Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance on June 30, 2017

Synopsis

A FLING MIGHT BE JUST THE THING…

Gavin Donnigan left the Marine Corps a shell of a man, hounded by guilt for deaths he couldn’t prevent. But teaching a self-defense class at the local gym brings some stability to his life—along with a gorgeous leggy woman who won’t give him the time of day.

Zoe York lost her twin sister to a freak car accident a few months ago. She’s been struggling to bury her grief, but it isn’t until she signs up for a self-defense class with its distractingly hot instructor that she begins to come out of her shell again. With the memory of her sister telling her to live a little, Zoe decides a fling with buns-of-steel Gavin Donnigan might be just the thing.

Soon they’re sparring both in and out of the gym. And for the first time in a long time, each is looking forward to tomorrow.

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Excerpt

“Tell me more about the Donnigans. You were pretty close-mouthed yesterday.”

“Only because you wouldn’t stop talking about dirt.” He ate some pizza, disturbed to find his appetite off. Being so close to Zoe, all he could taste was the memory of her lips. Man, what a crock. Had he told Ava he didn’t want sex with Zoe? Right now he had a difficult time concentrating on anything but her fine, fine body. Her scent, the sound of her strong voice. The mouthwatering breasts pressed against the thin T-shirt she wore.

Zoe put the pizza back down on her plate. “Is that right? As I recall, you wouldn’t stop asking me stupid questions about what to do with that dirt. I mean, who doesn’t know what a trowel is?”

“It’s a mini shovel. Why make things complicated?”

“Because they just come that way.”

“Huh?”

“Complicated.” She shrugged and ate, so he continued talking before she blasted him for being ignorant about zone types.

“What about your family?”

“We’re not done with yours yet.”

“What else do you want to know?”

She crossed her eyes, and even purposefully looking goofy, she was beautiful. “Okay, it’s like this. Example: Well, Gavin, my family is pretty tight. My mom and dad live in Portland, and I see them once a month at least. Mom is an artist. Dad owns a natural foods shop. My mom and aunt are twins, which explains how Aubrey and I are twins. I mean, were twins.”

She swallowed but forced herself to look him straight in the eye. He could see so much pain in hers. “Aubrey was in a car accident back in January, and she didn’t make it.”

Hell. When she’d told him there had been a death in the family, he hadn’t made the connection to her twin. That seriously sucked.

“I’m sorry.”

She nodded, seemed to shake it off, and continued. “I work for a major medical group, where I train users on the software the medical staff uses. It’s fun. I’m good at it, and life is great.”

“Well. That was concise.”

She grinned, showing a lot of teeth. “Yes, it was.” She took a large swallow of beer, which physically hurt Gavin to see—her lips wrapped around a phallic-looking object.

He glanced down at his pizza and forced himself to take another bite.

“Now it’s your turn.”

He swallowed and chased the pizza with half his bottle of root beer. “Nice brew. Tastes great.”

“Thank you.”

“Now that I’ve been properly schooled in how to respond to your question—and see, I can totally tell you’re an educator—my family is filled with driven people. My mom is a real estate agent who hates to lose. She’s damn good at her job too. My dad works at a pharmaceutical company. Did twenty years in the Navy, retired, then went to work in the civilian sector and is a bigwig at his firm. I give it another five years until he retires, then spends all his time cooking or playing golf.”

“Cooking?”

“He’s an amazing cook. Always makes our dinners, or did when we were kids. He still dotes on my mom, which is nice. God knows Linda can be a handful.”

She stared, all that feminine energy focused on him, and it made him warm inside. Like, freakin’ hot. He reconsidered his option about bending her over the couch…

“Go on.”

Head out of the gutter, Gavin! “Landon you know. He works out to stay in shape. Medically retired from the Marine Corps after a bullet hit him in the knee and messed him up. Now he’s a manager at some logistics firm bossing people around.”

“That would suit him.”

He shared a grin with her. The kitchen felt intimate, just the two of them standing at the counter and eating. “Hope works for my cousin at his private finance company. Cam is smart and obnoxious, but he takes care of my baby sister. Plus he’s the easiest of my cousins to tolerate.”

“Your cousins?”

“Yeah, my mom’s sister and her husband live in town. She’s got four boys. I spent my childhood with Landon competing to be better than Aunt Beth’s crew. Well, technically only three are Aunt Beth’s, but they took Brody in when he was little. He’s just as annoying as the others. A real McCauley.”

“Wow. Big family.”

He nodded. “So where was I? Oh right. Theo. My poor baby brother isn’t sure what he wants to do now that he’s out of high school. I think he wants to join the Corps, but with Landon and me coming back kind of screwed up, he’s not sure.”

She studied him. “You’re screwed up?”

She had no idea. And he wanted to keep it that way. “I was shot and medically retired from the Marine Corps too. Saw some shit overseas. Not good. Anyhow, it’s done. So I’m back here, trying to figure out what to do. I work at the gym because it de-stresses me and I’m good at it. Being physical, I mean.”

Before he could fall into the memories, Zoe distracted him. “Oh, I bet you’re good at being physical. Or so I’ve heard from Michelle and Megan. And a few others.”

He flushed. “Yeah, well, I made some dumb choices when I first got back. I drank a little too much, so I don’t like to drink anymore.”

“Are you an alcoholic?”

“Didn’t you just minutes ago yell at me for asking your aunt blunt questions?”

“I didn’t yell.”

“It felt like it.”

“Yeah, but I’m mean and aggressive, remember?”

“There is that.” He took another swig of root beer, grinning. “No, I’m not an alcoholic. But the fact I was starting to drink too much scared the crap out of me. Now I stay away from it. I don’t want my thinking impaired. So yeah, no drugs either. And no cigarettes. I have no vices.”

“Except your poor taste in women.” She paused. “Present company excluded.”

“Oh, that was a nice add-on.”

“I thought so.” She smirked.

He couldn’t help it. He put down his root beer, took her beer from her hand, and caged her against the counter.

“Gavin, what are you doing?” she sounded breathy. Aroused.

Lord knew he was.

“I just need one kiss. Then we can go watch the movie. Okay?”

“O-one. I guess.” She licked her lips.

He leaned down, feathered his breath over her mouth, and kissed her. The taste of warm beer and woman went right to his head, making him drunk on her in a way he’d only ever felt with Zoe. The kiss last night hadn’t done them justice. This one just…

He slanted his mouth over hers, deepening the kiss when she put her hands on his waist and tugged him closer. She had to be feeling him hard and thick against her, but she only gripped his belt loops and refused to let go.

Zoe participated in everything. She followed his lead, stroked his tongue with hers, and shoved those amazing breasts against his chest. Nothing with her was tentative or half done. She gave him a full-body kiss that threatened to undo him the longer it lasted.

Gavin yanked his head back and leaned his forehead against hers, trying to regain his control. Right now, his body screamed at him to satisfy his needs by sinking inside her. She’d be hot, tight, wet.

But his brain warned him to slow down. To not rush or scare her, because they had so much more to share.

And his heart…the damn thing did nothing but race in his chest and ache for a woman he still barely knew. Except he felt like he knew everything about her. Which made no sense.

He pulled back and met her gaze. She seemed as bewildered and turned on as he was.

He had to do something, or he feared listening all too well to his baser instincts.

“So no sex tonight, right?” His thick voice attested to his desire. “Bending you over the couch is a no-no?”

She blinked, blushed, and scowled. Instead of berating him for being crude, she yanked him back for a kiss that about blew his mind—and his balls clean off. “Nope. Not even close.”

She was breathing hard, her eyes straying to his mouth time and again, her hands still clutching his sweater. She stroked his chest, brushing her hands over his tight nipples.

“Not even close,” he agreed. “Not thinking about it at all.”

“Not at all.”

And they both knew they were lying.

About the Author

Caffeine addict, boy referee, and romance aficionado, MARIE HARTE is a confessed bibliophile and devotee of action movies. Whether hiking in Central Oregon, biking around town, or hanging at the local tea shop, she’s constantly plotting to give everyone a happily ever after.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Historical, romance, Spotlight on June 29, 2017

Title: Scandalous Ever After

Series: Romance of the Turf #2

Author: Theresa Romain

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 9781492649021

Synopsis

Does love really heal all wounds?

After being widowed by a steeplechase accident in Ireland, Lady Kate Whelan abandons the turf. But once her mourning is complete, her late husband’s debts drive her to seek help in Newmarket amidst the whirl of a race meet. There she encounters antiquities expert Evan Rhys, her late husband’s roguish friend—whom she hasn’t seen since the day of his lordship’s mysterious death.

Now that fate has reunited them, Evan seizes the chance to win over the woman he’s always loved. But once back within the old stone walls of Whelan House, long-held secrets come to light that shake up everything Kate thought she knew about her marriage. Now she wonders who she can trust with her heart—and Evan must decide between love and a truth that will separate him from all his heart desires.

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Two of Theresa’s favorite summer activities

If I were creating the sort of profile I admire, I’d tell you that my favorite summer activities include splashing in the ocean, or camping in the backyard after having a barbecue. But the truth is that I’m hundreds of miles from the nearest beach, and my favorite thing to do there was always to make a giant dolphin out of sand. And I can’t bear to be outside in 100+ heat, especially when the mosquitos are biting.

