Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday's Film Adaptation: Dr. No by Ian Fleming

Dispatched by M to investigate the mysterious disappearance of MI6’s Jamaica station chief, Bond was expecting a holiday in the sun. But when he discovers a deadly centipede placed in his hotel room, the vacation is over.

On this island, all suspicious activity leads inexorably to Dr. Julius No, a reclusive megalomaniac with steel pincers for hands. To find out what the good doctor is hiding, 007 must enlist the aid of local fisherman Quarrel and alluring beachcomber Honeychile Rider. Together they will combat a local legend the natives call “the Dragon,” before Bond alone must face the most punishing test of all: an obstacle course—designed by the sadistic Dr. No himself—that measures the limits of the human body’s capacity for agony.

The centipede had reached his knee. It was starting up his thigh. Whatever happened he mustn't move, mustn't even tremble. Bond's whole consciousness had drained down to the two rows of softly creeping feet. Now they had reached his flank. God, it was turning down towards his groin! Bond set his teeth. Supposing it liked the warmth there! Supposing it tried to crawl into the crevices! Could he stand it? Supposing it chose that place to bite? Bond could feel it questing among the first hairs. It tickled. The skin on Bond's belly fluttered. There was nothing he could do to control it.

But now the thing was turning up and along his stomach. Its feet were gripping tighter to prevent it failing. Now it was at his heart. If it bit there, surely it would kill him. The centipede trampled steadily on through the thin hairs on Bond's right breast up to his collar bone. It stopped. What was it doing? Bond could feel the blunt head questing slowly to and fro. What was it looking for? Was there room between his skin and the sheet for it to get through? Dare he lift the sheet an inch to help it? No. Never! The animal was at the base of his jugular. Perhaps it was intrigued by the heavy pumping of his blood. Damn you! Bond tried to communicate with the centipede. It's nothing. It's not dangerous, that pulse. It means you no harm. Get on out into the fresh air!

As if the beast had heard, it moved on up the column of the neck and into the stubble on Bond's chin. Now it was at the corner of his mouth tickling madly. On it went, up along the nose. Now he could feel its whole weight and length. Softly Bond closed his eyes. Two by two the pairs of feet, moving alternately, tramped across his right eyelid. When it got off his eye, should he take a chance and shake it off -rely on its feet slipping in his sweat? No, for God's sake! The grip of the feet was endless. He might shake one lot off, but not the rest. With incredible deliberation the huge insect rambled across his forehead. It stopped below the hair. What the hell was it doing now?

Bond could feel it nuzzling at his skin. It was drinking! Drinking the beads of salt sweat. Bond was sure of it. For minutes it hardly moved. Bond felt weak with the tension. He could feel the sweat pouring off the rest of his body on to the sheet. In a second his limbs would start to tremble. He could feel it coming on. He would start to shake with an ague of fear. Could he control it, could he? Bond lay and waited breath coming softly through his open, snarling mouth ... The centipede stirred. Slowly it walked out of his hair on to the pillow. Bond waited a second. Now he could hear the rows of feet picking softly at the cotton. It was a tiny scraping noise like soft fingernails. With a crash that shook the room Bond's body jack-knifed out of bed and on to the floor.

 At once Bond was on his feet and at the door. He turned on the light. He found he was shaking uncontrollably. He staggered to the bed. There it was crawling out of sight over the edge of the pillow. Bond’s first instinct was to twitch the pillow on the floor. He controlled himself, waiting for his nerves to quieten. Then softly, deliberately, picked up the pillow by one corner and walked into the middle of the room and dropped it. The centipede came out from under the pillow. It started to snake quickly away across the matting.

Now Bond was uninterested. He looked round for something to kill it with. Slowly he went and picked up a shoe and came back. The danger was past. His mind was wondering now how the centipede had got into his bed. He lifted the shoe and slowly, almost carelessly, smashed it down. He heard the crack of the hard carapace. Bond lifted the shoe.

 The centipede was whipping from side to side in its agony - five inches of grey-brown, shiny death. Bond hit it again. It burst open, yellowy. Bond dropped the shoe and ran for the bathroom and was violently sick. 

James Bond uncovers a plot to end the U.S. space program.

Release Date: October 5, 1962
Release Time: 109 minutes

Sean Connery as James Bond
Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder
Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No
Jack Lord as Felix Leiter
Bernard Lee as M
Anthony Dawson as Professor R.J. Dent
John Kitzmiller as Quarrel
Zena Marshall as Miss Taro
Eunice Gayson as Sylvia Trench
Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny
Peter Burton as Major Boothroyd
Reginald Carter as Mr. Jones
Yvonne Shima as Sister Lily
Michel Mok as Sister Rose
Marguerite LeWars as The Photographer
Dolores Keator as Mary
Louis Blaazer as Pleydell-Smith
Timothy Moxon as Strangways



Author Bio:
Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Second World War Navy Commander. Fleming is best remembered for creating the character of James Bond and chronicling his adventures in twelve novels and nine short stories. Additionally, Fleming wrote the children's story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and two non-fiction books.




Release Blitz: Unfiltered by Leigh Lennon

Title: Unfiltered
Author: Leigh Lennon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Expected Release Date: September 15, 2017

I never will get my happy ending. With my past threatening to ruin the possibility of love in my future, I keep every man at arm’s length. Nick appears out of thin air, becoming a part of my life instantly, leaving me breathless and wanting more. The pain that haunts me is still present, but Nick is worth the risk. When he promises me forever; can I trust him?


Justine makes me see that a forever is in reach with her. She keeps telling me she is hard to love; yet I find it quite easy. Once I break down her walls, she finally lets me in. But, I have a secret of my own which can expose her to the demons that destroyed me in the past. However, with Justine, I will do anything and everything to make her mine.

