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One Little Lie ~ Review

One Little Lie
Pelican Harbor #1
By Colleen Coble

Jane Hardy has never fully healed from her past - a past that left her with a hole in her heart and a mistrust of anything dealing with religion. For the past 15 years, Jane and her father have lived as if the past never happened, making a home in Pelican Harbor, Alabama. With her father's retirement from the police force Jane is offered the position of interim sheriff, though not without a few ruffled feathers. And with her new position, she is to be shadowed by Reid Dixon, the subject of his newest documentary. But Reid has his own motives for featuring Jane in his documentary, one that has ties to the past.

Soon Jane is caught up in something she never expected to deal with. Someone is targeting residents of Pelican Harbor for their hidden sins and they've upped the stakes when murder is added to the mix. When further incidents occur and her father is implicated, Jane soon begins to wonder if she is being targeted too.

One Little Lie is the first book in a new series from Colleen Coble and fans of her work won't be disappointed. The prologue is just the appetizer for what is to come. Romance, mystery, suspense fans of any or all of these genres will find something to love. If you are unfamiliar with Colleen's work what better way to be introduced than with the first book in a new series. Get ready for some page-turning book time you won't be sorry.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher with no expectations but that I provide my honest opinion - all thoughts expressed are my own. 

About the Book:
It started with one little lie.
But Jane Hardy will do everything in her power to uncover
the truth in this gripping new
romantic suspense. 

Jane Hardy is appointed interim sheriff in Pelican Harbor, Alabama after her father retires, but there's no time for an adjustment period. When her father is arrested for theft and then implicated in a recent murder, Jane quickly realizes she's facing someone out to destroy the only family she has.

After escaping with her father from a cult fifteen years ago, Jane has searched relentlessly for her mother—who refused to leave—ever since. Could someone from that horrible past have found them?

Reid Dixon is well-known for his documentaries, and his latest project involves covering Jane's career. Jane has little interest in the attention, but the committee who appointed her loves the idea of the publicity.

Jane finds herself depending on Reid's calm manner as he follows her around filming, and they begin working together to clear her father. But Reid has his own secrets from the past, and the gulf between them may be impossible to cross—especially once her father’s lie catches up with them all.

About the Author

Colleen Coble is a USA TODAY bestselling author and RITA finalist best known for her coastal romantic suspense novels, including The Inn at Ocean’s EdgeTwilight at Blueberry Barrens, and the Lavender Tides, Sunset Cove, Hope Beach, and Rock Harbor series. 

Connect with Colleen
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Freaky in Fresno ~ Review

Freaky in Fresno
By Laurie Boyle Crompton
Narrated by Madison Lawrence

Freaky in Fresno is a fun book that features two former BFF cousins as they get an eye-opening day learning just what the other's life really is like. Ricki and Lana used to do almost everything together. But after a road trip with their moms and aunt, everything changed.

When Aunt May gifts the two teens with a pink convertible, sparks are sure to fly. But the flying sparks are going to make the next day one that neither Ricki or Lana is about to forget anytime soon. And both are about to have a day that will find Ricki living Lana's life and Lana living Ricki's which is a BIG problem as each has the event of the summer occurring in just a few hours. Can they figure out how to get back to their own bodies before it is too late and they ruin the other's life? And the only one who notices anything is a chihuahua with a major attitude problem (actually reminds me of a couple of dachshunds I know and love).

I really found this book a fun deviation from my normal fare. This is totally teen girl fun and at places totally over-the-top craziness. And throw in a couple of boyfriends you are looking at a relationship disaster waiting to happen. If you are looking for an escape from the stress of your day-to-day with some unbelievable family dynamics look no further.

Now I didn't read this book but rather listened to it in audiobook form. It is narrated by Madison Lawrence who did a good job presenting the story. (I listened to it at 1.25 speed so it went a little faster than the 8 hours and 16 minutes listed time)

If you are familiar with Laurie Boyles Crompton's previous title Pretty In Punxsutawney you will enjoy this one and there is more movie fun involved in this one too. No school situations with this one as it takes place towards the end of summer vacation. But this time it is a drive-in rather than a theater. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through with no expectations but to provide my honest opinion. All thoughts expressed are my own.

