Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani

Julia Iredale (Illustrator) 

Published on: 21 September 2021
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
Type: standalone, short stories, anthology
Reading age: ‎ 10 – 14 years
Grade level‏: ‎ 5 – 9
Genre: Children’s Short Story Collections, Short Stories Anthologies, Children’s Folk Tales & Myths (Books)
Author: Soman Chainani
Book Length: 336 pages
Read: 12 November 2021
Shelved: 24 November 2021
Rating: 5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

You think you know these stories, don’t you?

You are wrong.

You don’t know them at all.

Twelve tales, twelve dangerous tales of mystery, magic, and rebellious hearts. Each twists like a spindle to reveal truths full of warning and triumph, truths that capture hearts long kept tame and set them free, truths that explore life . . . and death.

A prince has a surprising awakening . . .                           

A beauty fights like a beast . . .

A boy refuses to become prey . . .

A path to happiness is lost. . . . then found again.

New York Times bestselling author Soman Chainani respins old stories into fresh fairy tales for a new era and creates a world like no other. These stories know you. They understand you. They reflect you. They are tales for our times. So read on, if you dare. 


Review

With so many retellings in movies, tv shows, and books, it is harder to surprise consumers, including myself. So when I was perusing Beasts and Beauty at a local bookstore and got hooked by just one story without trying, I immediately knew, without hesitation, that this is a keeper
Biggest deciding factors: signed and hardbound!!


Beasts and Beauty is a collection of children’s fairy tales retold in a way that can pass as genuine tales that are genuine, new, and thought-provoking. Some are happy enough endings while some aren’t – leaving me sad, but I like that since the lessons in those stories were good reminders of how we all should see life. 

Fair warning: This book is NOT your typical retelling of fairytales. It can be brutal, harsh, and raw, leaving readers shocked, stunned, and maybe outraged! But, after everything, each story will leave readers an impression or affect how one looks at life from here on out. 

I appreciate the author making these timeless tales even more appropriate and “current” with topics that can apply to the “here and now” without prejudice. There are many character archetypes in this collection whose stories were written honestly and respectfully. Only a sensitive and conscious author who understands these types of characters can pull this off. The author did with all the “flying colors” in the color spectrum.

I was delighted at how each story, very familiar and timeless in theme and “lessons,” can still provide a fresh and twisted take on what Grimm wrote them to be. It is something that I would want to share with my children – to show them how they should see themselves, the world, and what they can do to make better decisions.

The moral lessons of self-esteem, inner bravery, learning from mistakes and “correcting it,” choosing their path, not just the “right path,” intelligent choices, etc., are evident in the book.

Story list:
  1. Red Riding Hood
  2. Snow White
  3. Sleeping Beauty
  4. Rapunzel
  5. Jack and the Beanstalk
  6. Hansel and Gretel
  7. Beauty and the Beast
  8. Bluebeard
  9. Cinderella
  10. The Little Mermaid
  11. Rumplestiltskin
  12. Peter Pan

Do I have a favorite? It is hard to say because each story has a purpose and space that will help shape the reader’s perspective about everything. I will share what some of the memorable stories are:-

The Story that Made Me Buy The Book: Little Mermaid

The story got me hooked to buy it immediately. It is a story that I would want to share with my daughter. I want her to read it and realize that impulsiveness and not “having all the information” to make an informed decision will get you into a lot more trouble than you realize.

The Story that Made Me Cry: Peter Pan

I don’t know if it’s because I am a mother and have kids, but this one got me all teary-eyed. It is the last of the stories, and it had me bawling! The story talks about impressions versus reality – true love can see underneath everything, and sometimes, one finds love and hope in the most unlikely characters.

A Story of Empowerment: Snow White

The author changed this story and “break the cycle” made me smile from ear to ear. This story shows readers how one person or group standing up and finding the courage to pave “a new path” will impact the future. The artwork at the end of the story is perfect! 


PROS: gripping, honest, entertaining, world-building, page-turner, inspirational, empowering, controversial, inclusive, “made-me-smarter,” humorous, and paradoxical.