Justine is my future and I can’t imagine a life without her as my future. She is nervous about the next step yet I won’t let her go that easy. “Are you really that uncertain of us?”

“No, it’s not that. I’m not uncertain of us, I am uncertain of me, of me ruining this by being well, me!”

Leaning forward, with an affliction of righteous anger fueling me, I snap, “I fucking hate when you put yourself down like that Justine,” Her eyes instantly shift in dilation over my brashness, which has never been shown to her.

“Whoa, buddy,” she says as a warning. “Don’t you see? I am scared that I will be the one to screw this up, that is all.” She asks, her hands shaking. I grab them to bring calm to her.

“I am doing all I can to show you I am not like those that abandoned you in the past. Don’t you see that?” I look away, trying to not attach myself to the hurt in her eyes, placed by others, but I am not the one who placed all that crap there. “I haven’t had a lot of long-lasting relationships. You once told me that you suspected Rafe stepped out on you well before you left him.”

She looks down, as if she was silently telling me she hates the direction of this conversation. “Yes, that is true.”

“I think this is affecting you more than you’re willing to admit. And sure, this relationship of ours is moving fast, but I think when you are our age, you just don’t care about the petty shit you do when you are twenty. We have something special, Justine.”

“Yes, I agree.”

“But you’re still scared,” I press for an answer.

“Hell yes, I am scared. You came out of nowhere right when I wrote off being able to love again.”

“You are too damn proud of a woman. You don’t have to act all macho with me.”

“But I have had to do just that for so long. Rafe was a shitty husband and a really shitty dad until Hildy came around. And how do you think that made me feel. He wouldn’t change for the kids and myself but with her, he did. Which I guess is good, she wouldn’t put up with the half-assed dad stuff. But he wouldn’t change for me. So yes, I have been on my own, even during our marriage, on my own.”

“And that has made you the mom and woman you are today. But more so, honey, that has affected how you let someone love you. I am not Rafe and you are not alone anymore.”

“So, what does that mean?” she asks skeptically.

“I’m not leaving you. I’m here and we are going to make this work because I love you. I can’t see growing old with anyone else but you. So please let your guard down when it comes to me.”

Justine is not one to cry but she has let her exterior hardness down and tears were openly flowing. “I never thought I needed to hear those words before, but it is such a relief to hear them from you,” she says.

I kneel in front of her and bring her to the floor with me. “Let me take on that burden. Can you believe me when I say I won’t leave you? No matter how much you push me away; you are stuck with me.”

“Yes,” she says as I embrace her. In that moment, I feel every worry receding from her body because she has found her person and I have found mine.

Leigh has done a number of interviews over the last month.
Visit these sites to learn more about Leigh and her books.

Author Bio:
Leigh Lennon is mother, veteran and a wife of a cancer survivor. Originally with a degree in education, she started writing as an outlet that has led a deep passion as she wrote twelve books. Now ready to publish all of them, she lugs her computer with her as she crafts her next story. She can be found drinking coffee or wine, depending on the time of the day.

Leigh's debut novel will be released on Sept 15th. 

Sign up now or follow her website or FB page to be informed when the book is up for pre-order.


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Release Tour: Minefield by KH Bixby

Title: Minefield
Author: KH Bixby
Series: Deadly Gambit #2
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: September 22, 2017
Complications mount when Sam Turan agrees to work part-time for Heidelberg Bank and dedicate the rest of his time to rebuilding his homeland in the Middle East. Conspiracies and plots threaten his relationship with the Adler heiress and attempts to blow him up escalates the danger level. Sam can only trust a handful of friends. With the ground shifting beneath him, is anyone what they claim to be?

Both Sami and the agent returned to the living room and Sami handed Cassidy the sweeper. “Here. Take this. See for yourself. The ambassador can verify there weren't any bugs last night as he was here when I swept the place after getting home from talking to you at the airport. I’ll look for physical evidence and for Jazzy-cat.” He pulled over Agent Cassidy and whispered to him, “I do have a closed-circuit camera system. Cameras are in the ceiling moulding. Unless they found it, I should have an image of who planted the spyware.”

Cassidy looked over at Stills and gave a nod. The man pulled out his phone and called for a tech to clean out the spyware. “We’ll look, but our team will have more sophisticated equipment. They will be here shortly. Let me know if you see anything odd.”

Jazzy was Sami’s next concern. With the new furniture, her hiding places had changed a little. He looked behind the potted plants and stepped out to check the balcony as the cat door provided an exit to the small outdoor space. In the past, she often hid under the old easy chair. It’d been replaced but since it had been her habit, he got down on his knees and began to peer under the sofa and chair. She wasn’t there but something else was.

Blood drained from his face as he slid back. Cassidy had been watching him. “What? Your cat?”

“Bomb, I think,” he said in a weak and shaky voice.

Shell Game #1
Uprooted from the violence of his homeland, Sami Turan leads a sheltered existence in New York until an explosive encounter with a family member brings back to the surface all he’d lost. On a mission to right a wrong in the best way he can think of, he discovers monsters wear many masks.

Trying to correct his ill-conceived actions, he inadvertently nudges out of balance the first domino of an overlooked international conflict.

Will his actions help his homeland or will he end up starting the next world war? At what price? And will the monsters he exposes in the process be obliterated?

Author Bio:
As a person who views news and politics with the fascination of watching a train-wreck, Bixby is driven to extract what IS discussed and twist it into the light of what ISN’T.

Writing fiction, but keeping it within parameters of the believable and possible, K.H.’s thrillers grab the reader, causing them to wonder … is the story real?

