Tuesday, November 14, 2023

RELEASE DAY for Promise Me Christmas.


                    Thank you Mistress of Book Reviews
         for the cover art, editing, and making this possible.
                      Mistress of Book Reviews
Back cover Blurb:
    The nights are growing longer and the winter snows are coming—Darkenwald Castle is under siege.  Lord Guy Blackthorne is prepared to lay down his life for his children, his wife, and all who seek his protection. But as renegades, mercenaries, and political intrigue surround his ancient family stronghold, he’s forced to stay his hand against those who would dare to attack his fortress.  
    As supplies and hope dwindle, Lady Vespa fears Yule will not be one of good cheer, and the children shall have no gifts this year. At least she and Guy have one another, for that she is thankful. But there are few private moments to share their love, and every endeavor to satisfy their passion is interrupted when the enemy attempts to invade the castle. 

On Christmas Eve, when a battle to the death begins, Guy faces his greatest challenge. Now Vespa’s wish for a happy Yule celebration turns to a prayer for her beloved’s safety. 


                  Grab your copy here....only $2.99
           5  STARS Still Moments Magazine 
                           Reviewed by Darlene  

This medieval historical romance was a captivating read. I enjoyed the twist of having the main characters married. Their lives were already intertwined, but during war-filled times, they had to always be prepared to defend their home and livelihood, which created a distance they longed to fill. 

    The plot and characters were well-developed, giving the story a smooth reading flow. The author has a great descriptive voice that places you in the scenes.

   Guy listening and taking Vespa's ideas into consideration on how to help defeat the enemy shows his love, devotion, and respect for his wife, which strengthens their relationship, and makes this story a perfect holiday read. I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book. Rating 5 Stars Reviewed by Darlene


 5 STARS Mistress of Book Reviews 

 When it comes to romance, in most cases the book ends with the happily ever after motto. But did you ever wonder what happened to all those stalwart handsome warriors and their brave ladies?  Well, I can tell you Gini Rifkin certainly did when it comes to her book.  She takes the reader inside a marriage and shows that to find happiness forever, you must battle life.  Especially in the 13th century when you do not always know who the enemy is until it’s almost too late.

  Guy Blackthorne and his beloved wife, Vespa, of Darkenwald are a couple that will sweep you into their lives purely because it shows the truth of marriage, war, and love. Remember not everything is tied up with ribbons and pretty paper. Sometimes the best love stories are those that are lived, loved, and linger in the minds of not only the hero and heroine but readers as well.  This book is one of those. And if you believe that married couples aren’t as sexy as single ones, then you are wrong and missing out on a relationship that most married people would love.

Guy has always known Vespa was the woman for him.  Sent away at an early age to fight in the Crusades, he not only brought home scars but his abiding love for her.  After being wedded and bedded both Lord and Lady Blackthorne endure what life sends their way. Never doubting their love is as secure as the keep they live in. But now Christmas is drawing nigh, supplies are dwindling, and the enemy is at the door. Vespa knows Guy is the bravest warrior she’s ever known, but sometimes his inability to listen to the weaker sex is frustrating and could lead to his wife taking matters into her own hands.

The insight into this couple of warriors, for they both are warriors, regardless of gender, is awesome. And the steps they take to protect their own is extraordinary.  With little at hand, but faith that is strong, the Blackthorns' of Darkenwald fight to leave a legacy for their children.  Will they win? Well, the truth about life is that nothing is for certain, so pick up your copy of Promise Me Christmas by Gini Rifkin and find out for yourself. This book blessed me as a woman, a reader, and a book reviewer. 

Tag Gini Rifkin pairs love, marriage, and battle into a beautiful tale of life in medieval times. Promise Me Christmas is a must read!

