Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Historical, romance on September 21, 2017

Title: The Last Outlaw

Author: Rosanne Bittner

Series: Outlaw Hearts, #4

Pub Date: September 5, 2017

Synopsis

True Love Never Dies

Times have changed, and the old Wild West is a thing of the past. Nestled in his beautiful Colorado ranch, surrounded by family, infamous former outlaw Jake Harkner’s hung up his guns for good and finally found a measure of peace—but dark memories haunt the woman who has always been his strength, and not even Jake is certain he can save his beloved Miranda this time.

All he can do is swear to remain by her side. But it takes more than a hope for peace to outrun a past defined by violence, and it isn’t long before Jake is embroiled in a rescue mission he simply can’t refuse. Life has brought him back full circle as he rides into Mexico to save a young girl from a dreadful fate…leaving Miranda behind one final time, fearing that the man she loves more than anything is destined to die the way he’s always lived—by the gun.

 

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Excerpt

A note from Rosanne: THE LAST OUTLAW opens with a love scene between the hero (Jake Harkner, a notorious gunman) and his wife Miranda (Randy).  Because of a prologue to this first chapter, readers will know a gang of bank robbers is headed for Boulder, Colorado, which is where Jake and Randy are on a shopping trip and staying in a hotel. They will know Jake is bound to get involved in the gunplay that follows. 

In this opening, readers realize these two, whose love story is incredibly beautiful, are having personal problems stemming from an event in Book #3, LOVE’S SWEET REVENGE.  You will have to read that book to learn what happened, but I think here you will sense the incredibly loving relationship these two share, Jake’s adoration of his long-suffering wife, and you will realize something needs to happen later in this story to “fix” the current underlying problems they are having.  I think readers will be surprised later in the story to find out how this problem is solved.  It’s VERY sexy, and also very beautiful.

 

Jake trailed his tongue over his wife’s skin, trying to ignore his fear that she could be dying. Her belly was too caved-in, her hip bones too prominent.

She’ll get better, he told himself. The taste of her most secret place lingered on his lips as he moved to her breasts, still surprisingly full, considering, but not with the same breasts he’d always loved and teased her about, with the enticing cleavage that stirred his desire for her.

He would always desire her.  This was his Randy.  She was his breath.  Her spirit ran in his veins, and she was his reason for being.  God knew his worthless hide had no business even still being on this earth.

He ran a hand over her ribs, which were too damn easy to count.  Sometimes he thought he’d go mad with the memory of last winter, the reason she’d become more withdrawn and had nearly stopped eating.

He met her mouth, and she responded.  Thank God she still wanted this, but something was missing, and he couldn’t put his finger on it. He thought he’d made it all better, thought he’d taken away the ugly.  He’d feared at first she might blame him for what happened, but it had been quite the opposite.  She’d become almost too clingy, constantly asking if he loved her, not to let go of her, asking him not to go far away.

He pushed himself inside of her, wanting nothing more than to please her, to find a way to break down the invisible wall he felt between them, to erase the past and assure her he was right here, that he still loved her.  How in hell could he not love this woman, the one who’d loved him when he was anything but loveable…all those years ago?  She’d put up with his past and his bouts of insanity and all the trouble and heartache he’d put her through…this woman who’d given him a son and daughter who couldn’t make a man prouder and who loved him beyond what he was worth … six grandchildren who climbed all over him full of such innocent love for a man who’d robbed and killed, and worst of all … killed his own father.

He moved his hands under her bottom, pushing himself deep inside her, relishing the way she returned his deep kisses and pressed her fingers into his upper arms in an almost desperate neediness.

That was what bothered him.  This had always been good between them, a true mating of souls, teasing remarks back and forth as they made love. But now it was as though she feared losing him if she didn’t make love often, and that wasn’t the sort of man he was. It had always been pure pleasure between them. He’d taught her things she would never have thought of, helped her relax and release every sexual inhibition. He knew every inch of her body intimately, and she’d loved it.

This was different.  And it was harder now, because not only did he hate the idea of feeing like he was forcing her, but he was also terrified he would break something.  She was so thin and small now.  He out-weighed her by a good hundred and fifty pounds by now; she couldn’t have weighed more than eighty or ninety pounds.

He surged deep in a desperate attempt to convince himself he wasn’t losing her. And through it all, he was screaming inside.  Sometimes he wanted to shake her and make her tell him what else he could do to bring back the woman he’d known and loved for nearly thirty-two years. He missed that feisty, bossy woman, the only person on this earth who could bring him to his knees.

He’d faced the worst of men as a lawman in Oklahoma, and run with the worst of men the first thirty years of his life.  He’d spent four years in prison under horrible conditions.  He’d been in too many gunfights to count, taken enough bullets that he had no right still being alive.  He’d ridden the Outlaw Trail and defied the odds. His reputation followed him everywhere, and a reporter had even written a book about him – Jake Harkner: The Legend and the MythMyth was more like it.  And the legend wasn’t one he was proud of.

And this woman beneath him … this woman he poured his life into this very moment … she’d been there for most of it.

He relaxed and moved to her side.

“Don’t let go yet, Jake.”

 

About the Author

RosanneBittner

 

USA Today bestseller and award-winning novelist Rosanne Bittner is known as the “Queen of Western Historical Romance” for her thrilling love stories and historical authenticity. Her epic romances span the West—and are often based on Rosanne’s personal visits to each setting. She lives in Coloma, Michigan, with her husband and two sons.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Historical, romance on September 19, 2017

Title: Highland Flame

Author: Mary Wine

Pub Date: September 5, 2017

ISBN: 9781492602538

Synopsis

NEWLY MINTED LAIRD SEEKS WIFE, PREFERABLY RICH

Laird Diocail Gordon has just inherited his uncle’s run down castle and rag-tag clan. He knows the sorry sight of the castle would send any woman running, but is determined to find a wife to help return his home to its former glory.

Widowed lady Jane Stanley is determined to return to England, even if she has to tromp through the Scottish Highlands on foot to get there. Her travels lead her straight into the midst of a troop of dangerous Highland warriors. The mysterious, brawny laird forbids his men to harm her, and the spark between them is immediate. The only way Diocail can keep her safe is to take her home with him, but will the miserable state of his clan douse her newly ignited Highland flame?

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Historical facts you should know

  1. A reverence was the proper greeting for this era, sometimes called courtesy. You stepped back with one foot, bent at the knee, keeping your back straight and ‘lowered’. If you were the higher ranking person, you would do the same and it was called ‘offering courtesy’, meaning it was a polite way of greeting one another. Even Queen Elizabeth Tudor lowered herself before the archbishop of Canterbury.
  2. Every house had a buttery….it was where the butts of ale were stored.
  3. A butler was the man who kept the keys to the buttery. In this period, he was huge and someone who could defend those keys with his brawn because ale was essential to survival in winter.

Excerpt

They both fell silent again as they consumed more of the food and faced a topic neither of them had any experience with. Not many a man did. It was why men wed, and women too, because together a man and woman might combine their knowledge to make a successful home. He’d been taught the logistics of defense and negotiation needed to foster relationships with other lairds.

But how much fare to put on the tables?

He had no idea or even how to go about making sure there were ample hands to prepare the food. Diocail felt his brain throbbing as he contemplated all the things needed to run a kitchen, and those were only what he knew about. What truly nauseated him was that he knew damned well how lacking his knowledge was. He knew how many men to ride out with, how many horses, and his education continued on to include how many blacksmiths it took to make sure those horses were shoed, how many stable lads it took to make certain those animals were fit to ride, how much feed and what sort was needed to maintain a horse’s strength.

A hundred details, and a kitchen was no different. No wise man made the mistake of thinking it an easy thing to keep running smoothly. Their current circumstances were proof of that surely enough.

