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26. Spotlight and Giveaway: Taking It All by Maya Banks

I have an awesome giveaway this morning!  Taking It All by Maya Banks hits stores August 5th, and you can win a copy here!  This is the conclusion to Maya’s Surrender Trilogy.

About the book:

In her sensational Breathless Trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maya Banks tested the boundaries of desire. In her new trilogy, there’s only one thing left to do:cross them. And for a married couple taking steps to renew their marriage, the consequences of one single moment of inattention may come at a price the husband never expects.

Chessy and Tate have been married for several years. In the beginning, their relationship was everything she wanted. Passionate. All consuming. She offered her submission freely and Tate cherished her gift with a tenderness that made her feel safe. Content. Wanted. And loved beyond all measure. But as the years have gone by, Tate has become more immersed in making his business the success it has become, and Chessy has taken a back seat to his business obligations. Growing unhappier with the status of their once blissful marriage, Chessy knows that something has to give. Or they stand to lose it all

Tate loves his wife. Has always loved her. Providing for her has always been his number one priority. But lately she’s seemed unhappy, and he’s worried. Worried enough that he arranges for a night together that he hopes will reignite the fire that once burned like an inferno between them.

But a business call at the wrong time threatens everything. Chessy’s safety, his concentration, his wife’s faith in him as her husband, a man sworn to love and protect her above all else. Gutted with the realization that he’s going to lose her—has already lost her—he readies for the fight of his life. Whatever it takes, he’ll get her back. And prove to her that nothing is more important than her love. And that if she’ll allow him to prove himself one more time, he’ll take it all. Everything. But he’ll give far more back. Himself. His undying love.

Taking It All Excerpt: http://mayabanks.com/books/taking-it-all/#excerpt

Maya Banks Bio: 

Maya Banks is the #1 New York Times, #1 USA Today and international bestselling author of over 50 novels. A wife and mother of three, she lives in Texas.

Please visit Maya’s website here: http://mayabanks.com/

US residents only, please.

Thanks to Penguin for making this giveaway possible!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Taking It All by Maya Banks appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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27. Spotlight and Giveaway: Happy Pants Café by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

 
Three Winners will receive
EIGHT Signed Paperbacks Each!
HAPPY PANTS CAFÉ, FATE BOOK,
ACCIDENTALLY YOURS Books 1-4,
BAD TASTE IN MEN by Kylie Gilmore and
LOVE BY DESIGN by Elizabeth James



 
 
 
 
Do YOU Believe in the Pants?

Each summer, thousands secretly flock to a tiny yet charming hole-in-the-wall known as The Happy Pants Café.  And what are they searching for?  It’s not coffee.  And it’s not pants. It’s true love, and they find it!

So what’s with the quirky name and what, exactly, is the café’s big secret? Harper Branton, a columnist for the San Francisco Tribune, who’d sooner believe in unicorns than in true love, is about to find out.  And it’s the perfect story to save her train wreck of a career.

Too bad she’s got competition. He’s sexy, he’s arrogant, and he thinks she’s crazy.(Perhaps a little dangerous, too.) What kind of person doesn’t believe in love? And this coming from a dude!

When these two rivals go head to head, it’s more like a WWF smackdown. A shared history binds them in wonderful, terrible ways quickly making their duel about more than just a news story. Will they tear each other apart for the win or end up as two new satisfied Happy Pants customers?

 




a Rafflecopter giveaway

 
 
When San Francisco native, Mimi Jean, went on an adventure as an exchange student to Mexico City, she never imagined the journey would lead to writing Romance. But one Mexican MBA, one sexy Mexican husband, and two rowdy kids later, Mimi would trade in corporate life for vampires, deities, and snarky humor.    She continues to hope that her books will inspire a leather pants comeback (for men) and that she might make you laugh when you need it most.   She also enjoys interacting with her fans (especially if they’re batshit crazy). You can always find her chatting away on Facebook, Twitter, or saying many naughty words on her show MAN CANDY on Radioslot.com 


 
 
 
 

The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Happy Pants Café by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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28. Spotlight and Giveaway: Ignite July Releases


Set fire to your passions with heart stopping suspense, adventure, and intrigue from Ignite. Each Ignite title features to-die-for heroes and kick-butt heroines on an emotional roller coaster ride toward love. With new books and new passions exploding every month, every Ignite novel is one you can’t put down until the last page is turned. To find out more about their titles, chat with authors, participate in special events, and to find out what books are coming next, visit the Entangled website, follow them on Twitter, and like their Facebook page.

Today I’m happy to be featuring Ignite’s July Releases!!



Alive at 5 by Linda Bond

Special $0.99 Introductory Price!


When Samantha’s mentor dies while skydiving, she suspects he was murdered. Her investigative instincts lead her to irresistibly gorgeous Zack Hunter. An undercover police officer, Zack is investigating his uncle’s diving death with the same adventure vacation company. He doesn’t want Samantha’s help because he’s terrified of being responsible for a partner again. Still, Samantha’s persistence is quite a turn-on, and he finds it harder and harder to stay away from her. But when the killer turns his attention to Zack, Samantha could be the only one who can save him.



Down Among the Dead Men by Claire Baxter

Special $0.99 Introductory Price!

Determined to find her estranged father, Caitlyn ventures into the rough, tough world of the South Australian opal fields. Instead of finding her father, she discovers a half-sister she knew nothing about and learns that her dad is a wanted man. Dale, a former city lawyer-turned-lapidary, is hiding out in Minagoona to protect his daughter. Caitlyn convinces Dale to work with her to clear her father’s name. No matter what, he’ll do his damnedest to keep her safe—even if it means exposing himself and his daughter to the men who want to kill them…




 

The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Ignite July Releases appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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29. The Hallmark Conspiracy

I hate greeting cards. Oh sure, I’ve been touched by the sentimental commercials. Maybe I shed a tear, maybe not. But they didn’t inspire to me buy a card or like them.

The only cards that resonate with me are blank cards. In this day and age, if someone takes the time to write their own thoughts out and mail it – that is a treasure.

What greeting cards really say in their flourishing font is: “I’m lazy!”

Write this in your card: “I was too lazy to set a few minutes aside to put my own thoughts into words, so here are some prepackaged, canned, inauthentic thoughts that a wanna-be romance writer who hasn’t shaved in weeks and smokes big cigars in Spokane thought were relevant just for you, my sweetest. Please say ‘Awwwww’ and kiss me.”

Frankly, greeting cards are disingenuous at best.

 

When I was a kid, they were just speed bumps to the present. Oh sure, I would pretend to read them on my way to disemboweling the wrapping paper that stood between me and the gift. I liked the ones Aunt Eunice would underline so I could skip most of the words – kind of a cliff notes version. Later in life, she began underlining every word, including the price and printing information – which made it less helpful. Of course, by then she was wrapping up ten year-old toasters and place mats for presents, so haste was less of a concern.

Just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you

-Henry Kissinger

Greeting cards and I have a turbulent history. Since I am negatively disposed against them, they do their best to shame me at every turn. Instead of bowing to their convenience and paying the price, I try to take the time to write personal notes, especially to my lovely wife. But there are instances when I run out of time and am forced to rush into the store and get one. When this happens, I treat it like a commando raid – rush in, select the victim, and get out before anyone gets hurt. I choose based on color and frill, often neglecting  to check the sentiment inside – time is what I lack, anyway. With that method, it is pretty easy to stay away from sympathy and get-well cards, but sometimes (okay, most of the time), the sentiment of my selection doesn’t match the occasion or is age inappropriate. That is where The Hallmark Conspiracy comes in.

Take this week. This week marked her birthday. I had a great present in advance, but completely forgot the stupid card until the day of. So I put on my camo, blacked my eyes and descended upon the grocery store. Although every fiber of my cheap being steered me to the 99¢ rack, I’ve been warned about those and went all out – $3.99! I found the birthday section, saw one with a cute little boy and girl on it and dashed out of the store.

Here is what I got:

image

Hastily altered in the driveway – think she noticed?

 

Mis-shelved! The card was mis-shelved! I swear I was in the birthday section!

Swine greeting cards!!!!!!

Someday society will truly be paperless and I won’t have to deal with these verbose phonies. Until then, I’ll shred a few in effigy and steer clear of the aisle altogether.


Filed under: Don't Blog Angry

5 Comments on The Hallmark Conspiracy, last added: 7/18/2014
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30. Review: Her Cowboy Hero by Tanya Michaels

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I have been having a hard time finishing a book for the last week or so.  Nothing has been holding my interest, and when that happens, I usually pick up a Harlequin to help me over my reading hurdle.  There’s just something about the formula and the guaranteed HEA that I, and many, many others, find appealing.  I picked up Her Cowboy Hero because it has, you guessed it, a cowboy!  Yeah, I can be pretty shallow.

Her Cowboy Hero is a very touching story about loss, acceptance, and finally moving forward instead of avoiding the future  and wallowing in the past.  Colin is still suffering from the tragic accident that took his wife and young son from him, and instead of trying to deal with his pain, he runs away from his memories.  Traveling from one short-term ranch job to another, he has given up his house, his vet practice, and even his siblings.  He never wants to be hurt again, so instead of caring about the people he still has left in his life, he turns his back on them, ignoring their gestures of comfort.  When he runs into Widow Shaw and her broken down truck, she’s the last person he thinks he needs in his life.  The young widow is beautiful, perpetually perky, and so not what he wants right now.  Maybe not, but he sure does need Hannah and her bright dreams for the future.

Hannah is struggling with grief, too.  Her husband was killed overseas, serving the country, and her mother-in-law, the only family she had left, passed away soon after.  Neither survived to see the birth of her son, Evan.  Having  been bounced around from one foster home to another when she was growing up, Hannah is determined to provide a loving, stable home for Evan, even if she has to do it on her own.  With a dream of fixing up the ranch that has been in husband’s family, and turning it into a B&B, she always puts her best foot forward.  Money’s tight and financing is a challenge, but she knows that everything will work out in the end.   Deciding long ago that she could either dwell on all of the unhappiness in her life or find the bright side to any situation, she is the ultimate glass is half-full kind of girl.  Colin, on the other hand, is a cheerless, grumpy cowboy, and he needs to lighten up.  A lot.  Good thing he ran into Hannah.

There were times during the first half of the book that I had tears in my eyes.  I loved how the relationships developed between Hannah and Colin, and Colin and Evan.  Colin has avoided children since the death of his son, and he feels panicky whenever Evan is around.  If he sees him coming, Colin turns and practically runs in the other direction.  When Evan tries to slide head first down the banister, Colin saves him from hurting himself, changing their relationship.

“Mr Colin?”  Evan’s voice was hesitant, but close.

Colin jerked his head up, realizing Evan had partially emerged from his sanctuary.

“Are you gonna cry?”

“What?” Surprised by the question, Colin raised a hand to his eyes, realizing his vision was beginning to blur.  Dammit.  He looked back at the curious little boy, but for a moment, he didn’t see Evan Shaw. He saw Danny’s face, Danny laughingly demanding to be swung high in the air.  Danny, solemn as he nodded his understanding that the oven was hot and that he needed to stay back.  Danny worn out after a Christmas carnival, asleep on his stomach with his little butt curved up in the air.

That now familiar suffocating sensation crowded Colin’s chest.  He shot to his feet, wanting to put as much space as possible between himself and this room filled with all the bright adventure of childhood.

I loved that scene between Colin and Evan.  It marks the point in Colin’s road where he is able to look at Evan and see beyond his grief.  He agrees to keep a secret for Evan, something he is reluctant to do, because he fears the bond it will forge between them, and the pain it might bring him.  It does change their relationship, allowing Colin to finally realize that, while he’s still heartbroken over the loss of his family, closing himself off from others is just as painful.

This conversation between Colin and his younger brother is another of my favorite scenes.  Colin has never seen comfortable discussing his feelings, but he discovers the value in doing just that, despite how awkward it makes him feel.  He also begins to acknowledge that he hasn’t done himself any favors by walking away from his family and friends.

“It’s like I’ve had a splinter in my heart,” he said haltingly.  “It got worse and worse and worse for two years, infected probably.  And Hannah somehow drew it to the surface.  She has this way of getting me to talk-about the accident, about random stuff like picking out nursery furniture before Danny was born.  She’s not only extracting the memories but the pain.”

Her Cowboy Hero is a sweet and touching journey from the grip of grief and despair, to the courage of self-forgiveness and the power of a second chance at love, because everyone deserves happiness-even a cranky cowboy.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

He’s Just The Hired Help… 

What kind of cockeyed Pollyanna is Colin Cade working for? Her porch is rotting, her “guest cabin” is cheerless and her land and livestock have only a geriatric cowboy to care for them. Yet Hannah Shaw is positive she can turn her ranch into a successful B and B—and that Colin’s the man to make it happen. 

But Colin can’t stick around. He lives with the loss of his family by avoiding the memories, and the way he feels around Hannah and her young son is like a knife to the heart. Trouble is, he’s better at ignoring his own pain than someone else’s, and bright, cheerful Hannah has a heart as haunted as his own. She deserves to be happy—but could she really be with him?

The post Review: Her Cowboy Hero by Tanya Michaels appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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31. Spotlight and Giveaway: July Select Releases


Whether you’re looking for a romance that makes you laugh, makes you ‘walk the plank’, keeps you guessing, or stars your favorite paranormal, look no further. Select books have the single-title stories you crave, and the longer length you need to really get ‘lost’ in a great book. To find out more about their titles, chat with authors, participate in special events, and to find out what books are coming next, visit the Entangled website, follow them on Twitter, and like their Facebook page.


Today I’m happy to be featuring Select’s July’s releases:



A Lesson in Temptation by Audra North

Special $0.99 Introductory Price!


Adam Harkness pulled himself out of poverty to become one of the world’s most respected finance professors, but his personal life is non-existent. When he gets roped into a dance class, of all things, he doesn’t expect it to change his life. Julie Stanton’s hard work has paid off with her career, but finding the same happiness in the rest of her life is a challenge. When her former professor, the one she had a crush on in college, shows up at the same dance class, their tango becomes more than a dance; it becomes a lesson in how to love.




One Night in Buenos Aires by Amanda K Byrne

Special $0.99 Introductory Price!


