Not Playing Fair (The NOT Series Book 2) by Terri Osburn

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: 30 August 2021
Published by: Macie Rae Publishing
Type: HEA, standalone, series
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy
Tropes: Introvert, Mistaken identity, Love Triangle, Tragic Past, Sports Romance
Author: Terri Osburn
Read: 15 August 2021
Shelved: 16 August 2021
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here: Amazon US | UK | Goodreads

Synopsis

The universe is not playing fair.

First, my new boss says changes are coming to our library that threaten the programs I run. Then a letter arrives from my mother—whom I haven’t seen in more than twenty years—saying who knows what because I’m refusing to open it. Last but not least, the man who dumped me eight months ago is telling people that I’m trying to get him back.

Universe, I assure you I am not.

The one bright spot in all of this is the new guy in my life. He’s sweet, adorable, and seems totally interested. There’s just one problem. I might have bent the truth a little when we first met, and now I need to confess before he finds out from someone else. But when the truth finally does comes out, I’m not the only one with some explaining to do.

Maybe I can’t blame the universe for everything.

Not Playing Fair is about family, forgiveness, and the friends who stand by us through it all. Come along as librarian Megan Knox becomes the heroine of her own story, and finds love along the way.


Review

Megan Knox loves her quiet librarian life, contented to stay within her small county’s library when she could move to a bigger and cosmopolitan city branch. When an unexpected consultant comes into town to audit the library she is working at, Megan’s peaceful life turns upside down and beyond her control.

This is what made my job so rewarding. Not only introducing children to stories and helping them fall in love with the written word, but teaching them to share that love with those around them.

~ Not Playing Fair, Terri Osburn

Not Playing Fair is told from a first-person POV – Megan’s, which could be a plus. The author focuses readers into Megan’s head so as not to give too many “insider details” that would later significantly impact many revelations in the end. I love her character a lot – she’s spunky when the situation calls for it, mostly when she is “fighting for a cause.” But that’s the best part of character development – realizing that “bigger issues” affect more people than herself and that she is tired of being a pushover.

The saying “it always comes in 3’s” holds true. A barrage of things came tumbling unto Megan’s world, and I confess that even I was overwhelmed. Her personal, professional, and past collide! I was surprised that she was composed enough to eliminate one problem at a time. She was brave when needed, even if she was fearful on the inside. 

Megan’s character is a rational (enough), thoughtful and intelligent woman. She is honest (most of the time) and has a solid support group of gal pals and family who made sure she is safe and cared for, given her dysfunctional background. I liked how she handled her professional problem(s) – covertly by exposing the culprit systematically and how she handled herself with her bosses when everything blew up.

Megan’s personal life is also calling her attention:- from family drama imploding to conflicts between two men vying for her attention! The former problem caused a lot of trauma throughout Megan’s life that I was mad with Megan’s mom’s decision more than a decade ago! All this still haunts her at thirty years old. Now, the family problem – man – too much angst initially, but I am so glad that Megan toughened herself in the end to handle everything. It was written perfectly in the end.

“With a sigh, I said, “Fletcher sent me a text message before practice yesterday asking if I wanted a ride.”
Lindsey loaded guacamole onto a corn chip.
“Please tell me that was a literal question and not a euphemism.”
“Just no?” Donna said. “Not h*ll no, you boil on the butt of humanity?”

~ Not Playing Fair, Terri Osburn

The more interesting problem is between Megan, her ex Fletcher, and a potential suitor Ryan. Fletcher’s tactic of spreading misinformation about him and Megan did not help his image to everything. I am glad that not a lot of their friends took Fletcher’s words seriously. The problem was Ryan believed it, and when it came time for Megan and him to start anything, it was all on the wrong foot. Note that both Ryan and Megan have their share of faults and flaws in handling everything in this case. Both kept things from each other that would have avoided a “re-do” not once, twice, but three times! Misunderstandings and pride did not help. Ryan was indeed hurt, but he was not blameless, so I was mad (a bit) at him too. It’s good that Megan and Ryan’s family and friends somehow “pushed” them into getting things clear up the air once and for all. (FYI – they are really adorable together!)

I love the humor in the book. Many comedic moments made the book a fun and enjoyable read. The personality of Megan and her gal pals are infectious! Her friends make the book exciting and funny – everyone was ready to defend and protect her, even if she is very capable of doing it herself. I believe that the humor made the changes around Megan more bearable and the stressful parts lighter somehow.  

In conclusion, Not Playing Fair is a charming and cute read. It may look simple at first glance, but layered with a lot of angst, drama, abandonment, loss, etc. It may surprise readers that the love story is only a tiny part of the book. Megan uncovers more suspense and uncertainty as the story progresses – sinister, surprising, and suspenseful. The ending is full of revelations, confessions, and forgiveness, which will surely make readers love all the characters. 

“I know you’re strong, but lean on me if you need to.”
That was quite possibly the best thing a man had ever said to me.
“Where did you come from?”

I said, feeling as if I’d located the one living manicorn on the planet.”
“Akron?” he said.
“That must be a magical place.”

~ Not Playing Fair, Terri Osburn

About the Author

Terri fell in love with reading at a young age, starting with condensed versions of classics such as The Wizard of Oz, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Little Women. She fell into Romance novels around Junior High and never looked back. Authors such as Judith McNaught, Kathleen Woodiwiss, and LaVyrle Spencer kept her going through high school, then she bounded into the 90s with authors like Julie Garwood, Dorothy Garlock, Johanna Lindsey, and countless others.

Her bookshelves are lined with beloved keepers (many sporting Fabio covers), some tattered and torn but all filled with passion, love, lust, and above all, happy endings. From the Wild West to Romping Regency ballrooms to boardrooms and charming small towns, her library covers the spectrum.

Terri makes her home in middle Tennessee with college-student daughter, four frisky felines, and two high-maintenance terriers. In her nefarious past she worked in government contracting, fund-raising, catering, and was even a train conductor. (In the mall. Not as impressive as it sounds.) She was also a Country radio disc jockey for eight years, which makes her one of those rarest of author creatures – an extrovert.

Terri is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, and a member of Novelists, Inc.Romance Writers of America®, and Music City Romance Writers. She’s a 2012 Golden Heart® finalist in the Contemporary Single Title category for unpublished manuscripts, while HIS FIRST AND LAST won the 2016 Book Buyers Best Award in the Contemporary Single Title category. As an international bestseller, she’s sold more than one million books worldwide.

Connect with Terri
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon | BookBub


The Dating Dare by Jayci Lee

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.

Published on: 03 August 2021
Published by: St. Martin’s Griffin
Type: HEA, series, standalone
Genre: Multicultural & Interracial Romance, Romantic Comedy
Author: Jayce Lee
Read: 28 August 2021
Shelved: 29 August 2021
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it here: Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Audible | Bel Canto | BAM
Check out other reviews here: Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

Tara Park doesn’t do serious relationships. Neither does she hop into bed with virtual strangers. Especially when that particular stranger is her best friend’s new brother-in-law. It isn’t an easy decision, though. Seth Kim is temptation personified. His unreasonably handsome looks and charming personality makes him easy on the eyes and good for her ego.