About the Book:
Influencers. Movie nerds. Beauty queens. And one pink convertible. 
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend a day in her shoes? Two estranged cousins—geeky horror movie fanatic Ricki and makeup guru Lana—accidentally switch bodies for a fateful summer road trip that is part Freaky Friday, part romcom, and all heart.

Ricki has one goal: save the Starlight Drive-in movie theater from going dark forever. Okay, make that two goals … she may also want a first kiss from her cinema-rescuing partner and major crush, Jake. Lana definitely has only one goal: grow her online makeup channel to keep her momager off her back, even if the posts attract ugly internet trolls.

The two cousins couldn’t be more different, but their opposite personalities come crashing to a head when their aunt gifts the girls a vintage cotton-candy-pink convertible. To share. Ricki wants the convertible for the drive-in’s grand reopening, but it’s the same day as Digifest, a huge event where Lana needs to shine. After a major fight and a minor electric shock while wrestling over the wheel, Ricki wakes up as Lana, and Lana wakes up as Ricki.

Ricki and Lana have only a day to un-Freaky Friday themselves, a task made even more difficult as they try to keep up appearances on Lana’s channel and with Ricki’s hopefully soon-to-be-kissed crush. But it turns out experiencing a day as each other—with a mini road trip and Chihuahua wrangling—may be the one thing that helps the cousins see each other and themselves more clearly.


Out of the Embers ~ Review

Out of the Embers
Mesquite Springs #1
By Amanda Cabot

Evelyn Radcliffe has spent the last 10 years hiding, but whenever she leaves the orphanage that has been her home since her parents' murders she feels as if someone is watching. And when the orphanage is burned to ashes Evelyn is convinced that the sheriff was wrong - her parents' killer escaped.

Evelyn is determined to keep Polly, the young orphan girl who was in her care at the time of the fire, safe. And safety lies faraway from where Evelyn has always lived. Her westward path takes them into the Texas Hill Country and Mesquite Springs. Convinced that this is where she and Polly will settle, Evelyn puts her culinary skills to good use by reopening the town's only restaurant. Putting the past behind her Evelyn and Polly soon find themselves at home and making new friends including the Clark family.

Finding Evelyn and Polly taking shelter from a downpour, Wyatt Clark does the neighborly thing by offering them shelter in his home with his family. Wyatt dreams of a life far from the Circle C but duty ties him to the ranch. And when Evelyn's past seemingly finds her in Mesquite Springs Wyatt finds his dream of traveling taking second place to Evelyn and Polly's safety.

Out of the Embers is a historical romance that is set in 1855 Texas and is the first book in a new series by Amanda Cabot. This is an enjoyable read that fans of Amanda Cabot's previous works will love. There is just a hint of mystery concerning both Evelyn and Polly that will keep the reader intrigued. This would make an excellent stay-at-home read if you have extra time on your hands. It would also make a great book club choice as each of the various characters bring something different to the story. This isn't a deep thinking book but it is the perfect way to escape into the past of Texas's Hill Country and enjoy a few hours getting to know some new friends.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher with no expectations but that I provide my honest opinion ~ all thoughts expressed are my own.

About the Book:

A young woman with a tragic past
has arrived in town . . . and trouble
is following close behind

Ten years after her parents were killed, Evelyn Radcliffe is once more homeless. The orphanage that was her refuge and later her workplace has burned to the ground, and only she and a young orphan girl have escaped. Convinced this must be related to her parents' murders, Evelyn flees with the girl to Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country and finds shelter in the home of Wyatt Clark, a talented horse rancher whose plans don't include a family of his own.

At first, Evelyn is a distraction. But when it becomes clear that trouble has followed her to Mesquite Springs, she becomes a full-blown disruption. Can Wyatt keep her safe from the man who wants her dead? And will his own plans become collateral damage?

Suspenseful and sweetly romantic, Out of the Embers is the first in a new series that invites you to the Texas Hill Country in the 1850s when the West was wild, the men were noble, and the women were strong.


Guest Post from Author Bonnie Leon with Book Spotlight

Today Blooming with Books is hosting author Bonnie Leon.

