CheckMate (A Sara Clemens Mystery Book 1) by L.R. Starr

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

Published on: 16 March 2020
Type: cliffhanger, series
Author: L.R. Starr
Read: 27 September 2020
Shelved: 29 September 2020
Get it here: Amazon USA | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis

A gruesome murder. Floating body parts found in the Hudson river all before breakfast on a Sunday morning. The Elliot’s got away with it again…

A rich family lineage ruling New York City that deemed themselves untouchable. The golden baton has been passed to the blue-eyed Robert Elliot. He’s the head of the empire now, and he’s been getting away with murder. Or so he thinks… A stone-cold killer with an array of deadly charms. Elliot is used to getting everything he wants and then some.

What he didn’t bank on is the dark horse, Sara Clemens. Clemens is a badass private investigator and she’s set to turn the tables on Elliot in more ways than one. Clemens has her own set of problems to deal with. Like the fact, she has to babysit a bratty supermodel and avoid becoming a pawn in Elliot’s game.

Will she let this dangerously electric attraction between her and Elliot cloud the case? Will she be able to solve the murder in time to avenge the death of her client’s son?

Get prepared for a game of cat and mouse, high wit, unlikely players, forbidden attraction, crazy model behavior, and international espionage. 


Review

Sara Clemens is a regular “plain Sara” by day, and a slick-chick, super sleuth by night. She started as a simple photographer that turned her into the exciting world of investigative detective. Sara is good at “finding answers” and has the instincts for the job. She wants to give justice to those who couldn’t.

Hawk is a six foot two, dark brown hair rogue assassin, army brat, and fellow spy partnered with Sara on this mission. He is very selective in taking on cases and freelances as a spy for the Secret Intelligence Unit (SIS) in Britain, but this case, particularly, has his interest piqued. He is also like a big brother to Sara – watches and protects her as best as he can.

The POV is from a few characters – Sara’s, Hawk’s, and even Elliot’s sides. The beauty in this mode is that readers get to (1) be at both investigator’s sides, (2) get a better image of what they each think and what they know, (3) know their backstories better – empathize and, at times, be frustrated with them. Readers get to compare notes between Sara and Hawk as they try to catch the same man.

The book is strong upon the first few sentences. It gives a “no-nonsense” approach in Sara’s voice, which in itself packed a lot of suspense and mystery. Readers will dive in more on Sara’s side of the case and experience it beside her with fresh eyes. We get a small peek of Hawk’s background while swimming a bit in the evil mind of Elliot. The writing is witty and bad-a**, which is perfect for a strong heroine.

The story starts as Sara going undercover to find “dirt” on Robert Elliot, New York’s infamous mafia boss, for a client through his wife, Evana Herold, a famous supermodel. The pace is slow in the first few chapters after the first chapter because the author had to help set up the players and situation since readers enter as “the mission” is underway.

Sara’s character is a complex one. She has to balance the duology of her role as one who upholds the law and being undercover at the same time. She needs to tread carefully in this “grey area” and see what was real versus evil. It conflicts her also – on how deep she needs to go ‘undercover’ to run the risk of losing herself. More internal conflict happens since the target she’s investigating is Robert Elliot, a drop-dead gorgeous, ruthless killer.

Upholding the law and being undercover simultaneously was a delicate tightrope to walk. I had to know when to remove the mask. To see what was real and what was evil.

Sara, CheckMate

I am frustrated with how Sara couldn’t “fight off” her attraction to Elliot. She would act so irrational under his presence. It was alarming because she knows how dangerous Elliot is, but she couldn’t ‘shut down’ her libido? Good thing, it all worked out in the end.

Hawk’s character background is dark and has its sad moments. On the one hand, he wants to remain his secret of being a spy and commit to no one, but on the other, he ironically found someone he can see himself having a relationship. Given that he didn’t take the chance fast enough, he loses her then is still haunted by their memories and how things come full circle that the object of his attention is now the person of interest under Sara and his investigation. Readers will connect to him on this – his pain is written all over it.

The attraction was steamy between Sara and Elliot, but being discovered undercover is slowly taking a risk with the people who are helping her. The suspense was off-the-charts, especially as secrets and new players come popping up that Sara realizes she will need to protect. It didn’t turn out as simple as we would think. It is more than just gathering intel, in that, it’s turning into the realm of global espionage and terrorism.

As a few things get resolved in the end, the author prepares readers for the next installment. There is breathing room, and it’s a welcome relief after all the action that happened when the “operation” went underway. Just when you think things seem “safe,” it isn’t, and how the ending turned into a cliffhanger will get to you in a good “part 2” kind of way. Checkmate indeed!

“I don’t like snakes. I’m cleaning up the yard.”

Hawk, CheckMate

I am still on edge on moving on to the next book, even if some parts wrapped up nicely. The story is definitely for a series with Books 2 and 3 on the horizon. I see great things for the author as she polishes and gets more creative in the next books. I recommend this book for all mystery/suspense loving readers out there.


Prequel Alert

For readers who want to know more about the backstory of how Hawk and Sara started out. Check out Firebomb, which is a great short to have a better appreciation for the series. The length is short but concise enough to show us the working dynamics of the two very unique individuals to the story. I liked the fast-paced, action-packed and no-nonsense approach of the character build-ups and ending to the case. I am surprised at how much engrossing I found this prequel!