Minefield #2

Shell Game #1

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Book Blitz: Christmas at the Lake by Charlotte Blake

Title: Christmas at the Lake
Author: Charlotte Blake
Series: Great Escapes #2
Genre: Contemporary Adult Romance
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Sometimes love gets forgotten …

Hugely successful Lexi Stuart is used to guys pursuing her, but for all the wrong reasons. Sure, she’s beautiful and rich, but the men in her life never seem to want anything more serious than just sex. It’s a stark reality she’s become used to.

As a code writer in Silicon Vally, Adam Hunt doesn’t have to worry about money. And as a heartthrob in general, he doesn’t need to worry about attracting women, either. But when he meets Lexi during a Christmas holiday in Lake Tahoe, he’s floored that she won’t give him the time of day after one wild night together.

Now, this sports bum is about to take Lexi on the ride of her life. All she needs to do is hang on!

NOTE: This STAND-ALONE romance contains very steamy love scenes. All of the books in the Great Escapes series can be read in any order. 18+

She knew she should have waited to drive over the pass to Lake Tahoe, but she just didn’t have that sort of patience. The snow was practically a blizzard now, and she pulled off to the side of the road where men waited to put on chains for motorists. She rolled down the window of her Tesla SUV, the crack just wide enough to slip the man a couple of bills.

“Chains are in the back.”

She rolled the window up again, wiping the snowflakes off her leather seats.

She was so ready for a break that she’d ignored the weather warnings and driven up on her own, purposely leaving her laptop at home. Now, if she didn’t get over the pass soon, she’d be sleeping in the car.

The hatch opened, and two men took out the boxes of chains she had stashed there. It was illegal to travel up this road without them; her brother, Jack, had reminded her of this, and she’d sent her assistant out to purchase a pair for the trip.

A frigid breeze blew through the car as the men closed the hatch, making her shiver a little. She pulled out a scarf from her bag and, wrapping it around herself, cranked up the heat.

The men finished quickly with the chains, but the rest of the drive was not quick at all. She had been listening to Christmas music, trying to get into the mood of the holiday. But as the storm increased in intensity, she switched over to the channel broadcasting road conditions.

“Highway 50 is open for the time being, but is expected to close within the hour. Blizzard conditions are expected to worsen for the next twenty-four hours. Motorists are advised to exit off the pass as soon as safely possible to allow snow clearing crews to plow the roads.”

Her wheels had more traction with the chains, but the going was slow, and the whole car vibrated from the rough mountain road.

She tapped her fingernails against the steering wheel, a nervous habit she had when she was stressed. Now she could only see a few feet in front of her. She knew that just off to her right was a deadly drop-off. She squinted at the windshield, trying desperately to keep her eyes on the tire tracks and red lights of the cars ahead.

She drove like this for over an hour. Shoulders hunched. Neck tight. The radio silent now.

Finally, the road started to descend from the mountain, and, just visible below, the lights of South Lake Tahoe came into view.

She drove through the town, signs for ski and snowmobile rentals winking down at her. Finally, the sign she’d been looking for popped out.

Black Bear Lodge

She held her breath as she turned down the uncleared lane, hoping that the SUV would be able to make it to the other side of the narrow drive.

The chains were what saved her. The car plowed through the snow, which accumulated along the front bumper and blew across the windshield. But the chains held traction all the way to the lodge. She pulled the car into the small parking lot, where just four others were parked, each made nearly unrecognizable by the snow piled on the roofs.

She parked, but left the car, and the heat, running. She pulled off her knee-high boots and replaced them with the snow boots she had bought at the last minute. Then came a puffy, silver jacket, which she zipped all the way to the top.

She looked around. No bellhop.

Sighing, she shut off the car and opened the door. The snow was so deep that it went above her protective boots. She trudged along to the back and retrieved her two large suitcases. Trying to roll the bags through the snow was nearly impossible, so she resorted to simply dragging them along. She was lucky; they were both light, one with clothing, one with gifts for her family. Gift cards and candles could only weigh so much.

As she passed through the lot, she saw that none of the cars were those of her family. They must have not made it over the mountain yet. They wouldn’t have unless they’d been right behind her on the drive. The news had told her that the pass was closed now.

She struggled with the suitcases up the steps to the main entrance of the building, spitting out the snowflakes that landed on her lips. By the time she got up the small flight of stairs, she was covered head to foot in heavy white flakes.

Even though she hurried to get inside, it was impossible not to notice that the lodge was spectacular. Long wood beams jutted upward, supporting the great vaulted ceiling. It was a large home, really, run by an older couple as a bed and breakfast. There were only a few rooms, and it was this privacy her dad had wanted when he’d had her book the vacation for everyone. In a day or two, when the storm ebbed, she would be joined by him, her two brothers, their wives, and one niece.

Secretly, she was happy to have a little time on her own before family descended upon her. They always had more questions than she felt like answering.

When was she going to settle down?

Has she been dating?

Work wasn’t everything, you know …

She sighed, her breath blowing out of her mouth like smoke from a cigarette. 
Every light in the place was lit, casting a warm glow over the snowy landscape. She didn’t knock, and instead walked right in. Immediately, a gust of warm air washed over her.

“Hello?” she called.

She hadn’t seen them, but two men sat in front of a huge fireplace at the far end of the room. They turned at her voice.

“Hi,” one of them said, getting up and walking toward her.

“Hi,” she said. “Am I in the right place? Black Bear, right?”

“This is it.” He opened his arms.

The front room was huge, even bigger than it looked from outside. A staircase descended from the second floor, curving down toward a ten-foot-tall Christmas tree, its star soaring high above. It was decorated with what looked like family heirloom ornaments. Her own mother had built a collection over the years, and it looked like the owners here had done the same. The tree was a sparkling wonder that seemed to never end. Its scent filled the room, and she took a deep breath in.

