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1. Interview and Giveaway: The End of Innocence by Allegra Jordan

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Allegra!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Allegra Jordan] A generative, generous listener.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Allegra Jordan]  Nothing. One of my greatest joys is walking outside and being fully present in nature.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Allegra Jordan]  Whale figurine– to remind me to not be like Jonah and run from my calling.

A card from my husband.

“Wisdom cat” small statue – a cat that is sitting like a Buddha statue – reminds me to be centered.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

[Allegra Jordan]  Skinny girl popcorn with a dusting of shredded parmesan cheese. After I finish working on a big deadline, a St. Germain/Chopin Vodka martini with a twist of lemon – DELISH, but not more than one per week. It’s a treat, not a lifestyle.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Allegra Jordan]  Marguerite Barankitse, the Angel of Burundi. She started Maison Shalom as a house of peace after a brutal massacre in her village. She has helped raise 30,000 people, including 10,000 children. I would love to know how she thinks about unbearable realities – because she really has changed a lot of things we thought never could be changed or done!

 

End of Innocence

By Allegra Jordan

Sourcebooks Landmark

Historical Fiction

May 1, 2015

ISBN: 9781492609933

$14.99 Trade Paperback

About the Book

In this enthralling story of love, loss, and divided loyalties, two students fall in love on the eve of WWI and must face a world at war—from opposing sides.

Cambridge, MA, 1914: Helen Windship Brooks, the precocious daughter of the prestigious Boston family, is struggling to find herself at the renowned Harvard-Radcliffe university when carefree British playboy, Riley Spencer, and his brooding German poet-cousin, Wils Brandl, burst into her sheltered world. As Wils quietly helps the beautiful, spirited Helen navigate Harvard, they fall for each other against a backdrop of tyrannical professors, intellectual debates, and secluded boat rides on the Charles River.

But with foreign tensions mounting and the country teetering on the brink of World War I, German-born Wils finds his future at Harvard—and in America—increasingly in danger. When both cousins are called to fight on opposing sides of the same war, Helen must decide if she is ready to fight her own battle for what she loves most.

Based on the true story behind a mysterious and controversial World War I memorial at this world-famous university, The End of Innocence sweeps readers from the elaborate elegance of Boston’s high society to Harvard’s hallowed halls to Belgium’s war-ravaged battlefields, offering a powerful and poignant vision of love and hope in the midst of a violent, broken world.

Purchase Here:

END OF INNOCENCE

Amazon | B&N | BAM | IndieBound

About the Author

Allegra Jordan is a writer and global innovation consultant. A graduate with honors of Harvard Business School, she led marketing at USAToday.com for four years and has taught innovation in sixteen countries and five continents.

Connect with Allegra Jordan

Website – http://allegrajordan.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/allegrajordan1

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/allegrajordanauthorpage

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6590524.Allegra_Jordan

Praise for End of Innocence

“This engaging debut from Jordan tells the love story of two college students who pursue their romance as World War I begins.”

“Jordan does a terrific job of contrasting the superficial formalities of the initial chapters depicting New England social life with the grueling realities of life in the trenches. Also on display is her knack for taking what at first seem like throwaway or background details and making them central to the story’s last third…”

“A thoughtful look at a turning point in world history.”

Helen is a sympathetic and complicated main character. Her strengths and weaknesses keep the reader’s attention, making this a worthwhile read.” – Kirkus

“A thoughtful work that offers an interesting perspective on the period.” – Booklist

“Reminiscent of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maise Dobbs books without the mystery, this novel explores the complications involved when war becomes personal. Jordan builds empathetic characters and an intriguing story. Library Journal ” – Library Journal

“Allegra Jordan’s The End of Innocence is a moving ode to a lost generation. With lyrical prose and rich historical detail, Jordan weaves a tale in which love overcomes fear, hope overcomes despair, and the indelible human spirit rises up to embrace renewal and reconciliation in the face of loss and destruction.” – Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor’s Wife

“Love in a time of war….surely there is no more compelling or romantic theme in all of literature Yet this fine debut novel appeals to the brain as well as the heart. Allegra Jordan brings us historical fiction at its best.” – Lee Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Guests on Earth and The Last Girls

“A delicious, well-crafted historical novel.” – Daniel Klein, NYT best-selling co-author of PLATO and A PLATYPUS WALKS INTO A BAR

“Downton Abbey has found a brilliant successor in this spellbinding tale of love, death, and war. The finest war fiction to be published in many years.” – Jonathan W. Jordan, bestselling author of Brothers, Rivals, Victors

“An exquisitely beautiful novel.” – William Ferris, UNC-Chapel Hill professor and former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities

Excerpt from END OF INNOCENCE

Harvard Yard

Wednesday, August 26, 1914

It was said that heroic architects didn’t fare well in Harvard Yard. If you wanted haut monde, move past the Johnston Gate, preferably to New York. The Yard was Boston’s: energetic, spare, solid.

The Yard had evolved as a collection of buildings, each with its own oddities, interspersed among large elm trees and tracts of grass. The rich red brickwork of Sever Hall stood apart from the austere gray of University Hall. Appleton Chapel’s Romanesque curves differed from the gabled turrets of Weld and the sharp peaks of Matthews. Holworthy, Hollis, and Stoughton were as plain as the Pilgrims. Holden Chapel, decorated with white cherubs above its door and tucked in a corner of the Yard, looked like a young girl’s playhouse. The red walls of Harvard and Massachusetts halls, many agreed, could be called honest but not much more. The massive new library had been named for a young man who went down on the Titanic two years before. There were those who would’ve had the architect trade tickets with the young lad. At least the squat form, dour roofline, and grate of Corinthian columns did indeed look like a library.

The Yard had become not a single building demanding the attention of all around it but the sum of its parts: its many irregular halls filled with many irregular people. Taken together over the course of nearly three hundred years, this endeavor of the Puritans was judged a resounding success by most. In fact, none were inclined to think higher of it than those forced to leave Harvard, such as the bespectacled Wilhelm von Lützow Brandl, a senior and the only son of a Prussian countess, at that hour suddenly called to return to Germany.

A soft rain fell in the Yard that day, but Wils seemed not to notice. His hands were stuffed in his trouser pockets; his gait slowed as the drops dampened his crested jacket, spotted his glasses, and wilted his starched collar. The dying elms, bored to their cores by a plague of leopard moths, provided meager cover.

He looked out to the Yard. Men in shirtsleeves and bowler hats carried old furniture and stacks of secondhand books into their dormitories. This was where the poor students lived. But the place had a motion, an energy. These Americans found no man above them except that he prove it on merit, and no man beneath them except by his own faults. They believed that the son of a fishmonger could match the son of a count and proved it with such regularity that an aristocrat like Wils feared for the future of the wealthy class.

He sighed, looking over the many faces he would never know. Mein Gott. He ran his hands through his short blond hair. I’ll miss this.

His mother had just wired demanding his return home. He pulled out the order from his pocket and reread it. She insisted that for his own safety he return home as soon as possible. She argued that Boston had been a hotbed of intolerance for more than three hundred years, and now news had reached Berlin that the American patriots conspired to send the German conductor of the Boston Symphony to a detention camp in the state of Georgia. That city was no place for her son.

She was understandably distressed, although he was certain the reports in Germany made the situation sound worse than it was. The papers there would miss that Harvard was welcoming, for instance. If the front door at Harvard was closed to a student due to his race, class, or nationality, inevitably a side door opened and a friend or professor would haul him back inside by his collar. Once a member of the club, always a member.

But Boston was a different matter. Proud, parochial, and hostile, Boston was a suspicious place filled with suspicious people. It was planned even in pre-Revolutionary times to convey-down to the last missing signpost-“If you don’t know where you are in Boston, what business do you have being here?” And they meant it. Wils kept his distance from Boston.

Wils crumpled the note in his hand and stuffed it into his pocket, then walked slowly to his seminar room in Harvard Hall, opened the door, and took an empty seat at the table just as the campus bell tolled.

The room was populated with twenty young men, their books, and a smattering of their sports equipment piled on the floor behind their chairs. After three years together in various clubs, classes, or sports, they were familiar faces. Wils recognized the arrogant mien of Thomas Althorp and the easy confidence of John Eliot, the captain of the football team. Three others were in the Spee Club, a social dining group Wils belonged to. One was a Swede, the other two from England.

The tiny, bespectacled Professor Charles Townsend Copeland walked to the head of the table. He wore a tweed suit and a checked tie and carried a bowler hat in his hand along with his notes. He cast a weary look over them as he placed his notes on the oak lectern.

The lectern was new with an updated crest, something that seemed to give Copeland pause. Wils smiled as he watched his professor ponder it. The crest was carved into the wood and painted in bright gold, different from those now-dulled ones painted on the backs of the black chairs in which they sat. The old crest spoke of reason and revelation: two books turned up, one turned down. The latest version had all three books upturned. Apparently you could-and were expected to-know everything by the time you left Harvard.

It would take some time before the crest found its way into all the classrooms and halls. Yankees were not ones to throw anything out, Wils had learned. He had been told more than once that two presidents and three generals had used this room and the chairs in which they sat. Even without this lore, it still wasn’t easy to forget such lineage, as the former occupants had a way of becoming portraits on the walls above, staring down with questioning glares. They were worthy-were you?

Professor Copeland called the class to order with a rap at the podium. “You are in Advanced Composition. If you intend to compose at a beginning or intermediate level, I recommend you leave.”

He then ran through the drier details of the class. Wils took few notes, having heard this speech several times before.

“In conclusion,” Copeland said, looking up from his notes, “what wasn’t explained in the syllabus is a specific point of order with which Harvard has not dealt in some time. This seminar started with thirty-two students. As you see, enrollment is now down to twenty, and the registrar has moved us to a smaller room.

“This reduction is not due to the excellent quality of instruction, which I can assure you is more than you deserve. No. This new war calls our young men to it like moths to the flame. And as we know moths are not meant to live in such impassioned conditions, and we can only hope that the war’s fire is extinguished soon.

“If you do remain in this class, and on this continent, I expect you to write with honesty and clarity. Organize your thoughts, avoid the bombastic, and shun things you cannot possibly know.

“Mr. Eliot, I can ward off sleep for only so long when you describe the ocean’s tide. Mr. Brandl, you will move me beyond the comfort of tearful frustration if you write yet another essay about something obscure in Plato. Mr. Althorp, your poems last semester sounded like the scrapings of a novice violinist. And Mr. Goodwin, no more discourses on Milton’s metaphors. It provokes waves of acid in my stomach that my doctor says I can no longer tolerate.”

Wils had now heard the same tirade for three years and the barbs no longer stung. As Copeland rambled, Wils’s mind wandered back to the telegram in his pocket. Though a dutiful son, he wanted to argue against his mother’s demands, against duty, against, heaven forbid, the philosophy of Kant. His return to Germany would be useless. The situation was not as intolerable as his mother believed. These were his classmates. He had good work to accomplish. The anti-German activity would abate if the war were short-and everyone said it would be.

“Brandl!” Copeland was standing over him.

“Sir?”

“Don’t be a toad. Pay attention.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Come to Hollis 15 after class, Mr. Brandl.”

Thomas snickered. “German rat.”

Wils cast a cold stare back.

When the Yard’s bell tolled the hour, Professor Copeland closed his book and looked up at the class. “Before you go-I know some of you may leave this very day to fight in Europe or to work with the Red Cross. Give me one last word.”

His face, stern for the past hour of lecturing, softened. He cleared his throat. “As we have heard before and will hear again, there is loss in this world, and we shall feel it, if not today, then tomorrow, or the week after that. That is the way of things. But there is also something equal to loss that you must not forget. There is an irrepressible renewal of life that we can no more stop than blot out the sun. This is a good and encouraging thought.

“Write me if you go to war and tell me what you see. That’s all for today.” And with that the class was dismissed.

* * *

Wils opened the heavy green door of Hollis Hall and dutifully walked up four flights of steps to Professor Copeland’s suite. He knocked on a door that still bore the arms of King George III. Copeland, his necktie loosened at the collar, opened the door.

“Brandl. Glad I saw you in class. We need to talk.”

“Yes, Professor. And I need your advice on something as well.”

“Most students do.” The professor ushered Wils inside.

The smell of stale ash permeated the room. The clouds cast shadows into the sitting area around the fireplace. Rings on the ceiling above the glass oil lamps testified to Copeland’s refusal of electricity for his apartment. The furniture-a worn sofa and chairs-bore the marks of years of students’ visits. A pitcher of water and a scotch decanter stood on a low table, an empty glass beside them.

Across the room by the corner windows, Copeland had placed a large desk and two wooden chairs. Copeland walked behind the desk, piled high with news articles, books, and folders, and pointed Wils to a particularly weathered chair in front of him, in which rested a stack of yellowing papers, weighted by a human skull of all things. Copeland had walked by it as if it were a used coffee cup.

“One of ours?” asked Brandl, as he moved the skull and papers respectfully to the desk.

The severe exterior of Copeland’s face cracked into a smile. “No. I’m researching Puritans. They kept skulls around. Reminded them to get on with it. Not dawdle. Fleeting life and all.”

“Oh yes. ‘Why grin, you hollow skull-‘”

“Please keep your Faust to yourself, Wils. But I do need to speak to you on that subject.”

“Faust?”

“No, death,” said Copeland. His lips tightened as he seemed to be weighing his words carefully. His face lacked any color or warmth now. “Well, more about life before death.”

“Mine?” asked Wils.

“No. Maximilian von Steiger’s life before his death.”

“What the devil? Max…he, he just left for the war. He’s dead?”

Copeland leaned toward him across the desk. “Yes, Maximilian von Steiger is dead. And no, he didn’t leave. Not in the corporeal sense. All ocean liners bound for Germany have been temporarily held, pending the end of the conflict in Europe.”

Wils’s eyes met Copeland’s. “What do you mean?”

“Steiger was found dead in his room.”

“Fever?”

“Noose.”

Wils’s eyes stung. His lips parted, but no sound came out. “You are sure?”

As Copeland nodded, Wils suddenly felt nauseous, his collar too tight. He had known Max nearly all his life. They lived near each other back in Prussia; they attended the same church and went to the same schools. Their mothers were even good friends. Wils loosened his tie.

“May I have some water, please, Professor?” Wils finally asked in a raspy voice. As Copeland turned his back to him, Wils took a deep breath, pulled out a linen handkerchief, and cleaned the fog from his spectacles.

The professor walked over to a nearby table and poured a glass of water. “How well did you know Max?” he asked, handing the glass to Wils.