When a friendly game of Truth or Dare leads to an uncomplicated four-date arrangement with Seth, Tara can’t say she minds. But their dates, while sweet and sexy, have a tendency to hit roadblocks. Thankfully, their non-dates and chance meetings get frequent and heated.

Seth is leaving for a new job in Paris in a month and a no-strings attached fling seemed like a nice little distraction for both… But soon Seth realizes that Tara Park doesn’t come in a “nice & little” package–she’s funny and bold, sweet and sexy, and everything he ever wanted and never expected to find. Neither of them are ready for something serious and both have past relationship baggage they’ve been ignoring, but with a shot at forever on the line will they follow their hearts and take a chance on happily-ever-after? 


Review

Tara Park is the youngest of three siblings. She loves working for the family brewery, Weldon Brewery, and is focused on finding the right beer formula to win gold in next year’s San Diego Beer Festival. Busy times, busy work for everyone in the brewery to start anything, especially a relationship, most especially after her past.

Weddings are fun – a lot of single people mingling and drinking in celebration. It proved to be more enjoyable when Tara got an unexpected proposal…dare during her best friend’s nuptials.

Seth Kim is a talented photographer who is the brother of the groom. He got the attention (or the reverse might also be true) of Tara after ogling/gawking at her all evening. By joining in the festivities and getting to know Tara more, Seth offers a deal that Tara couldn’t turn down else admit defeat – daring they go out on four dates and NOT fall in love with each other. TThis dare has a deadline since he is moving to Paris at the end of the month.

Two people who DO NOT want to have anything serious but are magnetically attracted to each other enters into a dare to date temporarily then go their separate ways -> this sounds like a disaster coming for the characters!


The Dating Dare is my first book by the author, and although I started in Book 2 (versus Book 1), I didn’t feel that I needed to read Book 1 to appreciate the story entirely. Of course, it would be cool to read it in sequence, but even starting Book 2 will not negate the remarkable story. The story is told from both main character’s first-person POV, and it worked so well! 

Themes truly to character background and heritage.
I love the Asian terms that were true to the main characters’ heritage and representation. I know a few and understand this, and even if they were injected in scenes often, it did not feel overwhelming. The importance of family in the story was something I relate to as an Asian reader – the conservative and protective side of everything.  

Characters that are opposite yet similar in many cases.
I like how different yet the same Tara and Seth were in the book. Their pasts are eerily similar, yet the course each took for the dare is very different. Seth is a unique, creative, and thoughtful guy. A far cry to how Tara initially described him to be at the start. I think his reputation is all a front to protect him, not only temporarily but also to shut him out of any possibility of love. 

Seth is LOVE!
Seth was so easy to love! He was a sweetheart from the very beginning, though calculative (in a good way) from the start with Tara. Seth has been the most honest with his feelings between the two main characters. Given his rocky past, he was still willing to give being with Tara a chance at the cost of his career.

I did not realize…Tara is BRAVE and AMAZING!
Tara is a strong yet flawed, brave yet fragile character. I didn’t realize how damaged she is. I empathized with what Tara went through and wished no one would go through such an event, but she shows readers that she is a survivor! Tara shows strength from within and learned to stand up for herself to live through the trauma. I love how the author made Tara grow and look outside Seth’s reputation as they have “dates” and “accidental meet-ups.” With Tara seeing Seth’s genuine emotions, their chemistry starts to get interesting, as Tara starts opening her heart and mind to “many possibilities.”

The plot twist…went beyond expectations!
I love the author’s decision with the twist on what happened between the main characters – the big tear-jerking moments. I can say that I didn’t expect this particular main character to be the first “to confess,” which drastically altered the course of the story, BUT, apart from keeping “the dare” a secret to everyone in town, many crazy surprises were spilling out up to the end! I was an emotional wreck! Every element with the “big reveal” surprised me because basing which past is more traumatic; it would have been this character.

Get those tissues out!
I cried so much! I cried ugly when both main characters started remembering their pasts – the ones that inevitably changed how they perceive love and commitment. Both got hurt in epic proportions that they were surprised to come out unscathed – that is, until Tara and Seth found each other. 
Note: the book is not all angst and pain. There is a good rhythm between Tara and Seth. It was light enough and made me laugh a lot, which is an unexpected one, given the heaviness of certain moments. Too much internalization was tough, but the funny parts balanced the book very well.

“I know where you live,” he said. “Over yonder where the houses are.”

~ The Dating Dare, Jayci Lee

In summary, I highly recommend The Dating Dare to readers who love their romance, friends-to-lovers, second chances, and soul-mates tropes. It has the right amount of passion, angst, and drama to have readers coming out feeling good about “finding the one” and still having one’s identity promoted/supported by a supportive partner. Readers will come out feeling right with the ending the author provided. I am excited to read through this author’s other works!

I was so wrong to fear love.
My love for you only makes me stronger, and it will never make me hurt you the way I’ve been hurt.

~ The Dating Dare, Jayci Lee

About the Author

Jayci Lee writes poignant, sexy, and laugh-out-loud romance every free second she can scavenge. She lives in sunny California with her tall-dark-and-handsome husband, two amazing boys with boundless energy, and a fluffy rescue whose cuteness is a major distraction. At times, she cannot accommodate real life because her brain is full of drool worthy heroes and badass heroines clamoring to come to life.

Because of all the books demanding to be written, Jayci writes full-time now, and is semi-retired from her fifteen-year career as a defense litigator. She loves food, wine, and travelling, and incidentally so do her characters. Books have always helped her grow, dream, and heal, and she hopes her books will do the same for you.

Join Jayce’s newsletter to get the latest book releases here!

Connect with Jayce
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub | Global Link


Spin the Dawn | Unravel the Dusk (The Blood of Stars Duology) by Elizabeth Lim

Disclosure: I All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

Illustration by Tran Nguyen | Cover Design by Alison Impey

Published on: 09 July 2019
Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Type: duology, series, duet
Genre: Teen & Young Adult, Asian Geography & Cultures Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Read: 18 August 2021
Shelved: 20 August 2021
Rating: 5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Audible | Bookbub | Goodreads


Illustration by Tran Nguyen | Cover Design by Alison Impey

Published on: 07 July 2020
Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Type: duology, series,
Genre: Teen & Young Adult, Asian Geography & Cultures Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Read: 20 August 2021
Shelved: 23 August 2021
Rating: 5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Audible | Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

Spin the Dawn

A gifted tailor in disguise. Three legendary dresses.
The competition of a lifetime. 

On the fringes of the Great Spice Road, Maia Tamarin works as a seamstress in her father’s shop. She dreams of becoming the best tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. ​

When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as his son and travels to the Summer Palace in his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to save her family and achieve her dream of becoming the imperial tailor. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be: from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.​

Unravel the Dusk

Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon, and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. Edan, the boy she loves, is gone–perhaps forever–and no sooner does she set foot in the Autumn Palace than she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace. When the emperor’s rivals learn of her deception, there is hell to pay, but the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within.
 
Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red; losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, and in the meantime she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.

Check out the trailer for The Blood of Stars duology below!


Review

Spin The Dawn

These dresses have great power – power that is not meant to exist in the mortal world. But it’s good you’re reluctant. That just might keep you alive.

~ Spin the Dawn, Elizabeth Lim

Spin the Dawn is all about Maia Tamarin, a tailor’s daughter, who tries to restore honor in her family after a series of tragic events caused by the war. When the King sent forth her father or the next male tailor to come to compete as the Emperor’s tailor, Maia volunteered due to duty and since her father and only surviving yet handicapped brother were not fit for the journey, let alone the trip. What happens next reminds me of Mulan / Project Runway / Emperor’s New Coat with a lot more suspense, mystery, and adventure that these shows/series/stories can even comprehend!

The story is easy to follow and is from a first-person POV – Maia’s. The written scenes are a cinematographic feast that will bring readers from a humble tailor’s home to the Halakmarat Deserts, finding magical threads to the highest peaks of the Temple of the Sun! The contest is only one part of the book, and there are bigger and more complex trials that Maia will go through.

Further analyzing the book, in general, is the selflessness of Maia in everything she sought out to do to save everyone but herself like:-  

(1) going in place of her father and her disabled brother, which would get her in trouble for deceit,
(2) finishing the impossible trials to acquire the materials for Lady Sarnai’s magical dresses at the cost of her life, and 
(3) give her soul to free someone she grew to love.

With everything she went through, she did change beyond the expected imperial tailor expected of her. She would not go back just to sew clothes; she would evolve into more than anyone realizes.

I like how the author wove Chinese mythology, folklore, and urban tales based on thorough historical research. It was seamless and creative enough to beyond the tales I remembered. It reminded and brought back my love for these tales and legends I grew up with.

The story’s character development is deep, clear and ultimately made Maia determined to overcome it – no matter what! In the beginning, readers will see a reluctant and sheltered Maia, a tailor in their small town. Still, ultimately, she is meant for bigger things than she could have imagined – even if everyone seems to see it already before the contest and trials began. There were a few revelations given, while some were still shrouded in mystery. Each character developed in different paces as they encounter Maia and her story. Maia is forced to grow up immediately because of survival and her determination to save her family as she faced many impossible tasks. Her journey has been long, but the book’s ending, although resolved a few things, will have to continue because an impending war is coming, and the battle still has to begin when the book ends.

Sometimes finding the way is tricky, I told myself, but you always do. As long as you don’t give up.

~ Spin the Dawn, Elizabeth Lim

Unravel The Dusk

Nothing can break it, for destiny is the strongest promise. You’ll be bound to each other no matter what happens.

~ Unravel the Dusk, Elizabeth Lim

Unravel the Dusk starts with a back-story of Maia and her family:- interactions with her mom, brothers, and father, lessons on sewing and embroidering, and learning about life’s lessons. It is an intimate look into the Tamarin family dynamics.

Fast forward after the prologue, the story continues with Maia’s present dire predicament in the last book. The war is happening, and many battles are brewing inside Maia’s head and outside around her. The whole book is gut-wrenching with the choices made, prices paid and consequences faced by each one of the characters.

The author bridges the POV from the last book, still like it’s still the next chapter, seamlessly with an excellent prologue of Maia’s past when most of her family members are alive. It gives rare insight into the relationship and deep connections that sequentially hints to why Maia is a unique enchanter, a class of her own, and will not succumb to the pitfalls of others who failed. Maia’s strength comes from this. It will also make her win over everything – and reward her with a brief piece of heaven – a surprise for readers at the end.

More Asian beliefs and mythological themes are poured into the pages as Maia tries to find a way to save her family, her beloved, her country, and herself as she became bound to the magical and mystical dark powers of her land. It is 

I enjoyed the “threads of fate” and how Maia’s mom told her that she is beyond a woman seamstress or an imperial tailor. Her path is higher and more transcending.

There is more fear and uncertainty that readers will feel for Maia. I cried so many times in this book because of the impossible choices and sacrifices Maia had to take for the country’s greater good. She will meet more new characters while some old ones in Book 1 like her trial competitors, which delighted me because a few of them were very lovely to Maia. Readers can expect more demons, ghosts, and the supernatural in this book – a lot more than in Book 1 and an unexpected reunion that will tip the scales of victory to Maia!

Beginning today, things will be different.
Beginning today, when fate caught me, I’d meet it head-on and make it my own. Beginning today, I would have no heart.

~ Unravel the Dusk, Elizabeth Lim

Overall, this duology is the bomb! I highly highly recommend this series! I have NOT cried and grieved as much for a character for so long in this manner. It wasn’t ugly cry levels, but there were spontaneous tears and heart-pinching in random scenes.

It is what urban fantasy/dystopia is all about. It is captivating, gripping, and insightful how far one sacrifices and takes on love beyond a family, a soulmate, and a country.  

The writing is flawless as you move through the scenes and even to the next book. Just when readers think that one resolution is solved, it comes with a grave cost. There were many poignant moments in the series that made me stop and think hard. It is hard to get over that destiny will want Maia to keep suffering, even if the other characters tell her that destiny cannot “cut ties” to Fate. It was hard, and at some point, I truly believed that Maia will NOT get her ending and that everyone else will have a HEA while she would wither away in the story – to be part of the grim warnings of their folklore.

There has been some debate on which book is better, maybe because the trials are more attractive in the first book, while the second book talks more about internal struggles fighting over Maia’s overall control – Good and Bad Maia. In the end, although the ultimate offering Maia gives is pre-determined, the twist, in the end, got me good! 

Readers – you want fantasy and adventure with a side of fashion and ingenuity? This book series is the book for you! 

Fair warning: After reading this series, it will make you want to follow or keep an eye out for other works by this author, i.e., the spin-off book, Six Crimson Cranes, which talks about Shiori’s brothers and the curse she had to overcome. I’ve got this book in my TBR already!


About the Author

Elizabeth Lim is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Six Crimson Cranes, The Blood of Stars duology (Spin the Dawn and Unravel the Dusk), So This is Loveand Reflection. 
​Elizabeth grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, “Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that’s kinda cool!” But after one of her teachers told her she had “too much voice” in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English. 
Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and she turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel—for kicks, at first, then things became serious—and she hasn’t looked back since.
​Elizabeth graduated from Harvard College with an A.B. in music and a secondary in East Asian Studies, and she completed her graduate degrees (MM, DMA) at The Juilliard School. She grew up in Northern California and Tokyo, Japan, and now resides in New York with her husband and two daughters.

Connect with Elizabeth
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub


Illustration by Tran Nguyen | Cover Design by Alison Impey

Excerpt Reveal: For Love or Honey by Staci Hart

COMING 21 September 2021!


Check out Staci Hart’s upcoming book, For Love or Honey

Type: HEA, standalone
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy
AuthorStaci Hart

Preorder at the sale price today!
Get it here: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

When the devil comes to town, you have to meet him head-on.

