A MONSTER LIKE ME by Pamela Sparkman

Heart of Darkness series #2

HELLO STRANGER by Lisa Kleypas

The Ravenels series #4


Companion to the Full Tilt series


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

Monday, April 30, 2018

Review: Forged in Ember by Trish McCallan


In the final novel in the scorching Red-Hot SEALs series, a desperate mother and a Navy SEAL fight fire with fire to protect their love and save the world…

Amy Chastain has made a lot of enemies—none so ruthless as the insanely powerful New Ruling Order (NRO). When they killed her husband, it was hell. Then they targeted her children by injecting them with a dangerous, experimental isotope. Now Amy trusts only one man to help her: the ex-commander of SEAL Team 7.

In the company of Navy SEALs, Jace “Mac” Mackenzie was in his physical element. Now he’s on the run from the same cabal that poisoned Amy’s children. That doesn’t stop him from launching a mission to bring down the NRO—and find an antidote. But the clock is ticking. And as the sparks fly between him and Amy, Mac realizes he has more to lose than ever before.

As Mac closes in on the NRO, he uncovers a plot that threatens more than Amy’s children. Now it’s a race against time to stop a global conspiracy, save the woman he loves, and protect the family that’s starting to feel like his.

Purchase here:


Forged in Ember (A Red-Hot SEALs Novel Book 4)Forged in Ember by Trish McCallan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Title: Forged in Ember
Series: Red-Hot SEALs #4
Author: Trish McCallan
Release date: May 15, 2018
Cliffhanger: No

Forged in Ember is the final installment of the series, one that's been seven years in coming. Now, I don't mind long intervals between books in a series. Not saying I don't feel impatient, but there will never be a time I complain that an author takes their time to craft a quality story. The overarching action/suspense plot is one that has kept me firmly hooked, as I wait to find out how everything comes to a head. How will the heroes of the SEAL team vindicate themselves? Will Amy's sons find an anecdote before the tracking isotope injected into them becomes irreversible? How will the evil NRO be taken down before their "doomsday device" is completed and detonated? I was READY.

Here's where it fell short.

#1: The hero.
Jace “Mac” Mackenzie, commander of the SEAL team, leaves a lot to be desired. I'm talking from book one. His main fault being his extreme prejudice and misogynistic attitude towards women. He's always been my least favorite person of the group, but I had faith that he would eventually see the light and realize how damaging his attitude was. Unfortunately, insufficient time was spent on Mac's personal growth and inner reflection. At 79% into the book, we had him comparing the woman he supposedly "loves" and the three other women his men fell in love with to his despicable mother. After realizing that they were nothing like her, these are his illuminating thoughts:

Unlike most of her gender, Amy had principles and courage and...he paused. Frowned. Shook his head. Hell, all three women were in the same percentile as Amy. Which just made the four of them an anomaly.

Wait...what? So THIS FAR INTO THE BOOK, his warped perception of women has not budged one iota. He recognizes that these women are trustworthy, brave, and good people. Yet, the conclusion he draws is that it's only because they're rare to their gender. I wanted to bash him over his THICK SKULL. Look, I get it. Both of his parents are worthless human beings who scarred him emotionally. Mommy issues are understandable. (Though, why not an issue with men too? His father was a drunk who neglected him and failed to provide even the most basic needs since he was a child.) I wanted to like Mac more, but unfortunately the author failed to convince me that he had become a better man. He did endear me more than I expected, but his growth was a big fat failure.

#2: The romance.
It. Was. Rushed. Granted, pretty much all of the books were rushed in this aspect, but because of certain PNR elements added in, some couples made me a believer. This was most definitely my least favorite in regards to romance out of the bunch. Let's face it, the author had her work cut out for her. Not only was she dealing with Mac's prickly personality and prejudice, but the heroine has a SLEW of problems hindering their relationship. After being kidnapped with her sons, raped, and her husband murdered months prior, she's not someone you would picture fighting feelings of attraction and lust over someone. But that's exactly what happens six months after being rescued and widowed.

It was so strange. If you counted by days, John’s murder hadn’t been that long ago. Almost six months now, 180 days— give or take. But emotionally . . . It felt like forever. Years at least. John felt like a dim, treasured memory. She didn’t dream about him anymore. Not like she had in the beginning. Mac dominated her dreams these days. Guilt swelled. John had been a good man, a good husband. A wonderful father. He deserved better than this.