He took the tumbler and held it tight, trying to still his shaking hand. “We met at church in Prussia when we were in the nursery. I’ve known him forever.”

“Did you know anything about any gaming debts that he’d incurred?”

Debts? “No.”

“Do you think that gaming debts were the cause of his beating last week?” asked Copeland, sitting back in his desk chair.

Wils moved to the edge of his seat. The prügel? Last Wednesday’s fight flashed into his mind. There had been a heated argument between Max and a very drunk Arnold Archer after dinner at the Spee dining club. Max had called him a coward for supporting the British but not being willing to fight for them. It wasn’t the most sensible thing to do given Archer ran with brawny, patriotic friends. On Thursday at the boathouse Max had received the worst of a fight with Archer’s gang.

“It was a schoolboys’ fight. They were drunk. Max was beaten because Arnold Archer was mad about the Germans beating the British in Belgium. Archer couldn’t fight because America’s neutral, so he hit a German who wouldn’t renounce his country. These fights break out all the time over politics when too much brandy gets in the way. People get over their arguments.”

“Didn’t Max make some nationalistic speech at the Spee Club?”

Wils’s back stiffened in indignation. “If Max had been British it would have gone unnoticed. But because he was German, Archer beat him.” He paused. “Max was going to tell the truth as he knew it, and thugs like Archer weren’t going to stop him.”

Copeland tapped a pencil against his knee. “How well do you think his strategy worked?”

Wils’s eyes widened. “Being beaten wasn’t Max’s fault, Professor. It was the fault of the person who used his fists.”

“Wils, Arnold Archer’s father is coming to see me this evening to discuss the case. His son is under suspicion for Max’s death.”

“I hope Arnold goes to jail.”

“Arnold may not have been involved.”

Wils set the glass down on the wooden desk and stood up. “He’s a pig.”

“Wils, according to Arnold, Max tried to send sensitive information about the Charlestown Navy Yard to Germany.” A faint tinge of pink briefly colored the professor’s cheeks. “Arnold said he knew about this and was going to go to the police. Max may have thought that he would go to jail for endangering the lives of Americans and British citizens. And if what Arnold said was right, then Max may have faced some very serious consequences.”

“America’s not at war.”

The professor didn’t respond.

“Why would Max do such a thing then?” asked Wils curtly.

“Arnold says he was blackmailed because of his gaming debts.”

“What could Max possibly have found? He’s incapable of remembering to brush his hair on most days.”

Copeland threw up his hands, nearly tipping over a stack of books on the desk. “I have no idea. Maybe America’s building ships for England. Maybe we’ve captured a German ship. Apparently he found something. Sometime later, Max was found by his maid, hung with a noose fashioned from his own necktie. His room was a wreck.” Copeland looked at him intently. “And now the police don’t know if it was suicide or murder. Arnold might have wanted to take matters into his own hands-as he did the other night after the Spee Club incident.”

Wils ran his hands through his hair. “Arnold a murderer? It just doesn’t make sense. It was a schoolboys’ fight. And Arnold’s a fool, but much more of a village idiot than a schemer.”

“Don’t underestimate him, Wils. He’s not an idiot. He’s the son of a very powerful local politician who wants to run for higher office. His father holds City Hall in his pocket.”

“Are you speaking of Boston City Hall?”

“Yes.”

“I could care less about some martinet from Boston. I’m related to half the monarchs in Europe.” Wils sneered.

“City Hall has more power over you right now than some king in a faraway land,” said Copeland. “Arresting another German, maybe stopping a German spy ring-that would be exactly the thing that could get a man like Charles Archer elected to Congress. I’d recommend you cooperate with City Hall on any investigation into Max’s death. If you have information, you will need to share it.”

“If Arnold killed Max-” He stopped, barely able to breathe. Max dead by Arnold’s hand? Unthinkable. “Was there a note?”

“No, nothing. That’s why the Boston police may arrest Archer even if his father does run City Hall. Either it was a suicide and it won’t happen again, or perhaps we need to warn our German students about…a problem.” Copeland’s fingers brushed the edge of his desk. “That was the point of my summoning you here now. It could’ve been suicide. Therefore, the police want to talk with you before innocent people are accused, and I’d recommend you do it.”

But Wils had already taken the bait. “Innocent people? Arnold Archer? Is this a joke?” asked Wils.

“He may not be guilty.”

Wils paused. “I’m not sure how much money his father’s giving Harvard, but it had better be a lot.”

“That’s most uncharitable!”

“And so is the possible murder of a decent human! Where’s Professor Francke? I’d like to speak with him. He is a great German leader here on campus whom everyone respects. He’ll know how to advise me.”

“You are right. Professor Francke is a moderate, respected voice of reason. But he’s German and the police questioned him this morning. He is cooperating. His ties to the kaiser have naturally brought him under suspicion. City Hall thinks he could be a ringleader of a band of German spies. The dean of students asked me to speak with you and a few others prior to your discussions with the police. They should contact you shortly regarding this unpleasantness.”

“If that is all-” Wils bowed his head to leave, anger rising in his throat from the injustice of what he’d heard. First murder and now harassment were being committed against his countrymen, and somehow they were to blame for it? Not possible. Professor Francke was one of the most generous and beloved professors at Harvard. Max was a harmless soul.

“Wils, you had said you wished to ask me about something.”

Wils thought back to his mother’s telegram. Perhaps she’d been right to demand his return after all. He looked up at Copeland, sitting under an image of an old Spanish peasant. He seemed to have shrunk in his large desk chair.

“No, Professor. Nothing at all. Good day.”

Copeland didn’t rise as Wils turned to enter the dimly lit hallway. As his eyes adjusted, a famous poem Copeland had taught him in class-Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach”-came to him. Wils turned back to his teacher and said:

“For the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain-”

Copeland brightened. “‘Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night,'” they finished together. Wils nodded, unable to speak further.

“Matthew Arnold has his moments. Do take care, Wils. Stay alert. I am concerned about you and want you to be safe. The world is becoming darker just now. Your intellectual light is one worth preserving. Now please close the door from the outside.” Copeland looked down again, and the interview was over.

* * *

The rain had driven the students inside their dormitories and flooded the walkways in Harvard Yard. As Wils left Hollis Hall, he removed his tie and pushed it into his pocket. The damned Americans talk brotherhood, he thought, but if you’re from the wrong side of Europe you’re no brother to them.

Max dead. Arnold Archer under suspicion. And what was all of that ridiculous nonsense about the Charlestown Navy Yard, he wondered, deep in thought, nearly walking into a large blue mailbox. He crossed the busy street and walked toward his room in Beck Hall.

In his mind, he saw Max trading barbs at the dinner table and laughing at the jests of Wils’s roommate, Riley, an inveterate prankster. And how happy Max had been when Felicity, his girlfriend from Radcliffe College, had agreed to go with him to a dance. But he’d been utterly heartbroken when she deserted him last year for a senior. This past summer Wils and Max had walked along the banks of the Baltic, when they were back in Europe for summer vacation. He said he would never get over her and he never really had. So what had happened to him?

Anger at the injustice of Max’s death welled up inside Wils as he opened the arched door of Beck Hall and walked quickly past Mr. Burton’s desk. The housemaster didn’t look up from his reading. Wils shut the door to his room behind him. His breath was short. His hands hadn’t stopped trembling. He had to find Riley and discuss what to do about Arnold.

What was happening to his world? His beautiful, carefully built world was cracking. Germany and Britain at war? Max dead? Professor Francke hauled in and questioned?

Wils felt a strange fury welling up inside of him. He wanted something to hurt as badly as he did. He picked up a porcelain vase and hurled it against the brick fireplace. It crashed and shattered, the blue-and-white shards scattering over the crimson rug.

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2. Review: His Favorite Cowboy by Leigh Duncan

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I purchased His Favorite Cowgirl during an Harlequin sale, based solely on the cover.  There’s a cowboy.  And a cowgirl.  Sometimes that’s all the motivation I need to read a book!

Kelly Tompkins has to return home after her estranged grandfather has an accident.  His health isn’t good, and it’s been determined that he’ll need long term care in an effort to recover.  Kelly has a fast-paced job in Texas at a family owned boot maker, and she’s about to land the deal of a lifetime.  If she can close on it, she’ll guarantee her future with a promotion and a pay raise.  Unfortunately, her grandfather has neglected his ranch, allowing it to fall into disrepair.  The cattle are thin and scrawny, there are back taxes due, and if Kelly wants to provide the care her grandfather needs, she’ll have to get some repairs done and sell the land that’s been in her family for generations.

Hank Judd, her old high school flame, offers to help her fix up the place if she’ll give him the property listing.  Hank’s fallen on hard times with the recession, and he’s lost his real estate business.  After his father’s death, he moved back to the Circle P, where he grew up, to help his friend run his ranch.  His job as ranch foreman is temporary, and Hank plans to save up so he can move back to Tallahassee and start over again.  He’s got a lot to make up for; he was so busy chasing the good life that he neglected his young daughter, and now that he realizes life can be unexpectedly short, he wants to get to know her.  He’s been divorced since she was a baby, and now that she’s ten, she’s like a stranger to him.  Arranging for her to spend time with him on the ranch while his wife travels with her wealthy parents, he has no idea what he’s getting himself into.  His daughter is spoiled and overindulged, and he’s lacking the skills to deal with her without conflict.

Kelly takes pity on the girl, remembering how she felt when her mother dumped her with her grandfather.  Kelly is a woman who has been lacking expressions of love, and after a disastrous fight with Hank just before graduation, her grandfather threw her off the ranch.  Kelly’s family and the Circle P have been feuding for decades, and her grandfather saw her relationship with Hank a betrayal.  With no one to turn to, Kelly struck out on her own, working hard to make a career for herself.  She’s still hurt from being kicked out of her home, and for Hank letting her down when she needed love and help the most.  Seeing him again doesn’t bring back happy memories.  Instead, she remembers the bitterness of being let down by the man she loved with all her heart.

While I enjoyed His Favorite Cowgirl, some things did not work for me.  The major deal killer was how hypocritical I thought Kelly was.  She is infuriated when Hank never mentions that he no longer has his real estate business, while keeping details of her changed employment status to herself.  I completely understood how embarrassed Hank was over his changed circumstances, and how he wouldn’t want to share the details of his failed business with anyone.  Kelly is always quick to think the worst of him, and while some of her distrust was understandable, I thought she needed to cut him some slack.  Both of them needed to open up and communicate better, because both of them kept important details about their lives a secret, and that bothered me.

I did like how Hank and his daughter slowly came to love and respect each other, and how Kelly acted as an intermediary to allow that to happen.  I also enjoyed the daily ranching activities, and the barrel racing lessons.  I wonder if Pixie could learn to run a cloverleaf around barrels without giving herself a heart attack?  Those barrels terrify me whenever I see them in construction zones!

Grade:  C+ / B-

Review copy purchased from Harlequin.com

From Amazon:

You Can Go Home Again

A stint as ranch manager on the Circle P may be the perfect way for Hank Judd to reconnect with his ten-year-old daughter. And selling his former girlfriend’s family ranch will provide the cash he needs to restart his failed real-estate business. He just has to resist falling for the girl next door all over again.

Kelly Tompkins needs to sell her grandfather’s ranch quickly to pay for his medical expenses and get back to Texas before she loses her chance at a promotion. Hank is the last person she wants to see, but she can’t deny she needs his help. But spending time with the boy who let her down twelve years ago may unearth a heartache that has never truly healed….

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3. Spotlight and Giveaway: Love in the Time of Scandal by Caroline Linden

I have a spotlight and giveaway for Love in the Time of Scandal by Caroline Linden. Enjoy!

Love in the Time of Scandal
Scandalous # 3

By: Caroline Linden

Releasing May 26, 2015

Avon

Blurb

The third book in a deliciously sexy series from USA Today bestselling and RITA award winning author Caroline Linden, in which an utterly shocking book–Ffty Shades of Grey for the Regency era– has all of London talking and gives more than one young miss a mind for scandal.

Penelope Weston does not like Benedict Lennox, Lord Atherton. He may be the suave and charming heir to an earl, as well as the most handsome man on earth, but she can’t forget how he abandoned a friend in need-nor how he once courted her sister, Abigail. He’s the last man she would ever marry. If only she didn’t feel so attracted to the arrogant scoundrel…

Once upon a time, Benedict thought he and Penelope got along rather well. But, though he needs a wealthy bride to escape his cruel father’s control, spirited Penelope just doesn’t suit his plans for a model marriage — until a good deed goes awry, and scandalous rumors link his name to Penelope’s. She might not be the quiet, sensible wife he thought he wanted, but she is beautiful…beguiling…and far more passionate than he ever imagined. Can a marriage begun in scandal become a love match, too?

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/03/love-in-time-of-scandal-scandalous-3-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22590311-love-in-the-time-of-scandal?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/114934-scandalous

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info

Caroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a math degree from Harvard University and wrote computer software before turning to writing fiction. Ten years, twelve books, three Red Sox championships, and one dog later, she has never been happier with her decision. Her books have won the NEC Reader’s Choice Beanpot Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, and RWA’s RITA Award. Since she never won any prizes in math, she takes this as a sign that her decision was also a smart one. Visit her online at www.carolinelinden.com.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

EXCERPT:

For a tense moment they seemed frozen there, Penelope biting her tongue, Frances looking troubled, and Atherton staring at her with a strange intensity. He shook it off first. “Miss Lockwood, I hope you’ve saved me a dance.”

Frances’s smile returned, although a little less brilliantly than before. “Of course, my lord. I am free the next two.”

“Excellent.” He gazed warmly at her, and Frances seemed to sway on her feet.

Penelope had to work hard to keep from rolling her eyes. How could she escape this? Thankfully she caught sight of a familiar face across the room, causing her to smile widely in relief. “You must excuse me, I see a dear friend just arriving. Miss Lockwood, Lord Atherton.” She bobbed a quick farewell and all but ran across the room.

Olivia Townsend was one of Penelope’s favorite people in the world. She was only a few years older than Abigail, and had been like an older sister to the two Weston girls for as long as Penelope could remember. Olivia’s family had lived near the Westons and all four children had been fast friends. But while Penelope’s family had prospered—greatly—since then, Oliva’s had not. At a fairly young age, she’d made a hasty marriage of dubious happiness to a charming but feckless fellow, Henry Townsend, who managed to run through his modest fortune with shocking speed before his death a few years ago. Since then, Olivia had lived very modestly. It was a surprise to see her here tonight, in fact, as she didn’t often attend balls.

“Olivia!”

