Twice Burned (Jewel Lake Series 4) by Claire Wilder

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

Published on: 31 May 2021
Type: HEA, series
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Drama
Author: Claire Wilder
Read: 25 May 2021
Shelved: 27 May 2021
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here: Amazon | Goodreads | Bookbub

Synopsis

I won’t be burned again.

CASEY

I knew it wouldn’t be easy moving back home to Jewel Lakes County.
I knew, walking the streets of Barkley Falls, that I’d have to confront the most painful memories of my past.
I just didn’t expect I’d have to run into one of them in the flesh.
When we were teenagers, Hank promised he’d never let me go. When he left, he promised he’d come back.
Hank broke all his promises. And broke my heart into smithereens.
I don’t care if he’s a different man now. I don’t care if my heart feels like it’s going to shatter all over again seeing him here.
I’m not going to let him see his effect on me.
I’m not getting burned twice.

HANK

I messed up.
I messed up a lifetime ago when I left the only woman I’ve ever loved to pursue a dream of being a firefighter in NYC.
I messed up when I went into that burning building with my best friend and came out alone.
Moving back home to Jewel Lakes was supposed to be a do-over. I was supposed to be able to live quietly, without messing anything else up.
But how am I supposed to do that when Casey’s back here too?
I never stopped loving Casey Mitchell. But she’s got a life of her own now. A business to run. A sweet little kid.
A hate-on for me.
How could she ever forgive me for what I did? How can I forgive myself, when everything I touch turns to ash?

All Jewel Lakes books feature high steam, a guaranteed HEA (Happily Ever After), and can be read as standalones. However, for the best reading experience, reading in order is recommended.

Start the Jewel Lake Series Today!

Touching Wood (Jewel Lakes Book 0.5) –> free!
Amazon | Bookbub | Goodreads

Her Property (Jewel Lakes Book 1)
Amazon | Bookbub | Goodreads

His Build (Jewel Lakes Book 2)
Amazon | Bookbub | Goodreads

His Hot Mess (Jewel Lakes Series Book 3)
Amazon | Bookbub | Goodreads


Review

Disclosure: Do readers need to read the previous books to this series? Although this book mentioned the other characters in the previous book, it is not a requirement, and readers can start any book in the series. BUT I would highly recommend readers catch up with the previous books to understand better and connect the people accordingly and avoid spoilers for the other characters whose stories were already discussed.

Twice Burned is your slow-burn with a historical past between flawed characters. It is written from the first-person’s POVs – dual, Hank’s, and Casey’s. The writing is clear and relatable, especially with Casey’s side, a struggling divorcee and a mother to a young boy. Casey and Hank are childhood sweethearts who understood each other from the start or so they thought. They didn’t start broken; instead, they were each other’s “saviors” until they grew up and started to over-think too many things. It all imploded at the end, mainly due to miscommunication and pride. They were sacrificing for the other’s future, ambitions, and endeavors with their stubbornness. They kept thinking that each one is not good enough to stand beside the other. (That is so wrong!) They would question their self-worth to the other that implodes at the end. 

Casey is a martyr or a saint for everything she went through – the ups and downs of being with someone to pushed into places that she didn’t realize was messing up with her identity until it was too late. She may have had a rocky start regarding a fated relationship, anguishing experiences in the middle as a single mother. Still, her ending was a strong and stellar one that combined all the strength of a mother, and a partner should have. Her pride might cause her many problems, but it also shows readers her inner strength and convictions to fight what mattered most in the end. 

I am so frustrated with Hank. I love him but hate what he did and was putting Casey through. I was rooting for him even before the author announced this book. I had an image of him that is very similar to the book. But this version of Hank (in the book) was so broken that it went beyond my realm of imagination. He had confidence issues stemming from his family that translated to his relationship with Casey. Each time when I think Hank was starting to “come out of the dark” and realize that he can have his second chance to live, he retreats and goes into an even darker place (!) and brings his self-worth down ten levels than when he started. It was a big downer! I constantly wanted to “shake him” and tell him that he’s overreacting. Of course, the author made sure that Hank gets his act together but not until he does his version of penance. His self-defeatist attitude drove me off the wall until something happened near the end that snapped him back to reality and made him decide what is important after all these years.

“I’d lost sight of the women who’d needed me. I’d felt like I was holding her back, but she’d never asked me to leave. She’d never wanted to leave me until I pushed her away.”

— Twice Burned, Claire Wilder

**I wonder if therapy would have worked for him since the scars within him need something else than just walking through the fixing inside. 

In summary, Twice Burned is one of the angst(est) books I’ve read with a side of frustration to Hank. I love the female protagonist and what she had to go through in making her stronger for Hank and her son. I recommend this for readers who love their second chances (big huge second chance), angst, and broken main characters who “pull it together” in the end. 

“I knew there was an ember in my heart I’d tucked away just because it felt like holding onto something good and pure and precious. I could have let it smolder there for the rest of my life, but in that moment, I wanted the flame. It was irrational and foolish and idiotic, but I wanted it to roar.”

— Twice Burned, Claire Wilder

About the Author

Hey! I’m Claire.
And there are two things you should know about me right off the bat:
❤ LAKES
and
❤ LOVE!
(Would it be weird to get that on a t-shirt?)

Okay, I love a lot of other stuff (my husband, my kids, my creaky old house, man-candy, chocolate, wine….I could go on).
But those two are HUGE–they’re the reason I write the books I write!

First, Lakes.
I am a wee bit obsessed with lakes. I grew up on a lake in Ontario, Canada, and practically lived in or on the water all year round.
Swimming and dock-diving in the summer.
Ice skating ’til it hurt in the winter (literally. Chill blains are the WORST!).
I moved away from the lake when was ten and spent the rest of my childhood growing up in a major city.
But the lake is in my blood. There’s just something about being by the quiet stillness of a contained body of water that’s just…magic.
Just like the characters in my books, I’m a city girl now, yearning for a life closer to nature. For now, I’ll keep saving lake pictures and writing about them like I’m still there.