Honestly, there was literally no grief shown by her, no mourning. The woman propositions him for sex because she didn't want her rapists to have control over her sexuality. I can understand the sentiment, but when you're googling PTSD in order to prevent triggers and flashbacks, that's not working for me. The first time went smoothly with no touching, the second attempt worked completely. Simply by using google. Her method of pushing away her feelings rather than dealing with them, combined with the amount of time that her life had been completely turned upside down, made for a very unbelievable romance. Amy's feelings of love seemed to have been plucked out of thin air, because I couldn't find a natural progression. I actually felt no sexual tension or attraction between them, which was a disappointment to say the least.

When Mac returns from a mission, he marches himself to Amy's room to reveal to her that he loved her, and all it did was make me roll my eyes. There's alpha, and then there's Mac. A man who doesn't have an ounce of tenderness in his bones.

He dug deep and coughed the emotion out. “I think I love you.” Think? You think? Dumbass. She looked like she’d been poleaxed. Obviously his suave sophistication had impressed her speechless.

#3: The resolution to the entire series.
As previously mentioned, the NRO is a demented group secretly plotting to annihilate the population. They've been temporarily foiled by the SEAL team, but in return made them wanted men by the US authorities. The majority of the action sequences in this book were minor missions as they raced against the clock to obtain information that would save Amy's children, and locate and take the NRO down for good. For me, there were too little of these moments. The action doesn't remotely compare to the nail-biting, non-stop suspense of the previous books. They were edgy, they made my heart pound, and my excitement rush. Personally, I felt that it wasn't matched on that level, and that was the main attraction of the writing for me.

The only way I could describe the final confrontation would be underwhelming. After being shown time and again how powerful and sinister this group is, I was expecting one hell of a fight. It all seemed way too easy and uncomplicated when everything was said and done.  I felt deflated. 

To sum things up, this was a disappointing finale overall for me. While I can't say that I hated it, it certainly wasn't what I waited so many years for. It was just okay. Wolf remains one of my favorite characters, and I'd be intrigued to read his and Jillian's story. A spin-off series about the Eagle Clan and the Shadow Mountain warriors is not beyond the realm of possibility after the epilogue. I love the fact that the paranormal gifts would carry on into that series, because that is one of the big draws for me with the Red-Hot SEALs. I love Trish McCallan's style of writing, so I'm hoping that there will be more to come in the future.



Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber


Stephanie Garber’s limitless imagination takes flight once more in the colorful, mesmerizing, and immersive sequel to the bestselling breakout debut Caraval
A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister's. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval...the games have only just begun.

Pre-order your copy now!

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2GJ9qeq
B&N: http://bit.ly/2FTb6k7
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Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/2HL42GS
Powells: http://bit.ly/2FTx2eN

Click here for a special publisher pre-order offer! 

About the author

I’m the international and New York Times bestselling author of Caraval.

When I’m not writing, I teach creative writing at a private college in Northern California, where I’ve been known to turn assignments into games and take students on field trips that involve book signings.

To help pay my bills during college, grad school, and the breaks in between, I worked as a barista, a waitress, a bartender, a customer service representative for an energy consulting company, and as a sales girl at Bath and Bodyworks. I also spent years working with youth; I worked as a counselor at space themed summer camp, volunteered at a school for deaf children in Mexico, and I took multiple groups of college students overseas to spend their winter vacations serving at youth hostels in Amsterdam. But out of everything that I’ve done, writing young adult novels has been my favorite job.

My debut YA fantasy novel, Caraval is out now

(Flatiron Books/Macmillan—US and Hodder & Stoughton—UK). Caraval has sold in thirty foreign territories and the movie rights were picked by Twentieth Century Fox.
Follow Her:


Legendary (Caraval #2)Legendary by Stephanie Garber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Title: Legendary
Series: Caraval #2
Author: Stephanie Garber
Release date: May 29, 2018

This is one of those reviews that intimidates you to write because you know there's no hope in ever expressing how good the story really is. I'm a huge, huge fan of book one, Caraval . The twists and turns, the unpredictable nature and magical adventure was like nothing I had read before. I never would have thought it was possible to top that reading experience, and I must admit I was a little nervous for disappointment in the second book. After all, I'm no novice. I know what to expect from this deceptive game now. Right?



