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Review blog with emphasis on graphic novels and YA & MG fiction.
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I’m so excited to be part of the Southern Sweethearts blog tour! I asked Sandra Hill, Marilyn Pappano, and Laura Drake how they survive the pressure of their deadlines. Check out their answers, and then enter the giveaway below.
Top 5 items in your deadline survival kit
1. Jelly beans
2. Coffee, but no more than two big cups
3. Alarm clock (I usually get up no later than 4:30 a.m.)
4. Ear plugs (I need quiet.)
5. Comfy clothes (usually lounging pj’s)
1. Lots of Diet Dr. Pepper
2. My ancient, tee-tiny computer that I can tuck away and take anywhere
3. Snacks that won’t transfer too much gunk to the keyboard
4. A bathroom (see #1)
5. My husband, who keeps life on track, reminds me to sleep, looks up any and all information I need, and makes food runs
1. A husband who runs interference with everyday things, and doesn’t expect that I’ll remember a conversation we had, just yesterday.
2. Protein. The only thing that satisfies me.
3. Coffee. Unending gallons of it.
4. My bicycle. It’s where I work out all my plot problems!
5. A schedule. I work backwards to figure out how many words I need a day, and I don’t quit until I’ve written them. Sometimes takes 2 hours, sometimes (like yesterday) 15. But I typed ‘The End” this morning! Whew!
SWEET ON YOU by Laura Drake (August 26, 2014; Forever Mass Market; $8.00)
A Love as Bold as a Texas Sunset . . .
Ex-army medic Katya Smith has always healed other people’s pain. Now she has to deal with her own. Taking a job as an athletic trainer on the Pro Bull Riding circuit seems like the perfect escape from her grief-except Katya doesn’t know anything about bulls, and even less about the tough men who ride them. She doesn’t expect to fall for the sport, or for one tantalizing cowboy who tumbles her defenses.
For rodeo champion Cam Cahill, fifteen years of bucking bulls have taken their toll on his body. Before he retires, he wants a final chance at the world title-and he doesn’t need some New Age gypsy telling him how to do his job. But when the stunning trainer with the magical hands repairs more than his worn muscles, everything changes. Soon Cam finds himself trying to persuade Katya to forgive her past so she can build a future . . . with him.
About the author:
Laura Drake grew up in the suburbs outside Detroit, though her stories are set in the west. A tomboy, she’s always loved the outdoors and adventure. In 1980 she and her sister packed everything they owned into Pintos and moved to California. There she met and married a motorcycling, bleed-maroon Texas Aggie and her love affair with the West was born. Laura rides motorcycles: Elvis, a 1985 BMW Mystic, and Sting, a 1999 BMW R1100.
In Texas, Laura was introduced to her first rodeo, and fell in love. She’s an avid fan of Pro Bull Riding (PBR,) attending any event within driving distance, including two PBR National finals. She is hard at work at her next novel.
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SNOW ON THE BAYOU by Sandra Hill (August 26, 2014; Forever Mass Market; $8.00)
THE BAYOU’S BADDEST BAD BOY IS BACK!
Joining the Navy was the second best thing that ever happened to Justin “Cage” LeBlanc, the rebel son of a no-account convict. The first was Emelie Gaudet, the love of his life . . . until he was forced to leave town and swore there would be snow on the bayou before he ever returned. Now, only his mortally ill grandma can bring the injured Navy SEAL back to Terrebone Parrish, where he must face his past-and Emelie, who’s even more beautiful than she was all those years ago.
Bourbon Street blues singer Emelie is once bitten, twice shy. When she learns that Justin is back in town, she wants nothing to do with the once wild Cajun teenager who fled with the law on his tail-and broke her heart. But she can’t deny the red-hot attraction between them . . . or his efforts to prove he’s finally changed his hell-raising ways. Can she trust that this time the bad boy of the bayou will be the best man for her?
About the author:
Sandra Hill is a graduate of Penn State and worked for more than 10 years as a features writer and education editor for publications in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Writing about serious issues taught her the merits of seeking the lighter side of even the darkest stories. She is the wife of a stockbroker and the mother of four sons.
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A LOVE TO CALL HER OWN by Marilyn Pappano (August 26, 2014; Forever Mass Market; $ )
It’s been two years since Jessy Lawrence lost her husband in Afghanistan, and she’s never fully recovered. Drowning her sorrows didn’t help, and neither did the job she’d hoped would give her a sense of purpose. Now trying to rebuild her life, she finds solace in her best friends, fellow military wives who understand what it’s like to love-and lose-a man in uniform . . . and the memory of one stolen night that makes her dream of a second chance at love.
Dalton Smith has known more than his fair share of grief. Since his wife’s death, he revels in the solitude of his cattle ranch. But try as he might, he can’t stop thinking about the stunning redhead and the reckless, passionate night they shared. He wasn’t ready before, but Dalton sees now that Jessy is the only woman who can mend his broken heart. So how will he convince her to take a chance on him?
About the author:
Known for her intensely emotional stories, Marilyn Pappano is the USA Today bestselling author of nearly eighty books. She has made regular appearances on bestseller lists and has received recognition for her work in the form of numerous awards. Though her husband’s Navy career took them across the United States, he and Ms. Pappano now live in Oklahoma high on a hill that overlooks her hometown. They have one son and daughter-in-law, an adorable grandson, and a pack of mischievous dogs.
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The post The Southern Sweethearts Blog Tour appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
Please welcome Kristen Callihan to the virtual offices this morning! She’s here to tell us a little about Will, her dashing hero from Evernight, and after reading an excerpt, enter the giveaway below.
5 things Will is never leaves home without
1. Being properly attired. Clothes make the man, do they not? There is no excuse for sloppy dressing.
2. The clever little flask Holly designed to keep my chocolate hot.
3. Hot chocolate –obviously.
4. Radio transmitter disguised as a pocket watched (also Holly’s design) so that I may keep in touch with my ladylove. Or she may find me, whatever the case may be.
5. If at all possible? Holly.
Once the night comes . . .
Will Thorne is living a nightmare, his sanity slowly being drained away by a force he can’t control. His talents have made him the perfect assassin for hire. But as he loses his grip on reality, there is no calming him-until he finds his next target: the mysterious Holly Evernight.
…love must cast aside the shadows
Holly cannot fathom who would put a contract on her life, yet the moment she touches Will, the connection between them is elemental, undeniable-and she’s the only one who can tame his bouts of madness. But other assassins are coming for Holly. Will must transform from killer to protector and find the man who wants Holly dead . . . or his only chance for redemption will be lost.
Cool, hard, smooth, hot. The texture of his skin was unlike anything she’d ever felt. The metal made it smooth and cool and hard. Where not altered by metal, his skin was like hot satin, only silkier and tight with strength.
His flesh twitched beneath her palms as she mapped his chest. Every breath he took sounded loud and clear in her ears. And all the while, he watched her.
A quiver rippled along the backs of her thighs, up over her bottom, and crawled along her spine. Damn it, she was better than this. She was not a creature of base desires, but of logic and restraint. Her breath moved in and out, a slow, steady rhythm as she stroked him.
Neither of them spoke. The crackle of the fire in the grate, along with the occasional creak of the house settling, surrounded them. Beneath heavy lids, Thorne tracked her every move. And her touch grew unsteady. A momentary weakness he jumped upon.
“Does it feel good to you?” he drawled, low and easy. “Touching me?”
Instantly, the space between her legs clenched tight. Holly kept her touch impersonal. She could not live with the ignominy of revealing her wants to Thorne, who would treat her weakness as a bloody good joke. “It is a task. Just like any other.” A bald-faced lie if ever she told one.
His nostrils flared, the platinum in his eyes shining bright. “Then why do I smell your cunny growing wet with need?”
Holly stopped, her palm flat against his pectoral muscle, as more slick heat flooded her sex. Oh, this was beyond the pale. What on earth had gotten into the blasted demon? “Being crude is not going to get a rise out of me, Mr. Thorne.”
A small, cruel smile curled his lips. “Not going to deny it, are you, Miss Evernight?”
“Blather.” She took up stroking an area tangled with platinum webbing with more force than necessary. “That is all you’re about. Ridiculous blather. And I will not engage in such nonsense.”
Holly concentrated on pulling the metal from him. Not on his scent, clean and pleasing in the space between them. Or the way his skin grew increasingly warmer.
When he spoke again, it was soft, teasing. “Do you know that when I said “cunny” your sweet scent grew stronger?”
Again she stopped. His dense muscles tightened beneath her nails. “Mr. Thorne—”
“Do you wonder,” he whispered, holding her gaze with his, “if my cock is affected?” A dark brow lifted, his fangs glinting. “If it is more metal than flesh? Hard for you?”
She would not look down at the appendage in question. It was difficult enough to pretend each time that she wasn’t aware of that part of him, or that she hadn’t seen it grow and lengthen beneath the covers. Oh, she knew precisely how long and thick he was, and precisely how aroused. Each and every time.
His gaze upon her burned. “Do you want to see my cock, Miss Evernight? Feel it move inside of you?”
Gods, he made her feel empty, made her want to be filled up. Her hands turned to fists. “Stop it. Now, Mr. Thorne.”
He rose up on his elbows, his white hair sliding over his broad and dusky shoulders, his defined abdomen tightening. “Or. What?”
Holly sat back on the stool by the table, placing her hands upon her lap so that he wouldn’t see them trembling. “Why are you doing this?”
She could not look away from the black and platinum starburst of his gaze, so very brilliant. So very angry and taunting. Her nails dug into her palms. “Find your amusement elsewhere.”
His lean hips canted just a bit, an utterly crude gesture that held her in thrall. “I’d rather find it with you.”
“I’m helping you, aren’t I?” She hated how the words came out in a near-desperate pitch. But he had to stop. Agitation had her breath coming on hard and fast, pressing her now-heavy breasts against her too-tight bodice.
“Helping me,” he scoffed. “Do not skew this into some act of kindness. You do so that I won’t kill you.”
“Is it kindness that you want?” She laughed without humor. “A funny way you go about getting it.” She leaned forward in her anger. “Why are you saying these things? Truly? Why are you acting like such a… disgusting arse?”
He shot upright, his chest bumping into hers before she backed away a pace as if seared. “Because you never react during these torture sessions,” he ground out. “Because I want that rise out of you. I want you to…” He bared his teeth, those evil-looking fangs growing longer. “I want to know if you feel—”
His teeth ground together, his eyes wild and silver-black.
“Feel?” she prompted as if her heart wasn’t beating madly.
“Anything!” he roared. “Jesus.” He ran a hand through his hair. “You touch me every day. You rub your hands all over me. And nothing! Not a flicker of emotion. As if I didn’t exist.” The expanse of his chest heaved with exertion, the sinewy muscles along his abdomen clenching. “And all the while I’m lying here aching, fucking dying to… You’re driving me to insanity,” he finished with a wild shout. “And it means exactly nothing to you—”
She grabbed hold of the back of his neck and kissed him. Just as she’d wanted to, her lips claiming his parted ones, shutting off the stream of words that flowed from him. His lips were soft and warm, and touching them set off a rush of lust that coursed along her limbs. He froze, going so tense that his neck felt like ice. For all of one second. And then he attacked. His hands plunged into her hair and gripped the sides of her head as he fell back, hauling her with him, devouring her with quick, biting kisses, punctuated by helpless groans.
Breathless and dizzy, she answered every kiss, opening her mouth when his mouth demanded it. They both shivered when their tongues slid together.
“Hell,” he moaned, licking along her bottom lip. “Hell, I knew you’d taste so bloody good.” He angled his head, plunging his tongue in deep as his hands held her captive. The gesture wicked and decadent. Grunting, he spun them, pressing her into the table with the strength of his body. His thigh nudged between hers, and her skirts slid up. Instantly, his hand was there, long fingers trailing along her skin. “I’m not stopping,” he growled into her mouth. “So don’t ask me to.”
Holly tore her lips from his and grabbed a handful of silken hair. She held him fast and hard. “You’ll stop if I say so.”
Thorne paused, his lips brushing hers as he breathed heavily through his mouth. Hot, black eyes bore into her. “Are you asking me to stop?” He was so still and careful that she knew he would, despite his claim.
A fire raged through her veins. And the need to suckle his curved lower lip had her voice turning rough. “No.”
About Kristen Callihan
Kristen Callihan is a child of the eighties, which means she’s worn neon skirts, black lace gloves, and combat boots (although never all at once) and can quote John Hughes movies with the best of them. A lifelong daydreamer, she finally realized that the characters in her head needed a proper home and thus hit the keyboard. She believes that falling in love is one of the headiest experiences a person can have, so naturally she writes romance. Her love of superheroes, action movies, and history led her to write historical paranormals. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area and, when not writing, looks after two children, one husband, and a dog – the fish can fend for themselves.
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1tghc5t
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The post Guest Post: Kristen Callihan, Author of Evernight and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
Heroes Are My Weakness by: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Releasing August 26th, 2014
New York Times bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips is back with a delightful novel filled with her sassy wit and dazzling charm
The dead of winter.
An isolated island off the coast of Maine.
A sinister house looming over the sea …
He’s a reclusive writer whose macabre imagination creates chilling horror novels. She’s a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids’ puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill with laughs.
But she’s not laughing now. When she was a teenager, he terrified her. Now they’re trapped together on a snowy island off the coast of Maine. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.
It’s going to be a long, hot winter.
Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/06/now-booking-tasty-virtual-tour-for_17.html
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19367048-heroes-are-my-weakness?from_search=true
Susan Elizabeth Phillips soars onto the New York Times bestseller list with every new publication. She’s the only four-time recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Favorite Book of the Year Award. Susan delights fans by touching hearts as well as funny bones with her wonderfully whimsical and modern fairy tales. A resident of the Chicago suburbs, she is also a wife, and mother of two grown sons.
Excerpt (Chapter 1):
Annie didn’t usually talk to her suitcase, but she wasn’t exactly herself these days. The high beams of her headlights could barely penetrate the dark, swirling chaos of the winter blizzard, and the windshield wipers on her ancient Kia were no match for the wrath of the storm that had hit the island. “It’s only a little snow,” she told the oversize red suitcase wedged into the passenger seat. “Just because it feels like the end of the world doesn’t mean it is.”
You know I hate the cold, her suitcase replied, in the annoying whine of a child who preferred making a point by stamping her foot. How could you bring me to this awful place?
Because Annie had run out of options.
An icy blast rocked the car, and the branches of the old fir trees hovering over the unpaved road whipped like witches’ hair. Annie decided that anybody who believed in hell as a fiery furnace had it all wrong. Hell was this bleak, hostile winter island.
You’ve never heard of Miami Beach? Crumpet, the spoiled princess in the suitcase retorted. Instead you had to haul us off to a deserted island in the middle of the North Atlantic where we’ll probably get eaten by polar bears!
The gears ground as the Kia struggled up the narrow, slippery island road. Annie’s head ached, her ribs hurt from coughing, and the simple act of craning her neck to peer through a clear spot on the windshield made her dizzy. She was alone in the world with only the imaginary voices of her ventriloquist dummies anchoring her to reality. As sick as she was, she didn’t miss the irony.
She conjured up the more calming voice of Crumpet’s counterpart, the practical Dilly, who was tucked away in the matching red suitcase in the backseat. We’re not the middle of the Atlantic, sensible Dilly said. We’re on an island ten miles off the New England coast, and the last I heard, Maine doesn’t have polar bears. Besides, Peregrine Island isn’t deserted.
It might as well be. If Crumpet had been on Annie’s arm, she would have shot her small nose up in the air. People barely survive here in the middle of the summer let alone winter. I bet they eat their dead for food.
The car fishtailed ever so slightly. Annie corrected the skid, gripping the wheel more tightly through her gloves. The heater barely worked, but she’d begun to perspire under her jacket.
You mustn’t keep complaining, Crumpet, Dilly admonished her peevish counterpart. Peregrine Island is a popular summer resort.
It’s not summer! Crumpet countered. It’s the first week of February, we just drove off a car ferry that made me seasick, and there can’t be more than fifty people left here. Fifty stupid people!
You know Annie had no choice but to come here, Dilly said.
Because she’s a big failure, an unpleasant male voice sneered.
Leo had a bad habit of uttering Annie’s deepest fears, and it was inevitable that he’d intrude into her thoughts. He was her least favorite puppet, but every story needed a villain.
Very unkind, Leo, Dilly said. Even if it is true.