Enjoy this guest post from her:

Do you ever feel as if you can’t do one more thing? That life is just too much? It’s too hard? You’re too busy? You’re overwhelmed? In these trying times, my guess is that many of us find ourselves in such a place.

Writers often feel this way, even in the best of times. And when life throws something awful our way the weight of it all can feel too heavy, be too great a burden.

Writing books is a solitary endeavor, usually. Most of us don’t mind that. In fact, being a novelist in today’s publishing world forces many of us out of our comfortable dens.

There was a time when novelists “just” wrote. Mostly.

Today writers are also now advertising experts, bloggers, publishers,
researchers, secretaries, bookkeepers, speakers, social media experts ...
and they are also mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, caretakers. Writers
work other jobs and serve in their churches and communities. They have
families that need them and long to-do lists that have nothing to do with

Yet, at the end of our very long days we are expected to have minds that
can think creatively and if we hope to craft a novel we need the energy to
labor through the hours that make up the months required to get to the
place where we write The End.

I’m certain God called me to write, but I’m also convinced that he didn’t
expect me to kill myself doing it. We as writers need to realize that none of
us are required to work ourselves into the ground.

I long to write great novels, to lose myself in unique and interesting tales,
and to get caught up in the lives of characters that I care about. But that
doesn’t always happen. The blaring horn of the world distracts me.

I cannot ignore the hubbub. So much of it matters too. The diversions,
mysteries, heartaches, and the fun are also part of life. If we anchor
ourselves to our desks and skip those pieces we really aren’t living at all.

We need time of quiet to listen to the hush of the forest or the humming
noise of the city, time with friends and family, time to take in the moments
with a child that will never come again—laughter and tears—we need to live
it all, no matter what job we are called to.

I marvel at those who live quietly in the ebb and flow of life. Those who
don’t fight the tide, but allow it to carry them out to sea and then rest when
washed into a quiet pool. Can I find my way to such a place, in the quiet
presence of the lord or in the friendship of someone who comes alongside,
and in the confidence of releasing a pursuit and learning not to strive so

And what about all the writerly things I need to do? I’m still sorting that out.
I can’t do it all and instinctively know that I should focus on what comes
naturally, to do the things I enjoy and to write what I feel passionate about.
If I do that, the tasks are not a burden, but an opportunity to create.

As part of God’s family, we need to encourage and uplift one another. As a
writer, I need to hear from fellow writers and from readers. Words of
understanding and encouragement can brighten a dark day.

Only in the presence of God can we truly find contentment and gratitude
about who we are, where we are and what we do. It’s good to be in the
place God plants us. He knows our hearts like no other, and in Him we are
able to find peace and rest. And are able to write another day.

More about Bonnie Leon:
Bonnie Leon is the author of twenty-two novels, including the recently released One
Hundred Valleys, the popular Alaskan Skies and bestselling The Journey of Eleven Moons.

Bonnie’s books are being read internationally and she hears from readers in Australia,
Europe, Poland, and even Africa. She enjoys speaking for women’s groups and mentoring up
and coming authors.

Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children

and seven grandchildren.

Unveiling Truth Through Fiction

Now Available for purchase: One Hundred Valleys

After the death of her mother, Emmalin Hammond discovers she is not the heiress she’d always
assumed she’d be. The revelation exposes her fiancĂ©’s true intentions when he withdraws his
marriage proposal, leaving Emmalin heartbroken and humiliated. When she discovers the father she believed to be dead is still alive and living in the Oregon Territory she decides it is time to meet the man who has been hidden from her all of her life.

Accompanied by her Uncle Jonathon, she sets out for the Oregon Territory in search of answers and hoping for a renewed relationship with her father. When tragedy strikes, she confronts the terrifying challenge of completing her quest alone. Faced with few options, she entrusts her life to a mountain man named Jacob Landon who agrees to transport her to a small settlement in Southern Oregon called Deer Creek, a place also known as the Land of One Hundred Valleys.

Emmalin is not prepared for the hardships of life in the Oregon wilderness. Each day presents a new challenge. Newfound friends, including the reserved Jacob Landon, who unexpectedly stirs her heart, come alongside to help her adapt. Yet she feels out of place. Should she brave the arduous journey back to Philadelphia for the life she once knew or remain and hope for something better in the Oregon wilderness?

