Blog Tour, Exclusive Excerpt, & Giveaway – The Artist’s Masquerade by Antonia Aquilante

The Artist's Masquerade cover

BOOK DETAILS

The Artist’s Masquerade
by Antonia Aquilante
Genre: M/M Fantasy Romance
Series: Chronicles of Tournai
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Release Date: December 21, 2015
Length: Novel (300 pages)

2015NewAbout the Book

As the first-born son of the Duke of Tournai and cousin to the prince, Cathal has always tried to fulfill his duty to family and country, including following through with an arranged marriage to Velia, cousin to the emperor of Ardunn. But it’s Velia’s companion, Flavia, who fascinates Cathal. Cathal doesn’t know that Flavia is really Flavian, a man masquerading as a woman to escape Ardunn, a restrictive place in which Flavian’s preference for men is forbidden.

Even when Cathal discovers Flavian’s true gender, he cannot fight his attraction to him. Flavian is intrigued by Cathal, but Cathal is still betrothed to Velia, and Flavian worries Cathal is more taken with his feminine illusion than the man beneath it. While both men battle their longings for each other, spies from Ardunn infiltrate the capital, attempting to uncover Tournai’s weaknesses. They are also searching for Flavian, who possesses a magical Talent that allows him to see the truth of a person just by painting their portrait—a skill invaluable to Ardunn’s emperor.

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2015NewExcerpt

The first meeting with his betrothed hadn’t gone exactly as Cathal had thought it would. During the carriage ride to the port, Father had been full of instructions on what Cathal should do and say when he met Lady Velia and just as full of annoyance at Elodie’s presence. Cathal wasn’t surprised by either of those things.

Father would have preferred Elodie not come with them, but Cathal knew that Father would have been even more upset if Philip or Amory had been available to accompany them. A representative of the crown traditionally attended this type of meeting, and though Father believed himself a suitable representative, Philip didn’t think so. First, because Father was the father of the bridegroom, and second, and possibly more importantly, because Philip likely didn’t trust Father in the matter. He had, after all, negotiated with a not-entirely-friendly empire and not disclosed it to the crown prince of Tournai or any of the prince’s advisors or ministers.

For that matter, he hadn’t even disclosed it to his own son.

Cathal did not blame his cousin for wanting an observer of his own at the meeting. He was somewhat surprised that Elodie had been chosen, but he supposed that, despite her flightiness, she did notice things. She could be relied upon to recount everything that happened. If she didn’t get distracted by what Lady Velia’s gown looked like or something else interesting to her. No, he would have thought that Philip would have sent someone else just to be safe.

Of course, he didn’t know that his cousin hadn’t. Cathal of all people knew that not everyone was as they seemed and saying spies were everywhere was not always paranoia. The carriage, along with its driver, was from the palace. He and Elodie had taken it to collect his father. For all Cathal knew, the driver would report everything he saw and heard back to Philip when they reached the palace. And Cathal didn’t resent his cousin for that either. Father took his responsibility to family and country seriously, but Cathal didn’t understand his actions in negotiating the marriage.

Father had told Philip of Cathal’s betrothal before Cathal had the chance, and Philip hadn’t been pleased. Cathal had been touched to find that many of his cousin’s misgivings were for Cathal, but Philip needn’t have worried. Cathal had been prepared for the duty for his whole life.

By the time they arrived at the dock to meet the ship from Ardunn, Father was peeved, Elodie was bubbling over with enthusiasm, and Cathal was tired. He just hoped his betrothed was someone he could like.

He was going to have to spend his life married to her. Liking would be good, so would attraction, though neither was necessary for a marriage like theirs.

And Lady Velia was beautiful, just the type of woman he was usually attracted to with her soft curves and golden curls. She was ladylike and demure and absolutely correct in her responses to their introduction, and charming in what little conversation they had between meeting on the dock and traveling back to the palace. She was well dressed, if not in a fashion popular in Tournai. He had no doubt it was the fashion in Ardunn—she was entirely too well put together, from hat to embroidered shoes, for it to be anything but. Altogether, a woman he would have noticed, and one who, at first glance, wouldn’t make a bad duchess.

So why couldn’t he stop staring at Lady Flavia?

