A MONSTER LIKE ME by Pamela Sparkman

Heart of Darkness series #2

HELLO STRANGER by Lisa Kleypas

The Ravenels series #4

THE BUTTERFLY PROJECT by Emma Scott

Companion to the Full Tilt series

PLAYING FOR KEEPS by Jill Shalvis

Heartbreaker Bay series #7

UNWRITTEN by Jen Frederick

Woodlands series #5

Cross My Heart by L.H. Cosway

Hearts series #5.75

MOONSHADOW by Thea Harrison

Moonshadow series #1

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Blog Tour with Excerpt: The Mirror Man by Jane Gilmartin


Meet Jeremiah Adams. There are two of him.


THE MIRROR MAN by JANE GILMARTIN
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: October 20, 2020 
Genre: science fiction, suspense, thriller
Publisher: Mira

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Synopsis

The offer is too tempting: be part of a scientific breakthrough, step out of his life for a year, and be paid hugely for it. When ViGen Pharmaceuticals asks Jeremiah to be part of an illegal cloning experiment, he sees it as a break from an existence he feels disconnected from. No one will know he’s been replaced—not the son who ignores him, not his increasingly distant wife—since a revolutionary drug called Meld can transfer his consciousness and memories to his copy.

From a luxurious apartment, he watches the clone navigate his day-to-day life. But soon Jeremiah discovers that examining himself from an outsider’s perspective isn’t what he thought it would be, and he watches in horror as “his” life spirals out of control. ViGen needs the experiment to succeed—they won’t call it off, and are prepared to remove any obstacle. With his family in danger, Jeremiah needs to finally find the courage to face himself head-on.






EXCERPT

Charles Scott glared down at him with a glint in his green eyes that felt like a warning, and Jeremiah replayed in his head the man’s ambiguous threat during their first meeting several weeks before.

“You now know as much about this project as anyone else involved,” he’d said. “It wouldn’t do to have too many people walking around with this kind of information. Our investors have a tendency to get nervous.”

Although Scott had quickly followed that remark with the matter of Jeremiah’s substantial compensation, there was no mistaking the implication: the moment he’d been told about the cloning project Jeremiah was already in. That first meeting hadn’t been an invitation so much as an orientation, and the contract he’d later signed had been a formality, at best. And the entire thing had done nothing but gain momentum from that moment on.

Dr. Pike continued to affix the wires to Jeremiah’s head. Jeremiah focused on the man’s gleaming black hair and the deep brown of his sure, professional hands, and he struggled to remember the allure of the $10 million payout he’d get at the end of the whole thing. That kind of money could fix a lot of problems. It would change things. The prospect of that fortune had been enough to make him turn away from principles he thought were unshakable. Every man has his price, he supposed.

Somewhere in the back of his mind he also acknowledged the real temptation of a twelve-month sabbatical from his own life. It had seduced him every bit as much as the money had. Maybe more. Between a job that had already begun to make him question his own morals, and a marriage that felt increasingly more like a lie, stress was eating him alive. And into his lap fell a chance to just walk away from all of it—without consequence and without blame. A free pass. He could simply walk away without anyone even knowing he was gone. There isn’t a man alive, he told himself, who would have refused. Despite the ethical question, despite that human cloning was illegal the world over, it would have tempted anyone.

Dr. Pike injected the clone with Meld and then turned wordlessly to Jeremiah with the second syringe poised above his left shoulder.

Jeremiah closed his eyes and rolled up his sleeve.

After the initial stab of the needle, he felt nothing. Which is not to say he didn’t feel anything; he literally felt nothing. Seconds after the injection, he became aware of a total emptiness, like a towering black wave that threatened to sink him into an immeasurable void. The experience was unlike anything he’d ever known. He imagined an astronaut suddenly untethered from his ship, floating helplessly into unending darkness. Without thinking, he immediately felt his body recoil. His mind screamed against it.

I’m dying!

From impossibly far away, he heard Dr. Pike say something about a heart rate and felt the slight pressure of a hand on his shoulder. He couldn’t see anything of the hospital room anymore. He was drowning in the blackness. His chest felt suddenly constricted. He fought just to find his breath.

“This is all perfectly normal, Mr. Adams. You have nothing to worry about. Concentrate on the sound of my voice. Nod if you can hear me.”

With considerable effort, Jeremiah managed what he hoped was a nod of his head. He was suddenly gripped by the alarming certainty that if he couldn’t communicate somehow, he’d be lost—swept away forever.

“Good. Good. Listen to my voice. It will keep you grounded.” Pike still sounded far away, but Jeremiah nodded again and struggled to focus. “What you are experiencing is to be expected. Do you remember when you took the Meld with Dr. Young? Do you remember the way you could feel her thoughts for the first few minutes?”

He nodded. It had been an unnerving thing to perceive her consciousness mixing with his like that. Flashes from her mind—odd, alien things like the feel of a blister on the back of her right heel, the familiar gleam in the eye of an old man he’d never seen—had swirled into the very structure of his own mind and fought for a place to settle. He had railed against that, too, and she had grounded him by flashing a penlight in his face, making him focus on that while the Meld took effect. Afterward, once he had sunk in, it had been easier.

“This is no different than what you experienced then,” Pike said. “This time, though, you are connected to an empty mind. There’s nothing there. But the more you resist, the longer this will take. You need to relax, Mr. Adams. Give in to it.”

Jeremiah nodded again and then shook his head with as much grit as he could muster. How does one give in to this? He didn’t think he could do it.