Check your confidence at the door before stepping foot in the Meridian Empire's enchanted city of Valenda. Once again, Stephanie Garber had me questioning everything I thought I knew, and turning the world on its head. In Valenda you'll discover a city of flying carriages, and crumbling columns. Imprisoned immortal fates whose cruelty must never be unleashed on the world again. A city blanketed by lavender skies, stardust, and more danger than your imagination could conjure.

Tella wondered if Legend’s games ever ended, or if his world was an endless maze of fantasy and reality that left those caught inside it forever suspended somewhere in between the two.

It all started with a Deck of Destiny and a curious little girl who couldn't resist tempting fate. Tella Dragna has always been bold, courageous, and maybe a little too impulsive for her own good. With one innocent choice, she set a chain of events in motion that she may never be able to break.

In Caraval, Tella was a wild card with questionable motivations. Scarlett's younger sister seemed flighty and whimsical, and I had no idea what to think of her. Then she looked death square in the eye, and risked everything for the sake of her sister. With a cruel father, and a mother who didn't care enough to stay, Scarlett was the one person she could depend upon. That forged a solid bond, and fierce loyalty between the sisters that couldn't be broken. But their mother's disappearance seven years before left a gaping hole that needed to be filled. She would have answers, even if she had to bargain with the devil to seek them out.

Not only is she up against Legend's wit and magic, a new sinister player is revealed that may have the power to be her undoing.

They said his kiss had been fatal to all but her—his only weakness—and as he’d sought her, he’d left a trail of corpses.

Even with an unexpected ally, (Or are they really?) she's working with a physical handicap that's like a ticking timebomb preparing to detonate. You can try to guess her friends and foes, what's real, and what's a trick of the mind. I dare you. Even with the unveiling of Legend, will Tella find the answers and the future she seeks? Or is she doomed to fulfill the destiny that's been foretold that she refuses to accept?

Tella won me over completely with her determination and bravery. She was nothing like I expected, and much more than she believed herself to be. Along the way she faced countless challenges, crushing disappointments, and heartache. Underneath that fiery stubbornness was a vulnerable side that she tries to hide, but comes peeking out at the most inopportune times. You could see that this entire adventure was her desperate attempt to recapture control of her life after being powerless for so long. Flitting from boy to boy was self-protection from the belief that she wasn't meant to find true love. That love was alluring, but destroyed everything it touched.

Love turned the world into a garden, so beguiling it was easy to forget that rose petals were as ephemeral as feelings, eventually they would wilt and die, leaving nothing but the thorns.

These characters have a depth and dimension to them that make the story so vivid you can't tell where the pages end and you begin. The plot is layered with mystery, desperation, and when everything comes together it will leave you gasping. I'm not exaggerating, my heart was actually pounding from excitement as she raced towards the final confrontation. I could not read fast enough for my spinning mind.
The story told from a fresh point of view, a glittering, sprawling backdrop, and filled with a new ensemble of completely fleshed out characters. I can tell you without hesitation that this is one of the best crafted fantasy books you'll ever read.

The number one rule of Caraval is to Remember, it's only a game. I kept chanting this most basic rule. It's a game! These are actors playing a part on the grandest of stages! BUT Y'ALL, I STILL DOUBTED. I theorized, guessed, second guessed...well...you get the picture. Just don't expect things to be wrapped up in a cozy, tidy bow. Hold your breath, take the leap, and experience the wonder that awaits you.


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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Blog Tour with Review: My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan


Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.

American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day. 

When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret. 

Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.

Major Motion Picture Already in Development with Temple Hill Entertainment!

Purchase here:
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2qPk5gL
Books-A-Million: https://bit.ly/2qPZ8l5



While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough

In England – now!

Home-Thoughts, from Abroad – Robert Browning, 1845


The customs agent beckons the person in front of me and I approach the big red line, absently toeing the curling tape, resting my hand on the gleaming pipe railing. No adjustable ropes at Heathrow, apparently; these lines must always be long if they require permanent demarcation.

My phone rings. I glance down. I don’t know the number.

“Hello?” I answer.

“Is this Eleanor Durran?”


“This is Gavin Brookdale.”