When best friends Drea and Joe head to Buenos Aires, a mix-up leaves them in one room…and in one bed. The two friends figure it won’t be a big deal to share a bed for one night—right up until they wake wrapped around each other. They protect their friendship by agreeing that when the vacation’s over, the fling’s over. But Joe discovers Drea might be everything he’s ever wanted. Now all he has to do is convince her that what happens in Buenos Aires doesn’t always have to stay in Buenos Aires.


Find Out More!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

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32. Guest Post and Spotlight: One Night in Buenos Aires and A Lesson in Temptation

Please welcome special guest Audra North to the virtual offices! Audra dropped by to share five things you will never find in Adam’s bathroom. 

Top 5 things you will never find in Adam’s bathroom by Audra North

Oh, I love this topic!

Well, Adam is kind of an uptight guy, but he is also really focused on his work. That means that he doesn’t take the time to shave with a regular razor. Only an electric one. So you’d never find a Gillette eight-blade disposable in his bathroom. Too bad. Maybe Julie, the heroine, can convince him to slow down someday and get a close, smooth shave…

Adam is a finance professor and is pretty frugal, too. Money, or the lack thereof, has been a big influencer in his life, so he tends to buy generic brand products and things that are on sale. You’ll never find salon shampoos or expensive lotions and toners in his bathroom.

He’s not just efficient with money, though. He also believes that no person needs more than one towel. He has a single bath towel and that’s it. You won’t see washcloths or hand towels in his bathroom.

You also won’t see any pictures. He thinks they’re a waste of time. Since he doesn’t spend much time in the bathroom, he doesn’t see a point to decorating it. That will probably change when Julie moves in someday, but for now, his bathroom is a pretty barren place.

Since he works so hard, he doesn’t have a lot of time to clean, which is why he has a cleaning service come once a week. They do a great job. It’s because of them that you’ll never find any mildew in his bathroom, either!

A Lesson in Temptation by Audra North:

Adam Harkness pulled himself out of poverty to become one of the world’s most respected Finance professors, but at the cost of his personal life. When a well-meaning friend gifts him with a dance course, Adam decides to attend one class out of courtesy, but no more than that. He has work to do, after all – or at least, that’s what he tells himself.

After being bullied in high school, Julie Stanton took refuge in her studies. But now that her hard work has paid off and Julie has found success in her job, it’s time to focus on finding the same happiness in the rest of her life.

When Adam walks into the same tango class that Julie signed up for, she recognizes him immediately as the professor whom she had a crush on in college. Both Adam and Julie have proven themselves to be excellent scholars. But when the attraction between them turns into something more, will they be able to open their hearts and learn a new lesson – how to love.

Buy Links: Goodreads: Amazon: Barnes & Noble: Entangled

A Lesson in Temptation Excerpt:

Julie turned and looked at Adam. He was still wearing that little smile, but he hadn’t relaxed at all.

“Everyone, spread out into a circle,” Ivana called, gesturing with her arms around her body. “Spread, spread,

spread!”

Next to her, Adam groaned quietly. “Not only is this a dance class, it‘s a cheerful dance class.”

She grinned in response. “I assume this is the first time you’ve taken dance?”

He looked confused for a second, as though he hadn’t realized he said that out loud, then shrugged. “This kind of thing isn’t really my cup of tea.”

True. A dance class was the last place she would have expected to see him. Maybe he was trying the same thing she was—to get out a little more and remind himself what life was really about. He’d been a workaholic even when she was in college, after all. But before she could ask him why he was here, the instructor clapped her hands again. “Now, gentlemen! Turn to your right and face the lady closest to you. Ladies, turn to your left and face the gentleman closest to you.”

Their eyes met and held, and for a moment, everything else fell away as she and Adam looked at each other. It was like the past few years hadn’t even happened. That same intense attraction she’d always had toward him was still there, pulling her forward. It was too much, all of a sudden, and she had to look away before she did something stupid, like throw her arms around his neck and try to kiss him. No way was she going to get into a situation where she’d only be rejected again. This class was supposed to be fun. Maybe once it started, she could politely excuse herself and go flirt with Trent again.

At that moment, Ivana announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, the person you are now facing will be your primary partner for the next six weeks.”

One Night in Buenos Aires by Amanda K. Byrne:

As a reward for a hard-won contract, best friends Drea and Joe head to Buenos Aires for sun, wine, and the tango. But their week of relaxation is off to an ominous start when a reservation mix-up leaves them with only one option: one room…and one bed.

Exhausted from travel, the two friends figure it won’t be a big deal to share a bed for one night—right up until they wake wrapped around each other and seconds away from, well, you know.

When the two decide to follow through on their impulse, they protect their friendship by agreeing that when the vacation’s over, the fling’s over. While Drea’s convinced it’s nothing more than a mutual itch, Joe discovers Drea might be everything he’s ever wanted. Now all he has to do is convince her that what happens in Buenos Aires doesn’t always have to stay in Buenos Aires.

Excerpt

“There’s a show? Cool.” He studied the runway.

“Um, yeah,” she hedged.

Before she could say another word, the same small man she’d spent most of the afternoon chatting with over glasses of wine swooped in. “Baby, you came!” Two air kisses, one beside each cheek. “And this?” He stroked Joe’s arm suggestively. “You brought me this tasty piece of man meat? Yum!”

She burst out laughing at Joe’s expression. Comical horror slid into stoic as he allowed the man to fawn all over him. The fact her new friend had a face full of makeup made it even better.

Her giggles continued while Joe glared at her, mouth pinched as he fought off a smile. He leaned forward until their noses bumped. “Careful. Or you’re gonna get it.” He flicked his tongue out and swiped her chin, and she squealed.

She plucked up her napkin and wiped her chin. “How mature.” She relaxed a fraction more. Her body might be reacting in new and scary ways to his touch, but he was Joe. Still prone to moments of juvenilism. Still making her laugh.

He put his hand on her thigh, fingers playing with the hem of her dress while they skimmed the menus. Anxiety and desire took up swords in her stomach and started battling. Higher. Off. Don’t stop. Do. She placed a hand over his, curled her fingers around it, and shifted it higher, under her dress.

His long, slim fingers flexed hard on her thigh. He lowered his menu, the question clear in his eyes. It was a fine edge she was walking. One nudge and they’d tumble over into a swirling mass of lust and heat and frenetic energy. He’d promised her, though. Promised no matter what happened between them they’d hold on to their friendship. Above all, she trusted him.

So she nodded, and his hand slid up, stroking the sensitized flesh.

Buy Links: Goodreads Amazon Barnes & Noble iTunes Entangled

Audra North’s Bio: Audra North fell in love with romance at age thirteen and spent the next twenty years reading as many romance novels as she could. Even now, after having read over one thousand of them, Audra still can’t resist the lure of a happily ever after, and her collection continues to grow. She lives near Boston with her husband, three young children, and a lot of books. Visit her website at audranorth.com or find her (way too frequently) on Twitter

Website: Blog: Twitter: Facebook: Goodreads: Newsletter

Amanda K. Byrne’s Bio: When she’s not plotting ways to sneak her latest shoe purchase past her partner, Amanda writes sexy, snarky romance and urban fantasy. She likes her heroines smart and unafraid to make mistakes, and her heroes strong enough to take them on.

If she’s not writing, she’s reading, drinking hot chocolate, and trying not to destroy her house with her newest DIY project. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and no, it really doesn’t rain that much.

Website: Twitter: Facebook: Goodreads

Entangled Select:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EntangledSelect

Twitter: @EntangledSelect Steals and Deals

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33. Doon

Doon
Authors: Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon
Publisher: Blink Books
Genre: Young Adult/ Romance
ISBN: 978-0-310-74230-2
Pages: 400
Price: $17.99

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

When Veronica begins seeing visions of a kilt-wearing teen boy, she wonders if she’s imagining him. But when he follows her to Scotland, she’s sure there must be something more to his appearances. After being transported to the magical kingdom of Doon, she finally comes face to face with him – as the formidable Prince Jamie. But after practically begging Veronica to come to him, he now rejects her, declaring that she and her best friend, McKenna, are in cahoots with the witch.

Thanks to the intervention of Jamie’s brother, Duncan, who is sweet on McKenna, the girls avoid a long stay in the dungeon, and begin to explore this new world. They have only a short time before they will be able to go back home, and they try to make the most of it. But will they both find true love before they’re forced to leave?

Doon is inspired by Brigadoon, and is more romance than fantasy. Although this story takes place in a magical world, it feels more down-to-earth as the girls discover modern plumbing and pizzas. Although Veronica and Jamie have a turbulent relationship, one hopes they can sort through their differences and work things out. But the reader may very well end up swooning over Duncan’s sweet and tender ways with McKenna. This is an enjoyable read, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


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34. Book Blast: Warrior by Kasi Blake


 

BOOK BLAST: WARRIOR

Official Release Date: 7/13/14
This is the third book in the Order of the Spirit Realm Series.  If you haven’t read them, start with BAIT.  It is free at most online ebook vendors such as Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.



This book begins two years after HUNTER ended.  Bay-Lee is fighting a Devil Tree while her mentor and boyfriend, Nick Gallos, watches from the sidelines.  Things are tense between them.  She wants to amp up their relationship, but Nick has put on the brakes.  He’s got one foot out the door, and she doesn’t know what to do about it.

WARRIOR brings about closure and change, some good and some bad.  Together, Nick and Bay-Lee will take on the werewolf pack that killed her mother, face their twisted pasts, and face a friend turned enemy.

Quotes from WARRIOR:

Bay-Lee: You never told me I wasn’t supposed to kill it.  You told me I couldn’t kill it.
Nick: I should have known you’d take that as a challenge.

Keisha: Oh, don’t play Miss Innocent with me, girl.  It was your idea for me to trade places with Nick’s banshee, but you’ve been wearing a pouty face ever since.
Bay-Lee: I don’t have a pouty face.
Keisha:  Sure you don’t.

Bay-Lee (after knocking Keisha down):  You hit on my boyfriend, so I thought I should hit on you.

Little girl:  There’s a monster in my closet.

He added, “Reapers aren’t supposed to care.They don’t have compassion or love inside of them.”
“But you’re still human.”
“Because of you!”  It sounded like an accusation instead of gratitude.  “I haven’t lost my humanity because I still have you.  His facial muscles tightened.  “I can’t keep living like this.”
Nick threw the talisman down and stormed off, heading for the castle.
She scooped the talisman off the ground.  It was precious, even if it was malfunctioning.  Without it Nick wouldn’t be able to stay with her.  She ran until she caught up with him.  Slipping it into his hand, she begged him to keep using it.  “At least until we find something else.  Please.”
The purple half-circles beneath his eyes attested to his lack of sleep and made her want to cry.  She cringed when he slipped the thing around his neck.  Asking him to live like this was horrible, but she couldn’t let him go, not yet.

Warrior at Amazon
Warrior at B&N
Warrior at Smashwords









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35. Review: Going Down in Flames by Chris Cannon

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Going Down in Flames is a very fun book.  It features a tried and true premise;  the big family secret.   Bryn’s parents have been keeping a big secret from her, and when she learns that she’s a dragon, she is less than pleased with them.  Her parents have fled from the dragon community because they were forbidden to be together, and Bryn, the offspring of a blue and red dragon, should never have been born.  The governing body of the dragons, the Directorate, has carefully kept the dragon clans segregated, and they are not happy with Bryn’s parents, or about Bryn.  Not at all!  Yet they force her, on her 16th birthday, to move into the boarding school where young dragons are taught to control their powers.  Poor Bryn! The only crossbred, she’s met with suspicion and hatred.  I wouldn’t have been too happy with my parents, either!

The blue dragons hate her, the red dragons think she’s a freak of nature, and only the green dragons, known for their intelligence and curiosity, allow her to move into their dorm house.  If she will allow them to study her, that is.  With no real choice, Bryn reluctantly agrees.  Refusing to attend school will have ruinous results for her parents, so for their sake, she packs her things and heads off to dragon school.  The head of the Directorate, the man her mother ditched for her father, is still smarting from the blow to his pride, and he doesn’t hesitate to take some of that rage out on Bryn.  Soon, attempts are being made on her life, and Bryn has to figure out who is behind them, before they succeed.  And she has to try to fit into the very unwelcoming dragon community, where the Directorate has the last say on everything, from career choice to marriage petitions. 

I usually find stories set in magical boarding schools tedious.  I mean, after Harry Potter, everything else seems redundant.  Going Down in Flames worked for me, though, because I liked Bryn so much.  She’s a strong character who doesn’t put up with any crap, and she fights for what she believes in, regardless of the grief she knows will result.  I’m not so sure I agree with her taste in possible boyfriends, though, especially when that guy is promised to another dragon. 

I found Going Down in Flames a fast, fun read.  There’s humor, action, and a little romance.  Best of all, there are characters that I loved and characters that I wanted to strangle, which made the book very difficult to put down.

Grade:  A-/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

If her love life is going down in flames, she might as well spark a revolution.

Finding out on your sixteenth birthday you’re a shape-shifting dragon is tough to swallow. Being hauled off to an elite boarding school is enough to choke on.

Since Bryn is the only crossbreed at the Institute for Excellence, all eyes are on her, but it’s a particular black dragon, Zavien, who catches her attention.

Zavien is tired of the Directorate’s rules. Segregated clans, being told who to love, and close-minded leaders make freedom of choice almost impossible. The new girl with the striped hair is a breath of fresh air, and with Bryn’s help, they may be able to change the rules.

At the Institute, old grudges, new crushes, and death threats are all part of a normal day for Bryn. She’ll need to learn to control her dragon powers if she wants to make it through her first year at school. But even focusing on staying alive is difficult when you’re falling for someone you can’t have.

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36. Spotlight and Giveaway: Enemies on Tap by Avery Flynn

 
Enter to Win
“I Love to Read” Ring, Beer Lovers Coasters
& $50 Amazon GC

 
 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Enemies-Salvation-Brewery-Entangled-Indulgence-ebook/dp/B00L73NIWQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403719325&sr=8-1&keywords=enemies+on+tap

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/enemies-on-tap-avery-flynn/1119856171?ean=9781622667604

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/enemies-on-tap-sweet-salvation/id892233315?mt=11)

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/enemies-on-tap-a-sweet-salvation-brewery-novel

 
Brewing up trouble one pint at a time.