“Once your thoughts begin transferring into the mind of the clone it will be easier for you,” Pike urged. “Focus on a memory, as I suggested. Something vivid. It will help to fill that void you’re experiencing now. It will give you something to hang on to.”

Without the benefit of his full faculties, Jeremiah had little choice but to grab the last thing he’d been thinking about—his initial conversation with Charles Scott, the day all of this began.

He’d been surprised when he’d received an invitation to lunch from ViMed’s head of Engineering. The man was an icon in the science world, and although he’d quoted him a hundred times for the company, Jeremiah had never actually met him. He’d been intrigued enough to accept the invitation, especially when Scott had told him it involved a “proposition that could make him a very wealthy man.”

Flashes of that encounter and snatches of conversation now flitted through his mind like so many fireflies. He fought to catch them.

“We’ve been watching you, Mr. Adams.”

“All we ask is one year of your life. Isn’t that worth $10 million?”

“We can do this. The science exists. And with Meld, the clone will even share your thought patterns… Your own mother won’t know the difference.”

“This is sanctioned by powerful people—we have millions in secret federal backing. There are billions more in eventual funding… There’s no need to be so suspicious, Mr. Adams.”

From somewhere far away, Jeremiah heard Dr. Pike repeating his name. He had been so engulfed in his efforts to hold on to the memory that he’d almost forgotten where he was. As soon as he realized it, the void loomed again in his mind.

“Mr. Adams,” Pike said, “you’ve got to listen to me. The clone cannot pick up on any memory of the experiment. What you’re thinking about is not going to help. You need to think about something else, some memory that won’t be filtered. His mind is still empty.”

Jeremiah panicked. He couldn’t think. And now that he wasn’t focused on anything, the blackness began to take over again, creeping closer and threatening to swallow him. He fought for breath.

“Relax, Mr. Adams,” Pike said. “Think about your job here at ViMed. Remember something the clone can actually use. Something he’ll need to know.”

He felt a dull jab at his shoulder.

“This should help. I’ve given you a mild sedative. Take a few deep breaths. Concentrate on your breathing.”

With everything in him, Jeremiah tried to turn his mind away from the void that seemed to be all around him. He inhaled deeply and tried to focus on the rise of his own chest. Exhaled, and he felt his chest fall.

“Very good, Mr. Adams. Very good. Pulse is returning to normal. Deep breaths. Now, think about a typical day at work. Something ordinary and mundane.”

Inhale. Exhale. After a moment, Jeremiah began to relax and, as the sedative took hold, he found he could let his mind wander without the frantic thought that he’d never get it back. An oddly comforting fog seemed to expand in front of him, pushing the blackness away slightly, and Jeremiah retreated into it.

He began to think about the morning of the Meld fiasco—the day the New Jersey housewife had killed herself. The press had been circling. He’d arrived at his office with a terse mandate from his superiors to “get these fuckers off our back” and no idea how to accomplish that. It hadn’t been lost on him that not a single soul seemed bothered enough to stop and feel sorry about it, and he’d taken a quick moment behind his office door to offer silent condolences. It wasn’t thirty seconds before someone had come knocking, pushing him to get something done.

Weeks before, he’d heard talk of Meld being used to detect brain activity in a sixteen-year-old football player who had been comatose for nearly six months. Time to cash in. He tracked down the doctor somewhere in Delaware and the man started gushing about Meld, calling it “magical,” “a godsend” and “the most important medical advance of a generation.”

“After so many weeks,” he said, “the parents were hopeless.”

Meld was a last resort before pulling the plug, and it gave them the first clear signs of neural activity in the boy.

“Not only was he aware and awake in there, but he was cognizant of everything that was going on around him—including the fact that his parents were losing hope. He even heard them talking about funeral arrangements at one point. The kid was scared, terrified. He was begging for his life in there. That’s what I saw when I took the Meld with him. Meld absolutely saved his life. There is no doubt in my mind.”

Jeremiah had almost smiled. It was pure gold. A few hours later, the story was in the hands of every major news outlet, and that doctor was spending his fifteen minutes of fame touting Meld as “a medical miracle.”

Jeremiah focused on that now. Maybe Meld did have some silver lining, after all, he thought. Maybe it was miraculous.




Praise for The Mirror Man:
"A remarkable debut...Great concept and brilliantly executed."

-- "John Marrs, internationally bestselling author"

"A story that is both profound and artfully contained. Claustrophobic and disturbingly intimate. Simply brilliant."

-- "Sylvain Neuvel, author of the Themis Files trilogy"

"An incredible debut, fascinating in concept with characters that grip you from the get-go. A timely and touching novel."

-- "Heather Graham, New York Times bestselling author"

"Part Twilight Zone episode and part medical thriller, The Mirror Man seamlessly weaves together clones and family for a fascinating story about the lies we tell ourselves--and what we might do with second chances. Tense, poignant, and frequently funny, Gilmartin's debut waxes lyrical on the human condition while racing to an unforgettable finish."

-- "Mike Chen, author of Here and Now and Then"

About the Author

Jane Gilmartin has been a news reporter and editor for several small weeklies and enjoyed a brief but exciting stint as a rock journalist. A bucket list review just before she turned 50 set her on the path to fiction writing. Also crossed off that bucket list: An accidental singing career, attending a Star Trek convention, and getting a hug from David Bowie. She lives in Massachusetts with a human family, an elderly cat and a very good dog.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Review: All About Us by Tom Ellen


A chance encounter leads to the journey of a lifetime in this powerful and emotional love story, perfect for fans of One Day, Me Before You and In Five Years.




