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The War Bride, Pamela Hart Excerpt

To celebrate Pamela Hart‘s gorgeously romantic novel The War Bride being shortlisted in the Epic Romantic Novel category for the 2017 RoNAs, we’ve got an excerpt from it for you! Enjoy!

Prologue
13 January 1920

There didn’t seem to be a band playing. And only a few people on the wharf at Dawes Point. A handful of Army types, a man in a suit waiting with a taxi, and the normal number of stevedores lounging around, grabbing a smoko while they waited for their cargo to arrive.

Frank was surprised. The last time a war-bride ship had docked – when his mate Smitty’s girl came out – there had been crowds, an Army brass band, streamers and shouting and crying – even a man with a placard saying, ‘Welcome to your new home, Mavis’. He’d thought about making one of those for Margaret, but now he was glad he hadn’t. He felt silly enough, clutching a bunch of roses in a sweaty hand.

He hoped he’d still recognise her. Two years and four months was a long time, and women did things with their hairstyles. Clothes were different. But surely Margaret’s tall, slender form would stand out the way it had at Reading train station, when they’d said goodbye. Surely he couldn’t mistake that lovely, soft smile of hers for anyone else?

It was hot already, and humid, as Sydney summers always were, but he was ruefully aware that the sweat running down his back wasn’t only from the heat.

Wound tighter than a watch spring, he was. Two years and four months and no giving in to temptation, no matter what. A married man, and he’d stuck to it, and God hadn’t it been hard! But today . . . the house he’d found for them was all ready, the bed made with brand-new sheets. A thorn pricked his thumb and he loosened his grip; not long now.

The SS Waimana loomed closer; still painted in its camouflage colours, even now, fourteen months after the war had ended. Frank blinked, confused. There weren’t any passengers lining the rails – no, wait, there were a couple on the top deck, holding up some kiddies to see. Where were the women? This was supposed to be a war-bride ship. It should have been packed to the gunnels.

The ship was tied up and the gangplank put across the gap. A trickle of passengers came down, but the only young woman who emerged was a redhead. She winked at him as she went past, her hand tucked into a corporal’s arm. That was all – the others were a family group and a couple of men in suits.

Where was Margaret? He checked the letter from the Repatriation Committee again, for the tenth time; yes, the Waimana, arriving January 1920, check shipping news for arrival date. Which he had. Surely she hadn’t got off at Fremantle or Melbourne? Maybe most of the women had been going to Melbourne, and that was why the ship was nearly empty. That would be it. But where was Margaret?

Who could he ask? An Army sergeant was checking off the corporal and his redhead from a list. With the enlisted man’s instinctive avoidance of authority, Frank went instead to a sailor who was securing the mooring ropes at the bow of the ship.

‘My wife was supposed to be on this ship,’ he began.

The sailor hawked and spat into the greasy Harbour water. ‘Soddin’ women.’

Frank ignored his comment.

‘Margaret Dalton?’ he asked.

The sailor looked at the sky and sucked his teeth, thinking. ‘Brown hair? Good looker? About so high?’ He measured against himself. Frank nodded.

‘Yerse, I remember her. There were only a couple without their blokes. She came on board, but she took herself off again. Women – always changing their bluidy minds.’

He’d felt cold like this when he’d been shot, at Passchendaele, in the streaming mud, trying to crawl under barbed wire. The shock had gone through him the same way, exactly.

‘Took herself off . . .’ he managed.

The sailor shrugged and made fast, then circled him to get back on board.

‘Life’s a shit, eh?’ he said as he climbed the gangplank.

Frank threw the roses into the gutter as he walked away. Walked and walked, hot in his good suit (his only suit) and his shiny shoes.

Part of him wasn’t surprised. He’d always known that Margaret was too good for him. Too beautiful, too kind, too loving. He wasn’t worth that kind of girl; a nameless orphan with nothing more than what his two hands could make. But she hadn’t seemed to realise that. Had seemed to think they were on a par, that she was making a good bargain. Had seemed to look forward to a life in Australia.

When she’d walked with him to the station to see him off to the front, she’d cried silently, surreptitiously rubbing the tears away from her face, not wanting to make him feel any worse. They’d only been married a month, then, and parting had been so hard. When they’d kissed goodbye, her soft mouth had been salty with tears.

She’d loved him then, he was certain.

Two years and four months was a long time. Long enough, it seemed, for her to change her mind, even if it was at the last moment.

He’d had letters; but not for a while, now he thought about it. A few months. Maybe that should have made him realise. Made him prepare himself, instead of being side-swiped like this.

