Posted in Giveaway, Guest Post, mystery, women on November 28, 2017

Hunting Hour: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery
Mystery/Police Procedurals/Woman Sleuths
3rd in Series
Crooked Lane Books (August 8, 2017)
Hardcover: 320 pages

Synopsis

Deputy Mattie Cobb is in a dark place and has withdrawn from Cole Walker and his family to work on issues from her past. When she and her K-9 partner Robo get called to track a missing junior high student, they find the girl dead on Smoker’s Hill behind the high school, and Mattie must head to the Walker home to break the bad news. But that’s only the start of trouble in Timber Creek, because soon another girl goes missing—and this time it’s one of Cole’s daughters.

Knowing that each hour a child remains missing lessens the probability of finding her alive, Mattie and Robo lead the hunt while Cole and community volunteers join in to search everywhere. To no avail. It seems that someone has snatched all trace of the Walker girl from their midst, including her scent. Grasping at straws, Mattie and Robo follow a phoned-in tip into the dense forest, where they hope to find a trace of the girl’s scent and to rescue her alive. But when Robo does catch her scent, it leads them to information that challenges everything they thought they knew about the case.

Mattie and Robo must rush to hunt down the kidnapper before they’re too late in Hunting Hour, the third installment in critically acclaimed author Margaret Mizushima’s exhilarating mystery series.

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Guest Post

THE VALUE OF SEARCH AND RESCUE DOGS

By Margaret Mizushima

 

Throughout the past thirty-five years, my veterinarian husband and I have shared our lives with a pack of dogs. When our children were young, we decided to train two of our dogs in search and rescue. A tragic event in our community precipitated this decision.

We live in an agricultural area nestled against the foothills of the rugged Rocky Mountains in northern Colorado. The mountains to the west offer scenic pleasure in the form of river rafting, fishing, hiking, and picnicking for locals as well as tourists from all over the country. Countless families spend weekends and vacations on the river or hiking in the forests without incident, but family fun can turn deadly when a loved one, and especially a child, strays from the group and becomes lost.

In 1978, soon after our older daughter was born, a ten-year-old boy disappeared while hiking with his parent on the Gray Rock Trail in the Cache la Poudre Canyon north of Fort Collins. The media reported that this child and the adults he was hiking with made it to the top of the trail and had turned around to head back downhill. The boy asked if he could go ahead and meet them below. After gaining permission, he hurried ahead on his own. When the rest of his party arrived at the trailhead, he wasn’t there. Trace of him has never been found, and he remains missing to this day.

People speculate that this child misread the twists and turns of the trail, became lost in the wilderness, and subsequently perished. Others believe that he was kidnapped and taken far from his family and our community. His family erected a memorial for him at the Gray Rock trailhead, and I stop each time before hiking there to say a prayer for him and his family.

Sometime after our second daughter was born, we decided to head for the mountains to camp on summer weekends when we could take time away from the vet clinic. Memories of this devastating event motivated us to train at least one of our dogs in search and rescue, primarily so that we would have the option of our own dog tracking our child immediately if necessary. We joined a search and rescue training group, taking our Rottweiler, Ilsa, and our Austrailian shepherd, Jessie.

Wow, the things we learned! This is where I learned the value of using water to moisten mucous membranes to enhance scenting ability as well as how to combine the search and rescue equipment with the activity involved. At first, the dogs were allowed to play and socialize, but as soon as search harnesses came out, the tone became serious. You could observe which dogs caught onto this over time and which ones struggled to switch off the urge to tussle with the other dogs.

Dog owners themselves laid down the scent trail, keeping it very short in the beginning and then following a training protocol to increase the difficulty in incremental steps as the dog advanced through the stages. Once the scent trail was set, the dog owner would hide, and the group leader would set the dog onto the track. The best reward in the world is finding someone you love at the end of the track, and dogs did a happy dance as they joyously reconnected with their “lost” owners. Gradually, strangers were substituted for owners, and that joyful response still carried over at the end of each search.

Thankfully, we never needed to use our dogs to search for lost children, but our entire family, kids included, enjoyed those months of training and reinforcement of search skills. Due to job commitments and time constraints, neither my husband nor I were able to join the county search and rescue team ourselves, but we gained a new respect for the level of dedication and fitness required of these volunteers.

In those days, I had no idea that someday I would write a mystery series that featured a German shepherd K-9 with search and rescue skills. It’s safe to say that this experience helped set the stage for the creation of K-9 Robo and his handler Deputy Mattie Cobb, and I invite you to join me in their adventures.

About the Author

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 mysteries, which includes Killing Trail (Crooked Lane Books, 2015) nominated for an RT Reviewer’s Choice award for best first mystery, Stalking Ground (Crooked Lane Books, 2016) a finalist in the Colorado Book Awards mystery category, and Hunting Hour (Crooked Lane Books, 2017). She has a background in speech pathology and practiced in an acute care hospital before establishing her own rehabilitation agency. Currently, she balances writing with assisting her husband with their veterinary clinic and Angus cattle herd. She enjoys reading and hiking, and she lives on a small ranch in Colorado where she and her husband raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.