Which is exactly what I did when Grant Stone rolled into our small Texas town, driving a sports car I could fit in the bed of my truck, wearing a suit as black as his soul. He’s here to acquire mineral rights to half a dozen farms in town.

And there’s no way he’s getting mine.

I don’t make deals with the devil.

So when he challenges me to show him the small town ropes, my motivation is the prospect of seeing him make a fool of himself. He might have an angle, but if he thinks he can finagle me into endangering my bee farm, he’s got another thing coming.

Until the line in the sand is washed away.

My farm in danger. A town in upheaval. A man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

And me in the middle.

When the devil comes to town, you have to meet him head-on.

And when he sneaks into your heart, he’ll only break it.


Excerpt

I am ready to fall in love with the devil. SO READY. 

We protestors switched gears to Fracking smells, we won’t sell! when a murmur rolled through the rest of the crowd. Movement around the door to city hall caught my attention, and when it opened, I stopped so suddenly, my sister Poppy slammed into the back of me with an oof that left me wondering distantly if she’d smashed the eggs in my backpack.

Because the actual devil himself walked through that door and down the stairs toward the podium.

His hair was the color of a starless night, his jaw chiseled from stone and lips somehow both lush and sharp at the same time. Maybe it was the line they made that felt like a coercion, a temptation. Maybe it was his switchblade eyebrows framing eyes I expected to be as dark and soulless as the rest of him. But they weren’t. They were a blue so intense, I felt their chill in the warm September sun. 

He was the embodiment of power, somehow consuming all air, all attention, all thought, until he was the only person left standing. He clearly knew the art of intimidation, but every sharp edge of him was softened by a lusty sort of charm, the kind that let everyone know that he got what he wanted. Anything he wanted.

Everything he wanted. 


About the Author

Staci Hart has been a lot of things up to this point in her life: a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom to three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, even though she’s certainly not the cleanest, nor is she the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party–especially if she’s been drinking whiskey–and her favorite word starts with f and ends with k.

From roots in Houston to a seven year stint in Southern California, Staci and her family ended up settling somewhere in between and equally north in Denver, where snow is magic and the mountains have become home. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, gaming, or designing graphics.

Connect with Staci
Amazon | Apple | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Website | Email

Morgue To Love by Megan Montgomery

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: 24 August 2021
Published by: Advancing Wolf
Type: HEA, series, standalone
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy
Author: Megan Montgomery
Read: 05 August 2021
Shelved: 06 August 2021
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here: Amazon | Universal Link | Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

Dr. Smythe is the youngest (and for my money, the prettiest) Medical Examiner in Nashville, Tennessee, only I didn’t know it last night when she was between my legs and just Soula.
 
This morning, we meet again as our careers cross paths and if I wasn’t concentrating on not spilling my guts from the nasty fumes of this D.O.A., it’d be awkward as hell.
 
Our eyes meet over the autopsy table…
…Ahem.
…Cough.
…The autopsy table absolutely covered in melty, gooey human remains that are long past recognizable…
 
I open my mouth to speak. The name, Soula, is right there on my tongue. 
Unfortunately, so is the stench—and taste of putrescine. 
 
When I wake up on a scratchy, tweed couch with a pounding headache, Soula’s handing me something steamy in a Dolly Parton mug. She’s just as beautiful in her light green scrubs as she was naked in my bed last night, but her expression is clear—She wants nothing more to do with me.
 
But I want everything to do with her.


Review

Soula Smythe is a medical examiner for the state of Tennessee. She is a brilliant and sassy lady, but her reputation is less favorable because her family runs a funeral home service (Smyth and Sons Mortuary) in their area. It did not matter that Soula tried to step away from the family business or does the opposite, like being a licensed doctor who can treat the living; she is still a pariah in her town. But her unique outlook and personality are most likely what caught the charming Detective Waylon Wells’ attention than just her looks.

I have to be honest, and I believe some of my followers already notice this – but I’m a book cover snob. Yes, I must admit that I look at the cover if I want to read/review/comment else; this would get “swiped right” immediately. When I saw this book’s cover, my interest got piqued, and I had to read the synopsis to understand better what is going on. Definitely, at first glance, readers may think that the storyline sounds like a “B movie” from the book’s summary, BUT I am in good authority to say that IT IS NOT! I know I am glad that I DID NOT just judge the cover but the book as a whole. What came about from this book was a good surprise, plus a new understanding of the industry and the people who work in it. 

The writing is clever and reminds me of Bones and iZombie, two of my favorite television series, with the complex medical jargon and working with dead bodies. Half of the terms that came out of Soula’s mouth, I had to check the dictionary for them. It is a well-researched book. The POVs are from Waylon and Soula’s, and both characters go through flashbacks to help readers understand where they are coming from.

The storyline is beyond what the synopsis could foretell. This book is NOT a simple “hooking-up book” – it is a lot more! The book explores the human psyche of two very different characters yet somehow needed each other to become the best versions of themselves as they got to know each other more. Even with Soula’s avoidance of Waylon later on, Fate planned otherwise. They later become inseparable as both main characters discover the beauty of each other’s past, and they seem to understand each other very well. There were a few assumptions, but patience and thoughtfulness helped their relationship survive many trials in the book. “Walls” broke down with Soula and Waylon’s trust and honesty in the end.

I was shocked by the many secrets kept between Waylon and Soula. Both characters felt so put together, and everything seems so “composed” that their dysfunctionality seems to have pushed them to keep this supposed pristine façade. It was a load full, and I am surprised that the book’s chapters were not more, given the heartache and angst. My heart bled for them. Based on the rollercoaster of emotions written on the pages, there will be NO DOUBT that readers will be fully invested in Soula and Waylon. Readers will cry for their losses and cheer for their triumph. 

Soula is a fascinatingly quirky character. Given her job’s demands, she is a brilliant character and an introvert (and more – hint hint). It is perfect since she is NOT into crowds, and I quote, “would rather deal with magots and degloved hands over the living, breathing,” especially her brother, George, who helps run the family business with her. What Soula shows on the outside is the total opposite. She is full of self-doubt, that I felt so sad that she felt that way. She felt the need to hide from the world to manage her emotions and expectations. Overanalyzing everything, Soula would later talk herself out of what she wanted in the first place, denying her happiness because that’s what she thought she deserved. Soula did end up being vocally honest (firstly to Waylon the later to the rest cast) as the story progressed, and she later realizes that this made her life a lot better.

Just when I thought that Soula has the worst background since she only knows of strained relationships, in comes Waylon with a whopper of a secret. It took me by surprise and did not come out until the absolute end. There were hints but nothing concrete until Waylon dropped that confession that broke me – with tears of sadness then later of joy. It was a confusing scene since both characters seem to have miscommunicated, and it would have been cleared up if they talked about it ten chapters before. 

I want to mention that the author provided supportive casts, each with a unique skillset and personality, balancing each other. Bethany and Decca might be worlds apart from Soula, but their random outlooks and personalities are what make them all understand each other and know when to support versus “sermon.” FYI – one of these lovely ladies is a doula – what kind will shock (or maybe not) readers. I have a soft spot for doulas, and it goes with the occupation and my other personae.