The petulant Crumpet continued to complain. You’re the heroine, Dilly, so everything always turns out fine for you. But not for the rest of us. Not ever. We’re doomed! Doomed, I say! We’re forever¾
Annie’s cough cut off the internal histrionics of her puppet. Sooner or later her body would heal from the lingering aftereffects of pneumonia¾at least she hoped so¾but what about the rest of her? She’d lost faith in herself, lost the sense that, at thirty-three, her best days still lay ahead. She was physically weak, emotionally empty, and more than a little terrified, hardly the best state for someone forced to spend the next two months on an isolated Maine island.
That’s only sixty days, Dilly attempted to point out. Besides, Annie, you don’t have anywhere else to go.
And there it was. The ugly truth. Annie had nowhere else to go. Nothing else to do but search for the legacy her mother might or might not have left her.
The Kia hit a snow-packed rut, and the seat belt seized up. The pressure on Annie’s chest made her cough again. If only she could have stayed in the village for the night, but the Island Inn was closed until May. Not that she could have afforded it anyway.
The car barely crested the hill. She had years of practice transporting her puppets through every kind of weather to perform all over the state, but even a decent snow driver had limited control on a road like this, especially in her Kia. There was a reason the residents of Peregrine Island drove pickups.
Take it slow, another male voice advised from the suitcase in the back. Slow and steady wins the race. Peter, her hero puppet¾her knight in shining armor¾was a voice of encouragement, unlike her former actor-boyfriend-slash-lover, who’d only encouraged himself.
Annie brought the car to a full stop then started her slow descent. Halfway down, it happened.
The apparition came from nowhere.
A man clad in black flew across the bottom of the road on a midnight horse. She’d always had a vivid imagination¾witness her internal conversations with her puppets¾and she thought she was imagining this. But the vision was real. Horse and rider racing through the snow, the man leaning low over the horse’s mane streaming. They were demon creatures, a nightmare horse and lunatic man galloping into the storm’s fury.
They disappeared as quickly as they’d appeared, but her foot automatically hit the brake, and the car began to slide. It skidded across the road and,with a sickening lurch, came to a stop in the snow-filled ditch.
You’re such a loser, Leo the villain sneered.
Tears of exhaustion filled her eyes. Her hands shook. Were the man and horse indeed real or had she conjured them? She needed to focus. She put the car into reverse and attempted to rock it out, but the tires only spun deeper. Her head fell against the back of the seat. If she stayed here long enough, someone would find her. But when? Only the cottage and the main house lay at the end of this road.
She tried to think. Her single contact on the island was the man who took care of the main house and the cottage, but she’d only had an e-mail address to let him know she was arriving and ask him to turn on the cottage’s utilities. Even if she had his phone number¾Will Shaw¾that was his name¾she doubted she could get cell reception out here.
Loser. Leo never spoke in an ordinary voice. He only sneered.
Annie grabbed a tissue from a crumpled pack, but instead of thinking about her dilemma, she thought about the horse and rider. What kind of a crazy took an animal out in this weather? She squeezed her eyes shut and fought a wave of nausea. If only she could curl up and go to sleep. Would it be so terrible to admit that life had gotten the best of her?
Stop it right now, sensible Dilly said.
Annie’s head pounded. She had to find Shaw and get him to pull out the car.
Never mind Shaw, Peter the hero declared. I’ll do it myself.
Buy Peter¾like her ex-boyfriend¾was only good in a fictional crisis.
The cottage was about a mile away, an easy distance for a healthy person in decent weather. But the weather was horrible, and nothing about her was healthy.
Give up, Leo sneered. You know you want to.
Stop being such a douche, Leo. This voice came from Scamp, Dilly’s best friend and Annie’s alter ego. Even though Scamp was responsible for many of the scrapes the puppets got into¾scrapes heroine Dilly and hero Peter had to sort out¾Annie loved her courage and big heart.
Pull yourself together, Scamp ordered. Get out of the car.
Annie wanted to tell her to go to hell, but what was the point? She pushed her flyaway hair inside the collar of her quilted jacket and zipped it. Her knit gloves had a hole in the thumb, and the door handle was icy against her exposed skin. She made herself open it.
The cold slapped her in the face and stole her breath. She had to force her legs out. Her beat-up brown suede city boots sank into the snow, and her jeans were no match for the weather. Ducking her head into the wind, she made her way to the rear of the car to get her heavy coat, only to see that the trunk was wedged so tightly into the hillside that she couldn’t open it. Why should she be surprised? Nothing had gone her way in so long that she’d forgotten what good fortune felt like.
She returned to the driver’s side. Her puppets should be safe in the car overnight, but what if they weren’t? She needed them. They were all she had left, and if she lost them, she might disappear altogether.
Pathetic, Leo sneered.
She wanted to rip him apart.
Babe… You need me more than I need you, he reminded her. Without me, you don’t have a show.
She shut him out. Breathing hard, she pulled the suitcases from the car, retrieved her keys, snapped off the headlights, and closed the door.
She was immediately plunged into thick, swirling darkness. Panic clawed at her chest.
I will rescue you! Peter declared.
Annie gripped the suitcase handles tighter, trying not to let her panic paralyze her.
I can’t see anything! Crumpet squealed. I hate the dark!
Annie had no handy flashlight app on her ancient cell phone, but she did have… She set a suitcase in the snow and dug in her pocket for her car keys and the small LED light attached to the ring. She hadn’t tried to use the light in months, and she didn’t know if it still worked. With her heart in her throat, she turned it on.
A sliver of bright blue light cut a tiny path through the snow, a path so narrow she could easily wander off the road.
Get a grip, Scamp ordered.
Give up, Leo sneered.
Annie took her first steps into the snow. The wind cut through her thin jacket and tore at her hair, whipping the curly strands onto her face. Snow slapped the back of her neck, and she started to cough. Pain compressed her ribs, and the suitcases banged against her legs. Much too soon, she had to set them down to rest her arms.
She hunched into her jacket collar, trying to protect her lungs from the icy air. Her fingers burned from the cold, and as she moved forward again, she called on her puppets’ imaginary voices to keep her company.
Crumpet: If you drop me and ruin my sparkly lavender dress, I’ll sue.
Peter: I’m the bravest! The strongest! I’ll help you.
Leo: (sneering) Do you know how to do anything right?
Dilly: Don’t listen to Leo. Keep moving. We’ll get there.
And Scamp, her useless alter ego: A woman carrying a suitcase walks into a bar…
Icy tears weighed down her eyelashes, blurring what vision she had. Wind caught the suitcases, threatening to snatch them away. They were too big, too heavy. Pulling her arms from their sockets. Stupid to have brought them with her. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But she couldn’t leave her puppets.
Each step felt like a mile, and she’d never been so cold. Here she’d thought her luck had begun to change, all because she’d been able to catch the car ferry over from the mainland. It only ran sporadically, unlike the converted lobster boat that provided the island with weekly service. But the farther the ferry traveled from the Maine coastline, the worse the storm had become.
She trudged on, dragging one foot through the snow after the other, arms screaming, lungs burning as she tried not to succumb to another coughing fit. Why hadn’t she put her warm down coat in the car instead of locking it in the trunk? Why hadn’t she done so many things? Find a stable occupation. Be more circumspect with her money. Date decent men.
So much time had passed since she’d been on the island. The road used to stop at the turnoff that led to the cottage and to Harp House. But what if she missed it? Who knew what might have changed since then?
She stumbled and fell to her knees. The keys slipped from her hand and the light went out. She grabbed one of the suitcases for support. She was frozen. Burning up. She gasped for air and frantically felt around in the snow. If she lost her light…
Her fingers were so numb she nearly missed it. When she finally had the flashlight back in her grasp, she turned it on and saw the stand of trees that had always marked the road’s end. She moved the beam to the right, where it fell on the big granite boulder at the turnoff. She hoisted herself back to her feet, lifted the suitcases, and stumbled through the drifts.
Her temporary relief at having found the turnoff faded. Centuries of harsh Maine weather had stripped this terrain of all but the hardiest of spruce, and without a windbreak, the blasts roaring in from the ocean caught the suitcases like spinnakers. She managed to turn her back to the wind’s force without losing either one. She sank one foot and then another, struggling through the tall snowdrifts, dragging the suitcases, and fighting the urge to lie down and let the cold do what it wanted with her.
She’d bowed so far into the wind that she nearly missed it. Only as the corner of a suitcase bumped against a low snow-shrouded stone wall did she realize that she’d reached Moonraker Cottage.
The small, gray-shingled house was nothing more than an amorphous shape beneath the snow. No shoveled pathway, no welcoming lights. The last time she’d been here, the door had been painted cranberry red, but now it was a cold, periwinkle blue. An unnatural mound of snow under the front window covered a pair of old wooden lobster traps, a nod to the house’s origins as a fisherman’s cottage. She hauled herself through the drifts to the door and set the suitcases down. She fumbled with the key in the lock only to remember that island people seldom locked up.
The door blew open. She dragged the suitcases inside and, with the last of her strength, wrestled it shut again. The air wheezed in her lungs. She collapsed on the closest suitcase, her gasps for breath more like sobs.
Eventually she grew conscious of the musty smell of the icy room. Pressing her nose to her sleeve, she fumbled for the light switch. Nothing happened. Either the caretaker hadn’t gotten her e-mail asking him to have the generator working and the small furnace fired up or he’d ignored it. Every frozen part of her throbbed. She dropped her snow-crusted gloves on the small canvas rug that lay just inside the door but didn’t bother to shake the snow from the wild tangle of her hair. Her jeans were frozen to her legs, but she’d have to pull off her boots to remove them, and she was too cold to do that.
But no matter how miserable she was, she had to get her puppets out of their snow-caked suitcases. She located one of the assorted flashlights her mother always kept near the door. Before school and library budgets were slashed, her puppets had provided a steadier livelihood than her failed acting career or her part-time jobs walking dogs and serving drinks at Coffee, Coffee.
Shaking with cold, she cursed the caretaker, who apparently had no qualms about riding a horse through a storm but couldn’t summon the effort to do his real job. It had to have been Shaw riding the horse. No one else lived at this end of the island during the winter. She unzipped the suitcases and pulled out the five dummies. Leaving them in their protective plastic bags, she stowed them temporarily on the sofa, then, flashlight in hand, stumbled across the frigid wood floor.
The interior of Moonraker Cottage bore no resemblance to anyone’s idea of a traditional New England fishing cottage. Instead her mother’s eccentric stamp was everywhere¾from a creepy bowl of small animal skulls to a silver-gilded Louis XIV chest bearing the words pile driver that Mariah had spray-painted across it in black graffiti. Annie preferred a cozier space, but during Mariah’s glory days, when she’d inspired fashion designers and a generation of young artists, both this cottage and her mother’s Manhattan apartment had been featured in upscale decorating magazines.
Those days had ended years ago when Mariah had fallen out of favor in Manhattan’s increasingly younger artistic circles. Wealthy New Yorkers had begun asking others for help compiling their private art collections, and Mariah had been forced to sell off her valuables to support her lifestyle. By the time she’d gotten sick, everything was gone. Everything except something in this cottage¾something that was supposed to be Annie’s mysterious “legacy.”
“It’s at the cottage. You’ll have… Plenty of money…” Mariah had said those words in the final hours before she’d died, a period in which she’d been barely lucid.
There isn’t any legacy, Leo sneered. Your mother exaggerated everything.
Maybe if Annie had spent more time on the island she’d know whether Mariah had been telling the truth, but she’d hated it here and hadn’t been back since her twenty-second birthday, eleven years ago.
She shone the flashlight around her mother’s bedroom. A life-size mounted photograph of an elaborately carved Italian wooden headboard served as the actual headboard for the double bed. A pair of wall hangings made of boiled wool and what looked like remnants from a hardware store hung next to the closet door. The closet still smelled of her mother’s signature fragrance, a little-known Japanese men’s cologne that had cost a fortune to import. As Annie breathed in the scent, she wished she could feel the grief a daughter should experience following the loss of a parent only five weeks earlier, but she merely felt depleted.
She waited until she’d located Mariah’s old scarlet woolen cloak and a pair of heavy socks before she got rid of her own clothes. After she’d piled every blanket she could find on her mother’s bed, she climbed under the musty sheets, turned out the flashlight, and went to sleep.
Annie hadn’t thought she’d ever be warm again, but she was sweating when a coughing fit awakened her sometime around two in the morning. Her ribs felt as if they’d been crushed, her head pounded, and her throat was raw. She also had to pee, another setback in a house with no water. When the coughing finally eased, she struggled out from under the blankets. Wrapped in the scarlet cloak, she turned on the flashlight and, grabbing the wall to support herself, made her way to the bathroom.
She kept the flashlight pointed down so she couldn’t see her reflection in the mirror that hung over the old-fashioned sink. She knew what she’d see. A long, pale face shadowed by illness; a sharply pointed chin; big, hazel eyes; and a runaway mane of light brown hair that kinked and curled wherever it wanted. She had a face children liked, but that most men found quirky instead of seductive. Her hair and face came from her unknown father¾“A married man. He wanted nothing to do with you. Dead now, thank God.” Her shape came from Mariah: tall, thin, with knobby wrists and elbows, big feet, and long-fingered hands.
“To be a successful actress, you need to be either exceptionally beautiful or exceptionally talented,” Mariah had said. “You’re pretty enough, Antoinette, and you’re a talented mimic, but we have to be realistic…”
Your mother wasn’t exactly your cheerleader. Dilly stated the obvious.
I’ll be your cheerleader, Peter proclaimed. I’ll take care of you and love you forever.
Peter’s heroic proclamations usually made Annie smile, but tonight she could think only of the emotional chasm between the men she’d chosen to give her heart to and the fictional heroes she loved. And the other chasm¾the one between the life she’d imagined for herself and the one she was living.
Despite Mariah’s objections, Annie had gotten her degree in theater arts and spent the next ten years plodding to auditions. She’d done showcases, community theater, and even landed a few character roles in off-off Broadway plays. Too few. Over the past summer, she’d finally faced the truth that Mariah was right. Annie was a better ventriloquist than she’d ever be an actress. Which left her absolutely nowhere.
She found a bottle of ginseng-flavored water that had somehow escaped freezing. It hurt to swallow even a sip. Taking the water with her, she made her way back into the living room.
Mariah hadn’t been to the cottage since summer, just before her cancer diagnosis, but Annie didn’t see a lot of dust. The caretaker must have done at least part of his job. If only he’d done the rest.
Her dummies lay on the hot pink Victorian sofa. The puppets and her car were all she had left.
Not quite all, Dilly said.
Right. There was the staggering load of debt Annie had no way of repaying, the debt she’d picked up in the last six months of her mother’s life by trying to satisfy Mariah’s every need.
And finally get Mummy’s approval, Leo sneered.
She began removing the puppets’ protective plastic. Each figure was about two and a half feet long, with moveable eyes and mouth and detachable legs. She picked up Peter and slipped her hand under his T-shirt.
“How beautiful you are, my darling Dilly,” he said in his most manly voice. “The woman of my dreams.”
“And you are the best of men.” Dilly sighed. “Brave and fearless.”
“Only in Annie’s imagination,” Scamp said with uncharacteristic rancor. “Otherwise, you’re as useless as her exes.”
“There are only two exes, Scamp,” Dilly admonished her friend. “And you really mustn’t take out your bitterness against men on Peter. I’m sure you don’t mean to, but you’re starting to sound like a bully, and you know how we feel about bullies.”
Annie specialized in issue-oriented puppet shows, several of which focused on bullying. She set Peter down and moved Leo off by himself, where he whispered his sneer inside her head. You’re still afraid of me.
Sometimes it felt as if the puppets had minds of their own.
Pulling the scarlet cloak tighter around her, she wandered to the front bay window. The storm had eased and moonlight shone through the panes. She looked out at the stark winter landscape¾the inky shadows of spruce, the bleak sheet of marsh. Then she lifted her gaze.
Harp House loomed above her in the distance, sitting at the very top of a barren cliff. The murky light of a half moon outlined its angular roofs and dramatic turret. Except for a faint yellow light visible from a room high in the turret, the house was dark. The scene reminded her of the covers on the old paperback gothic novels she could still sometimes find in used bookstores. It didn’t take much imagination for her to envision a barefoot heroine fleeing that ghostly house in nothing more than a filmy negligee, the menacing turret light glowing behind her. Those books were quaint compared to today’s erotically charged vampires, werewolves, and shape-shifters, but she’d always loved them. They’d nourished her daydreams.
Above the jagged roofline of Harp House, storm clouds raced across the moon, their journey as wild as the flight of the horse and rider who’d charged across the road. Her skin turned to gooseflesh, not from the cold but from her own imagination. She turned away from the window and glanced over at Leo.