Her friend was scanning the room and didn’t seem to have noticed her approach; she jumped at Penelope’s exclamation. “Oh,” she said in a constricted voice. “You startled me.”

She blinked. “I can see that. Whom were you expecting, an ogre?”

For a moment Olivia’s face froze, as if she had in fact been on guard, but then she smiled ruefully. With a shake of her head, she turned her back to the room and squeezed Penelope’s hand. “Forgive me; I was woolgathering. Are you enjoying the ball?”

“Well enough.” Penelope peered closely at her. “What’s wrong? You looked worried.”

Olivia waved one hand. “It was nothing. How kind of you to leave your friends and join me.”

Penelope barely kept back her snort. “I don’t know how I could have stayed. You’ll never guess who Miss Lockwood’s new suitor is.”

“Who?”

“Lord Atherton,” whispered Penelope, after a cautious glance backward. She’d already let her temper get the better of her once tonight, and wouldn’t put it past him to overhear every slighting word she spoke about him.

Olivia looked surprised. “Atherton? The gentleman who courted—?”

“The same,” said Penelope grimly. “And my sister felt so cruel to turn him down! I shall have to write to her at once and assure her that, far from suffering a malaise, he’s found a younger, sillier girl to marry.”

“Now, Pen, you don’t know that. He may be deeply attached to her.”

She couldn’t stop the snort this time. “She is certainly attached to him. He’s the perfect man, in her telling. I don’t know how I could have held my composure if I’d known who she was talking about. He sits and listens to her practice the pianoforte—can you imagine?”

“Perhaps he enjoys it.” Penelope widened her eyes in patent disbelief. “Perhaps he’s so smitten with her, he would be content just to sit and gaze at her,” Olivia added. “It could happen.”

“Huh.” Penelope made a face. Just the thought of Lord Atherton sitting and staring at her was enough to make her skin prickle.

“Well, it’s Miss Lockwood’s cross to bear,” said Olivia practically.

“But if he marries her, I’ll have to see him from time to time.” Frances might be young and naïve, but she was endearing all the same, and Penelope did like her.

Olivia laughed and tucked Penelope’s arm through hers. “Perhaps she’ll become disenchanted and change her mind about him.”

She caught sight of Lord Atherton, leading Frances about the floor in a quadrille. Frances was fairly radiating adoration as she gazed up at him. It took Penelope some effort to quell the urge to run over and warn Frances not to fall for his very handsome smile, or athletic figure, or disgustingly perfect face. “For her sake as well as mine,” she grumbled, “I hope so.”

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Runner Up: print copies of the first two books in Caroline Linden’s Scandalous series, LOVE AND OTHER SCANDALS, and IT TAKES A SCANDAL

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4. Guest Post and Giveaway: Last of the Red-Hot Riders by Tina Leonard

Tina Leonard is celebrating the release of Last of the Red-Hot Riders.  Read her guest post and enter the giveaway below!

Tina’s Top Five Guilty Pleasures

1. Time on a Florida beach.  I was born in Pensacola, so my husband says I’m a salmon, I have to go “home” at least once a year.  :)  But there’s almost no place that makes me happier than the ocean!

2. Kindle reading. Argh! I used to have to wait for reading a great book, but not any more! And audible books, omg.  If I’d had these things when I was a kid, I wouldn’t have had to hide in the closet at night to read! :)

3. Expensive shoes, one pair a year. Thankfully, my husband understands this tiny, expensive, foible of mine.

4. Santa Fe.  Churches. Historical stuff. I can’t help it, there’s something about churches and history that calls to me. Santa Fe is a place where I felt it all coming together for me.  We went to El Santuaria de Chimayo and dug holy dirt out of a hole. There’s something about walking in Willa Cather’s footsteps, too, that called to my spirit. I can get so lost in books about history.

5. China. And jewelry.  Fragile things. Anything British, like Britcoms and P.G. Wodehouse.  I know this is eclectic for a guilty pleasure, but teacups, teapots, jewelry—these things are catnip for me. I had a friend send me a necklace handmade in Africa and I love it. My son brought back a ceremonial collar, worn around the neck, from Kenya, that the Masai warriors wear. I love these things that people make. I also have several teapots, one made in Ireland with an Irish pattern on it that I adore. I guess I’m an old-fashioned girl, but I love things with beauty and sentiment attached to them!

 

Last of the Red-Hot Riders
Hell’s Outlaws # 2

By: Tina Leonard

Releasing May 26, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb


The toughest rodeo rider in Hell, Texas, discovers his tender side with a feisty cowgirl in this sexy new novel from USA Today bestselling author Tina Leonard.

Cameron Dix knows that becoming an elite rider is the first step to realizing her dream: owning a special-needs equestrian academy. Only one thing stands in her way—and he’s big, tall, and sizzles like a Texas steak. Superhunk Saint Markham claims that he isn’t happy about all the women galloping into town, but the heat in his eyes tells Cameron a different story. What else can a fiery redhead do but let her hair down and give in to desire hot enough to melt her saddle?

Saint has seen what happens when women come marching into the Hell’s Outlaws Training Center: Strong men crumble. Problem is, he’s got rivals willing to train a talented lady rider like Cameron. But after one night of passion, he’s branded. And from the moment he kisses her ruby lips, Cameron is his—even if he’s too stubborn to admit it. Now Saint must stake his claim on a life of delicious sin with the woman he loves.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/02/last-of-red-hot-riders-hells-outlaws-2.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23166849-last-of-the-red-hot-riders?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/122625-hell-s-outlaws

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo | Publisher

Author Info

USA Today Bestselling and award-winning author Tina Leonard has sold over 3 million books, making the USA Today, Waldenbooks, Bookscan, and Ingrambook bestseller lists, and publishing over seventy titles. Her work has been contracted by Random House Loveswept, Samhain Publishing, Harlequin, London Bridge, and most recently Diversion Books. Leonard is known for her sparkling sense of humor, endearing communities, snappy dialogue, and memorable characters that include sexy hunks with attitude and heroines with plenty of sass. Join her at www.tinaleonard.com

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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5. Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

The Wrath and the Dawn is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights.  I was curious to read it, because how do you make a guy who kills a young girl before dawn breaks a sympathetic character?  And why does a young woman with her whole life ahead of her volunteer to be one of the Caliph’s doomed brides?  When I first started reading this, it did not hold my attention, and I thought that Shazi’s stories weren’t compelling enough to save her from her ghastly fate.  But once Shazi and Khalid started doing something other than staring warily at each other in Shazi’s quarters, the plot took off.  Both characters were given depth and faults and reasons for their behavior.  After a romantic interlude in the market, I couldn’t put it down.

Shazi has volunteered to become Khalid’s latest bride.  She knows that she probably won’t live to see the dawn, since he has been murdering scores of young brides for weeks.  Her best friend was one of his victims, and Shazi wants revenge.  She gives up her old life, and her old love, in an attempt to find out why Khalid is killing his wives.  She wants to stop him, so no one else will have to suffer the fate of those innocent girls.  During her wedding night, she begins to tell her murderous husband a story, stopping at a cliffhanger and refusing to speak any further until the next evening.  Her ploy works, and Khalid doesn’t have her killed.  Score one for the clever Shazi.

Khalid has been cursed, and he frets that if he doesn’t take a new life every dawn, his people will suffer.  There is something about Shazi that stays his hand, however, and makes him tempt fate.  She proves to be incredibly clever and brave, and she is everything that the Caliph’s spouse should be.  She cares about the welfare of his subjects, and as she gets to know Khalid, she begins to care about him.  It did drive me crazy that they both kept so many secrets from each other, and that it took until almost the end of the book for him to tell her why he was killing the girls, but I am not known for my patience.

While Shazi is attempting to solve the mystery behind Khalid’s behavior and put a stop to it, her task is complicated by her childhood friend, Tareq. At first I was afraid there would be a love-triangle, but thankfully it was more one-sided.  Shazi was too intent on obtaining her revenge to spare romantic thoughts for Tareq.  Yes, she felt guilty once she was drawn to Khalid, and yes, she was torn by her loyalty to Tareq, but once he shows up on the scene, he only seems to get in the way of Shazi’s plans.  He keeps interfering, and she just wants him to go back home.  What she doesn’t know is that he has started a rebellion against the Caliph.  There are many people upset by the murders, as well as power hungry individuals just waiting for their chance to make a power grab.

I liked Shazi because she doesn’t just sit around waiting for someone else to solve her problems.  She’s courageous and willing to put her life on the line to stop Khalid from killing again.  I liked Khalid, too, because it’s obvious that he’s suffering horribly from the things he’s done, but he doesn’t know how to put things to rights.  Add in some action, lots of angst, and a couple who come to care for each other despite all of the challenges facing them, and you have a book that is hard to put down.  Fair warning: this doesn’t end so much as it just stops.  If I had realized it was a series, I probably would have waited until it was finished before I started it.

Grade:  B / B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

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6. Novella Review: Into the Fire by Donna Alward

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I love Donna Alward’s writing, but I haven’t read much of her work outside of her Harlequins.  When I saw that Into the Fire had an animal shelter, I had to read it.  This is a quick read, with a hero who isn’t afraid to admit that he has made some mistakes, and a heroine with self-esteem issues.  I really enjoyed it.

Ally and Chris are brought back together after a fire destroys her animal shelter.  She is mourning the loss of the animals she couldn’t save, and isn’t ready to head home to her demanding parents yet.  Chris, her ex, offers to take her to his place, where she can take a shower and get herself back together.  Because Chris is being so kind, and because she’s in shock, she agrees to go with him.

Ally broke up with Chris three years before, and she never really got over him.  She felt pressured into marrying him, though, and she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life.  When she learns that he’s become a volunteer fireman, and that he’s purchased a house of his own, she feels even more upset with herself.  While Chris has moved forward with his life and achieved some of his goals, she feels as though she hasn’t accomplished anything. She still lives at home, her parents are disappointed with her, and she’s just lost the only thing that mattered to her.  While she wasn’t make any money running the shelter, it gave her a reason to get up every day.  She knows that working part time, for minimum wage, at the local drug store isn’t a career, but it allowed her to keep the shelter going.  Now that it’s gone, she’s at lose ends.

I liked both Ally and Chris.  Ally is consumed with self-doubt, thinking that she’s disappointed her parents and that she isn’t doing anything worthwhile with her life.  Chris understands that he did push her three years ago, and now he’s willing to give her the space and time she needs if it means that they can get back together again.  What he doesn’t count on is Ally’s opposition to his job as a fire fighter.  After losing her sister, Ally is terrified of losing someone else close to her, and Chris’s job puts him in harm’s way every time he responds to an emergency call.

The conflict was believable, as Ally grappled for an identity for herself, as well as a way to reconcile herself to the danger presented by Chris’s job.  It’s easier for her to run away again, however, than it is for her to deal with her problems.  She did frustrate me when she refused to compromise, and I thought that Chris did all of the giving at first, which made Ally seem selfish and unworthy of his love.  She turns it around by the end, earning this a solid B.

Grade:  B

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

The heat is on…

First Responders, Book 3

The last person firefighter Chris Jackson expects to rescue from a burning animal shelter is Ally Gallant—his ex-fiancée. Even though three years have passed since she gave him back his ring, one look at her frightened face in the haze of a smoky building is all it takes for him to realize he’ll still do anything to protect her.

Ally’s put her heart and soul into the shelter, and she’s devastated when it’s destroyed. What’s more, Chris is suddenly there for her in ways she doesn’t expect—ways she’s sure she doesn’t deserve—as she makes decisions about her future. Then there’s the not-so-small matter of the blazing passion between them that refuses to be extinguished.

But when Chris is injured while on a call, Ally’s reminded of all the reasons she walked away. Now she must look deep within herself to find the courage to put fear on the back burner and step into the fire—into love.

Warning: Adorable dogs, a hot firefighter and five-alarm passion. Fire extinguisher (or cold shower) highly recommended.

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7. Spotlight and Giveaway: Lady Sarah’s Sinful Desires by Sophie Barnes

This morning, I have an excerpt and giveaway for Lady Sarah’s Sinful Desires. Enjoy!

Lady Sarah’s Sinful Desires
Secrets at Thorncliff Manor # 1

By: Sophie Barnes

Releasing April 28, 2015

Avon

Blurb

Welcome to Thorncliff Manor, where London’s elite mix, mingle, and may even find their heart’s desire…

There are thousands of things Christopher, Viscount Spencer, would rather do than hunt for a bride, especially since experience has taught him that women are not to be trusted. Then he finds the intriguing Lady Sarah scrambling around in Thorncliff’s conservatory and he is instantly charmed by her passionate nature. But why is she so intent on avoiding him?

Lady Sarah would make the perfect bride for a peer—if not for a tarnished past that she’s hiding from the ton. A stay at Thorncliff Manor was meant to help her plan for her future, not fall in love. Yet Christopher’s kisses are irresistible, his gallantry enticing. When her secret stands to be revealed, will the truth ruin their dreams of happiness?

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/02/lady-sarahs-sinful-desires-secrets-at.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23149157-lady-sarah-s-sinful-desires?ac=1
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/136344-secrets-at-thorncliff-manor

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/o5lPP153kEc

Buy Links: Amazon |B & N | iTunes | Kobo

 

Author Info

Born in Denmark, Sophie Barnes spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She’s lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish and Romanian. She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor’s degree from Parsons. But, most impressive of all, she’s been married to the same man three times—in three different countries and in three different dresses.

While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion: writing. When she’s not busy dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Excerpt

In another carriage on the way to Thorncliff Manor

Seated between her younger stepsisters, Alice and Juliet, Sarah made a stoic attempt to ignore the dis- approving look that sat upon her stepmother’s face. Her father was more tolerable, since he’d been reading his newspaper the entire journey and had paid little attention to the rest of the family.

“Is there something you wish to say, Mama?” Sarah eventually asked, unable to stop herself from uttering the question for one moment longer.

Lady Andover’s gaze narrowed, but just as Sarah had suspected, she merely responded with, “Not at the moment.”

Speaking of Sarah’s sins in front of her young, impressionable sisters was taboo. Later, however, once the girls were out of earshot, Sarah had no doubt that her stepmother’s tongue would give her a sound thrashing. After all, it was what Sarah had come to expect after proving herself a disappointment to the Argisle name.

“Would you look at that?” Alice suddenly gasped, supplying Sarah with a much-needed distraction. Leaning forward while Juliet tried to press past her in an attempt to look out the window as well, Sarah just man- aged to catch a glimpse of the largest building she’d ever seen when her stepmother said, “Do sit back, Sarah. Your sister can’t see when you’re in the way.”

