Talent Spotter #9. Featuring Author Silke Ming.


I’m delighted to welcome Author Silke Ming to Talent Spotter. Her book ‘Three Degrees East of Bliss’ is now available for Pre-order!

Talent Spotter #8 Cover Silke Ming

Jason Porter is convinced his lover Gabriel Parker is being unfaithful.

Hypnosis reveals that in the early 1900’s, Gabriel used to be a priest named Damien Fassnidge, who due to a sexual indiscretion, was banished to the island of Barbados as punishment.

Sailing from Cork to Barbados to take up his new position, Damien meets and befriends a brash, young Irishman named Nicholas Duffy, who is also on his way to take up the position as a sugar plantation manager. In Barbados friendship turns to love. Torn between his love for the church and his love for Nicholas, Damien decides to leave the priesthood, but before he has a chance to resign, an anonymous letter is sent to the church and he is dismissed. Defrocked and ashamed, he and Nicholas plan to leave the island, but a new piece of information comes to light which puts their relationship in jeopardy.

Will Jason Porter believe this incredible story about Gabriel Parker?

Talent Spotter Liza O'connor Excerpt


Nicholas Duffy watched Damien walk away. He liked him. He was not the usual, stuffy, old priest. He had a sense of humor, he was young and best of all, he took the occasional nip of gin. In addition, he was very handsome with his red hair, green eyes, and a muscular build. He was definitely not the image one conjures up when thinking of a man of the cloth.

Sitting with Father Damien had its advantages. He was a deterrent to those mothers eager to have their spinster daughters married off because they all knew that there were no eligible young men on the island. As long as he was sitting with the priest, mothers did not dare approach him on such a delicate subject.

The two men were as different as night and day. One was renowned as a gentleman and a man of the cloth, while the other was a man seeking to find his place in society, and Barbados was just the place to do it in spite of the unscrupulous reputation of the island. Nicholas`s lifestyle did not quite fit in with his conservative surroundings in Ireland, and when he saw the advertisement in the local paper, he jumped at his chance to climb the ladder of success.

* * **

“You’re gawking at me,” Damien remarked.

“I like looking at you. I was thinking how much more handsome you’ve become. It must be the Barbadian sunshine and fresh air.”

Damien put his cutlery down, and their eyes met.

“If I didn’t know you better, I would swear that you’re coming on to me.”

Nicholas did not reply, but kept on gazing at Damien.

“Tell me, Damien. Why did you become a priest?”

“Just as you wanted to be a plantation manager here on this island, is the same reason why I became a priest.”

“I had always thought that it had to be a calling. Why do I think yours wasn’t a calling?” he asked, getting up and standing behind Damien’s chair.

“That’s a misconception, Nick. It was a calling,” Damien said, reaching for his glass and swallowing back the rum in one gulp.

“Am I making you uncomfortable, Father?”

“What makes you think that?”

“You seem nervous,” Nicholas said, returning to his seat and continuing his lunch. “Do you remember that night when I came to your room? I was distressed and in need of comfort, and you comforted me.”

“That’s part of my vocation. I’m here to console those in distress.”

“Father, you are playing with me. You know what I’m saying, and if you don’t know, I’ll spell it out for yer.”

“It’s getting late. Perhaps I should be going.”

“So you do understand what I’m talking about?”

Nicholas stood up and moved close to Damien, so close he could smell the rum on his breath. Damien was nervous, and it showed. His eyelashes fluttered like a moth attracted to light, and he headed for the kitchen door, mistaking it for the entrance door.

“Can I get you something?” the wide-eyed housekeeper asked, unaccustomed to seeing house guests in the kitchen.

“I was on my way out, but I opened the wrong door.”

“I’ll show you the way out, Father.”

Nicholas was waiting by the car when he ran down the stairs.

“I wish you wouldn’t run away, Damien,” he said, opening the car door for the priest. “I’m sorry if I misjudged you. I was sure you wanted the same thing I wanted.”

“Don’t worry about it, Nicholas. I guess we both misunderstood each other.”

“I didn’t misunderstand you, Damien. I heard your fervent prayer.”

“What prayer?”

