Please welcome writer Alice Renaud!
I’ve always loved Halloween. In the UK a lot of people don’t, they see it as a brash American import. But the festival of All Hallows’ Eve actually originated in Britain and Ireland, and it’s closely associated with the Celtic folklore I grew up with and from which I draw inspiration for my stories. So on every 31 October I hang up pumpkin lanterns in my front garden and stock up on sweets for trick o’treaters.
But this year? The coronavirus pandemic has put the kibosh on many fun things here. No more parties, no mixing in groups of more than 6, no theatres, no singing in church… There won’t be any trick o’treaters this year, or Halloween parties, or people dressed up as ghouls riding the trains. It would be tempting to just… give up. Treat it like any other night. Hunker down on the sofa in pyjamas and watch TV…
But something tells me that, on the contrary, now is precisely the time to celebrate Halloween. The festival has always been about laughing at the dark… making fun of what scares us… defying the onset of the long, cold winter nights. We need All Hallows’s Eve more than ever. So on 31 October I will put pumpkin lanterns outside. I will buy sweets, even if no one knocks on the door. I may meet up with friends for a Zoom Halloween party. I will find a good horror film to watch. What is your favorite? Mine remains the Exorcist, after all these years, but the recent series of Dracula on the BBC was also brilliant. And what better time to read some great paranormal stories? The third and final book of my supernatural romance series Sea of Love, Mermaids Marry in Green, comes out on 1 November and is the perfect Halloween treat. Read an exclusive excerpt below. You will love the feisty shifter mermaid and her hot warlock, as they seek to capture a water monster in London!
Blurb for Mermaids Marry in Green
Caltha Dooran is the toughest, fiercest shape-shifting mermaid in the western seas. She has three Clans to rule, and no time for romance. But when a warlock, Jonty, turns up and asks her to come with him to London to capture a water monster, she can’t say no. In London, away from her duties, her attraction for Jonty grows… and they soon fall under each other’s spell. But will his past and her responsibilities pull them apart, or can they find the only true magic, the one that binds two souls together?
A pile of twigs shuddered and slid to the side. Two yellow eyes peered at her out of the tangle of wood and litter. Excitement exploded in Caltha’s chest, rocking her whole body. She’d found him! But she strove to keep her voice low and soft.
A reptilian head that looked like a crocodile’s, but smaller, pushed through a plastic bag. The mouth opened, revealing a row of sharp teeth. “Morwenna?” the creature hissed, in Caltha’s language.
She tried to repress the trembling in her body and appear calm so the creature wouldn’t take fright. “Yes, I am a mermaid.” She lifted her webbed hands to show him. The afanc extended a furry paw, tipped with powerful claws. Caltha brushed the damp fur with her fingers. “I’m Caltha.”
The afanc let out a sigh. “Morwenna Caltha,” he said. He stared at her with shining eyes full of hope. “I am lost. Can you help?”
Caltha’s mind went blank with surprise. She’d expected a powerful water monster with awesome magical powers, not this vulnerable animal pleading for assistance.
The afanc stretched his neck towards her. “Please?”
Compassion engulfed Caltha. “Of course I’ll help you.”
The question was how. She’d been so focused on locating him, she hadn’t really given any thought as to what she would do when she found him. She studied his reptilian head and large, furry body. No way would he go unnoticed in a city full of humans. And dangerous warlocks were on his trail. Her mind worked overtime, searching for solutions. Would he follow her willingly, or would she have to trap him? He seemed friendly now, but he might panic if she tried to lead him away from his familiar surroundings. And how could she keep him hidden?
Alice lives in London, UK, with her husband and son. By day she’s a compliance manager for a pharmaceutical company. By night she writes fantasy romance about shape shifting mermen, water monsters and time-travelling witches. Her first book, “A Merman’s Choice,” was published in January 2019 by Black Velvet Seductions. It is the first book in a fantasy romance trilogy inspired by the landscapes and legends of Brittany and Wales. The second book, “Music for a Merman,” is out now and the third, “Mermaids Marry in Green,” will be released on 1 November. Alice has also written two short stories for BVS anthologies, “The Sweetest Magic of All,” in “Mystic Desire,” out now, and “The Holiday Mermaid” in “Desire Me Again,” out in October. Alice loves reading and writing stories, and sharing them with anyone who’s interested!
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Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Renaud/e/B07L52P17B
A short time later, Kylie noticed the man at a table near the door. His intent stare dissected her in a way that felt not like he was undressing her, but that he looked into her. Kylie stared back, putting a forbidding expression on her face. Usually, that was enough to scare off a would-be masher. But it didn’t seem to faze this one.
The man’s persistence triggered a defensive response, and she lost interest in the alcohol. She left half a dozen plat coins on the counter, enough to cover her tab and something for Lin, and then headed for the door.
As she approached the man’s table, he stood up. “Please join me,” he said.
“No, thanks, I’m on my way out.”
“Please,” he said more firmly. She stopped to look at him. That glance froze her steps. His eyes were the exact yellow tone of the dead woman’s. Exact.
She surveyed the room, but no one seemed to be paying attention. One gesture from her would have garnered assistance, but those eyes compelled her to wait. “Why should I?”
His voice softened. “I have information that could be of use to you.”
“Then perhaps you should come down to the Cendiary. That’s where SIRT’s camped while this investigation is going on.” Her mind clicked along frantically trying to reject the half bottle of alcohol she’d consumed. There was something about this man, something about him. His eyes, but more than that. Taller than most men, and broad-shouldered. Hair, perfectly combed, his skin, without a blemish. Not even the hint of an old scar. Clothing, unremarkable. Hands, not quite perfectly proportioned, his fingers a little long, the nails even but lengthy for a man.
“No. I need to talk to you now.” His gaze continued to dance with hers.
