Historical Romance · Sharing The Love

Sharing The Love

with J. Arlene Culiner

Featuring her novel A Room in Blake’s Folly

Welcome back to Sharing The Love, J. Arlene Culiner! And congratulations on your new release! Tell us about it.


I love writing about people who are different. Some are forced to adapt to new circumstances in order to survive, others are originals, folks who have never really fit into mainstream society. But no one is humdrum, and all have dreams.

So what do an embittered mail-order bride, an adventurer, a brothel madam, a silver baron/artist, a war refugee, a pacifist, a playboy veterinarian, and a woman who protects spiders all have in common? They get another chance to find love. And what better setting for romance than a semi-ghost town in Nevada?

About the Book

If only the walls could speak…

In one hundred and fifty years, Blake’s Folly, a silver boomtown notorious for its brothels, scarlet ladies, silver barons, speakeasies, and divorce ranches, has become a semi-ghost town. Although the old Mizpah Saloon is still in business, its upper floor is sheathed in dust. But in a room at a long corridor’s end, an adventurer, a beautiful dance girl, and a rejected wife were once caught in a love triangle, and their secret has touched three generations.

Excerpt

Lance saw the woman doubled over in the dirt road, her legs bent backward and to each side of her in what looked to be an exceedingly painful position. Had she been hit by a car? Probably not: few enough cars passed this way. She might have had an attack of some sort. He loped toward her, thinking only of rescue and alleviating pain, because that’s what a veterinarian’s job is all about, and humans happen to be animals, too.

            He was less than ten feet away, when she raised her head and glared at him with fury. The look, as toxic as a poison arrow, halted him in his tracks. She certainly didn’t look as though she needed his help. She didn’t look as though she’d ever need anyone’s help.

            “Um…I’m sorry. I saw you down there, in the road, and I thought…”

            He saw her fury seep away, transform into visible regret. “You chased it away.”

            “Right.”

            Swinging her bent legs into a more reasonable position, she stood up without using her hands. For someone who wasn’t young, she looked to be in perfect shape. Or at least she had maintained an admirable flexibility.

            He knew who she was, all right. Who else had a long bushy ponytail of silvery hair? Who else had three dogs trailing after her—three dogs now sitting calmly in the shade of the abandoned laundry and watching him, wary-eyed. They knew he was one of the vets who gave them shots every year, and that meant he was no real friend.

            The woman in front of him, what was her name? Lucy something…oh yes, Lucy Barnes, and she worked in Rose Badger’s vintage clothing shop whenever Rose roared off to Reno. For the first time, he noticed the camera.

            “Look, I thought you had fallen or…”

            “Yes, I realize that’s what you thought.” She didn’t look as though she were about to forgive him for it either.

            “You were taking a photo?”

            “Yup.”

            “Of what?”

            “A Xysticus.”

            “A what?

            “Oh, sorry. A ground crab spider.”

            “Of a ground crab spider?”

            She relented slightly. “They’re called crab spiders because they look and move like crabs.”

            “Yes,” he said dryly. “I think I’ve worked that one out.”

            “Right.”

            “What for? Why were you taking a photo?”

            “Because I like them. I like macro photography, I like taking photos of spiders, and this particular spider was very pretty.”

            “Pretty. Got it.”

            She looked annoyed again. “Veterinarians don’t consider arachnids worthy of notice?”

            “Did I just tell you that?” he said a little too defensively because she was right: he never noticed them. Okay, he never killed them either, because he knew how useful they were, but that was as far as things went. “What was particularly pretty about that one? I mean spiders look like spiders to me. I never thought aesthetics came into it.”

            “Really?” She even looked surprised.

            “Really.” Inwardly, he sighed, regretting his attempt to maintain chatty conversation. It was always the same when you dealt with nuts, cranks, and fanatics: they couldn’t understand how normal people functioned.

            “Most crab spiders are brown-beige so they can blend into their surroundings and catch prey easily. They do have splotches though, and this one had a nice leaf marking on its opisthosoma.” She smirked. “Sorry, that’s the posterior part of the body. The front part is the—”

            “Prosoma,” he interrupted.

            The smirk faded and, wordlessly, she stared at him.

            It was his turn to be haughty. “Since you know I’m a veterinarian, you’ll probably accept that, in this century, we do go to school. And while we’re there, we manage to study a little science.”

            “Sorry,” she said contritely.

            “That’s all right.” He tried not to look too self-satisfied.