She should have warned him. Told him she’d had doubts. He could have reassured her. Hell, he would have gone to England to fetch her if he’d had to.

Unless someone else had changed her mind for her.

The thought of Margaret with another man hit him low and hard, and left him gasping.

He needed a drink. There was a pub on the corner. Not one he’d been in before, but it was open. He went in and hesitated, then ordered a whisky. Beer wouldn’t chase away this shaking feeling inside him; wouldn’t put him solidly on his feet again.

One whisky didn’t, either. He had another, and another. A vague sense that he was spending too much money sent him out the door, jingling the coins in his pocket, along with the key to the house he’d prepared so carefully for Margaret.

It made him sick to think of living there alone. Made him walk faster, as if to outdistance the thought.

He stopped for breath and realised that he’d walked a long way; had taken a familiar path, to Stanmore, and Gladys.

Well, why not? Hell, he’d been faithful the whole time, and what did he have to show for it? Anger rose up in him, finally chasing away the cold, sick dread. If Margaret didn’t want him, there was one who did. Who always had. And there was no reason now that his daughter couldn’t have a proper father.

That thought was the first good one he’d had. It would be wonderful to see more of Violet.

He turned into Cavendish Street and walked up to number 64, Mrs Leydin’s boarding house, where Glad had a room for her and Violet. For a moment, before he knocked, he was afraid that she wouldn’t want him, either. That she’d throw him off because he hadn’t chosen her over Margaret, despite the fact that Margaret was his lawful wedded wife. He was frozen with that fear, for a moment; that he’d be back to being alone in the world, as he always had been until that miraculous day that Margaret had said she would marry him. Alone and forsaken. But he wasn’t alone. Violet would always be his.

His knock would have woken the dead.

It was still early; Glad was on second shift at the biscuit factory, and she hadn’t left for work yet. She answered the door and put her hand to her heart as she saw him; did he look that bad?

‘She didn’t come,’ he said.

Her pale little face flushed and she took his hand almost shyly. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said. That was Gladys. She was sorry, always, at anything that caused him pain. She really loved him. Tears came to his eyes but he didn’t want her to see, so he pulled her into his arms and hugged her. Violet came running out of their room and crowed with delight to see him.

‘Papa!’ she yelled. She barrelled into his legs and he swept her up with one arm, still holding Gladys tightly with the other. He kissed Vi’s cheek and she threw her little arms around his neck. There was nothing like that feeling.

Gladys leaned her head against his shoulder; her love and acceptance soothed the raw wound of Margaret’s rejection.

‘You and Vi should move in with me,’ he said. ‘We’ll be a proper family.’

‘Yes,’ Glad said. She smoothed his hair back and smiled at him. There was a hint of sadness at the back of her eyes, but he concentrated on the smile, mirroring it until the sadness disappeared. ‘A proper family.’

The War Bride is available to buy now! Get it here:

Ebook

Amazon

Waterstones

WHSmith

And Pamela’s newest book, A Letter From Italy is published in ebook tomorrow!! Pre-order here!

Five Tips for a Lovely Regency Christmas

Holiday celebrations have changed significantly over the past 200 years, but our Regency ancestors knew how to have a fine time at Yuletide. The custom of putting up a Christmas tree (or hanging one from the ceiling) had yet to catch on. Rum had already been invented, however, and this more than compensated for the lack of Christmas trees. Santa Claus was Father Christmas, and he wore flattering full-length green robes rather than that silly red get-up. No flying livestock, either. No Grinch, not even a Tiny Tim.
However did they manage days of yore? (Other than the rum?) It took planning, diligence, and a big bowl of wassail, but manage they did, as follows:

1) They hung mistletoe EVERYWHERE. Mistletoe was suspended from the rafters, from bonnets, from hat brims, and from awnings. We know this because every historical romance author who ever wrote a Christmas story tells us so (including present company).

