Book Blitz & Excerpt: Venetian Valentine + Giveaway

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Venetian Valentine
Kristian Parker

Word Count: 30,154
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 125
Genres: ACTION AND ADVENTURE, CONTEMPORARY, EROTIC ROMANCE, GAY, GLBTQI, VALENTINES

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Book Description

Venice at Valentine’s? Andrew didn’t bargain on outrunning the Mafia, fighting for his life…or meeting Sergio.

Post break-up Andrew, in Venice for Valentine’s Day, isn’t alone and pining for very long before handsome local Sergio sweeps him off his feet—and into his gondola.

What should have been the most romantic evening of Andrew’s life turns into the deadliest when a dying policewoman they rush to help slips them a vital piece of evidence…and they’re accused of shooting her.

With both the Mafia and corrupt cops in hot pursuit, Andrew and Sergio must deliver the evidence to the only man who can clear their name. The only problem is he lives at the other end of Italy, which sends them on the most action-packed Valentine’s date ever.

It’s going to take some serious Valentine’s magic for the shy Englishman and the sexy gondolier to have a second date, never mind a chance at a relationship…

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of mild peril, injury, and a gun battle.

Excerpt

Pronto, vuoi un passaggio?

Not even in Venice yet and already asked if I wanted a ride.

I nodded and stepped onto the water taxi. Yes, there were cheaper options, but this being my first trip to the famous island, I wanted to arrive in style.

The crisp February air hit me as we got out onto the water. Even so, I had no intention of sheltering inside the wooden boat. I hadn’t paid a ridiculous amount of money to miss everything below deck.

Then I saw it. Venice.

It took my breath away. Beautiful pastel-coloured buildings lined the coastline with the iconic St Mark’s Campanile dominating the skyline behind. Butterflies filled my stomach as we sped towards our destination. So much history calling to me to discover it.

Whatever the driver hollered to me, I couldn’t hear above the wind in my ears. I wouldn’t have taken it in anyway, not when the island looming larger in front of me had all my attention.

Soon it stretched out and filled my eyeline. Details became clearer. The shoreline was busy with traders and visitors and all manner of people. A market selling the usual rubbish was an irresistible call to the tourists. Huge boats tugged gently against their moorings outside big houses. What a life to live in one of those. In this world of water, I couldn’t have been further away from the crowded London streets I was used to.

We pulled up to a jetty and excitement built inside me.

“Come ti piace Venice?” asked the driver, spreading his arms wide like an orchestra conductor.

“Bella.” Yes, I thought Venice beautiful, all right.

Safe on terra firma and more than ready to dive into this city, I paused at the edge of a group of people congregating on a bridge having their picture taken. They dispersed to reveal the Bridge of Sighs.

I gawked. This had been high on Matt’s sightseeing list when we’d planned the trip. But he only had himself—and his wandering hands—to blame for missing out.

I snapped out of it. The bridge before me had seen worse heartbreak than mine—they’d named it the Bridge of Sighs as convicts would get their last view of Venice before succumbing to their gruesome fate in the dungeons down below, and they would sigh.

I stood staring, absolutely transfixed. I’d only been here for five minutes, but I could understand why those sighs would be filled with such loss.

Things got even better when I got my first glimpse of a gondolier, expertly steering his craft through the city and under the bridge. I’d been dismissive of the gondolas and their high prices, but now I saw one drifting through the canals, it tempted me. Would I feel like a bit of a loser taking one on my own?

This city could be full of possibilities for me and I refused to dwell on being alone for this trip. Lots of people travelled solo and now I’d joined their ranks.

I took a selfie with the bridge in the background and sent it to my friend, Jodie.

Here safe and sound. Speak soon x.

Almost immediately I got a reply.

Go get ’em, tiger.

My phone told me my hotel lay on the other side of St Mark’s Square. All my life, I had yearned to stroll across one of the most famous squares in the world. Taking a deep breath and channelling my inner chic Italian, I set off to discover what Venice had in store for me.

Just my luck, the biggest rain shower I’ve ever encountered ruined my picture-postcard arrival. Huge dollops of rain bounced off those iconic cobbles as I dragged my case across them, making it spin out of control. In the end, I just picked it up and made a run for it. Being a lanky six foot two, it was hard for me to run stylishly, and so I ran full pelt. My painstakingly styled blond spikes were flopping with all the water, the hair gel running into my eyes and making them sting.

I must have looked like a drowned rat by the time I burst through the unassuming doors of the Hotel Buon Sonno, which caused much amusement for the achingly handsome receptionist who greeted me. I ignored his smirk as I dripped on the marble floor, although I did feel like the least glamourous person in Venice.