CONS: nothing, BUT there should be a follow-up to other stories or a part two of this collection!

Tropes: retellings, new age genre readers, romance, contemporary readers, LGBTQ+, twisted thought-provoking stories, and controversial topic readers.


About the Author

Soman Chainani’s debut series, THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL, has sold more than 3 million copies, been translated into 30 languages across 6 continents, and will be a major motion picture from Netflix in 2022.

Each of the six books in the series — THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL, A WORLD WITHOUT PRINCES, THE LAST EVER AFTER, QUESTS FOR GLORY, A CRYSTAL OF TIME, and ONE TRUE KING — have debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list. Together the books have been on the print and extended lists for 38 weeks.

A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University’s MFA Film Program, Soman began his career as a screenwriter and director, with his films playing at over 150 film festivals around the world. He has been nominated for the Waterstone Prize for Children’s Literature, been named to the Out100, and also received the $100,000 Shasha Grant and the Sun Valley Writer’s Fellowship, both for debut writers.

Soman’s latest book, BEASTS & BEAUTY, is an instant New York Times Bestseller and will soon be published in 10 languages. It is his seventh New York Times bestseller in a row.

Connect with Soman
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Some Call It Attraction (Sweet Dreams Book 5) by Sarah Peis

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.

Cover Design: Ben for Tall Story Design

Published on: 25 November 2021
Published by: Hexatorial 
Type: standalone, series
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Contemporary Romance
Tropes: Friends-to-Lovers/Second Chance
Author: Sarah Peis
Read: 05 November 2021
Shelved: 07 November 2021
Rating: 3 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

Two best friends. One lie. A second chance neither of them expected.

I have an unhealthy addiction to self-help quotes and baked goods. He believes in facts and protein shakes. We were as opposite as two people could get, yet we became best friends anyway.

Turns out all it took to tear us apart was a lie.

The last thing I expected was to see him again years later on the set of a reality TV show I’m a contestant in. It doesn’t take long for us to fall back into an easy friendship I thought I’d lost forever. But the feelings I tried so hard to ignore refuse to stay dead and buried.

What will he do when he finds out that I lied all those years ago? Because I can’t walk away a second time.

This is Rayna’s story and a second-chance, friends-to-lovers romantic comedy that can be read as a standalone.

Note from the author: In order not to get kicked out of the good (okay goodish…. fine, sometimes good) girls club, I’d like to point out that I write steamy romcoms and my characters use bad language (sometimes) and like to get it on. There’s no cheating and all my books have a HEA.


Review

A bake-off reality show contestant bumps into an old friend/childhood crush working at a said reality show. It can only set ovens and passion blazing. When Greyson Jones and Rayna Sweet reunites, they realize that they still have some chemistry left over even after the massive misunderstanding. Sparks may still fly, but will it overcome the hurt they both inflicted each other in the past to forge a future together?

POV: First-person, Rayna Sweet’s

Setting: Los Angeles and Humptulips, Colorado

Likes:

1.) Easy, sweet, calm read

I breezed through this book with enough speed to make it pleasant, even if there were mild angst moments. There were times when I felt that it dragged on, but it was only during the first part of the book. By the time some action in the reality show happened, the pace was better. More internal struggles and self-realization were happening as Rayna’s character development deepened and opened her eyes to the truth of reality shows.

Note: I can only comment on Rayna’s side since that’s the only side I can dissect with certainty. The rest of the characters, primarily Grayson’s, remained a mystery to me.

2.) Non-stop comedic humor and Mantra chanting moments

“If there’s one thing I know without a doubt, it’s that he cares for you. It was obvious all those years ago, and it’s obvious now. I’ll even promise to accept him into the family with open arms. He’s growing on me. Like a third nipple. It’s useless but quite extraordinary to have.” 
– Willa, Some Call It Attraction

OR

With sassy commentaries (above) and random mantras/sayings (below) from Theodore Roosevelt or the Dalai Lama, I found it impossible to resist a snicker or two, especially in very unexpected moments.