My first thought is that this is a prank call. Gavin Brookdale just stepped down as White House Chief of Staff. He’s run every major political campaign of the last 20 years. He’s a legend. He’s my idol. He’s calling me?


“Sorry, I-I’m here,” I stammer. “I’m just –

“Have you heard of Janet Wilkes?”

Have I heard of – Janet Wilkes is the junior senator from Florida and a dark horse candidate for President. She’s 45, lost her husband twelve years ago in Afghanistan, raised three kids on a teacher’s salary while somehow putting herself through law school, and then ran the most impressive grassroots senatorial campaign I’ve ever seen. She also has the hottest human-rights-attorney boyfriend I’ve ever seen, but that’s beside the point. She’s a Gold Star wife who’s a progressive firebrand on social issues. We’ve never seen anyone like her on the national stage before. The first debate isn’t for another two weeks, on October 13, but voters seem to love her: she’s polling third in a field of twelve. Candidate Number Two is not long for the race; a Case of the Jilted Mistress(es). Number One, however, happens to be the current Vice-President, George Hillerson, who Gavin Brookdale (if the Washington gossip mill is accurate) loathes. Still, even the notoriously mercurial Brookdale wouldn’t back a losing horse like Wilkes just to spite the presumptive nominee. If nothing else, Gavin Brookdale likes to win. “Of course I’ve heard of her.”

“She read your piece in The Atlantic. We both did. ‘The Art of Education and the Death of the Thinking American Electorate.’ We were impressed.”

“Thank you,” I gush. “It was something I felt was missing from the discourse –”

“What you wrote was a philosophy. It wasn’t a policy.”

This brings me up short. “I understand why you’d think that, but I –”

“Don’t worry, I know you have the policy chops. I know you won Ohio for Janey Bennett. The 138th for Carl Moseley. You’re a talented young lady, Eleanor.”

“Mr. Brookdale –”

“Call me Gavin.”

“Then call me Ella. No one calls me Eleanor.”

“Alright, Ella, would you like to be the education consultant for Wilkes’ campaign?”



“Yes!” I bleat. “Yes, of course! She’s incredible –”

“Great. Come down to my office today and we’ll read you in.”

All the breath leaves my body. I can’t seem to get it back. “So… here’s the thing. I-I’m in England.”

“Fine, when you get back.”

“… I get back in June.”


“Are you consulting over there?”

“No, I have a… I got a Rhodes and I’m doing a –”

Gavin chortles. “I was a Rhodie.”

“I know, Sir.”



“What are you studying?”

“English Language and Literature 1830 to 1914.”

Beat. “Why?”

“Because I want to?” Why does it come out as a question?

“You don’t need it. Getting the Rhodes is what matters. Doing it is meaningless, especially in Literature from 1830 to 19-whatever. The only reason you wanted it was to help you get that life-changing political job, right? Well, I’m giving that to you. So come home and let’s get down to business.”


A customs agent – stone-faced, turbaned, impressive beard – waves me forward. I take one step over the line, but hold a finger up to him. He’s not even looking at me. “Gavin, can I call –”

“She’s going to be the nominee, Ella. It’s going to be the fight of my life and I need all hands – including yours – on deck, but we’re going to do it.”

He’s delusional. But, my God, what if he’s right? A shiver of excitement snakes through me. “Gavin –”

“Listen, I’ve always backed the winning candidate, but I have never backed someone who I personally, deeply, wanted to win.”

“Miss?” Now the customs agent looks at me.

Gavin chuckles at my silence. “I don’t want to have to convince you, if you don’t feel –”

“I can work from here.” Before he can argue, I continue, “I will make myself available at all hours. I will make Wilkes my priority.” Behind me, a bloated, red-faced businessman reeking of gin, moves to squeeze around me. I head him off, grabbing the railing, saying into the phone, “I had two jobs in college while volunteering in field offices and coordinating multiple city council runs. I worked two winning congressional campaigns last year while helping to shape the education budget for Ohio. I can certainly consult for you while reading books and writing about them occasionally.”

“Miss!” the customs agent barks. “Hang up the phone or step aside.” I hold my finger up higher (as if visibility is the problem) and widen my stance over the line.

“What’s your date certain for coming home?” Gavin asks.

“June 11th. I already have a ticket. Seat 32A.”