ALL ABOUT US by TOM ELLEN
Series: Standalone
Publication date: October 13, 2020
Published by: Harlequin
Genre: holiday fiction, time travel, romance

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SYNOPSIS

If you could turn back the clock, would you choose a different life?

Ben’s always loved the month of December, but this year, with his relationship with Daphne on the rocks, it’s missing its usual magic. And then his old friend Alice gets back in touch. Ben’s always thought of Alice as the one that got away, and he can’t help but wonder: what if he’d done things differently all those years ago?

He never imagines he might get to find out… but when a stranger sells Ben a mysterious watch one freezing winter’s night, he’s astonished to wake up the next morning on 5th December 2005: the day he first kissed Daphne, leaving Alice behind.

Now Ben must make the biggest decision of his life, all over again. But this time around, will he finally find the courage to follow his heart?

All About Us is a captivating novel of heartbreak and loss, friendship and hope – and how the choices we make throughout our lives will shape our destiny.

Purchase your copy:
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Praise for All About Us:

”'Magical and beautiful.”

-Josie Silver, author of One Day in December

”'An insightful, nuanced look at modern relationships, I LOVED it. A Christmas Carol meets Love Actually.”

-Holly Bourne, author of Pretending

”'Has all of the feels - the messy complexities of family and friends, the power of love and a sprinkling of magic. Gorgeous.”

-Clare Pooley, author of The Authenticity Project

”'I loved it so much. Brilliant, lovable characters. So sharp, funny and poignant.”

-Rachel Winters, author of Would Like to Meet

”'A heart-warming and surprisingly feminist Christmas Carol-esque novel of 'what if' and 'who am I' - this really left an impression on me. The best novel of the festive season!”

-Laura Jane Williams, author of Our Stop

”'An outstanding story about regrets, self-reflection and love. Fantastic to have such a warm, genuine male voice in this genre. It’s a sure hit for 2020 - LOVED IT!”

-Roxie Cooper, author of The Day We Met

”'A warm, cosy delight. It’s SO honest, funny and sad about relationships and love, plans and dreams and living up to your own expectations. Most of all it is full of hope. It tugged at ALL of my heartstrings, and I loved it to bits.”

-Cressida McLaughlin, author of The Cornish Cream Tea Bus

”'A magical, compelling and thought-provoking story, full of depth and heart. The perfect holiday read.”

-C.J. Skuse, author of Sweetpea

”'Clever, funny and romantic. I hope the Netflix adaptation comes swiftly after.”

-Melinda Salisbury, author of The Song of Sorrow

”'Funny, warm and touching, perfect for Me Before You fans.”

-Suzy K Quinn, author of The Bad Mother’s Diary

”'Oh my gosh, it’s wonderful! I cried so much!”

-Polly Crosby, author of The Illustrated Child

”'Romantic and gloriously life-affirming.”

-Rachel Marks, author of Saturdays at Noon


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom is an author and journalist from London, England. He is the co-writer of three critically acclaimed Young Adult novels: LOBSTERS (which was shortlisted for The Bookseller's inaugural YA Book Prize), NEVER EVERS and FRESHERS. His solo adult debut novel is the romantic comedy ALL ABOUT US (HQ/HarperCollins, published October 2020). His books have been widely translated and are published in 20 countries. He is a regular contributor to Viz magazine, and has also written for Cosmopolitan, Empire, Evening Standard Magazine, The Daily Mash, Glamour, NME, ESPN, ShortList, Time Out London, Vice, Stylist and many more.
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REVIEW

All About UsAll About Us by Tom Ellen
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars


When I saw that there was time travel involved in this book, I didn't hesitate to request a copy to give this new author a try. Time travel is one of my favorite tropes to read and unfortunately there isn't a huge selection to choose from. This kind of holiday book is typically much more up my alley. Something with a more serious tone rather than fluffy, over-the-top cute. It's about "what ifs" and figuring out how to get your life on the track that it was always meant to be on. The problem is, most of the time we're just fumbling through life. How are we to know which direction is the right way? This story is about one man getting the chance to redo his past in order to possibly change his future.

Ben is at a crossroads in his life. He's unhappy in his professional and personal life and wonders how he could have gotten everything so wrong to arrive where he is. His wife Daphne has a successful career in publishing, and he can't help but feel inadequate because his career is non-existent. He once aspired to be a writer like his father who abandoned him and his mother, but that dream fizzled out when he accepted that he would never measure up. He loves his wife, but as the years have gone by, they've drifted so far apart that he's afraid that it's too late to bridge the gap. Their home is filled with heavy silences and cynical stares. They've been through challenges and heartache in their fifteen year relationship, but he can hardly say they've been through it together. Secretly he admits to himself that he's been unforgivably selfish in how he handles things. Guilt eats him alive for things he's said and done-and he pushes it all deep down as tight as he can fit it without cracking. He just doesn't know how to fix it.

Everything changes when he goes out for a drink with his best friend. He runs into a man who offers him the opportunity of a lifetime: reliving pivotal days in his past to help guide him into the future. If he had done things differently, would he have the perfect life? One that didn't fill him with shame and regret? At first he believes that his bizarre trip is meant to give him the chance to rewrite what already happened. But he soon discovers that the events that have occurred can never be altered. You know the expression, "Hindsight is 20/20?" Going through the motions of his past experiences, he's sometimes appalled at he took the most important people in his life for granted. How he treated them shabbily, always expecting a tomorrow to make things right again. Ben was much too consumed with self-pity and feelings of inadequacy to see his own worth.