However, there are so many lovely little things about summer that I do enjoy. Specifically…

  1. Having more time to read. I might not be on a beach relaxing to the sound of waves, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have a book in my hand. The pace is a little slower in summer, and I love taking time to sprawl out on the couch and whittle down my TBR pile. (Just kidding. The TBR pile never gets smaller, because I never stop buying books.)
  2. More flexibility in the schedule. Yes, my husband and I are still working, and sure, Little Miss R is still in school activities. But we can be more lax about her schedule, and there’s never any homework. That’s good news for the mom who wrangles all of the papers, as well as the kid who does the work.

In SCANDALOUS EVER AFTER, there are no frozen treats or backyard campfires—but there *is* a sea, and Lady Kate Whelan and Evan Rhys find themselves on a road trip of a lifetime. Between ferries and floods, treats and horses and races, sickness and health and more than one scandalous interlude, these two old friends will find a love they never expected—and unearth secrets they never dreamed of. I hope you’ll enjoy this romantic summer read!

Excerpt

“Kate, is all this for my benefit?”

“Why, what do you mean?” Seating herself on the red velvet settee, she hitched one leg up and spread the dressing robe about it. Then she lowered her leg again, crossing it over the other. Each time, pale flesh shone new and enticing through the shifting fabric.

The more she fidgeted, the more he wanted to gather her up in his arms and hold her. Settle her. Kiss her into calm and pleasure.

Lord. He was going to die in this room.

Already it had been a long day; agonizingly, sweetly long. They had stayed at the Rowley Mile’s rail for the day’s remaining races, though Evan couldn’t have sworn whether horses or dogs or monkeys ran the course.

No one else fell. He knew that much. One fall was bad enough.

Or had it been a blessing in disguise? Kate had been shaken, badly, at the sight of a prone body on a racecourse. But Evan could recall nothing so determined as the way she lifted her chin and decided to stick out the rest of the schedule.

Perhaps she saw nothing when she looked at the track. Perhaps she was in the Ireland of two years ago, remembering Con’s fall. But she had stood beside Evan and let him hold her, and he helped her not to be alone. Whether or not she knew it, she did the same for him.

“I was thinking”—she spoke again, still wildly rearranging herself on the settee—“that this could be the perfect arrangement. Two friends who care for each other very much, giving each other pleasure.”

The breezy explanation was perfunctory, so much so that it took him aback. From the end of the settee, he peered down at her. “Is that what this invitation meant to you?”

“What else should it have meant?”

“I don’t know that it should mean anything at all.” He sighed, tucking himself beside her at the end of the settee. “Kate. If you want comfort, I’ll comfort you, as innocently as you like. I’m good at brushing hair.”

Thunk. Her just-hoisted foot slid to the floor. “I don’t need my hair brushed.”

“I could let you hold my hand, then. It can be comforting, holding a hand.”

Her shoulders hunched. “I don’t need my hand held either.”

“Good, good. As delightful as that can be, it loses its savor after a while.” He trembled on the edge of honesty, then tipped. “You seem—is this—are you trying to recapture some old closeness? Because I don’t think we—”

“God, no.” She laughed, a shaky, startled burst. “I don’t want to recapture anything, Evan. If I did, you’d be eating porridge, and I’d be sipping whisky, and… well. The whole day would have gone differently.” Her whole body seemed to flush. She was pink and cream, warm colors all over.

Not unaffected, then. He could draw her out. “The day of races?”

“The day of…everything. Today, I decided I was ready for a change.”

“You were thinking of this sort of change,” he said. “Us. Alone. Tonight.”

“I was.” She tied her dressing robe about her more tightly. “I could not stop, once the idea seized me. Damn propriety and all that sort of thing.”

“Then why not untie the robe instead?”

“Well…about that. Now that you are here, I have started to…to think about what we might do.”

“That sounds delightful.” He grappled with the weighty bolster at his side, tugging it free and flinging it over the arm of the settee. “Though from the mil- lion pauses in your speech, I wonder if it strikes you the same way.”

“It…does. But I am so aware that you have seen me only in clothes—”

“As opposed to what? Mermaid skins?”

She sputtered. “Is that even a real—never mind… No. You know what I mean. This will be different.”

“It will only be as different as you want it to be.”

“Maybe. That’s what I was hoping. I want different.” She swung her feet, bare toes tapping the floor before the hearth. “Evan, I thought it would be easy. Being different with you. But now…I’m nervous. Are you?”

“No.”

For the sake of graciousness, he probably should not have replied so swiftly. But nervous? Not in the least.

Nervous was waiting not once, but twice, to hear whether she would be safely delivered of a baby, or whether she would lose her life in childbed. Nervous was waiting, five years ago, for her ship to return her across the Irish Sea from her last trip to England.

Nervous was how he felt when her life was at stake. Now? He felt newly born, in all the frailty and triumph that the phrase implied.

“I’m not nervous at all,” he said.

About the Author

Historical romance author THERESA ROMAIN pursued an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. She then worked for universities and libraries, where she got to read even more. Eventually she started writing, too. She lives with her family in Wichita, Kansas.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Young Adult on June 29, 2017

Title: The Way It Hurts

Author: Patty Blount

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: August 1, 2017

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Pages: 352 pages

Synopsis

There may be two sides to every story, but sometimes there’s only one way to set things right…

Music is Elijah’s life. His band plays loud and hard, and he’ll do anything to get them a big break. He needs that success to help take care of his sister, who has special needs. So he’d rather be practicing when his friends drag him to a musical in the next town…until the lead starts to sing.

Kristen dreams of a career on stage like her grandmother’s. She knows she needs an edge to get into a competitive theater program–and being the star in her high school musical isn’t going to cut it. The applause and the attention only encourage her to work harder.

Elijah can’t take his eyes off of Kristen’s performance, and snaps a photo of her in costume that he posts online with a comment that everybody misunderstands. It goes viral. Suddenly, Elijah and Kristen are in a new spotlight as the online backlash spins out of control. And the consequences are bigger than they both could have ever imagined because these threats don’t stay online…they follow them into real life.

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Advanced Praise for The Way It Hurts

“Blount writes authentically; both protagonists’ voices are distinct. The author explores the rapidly consuming world of social media and how it affects relationships online and in real life. A relevant read and must-have for all YA collections.” – School Library Journal

“THE WAY IT HURTS draws our attention to the joy, heartache and confusing contradictions that arise as we try to find our place in the real world and the virtual one.” – Kimberly Sabatini

Elijah and Kristen’s personal evolutions through the novel, along with their chemistry, feel as authentic as the conflicts they face. A genuine plot filled with steady tension that will keep readers hooked.” RT Book Reviews

“This book sensitively covers topics such as sexism, handicapping conditions, communication, and ageism. Agency is also shown when Kristen says she wants to pursue studying in a conservatory rather than continue in the band and the three young men acknowledge her wish. Talking about what bothers us rather than trying to guess another person’s feelings is demonstrated through the actions of the characters. The characters’ issues are eventually resolved through hard work and understanding, making this an interesting and informative read. School Library Connection

Excerpt

I shifted in my broken seat, wondering how many more minutes of the hell that was Bear River High School North’s production of Cats I’d have to endure. My fingers itched for my guitar and notepad. Melodies played in my head, begging to be put down on paper, and there were a dozen other things we should have been doing to promote Ride Out so we could get the band some notice.

The music rose. Beside me, Nick sucked in a breath. I didn’t know Leah. Nick met her at a concert a few months back, and they’d been hanging out whenever they could because, Nick claimed, Leah was the One.

I hid half a laugh and shook my head. I didn’t get the whole concept of the One, but I’d help Nick get what he wanted.

Leah raised her face. When she opened her mouth, I sat up a little straighter. Her voice… Jesus, it was astounding. Clear. Strong. Powerful but sweet. I watched and listened, the audience around me fading away. Her voice swelled, and she attacked the high notes without hesitating, making goose bumps jump out of my skin. What was the top note of her range? She glided across the stage; she never struggled or stumbled. The audience waited for the crescendo, and when she reached it, holy God, it was like a…a promise kept. She blew me away. The notes faded out, and the rest of the production was a blur. I had no idea Leah could sing like that and couldn’t take my eyes off—

My best friend’s girl. Shit.

The lights came up, and everybody got to their feet, applauding like mad. Nick held up this lame poster board sign he’d made. I used that time to get my hormones under control and put Leah and her amazing voice out of my head. The rest of the cast assembled on the stage for their curtain call, and I locked eyes with one of the actors— the White Cat. She was incredibly hot—a solid body with an impressive rack. Her solo dance was the best part of the show up until Leah’s song. She looked amazing in that white cat suit. So freakin’ hot.

“Ladies and gentlemen, a moment please.” A teacher walked to the right of the stage and waved her hands. “Thank you all for attending our opening night performance! I am so proud of these kids. They made all their own costumes and designed the set themselves. And tonight, I want to share with you an amazing last-minute change-up to our program. Grizabella, played by Leah Russo, is ill and was unable to sing this evening. Her songs were actually sung by our White Cat, played by Kristen Cartwright.”