The woman who had been introduced as Velia’s companion was not conventionally beautiful. Flavia was lithe not curvy, her features a bit delicate, her mouth full and lush—she was pretty in a way but would never be considered beautiful. And though she was dressed as well as Velia, she didn’t seem as comfortable in the finery as the other woman did. But Flavia’s eyes were absolutely mesmerizing. Even in the first moment they focused on him, wide and startled, the large, blue-green eyes captured Cathal, and he found it difficult to look away from their swirling depths.

But he had to, and he had to forget about the surprising spark, so sharp he would have thought it a literal spark, when they touched. Because Flavia was not his betrothed.

And still his gaze kept going back to her. Flavia looked horrified when Elodie announced they would be staying at the palace. Cathal was certain Father had mixed feelings about the invitation, but that was to be expected—Flavia’s reaction was strange. Why wouldn’t she want to stay at the palace? The invitation was an honor, and Velia accepted it with graciousness and just a hint of a belief that it was her due.

But Flavia was not happy. As they all moved toward the carriage, Elodie chatting easily with Velia’s aunt and Father talking with her uncle, pulling Cathal into the conversation, Flavia whispered furiously in Velia’s ear. He couldn’t hear what she said or how Velia responded, but he saw Velia’s dismissive gesture and Flavia’s narrowed eyes and compressed lips. The woman was fuming and trying not to show it.

He could have let someone else help Flavia into the carriage. He could have found some reason to step away after helping Velia into the carriage. He should have let someone else help her. But he didn’t want to. He wanted to know if the heat of that first touch had been an anomaly or if it would happen again.

Flavia looked at the hand he held out to her as if she wasn’t sure why he was offering it, but an instant later, she shook her head and smiled, taking his hand. The smile was charming and unexpected; the feeling when they touched was the same as it was earlier. Something that might have been dismay darkened her eyes. It matched what he felt himself. Breaking eye contact, she got into the carriage and dropped his hand quickly.

 

2015NewAbout the author

Antonia Aquilante Author imageAntonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent – they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats which she shares with friends and family, and of course reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to ebooks, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, she is living there again after years in Washington, DC, and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the New Jersey Romance Writers.

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2015NewGiveaway

Giveaway: One signed paperback copy of The Prince’s Consort, the first book in the Chronicles of Tournai series. (Paperback for US entrants only; if winner is international, they’ll receive an ebook.)

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Cover Reveal, Guest Post, & Excerpt – The Imperfection of Swans by Brandon Witt

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Hi, everyone!

Thank you for checking out the cover reveal for The Imperfection of Swans.  I can’t tell you how excited I am about this novel.  Well, actually, I’m gonna try.

Swans marked several firsts for me.

This was the first book I wrote after ‘retiring’ from fifteen years of teaching special education.  My first creation as a full-time author.  It was also my first experience with writing about someone I know.

See that gorgeous guy on the cover?  Well, a couple of years ago, when I was starting my side photography business, I asked my best friend to model for me.  What advertizes your photography skills better than a pretty person, right?  I mean, look at him.  I could be the worst photographer in the world, and I wouldn’t get a bad shot.  The picture you see before you is a photo from that shoot.  Ever since I snapped the shutter, that image kept screaming for me to tell its story.  And in all honesty, it didn’t need to be told simply because my best friend is so pretty.  Kevin is also amazing, interesting, and complex.  I about died when he gave me permission to use his life as inspiration for this novel.

You see, Kevin is one of the most driven and successful businessmen that I know.  A businessman who dreams of owning a wedding dress shop.  A beautiful man who has struggled with an eating disorder for much of his life. A vivacious man from a lively Italian family.  While the story is fiction, my friend let me pour aspects of his life out in these pages.

The scene I’m giving you is the prologue, and the only flashback scene of the book.  While there is much humor and a ridiculous amount of love in this story of a man who decides to risk it all for his dreams, I wanted to give you taste of some of the demons Kevin will have to face to earn his happily ever after and part of the reason he loves wedding gowns to such an extent.

Thank you so much for taking the time to check out The Imperfection of Swans, which will be released on January 18.  There is a pre-order link on this blog as well.  I can’t wait for you all to love Kevin as much as I do!