More Importantly, Love.
The other thing about me is I love…LOVE. All parts of it: the thrill, the warm-hearted comfort of it, the closeness, the connection. I believe in love wholeheartedly!
BUT. When it comes to romantic love, I’m a little picky. The kind of love I love (is this getting confusing yet?) is sweet AND sexy, cozy AND hot.
But above all, I believe true love must be formed on a basis of mutual respect. That’s why I write books about REAL women and the sexy AF men who love them. Jewel Lakes men are never manipulative. They never make you feel bad about yourself. They’re always sexy and they ALWAYS treat you right. 

What Else?
I love movies in extremes: I love it when they scare the pants off me (The Woman in Black); make me cry my face off (Steel Magnolias); OR make me laugh ’til my sides hurt (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates). 
My favorite-ever food that I can’t cook is eggplant parmesan (though many dishes are close seconds–and I share lots of amazing recipes from foodies in my books in my newsletter). I also love a big ‘ol Costco hot dog (lol). 
I’m married to an amazing guy (Mr. Wilder) who is a movie lover (seriously ask him anything) and have three kids who drive me nuts but I wouldn’t trade them for all the sun and stars. 
When I’m not writing steamy lakeside romance novels (and the occasional sweet & sexy short story), I’m either reading, riding my e-bike (don’t knock it ’til you try it!) taking long walks by the ocean (which I consider a giant lake) or in the trees.
Thanks again for stopping by–be sure to check out my books page for all the latest info on my existing and upcoming work.

Connect with Claire
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Arsenic and Adobo (A Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery #1) by Mia Manansala

Disclosure: All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

Published on: 04 May 2021
Published by: Berkley 
Type: HEA, series, standalone
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Asian American Literature, Mystery
Author: Mia P. Manansala
Read: 25 May 2021
Shelved: 29 May 2021
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Book Depository | Penguin Random House | IndieBound | Booktable | Centuries & Sleuths | Murder By The Book | Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer….

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant and has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longganisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

Content Warning: fatphobia, drug abuse, evidence planting, police intimidation, (implied) domestic violence, racism.


Review

Lila Macapagal is a third-generation American-Filipino of the Macapagal family. She is back home to help her Aunt Rosie and Lola Flor at their restaurant to save it from bankruptcy and also escape her “rocky past.” What she finds herself is right smack into a struggling restaurant, her ex-boyfriend, and a whole load of secrets that could have been the reason Shady Palms is named as such.

Arsenic and Adobo is a delightful read that dives into the beautiful world of Filipino food, culture, and traditions, with a whodunit storyline to keep readers on their toes. It is Book 1 in the A Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series. The writing is excellent and fun to read. The story is from Lila’s POV and light enough to be “cozy,” yet full of suspense and roadblocks that are more sophisticated than the typical “cozy mystery.” I think it’s a level up due to the longer suspects list and complex plot twists. Aunt Rosie’s, Lila’s Aunt’s, shop was not the only target of the deceased awful restaurant reviews – there were other possible culprits. 

With everything, being charged put such a problematic situation for Lila and her whole family. They were all tight on cash, plus bailing her out since being charged with the murder of Derek, her ex-boyfriend/Shady Palms food critic; things were looking very bleak for Lila and her relatives.

Things I love about the book:-

1) the various cultural references brought by the author with a short vocabulary refer to others who might not know. If not mentioned in the glossary, the characters discussed it more in detail in the story. I love how the story brings in Filipino beliefs and cultures without having it “right in your face.” Instead, Lila’s life shows us what family and relatives (even non-blood related) mean in the Filipino tradition. I related to all of them with ease, but Lila gives a good explanation for readers who are not familiar.  
Bottom line: family is whoever and whatever you want that definition to be AND family is everything!

2) the complex plot that twists and turns to the unsuspected. Just when I thought I know who the killer is, I am blind-sighted with another problem and have an iron-clad alibi that brings me back to square one. Many things were unfolding as Lila started investigating to help her Aunt and the restaurant. Somehow, she constantly gets caught in the middle of the crime scenes, strengthening the case against her and her family. I had to smack my head so many times due to her “unfortunate luck.” 

3) shocking revelations that seemed far-fetched, but once each party “confesses” to the crimes, it makes more sense. I had to revisit a few things in the book that I seemed to have missed, like Lila. Don’t worry – Lila had to piece it together like us, and she was in shock with everything.

4) the steamy love interest going on in the story. Not only is there one man vying for Lila’s attention and being protective of her, but there are two! Although there is some “connection” going on, these events did not detract from the book’s main point – who murdered Derick Winters!

5) lastly, I appreciate the author included a set of recipes at the end of the book mentioned and made by Aunt Rosie, Lola Flor, and Lila. It was interesting to check out and maybe try out!

In summary, Arsenic and Adobo is a promising debut literary offering of the author. It is an excellent sample of the author’s potential that I am sure will go far as the series progresses. This book gives a realistic, truthful insight on the Filipino family dynamics – related or otherwise. Filipinos reading this book will keep nodding in agreement on each character’s personality. The older generation will side with Tita Rosie’s words, while the transplanted/migrant younger Filipino generations will relate to Mia’s questions and defiance to the culture’s sometimes too submissive trait. This book is beyond the cozy mystery book that I have encountered since there were was suspense, drama, internal and external conflicts, plus a foodscape to various cultures, aside from Filipino dishes! I cannot wait to see what is next in Lila’s “plate of adventures” as the series starts that I am sure will flourish even more!


About the Author

Mia P. Manansala (MAH-nahn-sah-lah) (she/her) is a writer and book coach from Chicago who loves books, baking, and bad-ass women. She uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture.

She is the winner of the 2018 Hugh Holton Award, the 2018 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, the 2017 William F. Deeck – Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers, and the 2016 Mystery Writers of America/Helen McCloy Scholarship. She’s also a 2017 Pitch Wars alum and 2018-2020 mentor.