“Miss!” The customs agent and the man bark at me.

I look down at the red line between my sprawled feet. “Gavin, I’m straddling the North Atlantic right now. I literally have one foot in England and one in America and if I don’t hang up they’ll –”

“I’ll call you back.”

He disconnects.

What does that mean? What do I do? Numbly, I hurry to the immigration window, coming face to face with the dour agent. I adopt my best beauty-pageant smile and speak in the chagrined, gee-whiz tone I know he expects. “I am so sorry, Sir, my sincerest apologies. My Mom’s –”

“Passport.” He’s back to not looking at me. I’m getting the passive-aggressive treatment now. I hand over my brand new passport with the crisp, un-stamped pages. “Purpose of visit?”


“For how long will you be in the country?”

I pause. I glance down at the dark, unhelpful screen of my phone. “I… I don’t know.”

Now he looks up at me.

“A year,” I say. Screw it. “An academic year.”


“Oxford.” Saying the word out loud cuts through everything else. My smile becomes genuine. He asks me more questions, and I suppose I answer, but all I can think is:

I’m here. This is actually happening. Everything has come together according to plan.

He stamps my passport, hands it back, lifts his hand to the line.



When I was thirteen I read an article in Seventeen Magazine called, “My Once in a Lifetime Experience,” and it was a personal account of an American girl’s year abroad at Oxford. The classes, the students, the parks, the pubs, even the chip shop (“pictured, bottom left”) seemed like another world. Like slipping through a wormhole into a universe where things were ordered and people were dignified and the buildings were older than my entire country. I suppose thirteen is an important age in every girl’s life, but for me, growing up in the middle of nowhere, with a family that had fallen apart? I needed something to hold onto. I needed inspiration. I needed hope. The girl who wrote the article had been transformed. Oxford had unlocked her life and I was convinced that it would be the key to mine.

So I made a plan: get to Oxford.

After going through more customs checkpoints, I follow signs for The Central Bus Terminal and find an automatic ticket kiosk. The “£” sign before the amount looks so much better, more civilized, more historical than the American dollar sign, which always seems overly suggestive to me. Like it should be flashing in sequential neon lights above a strip club. $ - $ - $. Girls! Girls! Girls!

The kiosk’s screen asks me if I want a discounted return ticket (I assume that means round trip), and I pause. My flight back to Washington is on June 11th, barely sixteen hours after the official end of Trinity term. I have no plans to return to the states before then, instead staying here over the two long vacations (in December and March) and traveling. In fact, I already have my December itinerary all planned. I purchase the return ticket, then cross to a bench to wait for the next bus.

My phone dings and I look down. An email from The Rhodes Foundation reminding me about the orientation tomorrow morning.

For whatever reason, out of all the academic scholarships in the world, most people seem to have heard of The Rhodes. It’s not the only prestigious scholarship to be had, but it’s the one that I wanted. Every year, America sends 32 of its most overachieving, uber-competitive, social-climbing, do-gooder nerds to Oxford. It’s mostly associated with geniuses, power-players, global leaders. Let me demystify this: to get a Rhodes, you have to be slightly unhinged. You have to have a stellar GPA, excel in multiple courses of study, be socially entrepreneurial, charity-minded, and athletically proficient (though the last time I did anything remotely athletic I knocked out Jimmy Brighton’s front tooth with a foul ball, so take that tenet with a grain of salt). I could have gone after other scholarships. There’s the Marshal, the Fulbright, the Watson, but the Rhodies are my people. They’re the planners.

The other finalist selected from my district (a Math/Econ/Classics triple-major and Olympic archer who had discovered that applying Game Theory to negotiations with known terrorists makes the intel 147% more reliable) told me, “I’ve been working toward getting a Rhodes since Freshman year.” To which I replied, “Me, too.” He clarified, “Of high school.” To which I replied, “Me, too.”

While, yes, the Rhodes is a golden ticket to Oxford, it’s also a built-in network and the means to my political future. It ensures that people who would have otherwise discounted me – this unconnected girl from the soybean fields of Ohio – will take a second, serious look. People like Gavin Brookdale.

Going after things the way I do, being who I am, has alienated my entire hometown and most of my extended family. My mom hadn’t gone to college and my dad had dropped out after two years because he’d thought it was more important to change the world than learn about it, and there I was, this achievement machine making everyone around it vaguely uncomfortable. She thinks she’s better than everyone else.