Other titles by Bonnie Leon:

              The Journey of Eleven Moons  
              Return to the Misty Shore
              In the Land of White Nights, book two in the Northern Lights series.
              To Dance With Dolphins


Chasing the White Lion ~ Review

Chasing the White Lion
Talia Inger #2
By James R. Hannibal

Talia Inger finds herself once again working with Adam Tyler and not necessarily by choice. But he and his crew of cons and thieves somehow keep showing up where she is. But when her foster sister approaches her with a potential human trafficking situation involving kidnapped refugee children she needs Tyler and the skills his crew offers.

But to save these children they will have to infiltrate a crime syndicate - one known as the Jungle. The boss known only as the White Lion potentially has links to her past and her father's death. But nothing is as it seems and time is not on their side in this game of "kill or be killed."

Chasing the White Lion is a suspense-filled read that continues Talia Inger's story that the reader was introduced to in The Gryphon Heist. ow if you haven't read the first book you can still enjoy this book easily with just a bit of backstory missing. Talia is learning that she can't lean on just herself and her skills developed as a CIA officer. Trust is a major underlying factor throughout and with the various characters trust is not easily given. If you are looking to escape into a world of intrigue, adventure, and betrayal this is a perfect read for you. This book doesn't shy away from murder and crimes but it doesn't go into graphic or morbid detailing. Overall I'd say this is a good read and would recommend it to many readers.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book with no expectations but that I provide my honest opinion - all thoughts expressed are my own.

About the Book:
In Talia's world everyone has an angle 

and no one escapes unscathed

CIA officer Talia Inger may have reconciled with the man who assassinated her father, but that doesn't mean she wants him hovering over her every move and unearthing the painful past she's trying to put behind her. Still, she'll need him--and the help of his star grifter, Valkyrie--if she hopes to infiltrate the Jungle, the first-ever crowdsourced crime syndicate, to rescue a group of kidnapped refugee children.

But as Talia and her elite team of thieves con their way into the heart of the Jungle, inching ever closer to syndicate boss the White Lion, she'll run right up against the ragged edge of her family's dark past. In this game of cat and mouse, it's win . . . or die. And in times like that, it's always good to have someone watching your back.

James R. Hannibal is no stranger to secrets and adventure. A former stealth pilot from Houston, Texas, he has been shot at, locked up with surface-to-air missiles, and chased down a winding German road by an armed terrorist. He is a two-time Silver Falchion Award winner for his Section 13 mysteries for kids and a Thriller Award nominee for his Nick Baron covert ops series for adults. The author of The Gryphon Heist, James is a rare multisense synesthete, meaning all of his senses intersect. He sees and feels sounds and smells, and hears flashes of light. If he tells you the chocolate cake you offered smells blue and sticky, take it as a compliment.


More Than We Remember ~ Review

More Than We Remember
By Christina Suzann Nelson

A choice that will forever alter more than one life forever. But the memory of what happened that night is a big blank in Caleb Kilbourn's mind. But he needs to remember what happened. Evidence suggests that he is at fault in a deadly accident. His wife Addison wants the truth of that night and wants to fight for the life that they have, a life that now seems to be slipping away before her very eyes.

Brianne Demanno has hidden away from the life she felt called to. The loss of a young client has her questioning her abilities as a counselor. But when her new neighbor needs help Brianne finds herself not only being a good neighbor to Addison but also drawing on her skills as a counselor. But she no longer trusts herself to help those in need. But there is something about the Kilbourn family that just draws her in.

Deputy Emilia Cruz nearly lost her husband 3 years ago and each day finds more of him slipping away. Someone's poor choice has destroyed her family and she's determined that this time justice will be meted out, even if it's the high school basketball coach. And then there are the two teenage witnesses whose lives will never be the same after seeing the accident. Emilia needs to be sure that this time someone pays for their mistake and Coach Kilbourn can't hide from it just because he claims to have no memory of the incident.

More Than We Remember is an intriguing read as all these various lives cross because of a tragic late-night drive. The truth of that night is hidden within the recesses of one man's mind, but there is more to this story than this one night. The past is a powerful presence that lurks in the mind, it determines how we react to a situation and even the choices we make. Do we allow the past to rule us or do we use it to better ourselves?