​A lover of all things geeky, Mia spends her days procrastibaking, playing JRPGs and dating sims, reading cozy mysteries, and cuddling her dogs Gumiho, Max Power, and Bayley Banks (bonus points if you get all the references).

​Her debut novel, ARSENIC AND ADOBO, came out May 4, 2021 with Berkley/Penguin Random House and is the first in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series.

Connect with Mia
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Excerpt Reveal: Becoming Wilde by HK Jacobs

BECOMING WILDE by HK Jacobs is coming June 13th. Check it out and be sure to pre-order your copy today!

Title: Becoming Wilde
Author: H.K. Jacobs
Genre: Women’s Fiction Romance
Release Date: June 13th

Synopsis

Is this the beginning of our epic love story?

Alexandra Wilde’s life is beyond her wildest dreams.  After a tumultuous year, she has returned to Botswana as a full-fledged pediatric ICU doctor and reignites a consuming romance with Ian Devall, the privileged philanthropist who has captured her heart.  Her new position at the hospital is fraught with challenges as saving lives pushes her resourcefulness to the brink.  Meanwhile, her connection with Ian deepens, and she realizes that forging a commitment with him will require a sacrifice she isn’t ready to make.  As she teeters on the precipice of decision, tragedy strikes and sends her into a spiral of grief where she must find hope in adversity…or risk losing everything she has become.          

Excerpt

“I went to see my dad to talk to him about the Mongolia project, and he suggested we go for a drive.  That’s when he told me you had come all the way to his house to find me, and I asked him a…question.” 

Ian focused harder into the remnants of his breakfast.

“What question was that?”

“What was it like to love someone so much and not be loved like that in return?” 

Alex blinked as the words settled into her skin.  Ian was referring to his parents—how his dad had let his mom pursue her dreams at the expense of his happiness and how she had slipped away from him after Ryan’s death, ultimately abandoning Ian.  Alex tried to contain the singular tear spilling over the outer corner of her eye—a tear concentrated with empathic grief.  

“What did he say?”

Ian pushed his plate to the side and turned to face her, his long legs barely able to fit in the narrow space between the barstools.  “He said that it was terrible…and wonderful.” Ian reached down to wind his fingers through Alex’s.  “He said he had no regrets.” Ian closed his eyes, plucking the conversation out of his memory.  “Because epic love is rare and requires a man to let go of his fear.  But once he does, he is free to love recklessly.” 

His lids parted to reveal a depth in his irises that Alex had only seen once before, and their flames scorched her very soul.  

“I am terrified of losing you again, but I am more terrified of a life without you.” 

His lips were moving again, but the words were scattered by Alex’s quick exhale right before she pressed her mouth to his.  In her kiss, she infused all the warm, tender sweetness that bloomed in her heart.  Their meeting of lips was a sacred vow made amidst the leftover scent of maple syrup and the gentle whine of a concerned canine.  Alex pulled away, opening the drawbridge to a fortress filled with emotion that rushed to the surface, leaving a warmth to her skin and a brightness in her eyes. 

She placed her palms on either side of Ian’s face.  “You will never have to imagine a life without me.” 

Although he remained speechless, his expression, one of adoration and spectacular love, provided Alex the answer to her heart’s final question—an answer written in the glowing embers of his flame blue eyes.

Catch Up on the Series with Wilde Type Today!


About the Author

HK Jacobs is native to a small town in Texas that gave her both wings and roots. She holds a Doctor of Medicine from Baylor College of Medicine and a Master of Public Health from the University of Texas.  She is a board certified pediatric critical care physician whose passion is traveling the globe caring for seriously ill children in low-middle income countries.  She currently resides in Texas where she continues to balance the many roles in her life—mother, physician, humanitarian, dreamer, and author.

Connect with H.K. Jacobs:
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Book Blitz: Opposites Attract by Jacqueline Lee

Opposites Attract by Author Jacqueline Lee is out NOW!
Get your copy today!⁣

Publication date: 27 May 2021
Author: Jacqueline Lee
Genres: Adult, Romantic Comedy, Contemporary Romance

Get it here:
Amazon | Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

Megan is nerdier than all of the characters on The Big Bang Theory combined. But it’s a fabulous form of revenge that the same traits she was tormented for in high school have helped her land her dream job as a science journalist in New York and her dream apartment with fellow nerd, Josh, who is potentially her dream guy. The only problem is Josh’s brother, Brandon, is constantly around blocking any attempts to create a romantic atmosphere. Megan nurses an oversized grudge against jocks due to a past traumatic experience. The fact that Brandon’s a professional football player whose new favorite sport is mocking her only increases her fantasies of feeding him to a giant carnivorous plant.

Brandon’s life might look perfect, but he’s got a massive hang-up about his intelligence, a hang-up which is aggravated by all the verbal sparring with Josh’s new roommate. Even worse, it appears Science Barbie is falling for his deeply closeted brother. Why does he care so much about preventing the impending disaster? But the more time he spends with Megan, the more he realizes the sparks between them have the potential to ignite into something amazing.


Excerpt

Living with Josh is as great as I expected. We move from roommates to friends seamlessly over the next fortnight, and inside me there’s a little spark of hope that the next progression might happen just as naturally.

Unfortunately Josh shows no sign of being interested in me romantically. And trust me, I’ve been searching for signs more actively than UFO enthusiasts search the night sky. Because there is no way I’m going to put myself out there and risk all the potential awkwardness unless I’m absolutely certain my feelings are reciprocated.

One Saturday night we’re heading out the door together when Brandon arrives. I swear Brandon spends more time at our apartment than he does at his own. Josh seems to enjoy his company, so I’ve bitten back my complaints.

“We were just going to grab some frozen yogurt. You want to come?” Josh asks him.

Brandon flinches. “Probably not a good idea.”

I let out a breath I didn’t even realize I was holding. It’s not just that I want to spend time alone with Josh. Somehow, when Brandon’s around there’s always this weird tension buzzing between him and me, and not just when we’re trading insults. It’s like antimatter—one of those phenomena science can’t find an explanation for.

