Blog Tour: Sisters of Castle Leod by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard

Title: Sisters of Castle Leod: A Novel

Author: Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard

**Finalist in the 2022 American Writing Awards**

Blurb: Millions are fans of Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander books and television series, but few know that Gabaldon’s fictional Castle Leoch was inspired by a real Scottish castle, Castle Leod. The two sisters who lived there at the turn of the twentieth century were among the most fascinating and talked-about women of their era.

Lady Sibell Mackenzie is a spiritualist, a believer in reincarnation, and a popular author of mystical romances. Petite and proper, she values tradition and duty. Her younger sister Lady Constance, swimming champion and big game hunter, is a statuesque beauty who scandalizes British society with her public displays of Greek-style barefoot dancing. The differences between the sisters escalate into conflict after Sibell inherits their late father’s vast estates and the title 3rd Countess of Cromartie. But it is the birth of Sibell’s daughter that sets in motion a series of bizarre and tragic events, pitting sister against sister and propelling Sibell on a desperate mission to challenge the power of fate. 

Sisters of Castle Leod, by award-winning author Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard, is the emotionally charged story of two sisters torn apart by jealousy and superstition, and the impossible leap of faith that could finally bring them together.


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The count and Mama, their eyes glued to each other like long-lost lovers, began making their way through the crowd, no doubt assuming we were behind them. But neither the man I’d been invited to call Demetrius nor I had moved from where we stood.

“Lady Cromartie,” he said quietly, “I admire your choice of costume. We make somewhat of a pair, do we not?”

I steeled myself for a long night of small talk. I had hoped to let Mama do the socializing for both of us, but that was not to be. “I told the costume-maker I wished to come as an ancient Phoenician. She said a modern Indian would have to do.”

“Ha! Well, no one here would know the difference. To most Westerners, an Arab is the same as a Persian or an Indian. And the Phoenicians?” He gave a little snort. “A shame that one of the greatest civilizations in human history is largely forgotten. Rarely a topic of drawing room conversations, is it? None I have heard.”

From his comment, I gathered he was as bored by vacant chatter as was I. “You have a fondness for the Phoenicians?”

His lip curled slightly. “You might say that.”

“I’ve done some research about them myself. You see, I’m a writer—or I once aspired to be,” I added, reminding myself that nothing in my life was as it used to be. “I thought I might someday write a novel set in Tyre, just before the invasion of Alexander.”

There was a glint in his eyes, which I took as a sign that he found my idea compelling. “I could tell you many things about the ancient island port of Tyre. Things not in any of the books you have read. I used to study archeology,” he said, again with that enigmatic smile.

“But there aren’t many traces left of the Phoenicians, are there?”

“Lady Cromartie—” He raised a finger to his lips. “Hold your questions. I am happy to answer them all, but this is not the place. Allow me to take you for a moonlight ride along the winding canals of Venice, and you can ask me whatever you like about the Phoenicians. Yes?”

Beneath the veil, my cheeks warmed. He must have assumed I was unmarried. “You’re very kind, but I couldn’t. My mother has the expectation that I’m to be her companion for the evening.”

“Your mother seems more than content to be in the count’s company.” He gave me a sly wink. “Did you see the way he looked at her? Of course, one could not expect any man to resist a woman as beautiful as your mother. I doubt they’ll remain at the party too much longer.”

His insinuation was hardly subtle. “Count de Minerbi is a gracious host, but I’m sure he has duties besides seeing to my mother’s amusement.”

“Gracious he is, but Lionello always has time for what delights him. Please … forget your mother for a little while. Come with me, and I promise to take your mind off what troubles you.”

“What makes you think I’m troubled?” Did the veil do such a poor job of hiding my melancholy, even from a total stranger?

“We are all troubled, Lady Cromartie—by our struggle to know what is real and what is not.” His eyes locked with mine. “And why we must lose what we most love.”

About the Author:

A former touring musician/songwriter and public relations professional, Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard is the author of two Amazon bestsellers: THE BEAUTY DOCTOR, “a compelling historical novel steeped in mystery with strong elements of a medical thriller” (Readers’ Favorite, 5 stars), and TEMPTATION RAG: A NOVEL, a “resonant novel … about the birth and demise of ragtime … luxuriously crafted” (Publishers Weekly). Her books have been finalists for the Eric Hoffer Book Award, National Indie Excellence Awards, and Arizona Literary Contest; they have received 5-star ratings from Readers” Favorite, Book Readers Appreciation Group, and historical fiction Discovered Diamonds. Elizabeth and her family live near Phoenix, Arizona.

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Blog Tour: A Turbulent Peace by Paul Walker

Turbulent Peace Book CoverTitle: A Turbulent Peace

Author: Paul Walker


January 1919.