“Choose to be optimistic. It feels better.” 
– Dalai Lama

3.) Writing style befitting the story

I enjoyed the writing and the added mystery of having only one character’s side of the story. For example, readers not having access to Grayson’s POV gives a lot of mystery and, at times, mixed signals that added to Rayna’s angst and uncertainty. The readers are in the same pace/space as Rayna that heightened the whole experience. It was refreshing to sometimes be in the dark. This story gave me a better impression of the author’s decision on this. 

4.) Past characters in the book revisited.

It is nice to see book series bring back or have old characters in the previous book either come for a scene or two, but this book had them be a more active participant. These were Rayna’s support system at home and were constantly mentioned and had strong supporting cast vibes. I enjoyed getting to know them since I wasn’t able to read the series yet. Readers can see how her small yet supportive townsfolks rallied to support her family and her business through these characters.

Note: readers can start in between any of the series’ stories and won’t be lost. Although there would be inevitable endings (they did end up together, HEA), the story’s primary focus is Rayna and Grayson.

5.) Reality of reality shows = nasty, juicy, and yet I could not deny gobbling it up.

You know when there are tv shows that we love to binge on but will never admit publicly of watching? I have too many of those, and I will STILL NOT admit it anywhere, BUT, in this case, I like how the author showed the nasty side of fame and show business. It may not be for all shows, but the stereotypical assumptions of intrigued and deceit were ever-present. Add a stiff competition and jealousy; everything turned so badly quickly for Rayna when new information came to light. 

Dislikes:-

1.) Annoying ex-flings plus disapproving and meddling parents kept popping into the story to cause trouble. –>> needed for plot twist and conflict

I felt that Grayson realized he didn’t need to settle until he got reconnected with Rayna. Even before Grayson and Rayna had a massive falling-out, Grayson sacrificed so much of himself – his career choice and personal life – to stay within his parent’s good side

I did not like his ex sabotaging his “path to Rayna” AND his parents being “snobbish” (to put this lightly) to Rayna. It was tough to reconcile that good, lovely, and thoughtful Grayson could come from such toxic and vile parents. 

2.) Me – it’s most likely me.
I do not understand why this book couldn’t hold my attention when it has all the perfect makings of what I love – romance, a bit of sassy dialogue, plot twists, sweet couple, against-all-odds themes, yet it took me longer to concentrate on the book. I kept getting distracted or putting it down. I was fearful that I might not finish it if I hadn’t sat down and speedread the last parts if I stopped anymore, hence the rating.


Overall, Some Call It Attraction is a sweet read for romance and foodie-sweets-loving readers who want to know more about sacrifices and timing. Rayna and Grayson’s story was a long road – extended to years of disappointments and misunderstandings. They both had to grow up in their own time, come back to clear things up then decide their feelings for each other. It’s has a nice ending, with a few of the loose ends at the beginning wrapped up well. FYI – other forces were causing even more stress on Rayna than just the show and Grayson’s baggage. This particular problem kept me on edge until its resolution in the last chapter.

Tropes: second chances, Cinderella-ish feels, friends-to-lovers, rich boy-simpleton girl, reality show fanatics


About the Author

Supporter of all things written, defender of the e-book revolution, and master of the take-out order – I’m not afraid to say I can’t cook, go a week without breaking something, read labels correctly, or park cars in a straight line.

I love the written word in all forms and shapes and if I’m not glued to a book I’m attempting to write one. I’m a frequent blonde moment sufferer and still trying to figure out how to adult. I live in Melbourne, Australia, with my two little humans, the holder of my heart, and two furry demons. I love to hear from readers so feel free to get in touch.

Connect with Sarah
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Excerpt Reveal: Child of Mine (Boston Classics Book #4) by Karen Grey

Published on: 01 December 2021
Published by: Home Cooked Books 
Type: HEA, series
Genre: Drama, 20th Century Historical Romance
Author: Karen Grey

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Synopsis

The bigger the secret, the harder it is to hide.