He seemed to take an age to check me in and the elevator had to be as old as the city itself as it slowly dragged me to my floor. Finally, I made it to my room and what a treat lay before me. It had a big bed and chaise-longue to the side, causing my inner chic Italian to perk up again. I could imagine myself lazing on there after a hard day’s shopping.

I unpacked, stashing my money and important stuff in the safe. Jodie had told me about the pickpockets of Venice to the point of paranoia. After that I had a long scrub in the huge walk-in shower to wash the journey away. The monsoon jets soon brought me back to life.

I lay on the bed in my bathrobe, flicking through the guidebook, when my stomach growled as though a bear had woken up in there. Would anywhere be doing meals this early? Well, time to hit the streets of Venice to find out. Go get ’em, tiger.

I threw on some clothes and headed out to see what this place had to offer. This time I took my umbrella.

Hopefully looking a little more presentable, I smiled at the receptionist as I passed him. I might not have been on the romantic getaway I’d hoped for, but why should that stop me having a little—or a lot—of fun? He didn’t return the smile. I supposed with him having seen me at my worst, my best wasn’t likely to impress him.

Opposite the hotel sat a kind of gondola park. The boats jostled together, awaiting their turn. So did the gondoliers, who laughed and joked to pass the time until their next customer appeared. It might have been February, but that meant Carnival week as well as the romantic epicentre of the year. Plenty of people queued up to pay their extortionate prices. Still tempted to take a ride, I watched a few set off, bearing smiling passengers. My hunger won out this time—my ride could wait for another day.

I had only just set off in the direction where I thought I’d seen a few restaurants from my window when, suddenly, a gondolier jumped in front of me. He looked so handsome in his standard striped T-shirt and straw hat set at a jaunty angle. He took his hat off and bowed in a ridiculously dramatic fashion. As someone who is easily flustered, I could feel my face going bright red.

“Well, hello there, stranger. My name is Sergio, the best gondolier in this whole city.”

All the other gondoliers were laughing and nudging one another…which didn’t help my out-of-control blushes.

“H-hello,” I stammered.

“Ah, he is English! I knew it. I said to my friends, here comes a member of the English aristocracy.”

I might have been named after Prince Andrew, but the similarities ended there. An auntie had traced our family tree once upon a time and found nothing but mill workers and servants. But in Venice, I could be whoever I wanted to be.

“And you were right,” I said in my poshest voice. “My grandmother, the Queen of England, told me Venice is the only place to be on Valentine’s Day.”

He threw his head back and laughed. I had never seen someone so jaw-droppingly perfect, from his shiny eyes to his perfectly groomed stubble to his strong arms which held the railing as he leaned backward. I didn’t dare look any lower.

“Then surely you wish to experience everything Venice has to offer?”

“Of course I do. But I’ve only just arrived. I want to sample some food first.”

He winked. “Sergio will help. There is a beautiful pasta place just around the corner. Tell them I sent you.”

“Oh yes? Will I get a discount?”

“No, but I will next time I am in.”

With that, he laughed his infectious laugh and went back to join his fellow boatmen. I watched him go. God bless the gondoliers in their tight black trousers. What a view.

I decided to take his recommendation. I didn’t fancy spending the evening going from restaurant to restaurant, trying to decide where to eat.

It paid off. The pasta tasted amazing. The sauce, a local delicacy made with three types of tomato, went perfectly with the white wine they brought me. My table overlooked the Grand Canal, the feature of so many paintings. As evening fell, the restaurants lining the banks turned on strings of bulbs entwined around their awnings, giving it a magical feel. They reflected in the water and cast a dappling light on the grand Rialto Bridge.

I had truly arrived in Venice. I caught myself checking every gondola for Sergio, which bugged me. The first man to pay me a bit of attention, and I fall hook, line and sinker. Thankfully, he didn’t make an appearance. I wanted my first night in Venice to be for me and not side-tracked by some man…no matter what lay beneath those tight trousers.

On the way back to the hotel, I had a couple of drinks in a bar. As I curled up in a black wingback chair and sipped my smooth red wine, I looked at my fellow patrons. Carnival fever dominated the bar, with many people in masks and outrageous outfits. A couple in front of me were intertwined, her hanging off his every word and laughing. Tiredness overcame me. It had been stressful travelling on my own for the first time. Draining my glass, I decided an early night could be excused.

The heavens opened again as I wandered back to my hotel. The gondolas had called it a night when I got there and there was no sign of Sergio. It would have been nice to share the big bed with someone, instead of missing Matt. I fell asleep reciting the reasons why I had split up with him.

It made for a scarily long list.