She blinked and looked away. “This isn’t a good time, friend.”
He cocked his head, a, thin eyebrow raised. “You consider me your friend?”
His hesitation made her miss a beat, too. “No, I don’t consider you my friend.” She frowned. “Come to the Cendiary in the morning.” She turned to go, but her wrist was suddenly caught in an iron grip.
Tugging on her captured hand, she looked over her shoulder. He held no apology in his eyes, and his expression was grim. He nodded to the empty chair beside his. “I need to talk with you, Investigator Kylie Sanderson. Please hear what I have to say before any more females are damaged or killed.”
Even the smallest degree of hope can spark love.
Against her wealthy father’s demands, and the usual blockades of a male dominated profession, Kylie Sanderson proves worthy of her position as lead investigator of planet Andan’s Scientific and Investigative Research Taskforce. Someone is killing Andan’s women in an attempt to mutate them into reptiles. Kylie makes it her mission to discover who’s behind the murders and prevent more grotesque deaths.
Shapeshifting lizard Griff comes to Andan to stop his brethren from mutating other planet’s women into mindless breeding stock. Overcoming Kylie’s suspicious and defensive nature proves difficult, but he must in order to help the SIRT team thwart his planet’s scientists.
When Kylie is abducted and becomes the first human to survive the transformation, it’s up to Griff to rescue her so SIRT can restore her human form. On the run and desperate to unravel the mysteries of Kylie’s past to solve the crimes of their present, can she and Griff forge a future for themselves?
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Here’s a snippet/excerpt from A SMALL DEGREE OF HOPE. Investigator Kylie Sanderson has been caught and transformed into an alien reptile being–then rescued and the process reversed. Her cold shapeshifter lover does what he can to help. But her problems aren’t over.
“Are you ready to watch the films now?”
She shrugged without answering.
He reached for the remote the doctor had left on the counter and started the show again. “May I sit with you?” he asked.
“Sure.” She waved a hand at the chair the doctor had vacated. “Why not?”
He looked as if he were about to answer then he sat down without saying anything. Her attention was caught by the film. This section included Griff, in his reptile form. What a different attitude she displayed toward him than the staff! Whenever he entered her enclosure, she immediately calmed and became submissive to his every command, if that’s what they were, those odd clicks and bumps.
She might not understand them, but her reptile self clearly did. For the next several sections, Griff translated for her as Dr. Astrid gave commands, and Reptile-Kylie performed a multitude of tasks, manipulating machinery and other devices. She passed every one of the tests conducted by the doctor and her staff, easily lifting heavy objects, able to navigate obstacle courses at lightning speed, even passing dexterity tests with ease, especially when rewarded with raw meat.
The doctor returned during the screening to watch with them. “A fine specimen, for what she is.”
Kylie tore her eyes away from the screen. “Did — did Jaco see this? And the others? Did they?”
The doctor paused the film. “Only when you were rescued. Jaco took you to the nearest hospital, and an ambulance brought you here. After that, he wasn’t permitted access until we were well on the way to recovery.” Her voice acquired an edge. “If I’d known Rand would be such a fool as to bring you that trash this morning, he wouldn’t have been allowed in at all.”
Kylie chewed her lip, recalling the conclusions she’d drawn from that conversation. “And. my family?”
The doctor wouldn’t meet her gaze. “Your father was here. He didn’t stay long.”
“He saw it? Me?”
“He pushed his way in, or bought his way in, I don’t know which. I found him staring in the glass. I asked him if he wanted to visit. I even offered to call security if he was hesitant to try it one on one.” She rubbed her hands together, as if they pained her. “He looked through me like I wasn’t really there.”
Kylie swallowed hard, her throat closing. “Didn’t he say anything at all?” she whispered.
The doctor didn’t answer.
She turned to Griff. “Were you there? Did you hear what he said?”
Griff cocked his head and looked her in the eye. “He said, ‘That’s not my daughter.’”
A few years ago when shapeshifter romances were becoming all the rage, I wrote A Small Degree of Hope. Not your standard warm and fuzzy hero, Griff is an alien reptile, who has the ability to shift into a human appearance.
Worse yet, his species is trying to turn human women into reptiles for mating purposes. Kylie Sanderson is part of the crack team investigating the case, and she becomes involved in a way she never imagined in her worst nightmares.
With that said, here’s today’s snippet:
Griff said, “While you were at the hospital, I tracked my brothers who fled when you were rescued. They have not withdrawn far.”
That raised her eyebrow. “You knew where they were, and you didn’t tell SIRT?”
“I was not sure I could trust them. While they had you, I had to be cautious.”
There it was again, that almost tender sound to what he said. Like when he’d pledged his loyalty to her a few moments before. Did he know the feelings she held for him, the effect he had on her? She’d been comfortable, held in his arms but she intentionally hadn’t defined their relationship.
In the hospital, she rationalized his role as mentor, perhaps, or a co-participant in experiments. He’d been necessary to explain the differences between reptile and human as he knew them for medical necessity.
But here, as they hid together from the forces massed against them, she knew in her heart that this was different. She was drawn to him, not by necessity, but because some tenuous feelings had evolved between them. He had been there, each step of the way. He hadn’t abandoned her, like her father, or turned on her, like Jaco. He’d stayed by her side, good or bad.
For better, or for worse, in sickness and in health…
That was the standard, wasn’t it? When you mated/married, you took each other with all the foibles as well as the high points, and you did what you could to support the other person through the bad times.
And these were bad times.
A SMALL DEGREE OF HOPE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online and retail booksellers. Enjoy!
Today I’m featured at Liza O’Connor’s blog with a science fiction romance novel with an alien shapeshifter and a family mystery. This unique story is available both in ebook and paperback from Kensington.