To be honest, Ben becomes pretty hard to take for a while. He's insufferably rude at times, selfish, and contributes nothing to his marriage-emotionally he checked out long ago. There were times I wondered how his wife Daphne put up with his behavior for as long as she did. It helped that it was told from his POV, because he isn't without remorse. He's bursting with it. That softens that harsh edges of him considerably, but when we finally get to the Paris chapter he disappointed me big time in how he relived it. It didn't make sense to me that something that at him alive with guilt happened in the same way the second time around. If it destroyed him even thinking about what he did...why do it AGAIN? He did other things differently and felt he'd learned something about himself in the process. I was kind of pulling my hair out over that one because it was a massive mistake on his part that caused a great deal of harm.

The most touching moments were the ones Ben spent with his mother. After he lost her suddenly, he was never the same again. It was just the two of them growing up, but he always had her in his corner cheering him on. When she was gone, there was an emptiness there that couldn't be filled. Just imagining being in his shoes as he steps into the past and comes face to face with his mother again was really poignant. There are so many of us who have lost loved ones and we would give anything in order to have one more day with them. To say all of the things that we didn't and maybe take back some of the things we did. When he broke down over the gift of more time with his mother my heart ached for him.

It wasn't clear in the beginning of the book, but as things wore on, I realized that All About Us is something of a modern Christmas Carol retelling with romance. I really enjoyed that aspect of it. I also loved the watch-seller's impish moments. He took such calm delight in ruffling poor Ben's feathers. He couldn't seem to pin down straight answers from the man for the life of him. But then again, where would the fun be in that? Ben must discover what-and most importantly-who he wants in his life when this crazy trip he's on is over. Or will he even have a choice? Towards the end, the suspense really ramped up because you could see disaster looming. It was only a question of how and when.

Ben wasn't always the most well-adjusted person. As a matter of fact, he's pretty much the opposite. But I can appreciate the emotional journey he went on to become a healthier version of himself in the end. He discovered that happiness isn't handed to you on a silver platter. You have to put blood, sweat, and tears into earning it. Not only did he figure out a fulfilling career to pursue, he learned how to have a deeper relationship with the people in his life by giving back just as much as he took. I had to give him full credit and respect for that which rounded the book off on a very high note. I really appreciated the uniqueness of this holiday story, and would definitely read another by this author in the future. If you're like me, and prefer a holiday book with heavier themes woven through, this will be a good bet for you.

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Review: A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday


From USA Today bestselling author Jenny Holiday comes a modern fairy tale just in time for Christmas about a tough New Yorker from the other side of the tracks who falls for a princess from the other side of the world.


A PRINCESS FOR CHRISTMAS by JENNY HOLIDAY
Series: Standalone
Publication date: October 13, 2020
Published by: Avon
Genre: contemporary romance

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SYNOPSIS

Leo Ricci's already handling all he can, between taking care of his little sister Gabby, driving a cab, and being the super of his apartment building in the Bronx. But when Gabby spots a "princess" in a gown outside of the UN trying to hail a cab, she begs her brother to stop and help. Before he knows it, he's got a real-life damsel in distress in the backseat of his car. 

Princess Marie of Eldovia shouldn't be hailing a cab, or even be out and about. But after her mother’s death, her father has plunged into a devastating depression and the fate of her small Alpine country has fallen on Marie’s shoulders. She’s taken aback by the gruff but devastatingly handsome driver who shows her more kindness than she’s seen in a long time. 

When Marie asks Leo to be her driver for the rest of her trip, he agrees, thinking he’ll squire a rich miss around for a while and make more money than he has in months. He doesn’t expect to like and start longing for the unpredictable Marie. And when he and Gabby end up in Eldovia for Christmas, he discovers the princess who is all wrong for him is also the woman who is his perfect match.

Purchase your copy:
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Praise for A Princess for Christmas:

“The novel is charming and self-aware and successfully plays with the conventions of the ‘commoner falling in love with royalty’ script…Sizzling chemistry and witty banter elevate a common Christmas romance premise into a royally entertaining fairy tale.” –Kirkus

“Opposites attract in this thoroughly charming Christmas romance…The snappy prose, charming atmosphere, and Hallmark movie–style plot combine to create a delightful romance, underpinned by strong supporting characters. This Christmas treat, with its intoxicating blend of heat and sweet, is a winner.” –Publishers Weekly


Read an Excerpt here!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jenny Holiday started writing in fourth grade, when her awesome hippie teacher, between sessions of Pete Seeger singing and anti-nuclear power plant letter writing, gave the kids notebooks and told them to write stories. Most of Jenny’s featured poltergeist, alien invasions, or serial killers who managed to murder everyone except her and her mom. She showed early promise as a romance writer, though, because nearly every story had a happy ending: fictional Jenny woke up to find that the story had been a dream, and that her best friend, father, and sister had not, in fact, been axe-murdered.

From then on, she was always writing, often in her diary, where she liked to decorate her declarations of existential angst with nail polish teardrops. Eventually she channelled her penchant for scribbling into a more useful format. After picking up a PhD in urban geography, she became a professional writer, spending many years promoting research at a major university, which allowed her to become an armchair astronomer/historian/particle physicist, depending on the day. Eventually, she decided to try her hand again at happy endings—minus the bloodbaths.