Excerpt:   Northumbria, England, December 1264

     “I can feel it in the air, Thomas. Like the land is holding its breath.” Lord Guy Blackthorne directed his remark to the man riding at his side. Thomas glanced at the murky forest nearby. “Far be it from me to doubt your words. In the past, your deep awareness of our surroundings has saved our backsides more than a time or two.” As they traversed the cleared area surrounding Castle Darkenwald, Guy’s gelding tossed its head and sidestepped a few paces. Did the gray brindle also sense trouble brewing? Guy trusted his horse’s reactions nearly as much as the unease twisting through his gut.

    The renegade barons roaming Mercia were now reported to be heading toward Northumbria. Thankfully, Guy had taken the safeguard of sending a runner south to alert his brother. And the

perimeter sentry he’d posted had yet to see anyone lurking about. All remained peaceful on his hundred. Still, at the moment, the feeling of disquiet spoke otherwise, and he was glad today he had ordered the castle soldiers to train outside, and his bowmen to be stationed on

the battlements.

    A large group of villagers and tenants had recently come to Darkenwald seeking protection, and this morning, several of them labored outside near the castle walls collecting the last of the dried garden herbs and sweet chestnuts. His wife, Vespa, was among those toiling on this temperate winter day. The sight of her gladdened his heart, just as her touch this morning when they were still abed, had pleased his body and heartened his soul—a recollection to be cherished.

     At the sudden warning blast from the border guard’s hunting horn, Guy jerked to attention. His pleasant memories were crushed, replaced with his worst nightmare. The distant and unmistakable sound of men and horses crashing through the forest soon followed.

     The call to arms he’d sensed coming was upon them.

     “Run, Vespa. And don’t look back until you reach the castle. Do you hear me, Vespa? Run, and don’t look back.”

                                     ✠ ✠ ✠ ✠

     Her husband, Lord Guy Blackthorne, sounded roaring mad, his words sharp with worry for her safety and ringing with anger for this unprovoked attack.

     “I hear you,” she shouted to him. And dear Lord, keep him safe, she silently added.

    Released from shocked immobility, Vespa scrambled over the rough terrain, her desperate plea echoing through her mind. Keep him safe, keep him safe, keep him safe.

     Not daring to glance back at the man she loved with all of her heart, she gritted her teeth and ran harder, faster. Guy would watch her progress all the way to the stronghold risking his own wellbeing, dividing his attention until he knew she was out of danger.

     The soles of her everyday footwear offered poor protection from the sharp stones, and she nearly tripped over an abandoned basket spilling forth the sweet chestnuts they’d been gathering.    

    Farther up the stony incline, her friend Edith urged her onward. Reaching the woman, she grasped the extended hand, and side by side they rushed to the entrance of the barbican. Only then, did Vespa stop and turn to witness the carnage unleashed beyond the castle proper. Her husband had survived many a battle—today was her first encounter with the ugly face of warfare.

    Sword drawn and turning his beloved gray gelding to face the enemy, Guy made a stand, buying time for all who had been caught outside the protective walls. He rallied the house soldiers to fight for their heartland, and as metal met metal, voices cried out in pain and triumph, and the ravens circled the battlefield.

     Outnumbered, Guy and his soldiers fought with their hearts and souls as well as their swords as they defended the land and their families. By shear will, they drove the traitors and mercenaries back into the surrounding woods. And when the last of the villagers who’d come seeking protection flooded through the castle gate, Guy called for his men to also return to Darkenwald.

     First to the battle line and last to retreat, Guy then ordered the portcullis to be lowered as he followed behind his men. In a hail of arrows and riding for all he was worth, he barely crossed the threshold as the obedient guardsmen in the tower sent the heavy iron grillwork crashing to the ground.

       They were safe—safe and trapped inside.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Interview with The Colorado Sun


Gini Rifkin touched on the gift or reading, and the scourge of human trafficking in her novel

The author’s historical romance “Undercover Outlaw” takes place in 1888, but the pervasiveness of human trafficking moved her to include a hotline number

  • Gini Rifkin writes stories of romance and adventure in settings that include the American West, medieval and Victorian England, and contemporary thriller and fantasy. When not writing, she cares for a menagerie of abandoned animals including ducks, goats, donkeys, and cats. Born in Illinois, she moved to Colorado and met her husband, Gary, and they shared their lives for 30 years, until he passed away. A little bit of him lives on in every hero she creates. 