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November 24 – Books,Dreams,Life – SPOTLIGHT

November 24 – Because I said so – Adventures in Parenting – REVIEW

November 25 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

November 26 – The Power of Words – REVIEW

November 27 – Brooke Blogs – GUEST POST

November 28 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST

November 29 – The Book’s the Thing – REVIEW, GUEST POST

November 30 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

December 1 – A Holland Reads – SPOTLIGHT

December 2 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – INTERVIEW

December 3 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – CHARACTER GUEST POST

December 4 – FUONLYKNEW – REVIEW

December 5 – Cozy Up With Kathy – CHARACTER GUEST POST

Posted in 4 paws, Review, Romantic Comedy, women on November 7, 2017

Synopsis

Is Christmas really the most wonderful time of the year? New Yorkers Robyn Lane and Sidney Bellows aren’t so sure.

Robyn has always dated struggling creative types. For once, her parents would love her to bring someone with health insurance and a 401(k) to their Chrismukkah celebration. Her actor boyfriend doesn’t qualify. While across town, Sidney’s professional life already belongs to her parents. She’s an attorney at her father’s law firm and she works tirelessly to keep her love life private. If she brings her lawyer boyfriend to their annual Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have the wedding planned by New Year’s Eve.

A mutual friend playfully suggests they trade boyfriends for the holidays. The women share a laugh, but after copious amounts of wine, decide The Boyfriend Swap could be the perfect solution. This way, Robyn can show off her stable attorney boyfriend and Sidney’s high-society family will take no interest in her flakey actor beau.

It’s a brilliant plan—in theory. In practice—not so much. When Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years, and Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe, one thing is certain: The Boyfriend Swap might just change their lives forever.

Review

What do you do when you don’t want your parents involved in your personal life? You take a pretend boyfriend home for the holidays….because we all know that is going to work, right? Wrong! Even worse? It might be your childhood crush dating the woman who has proposed swapping boyfriends.

I’m not sure that I would have ever thought to do something like this, but then I don’t have the family situations that Sidney and Robyn have that they think that swapping boyfriends is a good idea. The funny thing is that maybe this was a good idea and perhaps neither was dating the right person.

I identified with both Sidney and Robyn. Sidney for her controlling manner and hiding her feelings and protecting her heart. And Robyn, for her crazy creative side with a heart of gold. Then there are the guys – Perry (Robyn’s boyfriend) who is a wannabe actor but not serious about anything in life; and Will, Sidney’s boyfriend but Robyn’s childhood crush and is that crush dead or will it come back while spending several days together? You will find out when you read the book!

This story made me laugh, shake my head and even get a little misty at the end. It was a great culmination of everything that I like to see in a book. This author writes some great romantic comedies and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

We give it 4 paws up

About the Author

A born and bred New Yorker, Meredith Schorr discovered her passion for writing when she began to enjoy drafting work-related e-mails way more than she was probably supposed to. After trying her hand penning children’s stories and blogging her personal experiences, Meredith found her calling write chick lit and contemporary women’s fiction. She secures much inspiration from her day job as a hardworking trademark paralegal and her still-single status. Meredith is also the co-founder of Bookbuzz, a live author/reader event held annually. She is a loyal New York Yankees fan and an avid runner.

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Posted in 4 paws, Giveaway, Review, Romantic Comedy, women on October 27, 2017

THE SECRET LIFE OF SARAH HOLLENBECK

by

BETHANY TURNER

  Genre: Contemporary Romantic Comedy

Publisher: Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group

Date of Publication: October 3, 2017

Number of Pages: 304

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Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.

With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn’t afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.

Praise

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is a rare treat packed with humor, hope, and heart. Sarah’s struggles are real and nearly tangible, and she feels like a friend we’ve all had. I laughed with her and fell in love alongside her and couldn’t wait to hear her whole story. What a charming, delightful book!”  Liz Johnson, bestselling author of The Red Door Inn

 

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Every now and then you just want to read a book that is light-hearted and fun. This book fills the bill. But don’t think that there is not a message in the book, there is if you look deep enough – that you can change your life and become a better person. Ok, so that sounds like many books, but in this case, Sarah goes from being a kept wife (for lack of a better description) to divorced to author of steamy books to a born again Christian and Christian Romance novel writer.

I liked this book but felt like Sarah was very self absorbed. It seemed like it was all me-me-me. She has a best friend Piper that she met through a book club (and how was actually quite comical), but we don’t really know anything about Piper other than she is a Christian and loves to read. She is always there for Sarah but don’t recall a time when Sarah is there for Piper. Perhaps there will be a book from Piper’s viewpoint and her life?

As self absorbed as I thought Sarah was, she was a character that was in continual development. She had to figure out how to restart her life after divorce. Then she becomes a famous author over night of some steamy romances (think 50 Shades) and then attends a church with Piper and decides to become a Christian (I think she always was but maybe more aware and dedicated?) overnight. Then she meets Ben, the new pastor of her church, and it is like fate has stepped in to push them together despite many roadblocks that arise.