Single mom Isabella York was a celebrity before she had her first kiss, her first date, or her first sip of alcohol. Playing the bad girl—both on and off the set—allowed her to make up for lost time. Back home in Boston, with her “checkered past” behind her, all she wants is to raise her little girl far away from the spotlight, because revealing her secrets could mean losing everything, or gaining more than she’d ever hoped.

For her, and her daughter.

It’s not that Henry Smith hates kids—they don’t like him. Meanwhile, he’s stuck producing children’s TV, so he’ll try to tone down the grumpiness that’s dogged him since his life imploded seven years ago. After all, not everyone gets a second chance to chase his dream. If he plays his cards right at this new gig, he can move on to making television that will change the world, not just entertain a bunch of brats.

Maybe he can charm the woman he never thought he’d see again into a do-over while he’s at it.

In this sexy, heartwarming, not-quite-historical romance—the latest Boston Classics standalone romcom—a sunshine/grumpy pair has to face the past to before they can find a future… together.

Start the series today!

Book 1 – What I’m Looking For
Amazon | Amazon Worldwide

Book 1.5 – Signed, Sealed and Delivered
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Book 2 – Forget About Me (Boston Classics, #2)
 Amazon | Books2Read | Goodreads

Book 2.5 – Like It’s 1999
Goodreads

Book 3 – You Spin Me (Boston Classics, #3)
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Excerpt Reveal

BELLA

The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, as my daughter and I drive to a suburb west of Boston, the sun warming the car is welcome reassurance that winter’s truly over. After we locate the blocked-off street and park nearby, Lilah helps me find the right house. She then insists on ringing the doorbell herself. After a few moments, a freckle-faced redhead with a toddler on her hip opens the door.

“Hey, you must be Bella and Delilah. I’m Penny, Cal’s sister. We’re so glad you guys could come!” Ushering us inside, she gestures at a living room where every surface is covered with toys. “You can set your stuff in here before you head out to the street. There are tons of kids at the block party already.” Squatting so that she’s eye to eye with Lilah, she adds, “Don’t worry. I know a big girl like you doesn’t want to play with a baby like Danny here. He has cousins that are older, and there are all ages in the neighborhood. Do you want me to introduce you to some of them?”

“No, thank you,” Lilah says politely. “I’m gregarious.”

Straightening, Penny shoots a brows-up look at me before addressing my little word sponge. “Um, I think that means you’re not shy?”

“That is correct. Also, I prefer Lilah.” Lilah nods solemnly. The way she does everything.

Penny’s monologue seems to have run out, so I steer Lilah towards the living room. “Let’s find a spot for your bag, and then you’ll know where to find it in case you want to take a break and read.”

“How old is she?” Penny mutters under her breath.

“I’m five and three quarters,” Lilah says over her shoulder. After handing her plaid backpack to me—no toy themes for this girl—she turns back to Penny. “I grew up in a bookstore, so I like to read.”

“Good for you.” Penny nods. “Maybe you can teach Danny here.”

When the toddler pulls his thumb from his mouth and slaps his mother on the cheek, Lilah winces. “Maybe.”

Bouncing Danny, Penny walks us to the front door. “I was just about to put him down for a N-A-P, but Cal and Jess are out there somewhere. If I know Cal, he’s probably monitoring the waterslide to make sure the kids are being safe. Did you bring a suit, Lilah?”

“I have it on already.” Lilah lifts her T-shirt to reveal her one-piece. “Also, as soon as he learns to read, you won’t be able to hide things from him by spelling.”

“That is an excellent point.” Penny points a finger at her. “I will keep him ignorant as long as possible.”

Taking my daughter’s hand, I start down the front steps of Penny’s house. “Thanks for letting us stow our stuff here, Penny.”

“Anytime,” she calls over a loud yowl from Danny.

After Penny shuts the door and we head toward the crowd of people down the block, Lilah squeezes my hand. “Don’t worry, Mommy. It’ll be fun.”