The teacher’s hand swung to my favorite cat, and my jaw dropped. That awesome voice was hers? Whoa. I stuck two fingers in my mouth and let loose with a shrill whistle while the audience roared their approval. The white cat’s eyes met mine, and I started to picture her in different clothes…maybe some black leather, studded bands on her wrists, hair long and wild down her back, strutting across a stage while I shredded the hell out of the guitar. If she could sing Broadway songs without breaking a sweat, what could she do with a hard metal rock track? I wondered—again—what her range was. Could she get low with some Halestorm or full-on mean with a Slipknot metal scream? I should put her in Ride Out right now. I grinned like a maniac because I knew that would really twist BroadwayBaby17 into a knot.

A brilliant idea struck. I pulled out my phone, snapped a photo of the white cat, and from the band’s Twitter account, posted this:

Ride_Out: This cat’s HAWT! And damn, can she sing.

It needed a hashtag. I tapped out “#CatCall.” Oh, this was awesome. My phone buzzed a minute later with a reply from a fan calling himself JJStix88.

Sweet! Get her to meow. #CatCall

I tapped out another post.

JJStix88: Make her arch that back! #CatCall

Ride_Out: Wanna hear her scream! #CatCall

Copyright © The Way It Hurts 2017 by Patty Blount

 

About the Author

Native New Yorker Patty Blount is the award-winning author of several critically acclaimed internet issues novels for teens as well as a few adult contemporary romances. She is inspired to write by such greats as Judy Blume, JK Rowling, and Gayle Forman. In fact, Judy Blume is the reason Patty elected to write under her real name…so she’d appear on shelves next to her idol. Patty adores writing; she’s written everything from technical manuals to song lyrics (see THE WAY IT HURTS, coming August 2017). Patty wants you to know she loves chocolate…really, really loves chocolate.

When not crushing on actors Gilles Marini or Sam Heughan, Patty can be found sitting in traffic somewhere on the Long Island Expressway, listening to audio books or talking wildly to herself about plots and characters. Prone to falling madly in love with fictional characters, Patty suffers frequent broken hearts when they all invariably prefer the heroine to her… go figure. When she’s not writing, Patty loves to watch bad sci-fi movies and live tweet the hilarity, and scour Pinterest for ideas on awesome bookcases. Patty lives on Long Island with her family in a house that, sadly, lacks bookcases.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Young Adult on June 28, 2017

 

 

The Ghost of You and Me by Kelly Oram

How do you tell someone who hates you and blames you for the death of his best friend that you miss him?

From the bestselling teen and young adult author of Cinder & Ella comes a new heart-wrenching romance sure to bring all the feels.

The tragic death of Spencer Schott unravels the lives of the two people he loved most—his girlfriend, Bailey, and his best friend, Wes. Secrets and guilt from that fateful night keep both Bailey and Wes from overcoming Spencer’s loss and moving on with their lives.

Now, nearly a year later, both Bailey and Wes are still so broken over what happened that Spencer can’t find peace in the afterlife. In order to put his soul to rest, he’s given one chance to come back and set things right…even if that means setting up his girlfriend with his best friend.

With the emotional resonance of Jellicoe Road and the magical realism of The Lovely Bones, The Ghost of You and Me is a story about overcoming grief, finding redemption for past mistakes, and the healing power of friendship and love. Fans of John Green, Sarah Dessen, and Nicholas Sparks are sure to love this haunting new tale from Kelly Oram.

This is a clean young adult romance stand alone novel that reads like contemporary drama romance and has just a touch of magical realism.

Excerpt

I open the door and slam into a solid chest. Strong hands grip my arms to steady me, and they don’t let go. I know the hands are Wes’s without having to look. “Are you okay?” he asks.

At first, I’m comforted by his presence. His smell is familiar, and the heat of his tall, lean body feels like it could thaw my frozen heart. For a split second, I melt against him. His arms come around me as if holding me is as natural to him as breathing. For a second, everything is right in my pathetic world. For a second, I’m alive again.

“Bailey, what’s wrong?” His usually smooth, deep voice is gruff.

My head jerks up at the sound of my name, and reality catches up with me. I scramble out of his embrace, attempting to swallow back my panic. He’s watching me, waiting for an answer. I haven’t spoken to him since the funeral, and I’m not sure I can do it now. It takes me a minute to find my voice, and when I do, I blurt out, “What are you doing here?”

He sucks in a breath through his nose as he steps back, gripping the strap of a bag slung over his shoulder. Seeing the backpack, my jaw drops. “Are you coming back to school?”

The genuine horror in my voice makes him flinch. There’d been a bit of light in his eyes, but it’s gone now. His face closes off. “No, I’m not coming back to school here.”

He adjusts that strap again, then switches the backpack to his other shoulder while glaring at the ground. I’ve offended him. Or maybe he just still hates me. I wouldn’t blame him. I got his best friend killed, after all. I hate me.

Seeing him reminds me of that night all over again. The events replay in my mind with vivid detail. Everything from finding Wes and stopping him from doing something unthinkable, to the kiss, to the fight, and finally the accident and Wes holding me back while paramedics did their best to try and save Spencer’s life.

One look at his face, and I can tell Wes is thinking about the same events. He closes his eyes and takes a breath. When he looks at me again, his expression has smoothed out. “How are you?” he asks. “You know…today.”

I swallow back a lump of emotion. I’m not surprised that Wes knows today is Spencer’s and my anniversary, but his acknowledgement of it feels like a knife in my heart. Why does he care? He hated that Spencer and I were together, and he used to get so cranky on this day every year.

“What’s today?” someone behind me murmurs. “It’s not the anniversary of Spencer’s death. That’s not for a couple weeks.”

A crowd of students have gathered to watch the drama. I don’t know who spoke, but I wish I could make them all disappear. Could people be any more tactless? Why can’t they just mind their own business?

When my eyes start to burn, I turn to leave. I can’t stand here any longer.

Wes puts a hand on my shoulder to stop me. “Bay, wait.”

I freeze. Aside from that night, Wes hasn’t used my nickname since I got together with Spencer and he started hating me for stealing his best friend.

Wes lets me go and rubs a hand over his head. “Sorry. I just—we should really talk.”

“Don’t.” With a quivering voice and stinging eyes, I whisper, “I can’t do this. Not today.” Maybe not ever.

I can’t take it anymore. I can’t stare into those knowing eyes for another second. My guilt is bad enough without seeing his sadness and anger.

Wes doesn’t say anything as I leave, doesn’t try to stop me. I head straight for my car and don’t care if I get in trouble for leaving. All that matters is getting far, far away from here. I’m not really running from Wes. I’m running from the past. Running from myself. Those are two things I will never escape, but I run anyway.

 

About the Author

Kelly Oram wrote her first novel at age fifteen–a fan fiction about her favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which her family and friends still tease her. She’s obsessed with reading, talks way too much, and likes to eat frosting by the spoonful. She lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, four children, and her cat, Mr. Darcy.

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$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Giveaway

Ends 7/26/17

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, Romantic Suspense on June 27, 2017

Synopsis

New York Times and USA Today bestseller Julie Ann Walker delivers red-hot romantic suspense in Fuel for Fire!

Dagan Zoelner has always had his eye on spunky CIA agent Chelsea Duvall. When a mission throws them together, this could be his only chance to win her heart for good.

Dagan Zoelner has made three huge mistakes

The first two left blood on his hands.

The third left him wondering…what if?

What if he had told the woman of his dreams how he felt before his world fell apart?

Spitfire CIA agent Chelsea Duvall has always had a thing for bossy, brooding Dagan. It’s just as well that he’s never given her a second look, since she carries a combustible secret about his past that threatens to torch their lives…

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Excerpt

Tell us!” Surry demanded again, giving her head a hard shake. Her brain banged around inside her skull, making her see stars. Since she was tied with a length of electrical cord to one of the chairs in front of Morrison’s desk, her hands duct-taped behind her back, there was little she could do to defend herself.

Then again, she still had her smart mouth. “Screw you, buddy,” she snarled. Those three words were all she allowed herself before she clenched her teeth and sealed her lips shut.

The violence that clouded Surry’s face and glinted in his hell-black eyes made her want to curl into a protective ball. He leaned down so that his nose was an inch from hers. His hot breath smelled of coffee and buttered croissants, and the thought of him actually eating struck her as weird. She had assumed he sustained himself by devouring the souls of Morrison’s enemies.

“You will bloody well tell us what we want to know, Miss Duvall.” When he spoke all low and menacing in that thick English accent, she got the unsettling feeling that something dark moved in the shadows just out of sight. “Or I will jab this letter opener into your carotid.” He pulled back to wield the weapon he had taken from Morrison’s desktop. The sterling-silver letter opener glinted in the golden glow cast by the overhead chandelier.

Releasing her face, Surry cocked his head. “So, what shall it be? The truth? Or the knife? The choice is yours.” There was an emptiness in his voice when he asked the questions. Like he didn’t really care what the answers would be. Like he was tired or bored or maybe…resigned?

Oh, that doesn’t bode well.

Of course, the truth was out of the question. She would never rat on the Black Knights. No telling what Morrison, a.k.a Spider, with all his power and connections, could do with that information. So that left…the knife.