Overall an enjoyable read and I had many LOL moments. It was the perfect book to read at the time, escapism but a little reality too.

We give this 4 paws up.

Bethany Turner is the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. A former VP/operations manager of a commercial bank and a three-time cancer survivor (all before she turned 35), Bethany knows that when God has plans for your life, it doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say. Because of that, she’s chosen to follow his call to write. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight.

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19-Oct Author Interview Forgotten Winds
20-Oct Guest Post #1 Margie’s Must Reads
21-Oct Review Texan Girl Reads
22-Oct Deleted Scene Reading by Moonlight
23-Oct Review A Page Before Bedtime
24-Oct Guest Post #2 Texas Book Lover
25-Oct Review Tangled in Text
26-Oct Playlist Books in the Garden
27-Oct Review StoreyBook Reviews
28-Oct Character Interview Books and Broomsticks

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Posted in excerpt, romance, Spotlight, women on October 26, 2017

The highly anticipated and epic conclusion to the Chasing Red duology

THE RIVETING CONCLUSION TO RED AND CALEB’S EPIC STORY
Veronica “Red” Strafford’s painful past has made trusting Caleb Lockhart difficult. But Red might have pushed Caleb away one too many times…

I want you to fight for me. Just as I fought for you. But you wouldn’t.
I stood there, staring after him, tears pouring down my face.

 

Chasing Red Duology:

Chasing Red (Book 1)

Always Red (Book 2)

Buy the Book

Excerpt

We were back at the beach. It was past midnight, and the place was deserted, as if it had been waiting for us all day.

As if it had been waiting for this moment.

We lay on the sand, on the same blanket he’d brought when he took us here the very first time. It seemed like a long time ago. Before, he would have reached for my hand, threading his fingers through mine.

Not this time.

I turned onto my side so I could look at Caleb. His eyes were closed. The breeze blew a lock of his bronze hair against his forehead, and I wanted to brush it back so badly.

“I miss you, Caleb.”

He didn’t respond. His eyes remained closed, but I knew he heard me because I saw his breath catch in his chest.

I had hurt him badly, and he was probably still angry at me. He must hate me, but I would rather have that than a cold shoulder.

I needed to explain. I needed to tell him what I really felt.

I took a deep breath, gathering courage. “All my life I had to work hard to get the things I wanted. To reach the places I needed to be. I had to be strong—stronger than most people. Because I had to be. I shut out everyone. And why not?”

I rolled onto my back and looked up to the dark velvet sky, at the bright half-moon and the stars glittering like diamonds. It was so beautiful, so peaceful with the sound of the lapping waves. But a storm was brewing inside me.

“People are selfish,” I continued. “They always want something from you, and when they get it, they leave. So I never let anyone in. But then…I met you. You made me feel. You made me want things that I never allowed myself to want before. And it scared me. It scared me so much. So I didn’t trust you. I didn’t allow myself to. Every time I felt myself getting close to you, I pulled away.”

“Why?” he asked, his voice low and quiet. “Because…because it hurts to hope for the impossible. How can someone like you want to know someone like me? All I have is a suitcase of sad stories and a broken heart. My walls are high and impossible to break down, and I won’t let anyone in. But I felt your warmth…seeping through the cracks. How did you know where to find me?” My voice broke. “No one else ever worked to find me, Caleb. No one else stayed long enough to even try”—I felt a tear slide down my cheek— “until you.”

I sat up, pulling my legs close to my chest and burying my face in my arms. I felt him sit up and move closer to me.

“I didn’t trust what you felt for me,” I admitted. “I was scared. I kept waiting for you to disappoint me. Everyone else did. And I think that…that…somehow there’s something wrong with me. Something missing. That I’m not enough to make you stay, that somehow, someday you’re going to get bored with me and leave.” I sobbed. “All my life, my dad told me it was my fault. That I was the reason for all the bad things…” I swallowed. I didn’t want to talk about him. I didn’t even know why I’d mentioned him.

“I wish he was in front of me so I could hurt him,” Caleb said. “More than he hurt you.”

I heard the anger in his voice. He paused for a moment, and I could hear him breathing slowly, trying to calm himself. When he spoke again, his voice had softened.

“Red,” he whispered. “Do you know how I felt when you left me?”

I lifted my head and looked into his eyes. The emotion I saw in them—the intensity and the tenderness—filled my throat.

“I felt ruined. You ruined me. There is anger, but every time I see you, my anger fades away. And there is pain, but what is love without pain? Because, Red, every time you break me apart, you put me back together. And I always come out better than before. So.” He cupped my face, stroking my cheek with his thumb. “Ruin me.”