I make a pooh-pooh gesture so over-the-top I’d never get away with it onstage. “Who’s worried?”

Her expression makes it clear she’s not buying it.

“Okay, okay, you’re right. I wish I were as outgoing as you.” I put an arm around her and hug her into my side. “But I’ll be fine.”

What my daughter doesn’t know is that when I was a kid, I was even more of an extrovert than she is. Driven by an unquenchable need for the next high—achieved at first through novel experiences, then risk-taking, and finally, sex, drugs, and alcohol—only rock ’n roll was left off the list of my adventures.

These days, I pretend to be an introvert. Makes it easier to keep temptation at bay, and to hide from the consequences of past poor choices. Just like on stage, it’s more comfortable for me to play a role than myself.

For instance, today I’ll play the role of laid-back but responsible single mom. I’ll keep an eagle eye on my daughter while pretending not to. The waterslide is at the other end of the block, so I smile and nod at the people who look up as we pass. In this suburban neighborhood outside of Boston, every single family seems to consist of a mom and a dad and at least two children. Probably a dog and a cat and a canary, to boot.

Lilah has been excited about coming to this block party ever since Cal invited us. She not only has a huge crush on him, she’s adopted his girlfriend Jess as her auntie. Cal’s family is just like the one she’s always wanted. Like the families she’s read about in books, with uncles and aunts and grandparents and cousins. And fathers.

None of which my little girl has ever had.

Briefly, an image of her father flashes in my mind. What if he hadn’t disappeared without a goodbye? Would he be walking down this street at my side, helping me watch out for our little girl, his palm on my hip a promise of things we might do later?

As lovely as all that sounds, that’s not my reality, so I pack it away. If I’ve learned one thing in this life so far, it’s that there’s only one person I can truly rely on, and that’s me.

Besides, what Lilah doesn’t know can’t hurt her.

***

“Mommy, there they are!” Dropping my hand, Lilah sprints away from me to tackle Tami and Abby. Jess’s nieces are a couple of years older than my daughter and treat her more like a doll than a friend, but Lilah seems to love the attention.

“Hey, everything okay?” Jess interrupts my thoughts as I approach the group.

Shaking my head and pasting on a smile, I say, “I’m fine. Just being a worrywart.” I tip my chin at the clutch of girls, jumping up and down in excitement. “I’m still not sure the sleepover tonight is a good idea. She’s never had one before, and I’d hate for your nieces to get tired of Lilah just as she’s falling for them.”

Jess gives me a side hug. “My sister’s a pro. Treats kids at her practice all day and still never loses it with those two.”

“And your nieces are such nice girls. I’m sure I’m just having jitters. Not ready for my baby to leave the nest.”

“I thought you’d be more worried about the dog-and-pony show we have to put on at the fundraiser tonight.”

“Ugh. Thanks for reminding me.”

“You know our scene and our delightful personalities will charm the money right out of those Shakespeare Boston donor pockets.” She links arms with me. “Have I told you how much I love playing your sister? It’s much more fun squabbling onstage with you than fighting with my real-life one.”

Like daughter, like mother, I guess, because I find myself wishing Jess were my sister. She’s become the next best thing: my closest friend. I wonder, though, would she like me so much if she knew everything there is to know about me? The things that didn’t make it into the gossip pages, as well as the ones that did?

“Hey, how’s my second-favorite Boston actress?”

After this greeting, I’m enveloped in a warm hug from Cal Alonso. Even though I’ve spent a lot of time with him since he and Jess got together, it still throws me every time the voice and the body come together. It’s not the scars that cover the left side of his body. It’s that I listened to him on the radio for years before meeting him in person, and I’m still a little starstruck. The way some soap opera fans feel about me, I suppose. It’s been a few years since someone recognized me at the grocery store, but between my time on the PBS show Boom and the soap, I was on TV and in the public eye for ten years. Ten long years.

“You ladies should eat. Fuel up for tonight,” Cal says, steering us toward the food tables.