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REVIEW

A Princess for ChristmasA Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A Princess for Christmas was a very cute and light holiday read for when you get into the Hallmark movie/rom-com mode. I know I may get a lot of slack for this, but personally I have never been into those sugary sweet made for tv movies. The cheese factor was always a little over the top for me, but I know I'm in the minority there. Usually with this kind of storyline, the hero is the royal falling in love with a commoner, and the woman living "happily ever after" with her fairy tale prince. However, the author reversed the roles in this case which was an interesting twist from the norm.

Princess Marie of Eldovia visits New York to make a speech at the UN, and while she's there, she meets Leo Ricci and his sister Gabby. As you can imagine, these two are opposites in just about every way. They come from backgrounds that are lightyears apart, She's prim and proper, he's blunt and casual. He's grumpy, she's determined to be optimistic. She's had a privileged life, he's middle class and knows what it's like to really struggle. On the other hand, they have one big thing in common that helps them understand each other at a level a lot of others can't. They both recently lost parents and still struggle with grief and acceptance. I've been told that this tragic history is a common trope for Hallmark Christmas movies. So while there were original aspects to the story, it wasn't without its cliches.

Marie was a strong heroine. She picks up the pieces after losing her mother to cancer and steps into her father's duties-all without his support or comfort. From the stories she tells about him throughout the book, he's always been a difficult person to adjust to, but ever since losing his wife he's been flat-out unbearable. I have to say that he never did grow on me much. Not only was he selfishly uncaring about the grief his daughter was going through, he tried to manage her personal life, and was so rude to Leo and Gabby when they were his guests it makes you grit your teeth in disgust. The pure snobbery he displayed had a vicious edge to it that was bad enough towards an adult, but to treat a child like that? Yeah, I just couldn't bring myself to look past the nastiness. It was all a bit sudden in the end-too little, too late.

The story is a simple one. Marie hires Leo to be her driver while she's staying in New York and during the few days they spend together, she's able to loosen up and feel some form of happiness. Marie is far from a snob like her father is, and she revels in doing touristy, simple things with him. She has a huge load of responsibility on her shoulders, expectations about her personal life that she's not ready to accept yet, and a public image to uphold. When it's time for her to go back home, she's not quite prepared to say goodbye to the new friends she's made and invites them to her home for the holidays. The invitation is the first sign that she is pushing boundaries on family expectations and finding the strength to stand up for the things that are important to her. Duty towards her country is still top priority, but she's not willing to sacrifice her happiness for an archaic arranged marriage.

The story progresses pretty quickly from strangers to love, but this is kind of standard fare for a holiday romance. Once Leo and his sister arrive at Eldovia, the two fall into a sexual relationship and kind of tiptoe around their feelings. It all feels kind of impossible. The odds are highly stacked against them-her father, their backgrounds, the culture differences, financial differences...it's pretty substantial. But one thing I can say about these two characters is that they're honest. And they appreciate that quality in each other. There's no miscommunication, misunderstandings, or over-the-top unnecessary drama. Once they search their own heart, they won't let anything or anyone stand in the way of a future together. And yes, there is the standard big romantic gesture scene in the end as they resolve their conflict as you would expect with this genre. It was nice to get a peek into their future with the epilogue so we could see how they dealt with the challenges they faced.

There was definitely some hints that Max and Dani had something brewing between the two of them, so I'll be keeping my eye out for information on a possible book for them. Overall, this is a great read if you're looking for something light with a moderate amount of steam and a strong dose of humor. There were points I was laughing out loud-especially at Leo's bumbling, panicked attempts at parenting his sister. His internal dialogue was absolutely hilarious. Even if you're not a huge holiday romance fan like me, this could be the sweet story you've been looking for. I'm looking forward to discovering more books from this author in the future.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Review: Kingdom of Sea and Stone by Mara Rutherford


The Cruel Prince meets Ash Princess in this thrilling fantasy, the much-anticipated sequel to Crown of Coral and Pearl.


KINGDOM OF SEA AND STONE by MARA RUTHERFORD
Series: Crown of Coral and Pearl #2
Publication date: October 6, 2020
Published by: Inkyard Press
Genre: YA fantasy

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SYNOPSIS

Ever since Nor was forced to go to a nearby kingdom in her sister’s place, she’s wanted nothing more than to return to the place and people she loves. But when her wish comes true, she soon finds herself cast out from both worlds, with a war on the horizon.

As an old enemy resurfaces more powerful than ever, Nor will have to keep the kingdom from falling apart with the help of Prince Talin and Nor’s twin sister, Zadie. There are forces within the world more mysterious than any of them ever guessed—and they’ll need to stay alive long enough to conquer them…

Purchase your copy:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mara Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but quickly discovered she far preferred fantasy to reality. Originally from California, Mara has since lived all over the world, from Russia to Peru, along with her Marine-turned-diplomat husband and two sons. A triplet born on Leap Day, Mara holds a Master's degree in Cultural Studies from the University of London and would rather study the folklore of her next post than the language (which she has found is a lot more fun but not nearly as useful). She is a former Pitch Wars mentee and three-time mentor. Her debut YA fantasy, CORAL AND PEARL, will release from Harlequin Teen in Fall 2019.

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REVIEW


Kingdom of Sea and Stone (Crown of Coral and Pearl, #2)Kingdom of Sea and Stone by Mara Rutherford






    Before, when I would have given anything to see the world 
beyond my floating village in the sea. 
Before I understood just how much I had to lose.