“It’s wonderful, isn’t it?” the man said.

“Mmm. How do I check in?” she asked, stomping the snow off her boots onto the mat.

“That’ll be Mary and Edward. They’re the ones who run this place. But I think they might’ve gone to bed already. It’s pretty late.”

She hadn’t noticed the time. It was already past ten.

“Mary left a note for you on the table. Can I help you with your bags?”

“Sure,” she said, leaving them where they stood.

She walked over to the entry table and picked up the note.

Ms. Stewart-
Sorry we haven’t been able to stay up to meet you. Your family’s rooms are in the east wing of the house. Please feel free to choose from the four of them. If you’d like wine or hot cocoa, there is a table close to the fire. Breakfast starts at seven and runs until ten. If you’re an early riser, you’ll also find coffee available at six. 
Your father called to let us know that they have been unable to make it over the pass into Lake Tahoe. The roads have been closed, and it may be a couple of days before they reopen. 

We look forward to meeting you in the morning.

Mary and Edward Holden

She sighed. “Can you help me upstairs, too?”

“Sure.” He outstretched one hand. “My name’s Adam. Over there is my brother Jake.”

Jake sent a wave in her direction.

She took Adam’s hand. “Lexi. Thanks for your help.”


For the first time, she got a good look at him. He was tall and broad, his brown hair cut short. Green eyes, too; her favorite. To her, he looked like he might be good for a fun night. Or maybe a few fun nights.


Falling for You #1
Sometimes love finds you whether you want it to or not …

Grace Clark is a star at her job as an art director at Boston’s biggest advertising firm. But inside she’s still mourning the loss of her sister two years ago. Losing Mia and a failed engagement have been enough to keep her heart on lockdown ever since.

Luke Arnold is tired of relationships that don’t go anywhere. Usually women are all over him, but it’s been years since he’s met someone he could really fall for.

But when he sees Grace from across the room at the Redview Lodge, he can’t keep his eyes off her. They meet in the New Hampshire mountains over Thanksgiving, and they find in one another something that neither of them expected.

NOTE: This STAND-ALONE romance contains very steamy love scenes. All of the books in the Great Escapes series can be read in any order. 18+

Between Friends #3(Coming October 12, 2017)
Sometimes love is right in front of you …

Sarah Kesley is just trying to get by. After barely scraping a diploma in the pre-med program at UC Berkeley, she’s left with few options for medical school. Now she’s stuck in a dead end job, trying to figure out what she should do next. Love is the last thing on her mind.

Ethan Pierce is a good friend. Such a good friend, in fact, that Sarah is starting to notice him in a way she hasn’t before. Those late night car rides, those meetings in the park, those long, quiet talks. Suddenly Sarah is seeing Ethan in a different light.

When they both go on a last-minute trip to Paris, it’s obvious that things are starting to change between them. And what could be better than a new love in the city of lights?

But there are people to be reckoned with at home, and one in particular could undermine their love altogether. 

NOTE: This STAND-ALONE romance contains very steamy love scenes. 
All of the books in the Great Escapes series can be read in any order.

Author Bio:
I am happy to call the San Francisco Bay Area home, where I lives with my husband, two kids, one dog and three cats. I started writing at an early age, but have only been writing novels for the past five years. I love the idea of love conquering all, and that is what drove me to begin the Great Escapes series, where the reader follows couples meeting up in exotic locations around the world. In this series, each book is a stand-alone, and each can be read in any order.

But readers, be forewarned, there is a healthy amount of steam in these books!

Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy Great Escapes!


Christmas at the Lake #2


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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Blogger Review: Comes a Horseman by Anne Barwell

France, 1944

Sometimes the most desperate struggles take place far from the battlefield, and what happens in secret can change the course of history.

Victory is close at hand, but freedom remains frustratingly just beyond the grasp of German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer, Resistance fighter Michel, and the remaining members of the team sent by the Allies—Captain Matt Bryant, Sergeant Ken Lowe, and Dr. Zhou Liang—as they fight to keep the atomic plans from the Nazis. The team reaches France and connects with members of Michel’s French Resistance cell in Normandy. Allied troops are poised to liberate France, and rescue is supposedly at hand. However, Kristopher is no longer sure the information he carries in his memory is safe with either side.

When Standartenführer Holm and his men finally catch up with their prey, the team is left with few options. With a traitor in their midst, who can they trust? Kristopher realizes he must become something he is not in order to save the man he loves. Death is biding his time, and sacrifices must be made for any of them to have the futures they want.

It's been over two years since I read the first two books in this trilogy and I debated about giving them a re-read before starting Comes a Horseman but unfortunately time was not on my side so I decided to just jump in feet first.  Well, as much as I know I would have enjoyed a re-read, it wasn't needed.  Everything just fell right into place as if it was just a couple of months instead of couple years.

Obviously this is a romance with Kit & Michel and Matt & Ken and a tale of war and survival but at the heart of it is friendship.  There is an air of uncertainty when it comes to who do they trust but the boys along with Dr. Liang find a way to keep going.  It is the friendship that grows between the five men that keeps them alive but will it be enough to help them survive the war?  You know what I'm going to say - you'll have to read for yourself to find out that answer.

Comes a Horseman is just an all around great historical romance that had me on my toes from beginning to end even with the two year wait for the conclusion.  It may be wartime romance but you'll find intrigue, suspense, and drama as well, a little something for everyone. 


Chapter One
“BE QUIET,” Zhou Liang muttered.