Honestly, I don’t. But I do think I’m better than what everyone, besides my dad, told me I was.


I wake up in a moment of panic when the bus I’d boarded back at Heathrow jerks to a stop, sending the book on my lap to the floor. Hastily retrieving it, I force my sleepy eyes to take in the view from the floor-to-ceiling window in front of me. I chose the seat on the upper level at the very front, wanting to devour every bit of English countryside on the way to Oxford. Then I slept through it.

Pushing through the fog in my head, I peer outside. A dingy bus stop in front of a generic cell phone store. I look for a street sign, trying to get my bearings. My info packet from the college said to get off at the Queens Lane stop on High Street. This can’t be it. I glance behind me and no one on the bus is moving to get off, so I settle back into my seat.

The bus starts up again, and I breathe deeply, trying to wake up. I jam the book into my backpack. I’d wanted to finish it before my first class tomorrow, but I can’t focus. I was too excited to eat or sleep on the plane. My empty stomach and all-nighter is catching up to me. The time difference is catching up to me. The last twelve years spent striving for this moment is catching up to me.

Inside my jacket pocket, my phone vibrates. I pull it out and see the same number from earlier. I take a deep breath and preemptively answer, “Gavin, listen, I was thinking, let’s do a trial period of, say, a month, and if you feel that I need to be there –”

“Not necessary."

My throat tightens. “Please, just give me thirty days to prove that –”

“It’s fine. I made it work. Just remember who comes first.”

Elation breaks through the fog. My fist clenches in victory and my smile reaches all the way to my temples. “Absolutely,” I say in my most professional voice. “Thank you so much for this opportunity. You won’t be disappointed.”

“I know that. That’s why I hired you. What’s your fee? FYI: there’s no money.”

There’s never any money. I tell him my fee anyway and we settle on something that I can live with. The Rhodes is paying my tuition and lodging and I get a small stipend for living expenses on top of that. I decide right then that what Gavin’s going to pay me will go directly into my travel budget.

“Now, go,” he says, “Have fun. You’ve clearly earned it. There’s a pub you should visit in the center of town. The Turf. See where one of your fellow Rhodes Scholars – a young William Jefferson Clinton – ‘didn’t’ inhale.”

“Ha, got it. Will do.”

“Just take your phone with you. Your phone is an appendage, not an accessory. Okay?”

I nod even though he can’t see me. “Okay. It’s a plan.” Just as I say this, the bus rounds a bend and there she is:


Beyond a picturesque bridge, the narrow two-lane road continues into a bustling main street, lined on each side by buildings with a hodge-podge of architectural styles, no room to breathe between them. Like the crowd at the finish line of a marathon, these buildings cheer me on, welcoming me to their city. Some are topped with sloped, slate roofs, others with battlements. Some of the larger buildings have huge wooden gates that look as if they were carved in place, a fusion of timeless wood and stone that steals my breath. Maybe those doors lead to some of the 38 individual Oxford colleges? Imagining it, dreaming of it all these years, doesn’t do it justice.

I look skyward. Punctuating the horizon are the tips of other ancient buildings, high-points of stone bordering the city like beacons.

“The City of Dreaming Spires,” I murmur to myself.

“Indeed it is,” Gavin says in my ear. I’d forgotten he was still on the line.

That’s what they call Oxford. A title well deserved. Because that means, before it was my dream or Seventeen Magazine girl’s dream, it was someone else’s dream as well.


Julia Whelan is a screenwriter, lifelong actor, and award-winning audiobook narrator. She graduated with a degree in English and creative writing from Middlebury College and Oxford University. While she was in England, her flirtation with tea blossomed into a full-blown love affair, culminating in her eventual certification as a tea master.

Connect with Julia

Facebook: @justjuliawhelan
Twitter: @justjuliawhelan
Instagram: @justjuliawhelan


My Oxford Year
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Title: My Oxford Year
Series: Standalone
Author: Julia Whelan
Release date: April 24, 2018
Cliffhanger: No

Sometimes you just get a gut feeling about a book, and that's what happened when I came across My Oxford Year. After seeing the adorable cover and reading the blurb, the entire package was calling to me and screaming READ ME in neon lights. I'm usually hesitant with new/unfamiliar authors, but I instictively took the leap of faith in this case, and it paid off handsomely.