Enemies
What’s a girl to do when the only person who can help her is the man who betrayed her? After years away, Miranda returns to Salvation, Virginia to save her family’s brewery, but her fate is in the hands of her first lover turned enemy, Logan Martin.

Lovers
Logan, Salvation’s de facto prince, can’t believe his luck when the woman who smashed his heart to smithereens walks into his bank asking for his help. What she doesn’t know is he needs the land her brewery is on. When she tempts him with a bet—if she wins, he gives her the loan; if he wins, she forfeits the land—he knows it’s a sure thing.

An Irresistible Combination
But soon it’s a battle between their attraction for each other and their determination to win, and it’s in each other’s arms that they realize there might be more at stake now than the bet. With the town dead set against the Sweet Salvation Brewery’s success, Logan has to choose between what’s expected of him and what he really wants—even if helping Miranda means she’ll run out of his life once again.
 
 
 
 
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 
 
Avery Flynn has three slightly-wild children, loves a hockey-addicted husband and is desperately hoping someone invents the coffee IV drip.

 
Website  |  Twitter  |  Pinterest  |  Facebook page |   Facebook  
 
 
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37. Manga Review: Stepping on Roses Vol 9 (Final) by Rinko Ueda

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Now that I have a nifty second-hand treadmill, I find myself reading more digital manga.  It’s just so easy to march along on the track, flipping pages every few seconds.  The workouts go by much faster, I’m getting caught up on some of the series I’ve been neglecting, and I’m getting healthier while I’m multi-tasking.  Who could ask for more?

Stepping on Roses has been my manga crack for a while, but the final volume has been moldering on my iPad for far too long.  I booted it up, clicked Start on the treadmill, and had the most entertaining 20 minutes in a while.  All of my gasping, eeewwwws, and ahhhhhs kept Poppy pretty entertained, too.  Every time something unexpected happened in the story, I couldn’t help but  make some weird sound, which kept disturbing her as she snoozed on the sofa.  Bumble couldn’t have cared less, but I don’t think Poppy enjoyed the last volume quite so much.

Sumi has been fending off Nozomu, telling him that they can’t be married until he’s legally divorced from Miu (I mean DUH!).  Soichiro is performing manual labor in his efforts to work his way back up the ladder so he can take back control of the family business again.  His luck is finally starting to take a turn for the better when he helps a foreign businessman by translating for him when he can’t make himself understood in a business negotiation.  With a new job interpreting for the foreigner, Soichiro and Sumi are pleasantly surprised that they are able to see each other again when Nozomu has business dealings with the man.  Nozomu, not so happy.  In fact, evil Nozomu makes a reappearance, and he tries, yet again, to force himself on Sumi.  You’d think this guy would learn, but no.  Instead, he chases Sumi away, straight into Soichiro’s waiting arms.

While I was happy that Sumi and Soichiro were finally able to be together for a passionate interlude, I wasn’t quite so happy with how rushed the story felt shortly after.  In a fit of jealousy, Nozomu confines Sumi to his house, and arranges to have their wedding in just two weeks.  That’s when things got really weird.  A trip to visit Nozomu’s father yields very unwelcome news for Nozomu, which would have made his marriage to Sumi socially unacceptable. (I’m trying not to spoil this!)  He disregards the revelation, determined to finally make Sumi his.  Ugh and eek!  Soichiro zooms in at the last second to save her, and Nozomu, from this disastrous union, and tra-la-la!  The story’s OVER!

While I was disappointed with the last two raced through chapters, overall, I loved Stepping on Roses.  It is a soap opera at it’s best, with one misfortune after another befalling the sweet, likeable Sumi.  The melodrama has been epic, and I have enjoyed both loving and hating on the characters, especially Nozomu and Eisuke.  Soichiro finally got a clue, but he almost got it too late to save his relationship with Sumi, and considering how messed up that was at the beginning, it’s a wonder that everyone managed to score a happily ever after, and I do mean everyone.  That at least was fun, but the big reveal of Sumi’s real family?  Not so much. 

Grade:  B/B-

B+ for series overall

From Amazon:

Poor Sumi Kitamura… Her irresponsible older brother Eisuke keeps bringing home orphans for her to take care of even though they can barely afford their own basic needs! Just when Sumi’s financial problems become dire, wealthy Soichiro Ashida enters her life with a bizarre proposition: he’ll provide her with the money she so desperately needs if she agrees to marry him. But can Sumi fool high society into thinking she’s a proper lady? Moreover, is it worth giving up everything for this sham of a marriage?

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38. Guest Post with Sara Humphreys, Author of Vampire Trouble and Giveaway

 

Special guest Sara Humphreys shares five reasons why vampires are hotter than werewolves.  What do you think?

 Why Vamps are Hotter Than Werewolves by Sara Humphreys

Trying to choose between vamps and werewolves isn’t easy, especially since I write about and like both. But since the hero of VAMPIRE TROUBLE is a vampire…I’m playing on Team Vampire today.

Here are my Top 5 Reasons Why Vamps are Hotter Than Werewolves.

1. Flying: The vamps in my paranormal world can fly and if I could have a supernatural power, that’s the one I’d want. You never have to sit in traffic again or pay outlandish airline fees. It’s a win.

2. Immortality: While the werewolves in my world live an exceptionally long time and age almost imperceptibly, they aren’t immortal. Vampires live forever and they don’t age. Not a bad gig if you can get it.

3. Bloodmates: I adore the idea of true love and fate. It’s a romantic notion to think that we all have one perfect person out there who is exactly the right fit for us. A lid for every pot and all that jazz. Werewolves mate for life but it’s not quite the same thing as having someone who will literally blood-bond with you. Not only that, if a vamp finds their Bloodmate then both become Daywalkers. Bonus!

4. Having a Maker: The bond between a maker and their progeny is unique and unbreakable. They say that you can’t choose your family but a maker actually does exactly that. They take great care in deciding who they will turn vampire and bond to them forever. A maker will do anything for their progeny–including lay down their life. When you are made vampire, you have someone who will always have your back.

5. Telepathy: Other than flying, I think telepathy would be a badass supernatural power. Vampires can communicate telepathically with their maker, siblings, and progeny but if they bond with their Bloodmate…then they can only telepath with them. Being able to secretly communicate with your lover in the middle of a crowded room is a sexy scenario. Oh the possibilities…..

 

About the book:

“Sara Humphreys has taken the vampire mythology and truly made it her own.” —Romancing the Dark Side

A fledgling vampire ignites a war…

Maya remembers the last moments of her life as a human with haunting clarity, and every man she meets pays the price…until Shane. Finding herself in the middle of a bloody fight between vampires and werewolves, Maya has no choice but to let the devastatingly sexy vampire guard get close to her.

And that’s not all that heats up…

Shane Quesada, a four-century-old vampire sentry, is known for his cold, unemotional precision, but once Maya begins to invade his dreams, his world is changed forever. His job to protect her is swiftly replaced by the all-consuming need to claim her as his own.

Praise for Tall, Dark, and Vampire:

“Shines with fascinating new characters… from the very talented Humphreys!” —RT Book Reviews, 4½ Stars, Top Pick of the Month

“Laughter, action and a steamy love story.” —Long and Short Reviews

“Riveting, outstandingly written… A must read for all vampire lovers.” —Bitten by Love Reviews

“Engaging… Humphreys skillfully blends intrigue and romance.” —Publishers Weekly

US addresses only, please

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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39. Spotlight and Giveaway: Bliss July Releases

The summer is warming up with two new releases from Bliss this month.  One is our latest Red-Hot Bliss, Her Secret, His Surprise by Paula Altenburg, which throws the bedroom door open. The second is a traditional Bliss, Accidentally Married on Purpose by Rachel Harris, which while it’s a behind closed doors story it’s definitely not lacking in sizzle.  Plus, Seven Day Fiance by Rachel Harris is on sale!  See below for more details.



http://bit.ly/VJEDFE 
 
About Accidentally Married on Purpose:
 
One ring plus one wild night equals one crazy love
Sherry Robicheaux loves men. She loves love. And she loves an adventure. So when she meets a mysterious man while working backstage at a country music concert in Vegas, she’s all about what happens in Vegas staying there.
Country music superstar Tyler Blue just wants a weekend of anonymity…though there’s something about the spunky waitress with the streaks of purple hair that tempts him like no other. Until the next morning, when they both wake up with fuzzy memories…and rings on their fingers.
Convincing Sherry to maintain the ruse for his public image isn’t the hardest part—it’s reminding himself that their time spent playing husband and wife in her small town of Magnolia Springs can’t last. Tyler’s first love will always be music—and the road is no place for a sweet downhome girl.
Add it to Goodreads
 
Enter Rachel’s giveaway
 

http://bit.ly/VAnLkE 
 
About Her Secret, His Surprise:

Conflict of interest is an understatement…
Since being disowned by her strict father, Cass Stone has spent her adulthood trying to prove him wrong. Her drive has led to more success than her family ever thought she’d achieve, and life is looking great. Not even an incredible and mysterious one night stand that leaves her a single mom can trip her up…until the father of her baby stumbles back into her life, as sexy and unreliable as ever.
Logan Alexander hasn’t forgotten the night he spent with Cass two years ago, but he never expects to end up undercover as her assistant. His job saves lives—like it should have saved his brother—and he can’t afford complications. It’s difficult enough to maintain his cover as a carefree wanderer when he realizes his attraction to Cass hasn’t faded…and then he meets Cass’s daughter.
Add it to Goodreads
Follow the Her Secret, His Surprise Blog Tour

Enter Paula’s giveaway

PLUS…

Pick up a copy of Seven Day Fiance this week only for just $.99!
 
About Seven Day Fiance:
 
One bad boy. One good girl. One unforgettable week.

Angelle Prejean is in a pickle. Her family is expecting her to come home with a fiancé—a fiancé who doesn’t exist. Well, he exists, but he definitely has no idea Angelle told her mama they were engaged. Tattooed, muscled, and hotter than sin, Cane can reduce Angelle to a hot mess with one look—and leave her heart a mess if she falls for him. But when she ends up winning him at a charity bachelor auction, she knows just how to solve her fiancé problem.

Cane Robicheaux is no one’s prince. He doesn’t do relationships and he doesn’t fall in love. When sweet, sultry-voiced Angelle propositions him, he hopes their little fiancé game can finally get her out of his head. He doesn’t expect her to break through all his barriers. But even as Angelle burrows deeper into his heart, he knows once their seven days are up, so is their ruse.
 
Pick up your copy of Seven Day Fiance before it goes back to full price!
Add it to Goodreads

 

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40. Crunchyroll Morning: Skip Beat!, Sailor Moon Crystal, and Arslan

I’ve kind of been in a funk the last few days, and  I’m not sure why.  I’m having a hard time finding a book that holds my interest for more than a few chapters, so I set my Kindle down this morning and spent some time playing with Crunchyroll.  If you haven’t heard of the site before, Crunchyroll bills itself as “the leading global video service for Japanese Anime and Asian media.”  They offer free streaming of anime and manga, as well as paid memberships for access to a larger library of titles with no advertising.  Everything I’m going to talk about today I viewed under their free offerings.

 

The Heroic Legend of Arslan Chapter 1 by   Yoshiki Tanaka and  Hiromu Arakawa (author of Fullmetal Alchemist)

About the series:

Someday, a boy will become a man, then in time, the man will become a king. Who is the true hero?! An unprecedented story of the struggle to succeed the throne has begun. Hiromu Arakawa, the creator of “Fullmetal Alchemist” illustrates the great historical fantasy novel in a never before seen style!

My thoughts:

Many years ago, I watched the anime of Arslan.  I loved it.  When I discovered that the anime was based on a series of Japanese novels (13 volumes and still on-going, I believe), and that there was a manga series, too, I kept hoping it would get licensed.  It didn’t, but Hiromu Arakawa reimagined Yoshiki Tanaka’s novels for Bessatsu Shonen magazine, and it did.   As FMA is one of my favorite series, I was excited to see Arslan on Crunchyroll. 

The first chapter introduces 11 year-old Prince Arslan.  He’s a kind-hearted boy, in direct contrast to his cold parents.  His father, King Andragoras, is a fierce warrior and his armies have never been defeated in battle.  When the warriors return victorious from recent skirmishes, Arslan saves some boys from an escaped warrior and gets dragged along on his dash to freedom.  The enemy warrior is also 11, but he couldn’t be different from Arslan.  Tough and a seasoned warrior, he refuses to submit to slavery.  As Arslan is dragged around  his city, he is given a different perspective of his enemies’ beliefs than he’s been taught, which leaves him wondering why his kingdom is at war with their neighbors. 

I enjoyed the pacing of the manga, and I liked Arslan.  We don’t get to learn much about him, except that he isn’t skilled in arms and that he is a kind, caring kid.  I love Arakawa’s art, and I would read this just to get a chance to enjoy her illustrations. 

Rating: B+

 

Skip*Beat! Episode 1

Ahahaha!  I love Skip*Beat!  I am so far behind in the manga, but I figure if I watch the anime up to where I left off, I can start reading again without forgetting too much.  I hope.  This is a very funny series about a normally meek, kind girl who completely loses her shit when she discovers that the boy she has loved since childhood thinks that she’s boring and ugly.  Sho, an idol who is just starting to hit the big time, has only been using Kyoko to pay his bills and clean up after him after they move to Tokyo.  Kyoko thought that Sho asked her to go with him because he cared for her, but NO!  All he ever saw her as was an unpaid maid.

Kyoko’s never-ending grudge is released from the locked boxes in her heart, and after she declares her intention to get revenge on Sho’s crappy treatment of her, he mocks her and tells her the only way a little commoner like her could ever get back at a big star like him is to become famous, too, so Kyoko, all guns blazing, decides that she will make it big in show biz, and she will be a bigger star than Sho.

I love this series because it’s funny, Kyoko goes from being a doormat to a butt-kicker, and Ren, Sho’s biggest rival, is hot.  I’m looking forward to watching all 25 episodes of Skip*Beat!, but I think the manga is still ongoing, so I have to catch up on my reading, too!