“I was lying naked on your bed that night, having just emptied my stomach. I passed out, and when I came to, I heard your pleas. You were asking if I was sent to your room to tempt you.”

“You were confused.”

“I wasn’t, and you know I wasn’t. You wanted me, didn’t you, Damien?”

Talent Spotter images links for Liza Oconnor


Bookstrand   http://www.bookstrand.com/book/three-degrees-east-of-bliss

Amazon.com         https://www.amazon.com/Silke-Ming/e/B00LCK7UFU

Amazon.uk             https://www.amazon.co.uk/Silke-Ming/e/B00LCK7UFU

Barnes&Noble       www.barnesandnoble.com/c/silke-ming

Amazon.In              https://www.amazon.in/ebook/dp/B01F7Y4CVQ

Amazon.ca             https://www.amazon.ca/ebook/dp/B01F7Y4CVQ

Amazon.fr              https://www.amazon.fr/Silke-Ming/e/B00LCK7UFU

Amazon.nl              https://www.bol.com/nl/c/algemeen/silke-ming/11456703/index.html

Talent Spotter #2 Briefacse

Author Page          www.amazon.com/author/silkemingandsilkeming.com

Goodreads             https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8121846.Silke_Ming

Facebook                https://www.facebook.com/silke.ming

Ming Website        http://www.silkeming.com

E Mail                      silkeming@gmail.com



The book will go live on August 11th.

Empty Chairs: Much more than a story of Child Abuse. Excerpt here.

Empty Chairs Amazon cover

Click on the link to read an excerpt of Empty Chairs. Before you begin, be aware that the content is not an easy thing to read. But then ‘Child Abuse’ is not a topic that is an easy thing to deal with.  This book, my story, has been called Inspirational, and life changing. I wrote it to keep a promise I made to an eight-year-old child who never tasted happiness. I hope that it helps people open their eyes and begin to understand the nature of the beast that is Child Abuse.



Talent Spotter #6 Featuring Author Gerry McCullough.

I’m delighted to welcome Best-Selling Author Gerry McCullough. This is her first venture into the genre of Comedic writing. Fans will just love it! I know I do.

Talent Spotter #6 Gerry McCullough Book cover

Talent spotter blurb piccie


 A comic fantasy, set in the not too distant future.  (CS Lewis meets Terry Pratchett.)

Merc Swingly – a young, naive employee of one of the seven multi-national companies, which control the world through figurehead politicians – dreams that the world has come to an end.

He is instructed by a weird creature, who calls himself a ”Third Degree Representative’, to go back and prevent this happening.

Sometime in the future, who knows how far away, all the things which people have been dreading and issuing warnings about for years are beginning to happen.

The planet earth has finally become one political unit. Its capital city is now called Nexus Luxuria. Luxury, after all, is clearly the thing most people have been aiming for all their lives.

Life has developed in an almost exactly similar fashion to the threatened forecasts. The world has at last achieved all those marvellous things we’ve at present only started to acquire for ourselves – global warming; over-use and exhaustion of fossil fuels; a third world with slave labour factories; globalization of commerce until just seven multi-national companies are running the entire planet (under a titular World President with seven Vice Presidents – a Government with no real power, but considerable wealth and status); and a population kept happy by recreational drugs, which are no longer frowned on but instead encouraged. In fact, an other-earthly paradise – not.

Oh, and at a guess the future time when all this is happening is about a hundred years ahead of ours.

Or is it only fifty?

From the best-selling author of Belfast Girls



‘Wow…well what can I say! The book begins with a dream …and ends with a….fluffy kitten ( sort of)
I am not going to spoil the plot, so will just wish Merc,Seraphina,Kyra and the others the best of luck!

Seriously ( or not) this book had more than a little Terry Pratchett about it, especially in the characters and the humour. For me, it was a very humorous read. At times I found myself laughing out loud …but that’s my particular sense of the ridiculous!

The brilliance is in its ordinariness. It is a place we recognise, three dimensional characters we relate to, it is our world…just slightly off tilt. Merc tries to save the world, and also combat a ‘terrorist’ group. But everyone is popping pills and drinking alcohol. The world as we know it has become the world it possibly could be…but no one cares.
The book explores the humour in all tragedy. It is possible to converse with impossible people and beings, who appear to think sensibly, or at least use ‘normal’ language. It becomes a thriller plus a detective mystery which has clues and red herrings.