It’s a relief that he and Jess aren’t drinking. Jess wouldn’t since we have to perform tonight, but I really appreciate that Cal’s isn’t popping a beer either since he’s the one driving the girls back to Boston.

With one eye on Lilah, now running toward the waterslide—I idly wonder where she left her clothes and hope it’s somewhere we can find them again—I fill my plate. “Cal, you should’ve told me it was a potluck. I would’ve brought something.”

“Penny says there’s always way too much food at this shindig. Don’t worry about it.”

We settle on some folding chairs and watch the kids on the slide. A couple of dads are supervising, making sure everything’s safe, so I let myself relax. “Man, I don’t remember the last time I had fried chicken. This is so good.”

“Same here,” Jess says. “Literally finger-lickin’ good.”

Cal tries to steal a leg from her plate, and she swats him away. “Get your own!”

When he makes a pouty face, she groans before letting him take it. “He’s got me trained better than his damn dog.” After finishing her own piece, she wipes her hands on a napkin. “I’m ready for dessert, anyway. If you two are lucky, maybe I’ll bring you some.”

Cal shoots a smile at me. We’re both glad to see that Jess has gained some weight back. Her time in therapy seems to be paying off. The look on his face as he watches her skip away is a testament to the work they’ve both put into the relationship. They might’ve had a rocky start, but it’s clear they’re good for each other. I can’t imagine letting a guy into my complicated life, but I’m glad it’s working for them.

“I have a confession to make,” Cal says.

When he doesn’t continue, I intone, “‘How many days since your last confession?’ Is that what I’m supposed to say next?”

He laughs. “Don’t tell my mom, but it’s been so long since I went to mass, I’ve forgotten the script.”

“Your secret’s safe with me.” I circle a hand in the air between us. “Go on, get it off your chest. I’m sure I’ve done worse.”

“I don’t know if you noticed, but when we first met, I was probably a bit cold to you.”

Furrowing my brow, I try to remember. “Maybe. I figured you were probably just shy.”

He shrugs. “I am still working on letting go of self-consciousness about my scars. You know, assuming that it’s the only thing a person sees when they meet me.”

“Well, I was probably awkward too. Every time you open your mouth, I expect to hear music.”

He laughs. “Guess I should carry a boombox with me.”

A squeal from Lilah has me rising out of my chair, but when I find her face in the crowd and see that she’s laughing, I sit back down again. “Sorry. What was it you wanted to confess?”

The right side of his mouth lifts in a lopsided, sheepish grin. “When I saw you for the first time, all I could see was Quinn.”

“You watched As the Earth Revolves?” I do a quick calculation. “Wouldn’t you have been in school when it was on?”

“I missed a lot of school, recovering from surgeries. It was my mom’s favorite soap. We both hated you.” He leans in close to whisper, “I actually had nightmares about you.”

I wince. “I’m sorry. I promise I’ll never reveal that you slept with my sister.”

“Or kidnap me?”

“Or force you to rob a bank with me.”

“Or convince everyone that I’m possessed by the devil?”

All I can do is shake my head at the memories. “Man, the older I got, the more outlandish Quinn’s capers were.”

“It’s probably a compliment to you that they thought you could carry it off.”

I shrug, my cheeks heating at the praise. “I don’t know about that.”

He folds up his paper plate and the remains of his meal. “Anyway, the first few times we met, I really had to convince myself that you’re not like her.”

Adopting Quinn’s blunt tone, I ask, “How do you know I’m not?”

After a theatrical shudder, he points at Jess, engaged in chat with another guest. “Because that one loves you.” Nodding at my daughter, now running around with a bunch of kids shooting each other with water guns, he adds, “And you made that one.”

“Maybe I’ve got you all fooled.” When I let loose with Quinn’s signature cackle, he crosses his forearms over his face.

“No, no! Not the laugh!”

We’re both howling with genuine laughter by the time Jess sits down. “I don’t even want to know,” she says. “All I want is this chocolate cake.”