He shoved a pillow over his head but couldn’t muffle the sound of water from the dripping kitchen tap. The other occupants of the cottage had finally fallen silent—how they could sleep through it, Liang didn’t know—leaving him to what he’d hoped would be a decent night’s sleep. Then he’d become aware of the tap, which he swore had behaved itself up to now.

Still muttering, he felt around for his coat on the end of the sofa, pulled it around him for extra warmth, and made his way out to the kitchen. If someone had told him a couple of months ago that he’d be more than happy to leave this safe house and journey into much more dangerous surroundings, he wouldn’t have believed them. But after weeks moving around Germany working the land to help the farmers who had given them refuge, he was definitely ready to move on.

In a few days’ time, they’d be crossing the German border into France. Liang hoped it meant they would finally be on the next stage of their journey home, but he had experienced enough during his extended stay in Germany not to count on it.

He lit the stove and filled the kettle before making sure the offending tap was turned off properly and then pulled out a chair while he waited for the water to boil. Funny how, despite his present situation, he still sought comfort in the habits he’d grown used to. His Chinese grandparents had taught him about the importance of tea, and he’d also adopted the British adage that it solved everything.

So much had happened since the beginning of what was supposed to have been a simple mission. He’d been approached by the Special Operations Executive to join a team that would be sent to Germany to retrieve the plans for a weapon that could potentially change the outcome of the war. Liang was a civilian; his job was to confirm the plans were authentic. Except that his presence was no longer necessary. Not since one of the scientists from the German project—Dr. Kristopher Lehrer—had joined them.

He glanced up at the ceiling, then shook his head. Did Kristopher and Michel—the French Resistance fighter who had helped him get out of Berlin—realize Liang had figured out they were more than just friends? Six months ago, he might have reacted differently, but now he figured if they’d found love and solace in each other, they might as well enjoy it while they could. There was something to be said for finding love in the middle of all this chaos.

Matt Bryant and Ken Lowe—already good friends—were now also more than that.

It wasn’t something any of them talked about, of course. Two men discovered to be in a relationship did not have much of a future, if any, to look forward to—and not just in Germany. Their team already had enough problems with Standartenführer Holm after them, without giving him another excuse to arrest them.

Not that he needed an excuse.

The two couples were very discreet, and if they hadn’t all been sharing close quarters for these months, Liang doubted he would have noticed. And, if he was being honest with himself, one of the reasons he’d noticed was that he missed Juliane and wondered if he’d ever see her again. Falling in love with the sister of the SS officer hunting them hadn’t been the brightest move, but emotions didn’t always follow the path of common sense. Liang and Juliane had promised each other they’d meet after the war, but there was still the small problem of surviving it.

Juliane Dunst not only worked for her brother, but also for the German Resistance. If her ties to the Resistance were discovered….

No, he wasn’t going to think about that. Not now and not ever.

Liang stretched as he got up to make his tea. The scars on his back, although mostly healed, still irritated him on occasion. Some nights when he closed his eyes, he relived the whipping he’d received at the hands of Holm’s second-in-command, Reiniger, yet his memories always stopped at the same point. Excruciating pain had driven him to yelling, “No more,” but he couldn’t remember anything after that. Not until he’d woken in his cell.

Had he told Holm something he shouldn’t? They’d almost been caught, and Liang couldn’t help but think it was his fault.

He mentally changed the subject, not needing the reminder of the real reason he wasn’t sleeping well. Holm had done more than given the order for Liang to be whipped; he’d also given Liang some information about one of his team that he couldn’t stop thinking about.

What if Holm was right about Ken? And if he was, did it really matter?

Liang didn’t know what to think anymore. He’d told himself that Ken was a good man, that he couldn’t and shouldn’t be judged because of—

A discreet cough from the doorway pulled him back to reality. Kristopher Lehrer stood there, running his hand through sleep-mussed hair. The dye he’d used months ago to darken it had grown out, the color returning to its natural blond. “I smelled tea. Is there enough for two?” he asked.

“You couldn’t sleep either.” Liang didn’t phrase it as a question. This wasn’t the first time he and Kristopher had shared a late-night pot of tea. Despite their different backgrounds, Kristopher and Liang had quickly discovered they had more in common than their love for science. Kristopher had admitted on his thirtieth birthday a couple of months ago that there were times he felt much older after everything they’d been through in the past six months. Liang figured the rest of their team—who were of a similar age—probably felt the same way. However, they rarely discussed their personal lives, only letting information slip unintentionally on occasion. Kristopher, on the other hand, seemed to have a need to talk about such things. Liang sometimes wondered if it was because he’d left it all behind while the rest of them had lives to return to once the mission was over.

“No.” Although Kristopher didn’t elaborate, he didn’t need to. Liang had suspected for a while that Kristopher had nightmares too. It surprised him that they hadn’t woken Michel, but it would only be a matter of time before he joined them. He always did.

Liang poured tea for both of them and then set the cups down on the table. They both drank silently for a few moments.

“The more I think about this situation, the more complicated it becomes,” Kristopher said finally.

“I can understand that.” Liang sipped his tea and waited for Kristopher to elaborate.

“I still can’t believe how naive I was.” Kristopher’s fingers tightened around his cup. His English was impeccable. “I tell myself I’m not like that anymore, but perhaps I’ve just swapped one naivety for another?”

“It’s difficult to push aside what you’ve been taught to believe most of your life.” Liang had his eyes forcibly opened during his time in Germany. He had known about the atrocities humans could inflict on other humans through the stories his grandparents had told him about the family they lost in the Japanese invasion of Nanking. He thought those stories would prepare him, but they were about family he’d only heard about, people he never met. He hadn’t seen or endured the horrors they’d experienced.