When Crown of Coral and Pearl came out last year, I was completely and utterly obsessed. Not to mention hurting painfully from the cliffhanger at the end. I was desperate to get my hands on the follow up to find out what would become of Nor. Where would she find a home, how would she and Talin be able to have a future together, what in the world happened to Sami, and would the Woman King ultimately rule Ilara? There were so many strings left dangling that needed to be tied together. One big thing I was really curious to find an answer for was why Nor had her unusual healing ability that no one seemed to have an explanation for. The good news is: all of my questions were answered leaving no plot holes that lead into the deep dark abyss of doubt. Hurray!

First off, I want to say that it's been a minute since I read book one, but despite that, the opening pages seamlessly refreshed my memory. There was virtually no confusion or fog, and yet I didn't feel as if I was reading a summary of pertinent facts. Also, if you're like me and found book one to be instantly engrossing, expect the same in book two. There's something about this author's writing that effortlessly engages you. I'm not sure what magical knowledge she possesses to achieve this, but that's pretty impressive if you ask me. I'm having a harder time than ever finding books that I can easily escape into during this time. If you're feeling the same way, I highly recommend trying out this series. I think you'll be so pleasantly surprised at the ease and excitement to be found in Ms. Rutherford's words.

Now to the plot! (If you haven't read book one yet, please don't read any further. There are unavoidable spoilers about Crown of Coral and Pearl.) We take off exactly where things left off. Nor is returning home to Varenia out at sea. Her old life was a simple one consisting of: diving for pearls to feed her family, trying and failing at pleasing her perpetually disappointed mother, and spending time with her best friend Sami and twin sister. There's an expression that fits her situation: you can't go home again. Essentially it means that once you leave home and spend time out in the world, the home you grew up in will never be the same again. This couldn't be more true for Nor. She's been accused of treachery by Varenians, dealt with court machinations, imprisonment by her fiancé, her blood was drained, and she was forced to defend her own life with deadly force. Returning home, she wanted to lick her wounds and find comfort in the familiar. But her old life was irrevocably gone.

    We were too young to have such burdens hanging over us. 
But perhaps Father was right: 
some of us were not meant to have easy journeys.

Nor is no longer safe anywhere. Not only does everyone in Varenia think that she betrayed them, she's now a fugitive for what occurred with Ceren. Whereas book one was more about Nor's "adventure" in leaving home to explore the world, and surviving the nightmare that she walked into, book two takes a different route. Nor and Talin have a fresh and very fragile romantic understanding. They developed feelings amidst a dangerous situation, and now they must figure out where they go from that point. Nor is suddenly questioning if a marriage and home with him are in the cards for her. Would it make her happy or would it stifle her adventurous heart? As she shuffles through her emotions on this, she works on her hero complex. Always feeling as if she needs to save the day all by herself isn't exactly necessary when you have a group of people around you who love you and want to do their fair share. We see Nor let go of some of the control she feels she needs as she learns to trust those around her to help.

There were new characters introduced that were really intriguing. We have Roan, who is the commander of Fort Crag in Galeth. He has a strong moral code that he lives by which isn't influenced by greed for power, accolades, or money. He wants what's best for his people and isn't apologetic about it. I really liked the fact that he was an empath which you don't see all that often in fantasy (or at least that's been my experience.) Roan is very blunt with Nor in showing his attraction to her, so naturally this causes some snags here and there. I wouldn't go so far as to say that a love triangle develops, but his attention does make things interesting. Another new character was a medicinal witch named Adriel. She quickly formed a bond with Nor and helped to guide her in her quest to learn more about bloodstones and how they work with blood bonds. I think Nor was able to see some of herself in Adriel. They're both very independent women who want to be loved and accepted for who they really are. They're smart, gifted, and perhaps want more than a traditional life that most find.

The action and suspense snowballed in intensity at the end, and I was flying through the story at breakneck speed. There were ambiguous motives, a deeply layered villain, and a kingdom that was hanging on the edge of a deadly power struggle. Talin was a little blind when it came to his mother, Nor was independent to a fault, and those things weren't without their frustrations. But in the grand scheme of things, my reading experience was a positive one. I highly recommend the series to anyone looking for an escape into an original fantasy world with complex characters that will keep you turning the pages late into the night.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Historical Romance Roundup: September Smokin' Hot Reads


Now that it's officially Fall, (Hello, sweater weather!) it's the perfect time to get cozy with a good book and a pumpkin latte on the porch. I rounded up a variety of must-haves that need to be on your radar for the month of September, because there's no better genre for comfort reads than historical romance. 



If you're looking for an inclusive read try 
HER NIGHT WITH THE DUKE by DIANA QUINCY

Trope: Forbidden Love


Series: Clandestine Affairs #1
Publication date: September 29, 2020
Publisher: Avon
ISBN: 9780062986795


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SYNOPSIS

When Lady Delilah Chambers finds herself stranded at a country inn on a rain-swept evening, she’s forced to fend off a group of ruffians with the help of a handsome gentleman. Irresistibly drawn to each other, Leela and the stranger spend one reckless night in each others’ arms—and then go their separate ways. But the very next day Leela receives the shock of her life when she meets the duke who is set on wedding her beloved stepdaughter.

When it finds two destined hearts...