 

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Posted in 5 paws, Review, women on September 10, 2017

Synopsis

Ellie Pringle has spent endless hours and countless dollars working with a therapist to remember the lost years of her childhood. She’s baffled and more than a little intrigued when the grandmother she hasn’t seen in thirty-four years dies and leaves her a fortune. The time has come to face her past in person. Still reeling from a recent breakup of a long-term relationship, and with nothing to keep her in San Francisco, Ellie packs her meager belongings and boards a plane for the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Standing in the entryway of her grandmother’s antebellum home on South Battery Street in Charleston, Ellie faces the first of many ghosts who will soon haunt her. On her first night in the creepy, creaking mansion, as she’s perusing the titles in a dusty bookcase, she comes across her deceased mother’s leather-bound journal. Her mother’s words create more unanswered questions and send her on a quest to find more journals. As Hurricane Irma bears down on the South Carolina coast, Ellie encounters Julian Hagood, a handsome architect who has the talent to restore her dilapidated mansion and the charm to mend her broken heart. But as Ellie reads her mother’s diaries, they dislodge a stone in the wall that safeguards her memories, causing her world to come crumbling down. Revelations about her childhood lead Ellie on a harrowing journey of discovery that will hold readers spellbound until the dramatic conclusion.

Review

I love love love Ashley’s books and this one is no exception. I think I heard this will be a series (or at least a 2nd book) which I am glad of because there is so much more to the story that hasn’t been told yet.

This book is about learning about the past and coming to terms with it, finding love and strengthening family. There is even a little bit of action and mystery – a very well rounded book.

This book also reminded me of Flowers in the Attic with the strict grandmother and her actions and comments to her daughter and granddaughter.

Ellie has inherited the estate from the crazy grandmother. She has mixed feelings, as anyone would, about the house and everything else. But it is also cathartic because she knows she is repressing something but isn’t sure what. You do find out but not giving it away, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

The book does leave you hanging a little bit because Ellie’s story is not complete and there are some other things that are revealed that need to be addressed more fully. Yes I know it is vague but has to be to not spoil part of the story.

We give it 5 paws up.

About the Author

Ashley FarleyAshley Farley is a wife and mother of two college-aged children. She grew up in the salty marshes of South Carolina, but now lives in Richmond, Virginia, a city she loves for its history and traditions.

After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save. SAVING BEN is not a memoir, but a story about the special bond between siblings.

HER SISTER’S SHOES—June 2015—is a women’s novel that proves the healing power of family. Merry Mary—October 2015—a holiday novella, a young woman longing for a child stumbles upon a Christmas miracle. BREAKING THE STORY released on March 17, 2016. A romantic political suspense filled with passion, peril, and a scandal that will rock American politics.

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Posted in 5 paws, Giveaway, Review, women on August 12, 2017

COMFORT PLANS

by

KIMBERLY FISH

  Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Date of Publication: May 23, 2017

Number of Pages: 320

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Colette Sheridan is being remodeled.

As a San Antonio architect, she’d have vowed her career was to investigate the history and create new functions for the structures everyone else saw as eyesores. The old German farmhouse in Comfort, Texas, might be the screeching end of that dream job. The assignment seemed so ideal at the start; generous clients, a stunning location, and a pocketful of letters that were surely meant to explain the ranch’s story. All that goodness crashed louder than a pile of two-by-fours when her grandfather announced he’d lured Colette’s ex-husband back to San Antonio to take over the family architecture firm. Now, not only does Colette have to endure the challenges posed by Beau Jefferson, the client’s handpicked contractor, a house that resists efforts to be modernized, and letters that may hold the secret to buried treasure, but she also has to decide if she has the courage to fight for her future.

Set against the backdrop of the Texas Hill Country, Colette and Beau have to rely on plans neither of them constructed in order to navigate the changes of a house with a story to tell, and a future they couldn’t even imagine.

Praise

“Kimberly Fish’s unique writing style snatched me out of my easy chair and plunked me down into the middle of her character’s life where I was loathe to leave when my real life called me back. Her descriptive visual writing drew me in on the first page. Can’t wait to read more stories by Mrs. Fish.” –Vickie Phelps,Author of Moved, Left No Address

The author knows how to weave a tale and this book is a wonderful mix of romance, history and a splash of mystery.

I truly enjoyed this book because it is set in Texas near San Antonio which is rich in history that we don’t hear about very often. At the end of most chapters there is a letter from Colin to Laki and these letters give us a peek into what life was like for this couple and the trials they were going through.

Colette has had an interesting life that is set out throughout the book – from a divorce at a young age, to her grandfather wanting her to take over the architectural firm, to her own insecurities about what she can and cannot do, or so she thinks.

Enter Beau – a talented builder that has his own take on life..and Colette! Let’s just say there are some fireworks with their chemistry. But as with most books, both Beau and Colette have some baggage they have to deal with so that they can establish a relationship. There are quite a few funny moments as they deal with family and some others…I was definitely chuckling!

Nathan, Colette’s Grandfather, seems to be acting strangely especially when he let’s Colette know that since she won’t run the family company that he is hiring Julian – her ex-husband. This action has Colette wondering about her grandfather’s mental state especially when Julian starts taking the company in directions they probably shouldn’t be going. There is a LOT more to this story but you’ll have to read the book to find out because that would be a huge spoiler. But it does help Colette learn who she wants to be in this life and strengthens ties with her family.

