Title: Blake's Folly Romance Trilogy
Author: W.L. Brooks
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Pages: App. 214 pp. each
Genre: Historical / Contemporary Romance
By 2023, the silver boomtown of Blake’s Folly, once notorious for saloons, brothels, speakeasies, and divorce ranches, has become a semi-ghost town of abandoned shacks and weedy dirt roads. But unusual settings attract unusual people, those forced to adapt to new circumstances in order to survive, and those who have never really fit into mainstream society. But none are humdrum. All have dreams and a chance to fall in love.
A Room In Blake’s Folly
In 1889, when Blake’s Folly boasted silver mines, saloons, and brothels, the adventurer, Westley Cranston, fell in love with Sookie Lacey a former prostitute. Their romance was doomed but never forgotten, and these six stories tell the tale.
All About Charming Alice
Alice Treemont cooks vegetarian meals, rescues unwanted dogs, and protects the most unloved creatures on earth: snakes. What man would share those interests?
Jace Constant is in Nevada, doing research, but he won’t be staying long. He hates desert dust, dog hair and snakes terrify him. Even if the air sizzles each time Alice and Jace meet, any romance seems doomed.
Rose Badger is the local flirt, and settling down is the last thing she intends to do. Geologist Jonah Livingstone is intriguing, but with his complicated life, he’s off limits for anything other than friendship.
Jonah Livingstone is fascinated by the sparkling and lovely Rose Badger, but she doesn’t seem inclined to choose a favorite, so why fret? Jonah’s secret life keeps him busy.
Desert Rose has no links yet. To be added.
“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.
All About Charming Alice
The back seat of Jace’s car looked like it needed a shave. “Can’t you dogs keep your hair on?”
The shaggy black animal wagged its tail, a look of simple adoration in its eyes. Jace sighed. His day was going all wrong. He didn’t like dogs, didn’t like dog hair, and didn’t like being late. Yet here he was, late for his appointment and busy driving a shedding mutt around a ramshackle agglomeration no one could call a village or a community. A semi-ghost town? Yes, that was the right word for this jumble of shacks, run-down frame houses, beat-up trailers, and car wrecks strewn along weed-choked lanes.
Hard to imagine that a hundred years ago Blake’s Folly had been a wild town, a Gomorrah, a name that had brought terror into the hearts of honest men and women but also a refuge in a harsh, hostile wasteland. Times had changed, all right. Nowadays there was nothing appealing, nothing welcoming, and nothing threatening about the place. It was definitely a has-been.
“Jeez!” Jace muttered. “Why would anyone choose to live in a mess like this?” As if in response to the question, which was, of course, merely rhetorical, the dog shifted forward and licked his cheek.
Jace jerked away, threw the creature a sour look in the rearview mirror. “The last thing I need is a dog with all the answers.”
The dog was large—very large. Its bulbous head seemed to sway on a sagging neck. Its legs were long, knotted, and spindly, and its ribs wanted to punch through a dull, ratty-looking coat. Yet, ugly though it was, the damn thing had a strange appeal.
But was that a reason to talk to it? Jace had never had a conversation with an animal in his life—folks who did were either nuts or absolute fools. “And there’s no way I’m sliding into one of those categories!” he stated with definite emphasis. The animal’s tail thumped a mocking denial on the seat.
Jace groaned. It was all the fault of the dry Nevada air. “Doing strange things to my brain. I need the city, with big city dirt, pollution, and noise. Spend a few more hours in the desert with this beast, I’ll find myself explaining the theory of relativity to it.” He turned again. The amount of dog hair on the back seat had now reached disaster proportions. He had to get rid of this animal and fast.