This is a story of family, friendship, hope, and loss.  What one knows isn't the whole story and without the whole, we cannot truly judge whether the decisions we are making are the right ones. I found this to be a book to make one think while thoroughly engaging this reader in the lives of all involved. Highly recommended for those who just want to read good fiction with a contemporary setting with all its ups and downs.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher with no expectations but that I provide my honest opinion ~ all thoughts expressed are my own.

About the Book:

One night changes everything. . . .

When Addison Kilbourn's husband is involved in a car accident that leaves a woman dead, her perfectly constructed life crumbles apart. With her husband's memory of that night gone and the revelation of a potentially life-altering secret, Addison has to reevaluate all she thought she knew.

Emilia Cruz is a deputy bearing a heavy burden far beyond the weight of her job. After a traumatic brain injury, her husband is no longer the man she married, and Emilia's determined to prevent others from facing the same hardship. When she's called to the scene of an accident pointing to everything she's fighting against, she's determined to see justice for those wronged.

Brianne Demanno is hiding from reality. She once thrived as a counselor, but when tragedy struck a beloved client, she lost faith in herself and her purpose. When her neighbors, the Kilbourns, are thrown into crisis, Brianne's solitary life is disrupted and she finds herself needed in a way she hasn't been for too long.

As the lives of these women intersect, they can no longer dwell in the memory of who they've been. Can they rise from the wreck of the worst moments of their lives to become who they were meant to be?


Britfield and The Lost Crown ~ Review with Excerpt

Britfield and The Lost Crown
Britfield #1
By C.R. Stewart

All Tom remembers is life in an orphanage and he has been in Weatherly since he was 6 years old. And Weatherly is the worst of the worst. And the Grievouses are living in luxury off the labor and deplorable conditions in which they are keeping their 56 orphans.

Everyone living within the walls of Weatherly dreams of escape. But when Tom is threatened by the Grievouses and his best friend Sarah Wallace is locked away in one of the attics for 30 days of solitary the ultimate escape plan is put into action. Having just learned that his parents may not be dead Tom has a destination and with the help of his friends, he just might be able to achieve it.

But from the very beginning, the escape plan starts to go awry and escape is no longer certain. And when Tom learns that Detective Gowerstone has been tasked with bringing them in he knows that their chance of success has drastically dropped. Tom and Sarah refuse to be defeated and with a single clue as to his past, Tom is on his way.

And what does the scrap of paper that was slipped to him with the word "Britfield" on it have to do with him? Tom has no idea - is it a name, a place or something else entirely. The only thing he does know is that he doesn't know who to trust but he and Sarah need some help if they hope to make it to London and disappear.

Britfield and The Lost Crown is a non-stop action-adventure that though has a contemporary setting has an almost classical feel to it. This is a perfect read for middle-grade readers and up. The characters come to life and the twists and turns will keep the reader turning the pages until the end. This is a not-to-be-missed series debut that will leave you in anticipation of book two. I highly recommend this book that at 386 pages is easy to get into the book.

I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book with no expectations but that I provide my honest opinion - all thoughts expressed are my own.

About the Book:

Enter the World of Britfield: Adventure, Intrigue, Conspiracy, Mystery, and Suspense!
Tom has spent the majority of his life locked behind the cruel walls of Weatherly Orphanage, but when he learns that his parents might actually be alive, Tom is determined to find them. Together, with his best friend Sarah and armed with only the word “Britfield” as a clue to Tom’s mysterious past, the two make a daring escape. Now, they are on the run from a famous Scotland Yard detective and what appears to be half of the police officers in England! The hunt is on, but will Tom and Sarah be able to evade capture long enough to solve an even bigger conspiracy that could tear apart the country?

Multiple Award-Winning Britfield and the Lost Crown by C.R. Stewart, is the first book in a thrilling seven-part series based on family, friendship, loyalty, and courage that is written for pre-teens, Y/A, and readers of all ages. Britfield and its heroes, Tom and Sarah, take readers on an epic adventure as they travel across England. With its stimulating language and stunning historical and geographical asides, Britfield engages the reader from the very first pages and doesn’t let go until it reaches its exciting conclusion!


