26 April 2012

Excerpt Thursday: Shattered by Jennie Marsland

This week on Excerpt Thursday, we're welcoming historical romance author, Jennie Marsland. Her latest title, SHATTERED, is set against the background of the Halifax Explosion of 1917, one of the greatest disasters of the 20th century. Join us Sunday, when Jennie will be here to talk about the novel and give away a copy. Here's the blurb:
Liam Cochrane no longer belongs. He lost his youth and his brother on the battlefields of Europe. Now he’s home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, recovering from a crippling wound, trying to dull his pain with liquor and the occasional willing woman. He’s become a stranger in the North End neighbourhood where he grew up.

Alice O’Neill has never belonged. Able to read notes, but not words, she dreams of teaching music – and of Liam, who has held her heart for years and never known. But Liam has shadowy ties in England that he’s revealed to no one, and in that fall of 1917, Halifax is on a collision course with fate. On December 6, a horrific accident of war will devastate the city’s North End. What will be left for Liam and Alice when their world is shattered?

**An Except from SHATTERED**

He took Alice’s hand and drew her into his arms. Dancing and the heat had brought the blood to her cheeks, and her eyes sparkled like running brook water again. Although she blushed, he sensed no shyness in her body. She fit naturally in his arms, as if she belonged there. 

Yeah. She sure isn’t a kid anymore.

Then, like a bolt from the blue an image flashed into Liam’s mind, Alice dancing close, nestled in his arms with her head on his shoulder. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, where did that come from? She’s Georgie’s sister!  He loosened his hold on her, but that didn’t dull his awareness of every slender curve, of her light floral perfume. Worse, he saw in her eyes that she felt the awareness between them, too. 
Before he could make an excuse and abandon her, the band ended the waltz with an extra flourish. The leader bowed to the crowd. “Catch your breath, ladies and gentlemen, while the chair of your Social Committee says a few words. I give you Mrs. Frances Henneberry.”
Everyone returned to their seats, Liam with a sigh of devout thanks. He angled his chair to put Stephen and Alice out of his line of slight. As far as I’m concerned, friend, she’s all yours. Good luck keeping her. Thin, sharp-faced Mrs. Henneberry stepped onto the platform with a self-conscious smile and cleared her throat.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s wonderful to see you all here, supporting our parish’s efforts to ease the suffering of helpless civilians overseas. There is more than one person here tonight who could tell us first-hand just how severe those sufferings have been and what our sons and brothers have sacrificed in the effort to end them. The least we here at home can do is – ”
“Shut up. That’s the least you can do.”
The words carried clearly from the corner nearest the O’Neills’ table. Every head swiveled. Georgie blushed a deep red. Alice’s face blanched pearl-white. In the shadows just beyond the lighted platform, Carl leaned against the wall, his face flushed with heat and liquor. No one at the table had noticed him come in.
An older, heavier Carl than Liam remembered, with a harder face. The tough kid had grown into a tough man, with an added belligerence. One look at his glazed eyes told Liam Georgie’s brother was a loose cannon.
He and Stephen got up at the same instant and started toward the corner. Stephen got there first and planted himself in front of Carl.
“You’ve said enough. Your sisters are here.”
“I’m not leaving ‘til I make my point.” Carl pushed Stephen back and raised his voice again. “That old windbag hasn’t got anyone at the front. She doesn’t have a clue.”
The scathing words on Liam’s tongue died there. Up close, Carl reminded him too much of men he’d seen in hospital, men who woke in the night screaming as he’d done more than once. Men who spent their days looking at the world through vacant eyes. And Mrs. Henneberry annoyed the hell out of him, too.
“You’re right, Carl. She doesn’t. This isn’t the place for either of us. Come outside and get some fresh air.”
Fists clenched, Carl took a step forward. “Don’t bullshit me, Liam. I’m not going anywhere until I’m good and ready. Who do you think you are, anyway? Your little brother isn’t the only one who’s been killed overseas, you know. Just –”
Liam didn’t hear the rest of the sentence. Rage blotted out his compassion, rage and the memory of Michael-John’s wide, sightless dark eyes. His first punch landed hard in Carl’s belly. The second hit his jaw, knocking him backward and throwing Liam off-balance. They hit the floor, fists flying. The next thing he knew, Nolan was dragging him to his feet while his father and Stephen pinioned Carl. Liam shook his brother off and dove at Carl, only to have his bad leg collapse and land him back on the floor. Nolan helped him up again and got a firm grip on his arms.
“What the hell? Liam, stop it!”
The girls stood nearby now. Georgie’s eyes sparkled with anger, but the strain on Alice’s face did more to clear the haze from Liam’s mind. He stopped struggling with Nolan, took a deep breath and swallowed. The metallic taste of blood in his mouth made his stomach churn.
“The son of a bitch insulted Michael-John.”
Nolan released his hold and took a step toward Carl, putting himself in the man’s face. “If I ever hear of you mentioning my brother’s name again, I’ll finish what Liam started. Dad, Stephen, get him the hell out of here.”
Still winded from Liam’s first blow, blood trickling from his nose, Carl didn’t offer much resistance. Liam figured he’d gotten the worst of the encounter himself, a split lip and what would likely be a magnificent shiner. A couple of older women were on the platform trying to soothe Mrs. Henneberry, who looked on the verge of tears. He should go and say something to her, but at the moment he couldn’t find the words. He shrugged Nolan’s hand from his shoulder.
“I’m getting out of here. Apologize to Georgie for me, would you?” Without waiting for an answer, he walked out.
SHATTERED  is available now from Amazon.

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