Synopsis
How does a P.I. and a rogue assassin named Hawk start working together?
Let’s just say… it involves things blowing up, an off-the-wall ex bomb specialist, and 55 dead already.
The cause; a blonde beauty editor from Manhattan.
Can a green private investigator solve the case in time before the next bomb hits New York City?
A suspenseful, short story of the beginnings of a beautiful long-standing bond being formed.


About L.R. Starr

L.R. Starr is a writer and professional artist residing in down under Australia. She is a lover of twists and turns, and the uncovered mysteries of life. Never too far away from nature, she can be found planning her next travels or in the realms of her imagination coming up with something creative to keep you inspired and entertained.

Connect with L.R.
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Release Blitz : In His Arms by Joey W. Hill

In His Arms, an emotional and erotic standalone from award winning author Joey W. Hill is available now!

Synopsis

Rory has grown up in a small North Carolina town. In high school, he was the popular football player. When he graduated, he saw himself running the general store his father started. Maybe eventually getting married to one of the pretty cheerleaders who liked him in school, having kids. His siblings can live big lives in big cities. He’s not that complicated.

Then an accident puts him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. And Daralyn, a neighbor with a horrific past, comes to live with his family. Everything is suddenly a lot less simple. Because the way Rory wants her is keeping him up at night.

He wants her to belong to him. He wants to command her, protect her. Hell, he can barely say it to himself. He wants to dominate her. The craving is a primal drumbeat in the center of his soul.

How does he deal with that? Especially when her need to trust is so desperate, and her eyes are so full of hunger for what love should be. But he’ll figure it out. He’s going to make sure Daralyn finds everything she needs in his arms.

Download your copy today!
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Add In His Arms to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3fyOxlG

About Joey W. Hill

Joey W. Hill writes about vampires, mermaids, boardroom executives, cops, witches, angels, simple housemaids . . . pretty much wherever inspiration takes her. She’s penned over forty acclaimed titles and six award-winning series, and been awarded the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award for Erotica. But she’s especially proud and humbled to have won the support and enthusiasm of a wonderful, widely diverse readership.

So why erotic romance? “Writing great erotic romance is all about exploring the true face of who we are – the best and worst – which typically comes out in the most vulnerable moments of sexual intimacy.” She has earned a reputation for writing BDSM romance that not only wins her fans of that genre, but readers who would “never” read BDSM romance. She believes that’s because strong, compelling characters are the most important part of her books.

“Whatever genre you’re writing, if the characters are captivating and sympathetic, the readers are going to want to see what happens to them. That was the defining element of the romances I loved most and which shaped my own writing. Bringing characters together who have numerous emotional obstacles standing in their way, watching them reach a soul-deep understanding of one another through the expression of their darkest sexual needs, and then growing from that understanding into love – that’s the kind of story I love to write.”

Take the plunge with her, and don’t hesitate to let her know what you think of her work, good or bad. She thrives on feedback!

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One Beautiful Promise (Very Irresistible Bachelors #4) by Layla Hagen

Published on:  12 August 2019
Type: standalone, series, HEA
Author: Layla Hagen
Get it here:
Amazon US | Amazon US (Paperback) | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Kobo | Apple Books | Google Play
Read: 15 September 2020
Shelved: 17 September 2020
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis:

It all began in Rome…

I was supposed to show Cole the city, as a favor to a friend. I was aware of his reputation, a seductive charmer hellbent on bachelorhood, but I hadn’t prepared for him to get past my defenses. Cole was nothing like the serious businessman I imagined. He was sinfully hot, funny and way too flirty for my broken heart. But, it was just vacation after all. I thought I’d never see him again.

Only I do.

Cole calls me the very day I return to New York. My residency has been my sole focus for the past few years—my passion and my refuge. I’ve loved and lost and I don’t know how to open up again. But Cole is melting my fears with every kiss and touch, willing to move mountains to make me happy and help me heal. And what scares me the most? I might just let him.

Other books in the series of the Winchester family are:-
Book 1 – You’re The One (Hunter and Josie’s story)
Book 2 – Just One Kiss (Ryker and Heather’s story)
Book 3 – One Perfect Touch (Robert and Skye’s story)


Review

Cole Winchester is one of the very eligible bachelors of the Winchester brothers. He is the youngest of the boys and yet is very protective of his family. He’s driven and focused and is okay with random, casual relationships. He was in Rome on a business trip when a mutual friend of theirs somehow set them up to hang out.

Laney Smith took on a short residential exchange in Rome that coincided with Cole’s trip, but she works as a surgical resident at a New York City hospital. She is beautiful, hardworking, and smart. She has been living and breathing her career, so meeting Cole at a foreign country, referred to her by a good friend to show him around, came as a pleasant surprise.

This is my first encounter with the author; and it was an enjoyable experience. I enjoyed the characters and the plot. They were all easy to relate to and love from the beginning. This book is part 4 of the Very Irresistible Bachelor series, but even coming in the middle of the series did not immediately jump to the plot. This book is terrific since books in the past didn’t work for me on this. I came into the book excited that sustained till the end.

The story is from both the main character’s POVs and readers will enjoy how each one rationalizes the moments together and how they approach the relationship. There is a realization on both parties about each other – some insecurities, uncertainty, but somehow there were no rash decisions,” which is a big relief.

I love the tight-knit relationship of Cole’s family members and their rules of “no secret between family members’. It is a good rule to abide by a family to help out anyone before it’s too late. Cole’s siblings are very supportive, that is why everything seems to work out well for Cole in his career (with Hunter at the office) and his personal life (with Tess and Ryker). This type of philosophy is how families should be – supportive and loving.