I found myself enthralled by the writing, and couldn’t put it down, staying awake very late to finish it.

I think Gerry McCullough could become the successor to Terry Pratchett, as she combines a fantasy world with the mores of the real one, using humour, great characterization, and truisms.

Underlying all her writing are messages to the reader about ‘what is really important’ just as the great TP used to do.
This is, however not ‘Disc World” but ‘This World’ with all its problems magnified into the ‘future’,
I hope to see Merc and the rest of the gang in more books, trying to help whoever needs them.
Excellent…highly recommended.’   Thea Hartley

‘Gerry McCullough combines a fierce and tight narrative drive with humour, imagination and lust. What more do you want?’   Malachi O’Doherty

‘Welcome to Luxuria, and Merc Swingly, young, naive employee of one of the seven multi-national companies in control of the planet, and possible saviour of Luxurias many wacky inhabitants.

In Not The End of The World, McCullough has created a fantastic cosmic fantasy world peopled with fabulous and outrageous bigger-than-life characters on a par with Terry Prachett’s hallucinogenic masterpiece, Discworld: Merc’s boss, Flacker Winterbotham; the non-human yuppie, Mr Brown; the harbinger with dire warnings, Third Degree Representative; spirited young orphan with a social conscience, Alexa Darnhurst; and, of course, Merc’s assistant, the extremely sexy, if somewhat lecherous, Hyacinth Duckworthy, to name a few on the must-read list of invited guests in Not The End of The World.

McCullough’s story-telling ability to keep all the plates spinning is impressive. Effortlessly, she takes your conscious mind out of your own world and guides you into the atmospheric surrealism of Luxuria, smoothly and expertly, with page-turning ease.  The story and writing proceed at a furious breath-taking pace, followed by a conclusion that has you screaming: Roll on the sequel!

I, for one, can’t wait to order my next flight ticket to Luxuria.’

Sam Millar, best-selling author, The Dark Place.

ACTS BEYOND REDEMPTION ~ A new release from S. Burke (@pursoot)

I’m delighted to have been featured by the lovely Eden Baylee.

I’m very happy to bring attention to a new book called Acts Beyond Redemption written by S. Burke, the first of a three-book series entitled ‘Unintended Consequences.’

This is author S. Burke’s (Soooz) debut novel in the Crime/Espionage genre. You may recall I featured Soooz on my blog in an interview a few years back. At the time, I highlighted her excellent book, Empty Chairs, written under her pen name, Stacey Danson.

Soooz is an amazing writer, and I’m happy to feature her latest book. Learn more about Acts Beyond Redemption and pick up your copy!

* * * *

acts beyond redemption

Buy Links: Amazon ~ US | UK | Canada

Blurb for: Acts Beyond Redemption

In Book 1 of the ‘Unintended Consequences’ series Acts Beyond Redemption takes you on a twisted, deadly ,journey.
Mike Matheson is head of a Special Task Force set up by the F.B.I to…

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Talent Spotter: Release day #2 Author Liza O’Connor.

I’m delighted to Present this Release Day special event.

Please welcome Author Liza O’Connor.

Meet Director Stone of Scotland Yard


Vic has always had an uncomfortable relationship with Inspector Stone, now promoted to Director of Scotland Yard. When they first met, Vic didn’t like him much, possibly because he had her interrogated for hours when she dutifully reported a crime. He also keeps accusing Jacko and Tubs of criminal acts despite their conversion to the law abiding side.  And then there is his annoying requirement of ‘proof’ before he will get involved…



Talent spotter blurb piccie

Chaos abounds in Late Victorian England. Xavier goes off on a mission without Vic because her protector, Tubs, is not well enough to keep Vic from harm right now. In fact, Tubs is dying and the doctor doesn’t expect him to live for more than a week. Upon discovering Tubs’ dire situation, Vic sets about rescuing him instead.

Good thing too. To all appearances the two strongest crime lords of London have declared war on each other. Only the two attempts on Vic’s life tells her this is all a clever plot by a third party—worse yet, a female villainess.