“Ye need a wife, one raised with the education to see this place set right. No’ that any decent girl would have this house as it is,” Muir added. “Try to contract one, and she’ll run home to her father the moment she sees the condition this castle is in. But ye need one. A wife, that is.”

“I hoped to have a bit of time before getting down to that part of being laird,” Diocail groused.

“Best set yer secretary to sorting through the offers in Colum’s study.” Muir didn’t offer him any respite.

“Do nae hold out any hope,” Diocail replied. “There is a decade of letters sitting there. Any offers are long past their time of opportunity.”

His new lairdship was proving to be far more challenging than he’d ever thought it might be. Somehow, in all the times his mother had spoken to him of the day he’d take over the Gordon clan as laird, she had never mentioned just how complicated the duty was. There was building to consider, horses, men, training—and the list went on. All things he’d been taught as a man.

Now there was the kitchen, and God only knew what else went along with running one

smoothly.

Well, not God.

He let out a grunt. Here was something he knew less about than the Lord above.

Women.

And, more precisely, a lady and the duties she would have been trained to do.

There were reasons a laird wed a woman from a highborn family, and one was that she would come with an education as diverse as any given to a laird’s son. Running a kitchen was more than turning bread; it was knowing how much bread to set out to rise in the morning so that the supper table was full and how much grain was needed to make it through the winter and how many hands were needed to produce it all. His head began to ache. He didn’t know what went into bread, much less how much was needed to see an entire castle through a day, but as laird, his duty was to make certain the tables were laid with fare.

Nor did he know anything at all about helping a lady settle into the place he hoped she’d make into a home.

Muir was correct; she would run back to her father before sunup.

Diocail took another swig of the whisky, wishing it would dull his senses.

But all it did was warm him enough to make him conscious of the draft coming through the holes in the roof. He tipped his head back and discovered stars peeking at him where tiles were missing, likely from the winter storms. Colum was a bastard for leaving his people to such circumstances.

Laird of the Gordons. Diocail’s mother’s dream.

And his nightmare, it would seem.

About the Author

Acclaimed author Mary Wine has written over 30 works of Scottish Highland romance, romantic suspense and erotic romance. An avid history-buff and historical costumer, she and her family enjoy participating in historical reenactments. Mary lives in Yorba Linda, California with her husband and two sons.

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Posted in 5 paws, excerpt, Giveaway, Review, romance on September 16, 2017


The Pursuit of Lady Harriett by Rachael Anderson

When wills clash and hearts collide, who will reign victorious?

Termed an Incomparable during her first London season, Lady Harriett Cavendish is beautiful, spirited, and confident, capturing the attention of a great many suitors. Unfortunately, they all failed to capture her attention, and she concluded the season as unattached as she’d begun it.

Only weeks prior to her second season, Harriett encounters Lieutenant Christopher Jamison while visiting Tanglewood Manor. Recently returned from war, the lieutenant is everything that Harriett’s previous suitors were not. He’s arrogant, ungentlemanly, irritating, and challenges her at every opportunity. When he goes too far, Harriett decides that it’s time to turn the tables on him. But as she sets out to put the lieutenant in his place once and for all, she discovers there is more to him than meets the eye, and when it comes to matters of the heart, she has no control whatsoever.

Excerpt

Harriett looked at what remained of the cake. Appar-ently, he didn’t intend to finish it off after all, so she collected their forks and stood. “Forgive me for saying so, but you look quite done in, Chris. If you do not go up to bed now, you will probably fall asleep here. Only imagine what Mrs. Caddy might say if she discovers you here with the mostly-eaten cake. For your own sake, you ought to retire. I will do my best to tidy things up.”
Before she could move away from him, he grabbed her hand and guided her to sit back down, keeping hold of her fingers. “Not so fast, my lady. I meant it when I said that I’m in desperate need of the distraction that only you can provide. Thus far, all I have done is burden you with my troubles.”
“I do not feel at all burdened, sir.” Indeed, Harriett suddenly felt breathless and somewhat giddy. The effect this man had on her was something of a wonder.
“Sir?” he asked. “I thought we were beyond that.”
“I thought so as well, but you only just called me ‘my lady.’”
He frowned and blinked as though he hadn’t realized he had. “Forgive me, Harry. I fear my exhaustion has muddled my thinking.”
This time, she did not let the name slide. She snatched her hand free and frowned at him. “Obviously it has.”
He laughed—not a tired attempt at a laugh, but a real one filled with the richness that warmed her straight through. Only this time, it did not bother her at all. In fact, it felt wonderful, almost like a compliment.
“I knew you’d come through for me,” he said, leaning close enough to touch shoulders with her. “You have no idea how much I needed to laugh or how good that felt. I could honestly kiss you right now.”
Harriett tried her best not to blush or appear astonished by the suggestion—he had obviously made the comment in jest—but when his smile widened into a devilish grin, she knew she’d failed. He leaned in closer, and his gaze wandered briefly to her mouth before returning to her eyes. She could smell vanilla and lemon and a hint of something else—leather perhaps? A delightful pulse whipped down her arm, and she was hard-pressed not to shiver.
“Admit it,” he said. “You have missed me.”

Review

I didn’t realize this was the 3rd in a series but that didn’t matter because the story stands on its own merit without having the background of the other stories and those characters that appear here as well.

In the craziness of today’s world and how anything seems to go, it is nice to sit back and read a book that kissing is as far as it goes in the romance department. I also enjoy going back in time when men woo’ed women and while women were not meek, they had the grace to let the men do the chasing…with a little help from the women pointing them in the right direction.

Christopher is a strong male lead but he is woefully lack in his wooing skills much to Harriett’s chagrin. But even with his faults he manages to win her heart, but he did have to work at it in the end.

A wonderful story and well worth reading.  We give it 5 paws up.


 

RachaelAbout the Author

A USA Today bestselling author, Rachael Anderson is the mother of four and is pretty good at breaking up fights, or at least sending guilty parties to their rooms. She can’t sing, doesn’t dance, and despises tragedies. But she recently figured out how yeast works and can now make homemade bread, which she is really good at eating.

Website

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Giveaway

Ends 10/1/17

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, paranormal, romance on September 15, 2017

Title: Her Dark Half

Author: Paige Tyler

Series: X-Ops, #7

Pub Date: September 5, 2017

Synopsis

Trevor Maxwell

  • Coyote shifter with an attitude
  • Covert operator
  • Trusts no one, especially his devastatingly beautiful new partner

Alina Bosch

  • Former CIA, newest operative on the covert team
  • Hired to spy on her partner
  • Motto: “Never be deceived again.”

Coyote shifter Trevor Maxwell is teamed up with CIA agent Alina Bosch to catch a killer. But when the mission becomes much more dangerous than they expected, they’re going to have to ignore the attraction between them and learn how to trust one another to come out on the other side…

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Excerpt

“What’s the plan here?” she asked Trevor quietly as the restaurant’s patrons eyed them curiously. “Because I don’t see anyone warming up to us enough to invite us into the back room.”

“We’re Trevor and Alina Hoffman, a filthy rich, newly married couple from Silicon Valley,” Trevor said, glancing around as if taking in the ambience. “We’ve been on an extended honeymoon for the past few months and are currently heading for a trans-Atlantic cruise out of New York City. We decided to do some gambling and got tired of dealing with all the crap at the local casino.”

“You think they’ll buy that?” she asked as he led her across the room toward the door with the guards.

“You sell the fact that we’re a newly married couple, and I’ll make them believe I’m a rich guy with a gambling addiction.”

She could do that. Then she realized one big flaw in their cover story. “If we’re a newly married couple, shouldn’t I be wearing a ring?”

Trevor gave her a sidelong glance. “What makes you think you aren’t?”