Sometimes you were too close to your own problems, and it helped to have the family’s perspective. We knew each other so well that nonverbal cues were enough to pick up if something wasn’t okay.

Cole, One Beautiful Promise

The chemistry of Cole and Laney is good. It has a good pace for me, not the insta-love that a lot swoon over but an attraction based on wanting to know more about the person. I like these types of romances since it brings some rational thought and consideration. No crazy emotions were going all over the place, and Cole and Laney are a good match with their personalities.

I’d always been the type who liked to keep things casual and not tie myself down, and yet now, all I wanted to do was fight Laney’s fears, fulfill her dreams, anticipate her needs. She’d become an integral part of my life, and I wanted to keep it this way.

Cole, One Beautiful Promise

There is some drama of Lacey finally getting over her past and moving on…the timing couldn’t have been better since meeting Cole, but there are still a lot of things that she needs sorting out. They met in Rome without committing to anything even if the attraction grew, but Cole then sought her out when she got back to New York since he was having strong feelings about her by then. There was something about Cole that brought back the “fire” in Lacey after the tragedy that she went through. She thought she lost it and will carry the burden.

The characters are easy-going and honest with each other. Both are willing to take time to ‘wait’ for the other to disclose details on their own time. I miss books like these that it sails smoothly, and the story grows organically and positively. I love the flirtations going on between both characters. There is so much witty and sweet banter that even the critical readers will not consider them too cheesy.

The ending was good…perfect since I love how it turned out. These are both smart people, so don’t expect much irrational’ outbursts. I am delighted with everything how everything turned out. I think I’m turning into a “softie” for these types of romances. There is some self-doubt, not too much to be frustrated. I love the gentleness and passion all rolled into one for both Cole and Laney. Perfect for me!

My very brave man who’d bared all his emotions to me. I hadn’t been prepared for all his beautiful words. They touched me so deeply that my eyes were misty.

Laney, One Beautiful Promise

Overall, the book is sweet and gets you all positive from start to finish. I highly recommend this book to readers who love romantic stories with caring family members all around. It’s a great read with relatable characters that will surely make you swoon, just like the cover!
I would also like to recommend the series because there were hints of the other characters that got me interested in what is in-store for Tess or Isabelle.


About Layla

My name is Layla Hagen and I am a Contemporary Romance author.
I fell in love with books when I was nine years old, and my love affair with stories continues even now, many years later.
I write romantic stories and can’t wait to share them with the world.
And I drink coffee. Lots of it, in case the photo didn’t make it obvious enough.

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New Release: Crowne Rules by CD Reiss

“Dante is a Dominant male hero who steals your breath in all the right ways.” —Joey W. Hill

Crowne Rules, an all-new deliciously  decadent forced proximity standalone from New York Times bestselling author C.D. Reiss is available now!

What happens when fire and ice are forced into close proximity?

With the paparazzi hot on her heels, Mandy Bettencourt is desperate for somewhere to hide, and her best friend has just the place.

It’s perfect. No Internet. No phone. A deep bathtub she’s soaking in when HE shows up.

Her best friend’s brother, Dante Crowne. Rich as a cardinal sin and handsome enough to piss off the devil. A man with a reputation for unforgettable bedroom games.

Mandy got an early taste of them in high school–for seven minutes in a closet. She can tell you, the rumors are all true.

Dante knows he’s got a reputation for a lot of things, including a love of solitude.

But there’s a beautiful socialite in his bathtub, and the memory of those seven minutes isn’t inspiring him to kick her out.

So he offers her a deal.

If she wants to stay, she has to work.

If she makes a mistake, she’s corrected with pink hand marks on her backside.

That’s the deal.

Beg for it or leave it.

He’s surprised when she gets on her knees, and he’s even more surprised when she likes the punishment.

The most shocking thing, though, is how much he’s starting to like her.

They can’t stay in paradise forever.

Los Angeles awaits.

But an old nemesis sets his sights on tearing them apart, and Dante may be the one left begging.

**Crowne Rules is a complete STANDALONE. You don’t have to read any of the Crowne Brothers books to pick this up, but you might want to once you’re done with Dante.**

Download your copy or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited today!
Amazon | Amazon Worldwide
Add Crowne Rules to your Goodreads TBR list here.

About CD Reiss

CD Reiss is a New York Times bestseller. She still has to chop wood and carry water, which was buried in the fine print. Her lawyer is working it out with God but in the meantime, if you call and she doesn’t pick up she’s at the well hauling buckets.

Born in New York City, she moved to Hollywood, California to get her master’s degree in screenwriting from USC. In case you want to know, that went nowhere but it did give her a big enough ego to write novels.

She’s frequently referred to as the Shakespeare of Smut which is flattering but hasn’t ever gotten her out of chopping that cord of wood.

If you meet her in person, you should call her Christine.

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For Text Alerts: TEXT “CDREISS” to 77948
*standard text messaging rates apply*

Blog Tour: Out of Love by Jewel E. Ann

I could love the monster or leave the man.

Out of Love by Jewel E. Ann is now live!

Conspiracies. Corruption. Serial killers.

You name it–I’m fascinated by it. My mom always blamed my overly curious and highly suspicious mind on my dad.

My incredibly overbearing dad.

Mr. No One Is Good Enough For My Daughter has been terrifying my dates since I turned fifteen.

College is my chance to be free from his control and date any guy I want.