To stop the crime lords from destroying one another, leaving their territories open to the Russian spy, she must bring Seth and Samson together, share what is really going on, and get them to agree to work against this third party. Not an easy task since Seth Sojourn thinks Vic is nothing but a foolish sop. Unfortunately, Xavier has gone missing, so it’s up to her to convince the angry crime lord that her plan is best. Otherwise, this villainess will kill everyone who gets in her way and bring England to its knees.


Talent Spotter Liza O'connor Excerpt

At Scotland Yard, Vic ran past the fellow at the desk, past Meyers, and up the four flights of stairs. When she arrived at Stone’s office it was empty. “Damn it! Stone, where the hell are you?”

A hand gripped her neck. For a moment she thought it was Xavier, but realized the hand was thinner and gentler.

“I’m right behind you. I understand you and Barns have had a very busy day. However, the next time you carry off one of my men, provide me the courtesy of a by your leave.”

She turned and glared at him. “You need to delay your scolding for another day.”

His brow furrowed. “What’s happened?”

“My niece has been kidnapped.”

He led her into his office and closed the door. “What niece and when?”

Vic grimaced. “When searching for the possession that went missing from the former first minister last year, I tracked down his niece whom he’d abused until she ran off and found a better life in the Hells. She had a child she didn’t want and planned to kill. I offered to save her the cost and gave the child to Claire. I named her after my Aunt Maddy, and today someone abducted her and the nurse maid.”

Stone frown. “This is the secret you refused to tell me before?”


“And why tell me now?”

“Because I need to know where the former first minister resides, and I’m hoping you know.”

“I do. But Xavier does as well.”

Vic shook his head. “I cannot ask Xavier, so I’m asking you.”

“Were you not able to find him? Samson assured me that the problem had been handled.”

“Stone, I don’t have time to discuss Xavier. I need the address of the former Prime Minister, the Earl of Ogleton…now.”

He moved to his desk and pulled out a thin leather book. “And what is your intention when you see him?”

“I intend to retrieve my niece and her nursemaid.”

“Is that all?”

Vic snorted at his question. If he expected her to admit that she intended to kill the bastard if he’d harmed Maddy, Stone was a bigger fool than she anticipated.


Talent Spotter images links for Liza Oconnor

Book 7

The CrimeLords’ War

Free with Amazon Kindle Unlimited


Need to catch up?

Book 1

The Troublesome Apprentice

Book 2

The Missing Partner

Book 2.5

A Right to Love

Book 3

The Mesmerist

Book 4

Well Kept Secrets

Book 5

Pack of Trouble

Book 6

The Darkest Days

 All Xavier & Vic books are Free with Amazon Unlimited

Talent Spotter Release day special #2 NEWSPaper

Liza O’Connor was raised badly by feral cats, left the South/Midwest and wandered off to find nicer people on the east coast. There she worked for the meanest man on Wall Street, while her psychotic husband tried to kill her three times. (So much for finding nicer people.) Then one day she declared enough, got a better job, divorced her husband, and fell in love with her new life where people behaved nicely. But all those bad behaviors has given her lots of fodder for her humorous books. Please buy these books, because otherwise, she’ll become grumpy and write troubled novels instead. They will likely traumatize you.

You have been warned.

The Adventures of Xavier & Vic Sleuth series: (Late Victorian/Mystery/Romance)

The Troublesome Apprentice — The greatest sleuth in Victorian England hires a young man who turns out to be a young woman.

The Missing Partner — Opps! The greatest sleuth in Victorian England goes missing, leaving Vic to rescue him, a suffragette, and about 100 servants. Not to mention an eviscerating cat. Yes, let’s not mention the cat.

A Right to Love — A romantic detour for Jacko. Want to see how amply rewarded Jacko was when he & Vic save an old woman from Bedlam?

The Mesmerist The Mesmerist can control people from afar and make them murder for her. Worse yet, Xavier Thorn has fallen under her spell.

Well Kept Secrets — The problems with secrets is that they always come to light, no matter how you wish to silence them.

Pack of Trouble — Changes are a part of life, but these changes almost kill Vic.

The Darkest Days — Muddled cases make Vic very grumpy.