One night isn’t enough with a woman as fierce, fiery, and brilliant as Leela. Elliot Townsend, Duke of Huntington, cannot believe his good fortune when their chance encounter leads to an unforgettable evening of passion. Yet Hunt’s luck runs out when he is introduced to his prospective mother-in-law. Dowagers aren’t supposed to look like this... 

Leela and Hunt are determined to keep each other at arm’s length, which should be easy enough for two intelligent adults with reputations to uphold. The problem is all logic is lost when it comes to a passion that refuses to be ignored.

Read an excerpt here


Praise for Diana Quincy:

"Quincy cleverly incorporates much-loved genre tropes into the daringly sensual plot of her print romance debut, and this combined with the refreshingly original, boldly adventurous heroine, who fully embraces her Middle Eastern family origins, makes this marvelously entertaining love story the literary equivalent of catnip for historical romance fans."

-Booklist (starred review)

"Her Night with the Duke is an original story that will grab you from the first page and not let go. The angst level is deliciously high and I had no idea how Leela and Hunt were going to work this out... This is a book not to be missed!"

-Joanna Shupe, award-winning author of The Devil of Downtown

"...it’s Quincy’s extraordinary ability to convey complex emotions that sets the book apart. Quincy’s own background as a first-generation Arab-American also allows her to bring indispensable detail to the story, which is enriched by details of Leela’s journey to learn about, and come to appreciate, her “Levantine” heritage—a welcome addition..."

-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Quincy (“Rebellious Brides” series) delivers a steamy Regency fraught with family discord as well as societal and racial prejudices. This gripping series starter ultimately triumphs with an honorable hero and a spirited Anglo-Arab heroine who fights for acceptance and love on her own terms."

-Library Journal (starred review)

"Vivid, bold, witty, and seductive! Diana Quincy is your new historical romance obsession." 

-Lenora Bell, USA Today bestselling author of Love is a Rogue

“Lovers of historical fiction could hardly do better than Diana Quincy…”

-Fresh Fiction

Praise for Diana Quincy: "Sweet, steamy and thoroughly enjoyable...”

-Grace Burrowes, New York Times bestselling author

Purchase your copy now:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bestselling author Diana Quincy is an award-winning television journalist who decided to make up her own stories where a happy ending is always guaranteed.

Her books have been included on "Best of" lists in Library Journal and The Washington Post.

As a U.S. Foreign Service brat, Diana grew up all over the world, but is now happily settled in Virginia with her husband and two boys. When not bent over her laptop, Diana spends time with her family, reads, practices yoga, and plots her next travel adventure.

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If you're looking for a class disparity read try 
BEAUTY TEMPS THE BEAST by LORRAINE HEATH

Trope: Opposites Attract


Lorraine Heath ends her bestselling Sins for All Seasons series with the hero readers have been waiting for!

Series: Sins for All Seasons #6
Publication date: September 29, 2020
Publisher: Avon
ISBN: 9780062951939


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SYNOPSIS

Althea Stanwick was a perfect lady destined to marry a wealthy lord, until betrayal left her family penniless. Though she’s lost friends, fortune, and respectability, Althea has gained a scandalous plan. If she can learn to seduce, she can obtain power over men and return to Society on her terms. She even has the perfect teacher in mind, a man whose sense of honor and dark good looks belie his nickname: Beast.

But desire like this can’t be taught

Benedict Trewlove may not know his parentage but he knows where he belongs—on the dark side of London, offering protection wherever it’s needed. Yet no woman has ever made such an outrageous request as this mysterious beauty. Althea is out of place amongst vice and sin, even if she offers a wicked temptation he can’t resist. But as the truth of his origin emerges at last, it will take a fierce, wild love to overcome their pasts.

Read an excerpt here



Purchase your copy now:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lorraine Heath has always had a soft spot for emotional love stories. No doubt because growing up, watching movies with her mom, she was taught that the best movies "won't half make you cry."​​​​​​​

She is the daughter of a British beauty (her mom won second place in a beauty contest sponsored by Max Factor® during which she received a kiss from Caesar Romero, (the Joker on the original Batman TV series) and a Texan who was stationed at Bovingdon while serving in the air force. Lorraine was born in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, but soon after moved to Texas. Her "dual" nationality has given her a love for all things British and Texan, and she enjoys weaving both heritages through her stories.

When she received her BA degree in psychology from the University of Texas, she had no idea she had gained a foundation that would help her to create believable characters—characters that are often described as “real people.” She began her career writing training manuals and computer code for the IRS, but something was always missing. When she read a romance novel, she became not only hooked on the genre, but quickly realized what her writing lacked: rebels, scoundrels, and rogues. She's been writing about them ever since.

Her work has been recognized with numerous industry awards including RWA's RITA®. Her novels have appeared on bestseller lists, including ​​​​​​​USA TODAY and the New York Times.
The author of more than 60 novels, she writes historical and contemporary romance for adults and historical romance for teen readers.

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If you're looking for a bluestocking heroine/broody hero pairing try 
MY KIND OF EARL by VIVIENNE LORRET

Trope: Opposites Attract, Rags to Riches, Secret Identity


USA Today bestselling author Vivienne Lorret continues her charming new trilogy with a bluestocking whose search for information on the mating habits of scoundrels has her stumbling upon the missing heir to an earldom... in the London underworld.