But there’s still so much I want to do!

She had never learned to make her mother’s she-crab soup. She had never tried her hand at writing fiction like that of Tolkien or Rowling or Martin. She had never married the love of her life and given him two bouncing, chubby-cheeked babies.

A cold finger of terror dragged up her spine, and for a second she considered spilling her guts and saving her hide. But then, from somewhere deep inside, a well of strength erupted, filling her with determination and the will to do what must be done.

Her mind briefly touched on her mother, and a great sadness weighed down her heart. Grace Duvall would be devastated by the death of her only child. But Chelsea took comfort—cold comfort, but comfort all the same—in knowing that her life insurance policy would be enough to pay her mother’s debts. That was something. Something to hold on to.

“Well?” Surry demanded. “What will it be?”

Chelsea licked her lips. Fear was a living thing inside her, crawling through her chest like a centipede on prickly legs. She squashed it and sealed her own fate. “Do your worst, you sorry, low-life sonofagun!”

Surry’s beard-stubbled chin jerked back as if he couldn’t believe the choice she’d made. Then his eyes narrowed, and grim determination transformed his face.

Closing her eyes, Chelsea waited on the inevitable. That centipede was going crazy inside her, making her chest ache and raising the hair on her head. She braced herself for the deathblow as a million regrets, a million joys, a million memories flittered through her brain.

Funny how many of those regrets and joys and memories feature Dagan.

She held her breath, savoring it, knowing it was her last and—

“Drop. The. Knife.”

With a cry, she blinked open her eyes and craned her head around to see three figures dressed from head to toe in black. Each of them wielded a weapon as if it were an extension of himself.

The Black Knights…

Even had Dagan not spoken the three most beautiful words she’d ever heard in that smooth moonshine voice, she would have known the trio anywhere. There was no mistaking those broad shoulders or those defiant, cocksure stances.

Her eyes homed in on Dagan. He was in the middle and slightly forward of the other two. It wasn’t his height or carriage that gave him away. It was his stillness. Ace and Christian seemed to vibrate with barely leashed power. But Dagan was a statue. Not a muscle quivered. Not a tendon or ligament cracked. Chelsea was reminded of a pair of tectonic plates under intense pressure. She knew what came next. The earth would rip open, and hell would spew forth.

Surry must have felt the doom behind Dagan’s stillness, because his voice sounded wheezy when he demanded, “And who the f* are you?”

“Worry less about who we are,” Dagan snarled, “and more about what we’ll do if you don’t drop the knife.”

Proving he had more balls than brains, Surry spun Chelsea’s chair around and palmed her forehead to wrench her head back. The sharp tip of the letter opener nicked at the skin pulsing over the large vein in her neck. She hadn’t had time to scream, and now she didn’t dare breathe.

“Ring up the police, sir,” Surry said. From the corner of her eye, Chelsea saw Morrison/Spider make a move toward the desk.

“Take one step in the direction of that phone, and you’ll be eating a bullet for breakfast.” There was no mistaking Dagan’s words or his tone. He meant what he said.

Morrison must have come to the same realization. The old man stopped in his tracks.

“Good man,” Dagan acknowledged. “Now, there’s one thing you both need to understand. We’re leaving here with Chelsea. That can be over your dead bodies or your live ones.” Even though his words were calm and his body as motionless as a mountain, rage burned inside him. It was there in his eyes, glowing red like the fires of Mordor. “So what will it be? The choice is yours.”

It was the same option Surry had given her, spoken in the same words. How long had the three of them been outside listening?

“You have no bloody idea who you’re f*ing with,” Morrison snarled, his chest heaving with every furious breath. “I have—”

That’s all he managed. In a flash, the statue, a.k.a. Dagan Zoelner, came to life. He moved faster than the human eye could follow, certainly faster than Chelsea could track with her head angled back in Surry’s grip. One second he was staring at her and Surry, and the next he aimed at Morrison and pulled his trigger.

The gunshot was oddly muffled and Morrison stumbled back, hitting his hip on the edge of the desk. Surry bellowed his outrage and released her head. Free from his brutal grip, she turned to Morrison and understood the strangeness of the weapon’s sound.

It wasn’t a bullet that had exploded from the end of Dagan’s gun. It was a dart. She had just enough time to catch a glimpse of the fuzzy yellow end protruding from the center of Morrison’s chest before Dagan fired again. This time the dart whizzed over her head. Surry made an awful gurgling noise. When she pulled her chin back, she saw the projectile sticking from his neck.

He reached for the dart, stumbling into her chair. His hand hit the back of her head, looking for leverage and forcing her chin into her chest as every vertebra in her neck threatened to crack under the pressure. She couldn’t see what happened next. But she heard it. Heard the boots that pounded against the tiles as the Black Knights raced into the room.

Surry released her head when Christian tackled him. From the corner of her eye, she watched Ace catch Morrison right before the old man toppled face-first onto the floor. And Dagan? Well, Dagan knelt in front of her.

She gasped when his big, warm hands cupped her cheeks, gently lifting her head. Her neck ached, but it wasn’t broken. All her fingers and toes still worked when she gave them an experimental wiggle.

“Chels… Christ. Are you okay?” His stormy eyes searched her face.

She nodded her head. That’s all she could manage because a giant lump was centered in her throat. She had put on a brave face throughout the entire ordeal, but now that it looked like she was saved, all her shock and terror rose to the surface, crumbling her mask of courage.

“Thank God.” He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close.

It was the first time he had hugged her. The first time she had been in his arms. Oh, how she wanted to hold him tight in return. But with her hands still trapped behind her back, the only thing she could do was turn her face into his warm neck and breathe him in.

She had always loved the way he smelled. A mixture of worn leather, dryer sheets, and shampoo. All clean and healthy and…male.

“I was afraid m-maybe I didn’t press the button long enough to send out the Mayday,” she said in a rush, her lips moving against the rough fabric of his ski mask. “And th-then they found the thumb drive. But they were so quick to stop questioning me and…and…” She had to stop. “Thank you. Thank you for coming for me.”

His wide palm cupped the back of her head, holding her close. Was it trembling? “Always, Chels. Never doubt it.”

Oh great. Now the lump in her throat had grown to the size of a Carolina pine.

She wanted the moment to last forever, to stay just like this, safe in his arms. But all too soon, he pulled back. “What were you thinking, telling them to do their worst? You were baiting them, egging them on. You stupid, stubborn, self-sacrificing fool.”

And just like that, happiness and relief morphed into incredulity that slid quick as a whistle into anger. Seriously? He was going to stand there—er, squat there—and call her names?

He may be hotter than the door handles of hell, but when he gets all Me Tarzan, You Jane, I want to dump his limp body in the River Thames and feed him to the fishes. After she’d killed him with mind-blowing sex and multiple orgasms, natch. And she could probably cop to his last two accusations. She was stubborn, and in that instant she had been willing to sacrifice herself. But the first one?

“S-stupid?” she sputtered. And good news! The lump in her throat vanished. “Screw you, Dagan! In case you’ve forgotten, I pulled off this op w-with…”

She stumbled to a stop because he’d ripped off his mask. And there it was. The Beard.

Looking at him dressed all in black, shoulders as broad as the Lowcountry, she couldn’t help but think he resembled a god. One of the mythical beings she read about in her fantasy novels. Formidable. Powerful. Gorgeous.

And here I am, a mere mortal.

The look he pinned on her was one she recognized. She liked to call it his Clint Eastwood gunfighter squint. He tended to whip it out right before he laid into her for something. She braced herself, mentally running through her standard list of comebacks. But he didn’t give her a tongue-lashing. At least not a verbal one. Instead, he took her face in his hands and sealed his lips to hers.

She was so surprised that her mouth formed a startled O. Dagan took advantage, his tongue surging between her teeth. His lips were firm yet amazingly soft, and his beard abraded the tender flesh of her cheeks.

Holy mother! Dagan Zoelner was…kissing her!

Oh. My!

Pre-order Fuel for Fire or Hot Pursuit and receive another Black Knights Inc. novel of your choice! 

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About the Author

Julie Ann Walker is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She’ll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission.

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Posted in excerpt, fiction, Military, Spotlight on June 25, 2017

Synopsis

The Discharge is the third novel in Gary Reilly’s trilogy chronicling the life and times of Private Palmer as he returns from the U.S. Army to civilian life after a tour of duty in Vietnam. It is a largely autobiographical series based on his own two years of service, 1969-1971, which included a year in Southeast Asia.

In the first book, The Enlisted Men’s Club, Palmer is stationed as an MP trainee at the Presidio in San Francisco, awaiting deployment orders. Palmer is wracked with doubt and anxiety. A tortured relationship with a young lady off base and cheap beer at the EM club offer escape and temporary relief.

The Detachment is the second in the series. This novel covers Palmer’s twelve months in Vietnam as a Military Policeman. In the beginning, he endures through drink and drugs and prostitutes but comes to a turning point when he faces his challenges fully sober.

Now, in The Discharge, Palmer is back in the United States. But he’s adrift. Palmer tries to reconnect with a changed world. From San Francisco to Hollywood to Denver and, finally, behind the wheel of a taxi, Palmer seeks to find his place.