I'm not going to lie and say that I wasn't hesitant or cautious because of the blurb's comparison to JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks. I love angst, but I don't want to have my heart ripped out of my chest and splintered into tiny pieces at the end of a book. If there's going to be sadness, I want it to have purpose and meaning, but overall a feeling of thankfulness that I went along for the journey. That's exactly what happened with this story. Ella learns valuable and life altering lessons during her year at Oxford. Not just for the sake of the man she loves, but for her own growth as a woman trying to find her footing in the world.

The narrative is sharp, witty, and easily draws you into the story. Julia Whelan's knowledge of Oxford bled through everything, saturating Ella as she joyfully experienced the University and the beautiful city brimming with opportunity. The city seen through her eyes is just as exciting as she had anticipated all her life, but it gifted her so much more than she could've imagined. It was more than a checkmark on her to-do list, it was a place of knowledge and discovering her purpose. Of slowing down, and savoring the moments and people that mattered.

Ella has been a planner and an overachiever all of her life. Intelligent, driven, and single-minded in her pursuit of a career and success. Along the way, personal relationships have been a casualty of her focus, but she doesn't pause too long to think about that. If it saves her from messy entanglements that will distract her or eventually bring heartache, all the better. She soon learns that all of her planning and preparations for her year abroad will all amount to naught. Life throws curveballs, and you must learn to adapt and grow, sometimes altering the fabric of your beliefs and ideals during the difficult process.

It was on her first day in England when she would meet (and instantly dislike) Jamie Davenport. After a bad first impression that had them exchanging snark and cutting barbs, she would have been happy to never set eyes on him again. Unfortunately, she discovers that the audacious stranger that she crossed paths with is none other than the man stepping in to teach her English lit course. She thinks she can ace the class with her knowledge base and impersonal analyzations, but he helps her examine poetry with the power of her emotions. They have fascinating nuanced philosophical chats, oftentimes inspired by poetry or history. Though their attraction flared quick, it was their friendship that developed and grew solid even quicker. Despite the cultural diversity between them, they feel like they are almost like two sides of the same coin. Understanding and connecting to each other at a fundamental level so effortlessly.

The story wouldn't have the same impact if it wasn't for Jamie. His brilliance and insight made him special, but his sense of humor and the purity of his heart will completely win you over. I loved his total unselfishness in trying to shield Ella from hurt, but also the ways in which he showed her how her happiness meant more to him than his own. He was everything. That's why one of the things that affected me the most was his broken relationship with his father, and the hurt that miscommunication has brought on the entire family. They were all living with so much pain, and I felt every bit of the ache as they tried to find a way to bridge the gap.

I powered through the charming first half of the book, lulled into a false sense of security. The further I read, the more confidence built that I would make it through to the end without falling apart. My strategy was simple: try to remain slightly emotionally removed, and when the time comes, it would be like ripping off a band-aid. Quick and painless. Well, like Ella, I discovered that not all things will conform to strategy. Suddenly in the last 20% of the book, I was leaking like a broken faucet, and desperation had firmly taken hold. I needed a light to guide me out of the darkness. and I think that the author pulled me through it flawlessly. I left the book feeling at peace, and better for having read it. Ella and Jamie will stay with me for a long time to come.

    I love believing in something and fighting for it. That’s what I told Antonia and that’s true. It’s what I counseled Janet to do, on a national stage, no less. Believe in something and fight for it. Well. I found my next fight. Love. That’s my choice.


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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Release Blitz: Let Me Be Your Truth by Lynsey M. Stewart

Is it possible to find your truth in the unlikeliest of relationships?
It's time to finally meet Kate and Danny.

Let Me Be Your Truth by Lynsey M. Stewart is now LIVE!


One click now: http://bit.ly/LMBYTUniversal


From the outside, Kate Roper has life all figured out—a career as a social worker, friends who love her, and a perfectly sensible relationship with a loyal but boring man. She has her life sorted neatly into boxes…until she meets Danny, a tortured artist with a troubled past. They say opposites attract, and Danny’s sexual confidence intrigues Kate. His tattoos enthrall her. He is everything she doesn’t think she needs, yet she craves what he has to offer.