SunLit: Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to write it? Where did the story/theme originate?

Gini Rifkin: Using historical romance, I wanted to stress how being able to read can change a person’s ability to control their fate. Set in 1888, my heroine was brave enough to escape her terrible living situation, but if she didn’t know how to read her prospects of making a decent future for herself would have been slim to none. 

I also wanted to show her growth by having her pay forward this beautiful gift of learning to read. Her students are the local prostitutes. Nearly all of these women have other skills, but they can’t read or write so are reduced to surviving the best way they can. 

If my hero was going to find out what really happened to his brother in Prairie Ridge, a corrupt town where one man made the rules, he would need to infiltrate the outlaws employed by the tyrant. He also discovers his “boss” is human trafficking men and women, keeping them sedated with peyote. 

This egregious crime is still happening in towns closer than you might think, and though not a large part of the story, I wanted to touch on the situation and offer a hotline in the back of the book.  

On the romantic spectrum, I thought a case of mistaken identity based upon a hatbox, and an undercover outlaw being forced to kidnap a not-to- be-messed-with female, would be a great way for the hero and heroine to meet.  

SunLit: Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it?

Rifkin: In search of evidence as to who killed his brother, Jess takes a job at the bordello to investigate the nefarious man who runs the saloon and the town. The heroine, Trinity, has been teaching the ladies of the evening who live there how to read. As Trinity and Jesse begin to trust one another, they can no longer deny the emotions building between them. Mary June and the other girls dress Trinity in a provocative costume and arrange for her and Jesse to experience a night to remember. Fate has other plans.   

SunLit: Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you actually sat down to write? 

Rifkin: When the name Trinity Tuesday came to me, I knew I needed a female character as strong and quirky as the name. Then the title “Undercover Outlaw” suggested a hero who was willing to become the last thing he respected. Living in Colorado gave me a feel for the scenery and setting. 

SunLit: Once you began writing, did the story take you in any unexpected directions? If so, how would you describe dealing with a narrative that seems to have a mind of its own?

Rifkin: Twists and turns are usually appreciated, although they can require rewriting and resequencing, which can be frustrating. I find they generally make the story more interesting, so if you are going to follow where they lead, you just have to do whatever it takes to make your story stronger and the best it can be. 

SunLit: What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book? 

Rifkin: The heroine forming a friendship with the ladies of the evening became more in-depth than anticipated, and the local newspaperman being a match for Etta, the older woman who taught Trinity to read, was a sweet surprise. 

SunLit: Walk us through your writing process: Where and how do you write? 

Rifkin: I try to be a plotter and have at least a decent outline. Key word here is “ try.” Then there are ideas that organically occur that I can’t help but incorporate. For me, writing means rewriting, multiple times, like layers of paint on canvas until the final picture is done. 

I write in a ground level room offering no great view, but it keeps me focused. When I’m stuck or tired, I go to the barn and let the animals work their magic.  

SunLit: How do you integrate working on books with your everyday life?

Rifkin: While finishing this book and letting the next one percolate, I felt the desire to try something new to fill my break time away from the computer — something fun that would still allow me to plot and dream about my writing. After taking several hours of lessons at the local yarn shop, I began weaving with a rigid heddle loom. 

This led to trying to spin yarn from my bags full of Angora goat hair. Still having a bit of a struggle with the carding and drop spindle, but I am thoroughly enjoying the loom. Now I can spin more than just stories and weave new tales as well as scarves and tea towels. 

SunLit: Tell us about your next project.

 Break Heart Canyon

Rifkin: My next sweet historical romance, “Break Heart Canyon” released in September 2022. The story is set again in Colorado, 1878. That was the year the total eclipse helped put Colorado on the map socially and scientifically, rather than just being known as a gold/silver mining area. 