The CrimeLords’ War — Vic is almost killed twice as she tries to prevent a CrimeLords’ War, stop a female Russian spy, and locate Xavier.


Talent Spotter #2 Briefacse



Investigate these sites:

Liza’s Blog and Website   Facebook   Twitter

Talent Spotter #2 Liza Oconnor all books



Talent Spotter #5. My guest today:Author Kelli Young.

I’m delighted to present authors and their work. Take the opportunity to learn more about each of the books I have selected to present. Interested in being featured here? Learn more at the completion of this post. Now, for your enjoyment I welcome …

My guest:

Author Kelli Young. With her book Anam CaraTalent Spotter Kelli YOung cover

Ainslee MacDonald is a fierce lass, and not one to shrink from danger. Jeopardy has a way of finding her and it does when the Saxons invade the Scottish Highlands. Meeting hardship after challenging hardship, her indomitable spirit flourishes when she meets her soul friend, her Anam Cara.

Conall Geirson is no mere man; he is the beast who comes to Ainslee’s aid, bonding their fates. His tribe is hidden, more myth and legend, but Ainslee’s knows they’re real, for Conall’s love is so visceral that she forsakes tradition to vow her life to him.

Their path is perilous, devoted, heartbreaking, and beautiful. Lairds, soldiers, priests, and crones may derail their perfect union, but the one thing no human counted on was her sons being forged of their mother’s mettle, or that love transcends human perception.

This is an epic journey which tugs so hard on the heartstrings they break.

Read the brief Excerpt!

“Sorceress! Heretic! Devil’s Consort! Witch!” accused the crowd.

With her head down as the people standing around hurled curses and insults, Ainslee tried to steady the rhythm of her heart. The tightness in her chest was beginning to make her faint, fear of her condemnation increasing at the unpredictability of the mob.

Dressed only in her night-clothes, having fallen to her knees as the village folk pushed and pulled at her, she was shoved to the resident parish.

Christianity was new to her village and those whom lived on the outskirts, like her and her clan they were not open to the idea of this one god. Though a crude building made like most of the thatch and moss houses, the parish was like walking into Rome with its golden crosses and foul incense.

The priest, Father Paddrig, was a portly man with rotten teeth, breath that would send a fiend fleeing, and had the presence of the Bog Man himself. He was sent from Ireland to redeem the masses in this heathen countryside, whether they required it or not.

Most of the village was too afraid to tell him that wasn’t their way, for he had threatened hellfire down upon them if they weren’t willing to convert. The gods they worshipped were all about nature and love. Hellfire was the last thing they wanted to mess with, though they had not the slightest idea of what it even was.

As Ainslee gained her footing the rioters forced her back to her knees. Bloodied and bruised she crawled toward the prayer benches, seeking refuge. Before she was abducted from the pond below her own thatch and moss abode, she had blessed and kissed her two little boys to sleep.

“Bring her forward, bring me the Whore of Babylon!” shouted Fr. Paddrig.

Hands rushed to seize her upper arms. Stunned at the intense pressure of the hold, she struggled and scratched. Ainslee knew it would make it worse, but in her heart she had reason to fight.

Her fatherless sons were bastards to the villagers and the church, yet beloved to her clan. While she carried both of her boys, going to the village to trade goods was difficult. She was called names for they knew she had no husband. Some would refuse her altogether. Niall was the oldest at seven years, and Bowie only five.

At seven her Niall was broad of shoulder, thin in the waist and hips, hair like a highland bull. His mouth was smart but only to those who warranted it. His mind like a sponge soaking up everything around him. Fearless to a fault he was her championBowie was her little lover. Arms always outstretched to claim her neck; he would smother her in butterfly kisses. Bowie had a pucker that would eventually drive the lasses wild, with eyelashes they would swoon over. He had the look of mischief with a hint of innocence that kept you guessing at which you would get. His tawny hair, big blue eyes, and crooked grin got him out of trouble more than she could count.

They were her heart, her world. She knew she would never see them grow to be the men she had taught them to be. They would never get to see the pride in her eyes as they took their wives in handfasting, had their bairn, or made lives for themselves. She would never get to introduce them to the man reputed as their father.