The story that is woven in the pages is engaging and it was hard for me to put the book down.

We give it 5 paws up


Kimberly Fish started writing professionally with the birth of her second child and the purchase of a home computer. Having found this dubious outlet, she then entered and won The Writer’s League of Texas manuscript contest which fed her on-going fascination with story crafting. She has since published in magazines, newspapers, and online formats and in 2017, released the first novel in a series set during the World War II years in Longview, Texas—The Big Inch. She lives with her family in East Texas.

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Posted in excerpt, romance, women on July 9, 2017

THE CORNER OFFICE

by Katerina Baker

Publication Date: 23 Jun 2017

Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Issues

Synopsis

Tara Johnson’s sacrifices are about to pay off: a senior executive at thirty-five at a Fortune 500 company, she’s one of the two finalists in line for a Managing Director position. Unfortunately, her rival of fifteen years, the charming, infuriating Richard Boyd, is just as qualified, and unlike her, he’s willing to cross pretty much every line to get what he wants.

Of all the things Tara stored in the attic to make it to the top, it’s her personal life she misses the most. That is, until she starts a steamy affair with sex god Aidan, her direct report. Interoffice relationships with a subordinate can mean the end of a career, and when Richard finds out, it’s the perfect opportunity to take his high-heeled nemesis out, especially since he’s still nursing a grudge against Tara for rejecting him years ago.

But Tara’s increasingly domineering lover has his own dark secrets, endangering more than just her career. As her liaison spirals out of control, salvation will come from the man she always thought she hated, and perhaps the only one to truly understand her.

Excerpt

I sauntered to the elevator with my well-practiced “confident” walk, stretched my arm to push the button—

And my high-heeled sandal slipped.

My knee gave in, and I grabbed onto the first thing I could reach to prevent me from the total embarrassment of ending up on the floor in front of everyone. I turned to thank the helpful soul…and came face-to-face with Richard and a lazy twist of his lips settled in the corner of his mouth. I continued to squeeze his arm and my chest brushed his side. But it was more than that; he placed his other arm on my lower back to support me, and I felt a slight tug. The bastard pulled me closer to him in front of everyone watching and my space was suddenly invaded by the scent of his cologne. By Richard.

My insides tightened, and my lips pained as I was still trying to keep them in a semblance of a smile in front of everyone.

“You okay there?” he asked, his expression no less mocking than it was earlier. “You seem flustered. I understand. You finally get to see my place.”

The following moment was the testament to the long road that got me to that point in my career. All the brutal hours I’d slaved in the office, the hard work, missing friends’ events because of last-minute urgent assignments, working through my own birthdays—it all came down to that. My self-control to not kill Richard when every inch of my body believed spending the next twenty years in prison would be well worth it.

I smiled into his snake-green eyes, pushed his arm away and stepped into the elevator. Just as the doors closed separating us, as he thankfully decided to stay with the next group, I managed to think of an appropriate response. But it was too late.

About the Author

Katerina Baker is a lucky gal who still attempts to have it all: full-time project management job that she enjoys, crazy family of four (with the ongoing threats of getting a pet to upset the family equilibrium) and writing.

Although on some days she is much more successful at managing her life than on the others, she still claims that she doesn’t want it any other way.

Katerina is represented by Sharon Belcastro from Belcastro Agency, and has a contract with Lachesis Publishing, who will be publishing her Romantic Suspense novel Under the Scrubs.

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Posted in excerpt, Family, Giveaway, Historical, Trailer, women on May 27, 2017

BEFORE THE RAIN FALLS

by

CAMILLE DI MAIO

 

  Genre: Women’s Fiction / Historical / Family

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Date of Publication: May 16, 2017

Number of Pages: 334

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After serving seventy years in prison for the murder of her sister, Eula, Della Lee has finally returned home to the Texas town of Puerto Pesar. She’s free from confinement—and ready to tell her secrets before it’s too late.

She finds a willing audience in journalist Mick Anders, who is reeling after his suspension from a Boston newspaper and in town, reluctantly, to investigate a mysterious portrait of Eula that reportedly sheds tears. He crosses paths with Dr. Paloma Vega, who’s visiting Puerto Pesar with her own mission: to take care of her ailing grandmother and to rescue her rebellious younger sister before something terrible happens. Paloma and Mick have their reasons to be in the hot, parched border town whose name translates as “Port of Regret.” But they don’t anticipate how their lives will be changed forever.

Moving and engrossing, this dual story alternates between Della’s dark ordeals of the 1940s and Paloma and Mick’s present-day search for answers―about roots, family, love, and what is truly important in life.