Heavy lidded eyes… Thin-lipped sneer… The perfect villain. She could have avoided so much pain if she hadn’t romanticized those brooding men she’d fallen in love with, imagining them as fantasy heroes instead of realizing one was a cheater and the other a narcissist. Leo, however, was a different story. She’d created him herself out of cloth and yarn. She controlled him.
That’s what you think, he whispered.
She shivered and retreated to the bedroom. But even as she slipped back under the covers, she couldn’t shake off the dark vision of the house on the cliff.
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…
She wasn’t hungry when she awakened the next morning, but she made herself eat a handful of stale granola. The cottage was frigid, the day gloomy, and all she wanted to do was go back to bed. But she couldn’t live in the cottage without heat or running water, and the more she thought about her absent caretaker, the angrier she grew. She dug out the only phone number she had, one for the island’s combination town hall, post office, and library, but although her phone was charged, she couldn’t get a signal. She sank down on the pink velvet couch and dropped her head in her hands. She had to go after Will Shaw herself, and that meant making the climb to Harp House. Back to the place she’d sworn she’d never again go near.
She pulled on as many layers of warm clothes as she could find, then wrapped herself in her mother’s red cloak and knotted an ancient Hermès scarf under her chin. Summoning all her energy and willpower, she set out. The day was as gray as her future, the salt air frigid, and the distance between the cottage and the house at the top of the cliff insurmountable.
I’ll carry you every step of the way, Peter announced.
Scamp blew him a raspberry.
It was low tide, but the icy rocks along the shoreline were too hazardous to walk along at this time of year, so she had to take the longer route around the saltwater marsh. But it wasn’t just the distance that filled her with dread.
Dilly tried to give her courage. It’s been eighteen years since you made the climb to Harp House. The ghosts and goblins are long gone.
Annie pressed the edge of the cloak over her nose and mouth.
Don’t worry, Peter said. I’ll watch out for you.
Peter and Dilly were doing their jobs. They were the ones responsible for untangling Scamp’s scrapes and stepping in when Leo bullied. They were the ones who delivered antidrug messages, reminded kids to eat their vegetables, take care of their teeth, and not let anyone touch their private parts.
But it’ll feel so good, Leo sneered, then snickered.
Sometimes she wished she’d never created him, but he was such a perfect villain. He was the bully, the drug pusher, the junk food king, and the stranger who tried to lure children away from playgrounds.
Come with me, little kiddies, and I’ll give you all the candy you want.
Stop it, Annie, Dilly said. No one in the Harp family ever comes to the island until summer. Only the caretaker lives there.
Leo refused to leave Annie alone. I have Skittles, M&M’s, Twizzlers…and reminders of all your failures. How’s that precious acting career working out?
She hunched into her shoulders. She needed to start meditating or practicing yoga, doing something that would teach her to discipline her mind instead of letting it wander wherever it wanted¾or didn’t want¾to go. So what if her acting dreams hadn’t worked out the way she’d wanted. Kids loved her puppet shows
Her boots crunched in the show. Dead cattails and hollowed reeds poked their battered heads through the frozen crust of the sleeping marsh. In summer, the marsh teemed with life, but now all was bleak, gray, and as quiet as her hopes.
She stopped to rest once again as she neared the bottom of the freshly plowed gravel drive that led up the cliff to Harp House. If Shaw could plow, he could get her car out. She dragged herself on. Before the pneumonia, she could have charged uphill, but by the time she finally reached the top, her lungs were on fire and she’d started to wheeze. Far below, the cottage looked like a neglected toy left to fend for itself against the pounding sea and rugged Maine cliffs. Dragging more fire into her lungs, she made herself lift her head.
Harp House rose before her, silhouetted against the pewter sky. Rooted in granite, exposed to summer squalls and winter gales, it dared the elements to take it down. The island’s other summer homes had been built on the more protected eastern side of the island, but Harp House scorned the easy way. Instead it grew from the rocky western headlands far above the sea, a shingle-sided, forbidding brown wooden fortress with an unwelcoming turret at one end.
Everything was sharp angles: the peaked roofs, shadowed eaves, and foreboding gables. How she’d loved this Gothic gloom when she’d come to live here the summer her mother had married Elliott Harp. She’d imagined herself clad in a mousy gray dress and clutching a portmanteau¾gently born, but penniless and desperate, forced to take the humble position of governess. Chin up and shoulders back, she’d confront the brutish (but exceptionally handsome) master of the house with so much courage that he would eventually fall hopelessly in love with her. They’d marry, and then she’d redecorate.
It hadn’t taken long before the romantic dreams of a homely fifteen-year-old who read too much and experienced too little had met a harsher reality.
Now, the swimming pool was an eerie, empty maw, and the simple sets of wooden stairs that led to the back and side entrances had been replaced with stone steps guarded by gargoyles.
She passed the stable and followed a roughly shoveled path to the back door. Shaw had better be here instead of galloping off on one of Elliott Harp’s horses. She pressed the bell but couldn’t hear it ring inside. The house was too big. She waited, then rang again, but no one answered. The doormat looked as though it had been recently used to stamp off snow. She rapped hard.
The door creaked open.
She was so cold that she stepped into the mudroom without hesitating. Miscellaneous pieces of outerwear, along with assorted mops and brooms, hung from a set of hooks. She rounded the corner that opened into the main kitchen and stopped.
Everything was different. The kitchen no longer held the walnut cabinets and stainless steel appliances she remembered from eighteen years ago. Instead the place looked as though it had been squeezed back through a time warp to the nineteenth century.
The wall between the kitchen and what had once been a breakfast room was gone, leaving the space twice as large as it had once been. High, horizontal windows let in light, but since the windows were now set at least six feet from the floor, only the tallest person could see through them. Rough plaster covered the top half of the walls, while the bottom was faced with four-inch-square once-white tiles, some chipped at the corners, others cracked with age. The floor was old stone, the fireplace a sooty cavern large enough to roast a wild boar…or a man unwise enough to have been caught poaching on his master’s land.
Instead of kitchen cabinets, rough shelves held stoneware bowls and crocks. Tall, freestanding dark wood cupboards rose on each side of a dull black industrial-size AGA stove. A stone farmhouse sink held a messy stack of dirty dishes. Copper stockpots and saucepans¾not shiny and polished, but dented and worn¾hung above a long, scarred wooden prep table designed to chop off chicken heads, butcher mutton chops, or whip up a syllabub for his lordship’s dinner.
The kitchen had to be a renovation, but what kind of renovation regressed two centuries. And why?
Run! Crumpet shrieked. Something’s very wrong here!
Whenever Crumpet got hysterical, Annie counted on Dilly’s no-nonsense manner to provide perspective, but Dilly remained silent, and not even Scamp could come up with a wisecrack.
“Mr. Shaw?” Annie’s voice lacked its normal powers of projection.
When there was no reply, she moved deeper into the kitchen, leaving wet tracks on the stone floor. But no way was she taking off her boots. If she had to run, she wasn’t doing it in socks. “Will?”
Not a sound.
She passed the pantry, crossed a narrow back hallway, detoured around the dining room, and stepped through the arched entry into the foyer. Only the dimmest gray light penetrated the six square panes above the front door. The heavy mahogany staircase still led to a landing with a murky stained-glass window, but the staircase carpet was now a depressing maroon instead of the multicolored floral from the past. The furniture bore a dusty film, and a cobweb hung in the corner. The walls had been paneled over in heavy, dark wood, and the seascape paintings had been replaced with gloomy oil portraits of prosperous men and women in nineteenth-century dress, none of whom could possibly have been Elliott Harp’s Irish peasant ancestors. All that was missing to make the entryway even more depressing was a suit of armor and a stuffed raven.
She heard footsteps above her and moved closer to the staircase. “Mr. Shaw? It’s Annie Hewitt. The door was open, so I let myself in.” She looked up. “I’m going to need¾” The words died on her tongue.
The master of the house stood at the top of the stairs.
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The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Heroes are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
Please give a warm welcome to special guest Deborah Blake. Deborah’s book, Wickedly Dangerous, hits stores next week. I’ll have a review soon over at Romance at Random, but until then, find out a few items that you will never find in protagonist Baba’s magical Airstream. I asked where I could get one of my own, too, so I’d be styling at the horse shows. Unfortunately, I think I’m out of luck.
5 things you’d never find in Baba’s Airstream:
1. A bag of Cheetos
2. Cleaning supplies (since she can do it all with a snap of a finger)
3. A copy of TV Guide
4. A pair of Birkenstocks (she’s strictly boots or bare feet…but you might find them in her sister Baba Beka’s magical school bus)
5. A cat (Chudo-Yudo would never allow it, alas)
And sadly, Barbara’s Airstream only exists inside my head, and I don’t think you’d want to live there. It is a very confused and messy place!
Plopping his hat on over his dark blonde hair, Liam strode up to the door of the Airstream—or at least, where he could have sworn the door was a couple of minutes ago. Now there was just a blank wall. He pushed the hair out of his eyes again and walked around to the other side. Shiny silver metal, but no door. So he walked back around to where he started, and there was the entrance, right where it belonged.
“I need to get more sleep,” he muttered to himself. He would almost have said the Airstream was laughing at him, but that was impossible. “More sleep and more coffee.”
He knocked. Waited a minute, and knocked again, louder. Checked his watch. It was six AM; hard to believe that whoever the trailer belonged to was already out and about, but it was always possible. An avid fisherman, maybe, eager to get the first trout of the day. Cautiously, Liam put one hand on the door handle and almost jumped out of his boots when it emitted a loud, ferocious blast of noise.
He snatched his hand away, then laughed at himself as he saw a large, blunt snout pressed against the nearest window. For a second there, he’d almost thought the trailer itself was barking. Man, did he need more coffee.
At the sound of an engine, Liam turned and walked back toward his car. A motorcycle came into view; its rider masked by head-to-toe black leather, a black helmet, and mirrored sunglasses that matched the ones Liam himself wore. The bike itself was a beautiful royal blue classic BMW that made Liam want to drool. And get a better paying job. The melodic throb of its motor cut through the morning silence until it purred to a stop about a foot away from him. The rider swung a leg over the top of the cycle and dismounted gracefully.
“Nice bike,” Liam said in a conversational tone. “Is that a sixty-eight?”
“Sixty-nine,” the rider replied. Gloved hands reached up and removed the helmet, and a cloud of long black hair came pouring out, tumbling waves of ebony silk. The faint aroma of orange blossom drifted across the meadow, although none grew there.
A tenor voice, sounding slightly amused, said, “Is there a problem, officer?”
Liam started, aware that he’d been staring rudely. He told himself it was just the surprise of her gender, not the startling Amazonian beauty of the woman herself, all angles and curves and leather.
“Sheriff,” he corrected out of habit. “Sheriff Liam McClellan.” He held out one hand, then dropped it back to his side when the woman ignored it. “And you are?”
“Not looking for trouble,” she said, a slight accent of unidentifiable origin coloring her words. Her eyes were still hidden behind the dark glasses, so he couldn’t quite make out if she was joking or not. “My name is Barbara Yager. People call me Baba.” One corner of her mouth edged up so briefly, he almost missed it.
“Welcome to Clearwater County,” Liam said. “Would you like to tell me what you’re doing parked out here?” He waved one hand at the Airstream. “I assume this belongs to you?”
She nodded, expressionless. “It does. Or I belong to it. Hard to tell which, sometimes.”
Liam smiled gamely, wondering if his caffeine deficit was making her sound odder than she really was. “Sure. I feel that way about my mortgage sometimes. So, you were going to tell me what you’re doing here.”
“Was I? Somehow I doubt it.” Again, that tiny smile, barely more than a twitch of the lips. “I’m a botanist with a specialty in herbalism; I’m on sabbatical from UC Davis. You have some unusual botanical varieties growing in this area, so I’m here to collect samples for my research.”
Liam’s cop instincts told him that her answer sounded too pat, almost rehearsed. Something about her story was a lie, he was sure of it. But why bother to lie about something he could so easily check?
“Do you have some kind of ID?” he asked. “Your vehicle didn’t turn up in the database and my dispatcher couldn’t find any record of a permit for you to be here. This is county property, you know.” He put on his best “stern cop” expression. The woman with the cloud hair didn’t seem at all fazed.
Deborah Blake is the author of seven books on modern Witchcraft from Llewellyn Worldwide, including The Witch’s Broom (2014). An eighth book, The Everyday Witch, will be out in 2015. Deborah’s first fiction series, The Baba Yaga books, are coming out from Berkley in 2014; they include a prequel novella, Wickedly Magical, as well as Wickedly Dangerous and Wickedly Wonderful. She is represented by agent Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency.
When not writing, Deborah manages The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and makes gemstone jewelry. She also is a professional tarot reader and energy healer. Deborah lives in a 120 year old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with five cats who supervise all her activities, both magickal and mundane.
Deborah Blake links:
About the book:
Author: Deborah Blake
Release date: September 2, 2014
Genre: Paranormal Romance (modern fairy tale)
Available as: Mass market paperback/eBook
Other books in the series: Wickedly Magical (Prequel novella 8/5/14) Wickedly Wonderful (Book 2, 12/2/14)
Amazon: Wickedly Dangerous (A Baba Yaga Novel)
Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…
Older than she looks and powerful beyond measure, Barbara Yager no longer has much in common with the mortal life she left behind long ago. Posing as an herbalist and researcher, she travels the country with her faithful (mostly) dragon-turned-dog in an enchanted Airstream, fulfilling her duties as a Baba Yaga and avoiding any possibility of human attachment.
But when she is summoned to find a missing child, Barbara suddenly finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and an unexpected attraction to the charming but frustrating Sheriff Liam McClellan.
Now, as Barbara fights both human enemies and Otherworld creatures to save the lives of three innocent children, she discovers that her most difficult battle may be with her own heart…
The post Guest Post: Deborah Blake, Author of Wickedly Dangerous appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
May Contain Spoilers
I am of two minds about Nightingale. I enjoyed this novella, but I would have enjoyed it better if I liked the heroine a little more. While I was finally able to cut her some slack, most of her misery is of her own making, and while past events are always viewed with 20/20 vision, it’s that murky, uncertain future that needs a lot of trust and faith that things will work out for the best. They didn’t for Jemma, and instead of a spoiled, willful girl, she’s now a desperate, improvised woman. Manipulated by her parents since birth, and now willing to trade her soul to save her brother from his own folly, she is forced to turn to the man she rejected years ago with a plea to allow her brother to live.
Now, while I had some issues with Jemma, I loved Dane. He is dark and broody, still smarting after losing the love of his life. While he can look back on their childish promises with clearer head, he still aches for what he can’t have. After Jemma married another man without a word to him when he was away at school, Dane was a shattered soul. To finally seek some peace for himself, he sets off to make his fortune and to try to forget about the woman who rejected him for a title and all the wealth that accompanied it. Dane does find his fortune, as well as adventure aplenty, but a part of himself that still belongs to Jemma continues to long for what might have been.
Imagine his twisted emotions when Jemma’s brother challenges him to a duel. With his pride at stake, Dane accepts the challenge. If he’s honest with himself, he would even admit that he pushed and prodded so that the insult was given and the duel would be proposed. What better way to get back at the woman who broke his heart, but to break her heart in return?
I wish the story had been longer, because there is so much angst and so many feelings for both Jemma and Dane to work through. Jemma realizes that she made a mistake, and after suffering through a loveless, passionless marriage, she wonders how differently things would have turned out if she hadn’t agreed to marry a older, wealthier man. She soon found herself with nothing, as her husband was not a competent manager of his fortune, and after his death, his family gave her the cold shoulder. So it’s with a great deal of trepidation that she approaches Dane with a bargain to save her brother from certain death on the point of Dana’s blade. Now the tables have turned; Dane is one of the wealthiest men in London, he’s been knighted, and he’s has the respectably he lacked when he was younger. With this one duel, he thinks he will retain his pride and finally put Jemma out of his heart.
If you’re looking for a quick read between Labor Day weekend festivities, Nightingale will keep you entertained for an hour or so. I just wish it had been a little longing, because I felt that the ending wrapped up to quickly, and left me a little nervous about a forever HEA for Dane and Jemma.
Grade: B / B-
Review copy provided by publisher
Fate has brought them together—again.
At one time, Jemma meant the world to Dane Pendleton, but then she betrayed their young love.
Now Time has turned the tables. Dane is wealthy, respected, and knighted, while Jemma has nothing but her pride.
His honor for hers …
Dane’s name is on the lips of every beauty in London. They whisper that he learned “tricks” while he was in the Orient. But has he forgotten Jemma and what they once meant to each other?
And will he accept her devil’s bargain?