Also, after the discovery of dinosaur bones in Como, Wyoming, and Garden City, Colorado, the Bone Wars began. Universities as well as private individuals resorted to all manner of underhanded tactics to secure the best specimens. 

The hero is hired to unearth a Native American breast plate containing dinosaur bones. The land upon which the artifact is buried belongs to a widowed Scottish immigrant who raises goats. She has her own war to worry about when the local cattlemen try to run her off. 

For a bit of humor, add in two donkeys, Wallace and The Countess. Then for myth and mystery, there is the legend of Break Heart Canyon, and an old unsolved murder. I like to wrap my romances around historical information, but I’m open to “what ifs” and stretching one’s mind on many levels. 


 A heartwarming Medieval Christmas story.   

  Available here 

                   Pre-order now for a release date 11/14/23

#coloradosunmagazine #historicalromance #coloradoromance

Friday, October 13, 2023

The Colorado Eclipse of 1878

                 Will the total eclipse unite more 
                   than the sun and moon? 


   A total eclipse is quite the memorable experience and I'm excited to see our partial view of the one coming on 10-14-23.   
   While researching my book, Break Heart Canyon, I discovered such a happening took place in July, 1878. I just had to include the event as a special moment for my characters Una and Ryker to share. 
  Known as The Great Eclipse of 1878, this cosmic occurrence drew a huge amount of attention to Colorado, especially Denver, Pike's Peak, and Colorado Springs. The state soon became known as a sophisticated scientific community rather than just a place out West famous for  mining gold and silver.  
    That year, the eclipse traveled through British Columbia, along the spine of the Rocky Mountains and directly over Pike's Peak. 
  The cover of Harper's Weekly featured the event in Colorado. 

     When newspapers across the country made the eclipse
headline news, the phenomenon began to spark interest in science for everyday people. Asaph Hall, who had recently discovered the Martian moons, was in Colorado, as was Maria Mitchell, leading an all-female expedition to show the world what women astronomers could do. 
                       Maria Mitchell, first female astronomer 

One scientist, Samuel Pierpont Langley, battled a terrible case of altitude sickness and 10 inches of snow at over 14,000 feet on Pike's Peak. But he captured one of the best images to date. 
    Thomas Edison even made the trip, but opted to go to Wyoming. The majority of scientists and astronomers watched in Colorado. There was even an observatory set up on the roof of the Teller House in Central City. and one posh hotel in Colorado Springs hired a band to entertain guests as they watch the solar display. 

   In the following excerpt from Break Heart Canyon, the hero, Ryker Landry, and the heroine, Una MacLaren, are together in the back of a small straw filled cart, cozy and awaiting for this exciting phenomenon to begin. Their friend, Mr. Jim has joined them.  


   A second piece of honey cake in one hand, Mr. Jim rolled a stump closer with his other, and took a seat beside the wagon. “The best part is starting,” he announced, his excitement managing to make it out around his mouth full of cake.

   This was it. Una’s heartbeat quickened. The donkeys huffed and whined and the goats pressed closer. With one eye turned skyward, the chickens, ducks, and goose hurried awkwardly toward their nighttime roosting quarters.

   Little by little the sun disappeared. Shadows turned to mist, and as the light slipped away, a softness layered their surroundings. When the last ray of sun winked out, darkness fell—complete and startling. Stars shone in the sky, the air grew noticeably cooler as an eerie stillness settled over them.

   Unsteady at the sudden shift, she reached out with her free hand and found Ryker’s waiting. Fingers interlaced they held fast as the sun was totally obliterated and a blaze of gold ringed the eye of darkness.

  “It’s magical,” she exhaled the words in awe.