Following the armistice, Mary Kiten, a volunteer nurse in northern France, is ready to return home to England when she receives a surprise telegram requesting that she report to Paris. The call comes from her Uncle Arthur, a security chief at the Peace Conference.

Within minutes of arriving at the Majestic Hotel in Paris, Mary hears a commotion in the street outside. A man has been shot and killed. She is horrified to earn that the victim is her uncle. The police report the attack as a chance robbery by a known thief, who is tracked down and killed resisting arrest.

Mary is not convinced. Circumstances and the gunshot wound do not indicate theft as a motive. A scribbled address on Arthur’s notepad leads to her discovery of another body, a Russian Bolshevik. She suspects her uncle, and the Russian, were murdered by the same hand.

To investigate further, Mary takes a position working for the British Treasury, headed by J M Keynes.

But Mary soon finds herself in the backstreets of Paris and the criminal underworld.

What she discovers will threaten the foundations of the congress.

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I wrote a letter to Bonnet to outline why I suspected the involvement of Fournier and Crozier. I detailed how I chanced upon Crozier but offered nothing on the source of Fournier’s name. Surely, Bonnet would understand why. I sealed my note in an envelope, addressed it as, “Privé et Confidentiel”, and “Seulement Pour le Destinataire” on the reverse, then hand-delivered it by taxi during my lunch break.

I expected to hear back from Bonnet, but perhaps not so quickly. It was shortly after five that same day. Most had just left the schoolroom. Keynes, Pinchin and two others had departed earlier that afternoon to meet French and American finance teams at the Quai d’Orsay, leaving me to finish and tidy up the main office with Jack.

‘Mademoiselle Kiten.’

I heard Bonnet before I saw him. I turned and saw his bulky frame filling the open doorway, standing with sad, wide eyes gazing around our schoolroom, slowly rotating a bowler hat in front of his middle.

‘Chief Inspector Bonnet, this is a surprise. Welcome to the British Treasury’s temporary home, or as we like to call it, our “research library”.’

He nodded his head slowly, then started towards me with his curious, lumbering and unhurried gait. ‘I attended this school as a young boy.’ He shook his head. ‘More years have passed since than I care to count. Of course, it is a school no longer. I was thinking; the place had hardly changed until I opened this door.’ He lifted his head and circled a hand in a wide arc to encompass the entire space. ‘The assembly hall has quite transformed from my memories of morning worship, the headmaster’s daily oration and his… special punishments.’

I made no comment, not wanting to disturb his recollections and musings. The way his body appeared to shudder as he spoke the last words led me to wonder if he was the subject of one or more of those “special punishments”. When he finally directed his attention at me, I asked, ‘Did you receive my letter?’

‘Yes, of course. May we talk; somewhere more private?’

I signalled to Jack that it was alright for him to leave. I arranged a couple of chairs by my desk, and we waited in silence until Jack closed the door behind him, and we were alone. Keynes had got into the habit of locking his office when he wasn’t there. I apologised to Bonnet, explaining that I couldn’t get into Keynes office to offer him more comfort and a drink. He looked at his watch and shook his head vigorously as though a drink at that hour was an absurd suggestion. He was in no hurry and continued to contemplate his surroundings before delving into the ample folds of his suit jacket to retrieve a sheet of paper. I guessed it was my letter.

‘Thank you for the name and address of the photographer, Miss Kiten. Have you visited Mr Crozier in his studio?’


‘As I understand from your letter, you recognised this man when he came to the Majestic some two days past. Later that day, you came to my office, but you failed to mention him then. Was there a reason you delayed the disclosure of his name?’

‘I wasn’t absolutely sure it was the same man I had seen at the incident on Rue Lauriston. I had a half-formed plan to meet him again, to settle the matter one way or the other, but I thought it better to inform you now and delay no further.’

‘It is a great pity you did not advise me of your suspicions the same day.’


He placed the paper on my desk and smoothed it deliberately and gently as though stroking a lover’s hair. ‘An unnecessary death may have been avoided; a life saved.’ Finished with the paper, he directed his gaze at me. ‘When my men arrived at Crozier’s studio, they found him dead.’

‘Dead. How? How did he die?’

‘Crozier was known to be a morphine addict. An initial report stated that circumstances indicated a probable accidental overdose of the drug using a hypodermic syringe. I went to Crozier’s studio myself with a doctor and came away with a different interpretation. There was bruising around Crozier’s wrists and neck, with traces of blood and skin under his fingernails. Taking account of broken glass and overturned furniture as signs of a struggle, we were left in no doubt that an overdose was the cause of death, but it was not self-administered.’

‘A murder?’ I knew from experience how quickly addiction came and how easy it was to end a life with an over-generous measure of morphine. I had dispensed a fatal dose myself once, out of kindness to relieve horrific suffering when there was no chance of recovery. But why would anyone murder Crozier, and was his killing connected to the attack on Keynes? ‘You mean… he was murdered by… injecting with morphine?’