I’m absolutely certain he would hate Slade Wylder–almost as certain as I am that I do too.

Since when have I shied away from trouble?

Slade fascinates me. He lives in a house I’m certain is haunted. His dog is trained as well as any guard I’ve ever seen. Rumor on campus is that he deals drugs. It would explain a lot.

But it doesn’t explain why he saves me from my darkest moment.

It doesn’t explain why I can’t stop thinking about him.

And the explanation I finally discover is far more dangerous than any rumor.

 

Download today or read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited
Amazon | Amazon Worldwide  
Add it to your Goodreads TBR list : https://bit.ly/2E0ltHb

Excerpt

After their kissy-huggy greeting ended, they walked toward the house with Jericho in tow. I waited for him to glance back at me. He saw me. There was no way he passed me a few seconds earlier on the street and didn’t see me. Yet, he made no attempt to acknowledge me.

Until …

My boy Jerry stopped abruptly and turned like he caught whiff of my scent. All the warm fuzzies filled my chest. A dog gave me more feels than any man had given me in a long time. Maybe ever.

Jericho liked me. Hell, maybe he loved me.

He protected me.

He smiled when he saw me—tongue out, tail in a low wag. I continued my way up the sidewalk, feigning surprise when he trotted toward me in spite of Slade barking his own command.

“Hey, Jerry.” I squatted down to give him double the love Miss Sophisticated gave him … and I had a treat in my pocket because part of me anticipated—hoped for—a chance encounter. “Oh, buddy … I love you too.” I closed my eyes and turned my face side to side while he showered me with kisses.

Slade cleared his throat.

I opened my eyes—noticing his friend must have gone inside. “Sorry.” I stood, sliding a treat into Jericho’s mouth along the way. “I know it’s hard for you to know he likes me more.” On a shrug, I bit my lips together to keep my shit-eating grin under control.

“Inside,” he said to Jericho while looking at me.

Jericho turned and headed to the back door.

“If you have a job to do … Jerry can hang with me tonight. I’m alone this evening.”

“Jericho. And he doesn’t need a babysitter.”

“Maybe I do.”

His brow tensed a fraction, contemplation settling into a slight frown for a few seconds, before he whistled and Jericho came running. “Send him home when your friends get back.”

Why was the only word that sat on the tip of my idle tongue? Why protect me?

“What are you going to do?” Okay, apparently “why” wasn’t the only word on the tip of my tongue after all. Six other words were in line first.

“Does it matter?”

Letting my gaze settle over his shoulder to the firehouse and images of Miss Sophisticated waiting for him, I lifted a single shoulder. “No. Just curious. Is she your girlfriend?”

“Does it matter?”

“I hate you.” I rolled my eyes. “Worst communication skills ever.”

“Good. Hate me. I prefer it.”

I recoiled. I didn’t really hate anyone. It wasn’t my personality to be hateful, vengeful, or hold grudges. Why did Slade Wylder want me to hate him? It was a joke. I hated his lack of sharing information.

“If you’re selling her some shit that will ruin her life, may I suggest you rethink that? Not cool, Wylder.”

“Noted.”

Tipping my chin up, I gave him several tiny nods. “Okay then. I’ll take Jerry to my house and spoil him. Maybe he comes back to you … maybe he doesn’t.”

Slade let his gaze slide down my body, a slow and easy trip. He didn’t do that when we met. Somewhere along the way, he decided it was okay. I wasn’t sure what reaction he desired from me.

Maybe nothing.

Maybe he did it out of pure selfish desire.

“I’m only allowing this because I love Jerry.”

Curious eyes met mine, slightly squinted.

I smirked. “Stripping me with those eyes of yours.”

Moments …

I collected moments in my mind, my heart, my soul, like Aubrey collected rare coins—my mom dying, my dad spending a few years thoroughly drunk. Mostly bad moments—permanent scars.

That moment I tucked into my memory forever as one of the first truly great moments. 

Wylder …

The corners of his mouth quirked into pure sin. If Satan was hot as fuck, his name would have been Slade Wylder, and I would have been in a whole helluva lot of trouble.

Meet  Jewel E. Ann

Jewel is a Wall Street Journal & USA Today best selling author a with a quirky sense of humor. When she’s not saving the planet one tree at a time, you can find her role modeling questionable behavior to her three boys, binge-watching Netflix with her husband, and writing mind-bending romance.

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Blog Tour: Any Luck at All by Denise Grover Swank and A.R. Casella

Any Luck At All, an all-new fun and flirty romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Denise Grover Swank and A.R. Casella is available now!

Synopsis

Georgie Buchanan doesn’t know the first thing about running a brewery—she doesn’t even like beer—so she’s thrown when her grandfather leaves his business to her and her three siblings. Selling Buchanan Brewery would be the prudent approach, and while Georgie is, first and foremost, a businesswoman, keeping it might be her best chance of connecting with her half-brother, Jack. But she quickly learns that what she thought was a fixer-upper is a money pit, the employees are all eccentric to the extreme, and her inheritance comes with a shocking catch. Her one hope for success lies with River Reeves, the handsome brewmaster who learned at her grandfather’s feet…if she can avoid falling for him.

After learning his best friend and boss is selling the brewery they built together to a soulless corporation, River quits on the spot, only for Georgie Buchanan to offer him a job the very same night. Helping her turn Buchanan Brewery around is his dream job, the perfect homage to the man who taught him everything and helped give him roots. There’s one problem: his new boss is his dream woman, and she’s not the type to mix business and pleasure. Balancing a new job, a new puppy, and a growing infatuation with his boss, River knows something has to give.