She told them stories of how they met, fell in love, and brought them into the world. Oh how she wished they could know their father, but it had to be this way for all their protection. She would be the village heretic, the devil’s consort, or even the Whore of Babylon, for all of them.

Their secret would die with her. She would not allow the village to harm what was hers, and what she loved, because of their ignorance of what has been for hundreds of years.

 What reviewers are saying!

# 1 …The story of Conall and Ainslee left me feeling so many emotions. These two were fated to be together but supernatural circumstances kept them from truly living the life they were due.I fell in love with them both and I cried like a baby reading about the injustice that was heaped upon Ainslee more than once.Kelli McDonald Young has the ability to make you live her stories,I found myself not reading words but immersed in the story like a voyeur.When I read the last page I felt cheated because I Needed More,so you can imagine the elation that swept over me when I found out there will indeed be more!! Thank you Kelli for enriching my life with your glorious words!

# 2 …In her debut, author Kelli Young shows her immense ability for writing a truthful story with a supernatural twist set in Scotland long ago. Anam Cara is an epic adventure of so many things. A mother’s undying love for her children, uprising against a man and a religion that demonizes a woman who stands up against it, and the idea that love and the soul are eternal. This story speaks of ultimate sacrifices, love surviving even the darkest of times, and a dark and very enjoyable vengeance laid out. This story is a truth about life and love with themes that can be echoed in today’s day and age and yet the setting of the story made me feel as if I was in a country I had never been before and a time that I had only read in history books. Yet, I felt right at home as being part of the family.To say that I enjoyed the ending the best would be an understatement, because I think it was a very justified ending. I don’t really want to give it away but I think it is very suitable for the story. The best part about this writing is the fact that this is going to be a part of a series that novelist Kelli is putting together. This story was heart-wrenching, and yet satisfying on so many levels and I anticipate the next book in this series.

# 3 …This is one author who doesn’t shy away from the nitty gritty. Life was hard in the good old days and this is described explicitly. Many folk think we’d do better going backwards, back to living in the days before the Industrial revolution, back to ‘simpler’ times. Really? After reading this novel I don’t think those days were ‘simpler’, I think they were scary and brutal and horrendous.

# 4 …In this debut novel Kelli McDonald-Young manages to take us into a tale that feels like a hybrid between Danielle Steele and Diana Gabaldon, it was so emotive that I sobbed many times (in completely different places). I came to care so much about the characters that I just couldn’t bear their hardship, their heartbreaks, their pain. This is a love story, but it’s also a wake up call. Life wasn’t easier back then, not by a long shot.

It’s believable, unforgettable, and compelling. This is the kind of book you can’t leave alone, whenever you put it down to do something else the characters are dogging you, calling you, and it’s like a siren you can’t ignore. Loved it, well and truly loved this novel. It’s a highlander/viking romance set in historical times, and it’s so… so much more. I can’t wait for the next one!

The tale is complex and interesting, and the characters are colorful, drawing on the history of the place and the people who once inhabited the wild hills. The descriptions of the highlands brings the place to life, and the ending is not as expected. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the tales of the pagan past of the Scottish Highlands, and the mysticism that surrounds them.


Purchase on Amazon.com

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 Now for those of you that would like to be featured. It’s simple…and free.

People are learning just how much I enjoy promoting talented Indie and Small press authors.

To send me your book … please email me a suzieb4burke@hotmail.com

Include your BOOK COVER/BLURB and all purchase links include Facebook and twitter etc.


I look forward to seeing you featured here soon!


Talent Spotter Release Day Special. #1 Author Liza O’Connor.


Welcome to a Talent Spotter Release Day Celebration.

Author: Liza O’Connor with her latest release. August 1 – 7.

The Troublesome Apprentice: The Adventures of Xavier & Vic BOOK 1.

Talent Spotter book cover Liza Oconnor The troublesome apprentice.

                                     The Adventures of

                                           Xavier & Vic.