She looked down at her hand in confusion and almost fell off her stacked heels as she saw the monstrously large diamond he’d somehow slipped onto her ring finger when she wasn’t looking. Oh crud, it was huge! And as beautiful as any she’d ever seen.

“When did you put this on? More importantly, is this thing real?” she whispered.

Thank goodness she had his arm to keep her steady. She was feeling faint at the idea of wearing a diamond that was probably worth more than her entire apartment.

“I put it on you when we were married on the first of June in Monaco,” he whispered back. “And of course it’s real. I would never put something fake on the love of my life.”

“Trevor, I’m serious,” she said.

He made a face. “Okay. I slipped it on your finger when I was helping you out of the SUV. And yes, it’s real, so don’t lose it. I had to sign my life away to get it out of the DCO safes.”

She gulped. “How much is it worth?”

“Nothing compared to you, sweetheart,” he said in a romantic tone as they stopped in front of the two guards.

The bouncers working this door were a little bit more professional than the ones outside.

“Can I help you?” one of the men asked in a deep, rough voice that made Alina wonder if he chewed gravel for fun.

“Someone told me a man might be able to find a friendly game of poker somewhere near here,” Trevor said casually. “I don’t suppose you two might be able to point my wife and me in the right direction for a game like that?”

The two men regarded him suspiciously.

“I think you’re talking about the Horseshoe Casino,” Gravel said. “It’s nearby, very clean and friendly.” Trevor chuckled. “The Horseshoe is very friendly. But the place doesn’t have the quite the atmosphere we’re looking for. It’s a little too…what’s the word?… sanitized for our liking.”

Gravel studied Trevor for a moment, then glanced at the bar, giving someone there a nod. Ten seconds later, a slim man in an expensive suit appeared at their side.

“My name is Teddy,” he said in a cautious yet friendly tone. “What can I do for you?”

“I’m Trevor Hoffman. This is my wife, Alina. We’re getting ready to head out on a cruise in a few days and decided to do some gambling while we’re in town. Someone told us this place runs a clean game, so I thought I’d spend some money here.”

Teddy surveyed them with a practiced eye, taking in the cut of Trevor’s suit and her expensive gown, not to mention the big honking ring she wore. He must have liked what he saw, because he nodded.

“If I could get some identification and a credit card from you, Mr. Hoffman, I can quickly check your credentials and set you up with a line of credit.”

Alina tensed as Trevor handed over the requested ID and credit card. They could be in trouble. The fake ID and credit card by themselves would have taken quite a bit of time and money to pull off. Coming up with an Internet background to support that would take even longer.

“What are they going to find when they run your name and that credit card number?” she whispered as he slipped his arm around her and casually urged her away from the two men guarding the door.

“Relax.” He flashed her a grin. “They’ll find us with all the relevant financial and societal tidbits one would expect to see when looking at the rich and bored.”

She glanced at Teddy. He typed something into a computer just out of sight behind the bar. A moment later, he lifted his head and frowned in their direction.

“Something’s wrong,” she whispered.

Even the two guards were eyeing them funny now. She was starting to wish she had a weapon. If things went bad, they were in trouble.

“Alina,” Trevor said softly as he tightened his arm around her waist and tugged her closer. “Now’s the time for you to sell the newlywed thing.”

She opened her mouth to ask him exactly how he suggested she do that when he pulled her even closer.

She wished she could have said it was years of CIA training that took over and made her kiss him. But that wouldn’t have been true. Instead, it was a totally different kind of instinct. The kind that made a woman want to kiss a hot guy.

About the Author

Paige Tyler is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sexy, romantic fiction. Paige writes books about hunky alpha males and the kick-butt heroines they fall in love with. She lives with her very own military hero (a.k.a. her husband) and their adorable dog on the beautiful Florida coast.

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Posted in 3 paws, excerpt, New Adult, Review on September 9, 2017

Synopsis

THEY SAID SHE WAS GOING TO BE MY RUIN…

THEN LET HER RUIN ME.

He had everything—wealth, adoration, a brilliant future. Until one chance encounter changed everything.

The moment Caleb Lockhart spotted the mysterious woman in her siren red dress, he couldn’t tear his eyes away.

For the first time in his life, he wanted something. Something he knew he could never have.

The unforgettable stranger he dubs RED.

Chasing Red Duology:

Chasing Red (Book 1)

Always Red (Book 2)

Millions of Wattpad readers love Caleb and Red’s epic story

“I love this book to the core.”

“I was so addicted… So in love that I couldn’t stop reading.”

“The characters are just so real and possess such pure, raw emotions and passion.”

“This book took me through an emotional roller coaster! I love everything about it!”

Buy the Book

Excerpt

I stopped when I reached the kitchen. It had the same modern industrial feel as the rest of the place. There was a bar on the left side of the room with barstools tucked underneath. Crisp, white cupboards, granite countertops, glass pendant lights hanging from the vaulted ceiling, stainless-steel appliances—the whole works. My breath caught as I set eyes on someone standing in the corner. He was tall, his shirtless back showing he had tan skin, and I could see his muscles were rippling when he moved his arm.

I stood there, nervous and scared. As if he sensed my presence, he turned around. His eyes widened and his jaw fell open as he took in my appearance.

I knew that face.

Caleb. Caleb Lockhart!

Oh no, not him! This was not happening. I’d woken up in the lair of the campus man whore.

A piece of bread fell out of his mouth as he continued to gape at me. His wavy brown hair was mussed and sticking up everywhere, as if he too had just woken up. His chest and stomach were well defined. The long counter in front of him ended just below his waist so I couldn’t see if he was—

Please, God, I hope he’s wearing something down there.

And then he grinned. As if he had all the time in the world, his gaze leisurely traveled from the top of my head to my toes, then back up to my face. I felt my toes tingle.

“Hey, baby, you look like you’ve had a busy night,” he drawled.

Oh God.

“Did we… Did you…?” I stuttered, crossing my arms to hide my chest from his lascivious gaze.

One dark brow lifted as he waited for me to finish my question. My mouth felt dry, and my head was starting to throb. I looked down at my naked feet and wondered where I’d put my shoes. Silly, silly girl.

“Just tell me,” I said finally.

“Tell you what exactly?” His eyes were laughing at me, and I could see his dimples. He knew exactly what I was talking about, but he seemed to find joy in torturing innocent people. Jerk.

When he stepped around the counter, I moved a step back and yelled, “Stay away from me!” At least he was wearing sweatpants.

He frowned, holding his hands up. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

My eyes frantically searched for a weapon nearby, in case he decided to attack me. I could grab one of the pans on the hanging pot rack if needed.

“Why am I here?”

“You don’t remember?”

I had a sudden urge to pull my hair. “Remember what?”

His face darkened. “Some pervert nearly attacked you last night. I saved you.” He shook his head. “He could have raped you.”

My head started to throb. Memories from last night were starting to come back.

“And you threw up all over my car.” He paused. “Twice.”

“R-raped me?” I vaguely remembered resisting a guy’s advances. What if it was him?

Caleb nodded, staring at me intently. The way his green eyes bored into me triggered a memory. A low, masculine voice murmuring, I’ve been looking for you my whole life…

I shook my head to clear it and glared at him. “How do I know you’re not that guy?”

“Oh please,” he scoffed, rolling his eyes. “I don’t have to force a girl to sleep with me.”

He stepped back, leaned against a butcher block behind him, and crossed his arms against his impressive chest, studying me with his head tilted to the side. The muscles in his arms flexed.

“Thank you,” I said quietly, but I was still suspicious. Growing up in a rough area meant suspicion came naturally to me. “I don’t remember much from last night.”

“You were drunk,” he stated.

“I think I remember that part.”

“And you’re not hungover?”

I shook my head.

“Amazing,” he said, sounding impressed.