If Georgie has any luck at all, she’ll be able to turn Buchanan Brewery around without losing her mind or her heart. But as River helps her weather everything from her uncle’s possessed cat to a séance, she realizes she might be wishing for the wrong kind of luck.

Download your copy today!
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Excerpt:

Beau had about a dozen tasting cups from various beer festivals, souvenirs he’d kept in the way people hoard things they like, and River had arranged them in two rows on the dining room table—one tasting cup each for each of the beers he’d picked out. A few fruity ones since Georgie liked wine and cocktails, plus a lager, a gingerbread Christmas beer, and a chocolate cherry porter he’d made for Valentine’s Day. She’d never experienced everything that was possible with beer, so he’d figured he might as well offer a wide selection to show her.

They’d made it through all of the fruity ones, which she’d liked more than the amber, plus the lager, which had made her scrunch her nose in a cute way, and the gingerbread. The chocolate cherry was the last one he’d chosen, and he did a drumroll on the table as she lifted it to her lips.

She held it back from her mouth, laughing a little. “If you’re not careful, you’re going to make me laugh when I’m drinking, and this one’s going to end up on your shirt too.”

“Maybe I want it to,” he said. “It might balance out the smell of the other one.”

She made a face and then sipped it, and from the way she kept drinking, he knew they had another winner.

“What do you taste?” he asked as she pulled it away from her lips, which glistened a little from the liquid.

“Mmm. That one was maybe my favorite, even better than the peachy one. Chocolate and cherries but not too sweet.”

“That’s what I like to hear,” he said, making a plus mark next to it in the little chart she’d made. Leave it to a businesswoman to carry around a notepad and pen in her purse. A monogrammed notepad.

“Only one minus and five pluses,” he said. “Guess you like beer more than you thought.”

She grinned at him, a wider, looser grin than earlier. “I guess maybe I do. Although you’re being a little generous with those plus signs. I said the mango sour was interesting. That was a nice way of saying I’m not going back for seconds.”

He hammed up a dramatic frown as he scribbled out the plus sign and added a minus sign next to it on the chart. “Demoted! Does this mean I have to be suspicious of anything you call interesting?”

“No, just the mango sour.” She paused, meeting and holding his gaze. “You, River Reeves, are quite interesting.”

Her eyes sparkled as she said it, and he felt warmth pulse through him. He found her interesting too, and he was running out of reasons why he shouldn’t. She planned on staying, on restoring Beau’s brewery, and he had no doubt she had the brains and means to do it.

But this woman had been to business school—she’d formed a business from nothing—and he was almost thirty and still a few community college classes short of a degree. He’d fumbled his way into the job that he’d quit a few hours ago. He doubted he was Georgie Buchanan’s type, or at least her type for more than one night. And for some reason, that wasn’t what he wanted from her.

“I like the porter too,” he said, clearing his throat and reaching for his tasting cup. The moment shattered, like he’d meant it to. “We sold out at the brewery, but I brought a six-pack over to Beau’s. This one’s all that’s left.”

“I’m glad you did,” she said, reaching for the bottle the porter had come in. “I think I’m going to claim the rest of this one for myself.”


About Denise Grover Swank

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Denise Grover Swank was born in Kansas City, Missouri and lived in the area until she was nineteen. Then she became a nomadic gypsy, living in five cities, four states and ten ho uses over the course of ten years before she moved back to her roots. She speaks English and smattering of Spanish and Chinese which she learned through an intensive Nick Jr. immersion period. Her hobbies include witty Facebook comments (in own her mind) and dancing in her kitchen with her children. (Quite badly if you believe her offspring.) Hidden talents include the gift of justification and the ability to drink massive amounts of caffeine and still fall asleep within two minutes. Her lack of the sense of smell allows her to perform many unspeakable tasks. She has six children and hasn’t lost her sanity. Or so she leads you to believe.

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About A.R. Casella

A.R. CASELLA is a freelance developmental editor by day, writer by night. She lives in Asheville, NC with her husband, daughter, two dogs, and a variable number of fish. Her pastimes include chasing around her toddler, baking delicious treats, and occasional bouts of crocheting. Any Luck at All, co-written with New York Times bestselling author Denise Grover Swank, is her first book.

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Not Just Friends (Hot in the City Book 3) by T. Gephart

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

Published on: 25 September 2020
Type: series, standalone, HEA
Author: T. Gephart
Read: 06 September 2020
Shelved: 7 September 2020
Get it here: Amazon USA | Amazon Worldwide | Apple Books | Nook | Kobo
Add it to your reading list at Goodreads
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis:

Jared Leighton
Presley, I screwed up, I’m sorry. You were vulnerable and I was supposed to be the good guy. Last thing I ever wanted to do was betray your trust, or worse, hurt you. I should never have even kissed you, let alone . . . yeah, well we both know how that ended. You’re my best friend’s sister for Christ’s sake, what was I even thinking? Clearly, I wasn’t. I’m so mad at myself, I want to break my own legs, save Tibbs the trouble. So yeah, I know this isn’t much of an apology, but I needed to make sure you’re okay. Let me know things are still cool between us or at least, what I can do to make it up to you. And it’s probably for the best if we keep this between just us. I swear on my mother, I’ll never touch you again.