He shivered, remembering the fire the night the institute in Berlin had been bombed. With the realization that one of their team—Ed Walker—was still inside when the armory had gone up, Liang had run after a distraught Trevor Palmer to stop him doing anything stupid, knowing they didn’t have time to grieve, not if they wanted to survive.

Both men were gone now. Walker, dead, and Palmer arrested by Reiniger.

“I was an idiot.” Kristopher shrugged. “Am an idiot,” he amended.

“You are the last man I would ever call an idiot.” Liang had seen the plans and formulae for the atomic device Kristopher had helped design. “You have a brilliant mind. I know enough to verify what you’ve shown me, but I could have never come up with any of it.”

“If I were brilliant, I wouldn’t have designed the thing in the first place.” Kristopher shrugged again.

“You didn’t design the weapon, Kristopher.” Liang had heard Kristopher chastising himself like this before. It didn’t achieve anything. “They used your ideas for something you didn’t intend.”

Kristopher snorted. “Yes, and I ignored what they were doing because I wanted to think it would be used to advance mankind, not wipe it out.”

“We all make mistakes. My grandmother also told me that once we think we’re perfect, then we need to start worrying.”

“Your grandmother is a wise woman. I wish I could meet her.”

“Perhaps one day you will. She’d enjoy talking with you.” Liang put his cup down. He missed his grandparents and wished there was a way to let them know he was all right. “Have you decided what you’re going to do yet?”

Kristopher fidgeted with a loose thread on the cuff on his shirt. “This weapon should not be in the hands of either side. When I escaped from the institute, I thought I’d help the Allies defeat Hitler and his Nazis. But I’m not sure it’s that simple anymore.”

“Wars are never simple.”

“This is still my country, Liang. There are good people living in it. No one deserves to die.”

“I’m not sure I’d agree with that last bit,” Liang muttered. “I can think of at least two people I’d love to see die slowly and painfully.”

“You don’t really believe that, do you?” Although Kristopher questioned Liang’s comment, he didn’t look surprised or shocked. “I know Holm and Reiniger hurt you badly, but if you kill them, doesn’t that make you as bad as they are?”

“And what if it had been your sister they’d hurt, or….” Liang caught himself just in time. “Someone else you care about.”

“For all I know, Clara might be already dead.” Kristopher’s tone flattened. “Michel said Holm is probably using her as a hostage to get me to give myself up, so there’s a good chance she is alive, but….” He shook his head.

“Would you give yourself up for Clara?” Liang had met Dr. Clara Lehrer. She’d helped Matt when he’d been injured, and she’d been arrested because of it, along with Trevor Palmer.

“I don’t know.” Kristopher slipped his hand into his pocket, pulled out a piece of paper, and slid it over the table to Liang.

Liang recognized it immediately. “Leo’s letter. I’ve already read it. I don’t need to read it again. We already agreed you should keep it.”

“Leo wanted Mary to have it. You’ll be able to pass it on to someone who can get it to her.” Kristopher traced bubbles of moisture along the rim of his cup with one finger. “He shouldn’t have died. He had his life ahead of him before he signed up to fight in this war. He should be home in New Zealand with her. Not blown to pieces trying to save us.”

Leo Dawson was—had been—an RAF pilot shot down over the Black Forest. When Reiniger had cornered them at the vineyard at Freiburg, Leo had stayed behind to give them time to get away. Liang hadn’t known him as long as Kristopher and Matt had, but he’d liked the young man.

“He told me he didn’t want to go back to his sweetheart with one leg,” Liang reminded Kristopher quietly. Leo had been injured when his aircraft had crashed, and his leg was badly infected. “He made his choice. He was a brave man, and we need to respect that. He died with honor.”

“I know that. I sometimes wonder if he was the bravest of all of us. It’s easier to run, isn’t it?” Kristopher grimaced. “I’m not sure how brave I am, Liang. The more I think about it, the more I come to one conclusion.”

“There’s only one way to make sure neither side gets your formulae.” Liang had a nasty feeling about where this conversation was going. The only physical copies of the plans had been destroyed when the institute was bombed, and Kristopher was the only person who could reproduce them.

Kristopher nodded. “Dr. Kristopher Lehrer cannot be allowed to survive this war,” he continued in German. “They won’t stop coming after us. Both sides want that weapon. It doesn’t matter who builds it. The outcome will still be the same. People will die.”

“And what if someone else figures out how to build it first?” Liang followed Kristopher’s lead and asked his question in German.

“At least it wasn’t because of me. I can’t let anyone die. I can’t.” Kristopher looked up at Liang, this time not bothering to hide the pain in his eyes. “This is the only way. I’ve thought about it and—”

“When were you going to tell me?” Michel interrupted from the doorway. “You were going to tell me, weren’t you?”

Kristopher pushed his chair out. He spun around. “Michel… I….”

“I’m going back to bed,” Liang said quickly. He stood and left the room before either man had a chance to reply. The horrified look on Michel’s face was enough for Liang to want to avoid that conversation. “I think you two gentlemen need to talk in private. Good night.”

MICHEL FABER shut the kitchen door as soon as Liang left. “Kit?”

When Kristopher didn’t answer, Michel filled an empty cup with water and drank it slowly in an attempt to calm himself.

It didn’t work.

“I woke and you weren’t there.” Michel had given Kristopher a few minutes, guessing he had probably found Liang awake and the two men were talking.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Kristopher said finally.

“I noticed.”

“You’re angry.” Kristopher still didn’t look at him. “I can hear it in your voice.”