Excerpt

From Part 2

Chapter 1

On my way back to Denver from LA I stopped off at my brother’s place in San Francisco and stayed a few days. My brother Mike runs an auto upholstery business that he started in 1976, during the summer of the 200th anniversary of America, the Bicentennial. I had visited him that summer too. I was there on the Fourth of July when thousands of ships and boats sailed beneath the red mass of the Golden Gate Bridge, gliding across its shadow and filling the same bay that my father had sailed out of without fanfare towards the South Pacific and the unknown in 1942.

I was asleep when all the celebrations took place. I watched them through a hangover on TV on the five o’clock news when I woke up. My brother was at work. He was organizing the inventory. He intended to specialize in tops. When Mike came home that night, we sat in the living room of his small apartment and drank beer and watched the video-taped repeats of the flotilla which graced the deadly waters of the bay lapping against the island where Alcatraz is poised, lone, businesslike, empty.

There was a thing I had always intended to do in San Francisco, but never did because I’d never had the time. Not having the time was one of my favorite excuses because it imbued my slightest whim with unfathomable significance. Deadlines were unconscionable irritants. Schedules were out the window. Brilliant people on the go don’t live by clocks, their heels are jet-propelled, they leave vapor trails in the sky, you never see where they are, only where they’ve been. I never had the time. Time was smoke between my fingers. It was a bohemian concept and it was fitting that I’d never had the time to look up the haunts of the bohemians during those brief visits to San Francisco on summer break, spring break, or the time I quit college, abandoned my GI Bill income, and came to live with Mike for three months until he sat me down and asked me straight out when I was going to get a job.

“I don’t have the time,” I now imagine myself saying to him.

He wouldn’t have bought that line because Mike is not much different than myself. We grew up together, one year apart, and knew each other well. But I was going to tour the city and visit landmarks made famous by the writings of the beats, the beatniks. I had the time now.

It was a Sunday morning when my plane from LA began circling San Francisco International Airport. The cabin was orange with morning light. Shadows swept at odd angles abruptly as the plane adjusted its flight path prior to landing. Passengers were waking up. They steadied themselves in the aisle, heading for the restroom to get rid of the scotch-and-soda and pops purchased on the flight up. It was cozy. Campers. The stewardesses stashed balloon pillows and blue blankets in overhead racks. Smokers lit up. I was in the smoking section, seated by the emergency-exit door. I was sitting in what would have been the center seat on the right side of the plane, except there was no far right seat. To my right was a metal well, and a lid which hid the emergency chute designed to pop out the door and allow crash survivors to slide to safety. It bothered me to be sitting next to it. I originally had been assigned to a seat at the very back of the plane, but a woman asked if I would switch seats with her husband so they could fly together. It was all right with the rational part of me, I trust planes even if I tell myself I don’t, and also a plane crash is lethal no matter where you sit, don’t kid yourself, don’t talk about the famous last three rows that always make it through a crash. I grew up on those myths. The irrational part of me made a movie out of my situation. Even though I was through with movies, which is what I had told myself when I left LA, I still turned this subtle, innocent series of events into a death knell. The Main Character is asked to switch seats. During the flight, the emergency door breaks off and the Main Character is sucked into oblivion. UPI picks up the story, and the irony of his switched seat is broadcast across America, and for less than fifteen minutes I am famous for being a victim of ironic fate. Friends from high school tell their wives they once knew me. Tsk.

The landing was flawless, and I felt almost as good about being in San Francisco as I once had felt about being in LA, though San Francisco is a little too magic. I told my brother I did not think I could ever live permanently in San Francisco because I would be overwhelmed by its charm. Better to have a place like that set aside for visiting. A place where you can go once a year, feel melancholy, get drunk, and leave. The visits were always good. I had never had a bad visit to San Francisco, and although my visit to Los Angeles had been a bust, I noted as I stepped out the terminal into the slightly chilled fog-lifted morning air that, still, LA had been even better, it owned me, because it was the movie capital of the world, and no matter how mesmerizing might be San Francisco balanced on those white hills with all its beatnik mythology, the legend of Los Angeles towered over it, obliterated it, a surprising thing which I still do not understand, since LA is a very tacky and run-down place. Everywhere except in my heart.

I called Mike and told him I was in town, and he said come on over and don’t wake him, he had been out late the previous evening. I had a key. I’d had a key since the Bicentennial when the whole world had paused to tip its hat in our direction and acknowledge what a swell country this is, even our enemies, who hate us because we’ve got it all.

Mike was asleep when I arrived. He was laying in a cocoon of sheets on his Murphy bed. His apartment is small, expensive west coast standard, it would go for less than two hundred in Denver but he pays more than five hundred a month, and when he is still there in ten years he will probably be paying a thousand a month. I put my duffel bag beside the couch and stepped into the kitchen to see what food he had. Thirty-three years old, one year older than me, and still living like a teen fresh from home. You go to a laundromat and put all your clothes into a single washer, whites and darks, God forbid you should waste more than a quarter on cleanliness, and if the clothes are still damp from the dryer, you hustle them home damp because they can dry wrinkled on hangers, God forbid you should waste an extra dime on ten more minutes of drying time, which I now read as “dignity” as I grow older. You shake your head with dismay at things that made perfect sense when you were a kid. Those dimes added up to a lot of six-packs of beer. I don’t know what girls value when they leave home for the first time, but boys know exactly how much beer money they have in their pockets every second of the day.

A balled wad of hamburger in plastic which would be good maybe one more day. Two bottles of beer. In the cupboard spaghetti. I am home. My brother and I lived this way for years, ten years ago, so I felt like I had gone back in time, and felt a little lighter in my step, a little freer, irresponsibility has its good points. I left the apartment to go down to one of the Iranian-run grocery stores on the corner to buy food and maybe a jug of wine.

My brother’s apartment is on a hill near the San Francisco State Medical College and the breeze from the ocean three miles west was rolling right up the street bringing a little fog with it. The sky was overcast, though I could have gone a dozen blocks east or north and seen high sun and blue sky. There was a grocery store on every block, Greeks kittycorner, Iranians kattycorner, the doors were open and I could see shelves of bottled wine running to the rear of the store, narrow aisles, wooden floors, it pleased me to think that these same warped boards were being walked upon by beatniks when I was a child in 1955. Old white freezers with rounded corners filled with scattered cartons of ice cream. Worn-out looking young men standing in a silent polite line at the cash register holding bottles of wine the color of coffee or lilac.

I bought some Mama Celeste pizzas, peanut butter, and a half gallon of pink Chablis. I recognized the man behind the cash register who had been here when I visited San Francisco in 1976, a barrel-chested Iranian with salt-and-pepper Brillo hair leaning into his work, reading each item and ringing it up even though he must have had the store memorized and could probably tell you the price of each product since the day he’d fled his homeland and said this is it.

“Are you going to pay for that grape?”

A young man who might have been the owner’s nephew entered the store dragging a man wearing a baggy suit, clutching his sleeve, a white-haired old man with a wine-shot face. “I caught this guy stealing a grape,” the kid said.

There was a display of fruit set up outside on a cart.

“Are you going to pay for that grape?”

I picked up my sack and got out of there thinking what a cheapskate, and then, when I got to the top of the hill where my brother’s apartment was, I thought I should have handed the kid a dime and paid for the grape myself. When I got into the foyer, I thought, stop thinking heroics. You aren’t a hero and never will be. You couldn’t even think of a way to help the guy, so continue to not think, bub.

Mike woke up about an hour after I got back. He pulled his pants on with his hangover groggy frown while I washed off the plate that had pizza on it. I’d saved a slice for him, but he didn’t want it. He made a glass of ice water and sat on the couch and lit a cigarette.

“Did you get a movie contract?” he said.

“No.”

He was the only one in the family whom I had told about the movie deal. I had come close to selling screenplays before but never as close as this, and even before I left Denver, when I had called Mike to let him know about it, I thought I might be jinxing it. But I’m not really superstitious, not like a man who plays the horses or dogs. I just need to think things like this to fix the blame because in the end nobody understands the real reasons Hollywood deals evaporate. They just do. Gone. So you make up a superstition. It happened because I told someone about it. If you’re a Catholic, it happened because you told someone and God punished you for being presumptuous.

“I didn’t find Strother Martin’s grave, either.”

My brother shook his head and exhaled a balloon of smoke. I saw words printed within its borders, “Too bad.” That was the real bad news. He had never believed I was going to sell a screenplay, and in fact I didn’t either. We grew up together. But there was nothing to stop me from finding Strother Martin’s grave, except our family penchant for not succeeding at things that are almost impossible to fail at, which is to say, anything requiring minimum effort.

“Why didn’t you find it?” he said.

“I didn’t have the time.”

About the Author

Gary Reilly was a natural and prolific writer. But he lacked the self-promotion gene. His efforts to publish his work were sporadic and perfunctory, at best. When he died in 2011, he left behind upwards of 25 unpublished novels, the Vietnam trilogy being among the first he had written.

Running Meter Press, founded by two of his close friends, has made a mission of bringing Gary’s work to print. So far, besides this trilogy, RMP has published eight of ten novels in his Asphalt Warrior series. These are the comic tales of a Denver cab driver named Murph, a bohemian philosopher and aficionado of “Gilligan’s Island” whose primary mantra is: “Never get involved in lives of my passengers.” But, of course, he does exactly that.