Sarah did as she was told, fully aware that her stepmother had just used Alice and Juliet to her own advantage, for there was a smug smile upon her face as if to say, I know you do not wish to cause a scan- dal in their presence.

Biting back a scathing remark, Sarah remained silent and unmoving while her sisters’ excitement filled the carriage. Instead, she reached inside her reticule and stroked the little fur ball within, taking comfort in its heat while she wondered what her step- mother would say if she were to discover that Sarah had brought her pet hamster along with her. Lady Andover would probably find a way to punish Sarah for it, which was all the more reason for Sarah to keep her pet well hidden.

“We’re finally here,” Alice exclaimed as the carriage tumbled into a paved courtyard and came to a swaying halt. “Just look at that doorway! It must be twice as wide as the one we have at home.”

“And beautifully carved too,” Juliet said as she strained to look past her sister. “Oh, I can’t wait to get inside.”

Sarah couldn’t help but agree as she stared out at the looming façade, the weather-worn stones suggesting that this great building had borne witness to many things through the ages. It had history.

“Calm yourselves, dears,” Lady Andover said. “You may be on holiday, but you are still expected to conduct yourselves properly.” She looked directly at Sarah, a warning in her sharp eyes. “There will be no running about. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Mama,” Alice and Juliet spoke in unison, their voices filled with disappointment. A footman opened the carriage door and gracefully offered his hand to Lady Andover. She alit, followed by Alice and Juliet. Sarah made to follow them, but she was stopped by her father’s staying hand upon her arm. “You will not disrespect your stepmother,” he told her softly but sternly. “After all that you have done— the disgrace you have put us through—you have no right. No right at all. Do I make myself clear?”

“Perfectly, my lord.”

With a curt nod, he released her, allowing her to flee the stifling interior of the carriage even if she could never escape her shame. A tight knot twisted inside her chest as she watched her sisters climb the steps of Thorncliff. Please don’t make the same mistake I did, she prayed as she started after them, un- bearably aware of her father’s stubborn presence at her side. “There’s a purpose to this visit,” he muttered. “I trust you will remember that.”

Looking up into his stalwart gaze, Sarah nodded. How could she possibly forget?

 

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8. The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves–RIP Vicktory Dog Ray

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba of The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  This is a weekly meme where we can share news of the week and highlight new books received.

Another of the Vicktory Dogs has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  These dogs are game changers, and they proved that love and loyalty have nothing to do with breed or upbringing.  Victims of greed and cruelty, they have proven time and again that despite their reputation, they are capable of more love and possess more soul than most humans.  I worry that their stories will be forgotten as they are lost, one after another, but they will always hold a special place in my heart.  Rest in peace, Ray, you’ve more than earned your place in Heaven.

You can read about Ray here: http://raythevicktorydog.com/2015/05/16/hearts-torn-asunder/

Well, my first physical therapy appointment was less than encouraging.  I was told that our goal will be pain management, but there really isn’t much to be done because there is no ability to restore cartilage.  There is no real rehabilitation, and once the pain is bad enough, I’ll need a hip replacement.  So, yeah, not a successful session and I’ve been a bit blue ever since.  Good thing my Kindle is well stocked with escapist fiction.

The second horse show of the season starts at the end of the week, so hopefully that will keep my mind off of my aches, pains, and problems.

 

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews to share new additions to our library.  Click here to learn more about it.

New Arrivals at the Café:

The Last Warrior Queen (.99 for Kindle)

A Thousand Nights

The Girl Who Could Fly

Supersymmetry

Earth Flight

Cardfight!! Vanguard V5

My Neighbor Seki V2

The Billionaire Date – Finding Mr Right (.99 for Kindle)

A great big thanks to the publishers for their continued support!

What did you get? Please leave links and share!

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9. Review: Once a Champion by Jeannie Watt

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Once a Champion pushed all the right buttons for me.  Both the heroine and hero are wounded in believable ways, and both are struggling to make sense of their new realities.  Matt is an aging rodeo star with a torn up knee, a will to compete that won’t die, and no other options in life.  He refuses to take good advice and retire for the sake of his body.  He knows that he has at least another good season in front of him, if only he can work past his injury.  Liv has been raised to always be agreeable, to always give in to other people’s happiness, despite how unhappy it makes her.  She has been drilled that she must always compromise for the sake of family and relationships, until that doesn’t work for her any more.  And what draws the line in the sand for her?  An injured horse that she refuses to give up on.

I loved how the plot threads tied Matt and Liv together.  Liv had a hopeless crush on Matt in high school.  She tutored him so he could bring his grades up, a requirement if he wanted to continue to compete in the rodeo.  Once he’s in the clear, though, instead of Liv’s dreams coming true and the two of them getting together, Matt starts dating Liv’s stepsister.  Ouch!  Quiet and trained to never cause waves, Liv suffered in silence, watching as her dream guy walked out of her life and never gave her another thought.

Flash forward to the now, and Matt is frantically searching for his missing horse.  He heard a rumor that it’s on Liv’s father’s farm, so off he goes to see if it’s true.  And it is true.  Liv bought Beckett from Matt’s wife, right before their divorce.  The horse’s back was an infected mess, and Liv wasn’t going to leave him in Matt’s care.  Matt was off on the circuit, and he had no idea that his wife sold his horse.  Now he wants him back, and he feels that his future depends on it.  Liv refuses to sell Beckett back to an animal abuser, and the two of them go toe to toe about the ethics of Liv keeping the horse from him.

What Matt doesn’t know is that Beckett was the catalyst to Liv’s self-discovery.  Her fiancé forbid her from buying the horse.  Something snapped inside Liv, and she realized what an unhappy road she was headed down if she stayed with Tim.  When he tells her to pick between him or the horse, I’d have picked the horse, too!  This is the moment that Liv takes a long hard look at herself and decides that she doesn’t like who she is.  She’s going to buy that horse, start her physical therapy practice in the small town where she grew up, and move in with her cranky dad while she figures out what she’s going to do with her life, and who she wants to be.  Little does she know that that horse is going to change her life, Matt’s life, and her father’s life.

I liked both Matt and Liv.  Matt is desperate to get back on the rodeo circuit so he can ignore his messed up family.  If he can’t compete, he doesn’t have many options for a career.  While his family owns a successful ranch, he’s been so angry at his father for the better part of the last 15 years that the thought of working with him makes him spitting mad.  Ignoring his doctor, his physical therapist, and even Liv, he continues to push himself and his knee.  His mid-life crisis is of epic portions.

Liv has two stubborn men to deal with now: Matt and her dad.  Once she lets her guard down about Matt, she decides she’s going to burn off some steam.  Her dad is making her crazy because she knows that he’s not feeling well, but he won’t admit it.  His communication skills are practically zero.  So Liv needs a distraction.  Making it very clear that they can never have a relationship, she and Matt start stumbling down the road of something that looks very much like one.  Liv refuses to compromise any more though, and she thinks that if she and Matt are a couple, she will lose the independence that she’s just so painfully gained.  So she draws another line in the sand, but this one taunts her at every turn.

I enjoyed Once a Champion so much.  It’s like the plot was written just for me.  There’s all of the horsey stuff, fun drill team practices, calf roping, and even Craig, Matt’s geeky teenage cousin.  All of the pieces fit so well together, and they revolved around things that I love reading about.  I could empathize with Liv, and Matt, too.  Who wants to always give in gracefully, without ever getting what they want?  Who wants to give up on a lifetime of competition, even though, physically, it’s the smart thing to do?  The supporting characters were engaging, and that final sentence, in that wonderful epilogue?  Perfect!

Grade:  B+

Review copy purchased at Harlequin.com

From Amazon:

It starts with the horse…

Liv Bailey never forgot her high school crush. Champion roper Matt Montoya always did have that irresistible daredevil swagger. But Liv isn’t Matt’s shy tutor anymore. She’s a grown woman and a physiotherapist with a painful past. Matt isn’t the only tough one now, and when their tempers clash over a horse they both claim ownership of, sparks fly in more ways than one.

Liv’s willing to let Matt bring some passion into her life, but when he opens his heart to her, she’s scared of being hurt again. Liv knows there’s more there than just desire—if she can only trust the cowboy who loves her.

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10. Review: Finally a Hero by Pamela Tracy

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Finally a Hero did not really work for me.  It is a fascinating read, but the abrupt ending and tepid romance didn’t earn any brownie points from me.  If Jesse’s struggle to become a good man and to put his past behind him hadn’t been so compelling, I don’t think I would have finished the book. 

Jesse has a  history of making poor decisions, and the last blunder put him behind bars for five years.  On the day of his release, he receives an unpleasant surprise.  The mother he hasn’t seen in over five years is waiting to give him a ride, as well as drop a bomb shell on him.  Jesse is the father of a five year boy he didn’t even know existed.  His ex showed up at his mother’s place, sneaking out the bathroom window and leaving the kid behind.   After his mother ditches him in a diner with the unkempt boy, all of the carefully thought out plans for a future on the straight and narrow are immediately derailed.

Jesse has all of fifty bucks on him, ill-fitting clothes, and not much else.  No cell phone, no friends, no real prospects for a bright future.  What he does have is an interview for a job on a ranch, but once the owner learns about Timmy, he doesn’t have the time of day to spare on Jesse.  Desperate, Jesse offers to work for one week for free, and if he doesn’t do a good job, he and Timmy will hit the road.  Jacob is skeptical, but he agrees. 

When Jesse and Jacob arrive at the ranch, Jacob’s daughter Eva is not amused.  She witnessed the whole family drama of Jesse and Timmy being ditched by Jesse’s mother when she was in town, and she doesn’t think Jesse will be a good fit for the ranch.  After a wedding party canceled their reservations, she doesn’t think they can afford him, either, but her father, stubborn as a mule, disagrees.  Eva’s initial attitude towards Jesse is one of suspicion and distrust.  Her father has hired other ex-cons, but they never stick around for long.  Either they break probation or they cut out when the work gets to be too much.  She doesn’t think there is any place for either Jesse or Timmy with them, and she doesn’t need all of the drama, either.

Despite Jesse’s best efforts to be a good dad and provide for his son, he hits roadblock after roadblock.  Matilda, the boy’s mother, has disappeared, and since she left the father’s name blank on Timmy’s birth certificate, gaining custody of him is an expensive, uphill battle he can barely afford.  Timmy also won’t talk, shows signs of abuse, and spends more time hiding under tables than not.  Medical bills and professional fees are almost insurmountable expenses, but Jesse refuses to give up Timmy.  His own mother abandoned him time and again, and he refuses to do that to his own son.

Jesse’s struggles are  heartbreaking.  He is trying to do everything he can to get ahead, or at least to get on an even keel, but he keeps getting knocked down again and again.  Suspicions from the local police force keep tripping him up, and even though he hasn’t done anything illegal, proving it is an entirely different matter.  Eva, at first judgmental, sees how hard Jesse is struggling to provide a stable, safe home for Timmy, and she’s moved to help him as much as she can.  When even her father’s attitude changes and he begins to see fault in everything that Jesse does, she’s desperate to help him keep his job.

While I found Jesse’s attempts to better himself engrossing, I didn’t feel that the romance developed believably.  Eva and Jesse didn’t have much chemistry, and the sudden declarations at the end, as well as some plot points being left in the air, frustrated me.  I will probably read the next book in the series to see if Timmy and Jesse are given any page time, because this HEA felt incomplete to me.

Grade:  C+

Review copy borrowed from my local library

From Amazon:

Suddenly a Daddy  

Jesse Campbell’s determined to forget his past. He’s moving to a dude ranch in Arizona to start getting his act together. Parenthood isn’t part of the picture—until Jesse meets the son he didn’t know he had. Now Jesse has some new goals: learning to be a good father—and a good man. The kind of man Eva Hubrecht, his boss’s daughter, can trust. He knows Eva isn’t happy about Jesse and Timmy coming to the Lost Dutchman Ranch, but the little boy soon starts to win her heart. Jesse can only hope that with time and patience, this rancher’s daughter will find room in her life for him, too. 

The Rancher’s Daughters: Sisters find hope, love and redemption in the Arizona desert.

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11. Spotlight and Giveaway: Once Pure by Cecy Robson

This morning I have an excerpt for Once Pure by Cecy Robson, as well as an awesome giveaway!

Once Pure
Shattered Past # 3

By: Cecy Robson

Releasing May 19, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb

She bears the scars of the past. He blames himself for things he can’t control. Their defenses are up, but in Cecy Robson’s latest Shattered Past novel—perfect for fans of Monica Murphy and J. Lynn—true love lands a knockout punch.

Sofia Tres Santos remembers a time before her life went sour, before her innocence was ripped away, before she began punishing herself with risky behaviors and unworthy men. Now, at twenty, she just hopes she’s ready to rebuild some of what she lost. One way or another, it always comes back to her childhood friend and longtime crush, Killian O’Brien.

As strong as Killian is, Sofia has always been his one weakness. He knows Sofia has suffered and wants to ensure she’s never hurt again—not like before, and definitely not under his watch. When Sofia agrees to work at his mixed martial arts gym, Killian seizes the opportunity to help and protect the sweet girl he’s always cared for. And yet, as he trains Sofia to defend herself using his hard-hitting MMA techniques, he’s drawn to the vulnerable beauty in ways he never expected.

As Sofia grows stronger, she also grows brave enough to open herself up to love. And along the way, she challenges everything Killian believes to be true, showing him that no matter how much he dominates in the ring, the real battle is fought in the heart.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/02/once-pure-shattered-past-3-by-cecy.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23834613-once-pure?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/128783-shattered-past

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo | Publisher

Author Info

Cecy Robson is the New Adult author of Once Perfect, Once Loved, and Once Pure and the award-winning author of the Weird Girls urban fantasy romance series. A self-proclaimed professional napper, Cecy counts among her talents a jaw-dropping knowledge of useless trivia, the ability to make her hair big, and a knack for breaking into song despite her family’s vehement protests. A full-time writer, registered nurse, wife, and mother living in the Great Northwest, Cecy enjoys spending time with her family and silencing the yappy characters in her head by telling their stories.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Excerpt:

Killian poked his head into the office one afternoon. “One of the boys is going for a coffee run. You want a latte or whatever that shit’s called?”

I giggled. Killian knew only one type of coffee: black. And even that he didn’t drink. “No, I’m good.”

“How about lunch?” He gave me a one-shoulder shrug when I raised my brows. “I ordered you a steak from Geno’s in case you were hungry. It should be here soon.”

A cheesesteak from Geno’s? Killer yum. “I’d love one. Thank you.”?

