Wylie clung to a moment of hope.

“You’d still have to pay me the same rent.”

The counteroffer hit Wylie like a rogue wave. Her eyes widened and she slapped the door in disbelief. “You can’t charge me the same amount you’re charging for a bedroom.”

“Why not? My name’s on the lease. We’re not friends, Wylie. Take it or leave it.”

She opened her mouth to accept a month on Dottie’s fur-strewn couch.

The other woman pulled the plug on the bathwater. “You know what? Scratch that. I don’t want to put up with three women sharing one tiny bathroom. It’s not like we’re desperate.”

Tears streamed down Wylie’s cheeks as she hung her head and let her hair shield her face. The draining water sucked away the last bit of her hope. Right now, I’m the definition of desperate. She cleared her throat, determined to retain her pride. “How long do I have until your cousin shows up? Like, a week?”

“She’ll be here in the morning.”

Wylie stared at the bathroom door. “Are you serious?”

“Honestly, I thought you’d be gone by now.”

She wiped away her tears. “Funny. I’m still here.”

“You should probably leave tonight and make a clean break.”

Laughter bubbled up in Wylie’s throat, displacing her desperation. “This is not helping me out. This is, like, the definition of not helping me out.”

“I guess you can stay the night. I’ll use your deposit to pay for a cleaning service.”

“You’re funny, Dottie. Fucking hilarious.”

The woman remained silent for a minute. “Sorry, kid.”

Wylie retreated to a bedroom full of mismatched furniture and cursed her stupidity. She shoved her clothes into her duffel bag, folded a set of sheets and crammed them on top of her clothes. People have done more with less.

Dottie emerged from the bathroom wearing a towel and a hair turban straight from the archives of the home shopping channel. She tossed an envelope of cash on the bare mattress. “Here’s your deposit. I hope everything works out.”

Wylie stared at the clumsy script bearing her name, Wylie Winidad. The sight of the familiar envelope brought tears to her eyes and she shook her head, realizing Dottie had never felt the need to deposit her hard-earned cash. “Thanks, I guess.”

The woman nodded and retreated without saying another word.

Wylie picked up the envelope of money and shoved it into her purse while she considered her predicament. Why do bad things happen to good people? I’ve done everything right since my parents left town. How am I going to scrape together the money I need for a deposit on my own place? I need to figure out a way to take care of myself, but there’s no wau I’m calling my parents. Most of the people I know have moved away and like…grown up.

She thought of her mom and dad ensconced in an Oregon complex full of California refugees. ‘They’ll be the hardest years of your life,’ her mother had said, boxing up a lifetime of dishes and serving pieces. ‘You’re only twenty-six years old. Instead of fending for yourself, why don’t you tag along with us?’

‘Because I belong here.’

‘Oh, honey, you’ll always belong with us.’

Wylie blinked away the sting of tears. ‘Thanks, Mom.’

The next day, her parents had driven up the coast in a rental truck full of furniture and left her in Santa Monica with a wardrobe of frayed designer jeans, a jumble of high-priced loungewear and the athletic gear she needed to host her beachside classes.

She’d gotten drunk with Natalia to celebrate her independence. Clinking glasses, they’d toasted having everything they needed. Most of their sporadic interactions involved yoga classes and cocktails, but Wylie knew her best friend would let her crash for a few days if she happened to be in town. Unfortunately, the spunky yoga enthusiast worked as a studio scout and her social media feed showed her scouting battle sites on the Horn of Africa. Who would let me in? Nobody. I have nobody left in this town.

She wheezed as the reality of her situation set in. The muscles in her airways tightened and stress impeded her breathing. Now is not the time for an asthma attack. She focused on calming her rapid inhalations, but the muscles in her neck and chest tightened as panic set in. The pain of the clenching muscles echoed through her body. Doubling over, she scrambled for the rescue inhaler in her purse and dumped out the contents of the bag. The metallic inhaler caught her eyes. She pumped the cartridge, slumped to the floor and waited for the rush of the short-acting bronchodilator to relieve her systems. What would I do without my medicine?

Twenty minutes later, her breathing slowed and she wondered when the misery of this day would end. Trusting her heart rate to remain stable, she struggled to her feet and hefted her duffel bag, testing her strength against an upset stomach and shaky limbs. I can do this.

Dottie sat on the couch in a pair of pajamas, her turban in place while she watched a cooking show with the cat.

I’m surprised she’s not hiding in her room.

The cooking show went to commercials.

Dottie looked up. “Do you need any help with your stuff?”

Oh, so now you’re helpful? Wylie shook her head, dropped the first duffel bag by the front door and returned to the bedroom to grab the second one. She straightened her spine as she walked between her former roommate and a television chef demonstrating how to make pasta. “Adios, Snickerdoodle. It’s been swell.”

The cat’s eyes remained closed.

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About the Author

Amy Craig

Amy Craig lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA with her family and a small menagerie of pets. She writes women’s fiction and contemporary romances with intelligent and empathetic heroines. She can’t always vouch for the men. She has worked as an engineer, project manager, and incompetent waitress. In her spare time, she plays tennis and expands her husband’s honey-do list.

Find Amy at her website, on Amazon and follow her at BookBub.

Giveaway

Enter to win a fabulous gift package and a $5.00 First For Romance Gift Code!

Amy Craig’s Lost in L.A.

AMY CRAIG IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND A $5.00 FIRST FOR ROMANCE GIFT CODE! Notice: This competition ends on 20th January 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Book Blitz & Giveaway: Live Vibrantly, by L.J. & Her Dog George Eliot

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Live Vibrantly
With L.J. & Her Dog George Eliot

 

Humor/Chick Lit

Out: August 11, 2020

 

 

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In this collection of original drawings, LJ Rohan with her furry and endearing canine muse, George Eliot, navigates her humorous and grateful journey through life after 50. Despite inevitable setbacks, L.J. firmly believes growing older has never been healthier, more positive, or more empowered. To quote Pearl S. Buck, “The heart never grows old.” To quote L.J., “Be Vibrant!”

 

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About the Author

L.J. Rohan is a Gerontologist, author, and speaker, covering the latest scientific research related to aging, the study of gerontology, and Aging-in-Place. She earned a Master’s Level Graduate Certification in Gerontology, from the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology. L.J. is also a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS).

L.J. holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Southern Methodist University. She has been a frequent speaker to groups and at universities, museums, and health-related institutions throughout the United States. L.J. created a Gratitude MeditationSM app featuring her hugely popular Gratitude Meditations. The app is available in the iTunes Store and on Google Play. Visit her at LJRohan.com. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram at L.J. Rohan-Gerontologist. L.J. divides her time between Dallas and New York City.

 

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