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal Episode 1

Ah, there is just something comforting about Sailor Moon.  This reboot of the series is fun, fast-paced, and vividly colorful.  I loved revisiting with Usagi and Luna, and I can’t believe the series is 20 years old.  I never get tired of Sailor Moon, regardless of format, and have enjoyed the manga (both Tokyopop’s awful presentation, and Kodansha’s much better packaged release), anime series, and live-action show.  Usagi is so easy to relate to.  She doesn’t want to do anything that’s hard – homework, studying, exercising, chores – and would rather spent her time eating, napping, and playing video games.  Who wouldn’t!  She’s also clumsy and hardly an athletic girl, so, while I fear that the fate of the world is resting on her shoulders, I know that Luna and Tuxedo Mask won’t let her completely screw up.  If you haven’t watched the show before, give it a try.  There is a reason Sailor Moon is still popular after more than two decades, and that’s because the storytelling is fun, and the characters are so likeable.

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41. Spotlight and Giveaway: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

I am still recovering from July 4th weekend and a horse show Wednesday night (which I’ll tell you all about on Sunday), but don’t worry, I still have a goody for you today.  I have an excerpt from Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life, which releases next week.  I also have a copy up for grabs, US residents only, please, so be sure to enter the giveaway below!

 

The highly anticipated finale to the

#1 New York Times bestselling trilogy

THE BOOK OF LIFE

Book Three of the All Souls Trilogy

by

Deborah Harkness

“Harkness proves to be quite the alchemist as she combines elements of magic, history, romance, and science, transforming them into a compelling journey through time, space, and geography. By bridging the gaps between Harry Potter, Twilight, and Outlander fans, Harkness artfully appeals to a broad range of fantasy lovers…The conclusion of this paranormal adventure is guaranteed to fly off the shelves.”

—Booklist

“There is no shortage of action in this sprawling sequel, and nearly every chapter brings a wrinkle to the tale. The storytelling is lively and energetic, and Diana remains an appealing heroine even as her life becomes ever more extraordinary. A delightful wrap-up to the trilogy.”

—Publishers Weekly

“In the resolution of the All Souls trilogy…as in the previous two installments, there are healthy doses of action, colorful magic, angst-y romance and emotional epiphany, plus mansion-hopping across the globe, historical tidbits and name-dropping of famous artworks and manuscripts.”

—Kirkus Reviews

Praise for SHADOW OF NIGHT

“The joy that Harkness, herself a historian, takes in visiting the past is evident on every page…A great spell, one that can enchant a reader and make a 600-page book fly through her fingertips, is cast.”

—Entertainment Weekly

“Deborah Harkness takes us places we’ve never been before…Readers time-travel as precisely and precariously as Diana and Matthew do…Shadow ends as Discovery did, with promises of more to come. Lucky for us.”

—USA Today

THE BOOK OF LIFE is the highly-anticipated final installment of the bestselling All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness (Viking; On-sale: July 15, 2014; $28.95). The trilogy began with A Discovery of Witches which People magazine called, “A wonderfully imaginative grown-up fantasy with all the magic of Harry Potter or Twilight”. The sequel Shadow of Night debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and the Miami Herald called it, “Enchanting, engrossing and as impossible to put down as its predecessor…a perfect blend of fantasy, history and romance.” In total, over one million copies have been sold in the States with publications following in 38 countries, leaving legions of fans eagerly awaiting THE BOOK OF LIFE, the satisfying conclusion to this superbly written series.

THE BOOK OF LIFE picks up right where Shadow of Night left off.  After traveling through time, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to continue their hunt for the magical alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, otherwise known as the Book of Life.   At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they re­unite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception—ready to face old enemies. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for the Book of Life and its miss­ing pages takes on even more urgency. In the tril­ogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and forbidden passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowl­edge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Deborah Harkness is the number one New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night. A history professor at the University of Southern California, Harkness has received Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships. Her publications include works on the history of science, magic, and alchemy.  Her most recent scholarly book is The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution.  She lives in Los Angeles.

Deborah Harkness will be touring to:

New York City * South Hadley, MA * Canaan, NH * Boston * Raleigh * Miami

Decatur, GA * Philadelphia * Los Angeles * San Diego * San Francisco * Portland

Seattle * Chicago *Milwaukee * Minneapolis/St. Paul * St. Louis * Cincinnati

Houston * Austin * Denver * Scottsdale, AZ

Click here for details!

THE BOOK OF LIFE
Deborah Harkness ? Viking ? $28.95  ?  On-sale July 15, 2014 ? ISBN: 978-0-670-02559-6

THIS BOOK IS ALSO AVAILABLE AS AN EBOOK

www.deborahharkness.com

@debharkness • facebook.com/AuthorDeborahHarkness

 

Excerpt:

From The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Deborah Harkness, 2014

Chapter 1

Ghosts didn’t have much substance. All they were composed of was memories and heart. Atop one of Sept-Tours’ round towers, Emily Mather pressed a diaphanous hand against the spot in the center of her chest that even now was heavy with dread.

Does it ever get easier? Her voice, like the rest of her, was almost imperceptible. The watching? The waiting? The knowing?

Not that I’ve noticed, Philippe de Clermont replied shortly. He was perched nearby, studying his own transparent fingers. Of all the things Philippe disliked about being dead—the inability to touch his wife, Ysabeau; his lack of smell or taste; the fact that he had no muscles for a good sparring match—invisibility topped the list. It was a constant reminder of how inconsequential he had become.

Emily’s face fell, and Philippe silently cursed himself. Since she’d died, the witch had been his constant companion, cutting his loneliness in two. What was he thinking, barking at her as if she were a servant?

Perhaps it will be easier when they don’t need us anymore, Philippe said in a gentler tone. He might be the more experienced ghost, but it was Emily who understood the metaphysics of their situation. What the witch had told him went against everything Philippe believed about the afterworld. He thought the living saw the dead because they needed something from them: assistance, forgiveness, retribution. Emily insisted these were nothing more than human myths, and it was only when the living moved on and let go that the dead could appear to them.

This information made Ysabeau’s failure to notice him somewhat easier to bear, but not much.

“I can’t wait to see Em’s reaction. She’s going to be so surprised.” Diana’s warm alto floated up to the battlements.

Diana and Matthew, Emily and Philippe said in unison, peering down to the cobbled courtyard that surrounded the château.

There, Philippe said, pointing at the drive. Even dead, he had vampire sight that was sharper than any human’s. He was also still handsomer than any man had a right to be, with his broad shoulders and devilish grin. He turned the latter on Emily, who couldn’t help grinning back. They are a fine couple, are they not? Look how much my son has changed.

Vampires weren’t supposed to be altered by the passing of time, and therefore Emily expected to see the same black hair, so dark it glinted blue; the same mutable gray-green eyes, cool and remote as a winter sea; the same pale skin and wide mouth. There were a few subtle differences, though, as Philippe suggested. Matthew’s hair was shorter, and he had a beard that made him look even more dangerous, like a pirate. She gasped.

Is Matthew . . . bigger?

He is. I fattened him up when he and Diana were here in 1590. Books were making him soft. Matthew needed to fight more and read less. Philippe had always contended there was such a thing as too much education. Matthew was living proof of it.

Diana looks different, too. More like her mother, with that long, coppery hair, Em said, acknowledging the most obvious change in her niece.

Diana stumbled on a cobblestone, and Matthew’s hand shot out to steady her. Once, Emily had seen Matthew’s incessant hovering as a sign of vampire overprotectiveness. Now, with the perspicacity of a ghost, she realized that this tendency stemmed from his preternatural awareness of every change in Diana’s expression, every shift of mood, every sign of fatigue or hunger. Today, however, Matthew’s concern seemed even more focused and acute.

It’s not just Diana’s hair that has changed. Philippe’s face had a look of wonder. Diana is with child—Matthew’s child.

Emily examined her niece more carefully, using the enhanced grasp of truth that death afforded. Philippe was right—in part. You mean “with children.” Diana is having twins.

Twins, Philippe said in an awed voice. He looked away, distracted by the appearance of his wife. Look, here are Ysabeau and Sarah with Sophie and Margaret.

What will happen now, Philippe? Emily asked, her heart growing heavier with anticipation.

Endings. Beginnings, Philippe said with deliberate vagueness. Change.

Diana has never liked change, Emily said.

That is because Diana is afraid of what she must become, Philippe replied.

Marcus Whitmore had faced horrors aplenty since the night in 1781 when Matthew de Clermont made him a vampire. None had prepared him for today’s ordeal: telling Diana Bishop that her beloved aunt, Emily Mather, was dead.

Marcus had received the phone call from Ysabeau while he and Nathaniel Wilson were watching the television news in the family library. Sophie, Nathaniel’s wife, and their baby, Margaret, were dozing on a nearby sofa.

The temple,” Ysabeau had said breathlessly, her tone frantic. “Come. At once.”

Marcus had obeyed his grandmother without question, only taking time to shout for his cousin, Gallowglass, and his Aunt Verin on his way out the door.

The summer half-light of evening had lightened further as he approached the clearing at the top of the mountain, brightened by the otherworldly power that Marcus glimpsed through the trees. His hair stood at attention at the magic in the air.

Then he scented the presence of a vampire, Gerbert of Aurillac. And someone else—a witch.

A light, purposeful step sounded down the stone corridor, drawing Marcus out of the past and back into the present. The heavy door opened, creaking as it always did.

“Hello, sweetheart.” Marcus turned from the view of the Auvergne countryside and drew a deep breath. Phoebe Taylor’s scent reminded him of the thicket of lilac bushes that had grown outside the red-painted door of his family’s farm. Delicate and resolute, the fragrance had symbolized the hope of spring after a long Massachusetts winter and conjured up his long- dead mother’s understanding smile. Now it only made Marcus think of the petite, iron-willed woman before him.

“Everything will be all right.” Phoebe reached up and straightened his collar, her olive eyes full of concern. Marcus had taken to wearing more formal clothes than concert T-shirts around the same time he’d started to sign his letters Marcus de Clermont instead of Marcus Whitmore—the name she’d first known him by, before he had told her about vampires, fifteen-hundred-year-old fathers, French castles full of forbidding relatives, and a witch named Diana Bishop. It was, in Marcus’s opinion, nothing short of miraculous that Phoebe had remained at his side.

“No. It won’t.” He caught one of her hands and planted a kiss on the palm. Phoebe didn’t know Matthew. “Stay here with Nathaniel and the rest of them. Please.”

“For the final time, Marcus Whitmore, I will be standing beside you when you greet your father and his wife. I don’t believe we need discuss it further.” Phoebe held out her hand. “Shall we?”

Marcus put his hand in Phoebe’s, but instead of following her out the door as she expected, he tugged her toward him. Phoebe came to rest against his chest, one hand clasped in his and the other pressed to his heart. She looked at him with surprise.

“Very well. But if you come down with me, Phoebe, there are conditions. First, you are with me or with Ysabeau at all times.”

Phoebe opened her mouth to protest, but Marcus’s serious look silenced her.

“Second, if I tell you to leave the room, you will do so. No delay. No questions. Go straight to Fernando. He’ll be in the chapel or the kitchen.” Marcus searched her face and saw a wary acceptance. “Third, do not, under any circumstances, get within arm’s reach of my father. Agreed?”

Phoebe nodded. Like any good diplomat, she was prepared to follow Marcus’s rules—for now. But if Matthew’s father was the monster some in the house seemed to think he was, Phoebe would do what she must.

Fernando Gonçalves poured beaten eggs into the hot skillet, blanketing the browned potatoes already in the pan. His tortilla española was one of the few dishes Sarah Bishop would eat, and today of all days the widow needed sustenance.

Gallowglass sat at the kitchen table, picking drops of wax out of a crack in the ancient boards. With his collar-length blond hair and muscular build, he looked like a morose bear. Tattoos snaked around his forearms and biceps in bright swirls of color. Their subject matter revealed whatever was on Gallowglass’s mind at the moment, for a tattoo lasted only a few months on a vampire. Right now he seemed to be thinking about his roots, for his arms were covered with Celtic knotwork, runes, and fabulous beasts drawn from Norse and Gaelic myths and legends.

“Stop worrying.” Fernando’s voice was as warm and cultured as sherry aged in oak barrels.

Gallowglass looked up for a moment, then returned his attention to the wax.

“No one will prevent Matthew from doing what he must, Gallowglass. Avenging Emily’s death is a matter of honor.” Fernando turned off the heat and joined Gallowglass at the table, bare feet moving silently across the flagstone floors. As he walked, he rolled down the sleeves of his white shirt. It was pristine, in spite of the hours he’d spent in the kitchen that day. He tucked the shirt into the waistband of his jeans and ran his fingers through his dark, wavy hair.

“Marcus is going to try to take the blame, you know,” Gallowglass said. “But Emily’s death wasn’t the boy’s fault.”

The scene on the mountain had been oddly peaceful, considering the circumstances. Gallowglass had arrived at the temple a few moments after Marcus. There had been nothing but silence and the sight of Emily Mather kneeling in- side a circle marked out with pale rocks. The witch Peter Knox had been with her, his hands on her head and a look of anticipation—even hunger—on his face. Gerbert of Aurillac, the de Clermonts’ nearest vampire neighbor, was looking on with interest.

Emily!” Sarah’s anguished cry had torn through the silence with such force that even Gerbert stepped back.

Startled, Knox released Emily. She crumpled to the ground, unconscious. Sarah beat the other witch back with a single, powerful spell that sent Knox flying across the clearing.

“No, Marcus didn’t kill her,” Fernando said, drawing Gallowglass’s attention. “But his negligence—”

“Inexperience,” Gallowglass interjected.

“Negligence,” Fernando repeated, “did play a role in the tragedy. Marcus knows that and accepts responsibility for it.”

“Marcus didn’t ask to be in charge,” Gallowglass grumbled.

“No. I nominated him for the position, and Matthew agreed it was the right decision.” Fernando pressed Gallowglass’s shoulder briefly and returned to the stove.

“Is that why you came? Because you felt guilty about refusing to lead the brotherhood when Matthew asked for your help?” No one had been more surprised than Gallowglass when Fernando turned up at Sept-Tours. Fernando had avoided the place ever since Gallowglass’s father, Hugh de Clermont, died in the fourteenth century.