“I told them no peppers.” He smiled. “You never liked peppers, right?”?

He remembered. “No. Not on steaks.” I reached for my money. “Let me give you a few bills.”?

“Don’t. I got it.”

I watched him leave in time to hear his sister, Erin, better known as Wren, enter the gym. I hadn’t seen her since the winter, but I heard her thick Philly accent loud and clear. “Hey, Kill. Did you order cheese fries? I’m starvin’.”

“You just got here!” Kill called from the front.?

“That don’t mean I ain’t starvin’.”?

She strolled in, tossing her gym bag on the empty chair in front of me. “Hey, Sofe. How’s it going, kid?”?

“I’m all right. You?”

“Shitty. I think I’m getting my period.” Her two braids hung like thick black rope against her breasts. She rummaged through her bag and stood with a huff when she didn’t find what she was looking for. “Hey, you got any tampons on you?”?

I snagged my bag from the floor. “I’m not sure, let me look.”?

“Thanks. This womanly shit blows, you know? But I suppose if it’s all a part of me

squeezing out a few puppies one day, it’s worth it, right?”?

“Mmm.” I couldn’t squelch my smile. I liked Wren. While “dainty” and “girlie” would be the last words I’d use to describe her, she’d always been kind in spite of her tough-girl persona. As the only girl in a household of six boys, she hated pink, hated dolls, and hated lip gloss. The only things she liked were cars and kicking ass. I wondered if she realized how stunning she was. Traffic seemed to stop when she strutted down the street, but she never seemed to notice. Wren was just Wren. It was one of her many qualities that made her so endearing.

I passed her what I had.?

“Thanks, Sofe.” She jerked her chin. “So Finn tells me you’re doing Kill.”?

I think my jaw fell somewhere near my feet. “N-no. I’m not, I swear.”?

She shrugged and tucked the tampon into the strap of her sports bra. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. He’s a good kid—like you, you know?”?

Help me, Jesus. “H-how’s it going down at the auto dealer?”?

“Oh, it’s awesome. Sold more F-150s last week than those fucktard pricks I work with.”

“Yeah?”?

“Totally. You lookin’ for new wheels? I can get you a sweet deal. All last year’s models are going on sale in two weeks.” She held up two fingers for emphasis. “Two. Time’s tickin’, Sofe.”

“Ah, no. I can’t afford that now, but thanks.”

“All right.” She pointed at me. “You change your mind, you tell me. I watch out for those from the old neighborhood.”

“Thank you.”

Wren cocked her head as she took in the floral sundress I was wearing. She wore tight, tiny shorts that showed off her abs and long, muscular legs. The only skin I exposed was on my arms, face, and ankles. “You look real nice, Sofi. Too nice. You sure you’re not banging my brother?”

I buried my face in my hand. “Yes. I’m sure.”

“’Cause Finn said—and granted Finnie tends to exaggerate the truth—that Kill was all, like, into you. Then again, he has been since even before he got pubes.”

If Wren was trying to offer me a compliment it didn’t feel like one. “We’re not having sex,” I assured her. I squirmed when she continued to watch me. “So, what are you up to?”

“Teaching kickboxing and self-defense to a bunch of stay-at-home moms. Pissed me off, though, one came in all big and pregnant. I was like, yo, you can’t be coming in here all big and pregnant. You know that crazy-ass bitch with her crazy-ass hormones accused me of discriminatin’ against her?”

“Seriously?”?

“Totally. And you know what happened?”?

I shook my head.?

“She broke her water.” Wren hooked a thumb behind her. “Right there on the mat next to the Octagon. Killian was all pissed and made me clean it up, can you believe that shit?”?

I blinked back at her. “Ah, no.”?

“Swear to God. Almost threw up doin’ it, too.”?

Finn knocked on the door. “Wren. Your class is ready.” He frowned at her shoulder. “Why the hell do you have a tampon tucked in you bra?”?

“I think I’m getting my monthly.”?

“Oh.”?

She tossed the tampon in her bag and headed out. At five feet eight she was just two

inches shorter than Finn. Both had been the runts of the O’Brien clan. She clapped her hands together as a group of women gathered along the wall where a row of heavy bags were lined up. “Hey, listen up, ladies. Youz were all pathetic last time. Don’t be pathetic. It don’t pay to be pathetic when some asshole with a knife comes after you—”

A little boy about six ran out from nowhere, jetting in circles around Wren. She grabbed him by the collar of his T-shirt. “Hey. You see me talkin’ here?”

The kid nodded.?

“You see me teaching a class?”

He nodded again.?

“Then what the hell are you doing?”?

The kid blinked up at her. “I got ADHD,” he answered.?

“No one here gives a shit, kid.” She glanced up. “Who does this kid belong to?”?

A woman in very unforgiving spandex tossed her bag against the wall and kicked off her sneakers. “Sorry, Wren. My ma couldn’t take him so I had to bring him to class. Sauron, get your ass over here.”

The kid resumed his circle sprints around Wren the minute she released him. “Sauron?” Wren asked. “You seriously named your kid Sauron, Gloria? Do you wonder why he’s fucked up?”

Gloria threw up her hands. “Don’t get me started. It was my ex’s idea. Sauron! Get over here before I take away your iPad!”

Wren rolled her eyes. “Christ,” she spat. “Okay, ladies, twenty kicks—ten each leg—let’s go. Sauron, you grab a bag, too.”

Sauron pointed to himself. “Me?”

“Yeah. With a name like you got you’re gonna get your ass kicked. Might as well learn to defend yourself. Let’s go, ladies, come on!”

 Rafflecopter Giveaway (Loveswept Mug, Flirt Mug and Select Ebook Bundle)

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12. Review: The Mist-Torn Witches by Barb Hendee

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

This is a series I would have completely missed out on if I hadn’t received an email from the publicist about it.  Since I’m going through a fantasy phase, I thought I’d give it a shot, and I’m so glad I did.  It’s a very fast read, I liked the protagonists immensely, and there’s enough court intrigue that it kept me guessing.

Celine and Amelie Fawe are trying to eke out a living in their little village, which has been impoverished by the noble in control of it.  After Celine’s mother died, Celine did her best to run their apothecary shop, and while selling herbs brings in some cash, and she enjoys that aspect of the business, the big money is in fortunetelling.  Her mother was a gifted seer, and with her gone, Celine pretends to be one.  Clever and observant, she asks leading questions and gives vague enough answers that her customers are satisfied.  When a young man asks her advice about who he should marry, she has no way of knowing that her response will cause so much grief for both herself and the young man.

When she’s ordered to advise a young woman to marry Sub-Prince Damek, and paid handsomely to do so, Celine experiences her first real vision.  Much to her horror, it reveals a ghastly end for the noblewoman if she does marry the cruel Damek, the man responsible for so much of the misery afflicting her village.  Unable to live with herself if she does as she’s ordered, she advises the young woman to reject the offer.  Later that evening, the sisters’ shop is set on fire, and assassins attempt to kill them.

Unknown to Damek’s people or Celine and Amelie, Sub-Prince Anton has been spying on his cruel older brother.  Anton’s soldiers save the girls and take them to Anton’s castle.  Under his safekeeping, Anton has a proposition for them; if they can solve the mysterious deaths plaguing young women in his city, he’ll allow them to take over operation of the apothecary shop in town, which has been abandoned since the apothecary died the previous summer.  Tempted by both the prosperity of Anton’s holdings, and by the shop itself, Celine agrees to help him.  If word of his inability to protect his subjects reaches his father, he’s afraid that he will not be named heir, and that his awful brother Damek will instead.

Celine’s dishonesty from that seeing years ago is back to bite her in the butt.  Anton was the lad she advised, and things did not turn out well for him.  His young bride died, and he’s been a train wreak since.  He looks weak willed and emotionally distraught, and I thought he needed to worry more about his personal image than catching the mysterious murderer.  Everyone thought he was on the edge of a breakdown, and he wasn’t exactly my idea of the guy I’d want in charge of a kingdom.  While he’s a wise leader and compassionate, he’s also sickly and more an object to pity than one to follow.

The Mist-Torn Witches worked for me because I liked Celine and Amelie so much.  They are both smart and independent, and they empower each other.  They also have different strengths and weaknesses, and both play a huge part in solving the mystery plaguing Anton’s court.  As Celine has visions of death after death, she becomes frantic trying to save the girls from their horrible fates.  This drives a wedge between Celine and Amelie, and then between Celine and almost everyone else in the story.  She wonders what good her visions are if she can’t change the future to save one innocent life.

I polished this off in two sittings, and if I have any complaint, it’s with the ending.  The story just kind of peters out, which made me immediately borrow the next book, Witches in Red, from the library (so I guess it served it’s purpose!).  I like a little more closure than I got here, but I loved this book anyway.  If you liked A Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier, I think you will enjoy The Mist-Torn Witches, too.  While the story isn’t as heavy or as dark, there is a similar feeling to both.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

National bestselling author Barb Hendee presents a dark, fascinating new world and the story of two sisters who will discover they have far more power than they ever envisioned….

In a small village in the nation of Droevinka, orphaned sisters Céline and Amelie Fawe scrape out a living selling herbal medicines in their apothecary shop. Céline earns additional money by posing as a seer and pretending to read people’s futures.

But they exist in a land of great noble houses, all vying for power, and when the sisters refuse the orders of a warlord prince, they must flee and are forced to depend on the warlord prince’s brother, Anton, for a temporary haven.

A series of bizarre deaths of pretty young girls is plaguing the village surrounding Prince Anton’s castle. He offers Céline and Amelie permanent protection if they can use their “skills” to find the killer.

With little choice, the sisters enter a world unknown to them—of fine gowns and banquets and advances from powerful men. Their survival depends on catching a murderer who appears to walk through walls and vanish without a trace—and the danger grows with each passing night.

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13. Review: Rodeo Dreams by Sarah M Anderson

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I purchased Rodeo Dreams from Harlequin.com back in December when they had a sale on eBooks.  Silly me, I didn’t realize the hoops I would have to jump through to read the titles I purchased there on my Kindle.  Unlike Amazon’s simple system for downloading purchased books, I had to download the Overdrive app, go through the hassle of setting up a new account because I used a different email address than the one I had used previously, and then I had to download each title, one by one.  The whole process pissed me off, and I decided that even with a discount, it’s not worth buying direct from Harlequin.  The books and the app were temporarily lost (I don’t use that Kindle very often, and yes, I collect Kindles like some people collect socks. It’s a terrible weakness of mine).  Since I haven’t been feeling well this past week, I was looking for something different to read, and lo-and-behold! I remembered about all of those Harlequins sitting somewhere on a Kindle (somewhere!).

After getting the Overdrive app up and running again, I dove into this book.  I was anxious to read about a young woman who wanted to be a bull rider.  I mean, who in their right mind would want to try to sit on a wild and crazy animal that weighs almost a ton?  An angry beast that wants nothing more than to slam you down on the ground so it can tap dance on your fragile body?  Barrel racing, calf roping, even steer wrestling make more sense that this!  Once I got to understand June’s motivation and began to appreciate her iron will, I could understand why she’d want to do something so dangerous, but me?  No. Thank. You.

June has wanted to ride bulls forever, much to her father’s fury and her mother’s dismay.  Raised on the reservation, June hasn’t had a life of luxury.  Struggling to make ends meet on her mother’s welfare checks, while her father does time in jail, she’s decided that the bull riding circuit is her ticket out of poverty.  If she can only put away some money so she and her mother have a little cushion, she can finish work for her degree and become a teacher.  She knows it’s a long shot to make it to the pros, especially with the chilly reception she’s received from other riders, but she’s not going to let anything stand in the way of her giving it her best shot.

Her biggest obstacle turns out to be Travis, a bull rider who has fallen from the big leagues.  After getting his body busted up by a bull named No Man’s Land, he has become a safety nag.  He doesn’t think June should be allowed to ride because she’ll just get hurt.  He’s still in pain three years later, and thoughts of his harrowing surgeries and physical therapy has left him a changed man.  He’s only riding again because he doesn’t see that he has any other option in life.  He didn’t finish school, he has no other experience, and the thought of working a minimum wage desk job for his current sponsor has him feeling low.  He does know that his come back has to be achieved quickly and that his competitive career has a rapidly approaching expiration date.

When June does her time on a rank bull, the organizer refuses to listen to Travis.  June will have appeal to a younger audience, and if gate sales go up, everyone benefits.  Since he’s not getting any satisfaction talking to Mort about banning her from competition, Travis decides to go straight to the horse’s mouth and tell June she’s making a big mistake if she thinks she can compete on the circuit (especially without a helmet!  I loved his helmet safety nagging.  June, not so much).

Big mistake!  June won’t let anyone chase her off.  Her father’s physical punishments didn’t work, and this noisy guy’s predictions of gloom and doom aren’t going to either.  I loved how grounded June was, and how confident she was in her own abilities.  She knows that she was born to do this, and she’s going to prove it to everyone else.  She quickly makes friends and foes among the other competitors, and finds a pair of cowboys to cover her back in return for keeping their secret. 

I enjoyed Rodeo Dreams, both for the behind the scenes glimpses of the bull riding circuit, and for the strong, determined heroine.  In addition to being driven, June is also smart.  She knows, like Travis, that her bull riding career won’t be long, so she’s going to shoot for the highest placing she can, and she’s not going to let a wet blanket like Travis get in her way.  I liked how the romance developed – slowly and believably as June and Travis both have to make concessions to each other to make their relationship work.  Travis was dumped at the lowest time in his life, and he has serious trust issues that he needs to deal with, too. 

If you’re looking for a romance with a unique heroine, Rodeo Dreams might be just what you’re looking for.

Grade:  B / B+

Review copy purchased from Harlequin.com

From Amazon:

Love is one unpredictable ride

Ride straight to the top of the rodeo circuit—that’s June Spotted Elk’s dream. Yes, bull-riding is a man’s world, but she won’t let anyone—not even a sexy, scarred stranger—get in her way. 

Seasoned bull rider Travis Younkin knows what it’s like to make it to the top—and then hit the bottom. Back in the arena to resurrect his career, he can’t afford a distraction like June. No matter how far he’ll go to protect her from the danger. No matter how deeply the stubborn and beautiful rider gets to him…

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14. Spotlight and Giveaway: Witches be Burned by Stacey Kennedy

I have an excerpt and giveaway to celebrate the release of Witches by Burned by Stacey Kennedy!

Witches Be Burned
Magic & Mayhem # 2

By: Stacey Kennedy

Releasing May 19th, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb

In Stacey Kennedy’s steamy paranormal romance novel, a rookie guardian sworn to combat the undead risks life and love in a world of violence, witchcraft, and seduction.