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About the Author

Kristian Parker

I have written for as long as I could write. In fact, before, when I would dictate to my auntie. I love to read, and I love to create worlds and characters.

I live in the English countryside. When I’m not writing, I like to get out there and think through the next scenario I’m going to throw my characters into.

Inspiration can be found anywhere, on a train, in a restaurant or in an office. I am always in search of the next character to find love in one of my stories. In a world of apps and online dating, it is important to remember love can be found when you least expect it.

Follow Kristian on Facebook.

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Series Blitz – My Bloody Valentine: Dark Valentine & Blood Red Roses + Giveaway

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General Release Date: 2nd February 2021

Valentine’s Day isn’t all about chocolates and roses…this year, it’s deadly. These stories are set around the most romantic day of the year, with characters who might just have to fight for their lives as well as their loves. Today we will focus on Dark Valentine by J.P. Bowie & Blood Red Roses by S.J. Coles.

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My Bloody Valentine Collection

Dark Valentine

 

Valentine’s Night, when the line between the real and unreal becomes blurred…

New boyfriends Brandon and Ryder are invited to an upscale Valentine’s party in Santa Monica. Brandon had heard how ‘fabulous’ the parties are, so he’s surprised by the creepy décor, and some even creepier ghouls who seem to have taken the place of the hosts. They can’t be real, can they?

An erotic cabaret that ends with one of the dancers seemingly either killed or seriously injured upsets Brandon. Ryder attempts to calm him down, but they’re both horrified when they discover a dead body upstairs with a knife embedded in its chest.

What the heck kind of a party is this?

And will Ryder and Brandon live to find out?

ACTION AND ADVENTURE, CONTEMPORARY, EROTIC ROMANCE, GAY, GLBTQI, VALENTINES

 

Blood Red Roses

 

Rick feels like he’s finally getting his life on track…until a dead body in his flat threatens to derail more than his new career.

Things are finally looking up for Rick Bennett. He’s landed a job with Swanson and Gerrard, one of the top finance firms in London and, with it, a chance to pay off his father’s debts and finally make something of his life.

When he’s put in charge of brokering the biggest deal in the company’s history, he knows he can’t lose, even though his boss, Cecily Swanson, clearly wants more than just a professional relationship.

When a rich, handsome stranger, Kim Bailey, introduces himself to Rick at the Swansons’ New Year’s Eve party, Rick is thinking he can definitely get used to rubbing elbows with the upper set. He feels everything is finally working out, despite Cecily’s increasing interest that only seems to strengthen as they approach her high-profile Valentine’s Day wedding.

When someone is murdered in his flat, Rick is shocked but still determined to hold on to his dream. Cecily believes he’s innocent and, more importantly, so does Kim. Though he’s beginning to suspect that there’s more to the guy than meets the eye, Kim’s belief in Rick keeps him strong.

As the investigation continues and Rick finds himself buried deeper in a mess of conspiracy, betrayal and intrigue, he will come to wonder whether the life he’s dreamed of could ever be real.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of public sex, violence and murder.

CONTEMPORARY, CRIME, EROTIC ROMANCE, GAY, GLBTQI, THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE, VALENTINES

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Dark Valentine

Blood Red Roses

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About the Authors

J.P. Bowie

 

J.P. Bowie was born in Scotland and toured British theatres in numerous musical shows including Stephen Sondheim’s Company.

He emigrated to the States and worked in Las Vegas, Nevada for the magicians Siegfried and Roy as their Head of Wardrobe at the Mirage Hotel. He is currently living with his husband in sunny San Diego, California.

FollowJ.P. Bowie on Facebook and Twitter

S.J. Coles

S. J. Coles is a Romance writer originally from Shropshire, UK. She has been writing stories for as long as she has been able to read them. Her biggest passion is exploring narratives through character relationships.

She finds writing LGBT/paranormal romance provides many unique and fulfilling opportunities to explore many (often neglected or under-represented) aspects of human experience, expectation, emotion and sexuality.

Among her biggest influences are LGBT Romance authors K J Charles and Josh Lanyon and Vampire Chronicles author Anne Rice.

Find S. J. Coles at her website and follow her on Instagram.

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Reluctant Royal + Giveaway

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The Reluctant Royal
Catherine Curzon & Eleanor Harkstead

Word Count: 93,492
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 352
Genres: CONTEMPORARY, GAY, GLBTQI, ROYALS, THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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As an unseen enemy draws near, a royal bodyguard must choose between duty and love.

Risking his life to save a princess is all in a day’s work for Sergeant Joe Wenlock, a Close Protection Officer detailed to protect the royal family. After months of recovery following his brush with death, Joe’s ready to return to duties. But Alejandro Fuente-Sastre, as infuriating as he is fabulous, is the last royal Joe wants to be assigned to.