“I am here because Matthew was there for me after the French king executed Hugh. I was alone in all the world then, except for my grief.” Fernando’s tone was harsh. “And I refused to lead the Knights of Lazarus because I am not a de Clermont.”

“You were Father’s mate!” Gallowglass protested. “You are as much a de Clermont as Ysabeau or her children!”

Fernando carefully shut the oven door. “I am Hugh’s mate,” he said, his back still turned. “Your father will never be past tense to me.”

“Sorry, Fernando,” Gallowglass said, stricken. Though Hugh had been dead for nearly seven centuries, Fernando had never recovered from the loss. Gallowglass doubted he ever would.

“As for my being a de Clermont,” Fernando continued, still staring at the wall over the stove, “Philippe disagreed.”

Gallowglass resumed his nervous picking at the wax. Fernando poured two glasses of red wine and carried them to the table.

“Here,” he said, thrusting one at Gallowglass. “You’ll need your strength today, too.”

Marthe bustled into the kitchen. Ysabeau’s housekeeper ruled over this part of the château and was not pleased to see intruders in it. After giving Fernando and Gallowglass sour looks, she sniffed and wrested the oven door open.

“That is my best pan!” she said accusingly.

“I know. That’s why I’m using it,” Fernando replied, taking a sip of wine. “You do not belong in the kitchen, Dom Fernando. Go upstairs. Take Gallowglass with you.” Marthe took a packet of tea and a teapot from the shelf by the sink. Then she noticed the towel-wrapped pot sitting on a tray

next to cups, saucers, milk, and sugar. Her frown deepened. “What is wrong with my being here?” Fernando demanded.

“You are not a servant,” Marthe said. She picked the lid off the top of the pot and sniffed suspiciously at its contents.

“It’s Diana’s favorite. You told me what she liked, remember?” Fernando smiled sadly. “And everyone in this house serves the de Clermonts, Marthe. The only difference is that you, Alain, and Victoire are paid handsomely to do so. The rest of us are expected to be grateful for the privilege.”

“With good reason. Other manjasang dream of being part of this family. See that you remember that in future—and the lemon, Dom Fernando,” Marthe said, placing emphasis on his lordly title. She picked up the tea tray. “By the way, your eggs are burning.”

Fernando leaped up to rescue them.

“As for you,” Marthe said, fixing her black eyes on Gallowglass, “you did not tell us everything you should have about Matthew and his wife.”

Gallowglass looked down into his wine with a guilty expression.

Madame your grandmother will deal with you later.” On that bonechilling note, Marthe stalked out of the room.

“What have you done now?” asked Fernando, putting his tortilla— which was not ruined, Alhamdulillah—on the stove. Long experience had taught him that whatever the mess, Gallowglass had made it with good intentions and complete disregard for possible disaster.

“Weeell,” Gallowglass said, drawing out the vowels as only a Scot could, “I might have left one or two things out of the tale.”

“Like what?” Fernando said, catching a whiff of catastrophe among the kitchen’s homely scents.

“Like the fact that Auntie is pregnant—and by none other than Matthew. And the fact that Granddad adopted her as a daughter. Lord, his blood vow was deafening.” Gallowglass looked reflective. “Do you think we’ll still be able to hear it?”

Fernando stood, openmouthed and silent.

“Don’t look at me that way. It didn’t seem right to share the news about the babe. Women can be funny about such things. And Philippe told Auntie Verin about the blood vow before he died in 1945, and she never said a word either!” Gallowglass said defensively.

A concussion tore the air, as if a silent bomb had been detonated. Something green and fiery streaked past the kitchen window.

“What the hell was that?” Fernando flung the door open and shielded his eyes against the bright sunlight.

“One pissed-off witch, I imagine.” Gallowglass’s tone was glum. “Sarah must have told Diana and Matthew the news about Emily.”

“Not the explosion. That!” Fernando pointed to Saint-Lucien’s bell tower, which was being circled by a winged, two-legged, fire-breathing creature. Gallowglass rose for a better look.

“That’s Corra. She goes where Auntie goes,” Gallowglass said matter-of- factly.

“But that’s a dragon.” Fernando turned wild eyes on his stepson.

“Bah! That’s no dragon. Can’t you see she’s only got two legs? Corra is a firedrake.” Gallowglass twisted his arm to show off a tattoo of a winged creature that strongly resembled the airborne beast. “Like this. I might have left out one or two details, but I did warn everybody that Auntie Diana wasn’t going to be the same witch she was before.”

“It’s true, honey. Em is dead.” The stress of telling Diana and Matthew was clearly too much for her. Sarah could have sworn that she saw a dragon. Fernando was right. She needed to cut back on the whiskey.

“I don’t believe you.” Diana’s voice was high and sharp with panic. She searched Ysabeau’s grand salon as though she suspected to find Emily hiding behind one of the ornate settees.

“Emily’s not here, Diana.” Matthew’s hushed voice was infused with regret and tenderness as he stepped before her. “She’s gone.”

“No.” Diana tried to push past him and continue her search, but Mat- thew drew her into his arms.

“I’m so sorry, Sarah,” Matthew said, holding Diana tight to his body. “Don’t say you’re sorry!” Diana cried, struggling to free herself from the vampire’s unbreakable hold. She pounded on Matthew’s shoulder with her fist. “Em isn’t dead! This is a nightmare. Wake me up, Matthew—please! I want to wake up and find we’re still in 1591.”

“This isn’t a nightmare,” Sarah said. The long weeks had convinced her that Em’s death was horribly real.

“Then I took a wrong turn—or tied a bad knot in the timewalking spell. This can’t be where we were supposed to end up!” Diana was shaking from head to toe with grief and shock. “Em promised she would never leave with- out saying good-bye.”

“Em didn’t have time to say good-bye—to anyone. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t love you.” Sarah reminded herself of this a hundred times a day.

“Diana should sit,” Marcus said, pulling a chair closer to Sarah. In many ways Matthew’s son looked like the same twenty-something surfer who had walked into the Bishop house last October. His leather cord, with its strange assortment of objects gathered over the centuries, was still tangled in the blond hair at the nape of his neck. The Converse sneakers he loved remained on his feet. The guarded, sad look in his eyes was new, however.

Sarah was grateful for the presence of Marcus and Ysabeau, but the person she really wanted at her side at this moment was Fernando. He’d been her rock during this ordeal.

“Thank you, Marcus,” Matthew said, settling Diana in the seat. Phoebe tried to press a glass of water into Diana’s hand. When Diana just stared at it blankly, Matthew took it and placed it on a nearby table.

All eyes alighted on Sarah.

Sarah was no good at this kind of thing. Diana was the historian in the family. She would know where to start and how to string the confusing events into a coherent story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and perhaps even a plausible explanation of why Emily had died.

“There’s no easy way to tell you this,” Diana’s aunt began.

“You don’t have to tell us anything,” Matthew said, his eyes filled with compassion and sympathy. “The explanations can wait.”

“No. You both need to know.” Sarah reached for the glass of whiskey that usually sat at her side, but there was nothing there. She looked to Marcus in mute appeal.

“Emily died up at the old temple,” Marcus said, taking up the role of storyteller.

“The temple dedicated to the goddess?” Diana whispered, her brow creasing with the effort to concentrate.

“Yes,” Sarah croaked, coughing to dislodge the lump in her throat. “Emily was spending more and more time up there.”

“Was she alone?” Matthew’s expression was no longer warm and understanding, and his tone was frosty.

Silence descended again, this one heavy and awkward.

“Emily wouldn’t let anyone go with her,” Sarah said, steeling herself to be honest. Diana was a witch, too, and would know if she strayed from the truth. “Marcus tried to convince her to take someone with her, but Emily refused.”

“Why did she want to be alone?” Diana said, picking up on Sarah’s own uneasiness. “What was going on, Sarah?”

“Since January, Em had been turning to the higher magics for guidance.” Sarah looked away from Diana’s shocked face. “She was having terrible premonitions of death and disaster and thought they might help her figure out why.”

“But Em always said higher magics were too dark for witches to handle safely,” Diana said, her voice rising again. “She said any witch who thought she was immune to their dangers would find out the hard way just how powerful they were.”

“She spoke from experience,” Sarah said. “They can be addictive. Emily didn’t want you to know she’d felt their lure, honey. She hadn’t touched a scrying stone or tried to summon a spirit for decades.”

“Summon spirits?” Matthew’s eyes narrowed into slits. With his dark beard, he looked truly terrifying.

“I think she was trying to reach Rebecca. If I’d realized how far she’d gone in her attempts, I would have tried harder to stop her.” Sarah’s eyes brimmed with tears. “Peter Knox must have sensed the power Emily was working with, and the higher magics have always fascinated him. Once he found her—”

“Knox?” Matthew spoke softly, but the hairs on the back of Sarah’s neck rose in warning.

“When we found Em, Knox and Gerbert were there, too,” Marcus ex- plained, looking miserable at the admission. “She’d suffered a heart attack. Emily must have been under enormous stress trying to resist whatever Knox was doing. She was barely conscious. I tried to revive her. So did Sarah. But there was nothing either of us could do.”

“Why were Gerbert and Knox here? And what in the world did Knox hope to gain from killing Em?” Diana cried.

“I don’t think Knox was trying to kill her, honey,” Sarah replied. “Knox was reading Emily’s thoughts, or trying his best to. Her last words were, ‘I know the secret of Ashmole 782, and you will never possess it.’”

“Ashmole 782?” Diana looked stunned. “Are you sure?”

“Positive.” Sarah wished her niece had never found that damned manuscript in the Bodleian Library. It was the cause of most of their present problems.

“Knox insisted that the de Clermonts had missing pages from Diana’s manuscript and knew its secrets,” Ysabeau chimed in. “Verin and I told Knox he was mistaken, but the only thing that distracted him from the subject was the baby. Margaret.”

“Nathaniel and Sophie followed us to the temple. Margaret was with them,” Marcus explained in answer to Matthew’s astonished stare. “Before Emily fell unconscious, Knox saw Margaret and demanded to know how two daemons had given birth to a baby witch. Knox invoked the covenant. He threatened to take Margaret to the Congregation pending investigation into what he called ‘serious breaches’ of law. While we were trying to revive Emily and get the baby to safety, Gerbert and Knox slipped away.”

Until recently Sarah had always seen the Congregation and the covenant as necessary evils. It was not easy for the three otherworldly species—daemons, vampires, and witches—to live among humans. All had been targets of human fear and violence at some point in history, and creatures had long ago agreed to a covenant to minimize the risk of their world’s coming to human attention. It limited fraternization between species as well as any participation in human religion or politics. The nine-member Congregation enforced the covenant and made sure that creatures abided by its terms. Now that Diana and Matthew were home, the Congregation could go to hell and take their covenant with them as far as Sarah was concerned.

Diana’s head swung around, and a look of disbelief passed over her face. “Gallowglass?” she breathed as the salon filled with the scent of the sea. “Welcome home, Auntie.” Gallowglass stepped forward, his golden beard gleaming where the sunlight struck it. Diana stared at him in astonishment before a sob broke free.

“There, there.” Gallowglass lifted her into a bear hug. “It’s been some time since the sight of me brought a woman to tears. Besides, it really should be me weeping at our reunion. As far as you’re concerned, it’s been only a few days since we spoke. By my reckoning it’s been centuries.”

Something numinous flickered around the edges of Diana’s body, like a candle slowly catching light. Sarah blinked. She really was going to have to lay off the booze.

Matthew and his nephew exchanged glances. Matthew’s expression grew even more concerned as Diana’s tears increased and the glow surrounding her intensified.

“Let Matthew take you upstairs.” Gallowglass reached into a pocket and pulled out a crumpled yellow bandanna. He offered this to Diana, carefully shielding her from view.

“Is she all right?” Sarah asked.

“Just a wee bit tired,” Gallowglass said as he and Matthew hustled Diana off toward Matthew’s remote tower rooms.

Once Diana and Matthew were gone, Sarah’s fragile composure cracked, and she began to weep. Reliving the events of Em’s death was a daily occur- rence, but having to do so with Diana was even more painful. Fernando appeared, his expression concerned.

“It’s all right, Sarah. Let it out,” Fernando murmured, drawing her close. “Where were you when I needed you?” Sarah demanded as her weeping turned to sobs.

“I’m here now,” Fernando said, rocking her gently. “And Diana and Matthew are safely home.”

“I can’t stop shaking.” Diana’s teeth were chattering, and her limbs were jerking as if pulled by invisible strings. Gallowglass pressed his lips together, standing back while Matthew wrapped a blanket tight around his wife.

“That’s the shock, mon coeur,” Matthew murmured, pressing a kiss to her cheek. It wasn’t just the death of Emily but the memories of the earlier, traumatic loss of her parents that were causing her distress. He rubbed her arms, the blanket moving against her flesh. “Can you get some wine, Gallowglass?”

“I shouldn’t. The babies . . .” Diana began. Her expression turned wild and her tears returned. “They’ll never know Em. Our children will grow up not knowing Em.”

“Here.” Gallowglass thrust a silver flask in Matthew’s direction. His uncle looked at him gratefully.

“Even better,” Matthew said, pulling the stopper free. “Just a sip, Diana. It won’t hurt the twins, and it will help calm you. I’ll have Marthe bring up some black tea with plenty of sugar.”

“I’m going to kill Peter Knox,” Diana said fiercely after she’d taken a sip of whiskey. The light around her grew brighter.

“Not today you’re not,” Matthew said firmly, handing the flask back to Gallowglass.

“Has Auntie’s glaem been this bright since you returned?” Gallowglass hadn’t seen Diana Bishop since 1591, but he didn’t recall it being this notice- able.

“Yes. She’s been wearing a disguising spell. The shock must have knocked it out of place,” Matthew said, lowering her onto the sofa. “Diana wanted Emily and Sarah to enjoy the fact that they were going to be grandmothers before they started asking questions about her increased power.”

Gallowglass bit back an oath.

“Better?” Matthew asked, drawing Diana’s fingers to his lips.

Diana nodded. Her teeth were still chattering, Gallowglass noted. It made him ache to think about the effort it must be taking for her to control herself.

“I am so sorry about Emily,” Matthew said, cupping her face between his hands.

“Is it our fault? Did we stay in the past too long, like Dad said?” Diana spoke so softly it was hard for even Gallowglass to hear.