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Praise for Before the Rain Falls

Still wiping away tears! Before the Rain Falls is simultaneously heartbreaking, hopeful, and joyous: a story of complex characters with varied pasts and bright futures. Loved it! – Jennifer B. on Goodreads

This novel takes readers on an emotional, fast-paced, ride through one sister’s journey to self, redemption, and the true meaning of “freedom.” – Nicole W. on Goodreads

There is romance, mystery, and secrets that are kept till the very end that will have you not wanting this beautifully written story to end. – Carol B. on Goodreads

Excerpt from Before the Rain Falls, Chapter One

By Camille DiMaio

The portraits were definitely not where they belonged. They had hung over the bed, side by side, the two girls immortalized by the painter at the seaside. Now there were two spots of floral wallpaper, patches of brightness surrounded by faded print on the rest of the wall.  Della’s painting was likely in the shed somewhere, and the other was said to hang in the church, in a little shrine made to the town’s beloved girl. She’d heard some nonsense about it crying. Well, if it was, there was a lot to cry about.

In the morning, she planned to go to the church itself – Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her first foray into town. She’d found an old hat with a black veil, fashionable in its time, and perfect for whatever anonymity she could retain. She did not yet know if her notorious celebrity of the forties was still of interest to anyone today, but it felt too soon to find out.

She looked forward to venturing out. To breathe in fresh air, to see the sky and the trees and the clouds and the birds. The yard at the penitentiary was vast, but surrounded by tall brick walls and taller barbed wire that blocked the scene. Besides, one had to look out, not up, and be mindful of theft from fellow inmates and groping from the restless hands of the guards. Though that last part had not been an issue for her in the past few decades.

Funny how she could view her life in ten year spans. The nineteen forties – when she learned to be a champion catcher of greased pigs. The fifties – when she discovered a love of reading. The sixties – when she sabotaged her chance at parole. And so on. How long they all were. And yet they seemed like yesterday. Time was a droll companion when looked upon with such distance.

Those were the After Days, the ones that comprised most of the years of her life. More than most people lived. The days in which her sister was no longer the belle of Puerto Pesar, drawing crowds from around the country to the little church on Sunday mornings. The days, instead, when Eula resided six feet below the parched soil in the churchyard.

Della didn’t know what to call this new time. The Freedom Days, perhaps, but that didn’t seem quite right. It wasn’t enough that she could now walk around without bars to block the view. That was only one kind of freedom.

It was the freedom in telling your secrets before it was too late. Like the confessional of her youth, whispering things to Fr. Medina that she told no one else. About how she missed her mother. Her guilt over not being a good enough caregiver for her sister. Della had a story and she was ready to tell it.

She would think of this time as the Truth Days. That was it.

The Truth Days.

And it would start by visiting Eula.

DiMaio PicCamille is an award-winning real estate agent in San Antonio who, along with her husband of 18 years, home schools their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending, and uses her adventures to inspire her writing. She’s lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California, and spends enough time in Hawai’i to feel like a local. She’s traveled to four continents (so far), and met Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. She just about fainted when she had a chance to meet her musical idol, Paul McCartney, too. Camille studied political science in college, but found working on actual campaigns much more fun. She belts out Broadway tunes whenever the moment strikes, and forever stays up late reading “just one more chapter”. There’s almost nothing she wouldn’t try, so long as it doesn’t involve heights, roller skates, or anything illegal. “The Memory of Us” is Camille’s debut novel. Her second, “Before the Rain Falls” will be released in the spring of 2017.

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Posted in coming of age, Spotlight, women on May 21, 2017

THE ADVENTURES OF MISS VULPE

A Coming of Age Story for Adults

by

MARIA ELENA SANDOVICI

 

  Genre: Contemporary / Women’s Fiction / Coming of Age

Date of Publication: April 7, 2017

Number of Pages: 160

Ana Petrescu (aka Miss Vulpe) is a troubled teenager determined to solve the mystery of her parents’ double suicide. Escaping the scrutiny of her legal guardian and the unwanted interference of several therapists, she starts looking up people from her mother’s past. Her sleuthing requires her to lie about her identity, her age, and her lack of experience with men. While impersonating Miss Vulpe is more fun than going to school, there’s bound to be trouble and heartache when her web of lies unravels.

 

Maria Elena Sandovici lives in Houston with her dog. She travels to Bucharest often and also to Spain, but her favorite trip remains 45 South to Galveston. She has an art studio at Hardy and Nance in the Warehouse District, open the third Saturday of every month, blogs daily at havewatercolorswilltravel.com, and writes poetry in the voice of her dog. She is also the author of three previous novels about women who are struggling with finding their place in the world.

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Posted in Book Release, excerpt, Giveaway, romance, women on May 12, 2017

Synopsis

She’s never had a home
Growing up in a troubled foster home, Mercy Dane knew she could never rely on anyone but herself. She’s used to giving her all to people who don’t give her a second glance, so when she races to Blessings, Georgia, to save the life of an accident victim, she’s flabbergasted when the grateful town opens its arms to her. She never dreamed she’d ever find family or friends—or a man who looks at her as if she hung the stars.

Until she finds peace in his arms
Police Chief Lon Pittman is getting restless living in sleepy little Blessings. But the day Mercy Dane roars into his life on the back of a motorcycle, practically daring him to pull her over, he’s lost. There’s something about Mercy’s tough-yet-vulnerable spirit that calls to Lon, and he will do anything in his power to make her realize that home isn’t just where the heart is—home is where their heart is.