Book 1

The Troublesome Apprentice

By Liza O’Connor

Cases to be Resolved:

The Key to Aunt Maddy’s Death

The Missing Husband of Mrs. Wimple

The Disappearing Scarlet Nun

The Clever Butcher’s Wife

The Rescue of Lady Anne



Talent spotter blurb piccie


While investigating the death of a friend and client, Maddy Hamilton, Xavier Thorn (reputed to be the greatest sleuth in England) is greatly impressed with Maddy’s nephew, Victor, and offers him a job as his secretary. Aware of Xavier’s history of firing secretaries, Victor garners a promise that for three months he cannot be fired. Vic then proceeds, in Xavier’s view, to be cheeky and impertinent at every turn. Xavier endures the impudent pup because Victor is most skilled in extracting the truth from clients and intuiting facts with little evidence to assist.

As they solve a string of cases, Xavier discovers a few more important details about his troublesome apprentice, such as her true gender, and the realization that she has awakened his long dormant heart.

Talent Spotter Liza O'connor Excerpt

Claire sat on a chair next to the bathtub and scrubbed Vic’s neck and shoulder with a bristle brush, trying to remove the black ink stains.

“I cannot believe he assaulted you with an inkwell.”

“Nor could I, but he could not have known for certain it was me entering.”

“Then why did he throw it?”

“It may have been because the door was opening and whoever was on the other side had not knocked and asked permission to enter.” Vic frowned. “He seems to have some very odd quirks.”

“Well, that is certainly one. You might have been a client.”

“Fortunately for him, it was only me. He’s ruined my chest wrap. I will have to order a replacement.”

“Perhaps you should order several…”

“True, I’ve only three that are fit to wear now.”

“What else is wrong with him?”

“Who?” Vic asked and frowned when she realized Claire meant Xavier. “Who said there was anything wrong with him? I only said he had a quirk. His tendency to fire secretaries may be justified. You would not believe the horrid state in which they have left my desk.”

“You said quirks, as in plural. What other quirks does he possess?”

Vic sighed. “He is obsessed with timeliness. If a client is one minute late, they are to be sent away with a new appointment, and I am to arrive at five in the morning while he still sleeps so he will not yet be expecting me.” Vic couldn’t help but laugh at her sister’s bewildered expression “I know, it makes no sense whatsoever, but I will arrive tomorrow morning at five and wake him up from a sound sleep to let me in.”

“I am now afraid to ask, but are there any more of these oddities?”

“Well, he is constantly touching me.”

“How?” Claire moved her chair in closer.

“Nothing lurid,” Vic scolded. “When he’s talking or when I’ve made an observation he thinks particularly insightful, he will stroke my arm or squeeze my shoulder. I doubt he’s even aware of his actions, but—”

“But it makes your secret being discovered all the more probable,” Claire said and frowned. “Vic, I think you should reconsider a position at the bank.”

“Nonsense. Nothing about my arms and shoulders will reveal my secret,” Vic protested. “And he needs me. His office is a shambles.”

Claire smiled. “And you like him.”

“Well, of course I like him. He’s brilliant, insightful, and helped us uncover Aunt Maddy’s killer. I have also discovered, beneath his gruff exterior and constant rudeness, he is very thoughtful and caring.”

“Oh dear, you’ve fallen in love with him.”

“I have not. And I find you most aggravating. How dare you claim to know anything about love when you have purposely avoided introduction to all young gentlemen. Until you give up your commitment to spinsterhood, do not dare make false accusations about my heart. If you can do without a man, at least credit me with the same strength.”

“Me thinks thou doth protest too much,” Claire teased, and escaped her chair before Vic could douse her with water. “And you are clearly picking up Mr. Thorn’s bad manners. Gregory feared as much.”

“Do not tell Gregory about any of this.”

“Why not?”

“Because he will follow me to work in the morning and give Xavier a verbal thrashing.”

“Perhaps Mr. Thorn needs a dressing down.”

“But I need to learn how to balance a ledger and Xavier has assured me, if he starts his day in a surly mood, he remains so.”

“My poor Vic, the light of freedom was so bright we never considered the cost of emancipation.” She knelt beside the tub. “I only hope your path does not carry too high a price. If Mr. Thorn discovers the truth, will he reveal your secret?”

“No. He will no doubt be furious, and I’m certain he’ll fire me, but when I explain the situation and the danger it will put you in, if the truth becomes known, I’m positive he will keep my secret.”

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