Archive for December 6th, 2016

We’re happy to host Charlene Whitman’s COLORADO DREAM book blast today! Please leave a comment to let her know you stopped by!
Author: Charlene Whitman
Publisher: Ubiquitous Press
Pages: 450
Genre: Sweet Historical Western Romance
Yearning to become a concert musician, a young woman from New York travels to Colorado to purchase a violin, but when she meets a wild, untamable cowboy, her dream is threatened and her heart torn …
In New York in 1877, Angela Bellini longs to become a concert violinist and get away from her abusive father. When her dream takes her to Greeley, Colorado, to purchase a violin from a master instrument maker, she learns she must wait three weeks until her violin is ready before she can head home.
Angela is determined not to let anything or anyone waylay her dream, but when she meets rough-and-tumble cowboy Brett Hendricks, her heart is torn. He is her opposite in every way—uncouth, cocky, and reckless. But she is hopelessly drawn to him, like a moth to flame.
Brett Hendricks is on the run—not just from an angry rancher who is tracking him down for shooting his son but from a dark and troubled past plaguing him with guilt and shame. A wild, untamable cowboy, Brett can break any horse with a soft touch and soothing word, but nothing in the world can bring him peace. He fears he will never stop running, never see his dreams of ranching realized.
But then, one evening, he hears sweet violin music that seeps deep into his soul–music that floods him with peace. He falls hard for Angela but knows she plans to leave Colorado. All his attempts to win her heart fail disastrously, and though he buries himself in the cattle roundup, when he helps thwart a rustling outfit, his enemies multiply.
Somehow he must find a way to gain Angela’s heart and trust. And somehow Angela must break past her distrust
of men to discover the love awaiting her with open arms.
Pick up your copy at:


Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1
September 9, 1877
New York City, New York
The slap on Angela Bellini’s
cheek burned, but not as fiercely as the hurt in her heart. The pain and
disappointment smoldering there sizzled like hot embers, threatening to reduce
her to a pile of ash. She glared at her father’s back as he stomped out of the
Why couldn’t her papá
understand? She would not marry Pietro, no matter how wealthy his family was,
no matter how many years her papá and his had planned such an arrangement. “It
is our way, Angela,” he had told her again, his face hard and eyes dark and
menacing, leaving no room for debate. “And you will marry him. You are twenty
years of age—you are lucky he is still willing. You’ve made him wait long
When she forced her objections
past the rock lodged in her aching throat, she knew what would follow. What
always followed. Her papá’s rage erupted in a torrent of Italian curses that
ended with a slap that knocked her nearly senseless against the foyer wall
before he stormed out the apartment.
As she slid down in a heap by
the front door, she had caught a glimpse of her mamá in the kitchen, her back
turned to her in unspoken submission. Angela huffed. I will never marry and
become like you, Mamá—squashed under the thumb of some man who wants only
subservience and a crowded apartment full of squalling babies.
She swallowed back
tears. She would not cry—not today. Today she would take the first steps—real
steps—toward her dream. And no one, not even the powerful and prominent Giusepe
Bellini could stop her.
Their tiny stuffy apartment
rumbled—as it always did six times a day and twice each night—from the Third
Avenue El Train fifty feet away. The noise of the wheels clacking and the
platform rattling mingled with the loud voices of her downstairs neighbors
arguing—Mr. Paolino’s tenor to his wife’s shrill soprano. Outside her window,
carriages clattered on cobblestones in sharp staccato, and shoppers and
merchants carried on in boisterous conversation, sounding no more pacifying
than an orchestra tuning their instruments.
On most days Angela could
drown out the suffocating symphony of Mulberry Bend by rehearsing violin caprices
in her head, imagining her fingers flying over the fingerboard, her right hand
bowing the strings, eliciting the sweet and sonorous timbre of her instrument.
But on this stifling, humid
September afternoon, the many pieces she’d memorized—no, absorbed into her very
soul, as if food that nourished her—flitted away, out of reach, as she pulled
down the heavy carpetbag from the hall closet—a bag that she’d found months ago
stuffed behind a stack of wool blankets.
She stopped and listened. Her
mama was humming in the back room as she folded laundry. Her two younger
siblings were off playing with neighborhood children—in the street, no doubt,
as the sweltering heat was worse indoors.
Angela’s hands shook as she
dabbed her perspiring forehead and neck with a handkerchief and went through
her mental list of all she would need on her trip. Not much—she’d only be gone
ten, perhaps, twelve days, if all went as planned. She pushed from her thoughts
her papá’s impending fury at her insolence and the resulting punishments that
would await her upon her return. But she had made her decision, and there was
no turning back.
Hurry, she told herself. Her papá had gone downstairs to the corner market,
and while he often spent an hour or more on Sunday afternoons smoking cigars
with the men of the neighborhood, discussing the politics of her close-knit
Italian community and their various business ventures—and arranging their
daughters’ marriages
, she thought bitterly—he could return at any time.
In her bedroom, she gathered the
neat stack of clothes she had put in her bottom dresser drawer, then stuffed
them into the traveling bag along with her few womanly items, her prayer book,
some sheets of music, and a spare pair of shoes. She checked her reticule and
found the roll of bills—the money she’d earned over the last two years from
babysitting and teaching music lessons through Signore Bianchi’s instrument
shop on Second Avenue. She hoped it would be enough for the quality of violin
she planned to buy.
Mr. Fisk hadn’t answered her
inquiry regarding pricing in his letter. He merely assured her he would provide
her with an exceptional instrument and that they would work out the financial
details once she arrived in Greeley, Colorado.
Would her meager savings be
enough? It had to be, for she couldn’t return to New York and face the audition
committee without a proper instrument.
The director’s words still
stung. “You’re a talented musician, Miss Bellini. But you bring shame to
your craft by playing on such an inferior violin. Come back when you have an
appropriate instrument.”
The three committee members had politely frowned
when she flustered an apology and hurried to the exit of the symphony hall,
pressing down her humiliation and frustration as tears welled in her eyes.
Her papá could well afford to
buy her a violin of exceptional quality, and every year at Christmas she begged
him to indulge her love of playing with the purchase of a new one, but he only
laughed in cool disdain and waved her away. “Give up your foolish dreams,
Angela. Your place is in the home, with a husband and children. Not on the
Her papá regarded music appropriate only at holidays and festivals
and family gatherings, and only traditional song and instrumentation. He
didn’t—couldn’t—understand this dream she nursed. The dream to play in the New
York Philharmonic, to play on stage before an audience, to be a part of the
creation of ethereal music that filled a great performance hall and moved
listeners to tears.
To make matters worse, her
older brother, Bartolomeo, sided with their papá, constantly nagging her to
“get married already and stop being a burden on the family.” Although he was
but two years older, he and Dora had three children. And Dora—and most of
Angela’s other girlfriends from her school days, who were also married—gave her
constant looks of pity, as if Angela was missing out on life’s greatest joy.
But they just didn’t understand.
She had to fan the tiny spark
of her dream to keep it alive, to prevent it from being snuffed out by her papá’s
stern expectations and society’s demands. And it had nearly been extinguished a
month ago, upon her papá’s brash public announcement of her engagement to
Pietro—an arrogant youngest son of a successful wine merchant who had no love
for music—none whatsoever. She harbored no hope that he would ever understand
her passionate need to play the violin, and no doubt he’d forbid her pursuit of
her dream.
And then she’d read an article
in the Times about one George Fisk, a master violin maker in a newly
founded town in the West—a place called Greeley. On a whim she’d written him.
Why? She didn’t know. She could purchase a violin in Manhattan—one of
sufficient quality. But there was something about the description of this man,
Fisk. The way he spoke about the instruments he made. The care and time and
love he put into each one. He built his instruments with a passion and love for
beauty and music that resonated with her. For, she wanted more than a good
violin. She wanted one that spoke to her soul, one made just for her. George
Fisk promised he could provide just that. But she had to travel halfway across
the continent. Was she willing? he’d asked her.
Yes, she wrote him. Yes,
more than willing.
Although, she’d never traveled outside of the city, and
the thought of venturing into wild country, alone, made her stomach twist. But
Fisk had told her not to worry. He would see to her accommodations and show her
around his “wonderful little Western town.” And she had to admit—she was ready
for an adventure.
She looked around her cramped
tiny bedroom situated in a crowded apartment in a busy, noisy city. I’m more
than ready for peace and quiet, and to get away from Papá’s mean spirit and
violent temper.
What must it be like to stand
under a wide-open sky spattered with stars, with no neighbors quarreling or
trains rattling or horses’ hooves clacking on stones? Her heart yearned for
such open space, for such silence. Silence that longed to be filled with
beautiful music. She imagined nature itself performing a symphony of birdsong
and coyote howls and water cascading over rocks. Those were some of the images
her mind drifted to as she played, and she longed to merge her own musical
voice to that of creation, if even just for a day or two.