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Excerpt

From Chapter One

From childhood, Mercy Dane viewed Christmas Eve in Savannah, Georgia, like something out of a fairy tale. The old, elegant mansions were always lit from within and decorated with great swags of greenery hanging above the doorways and porch railings like thick green icing on snowy white cakes.

The shops decked out in similar holiday style were as charming as the sweet southern women who worked within. Each shop boasted fragrant evergreens, plush red velvet bows, and flickering lights mimicking the stars in the night sky above the city.

And even though Mercy had grown up on the hard side of town with lights far less grand, the lights in her world burned with true southern perseverance. Now that she was no longer a child, the beauty of the holiday was something other people celebrated, and on this cold Christmas Eve, she no longer believed in fairy tales. So far, the chapters of her life consisted of a series of foster families until she aged out of the system, and one magic Christmas Eve with a man she never saw again. The only lights in her world now were the lights where she worked at the Road Warrior Bar.

The yellow neon sign over the bar was partially broken. The R in Road was missing its leg, making the word look like Toad. But the patrons who frequented this bar didn’t care about the name. They came for the company and a drink or two to dull the disappointment of a lifetime of regrets.

Carson Beal, who went by the name of Moose, owned the bar. He’d been meaning to get the R fixed for years, but intention was worth nothing without the action, and Moose had yet to act upon the thought.

Outside, the blinking neon light beckoned, calling the lonely and the thirsty into the bar where the beer was cold and the gumbo and rice Moose served was hot with spice and fire.

Moose often took advantage of Mercy’s talent for baking after she’d once brought cupcakes for Moose and the employees to snack on. After that, she’d bring in some of whatever she’d made at home. On occasion Moose would ask her to bake him something special. It was always good to have a little extra money, so she willingly obliged.

This Christmas Eve, Moose had ordered an assortment of Christmas cookies for the bar. When Mercy came in to work carrying the box of baked goods, he was delighted. Now a large platter of cookies graced the north end of the bar.

The incongruity of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” playing in the background was only slightly less bizarre than the old tinsel Christmas tree hanging above the pool table like a molting chandelier.

Because of the holiday, only two of his four waitresses were on duty, Barb Hanson, a thirtysomething widow with purple hair, and Mercy Dane, the baker with a curvy body.

Mercy’s long, black hair was a stunning contrast to the red Christmas sweater she was wearing, and her willowy body and long, shapely legs looked even longer in her black jeans and boots. Her olive skin and dark hair gave her an exotic look, but being abandoned as a baby, and growing up in foster care, she had no knowledge of her heritage.

Barb of the purple hair wore red and green, a rather startling assortment of colors for a lady her age, and both women were wearing reindeer antler headbands with little bells. Between the bells and antlers, the music and cookies, and the Christmas tree hanging above the pool table, Moose had set a holiday mood.

Mercy had been working at the bar for over five years. Although she’d turned twenty-six just last week, her life, like this job, was going nowhere.

It was nearing midnight when a quick blast of cold air suddenly moved through the bar and made Mercy shiver. She didn’t have to look to know the ugly part of this job had just arrived.

“Damn, Moose, play some real music, why don’t ya?” Big Boy yelled as the door slammed shut behind him.

Moose glared at the big biker who’d entered his bar. “This is real music, Big Boy. Sit down somewhere and keep your opinions to yourself.”

The biker flipped Moose off, spat on the floor, and stomped through the room toward an empty table near the back, making sure to feel up Mercy’s backside in passing.

When Big Boy suddenly shoved his hand between her legs, she nearly dropped the tray of drinks she was carrying. She knew from experience that he was waiting for a reaction, so she chose to bear the insult without calling attention to it.

As soon as he was seated, Big Boy slapped the table and yelled at the barmaids. “One of you bitches bring me a beer!”

Moose glanced nervously at Mercy, aware that she’d become the target for most of Big Boy’s harassment.

Barb sailed past Mercy with a jingle in every step. “I’ve got his table,” she said.

“Thanks,” Mercy said, and delivered the drinks she was carrying. “Here you go, guys! Christmas Eve cheer and cookies from Moose!”

One trucker, a man named Pete, took a big bite out of the iced sugar cookie. “Mmm, this is good,” he said.

“Mercy made them,” Moose yelled.

Pete shook his head and took another bite. “You have a fine hand with baking. I’d ask you to marry me, darlin’, but my old lady would object.”

Mercy took the teasing with a grin. The men at this table were good men who always left nice tips. In fact, most of the patrons in the bar were men with no family or truckers who couldn’t get home for Christmas. Every now and then, a random woman would wander in to have a drink, but rarely lingered, except for Lorena Haysworth, the older woman sitting at the south end of the bar.

She’d been coming here since before Mercy was born, and in her younger days she and Moose had been lovers before slowly drifting apart. She’d come back into his life a few months ago and nightly claimed the seat at the end of the bar.

Barb took the first of what would be multiple beers to Big Boy’s table, along with a Christmas cookie and a bowl of stale pretzels, making sure to keep the table between them.