Much love,

Brandon Witt 

Imperfection of Swans1

2015NewAbout the Book

Kevin Bivanti’s dream is to open a wedding dress shop, a place with the stunning gowns to make every bride-to-be feel adored. At thirty-eight, he quits a successful advertising career to buy an old brownstone in a trendy Boston neighborhood and to make his dream a reality. When one of his cosigners drops out, fate intervenes, ushering in Casper James, who hopes to open his own bakery. With Casper willing to take the risk, their ambitions meld into a wedding dress and wedding cake boutique.

Extensive renovations to the brownstone, an affair with his ex-husband, family drama with his mothers, and the anxiety of significant life changes push Kevin to the brink of a nervous breakdown. In the midst of stress and uncertainty, Casper becomes more than a business partner, a mutual attraction that adds another layer of intensity and risk.

With their dreams on the verge of reality, Kevin and Casper must find the courage to face the stress of managing their attraction, the gamble of a new business venture, and the resurgence of Kevin’s personal demons.

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER FROM
DREAMSPINNER PRESS

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7324

RELEASED JANUARY 18th, 2016

2015NewExcerpt

The Imperfection of Swans

Prologue

Twenty-six years ago

The hunger didn’t hurt.

Actually, it did a little. His stomach cramped. His head seemed to spin every so often. His hands trembled, a touch. Those were okay, not too big a deal. More than anything, the hunger felt safe, strong. It felt powerful. Kevin felt powerful.

Kevin Bivanti hadn’t eaten in three days. There had been a saltine the evening before, and though a twinge of guilt tugged at him about the indulgence, the cracker had been mostly air. That shouldn’t matter, should it? He thought the three days still counted. A saltine wasn’t food, not when you only had one.

With his schedule, between getting up before the sun for the paper route, and the alternating events after school of student council, play rehearsal, and choir practice, it was easy to convince his moms that he’d eaten elsewhere. That one of the teachers brought snacks, or he’d stopped by a friend’s house to help with homework and eaten with their family.

While a matter of pride to brag to his seventh-grade friends at lunch that he’d not eaten in days, that he was above such trivial needs, he couldn’t let his moms know. Kevin would rush through the door in the evening, kiss them both hello, and shut himself in his room, ready to face the hours of homework. If only that were an excuse too. He had friends who claimed to be studying in their rooms but were really playing on Game Boys, sneaking out to meet friends, or simply avoiding the work to be done. Not him. Hours upon hours he worked every night. Never taking a break or slipping up, not like he had with the saltine. There was no room for a slipup. He’d worked too hard, and he was not going to fail.

Times like this were the only thing in his way, and the realization made them so much worse. Time wasted as he curled up on the floor beside his bed, his arms wrapped around his knees, struggling to breathe. So much time just trying to pull oxygen into his lungs. Papers to be written as he lay shaking, thinking he was going to die, waiting for that last breath to refuse to enter his body. Twenty-five blank pre-algebra problems taunting him while he lost his mind.

That was the worst part.

Much worse than thinking he was dying.

He’d been in this position so many times over the past year and a half that some part of his brain knew he wouldn’t die. That he would arrive on the other side and still be there, the work waiting. But he wouldn’t be able to do it. At least at some point, he wouldn’t be able to do it.

He was going crazy.

After one of these attacks, he knew he wouldn’t come out of his curled-up position. His body might, but his brain, the stuff that made him Kevin, would remain in a tight ball, shaking on the floor, trapped in panic, forever.

Sometimes, during the worst moments, Kevin would manage to call out. Either a cry of fear or yell for one of them. They would hear, rush into his room, and soothe him. His moms gently caressed his back and hair, whispering calming words, even as he could hear fear seeping into their voices. They knew he was going insane. He knew they did.

And he couldn’t stop it.

This night, even as he lay in the claws of terror, Kevin knew this was one of the better nights. He wouldn’t need to call them, wouldn’t need to let them see yet another example of his failure. If he could just stretch out his hand the few feet and pull his salvation from under the bed.

After two attempts to drag in more oxygen, Kevin gave up on breathing and managed to throw a trembling hand toward the magazines that lay a million miles away.

He didn’t realize he’d taken ahold of them until they were mere inches from his face.