“Of course not,” Gallowglass replied, his voice brusque. “Peter Knox did this. Nobody else is to blame.”

“Let’s not worry about who’s to blame,” Matthew said, but his eyes were angry.

Gallowglass gave him a nod of understanding. Matthew would have plenty to say about Knox and Gerbert—later. Right now he was concerned with his wife.

“Emily would want you to focus on taking care of yourself and Sarah. That’s enough for now.” Matthew brushed back the coppery strands that were stuck to Diana’s cheeks by the salt from her tears.

“I should go back downstairs,” Diana said, drawing Gallowglass’s bright yellow bandanna to her eyes. “Sarah needs me.”

“Let’s stay up here a bit longer. Wait for Marthe to bring the tea,” Mat- thew said, sitting down next to her. Diana slumped against him, her breath hiccupping in and out as she tried to hold back the tears.

“I’ll leave you two,” Gallowglass said gruffly. Matthew nodded in silent thanks.

“Thank you, Gallowglass,” Diana said, holding out the bandanna. “Keep it,” he said, turning for the stairs.

“We’re alone. You don’t have to be strong now,” Matthew murmured to Diana as Gallowglass descended the twisting staircase.

Gallowglass left Matthew and Diana twined together in an unbreakable knot, their faces twisted with pain and sorrow, each giving the other the comfort they could not find for themselves.

I should never have summoned you here. I should have found another way to get my answers. Emily turned to face her closest friend. You should be with Stephen.

I’d rather be here with my daughter than anywhere else, Rebecca Bishop said. Stephen understands. She turned back to the sight of Diana and Matthew, still locked in their sorrowful embrace.

Do not fear. Matthew will take care of her, Philippe said. He was still trying to figure out Rebecca Bishop—she was an unusually challenging creature, and as skilled at keeping secrets as any vampire.

They’ll take care of each other, Rebecca said, her hand over her heart, just as I knew they would.

Giveaway!

US addresses only, please.  Thanks to Penguin for making this giveaway possible.

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The post Spotlight and Giveaway: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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42. Micro Reviews: Zombies, Cowboys, and Rock Stars

Here’s a look at some books that I read recently but never got around to reviewing.   

Donna of the Dead is a fun, tongue-in-cheek YA zombie book.  I didn’t take this too seriously, and I enjoyed it better for that.  There’s a ton of action, a little romance, and room for a sequel, which I will definitely read.  Donna’s adventures begin on a cruise ship, and her vacation goes to hell as the other passengers succumb to the zombie plague.  She and her best buddy, Deke, manage to battle their way to freedom, only to seek sanctuary at their high school with a handful of uninfected classmates.  This reminded me a lot of the Buffy the Vampire movie (not the TV series!). If you like campy humor and groan worthy one-liners, Donna of the Dead should appeal to you.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Donna Pierce might hear voices, but that doesn’t mean she’s crazy. Probably.

The voices do serve their purpose, though—whenever Donna hears them, she knows she’s in danger. So when they start yelling at the top of their proverbial lungs, it’s no surprise she and her best friend, Deke, end up narrowly escaping a zombie horde. Alone without their families, they take refuge at their high school with the super-helpful nerds, the bossy head cheerleader, and—best of all?—Liam, hottie extraordinaire and Donna’s long-time crush. When Liam is around, it’s easy to forget about the moaning zombies, her dad’s plight to reach them, and how weird Deke is suddenly acting toward her.

But as the teens’ numbers dwindle and their escape plans fall apart, Donna has to listen to the secrets those voices in her head have been hiding. It seems not all the zombies are shuffling idiots, and the half-undead aren’t really down with kids like Donna…

Last of the Red-Hot Cowboys is another book that is best enjoyed with a sense of humor.  Some of the characters are so odd that I feared for the small Texas town they resided in.  Ava has traveled to Hell, Texas to train at the Outlaws Training Center, only to learns, much to her dismay, that Trace, the spokesman for the rodeo training instructors, refuses to train women for the dangerous arena.  Ava wants to be a bullfighter, and she knows that she rides well enough to protect bull riders after they get tossed into the dirt, but Trace says no way!  I liked the quirky characters and verbal exchanges, but some of the shenanigans had me rolling my eyes.  And the mayor’s hair could be a character by itself!  This is the perfect read for a day in the sun.  The smexy times are hot, and the oddball cast kept me amused.

Grade:  B = BEACH READ!

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

A sexy cowgirl gives a rugged Texas loner the ride of his life in USA Today bestselling author Tina Leonard’s seductive new series.

Ava Buchanan dreams of a career on the rodeo circuit. Winning a spot on a one-of-a-kind team would be her ticket to the life she’s always wanted. Ava won’t let anyone stand in her way—not even a stubborn cowboy whose slow-molasses smile and red-hot swagger set her senses aflame . . . and whose talents as a trainer could make her a star. Rodeo might be a man’s game, but Ava knows the right woman’s touch can tame the wildest heart.

Trace Carter believes his mayor’s plan to raise the town’s profile has disaster written all over it, and he won’t allow the Hell’s Outlaws Training Center to be dragged into the fiasco. Yet watching Ava’s delectable body on horseback proves too much of a temptation, and his fantasies stray to her riding skills outside the arena. Soon Trace is fighting like hell to rein in his unbridled desire for the petite brunette before it becomes a passion hotter than the Texas sun.

May Contain Spoilers

I loved this novella!  Poor Lou, a total control freak, chases away the band she’s managing on the eve of their big break.  Desperate to salvage her chance at the big time, she is forced to confront her extreme stage fright, with the help of Zippy, better known as Crash Burns.  Zipman was the big time, until tragedy derailed his career.  Now he has the opportunity to help Lou get over her anxiety about performing onstage.  The chemistry clicked between the protagonists, there’s a great sense of humor, and Lou’s fear of performing live was completely engrossing.  If you are looking for something quick, sexy, and romantic, give Zipless a go.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Rocking, rolling and romancing in New York City — Scottish style!

Unable to perform due to paralyzing anxiety, singer-songwriter Lou Marzaroli has been managing her brother’s band for years, driving them out of Scotland and into the big time. But days before their American network debut, the band is imploding and Lou is relieving her stress in a no-strings-attached sexual encounter with an aging scenester she’s nicknamed Zippy.

The Zipman is sometimes remembered as Crash Burns, formerly of seminal L.A. glampunk band, Snakebite. It’s been years since he’d trashed the eyeliner and hairspray, and he hasn’t written a song since. Now he’s penning lyrics about the mysterious woman he last saw sprinting barefoot in a miniskirt down West Twenty Third. She’s the muse he’s been longing for, and he’s determined to be more than her one night stand.

When the head honchos learn Lou wrote the band’s material, they agree to give her the TV spot, sending her to be coached by their performance guru, Crash Burns. Now Lou must put herself in Zippy’s hands as he coaxes a life-changing performance from her. And the man who used to perform in nothing but a leather thong must find ways to get her confident on stage— and content in only one bed.

20,390 Words

The post Micro Reviews: Zombies, Cowboys, and Rock Stars appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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43. Guest Post with Jennifer Chance, Author of Fake It and Giveaway

Jennifer Chance dropped by with  a special guest post.  Check it out, and then be sure to enter the giveaway!

Five Things You’ll Never Find in Jake Flynn’s Bedroom by Jennifer Chance

Julie, hello and thank you so much for inviting me to your blog today. I absolutely loved your question about Jake’s bedroom, so let’s go behind the door and see what we find out about the hero of my newest release, FAKE IT!

Jake is kind of a minimalistic guy, since he’s generally on the go. He’s just as comfortable in a tent on the beach, as he is in a gorgeous hotel room with all the furnishings. But when it comes to his own bedroom, here are five things you will NEVER find:

1. A Calendar or Day Planner

Jake doesn’t get too hung up on what day it is, or what “appointments” he should be scheduling in the future. He has been known to go off riding for weeks at a time, and when you do that, one day pretty much flows into the other. If he says he’ll show up with your new bike: he’ll show up. Eventually. Of course, with an attitude like that, he knows he’ll have his hands full with planner-obsessed workaholic Anna Richardson . . . then again, having his hands full of Anna is never a bad thing.

2. Running Shoes

Jake keeps in shape by working on bikes, riding hard, and living well – if he’s gotta burn some extra calories, he’s got better ways to do it than hitting the pavement. Besides, he’s a speed junkie. It’s far faster to ride somewhere than it is to run . . . and the scenery changes more quickly, too. So you can go ahead and send those running shoes back to the store: he won’t be needing them. Or better yet, Jake’ll be happy to give you a ride there.

3. Pajamas

Well . . . that one sort of goes without saying. Because you can’t really relax if you’re all buttoned up, right? Of course, now that Jake’s taking Anna away for the weekend, he maybe should invest in a pair . . . nahhhh.

4. A Self Help Book

So, he’ll be the first to admit it: Jake Flynn is a little rough around the edges. He doesn’t handle confrontation terribly well, and he sometimes lets his fists do the talking instead of his mouth. But his “take-life-by-the-handlebars” attitude is something that he comes by naturally, and he doesn’t see the point in changing who he is. Not even for his family, not for some boss somewhere, not even for Anna . . . though for her, he may bend a little.

5. A Magic 8 Ball TM

Jake Flynn doesn’t have all the answers, and he can’t read the future. But that’s okay by him. He really doesn’t need to see what’s coming until it rounds the corner and is heading towards him. And he’s fast enough—and smart enough—to get out of the way if he needs to. He’s also been down the road enough times to know that some of life’s best experiences are the ones you just let happen. He gets a little frustrated with Anna, given her preference to know exactly what’s going on, every second of every day, but the future just isn’t something Jake has time to worry about. He’s too busy enjoying the here and now . . . and he’s bound and determined to teach Anna how to ease up a little on the throttle, too.

And there you have it! Five things you’ll never find in Jake’s bedroom. And this has officially become my favorite blog question EVER. ? Thank you again for having me here today!

Jennifer Chance is back with another novel that’ll keep you hooked.

Anna Richardson meets the baddest (and sexiest) of bad boys in FAKE IT, the second novel in Jennifer Chance’s sizzling Rule Breakers series, out on July 1, 2014 from Random House. This one is not to be missed, especially if you’re looking for a bad boy fix!

Want to get to know Jennifer better? Check out this exclusive interview!

About FAKE IT:

As her sizzling new series continues, Jennifer Chance sparks some serious combustion between a sexy biker and a corporate go-getter who’s ready to let her hair down.

New grad Anna Richardson works hard—so hard that she’s given up having a romantic life. Anna has even convinced her friends that she’s dating an amazing guy—who they’ve simply never met. But now Anna has a wedding to attend and needs to produce the hottie she’s been lying about for the past six months. Enter Jake Flynn, her infuriating, motorcycle-riding, jaw-droppingly gorgeous neighbor, who’s more than willing to fake it for a weekend. In fact, Jake won’t be satisfied until things get real.

Though Jake is only playing the role of adoring boyfriend, he’s starting to feel the heat, and judging by Anna’s sweet blush, so is she. Letting chemistry this intense go to waste would be a real shame. Soon, though, the thin line between fantasy and reality fades. Jake may not be what every buttoned-up fast-tracker wants, but he’s sure as hell what Anna needs. And if she takes a ride with him, their adventure never has to end.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Also in the Rule Breakers series: ROCK IT by Jennifer Chance!

About Jennifer Chance:

Jennifer Chance is the award-winning author of the new adult Rule Breakers series. A lover of books, romance, and happily-ever-afters, she lives and writes in Ohio.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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44. Review: The Return of the Rebel by Jennifer Faye

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

When the author pitched a review of The Return of the Rebel, I was happy to accept.  I love almost all Harlequin imprints, but with my other review commitments, I don’t often find the time to read one unless there is some outside pressure applied (a blog tour or a direct author request).  I didn’t even need to know plot details beyond the primary trope, which is one of my favorites.  For some reason, carrying a torch for your older brother’s best friend always pushes the right buttons for me.  Adding in Jax’s understandable anxiety for the future, and you have a gripping read.  I wish there had either been more attention given to his trial, or that that plot thread hadn’t been included at all.  There’s actually a lot going on in the book, and I felt that the trial was short-changed, but that is a minor quibble.

Cleo has just been promoted, and she’s under a lot of pressure to not only succeed in her new position, but excel as well.  She went over her supervisor’s head for the position, and he isn’t too happy with her about that.  The hostess at a Las Vegas casino, it’s her job to ensure that her client has a wonderful time so that he drops a boatload of cash at the gaming tables.  She gets off to a rocky start after discovering that her privacy-hungry client is none other than Jax Monroe, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks in her small farming community in Wyoming.  Jax was her brother’s friend, and he was also her first crush. She’s still mortified that she tried to kiss him all those years ago.  Soon after that embarrassing fiasco, Jax packed up and left Hope Springs for good.

Cleo has also relocated from Wyoming.  First attending an Ivy League school in East, now she’s settled in Las Vegas.  She’s desperate to make her mark in town, because her family’s ranch is deep in debt.  Her brother blames her for the financial mess;  her father paid for her very expensive college tuition, diminishing the family coffers.  He was tragically killed in an accident, and her mother blames her for his death.  Estranged from her family, Cleo suffers from guilt and is determined to help bail them out of their money problems.

Her reunion with Jax doesn’t go well, and her supervisor threatens to fire her if her behavior doesn’t change pronto.  Jax, traveling incognito, doesn’t want anyone to know where he is.  He’s the key witness in a money-laundering case, and there is someone out to get him.  When Cleo is the unwitting victim of the attacker, Jax steps in to protect her by whisking her away to a friend’s mansion, where they both are forced to own up to their past, as well as contemplate their plans for the future.

I think Jax’s health concerns made this a winner for me.  He is so afraid that he won’t have a future that he keeps shutting down his relationship with Cleo.  His own parents died young, and he is terrified that he will, too.  He doesn’t want to put a family through that, so he has decided that he won’t allow himself to fall in love, and forget having kids at all.  There’s no way he’s going to put a child through the painful loss of a parent.  He’s coming from a fragile emotional state, and even though he’s bested his disease this time, he’s fearful that it will return, and so he closes up and refuses to allow himself the luxury of falling in love with Cleo.