Josh ducks back into his room and emerges holding a red baseball cap and dark sunglasses. “Here.” He thrusts them at Brandon, who puts them on.

I raise an eyebrow. “Is there a reason why you’re dressing Brandon up like that even though it’s mid-January, forty degrees, and dark outside?”

“We’ve got to cover up Brandon’s beauty or the girls start mobbing him,” Josh says.

I roll my eyes. I have to concede, Brandon is male-model gorgeous. However it’s egotistical of him to assume that females can’t control themselves around him.

“Yeah, I understand. I struggle with the urge to mob Brandon daily.” My words are deep-fried in sarcasm.

“And yet you find the strength to resist,” Brandon says.

“It’s my superpower,” I reply.

We head into the elevator, also known as taking your life into your own hands. I swear the metallic groaning and creaking gets worse every time.

Brandon stands next to the door, and as I lean past to press the button I catch a hint of his cologne. He smells like a fresh mix of lemon and cedarwood, two of my favorite scents. I have to restrain myself from shuffling closer to him. After just mocking the idea of mobbing him, planting my nose on his skin might be slightly hypocritical.

We make it to Frozen Palace and I volunteer to queue up while Brandon finds a booth near the back and Josh heads to the bathroom.

I’m studying Frozen Palace’s poster that’s inviting me to suggest my own new flavor of yogurt, when a guy sidles up behind me.

“Excuse me, is that Brandon Seaton you just came in with?”

I turn to look at the guy. He’s the pure definition of a jock, in letterman jacket and jeans. His two friends standing beside him are dressed identically.

“Um…yeah.” My shoulders have hunched up automatically. I force myself to unclench.

“Oh, my God, I thought so.”

“Do you know him from somewhere?” I ask.

He gives me a weird look. “Yeah, I know him from football.”

“Oh, do you guys play on the same team?”

The guy’s look morphs into astonishment, and he starts to chuckle. “Yeah, sure we play on the same team. I’m the starting receiver, didn’t you know?”

He and his friends crack up laughing. Heat tracks up my cheeks. Jocks. I frigging hate them. Especially when I’m the butt of a joke I don’t understand.

And I really don’t understand what’s going on now, because as I collect our orders and weave my way back to the table it’s like I’ve stumbled into one of the sixth dimension’s alternative universes. I can hear Brandon’s name echoing around, like the walls are whispering it. I put the tray on the table with a thump.

Brandon looks at my face and frowns. He’s taken off his sunglasses but his cap remains in place. “What’s up?”

I don’t want to admit I’m hallucinating his name. I’m about to tell him I ran into his friend, when suddenly the friend turns up at our table.

“Sorry to disturb, but can I grab an autograph?” He thrusts a pen and napkin at Brandon.

My forehead wrinkles in confusion as Brandon puts on a smile. I know Brandon well enough to know it’s a fake smile. But he obediently picks up the pen and signs the napkin.

“Your friend wanted to know if we play on the same team,” the guy chortles.

Brandon glances at me. I give him a flat glare back.

“Yeah, she’s not really into football,” he says.

Sidling back in my seat while he talks to the idiot guy, I shield my phone from scrutiny while I google Brandon. What I read makes me swallow hard. Twice.

Right, so apparently there are some negatives about determinedly remaining ignorant about everything in the football universe.

Like not knowing your roommate’s brother is the FREAKING STARTING QUARTERBACK FORTHE NEW YORK GOLIATHS.


About the Author

Jacqueline Lee is an award-winning romance author who writes stories with heart and humor. She loves writing characters who have fun with each other while building a deeper connection. Formerly a high school biology teacher, Jackie is living her own version of happily-ever-after with her husband and three children in New Zealand.

Never miss a new book or exclusive FREE short stories! Sign up to Jacqueline’s newsletter at: here.

Connect with Jacqueline
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** GIVEAWAY ALERT **

In celebration of the release of Opposites Attract, a giveaway is being run! Up for grabs is a $25 Amazon gift card!
This Blitz-wide giveaway is open internationally. The giveaway ends June 3rd.

Join now with the link here!

Good luck!

A Bullet Between Us (The Moretti Crime Family) by K. Dosal

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

Published on: 2021 May 26
Published by: K Dosal Books
Type: HEA, standalone, interconnected series
Genre: Multi-interracial Romance, Dark Romance, Crime Fiction
Author: K Dosal
Read: 13 May 2021
Shelved: 15 May 2021
Rating: 5/ 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here:
Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Universal Link | Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

DAVINA
I’d walked into an alley where death awaited me.
Terrified under the brittle moon, I’d been left behind as blood swept into the pristine snow.
I’d closed my eyes and waited for the afterlife, welcoming it.
Death had never come for me, but it ended the life I once knew.
Now, I lived in fear, running from a world ruled by vicious men.
An organized world where power and violence had no limit.
And I was in the middle of it all.
It’d led me to him, Ilias.
But in this world, my nightmare was etched in the face of every man I stumbled upon.

I didn’t trust anyone, but my heart trusted him.
Even while my mind kept a bullet between us.

ILIAS
I was given an assignment, an order.
Failure wasn’t an option. Not when it meant her, Davina.
But how could I keep her alive? I was no hero. Just a man dressed as one, with a heart as corrupted as the same men I grew up with.

Prologue now available.

Read now, if you dare…here


Review

Davina Cohen is a waitress who was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. She saw what she wasn’t and cost her life. In a twist of fate, an anonymous savior reached out to her and offered her safe passage to Miami, then places her into “protective custody.” All that time, people were looking for her and critical evidence that can bring down the whole New York Mafia if exposed. 

Ilias Novak is a Miami cop who keeps to himself and does the work. He tries to live a simple enough life because, deep down, he knows he’s screwed. His connections, if exposed, will taint everything Ilias worked for. Ironically, being assigned to Davina’s case was the start of something else for him…something that he would have to give up to keep Davina safe and alive.