Some moral lessons imparted in the book:-

1.) Look beyond the surface, especially with people.
2.) Never deny your happiness.
3.) Honesty and open-mindedness make any relationship work.
4.) Listen to your instinct and relinquish control to those you trust.
5.) Always learn to grow.

“There’s no expiration date arbitrarily stamped on our relationship. I keep getting the feeling you see us as a quart of milk – something that’s destined for the garbage disposal once that date pass…You don’t realize it yet, but that’s okay – healthy even – but were’ not milk, we’re Twinkies. It’s going to take an apocalypse for us not to work.”

— Morgue To Love, Meghan Montgomery

In conclusion, Morgue to Love is a surprising read! The story is a balance of wit, humor, grit, drama, heartwarming, page-turner that goes beyond one typical genre. This book is all-encompassing and is an #ownvoices kind of book.

Expect heavy topics discussed that will deal with abuse, trauma, and mental health, etc. These controversial topics are well-researched and are all written respectfully. These characters’ development will “grow” on readers, and the journey to their story is so worth it!


About the Author

Megan writes happily-ever-afters for unlikeable female heroines, with an extra protein shake of humor.

Her debut novel, WELL . . . THAT WAS AWKWARD was inspired by her homesickness for southern Maryland. She now lives on the prairie with her husband, son, and mom.

When she’s not writing, reading, lifting weights, or cooking dinners her son won’t eat, you’ll find her in the garden or brewing potions from her medicinal herbs.

Connect with Meghan
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub


Vanilla Bean Vampire (Pie-jinks Book 1) by Selina J. Eckert

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.

Published on: 27 August 2021
Published by: Paper Cranes, LLC
Type: HEA, series, standalone
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Suspense, Romance
Author: Selina J. Eckert
Read: 18 August 2021
Shelved: 19 August 2021
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here: Universal Link | Goodreads

Synopsis

Welcome to Cider Hollow, where the pies are magic and the people are disappearing.

Pie witch Reese is living her dream: running the bakery she’s always wanted, selling magical pies, and landing a date with handsome Prince Forrest of the Autumn Court. But then people around her start vanishing, returning hours or days later with no memory of their missing time.

When her delivery boy is the next victim, Reese sets aside her pies, determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. But her prince is just as determined to keep her out of harm’s way, keeping her in the dark and even pushing her out of his own investigation.

Then the disappearances accelerate, hitting closer to home and leaving her with little choice but to get involved.

Can Reese bake up a plan to save the town? Or will she be the next to disappear?

Vanilla Bean Vampire is the first in the Pie-Jinks series, a new contemporary fantasy that is perfect for fans of Gilmore Girls and Mercy Thompson. If you like light, small-town stories, whimsical magic, and a touch of both romance and high-stakes mystery, you will love Selina J. Eckert’s new book!
This book takes place after the events of Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks in the Seasons of Magic: Pumpkins & Shades series, but Vanilla Bean Vampire can be read as a standalone. You do not need to read the novella to enjoy this series.


Review

Vanilla Bean Vampire is about a witch discovering herself and, at the same time, trying to solve the mystery of the townspeople disappearing. The writing is from a first-person POV – Reese, as she manages a growing business, being more outgoing, and solving a mystery while trying to date a fae prince of Cider Hollow. The story’s pace is consistent with some slower sections but speeds up during the suspenseful parts. I enjoyed a few places in the book, like (1) the extricate baking scenes, which give a gastronomical escape, and (2) the action-packed ending with Reese trying out her special potions. The story is easy to follow, but the clues are many and elusive until the ending explains everything. It is a good, clean, and fun read.

Reese, the female protagonist, grows throughout the book after discovering more of herself and how others see her. After being buried in her pie business, Pie-Jinks, Reese starts opening herself up socially to learn about the people around her town after a devastating/traumatic break-up. She learns the many supernatural beings making up the town and makes friends with them – understanding their way of life and themselves. On top of this, Reece dating a Fae prince adds more complex relationship issues. She had so much self-doubt in her abilities as a baker, witch, and friend. Her family and friends understood her personality, but it was heartbreaking at times. She does grow stronger after spending more time with people who encourage her and later would be in trouble – then it would be Reese’s time to “fight” for them.

Overall, Vanilla Bean Vampire is one seriously delicious mystery book that will make readers hungry for pie while solving a mystery. It has a good amount of suspense, angst, drama, and humor without going overboard. I recommend this read for readers who are baking/cooking/foodie fanatics, clean-romance readers, and cozy mystery buffs. The story and characters are wholesome enough without being too sugar-coated (pun pun pun intended), which will instead entice and captivate readers to want to finish the book immediately. Although this book may not be what I usually choose for myself, more readers will thoroughly enjoy this. I liked how the mystery was solved – though it leaves room for more sinister things going on in Reese’s town. I like how the author bridges this story to the next of the series.


About the Author

Selina writes stories about women who can not only overcome their circumstances but also grow and overcome the demons that live within their own hearts and minds. She loves to write stories about magic, because, hey, who couldn’t use a little magic in their life?

She also believes that stories are a way for us to connect to each other, to understand and empathize, to realize we are not alone and be encouraged. This is why she writes.

Outside of her writing life, Selina is many things. She is a neuroscientist. A Ravenclaw. A Christian. An artist. A muscian. A wife. A daughter. A sister. A reader. A dreamer. A book addict.

And, of course, a full-fledged nerd.

Connect with Selina
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub


~*~ Bookstagram Tour Schedule ~*~

I am so excited to be participating in the Vanilla Bean Vampire bookstagram tour! Check out the other bookstagramers joining me.

Monday, August 23rd
@lauraagraceauthor
@currant7_recommends

Tuesday, August 24th
@sadiesspotlight
@burkesdragons

Wednesday, August 25th
@bonggirlinabookworld
@livvy_cornwell

Thursday, August 26th
@books4jessica
@kaysatlas

Friday, August 27th
@portal_to_the_unknown
@then.parrish

Saturday, August 28th
@the_bookish_raven
@anndayleview

Book Release and Excerpt Reveal: The Light Through the Pouring Rain by James Ruvalcaba

Published on: 21 December 2020
Type: standalone
Genre: Non-fiction Memoir
Author: James Ruvalcaba

Synopsis:
The Light Through the Pouring Rain is a remarkable love story that will pull on your heartstrings and leave you inspired.

“Brutally honest and sincere. Well written and there’s a message in here we all could use.”

“James does an excellent job of captivating the reader and bringing them along for the ride.”

An emotional page turner that gives a first hand look into the lives of a young couple madly in love and eager to start their lives together, only to have it all halted by a cancer diagnosis. With no clear road map on how to navigate their new normal, James and Anabel proceed into uncharted territory, hand-in-hand, with the love of their families and their faith in God to guide them.