Review of A Room in Blake’s Folly

Rich detail and scintillating dialogue transport the reader through the decades between 1889 and 2022 of this surprising saga. With flowing descriptive phrases (“… the walls had a yellowish hue that only time could bring,”) Culiner effectively intertwines the characters and descendants of Blake’s Folly. And although overhunting and pollution mean environmental change, the charm of this old world community remains intact. Cheers for this book!

Lisa McCombs for Readers’ Favorite


Genre: Historical Romance, Small Town Romance

Length: Novel

Book Trailer

Buy It Now:

https://books2read.com/BlakesFollyRomance

About The Author

Writer, photographer, social critical artist, musician, and occasional actress, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest where, much to local dismay, she protects all creatures, particularly spiders and snakes. She enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with very strange characters.

Websites

Website

Blog

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Facebook

Storytelling Podcast

Bookbub

Twitter

Pinterest

A Room In Blake’s Folly can also be found on the Loved-up Library HERE

Historical Romance · Sharing The Love

Sharing The Love

with J. Arlene Culiner

Featuring her novel A Room in Blake’s Folly

Welcome back to Sharing The Love, J. Arlene Culiner! I’m excited to have you here again!

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

The first draft is a killer, and I hate it. I have to force myself to sit down and write. Sometimes it takes me years to finish a manuscript. But when I’m on the second, third, fourth of fifth draft, then I’m in ecstasy. I can’t sleep; all my thoughts are with the story, with sentences, with the images I’ve conjured up.

Have you gone on any literary pilgrimages?

Absolutely. For my books that take place in Nevada, books like A Room in Blake’s Folly, I travelled through the state, visiting small communities, hanging around sleepy watering holes, and listening to conversations. For my non-fiction book, A Contrary Journey with Velvel Zbarzher, Bard, I travelled through Ukraine and Romania trying to find a trace of the forgotten 19th-century poet I was writing about; and for my book, Finding Home in the Footsteps of the Jewish Fusgeyers, using the itinerary of the author of a short story, I crossed Romania on foot, then followed his trace through the rest of Europe and on to Canada.

The real question is: were these literary pilgrimages or obsessions?

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

I think I’d like to be in a log cabin somewhere in the far north of Canada, with deep snow all around me. There would be a small community with a few local bars within trudging distance, and I could go there every day to chew the fat with the locals, and to hear some good stories. I’d also have my computer with me, and I’d be free to just write for hours and hours.

Are you a listener or a talker?

I do love listening because I’m nosy. When in the company of others, I’ll tell a tall tale now and again, just so people know I’m still alive and breathing, but the rest of the time I’m all ears, and waiting for secrets.

You have your own late night talk show, who do you invite as your first guest? Why?

Here’s a twist on your question, Anita. Since I don’t own a television, I have no idea how talk shows are these days, but many, many, many years ago, I was a talk show hostess.

It was a dreadful show, and Roger, a rather obnoxious but wealthy presenter, considered himself a major star. My only role was to glimmer at the audience when the show started and say: “Hi, everyone. Welcome to Roger B’s Italian Hour. And here’s Roger.”

After that I just had to sit on the panel and listen. Many of the guests were Italian—people like Gina Lollobrigida—so most of the talk was in that language which I didn’t understand (although I had a great number of fans, mostly Italian grandmothers, who wrote to the station and said I looked like such a lovely Italian girl.)

Whenever it was time for a commercial break, the cameraman would point to me, and I’d glimmer again, then say something like: “And now a word from the California Bank.”

At the end of each show, Roger and I would wave bye-bye, and I’d say: “Thanks for joining us, and see you next week.”

Believe me, that talk show was so boring, even my best friends wouldn’t watch it.

About the Book

A Room in Blake’s Folly, hasn’t been released yet, but I’ve just discovered it’s up for pre-order, so I thought I would tell everyone about it here (like a very proud mother.)

In 2022, Blake’s Folly is a semi-ghost town in Nevada, a backwoods community of abandoned clapboard shacks, endless wind, and scraggly vegetation with strange local names like snatch-it shrub and sticky snakeweed. But back in 1889, when this story starts, the town boasted three mining companies, many saloons, and brothels.

Westley Cranston, an adventurer and journalist, is in love with a former prostitute, Sookie Lacey, and he dreams of taking her away from her life as a dance girl in the Mizpah Saloon. She, however, is hoping to marry the shady, powerful and wealthy Jim Bally.