Presley Tibbs
Leighton, not sure who you thought you were with last night, but it wasn’t some vulnerable little girl who needs protecting. I assumed that was pretty clear when I took you to MY bed. Don’t pretend that last night wasn’t exactly what we both wanted. We’ve been flirting with each other for years, and I finally got tired of playing games. As for my brother, he doesn’t and will never have a say in who I invite into my life or body—not his business. But if you’re scared that’s your hang-up, not mine. So save your apology, and your good intentions, and don’t treat me like I’m a woman who didn’t know what she was doing. Oh, and tell your mother I said hi.


Review

I am so excited to read this book! The summary got to me and when I opened the book, I was hooked to let it go without finishing the last chapter.

Presley is the manager of one of the hottest clubs in New York, Diablo. She is smart, determined, and head-strong. She is determined, career-driven, and ambitious as they come. She is so focused on her career, in that, she is currently looking to expand her “wings” into a new venture with the club but her personal life is currently messing with this plan. She has to deal with her good-for-nothing stalker ex-boyfriend, Lewis, things are not or her obsession with Jared Leighton, her brother’s (Justin’s) best friend and roommate.

The former is a douche bag problem with bad news written all over it. I got concerned after reading all about what he did to Presley and to be filing a restraining order is a big deal – since there were threats already. It is also fortunate that Presley, even if strong, has a lot of supportive people behind her like an overprotective big brother and Jared. Now, if only they can nail Lewis asap then Presley’s life can go on as planned.

Jared, the latter of Presley’s problems, is the hunky fireman who can’t seem to get Presley off his head. He was enlisted by Tibbs to act as a bodyguard without knowing the attraction between the two of them already. It made things more explosive, given that they will be in constant contact as often as possible, which definitely lead to more “complications” that will test their patience and control in keeping their “relationship” a secret from the rest of the world…or so they think is still a secret.

If I thought sleeping with him was going to stop me from being attracted to him, I was sadly mistaken.

Presley, Not Just Friends

I enjoyed seeing how Presley’s brother and the rest of the fire department crew have been helping to make sure they find Lewis since he is a threat to his sister’s safety and everyone’s sanity. I can see how the department’s family is extended to their own family members. The same relationship is seen with Presley and her staff at Diablo. They all make sure that Presley is safe and treats her like a sister. Everyone’s got her back from Bennett, Raelle, etc – everyone was looking out for her well-being. It was really comforting to see, especially with a stalker on the loose.

Presley and Jared’s chemistry is hot! The POVs are first-person (duality), Jared and Presley. It’s great since you see polar opposites they are – Presley is head-strong to admit it while Jared is cool, calm (though storming inside), and gives Presley as much space to be the “good guy”. Jared respects Presley as an independent woman while balancing Justin’s alpha craziness to protect his sister. Presley charges on as if her stalker boyfriend has been done and dealt with (though missing). They started a secret relationship as part of Jared being Presley’s ‘bodyguard’. The result was a charged “pull” between the two that ran so thick that readers will feel it jumping out of the pages in excitement.

I tell you what, have a think about it and leave me a note. It will be a test on how good I am at following instructions. And I know how much you love giving them.

Jared, Not Just Friends

The writing is catchy and honest. It was easy to relate and understand for the main characters though given that there are a few names mentioned from the previous books. I really need to get cracking on Book 1 and Book 2 soon because there were many interesting teasers of the other characters in the book that piqued my interest at the same time. Believe me, it was a lot of names so be ready for a few more books to the series.

Readers might think this type of plot and formula is simple and has been done by everyone – sort through the attraction, have steamy scenes, get the bad guy, and that’s it. Right? Wrong. This is not part of that cookie-cutter contemporary romance books. Gephart shows us the aftermath of such a traumatic experience (and it does get a bit crazy in between) that survivors go through. It’s not as simple of a plot as readers will think based on the synopsis. It is a less discussed topic but I am glad that writers like Gephart took the time to show readers on what the options for people who might be going through such a thing, that there’s no “one pill” to solve it all and it takes time and effort to “sort things out”. How Jared and her co-workers handled Presley was amazing – quiet calm that she needed when everything in her head was storming and raging into irrational proportions.

He didn’t talk about it at all, instead was just holding me and telling me it was okay. That I was okay. And it made me feel valid.

— Presley, Not Just Friends

I highly recommend this series. It’s got the intimacy and intricacies of passion, suspense, and redemption all wrapped neatly in one book. If this book is any indication, the rest of the series will surely not disappoint!

I cannot wait to catch up with the rest of the series. Get them now!
Send Me Crazy (Hot in the City Book 1)
One Click Love (Hot in the City Book 2)


T Gephart is a USA Today and International bestselling author from Melbourne, Australia.

With an approach to life that is somewhat unconventional, she prefers to fly by the seat of her pants rather than adhere to some rigid road-map. Her lack of “plan” has resulted in a rather interesting and eclectic resume, which reads more like the fiction she writes than an actual employment history. She’d tell you all about it, but the statute of limitations hasn’t expired yet. But all those crazy twists and turns have led her to a career she loves—writing romantic comedy.
When she isn’t filling pages with sassy and sexy characters with attitude, she’s living her own reality show in the ‘burbs of Melbourne with her American husband, two teenage children, and her fur child, Woodley.
She loves adventure, to laugh, travel, and strives to live her life to the fullest.