Get it here:
Amazon | Bookbub | Goodreads


Excerpt

Chapter 1: The first few months

It was April, and a couple months had passed by. At this point, everybody knew. Our friends and family knew and had been brainstorming on our game plan. Her first chemo session was April 2. Unfortunately, her family was not equipped to handle taking care of her. They had no experience with cancer and the pain that was upcoming. Unfortunately, my family and I had experience. Not that we wished we had, but it was an asset for this upcoming challenge. Cancer runs in our family. We’d lost our fair share of members, and the best place Anabel could recover was at our home. I had to talk to my family about the situation, and they agreed. My mom was the best man for the job. I couldn’t be more thankful for her. Mom was ready for the task at hand in a moment’s notice, without hesitation; she was the only one I could truly turn to in these times.

Anabel had gotten situated in our home. She stayed in my room with my brother and me. Which was a challenge in itself, due to him enjoying his senior year of high school, coming in and out of the house, partying it up, and having his friends over. We managed to make the best of it. At times it could be unbearable and make Anabel and me crazy, but the care and love that my brother had for her made it easier for us. He would be a pain in the ass, but had a soft spot for Anabel and would regulate things when Anabel needed some time. This was a challenge for Anabel and me as well. This cancer had rushed a huge step in our relationship: we had finally moved in together. It wasn’t the circumstances that we had imagined or planned for, but we had to make it work.

We had spoken on what location we would like to live in and how Anabel didn’t care much for where and how much, but only if she could decorate for each holiday. That was her only stipulation. “James, I don’t care what you say, I’m gonna go all out every holiday, and you can’t say a damn thing to me.” It was adorable. It would put a smile to my face, because she made a point to say that as if it would be a deal breaker.

We had established our routine. She would wake up early, around eight a.m., have coffee with my grandma and her dog in the backyard, and reminisce about my grandma’s glory days as a caretaker. Then I would wake up around ten a.m. to “Good morning, Meez!” Anabel called me Meez because my little brother would call me Jamies, and if you say the second syllable of Jamies, it sounds like “Meez.” So she ran with it. We would eat breakfast together and follow that up with some episodes of The Office. Then I would go to the gym for a couple of hours then return to her to relax, watch TV or movies with her on her phone, then eat dinner. My Mom would make, and repeat. A very simple routine, but effective due to the fatigue she would be experiencing from chemotherapy.

It may seem like a very bland routine for a normal person, but it was what she wanted. April 2 was fast approaching. After a couple of weeks, it was finally here.

At this time, I was working with special needs kids as an instructional aide. My work schedule was eight thirty a.m. to three p.m., typical school hours. Thanks to my mom, I was able to have some sort of income to take care of Anabel’s needs when she needed something. It wasn’t much, but it was something. Prior to leaving work, I gave her a speech: “Chemo ain’t got shit on you. It chose the wrong person to fuck with.” I felt like I was giving a speech in 300. She was amped, we kissed each other goodbye, and I was off to work. Later on at work, I got a text from my mom sending me a picture of Anabel during chemo, and she was all smiles with a thumbs-up. She looked way happier than anybody in that situation could possibly be, but she felt in her heart that chemo didn’t have shit on her. That was partially my fault for the speech I gave her in the morning, but it was funny to see somebody actually believe the words you say and run with it. I cracked a smile, thinking, This girl.

I arrived home at three thirty. “Bells!”

“Yes, Meez?”

“How did it go?”

“It was a breeze.”

My mom explained the doctor’s orders and the game plan. Eight weeks of chemo, five days a week, which would be re-evaluated as needed until her tumor was small enough to do radiation, then surgery to remove it. We were all excited. The plan has been laid out, and with a plan that has a time frame, you are able to envision the light at the end of the tunnel, because the next day brings you that much closer to back to your normal life. Anabel and I smiled at each other with our eyes tearing up. We must’ve both been imagining our lives going back to normal.


About the Author

My name is James Ruvalcaba. I am a Writer, Blogger , and recent published indie Author.

I began documenting my journey after I lost my fiancé Anabel Nevarez to her battle with Cancer. After the events I made it my mission to come through on the promise I gave her as I said my goodbyes on her final day. I swore to her that I would honor her legacy and tell the World about our story together and I wouldn’t stop until I came through on it. 

Now please follow me as I seek to accomplish the promise I gave  my Princess on her last day.

Connect with James
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub


** GIVEAWAY ALERT **

In celebration of the release of The Light Through the Pouring Rain, a giveaway is being run! Up for grabs are five (5) $10 Amazon gift cards!
Join now ➟➟➟ Head-on to Rafflecopter here.

Good luck!


Tour Schedule

See the tour schedule below and the links can be found here.


16 August
– A Hippie’s Bookshelf, Instagram ahippiesbookshelf, Twitter & Facebook

17 August
– Divine Perspective, Instagram atwctours, Twitter & Facebook
– Jerry’s Circumlocution    

18 August
– Instagram 4realreviews4u
– Pick a good book & Instagram @pickagoodbook    

19 August
– Instagram @c.c.c.villacorta
– Instagram @jypsylynn
– Why Not? Because I Said So!, Instagram @ssdawn2002 & Twitter

20 August
– #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog, Instagram @bookreviewvirginialee, Twitter & Facebook
– Currant7 Recommends, Instagram @Currant7_Recommends, Twitter & Facebook

21 August
– A Hippie’s Bookshelf, Instagram ahippiesbookshelf, Twitter & Facebook
– Jazzy Book Reviews, Instagram jazzybookreviews, Twitter & Facebook

22 August
– Readingthroughthelookinglass & Instagram Readingthroughthelookinglass
– The Elysian Geek & Instagram @theelysian.mu

Excerpt Blitz: Give Me A Reason by A.L. Jackson

Check out the cover of GIVE ME A REASON by A.L. Jackson⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Coming out on AUGUST 30th, 2021⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
✔Enemies-to-lovers
✔Single-dad
✔Forbidden boss
✔Swoony, intense feels with laugh out loud sweetness⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Who’s ready to meet Trent & Eden?!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
~*~*~⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
From NYT and USA Today bestselling author A.L. Jackson comes a single-dad, enemies-to-lovers stand-alone romance about a jaded club owner and his son’s teacher…⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Eden Murphy came into my club looking to make some extra cash.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
A girl like her didn’t belong in a place like this. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
She’d get ripped to shreds.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Most likely by me.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
There’s nothing but sweetness dripping from her sexy little body, and I’m the monster who’s salivating to get a taste. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Trent Lawson is the last man I should want.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Dark.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Dangerous.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
So wickedly gorgeous he makes my knees weak. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
He’s also an arrogant jerk who happens to be my new boss. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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When I discover his adorable son is also in my kindergarten class, I know I have to keep my distance. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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But neither of us can ignore the attraction that flames.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
One glance, and our hearts race. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
One touch, and we’re aching for what we can’t have. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
One night, and we’re falling fast.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Dragging her into my sordid world is wrong. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It doesn’t matter. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Eden Murphy is mine. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
~*~*~⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Pre-Order on Amazon
Add to Goodreads⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Audio Live Alert⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Want a Signed Paperback or Give Me Release Box?
PRE-ORDER HERE


Excerpt

“I’ll fuck it up.” Didn’t need to answer it straight. Admit it. Fact this girl had me on my knees made it clear enough. But she needed to know one thing. “I’ll ruin you. Don’t fuckin’ mistake it.”