In every woman’s life, there is that one flame who slipped away. The man who makes her wonder “what if?”
But is this a momentary madness or a chance to rekindle a love that could last a lifetime?
The post Novella Review: Nightingale by Cathy Maxwell appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
May Contain Spoilers
Valentine’s Day seems like a complicated occasion in Japan. It’s no wonder it gave Kyoko so much trouble in the 24th volume of Skip*Beat! Her interactions between the men in life are confusing to say the least. There’s Sho, who tromped on her heart but now reluctantly harbors feelings for her, and Reino, the lead singer of a rival band of Sho’s, who stalked her and now that he’s captured one of Kyoko’s grudges, is demanding chocolates made with “her true feelings” from him before he’ll return what he’s stolen from her. And then there’s Ren. Ren. Ren! The guy who has gone out of his way to help her navigate the cut-throat world of show biz, but does she give even the slightest regard for his feelings? No. No. No! Sigh. Kyoko, you need to worry more about the people who care about you because of who you are, and less about those who only want to manipulate you.
I loved this volume of Yoshiki Nakamura’s comedy romance. It’s funny. Kyoko makes a muddle of Valentine’s Day, and Sho is driven to misery when he thinks that Kyoko likes Reino. I wasn’t so happy when Ren thought Kyoko liked someone else after dropping the chocolates she made with every bit of hate she possessed for the Beagle, or when she skipped around the movie set giving everyone obligation chocolates – everyone but him. At least she gave him a birthday present, belated though it was, so I think Ren should cut her some slack. Anyone who knows Kyoko well knows that she’s kind of a spaz. What they don’t all know is that after Sho left her heart full of holes, she swore off love and guys, so because she’s not looking for a relationship, she doesn’t see the possibility for one when it’s standing right in front of her. She is blinded by her need to have her revenge, and to silence all of her little grudge Kyoko’s.
I love how this storyline sets up all kinds of opportunities for misunderstandings between, not just Ren and Kyoko, but between Kyoko and Sho, and even Kyoko and Reino. I think that Kyoko’s personal, as well as professional life, is going to get very, very complicated, and I can hardly wait to see what happens next!
Review copy purchased from Amazon
Valentine’s Day is on its way, but Kyoko won’t be able to celebrate love and friendship the normal way. She’s getting blackmailed into giving chocolate to guys she hates, she has her ongoing revenge to oblige, and to top it all off, it’s Ren’s birthday! How can Kyoko give him a meaningful present when she’s slinging meaningless chocolate left and right?
The post Graphic Novel Review: Skip*Beat! Volume 24 by Yoshiki Nakamura appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
This morning I have a spotlight and excerpt for Jill Shalvis’ latest release It’s In His Kiss.
ONE KISS CAN LAST FOREVER
Becca Thorpe has uprooted her life and escaped to the beach. Now’s her chance to get away from city living, throw caution to the ocean winds, and live in the moment. Especially if the moment includes the deliciously sexy surfer she meets shortly after arriving in Lucky Harbor. Something about the dark intensity of Sam’s eyes and the thrill she gets at his touch convinces her to stay awhile.
Boatbuilder and investment genius Sam Brody is a self-made man who knows how dangerous it can be to mix business and pleasure. But he can’t resist offering Becca a job just to hear her laugh and have her near. Yet when her brother comes to town asking for help, will he tempt her back to her glamorous life in the city? Or do Sam and little Lucky Harbor have a chance to win Becca’s heart?
New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.
You can learn more about Jill at:
A clip from the audio edition of IT’S IN HIS KISS can be downloaded here: https://soundcloud.com/hachetteaudio/its-in-his-kiss-jill-shalvis
It’s in His Kiss
Excerpt from Chapter 3
There was still the night’s chill on the air when Becca woke up the next morning. Early sun rays were doing their best to beat back the dark shadows of the night, stabbing through the cloud layer with hints of soft yellow and orange.
She rolled the kink out of her neck from sleeping on the floor. Today was the day she further depleted her savings by buying furniture.
Today was also the day that she got her act together. She stared at the portable piano keyboard leaning so deceptively casual-like against one of her suitcases.
As a jingle writer, all she had to do was write a catchy tune for a given product. That was it. Write a jingle, sell it to the ad agency that had her on retainer, and accept their thanks in the form of a check.
Except she’d been having trouble for a year now. Her muse had shriveled up on her, and she was eking out only the barest minimum to keep her agency interested. Her latest assignment was simple—come up with something catchy for Cushy toilet paper. A relatively easy and insignificant enough assignment, right?
With a sigh, she grabbed a roll of the toilet paper that the company had sent her, shoved it in her tote bag, and headed out. The first person she came across was the same boy on the bike who’d nearly hit her the other day. “Hey,” she said, flagging him down.
He slowed. “Sam’s probably in his warehouse—”
“No, this question’s for you.” She pulled out the roll of toilet paper. “Feel this. What does it make you think of?”
“I’m writing a commercial for it,” she told him.
“That’s weird,” he said, but he reached out and took it. Considered. “I guess it feels nice to squeeze,” he finally said.
“Good, but unfortunately, that commercial’s already been done,” she said. “Give me something else.”
“Okay…” The kid scratched his head. “It’s…soft?”
“Soft,” she said.
“Yeah. You know, cushy.”
She blew out a breath. “Thanks.”
“I wasn’t any help at all, was I?” the kid asked.
“You were great,” she told him, and waved as he rode off.
She walked to the pier for more ranch-flavored popcorn, which she’d bought at the ice cream stand. The same twenty-something-year-old guy was there today.
“You’re back,” he said.
“Yep. You give good popcorn.”
He smiled. “I know. I’m Lance, by the way.”
“Becca,” she said. “I’m new to town.” Lance was small, painfully thin, and had an odd sound to his voice, like his chest was hollow. She glanced at the jar on the counter, with a donate to cystic fibrosis research poster taped to it, and felt a pang of worry and empathy for him.
“So what’ll it be, Becca New to Town?” he asked.
She smiled. “Ranch-flavored popcorn.” She paused.“And a single chocolate scoop.”
“Living large,” he said. “I like it.”
When he brought the popcorn and ice cream to her, she held up the roll of toilet paper. “Question,” she said. “What does this make you think of?”
He laughed. “That’s going to cost you a double scoop, at least.” But he squeezed the roll of toilet paper. “Tell me why I’m humoring the crazy lady?”
“Because she writes the songs for commercials,” Becca said. Sometimes. If she’s very lucky. “And I need one for Cushy toilet paper. Only I’m stuck.”
“So your brain’s…plugged?” he asked playfully. “Your brain’s got a big…load?”
She laughed. “Don’t quit your day job.”
He squeezed the roll again. “You know,” he said casually. “I get sick a lot.”
Her heart pinched. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. But I use this brand for blowing my nose. It’s softer and more gentle than tissues.”
She smiled and handed back the ice cream cone she hadn’t yet licked. “Okay, now that’s worth a double.”
He made it a triple.
The post Spotlight: It’s in His Kiss by Jill Shalvis appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for Jeaniene Frost’s The Beautiful Ashes. This is her first New Adult release, so I’m curious to see what it’s all about.
Title: The Beautiful Ashes
Author: Jeaniene Frost
Expected Publication: August 26th, 2014 About The Beautiful Ashes
In a world of shadows, anything is possible. Except escaping your fate.
Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been gripped by visions of strange realms just beyond her own. But when her sister goes missing, Ivy discovers the truth is far worse—her hallucinations are real, and her sister is trapped in a parallel realm. And the one person who believes her is the dangerously attractive guy who’s bound by an ancient legacy to betray her.
Adrian might have turned his back on those who raised him, but that doesn’t mean he can change his fate…no matter how strong a pull he feels toward Ivy. Together they search for the powerful relic that can save her sister, but Adrian knows what Ivy doesn’t: that every step brings Ivy closer to the truth about her own destiny, and a war that could doom the world. Sooner or later, it will be Ivy on one side and Adrian on the other. And nothing but ashes in between…
Buy Links Amazon | BN About Jeaniene Frost:
Jeaniene Frost is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of the Night Huntress series, the Night Prince series, and the upcoming Broken Destiny series. To date, foreign rights for her novels have sold to twenty different countries. Jeaniene lives in North Carolina with her husband Matthew, who long ago accepted that she rarely cooks and always sleeps in on the weekends. Aside from writing, Jeaniene enjoys reading, poetry, watching movies with her husband, exploring old cemeteries, spelunking and traveling – by car. Airplanes, children, and cook books frighten her.
For information on Jeaniene’s books, reading the first 20% of each book free, book trailers, deleted scenes, creature mythology, and more, please visit: www.jeanienefrost.com
Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | WebsiteExcerpt:
A familiar song was playing, but I couldn’t remember the name. That bugged me enough to open my eyes. A wall of black met my gaze, slick and smooth like glass. I reached up to see what it was, and that’s when I realized my hands were tied.
“Silent Lucidity” by Queensryche, my mind supplied, followed immediately by, I’m in the backseat of a car. One that was well taken care of, going by that flawless, shiny roof. With those details filled in, I also remembered what had happened right before I’d passed out. And who I was with.
“Why are my hands tied?” I said, heaving myself into an upright position.
For some reason Adrian didn’t have a rear view mirror, which was why he had to glance over his shoulder to look at me.
“Does anything make you panic?” he asked, sounding amused. “You’re tied up in the backseat of a cop-killer’s car, but I’ve seen people get more upset when Starbucks runs out of pumpkin spice flavor.”
Anyone normal would panic, not that it would do any good. Besides, I ran out of “normal” a long time ago, when I realized I saw things no one else did.
Speaking of which, why wasn’t I in pain? The lump where Mrs. Paulson had whacked me was gone, and my shirt was red from blood, but aside from a mild kink in my neck, I felt fine. When I pushed my shirt up, somehow, I wasn’t surprised to see smooth, unbroken skin on my abdomen. Well, that and a bunch of crumbs, like I’d eaten a dessert too messily.
“Why does it look like I have angel food cake on my stomach?” I wondered aloud.
Adrian snorted. “Close. It’s medicine. You were injured.”
“You can tell me how I’m not anymore,” I said, holding out my bound hands, “after you untie me.”
Another backwards glance, this one challenging.
“You may be the calmest person I’ve ever been sent to retrieve, but if I tell you now what you want to know, that will change. So pick—the truth, or being untied?”
“Truth,” I said instantly.
He let out a laugh. “Another first. You’re full of surprises.”
So was he. He’d just admitted that he regularly kidnapped people—which was how I translated “retrieve”—so I should be trying my damnedest to get free. But more than anything, I needed answers. Besides, I still wasn’t afraid of him, and somehow, that had nothing to do with him magically healing me.
“Truth, Adrian,” I repeated.
He turned once again and his gaze locked with mine, those odd blue eyes startling me with their intensity. For a moment, I could only stare, all thought frozen in my mind. I don’t know why I reached out, awkwardly touching his arm to feel the hard muscles beneath that bulky jacket. If I’d thought about it, I wouldn’t have done it. Yet I couldn’t make myself pull away.
Then I gasped when his hand covered mine. At some point, he’d taken off his gloves, and the feel of his warm, bare skin sent a shock wave through me. The touch seemed to affect Adrian, too. His lips parted and he edged over the back of the seats—
He yanked on the steering wheel, narrowly avoiding another car. A horn blared, and when the driver passed us, an extended middle finger shook angrily in our direction. I leaned back, my heart pounding from the near collision. At least, that’s what I told myself it was from.
“Dyate,” Adrian muttered.
I didn’t recognize the word, and I was at a loss to place his accent. It had a musical cadence like Italian, but beneath that was a harsher, darker edge.
“What’s that language?” I asked, trying to mask the sudden shakiness in my voice.
This time, he didn’t take his eyes off the road. “Nothing you’ve heard of.”
“I picked truth, remember?” I said, holding up my bound hands for emphasis.
That earned me a quick glance. “That is the truth, but you don’t get more until you meet Zach. Then we can skip all the ‘this isn’t possible’ arguments.”
I let out a short laugh. “After what I saw on Detective Kroger’s face, my definition of ‘impossible’ has changed.”
Adrian swerved again, but this time, no other car was near.
“What did you see?”
I tensed. How did I explain without sounding insane? No way to, so I chose to go on the attack instead.
“Why were you in my hotel room? And how did you heal me? There isn’t even a mark—”
“What did you see on his face, Ivy?”
Despite his hard tone, when my name crossed his lips, something thrummed inside me, like he’d yanked on a tie I hadn’t known was there. Feeling it was as disturbing as my inexplicable reaction to his clasping my hands.
“Shadows,” I said quickly, to distract from that. “He had snakelike shadows all over his face.”
I expected Adrian to tell me I’d imagined it, a response I was used to hearing. Instead, he pulled over, putting the car in park but keeping the engine running. Then he turned to stare at me.
“Was that the only strange thing you saw?”
I swallowed. I knew better than to talk about these things. Still, I’d demanded the truth from Adrian. It didn’t seem fair to lie in return.
“I saw two versions of the same B and B earlier. One was pretty, but the other was old and rotted, and my sister was trapped inside it.”
Adrian said nothing, though he continued to pin me with that hard stare. When he finally spoke, his question was so bizarre I thought I’d misheard him.
“What do I look like to you?”
“My appearance.” He drew out the words like I was slow. “Describe me.”
All of a sudden, he wanted compliments? I might have finally met someone crazier than me.
“This is ridiculous,” I muttered, but started with the obvious. “Six-six, early twenties, built like Thor, golden brown hair with blond highlights, silvery blue eyes…you want me to go on?”
He began to laugh, a deep, rich baritone that would’ve been sensual except for how angry it made me.
“Now I know why they came after you,” he said, still chuckling. “They must’ve realized you were different, but if they’d known what you could see, you never would’ve made it out of that B and B.”
“You can stop laughing,” I said sharply. “I get that it’s crazy to see the things I do.”
Lots of kids had imaginary friends growing up. I had imaginary places, though at first, I didn’t know I was the only one who could see them. Once my parents had realized that what I kept describing went far beyond childhood fancifulness, the endless doctor visits and tests began. One by one, diseases and psychoses had been crossed off until I was diagnosed with a non-monoamine-cholinergic imbalance in my temporal cortex.
In other words, I saw shit that wasn’t there for reasons no one could figure out. The pills I took helped a little, though I lied and said they got rid of all my hallucinations. I was sick of doctors poking at me. So whenever I saw something that no one else did, I forced myself to ignore it—until Mrs. Paulson and Detective Kroger had tried to kill me, of course.
Adrian did stop laughing, and that unblinking intensity was back in his gaze.
“Well, Ivy, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is, you’re not crazy. The bad news is, everything you’ve seen is real, and now, it’ll be coming for you.” a Rafflecopter giveaway
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This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for Kristen Ashley’s Breathe. Enjoy!
BREATHE by Kristen Ashley (August 26, 2014; Forever Mass Market; $7.00)
There’s nothing like the first time . . .
In Carnal, Colorado, Faye Goodknight is the town’s quiet, shy librarian. She may also be Carnal’s last remaining virgin. For years, Faye has had a crush on Chace Keaton, but the gorgeous cop has always been unattainable. She’s resigned to live contentedly with only her books for company—until Faye suddenly meets Chace alone in the woods . . .
Chace doesn’t think he’s the good guy everyone believes him to be. He’s made a lot of choices he regrets, including denying his feelings for Faye. Through his choices, he’s come to believe the pretty librarian is too good for him, but after their time in the woods, Chace realizes that she may be his last chance for redemption. Soon, their long simmering desires grow to a burning passion. Yet always casting a shadow over their happiness is Chace’s dark past . . .
“Are you okay?” she asked quietly.
Chace rounded the side of the counter.
Cute, tight skirt that skimmed her hips, cupped her ass and hit her knees. Her low-?heeled, brown boots. A scoop-?necked tee under a cardigan. Skin displayed above the neckline of the tee highlighting an unusual and attractive three-?tiered necklace. Auburn hair falling in sheets over her shoulders and down her chest, a hank of it at the top, right of her forehead pulled to the side in a cute bobby pin. Makeup subtle and appealing.
She looked like a librarian who had good taste in clothes and a light but expert hand with makeup. Her own style, a style that did nothing to emphasize the obviously attractive features of her face or frame and because of that, they contradictorily accentuated them. It was a style that worked for her in a huge way.
And it had been working for Chace the same way for a long fucking time.
“Chace,” she said, still talking quietly, “did something—?”
She stopped talking abruptly when it became clear to her that he wasn’t going to stop coming at her.
She took a step back.
He was on her, he rounded her waist with an arm and twisted them so he was moving her backward toward the door she’d come out.