About the Author


The author of “heart-thumping” Western romance, Charlene Whitman spent many years living on Colorado‘s Front Range. She grew up riding and raising horses, and loves to read, write, and hike the mountains. She attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins as an English major. She has two daughters and is married to George “Dix” Whitman, her love of thirty years. The Front Range series of sweet historical Western romance novels (set in 1876) includes Colorado Promise, set in Greeley, Colorado; Colorado Hope, set in Fort Collins; Wild Secret, Wild Longing, which takes readers up into the Rockies, and Colorado Dream (release date 11/15/16) and Wild Horses, Wild Hearts (release date 1/1/17).

Join Charlene’s mailing list to get free books, news, and sneak previews of upcoming books and covers:




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Friend of the Devil

Title: Friend of the Devil
Author: Mark Spivak
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Pages: 325
Genre: Culinary Thriller

In 1990 some critics believe that America’s most celebrated chef, Joseph Soderini di Avenzano, sold his soul to the Devil to achieve culinary greatness. Whether he is actually Bocuse or Beelzebub, Avenzano is approaching the 25th anniversary of his glittering Palm Beach restaurant, Chateau de la Mer, patterned after the Michelin-starred palaces of Europe.

Journalist David Fox arrives in Palm Beach to interview the chef for a story on the restaurant’s silver jubilee. He quickly becomes involved with Chateau de la Mer’s hostess, unwittingly transforming himself into a romantic rival of Avenzano. The chef invites Fox to winter in Florida and write his authorized biography. David gradually becomes sucked into the restaurant’s vortex: shipments of cocaine coming up from the Caribbean; the Mafia connections and unexplained murder of the chef’s original partner; the chef’s ravenous ex-wives, swirling in the background like a hidden coven. As his lover plots the demise of the chef, Fox tries to sort out hallucination and reality while Avenzano treats him like a feline’s catnip-stuffed toy.

For More Information

Chapter One:

“The man’s here.”

The old Black woman delivered her pronouncement into the darkness of a back room—half in amusement, half in disgust. She then walked back across the front room of the cabin, her feet creaking on the wooden floor, to the place where the young man sat. A pot-bellied stove, streaked with soot, crackled in the opposite corner.

“He be wit you in a minute.”

“Thank you.”

The white youth seemed strangely comfortable in this shack outside Clarksdale in rural Mississippi. The year was 1947, at the height of Jim Crow, at a time when the races never mingled.

The young man had concocted an elaborate cover story and, with the confidence of his age, he believed he could explain himself if the wrong people found him here.

“What you say your name is?” the woman asked.


The woman laughed. “You a crazy-assed white boy, Joseph.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied in a deep baritone, guttural and booming. “That may well be.”

The old Black man shuffled out of the back room, moving slowly and deliberately. He was clad in overalls, and his silver hair framed a deeply lined and creased face. He glanced at Joseph and shook his head.

“Let’s go out on the porch, boy.”

They walked outside to the dilapidated wooden deck surrounding the front of the shack, and the old man settled in a rocking chair. He motioned for Joseph to sit beside him and regarded him with the same amusement his wife had displayed.

“You a long way from home, ain’t you?”

“I don’t really have a home, sir.”

“Everybody got a home.” The old man chuckled. “Some folks just don’t know where it is.”

“Maybe so.” Joseph shifted in his chair as he listened to the night sounds coming from the distance: crickets, the far-off howl of wolves, wind rustling the trees. Highway 61 and Highway 49 were out there, intersecting at the Crossroads. “So tell me, did you know Robert Johnson?”