 

 

 

2) About that wassail. Recipes lovingly preserved through the ages inform us that wassail was concocted of hard cider, nutmeg, ginger, flirtation (some recipes call for a lot of this), mischief, cinnamon, and laughter. Once the wassail had been properly appreciated, the next joy to be experienced during the Regency holiday was…

 

 

 

3) Sleighriding. Thanks to an obliging volcano, some of the Regency winters were truly impressive. Much glee was to be derived hitching up Olde Thunderbolte to the sleigh and taking off across the arctic countryside at a brisk canter. Windchill factors hadn’t been invented yet (fortunately), but no matter. Enterprising Regency folk coped with the pleasure of a winter headwind by snuggling VERY closely under those lap robes. As a consequence, most children in the rural parishes of Regency England were born in September. (I am making that up, though three of my four brothers were born in September, and my mom’s birthday was December 30. Go fig.) If sleighriding paled, there was always the…

4) Frost Fair on the Thames! The Victorians dredged and narrowed the Thames river channel, an inspired gesture in the direction of flushing the figurative London potty. The downside (well) of their engineering genius is that the river, having a faster current, hasn’t frozen solid since the Regency. No more Frost Fairs for us, though we do have the food hall at Harrod’s. I still think ice skating from booth to booth would have been a cool way to Christmas shop. And finally…

5) Mustn’t forget the plum pudding. No plums, of course, but that sucker was probably 180 proof by the time Mama brought it flaming to the table. One serving of plum pudding and even after a day of sleighriding or shopping the frost fair, your toes would thaw instantly.

All of which is to say, that with enough love and laughter, no matter the century, the holidays are still the holidays—but I do think we could use a little more respect for the traditional use of mistletoe!

The Black Dagger Brotherhood in 60 Seconds

excited awesome screaming happy dance jonah hill

Rhage is back! Or, he will be in just a few short days.

With J. R. Ward’s The Beast about to hit shelves we thought we’d better get in some prep work. So we’ve called in Black Dagger Brotherhood expert Gemma Harding of  Book Mood Reviews to give you the lowdown on J. R. Ward’s fabulous series in 60 seconds*. Here are her answers to our pressing questions . . .

  1. What’s the single most important thing we need to know about the Black Dagger Brotherhood series?

That this 13, nearly 14, book series is seriously addictive and with each book you are drawn further into the world.

 

  1. In five sentences tell us what the series is about. Go:

The Black Dagger Brotherhood series started off as a paranormal romance series about a band of warrior vampires who not only protect humanity, but also their own race from a group of demon like beings called Lessers. It has evolved from each book being a standalone paranormal romance, where a particular male character ended up getting his happy ever after with the love of a good woman (whether vampire, mortal or other), to that of a very complex and heavily plotted urban fantasy series, with romantic elements. The world has widened, with other supernatural species such as sympaths and shadows now a big part of the universe. The series is still about The Black Dagger Brotherhood fighting against their enemies, but it is not just the Lessers and also has politically motivated coups against The King, Wrath,  to keep the characters on their toes. This is all against a backdrop of a group of male vampires trying to protect the women they love and the family they have built.

 

  1. What’s your favourite book in the series?

My favourite book in the series is still Lover Mine, which is centred around John Matthews (or JM), a half vampire/ half human relation to Wrath’s wife Beth, and Xhex a half sympath/ half vampire warrior working for the sympath King Rhevenge. This is the book, for me at least, I saw a change in the direction of the series. It wasn’t as heavily centred on the two leads and Ward seemed to be starting to go down the Urban Fantasy route. Plus, it was the start of my love for a certain pairing.

 

  1. Who’s your favourite character?

My favourite character changes all the time, but the character who always returns to the top of the list has to be Vishous, or V as he is known in the books. He is the Son of the Scribe Virgin (sort of the goddess of the race) and a mean S.O.B called The Bloodletter. V has the right balance of being a sarcastic, mean kick-ass fighter and a really deep and sensitive guy. This is especially true when he meets his other half, Jane, and the continual bromance he has with Butch, an ex-cop turned vampire. (Told you that it was complex).

 

  1. Why do you love J. R. Ward’s books?

For me, I think it is because Ward is trying to continually evolve and change the series with each book. Ward can really write great alpha males and is able to make each of them different and stand out. Each character has their own fears and vulnerabilities, and although that they do prevail, it isn’t without sacrifice. Ward isn’t scared to take risks with her plots and although there have been a few books in the series that I haven’t loved, I still keep reading because she knows how to dangle a carrot under the readers’ nose to make them need to read the next book in the series.

 

  1. Complete the following sentence: If you like x, y and z, you’ll love J. R. Ward

If you like Hot Vampire Warriors, some steamy Romance and kick-ass action, you’ll love J. R. Ward.

 

Many thanks to Gemma for kicking off our celebrations for The Beast and sharing her love for The Black Dagger Brotherhood!

We can’t wait to see what everyone thinks of the book . . . so this week and next we’ll be reminiscing about Rhage, the brothers and our love of all things Ward over on Facebook. Come join us.

 *so, maybe more than 60 seconds, but you can never have too much J. R. Ward.