“Oh God,” she whispered, hands coming up to rest light on his chest, eyes wide and staring in his. “Is the boy okay?”
He didn’t answer.
He moved her through the door, reached out a hand, grabbed it, slammed it, turned her sharply then moved in so she was pressed to it.
“What are you—?”
She stopped talking abruptly this time because he tightened his arm around her waist and yanked it up, yanking her into his body. His other hand drove into her silken hair at the back of her head. Then his fingers cupped her head and tipped it to the side. He slanted his head to the other side and slammed his mouth down on hers.
She made a noise of surprise, her body tense against his and he thrust his tongue between her lips. Without a choice, they opened, another noise of surprise filled his mouth but he ignored that one too, carried on with what he was doing and took her mouth.
She tasted like bubblemint again. This time he knew why since his tongue encountered the gum.
Sweet, fresh, clean. Fucking clean. Beautiful.
God, nothing more beautiful.
He deepened an already deep kiss, needing it, and she gave it to him. The tension flowed from her body, it melted into his, her hands slid up his chest, one curving around the back of his neck, fingers going into his hair. The other one slid around his shoulders and held on tight.
Then she gave more, pressing deeper, her tongue timidly sparring with his, her fingers flexing into his scalp, her arm holding tighter. He took it, pulling her close even as he pressed her back into the door, forcing her soft curves to mold to his frame.
When he felt it start to take over, when he knew he’d lose control if he didn’t stop, he stopped.
Tearing his mouth from hers, he tipped his head to rest his forehead on hers, his eyes opening to see, up close, hers drifting open in a cute, sexy flutter and he whispered,
She blinked slowly. No, languidly. Like she was shaking off a dream she didn’t want to let go.
Then she whispered back, “I’m addicted to it.”
Chace couldn’t bury the groan that escaped his throat as he slid his cheek down hers and buried his face in her neck. Her perfume was flowery but there was a hint of vanilla mellowing it. Sweet and fresh.
The woman in his arms was addicted to gum. Not crack. Not kinky sex. Not booze. Not shopping. Not nagging a man or controlling him.
He smiled against her neck.
About the author:
Kristen Ashley grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana, and has lived in Denver, Colorado, and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write. Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multigenerational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland, and Kristen grew up listening to the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon, and Whitesnake. Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music and love was a good way to grow up. And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.
Social Media Links:
Giveaway: a copy of BREATHE with a signed bookplate plus an OPI nail polish set. Five winners get a copy of the book with signed bookplate. This giveaway runs through September 23 and is open to US/Canada only.
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May Contain Spoilers
Once again, I succumb to the zombies’ siren call. I was looking forward to spending more time with Faith and Sophia as they struggle to survive the zombie apocalypse, but I was disappointed with the pacing of the first half of Islands of Rage & Hope. There weren’t enough zombies to keep me entertained, and the military aspects of the story bog things down for me. I like the zombie battles, and even though they get repetitive, the zombie clearance missions. There’s nothing quite like imagining a bad-ass 13 year old girl leading a squad of Marines into the thick of a zombie battle and showing her troops how to get the job done. Faith’s efficient dispatch of the infected is something I look forward to with each new installment of the Black Tide Rising series.
The Wolf Squadron, in need of medical facilities to produce vaccine against the virus that has wiped out most of the population, leaving those that don’t die outright mindless, savage beasts with an endless hunger for flesh, have taken back Gitmo from the hordes of zombies that have taken up residence on the base. In order to free the submarine crews from their vessels, the Wolf Squadron needs the vaccine. They need the expertise of the personnel trapped on the subs. One of the sad results of losing so many to the plague is a void of skilled scientists and engineers to help rebuild civilization. The key to taking back the world from the infected lies with the submarine crews, and Steve Smith, leader of the Wolf Squadron, will do whatever it takes to get them vaccinated against the flu and back in active service with his troops. He’ll even put his daughters, Faith and Sophia, at risk obtaining the materials necessary to manufacture the vaccine.
After securing Gitmo, the story stalled for me. Faith has to learn how to get along with her new Gitmo Marine troops, and things just aren’t going well for her. People she trusted have been promoted to other units to help prepare for missions against the zombies, and she’s struggling with her new duties and her new Staff Sergeant. Military protocols are as much a mystery to me as they were to Faith, and the lack of action made me put the book now down for a while. I just wasn’t in the mood for the personnel struggles; I wanted more zombie killing action and less procedural training for Faith. Who really cares whether she can write up a report when the world is overrun with zombies?
I picked up the book again and gave it another go while torturing myself on the treadmill. Once Faith was given the mission to clear some islands, the plot picked up and I couldn’t put my Kindle down. I even walked longer on the treadmill than I intended, because I didn’t want to stop reading, not even to relocate to a chair. Back in her element, slaughtering plague victims, Faith proves her worth as a Marine. Her skeptical new squad members see first hand that she’s a zombie killing machine, and her confidence is restored. Report writing, meetings, and parade drills don’t mean much to Faith. Killing zombies, though – now that makes all the sense in the world.
Islands of Rage & Hope ends on a high note, and I was sorry to hit the last page. The Wolf Squadron now have most of the tools they need to begin restoring some sort of civilization to a world gone mad. I am really looking forward to the next book, but I’m sad that it will be the last. I don’t normally like reading series, but Black Tide Rising has been a fun ride, so I’ll be sad when it’s over.
Review copy provided by publisher
BOOK 3 IN THE BLACK TIDE RISING SERIES FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHOR. Sequel to To Sail a Darkling Sea and Under a Graveyard Sky.
With the world consumed by a devastating plague that drives humans violently insane, what was once a band of desperate survivors bobbing on a dark Atlantic ocean has now become Wolf Squadron, the only hope for the salvation of the human race. Banding together with what remains of the U.S. Navy, Wolf Squadron, and its leader Steve Smith, not only plans to survive—he plans to retake the mainland from the infected, starting with North America.
The next step: produce a vaccine. But for do that, Wolf Squadron forces led by Smith’s terrifyingly precocious daughters Sophia and Faith must venture into a sea of the infected to obtain and secure the needed materials. And if some of the rescued survivors turn out to be more than they seem, Smith just might be able to pull off his plan.
Once more, exhausted and redlining Wolf Squadron forces must throw themselves into battle, scouring the islands of the Atlantic for civilization’s last hope.
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Please welcome Shana Galen to the virtual offices this morning! She’s here to share a Top 5 list with us, and then you can enter to win a copy of Love and Let Spy!
What’s in Your Spy Survival Kit? by Shana Galen
I love writing about spies. My spy characters have such fun. They’re always tackling bad guys, picking locks, or sneaking past guards. As for me, I can’t even sneak out of my daughter’s bedroom without her waking back up and asking for more water. I’d make a terrible spy. Fortunately, I’ve written about enough spies to know there are 5 items any successful spy needs.
1. A good cloak
In my latest release, Love and Let Spy, master spy Jane Bonde has to do a lot of sneaking around. When she doesn’t want to be spotted, she throws a cloak over her gown and pulls the hood over her blond hair. Voila! If she keeps her head down, no one notices her. Granted, someone wearing a cloak on the street in 2014 might attract a little bit more attention, but at least you’d look stylish.
2. An exploding quill
A spy never knows when he or she might need to blow something up. Jane Bonde knows the importance of having a seemingly innocuous item, like a feather pen, at the ready in case an explosion is called for. Of course, Jane’s pen is a bit unpredictable, but those are the risks you take when you’re a spy.
3. Horse treats
Everyone knows horses like apples or sugar, and when Jane finds herself tied in a stall with a hungry horse who insists on nibbling her cloak (see above for the importance of a cloak sans horse slobber), she wishes she’d stuck a few horse treats in said cloak. She won’t make that mistake again, and when you’re preparing your spy survival kit, you may want to stash a few sugar cubes or apple slices in there too. Just to be safe.
4. Clean linen bandages
Spying is dangerous work, and as a spy, you want to be prepared in the event something goes wrong. Make sure to supply your kit with some bandages in case of unexpected stabbing or shooting. They help to staunch the blood until you can get to a surgeon for treatment.
5. A partner
You can’t pack a partner in your spy survival kit, but as Jane learns in Love and Let Spy, someone who has your back is vital. Dominic Griffyn isn’t a spy and initially he seems like the last man on earth she can trust, but he ends up saving her in more ways than one.
And there you have it, the spy kit essentials. Of course, my bag would have lipstick, milkduds, and if the agency was buying, a killer pair of shoes. What would you have in your spy kit?
Her name is Bonde, Jane Bonde…
A beautiful and eligible member of the ton, Jane has more than a few secrets: she’s one of the Crown’s most elite agents. She may be deadly, but she doesn’t know a thing about fashion, flirtation, or love…until Dominic Griffyn shakes up her carefully stirred world and asks her to be his bride. He’s exactly the kind of man she’s not looking for. And he’s dangerous, because falling into his arms is so much more satisfying than saving England from her enemies.
He’s an improper gentleman who needs a wife…
Talk, dark, and tortured, Dominic Griffyn is haunted by demons from his past. When his stepfather insists that he marry, Dominic allows himself to hope that the beautiful but mysterious Miss Bonde might help him forget his troubles. As they grow closer, it’s clear that there’s more to Jane than danger. She might be just what his neglected heart needs.
Shana Galen is the bestselling author of fast-paced adventurous Regency historicals. She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston’s inner city. Now she writes full-time. She lives in Houston, Texas .
Order Love and Let Spy:
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This morning I have a giveaway for Ellen Hopkins’ latest release RUMBLE. Check out the blurb and enter to win a copy!
Can an atheist be saved? The New York Times bestselling author of Crank and Tricks explores the highly charged landscapes of faith and forgiveness with brilliant sensitivity and emotional resonance.
“There is no God, no benevolent ruler of the earth, no omnipotent grand poobah of countless universes. Because if there was…my little brother would still be fishing or playing basketball instead of fertilizing cemetery vegetation.”
Matthew Turner doesn’t have faith in anything.
Not in family—his is a shambles after his younger brother was bullied into suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when things get tough. Not in some all-powerful creator who lets too much bad stuff happen. And certainly not in some “It Gets Better” psychobabble.
No matter what his girlfriend Hayden says about faith and forgiveness, there’s no way Matt’s letting go of blame. He’s decided to “live large and go out with a huge bang,” and whatever happens happens. But when a horrific event plunges Matt into a dark, silent place, he hears a rumble…a rumble that wakes him up, calling everything he’s ever disbelieved into question.
About Ellen Hopkins:
Ellen Hopkins is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Crank, Burned, Impulse, Glass, Identical, Tricks, Fallout, Perfect, Tilt, and Smoke, as well as the adult novels Triangles and Collateral. She has helped to shape the literary landscape with more than 4.5 million copies in print. Successfully combining her two passions—writing poetry and writing fiction—her compelling novels told in free verse expose and examine the struggles facing today’s youth. Ellen lives with her family in Carson City, Nevada, where she founded Ventana Sierra, a nonprofit youth housing and resource initiative designed to help highly motivated young people build solid career paths toward a more positive future. Rumble is her latest book. Visit her at www.EllenHopkins.com or go to www.VentanaSierra.org.
US addresses only, please.
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This morning I have a giveaway for Tempt Me Eternally by Gena Showalter to celebrate this Pocket Star-E release. Check out the excerpt and enter for a chance to win a digital copy.
The huntress becomes the hunted in this sizzling paranormal romance from New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Gena Showalter, previously published as part of the Deep Kiss of Winter anthology with #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole, now available as a stand-alone ebook!
With only skin-to-skin contact, Aleaha Love can change her appearance, assuming any identity. As an AIR (Alien Investigation and Removal) agent, her newest mission is to capture a group of otherworldly warriors. So imagine her surprise when the hunter becomes the hunted, and she’s taken captive by dangerously seductive Breean, a golden-skinned, iron-willed commander, who threatens everything Aleaha stands for—and makes her want to be only herself, for the first time in her life.
They were coming.
Warriors unlike any other. Monsters of unimaginable power. Otherworlders. Fierce creatures with the ability to look inside your soul, glimpse your greatest fear, and present it to you with an unrepentant smile.
Should’ve stayed home, Aleaha Love thought. ’Cause we’re gonna get spanked. Hard. And not in a good way. Instead, she’d answered her cell and her captain’s call to action, and now found herself crouched in the middle of a gnarled forest, staring into a snow-laden clearing, moonlight shooting bright amber rays in every direction as flakes wafted in the breeze like fairy dust.
Though she wore white from head to toe, had a pyre-gun stretched forward, and was burrowed in a drift as cover, she felt exposed. Vulnerable. And yeah, damn cold.
What in the hell did I get myself into?
“Everyone in position?” a voice whispered from her headset.
A whisper, yeah, but it startled her. She managed to cut off a yelp, but couldn’t stop tremors from sweeping through her. Steady. She’d never hear the end of it if she accidentally fired her weapon before the fight had even begun.
“Premature weapon ejaculation,” they’d say with a chuckle, and she wouldn’t be able to deny it.
One by one, twenty teammates uttered their assent. They had wicked cool nicknames like Hawk Eye and Ghost. Her turn, she said, “Lollipop, in place.”
She rolled her eyes. “Dress her up and watch her play bad alien, delicious cop,” the boys had laughed before giving her the stupid moniker her first day on the job. “Naughty lawbreakers will want to taste her, not outrun her.”
That had been, what? Five weeks ago, she realized with a jolt. Oh, how life had changed since then. From hiding in the shadows, afraid of what she was, to working cases with New Chicago’s elite team of smart-asses, content with her somewhat pampered existence. A pampered existence she didn’t deserve and hadn’t earned, but whatever. No guilt for her. Really.
“Need someone to snuggle against, Lolli?” a quiet, amused male voice asked. Devyn, supposedly a king of some sort and a self-proclaimed collector of women. He wasn’t really a member of Alien Investigation and Removal but was a special contractor, as well as the man who’d once wired her gun to blow bubbles rather than fire at target practice.
Word on the street, he was more powerful than God and deadlier than the devil, though no one would tell her outright what he could do. He was an otherworlder, that much she knew. That, and most of AIR’s flunkies kept their distance from him. They feared him, which only heightened Aleaha’s need to keep her own secrets.
She, too, was different.
She didn’t know whether she was human or alien. Or both. She didn’t know whether there were others like her or not. She didn’t know who her parents were or why they’d abandoned her on the dirty streets of the Southern District—a.k.a Whore’s Corner—of New Chicago, and she didn’t care. Not anymore. All she knew was that she could assume anyone’s identity with only a touch. That person’s face became hers; their height became hers; their body became hers.
For years, she’d lived in fear of being found out, of being hunted and tortured for her unnatural ability, afraid that everyone who looked at her saw the truth and knew she wasn’t who she claimed to be. But she couldn’t drop the mask. As herself, she was wanted for theft, assault against a police officer, and more theft. And then maybe kinda sorta murder. Not that she was culpable. He’d deserved it.
She’d rather lose a limb than spend any more time in jail.
Her fear of discovery was waning, though, and she was settling comfortably into her newest life as Macy Briggs. Maybe one day I’ll even be worthy of it. Again, not that she felt guilty. Really.
But with Christmas only a few weeks away . . . ugh. Worst. Holiday. Ever. Her “friends” would bake Macy’s favorite foods, not Aleaha’s. They would give her gifts meant for Macy, and reminisce fondly about good ole days she knew nothing about, and she would have to smile through every minute of it. And yeah, okay. Fine. Then she would feel guilty.
“What, ignoring me?” Devyn said with another of those snarky laughs. “Wasn’t like I was going to ask to feel you up or anything. I mean, I was just gonna surprise you with my handsiness.”
God, she was on the job, yet she’d lost track of her thoughts. Mortifying. “Can you take nothing
“Hello, have you met me? I take making out very seriously.”
All the men on the line snorted in their attempts to muffle their laughter. They might be wary of him, but they couldn’t help but enjoy his perverted sense of humor.
“Fuck you, Chuckles,” she said, trying not to reveal her amusement. Irreverent bastard.
“Excellent. We’re on the same page, because that’s exactly what I’m trying to do to you.”
Give herself to Devyn? Not in this lifetime, and not because he wasn’t attractive. If anything, he was too attractive. Hell, he was total screw-like-ananimal perfection. Tall, with dark hair, wide amber eyes, and skin that glittered like a jewel; there was no one else like him. There was a recipe for his smile, though: wicked desire dipped in acid, wrapped in steel and sprinkled with candy. The recipe for his laughter? Well, that was wicked desire tossed in the gutter, wrung out in a whorehouse, and slathered with scented body lotion. Women threw themselves at him constantly, and he ate it up like they were his own personal smorgasbord.