“Heard him sing once or twice, but that was a long time ago.”

“What was he like?”

“Crazy-assed, like you.” The old man chuckled again. “Knew his time was short, and couldn’t be bothered.”

“Go on.”

“Played the gittar pretty good. But it was that voice.” The old man paused. “It stuck witchoo. Couldn’t git it outta your head. It wasn’t pretty.” He shook his head. “Naw. Wasn’t pretty. Not at all.”

“I know exactly what you mean.”

Joseph had heard the voice, listening to scratchy old records on a friend’s Victrola. They were the only known recordings of Robert Johnson, the studio sessions done a few years before his death. The old man was right. The voice was plaintive and haunting, something you would always remember once you heard it. “That must have been amazing—hearing him in person.”

“Wasn’t no fun, to tell you true. After the first couple times, I never went back.” He shook his head again. “Seems to me that life is hard enough sometimes without lookin’ for his kinda problems.”

“Probably so.”

The old man looked at Joseph closely. “What you need that kinda trouble for, boy?”

“I want to be a success. I want to leave my mark on the world.”

“Where’s your gittar?”

“I don’t play, sir. That’s not what this is about. I want to be somebody.” Joseph paused. “I’m not sure what I want to do. I’ve done some kitchen work, and I like it. I’ve been thinking maybe I’ll open a restaurant someday.”

“Shoot!” The old man exploded in laughter. “You want to open a restaurant, boy, you don’t need to be goin’ out there in the dead of night, lookin’ for trouble. Just fry yourself up a mess of chicken and be done with it.”

“Sure,” said Joseph, laughing in spite of himself.

There was a long silence, and the old man looked at him expectantly. Joseph reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a small manila envelope, and handed it over.

“Well, I’ll be,” the old man said as he counted the money. His eyes widened and his eyebrows arched. “There’s four hunnerd here. I done told you two hunnerd.”

“I want you to have it. I think it’s fair.”

“That’s a lot of money, boy. You don’t need to be doin’ that.”

“I’m not here as a tourist, sir.” It was Joseph’s turn to stare at the old man. “It took me a long time to find you. I don’t want the movie set or the amusement park. I want the real thing.”

“Careful what you wish for, now.”

“Will you be going out with me?”

“Shoot, no.” The old man shook his head. “These old legs couldn’t take me out there and back. And you wouldn’t want me, anyway. You don’t want some old man who got spooked at the sound of Johnson’s voice. It’s my son that’s goin’ with you.”

“Are you sure?”

“It got to be him, ’cause it got to be somebody who don’t take this stuff seriously. Somebody who ain’t gonna wake up in the middle of the night thirty years from now, thinkin’ ’bout it.” He reached over and patted Joseph on the shoulder. “Gotta be somebody with a pure heart. Somebody the man can’t touch.”

“I see.”

“I’ll git him for you.” The man paused and looked at Joseph. “You know, Johnson was no more than thirty when he died.”

“He was twenty-seven, actually.”

“How old you be?”

“I just turned twenty-two.”

“And that don’t spook you none?”

“No, sir.”

“You know what you should be spooked ’bout? If you had any sense, that is?”

“What’s that, sir?”

“How you gonna feel if you live to be as old as me? What you think gonna be in your head then?”

“I guess I’ll have to take that chance.”

“It’s your funeral either way, I ’spose.” He rose unsteadily and walked to the edge of the porch. “Willy,” he called. “William Earl, you git out here. It be showtime.”

After a moment, a young Black man emerged from behind the shack, grinning broadly. He wore overalls like his father and radiated an aura of good humor that put Joseph immediately at ease. He looked no older than Joseph, but seemed to engulf everyone around him in boyish enthusiasm.

“You wanna open yourself a restaurant,” the old man told Joseph, “this here is the boy you want. He can cook up anythin’, anytime, just the way you like it. He’ll make you a success.” He turned to his son. “You ready, boy?”

“Yes, sir, born ready.”

“All right then. You be careful out there.” He looked carefully at Joseph. “Good luck to you. I hope you git what you came for.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Let’s go, baby.” Willy grinned, motioning for Joseph to follow him. “We got business.”



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