A Bullet Between Us is written in both Davina and Ilias’ POV. The writing is balance – clear when the author wants us to know details while ominous when otherwise. The story is about a girl trying to hide from the people who wanted to hurt her because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anyone who tried to help her would be in danger, but with nowhere else to turn, a mysterious message, offering her protection, took her from New York – all the way to Miami. Her adventure did not end there – from one unexpected mafia involvement in the East, she ended up too-close-for-comfort with another prominent mafia group. 

From the very beginning, the plot has been full of suspense as danger lurked around Davina no matter where she went. She got entangled with the “worst crowd” of New York, where their reach was beyond the city. She was the target of every mafia all over the country. She was ironically intuitive as just a simple waitress that helped her survive as best as she could. Halfway through the book, she gathered “skeletons” and nightmares that did not and will not cease until she faces them head-on. What comes out is an explosive one in the end when two crime families found themselves on opposing sides.

Ilias was curious about what Davina was running from since he observed her as having “issues” and reacting strangely around him. I am glad that he has his “brothers” to help him bounce ideas on what to do, and when it came down the line, they did help him through a “sticky situation” that ultimately saved both him and Davina.

The chemistry between Davina and Ilias was a slow and mysterious build-up but undeniable magnetic attraction. They could not stay away from each other! They connected in ways that go beyond the physical. They connected emotionally and psychologically. Both characters are broken in their own unique ways. Although they didn’t meet in an ideal setting, they still established a connection that goes deeper. Through their internal rationalizations, they both later realize that everything was already pre-planned. Like chess pieces, someone else was calling the shots and making the moves in the chessboard right from the start.

The plot is complex, with a lot of impacts based on one action. The ripple effect has many other characters, directly or indirectly involved, in compromising positions. They would then later make deals with impacts that will echo to the next book in the series. Oh, did I tell you that this is just the beginning? FYI – this is the start of an exciting mafia series from the author!

In summary, A Bullet Between Us is a great read! It has the element of suspense, romance, mystery, and action. From the very start, the book grabs readers. My heart was pounding each moment in the book. There was hardly any moment of reprieve for Davina and Ilias until the end, so readers with hypertension or anxiety issues like myself for the former, remember to slow down and like Davina – calming breaths are required. I cannot wait for the next book in the series, based on another character in the Moretti family.


About the Author

K. Dosal is a New Adult, Contemporary Romance writer, and a hopeless romantic. She lives in the Gulf Coast with her Amazing husband, who is always supportive of her wild dreams, and their two energetic boys. When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys going to the beach with her family, going on boat rides, and running with her four-paw baby, Ace, her sweet Doberman.

K, started writing on a spiral notebook after reading a book that made her asks herself, why not me? After falling in love with the first pages she’d written , she continued until there was no paper left, and switched to her laptop. Since then, she’s been living on making her dreams come true and living on the why not me?

Music lover, kitchen dancer, poker player, and beach lover, K. is always looking forward book talk and watching where her mind will take her with the stories that inhabit within.

Connect with K
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Lmobookclub | Amazon | BookBub | Newsletter

When Darkness Ends (Boston Memories #3) by Marni Mann

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

Published on: 25 May 2021
Type: HEA, series, standalone
Genre: Drama, Contemporary Romance, Suspense/Mystery
Author: Marni Mann
Read: 14 May 2021
Shelved: 18 May 2021
Rating: 5/ 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here:
Amazon | Apple Books | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Audiobook | Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

You never forget your first love, even when they become just a memory.

There was before.
When we were together, when we were happy.
When we had nothing but dreams.
When not a single bad thing could ever happen because we were young and in love.

And there was after.
When the unthinkable occurs, how do you count time, knowing how precious it is?
When dreams turn to nightmares, how do you wake up every day and choose to go on?
When you have a chance to save another, how can you not?

Even if it changes everything.
Even if it destroys you.

A harrowing, heartbreaking dark contemporary romance from USA Today best-selling author Marni Mann, the third installment in the Moments in Boston series of stand-alones that explores the darkest nights and brightest dawns of the heart. A book that will leave you aching … and looking over your shoulder.


Review


Disclosure: Do you need to read the series from the start to understand or appreciate the series?

No, you do not have to read the series in sequence or all of them. The common factor in the series is, of course, Boston and the now-infamous (and devastating) marathon that rocked the nation: the characters’ past, impact leading up to the attack, and the aftermath. There may be some connection, but not a requirement to jump into the series anytime. This series still brings chills whenever my mind goes back to that time, and although it is an important event, the story focuses more on the main character’s lives with the aftermath. There is mention of Book 1’s characters due to mutual friends, but the main focus is on Ashe and Pearl. This book can be read alone without compromising on the characters, their story, and the revelations the author wants to impart. BUT why won’t you NOT want to read the whole series? Let me tell you that each one has a unique plot, conflict, and conclusions that you will not fathom and will haunt you for days!

Before coming into this series – I was giddy with excitement to get my hands on this book. I have been a big fan of the author since discovering this series, and she has NOT let me down!


Pearl is a unique character. She is a straight-laced and focused young lady. Driven to succeed and “leave their neighborhood,” Pearl pushes herself to be the best for herself and Grams in this pursuit. She unexpectedly “bumps” into Ashe, a schoolmate who later becomes more to her than readers would expect. Not only does he opens her heart to love and relationships, but he later unknowingly helps her survive one of the most complex situations she will face in her life. 

Ashe is a med-school-bound guy who has his aspirations of being a surgeon. He met Pearl in school, pre-med, and was captivated with her. His persistence in pursuing her brought about an unfamiliar yet warm side in him that he supported Pearl in her endeavors to support her and Grams while helping her focus on her studies. They were a great team in supporting each other until something ominous happened that shattered both their lives. 

Baby, love doesn’t shackle you, it makes you fly. And if I know you, you wouldn’t spend time with someone who would lick you in a cage. You’d be with a man who would fasten stronger wings to your back and point you in the direction of the sun.