They probably were. Thank God she wasn’t in the market for a boyfriend. Or, rather, a lover, since that’s all someone as fickle as Devyn could ever amount to. Macy—the real Macy—had been dating a piece of scum Aleaha was still trying to lose and she didn’t have the time or patience to throw anyone else into the mix.
“Temper, temper,” Jaxon Tremain chided. He was one of two agents who hung out with the sexy otherworlder, and the resident smoother. There was something unnaturally calming about his presence, as if he could slink inside a person’s psyche and wash away her fears. “Would you kiss me with that mouth?”
“Funny,” she said dryly.
She could hear the others chortling and snorting with more surprised amusement. Someone said,
“Soliciting kisses from women, Jaxon? Mishka will kill you for that.”
“If by kill you mean seduce, then yeah,” Jaxon replied. “You’re right.”
Mishka was Jaxon’s wife and a hired killer who possessed a robotic arm. Aleaha had only seen her once, but that had been enough to scare ten years off her life. Never had she seen eyes so cold or heard a voice so uncaring. Of course, the moment Mishka spied Jaxon, her entire demeanor had changed. So had Jaxon’s, for that matter. Usually he was as con- servative as a priest. One glance at Mishka, though, and he’d morphed into gutter man.
Aleaha had marveled at the change in him, a change she was witnessing once again. Empathetic as he was, perhaps he was veering onto the perverted track now to get her mind off the bloody massacre sure to begin. Apparently, though, she didn’t need help today. She couldn’t concentrate worth a damn. What was wrong with her?
“Well,” Devyn said, drawing the spotlight back to him. As always. “Be a good lollipop and answer the man. Will you kiss him or not?”
“I could give you a list of all the things I’ll never do to you with my mouth,” she muttered. “How ’bout that?”
Devyn laughed, and, yep. It was wicked desire. “She reminds me of Mia when she talks like that. Tell us, Lolli, is that list for everyone or just Jaxon?”
“All right, team,” Mia Snow herself interjected before Aleaha could reply. “Save it. You know I only want you to stun these men. Do not burn them. I repeat, do not burn them. An open wound will bleed and that will spread their infection. And believe me, I will kill every single one of you myself if that happens.”
There was a moment of frightening silence. Infection. What a delightful reminder. Not only were the warriors coming here vicious, there was a possibility that they were bringing the plague with them.
“Good,” Mia continued. “I’ve got your attention. Solar flare approaching in ten.” She was inside a van about a mile away, watching the action on a night- vision monitor with a handful of backup agents. “Nine.”
Aleaha tensed. A few months ago, a big case had busted wide open and AIR had learned that otherworlders were traveling to Earth through interworld wormholes that initiated with solar flares. Then, a few weeks after that, another case had come to light. Members of a race of aliens known as the Schön had descended, their bodies carriers of a virus that passed to humans through their blood and ejaculate. This virus turned men and women into cannibals. Their queen—or living host of this sickness—was on her way here, due to arrive in the near future.
Tonight, ten members of her horde were supposed to utilize one of those wormholes. Their purpose: to smooth the way for her. Which meant, destroying AIR.
Shit. The countdown. Despite the frigid temperatures, sweat beaded on Aleaha’s brow, dripping from the brim of the white cap she wore. Stay calm. You have to stay calm.
Though her résumé claimed she’d worked as a cop for more than two years, this was actually Aleaha’s first mission.
What seemed forever ago but had only been a few months, she’d stumbled upon the body of a woman who’d been raped and killed in a back alley—a woman she’d recognized as Miss New Chicago’s Finest in Uniform calendar girl, Macy Briggs.
She’d almost walked away. The higher the public profile, the more scrutiny she received. But . . .
Already tired of the adult-toy-store clerk identity she’d previously stolen, Aleaha had seized the chance to better herself, hiding the body and shifting so that she was an exact match to Macy’s appearance, thereby claiming the woman’s life as her own.
Only later had she learned that Macy had applied to AIR and been accepted. To back out would have looked suspicious and changing identities yet again hadn’t appealed. So she’d done it. She’d attended that first day, then the next. And the next. They’d watched her suspiciously, as if they knew the truth, but they had never accused her and she’d realized she was probably paranoid. Soon they’d even relaxed, accepting her as one of their own. Now, here she was, done with trials and on mission one.
“—was actually your warm-up,” Mia said, cutting into her thoughts. “Ten. Nine.”
Shit. She’d missed the end of the first countdown? She was practically begging to be killed tonight.
Oh, God. What if she did, in fact, die out here? What if she lost everything she’d worked so hard to gain? Her gun hand shook. You have to stay calm, damn it.
With bouts of extreme emotion, she shifted from one identity to another without any control. “Four. Remember, guns set to stun and only stun.”
Her pyre-gun was already dialed to the proper setting, so she curled her index finger around the trigger and swallowed the hard lump in her throat. Breathe in, breathe out. You do know how to fire a weapon, at least. A skill she’d learned from her only true friend, Bride McKells. A vampire, and her champion. They’d been separated more than a decade ago, chased apart by cops who’d caught them breaking into homes for food, and Aleaha hadn’t been able to find her since. She’d never stop looking, though.
Hop over to XOXO After Dark to read more!
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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 can’t believe it’s almost Labor Day weekend! Summer flew by this year. The berries are already falling off the tree in the back yard, a sure sign that fall is coming. It was a rather mild summer, which was a good thing when the air conditioner decided to play dead last weekend. With temps in the 50s at night, it wasn’t too uncomfortable, and the repair company had us back up and running by noon on Monday. A fuse in the unit blew, and it needed Freon (which is stupidly expensive!). It’s been hot and humid since Wednesday, so the timing couldn’t have been better. It’s usually the other way around when we have to have something repaired, so I was so grateful not to be swimming in pools of sweat!
Do you have any plans for Labor Day weekend? I want to just stay home and read, with breaks for lunch at a few favorite restaurants. I also have a coupon for Yogurt City that I’m saving for then. I’ll have to walk extra time on the treadmill after that!
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:
I nabbed a lot a free and discounted books on Amazon last week!
Fish Tales (I love Sheri S Tepper!)
KING’S (The King Trilogy Book 1) (FREE)
How to Catch a Wild Viscount (FREE)
Into the Darkness (Darkness #1) (FREE)
Cure (FREE ZOMBIES!)
Skip Beat!, Vol. 24 (I bought the Kindle edition because I can’t find my print copy!)
Dead Witch Walking (FREE)
This Hero for Hire
Sweet on You
A great big thanks to the publishers for their continued support!
What did you get? Please leave links and share!
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The post The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves–Summer’s Over?? appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
Please welcome special guest Anna Campbell to the virtual offices!
Never Leave Home Without… by Anna Campbell
Hi Julie! Thank you so much for asking me to visit Manga Maniac Cafe to talk about my latest release (26th August), WHAT A DUKE DARES, book 3 in the Sons of Sin series.
The story opens with a proposal from my duke Camden Rothermere to his childhood friend Penelope Thorne. A proposal that goes so badly that Pen says no and runs off for the Continent to find refuge with an eccentric aunt.
So what should Pen take with her on her escape?
Plenty of euros. She’s heading for Italy and I can tell you from experience, that’s an expensive destination. Oh, what’s that? This is pre-Euro? Well, what do you know? Actually the subject of Italian currency in the early 19th century when Italy was still a patchwork of different states is enough to give me a headache. Which brings me to…
Given that a certain duke has given her a major headache, Pen will take lots of aspirin with her. What’s that? I’m too early for that too? Poor Pen, she really is missing out on the mod cons in her travels, isn’t she? In the 1820s, when Pen is embarking on her headlong dash, people used to smell aromatic vinegar to cure a headache or use a variety of herbal cures based on things like feverfew, valerian and lavender, some of which I suspect helped.
Comfortable shoes. The half boots that Regency ladies wore were pretty practical and would stand up to the rigors of travel (and running away from marriage-minded aristocrats).
Some good books. Good books never go astray, after all. And given how bad the Continental roads are, especially in the wild corners that Penelope explores with her scholarly aunt, something to read while she waits for the mud to dry or the snow to clear will be very welcome. Hmm, can I suggest the Sons of Sin series by Anna Campbell? Hours of entertainment there for a lady looking to pass the time stranded in villages outside Rome or Florence.
A duke-defeating kit. Sadly, Pen left home before I could pass this invaluable piece of equipment to her, including anti-duke spray, a book of anti-etiquette and that informative pamphlet, How to Get Rid of Your Aristos: Start Your Own French Revolution Today. I have a dreadful feeling because Pen left without this, that the Duke of Sedgemoor may just show up again to disrupt her life. And without this kit, she’ll be doomed to all the adventures and passion in the rest of WHAT A DUKE DARES. What a terrible fate! Snerk.
So if you were running off to the Continent then or now, what would you take?
About WHAT A DUKE DARES
What woman in her right mind would say no to marrying the dashing Duke of Sedgemoor? Miss Penelope Thorne, that’s who. She’s known Camden Rothermere since they were children-and she also knows she’d bring nothing but scandal to his name.
Cam can hardly believe Penelope turned down his proposal. But if she wants to run off to the Continent and set the rumor mill ablaze, he can’t stop her. Then her brother’s dying request sends him to bring home the one woman he thought he’d finally gotten over.
The only way they’ll both get back to London without their reputations in tatters is to pretend they’re married during the journey. That means kissing like they mean it and even sharing a bed-until it becomes hard to tell where the game ends and true desire begins . . .
About Anna Campbell
Always a voracious reader, ANNA CAMPBELL decided when she was a child that she wanted to be a writer. Once she discovered the wonderful world of romance novels, she knew exactly what she wanted to write. Anna has won numerous awards for her Avon historical romances including Romantic TimesReviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill, the Heart of Excellence, the Aspen Gold and the Australian Romance Readers Association’s most popular historical romance (twice). Her books have twice been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA Award and twice for Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year.
When she’s not writing passionate, intense stories featuring gorgeous Regency heroes and the women who are their destiny, Anna loves to travel, especially in the United Kingdom, and listen to all kinds of music. She lives near the sea on the east coast of Australia, where she’s losing her battle with an overgrown subtropical garden.
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May Contain Spoilers
I decided to read Will the Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up? because Abi’s a kickboxer, and the movie set setting sounded interesting. I really enjoyed the beginning of the book, but Abi’s lack of common sense derailed some of my enjoyment later on. The ending was satisfying, but the middle stretch did test my resolve. The story would have worked better for me if Abi had been 16 instead of 18, because she acted so immature. Part of that is because of her speech impediment, which made her family and her friends want to take the lead and help her over life’s little hurdles. It quickly got annoying when she continually craved their help and feedback, or when she blamed everyone but herself for the messes she found herself in.
With speech therapy, time, and practice, Abi has overcome her embarrassing stutter. Bullied because of it when she was younger, her parents enrolled her in kickboxing lessons to help build her self esteem. Discovering that she was good at it, Abi has become a champion kickboxer. When her instructor suggests she audition as a stunt double for an indie movie that his friend is working on, she’s reluctant to step outside of her comfort zone. Her friends Matt and Liv convince her to give it a shot, but Abi still has her reservations. She’s never wanted to be in the limelight, and even though the job is to be star Tilly Watson’s stunt double, she’s scared she’ll have trouble interacting with a new group of people.
The audition is almost a complete disaster; her stutter returns with a vengeance, and she’s so nervous she can barely think. When it’s time to show off her martial arts skills, however, she’s immediately calmed and is able to nail the job. Once on the set, she starts to think that she’s made a horrible mistake. Tilly is mean and taunts her about her speech impediment, and the director is a stern task master. Just when she’s beginning to regret taking the position, Tilly’s boyfriend shows up on the set. Mistaking Abi for Tilly, he greets her with a kiss – and Abi is smitten with the young actor.
As I stated earlier, I enjoyed the book at first. Then after Abi starts her new job, I started to get annoyed with her. She’s basically a doormat for Tilly, and starry eyed over Jon, she starts letting down her best friends. She makes some very bad decisions, and then doesn’t take ownership of them. She feels sorry for Jon because Tilly is cheating on him, and starting wondering what it would be like to be his girlfriend. He’s so kind to her, and he’s gorgeous, too. I was disappointed in her, thinking that it was kind of low for her to even contemplate stealing someone else’s boyfriend, so when Jon’s attentions aren’t quite everything they seem, I thought Abi got a little bit of what she deserved.
At the start of the story, she is head over heels in love with Matt, but because she’s afraid of ruining their friendship, she keeps her feelings a secret. Her flip-flop between the two guys made her seem shallow, and it looked like she was just using Matt. As a distance grows between them, she’s confused and blames him for not accepting her new happiness with her job. She finally feels like she belongs somewhere, but she can’t seem to meld her old life with her new one. Soon, Liv isn’t speaking to her at all, and there’s a new awkwardness with Matt.
While Abi does finally understand that she is the cause for most of her grief, it takes a long time for her to get even the smallest hint that most of her problems are self-inflicted. I liked the ending because she finally does grow up and stop taking her friends and family for granted, but it took a long time for that to happen.
Review copy provided by publisher
Abi Saunders might be a kickboxing champion, but when it comes to being the center of attention, she’d rather take a roundhouse kick to the solar plexus any day. So when her trainer convinces her to audition to be the stunt double for hot teen starlet Tilly Watson, Abi is shocked—and a little freaked out—when she gets the job.
Being a stunt double is overwhelming, but once the wig and makeup are on, Abi feels like a different person. Tilly Watson, to be exact. And when Tilly’s gorgeous boyfriend, Jon, mistakes Abi for the real star, Abi’s completely smitten. In fact, she’s so in love with her new life, it isn’t long before she doesn’t have time for her old one.
But when the cameras are turned off, will she discover running with the Hollywood A-list isn’t quite the glamorous existence she thought it was?
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Please give a warm welcome to Vivienne Lorret! She’s here to answer a question and to share some information about her latest release, Finding Miss McFarland. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!
How does Griffin relax after a hard day saving Delaney from herself?
Unfortunately, Griffin Croft doesn’t know how to relax. In the beginning, when Delaney frustrates him to insanity, he spends much of his time boxing at Gentleman Jackson’s. Some days, he’d love nothing more than to settle down into a wing-backed chair and indulge in a slice (or two) of gingerbread. Yet, even that plan goes awry when he discovers that Miss McFarland shares a fondness for the cake.
Of course, by the end of the story, I imagine he is perfectly capable of keeping both of them thoroughly occupied and sated.
Finding Miss McFarland
Wallflower Weddings Book Three
By: Vivienne Lorret
Releasing August 5th, 2014
Fans of historical romance authors Lorraine Heath and Sophie Jordan will adore Vivienne Lorret’s latest Wallflower Wedding novel.
Delaney McFarland is on the hunt for a husband—preferably one who needs her embarrassingly large dowry more than a dutiful wife. After the unspeakable incident at her debut, Delaney knows marrying for love is off the table, but a marriage of convenience—one that leaves her free to live the life she chooses—is the next best thing, never mind what that arrogant, devilishly handsome Mr. Croft thinks. Delaney plans to marry for money … or not at all.
Ever since the fiery redhead burst into his life—in a most memorable way—Griffin Croft hasn’t been able to get Miss McFarland out of his mind. Now, with the maddening woman determined to hand over her fortune to a rake, Griffin knows he must step in. He must help her. He must not kiss her. But when Griffin’s noble intentions flee in a moment of unexpected passion, his true course becomes clear: tame Delaney’s wild heart and save her from a fate worse than death … a life without love.
Link to Follow Tour: http://tastybooktours.blogspot.com/2014/06/now-booking-tasty-virtual-tour-for_6353.html
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18780732-finding-miss-mcfarland?from_search=true
Series Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/115423-wallflower-weddings
I fell in love with fairy tales and the romance behind happily ever after at a very young age. Like a lot of you, I tweaked the fables bit by bit in my imagination until they suited me perfectly. By the time I was eleven, a teacher encouraged me to start writing.
Throughout the years that followed, my teachers remained my most fervent supporters, giving me the tools I needed to continue my journey as a writer.
My husband and I have two teenage boys, who are heroes in their own right. For now, we live in a small Midwestern town near Lake Michigan…until a time in the future when a new adventure calls us to other shores.
I am currently working on my next novel, but I always enjoy hearing from my readers. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rafflecopter Giveaway (Digital Set of DARING MISS DANVERS and WINNING MISS WAKEFIELD)
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I have a special treat this morning! To celebrate the release of Samantha Grace’s In Bed with a Rogue, Sourcebooks is hosting a giveaway! You can win 6 (SIX!) of Samantha Grace’s novels!