‘Exactly, Miss Kiten. You will understand now why you should have given me his name as soon as you were able.’

‘Yes, I see I was foolish, and I am sorry.’ I hesitated before asking, ‘Do you think his killing was linked in any way to the attack and entrapment planned in Rue Lauriston?’

He puffed air through his lips and looked at me as though I should be ashamed to ask. ‘Why not? Of course, it may have been a coincidence, and he was involved in another dangerous intrigue that led to his killing.’ He shrugged. ‘But until and unless we learn of an alternative explanation, we must assume he was murdered to make sure he could not inform on his partners in the crime against you and Mr Keynes.’

Paul WalkerAbout the Author:

Paul lives in a village 30 miles north of London where he is a full-time writer of fiction and part-time director of an education trust. His writing in a posh garden shed is regularly disrupted by children, a growing number of grandchildren and several dogs.

Paul writes historical fiction. The William Constable series of historical thrillers is based around real characters and events in the late sixteenth century. The first two books in the series – “State of Treason” and “A Necessary Killing”, were published in 2019. The third book, titled “The Queen’s Devil”, was published in the summer of 2020.

Travel forward a few hundred years from Tudor England to January 1919 in Paris and the setting for Paul’s latest book, “A Turbulent Peace”. The focus of the World is on the Peace Conference after WW1 armistice. Add a dash of Spanish Flu, the fallout from the Russian Revolution, and you have a background primed for intrigue as nations strive for territory, power and money.

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Blog Tour: Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury by Kinley Bryan

Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury CoverTitle: Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury 

Author: Kinley Bryan


Three sisters. Two Great Lakes. One furious storm.

Based on actual events…

It’s 1913 and Great Lakes galley cook Sunny Colvin has her hands full feeding a freighter crew seven days a week, nine months a year. She also has a dream—to open a restaurant back home—but knows she’d never convince her husband, the steward, to leave the seafaring life he loves.In Sunny’s Lake Huron hometown, her sister Agnes Inby mourns her husband, a U.S. Life-Saving Serviceman who died in an accident she believes she could have prevented. Burdened with regret and longing for more than her job at the dry goods store, she looks for comfort in a secret infatuation.

Two hundred miles away in Cleveland, youngest sister Cordelia Blythe has pinned her hopes for adventure on her marriage to a lake freighter captain. Finding herself alone and restless in her new town, she joins him on the season’s last trip up the lakes.On November 8, 1913, a deadly storm descends on the Great Lakes, bringing hurricane-force winds, whiteout blizzard conditions, and mountainous thirty-five-foot waves that last for days. Amidst the chaos, the women are offered a glimpse of the clarity they seek, if only they dare to perceive it.


Lake Huron

That afternoon waves continued to rock the Titus Brown, though not calamitously so. By three o’clock the Old Man still hadn’t come aft for his meal. Normally Cleve might be the one to take something forward for the captain, but he was chopping vegetables for that evening’s shepherd’s pie. Sunny would take care of it. After putting a couple of sandwiches, some pudding, and fruit in a basket, she went to tell Herb where she was going.

He was in the mess room, a spartan space with two long tables surrounded by stools, all bolted to the deck. Several crew members gathered at one table. Herb sat with his back to the doorway, drinking coffee and recounting a youthful misadventure he’d had with his brothers. The man’s nostalgia for his childhood knew no bounds. There was no need to interrupt his trip down memory lane.

Carrying the basket of food, Sunny went out onto the spar deck. The sky had fully clouded over now, and appeared as if dusk, although it was barely three o’clock in the afternoon. The waves were as high as they’d been at Harbor Beach, maybe higher. The Titus Brown had about ten feet of freeboard, and with growing trepidation she watched the waves nearly spill over the starboard gunwales. She should have done this earlier. In any case, Captain Hanna needed to eat.

Despite the boat’s rolling, her balance was good. Her heartbeat quickened as she clipped herself to the starboard lifeline. If a wave washed her over the side, heaven forbid, she would dangle from the cable until somebody hoisted her on deck and though she’d be terrified out of her wits, she wouldn’t drown.

She squinted against the snow flurries and began to tread the long straight path toward the bow. She would have to cross more than a football field’s length of flat deck before she reached the forecastle. The winds were coming strong and loud out of the northeast. A gust of arctic wind struck her face, so cold and fierce that, for a panicked second, she couldn’t breathe.

With her right hand gripping the lifeline, she continued forward, shifting her weight as the boat rolled, watching the waves as they rose ever closer to deck level. She was halfway to the forecastle when a tremendous wave—twice the size of those nearly breaching the gunwales—reached up from the lake’s surface and smashed into the wheelhouse on the starboard side. She inhaled sharply and watched, awestruck. Moments later the force of the blow reverberated in the metal deck beneath her feet.