When Darkness Ends, Marni Mann

When Darkness Ends is from a multi-person POV. Given this, each character’s voices and POV are clear, concise, and gut-wrenchingly brilliant! 

The author made sure each scene/chapter provides readers the “suspense” and sometimes “terror” of the moment. Many “events” to take in as the book deals with heavy topics like emotional, physical, and mental abuse, so take this as a warning. However, the author did not dive into much detail because that’s not the story’s point; instead, hope and love are. That’s what I love about this author’s narrative style: directing us to how she wants us to view the situation until the final chapter. Readers are only privy to what the author wants us to know and see – jumping between past and present. It might get us all angst than expected but keep the faith that there is a point, and the ending turned out “more than expected” beautifully.

The book is a lengthy read that spans more than a decade of events but very engaging – a real page-turner! As readers dive into the chronological flashbacks and events, these “moments-in-time approach” will have them connect and empathize with them. These characters will ingrain themselves into our heads and hearts forever. 

I love how the author talks about the growing pains and life struggles of her characters:- self-acceptance, self-worth, survival, then adding to that – a truckload of mystery, suspense, and plot twists without spoiling anything. The story will hit readers when they realize that the character’s “past selves” would not be able to wrap their heads around how they ended up in their present state, based on their initial hopes and dreams. 

The steamy scenes are steamy that they can steam my dumplings within minutes! They are “blushingly hot,” which makes me envious of Pearl – a great segway to the sad moments that took center stage and enveloped me further than I expected. I wept for days with what happened and the revelations that ensued when the bombing happened.

As expected, I cannot rave enough on this since the series is not the same thing for each book. The author has outdone herself yet again in this third installment of the Boston Memories series. 
When Darkness Ends is a highly recommended read for readers who love their angst, second chances, and “underdog” stories. I have been looking forward to this book since the author announced it. I have been following this series closely since the author has a distinctive storytelling style that will captivate and surprise readers each time – filled with mystery, suspense, and romance that will make readers clamoring for more. 
Many of the details in the book brought about my thought-provoking side seeps into my subconsciousness – imprinting itself like an elegant tattoo. This book is a home run with all the emotions known in the dictionary then brings readers back to reality – that love in its purest forms will find a way!

Life is going to happen; you don’t have the power to stop it, dollface. So, tuck your body into a ball and roll with each bump.

When Darkness Ends, Marni Mann

About Marni Mann

Marni Mann, USA Today Bestselling author, knew she was going to be a writer since middle school. While other girls her age were daydreaming about teenage pop stars, Marni was fantasizing about penning her first novel. She crafts sexy, titillating stories that weave together her love of darkness, mystery, passion, and human emotions. A New Englander at heart, she now lives in Sarasota, Florida, with her husband and their two dogs, who have been characters in her books. When she’s not nose deep in her laptop, working on her next novel, she’s scouring for chocolate, sipping wine, traveling, or devouring fabulous books.

Connect with Marni
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House Rules (Uptown Series #3) by Ruby Lang

Disclosure: All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

Published on: February 10, 2020
Published by: Carina Press
Type: HEA, series
Genre: Multicultural Romance, Women’s Fiction
Author: Ruby Lang
Read: 26 April 2021
Shelved: 24 May 2021
Rating: 5 / 5 stars
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here:
Amazon US | UK | CA
Other Retailers: Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | iBooks | Harlequin | Audible | Bookbub
Add House Rules to your TBR: Goodreads

Start the Uptown Series today: Amazon in one set!

Synopsis

Content Warning: on-page sex; divorce; complex family relationships; chronic illness; infertility and endometriosis.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

ROOMMATE WANTED to share a gorgeous sun-filled apartment in Central Harlem. Must love cats. No ex-husbands or wives need apply.

Seventeen years ago, different dreams pulled Simon Mizrahi and Lana Kuo apart. But when Lana takes a position as a chef back in Manhattan, her apartment search puts her right in her ex-husband’s path. Music teacher Simon is also hunting for a new place to live, and when Lana proposes they be platonic roomies, well…it’s not the worst idea he’s ever heard.

A sunny uptown two-bedroom sounds far more appealing than the cramped, noisy space where he’s currently struggling to work. Still, Simon has seen firsthand that Lana’s a flight risk, so he agrees on a trial basis.

Three months. With strict boundaries.

Living together again feels wonderfully nostalgic, but when the ex-couple’s lingering feelings rise to the surface, the rules go out the window.

Of course, chemistry was never their problem. But while Simon’s career feels back on solid footing, Lana is still sorting out what she wants. With their trial period soon coming to an end, they’ll have to decide if their living arrangement was merely a sexy trip down memory lane or a reunion meant to last.


Review

Love this message from Ruby to readers of the book: “To those of us who never get it right the first time” –> perfectly summarized!

Lana Kai is back from culinary school and needs a place to settle that is convenient and near her work – a cook. She found the perfect spot, but space and rent were too much for her to shoulder alone. Lana was in a bind and needs to find a place soon to take on a great job. In comes the most unlikely person that could solve her problem – her ex-husband, Simon, who she bumped into an open house viewing.

Simon Mizrahi is a music teacher and has lived at his apartment for as long as he could remember – (maybe) too long. He is still under a rent control apartment dilapidating faster than the economy recovers from the Asian Crisis.

House Rules might sound light and easy, but it’s anything but. Coming into the book, the main characters of Simon and Lana have a lot between them. Their familiarity, past union, and knowing more about each other than anyone outside sharing space and proximity can turn out into a big revelation or disaster. Some heavy topics mentioned in the book, like fertility, self-worth, self-love, forgiveness, acceptance, etc., all rolled into sixteen chapters that may trigger some, so take this as a disclosure.

I love the internal conflicts between Lana and Simon. Their relationship kept developing even after being separated for years. They grew separately then now, maturing together as roomies. I appreciate the author showing us that second chances do not discriminate between age or culture when two people are right for each other.