It was a growl. A warning I already knew this girl wasn’t going to heed.

Because neither of us were immune to this.

She pressed my hand down farther. “It’s okay because it’s the loneliness that hurts the most.”

For a few minutes, I was going to take it away.

Greed rumbled up my throat, and my hand she had pressed against the raging of her heart spread wider, pressing tight up against all that gorgeous, honeyed flesh before I was pushing forward, my face pressed to her dress, against the fabric that covered her stomach.

“Eden.”

It was a grunt.

A plea.

A warning.

Because I didn’t know how either of us were going to come back from this.

Should walk.

Hell, I should fuckin’ run. Get on my bike and put a state or two between us. End this before it got any more complicated.

But those fingers drove into my hair, hanging on tight to the point of pain, and I was grumbling the promise into the fabric of her dress, “Gonna touch you, baby. Gonna make you feel right.”

She whimpered, and I pulled back a fraction so I could take her in. So I could get a good look at this timid seductress sitting propped on the edge of her bed.

Her breath all around, her heart beating out of control, her chest writhing in desperate heaves.

I glided my hand down her trembling belly, around the curve of her hip, all the way until I was back to holding her by both knees. Dipping down, I pressed my nose to the inside of her left thigh.

Slowly, I dragged it up.

Inhaling as I went.

Sucking down that sweet, honeyed scent.

She shivered, and her hands tightened in my hair. “Trent.”

“I’ve got you. I’ve got you.”

I had this precious girl in the palm of my hands. Ruinin’ her the way I did.

Couldn’t stop. Couldn’t stop.

And I swore to god, she would like it tonight.

The ruining.

The destroying.

She trembled as I slipped my palms under the material of her dress and glided it higher until she was all exposed, quivering, silky thighs.

Lush and curved.

A perfect fantasy.

Lust pounded through my bloodstream, seeing her this way. So damned sexy. So fuckin’ sweet. Everything I shouldn’t have. Shouldn’t want. What I was going to take because I didn’t know how to stop.

“You’re beautiful, Eden. Fuckin’ heaven,” I murmured against the flesh, nose riding the length of her inner thigh until I was pressing it to the lacy white fabric covering that sweet spot I was dying to get lost in.

“Little Temptress.”


About the Author

A.L. Jackson is the New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance. She writes emotional, sexy, heart-filled stories about boys who usually like to be a little bit bad.
Her bestselling series include THE REGRET SERIES, CLOSER TO YOU, BLEEDING STARS, FIGHT FOR ME, CONFESSIONS OF THE HEART, and FALLING STARS novels. Grab her latest stand-alone, CATCH ME WHEN I FALL, free with Kindle Unlimited!
If she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out by the pool with her family, sipping cocktails with her friends, or of course with her nose buried in a book.

Connect with A.L.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Snapchat: aljacksonauthor
Subscribe to her newsletter: http://smarturl.it/NewsFromALJackson
Reader Group: http://smarturl.it/AmysAngelsRock
Text “aljackson” to 33222 for special updates!
Want to know what music inspires A.L.’s books? She has book-specific playlists on Spotify!

Book Blitz / Review: Now I Found You by Mila Oliver

Continue with the book by Xpresso Book Tours by check out the tour dates of the other participants.

Published on: 20 July 2021
Type: HEA, standalone
Genre: Adult, Suspense, Thriller
Author: Mila Oliver
Read: 13 August 2021
Shelved: 14 August 2021
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Get it here: Amazon US | AU
Add Now I Found You on your Goodreads TBR today! 


Synopsis

Seven years ago, Kate Hartfield’s little sister disappeared.

An ordinary summer day of fun at the lake turned into a nightmare when young Emily Hartfield suddenly could not be found. When badly battered body parts were discovered three days later, the investigation concluded that they were Emily’s and the case was closed as an accidental drowning.

Now Kate has returned to her hometown in the Catskills for the first time since her sister’s death, for a work retreat. While at her boss’s lake house, she briefly spies a familiar face.

It’s Emily.

She’s all grown up, but Kate knows her sister’s face better than anyone. The sighting reignites the doubts Kate has always had, and forces her to revisit all the mysterious circumstances that surrounded that day. As she desperately tries to track down the girl she saw at the lake house, Kate discovers shocking secrets from the past, confronts her own guilt from that day, and becomes obsessed with uncovering the answer to one question.

What really happened to Emily?


Review

Kate Hartfield lost someone important more than seven years now, but the pain is still fresh like it was yesterday. She lost her sister one summer at a lake. She was supposed to watch over her, but somehow, her sister, Emily, was found beneath the lake after three days of searching. Kate feels responsible after her mother seems to have laid the blame heavily onto her ever since the accident. 

It was ruled as such until an unexpected mandatory company outing brought her back to the disappearance site. This time, Kate saw her sister, Emily, by the same lake that she disappeared from!

Now I Found You is a complex story told from a first-person POV – Kate’s. I like how readers dive deeper into knowing the story from Kate’s eyes, especially since she’s the one with many theories on what might have happened. Given this POV only, readers cannot get the thoughts and feelings of other characters in the novel unless shown in their facial expressions from Kate’s POV. This technique gives much mystery to what the other characters went through with Emily’s disappearance.

Kate’s theories, some quite outlandish, may skew the details, which readers have to decide which flashbacks, recollections are truths versus “what-might-be.” With the many possibilities that Kate and other characters bring in to explain Emily’s death, readers have to be critical and start thinking out-of-the-box when more secrets are further revealed by “suspects” that did not come forward or questioned the first time.

The storyline is excellent. I would never describe a crime suspense book as a light read, but this book proved me otherwise. The flow was easy, even with the anguish Kate had to succumb again to returning home and revisiting her traumatic past. I want to point out that mystery readers may find this a short read for a mystery/suspense book, but the clues and plot twists (yes, more than just one) in the end were well written. 

Note: not all the investigation’s nitty-gritty details were discussed, but there were short recaps shared by various characters also. I appreciate the book’s unwavering focus on getting to the bottom of what happened to Emily. Even with this, the plot is solid and focused on the missing sister mystery. The ending seems like one of those infamous endings that will make readers’ jaws drop! This book is what tabloid scandals are made of.

The characters are complexly fascinating. Although we only get Kate’s POV, these characters show their personality through their reactions to Kate’s theories and rants. Some of them were sympathetic to what happened, like Lucas’ family and a few townfolks. Still, ironically, it is Kate’s parent’s reaction to the new evidence that baffled me.

Kate’s parents – Miranda and Dave – are something. Describing Kate’s family relationship as strained is a kind word. I was furious at them! Their sense of protecting their children is so warped. Their reactions are not how a rational parent would, and both did it for love? Really?!?! I think their reason for “doing nothing” is for plausible deniability and turning a blind eye to the truth to “save people.” That is unacceptable!

Disclosure: the book mentioned some abuse and manipulation, so take this as a reader’s warning. 

“Of all the theories, I never once imagined this.”