She only takes a bite before drawing a line in the air between us with her fork. “Okay, I lied. What were you two laughing at?” She twists in her chair. “Do I have a sign on my back or toilet paper stuck to my shoe or something?”

“Nah, sweetheart.” Cal rubs her shoulder, and she relaxes into his touch, practically purring like a cat. “Bella was just torturing me with her Quinn laugh.”

“You brought it up!”

 Jess offers up her plate of goodies for sharing and after I take one she says, “I don’t think I ever saw you on the soap, but I loved Boom. It was so cool to see kids like me doing skits and singing songs that other kids sent in. I wanted to audition, but the shooting times conflicted with dance and Hebrew.”

After taking another bite of cake, she tips her head to the side. “You know, I never told you this before, but I didn’t even know that was you. Izzy, I mean. I knew you were on the soap because Becky told me when you auditioned for the company the first time. But I wouldn’t have recognized you otherwise.”

It’s not easy to keep the corners of my mouth turned up. “I was a lot younger then.”

“It’s not just your age.” Jess shakes her head. “You have a completely different energy. Izzy was so…”

“Innocent?” I finish when she doesn’t.

“Mm, maybe. More carefree, I guess.”

“Being a mom kind of piles the cares on.” No need to mention the choices I made that snuffed out that Izzy energy in me.

Cal leans in. “I’m just glad she’s not as scheming and evil as Quinn.”

“How evil was she?” Jess asks.

As Cal details Quinn’s sensational schemes, I egg him on. Better than talking about my real-life problems. By the time he’s finished, the pile of desserts on Jess’s plate has disappeared and I’ve relaxed again. Mostly. Quinn may have been a villain, but playing her was fun. Until it wasn’t anymore.

After scanning the crowd to make sure Lilah’s doing okay, I flop back into the webbing of my folding chair. “Ugh. Now I’m stuffed.”

Everyone goes quiet for a few minutes, and I sit back to enjoy the warm sun on my face. The background hum of people chatting, punctuated by the occasional shout from a kid going down the slide, calms any remaining agitation.

My mood is as tranquil as the setting when Cals asks, “So are you guys excited for tonight? Nervous?”

“Both,” Jess says.

“Yep,” I agree with a groan.

“I’m more nervous performing in rep than doing our scene tonight,” Jess adds. “You’re lucky you’re only doing one show, Bel.”

When my mom talked me into auditioning for Shakespeare Boston last summer, I told them I could only do one play a season. Not only do I want to be around for Lilah, but I help out at my mom’s bookshop.

“I’ve never performed two shows at back-to-back before,” Jess continues. “I keep having nightmares that I go onstage in The Tempest wearing my Comedy of Errors costume.”

Even though they fight like cats and dogs most of the time, directors Nick and Mira managed to convince the company powers-that-be to try out a repertory schedule this summer, arguing that tourists will get a chance to see both shows if they’re playing every other night.

“At least you don’t have to worry about the lines,” I point out. Jess’s memory is like a steel trap. She only has to do a scene once and she’s got her lines down pat. “I swear, the older I get, the harder it is for me to hang onto my words. I don’t think my brain could handle learning two shows at once.”

“You might be relieved of your excuse sooner than you think.” Jess tips her head towards the slide. “My nieces look like they’re ready to adopt her.”

My gaze follows Jess’s pointed finger. The three girls pose for a photo, which has me instantly on alert. So far, I’ve managed to keep Lilah out of the public eye, but anybody can sell a photo to the tabloids. When I see that it’s Penny taking the picture, my heart slows.

It is a sweet shot. My little fair-skinned, blue-eyed girl is flanked by Abby and Tami, who, like their aunt, have golden-brown skin and jet-black hair. Tami’s face is rounder, framed by corkscrews as wild as Jesse’s. Abby’s hair is long and straight, and she’s tall enough that she has to bend down to get in the frame.

“My sister’s a pretty good photographer,” Cal says. “Since they always give you double prints these days, I’ll get you a copy.”