“A perfect mixture of fast-paced excitement, heart-stopping surprises, fascinating history, and endearing characters with historical references scattered along the way. Tom and Sarah’s devotion to each other provides an excellent backdrop to the many mishaps and dangers in which they find themselves. I could see this book being used in a classroom setting both as a
literature piece and as a geographical and historical resource. Stewart’s clever narrative draws you in and doesn’t let you go till the end!”
– Dawn Weaver, Reader’s Favorite Book Reviews5 Stars!

“Tom just barely escapes the evil orphanage with his friend Sara to follow the clues that his long-lost parents may still be alive! Could Tom really be the heir to the British throne? Such a thrilling book filled with so much awesome history about England, crazy mysteries, and truly amazing characters. It had me hooked every second of reading it! I can’t wait for the sequel.”
– Hannah, Age 13, Kids’ Book Buzz5 Stars!

“An intriguing first-in-series read that is sure to capture the attention of the middle grade and young adult crowds. Readers journey through English cities and countryside beautifully rendered in the narrative. The book also includes maps and intelligent background information about the setting and history with access to online illustrations and commentaries. Britfield weaves plot, texture, storytelling, and fascinating characters into a winning combination and enriching experience.”
Chanticleer Book Review5 Stars!

“As a middle school English teacher of 28 years and a multiple-bestselling author for middle-grade books, I can honestly say Britfield and the Lost Crown has all the right stuff. Intriguing characters, foreshadowing, and suspense will draw readers in deep and have them gasping for breath for the next chapter and the next.”
– Wayne Thomas Batson, bestselling author of The Door Within Trilogy

Book Trailer:

Amazon →

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Apple Books App →

“Number forty-seven! Stop chattering to thirty-four and get back to work, immediately!” Speckle shouted from across the room.
“Yes sir . . . back to work . . . right away,” Tom replied instinctively, pretending to be a dutiful servant.
He knew too well that talking violated the sacred Weatherly Rule Book, a seventy-five-page document of laws and regulations all orphans had to memorize when they arrived. Any violation of these rules resulted in punishment, the penalties varying in length and severity. However, some rules were made to be broken; it was the orphans’ only way to survive here. They did what they were told and got away with what they could.
Just then Speckle closed his laptop, walked over to Tom, and slammed his stick on the table. Everyone froze at the loud crack; the room went silent.
“One more word out of you, and I’ll send you outside!” hollered Speckle, looking around for other violators. No one moved an inch.
Speckle, the new supervisor, had arrived nine months ago. Over six feet tall with wavy grey hair, he had a deep, scratchy voice and a grip like a vice. He also managed Brewster and Sludge, two henchmen who helped keep order and discipline. These burly yet feeble-minded bullies followed his every command.
Tom grabbed a large piece of lumber, walked over to a table saw and ran it through the blade with ease. He then placed the wood on a workbench and started sanding the rough edges.
Every morning at 6:00, each orphan marched straight to this work area, referred to as “The Factory” because it was managed like an industrial plant. Their jobs consisted of putting together an assortment of handcrafted items: the girls made wicker baskets, and the boys built wooden chairs and tables. All these objects were hauled off in a large truck and sold by Brewster and Sludge in the local villages.
Glancing around the room, Tom quickly made eye contact with Sarah, who smiled and made a silly face. He began to laugh but stopped when Speckle trudged over.
“Is something funny, Tom?” he snapped, ready to strike with his stick.
“Ah . . . no sir, nothing at —”
“Perhaps you’d like to stand outside in the cold for five or six hours! Would that be funny?” he thundered in a threatening manner.
“N-no, it wouldn’t.”
Speckle lowered his gaze, closely examining Tom for any insincerity. Once again, the entire room went quiet.
Unconvinced by his answer, Speckle grabbed Tom’s arm, yanked him from his bench and dragged him outside. The door slammed behind them. The weather was frigid, a strong Yorkshire wind chilling the barren landscape. December was always a deadly time of the year.
“Don’t move!” ordered Speckle, his tone displaying a combination of contempt and indifference.
Tom nodded resentfully, his wiry twelve-year-old body shivering in the cold. Speckle angrily marched back inside, glaring at the other children as he hovered around their workstations. He randomly picked up an item, inspected it and tossed it back down. Every day he would find some flaw, tearing up a basket or smashing a chair. Speckle observed everything and missed nothing. No one dared to question him or make direct eye contact. But even Speckle could be outfoxed. The orphans feared his strengths and did whatever they could to exploit his weaknesses. Peering in from the window, his blue eyes glistening, and brown hair dampened by frost, Tom stood motionless. He’d been locked up at Weatherly for six miserable years, and this was the year he planned to escape.
Located in Aysgarth, Yorkshire, in Northern England, Weatherly was about three hundred miles northwest of London. Although it was the 21st century, the orphanage looked medieval. The main building was an enormous sixteenth-century Elizabethan castle constructed from bluestone. Towering seven stories high, it had four massive turrets, one in each corner. The entire estate was enclosed by a twelve-foot high granite wall, with a massive wrought iron gate at the entrance. About fifteen years ago, the property was purchased by the Grievouses and turned into an orphanage, which the British government helped pay for as long as it was run privately. Although the Grievouses were supposed to provide each child with new clothing, healthy food, heated rooms, and schooling, they kept the money for themselves.
Like many of the other orphans, Tom didn’t know anything about his parents, who they were or what had happened to them. But he hoped to find out someday.
After missing lunch, Tom was let back inside. He cautiously walked over to a workbench and sat down by Patrick, number thirty-four.
Known as the teacher, Patrick, at sixteen, was the oldest and wisest orphan, with nine hard Weatherly years behind him. If anyone needed to know something, he was the best resource.
“Got the book?” whispered Tom, scanning the room for Speckle.
“Yeah . . . you ready for the mission?” asked Patrick assertively, his eyes intense and focused.
Tom gave him a confident nod. “Of course. I’ve been planning for it all week.” “Good. See if you can find anything by Dickens or Hardy — and no more Shakespeare,” he said adamantly, leaning in closer. “Now remember, be extra careful. They’ve moved Wind to the east side of the house.”
“Got it,” replied Tom, ready to carry out his perilous assignment.
Patrick carefully removed The Count of Monte Cristo from behind his jacket and skillfully handed it to Tom under the table. It was a flawless transition, and Tom hastily stuffed the book in his shirt.
Speckle turned, mumbled something under his breath and continued to pace the room, searching for any sign of disobedience.
Tom returned to his work and started building another chair, his heart racing with nervous excitement.
If the orphans ever had a spare moment, they loved to read — it was their only way of escaping into another world. They had a total of eight books in their library, which consisted of a small dusty storage closet in the cellar. They had read each one probably twenty times, including a dictionary, an encyclopedia, and the history of the British Empire. But with so few books, they needed to come up with a strategy to get more, so they invented an exchange system. Each month, one orphan sneaked out at night, ran across the field, outmaneuvered a vicious dog named Wind, and climbed in a small window at the Grievouses’ beautiful Victorian mansion located close by. They borrowed one of the books from a well-stocked shelf in the study and exchanged it for one of their own.