— Now I Found You, Mila Oliver

Kate’s love interest or ex-boyfriend, Lucas, is a saint and a Godsend! He was with Kate from the start, but with Kate being so “damaged” after everything, even love did not save them. There were many “unanswered questions” with their “falling-out,” and although they did sort some things out – there’s a long road to recovery for that one. I am glad to hear that both sought professional help for this shared trauma all those years, BUT with Kate moving away abruptly and severing all ties to her hometown, she and Lucas never got to sort things out between them. The move was so quick that they didn’t officially break up – they just withered away, which is so sad!

In summary, Now I Found You is a gripping, captivating, and heart-stopping debut book that will guarantee NOT TO DISAPPOINT suspense-loving readers!! The dichotomy of grief and loss is juxtaposed with the darker and manipulative side of the human psyche. Both elements are imposing and demanding much attention from readers while at the same time providing much uncertainty on where the ending’s ultimate direction will be. Expect a whirlwind of emotions shifting from despair, angst to mystery, and suspense in the book that will keep readers glued to the book until the end. There is a lot to be said about loss, but sometimes, it hits children the hardest. This book is an eyeopener and a warning to all on how far people are willing to conform their minds in accepting what might be wrong if given triggering conditions. As the characters imply, the conclusion brings closure and hope of healing BUT still a very long road ahead. 

“Two different sisters. One behind the other.”

— Now I Found You, Mila Oliver

Connect with Mila

Goodreads


** GIVEAWAY ALERT **

In celebration of the release of Now I Found You, a giveaway is being run!
Up for grabs is a $25 Amazon gift card!
This Blitz-wide giveaway is open internationally. The giveaway ends August 26th.

Join now ➟➟➟ Head-on to Rafflecopter here.

Good luck!

Book Blitz: The Grifter by Ali Gunn and Sean Campbell

Published date: 15 August 2021

Published by: Partners in Crime

Genre: Adult Thriller, Crime, Suspense, Financial Thriller, Vigilante Justice

Author(s): Ali Gunn and Sean Campbell

Get it here: Amazon | Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

One will rise. The other will fall.

Kent Bancroft’s rise to fame and fortune was nothing short of meteoric. Once a simple teacher in London’s East End, he’s now on course to become Britain’s youngest billionaire.

But his success has come on the back of those he’s trodden upon to get there. Among them is a man whose fall was as swift as Kent’s rise. He used to be a sparky, honest and hard-working. Now, he’s homeless, drunk, and down one leg.

And he blames Kent for everything.

Forget forgiveness. Forget turning the other cheek. And forget waiting for karma.

This is a victim who won’t stand idly by.

He wants revenge.

And he’s going to get it.

Kent Bancroft will never see him coming. 


Excerpt

The click-clack of my crutches on the cobblestones made him look up. He flicked the stub in my direction.

‘Spare a couple of quid, mate?’

People usually ignored me. It was easier than lookin’ me in the eye. But Mr High and Mighty couldn’t take the easy road. He had to say something.

‘First of all,’ he said, his nostrils flaring angrily, ‘I’m not your mate.’

Couldn’t disagree with him there. I wouldn’t be his mate if he paid me. I met his stare as best I could. He towered over me, easily six foot tall. I used to be taller. Before the accident, anyway. Now I hobble along like Quasimodo. Ain’t easy to stand up straight on one leg.

‘And second,’ he continued, ‘I won’t spare you anything. I earn my crust, and you should too. Scum, that’s what you are. A blight on our streets. You lay around all day, drinking and smoking, and then have the nerve to ask hard-working people like me for handouts. Get off my property.’

‘Yours, is it? I’d have thought you wouldn’t begrudge a man a bite to eat when you’ve got your own skyscraper.’

I was saved from a retort by the ringing of his mobile. He answered at lightning speed.

‘Hello? Ah, Minister, yes, yes…’

Minister, eh? Mr La-de-dah. He turned away from me, heading back towards his office. Then I saw it. There, on the ground. A sleek leather wallet. I picked it up, it was much heavier than I expected as if it were stuffed full of cash.

‘Oi, Bancroft!’ I called out. I stumbled after him, my stump swinging wildly between my crutches.

He turned, still yabberin’ into his phone, his eyes momentarily narrowing as if to ask how I knew his name. He looked over to two security guards who were standing one either side of the revolving door into the lobby, and then, real subtle-like, he jerked his head towards me.

The two suits ran at me. As if I could escape.

‘He forgot his–’

Before I could say “wallet”, the men grabbed me under the armpits. My crutches fell to the ground as they dragged me towards the road. One shove later, I toppled backwards over the low wall that divided the offices of Bancroft, Tomlinson and Co from the public road beyond.

My back screamed out in agony. Pain radiated out all over my body. Even my missing leg hurt. Bloody phantom pain.

As I sat up, the shadows of the security guards loomed over me. One of ’em had picked up my crutches. He threw ’em down on the ground at my feet without saying a word.

I looked around, hoping someone might help me up. The City’s always busy in the morning so there were plenty of people to see me strugglin’. One woman managed a half-smile as if she weren’t sure if I deserved the ordeal I had just endured. Nobody helped. Nobody noticed the wallet in my hand. I slipped it into my pocket.

After the crowds began to move on, I hauled myself up onto the wall. My back twinged again as I bent forward to pick up my crutches. By the time I could stand up, the pain was too much. I needed something to take the edge off.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to go far.

I limped along, crying out with every step as I made my way back to the doorway across the street. I collapsed down onto my sleeping bag and looked for the flask I kept hidden in the pile. I twisted off the cap and glugged down a few mouthfuls, the burn of cheap whisky coating my throat.

Enough is enough. I’m tired of giving Bancroft second chances. By now, he’ll be back in his office. Had he noticed his wallet was gone yet? Would he realise where he’d lost it? Would he finally remember me?

I’m done playing nice. He’d refused to spare a cripple one little human kindness. I just wanted him to talk to me, to put things right. Instead, he’d insulted me and assaulted me.

Fuck it. I’m done.

Time to make the bastard pay.


About the Author

Ali Gunn kills people for a living*.

The characters in Ali’s books are the kind of strong, fearless women that every girl dreams of growing up to be.

The first DCI Elsie Mabey novel, The Career Killer, is out now.

Book two in the series, The Psychopath Within, is coming soon.

*fictional people, honest officer!

Connect with Ali
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Sean Campbell is the author of DCI Morton series (Dead on Demand, Cleaver Square, Ten Guilty Men, The Patient Killer, Missing Persons, The Evolution of a Serial Killer, and My Hands Are Tied).

He spends his days working out how to kill people without being caught, and then flipping the switch to play detective. His non-writing interests vary from photography and cinema to rugby and hiking. You can usually find him somewhere in one of London’s coffee shops – look for the big bearded guy taking up way too much room and hogging the Wi-Fi.

Connect with Sean
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

** GIVEAWAY ALERT **

In celebration of the release of The Grifter, a giveaway is being run! Up for grabs is a $25 Amazon gift card! This Blitz-wide giveaway is open internationally. The giveaway ends August 26th.

Join now ➟➟➟ Head-on to Rafflecopter here.

Good luck!