Series: The Mating Habits of Scoundrels #2
Publication date: September 29, 2020
Publisher: Avon
ISBN: 9780062976604


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SYNOPSIS

Jane Pickerington never intended to start a brawl in a brothel. She only wanted to research her book. Yet when her simple study of scoundrels goes awry, she finds herself coming to the rescue of a dark, enigmatic stranger… who turns out to be far more than an average rake out for a night of pleasure. He’s positively wild!

Only the most feral and cunning could have survived foundling homes and work houses. Orphaned as an infant, Raven never had another name. At least… not until he meets her. Now he’s face-to-face with the one person who recognizes the strange birthmark on his arm and can reinstate him to his blue-blooded birthright.

All at once, Raven’s life takes a turn. His knowledge of dark alleys and gaming hells never prepared him for gilded ballrooms. So Jane becomes his tutor. Yet, the more lessons in decorum she offers, the more this untamed scoundrel wants to teach her all the ways to be wicked.

Read an excerpt here


Praise for My Kind of Earl:

"splendidly witty and superbly sexy... an exceptionally entertaining romance." (Booklist)

“a sexy page-turner... you can’t help but root for these two stubborn, persistent characters to fall for each other... the novel draws you in and leaves a satisfied smile on your face.” (Entertainment Weekly for How to Forget a Duke)

"Asher and Winn are endearingly complex characters with wit and chemistry to spare. Romance readers will be delighted." (Publishers Weekly)

Purchase your copy now:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

USA Today bestselling author VIVIENNE LORRET transforms copious amounts of tea into words. She is an Avon author of series including the Wallflower Weddings, the Rakes of Fallow Hal, the Season’s Original, the Misadventures in Matchmaking, and the MATING HABITS OF SCOUNDRELS.

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If you're looking for a Wallflower read try 
MISLEADING A DUKE by A.S. FENICHEL

Trope: Arranged Marriage, Secret Identity


Fans of Mary Jo Putney and Sabrina Jeffries will fall for this delightful story of a high-spirited lady determined to marry for love—but betrothed to a tempting spy whose work has put them both their hearts…and their lives…on the line.

Series: The Wallflowers of West Lane #2
Publication date: September 29, 2020
Publisher: Kensington/Lyrical Press
ISBN: 9781516110520


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SYNOPSIS

Betrothed to a man she has barely met, Lady Faith Landon calls upon her three best friends—the self-proclaimed Wallflowers of West Lane—to help uncover the secrets of her mysterious fiancĂ©. Her suspicions are aroused when she learns that he has recently returned from France. Is he a traitor to his country? The truth is quite the opposite. Nicholas Ellsworth, Duke of Breckenridge, is a secret agent for the English Crown who has just completed a risky mission to infiltrate Napoleon’s spy network.

After his adventures, Nicholas craves the peace and quiet of the country and settling into domestic bliss with his bride. Until he discovers Faith’s deceptive investigation. How can he wed a woman who doesn’t trust him? But a powerful spark has ignited between Nicholas and Faith that could bring about a change of heart. Faith seizes her second chance to prove to Nicholas that they are a true love match but his past catches up with them when three French spies come to exact revenge. Surviving rather than wooing has become the order of the day.


Praise for Misleading a Duke:

“Fenichel juxtaposes the mannered world of Regency aristocracy with the gritty, life-or-death situation of Nick and Faith’s captivity to excellent effect. This immersive, fast-paced novel will have readers on the edges of their seat.”
—Publishers Weekly

Purchase your copy now:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A.S. Fenichel (Andie) gave up a successful IT career in New York City to pursue her lifelong dream of being a professional writer. She's never looked back.

Andrea adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Books have always been her perfect escape and she still relishes diving into one and staying up all night to finish a good story.

She is currently writing Regency romance for Kensington Publishing and you can learn more about Andrea's books at http://asfenichel.com or visit her on her Facebook page, where she spends entirely too much time. https://www.facebook.com/A.S.Fenichel.

Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in Missouri with her real life hero, her wonderful husband and a fussy cat . When not reading or writing she enjoys cooking, travel, history, and puttering in her garden.

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If you're looking for a dark, angst-filled read try 
ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED by KERRIGAN BYRNE

Trope: Enemies to Lovers, Age Gap


They are a dangerous duke, a fierce lord, and an infamous earl—dark, bold, brave men who know exactly what they want. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees...

Series: Devil You Know #2
Publication date: September 29, 2020
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 9781250318862


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SYNOPSIS

He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who's made his own way in the world through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London's most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he's ever met.

IN THIS GAME OF LOVE, THE RULES DO NOT APPLY

Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother's scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips...Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment. Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women...and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?

Read an excerpt here


Praise for All Scot and Bothered:

"Hot romance and tantalizing intrigue...Readers will be delighted." - Publishers Weekly starred review on All Scot and Bothered

"Will ensnare readers with its soul-searing, richly sensual love story, expertly spiced with just the right dash of dry wit and generous measure of thrilling danger." - Booklist starred review on All Scot and Bothered

"Byrne crafts a smoldering romance that combines an enticing, well-matched couple with an original storyline about the underbelly of Victorian society that keeps the readers guessing." - Library Journal

Purchase your copy now:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

If you're anything like me, the best night is one spent with a brawny highlander, a mysterious werewolf, a conflicted vampire, or a hot-headed Irishman. My stories span the spectrum of romantic fiction from historical, to paranormal, to romantic suspense. But I can always promise my readers one thing: memorable and sexy Celtic heroes who are guaranteed to heat your blood before they steal your heart. Lose yourself in the enchanted Celtic Isles, you never know who, or what, will find you...

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