How their story plays out does affect their descendants one hundred and thirty years later, but Blake’s Folly is home to other love entanglements, too, ones that are just as intriguing.

A Room in Blake’s Folly isn’t only a romance: it is also the story of a town’s early days, its near ruin, and its evolution.

If only the walls could speak…

In one hundred and fifty years, Blake’s Folly, a silver boomtown notorious for its brothels, scarlet ladies, silver barons, speakeasies, and divorce ranches, has become a semi-ghost town. Although the old Mizpah Saloon is still in business, its upper floor is sheathed in dust. But in a room at a long corridor’s end, an adventurer, a beautiful dance girl, and a rejected wife were once caught in a love triangle, and their secret has touched three generations.

Excerpt

            “You trust Big Jim?” Resentment rippled down Westley Cranston’s spine, meshed with scorn. “A lousy cad who jilted you when you were carrying his child? Who knew your bigoted family would kill you?”

       Seemingly unperturbed, Sookie Lacey dipped her forefinger into the oily pot of carmine on her dressing table, spread the rosy salve over her lips. Turned, met Westley’s eyes squarely. “Jim didn’t have a choice. He was on the lam. He had to keep moving.”

       “Because he was wanted for a violent robbery! Why the hell are you making excuses for an unscrupulous criminal who forced himself on an impoverished family?”

       “You weren’t out in this part of the world back then. You can’t even imagine that winter when cattle froze to death on the prairie. How could anyone, good or bad, have survived in the open?”

       “And while hiding out with your family, he seduced you.”

       “Seduced!” Her nostrils flared. “Being with Jim protected me from my vicious brother, my depraved father, I told you that. They both tried to have their way with me.”

       It was an old argument, one they’d had many times. Why couldn’t Sookie see that Big Jim’s perfidy could have ruined her life—would have ruined her life if she’d been a weaker woman? A pregnant fifteen-year-old runaway when she arrived in Blake’s Folly, Sassy Sookie had gone to work as a prostitute in the Red Nag Saloon. It wasn’t the lowest sort of brothel, but it wasn’t a classy parlor house either. Yet, clever, lighthearted, and a favorite with the men, she soon realized her own worth. Never succumbing to the temptations of alcohol or laudanum, she’d left the Red Nag, come to the Mizpah, and as a saloon girl, made such excellent money selling dance tickets, encouraging men to buy alcohol, and to gamble, she no longer needed to sell herself.

       “So, four years after jilting you, Jim walks into the Mizpah, sees you’ve become successful, and decides to stake his claim. That makes him a decent man?”

       “He’s changed. Jim has become a respectable businessman, and he wants to marry me. He’s building us a big fine house where we can live together with our little son.”

       “Where? Where will this wonderful fine house be?”

       “In Virginia City.”

       “Have you ever been there? Seen what he’s building?”

       “You know I haven’t. Jim’s been on the road for the last five months. He sends me letters from Denver, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Phoenix.”

       How can she be so blind? Westley took a deep breath, forced himself to sound steady and reasonable, not like a man hopelessly in love with the woman he would soon lose. “And what about us? What about what we shared? The nights you spent in my arms?” Nights when she had given herself without reticence but with warmth, tenderness.

            Sookie stood, shook out the short, ruffled skirt and colorful petticoats floating just below her shapely calves. Her golden beauty, caught in the lamp’s uneven flicker, made his heart ache. How desirable she was in the low-cut sequined bodice that barely hid the sweetness of her breasts.

       “Westley, what you and I shared is our secret. A delicious secret that no one else can know about or even suspect, particularly since Jim has sent Doug Lazy here to protect me.”

       “To spy on you, you mean.”

       Sookie’s chin tilted defiantly. “Think what you’d like. Just don’t forget I’m marrying Jim in September.”

       Pushing past him, she swept out of her boudoir and into the long dark corridor. The tapping of her tasseled kid boots on the stair held a note of finality.


Genre: Historical Romance, Small Town Romance

Length: Novel

Preorder It Now (To Be Released in May):

https://books2read.com/BlakesFollyRomance

About The Author

Writer, photographer, social critical artist, musician, and occasional actress, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest where, much to local dismay, she protects all creatures, particularly spiders and snakes. She enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with very strange characters.

Websites

Website

Blog

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Facebook

Storytelling Podcast

Bookbub

Twitter

Pinterest

A Room In Blake’s Folly can also be found on the Loved-up Library HERE

Fantasy Romance · Sharing The Love

Sharing The Love

with Viviana MacKade

Featuring her novel Valkyrie Love 

Welcome to Sharing The Love, Viviana MacKade!