Nexi Jones has lost her family, she’s been stripped of her guardian duties, and she’s still learning the ins and outs of white magic. At least she has Kyden, the smoldering hot elite guardian who’s been there for her every step of the way. But just as Nexi completes her training, tragedy strikes the Otherworld when a fellow guardian is murdered by a group of rogue vampires. Ready or not, she and Kyden trek into the Earthworld to hunt down a killer—and Nexi alone will be put to the ultimate test.

Although Kyden knows that Nexi must fight her own battles, his guardian instincts are raging as he struggles to keep her close. The ruthlessness of these vampires is like nothing he’s ever seen. And at their helm is the Black Witch Astoria, a demon with one burning desire: to shed Nexi’s blood in the name of vengeance. What troubles Kyden even more, though, is the warlock who covets Nexi’s heart. Let the devil do his worst . . . all Kyden can do is love and protect Nexi until his last breath.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/02/witches-be-burned-magic-mayhem-2-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17927298-witches-be-burned?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/77793-magic-mayhem

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo | Publisher

 

Author Info

Stacey Kennedy is the USA Today bestselling author of the Club Sin series. Growing up, Stacey’s mind wandered the path less traveled, and that path most often led to love. She has always broken rules and she continues to feed off emotion—always staying true to her heart. Those traits are now the bones of her stories. She lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, who puts any of the heroes in her books to shame, and their two young children. If she’s not on Mom duty or plugging away at a new story, you’ll find Stacey camping in the summer, hibernating in the winter, and obsessing over Penny Dreadful, Game of Thrones, and Sons of Anarchy.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Excerpt

The bright flash of blue light cleared from Kyden’s eyes as the intense, suffocating wind caused by teleportation from the Otherworld began to fade. The alternate universe parallel to Earth, or the Earthworld, as it’s known to supernaturals, could be accessed by any supernatural at the gateway of the runes of Saint Andrews Castle in Scotland, or a much faster way, through a doorway located in the Otherworld’s castle, a portal designed by the original witch, Gwendolen, who signed the treaty of allegiance with Earth’s supernaturals, who sought a more peaceful life.

Kyden looked about at the suburban, tree-lined street. He noted that the Earthworld was vastly different from the Otherworld—even their smells. Plus, the sheer size of Earth astounded him, as the Otherworld was a speck of a planet as small as Vatican City with its population of eight hundred.

A light breeze brushed across Kyden, and the sword strapped to his bare back banged against his skin, reminding him of the job he had to do tonight. He surveyed the street, noting the eerie silence. At night most humans in the Earthworld slept. Nighttime in the Otherworld was when everyone awakened, including the Council’s Guard as this is when they hunted killers.

Energy stayed at Kyden’s back, keeping the portal to the Otherworld open for his return home. Moving forward, he stepped out of the shadows that had kept him hidden through teleportation.

The wretched scent of garbage forced his breathing to go shallow as he strode beneath the light post, focusing on the red-brick bungalow and the vampire sitting on the steps wearing a grim expression. To the vamp’s right, Kyden noticed a werewolf, who he’d worked with before on cases in Salt Lake City. Dressed in army pants and a black sleeveless T-shirt, the lean, athletic werewolf tracker Alazar looked lethal.

Kyden stepped onto the curb, nodding his head at Alazar. “Good to see you again.”

The wolf’s amber eyes blazed as he raked a hand through his dark hair. “Not under these circumstances, believe me. It’s a bad case.”

Kyden’s muscles flexed in anticipation as he turned to the detective, offering his hand. “Detective Myles?”

The vamp nodded and rose, returning the handshake. “Thanks for coming so quickly.” His pale blue eyes were alert, his thin lips pulled into a straight line. “The scene has been cleansed. We’re ready to move ahead.” Which meant that the vampires in the Council’s Guard had erased memories and implanted new ones in the minds of any human police called to the scene and any witnesses who’d seen or heard the murder.

Each member of the Council’s Guard played an important role. Werewolves depended on their heightened sense of scent to track killers. Vampires used their mind-altering abilities to glamour minds. Witches used magic to assist guardians when needed. And guardians hunted and destroyed murderers.

While the Otherworld suspected that the highest levels of Earth’s mortal government knew of supernaturals’ existence, they also assumed those officials knew that the Otherworld destroyed any supernatural threats. Kyden remained unsure if the government knew that the Council’s supernaturals had infiltrated all major cities’ police departments to keep on top of their crimes. Though he believed it didn’t matter much if they did, the system worked to keep mortals safe, as well as to keep the truth about supernaturals a secret from the human population.

The last thing the Otherworld needed was trouble that mirrored the history of the Salem witch trails, which was when Earth’s supernaturals realized they needed a change or they would be annihilated. The treaty to keep the secret of supernaturals’ existence from the population safeguarded against that tragedy ever happening again.

History had proven that mortals couldn’t cope with the existence of supernaturals. Secrecy was the only way to ensure the supernatural races thrived.

Those dark memories tainted Kyden’s mind as he glanced to the house with the cherry- red door, not seeing or hearing any movement inside, indicating only the dead remained. Biting back the urge to make assumptions, he turned to Myles. “Anything I need to know about the case?”

“It’s unusual, to say the least,” Myles replied briskly.

Kyden’s adrenaline spiked, rushing like rich energy through his veins. “All right. Show me what we got.”

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15. The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves–May 10th Edition

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba of The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  This is a weekly meme where we can share news of the week and highlight new books received.

I had one of the worst doctor’s appointments of my life last week.  I went in for an asthma recheck, and discovered that:

- my sore throat was from a raging upper respiratory inflection

- my lung capacity had diminished 35%

- the ache in my hip that I have been experiencing for the last year is advanced arthritis.  There is no cartilage left in the joint.  The cause?  My asthma meds.  I didn’t take the news well, and when the doctor pointed out that I have to breathe, I pointed out that I have to walk, too. 

If I am feeling better, I start physical therapy next week, which my insurance does not cover. 

I am still not feeling well, but I’m starting to think that it’s mostly because of the asthma flare up.  I’ve had to work all week, though I did come home early on Tuesday.  Getting sick on Monday is the worse possible day, because you feel yucky all week before you can rest on the weekend.  I spent the second Saturday in a row napping with the duppers and reading series romance. I am going to try to go to the barn today because we have a horse show in two weeks.  UGH!

Hope you all had a better week!  Were you able to do anything fun?

Check out my current contests!  See the Contest Widget on the Sidebar to enter!

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews to share new additions to our library.  Click here to learn more about it.

New Arrivals at the Café:

Lots of surprises in the mail this week!

The Price of Valor

The Gospel of Loki

Spider’s Trap

Searching for Beautiful

Witchcraft Works V4

AJIN V4

Prophecy V3

Secret of the Oasis (.99 for Kindle)

 

A Slave to Sensation

Hello I Love You

Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy

A great big thanks to the publishers for their continued support!

What did you get? Please leave links and share!

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16. Manga Review: Make-Believe Bride by Hawthorne and Takakura

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

This is another Harlequin manga I purchased when it was on sale for .99.  I currently have  a sinus infection, feel awful, and can’t concentrate on anything for very long, so it looks like I’ll be reading manga and short category novels until I feel better.  When I purchased Make-Believe Bride, I had never heard of either the original author or the manga-ka, but the price point is what hit the sweet spot. At less than a buck, I will purchase these all day long; my only problem is remembering to check the Harlequin manga selection on Amazon about once a week because the sale prices seem to rotate quickly through these titles.

This is a fake engagement/marriage of convenience trope.  Amber has been crushing on devastatingly attractive Bradley Ackerman, the son of the family that owns the company she works for.  Tongue-tied in his presence, she feels like an idiot when she can barely manage to utter a coherent sentence during a few chance meetings with him.  Then he begs her to drive him to hospital after his car won’t start.  His grandmother, the chairwoman of the company, has collapsed, and he’s desperate to get to her.  When he comes out of her room at the ICU, he asks Amber if she’ll pretend to be his fiancée.  With the current political power struggles plaguing the company, his grandmother won’t rest easy until Bradley is married.  He’s already lied and told her he’s met a woman he’s fallen in love with, and now he needs to make her appear.  Enter Amber, Make-Believe Bride!

Marriage of convenience stories aren’t among my favorite plot devices, but this is a fun read.  Believable plot? No way, but the  crisp illustrations and the likable characters make this worth a read. The original story worked well in manga form, though some parts weren’t clear at first, and Bradley constantly bad-talking the “Ackerman men” was annoying at first, because there was no real context to explain it until the very end. 

I loved the page layouts.  The art is somewhat sparse, without a lot of extraneous details to detract from the clean line work.  Emotion is the name of the game, and it trumps here.  I never had to guess how either Amber or Bradley was feeling, and I loved the emphasis on Amber’s expressive eyes.  The art has an undeniable charisma, and it made the story stand out for me.

In short, Make-Believe Bride was well worth my 99 cents.  It’s a fast read, with dynamic illustrations and a twist at the end that I wasn’t expecting.

Grade:  B- / C+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Amber has a crush on her boss, Bradley, the wealthy son of a family who owns an oil company. He seems so far above her and they haven’t even spoken once, but for Amber it was love at first sight. One day there’s an emergency and Bradley asks Amber to drive him to the hospital. His grandmother, the chairman of the board, is in critical condition. Amber waits for him in the hospital corridor, and when he emerges from the ICU his face is pale, and he asks her, “For my grandmother’s sake, will you be my fiancée?”

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17. Spotlight and Giveaway: A Wedding to Die For by Adrianne Lee

This morning I have a giveaway for A Wedding to Die For by Adrianne Lee!

About A WEDDING TO DIE FOR:

A hundred years ago, a tiny town on the Puget Sound attracted a passel of bachelors desperate to marry. Thanks to the miracle of mail order, they did, and Weddingville was born. Hollywood costumer Daryl Anne Blessing knows that story all too well, and she hasn’t missed it, or much else about her hometown – except for hunky photographer Seth Quinlan. Now Daryl Anne returns to Weddingville to see her best friend say I do . . . and witnesses a whole lot of something hitting the fan-and it’s not rice. As the maid of honor, Daryl Anne must keep the bride calm, no matter what. But last time she checked, “what” didn’t include the bride’s estranged mother turning up, scandalizing the locals – and getting herself murdered. Nor did it include digging for clues with Seth, while trying to remember exactly why she left him behind. It’s quite a juggling act, even for a seasoned multi-tasker like Daryl Anne. She soon attracts lusty glances from Seth-and the attention of a killer who’s determined to take this town out of business . . . 

About Adrianne Lee:

Adrianne Lee lives with her husband of many, many years on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula in Washington State in a pole barn building her husband transformed into an upstairs apartment with a shop below for his hot rods. Adrianne creates her stories on her laptop, in her recliner with her adopted cat, Spooky, curled between her calves, snoozing.

Adrianne’s SM:

http://adriannelee.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/adriannelee

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Adrianne-Lee-Fan-Page/119018494796066?fref=ts

@akaAdrianneLee

Buy Links:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1bmPNah

Barnes & Noble – http://bit.ly/1ECiQ4e

GooglePlay – http://bit.ly/1Jfirpm

iTunes – http://apple.co/1GDfjRs

Kobo – http://bit.ly/1QV6SJk

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18. Interview and Giveaway: Jade Lee, Author of 50 Ways to Ruin a Rake

 

Today I’m excited to welcome Jade Lee to the blog! Jade’s latest title, 50 Ways to Ruin a Rake, is out May 5th and marks the beginning of her hilarious new Rakes & Rogues series. To celebrate her new release, Jade is here for a “mini-interview” and has answered a set of three questions for us!

 

  1. Can you tell us one thing we may not know about you? The readers of my historicals may not realize that I’m a funny extrovert in person. Writing humor was a hallmark of my Kathy Lyons books, but they weren’t touching my historicals. Those were about lush landscapes and deep emotions. But over time, the humor has creeped in. Until I decided I really wanted to write funny in the regencies. This book is the first Jade Lee historical with the humor really WORKS. This is a flat out funny book and I love it!

  2. What type of scenes are your favorites to write? Ones that flow. Any scene can work if you have the basic techniques down. But there’s a magical flow that sometimes happens that brings extra life to a scene. I’m learning to stop writing when I’m forcing it, relax, and try a different tack. Eventually it will flow, but sometimes it takes a long while to get there.

  3. What characteristics must every romance hero have? Oh, I hate black and white answers especially for fiction. Every rule has been broken. But for me – every hero must follow an honorable code. It may not be the typical honorable code. Robin Hood had his own code, but he was still a thief. And I love THE BLACKLIST tv show. James Spader isn’t honorable in that show, but he follows his own code and we love him for it.

Title: 50 Ways to Ruin a Rake

Author: Jade Lee

Series: Rakes and Rogues

Pubdate: May 5th, 2015

ISBN: 9781492604990

Mellie Smithson has a plan…

Mellie Smithson is trapped in the country with no suitors and no prospects on the horizon except, perhaps, the exasperating—although admittedly handsome—guest of her father. Unwilling to settle, Mellie will do anything to escape to London…

Trevor Anaedsley has a problem…

Trevor Anaedsley’s grandfather has cut off his funds until he gets engaged. Beset by creditors, Trevor escapes to the country—ostensibly to visit his old tutor Mr. Smithson—where he meets Smithson’s lovely daughter Mellie. The obvious solution is suddenly before him—but will this fake engagement go as Trevor and Mellie plan? Or will they find that even the best laid plans often go awry?

USA Today bestselling author Jade Lee has been scripting love stories since she first picked up a set of paper dolls. Ball gowns and rakish lords caught her attention early (thank you, Georgette Heyer), and her fascination with the Regency began. An author of more than thirty romance novels and winner of dozens of industry awards, Lee lives in Champaign, Illinois.

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1OD5xFc

Apple: http://apple.co/1CPs5JS

BAM: http://bit.ly/1ywATJN

B&N: http://bit.ly/1cwZ3dg

Chapters: http://bit.ly/1OD5XLC

Indiebound: http://bit.ly/1ILWvVQ

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1J4AoXr

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19. Review: The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I decided to borrow The Great Zoo of China from the library because it has dragons in a modern setting.  The Chinese discovered a cave filled with dragon eggs 40 years before, and they have been secretly studying their new treasures, in addition to building a zoo to showcase them.  In their intense competition with the US, the Chinese are seeking to create a vacation and pop culture behemoth to rival Disney World.  If there are occasion setbacks, like when the dragons attack and eat their caregivers, well, that’s just an acceptable price to pay to finally bump the United States out of their position as the number one world leader.