Connect with T Gephart
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Perfect Wreckage by Catherine Cowles

“Catherine Cowles writes characters that are real, relatable, and will have you rooting for their happily-ever-after with all your heart!”
– Mia Sheridan, New York Times bestselling author

Perfect Wreckage, an all-new, breathtakingly beautiful small-town romance from Catherine Cowles is available now!


My past taught me to play it safe.

To stay far away from handsome men who promised it all.

My life was good without them. Stable, secure, predictable.

But one kiss showed me that I’d been playing it safe for far too long.

One night, and all I wanted was more of his wildfire.

One challenge and my carefully constructed walls tumbled down.

Amidst the rubble, I realized there was more to this man than I ever dreamed.

When everything fell apart, he showed me what it meant to stay.

How to truly live.

But some demons don’t stay buried.

The past can come knocking when you least expect.

And the life he’s showing me might be shorter than either of us expected…

Download your copy today!
Amazon | Apple Books | Amazon Worldwide | Nook | Kobo
Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2Y1ZFlJ

Excerpt:

            I leaned against the tree at the edge of the beach, taking in the show. The woman seemed to be one with the water. Smooth strokes cut through the inlet’s subtle waves. They were both graceful and powerful, restrained and explosive. A juxtaposition so similar to the woman herself.

Kenna made her way towards the rocky shore. Climbing to her feet, rivulets of water traced paths down curves that even her full-coverage, black Speedo couldn’t disguise. She wrung out her hair, and the long, dark sheet sprang up in unexpected curls. They reminded me of that part of Kenna she liked to hide away from the world.

Her movements faltered, and then she swiped her towel up from the beach. “What are you doing here?”

I grinned, pushing off the tree trunk and striding towards her. “Caelyn told me this was a good spot for paddleboarding.”

Kenna mumbled something about her friend being a traitor. “I’m surprised you’re even up this early.”

I gave a little shrug. I had to be at a meeting at ten, so this was the only opportunity I’d have all day to be on the water. “Every day is different.”

“Must be nice to just flit around wherever the wind takes you.”

My phone buzzed in my pocket, and I slid it out. A familiar number, one I wished like hell I could forget, flashed across my screen along with a text.

Hey, Crosby. Can we talk? It’s important.

My face went hard as ice seemed to slide through my veins. Alicia’s gamble hadn’t paid off, and now she was trying to get her second choice back on the line. Not in this lifetime.

A cold hand grazed my forearm, yet somehow, the touch seemed to heat my skin. “Are you okay?”

I gave my head a little shake, plastering on my signature carefree smile. “Just those damn telemarketers. They never give up.”

Kenna’s hand fell away, and she took a step back. “You can just tell me to mind my own business. You don’t have to lie.”

I instantly felt the loss of her heat, the faint buzz on my skin where she’d touched me. “Fair enough.” Kenna kept her gaze locked to mine as if daring me to tell her the truth. I took the coward’s way out and changed the subject. “I like these.” I reached out and took a strand of her hair in my fingers, releasing it and letting the curl bounce.

Pink tinged her cheeks. “I prefer it straight.”

My grin grew wider. “I don’t know, Brown Eyes, I think you should let it run wild.” And what I would give to see this woman free and untamed.


About Catherine

Writer of words. Drinker of Diet Cokes. Lover of all things cute and furry, especially her dog. Catherine has had her nose in a book since the time she could read and finally decided to write down some of her own stories. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring her home state of Oregon, listening to true crime podcasts, or searching for her next book boyfriend.

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Shaken (Twisted Fox 2) by Charity Farrell

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

Published on: 22 September 2020
Type: standalone, series, HEA
Description: enemies-to-lovers, workplace romance
Author: Charity Ferrell
Read: 14 September 2020
Shelved: 15 September 2020
Get Shaken here: Amazon | Amazon WW | Apple Books | B&N | Google Play | Kobo
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis:

A see yourself out note isn’t how you want to celebrate the morning after your first one-night stand.
The first time I meet Archer Callahan is when I block him in a parking spot.
The second is a fender bender.
The third is at a bar, drinking away our problems, and finding our way to his bed.
I never expected to see him again.
That changes when a month later, he’s introduced as my brother’s new business partner.
In need of a job, I’m hired at their bar, much to Archer’s dismay.
We hate each other.
We’re off-limits.
But every time we’re together, flashbacks of that night shake through us.
We push, we pull, until one of us breaks.

Add Shaken to your Goodreads to-read list!


Also available in THE TWISTED FOX SERIES:

Book 1 – Stirred (Cohen and Jamie’s story)
Amazon | Amazon WW | Apple Books | B&N | Google Play | Kobo

Book 2 – Shaken (Archer and Georgia’s story)
Amazon | Amazon WW | Apple Books | B&N | Google Play | Kobo

Book 3 – Straight Up (Lincoln and Cassidy’s story *PREORDER*
Amazon | Amazon WW | Apple Books | B&N | Google Play | Kobo

Book 4 – Chaser (Finn and Grace’s story) *PREORDER*
Amazon US | Amazon World | Apple Books | B&N | Google Play | Kobo

Book 5 – Last Round (Silas and Lola’s story) *PREORDER*
Amazon | Amazon WW | Apple Books | B&N | Kobo


Review

Georgia Fox is a good heart, optimist, and fun-loving gal but has an uncanny way of attracting herself into embarrassing situations like a fly to honey. She is the epitome of clumsiness and “Murphy’s Law” scenarios that I’ve currently encountered. No matter how much she tries, she somehow gets entangled with Archer Callahan too many times and in the oddest of situations that one would think Fate was playing a good joke on them. Georgia somehow ended up with Archer/Chase later realizes that Archer and her would be connected more than just one night.