Big Boy lunged at her as if he was going to grab her, and when she turned around and ran, he leaned back and laughed.

Mercy returned to the bar with a new order and waited for Moose to fill it.

“Sorry about that,” Moose said, as he glanced toward the table where Big Boy was sitting.

Her eyes narrowed angrily. “How sorry are you? Sorry enough to kick him out? Or just sorry his money is more important to you than me and Barb?”

Moose’s face turned as red as his shirt. “Damn it, Mercy. You know how it goes,” he said, and pushed the new order across the bar.

She did know. The customer was always right. Trying not to buy into the turmoil, she picked up the tray and delivered the order with a smile.

The night wore on with Big Boy getting drunker and more belligerent, while Barb and Mercy dodged his constant attempts to maul them, until finally, it was time to close.

It was a few minutes before 2:00 a.m. when Moose shut down the bar. There were only three customers left. Big Boy, who was so close to passed out he couldn’t walk, Lorena, who was waiting to go home with Moose, and a trucker who’d fallen asleep at his table.

Mercy headed for the trucker, leaving Moose to wrestle Big Boy up and out.

The trucker was a small, wiry man named Frank Bigalow who fancied himself a ringer for country music star Willie Nelson. He was dreaming of hit songs and gold records when Mercy woke him.

“Frank. Frank. You need to wake up now. We’re closing.”

Bigalow straightened abruptly, momentarily confused as to where he was, then saw Mercy and smiled.

“Oh. Right. Sure thing, honey. What do I owe you?” he mumbled.

“Twelve dollars,” she said.

Bigalow stood up to get his wallet out of his pants then pulled out a twenty. “Keep the change and Merry Christmas,” he said.

“Thanks,” she said, and began bussing his table as he walked out of the bar.

Moose had Big Boy on his way out the door, and it was none too soon for Mercy.

She handed Moose the twenty when he returned. “Take twelve out. The rest is mine,” she said, and pocketed the change Moose gave her.

Within fifteen minutes, the bar was clear and swept, the money was in the safe, and Barb and Mercy were heading for the door.

“Hey! Girls! Wait up!” Moose said, then handed them each an envelope, along with little bags with some of Mercy’s cookies. “Merry Christmas. We’re not open tomorrow so sleep in.”

“Thank you,” Barb said, as she slid the envelope inside her purse.

“Much appreciated,” Mercy added, as she put her envelope in one of the inner pockets of her black leather bomber jacket. It was old and worn, but it was warm.

Then she grabbed her helmet and the cookies and headed out the door behind Barb and just ahead of Moose and Lorena. Once outside, she paused to judge the near-empty parking lot, making sure Big Boy and his Harley were at the motel across the street.

The air was cold and the sky was clear as she stashed the cookies, then put on her helmet and mounted her own Harley. Seconds later the quiet was broken by the rolling rumble of the engine as she toed up the kickstand, put the bike in gear, and rode off into the night.

The empty streets on the way to her apartment were a little eerie, but she was so tired she couldn’t work up the emotion to be scared. The streetlights were draped with Christmas garlands and red bows, but they were all one blur as Mercy sped toward home.

A city cop on neighborhood patrol saw her, recognized the lone bike and biker, and blinked his lights as she passed him.

She waved back and kept going.

When she stopped for a red light and realized she was the only person on this stretch of street, she didn’t breathe easy until the light turned green, and she moved on.

Finally, she was home. She eased up on the accelerator as she rolled through the gates of her apartment complex and parked the motorcycle beneath a light in plain view of the security cameras. She ran up the outer stairs to the second level and down the walkway to her apartment carrying her helmet and the cookies. No matter how many times she’d done this or how many times she’d moved since it happened, the fact that she’d once come home late at night to find out she’d been robbed, she never felt safe until she was in the apartment with the door locked behind her.

She tossed the helmet onto the sofa and took the cookies into the kitchen. Curious as to how much of a bonus Moose was giving this year, she was pleased to see a hundred-dollar bill.

“Nice,” she said, and took it and her night’s worth of tips to the refrigerator, opened up the freezer, and put the money inside an empty box that had once held a biscuit mix.

She wasn’t sure how much money she had saved up, but last time she’d counted it had been over two thousand dollars. It should have been in a bank, but these days, banks cost money to use, and she didn’t have any to spare, so she froze her assets.

The place smelled of stale coffee and something her neighbor across the hall had burned for dinner. She was tired and cold, but too wired to sleep, so she went to her bedroom, stripped out of her clothes, and took a long hot shower.

She returned to the kitchen later to find something to eat. One quick glance in the refrigerator was all the reminder she needed that she still hadn’t grocery shopped. She emptied what was left of the milk into a bowl of cereal and ate it standing by the sink, remembering another Christmas in Savannah, her first all on her own.

About the Author

SHARON SALA has over ninety-five books in print and has published in five different genres. She is a seventime RITA finalist, four-time Career Achievement winner from RT Book Reviews, and five-time winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award. Writing changed her life, her world, and her fate. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

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