Alejandro isn’t quite the sort of queen that the British royal family is used to, but when Joe learns that Her Majesty’s step-grandson is also drag bombshell Paloma Picante, it makes his job a whole lot tougher. But is there more to Alejo than sulking and sequins?

When Alejandro’s life is threatened by an unseen tormentor who progresses from internet trolling to arson and violence, Joe must keep his charge safe from harm.

Living in close quarters with the man he shouldn’t be falling for, Joe begins to discover his true self. But as Alejandro’s enemy prowls ever nearer, Joe must make the impossible choice between duty and love.

Reader advisory: This book contains instances of homophobia and homophobic language, cyberbullying and threats, harassment, terrorism, drug use and abuse, Islamophobia and suicide. There are mentions of domestic abuse, including physical, emotional and gaslighting.

Excerpt

Joe took another sip of tonic water. He wished it contained gin, because being the only sober person at the table was hardly his idea of fun, but as he watched the bottle of champagne being passed around, he knew he didn’t really want any alcohol anyway. He couldn’t go back to work the worse for wear. Not after months of sick leave. Best foot forward, as his dad would say.

And it wasn’t only his decision not to drink that made Joe an oddity at the table. These were all Wendy’s friends, out for her birthday. Solicitors, legal types, who’d spent most of the evening already talking shop. Joe looked on, his mind on other things. Would he cope on his first day back? Would they trust him to ever do a good job again?

“So, Joe, we’re taking bets on who you’re going to be coddling next week!” Wendy put her second bottle of Prosecco on the table and settled into her seat. Her leg brushed Joe’s momentarily and she shifted, putting air between them again. “Izzy thinks one of the Fergie duo. Barnaby’s bet his bonus on Wills and Kate. I think it’s going to be the queen. The top job for a top bobby!”

“I don’t know yet.” Joe shrugged. “Maybe one of the corgis?”

“I bet you do know, and you’re teasing us!” Wendy’s friend Jemima brayed. “Have you signed the Official Secrets Act?”

Joe turned the plastic stirrer through his fizzing drink, rattling the ice cubes against the glass. He didn’t pester Wendy’s friends about confidential matters, so why did they think he was fair game? “As you know, if I had, I wouldn’t be allowed to say.”

“Whoever it is,” Wendy told them, “let’s hope they don’t put my poor old hubby in hospital again! He’s getting too old to play the action hero!”

Wendy’s friends laughed, and Joe tried to look happy, but he really didn’t want to be reminded of the accident. The headlamps coming straight for him in the evening darkness—and after he’d pushed the Duchess of Albany out of the way, there had been no time for Joe to leap aside. Just that crushing pain as the car slammed into him. Joe had slumped over the bonnet and found himself eye to eye with the idiot who’d just tried to deliberately run down the duchess.

“He’s not that old!” Verity giggled. She patted Joe’s leg and he tried not to flinch. “And still in fine form, too, Wendy, you lucky thing!”

“Lucky old me!” Wendy’s smile looked like a grimace. How would she know what form her husband was in when it had been over six months since they’d so much as kissed, let alone more? She refilled her glass and whispered to Joe, “For God’s sake, have a real drink.”

“Come on, you know I can’t,” Joe replied. “I can’t risk it. First day back and all that.”

“It’s my birthday.” Her pink lips grew thin and she drew in a deep, sharp breath, as sharp as her fresh blonde bob. Then she put her lips to his ear and hissed, “Stop showing me up, Joe, have a drink.”

“I’m drinking a stunt gin and tonic. That’s enough.” Joe held up the glass. It had the brand name of a well-known gin printed down its side. “They do tests, you know. I want to be nice and clean when they poke through my bodily fluids, thank you very much.”

“Barnaby!” Wendy subtly turned away from her husband, the centre of attention all over again. He was dismissed, just as he had been so many times over the five years of their miserable married life. “So, we’re all dying to know how your Tokyo merger’s going. It’s all everyone’s talking about. Tell us all the latest from the front line of big money!”

Joe sat his glass down on the table. The last thing he cared about was Barnaby and his bloody merger, which he’d heard snippets of for weeks as Wendy had made business calls at home. Barnaby this, Barnaby that, ‘Barnaby’s going places.’

So am I.

Joe nudged his seat back and stood to leave. Verity glanced at him, as if she was surprised he was going, but her attention turned to Wendy and Barnaby. Joe wasn’t sure where he’d go, but he needed fresh air. He wanted to be away from loud drinkers, away from Wendy’s carping. His head was pounding and as he stepped outside the pub, a car drove by close to the kerb. He instinctively jumped back, pressing himself against the wall behind him.