When the clock finally struck 7:00 p.m., the orphans diligently put away their tools and cleaned up their workstations.
They filed out of The Factory two-by-two and down a long dark corridor.
This was one of the brief moments they weren’t monitored or supervised by any Deviants, a codeword the orphans used when describing authority figures.
Sarah ran up behind Tom and gave his shirt a swift tug. “So are you going tonight?” she whispered enthusiastically.
“I’ll head out in a few hours,” he replied nonchalantly, trying to mask his anxiety.
“You scared?” she inquired. “I’d be scared . . . especially of Wind.” “A little bit . . . but it’s got to be done, right?”
“Right,” she acknowledged, then hesitated for a second. “I wish I was going with you.”
“It’s always been a one-person mission — too risky for more.”
“Fine,” she said with a hint of disappointment.
“Although I wish you were coming,” he added earnestly.
Sarah smiled, then reached in her pocket and handed Tom a small golden locket.
“What’s this for?” he wondered, examining the delicate object.
“It’s for good luck. You’ll need it tonight.”
“I can’t take this.”
“Sure you can,” she said graciously. “Just keep it on you at all times.” “But it’s the only valuable thing you have.”
“There’s more to life than just objects, Tom,” she added philosophically. Sarah Wallace, age twelve, had arrived two years earlier from Edinburgh, Scotland. Coming from a wealthy family, she had led a privileged life before her parents died in a suspicious automobile accident. She didn’t have any relatives, except for a greedy uncle who only wanted the money, so she was shipped around to a few places and finally ended up at Weatherly. She had long, sandy-blond hair, hypnotic hazel eyes, and an infectious laugh.
Just as they reached the stairwell, Mrs. Grievous appeared from behind a wall and advanced toward Tom. A cold chill suddenly came over him.
“What — do — you — have — there?” she snapped, her dark sinister eyes honing in for the kill.
Tom quickly switched the locket to his other hand and slid it into his pocket. Sarah faded back and watched intently, hoping her prized possession wouldn’t be confiscated.
“Nothing. Nothing at all,” he replied in mock puzzlement. “By the way,” he interjected, quickly changing the subject, “I made two chairs in the workshop —”
“Open your fingers!” she demanded, grabbing his hands and yanking them forward.
They were empty.
“See . . . nothing,” he retorted, playing innocent like a seasoned actor.
“Hmm, well they’re filthy.” She gave his hands a slap and pushed him aside. “I’ve got my eye on you, forty-seven. One misstep and you’ve had it. Now get to bed!” “Yes, Mrs. Grievous,” he muttered coldly, wondering why this awful woman was ever born.
Mrs. Grievous always seemed to appear whenever an orphan did something wrong. She had ghostly pale skin, kept her bright red hair compressed into a bun, and always wore grey flannel suits. Continually on edge, she had an explosive temper and made an unsettling clicking noise with her jaw. It was best to avoid her at all costs.
The children marched up the stairs and hastily retreated to their rooms. Speckle followed closely behind, making sure everyone was locked in and the lights were turned off. Standing by each door, he listened for any talking or movement. The orphans knew this, so they would wait about twenty minutes before they started exchanging stories and discussing the day.
There were fifty-six children at Weatherly, thirty boys and twenty-six girls, ages ranging from six to sixteen. If the number ever dropped below fifty-six, the facilities would be taken over by the government. The orphans hoped this would happen, because they couldn’t imagine anyone else allowing what went on there. As far as they were concerned, anything was better than the Grievouses.
The boys and girls were kept in separate rooms with the bunk beds spaced two feet apart. These cramped quarters had water-stained walls and plaster crumbling from the ceilings. When it rained, the roof leaked and flooded most of the castle. The summers were hot and humid. The winters were chilly and bleak, with the cold creeping in through loose stones and broken windows.
Their garments were tattered and sparse: the girls wore dark brown dresses, with their hair usually pulled back; the boys wore brown trousers, long sleeve shirts and at times, overalls. Their shabby attire felt more like prison uniforms than normal clothing. Most orphans hated these outfits more than the dilapidated rooms or horrible food.
After everyone was asleep, Tom patiently rested on his bottom bunk bed and watched the clock on the wall. The minutes slowly ticked away until it finally read 11:00 p.m., the perfect time to leave, for the Deviants were usually asleep by then.
Tom quietly slid off his wafer-thin mattress, got dressed, and snatched the book from under his pillow. As he tucked it in his shirt, the bedroom door slammed open. It was Speckle shining a flashlight directly in Tom’s face.

Originally from Newport Beach, California, C. R. Stewart has twenty years of experience writing fiction, nonfiction, and movie screenplays. His areas of expertise also includes film and media production, global strategy, and international marketing.

Britfield and The Lost Crown was conceived as an idea over 10 years ago while I was enduring a boring finance seminar. It started as a sketch of a hot air balloon with a young boy and girl trapped inside. From this simple drawing sprang the entire concept and story for Britfield.”

C.R. Stewart received a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature and European History from Brown University; did post-graduate work at Harvard University; earned an MBA from Boston College, and is pursuing a Master of Science in Advanced Management and a PhD in Strategy.

Now based in San Diego, C.R. Stewart is a strong supporter of education and the arts. He enjoys world travel, reading, riding, swimming, sailing, tennis, and is currently on a National School Book Tour with Britfield and The Lost Crown speaking to students on the importance of creativity!