     “Glad I lived to see such a sight,” Mr. Jim agreed, wonderment coloring his words too.
     Ryker remained silent, but his grip tightened ever so slightly indicating the display was not lost on him either. One hundred and ninety-one seconds later, the first ray of sunlight escaped the blackness and speared down to Earth reversing the phenomenon,
     The rooster crowed as if morning had come again in the afternoon. The donkeys joined in with hardy heehaws. In a discord of maahs and baahs, and as if late for an important appointment, the goats rushed back out to pasture.
     Following months of anticipation, the culmination of the event left Una woozy, and she flopped back onto the hay, continuing to stare through her glass as the fire ball grew larger and larger.      
      “Praise the Saints, what a grandiose sight.”
      Elbow bent, his head propped up in his hand, Ryker stretched out at her side, the length of his body mere inches from hers. He no longer seemed fascinated with the moon and sun. She shifted her viewing glass and met his gaze. He wanted to kiss her. The wonton
idea appealed to her as well—quite deeply.
     They drew closer, their lips separated by the width of a butterfly wing. Then the creak and groan of splintering wood filled the air. The left wheel fell off and the tumbril tipped sharply sideways. Ryker gathered her close, and with a flurry of hay and
matching yelps of surprise, they toppled to the ground. 
     Careening to a halt, wrapped in one another’s arms, Una couldn’t stop laughing. Rolling onto her back she pressed her hands to her stomach, but the belly laughs kept coming. Giving up, she rejoiced in the moment, not remembering the last time such gaiety had seized control of her body and robbed her of her good senses.
     Upsetting the stump, Mr. Jim clattered to his feet. Hands on his thighs, he bent forward and peered down at them. “You two all right?” Still chuckling, they both nodded, and he laughed too. “Nothing like dinner and a show.”
     Mr. Jim’s mirth stopped as he straightened and glanced toward the trail leading from the main road to her property. “Company’s coming.”
     Una went on the alert. Mr. Jim held out a hand to help her up, and she grabbed the offered assistance and scrambled upright. Ryker gave her backside a gentle boost. Then he was at her side, one hand at the small of her back, the other on the revolver at his hip.


Grab a copy of my award winning western here! 


  Unearthing artifacts in Colorado sounded like easy money to Ryker Landry. Then he met the woman who owned the land. 
     Una MacLaren vows no fortune hunter will desecrate the ancient relics of BreakHeart Canyon—even if the man is a handsome scoundrel. Fighting to keep her goat farm afloat as local cattlemen hatch deadly schemes to make sure she fails, Una has enough to worry about. 
    Captivated by the courageous redhead, Ryker joins forces with Una and her deerhound, MacTavish. But what does he desire most—the woman or the artifacts? 
   When the mythical white cougar again prowls the rocky cliffs, the legend of BreakHeart Canyon draws them into a web of danger. Now only daring and blind trust can save them. 

Even the secondary characters are fun!

Friday, October 6, 2023

Promise Me Christmas available for Preorder!


                   A holiday romance
  to warm your heart all season long. 
  The nights are growing longer and the winter snows are coming—Darkenwald Castle is under siege.  