Cleo is dealing with emotional baggage as well.  She regrets her last conversation with her father, and she has taken her mother’s blame to heart.  If she hadn’t been such a disappointment to her parents, her father would still be alive.  She hasn’t spoken to her mother in years, and the loss of her family eats away at her.  Jax recognizes how important her family is, and suffering from an unpleasant childhood, he urges her to make up with her mother.   I thought each character had a convincing reason to avoid commitment, so it was gratifying as each overcame the past and their painful regrets and rediscovered the wonder of trust and caring.

The Return of the Rebel is a sweet read, and it’s a perfect read while you are lounging in the sun.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by author

From Amazon:

The guy from the wrong side of the tracks… 

Being promoted should be a dream come true, only it means working closely with Cleo’s childhood crush, Jax Monroe. Jax may no longer be the rebel she remembers, but he still gets her heart racing like no other.  

Jax cares too much about Cleo to let her get too close—but keeping his distance is proving impossible! As Jax reveals the extent of what he’s been through, will Cleo show him that some things are too precious to put off until tomorrow?

Purchase At

Amazon   |   Amazon – UK   |  Barnes & Noble   |  Harlequin  |  Kobo  |  iTunes

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45. Spotlight and Giveaway: Dark Paradise by Angie Sandro

 

About DARK PARADISE:

DARK LEGACY
Mala LaCroix has spent her whole life trying to escape her destiny. As the last in a long line of “witch women,” she rejects the notion of spirits and hoodoo and instead does her best to blend in. But when she finds a dead body floating in the bayou behind her house, Mala taps into powers she never knew she had. She’s haunted by visions of the dead girl, demanding justice and vengeance.

DEADLY SECRETS
Landry Prince has always had a crush on Mala, but when Mala discovers his sister, murdered and marked in some sort of Satanic ritual, he wonders if all the rumors about the LaCroix family are true. Yet after Mala uses her connection to the spirit world to identify his sister’s killer, he starts to form his own bond to her . . . a very physical one. As they move closer to each other and closer to the truth, Mala and Landry must risk everything-their families, their love, and even their live

About Angie Sandro:

Angie Sandro was born at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Within six weeks, she began the first of eleven relocations throughout the United States, Spain, and Guam before the age of eighteen. Friends were left behind. The only constants in her life were her family and the books she shipped wherever she went. Traveling the world inspired her imagination and allowed her to create her own imaginary friends. Visits to her father’s family in Louisiana inspired this story. Angie now lives in Northern California with her husband, two children, and an overweight Labrador.

Angie’s SM:

http://anjeasandro.blogspot.com/

http://facebook.com/pages/Angie-Sandro/253044268078356

@AngieSandro

Buy links:

B&N: http://bit.ly/1rImn9K

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

iTunes: http://bit.ly/1lVTNkk

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

Landry’s truck sits in the driveway when I stroll out of the house at a quarter to eight in the morning. I’m in such a glorious mood that I don’t bother trying to sneak off without him catching sight of me. It would’ve been easy, I learn upon climbing on the bumper and sticking my head through the truck’s open window. He has the seat pushed back and his legs stretched out kitty corner across the passenger seat. Snores, loud enough to scare a bear, echo through the cab.

I reach in and poke his shoulder a few times. “Wake up, Sleeping Beauty.”

Landry’s thick lashes flutter then open to meet mine. “I’m supposed to be woken with a kiss, not a jab.”

I snort. “I don’t kiss slimy critters. You’re playing double duty as a frog, and I throw them in a frying pan with a little butter and garlic.”

“Oh, so now you’re trying to butter me up?”

The heat of a blush rises. “Saints, boy. You’re fraying my last nerve.” I plant my hands on my hips, toe tapping. “What are you doing here? In case you forgot, I’m mad at you.”

“No you’re not.” He grins and runs his fingers through his thick hair. My breath catches as my brain stutters. I shake my head to dispel the wave of pheromone-induced stupidity that washes over me. My noses twitches. Why does he have to smell so good? Like cinnamon and brown sugar. “Did you forget yester—”

An oily paper bag flies in my direction. I grab it out of the air before it drops to the ground. It’s warm in my hands, and the smell makes my mouth water. “Ooh, cinnamon rolls,” I mumble around the melting mouthful of cinnamon-y goodness. “I love these.”

“I know,” Landry says, throwing open the truck door.

I hop off the bumper with a scowl. The arrogant jerk thinks he has me eating out of his hands; all he has to do is flutter those insanely long eyelashes, smile to show off his pearly whites, and tempt me with fresh, warm buns.

“These are mine?” I clutch the bag to my chest as I eye him in suspicion.

“Yeah, they’re your favorite, right?”

“Mmm hmm.”

Landry props his elbow on the open window and ducks his head. Black hair tangles across his face, hiding his eyes. “I hoped you’d be more accepting of my apology if I bribed you with sweets. Forgive me for being an ass yesterday?”

Lucky guy. He figured out the fastest way to soften my heartstrings—sugar. Wait how does he know they’re my favorite? Stupid question. It’s like him knowing my nickname and my job. He pays way too much attention to me, and I’m kinda scared to ask why. I stare at my sticky fingers, then lick the icing off one by one. Landry’s gaze draws my attention. He’s staring at my mouth. My gut tightens in response, and I slowly lick my lips. Get a grip. Don’t trust him just because he says he’s sorry.

I concentrate on the mouthful of cinnamon roll. Each chew echoes the rapid patter of my heart. God, why does my body react like this when I’m around him? Why? He’s still staring at me. Can’t he tell I’m uncomfortable? Oh, I get it. He’s irritating me on purpose so I can’t totally ignore him.

I pass the empty bag to him. “You’re not going away, are you?”

“Nope.” He smiles.

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46. Interview with Candis Terry, Author of Something Sweeter and Giveaway

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

[Candis Terry] First, thank you for having me here today. Lots of great questions. Let’s get started!

Busy. Goofy. Happy. Entertaining. Odd. That last one came from my daughter. Go figure.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about your Something Sweeter?

[Candis Terry] I’d be happy to! Something Sweeter is the third full-length book in my Sweet, Texas series. There are also two Sweet, Texas novellas. After writing Anything But Sweet and Sweetest Mistake where both books had heroes with lots of angst issues, Something Sweeter was a lot of fun to write. But it too has a lot of depth. The story is about former Marine/playboy veterinarian Jesse Wilder who meets Allison Lane, the daughter of the man his mother plans to marry. Allison is a wedding planner who doesn’t believe in happily ever afters. Fearing Allison might destroy his mother’s happiness, Jesse takes it upon himself to prove that she’s wrong about relationships and a forever kind of love.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Candis Terry] The Wilder brothers are very real to me. Through the first couple of books I just couldn’t help thinking how much fun it would be to give one of them a heroine who actually thought like him and then for him to try and change her mind. I wanted to turn the tables on Jesse who loves and appreciates women but never plans to settle down. For him to have to convince Allison that true love and happily ever afters do exist was a really fun ride.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

[Candis Terry] The wicked fun banter between Jesse and Allison. Jesse is very smart and quick-witted. He definitely found his match in Allison.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with this story?

[Candis Terry] Without a doubt it has to be Allison’s background and the reason she’s afraid to believe that a man and a woman will stay together forever and love each other like crazy for all those years. In every story I write there’s a little bit of something I’m familiar with, whether it’s from my personal life or someone I know. That something always adds a dimension to the story that sometimes, honestly, just breaks my heart. Allison’s story did exactly that.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had a theme song, what would it be?

[Candis Terry] Me personally? I’d have to do a very twisted musical mash-up between Welcome to the Jungle by Guns and Roses and Happy by Pharrell Williams. Seriously. Maybe that’s why my daughter calls me odd.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing you won’t leave home without.

[Candis Terry] Chapstick. Seriously. I’m addicted. I’d totally freak out if I don’t have at least one tube on me at all times. Please don’t judge. ?

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

[Candis Terry] Only three? Because there’s a lot of junk! Okay, a cute little piggy calendar, a Sweet Home Chicago candle I received from an awesome reader, and a brand new 32 GB Flash Drive.

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

[Candis Terry] One of the Kardashians because I’d loved to be pampered to that luxurious extent for just one day. But then I’d want my own life back really fast because that family is kind of crazy.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Candis Terry] Like everyone else I devour books like crazy. Writing my own books (on deadline) has kind of put a damper on that because I’m usually too pooped to read. But the last couple of books I’ve read and enjoyed are; Fury of Fate by Coreene Callahan (a Dragonfury novella), Rush Too Far by Abbi Glines, Just to Be With You by Bella Andre, and last night I started reading Gimme Some Sugar by Kimberly Kincaid.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Candis Terry] I have a big country garden that I like to challenge myself with to see if I can keep the plants alive all through the hot summer. Also my family and I are campers. We like to take our trailer out into the Idaho forests to ATV, relax and fish. I’m not going to apologize for having a big trailer with a shower and a microwave because I spent plenty of years sleeping on the ground in a tent with a couple of little kids who liked to complain. A lot.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Candis Terry] I’m most active on Facebook. I promise I do respond to my readers. And if I get a personal message from one of them I always answer. I truly appreciate them.

Website: www.candisterry.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Candis-Terry/131817443567853?focus_composer=true&ref_type=bookmark

Twitter: @CandisTerry

 

Something Sweeter

Sweet Texas Series #3

By: Candis Terry

Releasing June 24th, 2014

Blurb

The men in Texas are hard to resist . . . Seattle event planner Allison Lane is an expert at delivering the perfect wedding—even if she might not exactly believe in the whole “’til death do us part” thing. When her father decides to tie the knot with a woman he barely knows, Allison heads to Sweet, Texas, to make sure his new honey is the real deal. What she didn’t expect to find at the local honky-tonk was a sexy Southern man as bent on charming her pants off as he is on blowing her “true love doesn’t exist” theory all to hell. And they always promise . . .
Veterinarian, former Marine, and Sweet’s favorite playboy Jesse Wilder takes one look at Allison and knows she’s a handful of trouble he can’t deny. But even after a sizzling kiss and obvious mutual attraction, it seems Allison has no such problem. When Jesse uncovers her sweet side, can he crush his playboy image, melt her cynical heart, and change her mind about taking a trip down the aisle?

Link to Follow Tour: http://tastybooktours.blogspot.com/2014/05/now-booking-tasty-virtual-tour-for_20.html

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Something-Sweeter-Sweet-Texas-Candis-ebook/dp/B00FJ34YHS/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/something-sweeter-candis-terry/1117005010?ean=9780062237262

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/something-sweeter/id718579932?mt=11

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18599713-something-sweeter?from_search=true

Author Info

Candis Terry was born and raised near the sunny beaches of Southern California and now makes her home on an Idaho farm. She’s experienced life in such diverse ways as working in a Hollywood recording studio to chasing down wayward steers. Only one thing has remained the same: her passion for writing stories about relationships, the push and pull in the search for love, and the security one finds in their own happily ever after.

Author Links

Website: http://www.candisterry.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/candis.terry

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CandisTerry

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4935263.Candis_Terry

Giveaway

*Please enter the Wedding Themed Sweepstakes at:

http://avonromance.com/sweepstakes

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47. Lovestruck Blog Tour with Sandy James and Abigail Sharpe

I have two special guests this morning!  Both Abby Sharpe and Sandy James chimed in on questions to never ask a writer on a deadline. 

Five Things to Never Ask Abby Sharpe on Deadline

5. When’s dinner?
I’m the dinner-maker of the household (though the kids are starting to help, kicking and screaming while it happens). So if I don’t plan ahead, my husband will take the easy way with fast food. And I admit it – sometimes I just don’t feel like thinking of dinner. Mmmmm… greasy burgers…

4. Can I have some (ice cream, chocolate, something sugary and superbad for me)?
On second thought, this is the best time to ask me. Because I’ll most likely say yes, since I’m distracted. You sneaky child…

3. What are you doing?
I guess I’m doing a good job of feigning sanity if you can’t tell what my opened laptop and clumps of hair nearby mean.

4. What’s your book about?
About eleven months of long, drawn out torture…

5. Almost done?
No. I will never, ever, ever be done. Ever. This will consume my every moment until I keel over, my head finishing the story for me as it hits the keyboard and comes with yutt5rtyuy7frdredfrt5ikjo up 6tr54e7u6y

About WHO WANTS TO MARRY A DOCTOR:

As a single mom and pediatrician, Sabrina Bankhead doesn’t have time for romance. All that changes when she reluctantly agrees to take part in a dating show fundraiser for a children’s hospital. But once she sets eyes on the journalist hired to cover the show, none of the four contestants stand a chance. If she doesn’t choose one of the eligible bachelors, the hospital doesn’t raise a cent. What’s a lovestruck doc to do? Investigative journalist Quinn Donnelly is on the mend after an assignment in Afghanistan left him both physically and emotionally scarred. Though he’s itching to return overseas and finish his story, he’ll have to be content with this fluff piece assignment to cover a local dating show. One-night stands are Quinn’s forte-but after he meets Sabrina, he’s ready to say yes for the long haul. After years of chasing the next big story, Quinn is starting to wonder if maybe home really can be where the heart is . . .

About Abigail Sharpe:

Abigail is a Boston-bred Yankee now eating grits and saying “y’all” in North Central Florida. She dreamed more of being a stage actress or joining the CIA than being an author. While she still enjoys participating in community theater productions and singing karaoke, the secret-agent career was replaced by hours at her computer, writing stories of love and laughter and happily ever after.  Abigail lives with her husband, two kids, and one crazy princess puppy. You can keep up with her on Goodreads, Facebook or on her website.

Abigail’s SM:

http://www.abigailsharpe.com

http://facebook.com/AbigailSharpeAuthor

@AbigailSharpe

Excerpt:

“I just called to…” Sabrina’s words jammed in her throat. No way could she admit that she just wanted to hear his voice.

Thankfully Quinn didn’t make her finish her sentence. “I’m glad you called.” The gruff in his voice was still there, but it had changed to something softer, sending a little thrill down her body.

“You are?” Was that low, throaty sound coming from her?

“Yeah. I missed you tonight.”

A niggling feeling centered in her brain and sent stabs of doubt to her heart. I missed you sounded good, but maybe he just missed his bed warmer. “Missed me?”