Suddenly, the rutted track came to an abrupt end. Jace slammed his foot down on the brake, and the car skidded to a dusty stop. Now what? Ahead of him, the countryside stretched out in beige desert monotony: endless, lifeless, treeless. The man at the gas station had told him to take this dog to the last house in town: a yellow mansion. One belonging to a woman called Alice Treemont—how was that for a moniker? Certainly seemed appropriate for someone who lived in the desert and took in stray dogs. He could picture her, too, hair dyed ruby red, cigarette hanging out of a corner of her mouth, her body molded by leopard-print latex. Or else a mean-lipped witch, one who hated every male on Earth.
Jace stared at the structure on his right. High, ancient, rickety, made out of wood, it looked nothing like a mansion and more like the typical haunted house found in amusement parks. Could this be what he was looking for? Impossible. He peered out at the landscape: left, right, behind, ahead. Nothing else. Just this.
“And the locals call that yellow?” Sure, it must have been yellow once…around a hundred years ago. Back then it might have been regal.
Opening the car door, he stepped out onto the soft, brown dust that, to his annoyance, instantly covered the fine Italian leather of his boot. Hell on Earth, that’s what this part of the world was. He was really looking forward to getting back to Chicago with its art galleries, concerts, and theater performances and to meeting up with the good-looking, sophisticated women he knew. But for the next month or so, he was stuck out here, doing research. It was his own fault: sometimes he had crazy ideas.
Excerpt Desert Rose
When the bell above the shop door tinkled, Rose’s well-practiced welcome smile was almost in place. Almost…then it stopped in mid-stretch. Stunned, she stared, swallowed, stared some more. My goodness: wasn’t he gorgeous. Her interest increased, and her heart did a pitter-patter tippy-toe dance as she took him in: tallish—but anyone would be tall when compared to her tiny size—rangy, with tousled hair so black it appeared blue under the lights, an explorer’s bone structure and weather-honed skin, deep brown eyes. And here she was, acting like a complete idiot, frozen into place, gawking at him as if he were of another species, or something totally new-fangled dropped down from a distant stretch of the Milky Way.
Not that he seemed to be faring any better, not moving, staring at her, his gaze unwavering, the wide-open door letting in frosty air and plump snowflakes. What was that gaze of his telling her? That he was surprised? Pleased? Oh yes. He liked what he saw, all right—and men did like her, she knew that. She was used to their admiration. They liked naturally golden curls, slanting blue eyes, and the broad, flat cheekbones of the Russian steppe. But wasn’t it especially nice to be admired by such a gorgeous specimen? Yes, indeed.
Mentally, Rose shook herself, forced herself out of her stupor—somebody had to do something. This was a store, a business, not a blind date. If a man suddenly showed up in a ladies’ dress shop, that meant there was already a woman in his life. Unless he was a cross-dresser. Or was lost and needed directions out of this half-a-horse hellhole.
“Hello.” She forced the formerly incomplete smile into something more fulsome and professional.
“Hello,” he answered. Smiled back. Not a forced smile, though. A wonderful one that softened the craggy angles of his face, crinkled into deep lines around his mouth and eyes.
Rose swallowed. Stared for another few seconds, then ordered herself to stop thinking about his smile, his lips, the bristly, salty way his skin would taste if she licked it, right there, at the corner of his mouth. The thought made her knees tremble. A bad case of lust at first sight? With a great effort of willpower, she corralled the lusty thoughts until they were more manageable, somewhat closer to normality. Heard her own voice, calm, practical: “Can I help you with something?”
He blinked, once, twice, as if waking from a trance. Then, laugh lines and crinkles disappeared, gave way to a more business-like expression. “Yes, of course.” Stepping into what was left of the warmth in the shop, he turned, closed the door behind him. Stared at her again. Cleared his throat. “I’m looking for a present.”
“For your wife?” Rose held her breath.
His mouth tightened. “Not quite.”
“Ah.” Hope faded. Not quite a wife wasn’t nearly as bad as a snuggled-in official wife, but it was close enough.
Writer, photographer, social critical artist, and storyteller, 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 and, much to local dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She particularly enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with strange characters.
All sites: https://linktr.ee/j.arleneculiner
Storytelling Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/j-arlene-culiner