Calm down, Sergeant Wenlock, he told himself.

The night was cold, as cold as the pub had been hot, and Joe took a deep breath of autumn air. London tonight seemed even more surreal than ever, the streets a curious mix of the same well-dressed professionals who filled Wendy’s group and those who had embraced Halloween, escaping the real world in the form of cats and devils, vampires and aliens, some already stumbling, others only just starting out. And there in the middle of them was Joe, who would rather be anywhere else but there.

Maybe Joe should’ve thrown aside his tweed jacket and sensible open-necked shirt for a costume. He’d have made quite a good Frankenstein’s monster, maybe, though that said, when he’d first been taken to hospital and had plaster casts and bandages in places he hadn’t thought possible, he’d have been a brilliant cursed mummy.

Joe decided to go for a wander. Once he was working again, he’d have little time to call his own. He’d take his freedom when and where he could. Music blared from pubs and bars, people laughed, taxis pulled up and disgorged their passengers. And up ahead, someone was shouting.

Bloody people, can’t hold their drinks.

“Don’t you ever, ever bloody do that again! Do you hear?”

It was a man’s voice up ahead. Joe could see two figures, one in a black suit with a skeleton painted on it in white. He was wagging his finger—jabbing it—at the red-headed woman walking beside him in heels so high Joe wondered how she didn’t fall flat on her face.

“It’s so important to me, so fucking important, and all you have to do is just nod, and instead, you’re pissing about, making a fucking joke of yourself!”

“I’m sorry!” Her voice sounded almost desperate and she recoiled from her companion’s stabbing finger, jerking away as though it were the blade of a knife. She hurried after the skeleton when he stalked onwards, scooping up the silken hem of her shimmering red evening gown to follow. “Don’t be angry, I’m sorry!”

“I’m sorry!” he mimicked. Joe could almost see him in profile. The man’s face was disguised by makeup that turned his face into a skull.

Seemed a bit rich for him to be accusing someone of making a joke of themselves.

“The man’s an investor in my film, and I wanted him to know that I’m serious about my art, and then you’re there hanging over my shoulder, interrupting and gobbing on about God knows what!” The man clenched his hands. Even they were tricked out in skeleton makeup. “Why do you wind me up like this? You do it on purpose, for fuck’s sake, then it’s all I’m sorry! Well, you bloody well will be!”

“He was laughing too,” the woman said, a fresh note of desperation in her sing-song voice. No, not desperation. Fear. “He was having a good time, you’re not thinking straight! Just—please, don’t be like this!”

“My thinking’s perfectly clear!” The man gave a long sniff then, and Joe knew exactly what was going on.

The drugs are talking.

The man stopped where he was and raised his hand at the woman. The way she flinched back told Joe that this wasn’t the first time it had happened. As she drew away, he saw her makeup clearly, a glamourous sugar skull in a rainbow of colours that nearly took his breath away.

“Please don’t,” was all she said.

Joe increased his pace. The man’s raised hand trembled but in a split second he slapped the woman across her painted face.

Joe ran.

He was on the couple in only a few steps, and interposed himself between them. He didn’t look back at the woman, but could hear her frightened breathing just behind him. “That’s enough. Time for you to go.”

“And who the fuck are you, James Bond?” the man sneered.

“I’m not going to stand around and watch a bully like you slap a woman.” Joe clenched his fists, resisting the temptation to give Skeletor a taste of his own medicine.

“A woman? That’s a fucking joke. She’s a drag queen—a bloke!”

Joe turned to look at the woman.

A bloke?

Was she?

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About the Authors

Eleanor Harkstead

Eleanor Harkstead likes to dash about in nineteenth-century costume, in bonnet or cravat as the mood takes her. She can occasionally be found wandering old graveyards. Eleanor is very fond of chocolate, wine, tweed waistcoats and nice pens. Her large collection of vintage hats would rival Hedda Hopper’s.

Originally from the south-east of England, Eleanor now lives somewhere in the

Midlands with a large ginger cat who resembles a Viking.

You can follow Eleanor on Facebook and Twitter.

Catherine Curzon

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian who writes on all matters of 18th century. Her work has been featured on many platforms and Catherine has also spoken at various venues including the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, and Dr Johnson’s House.

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, writes fiction set deep in the underbelly of Georgian London.

She lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

You can follow Catherine on Facebook and Twitter and take a look at her Website.

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ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A FREE CATHERINE CURZON & ELEANOR HARKSTEAD ROMANCE BOOK! Notice: This competition ends on 2nd February 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.