Three of the titles in The Asphalt Warrior series were finalists for the Colorado Book Award. Two years in a row, Gary’s novels were featured as the best fiction of the year on NPR’s Saturday Morning Edition with Scott Simon. And Gary’s second Vietnam novel, The Detachment, drew high praise from such fine writers as Ron Carlson, Stewart O’Nan, and John Mort. A book reviewer for Vietnam Veterans of America, David Willson, raved about it, too.

There is a fascinating overlap in the serious story of Private Palmer’s return to Denver and the quixotic meanderings of Murph. It is the taxicab. One picks up where the other leaves off. Readers familiar with The Asphalt Warrior series will find a satisfying transition in the final chapters of The Discharge.

And they will better know Gary Reilly the writer and Gary Reilly the man.

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Posted in Christian, excerpt, Giveaway, romance on June 22, 2017


UNDER A SUMMER SKY
Follow Your Heart, Book 3
by
Melody Carlson

Genre: Contemporary Romance / Christian / Inspirational
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: June 6, 2017
Number of Pages: 320

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High school art teacher Nicole Anderson is looking forward to a relaxing summer in Savannah, house-sitting and managing an art gallery for a family friend. The house is luxurious in a way that only old money could make it, and the gallery promises interesting days in a gorgeous setting. Yet it isn’t long before her ideal summer turns into more than she bargained for: a snooty gallery employee who’s determined to force her out, a displaced adolescent roosting in the attic, and two of her childhood friends—who also happen to be brothers—vying for her attention.

With the backdrop of a gorgeous historical city, incredible architecture, and even an alleged ghost or two, combined with the opportunity for romance . . . anything can happen!
Bestselling and award-winning author Melody Carlson invites you to spend the summer surrounded by splendor . . . and tantalizing possibilities.

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Praise

“Heartwarming and uplifting.”—Library Journal on Once Upon a Summertime

“Sweet, romantic, and endlessly entertaining.”—Radiant Lit on Once Upon a Summertime

“This winsome romance [is] a perfect summer read.”—Publishers Weekly on All Summer Long

Excerpt: Chapter 1, Part 2
From Under a Summer Sky
By Melody Carlson

continued from the 6/17/17 Chapter Break Book Blog Tours stop

After the students had exited, Nicole smiled at her mother. “Thanks for asking that question, Mom. It was just what we needed.”

Caroline Anderson laughed as she walked to the front of the classroom. “Seemed like you were losing them, honey. I figured a little maternal prodding couldn’t hurt.”

“Well, I’ve never been particularly fond of the Renaissance period.” Nicole shut down the program on her computer and turned off the projector. “I appreciate what it did for the art world and all that, but it’s but it’s just not my cup of tea. You know?”

Her mom gave her a little hug. “I understand completely.”

Nicole closed her laptop. “But why are you here?”

“Because I knew you were stuck.”

“Huh?” Nicole frowned. “How could you possibly . . . ?”

“I meant stuck in general, Nikki.”

“What do you mean? Stuck how?” She studied her mom’s carefully made-up face. For sixty-five, this woman looked pretty good.

“Oh, you know . . . the things you were telling me last weekend at Michael’s birthday party—about how you felt sort of lost since you and Peter broke up, and you felt stuck in your job.”

“I really said that?” Nicole tried to remember how much she’d divulged at her nephew’s birthday party.

“You sounded like you were looking for a change.”

Nicole sighed. She’d been feeling a little envious of her older sister’s picture-perfect life last weekend. Oh, she knew Katy had her own challenges. But maintaining her career and raising three boys with a man she loved—sometimes it looked pretty good. “I was obviously kind of down that day, Mom. I didn’t mean to dump on you about—”

“No, no, that’s not it. It’s just that I have something exciting to tell you. And since you’re all done with classes today, why don’t you let me take you out for a cup of coffee.” She waved her hand like a fan. “Or maybe something icy. Good grief, it’s like a sauna in here. How can you stand it?”

“Even with all these windows, it gets pretty stuffy in here. Especially this time of year. And this building doesn’t have air-conditioning.” Nicole wondered why she felt so defensive about her “sauna.”

“It has been unseasonably warm for Seattle this week,” her mom offered.

“Anyway, I’d be happy to escape for a while.” Nicole went over to close the door that she’d propped open with a heavy clay pot. “Hopefully it’ll cool down some after the sun goes behind those trees. But I need to come back here when we’re done. I have to fire up the kiln.” She pointed to the pottery lined up on the counter. “I need to get those fired before the end of the week. I’ve been trying to run it at night because of the heat.”

“My poor girl,” Caroline said. “They’ve got you working in an honest-to-goodness sweatshop here.”

Nicole laughed as she went for her bag. “A lot of people would love to have my job,” she called from her office. “One more year until tenure.” Even as she said this, she wasn’t certain she cared. Was tenure about job security or about getting stuck in a job she didn’t really love? What was the point? She locked her office, and now more curious as to what her mother had to tell her, she hurried back out.

“So what’s up, Mom?” she asked.

“Not yet.” Caroline chuckled.

As they walked out to the visitors’ parking lot, Nicole continued to question her mother, determining that her news was nothing related to their family but still not getting to the bottom of it. “Can’t you just give me a clue?” Nicole said as she got into the passenger seat of her mom’s sedan.

“Okay.” Caroline started the engine. “It’s related to Vivian Graham.”

Vivian had been Caroline’s best friend throughout high school and college. She and her husband Robert lived in Savannah, Georgia, and were very wealthy. Caroline and Vivian had tried to remain close over the years, sometimes visiting each other’s homes on opposite sides of the country, occasionally sharing family vacations at places like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park. But Nicole hadn’t really heard much about Vivian and her family in recent years.

“I haven’t seen Vivian since I was fifteen—when we went to Alex’s college graduation.” Nicole tried not to recall how hurt she’d felt when Vivian’s attractive older son had totally ignored her. Naturally, Alex had seen Nicole as a juvenile. He had no idea that she’d been crushing on him since she was ten years old, during the summer their families had spent a week at Yellowstone and Alex had rescued her from being trampled by a buffalo. She felt childish even thinking of her crush now.

Read part three on the The Page Abound’s Blog Tour stop on 6/25/17.

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than 6.5 million, including many bestselling Christmas novellas, young adult titles, and the contemporary romances Once Upon a Summertime and All Summer Long. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including Finding Alice. She and her husband live in central Oregon.

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Grand Prize: Print copies of the three books in the Follow Your Heart series, Thanks You’re A Peach Tea Gift Tin,12×18 Savannah travel poster, & Georgia Peach Cookies Tin
1st Runner-Up: Full series + $15 Barnes & Noble Gift Card
2nd Runner-Up: Full Series + $10 Starbucks Gift Card
June 17-26, 2017
(U.S. Only)


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Check out the other great blogs on this tour

 

6/17 Excerpt Chapter Break Book Blog
6/18 REVIEW Momma On The Rocks
6/19 Guest Post CGB Blog Tours
6/20 Author Interview Books and Broomsticks
6/21 REVIEW My Book Fix Blog
6/22 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
6/23 Scrapbook Books in the Garden
6/24 REVIEW Margie’s Must Reads
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Posted in excerpt, Fantasy, Spotlight on June 21, 2017

Synopsis

Truth Seeker Kuntza faces challenges above and below the sea’s surface, fighting deadly misinformation   as well as a bizarre and complicated plot to wipe out most of   the Sky Fairy Tribe.  Under his instruction, lightning   machines are constructed to overcome a terrible  snowstorm.   But what of the grave threat from the Water   Fairy Tribe—Kuntza’s tribe—to the surface tribes?

Admiral Constance Kimberlite and Prince Cambrian Bijou and the young Historian Rolf Warner accompany the Seeker beneath the waves to assist him in his efforts to overcome his tribe’s fears of an impending invasion.  Meanwhile Amber Bullierd, daughter and heir of the rebellious Count Bullierd, threatens to block their success through intrigue and a terrifying coup  attempt.  With the fate of Fairydom hanging in the balance, there is no room for error.

Excerpt

As Prince Oliver followed his father from Arnold Mosley’s elegant hotel suite, he saw a flicker of movement out of the corner of one eye.  The long hallway was lined with statues and ornate paintings, and dotted with recessed doorways that lead to other suites.  Curiousity getting the better of him, Oliver signaled for the marine behind him to continue flying forward no matter what.  When they reached the next doorway, Oliver slid into it.  Careful to stay hidden, Oliver turned back towards Mosley’s suite and sank soundlessly into the plush carpet between the beautifully carved planks that framed the doorway.  Dropping first to his knees, then down to lie flat, he stifled a chuckle at the idea of trying to explain himself to the hotel guest if the door beside him should abruptly open.  Carefully, he inched his face towards the edge of the doorframe.  The small party that had escorted him and his father to Mosley’s hotel faded away, the sharp click of a window—locking behind them—the last sound he heard.  One eye finally clear of the doorframe, Oliver held perfectly still.  And waited.  The hallway was so still that he thought he could hear the paint on the walls fading in the bright afternoon sunlight.