This is a very fast, exciting read.  I couldn’t help but compare it to Jurassic Park, which I read, oh, a gabillion years ago.  Jurassic Park, like so many of Michael Crichton’s works, is heavy on the science in an effort to make his world more believable.  The Great Zoo of China is like Jurassic Park lite.  Not so much science, but the action more than makes up for it.  The first 22% or so is set up for making the zoo believable, but it comes across as a huge info dump.  Once the dragons go on their bloody rampage, the pace picks up, the info dumping is left largely behind, and protagonist CJ Cameron falls into one hair-raising predicament after another.  While at times I echoed CJ’s “You’ve got to be kidding me!” the dragon battles and desperate attempts to escape a painful end gobbled up in their massive jaws kept me turning the pages.  Rapidly.  I couldn’t put it down and finished in just a few hours.

The overabundance of exclamation points was jarring, and I thought they took away from the tension of the action.  After the first few, I wished I could replace them all with nice, sentence ending periods.  Alas, I suffered through many, many exclamation points, which soon had me cringing each time I saw one.  I thought they over emphasized the dragons’ actions, and instead of making the moment more exciting, just made me think, “oh, brother.” 

If you need a book for lounging around the pool, The Great Zoo of China is a great choice for your summer reading list.  It’s pure popcorn, with a kick ass heroine with nerves of steel.  The dragons are frightening death machines that easily match the might and power of the most advanced military helicopter, and evil villains who want to protect the zoo, and their country’s reputation, no matter the cost, just add to the chaos after the dragons revolt.

Rated F for FUN

Review copy borrowed from my local library

From Amazon:

In the blockbuster and bestselling tradition of Jurassic Park comes the breakneck new adventure from the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author Matthew Reilly whose imaginative, cinematic thrillers “make you feel like a kid again; [they’re] a blast” (Booklist).

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have proven the existence of dragons—a landmark discovery no one could ever believe is real, and a scientific revelation that will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing findings within the greatest zoo ever constructed.

A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see these fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that the dragons are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong.

Of course it can’t…

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20. Spotlight and Giveaway: Breaking Noah by Missy Johnson and Ashley Suzanne

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for Breaking Noah.  Enjoy!

Breaking Noah

By: Missy Johnson & Ashley Suzanne

Releasing May 12, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb

What happens when you start falling for your worst enemy? Fans of Abbi Glines and Monica Murphy will relish this addictive novel of smoking-hot seduction—and revenge gone so wrong, it’s right.

I wasn’t always this jaded. I had a clear head, things I wanted out of life, and a concise plan on how to get there. For being only twenty-one, I pretty much had it all figured out. Until the day my cousin died.


I spent months going over all the details surrounding her death, trying to figure out how I missed the signs, and the only thing I could come up with was she would still be alive if it wasn’t for one person: her professor. So I transferred to his college, enrolled in his class, and set my new plan in motion.

First I’ll seduce him. Then I’ll ruin him. I’ve just got to stay strong and not let his charm and my emotions get the best of me. Because someone has to pay for her death. If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to break Noah.


Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/02/breaking-noah-by-missy-johnson-and.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23636584-breaking-noah?from_search=true

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo | Publisher

Author Info: Missy Johnson
Missy Johnson is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who lives in a small town in Victoria, Australia, with her husband and her confused pets (a dog who thinks that she is a cat, a cat who thinks he is a dog . . . you get the picture). When she’s not writing, she can usually be found looking for something to read.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Author Info: Ashley Suzanne

Ashley Suzanne has been writing for as long as she can remember. As a youngster, she was always creating stories and talking to her imaginary friends. Thankfully, her parents also carried this love of fiction, and helped her grow into the bestselling author she is today. When Ashley isn’t coming up with her next story, you’ll most likely find her on the couch, telling her husband all about her new book boyfriend, or spending quality time with her two gremlins . . . er, adorable children.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter| Goodreads

EXCERPT:

He’s flustered.

I suppose if I’d been caught stalking a student, I’d be flustered, too. I stand there with my hand on my hip, my eyebrows raised, waiting for him to say something. Containing my smirk is harder than I’d imagined. I really couldn’t have planned this any better if I’d tried. Oh, Karly, justice is so close, I can taste it.

I don’t even think he’s aware he’s glanced at my chest three times already. Noah’s already putty in my hands.

“Mr. Bain? Would you like to tell me why you’re at my home, of all places? You couldn’t be stalking me, could you?” The cool, sarcastic tone of my voice surprises even me. I had no idea I had it in me—so Karly-like. It’s as if her attitude’s flowing through me.

He’s so uncomfortable that it’s a real effort for me not to laugh. What the hell is he doing here, outside my apartment? This guy really is the definition of creep. The way he looked at me today, and now this? I shiver and run my hands over my arms. He might be the worst kind of predator—attractive, intelligent, with a smile that could charm the pants off a nun. It would have been easy for Karly to fall for him and never be able to see the disastrous results coming.

“I was in the area . . .” His voice trails off as his face resigns to the fact that there is nothing he can say to get him out of this. I don’t think watching him squirm will ever get old. How’s that hot seat feel? It’s only going to get worse.

“Dammit,” he curses, slamming his hands down on the steering wheel in frustration.

“Language, Professor Bain,” I chide softly. I lean forward so my arms are resting on the door frame of his car.

He runs a hand through his dark, unruly hair, his pale blue eyes darting around, and I can see the effort he’s putting forth to not look at me. Maybe he’s expecting me to be angrier than I am? That I’d be making more of a scene? But how can I be? This is perfect.

I never expected to have this kind of effect on him this early, and as creepy as he’s being right now, this is exactly what I want. I really thought I’d at least have to put in some sort of effort.

He finally speaks. “I wanted to check that you were okay.” His voice is quiet, and I’m confronted by how much I actually believe his words.

Don’t get dragged in, Zara. This is probably how he lured Karly, too. Acting allconcerned and gentlemanlike. I want to pull his heart straight out of his chest, but there’s much better ways to handle men like him.

“Why wouldn’t I be okay?” I laugh. I pretend his words don’t affect me, but they do. I’m not used to anyone outside of my family actually caring about me. I’m usually referred to as the lone wolf. With the exception of Karly and my brother, nobody knows me. I’ve never given anyone the chance. Not even Dillon. He’s seen glimpses of who I really am, but allowing anyone that close gives them the opportunity to hurt me.

“I had a feeling.” He shrugs, shaking his head as if he can’t put into words exactly what he’s doing. The sweat beading on his forehead and the slight tremor in his hands have me wondering if this really is out of character for him. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come here, and you obviously weren’t meant to see . . .”

“That you were spying on me?” I supply. “I can assure you, Professor Bain, I’m quite all right, and not in need of saving, or whatever it is that you’re doing here,” I protest. “I can only imagine what the dean would say if she found out about this. I’m not exactly sure, but I would think that showing up at a student’s home in the middle of the night with some sort of feeling could land even the most trusted professor in some serious hot water.” Start begging, Noah. The unintentional trap I’ve laid for him: It’s pure genius. I only wish I’d thought of it myself.

“Please, Zara. Can we keep this between us? I’m sorry . . .” He curses again, gripping the steering wheel so tight his knuckles turn a ghostly white. I know the color well. I’m sure if I uncoiled my tightly wrapped hands, they’d match his perfectly.

I bite back a smile. I can’t help it; I’m amused, yet angered at the same time. How is it possible to feel both of these emotions simultaneously? Wanting to giggle and punch him in the face? I wish there were some manual to tell me which feeling I should have.

I’ve never seen a grown man so worked up before. His embarrassment is obvious, yet there’s something else I can’t put my finger on. Maybe genuine concern? But that can’t be the case. He hasn’t known me long enough to feel that way. He starts the engine and I step back, cross my arms over my chest and attempt to keep my fists hidden from sight. I bite my lip and watch him shift the gearshift into drive.

“Sure, Professor Bain,” I whisper, biting my lip. Releasing balled hands, my finger toys with the necklace that hangs around my neck, drawing his gaze once again to my breasts—a trick Karly taught me when we were teenagers trying to buy beer. Give a man an excuse to ogle your goodies and you’ve won without even having to try. I tilt my head and smile at him. “This will be our little secret, okay?” A secret that I’m going to use against you anytime I wish, I think to myself, inwardly rubbing my hands and cackling like a mad scientist.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Ms. Hamilton,” he says nervously. He checks his blind spot, or to see if anyone else is watching our interaction, and sheepishly smiles.

I watch as he drives off, the car disappearing into the night. I stand on the road for a moment, trying to gather my thoughts before I head inside. The last thing I need is Dillon poking his nose around where it doesn’t belong. This is my fight.

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21. #Giveaway! Witches with the Enemy by Barb Hendee

This morning I have a giveaway for Witches with the Enemy by Barb Hendee.  I just started Mist-Torn Witches, the first book in the series, and I love it so far!  Check out the info below, and then fill out the Rafflecopter for your chance to win!  US addresses only, please.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

When seers Céline and Amelie Fawe fled Shetâna under threat of death, they vowed never to return. Yet, less than a year later, they are summoned back—to aid the man who once tried to kill them.…

The cruel prince Damek is on the verge of closing marriage negotiations with the powerful family of a young noblewoman when his intended’s sister is murdered. To keep the engagement from falling through, Damek must expose the killer quickly—and he needs the seers’ powers to do so. Though the Fawes’ patron, Prince Anton, fears that bringing Céline and Amelie to Shetâna places them in grave danger, he is honor-bound to help his brother Damek.

Only none of them is prepared for the peril that awaits them at Castle Kimovesk—for someone in the court is determined to prevent the marriage from happening, no matter how deadly the cost.…

 

PRAISE FOR THE MIST-TORN WITCHES

“Hendee has a gift for intricate psychological plots, and her characters are some of the best in current fantasy.”

Booklist

“[An] engaging fantasy novel…Clues as to the sisters’ magical heritage, hints of romance, threats both supernatural and human, and courtly intrigue combine for a fun fantasy mystery.”

Locus

“The murder mystery at the core of this book…will hold readers spellbound.”

RT Book Reviews

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Barb Hendee is the author of the Novels of the Mist-Torn Witches, including Witches in Red and The Mist-Torn Witches. She lives in a quirky little town near Portland, Oregon, with her husband J.C. Hendee, with whom she writes the Noble Dead Saga. Barb’s short fiction has appeared in numerous genre magazines and anthologies. She is also the author of the Vampire Memories series.

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22. Guest Post and Giveaway: Ever After at the Sweetheart Ranch by Emma Cane

This morning I have a guest post and a giveaway for Emma Cane’s Ever After at Sweetheart Ranch. Enjoy!

Must Haves for a Romantic SWEETHEART RANCH Picnic

By Emma Cane, author of EVER AFTER AT SWEETHEART RANCH

By now you’ve seen the lovely cover of EVER AFTER AT SWEETHEART RANCH: those beautiful mountains of the Colorado Rockies, a ranch in the distance, and Lyndsay and Will sharing a picnic lunch. Lyndsay is a math teacher with a secret: she’s written a romance novel and accidentally based the hero on Will, a hard-working cowboy with a tragedy in his past. They deserve the lovely and serene moment depicted on the cover—dare I say it’s romantic? Well…looks can be deceiving. Let me tell you about the must-haves for a picnic on Will’s ranch.

1) Hip boots. You read that right. The first time Will brings Lyndsay to the ranch, he puts her to work on the irrigation system. Hip boots are necessary in the muddy business of moving temporary dams in the irrigation ditches to flood different hay fields. Romantic, huh? Good thing he tells her she looks adorable with mud on her cheek. And of course, he has a picnic basket all ready.

2) A pocket knife. You could think I meant to cut sandwiches or fruit, but nope, a knife is necessary to cut the stem of a morel mushroom, tasty, rare and expensive. Will has found a cache of them on his ranch, and believe me, you seldom tell people where you found your morels or they’ll all be gone. But Will trusts Lyndsay and brings her on a horseback ride to pick morels. She feels suitably flattered. ;)

3) Cookies that say “Sweets from Mrs. Sweet.”: Will’s Grandma Sweet is running for president of the Valentine Valley historical society, and she’s courting voters with cookies. Her opponent happens to be Mrs. Thalberg, who’s dating Lyndsay’s father, so Lyndsay and Will are on opposite sides. Good thing there are delicious cookies to share!

4) A blanket: because yes, Lyndsay brings a picnic basket to Will’s softball game, and afterward they drink wine and nibble on cut fruit and shrimp, while lying on the blanket. And if you want to know what happens next, I hope you’ll read EVER AFTER AT SWEETHEART RANCH for more than just the good picnic scenes!

So what do you think is necessary for a romantic picnic?

 

Ever After at Sweetheart Ranch
Valentine Valley # 6

By: Emma Cane

Releasing April 28th, 2015

Avon

Blurb

The only thing hotter than a cowboy…

Math teacher Lyndsay De Luca never surprised anyone-least of all herself-until this summer. First, she secretly published her debut romance novel. Then she started dating Will Sweet, the cowboy of her dreams. And now Lyndsay’s scrambling to hide the juiciest tidbit of all: that the hazel-eyed hero of her steamy fiction is the same guy whose kisses have become her mind-blowing reality.

Is a cowboy in love.

Ever since Will’s high school sweetheart died in a tragic accident, he hasn’t been able to commit to a long-term relationship. Lyndsay is the first woman in years who’s been able to catch-and keep-his attention. She’s fascinated by his work at Sweetheart Ranch, and a glance from her gorgeous brown eyes sends Will’s thoughts wandering. Will she be the one to finally break down the walls around his guarded heart?

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/03/ever-after-at-sweetheart-ranch.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22864471-ever-after-at-sweetheart-ranch?ac=1
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/89051-valentine-valley

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info

Emma Cane grew up reading and soon discovered that she liked to write passionate stories of teenagers in space. Her love of “passionate stories” has never gone away, although today she concentrates on the heartwarming characters of Valentine, her fictional small town in the Colorado Rockies.

Now that her three children are grown, Emma loves spending time crocheting and singing (although not necessarily at the same time), and hiking and snowshoeing alongside her husband Jim and two rambunctious dogs Apollo and Uma.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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23. Spotlight and Giveaway: Getting Lucky by Jennifer Seasons

 
Enter to Win an Ebook Diamonds and Dugouts Series Bundle
including, STEALING HOME, PLAYING THE FIELD
and THROWING HEAT

 
GETTING LUCKY
Fortune, Colorado #1
Jennifer Seasons
Releasing April 21st, 2015
Avon Impulse

 
Welcome to Fortune, Colorado—where the air is clean, the men are rugged, and the all the good ones… are bachelors.