Simon and Lana have tried being together early in their youth, but the relationship did not work. They got a divorce, and Lana moved worlds apart. As a result, to pursue her passion and find herself. You would think that Lana would have been happy and stayed where she was, out of the country, and find her happiness with someone else. That wasn’t it for this book. Lana and Simon have their chemistry intact and steady after many years. They met and got married early but lost themselves as a couple. They know deep down that they were each other’s “soulmates,” but the timing was off. They needed to grow separately to be perfect for each other. How they found their way back to each other is a cute and endearing story after all these years. 

I am frustrated with Simon. He did not realize that he has a strained relationship with his sister, Maxine, because of his “inflexible” mindset. He is a focused individual and expects the same from the people around him. Simon, being a perfectionist with a reasonably closed mindset, has caused his relationships to suffer or strain. Unfortunately, no one told him about it until late into his 40s; else, he could have salvaged so many things.

Lana was lovely! I liked her – A LOT! 

In the face of thing was imploding nearing the end, Lana’s newfound confidence and conviction enabled her to stay positive. It did not distract her into self-pity with what happened and instead made her accept that things can go wrong. She was able to set everything into perspective and stir her back to the positives. 

In summary, House Rules is my most favorite book in the Uptown series by the author. I love second chance themes, but more so, if characters come back and grow and mature to prove they will be in the relationship in the long haul this time around. There has to be a “separation period” to find themselves than to lose their identity as a couple. I love how Lana found the strength to pull herself out of an unsatisfying situation, made changes for her betterment, and found a way to come back and realize the good in what she left behind (that it was undeniable and meant-to-be). She makes others around her do the same – constantly leaping to self-improvement each day.

“It doesn’t have to be limited to what I have right now. You make me want more. You make me brave enough to ask for more, even if it means asking it of myself.”

House Rules, Ruby Lang

About the Author

Ruby Lang is the author of the acclaimed Practice Perfect series and the Uptown series. Her alter ego, Mindy Hung, wrote about romance novels (among other things) for The Toast. Her work has also appeared in The New York TimesThe WalrusBitch,  and other fine venues. She enjoys running (slowly), reading (quickly),  and ice cream (at any speed). She lives in New York with a small child  and a medium-sized husband.

The Good Stuff
I was born in Vancouver, Canada, and raised in Winnipeg. When I was  younger, I wanted to be fast-talking journalist Hildy Johnson from His Girl Friday but lacked verbal speed (and the ability to look good in hats) so I  became a hatless and hapless editor instead. I have a scar on my leg  from zipping down a banister in fifth grade. I also once slid down the  escalator banister at the Westin Emerald Plaza in San Diego but  sustained no lasting damage—except perhaps to my dignity. 

Connect with Ruby
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Snuggle with the Strange: 9 Twisted Tales by Liane Carter

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

Published on: 17 May 2019
Genre: Horror/ Suspense / Short Stories
Age category: Adult
Author: Liane Carter
Read: 19 May 2021
Shelved: 21 May 2021
Rating: 5/ 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here: Amazon | Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

Step into nine eerie lives where the obvious is left at the door, and the surprises are just a page turn away. 
Family secrets a girl struggles to suppress, a man trapped by a woman’s bones, a couple of killers and a touch of madness.


Review

Contents:

  1. Life in the Shed
  2. Victoria’s Violin
  3. The Bone Chair
  4. The Reason in the Rain
  5. The Power of the Weed
  6. The Flight
  7. He Looked Like My First Mistake
  8. Purple on Skin
  9. A Killer Like Me

Disclosure: Drugs, alcohol, and abuse (physical, verbal, and emotional), and trauma are mentioned but not fully described in detail that may cause triggers. Take heed for those who do not know what to expect.

Snuggle With The Stranger is a collection of nine stories that will surely mystify, terrify, baffle and amaze readers. Readers can expect these stories to be short yet very loaded in psychological content. Expect the unexpected. Readers will be captivated with the stories until, without warning, the story concludes! We then would be pondering long and hard on what-just-happened and find the implications were there all along! The author did not need to explain further since everything would come into place, but it is because the writing is from the first-person POV and either the victim or the culprit. The characters’ internal conflicts were gut-wrenching and frustrating because they somehow placed themselves in the situation from the start. Still, somehow, how things turned out was justified in the end. 

In summary, I would recommend this book for readers of mystery, suspense, and psychological thriller tropes. The stories are darker and more sinister, though you have one or two less subtle. My favorites were (1) Purple On Skin and (2) A Killer Like Me. The author threw me off with these odd-one-out stories with surprising themes far off from the previous ones. They were unique enough to round out the book with surprise endings or unprecedented turn-of-events, then <gasp> mic-drop


About the Author

Devoted to giving her readers smiles, tears and tension in her poignant non-fiction, fast-paced fantasy adventures and adult fiction, Liane Carter bares her soul. Author of The Chronicles of JoyaThe Dream DevilsDarcy: The Dog Who TalkedTammy: The Little Cat With A Big AttitudeSnuggle with the Strange: 9 Twisted Tales, and stand-alone sequel to The Chronicles of JoyaThe Fig Bean and the Huvri, she has written features and a weekly column for Costa Blanca News, articles for Writing Magazine, and has taught over 150 writing workshops.

Connect with Liane
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Cover Reveal: The Unbreakable Series by Leigh Lennon

Leigh Lennon is joining us to share the gorgeous new covers for her UNBREAKABLE series. She is excited to reintroduce this emotional series of personal, heartfelt stories to new readers so check out the new covers and be sure to sign up for Leigh’s newsletter for release updates.

The newly revamped series comes out June 17th! 

Sign Up For Release Update!


About 𝑼𝒏𝒇𝒊𝒍𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒆𝒅:

Justine:
I never will get my happy ending. With my past threatening to ruin the possibility of love in my future, I keep every man at arm’s length. Nick appears out of thin air, becoming a part of my life instantly, leaving me breathless and wanting more. The pain that haunts me is still present, but Nick is worth the risk. When he promises me forever; can I trust him?