You’re on a first date. What’s a dealbreaker that would see you walk away?

Ignorance. And I’m not talking about reciting Shakespeare, PhDs and the likes. I mean disregard of basic knowledge (flat earth, any conspiracy theory, any FB learned opinion and so on). Also, a close mind about how society is evolving in terms of representation and rights. 

If you were a potato, what way would you like to be cooked?

Fried. Like, in oil, not air.

Have you ever been told you look like someone famous and who was it?

A lot of people told me I looked like Nelly Furtado, especially when I had dark hair.

You have your own late night talk show, who do you invite as your first guest? Why?

Jon Stewart. Intelligence, knowledge, and savage humor are a combination I can hardly ignore. I also may have an ongoing crush on the guy.

Of everything you’ve written, do you have a favourite and, if so, why?

Ok, I love them all and blah blah blah. Sure. Now. The character I love the most is Aidan from Midnight Sun. He is the most complex human being I had to work with. And the biggest pain in the ass. Valkyrie Love is the story I loved writing the most because it was an absolute joy. I had so much freedom building worlds, and different beings. I had an absolute blast.

About The Book


Valkyrie love never comes easy.

Brenna left Asgard with a curse on her name and a broken heart.

A Valkyrie now free and independent, for millennia her life had been great. Just great.

Then a bleeding Elf knocks at her door holding a baby.

Alexander Reed left the Marines and lost the wheel of his life.

A soldier without a worthy fight, he became everything he despised.

Until he ends up in the wrong backyard at the wrong time.

Fljóða, Queen of the Light Elves and last of her lineage, is an infant with a death sentence on her head.

Hunted by the Night Elves, her survival brings Brenna and Reed together for the ultimate mission: take the little Queen to safety in the Vanaheim Realm, deep in the Roots of Yggdrasil.

Not simple, but straightforward.

Or so it seemed.

Between flaming giants, demons, and an army of Half Breed determined to kill the Queen and conquer all the Elvin Realms, Brenna and Reed will have to face their inner monsters. Monsters appearing in the form of feelings neither want but cannot control.


Genre: Fantasy Romance

Length: Novel

Excerpt:

When you like or are falling for someone, as Reed recognized was happening, there are always these great romantic lines babbled by the hero. Lines as I’d follow you until the end of the world.

Well, he actually did it.

He hadn’t followed Brenna because of his feelings for her, though. Back then, he had none.

He had eyes and she was beautiful, so there was that. Would he have gone all the way to another dimension for a pretty face? Nope.

 Brenna was different. He’d known it since the first time he’d seen her slaying monsters in her backyard and a person with her kind of courage?

He would go on a mission with, all the way to the end. A mission which, to him, tasted more like redemption, a chance to find the way back to the person he once had been, one with a solid moral compass.

A man he could live with.

She had an agenda, of course she didn’t enlist him out of a good heart. But for as much as it had pained her to admit it, another person, especially one with his background, was handy to have around for her mission. And in doing so, Brenna gave him a chance, a chance to clean his slate.

They both had crappy baggage; both had left those behind.

In here, in these roots, they were only Reed and Brenna.

Hell, he didn’t even know her last name, if she had one. And you know what? It worked. He didn’t care about her history, how she got to be this way. He only cared about the woman she’d come to be today, whatever byway she took to get to the here-and-now they shared.

The woman he was falling hard for. Maybe he had already toppled over.

A woman who currently disappeared into yet another dimension through a transparent rubber wall that sparkled if hit.

Damn, how crazy was it? How absolutely great, and crazy? Being in love, not the wall.

Reed didn’t have it in him to appreciate those portals.

In front of him, Mae’s head had already disappeared as she continued to hold onto his hand. Time to get his head in the game. Literally.

Only the elf’s arm divided him from the other side.

Downright freaky.

Linked to Mae, his hand crossed the invisible wall. He could feel Mae’s fingers in his, so it ought to be good news, right?

His arm went through.

And then he had to step into it.

It was like pushing through a thick wall of humid, hot, dense sponge. It reminded him of a cow’s nose and the image didn’t help any, despite his love for said animals.

As the wall moved to accommodate his shoulder and half of his body, it pressed on him. Mae released him, so now both his hands were free – one in the warm dwarves’ realm, and the other in the hotter, drier air of the Fire Realm.