In Bed with a Rogue By Samantha Grace
September 2, 2014
He’s the Talk of the Town
The whole town is tittering about Baron Sebastian Thorne having been jilted at the altar. Every move he makes ends up in the gossip columns. Tired of being the butt of everyone’s jokes, Sebastian vows to restore his family’s reputation no matter what it takes.
She’s the Toast of the Ton
Feted by the crème of society, the beautiful widow Lady Prestwick is a vision of all that is proper. But Helena is no angel, and when Sebastian uncovers her dark secret, he’s quick to press his advantage. In order to keep her hard-won good name, Helen will have to make a deal with the devil. But she’s got some tricks up her sleeves to keep this notorious rogue on his toes…
Historical romance author Samantha Grace discovered the appeal of a great love story when she was just a young girl, thanks to Disney’s Robin Hood. She didn’t care that Robin Hood and Maid Marian were cartoon animals. It was her first happily-ever-after experience and she didn’t want the warm fuzzies to end. Now Samantha enjoys creating her own happy-endings for characters that spring from her imagination. Publishers Weekly describes her stories as “fresh and romantic” with subtle humor and charm. Samantha describes romance writing as the best job ever.
Twitter: @SamGraceAuthor https://twitter.com/SamGraceAuthor
Buy: Amazon | B&N | BAM! | IndieBound | !ndigo | iTunes
Enter for a chance to win a 6 book bundle by Samantha Grace!
The six Samantha Grace books include:
· Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel
· Lady Amelia’s Mess and a Half
· Miss Lavigne’s Little White Lie
· Lady Vivian Defies a Duke
· One Rogue Too Many
· In Bed with a Rogue
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This morning, I have a spotlight for Pocket Star-E Nights’ digital releases. If you like the excerpts, enter to win a digital copy of each release!
TRY ME ON FOR SIZE by STEPHANIE HAEFNER
A sexy, laugh-out-loud love story about a woman trying to save her failing lingerie business with a new product—“personal massagers” made to the specs of the spokesman of her choice! But when she falls for the first model she meets, how can she prove she’s his perfect fit?
With their business in trouble, Mia and Bryn must pull out all the stops to save their shop. Things get sticky when Mia, owner of Classy ‘n’ Sassy Lingerie, has to go on five blind “dates” to find the right model for the big marketing plan that will save the store. But they aren’t your ordinary blind dates. Mia has to test out the “goods” to find the perfect spokespenis—the model for Classy ‘n’ Sassy’s newest line of lifelike dildos.
Not realizing Mia is on a mission, Oliver Christensen approaches her in a bar and Mia mistakes him for model #1. Oliver decides to play along. But just how far is he willing to take this charade in order to get closer to Mia? And what happens if Mia’s Blind Date #1 turns out to be The One?
“We need a new product,” Bryn said, finally adding to the conversation. “Something different.”
“Different how? Like shapers or something? Those are all the rage.”
“No. I mean really different.” Bryn stood. “We built this business by catering to two kinds of women and their significant others. The ones who like simple and classic bras and panties, and the ones who want something sexier, edgier. We have something to spark the interest of every lover, no matter what his or her tastes are, from beige cotton to red lace. But what about the women who don’t have a man? Or don’t want one?”
“Uh, you kinda lost me,” Mia said.
“Look, I no longer have a husband. And at this point in my life, I honestly have no desire to replace him. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss a certain part of his anatomy every so often, if you know what I mean. Without giving all the dirty details, I have, on occasion, partaken in some . . . selfpleasuring. And so far it hasn’t been all that orgasmic. It’s hard as hell ordering things online. The products are never how they’re described. And it’s not like people love going to their local porn shop. So why don’t we give our customers the opportunity to shop for these beloved intimate accessories in a friendly, comfortable environment?”’
“You want to sell vibrators?” Penny asked.
“Well, yes. And other things. But I only want to carry products we know are good.”
“You volunteering to test them out before stocking them?” Mia asked.
“Why not? Our customers have always come to us for quality products and solid advice. That’s what sets us apart! And for this new venture, I want our customers to trust us in helping them satisfy this . . . need.”
Penny jumped in with her thoughts. “We can throw a launch party for the line. Keeping it classy, of course, and show women it’s okay to own these types of things.”
The wheels in Mia’s head began spinning, too. They needed something big if they were going to survive. A line of tried-and-true toys wasn’t enough. They had to offer their customers something exclusive.
“We need something special. Something women can’t get everywhere else.”
Mia remembered an ad she’d seen in the back of a lingerie catalog. A do-it-yourself dildo mold. Any woman could make a rubber replica of her man’s junk to use when he was away.
“How about selling those custom dildo-making kits? Couples can take them home and make it together.”
“That’s good. I think you’re on the right track.” Bryn’s brow furrowed as she walked to the window. “But how many women out there are like me and don’t have a model at home to mold?”
“So, maybe we can find guys to mold. Like have a catalogue of penises or something?”
Bryn spun around, smile wide, eyes all glittery like the new bra-and-panty sets that came in the week before. “No. Just one penis. One guy to be our signature penis. A spokespenis!”
“Oh, I like it!” Penny said. “He can make appearances at the store. Women can buy his replica and get his autograph.”
“Yes. Exactly! A hot guy women can meet and have a face to take home with the toy. They can chat with him, flirt, take pictures.”
“I don’t know,” Mia said, needing to add her thoughts to the conversation. “Is this really what we want for the store? I don’t want to change the reputation we’ve built. We shouldn’t cheapen it, ya know?”
Bryn shook her head. “No. I think women will love it. And if you ask me, it’s time for a change. We need something big if we’re gonna survive. Yeah, it’s a risk, but anything we do now is a risk, including sticking to the same formula we’ve used for eight years.”
She had a point. “Okay. It’s worth a shot. But if we’re gonna do this, we do it right. And by that I mean interviewing legitimate models. I don’t want some random guy who’ll get off on having his penis cloned.”
“No. We’ll have a strict screening process, including references, drug testing . . . STD testing.”
“Yep. All that.” Mia made some notes on her pad. Whoa. Back up. “STD testing? Why would we need that?”
“Well, like I said. We need to test the toys before we sell them. And I’m not going to mold random penises that aren’t any good.”
“How are we gonna test that?”
Mia knew that glint in Bryn’s eyes. And she was not going to like the answer.
“By using it before it’s molded.”
No. No, she couldn’t mean that.
“Someone needs to have sex with the models to make sure their member is adequate.”
“Why? Can’t we tell that just by looking at it?”
“No. Different girths and lengths have different feels. You can’t know how it will feel by just looking, or even touching them with your hand. Only a real live vagina can get the data we need to do this right. We need someone who can do this objectively and make an informed decision. And
since Penny is married and Grant can’t do it, that only leaves . . .”
Bryn eyed Mia, the mischievous grin back.
“Oh, no. What about you, Miss Sassy? You’re the one who said the penises need to be tested.”
“I can test the already-made toys. I can’t test the models.”
“Sure you can.”
The smile faded from Bryn’s face. “You know I’m not ready.”
“Well, I am not having sex with random strangers.”
“They wouldn’t be random. They’d be thoroughly screened. I can call legitimate modeling agencies and tell them what we’re looking for. We’ll send them for full health screenings. We’ll select guys for the final round and then you’ll have sex with them. But not real sex. Just test it out and see how it feels from different angles. Make sure it’s thick enough, long enough. Not bent or anything funky.”
“Are we seriously having this conversation?”
Penny sat there, giggling. “I think it’s brilliant.”
“No. I’m not doing it. End of discussion. There has to be another way.”
But it wasn’t the end of the discussion. And there wasn’t another way that would get them the exact data they needed.
This venture couldn’t fail. It had to be done without error.
Link continuing the excerpt to XOXOAfterDark:
LOVE LIKE THE MOVIES by VICTORIA VAN TIEM
In this irresistible romantic romp, movie fanatic Kensington Shaw is thrown into love—Hollywood-style—when her gorgeous ex presents a series of big screen challenges to win back her heart.
What girl wouldn’t want to experience the Pretty Woman shopping scene? It’s number two on the list. Or, try the lift from Dirty Dancing? It’s number five. One list, ten romantic movie moments, and a handful of shenanigans later, Kenzi has to wonder…should she marry the man her family loves, or risk everything for a love like the movies?
With a fresh cup of coffee, I’m back at my desk just as Clive’s door opens. Bradley and Shane both emerge. With my back ramrod straight, I open a new document and tap away at the keys like I’m deep in a major idea storm and can’t keep up with the flow.
They’re walking over here. Without looking up, I type the same sentence again, and then ad lib. Idea storm and can’t keep up with the flow. Tons of ideas. Lots of ideas—
Shane’s standing right in front of my desk. “Good morning, Kensington.” His floppy dark hair is pushed back off his face and a hint of growth now covers his jaw. His lips are curved slightly and my gaze falls to them.
“Hi, hon,” Bradley says, striding up beside him before I can respond. He looks polished and handsome in the light-blue shirt I bought for his last birthday.
I peer over my laptop screen and smile brightly at him, ignoring Shane. “Morning, what’s on the agenda today?” I keep typing random sentences, because I’m much too busy to stop. I type, much too busy to stop.
“I thought we could brainstorm during an outing. Maybe hash out the list,” Shane says to the side of my head because I’m still smiling at Bradley. My fiancé. Who’s still upset with me.
I pause and do my best to look apologetic. “Oh, it’s Wednesday. Bradley and I have a standing lunch date.” There. I looked at him.
Bradley rocks back on his heels. “Oh, yeah, sorry, can’t. Tonya and I are meeting with the Indianapolis Symphony about a new print initiative.” His eyes narrow. “Is that a new dress?”
I can feel my face warm. “What? No, you’ve seen this before.” He actually has. I furrow my brows in a you-don’t-know-what-you’re-talking-about look.
“Sorry ’bout lunch, but I may be able to score symphony tickets from today’s meeting.”
“Great,” I say and smile even brighter at Bradley. It’s megawatt and directed only at him. I love the symphony. It’s an excuse to get dressed up and the theater’s absolutely beautiful. It also doesn’t hurt that he said that in front of Shane. See? We’re happy. In fact, I’m beaming.
Bradley taps my desk and smiles. “I do like that dress. You look gorgeous.” He nods to Shane. No smile. “Bennett.” He turns and walks toward his office.
Yay, Bradley. I’m so wearing something silky for him this weekend. I look back at my computer screen and keep ignoring Shane in case Bradley—yup, he just looked back. I smile. Having Shane here is bothering him. I just need to not aggravate the situation and stay focused on what’s at stake: job, bonus, wedding, and family . . . in other words, everything.
Shane’s still standing here.
“So, what time are you free?” He moves to my side of the desk and peers down at the screen.
What is he doing? I try to bring up the Microsoft Office calendar again, but I already closed out. I can’t just close the laptop. It’ll appear like I’m hiding something.
My chat window pops up. It’s Ellie. Can Shane see the screen? I can’t tell. The back of my neck warms as I glance at the message.
ELLIE-BELL: Has your ex Mr. Britain seen you in that dress yet? Did his jaw drop?
I turn quickly, to distract him. “How ’bout noon? I’m sure that’ll work.” My voice is shaky, trying to play it off.
“Actually, I have a late lunch over at the mall. Can you meet me there around four? Front entrance?”
“Sure. Oh, um, would you mind if we met in front of Fossie’s? I have to grab a baby gift off the registry for my sister-in-law, so I could meet you after . . . ?”
“It’s Fossie’s at four then.” Shane turns to leave but then looks back, his gaze skimming the length of my dress. “For the record, I, ah, prefer your overalls. But I can see why Bradley likes that dress.” A sly smile twists on his lips.
Without another word he turns on his heels, leaving me to slowly bleed out from embarrassment. I drop my head in my hands. Ugh . . . this dress. So much for confident, together, and ready for business.
Approaching the registry kiosk, I type in Ren’s name and wait for the printout. I haven’t even thought of registering yet. With my luck, when it’s time for a wedding shower, Mom will want to have Ren’s big baby shower. My stomach wrenches and sours.
I’m watching the machine slowly spit out Ren’s list: mahogany crib and dresser set, glider chair for the nursery, all-terrain jogging stroller . . . there’s nothing under four hundred dollars. What is she thinking?
When I look up, I spot Shane in the main aisle walking in my direction. Wait, he’s early. I dodge a woman who’s pushing a stroller with one hand and holding on to a toddler with the other. The little girl has adorable blond curls and rounded cheeks. She waves at me with a chubby hand and I can’t help smiling.
My expression drops as I near Shane. “Hi, you’re early. You said four, right?” I point back toward the direction I came. “I, um, haven’t even started yet.”
Shane looks at his watch. “Oh, so I am. Not a problem.” He motions toward the department and begins walking. “When’s your sister-in-law due?”
“Oh, um, not until spring.” I match his stride. So he’s coming with me? “I guess my engagement dinner is now an engagement slash early baby shower with the family, so we’re giving our gifts now.” My words spill out with an unintentionally wounded tone.
Shane looks puzzled. “Wait, I thought you said your mom had everything planned? Why would they change it all of a sudden?”
My cheeks warm. I forgot I told him. “Um, I must’ve gotten it wrong. The phone disconnected, and I guess, well . . .” I look away and say under my breath, “Ya know, I assumed.”
“Some things never change.” Shane huffs and shakes his head, then looks around. “I’ll, ah, be right back.”
There’s a warm glow in my chest from his words. Shane’s spent time with my family and gets how it is for me. He always took my side.
At this point, I think my family should just forget about the engagement dinner. We can make the get-together about Ren. The whole thing feels like an obligation, anyway. Like I’m an inconvenience imposing on Ren’s special day. Not quite good enough to merit my own.
My attention falls on a display table with little baby booties. They’re knitted to imitate miniature fashion boots. As I run my fingers over the texture, a goofy grin fixes on my face. They’re so stinkin’ cute. When I glance up, I find Shane watching me from across the display.
“They’re just so tiny.” My nose wrinkles. “Can you imagine the little feet, and the itty-bitty toes that would fit in these?”
“I can imagine a lot of things.”
My whole body stiffens. An unexpected tsunami of displaced emotion detonates without warning, washing over me in an instant. I look away. Anywhere. The booties. My hands. His.
Wait. “Why do you have scanner guns?”
Link continuing the excerpt to XOXO After Dark:
US residents only, please
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Try Me on for Size and Love Like the Movies appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
May Contain Spoilers
I love this series so much that I preordered Sisters’ Fate as soon as I noticed it listed on Amazon. Book 2, Star Cursed, ended on such a great cliffhanger, and I could hardly wait to see what happened next. The wait was agonizing. There are times when I enjoy a series, but then I lose interest in the period between releases. The Sisters’ Fate release date was close enough to when I finished Star Cursed that I didn’t forget about it. Good thing, too, since I have the attention span of a small bug.
The narrative picks up right were it left off. Maura has erased Cate right out of Finn’s memories, and now she’s nothing but a stranger to him. What? Wow! What an awful thing for her to do! I hated Maura! She has one priority, and that’s herself! She will do anything to earn praise from Inez, the new leader of the Sisterhood, even betray her sister. And then not be one bit apologetic for her horrible actions. No wonder Cate simmered with rage every time she had to interact with her sister. I really wanted to see Cate kick her butt, but I know that wouldn’t have done anything to change Maura’s attitude.
Cate is worried about how the Brotherhood will react now that Inez has reduced their leaders to mindless vegetables. Will they start a second Terror, killing any woman or girl suspected of being a witch, without a second thought? Inez’s agenda frightens Cate, so she attempts to establish ties with the Resistance. She knows that she has to stop Inez and her followers somehow, but she realizes that she can’t do it alone. Making an uneasy truce with Merriweather, who runs an illegal newspaper that reports on the actions of the Brotherhood without censorship, things finally start falling into place. Then her temper gets the best of her, threatening everything she’s worked so hard to accomplish.
To up the stakes, Cate is not only fighting against those that would destroy all witches, there is also a fever raging through New London, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. Since it originated among the poorest citizens of the city, there’s not a whole lot of concern at first. So what if a bunch of river rats die of the fever? When the disease jumps to the wealthier occupants of the city, it’s the perfect opportunity to blame the witches for cursing the populace with the illness. Once again, the witches become a convenient scapegoat to control the population through fear and intimidation. The Brotherhood did awful things to anyone who got in their way, and then they orchestrated convincing cover stories for every heinous act the committed. They made powerful, frightening villains.