The motion he saw might have belonged to anyone—a chambermaid, another guest…  Oliver was beginning to give in to the feeling of foolishness when a slightly built man-fairy peeked out from behind one of the statues at the far end of the hall.  Mosley had dismissed his servants when the king first arrived, which meant the suite should still be empty, Mosley having also gone off to take care of personal business.  Oliver’s right eyebrow lifted fractionally when the man-fairy slipped over to Mosley’s door and glanced furtively around before he produced something from the inner folds of his scribe’s robe, and let himself in through the locked door.

More than curious now, Oliver came silently to his feet.  Decades of playing hide and seek with his younger siblings contributed to his swift, but soundless flight down the length of the hallway, where he arrived just in time to slip between Mosley’s door and its frame.  He quickly dropped to his knees in a shadow before it swung shut behind him.  From there, he was able to watch as the scribe began searching single-mindedly for something on Mosley’s desk.

It was all so absurd that Oliver nearly gave in to the urge to laugh at himself.  He had just assisted his father in interrogating Mosley—and unless Mosley was an even more masterful manipulator than the Wood Fairy Minister of the Interior, he had been telling the truth when he denied any involvement in the delay of the winter storms.  Now he, Oliver Bijou, Crown Prince of the Sky Fairy Tribe, was hiding in the shadows?  Sleuthing was the specialty of his younger brother, Prince Cambrian.  Still, Oliver could not shake the feeling that something was amiss here.  Mosley might have given a scribe a key to his suites, but…scribe!  Another piece of the puzzle fell into place, bringing Oliver to his feet precipitously.  Cambrian had recently brought evidence to them that a scribe was involved in the conspiracy.

Startled by Oliver’s movement, the scribe jerked to one side.  His elbow struck one of the taller stacks, knocking it over in an avalanche of blue, white, and yellow papers that fluttered to the floor.  Some fell quite a distance.  Others struck the hem of the frozen scribe’s robe and landed about his feet.

“Harold Scroggins,” Oliver casually scooped up a small volume of poetry from the entryway table beside him, “I arrest you in the name of the crown.”  As he had expected, Harold flew towards the nearest window.  Oliver’s arm came up and snapped forward, hurling the hard-bound book towards Harold’s back.  “Well, that is a first,” Oliver murmured to himself as he watched the scribe crumple to the floor, temporarily stunned.  “I do not recall ever seeing a book drop a scribe before.”

Tugging the window sashes free, Oliver bound his prisoner securely.  As he was about to begin searching the desk himself, Harold stirred.  Weak blue eyes stared up through his tousled blue bangs, full of unanswered questions for his assailant.

About the Author

I enjoy reading and writing, but not arithmetic.  Which is to say that I love math, but it hates me.  So I don’t usually count the days or hours spent reading, writing, or watching television, I just enjoy them.  I write because that’s the gift I’ve been given.  I read and watch to store up idea seedlings, which sometimes spring, fully-formed, to mind.  Sometimes that’s because I loved what I’ve been consuming and other times because I loathed it.  Experiencing both (as little as possible of the loathe, of course) helps me define myself as a writer and plays a huge (yet subconscious) role in my work.

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Posted in excerpt, Fantasy, Giveaway, Spotlight on June 20, 2017

Synopsis

To what end would an exiled princess go to regain her rightful throne?

Lady Dawn, Hoffnung’s princess, brutally learns what it’s like to have everything unexpectedly stripped from her after Lord Waxxon’s coup kills her half-elf mother, Queen Taube, and he assumes the throne. Before Dawn’s plight, her mother’s bloodcurdling screams are etched into Dawn’s memory, giving her the resolve to somehow build an army, kill Lord Waxxon, and reclaim the throne. However, the odds of such an undertaking are far greater than a princess can overcome alone.

Unable to find Lady Dawn after scouring the castle and the kingdom, Lord Waxxon places a bounty on her, sending his ruthless henchmen across Aetheaon to locate and kill her. But Lady Dawn has disguised herself as a lowly squire, chosen by one of her late father’s Dragon Skull Knights, who doesn’t know her true identity. Alongside her knight, they seek other Dragon Skull Knights to gather forces to bring Waxxon’s reign to a quick end. Yet, her identity must remain secret, even to the knight she serves, until they have accumulated the necessary masses to storm Hoffnung.

Dawn is not without hope, as warriors, a wizard, and rulers of all races seek to find her before Waxxon does. Unexpected aid comes in another astonishing way. Although dragons have long been thought extinct, three dragons sisters use this belief to their advantage, veiling themselves as human warrioresses through magic. Traveling through hamlets, townships, and cities, the sisters hire mercenaries and armies with the caches of gold, silver, and gems from their lairs while they diligently search for Lady Dawn. And once they find her, they will rally beside her as she fights to reclaim Hoffnung’s throne.

A Cinderella story? Hardly. Quite the opposite in many respects. No longer pampered as a princess, Dawn discovers she’s more than royalty. She assumes the role of a servant in order to gain the necessary skills to fulfill her vendetta. She’s a fighter, a survivor, and a woman with the heart of a warrioress. Enduring a squire’s training hardens her, the loss of her mother and the kingdom forces her to seek vengeance, and her biggest fear when she takes the throne is that she will become a calloused ruler and lose her compassion for mankind.

Excerpt

Prologue

When Boldair awakened, his stubby muscular arms were shackled above his head to a cold wet wall. He looked around the small dark prison cell. A torch flickered outside the tiny barred window on the thick iron-braced wooden door. Overhead at the highest reach of the ceiling, the bright yellow moon spilled through the grated hole. He guessed it was the dead of night, but it could be closer to dawn for all he knew.

His stomach growled from hunger. He didn’t know how long he had been locked in the cell or how he had even wound up there.

The last thing he recalled was drinking ale at the Bridgebarrow Tavern with other dwarves while swapping tales of adventure and treasures they had found. Strong drink tended to draw out his need to brag and exaggerate about his discoveries.

A half dozen muscled Legelarid knights dressed in chain armor had been seated across the room, but they had paid he and his Dwarven friends no mind. The knights focused their attention more on the dark-haired female warrior wearing her snug gilded breastplate that cut short of her midriff than anything else. Her metal belt, which had a decorative dragonhead across her navel, covered most of her abdominal region. Gold-plated leggings and boots protected her lower extremities. Her winged helm rested on the stool beside her, and her round shield, adorned with sharp dragon’s teeth, was propped against the side of the bar.

The female warrior sat at the bar, staring down at the silver flask before her. Although she sat in a near trancelike state, Boldair assumed her concentration was attuned to take in all of the conversations and interactions around her at the same time. At the angle from where he sat, he was unable to see her face clearly.

With a rigid coldness, she ignored the knight leader’s drunken lewd comments and suggestive offers of gold to hire her to join their company during their journey back to Legelarid. Something Boldair understood to have double meaning, and had the insulting remarks been to a woman less capable of holding her own, he would have stood and challenged the half drunken knight. Instead, he chose to continue spinning his tales while awaiting the woman’s reaction to the knights, which seemed inevitable.

She kept her right hand tightened on the jeweled hilt of her short sword. The black blade was different than any sword Boldair had ever seen before. It wasn’t made of any metal he’d ever crafted, and the blade was cylindrical shaped and sharply curved.

The armored female sat with her head slightly cocked to the left, and she seemed to be listening to what Boldair and the other dwarves at his table discussed, so they lowered their voices. A barmaid brought fresh tankards of Bridgebarrow Stout and placed them on the table. Boldair smiled, downed the strong ale, and wiped the froth from his black beard with the back of his hand before telling his next tale of treasure hunting. His Dwarven brethren had sat eagerly and wide-eyed to hear what else Boldair had collected from the deep dark caverns and added to his stashed riches.

Tugging against the prison chains, Boldair shook himself from the daze and fought hard to remember more.

Boldair winced and groaned; thinking of what had happened after the night settled when he and his brethren had left the tavern to travel north to Damdur. However, more than that, he couldn’t recall anything else. The base of his skull ached and burned. Pain radiated through his head and pulsed behind his eyes. Perhaps someone had welted him from behind with a blunt object and dragged him to this tiny prison. But why?

After his eyes slightly adjusted to the darkness of the cell, he glanced around. Less than four feet away was the shadowed outline of another shackled prisoner.

Boldair attempted to rouse his confined neighbor. “Hey! Been ‘ere long?” Boldair asked.

Other than the whistling dank breeze that smelled of ocean spray, dead fish, and burnt flesh flowing through the barred door window, the room remained silent. In the faint light, his cell companion didn’t move or reply.

“Sleeping, eh?” he asked, still hoping to stir the man awake. Nothing was worse than being imprisoned without someone else to talk to. Total isolation was the purest torture. Hell without the flames.

The man didn’t move, and from his overall silence, he was not breathing either.

“Damn,” Boldair said. “T’would be me luck. Come to Bridgebarrow and get locked inside a prison with a corpse. Bah!”

Wind flowed downward from the grated ceiling opening. The smell of charred flesh drifted from his dead cellmate, causing Boldair to gag. The tight chain restraints prevented him from covering his nose. The stench forced him to hold his breath until the air grew still once more.