“Look, if you don’t mind giving my shoes back, I can get out of your way.” I assumed he knew where they were. I didn’t find them in the bedroom.

“Not so fast.”

“What?” My eyes shot to an espresso machine sitting on the counter five feet away. I could use that in case he decided to grab me. Could I lift it?

“You threw up all over my car, and I just got it a few weeks ago.”

Oh. I bit my lip. “Isn’t your dad rich?” I gestured uselessly at the luxury surrounding us. “Can’t you just have somebody clean it for you?”

His eyebrows shot up. “So you’re going to have someone else clean up your mess?”

I clenched my teeth. “What do you want from me?”

Leaning back, he pulled himself up to sit on the butcher block, his glorious body on uninterrupted display. I gulped.

“Do you have anywhere to go when you leave?” There was a basket filled with apples beside him. He reached for one. How fortunate he was to reach for food whenever he wanted. He didn’t have to fear being hungry…or homeless.

“What kind of question is that? I’m going home.” I had no clue where home was, but he didn’t know that.

Without removing his gaze from mine, he tossed the apple in the air, caught it, tossed it again. “And where is that?”

My stomach quietly growled. “It’s none of your business.”

“Well, I quite possibly saved your life. I believe in conserving energy, so I want to make sure you don’t waste mine. I asked you last night where you live, and you told me you’re homeless. Frankly, right now, you look like someone just stole your last dollar.”

My mouth opened in shock.

He placed the apple back in the basket and crossed his arms again. Was he flexing in front of me?

“Why do you care?” I demanded.

It was a moment before he answered. “Do you really have somewhere to go?”

The mild, sympathetic tone did it. I felt my throat close and my eyes tear up. I could tell he was uncomfortable with my sudden display.

He jumped off the butcher block and went to open the fridge.

“Here,” he said quietly, handing me a bottled water.

I tried to say thank you, but my throat was too tight. When I looked up, he was backing away from me.

“You know you stink, right?”

I laughed. I laughed so hard that I was almost hyperventilating. Then I started crying. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.

To keep myself from falling on my face, I squatted where I was and sat on the floor. My crying turned to ugly hiccup-sobbing. He must have thought I was insane.

“Why don’t you stay here for a bit until you find an apartment?”

Shocked, I could only stare up at him.

He shrugged. “I know when someone is at the end of their rope,” he added.

At the end of their rope? I glared at him, quickly wiping at my tears. I hated looking up at someone when I talked to them so I got back on my feet, struggling to pull my dress down. He was still taller, which made me angrier.

“Listen, pal, I may be homeless, but I am not accepting your charity.”

We both fell silent.

The sound of the water bottle crinkling in my hand was followed by that of a steady stream of water spilling onto the floor.

Embarrassed, I closed my eyes. When I heard him clear his throat, I tried to calm my breathing by counting to ten before opening my eyes.

His eyebrows were raised as if he was waiting for me to say something. When I didn’t, he continued.

“Where else will you go? A homeless shelter? Listen.” He raised his index finger. “One, I live by myself, so you’ll only have the pleasure of my company. Two”—he raised a second finger—“you’re certainly safer here than at a shelter. And three”—he raised a third finger—“ding, ding, ding! You can stay here for free.”

I narrowed my eyes. It all sounded too good to be true. “Why are you helping me?” Life had beaten me enough that I knew nothing came free.

He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. Then he shook his head. “I don’t know.”

Live with Caleb Lockhart. In this huge place. For free. My only other options were the shelter or live on the streets. “I’m not going to be your prostitute.”

He looked insulted. “Do you really think I need one? Woman, have you seen this body? Besides,” he added, grinning, “when you decide to sleep with me, you’ll be the one paying me.”

Wow. The size of his ego must constantly give him a headache. I gave him a disgusted look and pretended to yawn. “Everything that’s coming out of your mouth sounds interesting. I don’t know why I keep yawning.”

Those green eyes widened and homed in on my face. I thought I’d pissed him off this time, but the most unexpected thing happened. He started laughing. “I like you,” he said, chuckling. “I mean you’re a knockout, but I didn’t think it went beyond that.”

Did he just insult me?

“I’m offering you a way out of your misery. Why don’t you take it?” He pinched his nose with his fingers. “And could you please take a shower? You might be gorgeous, but I ain’t spending time with a girl who smells like the sewer.”

I huffed. He was right though—I smelled really, really bad. But… “Then what do you want in exchange?”

“Not everyone wants something from you,” he replied grimly.

“Oh, is that what you think?” I laughed bitterly. “Everyone wants something one way or another. Haven’t you learned that yet?”

He tilted his head to the side and studied my face again. I wondered what he saw when he looked at me. My looks and the shape of my body usually made people think I was always looking for fun. Fun was the last thing on my mind. I was too busy staying alive, too busy working for my next meal to think about anything else. Last night had been an anomaly.

I had no other good options—just shelter or street—and he was offering me a way out. He at least looked sincere. It was about choosing the lesser of two evils. I took a deep breath.

“I could clean,” I said quietly.

Was I really doing this? Why not? The world hadn’t given me a free ticket in so long. I was overdue for one.

“Sorry?” He blinked at me, and I wasn’t sure if he was teasing or serious. “I didn’t hear what you said.”

I took another deep breath, and this time my voice was stronger. “I could clean your place in exchange for my stay.”

“I already have someone come in three times a week for that,” he answered.

“I can cook.”

He frowned. “Don’t string me along like that. That’s not very nice.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Can you really cook?” His face lit up. He looked like a little boy who had found the last cookie at the bottom of the jar.

“Yes,” I answered, ignoring the crazy effect his smile had on me.

“Deal!”

This was too easy. “You said you live by yourself, but how can you afford this place?”

His expression shuttered. I hoped he didn’t think I was trying to find out how much money he had. That I was a gold digger. But why wouldn’t he think that? He didn’t know me from Eve.

I might have been poor, but I wasn’t a freeloader. My hands proved how hard I worked, and I was proud of that. One more year and I would get that diploma. I’d work my ass off to have a good life. I didn’t need much—a steady job, a simple house, and a serviceable car would be more than enough to make me happy. And I would never go hungry again. I’d get there without help from anyone.

“Look,” I hissed angrily. “I was only curious. If you think I’m some gold digger—”

He held a hand up. “Will you stop putting words in my mouth? Do you really think I want this life? This…this.” He gestured to the whole room. “You think this makes me happy?” His jaw was set, his hands fisted.

“Yes!” I answered. I fell silent, incredulous. He had no concept of what it meant to go hungry, to not know where he was going to sleep next, to live in fear. We were worlds apart.

This was never going to work.

We both stood there awkwardly, but after a few seconds, he opened his mouth again, waggling his eyebrows as if nothing had happened. “Know what? You do my homework while you’re cooking my dinner tonight.”

So much for that moment. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out.

“Hold on,” he said. “I didn’t even get your name.”

“Veronica Strafford.”

“I’m Caleb Lockhart.”

 

Review

I thought this book was ok but it was hard for me to finish. I think I got tired of the drama all the time. Veronica doesn’t trust anyone. Sure she has her reasons but give someone a chance before going off the deep end and assuming the worst. Caleb is a playboy that wants to be reformed by Veronica aka Red. Yes he has a playboy past and Veronica should be aware of that since she knows him from college.

The book does have some heartwarming portions – the fact that Caleb is willing to wait for Veronica to be ready before they have sex is a positive one. Plus Veronica is wanting to improve her life situation and she can go nowhere but up. Then there is Kara – who I actually think makes the book and might even be somewhat of a scene stealer. Sure Kara has issues, but she is witty and wacky.

I think there is more to Veronica’s past and we only got a glimpse through a nightmare. It made me wonder what else she hadn’t said yet.