As the bedside lamp caught their glossy covers, a small molecule of oxygen found its way inside, giving Kevin enough strength to flip the magazine open, taking advantage of the salvation inside.

With each turn of the page, Kevin’s heart rate slowed. The shaking gradually stilled as one gorgeous white gown gave way to the next.

Muscles released their cramping and progressively loosened as the tips of Kevin’s fingers traced the intricate patterns in the lace.

Tears dried on his cheeks, and the corner of his lips gradually turned up at the peaceful, happy expressions of the beautiful brides.

Breathing slowly returned to an automatic function with every passing page of flawless bridal photos. Each one soothingly perfect. The lines of the dresses artful yet purposeful. The beautiful structure of the white gowns both hypnotizing and inspiring.

Within fifteen minutes, Kevin had once again taken his place at his desk, the bridal magazines captivating and healing him enough to stave off the insanity for a while longer.

A few more pages and he’d be able to return to his work. Return to his goal. But for now, he’d found strength enough in tulle, brocade patterns, and silk.

2015NewAbout the author

Brandon Witt resides in Denver, Colorado. When not snuggled on the couch with his two Corgis, Dunkyn and Dolan, he is more than likely in front of his computer, nose inches from the screen, fingers pounding they keys. When he manages to tear himself away from his writing addiction, he passionately take on the role of a special education teacher during the daylight hours.

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Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google + | Goodreads

Cover Reveal, Exclusive Excerpt, & Giveaway – Whippersnapper by Michael Rupured

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Michael Rupured reveals the beautiful cover art of his upcoming book titled WHIPPERSNAPPER coming out from Dreamspinner Press.

It releases on January 29, 2016.

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BLURB

Tellumo Magnamater is a fresh-out-of-college, first-year English teacher at Salt Lick County High School in Kentucky. He rides the bus to and from work, and every day he walks to the gym behind his small efficiency apartment to exercise. Perhaps because of being raised by two lesbians, Tellumo is attracted to older men. He sets his sights on fifty-something available bachelor Oliver Crumbly. But Tellumo isn’t the only resident interested in Oliver.

Peggy Tucker, a widow approaching her sixtieth birthday, is determined to marry again, and she thinks Oliver is her perfect match. Despite Tellumo and Peggy striking up a friendship at the gym, neither realizes they are interested in the same man. But the joke might be on both of them. Oliver, a retired history teacher, is the original crotchety old man who hates everything and everybody—especially young people.

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PRESENTING

Cover Art by Maria Fanning

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EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT

Jules folded the empty bags and placed them on top of the refrigerator. “Wait.” She looked at Trish. “Seems like we’re missing something.”

Trish furrowed her brow and examined the items spread out on the counter before her. “Gluten-free rolls, edamame, quinoa stuffing….” She scanned the foil packets and plastic containers before turning to Jules. “No, looks like everything is here.”

They looked at each other and then at Tellumo.

He folded his arms across his chest and shook his head. “I can’t believe you’re making me do this again. I’m twenty-three years old!”

Check out all the exclusive snippets from the book at –

:: Divine Magazine :: Bayou Book Junkie :: Cherry Mischievous :: Diverse Reader ::

:: The Fuzzy, Fluffy World of Chris T. Kat :: Kathy Mac Reviews :: Cia’s Stories :: Loving Without Limits ::

:: BFD Book Blog :: Foxylutely Books :: Eyes on Books :: The Purple Rose Tea House ::

:: Sue Brown :: Alpha Book Club :: Gay Media Reviews :: N.R. Walker ::

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PRE-ORDER LINK

Dreamspinner Press (eBook)

Dreamspinner Press (Paperback)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Rupured loves to write. Before learning the alphabet, he filled page after page with rows of tiny circles he now believes were his first novels, and has been writing ever since. He lives in Athens, Georgia, grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, came out as a gay man at the age of twenty-one in the late 1970s, and considers surviving his wild and reckless twenties to have been a miracle. To find out what Michael’s up to now, visit his blog (rupured.com), follow him on Twitter (@crotchetyman) or send an e-mail message to mrupured@gmail.com.

:: Website & Blog :: Facebook :: Twitter ::

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RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY

Winner’s Prize: $10 Amazon Gift Card

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