I thought Sisters’ Fate was a fitting end for the series. All of the loose ends are tied up, and the conclusion is very satisfying. I was even able to forgive Maura, at least a little bit. The romance was well done, and while it ended with a Happy For Now, you know that everything will work out for Cate in the end.
I highly recommend The Cahill Witch Chronicles. There’s a sweet romance, action, and interesting world building. It comes to a satisfying end with Sisters’ Fate, so if you like YA paranormal romance, give this series a try.
Grade: B+ / A-
Review copy provided by publisher
A fever ravages New London, but with the Brotherhood sending suspected witches straight to the gallows, the Sisters are powerless against the disease. They can’t help without revealing their powers—as Cate learns when a potent display of magic turns her into the most wanted witch in all of New England.
To make matters worse, Cate has been erased from the memory of her beloved Finn. While she’s torn between protecting him from further attacks and encouraging him to fall for her all over again, she’s certain she can never forgive Maura’s betrayal. And now that Tess’s visions have taken a deadly turn, the prophecy that one Cahill sister will murder another looms ever closer to its fulfillment.
The post Review: Sisters’ Fate by Jessica Spotswood appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
May Contain Spoilers
I was in the mood for a short, quick read, so I turned, once again, to the Entangled library to fulfill this need. The Wager had me at “Novella.” Yes, sometimes even I am easy to please.
Anne loves to make wagers with her sisters, and when she’s caught “borrowing” a scandalous novel from her host while attending a social function, she’s only somewhat taken aback. When Michael, Earl of Thornhill, catches Anne red-handed stealing a naughty book, his interest is piqued. After exchanging a series of letters, the first an apology from Anne that lacks conviction or finesse, their paths cross again, leading to a wager between Michael and Anne. They’ll have a late night swim race, and if Michael wins, he’ll be reward with a kiss. If she wins, he must answer a naughty question he dodged during their correspondence.
One wager leads to another, until the final stakes are both their hearts. Who will win?
I really enjoyed the letters, which showed a believable progression of their affection for each other. The main conflict in The Wager is Anne’s self-doubt. A year earlier, Michael thought himself in love with Anne’s older sister, Elizabeth, but she rejected his suit because she was in love with someone else. Anne now feels that she’s only second best, and refuses to take their flirtations seriously. At times this made her come across as shallow and spoiled. She can’t accept that feelings can change, and that Michael’s infatuation with Elizabeth was fleeting. Her stubbornness almost costs her her happiness, because she’s so focused on the fact that Michael was attracted to her sister first.
This is a quick read with a fun, if somewhat over-indulged heroine, and a very sexy earl. The romance was a bit rushed, but I blame that on the length of the story. I’m curious to read about Anne’s sisters now.
Grade: B / B-
Review copy provided by publisher
Anne Middleton never plays by the rules. She is willful when she should be obedient and unabashed when she should be decorous. Worse still, she can never resist a good wager… or a very naughty book. And Confessions of a Courtesan is about as sensational and risque as a book can be.
Michael Grey – Earl of Thornhill – had once courted Anne’s sweet and modest sister. But whilst Anne is certainly no lady of decorum, her bold impulsiveness slips through his armor, and propriety is forgotten. Now he too is immersed in the book of forbidden delights, where each page is an invitation to sin and a guide to pleasures unknown…
Roused by heady desire, Michael tempts Anne in a way she cannot resist – a wager. Thus begins a game of chance, where coins have been replaced by a currency that is far more illicit. And the stakes of seduction are dangerous indeed…
The post Novella Review: The Wager by Lily Maxton appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
Please give a warm welcome to Robin Bielman! She’s visiting this morning to celebrate the release of her latest book.
Hello MMC readers! I’m so happy to be here today to celebrate my newest release, KEEPING MR. RIGHT NOW. Thank you so much for having me, Julie!
Thanks to Julie’s awesome suggestion, I’ve got a fun list for you guys…
The Top 5 Things You Will Never Find in my hero, Zane’s Bathroom
Zane is a run his fingers through his hair kind of guy when he gets out of the shower and that’s it. (This works very well for him if I do say so myself.) ? Oh, I should also add you won’t find a blow dryer either. Zane never ever blow dries his blond hair.
The only thing Zane puts on his skin is sunscreen. Being a pro surfer it’s a must, and he’s gotten into the habit of putting it on from head-to-toe daily.
Guy code says nothing but a bar of soap for Zane. Irish Spring is his brand of choice.
Zane likes towels that get the job done. No fancy design or embellishment. And more often than not, it’s beach towels hanging in his bathroom.
Yeah, Zane doesn’t do that. If anything is going to hang out in his shower, it’s going to be Sophie. And okay, if she wants to loofah, he’ll happily help her out – just so they can get dirty.
Keeping Mr. Right Now
A temporary agreement neither could keep…
Brainy, organized Sophie Birch is no beach bunny. In fact, she’s totally out of her element among the sun-bronzed crowd at a film festival in beautiful White Strand Cove. When a surf lesson introduces her to Zane Hollander, suddenly she’s up close and personal with the world’s sexiest surf star. But what can a great-looking, experienced athlete possibly see in a klutzy out-of-towner who’s never set foot in the ocean?
Zane Hollander’s playboy reputation has never been a problem…until recently. Now his management team wants him on his best behavior to entice a meaningful new sponsor. Sophie Birch is the perfect girl to help reform his image. She’s genuine and respected—and their relationship is purely fictional. But the more Sophie blooms under the beachy sun, the more Zane knows he’ll just break her heart. Because nothing’s more important to Zane than following the tide.
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1ppbQjA
“Hey. Sorry about losing you.”
“You didn’t lose me. I left.”
That she did. “Can I come in?”
She hesitated a moment. “Uh, sure.” She stepped aside and he entered the large room with an ocean view. The sliding French door was open, and the gravitational pull of the beach led him to the patio.
“Nice view,” he said over his shoulder.
“It really is. This is the nicest place I’ve ever stayed at. Not that I’ve stayed in very many places.” She came up beside him, and her cinnamon sugar scent teased him.
He wanted to taste her. Eat her up. “Is this your first time seeing the ocean, too?”
“Yes,” she whispered like she was embarrassed about it. “And I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that before our lesson the other day.”
“No apology necessary. I’m pretty impressed you did what you did.”
“Really?” Delight wiped out her shame, coaxing big-ass smiles out of them both.
“You’re a lot tougher than you look.” He turned his head toward the ocean, afraid that if he looked only at her, he’d do something stupid. Bikini-clad women dotted the beach, but not one sparked his interest like the woman next to him. Especially now that pink colored her cheeks. He wanted to take her full bottom lip between his teeth, kiss her, slip his tongue inside her mouth, and once he’d had his fill, lick his way down her body until—
“What about you?” She curled up on one of the cushioned patio chairs.
“What about me?” He took the other seat, stretching his legs out and situating himself for an easy view of the beach through the iron slats of the patio railing.
“How would people describe you?”
Her question drew his undivided attention. “Depends on who you ask.” He smirked. “Women and men have very different opinions of me.” The sun glittered off her auburn hair, casting a radiant halo. “All good, mind you.”
She rolled her eyes. “Do you ever get tired of it?”
“The fame. Being recognized everywhere you go. Having to always wear a certain image.”
His heart beat a little faster. The image he shared with the world was far from the guy his family and close friends knew. He got the feeling from Sophie’s warm, interested eyes that she really wanted to know what made him tick. In his world, women only wanted to know how to get in his board shorts, so it took him a minute to process her curiosity.
And damn if it didn’t bother him that she apparently didn’t want in his pants.
USA Today Bestselling Author Robin Bielman lives in Southern California with her high school sweetheart husband, two sons, and one crazy-cute dog who loves to chew on everyone’s socks. When not attached to her laptop, she can almost always be found with her nose in a book. She also likes to run, hike, eat cupcakes, and dip her toes in the ocean. Writing is a dream come true, and she still pinches herself to be sure it’s real.
She loves to connect with readers. Learn more and sign up for her newsletter on her website at http://robinbielman.com.
Places to find Robin Bielman:
Beach Lover’s Gift Bag – with a Beach Rules journal, DVD of the surf movie, Chasing Mavericks, lip balm, a beach ball, signed copy of Kissing the Maid of Honor, tiny Life’s a Beach book and an I’ve Been Zaned t-shirt.
$20 Gift Card (Winner’s choice)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The post Guest Post and Giveaway: Robin Bielman, Author of Keeping Mr Right Now appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
I’ve been in a manga kind of a mood recently. I’ve been reading some new series that caught my attention, as well as trying to catch up on some of my favorites that I’ve fallen behind on. Skip*Beat! is one of those. Kyoko is a fun protagonist; she’s a good girl who had her heart stomped on by the guy she loved, and now she’s out for revenge. Sho is an up and coming celebrity, and in order to get back at him, Kyoko is determined to become more popular than he is. When she’s in a rage, she’s possessed by her anger, which causes dramatic, and usually, hilarious results.
Now that we are quite a ways into the series, the tables have turned on Sho. Now he has a crush on Kyoko, but he won’t come out and tell her directly (as is the shoujo way!), nor will she give him the time of day. Kyoko just wants her revenge, revenge, revenge! She’s even gotten over her earlier animosity for Ren, one of Sho’s rivals. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right? Only Ren has developed feelings for the stubborn Kyoko and her never say die spirit, but she’s so oblivious she doesn’t even notice. Just like with Sho, all of her focus is on becoming a success in show biz.
In volume 22, Kyoko is having a hard time stepping into her latest role. She’s confused about what the director wants, and she’s holding up shooting with her inability to immerse herself into her new character. With some help from Ren, her acting mojo is recharged and viola! She’s become Natsu, a high school bully, much to the dismay of Chiori, one of her cast mates. Chiori is resentful of Kyoko’s success, and she wants desperately for her to fail. Chiori’s career is stuttering, and the intense competition she feels for Kyoko isn’t helping her.
I thought that volume 22 dragged a bit, but volume 23 cranked up the drama and the action that I love this series for. Kyoko and Chiori’s feud becomes explosive. Chiori schemes against Kyoko, almost causing her great bodily harm. In return, Kyoko pushes Chiori to deliver the very best performance she’s capable of. Their competition is intense, and I felt really bad for the actress who got caught up in the middle of it.
Volume 23 closes out with the beginning of a fun Valentine’s Day story, which I’m looking forward continuing in the next installment of the series.
Is there such a thing as being too good? With Ren’s help, Kyoko finally gets into her new character. But when she shows up on set and wows the crew with her new spin on the old bully role, it sends some of her costars over the edge! Kyoko’s used to dealing with her own demons, but can she stand up to someone else’s?!
Chiori’s rage threatens the whole production when she lashes out and hurts Kyoko. Kyoko is used to overcoming obstacles, and she uses her injury as an excuse to push Chiori into exploring her acting. But Chiori has a traumatic past. Will focusing on the dark side of her character bring it all rushing back?!
The post Graphic Novel Review: Skip*Beat! Volumes 22 and 23 appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
Please welcome Lara Morgan, author of Betrayal, to the virtual offices this morning! I asked Lara to share a list of her essential items to have a really productive day. I really wish I could try #3 here!
Top 5 items for a productive day…. by Lara Morgan
1. Tea. Lots of it.
3. Tim tams
4. Twitter free
5. Toddler absent
As you can see the above list is quite wishful. Tea yes I always have but time?! Perhaps I should have added Tardis so I could regain some and as a stay home mum Twitter is often what keeps me sane – as in there are other adults out there! So generally at the moment productivity is not high. And there are NEVER enough tim tams.
About the book:
From fantasy writer Lara Morgan comes the second in her engrossing, enchanting, exciting Twins of Saranthium trilogy, perfect for curbing Game of Thrones withdrawals.
Shaan and Tallis have escaped from the fallen god, Azoth, but his dark shadow stretches over the enslaved people of the Wild Lands and the terrifying army of human-serpent warriors. War is coming, but the Council of Nine turn from the twins and their tales of Azoth’s menace, focusing instead on a war on the Free Lands.
Meanwhile, the Four Lost Gods have awoken, ready to reclaim the Birthstone currently in Azoth’s possession. But rather than the saviours Shaan and Tallis needed, the Four begin to exert terrible control over the people of Saranthium. With Tallis struggling to control the growing power within, and Shaan attempting to resist the pull of Azoth, the twins are under assault from all sides. Victory may still be possible, but only through a devastating act of betrayal.
The post Guest Post: Lara Morgan, Author of Betrayal appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
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Please give special guest Dixie Lee Brown a warm welcome to the virtual offices!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in five words or less.
[Dixie Lee Brown] Independent; persistent; reliable; animal lover
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about your book?
[Dixie Lee Brown] WHATEVER IT TAKES is the fourth book in the Trust No One series. Nate Sanders is a detective for the Portland (Oregon) Police Bureau. His deceased uncle has left some serious trouble behind and now it’s found Nate.
Who should save his bacon but the beautiful and mysterious Alex Morgan, the woman he hasn’t stopped thinking about since she wrecked his classic car in book #3? Alex’s past haunts her day and night. She has a smart mouth, a chip on her shoulder, a dagger on her belt, and knows how to use them all.
Nate sees through her bluster and signs on to help her rescue a kidnapped boy, but his own trouble just might get her killed—or is it the other way around?
[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Dixie Lee Brown] Nate and Alex both appeared in the third book in the series, IF YOU ONLY KNEW. Their character descriptions and backstory were already set, as well as the setting for the beginning of the story at Nate’s house. Combine that with two minor unanswered questions that suddenly become very important and a “crazy” heroine, and I had my concept.
[Manga Maniac Café] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
[Dixie Lee Brown] I love the relationships in this book. Alex and Nate are right for each other. Most of Joe’s team from the first three books put in appearances, plus Alex’s best friend from book #1. I love having the whole team show up. Also, being a romantic suspense, there’s a lot of action in this book. Action is just plain fun to write!
[Manga Maniac Café] What gave you the most trouble with this story?
[Dixie Lee Brown] It’s the same problem I have with every book. I’ll write two chapters leading up to a specific event and then handle the event and its aftermath in a paragraph! Lol! My editor calls me on it every time!
[Manga Maniac Café] If you had a theme song, what would it be?
[Dixie Lee Brown] Being the hopeless romantic I am, it would be “I Won’t Let Go” by Rascal Flatts
[Manga Maniac Café] Name one thing you won’t leave home without.
[Dixie Lee Brown] My Kindle – of course.
[Manga Maniac Café] Name three things on your desk right now.
[Dixie Lee Brown] Laptop, notepaper, and a jump drive
[Manga Maniac Café] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?
[Dixie Lee Brown] Assuming something would also make me magically capable of doing her job, I’d want to trade places with my wonderful Avon editor, Chelsey Emmelhainz, cuz she’s terrific!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?
[Dixie Lee Brown] The Golden Key Chronicles by AJ Nuest
Asking For Trouble by Jannine Gallant
The Dysfunctional Test by Kelly Moran
Hard As You Can by Laura Kaye
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Dixie Lee Brown] You probably hear this all the time, but if I have spare time—I read!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
[Dixie Lee Brown] I’d love it if readers would check out my webpage: http://www.dixiebrown.com/
Or like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dixie-Lee-Brown/311618418919108
Or follow me on Twitter: @DixieLeeBrown
Whatever it Takes
Trust No One # 4
By: Dixie Lee Brown
Releasing August 12th, 2014
Assassin Alex Morgan will do anything to save an innocent life – especially if it means rescuing a child from a hell like the one she endured.
But going undercover as husband and wife, with none other than the disarmingly sexy Detective Nate Sanders, may be a little more togetherness than she can handle. She’s used to working alone, and no man is going to change that – not even a man who makes her heart pound and her defenses crumble with just a touch
Nate has dodged more than a few bullets over the years, but fighting his attraction for Alex may be the bullet that does him in. Still, Nate’s determined to help her find the missing kid. There’s no doubt in his mind that they’re walking straight into danger, but Nate’s willing to face anything if it means protecting Alex. She might have been on her own once, but Nate has one more mission: to stay by her side – forever.
Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/07/whatever-it-takes-trust-no-one-4-by.html
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21150710-whatever-it-takes
DIXIE LEE BROWN lives and writes in Central Oregon, inspired by what she believes is the most gorgeous scenery anywhere. She resides with two dogs and a cat, who make sure she never takes herself too seriously. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, movies, and trips to the beach.
Rafflecopter Giveaway (Print copy of another installment in Dixie Lee Brown’s Trust No One series, IF YOU ONLY KNEW—where you get to meet Alex and Nate for the first time!)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The post Interview with Dixie Lee Brown, Author of Whatever it Takes and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.