The best things about being a romantic

The season of romance is upon us as the 14th February looms ever closer. Hearts, flowers, chocolates and cherubs. What’s not to love?!being a romantic

Over the years I’ve realised a few things about being a romantic and why it can be so great! Here’s my top 5 favourite things.

Optimism – never giving up on love

I forever believe that love is out there for me! The idea that love will be a constant in life is the best feeling. After a bad date I pick myself up and tell myself there is something better out there for not only me but everyone! My optimism can sometimes splay into OVERLY optimistic, which, truth be told can be a rather large downside, with friends thinking I’m absurd. But hey, life is too brilliant to not find someone to share it with, right?

Treating others

When you’re a romantic you love planning special things for those you care most about. Whether it be making their favourite meal or planning a surprise trip, we romantics LOVE this stuff. The best part though is how happy it makes others too. Knowing someone’s done something special for you is a great feeling and everyone deserves to feel like this. So romantics out there, continue to spread that pink, glitter coated love.

Feeling like you’re in a Disney film

Now this one may not be universal, but for me when romance is swirling around my head, I like to think of myself in a Disney film, birds singing and mice helping me design a dress for a ball (ok that last one might be a step too far). However, what I do love in Disney is that it all works out and everyone lives happily ever after, which is a lovely turn out for the books. Really, this is idealistic view is at the core of every romantic and that is AWESOME!

Always having great stories to tell

Whether your romantic ideas play out well or not, you’ll always have a great story to tell. Like that time I cooked a lovely meal for an old boyfriend and as I went to serve it, dropped it all over the floor and his lap. Embarrassment levels were high at the time, but the story went down very well with friends. He wasn’t so impressed with a scorching lap of pasta though.

Being the one people come to for romantic advice

I love sharing my romantic advice with friends and even strangers (if I can make them listen!) But what I love most is when friends come to me for advice and I can help them create an amazing surprise for someone. It’s great to turn non-romantics to the side of love and help someone make the best surprise.

 

All in all, I think we can agree being a romantic is pretty great. We’d love to hear about your favourite romantic stories, so share away on our Piatkus Entice Twitter and Facebook pages!

Love, Aimee

 

Our favourite Christmas movie romances

It’s a week to go until Christmas Eve, and we couldn’t be more excited to slob around in our pyjamas for a fortnight, eating everything in sight and trying not to argue with our siblings. Obviously we’re hoping for some gorgeous books under our tree, but this is also the time for re-watching favourite holiday movies, and we’ve picked out a selection box of some of the most romantic ones just for you . . .

When Harry Met Sally

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This technically isn’t a Christmas film, but it always reminds us of this time of year – lots of festive knitwear, stolen NYE kisses and a scene that captures the horror/joy of getting the tree.

Love Actually

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Depending on your opinion on Keira Knightley, this is either a crime against cinema or a modern Christmas classic – we’re very much in the latter camp. Too many swoon-worthy/heartbreaking moments to count, but our fave is Laura Linney finally going home with the stud from her office.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

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Maybe more appropriate for Halloween (we like to watch it then and a couple more times before Christmas), this is the timeless love story of Jack and Sally, with some absolutely killer songs.

The Holiday

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Whether this is a good film remains debatable, but it’s made its way onto our holiday viewing roster through ITV2’s sheer persistence showing it ALL THE TIME over Christmas.

Bridget Jones’s Diary

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Colin Firth in a reindeer jumper. Need we say more?

It’s a Wonderful Life

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Yes, it’s shamelessly sentimental and you’ve probably seen it more times than you care to admit, but we honestly can’t think of a more romantic film that embodies the spirit of Christmas. If this isn’t a part of your holiday traditions, now is the time to make it so.

Eyes Wide Shut

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Maybe a slightly rogue choice, but this is a serious Christmas film, with (then) real-life couple Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise baring their souls and a whole lot more besides . . . Come for the star-gazing, stay for the erotic masked ball.

Fire up your Netflix and get viewing! What are your favourite Christmas movies?

Our Top Holiday Romance Reads

Moment of Letting GoToday we publish the gorgeous, escapist summer-holiday-in-a-book that is J.A. Redmerski’s The Moment of Letting Go. Whether you’re about to head off somewhere sunny or fancy an armchair vacation, this is just the perfect summer read. To keep Redmerski company, I’ve selected another four top romantic reads in a mix of genres that should all command space in your holiday suitcase or bookshelf. All four are extremely readable (warning: don’t start any of these if you intend to speak to any of your loved ones for the duration) and contain intense, all-consuming relationships and evocative settings.
Unsticky

1. Sharp, witty romcoms are a weakness of mine but there are a lot of mediocre books out there. Unsticky, which is nowhere near as famous as it ought to be, is deliciously addictive, funny and moving with the added perks of great clothes, the most realistic sex scene I’ve ever read and a heroine you would take on the world for.