I was surprised to see that the school had lockers. I’m not saying that colleges don’t have them, but I have never heard of them in a college before. It reminded me of high school. Also, I thought I had read that Veronica was in college studying culinary arts but there is never really any mention of what sort of classes she is taking. That might have been an interesting twist since they mentioned classes and exams in general but nothing specific.

We give it 3 paws up.

 

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Posted in 5 paws, excerpt, Giveaway, Review, Young Adult on September 8, 2017


Perfectly You by Robin Daniels

Ivy Nixon is the student body Vice President at Franklin High School. Each year, the school holds a date auction to raise funds for the senior class graduation party, and this year, Ivy’s in charge. Planning the event is a huge task and Ivy is determined to prove she can get the job done right. Unfortunately, she’s still one participant short and her deadline is looming.

Andy Walker, her cute but socially reclusive art class table mate, is her last resort. He may not be popular, but he’s funny, talented, and full of surprises. With a makeover and some major social marketing, Ivy is sure he could fetch a decent price at the auction.

Andy reluctantly agrees to help, but the more time Ivy spends with him, the more her feelings shift from professional to romantic in nature. To top it off, she’s done her marketing so well, that other girls are starting to notice Andy too. Come auction time, will Ivy be able to let him go to the highest bidder? Or will she find a way to keep him for herself…

Content Description: This is a stand-alone YA contemporary romance with companion novels set at the same high school. It contains minor language, innuendo, and crude humor, some steamy kissing, a party scene where underage drinking is taking place, and a brief but tasteful conversation about sex. The author has attempted to write characters who make good choices in questionable situations, in effort to keep the content appropriate for teens. This book contains no sex, written or implied, and no explicit language. Recommended for ages 14 and up.


Excerpt

“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.” I lunged forward in an exaggerated show of gratitude and threw my arms around his waist, embracing him tightly. He flinched and tensed up for a moment. I’d caught him off guard. Eventually he relaxed and put one arm around me, awkwardly patting my back in some semblance of a hug.

For a moment, I forgot what I was doing and leaned into him. Wow, he smelled unbelievably good. Like soap and dryer sheets and something a little sharper that I couldn’t identify. I needed to ask him what cologne he wore, because it was incredible. I could smell him all day. Not to mention that his chest was a lot firmer than one would guess, since he hides it under baggy button-down shirts all the time.

Andy cleared his throat and I pulled away. He looked embarrassed again. He really needed to get over that, and I was going to help him, starting right now. “Sorry.” I grinned. “You smell amazing. Your cologne is yummy enough to eat. I could sit here and sniff you for the rest of the class.”

He choked on his spit and quickly put his fist over his mouth to stifle his laughter. “Please don’t.” He was trying to sound horrified, but his face gave him away. He appreciated the compliment.

“Ok.” I threw my hands up in surrender. “But fair warning…if I’m having a bad day, I may lean over and smell your neck to induce a calming effect. When that happens, don’t punch me.”

Andy shook his head, bewildered by the turn our conversation had taken. “I’ll try not to punch you, if you decide to randomly press your face against my neck.”

“When you say it like that, I sound like a psycho stalker.”

“Psycho and stalker are your words, not mine. But, if the shoe fits…” He trailed off, and I smacked him on the arm.

“Ouch!” Andy rubbed the place I’d just hit. “I’m only kidding. I don’t think you’re a psycho stalker. I’ve never seen any indication that you’re a stalker. You’re more likely a plain old psycho.” He was grinning nice and big now, and I couldn’t help but grin back.

Review

I picked this book up today and could not put it down! Yes it is a YA book since the characters are seniors in high school, but they have the same sort of problems that everyone has in life. In this case it was Ivy discovering that her friend Andy might be more than what she expected. For Andy it might be that his crush on Ivy could come to fruition. There is also the typical drama you expect among teenagers…hey we were all one at one time or another!

I though Lilly was a hoot. She isn’t your typical kid and marches to her own drummer. She is not afraid to be the wacky one with how she dresses. Many could take lessons from her. It isn’t as if she doesn’t care…but she maybe cares a little less and is comfortable in her own skin.

Definitely worth a read!


About the Author

Robin Daniels is a wife, mother of five and avid consumer of books. She loves reading SO much that she was actually grounded from it as a twelve year old. No Joking! Her mom caught her reading when she was supposed to be cleaning, which was a common occurrence. At that point mom took the books and instructed her to go watch TV or play outside like a normal kid.

Robin is a sucker for home design shows and magazines, watches way too much Netflix and has a very codependent relationship with with a certain diet soda who’s brand shall not be named. (Though anyone with a similar problem could probably guess which one.)

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Romantic Suspense, Spotlight on September 7, 2017

“Vivid and charming.”—CHARLAINE HARRIS, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

Synopsis

Injured in the line of duty,

His orders are simple:

Stay alive.

But when a frightened woman bursts into his life, Hugh and his K9 companion have no choice but to risk everything to keep her safe.

The sole witness to a horrific crime, Kaylee Ramay flees to the Colorado Rockies to start a new life. There she becomes Grace, a dog kennel employee desperately trying to avoid attention—especially from dangerously attractive K9 Officer Hugh Murdoch.

Because Hugh is tall, dark…and nothing but trouble.

Hugh is anxious to get back in the field after an act of heroism left him warming the bench. Until then, he and his K9 partner Lexi spend their hours teasing the town’s mysterious newcomer. But when their simmering attraction is nearly cut short by a sniper’s bullet, Hugh’s mystery woman must come clean about the secrets she keeps…

Or both of them will pay the price.

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Excerpt

The floor in the entry creaked, reminding Grace of her most urgent issue at the moment: someone was in the house. As quietly as possible, she started backing up. This was not a good room to be trapped in. The only door was the one into the hallway—where the intruder was. The large, central window was solid. The two smaller panes of glass beside it would reluctantly crank out a few inches, but definitely not wide enough to fit her entire body through.

Why had she hesitated when she first heard the knock? If she’d immediately headed for the back door, she’d already be far, far away. Now she was stuck.

Her gaze ran over the room, searching for hiding spots, but there weren’t any good ones. The closet was too obvious, but it would have to do. Maybe they wouldn’t bother searching.

As she hurried toward the small closet door, her heart thumped painfully against her ribs. It beat so loudly that it felt as if everyone still left in Monroe could hear the pounding.

“What are you doing?”

She whipped around, grabbing the first thing within reach to use as a weapon.

Hugh looked from her face to her hand with his usual expression of barely contained amusement—a look that aggravated Grace more every time she encountered him. Even the dog standing next to him looked entertained. “The mute button doesn’t work on me. Trust me. Others have tried.”

There was still so much residual fear flooding through her body that Grace had a hard time understanding what he meant. She followed his gaze to the improvised weapon in her hand and realized that she was pointing the television remote at him. As her panic started to abate, anger took its place, along with a healthy dose of embarrassment.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded, allowing her arm to drop back to her side.

“I could ask you the same thing,” he said.

“What?” It was almost a screech. Grace blamed residual nerves…and the fact that Hugh was truly aggravating. “I live here!”

“Jules said you were job hunting today.” She opened her mouth, but he spoke again before she could ask how that justified him breaking into her house. “Why didn’t you open the door when I knocked?”

Her eyes narrowed. “You came in because you thought I wasn’t here? What were you going to do? Go through my stuff?”

The guilty look that flashed over his face disappeared quickly, but she still caught it. “You were!” Another thought occurred to her, and she almost growled. “How did you get in?”

His expression of pure innocence just made her suspicions double. “What do you mean? The door was unlocked.”

“No, it wasn’t. I definitely remember locking—”

“Hey!” he interrupted, his attention on the TV screen. “Is this the Tattered Hearts where Tatiana realizes that Natasha and Jorge are scheming against her?”