Art therapy sessions at a local therapy centre have saved Danny from his tormented past. But when Kate shows up with her positivity, paint brushes and flirty skirts, Danny can’t seem to escape the grim reminders she triggers of when he needed help the most and was left to bury the past under his addictions.

Danny doesn’t do romance. He does sex. Amazing sex. He can teach Kate the art of orgasms so that his Miss Goody Two Shoes learns the difference between monotonous and mind-blowing…
As their relationship intensifies, their pasts collide. They soon find that they have more in common than they ever would have thought, but can Kate and Danny find their truths in the unlikeliest of relationships?

This novel contains strong language and graphic descriptions of sex; therefore this novel is only suitable for 18+

This is the third book in the Music and Letters series but can be read as a standalone.  

Read the first two books in the Music and Letters series now:
Let Me Be Your First: http://bit.ly/LMBYF-Universal
Let Me Be Your Hope: http://bit.ly/LBMYH-Universal



‘I want to know there are no barriers between us.’

‘Fabric. That’s all,’ I said, breathless and panting and so close to bending over, holding my ankles and allowing him to thrust into me from behind.

‘No barriers,’ he repeated. ‘They’re not just fabric. They’re a fucking lock and key.’

‘I need you inside me, Danny.' His breathing was laboured, and his cock was still hard against me. ‘I don't think I can wait. Can we leave? Will they notice we're gone?'

‘Patience. You need to learn that good things come to those who wait,' he said.

‘Is this another lesson?’ I smiled against his hand as he ran it across my mouth and down my neck.

‘Of course it is. I'm going to push you. Test your boundaries.' He nipped at my earlobe with his lips. ‘Take those lacy things you call underwear that you're hiding in your hand and go and hang them on the corner of my easel in the art room.'

‘I can’t do that,’ I moaned as he palmed my breast. ‘People will see. This is where I work-’

‘Hang them off my easel,’ he demanded, stopping my pathetically weak protest. ‘If you do it, I’ll know you’re ready for the next lesson.’ He gripped my hips and turned me towards him, lifting my chin up to his face with his finger. ‘Do you trust me?’ I nodded as I took in his usually hard brown eyes that were now soft and dilating. ‘Go now.’

Lynsey M Stewart

About Lynsey:

Lynsey M. Stewart enjoys writing stories about characters that experience a few bumps in the road before finding their happily ever after (also known as contemporary romance with plenty of heat…). She lives with her husband, her soulmate and muse, along with their gorgeous, precious, ridiculously independent little girl. Lynsey began writing after being inspired by great books, amazing writers and wonderful stories that she couldn't stop thinking about long after reading the last word. If she’s not writing you can usually find her with her head in a book or singing along to music. She’s hopeless, but she enjoys pretending to be Adele every once in a while.

Follow Lynsey everywhere:


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Cover Reveal: Tulsa by S.L. Scott

Title: TULSA
Author: S.L. Scott
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 3, 2018
Cover Design: RBA Designs


From New York Times Bestselling Author, S.L. Scott, comes a hot new rock star romance that will sweep you off your feet and leave you with a smile.
The rumors are true. At least where I’m concerned.
Drummers hit it harder and do it better.
Women love me and I love them. But I like to think of myself as a sensitive soul trapped in a lady-killer’s body. Not so surprisingly, I’ve been called cocky a time or two. What can I say? We can’t all be boy scouts.
Nikki Faris has thrown off my rhythm. With her red lips, smart aleck mouth, short skirts, long legs, and blue-sky eyes, the beautiful lead singer has become a complete distraction on this tour.
She loves to give me a hard time when all I want to do is give her the pleasure of my hard—time right back.
Tulsa Crow can save his pick up lines, great eight-pack abs, and cute dimples to use on someone else. My band earned their spot on The Resistance’s tour just like The Crow Brothers. I’m not going to blow it getting sidetracked by a cocky rock star that wants to sleep his way through the states. I’ve been called a name or two, but easy isn’t one of them.



Living in the capital of Texas with her family, Scott loves traveling and avocados, beaches, and cooking with her kids. She's obsessed with epic romances and loves a good plot twist. Her favorite color is blue, but she likens it more toward the sky than the emotion. Her home is filled with the welcoming symbol of the pineapple and finds surfing a challenge though she likes to think she's a pro.