“Yes.” Michel did feel angry, but it was more than that. He shoved down his fear of losing the man he loved. One morning he’d wake to find Kristopher gone, and he’d never see him again. “Merde. If you’re planning to kill yourself, don’t you think you should talk to me about it first? I thought we could talk to each other. Instead I find you…. Or did you forget to speak English so I couldn’t understand you?”

“What? No.” Kristopher frowned. “Oh. I thought… I didn’t realize I’d switched languages. Liang must have followed my lead without thinking. Verdammt, Michel. It’s not what you think. I promise.”

So they had thought they’d been speaking English.

“You told me you’d stay for as long as you could,” Michel reminded him. He shrugged and pulled up a chair but deliberately kept some distance between them. Although he wanted to pull Kristopher into his arms and hold him, he refused to be distracted until they’d talked about this. “I thought you’d at least tell me when you were planning to leave. I might not like some of these ideas you have, but that doesn’t mean I won’t listen to them.”

“I know,” Kristopher said, “and I’m sorry. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but I didn’t know how to bring it up. It’s not exactly something you casually slip into a conversation.”

They both knew they might be lost to each other with no warning. But that was something neither had any control over. This was very different.

“We can talk about it now.” Michel laced his fingers together, his knuckles whitening.

Kristopher shifted his chair so they were sitting side by side, rather than at opposite ends of the table. “I’m not planning to die,” he said evenly. “I said that Dr. Kristopher Lehrer cannot survive this war. I didn’t say anything about killing myself.” His voice cracked. “I wouldn’t do that to you. I don’t want to leave you. I….”

“Mon cher,” Michel said softly. He took one of Kristopher’s hands in his and caressed it with his thumb. “You are Kristopher Lehrer. You’re not making sense.”

“Yes, I am, but I’m sorry. I should have talked to you about it first.” Kristopher sighed. He pointed to the letter still lying on the table. “I’m giving Leo’s letter to Liang. He can deliver it. I’m not going to England. I’m not giving the plans or the formulae to the Allies.”

“Do you honestly think they’ll take no for an answer?” Michel knew both sides could be ruthless when they needed to be. “They know about you, and it’s one of the reasons they’ve helped us to get this far. You’re important to the war effort.”

“I’ve put our friends in a terrible position. Matt and Ken are part of the military. Their first priority is to follow orders and complete this mission.”

“You weren’t supposed to be a part of their mission.” Michel had taken the place of a dead German soldier and infiltrated the institute where Kristopher worked. A few months into his assignment, he knew he had to help Kristopher. Finding him standing over the body of Dr. Kluge—the scientist in charge of the project—had led to them both fleeing the scene. Michel hadn’t thought for an instant that Kristopher was responsible for Kluge’s death. He still didn’t think Kristopher was capable of killing. If given the choice between killing someone and sacrificing himself, Michel knew what decision Kristopher would make.

As much as he loved Kristopher, Michel also knew Kristopher was too idealistic for his own good. One day it would literally be the death of him.

But it was one thing to think about it possibly happening in the future, and quite another to hear Kristopher actually planning it.

“I’m where I’m meant to be.” Kristopher shook his head when Michel opened his mouth to protest. “If I hadn’t left the institute when I did… they’d never have let me go. With Kluge dead, there is no one else. They know I’ve solved the problem with the formulae. I was stupid enough to tell Reiniger I had.”

“You told him because you were trying to save my life.” Michel knew he was still missing something. “How can you die and not die?” He felt cold inside. Not just because of the words Kristopher had spoken, but also because Kristopher had spoken to Liang about this, not him. “As I said, it doesn’t make sense.”

“People disappear and are presumed dead all the time during war. It doesn’t mean they are dead.”

“You’re planning to fake your death?” Michel said slowly. The relief he felt was short-lived as practicality took over. “We’d have to supply a body.”

Kristopher held up his hand. “No,” he said firmly. “We’re not killing someone to take my place. Holm already knows what identity papers I’m using. We’ll leave them on someone who is already dead.”

“I’m not suggesting we kill someone, but do you really think a body matching your description will just conveniently turn up when we need it?” Michel couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “I’m sorry, Kit, but your plan has a few flaws in it.”

“It’s a work in progress,” Kristopher insisted. “But as long as we can convince both sides I’m dead, that is all that matters.”

“And what are you planning to do once you’ve died? Have you thought that through?”

Kristopher lowered his gaze. He flushed. “I still want a life with you. I thought…. We can’t get married, but I could take your name and pass myself off as a relative or something. At least that way I wouldn’t have to say good-bye to you. No one on our team knows your last name or much about you. They wouldn’t be lying if they tell their superiors they don’t know where to find you. And if they can’t find you, they wouldn’t be able to find me.”

“If only it was that easy.” Michel wished Kristopher’s words could become a reality, wanted to believe that a future together was possible. He’d found himself dreaming about it, although he didn’t dare hope it could come true. “If they know you’re still alive…. Kit, I know Matt and Ken are our friends, but as you said, they do have to report back to their superiors.”

“Are you suggesting we let them believe I’m dead?” Kristopher didn’t look happy with the idea. “Michel, they’re our friends. I can’t lie to them.”

“Not even to protect them?”

“To protect me, you mean. No one can torture information out of someone if they don’t possess it in the first place.” He took a gulp of what had to be cold tea. “God, what is wrong with me, discussing something so serious as though it’s not?”

“There is nothing wrong with you.” Michel could tell Kit was more upset than he was letting on. “Look at me, mon cher,” he said softly. “You are a good man who has made mistakes. We’ve all done that, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re in an impossible situation, trying to make choices you don’t really have.”