Nick:
Justine makes me see that a forever is in reach with her. She keeps telling me she is hard to love; yet I find it quite easy. Once I break down her walls, she finally lets me in. But, I have a secret of my own which can expose her to the demons that destroyed me in the past. However, with Justine, I will do anything and everything to make her mine.

Content Warning: Certain passages in this novel contain depictions of sexual abuse.

Pre-Order for .99 Today!


About 𝑼𝒏𝒂𝒄𝒒𝒖𝒂𝒊𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒅:

Rose:
One night was all I could offer to a man I barely knew. I intended to return to my perfectly planned life, but now he is back and with him the reminder of the irrefutable connection we shared.
It’s still there.
I crave him.
One night may unravel my perfect plans as I find myself at a crossroad between security and desire.

Brody:
One night, that was all she could give me. Yet here I am back in her life as fate has intervened. When I first saw her in that form-fitting red silky dress,
I was captivated.
She owns my heart.
As I set out to make her mine, she has to choose between her past and future. I don’t think I will survive if her choice isn’t me.

Pre-order Today!


About 𝑼𝒏𝒘𝒂𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒅:

Emma:
A baby is all I’ve ever wanted.
After almost dying on the operating table,
I despise everything about motherhood, especially the little girl I brought into this world.
It makes me sound awful; hell; I am awful.
How can I make myself fall in love with a baby
I feel no attachment to?

Tyler
I don’t recognize my wife anymore.
When I thought I might lose Emma during our baby’s delivery;
she survived only to reject the baby I love so much.
When I hold this baby, I fully understand unconditional love.
How do I make the woman I love want this little girl I would move heaven and earth for.

Pre-Order Today!


About Leigh Lennon:

I am a woman who loves to share all my imaginary friends with the world.
My characters become as real to me as those I call family.
I am a girl, who loves pretty nails, spikey hair and large earrings.
Coffee and wine call to me daily, depending on the time of the day.
I am a mom first and foremost and my kids are the breath of my life.
I met my husband while serving in the military and I am proud to say he’s kicked cancer’s ass!
I write real life issues that reflect a little of my own little world.
My family tolerates the seventh member of our family, my computer, as I lug this vital piece everywhere I go.

Connect with Leigh:

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The Lost and The Found by V.T. Do

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

Published on: 18 May 2021
Type: HEA, standalone, series
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Second Chances, Age-Gap, Angst, Drama
Author: V.T. Do
Read: 07 May 2021
Shelved: 08 May 2021
Rating: 4/ 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here:
Amazon US | UK | CA | AU
Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

Hayden:
Some things are inevitable.
Opening my fiercely guarded heart to Logan is one of them.
He came into my life unexpectedly, radiantly.
I had no choice but to let him in.
With him, I started to believe in a future I never thought I could have.
I started to believe in happily ever after.
Am I wrong?

Logan:
For years, I’ve looked for her.
For that little girl we’d lost in the aftermath of my own mistakes.
Then fate took pity on me, and now that I found her, I can’t let her go.
Not when all I wanted to do was lose myself to her.
But when all the hideous secrets from our past come out, will she let me?
Or will she walk away, leaving behind all the destruction and hurt I would inevitably cause? 


Review

The Lost and The Found is a haunting tale of love, loss, and redemption. Written in the POV of Logan and Hayden, the story takes us through a lonely yet capable girl’s journey of surviving life alone and a man, captivated by a woman to the point of protective obsession. The writing and setting are dark and ominous. There is a foreboding effect on each turn as both main characters got to know each other in the book’s first few pages. I like the mystery and yet emotionally charged atmosphere done by the author.

Hayden Bishop, the female lead, is an interesting character. She has gone through a fascinating yet challenging life. Some might see it as a sad one, and although this may be true at some point, Hayden learned to be resilient and persevered through because of this. She was alone at some point but worked hard and was in the last year of university working on her degree when she met Logan. Even if the book is from her POV, many hidden elements kept from readers give an element of mystery. 

Logan Cross is a partner in the law firm as Mason in Book 1. He, Mason, and Gage (another partner) formed this law firm based on a tightknit past. Logan’s backstory is a sad one based on the “scars” he has – inside and out. His infatuation with Hayden was scorchingly magnetic that would make readers wonder…is this an insta-love story? Logan’s backstory is held on tightly than Fort Knox until the very end when it all implodes. What does this mean to Hayden, readers will have to see.

A lot of the conflicts in the story are from Hayden’s side. Although there was a bit of an “incident” from Logan’s side, it was not his doing and more of another party’s crazy decision. Mostly, Hayden has a lot of internal conflict and a self-defeatist mindset that was frustrating at times. I understand that she wants to find her “worth” in the world but closing out everyone and everything without realizing that maybe Logan understood her situation more than she thought.

One important thing to note with the author, she writes successfully steamy and explosive stuff. Steamy word choices, descriptives details, perfect situations/moments, etc. – all flawlessly executed, unforced, and hot! So, as expected that right from the start, Logan and Hayden’s chemistry is “off-the-charts” and explodes when they are together. The explosive revelations and “discoveries” make this book a real page-turner. I did my best to avoid skipping to the end and was rewarded with an ending that made me think about how “rounded” the book came to play, given so much mystery about how their past intertwines in a way that readers will not see coming.

Overall, The Lost and The Found is a unique and unforgettable story about reunited family, friends, and love connections. It is a slow-burn, angsty romance with steamy, emotionally charged attractions. Intense build-up moments, raw desperation, and uninhibited emotions make the book an intriguing read. I recommend this book for romance, suspense/mystery readers with a good chunk of steamy scenes.


About the Author

V.T. Do grew up in beautiful Colorado with words on her mind and dreams in her eyes. Writing is the best way for her to express herself, and she has been doing that for as long as she can remember.
When she’s not writing, you can find her talking to herself, daydreaming, hunting magical creatures, and obsessively reading.
The Mess You Left Behind is her first book, and with many more coming soon! 

Connect with V.T.
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