“What? I don’t know. I’ve never watched this show.”

“You’ve never seen Tattered Hearts?” He grabbed her hand and pulled her to the couch. Bemused by the sudden topic shift, she sat. “You are missing out. It’s the best show ever.”

Hugh plopped his oversized self on the couch right next to Grace, jostling her. He was so big, a wall of heat and muscle and sexiness—whoa. She shut down that thought abruptly. His dog stretched out in front of them, her furry head resting on Grace’s foot, which was comforting and kind of nice. She scowled and briefly considered telling Hugh to leave—although the dog could stay—but Grace was curious why he was so obsessed with this soap. Besides, as annoying as Hugh could be, arguing with him kept her mind off Martin Jovanovic. She honestly didn’t want to be in this big, creaky house alone anymore, especially after having the snot scared out of her, so she settled in to watch.

“Wait,” she said after a few minutes. “So the guy with the waxed chest—”

“Jorge.”

“So Jorge is cheating on the woman with the scary eyebrows—”

“Tatiana.”

“Jorge is cheating on Tatiana with the lizard-faced woman?”

“Natasha.”

“Why?” Keeping her gaze locked on the television, Grace made a face. “Tatiana is so much hotter, and Natasha is all about the drama. That gets so tiring.”

“I know.” Hugh sighed. “Jorge’s an idiot.”

“Yeah. He is.” Although she wanted to talk more about Jorge’s poor life choices, Grace went quiet so she could watch the show. As the soap continued, she found herself leaning forward, fascinated despite herself.

“Oh. My. God.” Grace clapped a hand over her mouth in shocked glee as a commercial filled the small screen. “Did Tatiana actually tell Jorge about the secret baby?”

“I know, right? Natasha knew all along, too.” Hugh shook his head and tsked. “Just wait. Javier—”

“Stop! No spoilers!” Lunging toward him and laughing, Grace clapped a hand over his mouth. As soon as she made contact, she froze. His skin was warm—almost hot—and his cheeks as stubbly as his lips were smooth. Grace stared at him. What was she doing? This was Hugh, a cop who was so suspicious of her that he’d broken into her house to dig through her things. Why was she flirting with him?

Realizing that she was still touching him, Grace started to yank her arm back, but he caught her hand before she could pull it away. He gave it a gentle squeeze before releasing it.

“What—”

“The show’s on,” Hugh interrupted. “Hush, or you’ll miss it.”

Watching Tattered Hearts was more important than smacking him down for shushing her, so Grace settled against the sofa cushions and tried to ignore the annoying, muscle-bound cop sharing the couch with her. She couldn’t deny how nice it was to have him there, though. It made her feel a little less alone.

Grace felt herself relaxing for the first time in over a week. With a relieved sigh, she let herself enjoy the warmth of Hugh’s shoulder so close to hers and the comfort of his presence. She got caught up in the drama of Tatiana, Jorge, and Natasha, and forgot about anyone with the name Jovanovic for a little while.

About the Author

katie ruggleWhen she’s not writing, KATIE RUGGLE rides horses, shoots guns, and travels to warm places where she can SCUBA dive. Graduating from the Police Academy, Katie received her ice-rescue certification and can attest that the reservoirs in the Colorado Mountains really are that cold. While she still misses her off-the-grid, solar- and wind-powered house in the Rocky Mountains, she now lives in Rochester, Minnesota near her family.

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Posted in 5 paws, excerpt, Review, romance on September 3, 2017

MAYBE I DO by Nicole McLaughlin

Published by St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Publication Date: August 29, 2017

 

Synopsis

“Nicole McLaughlin is a wonderfully fresh voice in contemporary romance—sweet, sexy, and immensely satisfying.”—Lauren Layne, New York Times bestselling author

She doesn’t believe in fairy tales. He’s married to his job. Maybe whiskey is the secret ingredient that will bring them together—and give true love a shot?

Wedding photographer Charlotte Linley loves her work—even though she hates weddings. Sure, she still holds a grudge after being left at the altar by her high-school sweetheart. But today Charlotte is just happy to have complete control over her career, which is flourishing. Especially since she joined forces with one of the three gorgeous owners of The Stag, a boutique distillery that has become Kansas City’s hottest wedding venue.

Dean Troyer, bitter after the end of his own marriage, knows that Charlotte is the real deal—beautiful, talented, and successful. He may flirt with her every time she comes to The Stag but Dean is determined to keep his professional distance. . .particularly now that she’s helping him with his own sister’s wedding. The only problem? The more time Dean spends with Charlotte, the deeper their connection grows. Is this a rom-com cliché or could it be that these two jaded souls in the wedding business have finally found their real-life happily ever after?

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Excerpt

“One, two, three, go!” Charlotte called. The bouquet shot into the air as the front bridesmaid soared into a jump that would make a basketball star envious. All the while Charlotte’s shutter rapidly took frame after frame. As the bridesmaid landed, stems in hand, someone else’s arm flung into her face, effectively startling her and sending the flowers to the floor. A third woman—somewhat older—surprised all the bystanders by quickly swiping it off the floor.

Charlotte laughed as she took a shot with the bride and the gloating bouquet winner, and then immediately got back into position as the DJ started up “Another One Bites the Dust” for the garter removal. She inwardly groaned. This guy needed some new material.

When the groom was done sticking his head under the bride’s skirt and making a spectacle of himself, he lined up, ready to send the little scrap of lace and elastic into the—somewhat small—mass of young men.

“You ever notice how the guys always look as if they’re participating under duress?” a deep familiar voice said close to Charlotte’s ear. Goose bumps rose on her neck and arms.

She grinned but didn’t lower the camera from her eye. The music and conversation in the room were loud enough that she knew they wouldn’t be heard. “Can’t say that I blame them.”

The words had come out without any thought and Charlotte really wished she could see Dean’s reaction to them, but the groom released the garter right at that moment. The male recipients were nowhere as enthusiastic as the ladies had been, but one guy did reach out and snag it, almost as a reflexive action.

Yep, the shocked look on his face said that’s exactly what it had been, and he glanced around like he wanted someone to throw it at.

Charlotte laughed and looked at Dean. “He looks like he’s wishing he’d sat this one out right about now.”

“Yes he does.” Dean crossed his arms and smirked as Charlotte stepped forward to set up the customary shot of the groom and the reluctant garter catcher.

She was happy to find that Dean was still waiting for her on the edge of the dance floor when she was finished.

“I’ve missed talking to you tonight,” she said.

One corner of his lips quirked up. “You have?” His tone was all teasing, but she could have sworn there was a hint of uncertainty. Surely he knew she was into him.

“Of course. I would assume it was because you were busy, but you had time to talk with black dress lady for a long time.”

“Charlotte,” he whispered, shaking his head. One of his go-to body movements when they spoke. He huffed out an embarrassed laugh. “What am I gonna do with you?”

“Well, you can start by not making me so jealous.”

His eyes flicked to hers, his lips parting. She could tell he wanted to respond, that her words had taken him by surprise. She continued to watch him as the music filled in the silence between them. It was hard to believe she’d let the teasing between them just go where it had, but she didn’t really regret it. She liked this man, and she’d done everything she could to tell him that except physically coming on to him. Was that what she needed to do? Finally, he appeared to mentally shake off her comment, his lips pursing as he inhaled a deep breath. Damn.

“How much longer are you here?” he asked.

She pulled out her phone and grimaced at the time. “Over an hour.”

He nodded. “Can you spare me a minute? I wanted to talk to you about something.”

Oh God. He was going to finally make a move. She could feel it. Her brazen comment about jealousy had worked.

Or maybe he was going to finally let her down easy. Shit.

She swallowed. “Of course. I’d love that.”