 

Bronze horseman2. The Bronze Horseman is just a complete classic: an epic, sweeping, heart-wrenching romance. I read it on a girly summer holiday when I was around seventeen and immediately forced it on everyone else. As a result, we spent the summer with one of the group continuously out of action and in Alexander’s arms. Trust all four of us when we say he is one of the best romantic heroes ever.

 

The Soldier's Wife3. The Soldier’s Wife: This Australian wartime love story is based on the true story of the author’s own family history and is easy to read, nostalgic and very sweet – if you enjoyed Michelle Magorian‘s Back Home, this is one for you. I was charmed by it and have yet to come across anyone who doesn’t fall instantly in love with Pamela Hart‘s storytelling. Highly recommended!

 

Lemon Grove

4. This book. It’s so twisted but so wonderful! I could not put The Lemon Grove down. It’s filthy sexy in a way that’s all the more shocking because of the beautiful, poetic writing. Be prepared for it to get nasty but also be prepared to be absolutely swept away. Not for the faint-hearted but not a ride you should miss.

Cover reveal – Moonlight on Nightingale Way

Last week we revealed our cover for Hero and today we’re really happy to have another Samantha Young cover reveal – the next in the On Dublin Street series! Moonlight on Nightingale Way is a thoroughly beautiful book, with perhaps my favourite hero so far . . .

Look out for Logan’s book in 2015!

Logan from Echoes of Scotland Street is back with his own smouldering story, as the New York Times bestselling On Dublin Street series returns…

Logan spent two years paying for the mistakes he made. Now, he’s ready to start over. He has a great apartment, a good job, and plenty of women to distract him from his past. And one woman who is driving him to distraction…

Grace escaped her manipulative family by moving to a new city. Her new   life, made to suit her own needs, is almost perfect. All she needs to do is find her Mr. Right — or at least figure out a way to ignore her irresistible yet annoying womanizer of a neighbour.

Grace is determined to have nothing to do with Logan until a life-changing surprise slowly begins turning the wild heartbreaker into exactly the kind of strong, stable man she’s been searching for. Only just when she begins to give in to his charms, her own messy past threatens to derail everything they’ve worked to build…

 

“[The] On Dublin Street series is a total winner” — Dear Author

 

“Young is not an author you should miss out on!” — Fresh Fiction

Samantha Young’s HERO is Here

Just six more days until Christmas and we have an early present for you!

The UK cover of Samantha Young’s standalone romance Hero, available March 2015.

We’re in lust . . . let us know what you think!

The explosive, emotional and unforgettable new romance from the New York Times bestselling author of the On Dublin Street series

Alexa Holland’s father was her hero – until her shocking discovery. Ever since, Alexa has worked to turn her life in a different direction and forge her own identity outside of his terrible secrets. But when she meets a man who’s as damaged by her father’s mistakes as she is, Alexa must help him.

Caine Carraway wants nothing to do with Alexa’s efforts at redemption, but it’s not so easy to push her away. Determined to make her hate him, he brings her to the edge of her patience and waits for her to walk away. But his actions only draw them together and, despite the odds, they begin an intense and all-consuming affair.

Only Caine knows he can never be the white knight that Alexa has always longed for, and when they’re on the precipice of danger, he finds he’ll do anything to protect either one of them from being hurt again . . .

 

Piatkus Entice Stocking Filler(s) – Tara Loder

 

For the month of December, the team at Piatkus Entice will be sharing their chosen stocking filler title (and please don’t tell their friends, as who knows if this will end up in their sock)!

Today’s choice was picked by Tara Loder, Piatkus Fiction Editorial Assistant . . .

For me this year it’s all about the New Adult releases, and I’m going to cheat by naming two stocking fillers – one for my virtual stocking and one for my real stocking (you can never have too many books).

On my iPad will be all things Lia Riley. Her debut Upside Down totally Sideswiped me and turned me Inside Out. To ensure a break from festive feasting, I’ll choose to be consumed by the emotional intensity of Talia and Bran (and delighted by the humour).

In my actual stocking will be Robin York’s Deeper; making me swoon, clap and sniffle. The story of Caroline and West is absolutely beautiful and the way they meet their challenges makes me want to cheer. It’s going to be Harder than ever to stop reading this Christmas.