He hoped, hard, that the protection he’d fashioned around their ammunitions would hold.

Reed turned his face toward the invisible wall and pushed all in.

A gummy wall pressed tight.

Hard to move.

For the longest moment he couldn’t breathe, and panic slithered through him. Until a different hand took his.

Brenna’s.

He didn’t need to see it. He’d fallen asleep holding her hand for long enough to recognize it.

It was all the encouragement he needed. He grasped at her hold, used her as an anchor, and pulled himself toward her.

He slid all the way out, and he nearly fell as pressure suddenly let go.

Lord, but the air felt good.

Oven-hot, dry air.

“Damn,” he murmured as he took in the new realm, still holding on to Brenna.

The sky hung heavy, clothed in the deepest, darkest shade of purple.

In front of him, rivers and rivulets of lava cut through brown land, bare and dry.

They looked like fire-bleeding wounds on dying ground. Sprinkles of glowing debris wheezed out from barren hills and short volcanoes. Sometimes, out of nowhere, the land would crack open enough to spit a mouthful of lava and fiery sparkles of fire in the black-hot air.

“Ugly,” he murmured, fighting and losing against the need to have Brenna closer.

He pulled her in until she was into his arms, found her stiff.

“What are you doing?” she asked, trying to keep her distance by placing her palms onto his chest.

 “This place is miserable. Everywhere else we went, something was nice. Here? It’s simply dead.” He tightened the hold on her, looked at her and smiled. “I needed a shot of good.”

The best feeling in the world? Her response, how she gave into the hug.

Buy It Now:

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About The Author

Beach bum and country music addicted, Viviana lives in a small Floridian town with her die-hard fans and personal cheer squad: her husband, her son, and her daughter. She spends her days between typing on her beloved keyboard, playing in the pool with her babies, and eating whatever her husband puts on her plate (the guy is that good, and she really loves eating). Besides beaching, she enjoys long walks, horse-riding, hiking, and pretty much whatever she can do outside with her family.

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Valkyrie Love can also be found in the Loved-up Library HERE

Contemporary Romance · Sharing The Love

Sharing The Love

with J. Arlene Culiner

Featuring her novel Desert Rose (Romance in Blake’s Folly Book 1) 

Welcome to Sharing The Love, J. Arlene Culiner!

You’re on a first date. What’s a deal-breaker that would see you walk away?

Stupidity—I have little tolerance for it. I also have no patience with narrow-minded people, and I hate wasting my time with people who are afraid to think for themselves.

Have you ever been told you look like someone famous and who was it?

My mother was a frustrated actress who envied Liz Taylor, and thought she should have become a star instead. Since that hadn’t happened, she (very briefly) decided I should make up for her failure. When I was around ten, she decided I looked like the young Liz, and she took me to the hairdresser and had all my long hair cut off (which made me miserable, for I was planning on becoming a princess, and I knew all princesses had long hair) and restyled in a Liz Taylor cut, with two little curls on my forehead. The next time she had her friends over, she told me to come down the stairway slowly as she’d seen Liz do in some movie. No one thought I was a Liz Taylor replacement.

How many languages can you speak?

Six, but I make terrible mistakes in most of them.

If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

This might sound very boring, but Caesar salad is my favorite food. Authentic Caesar salad, not with a dressing mix, but with real garlic, thin slices of parmesan, and wonderful olive oil…just the idea makes my mouth water.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I do an enormous amount of research before and during the writing. I love research; I love going through the archives and public libraries; I love learning new things; I want to share information with my readers, and surprise them.

Do you read your book reviews? Do they impact your future/current projects?

I always read my reviews. I take the good ones seriously because a good reviewer can help an author progress. However, some reviews are silly, or badly written, or mean, or ignorant, and those I ignore.

About The Book

Blake’s Folly is a semi-ghost town in Nevada, a backwoods community of abandoned clapboard shacks, endless wind, and scraggly vegetation with strange local names like snatch-it shrub and sticky snakeweed. Back in the late 1800s, the town boasted three mining companies, a railway line to Reno, many saloons, and quite a few brothels, but the glory didn’t last. It was soon clear that the silver was running out, and those sane enough to do so, pulled up stakes and left town.