Born into the infamous Charlemagne equestrian empire, Shannon has been raised to do whatever it takes for the family business. Even if it means going undercover and digging up dirt on a competitor. It’s easy enough when she believes he’s a bad guy whose success seems too good to be true. In fact, Shannon’s excited to put the aggravatingly sexy Irishman in his place and get back in her father’s good graces. All she needs is to stay focused on the goal … and out of Sean Muldoon’s arms.

From stealing a thoroughbred racehorse from the Irish mob to striking gold in the mountains of Colorado, there’s little Sean hasn’t experienced. But when it comes to resisting his hot new stable manager, he’s out of luck. With the mob hot on his heels, keeping Shannon off their radar is all but impossible, and he’s not about to put her in danger too. Sean wants Shannon, but how can he offer her a future … when he can’t even guarantee tomorrow?

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Jennifer Seasons has been a lifelong writer and reader. She lives with her husband and four children in the mountains of rural New England. An enormous yet lovable dog and the world’s coolest cat keep them company. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family outdoors exploring her beautiful new home state, learning the joys of organic gardening, and—if she’s lucky—relaxing in her hammock under the trees with a really good book.

 
 

Humor shimmered in her sister’s hazel eyes as she tipped her head toward the huge Pine Creek Ranch sign that hung suspended from wooden beams arching over the entrance. Her blond hair brushed across her freckled cheeks as she said, “I wouldn’t be so hasty in keeping those girls on the shelf if I were you . . . I saw Sean Muldoon in person.”

“When?”

“During the races in Kentucky this past May with his Triple Crown winner, Something Unexpected. This guy that Dad is sending you to spy on is full-on Irish—with the accent to prove it—and downright sexy. He’s like an Irish Dove bar—you know just by looking at him that he’s dark, smooth, and addictive. He moves with this loose, long-limbed gate and has an easy smile, but there’s something almost dangerous about him just bubbling under the surface. It’s seriously potent.” Colleen fanned herself and grinned. “It’s too bad I’m such a blabbermouth, because I’d dig up the goods on him, all right.”

Shannon remained silent and waited for it. It had to be coming.

“Of course, I’d see if Muldoon was as fast to the finish line as his racehorses are while I was at it, if you know what I mean.” Her sister finished with an overly dramatic eyebrow wiggle and wink.

And there it was. Right on schedule. That’s one of the things she loved most about her only sibling—she was reliable. If there was ever an opening for a crude comment to be slipped in, you could bet she was all over it.

That’s what she said, Shannon thought.

Crap! Damn it, now Colleen had her doing it too. Figured.

“Let’s go through this one last time,” Shannon said briskly. “I’m supposed to find this Sean Muldoon and tell him I’m responding to his ad for the stable manager position and convince him to hire me.” She stared down the long gravel lane beyond the ranch’s entrance as it lazily rounded a bend and disappeared into a sea of aspen, spruce, and pine in the distance.

Into Sean Muldoon’s ranch.

She’d learned from her father that Pine Creek sat on about one hundred acres, though it was hard to tell at the moment from the thick grove of trees that flanked each side of the single-lane road. It looked more like the entrance to a state forest, not a sprawling horse ranch.

But, as Shannon knew better than most, looks were most often deceiving. Nervously swiping her hands down the thighs of her worn denim jeans, she continued reviewing the plan that their father had designed, hoping that repeating everything would help her focus.

Colleen opened her mouth and started to say, “That’s why you should—”

Shannon held her hand up like a crossing guard. “I know, use the ladies. I get it.” She probably could if she wanted to, honestly. They weren’t bad. A quick glance downward confirmed that claim. Not bad at all. A little on the small side, but so what? What she lacked up top she made up for on the bottom with an ample and curvy derriere.

Depending on the day, that was either a blessing or a curse.

However, given that she was a professional equestrian and spent half her life bouncing around on a horse (with skill and grace, of course), having the extra padding was more often a bonus than not. Her butt was like a car’s suspension system—it absorbed the shock and made the impact of jumping her horse feel like the smooth ride of a Rolls Royce. Not that she was going to upstage big-butted celebrities or anything, but it wouldn’t be a runaway victory if they did compare backsides. Only she had earned hers the cheap and easy way: genetic inheritance.

Colleen cleared her throat. “Dad’s gut is saying that either Muldoon or one of his trainers is doping the Thoroughbreds with steroids before the races.” Her sister’s eyes flickered and unfocused briefly, like she was recalling a memory. “I’ve seen them run. They’ve got rockets for hooves, Shan.”

No wonder all of the company’s clients had bailed on their breeding program over the past few years. Shannon knew they were down to a teeny-tiny trickle, and if she didn’t find a way to reverse that fast, then they were going to go bankrupt and lose the farm. And it was the only thing of material value they had left. Over the years her father had sold off everything else. All the jewels, cars—everything. It hadn’t escaped her notice that the walls of her childhood home were now mostly bare, when priceless Monet originals and the like had once hung there.

Not for the first time, she wondered what had happened to all the family’s money. Where were all their millions disappearing to? It didn’t make sense. Not in the least. But pondering that made Shannon’s stomach go tight and queasy, so she stopped. With effort she grappled with her thoughts and redirected them to the immediate problem at hand.

 

 
 

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24. Review: Her Knight in the Outback by Nikki Logan

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I borrowed Her Knight in the Outback because I have enjoyed several Nikki Logan titles in the past.  I enjoyed this one, too, but I wasn’t convinced that the protagonists will have a HEA.  Eve is just so damaged and heart broken that it was difficult for me to believe that she would be able to successfully put all of her emotional distress in the past and give Marshall all of the attention he deserves.

Eve’s younger brother disappeared almost a year ago.  After waiting unsuccessfully for the police to actually do something, like find him, she quits her job, sells her house, and purchases a converted bus so she can go look for him.  She feels guilty for not seeing the warning signs before he took off, and she can’t believe that he would just leave her and her father.  Armed with missing person posters, she intends to search every single town and city for Travis, and she has no intention of quitting until she finds him.

She comes across an injured motorcyclist on a deserted road, and even though she wants to keep on trucking by, she stops to see if she can assist him.  What if Travis needed help, and no one stopped for him?  When motorcycle dude approaches the bus, Eve is momentarily taken aback.  His bushy beard and tattoo alarm her.  What if he’s part of a motorcycle club?  What if he tries to hurt her in the middle of nowhere, where not even a cell signal is available?

It turns out that Marshall is the one who saves Eve.  After a not so memorable introduction, they cross paths again, and after clearing the air, they agree to travel together for a few days, until Marshall’s route diverges from Eve’s.  Marshall sees how hurt and emotionally vulnerable Eve is, and all he wants to do is help her forget about Travis for a little while and remember the joy of living her own life.  The only problem is that Eve’s guilt keeps getting in the way, and after being on the road for eight months, she has forgotten how to enjoy another’s company.

While the conflict was interesting, I’m not sure I bought the resolution.  Eve learns that Marshall pulled a disappearing act of his own, and she keeps throwing it in his face.  Every time they make some progress in their relationship, Eve is overcome with guilt for enjoying herself while Travis might be dead or worse.  Travis is the sum total of her existence, and she resents Marshall for getting in the way of her self-appointed mission of finding her brother.  Her inability to consider that Travis left of his own free will became tiring, and maybe that’s why the story was such a mixed bag for me.  I had a hard time connecting with Eve, which made it difficult to sympathize with her.

Grade:  C+ / B-

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

She didn’t know she needed rescuing! 

Eve Read doesn’t need help from anyone. She’s searching for her missing brother and doesn’t want any distractions. Yet sharing her burden with mysterious leather-clad biker Marshall Sullivan is a relief, and soon Eve can’t resist the sparks igniting between them! 

Meteorologist Marshall spends his life on the road, but there’s something about Eve that makes him want to stay put… 

Has Eve finally found what she’s been searching for all along?

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25. Spotlight and Giveaway: Exposed by Tracy Wolff

This morning I have an excerpt from Tracy Wolff’s Exposed, as well as an awesome giveaway!

Exposed
Ethan Frost # 3

By: Tracy Wolff

Releasing May 5th, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb

Ethan Frost, the irresistible leading man from the New York Times bestsellers Ruined and Addicted, returns once again in Exposed—a novel that’s perfect for fans of J. Kenner and Sylvia Day.

Will Ethan Frost go too far for the woman he loves?
The moment Chloe Girard walked into my life, she exposed secrets and emotions I always thought were best kept buried.
She wants to move on, to ignore the past. But I can’t do that. Not when she still suffers. And not when the man who hurt her remains unscathed. So when I discover the perfect opportunity to make him pay for what he did to Chloe, I can’t walk away, no matter the consequences.

But there’s a fine line between justice and obsession. As I turn up old crimes and new lies, I know that I’m playing with fire—and risking the very foundations of our relationship.
My love for Chloe is absolute. I just hope it’s enough to save us both.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/12/exposed-ethan-frost-3-by-tracy-wolff.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23308203-exposed

Goodreads series link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/117437-ethan-frost

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

 

Author Info

Tracy Wolff collects books, English degrees and lipsticks and has been known to forget where—and sometimes who—she is when immersed in a great novel. At six she wrote her first short story—something with a rainbow and a prince—and at seven she forayed into the wonderful world of girls lit with her first Judy Blume novel. By ten she’d read everything in the young adult and classics sections of her local bookstore, so in desperation her mom started her on romance novels. And from the first page of the first book, Tracy knew she’d found her life-long love. Now an English professor at her local community college, she writes romances that run the gamut from contemporary to paranormal to erotic suspense.

Author Links: Website |Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

EXCERPT 

I wait for Sebastian to say something, but he doesn’t. Instead, he just settles back into his chair. Watches. Waits. He’s good at that. Good at gathering all the facts before making a decision. It’s part of the reason I’m here. He’s also loyal as fuck. Another reason I’m here. And he knows me better than just about anyone, even Chloe.

Which is the only reason I’m okay showing him my weakness here. Because he already sees it. Just like I see his.

“I can’t fucking sleep,” I finally tell him, staring down into my empty glass and wishing for a little more scotch to make confession time go more easily. “Can’t fucking breathe. All I can do is think about what he did to her. About how he raped her and then shoved her out of the car onto the street like she was garbage. Like she was nothing.

“And she’s not the only one he did that to.” Because I’m clenching my hand so tightly I’m afraid I’ll break the glass I’m holding, I slam it down onto the coffee table between us. The sharp crack it makes when it hits echoes through the room like a shot. “He just turned twenty-five. He’s running for fucking Congress. It’s his first step toward the White House and there’s a damn good chance he’s going to win the seat. He’s a fucking rapist and he’s going to be a fucking member of the House of Representatives. Give it a few years and then he’ll be a senator and then who the fuck knows? President?

“The thought makes me fucking sick, Sebastian. Chloe still has nightmares about what he did to her and that bastard is going to get a seat in Congress? Over my dead body. Over my dead, fucking body.”

I probably sound like a crazy man, but I can’t help it. Shit, this is Chloe I’m talking about. This is my woman who’s been hurt—and the fact that I unwittingly played a part in it? It makes my skin crawl.

Sebastian must get it, though, because instead of commenting on the fact that I seem a little unhinged, he just watches me over the rim of his scotch as he takes another sip. And then he asks, “So what’s the plan?”

“The plan?” I echo, not because I don’t have one but because—despite the fact that we’ve been friends since we were eighteen-year-old college roommates—I expected more questions from him. A little bit of doubt, maybe.

But there is no doubt. There’s nothing but support and assurance in his gaze when he clarifies, “What are we going to do about it?”

That loyalty, that absolute I’ve-got-your-back attitude is part of the reason I’m here. Because he’s always had my back, just like I’ve always had his.

“We’re going to ruin him,” I tell him, determined that he knows exactly what he’s getting into with this. “I can’t send him to jail—at least not for raping Chloe. Not with the ironclad NDA she’s signed. But I’ve been digging and the son of a bitch has been playing fast and loose with the law since before he was legal. He’s a rapist and a thief and a dealer—and that’s just what I know about so far. There’s no way he’s winning that election. No fucking way.”

“What does Vegas have to do with any of that?” Sebastian asks. “Because you could have filled me in on this over the phone.”

This is where it gets tricky. Not because I think he’ll chicken out, but because I know what I have to say next will enrage him. But it has to be said . . . and dealt with. “He’s got his fingers—and his trust fund—in a bunch of different pies here. Anthony Zanetti. Gabriel Santini.” I look at him and wait for him to connect the dots.

“Nico Valducci.” He says the name I didn’t want to. “My father’s been in bed with him for years.”

“Yeah, I know. I was hoping to talk to your dad while we were here, get some information from him, but it looks like you’re in charge now.”

“I am. And I have a meeting set up with Nico early next week. To discuss the fact that I’m not as amenable to organized crime in my casino as my father has always been.”

“Do you.” He’s got me thinking now. We’ve got to handle this carefully if we don’t want blowback from the mob—which I definitely don’t, for Chloe’s and Sebastian’s sakes—and I can totally see a couple avenues we can exploit, if we’re careful. And if we don’t mind getting our hands a little dirty.

Normally, I’m not a guy who likes to mess with that. I’ve made it my life’s mission to run a transparent corporation, one that takes care of its employees and the world and does a lot more good than harm. After all, my world is pretty black and white, good and bad—or it always has been until now. I’ve always tried to be on the right side of the line, have always kept my business on that line as well.

But this is about Chloe and what was done to her. There isn’t much I wouldn’t do to avenge her. And there isn’t much I wouldn’t do to stop the despicable excuse for a human being that is my brother from getting the kind of power that would let him hurt more people with impunity. To bring him down and guarantee Chloe’s emotional security? I’ll get my hands dirty for that. And I probably won’t even feel bad afterward.

Though Sebastian hasn’t said anything else, I can all but see the wheels turning in his head. So I ask, “What are you thinking?”

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Loveswept will be hosting a Month Long Giveaway Including:
(1) Loveswept Mug
(1) Flirt Mug
Ebook of RUINED by Tracy Wolff
Ebook of CLAIMED by Stacey Kennedy
Ebook of ONCE PERFECT by Cecy Robson
Ebook of SURRENDER by Violetta Rand
Ebook of LAST OF THE RED-HOT COWBOYS by Tina Leonard
Ebook of RAVEN by Ashley Suzanne
Ebook of UNTIL YOU FIND ME by Amber Hart

Ebook of RUSH by Gina Gordon

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