    Lord Guy Blackthorne is prepared to lay down his life for his children, his wife, and all who seek his protection. But as renegades, mercenaries, and political intrigue surround his ancient family stronghold, he’s forced to stay his hand against those who would dare to attack his fortress.  
     As supplies and hope dwindle, Lady Vespa fears Yule will not be one of good cheer, and the children shall have no gifts this year. At least she and Guy have one another, for that she is thankful. But there are few private moments to share their love, and every endeavor to satisfy their passion is interrupted when the enemy attempts to invade the castle. 
    On Christmas Eve, when a battle to the death begins, Guy faces his greatest challenge. Now Vespa’s wish for a happy Yule celebration turns to a prayer for her beloved’s safety. 
                Available for preorder here..
 She ran her hand across the front of Guy’s mail shirt, the rings bit into her fingers as apprehension prickled though her body. Every time he was away overseeing the land or doing the king’s bidding, he had always come home safely. With aid from her brother-in-law, the odds were better and success more likely—but not assured. Was she to lose him now a stone’s throw from their castle door?  
   Swallowing down the words she wished to utter, she smiled as best she could. There would be no stopping him, and she’d not send him off to battle with anything less than all her support. At times like this, he belonged to more than just her. Guy fought for everyone who had come seeking his protection. 
   “Godspeed.” Her smile turned wooden, her hands cold, yet the love burning in her heart was fire enough to destroy a forest. She slipped free a thin strip of silk belting her waist. “Come back to me safe.” She tied the bright fabric to the horse’s bridle. “I’ve grown accustomed to you and do not wish to train a new husband.”
   He laughed at that, then quickly sobered. “I love you, Vespa.”
He’d promised to tell her more often and now he had, yet the declaration near set her back on her heels. Regardless of his good intentions, this was not a statement he tossed about lightly. He showed his affection in other ways like bringing her trinkets from markets in other holdings, and when they did come together, their union was with a great passion. But this pronouncement, issued on the brink of battle where others could hear, this was special. Did it also mean he feared he may not return to her? 
  “And I love thee, Guy.” Finding her voice, she breathed out the words, but they were lost to the flurry of activity as he turned and mounted up. Her throat tightened with fear and the tears she held back, and she couldn’t repeat the phrase.


Cover art design, and self-publishing formatting and design by Mistress of Book Reviews

Thursday, September 14, 2023

5 STARS for The Last Huntress by Lenore Borja

Available here:


Barnes & Noble

Blurb: Alice Daniels has a problem. Her reflection keeps misbehaving when she looks in the mirror—and the longer she ignores it, the harder it tries to get her attention. On her eighteenth birthday, she learns why: she is a huntress, someone gifted with the power to enter mirrors and the magical world that exists beyond. But with this power comes immense responsibility, for in the Mirror Realm lurks an evil that has infected the human race for centuries: demons. It is up to her and her three huntress sisters—with the help of one handsome and overbearing protector—to hunt and banish this evil one demon at a time, thereby keeping the chaos in check. But when an ancient god pays Alice a visit that turns deadly, it is clear the Mirror Realm is more than it seems, and she soon finds herself in a race against time to save the life—and soul—of the one man the gods are determined to never let her have.

The Last Huntress is a story of redemption and sacrifice, the bonds of true sisterhood, and the impossible, sometimes frightening, things we’ll do for love.


Lenore Borja's passionate writing voice, and her style of short chapter and scene breaks makes for a fast paced story, yet with deep point-of-view characterization. Although the female protagonist is a young adult, I think readers of all ages will find Alice relatable, and you couldn't wish for a braver or more determined heroine.   

In The Last Huntress, Alice finds more than her reflection in the looking glass, but I loved that the story evoked recollections of the surprise, wild creativity, and sometimes bewilderment faced by Alice of  Lewis Carroll fame. Using Greek gods and goddesses as characters was incredibly imaginative, with thought provoking with philosophical twists as their world is revealed.  

  The Last Huntress, is an true adventure, with a romance that spans time and space. The world building is ethereal and of a mental nature that will take your breath away. Borja's command of descriptive prose captivated me from the beginning--many of her passages are so beautiful I had to read them twice. 

With all the twists and turns, recapping the story is like trying to lasso the wind, but the age old and battle of good against evil is obviously there, and the hope for love and acceptance is definitely a desire to which we can all relate. Alice's soul-sisters, Soxie, Olivia, and Hadley, are so distinctive and personable yet each has their own approach to meeting the challenges thrust upon them. Discovering if they will succeed at what destiny demands of them will keep you turning pages, and will there be and HEA? 

  Available here:


Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Lenore Borja grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. She attended Arizona State University before moving to New York City to study acting at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After a brief career as an actress, she spent several years working in executive search and human resources in New York and San Francisco. She now resides in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband and a bossy feline named Maximus. When she’s not writing, she enjoys adventure travel and anything that gets the heart racing, whether it’s hiking, running, or getting lost in a good book.