Sunny knew the strength of water. An icy fear spread through her limbs, rooting her to the deck. She ought to retreat. Even if she did make it forward the captain wouldn’t want to see her in the wheelhouse when he was dealing with rogue waves like that one. And he might not let her return aft if he deemed it too dangerous. Snowflakes whipped about her furiously. She shifted her weight to steady herself as the freighter rolled from starboard to port and back again. What had she been thinking, coming out in this?

“Mrs. Colvin! Get back here!”

The gravelly voice came from the boilerhouse behind her. It was the bosun.

“It’s too dangerous!” the bosun shouted. “Get back now!”

The worry in his voice scared her more than anything. If the typically unflappable bosun was fearful, then she was in real danger. Yes, she would go back. Without another thought Sunny turned and started for the boilerhouse, more quickly now, all the while adjusting her weight to match the rolling of the ship and readying herself for a tremendous wave to crash over the deck as it had the wheelhouse. With a singleness of focus she watched the deck in front of her meet her feet, her vision obscured by the thick snowflakes whipping past.

In her peripheral vision a big wave approached. An awed terror surged in her chest. Even if she ran as fast as she could, it was going to hit before she reached the boilerhouse. Sunny planted her feet on the deck, bent her knees, and clung to the steel cable, her heart racing. In mere seconds the wave closed in. It broke several feet over the starboard gunwales. Freezing spray stung her face and thick water pushed hard against her. She held herself firm against the force of the water, and when it had finally rushed past her, she was still standing, holding her breath. She exhaled shakily and hurried on. Seas on the Great Lakes were short—there would be little time before the next one.

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Kinley BryanAbout the Author:

Kinley Bryan is an Ohio native who counts numerous Great Lakes captains among her ancestors. Her great-grandfather Walter Stalker was captain of the four-masted schooner Golden Age, the largest sailing vessel in the world when it launched in 1883. Kinley’s love for the inland seas swelled during the years she spent in an old cottage on Lake Erie. She now lives with her husband and children on the Atlantic Coast, where she prefers not to lose sight of the shore. Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury is her first novel.

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Special Blackout Excerpt!




New York whirled around us, people bustling to get to where they were going. JFK had been packed, but we managed to hail a cab and get ourselves to the loft in Manhattan, where we would be staying. It was easy to get to Theatre Row, our undercover location, from the high-rise building. Our backstory was simple. Rae and I were from a company out in California, and we were looking to move to New York. We wanted to try out a couple locations before deciding to make a permanent decision.

Rae insisted we maintain that we were friends, so as to avoid complications. Hell, our friendship was complicated already after New Orleans, but whatever made her feel comfortable. I flung down my bag on the queen bed in the sparsely furnished room. The Bureau made sure we had the necessities, so that was nice.

“There’s a tech meeting at the theatre tonight.” Rae leaned on the doorframe with a sigh. “Certainly not the Ritz, huh?”

I chuckled. “Nope, but it works. You okay?”

She raised and lowered a shoulder. “Usual zone. Feeling more uneasy about this one than I was when Madame Evangeline was telling my future.”

I had to admit, I missed Sabine’s grandmother. I missed New Orleans. I missed…well, I missed holding and kissing Rae. “Heh.”

“Should we get something to eat first? I’m sure there’s a pizza place.”

I loved how Rae knew when to break obvious building tension. “Order in?”

She smiled and walked to the olive green kitchen. “Geez, you’d think they’d make some decorating changes since the 70s.” She thumbed through a stack of takeout brochures by the fridge, settling on one and placing an order for a large pepperoni pizza and a bottle of Coke. I hated this on duty crap. Pizza and Coke just wasn’t the same.

I slumped into the sofa, sinking into the middle. Clearly they were trying to keep us in the façade that we were struggling theatre people. “Damn,” I groaned, adjusting my position. “Hey, Rae, wanna experience true torture?”

Rae laughed, crossing her arms and watching me shift uncomfortably. “Nope, I’m good.”

“Aww, come on. Cuddle up with me on the couch of death.” I patted the empty spot.

She huffed and walked over, sitting down with a small scream. “What is this? I think a spring just poked me. Undercover, or not, we’re replacing this monstrosity tomorrow.”

“And that’s why I love you, Rae.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I coughed, realizing what could be implied. “I mean, in the platonic sense. Hey, let’s see what’s on TV.” I grabbed the remote from the side table drawer and turned on the old set, my heart longing for my flat screen at home. I found an old Friends episode, and we lapsed into uncomfortable silence. Shit, I thought. You sure put your foot in it this time, Thompson. But, I did love her. Maybe this time around she’d finally let me in.

Blackout Teaser 1