“I mean, you know, talking to you.” Quinn chuckled. “Don’t get me wrong – having you naked is a nice side benefit, but I don’t only want you for your body, Doc. I didn’t get to speak to you today, and when I got home it seemed my day wasn’t complete.”

She had the same feeling, but tried to play it down. “It was a busy day.”

He yawned, and she heard his bed sheets rustling. “Good thing there’s email and cell phones so we can keep talking once I’m done with the show and back in Afghanistan. You’d make the day brighter even in a desert.”

She covered her eyes to quell the burning behind them, wanting to block out the reminder that he wasn’t in Harbin forever, that he’d be leaving and putting himself in danger, taking a good part of her with him. “That’s a nice thing to say, Quinn.”

“Apparently I talk a lot when I’m tired.” He gave a huff of laughter. “You don’t have to humor me.”

“I woke you. I’m sorry. You should go back to sleep.”

“Talking to you is much nicer than sleep.”

Her heart fluttered into her stomach, danced down to her toes and shot right back to her chest. Forget killing her. This was drawn-out torture, one to which she willingly submitted.

“Let me turn off my light.” Her voice dropped and got breathy. She flipped her switch and cuddled under her sheets with the phone tucked under her ear. She wrapped her arms around herself, imagining Quinn’s warm, strong hands in place of the flannel on her skin, touching her, stroking her in lazy circles while they lay in each others arms. “I’m back.”

His voice was no longer gruff, but still low, almost a growl. “How was your date tonight?”

Was that jealousy? “Do we have to talk about it? Can’t you wait until Friday like everyone else?”

“I can, but I’m not everyone else. Haven’t I told you this before?”

Like she needed the reminder. It had been a long, long time since a man had shattered her safe world.

“Besides, we’re taping tomorrow. Remember I’m heading to Atlanta on Friday to see my doctors.”

The doctors that would clear him to return to the desert. The doctors that would send him away from her. She focused on the present. “Brian wasn’t the egotistical megalomaniac that he was last week.”

“Hmmmm.” He chuckled. “Does this mean I have competition?”

“I dunno,” she teased. “He did take me out dancing. You know that’s the way to a girl’s heart.”

“As long as it’s not the way to her mind.” He cleared his throat, and his voice became cautious. “I know I don’t have any say in your personal life, but if you think you could be happy with him, you should see where it goes.”

“Oh.” What the hell did that mean? Disappointment tightened her chest like a blood pressure cuff and her eyes moistened. What was she thinking? “Look, it’s getting late. You should sleep.”

“Don’t hang up.” His voice lowered again, almost a whisper. “We’ve never able to spend a full night together. If this is the only way, then you have to stay on the phone.”

“Seriously?”

“I do have to warn you. I snore.”

She laughed softly and turned on her side, snuggling under the covers, her emotions playing havoc with her common sense. “I know.”

Buy links for WHO WANTS TO MARRY A DOCTOR:

B&N: http://bit.ly/VrKRKg

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1lsE7FC

iTunes: http://bit.ly/1m1Mc5m

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

Five Things Never to Ask a Writer on Deadline by Sandy James

1. “What if you get writer’s block?” You seriously just asked me that? No one should even mention something as terrifying as writer’s block to an author who is pounding away at her laptop and nervously watching the clock. Ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

2. “You mean you don’t want to _____?” Fill in the missing phrase with some exciting and life-affirming activity. Go to the park? Go out for supper? Go shopping? Of course I want to_____! But I have my priorities straight and refuse to miss a deadline. Ever.

3. “Would it be a problem to put the computer aside for a couple of hours?” Yes. Yes, it would. And that question could easily earn you a smack upside the head that would be entirely accidental of course.

4. “Why don’t I have clean underwear?” Because you’ve obviously assumed I’m the only human being in this house who has the magical ability to make the washing machine work. Oh look! You turn the knob! So very complicated!

5. “Don’t you get tired of writing all the time?” No. No, I don’t. In fact, I doubt I shall EVER tire of it!

About SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED:

Juliana has spent thirteen years in the same teaching job. She’s ready to dive into a new career with both feet . . . when a run-in with the hottest man she’s ever seen knocks her head over heels. But with her failed marriage to a fellow teacher fresh on her mind, Jules can’t afford to lose herself in a relationship-no matter how perfect it may seem.  Connor Wilson has hit rock bottom when he loses his career as a top-notch Realtor because of a large gambling debt. Now, in a small town he finds a fresh start-and a gorgeous redhead who sparks new life into him. Together they start a successful real estate company, but when pleasure sneaks into the business, they’ll have to decide what they can let go . . . and what they can’t live without.

About Sandy James:

Sandy James lives in a quiet suburb of Indianapolis with her husband. She’s a high school social studies teacher who especially loves psychology and United States history. Since she and her husband own a small stable of harness racehorses, they often spend time together at the two Indiana racetracks.

Sandy’s SM:

http://www.sandy-james.com/about.html

http://facebook.com/sandyjamesbooks

@sandyjamesbooks

Excerpt:

Connor Wilson leaned back in his chair and waited for the presentation to start. Not that the seminar was going to change his mind about facing this new real estate market solo. He was there strictly for research, learning everything he could about the competition.

He’d made this move to such a small market for all the right reasons, and there was profit to be had here. He could smell it as easily as a pig sniffing for truffles.

Max Schumm. Cloverleaf’s number one Realtor. He held court near the front of the conference room, close to the table his assistants had piled with swag—calendars, pens, refrigerator magnets. Not a surprise that his office staff, his minions, were all women while his Realtors were mostly men. He counted only two ladies in the bright blue Schumm blazers, and every advertisement he’d checked contained listings by males.

The town and the surrounding counties were ripe for the picking.

Time for the king to get knocked off his throne.

Glancing around the three big, round tables set with six places each, Connor sized up the people who thought they might have the chops to sell homes. A pitiful lot it was. He’d dismissed each and every one, noticing Max doing the same thing as he appraised the newbies. The only person Max kept staring at was Connor, probably because he knew a true salesman when he spotted one.

Perhaps he even recognized him from his past. Indianapolis wasn’t a huge market, but it was somewhat close and Connor had been well known there. Two years away wasn’t all that long to distance himself from making sales or getting new listings. Their paths might have crossed on a long-distance move, although he was sure he’d have remembered a man like Max. Damn if the guy didn’t look like an eighties game show host, from his oversprayed hair to his fake tan to his far-too-white teeth.

What Max didn’t know was that Connor had no intention of becoming part of Schumm Homes. While Max would undoubtedly make him an offer of employment, there was only one firm Connor intended to work for—the newest agency in town.

Wilson Realty.

The time for the program to begin came and went, causing him to make a mental note, matching the information he’d already gathered. Tardiness was one of Max’s sins. He had others, but the most mentioned was his disregard for other people’s time.

Just as Max stepped closer to the podium, talking in low tones with the Ramada’s technical advisor, a kid who had to be right out of college, a couple appeared at the double-door entrance.

Connor caught and held his breath when he saw the woman.

Hair the color of a setting sun—the most gorgeous shade of natural red he’d ever seen. It was long and down, bouncing around her shoulders in wavy cascades. She wore a perfect black dress. Not a slutty “little black dress” but one that would work fine for business and pleasure, with a square neck that showed a hint of generous cleavage. She was curvy without being too curvy. Her legs seemed to go on forever, and the black stilettos were enough to finish him off.

He was no longer thinking about Max Schumm or real estate or the Cloverleaf market. Connor wasn’t going to be paying an ounce of attention to anything anyone had to say tonight. Not with the redheaded vision heading right for his table. Too bad she was with another guy, because there was nothing he wanted more than to take her home.

It had been a long time since he’d felt such a swift and severe attraction. The closer she drew, the harder his heart pounded. Since the last empty seats were at his table, it was a given she and her escort were going to sit next to him.

“Mind if we sit here?” she asked, her husky voice hitting him right in the groin.

“Um, no. Go ahead.” Then the blood started flowing back to Connor’s brain long enough for him to remember his manners. He stood up and pulled out the chair for her, drawing a lopsided smile from her escort, who hadn’t made a move to help.

She dropped a rather large black purse on the floor, sat down, and smiled sweetly over her shoulder as Connor pushed her up to the table. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Her perfume drifted his way. Something light yet sensual. Hell, everything about her was sensual. She moved like a feline, all sleek lines and confidence. He wanted to sweep the gorgeous creature into his arms, carry her up to his third-floor room, and make love to her until they both collapsed in sated exhaustion. He let a light chuckle slip as he wondered what she’d say if he up and told her exactly what he was thinking.

She tossed him a charming smile, but he couldn’t enjoy it because he was too busy looking to see if she or the guy who’d escorted her to the table wore a wedding ring.

Neither did, and Connor did a mental jig. He wasn’t leaving without this beautiful creature’s phone number.

Maybe his fresh start in this new place was truly going to be his salvation. Maybe he could really leave his past behind and forge a new life here after all. Maybe a leopard could finally change his spots.

For the first time in as long as he could remember, he felt the confidence and purpose that had been missing for far too long. He would make a life for himself here, earn a decent profit, and maybe get back to the world of the living.

Only time would tell.

Buy links for SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED:

B&N: http://bit.ly/1m1MN6V

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

iTunes: http://bit.ly/TBZusI

Amazon: http://amzn.to/TngXF0

The post Lovestruck Blog Tour with Sandy James and Abigail Sharpe appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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48. Interview with Michele Summers, Author of Find My Way Home and Giveaway!

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

[Michele Summers] Funny, blunt (in a good way, I hope), sarcastic (not always good), creative and loyal!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Find My Way Home?

[Michele Summers] Find My Way Home is the first in the Harmony Homecomings series. My heroine, Bertie Anderson wants nothing more than to move away from her small, hometown and make it big as an interior designer. She’s only three weeks away from reaching her goal when she’s given the challenge to redesign the old Victorian in town she’s always dreamed about. But there’s a catch: she has to finish in three months with the reward of a huge bonus if she does. No probs. Easy peasy. Except her client is Keith Morgan, retired professional tennis player and bad boy of Miami.

Keith has moved to Harmony with a huge chip on his shoulder (along with a lot of guilt) in hopes of changing his life and making a better one for him and his ten-year old daughter. What he doesn’t expect is the small town quirkiness he encounters, his aunt’s ultimatum to get married in three months, and his uncontrollable attraction to his maddening designer, Bertie. Lots of sparks and laughs!

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you share your favorite scene?

[Michele Summers] Gosh, so many. How do I choose? I absolutely adore the ending, but I won’t give that away. But it makes me laugh and smile every time I read it. Near the beginning, one of my favorites is when Keith takes Bertie to the Dog, the local diner for the first time, and he’s shocked by the crazy, colorful interiors. He insults Bertie, who designed the interiors, with his commentary and the evening goes downhill from there.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?

[Michele Summers] Making the hero, Keith’s anger and resentment from his major life changes come across without making him unlikable. Trying to convey his apprehension, without sounding too bitter, was a real challenge for me. I hope I nailed it!

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

[Michele Summers] Unfortunately, these days, it’s my cell phone…I guess we all live in fear of leaving it behind. But, I also have an obsession with hand lotions…keep them everywhere, in my handbag, car, desk top. I wouldn’t leave home without it.

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

[Michele Summers] Waterford ring holder to hold all my jewelry when I’m typing. My Bem wireless speaker for music and, wait for it…backscratcher. My back always itches and it comes in handy!

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

[Michele Summers] I’d like to be all healthy and say baby carrots with hummus, which I do eat on occasion, but when a deadline is looming I crave sour gummy candy…particularly Haribo Sour Spaghetti. (sounds gross, I know). The sour pucker wakes me up! If you have any on hand…don’t hesitate to send it over. ;-)

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

[Michele Summers] Again, I’d like to be noble and wise and say something like, Oprah or Ruth Bader Ginsberg. But really, I’d like to trade places with Hugh Jackman’s wife! Just for one day…come on, I don’t think she’d mind!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week.  Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Michele Summers] It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s Superman! I think I’d want to fly. Amazing aerial view and I could get where I needed to go with no traffic.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Michele Summers] First Love by James Patterson: touching story with lots of humor.

Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick: even better than the movie…thought provoking.

How A Lady Weds a Rogue by Katharine Ashe: interesting and different and well-written.

The Bride Says No by Cathy Maxwell: again different, but well-written…kept me up all night!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Michele Summers] Readers can connect with me at: www.michelesummers.com where they can sign-up to join my newsletter and hear about new releases, contests and more. Also,

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Michele-Summers/549145438478629

Twitter: https://twitter.com/michele_summers

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7274198.Michele_Summers

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/michelesummers5/

Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today. It’s been such fun and I hope you enjoy reading Find My Way Home.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Interior decorator Bertie Anderson is almost ready to say goodbye to small-town life in Harmony, North Carolina. She’s excited about living her dream life at her new job in Atlanta, the design capital of the South. She just has one last job to do…

Keith Morgan is ready to leave life in the fast lane (a.k.a., Miami) for a quiet life where he can raise his ten-year-old daughter. Unfortunately, his new lifestyle is threatened the moment he lays eyes on the decorator his aunt hired to help him create his dream home—the curvaceous temptation that is Bertie Anderson. As Bertie begins to turn his house into a home, will he find his way into her heart before it’s too late?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debut author Michele Summers writes about small-town life with a Southern flair. She loves to knit and has her own interior design business in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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The post Interview with Michele Summers, Author of Find My Way Home and Giveaway! appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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49. TURNING PAGES: HOOP DREAMS by Lorna Schultz Nicholson

Hello, Sports Fans! It's the dog days of summer... well, the puppy days, anyway, and sports are what's on the telly. Sports are what's on the page, too. Despite my complete-klutz status, I love a good sports novel and this fab one comes to us from... Read the rest of this post

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50. ONE PAST MIDNIGHT by Jessica Shirvington {Review}

Review by Andye ONE PAST MIDNIGHT(Previously Between the Lives)by Jessica ShirvingtonHardcover: 352 pagesPublisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (July 22, 2014)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon Sabine isn’t like anyone else. For as long as she can remember, she’s had two lives. Every twenty-four hours she ‘Shifts’, living each day twice. In one life, Sabine has everything: popular friends,

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