Following him toward the bar, Charlotte caught Lauren’s attention and sent her an I’ll-be-right-back look. Lauren nodded but Charlotte could see the curiosity written all over her friend’s face.

Dean stepped behind the bar, grabbed a pint glass, and proceeded to fill it with ice, lemon-lime soda, and then the tiniest splash of grenadine. Her favorite, and she couldn’t help melting inside that he always remembered. She couldn’t decide if it was a good sign or not. He slid it across the bar to her and then angled his head toward the little break room. Suddenly panicked, Charlotte dug in the bottom of her bag for a piece of gum and stuffed it into her mouth.

Dean stepped into the room and held the door open for Charlotte. She followed and then turned to face him, her heart pounding in her chest.

But instead of walking toward her, he headed for the sofa. “Have a seat.”

“Oh, okay.” She did just that, and when she sat down, he took the sofa across from her.

Ouch. Definitely not a good sign. Was he … mad at her? First she’d embarrassed him with the sexy photos, and then she’d just now crossed the line with the jealousy comment. Oh shit. He was totally going to confront her about it.

“So, first I should apologize for what I said out there. That was so completely inappropriate and I should have known better,” she blurted.

Dean froze, his eyes meeting hers. “What are you talking about?”

“When I said you should stop making me jealous. I was out of line and I—”

Dean began to chuckle. “Did you think that’s what I brought you in here to say?”

Charlotte exhaled, relief washing over her. “Yes. I did.”

He grinned. “Charlotte, I’m going to be the one to cross the line here when I say … my … inappropriate conversations with you are my favorite thing about working weddings here.”

“They are?” she asked with a smile.

“They are. In fact, I probably like them a little too much.”

Okay. That wasn’t great. So, while it was a relief he hadn’t brought her to this room to confront her, it also sucked he hadn’t brought her here to make out. “Then what did you need to talk to me about?”

He reached up and scratched at the back of his neck before leaning his elbows on his knees. “It’s actually something I need to ask you.”

A wedding party of butterflies came to life in her stomach. “Oh? Okay, shoot.”

“You might recall last weekend I mentioned my sister was engaged.”

Charlotte’s happiness deflated a bit. If all he needed was to hire her for photos, such a production hadn’t really been necessary. It was what she did for a living, for goodness’ sake. “Of course. So do you need a photographer?”

“Well, yes. But I need more than that.”

 

Review

This book hit so many emotions – joy and sorry and happiness.

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. Charlotte is down to earth and knows what she wants…but also has some issues that hold her back such as an almost previous marriage and a miscarriage. Dean is a slightly older guy (41 I think) and I really liked that the author didn’t let age become a problem. Well it was a problem for Dean at first and considering some of his past I can see why. But it isn’t like he was 70!

I have to admit there were tears in my eyes a few times when Charlotte talks about the miscarriage and how it impacted her life. And of course Dean has a few issues too (won’t spill all of them!) but what he experienced with his mother growing up was hard. And then a situation with Dean’s sister Alexis. That was a very emotional time.

Now while Charlotte and Dean have known each other for 3 years and they have been crushing on one another for all that time…they do seem to do things a little backwards by jumping into bed before trying that dating thing. But at least the scenes are only somewhat graphic. There is a little bit of “behind closed doors” that I appreciated.

I can’t wait to see what characters will be featured in following books…lots of people that need to be hooked up with someone!

We give this 5 paws up.

About the Author

Nicole McLaughlin wrote her first full length book (6 pages) about the birth of her baby sister, when she was eight years old. She only finished it because her mother bribed her with a Rick Astley cassette tape. Sad, but true. Now her characters are what keep her writing and her subject matter has gotten a little bit deeper and a lot more romantic. She resides in a small town outside of Kansas City with her husband and three sons. When she isn’t writing, she’s a wedding and portrait photographer, loves to cook, and watch historical dramas or documentaries. Nicole is the author of two series with St. Martin’s Press, the Man Enough series (All I Ask) and Whiskey and Weddings (Maybe I Do).

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Posted in 5 paws, excerpt, Review, romance on September 2, 2017

Synopsis

Greta is always the bridesmaid – and that’s fine with her. She has no desire to date after a bad relationship left her reeling. Her friends aren’t having that, though, and after yet another wedding, she finds herself being set up with the DJ. Deciding to save herself the trouble of an inevitable breakup, Greta orchestrates a series of fake dates designed to trick her friends into thinking she’s putting herself out there. But Jon has plans of his own, and she never counted on the sparks that fly between them. Can a girl who doesn’t believe in love find it in the least likely place of all?

Excerpt

Greta was fifteen when she made the first pact, hud- dled under the old gazebo with Amy and Summer. Old enough to be considering the future, and making plans accordingly. Young enough to never seriously consider the ramifications of sticking to them. Even if some passing stranger had warned her what a hassle she was setting herself up for, she would have ignored it. They were all secure in themselves, in their foresight—and certainly knew better than to trust anyone over thirty, anyway.

The Sweetheart Dance had not gone well for the three of them, and so they had retreated to the sanctu- ary behind Greta’s house. Summer had pulled a stolen wine cooler out of her sequin-encrusted bag and was passing warm, sticky sips around. Amy’s earlier sobs had quieted to hiccups, hardly audible over the cool February rain.

“We could egg Tommy’s house if you wanted,” Greta offered, but the drizzle and their lethargy over- ruled it.

“Don’t even say that guy’s name.” That from Summer, who was visibly pleased to find the attention was finally off of her lack of date for the evening’s event—again.

“How could he do this to me? We’re in love!” Amy wiped fresh tears with the hem of her pink dress. They comforted her as best they could, the rest of them hav- ing yet to suffer their first teenage heartbreak. Greta suspected that Amy was enjoying her newfound world- liness, just the tiniest bit. But dumped in front of the whole school? The sheer humiliation her friend had endured made Greta shudder.

“It wasn’t Tommy’s idea, you know that.” Greta took another swig of the sugary drink. It was their favorite flavor, margarita. Years later, when they tasted real margaritas for the first time, they made another pact— never to speak of their wine cooler days.

“He shouldn’t have gone along with it, even if it was entirely Lindsey’s plan. He doesn’t care about either one of you. He just thought he had a better chance of getting past second base with her. Tommy is a grade- A asshole.” Summer had grabbed the bottle then and handed it to Amy, having recalled that women in Victo- rian novels often required a bracing drink of ladylike booze after a shock. Amy took the bottle gratefully.

“It didn’t matter what he thought he was getting out of it. Asking Amy to Sweetheart and then showing up with Lindsey instead was a heartless move. He’s heartless,” Greta repeated, fairly pleased with her assessment.

“He isn’t heartless, though! You should see some of the notes he writes me.” Amy fumbled in her clutch for a tissue. And one of the notes. She kept her favor- ites with her at all times.

The girls assured her that they had seen all of the notes, repeatedly, and that they had long suspected he was copying down lines from his mother’s romance novels. She was not inclined to believe it. It seemed that she was already making her plans to win Tommy back, and punish Lindsey in the process.

“It’s better to have loved and lost, though, isn’t it?” Summer had retrieved a second wine cooler and was feeling rather poetic. “At least you’ve been kissed.”

“Oh, I haven’t lost him. We are going to get back together, after a long and groveling apology. On my sweet sixteen, he’ll give me a promise ring. After be- ing crowned king and queen of prom, I’ll give him my virginity in a bed of rose petals. He’ll propose during Christmas break of our senior year at Golden Gate and we’re getting married before we start law school. We are going to get married!” Amy’s face was all but glowing by the time she’d recounted the familiar plans. She hadn’t gotten around to telling Tommy about them yet, but she wouldn’t have to. He would just know what to do, she’d reassured her friends.

“Marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Greta re- minded them. During the moment they were silent, considering, they could hear her father yelling from the house, even over the pitter-pat of raindrops.

“But if you marry the right one, the one you’re meant to be with, it’s like heaven.” Greta had long since stopped rolling her eyes at Summer’s old-fashioned view of the world. She’d learn soon enough, so to tell her so in advance would have been mean. Amy agreed with Summer, of course.

“How do you even know, though? Like, doesn’t everyone think they are marrying the right one? Other- wise why would you say yes?” Greta asked. They pondered, the truth of her words settling over them like the fog they had grown so accustomed to in the Bay.

It was Amy who had the answer. She had all the answers to everything, as she loved to remind them.

“The people who know you best. They know better than you do, most of the time.” She set down the dregs of her bottle and clasped their hands. The picture was suddenly clear. Just like her friends knew her best. Her friends, who had been gently encouraging a break-up for the past whole entire month. “I’m not going to marry Tommy, am I? Because even though I’m com- pletely love-struck, you guys know it’s a bad idea to get back together with him. You tell me this stuff, even though I don’t want to hear it.” Resilience was another one of her self-described best qualities. The deep love she had felt for Tommy just moments before was al- ready starting to fade into a distant memory.

Review

Funny, romantic and a little steamy!

I loved this book on many fronts – the 3 friends making a pact to pick each other’s dates; Mina who Greta is the nanny for; the bet that Jon makes with Angie & Matt (Angie is Greta’s sister); Greta realizing that maybe men aren’t all bad.

It doesn’t hurt that Jon and Greta are attracted to each other when they start dating – or fake-dating as Greta wants to call their situation. She is going along with this because of the pact but I liked how Jon is able to turn it around to his benefit. Greta chooses some interesting things to do on their dates, but Jon is ok with it all as he really likes her. Plus he is willing to give her the space she needs to realize that he is not like her father and won’t leave. That will take time.

And of course we can’t avoid the chemistry that sparks between Jon and Greta. There are some detailed scenes that turns the heat up in the book.

Mina does steal the show a few times in the book. I feel sorry for her having a father that pawns her off on the nanny (Greta) and doesn’t seem to want to spend time with her. However, we get a little peek into why that might be. Mina reminds him very much of his deceased wife and I can see how that might be hard to take at times.

We give this 5 paws up!

About the Author

Kayti McGee is a Kansas City native who now calls Colorado home. When she isn’t writing, she’s making up recipes to go with her favorite books. She is the author of Hands Off and Undercovers.

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Posted in 3 1/2 paws, excerpt, Review, romance on September 1, 2017

Synopsis

Welcome to the small island town of Cloud Bay, where it’s never the wrong time to find a love that’s oh-so-right. . .

Caleb White knows what he wants out of life—and being a star tennis player is not it. After speaking to the press about his plans to retire, Caleb decides that a trip to quaint, beautiful Cloud Bay for its legendary music festival is exactly what he needs. There will be time to figure out what to do with his life without a racket in his hand soon enough. Until then, Caleb is content to be stuck on an island with CloudFest’s gorgeous director Faith Harper. . .

The daughter of a famous rock star, Faith knows all about fame, fortune, and hot flings that aren’t meant to last longer than a few good songs. Gorgeous, built Caleb is a temptation she can’t resist, but she’s not prepared for the way he makes her feel. . .and the dreams that they both share. What begins as a carefree distraction deepens into something real. But is Caleb ready to put his celebrity behind him and give life in the slow lane with Faith a chance?

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Excerpt

So maybe that was the wrong thing to think about.

She steered the car through the familiar bends of the road from Salt Devil to Danny’s place, not needing to really pay much attention to what she was doing. She could make the drive with a bag over her head. Could probably drive all around Lansing that way and never miss a beat.

Unlike her heart, which was bumping just that little bit too quickly to let her fool herself into thinking she didn’t have a rapidly developing case of, to quote Ivy, “flaming panties,” when it came to Caleb White.

Well, her panties were just going to have to cool it a little longer.

She let her left hand drift out the open window, fingers spread to catch the night air rushing against her skin so one part of her body had a chance to feel cool. “My mom would tell you that’s a terrible habit,” Caleb said. His voice sounded lower in the darkness.

Rumblier.

Sexier.

Engine vibrations. That was it. Blame it on the roar of whatever supercharged monster engine Will had put into the Mustang. That was what was making his voice sound so good.

Note to self: Drive the Prius if you ever have to share a car with this man again.

“I know this road. There’s nothing I could possibly catch my hand on.” She turned her head slightly to look at him for a second. He’d lowered his window too, his elbow resting on the window frame, his fingers gripped around the top. “And hello, pot, kettle, black. You do not have all limbs inside the vehicle, Mr. White.”

“My hand isn’t sticking out,” he said.

“And what would your mom say about that response?” “She’d tell me not to be a smart-ass.”

“I think I like your mom. What does she do?” “She’s a doctor. I think she’d like you too.”

Faith shook her head. Nope to him getting any kind of wrong idea. “I’m not really the kind of girl mothers approve of.”

“Why not?”

“Rock star dad. Tattoos. Not interested in settling down.”

“You have tattoos?” he said, sounding intrigued. “I hadn’t noticed.”

“That’s because so far you haven’t seen any parts of me where they’re noticeable.”

“I see.” He sounded even more intrigued. “But they’re somewhere a mom might see them?”

“I think it’s more the alcoholic-rock-star–womanizing- dad thing than the tattoos. My family’s reputation precedes me. They think I’m going to have my wicked way with their precious boys and break their hearts.”

“Are you meeting these moms via time travel? That all sounds very nineteen fifties to me,” he said. “And just so you know, I am on board with wicked ways.”

She laughed at that. “In my experience, most men are.” “Maybe the men you meet are smarter than their moms.”

“Oh no.” She pulled her hand back in the window as the approached the turn-off to Danny’s drive. “The moms have my number. I’m not the marrying kind, as they used to say.”

“Really?” He sounded skeptical. “Trust me.”

“I take it this is you telling me that if I ever get to sample your wicked ways, I should beware?”

She tried to ignore the way the rumble underscoring “wicked ways” made her want to invent some very wicked ways on the spot. Dammit. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” She pulled into the drive, rolled the car to a stop outside the gate. “And, not to change the subject or anything, but we’re here.”

Caleb blinked. “So I see. Any point in me asking you in for a nightcap?”

As much as part of her wanted to say “hell yes,” she shook her head. “Not tonight.”

“Rain check on that too?” “We’ll see.”

Review

I have to say I liked Faith and Caleb. Both strong characters but with their own sets of baggage and insecurities. Faith doesn’t seem to trust many men (possible some bad relationships have tainted her) and Caleb was a workaholic while on the tennis circuit – which is to be expected since you can’t be out partying all the time and expect to play your best.

I liked how Faith ran Cloudfest – a music festival on their island off of California. It sounds like a lot of fun and considering her father was a famous musician, it isn’t too surprising. It does take quite some time to figure out why Faith isn’t a musician because it seems like she has the talent. Maybe she doesn’t want the spotlight as much as her brother seems to crave it.

Overall a fun read. I give this 3 1/2 stars. Enjoyable romance with a somewhat higher heat level than I was expecting (not that it is bad, just wasn’t expecting so much descriptive sex scenes).

About the Author

Emma Douglas would love to live in a world where professional napping was a thing. But until then, she thinks writing books is a pretty awesome alternative. When not writing about imaginary people, she can be found reading, doing something crafty, binge-watching TV, playing her latest song crush on repeat, or singing badly in her car. She lives in Melbourne, Australia in a tiny house stuffed full of books, too many craft supplies and two cats who take up more space than you would expect. Find out more about Emma at www.emmadouglasbooks.com.

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