A Room in Blake’s Folly is my third book about this town. The other two, All About Charming Alice and Desert Rose, are Small Town Contemporary Romances, but A Room in Blake’s Folly starts in 1889, when journalist Westley Cranston falls in love with Sassy Sookie, a dancehall girl in the Mizpah Saloon. Their affair has far-reaching consequences, and touches the lives of Alice, Rose, and several other characters.

A Room in Blake’s Folly will be released in February or March — so more about it at a later date. But in the meantime, here are Alice and Rose.

Rose Badger, the heroine of Desert Rose, is a delightful character: gutsy, original, open-minded, and funny. As soon as the very appealing Jonah Livingstone (he’s part Paiute, part Italian) walks into her shop, he’s entranced too. But even if she’s outgoing and flirtatious, Rose has quite a few secrets, and she won’t share them with anyone. Of course, Jonah has secrets of his own, and before a romance can take place, both will have to confide and trust each other.

Alice, the heroine of All About Charming Alice, is a prickly character. Reclusive, she loves the Nevada desert, rescues dogs, and protects snakes. Jace Constant, my hero, is the opposite. He’s an intellectual writer from Chicago, and he’s not crazy about deserts, dogs, or snakes. But neither Alice nor Jace expects love when it comes galumphing over the horizon.


Genre: Contemporary Romance, Small Town Romance

Length: Novel

Excerpt:

Rose looked up. “You pass by Blake’s Folly from time to time? Whatever for? This is the end of the world.”

          “The world has several ends, and I work in all of them. I’m a geologist.”

            “Ah, I see. Well, that explains it.”

            “That explains some of it,” he said, taking her in from head to toe with undisguised curiosity. “If this place is the end of the world, how did you get here?”

            “The easiest way possible. I was born here.” Rose glanced out of the window at the early evening light touching up a bleak, empty landscape that would never interest a city slicker; at the gentle snowflakes drifting lazily, as though they had no intention of ever reaching the ground.

            “And you stayed?”

            He was looking even more curious now — if that were possible. She couldn’t blame him. “I did leave Blake’s Folly when I was young. I stayed away for years and was absolutely certain I’d never return, that this place was the absolute pits. It’s funny: there’s nothing going on here. The greatest social event of the year is the Blake’s Folly Get-Together — and that’s just bad music, awkward dancing, and gossip mongering. There’s no cinema within reasonable distance, no shopping outside of Reno — and that’s a very long, boring drive away. Yet, this place has a strange pulling power. So I came back, decided to settle.”

            “Your husband is from Blake’s Folly too?”

            Rose’s eyes flicked back to his. Ah ha. So, he was interested and checking out the territory. “No husband.”

            He looked surprised. “An unmarried woman in such an out-of-the-way place?”

            What was he asking? If she was lonely? Desperate for male company?

            Rose laughed outright. “Oh, there are plenty of men around, believe me.” There were. They were out on the ranches, or climbing over the hills, or looking for gold, or photographing, or pounding along the history trail, or doing research, or taking care of animals, or looking for fossils, or stopping at the Mizpah Hotel and Restaurant for a drink, a chat, a meal, and a little human warmth out here on the lonely flatland.

            He took the little gift-wrapped packet she held out, slipped it into the pocket of his leather jacket. Turned, looked out at the night, but didn’t move towards the door. Rose watched him, wondered why he was hesitating. Because he wanted to stay? Talk to her? Get to know her? Because he too acknowledged the buzz that was still hovering in the air around them, and he wanted to explore it, see where it would go?

            Then he shook his head, turned back to her, the smile still playing softly around his lips.

            “Well, I’d better be on my way. Looks like the snow isn’t letting up.” His eyes held hers. Warm eyes. Intimate eyes. Eyes that, in certain circumstances, could create havoc with a woman’s senses. “Until next time, Rose.”

            “See you then.”

            He stepped out into the night, half-turned, just briefly, his hand raised in a half-wave, half-salute. Then, vanished into the falling snow and dusky evening.

Rose shrugged. Next time, he’d said? What sort of next time? This was Blake’s Folly. People always said they’d be back, but they rarely were. Why return to a pile of clapboard shacks and abandoned trailers? This was nowhere. This was the end of the line, socially speaking. This was a has-been. This was home.

Buy It Now:

Amazon (AU)

Amazon (US)

About The Author

Writer, photographer, social critical artist, musician, and occasional actress, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest where, much to local dismay, she protects all creatures, particularly spiders and snakes. She enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with very strange characters.

Websites

Website

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

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Storytelling Podcast

Desert Rose can also be found on the Loved-up Library HERE