“I used to believe we make our own choices in life, but now I’m not so sure. I’ve been thinking about David and the future he wanted.” Kristopher had told Michel about David, a close friend who could have been much more. David had risked his life to convince Kristopher to listen to his conscience and leave the institute. “He was a doctor like my sister, with a life ahead of him helping people. He always wanted to do that. It was one of the reasons he studied so hard. Now he’s either dead or in a work camp somewhere because he’s Jewish.”

“Not everything in life is fair, but it’s better to focus on the situations we can do something about.” Michel had lost his brother, Corin, and a man he’d cared about to this war too. “I think the best way we can honor the memory of our friends and loved ones is to try and make a difference where we can.”

“You make it sound so easy.”

Michel winced. “It’s not, and sometimes it’s so difficult I struggle to find the strength to keep going. I tell myself if I repeat the words enough times, it will get easier. I owe Corin my life. He died fighting to free France. I can’t let his sacrifice be for nothing.”

“I know.” Kristopher leaned over and kissed Michel on his cheek. “I’ve held you while you’ve cried for the people you’ve lost.”

“Just as I’ve held you.” Michel took a deep breath. He wouldn’t think about it now, didn’t want to get sucked into the whirlpool that was his grief for Corin and François again. It had taken him too long to break free of it. “So, what are we going to do about all of this? I’m not going to watch you die. If we’re going to fake your death, we need some kind of plan. Do you still want to travel with the others until they reach Normandy?”

“Yes, I need to leave Germany. We have more of a chance of disappearing to start a new life in your country than mine. You have contacts in the Resistance, people we could help until this war is over.”

Michel raised an eyebrow. “Doesn’t that rather negate your being dead? I thought…. Never mind.”

“You thought what?” Kristopher asked.

“We’ve talked about a future together. If we survive all of this, I’d like that. I think your idea of passing yourself off as a relative will be a little problematic, but we’ll worry about the details later.” More than just a little problematic. Michel’s mother would take one look at the two of them together and figure out they were more than friends. “I want to return to my family when this is over. My parents have already lost one son. I promised Papa I would do everything I could to make sure he and Maman wouldn’t lose another. I’m a farmer. You know nothing of that kind of life.”

“I’ve learnt a lot over the last six weeks, and it would be safer than living in the city.” Kristopher looked thoughtful. He was really contemplating this. “I’ll have to improve my French, though. It’s not very good; although it’s better than it was.”

“My aunt would help.” Michel’s Uncle Brice had married a German woman. She’d welcome Kristopher with open arms. So would Michel’s parents, or at least his mother. “We’re getting ahead of ourselves, though. We still have to get out of Germany, and that won’t be easy.”

“I think it would work better if we travel with Matt, Ken, and Liang for a while longer and then fake my death. You’ve already told them you aren’t crossing the Channel.” Kristopher tipped his cup and studied the tea leaves, using his spoon to swish them around the bottom of it. “I’m not sure you’re right about keeping all this from them. They’ll know something is wrong. We can trust them.”

“I know we can trust them, but it’s not them I’m worried about.” Michel could tell he wasn’t going to easily persuade Kristopher to change his mind about that part of the plan. “It’s Holm and Reiniger.”

“They’d torture our friends for the information until they got the answers they wanted. It wouldn’t matter whether it was the truth or not.” Kristopher had that stubborn look Michel recognized all too well.

“We don’t have to talk about that part of it now. Let’s take one step at a time, hmm? Just promise me you won’t say anything until we’ve discussed it further?”

“All right, but Liang already knows I’m planning something.”

“Yes, but he doesn’t know any details.”

“That’s because we don’t have any to share.” Kristopher shrugged. “I’m tired, and we’ve gone around in circles enough for one night.” He stood and held out his hand. “I want to go back to bed with you. Once we leave here, we might not have the opportunity to share a bed again.”

No one had commented about them sharing a room and shutting the door. Michel suspected it was because Matt and Ken were also sharing more than just a room. However, he wasn’t about to voice his suspicions. He had too many secrets of his own to keep safe.

“I’d like that.” Michel took Kristopher’s hand and squeezed it tightly before pulling him close and kissing him.

“Je t’aime, Michel,” Kristopher whispered once they broke the kiss. “Whatever happens, never forget that.”

“Whatever happens, I never will.” Michel buried his head in Kristopher’s shoulder, caressing the skin there with his lips. “Ich liebe dich, Kit.”

Shadowboxing #1
Original Review 2015:
I really enjoyed the complexities of the characters in this story.  Kristopher has been so ensconced in his work that he didn't really stop to see what was going on around him or what his work's end product would be used for.  Once the truth starts to seep into his conscience, Kit does what he must.  Watching him trying to decide who is who and who he can trust is well written and totally captured my attention. 


Winter Duet #2
Original Review 2015:
When I finished Shadowboxing and realized that the story was really just beginning, I quickly sought out book 2 and devoured it as fast as I did book 1.  In Winter Duet, we learn a few new things about the characters we met in Shadowboxing, realizing that every one has multiple layers to their tale.  Kit and Michel once again had me on the edge of my seat.   Even though I've been a bit of a history buff from an early age, German terminology wasn't something I was familiar with so some of the German words and phrases had me a bit perplexed but after some quick web searches, it was all straight in my head and once again I was fully enveloped in the boys tale of evading the Gestapo.  Now I am eagerly awaiting book 3.

Author Bio
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand, sharing her home with her twin daughters, at least during the holidays, when one of them isn't away at university. Her son has left home and started his own family, although she claims she is too young to be a grandmother already. Her three cats are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing "discussion," and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching and has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and a librarian. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction club and plays piano for her local church and violin for a local orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as "too many." These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of "spare time" is really just a myth.


Comes a Horseman #3

Shadowboxing #1

Winter Duet #2