Archer Callahan (aka “Chase Smith”) is a disappointed man. He’s been let-down by his family too many times. He wanted nothing to do with the family business, let alone with his disappointing father but had to work there…until one day, he decided that he had enough. He traded-in being kind to being career-driven. He just learned to be the worst person and show it to the world. He wanted a simple and quiet life. He discovers later that it’s not mean to be and his partner and good friend, Cohen, is the brother of Georgia who he had slept with!

Throughout the years, I’ve learned the easiest approach for convincing people to leave you alone is for them to dread your presence. No one wants to hang out with the brooding bastard.

Archer, Shaken

The chemistry is very intense and passionate – love/hate going on as early as the very first chapter! I love the banter that goes on between them! There were a lot of “coincidental meetings” for Archer and Georgia in the book. These meet-ups are the ones I look forward to since these are the absolute funniest part of the book. I snicked, chuckled, and laughed my way through their volleying remarks. Both of them seems to be keeping score each time!

Georgia doesn’t take anything that Archer throws at her “sitting/lying-down”. She stood up and defended herself, even as she gets distracted with all is stature (very tall, I might add). On the other side, Archer, as he gets riled up, also gets distracted in his mind on what was going on between his brain and Grace.

All joking around aside, both characters do have their own “issues”. During those low points, they ironically also bumped into each other. Their own histories are sad – definitely family issues. It is rare but they did try their best to be resilient and “move-on” with their issues and from their attraction. There is a lot of “pushing-pulling” going on …most on Archer’s part. It’s a lot of gut-wrenching confessions and more fights. I agree with Georgia’s friends that she needs to think of putting herself first at the end of all this.

The story spans weeks or sometimes months, which is nice and realistic to make the characters grow and realize how they are denying themselves the happiness that they both deserve. The story takes readers into Archer’s world with his new business and later his strained interactions with his family and the legacy that he has to face.

Georgia is a brave, and a very forgiving person – a saint! She is a big fan of second chances and is always on the positive side of life. She takes on the same attitude with Archer by giving so many chances to fess up but each time, he goes off and throws it to her face due to his fear and insecurities. She is also responsible for having Cohen and their mother work things out in the end..she’s a pure joy to read up about!

The thing with me is, my heart survives a beating. It can get fractured in every way possible, nearly destroyed, and I’ll still pick up every piece. I”ll gather them one by one and then hand them over to someone even more reckless.

Georgia, Shaken

Archer’s story and background were not fully realized till far closer to the end – with why he’s been putting himself “down” with being with anyone. There was no way to have Archer “leap” into a relationship due to his “heavy past” and it all goes really full-on gut-wrenching each time. His ‘defeatist attitude’ is a downer and there are so many times that I wanted to “shake” him out of that slump of “doom and gloom” attitude. Ironically, his story unfolds later on before Georgia, and what she discovers about him that she realizes how best to help Archer in the end. Thank goodness!

She is the calm to my storm.

Archer, Shaken

The ending is beautiful. It took some time but that’s the reality with people who needs to get over things by themselves with their support system in place. For Archer, Georgia was the support system that he needed. She is a great woman to keep “fighting” for them, even if she feels that Archer has given up countless times. (Those are the times I just get so angry with him!) Without giving anything away, I am sure the readers will agree that the Charity did a great job of ‘weaving’ their story beautifully in the end.

Love is when you want to wake up every single day and prove to the other person that you’ll work on being a better person than you were the day before — a better love, a better friend.

Archer, Shaken

I recommend this book for readers who love enemies becoming lovers, second chance romances, and hot steamy chemistry! I really appreciate the length and build-up that will ensure the characters really dig deep to mature and grow for each other – to be better versions of themselves to their loved ones in the end.


About Charity

Charity Ferrell resides in Indianapolis, Indiana with her boyfriend and two fur babies. She loves writing about broken people finding love with a dash of humor and heartbreak, and angst is her happy place.

When she’s not writing, she’s making a Starbucks run, shopping online, or spending time with her family.

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Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Millicent’s Guide to Surviving the Fall by Cynthia A. Rodriguez

Millicent’s Guide to Surviving the Fall by Cynthia A. Rodriguez is coming October 23rd! Don’t miss this right person-wrong time romance.

BOOK BLURB

We’re all afraid of something.

Millicent Ambrose doesn’t know a thing about love.

And from what she’s witnessed, it doesn’t seem like she’s missing out on much.

Until one night at an empty hotel bar brings her face-to-face with Sam Lee, who isn’t impressed by her good looks or her ability to bring other men to their knees.

What starts off as a potential one-night encounter between two strangers propels them into a romantic dilemma neither of them saw coming.

What happens when the woman who wanted nothing to do with love falls the hardest?

Or when your soulmate already belongs to someone else?

PREORDER NOW!


Amazon Universal
Add to your Goodreads TBR: https://bit.ly/MGTSTS_GR

Purchase Teófila’s Guide to Saving the Sun, Book 1 in The Guiding Series:
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA | BookBub

GIVEAWAY

Cynthia A. Rodriguez is giving away a $15 Amazon Gift Card on her Facebook page to celebrate. Stop by to enter!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cynthia hates writing her own bio. In her down-time, you can find her watching movies, ranging anywhere from classic to action flicks (she has a weakness for Marvel adaptations), and reading any novel she can get her hands on.

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