“You’ve been here for some time, I suppose,” he said, coughing.

Boldair glanced at the small barred window on the door and wondered if a guard stood outside.

“Wonder why I’m stuck here, do ye?” he asked the dead man, hoping his continued conversation caught the attention of someone in the outer hall. “Aye, I’ll tell ya. No secret be wasted with ye anyways. This ol’ dwarf is the best treasure hunter in all of Aetheaon. Aye, but it be true.

“No, I’m not a thief. Never stolen one single solitary thing. I hunt treasures. I do. Since the demise of the dragons of Aetheaon, the treasures are much easier to take, providing you happen upon one of their long forgotten lairs. No fire-breathing lizards guarding the dark caverns makes it—”

“You boast too much.”

Boldair straightened his back against the cold wet wall. He squinted, trying to see where the cold stern voice had come from. It wasn’t in the direction of the dead prisoner closest to him, and it wasn’t directly outside the door, either. The voice crept from the darkest corner of the rock-walled cell.

“Who be there?” he asked in a hoarse whisper. His eyes widened as he awaited an answer.

“I’m one who wants her treasure back.”

 

About the Author

Leonard D. Hilley II grew up a quiet, shy kid with an inquisitive mind. Learning to read at an early age, he fell in love with books. He read every book he could get his hands on and stacks of dark comics about ghosts, monsters, and creepy things that stalk the night.

Like a lot of boys, he caught beetles, wooly bears, butterflies, and had an ant farm. When he was ten, his interests in science increased even more after seeing a professor’s insect collection. He started an insect collection and learned to rear butterflies and moths to obtain perfect specimens. After learning more about botany and gardening, he set his goal to become an entomologist.

At eleven, he saw Star Wars. His imagination soared and he started writing. Six months later he had written the first draft of a novel. A novel he later discarded, but the characters stuck with him. Years later, these characters came to life in Shawndirea, which Hilley had intended to be a novella for Devils Den. The characters, however, refused to be ignored and took the opportunity to unveil Aetheaon in their first epic fantasy. Lady Squire: Dawn’s Ascension was quick to follow.

Shawndirea was Hilley’s farewell to butterfly collecting, and those who have read the novel understand why. He has taken Ray Bradbury’s advice to heart: “Follow the characters.” He does. He follows, listens, and take notes—often never knowing where they’re going to take him, but he’s never been disappointed in the results.

Hilley earned a B.S. Biology and an MFA in Creative Writing to combine his love of science and writing.

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Posted in Adventure, Children, excerpt, Giveaway on June 19, 2017

THE ELDRIDGE CONSPIRACY

Sir Kaye the Boy Knight, Book 4

by

Don M. Winn

  Genre: Children’s Chapter Book / Adventure / Medieval

Publisher: Progressive Rising Phoenix Press

Date of Publication: June 16, 2017

Number of Pages: 166, B&W illustrations

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Kaye’s father is in danger! The young knight, Kaye, and his friends Reggie and Beau enter Eldridge in search of the only man who can save Kaye’s father. During their journey, they encounter and make a powerful enemy of Baron Thomas—the self-proclaimed heir to the throne of Eldridge—who also has his sights set on ruling the country of Knox. Together, the boys dodge the baron’s henchmen and race against time to stop an assassination that would plunge the two kingdoms into war in this exciting conclusion to the series.

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PRAISE FOR THE ELDRIDGE CONSPIRACY

“This set of books just gets better and better. Yes, it’s a non-stop adventure, packed full of nasty barons and battling knights. But it’s also a story which is strongly-themed and where the bond between the characters is highly prized.” —The Wishing Shelf Awards Book Review

“Books of adventure and challenge that still offer an emotional component are hard to come by for middle-grade readers—and even more so for middle-grade boys—yet Don M. Winn hits the mark dead center with The Eldridge Conspiracy.” —Patricia Reding, 5-Star Readers’ Favorite Book Review

“This is more than just a fictional story; it teaches children about life, about friendship, making decisions, and about not putting too much stock in pride all the time – sometimes pride gets in the way of making the right decision. Great story. I would recommend that the whole series be read in order to get the most out of it and I think all kids will enjoy this tale.” —Ann-Marie Reynolds, 5-Star Readers’ Favorite Book Review

“The Eldridge Conspiracy was a rewarding read due to a wonderful writing style of incorporating dynamic characters, humor, relevancy, and the thought that even without superpowers, children can be heroes.” —Stacey Waltzer, Urban Mommies

 

Excerpt from Chapter Three

The Eldridge Conspiracy

by Don M. Winn

Beau woke me in the gray light before dawn. “It stopped raining,” he said. “Let’s go.”

My stomach felt so empty, it tied itself into knots, but I kept quiet and saddled my horse. I was tired of hearing myself complain, and I’m sure Beau was too.

As we rode, the birds sang themselves into fits of joy over the coming day. The sky grew pink and golden, and the birds fell silent as the tiniest sliver of sun like molten steel peeked over the edge of the world. Then it popped up into the sky all at once, the birds so wild with excitement that you’d never think it happened every day.

Beau whistled a cheery tune and I rode up alongside him. “I’m sorry I was grouchy yesterday,” I said. “I was wet and worried about Kaye.”

“You’re still wet and still worried,” Beau said. “What’s different now?”

“The sun’s up, I guess. I can see where I’m going. And you promised a fire and maybe a bed later at the abbey.”

He nodded. “And soup. At least, I hope they have soup. There’s a cold spot inside me that only hot soup will fix.”

“I was thinking about hot cider last night,” I said with a laugh. “It’s almost fall. Look at the trees.” Tiny patches of orange and yellow edged a few clumps of leaves in the trees along the road.

Soon we came to a crossroads in a village with an old gray church. People moved about, stopping to eyeball the strangers riding through.

“Pardon me,” Beau asked a man nearby. “We’re looking for the abbey. Can you tell us how to get there?”

The man grunted. “Most boys would be helping with the harvest these days, not traveling about to abbeys. We barely got the wheat and barley under cover yesterday before the rain came to spoil it.” He yawned. “And now there’s threshing to do.” He yawned again. “Wislett Abbey is the closest. Keep following this road and you’ll find it.”

“Thank you,” Beau said. “Good day to you, sir.”

As we passed the old church, I heard a familiar neigh. “Wait. That sounds like Kadar,” I said. Sure enough, Parsnip whinnied back, as if greeting an old friend.

We rode behind the ancient building and found Kaye’s fine warhorse Kadar grazing under an apple tree at the edge of the churchyard. He nickered to our horses like they had been parted for months and sniffed at Acorn, which is what I had named Birket’s roly-poly brown horse. Then Kadar went back to munching the apples littering the ground.

Kaye sat under the same tree. He held a parchment in one hand and a half-eaten apple in the other. “What took you so long?” he asked. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

I scowled at Kaye. “Why didn’t you just take us with you in the first place?”

“Because you would have tried to stop me,” he said. “And just so you know, I’m not going back. I’m going to find my father and warn him that he and the king are in danger.”

“We know,” Beau said, sliding off his horse.

I stared at Kaye’s hand. “Are you eating apples from the churchyard?”

He took a bite. “Why not?”

I swept my hand around the yard, which seemed empty except for a few flat stones. “There are people buried here!”

“It’s public land, and anyway, they’re not eating them,” Kaye said. “These are good apples. They shouldn’t go to waste.”

I shook my head at Kaye.

He shook his back at me. “Look, I found something important. This was nailed to the church door.”

Click to read all of chapter three and its illustration!

 

about the author

 

don-winn

Don M. Winn is a multiple award-winning children’s author of ten picture books and three children’s novels. His Sir Kaye the Boy Knight® series of novels for independent readers include The Knighting of Sir Kaye, The Lost Castle Treasure, and Legend of the Forest Beast. Don’s picture books include The Higgledy-Piggledy Pigeon; Superhero; Twitch the Squirrel and the Forbidden Bridge; Shelby the Cat; Space Cop Zack, Protector of the Galaxy; and many others.

Don has been writing for over 20 years. After beginning with poetry, Winn moved on to writing children’s picture books. Almost immediately, his growing young readers begged for chapter books, which led to the creation of the Sir Kaye series. As a dyslexic himself, who well knows the challenge of learning to love to read, Winn’s goal is to write books that are so engaging they will entice even the most reluctant or struggling reader. Winn lives in Round Rock, Texas.

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Three Sir Kaye #4 ARCs + 1 Sir Kaye Series Study Guide!

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  June 14-June 28, 2017

 


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6/14 Book Trailer Chapter Break Book Blog
6/15 Review Margie’s Must Reads
6/16 Guest Post Books in the Garden
6/17 Review The Page Unbound
6/18 Author Interview My Book Fix Blog
6/19 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
6/20 Review Reading By Moonlight
6/21 Scrapbook Page Syd Savvy
6/22 Guest Post Forgotten Winds
6/23 Review Hall Ways Blog
6/24 Character Interview Missus Gonzo
6/25 Educators’ Special The Librarian Talks
6/26 Review CGB Blog Tours
6/27 Scrapbook Page Texas Book Lover
6/28 Review Books and Broomsticks

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