Moment captured, the girls are off again, this time to the food table. I do my best to convince myself that Lilah is safe at this party full of strangers, but the fear that my daughter will someday have to pay for the sins of her mother is a hard one to let go of.

So far, Lilah’s the one thing I haven’t screwed up.


Meet the Author

Karen Grey (also known as Karen White and K.E. White) has had several essays published, in Salt Magazine and the Nevertheless We Persisted collections (one an Audies Finalist and the other a SOVAs finalist), and a short story in the collection Vintage Love Stories. Her first romance novel was a winner of the NJ Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart in a Book contest and Hearts Through History’s Romance Through the Ages contest in the Modern History category and won second place in the GA Romance Writers’ Maggie Award. The first book in her 1980’s era romance series Boston Classics, What I’m Looking For releases June 23, 2020.

Connect with Karen
Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Twitter | Website
Stay up-to-date with Karen by joining her mailing list today!

Release Blast: Tale by Yessoh G.D.

tale-paperback_ebook

Published on: 16 March 2021
Published by: Library and Archive Canada
Paperback: 326 pages
Genre: Black & African American Mystery, Thriller and Suspense, African Literature,  Black & African American Fantasy Fiction (Books)
Type: standalone
PURCHASE LINK here
Add to your GOODREADS TBR today!


When two strangers are thrown into a world of African sorcery, unseen evil, and mystical phenomena, they are forced to confront a fantastical realm that they never imagined existed.

Very few manage to land a job working in the special services for the West African government of Côte d’Esperance. Even fewer are given the responsibility that has been entrusted to Kobenan at such a young age in a role that includes analyzing files for the secretive S-cell, a unit that specializes in incidents involving African mysticism and sorcery.

Tasked with investigating a high-profile murder seemingly brought about by mystical means, Kobenan joins Agent Biafle in order to defuse this delicate political situation. What Kobenan discovers will force him to change his perspective on the world around him as he learns truths he never thought possible and things he never imagined.

Dive into a world shrouded in mystery and learn of the multifaceted face of Africa. Its lives, its rituals, its many belief,s and thought processes. Observe what one will never be able to see if he has not gained access to a very specific circle rooted in the continent.

#TB1K-7

♦ ♦ ♦

#TB1K-8
profile_pic

Yessoh G. D. is the author of TA LĘ Book 1: Knowledge. He grew up in a small city of warmth and joy in Côte D’Ivoire. When he was not going to school, he was lost in his thoughts on various subjects. He still is, but now on specific subjects, from his own personal experiences to the knowledge he acquired since birth on his African heritage. He believes that books have the power to change people for the betterment of the whole. When he is not daydreaming about stories and the world, he is a visual effects artist or a gamer. He currently lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Connect with Yessoh: Website | Goodreads | Amazon

Always (Always Series Book 3) by Lizzie Morton

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: 11 November 2021
Type: continuation series, trilogy, the finale
Genre: Music/Band, Contemporary Romance, Drama
AuthorLizzie Morton
Read: 03 November 2021
Shelved: 04 November 2021
Rating: 5/ 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Get it at Amazon US | UK
Add Always to your TBR: Goodreads

Synopsis

Start the Always Series:
Book 1 – Always You
Book 2 – Always Us
Book 3 – Always

**Check out my previous reviews also!
Book 1 | Book 2


Review

Always (Book 3) continues where Book 2 left off. The story is told from both Jake and Abby’s POV. The writing is easy to relate to as in the previous books but with more emotions and internal realizations. The angst level is “off-the-charts,” and internal growth was stellar, coming from both main characters from unresolved pasts and issues.

Noteworthy thoughts

1.) Abby’s internal conflicts and hurt are consistent in all three books. She may have grown up, but she did learn to protect her heart though not to the best of decisions in some cases. 

Note that Jake did some growing up also, but I felt that Abby’s more drastic because of her position and trying to protect everyone. The burden she carried, though I felt unnecessary, shaped the story into its full potential. Sacrificing was tough, but to later see its fruition was an enlightening one. I may not have agreed with Abby’s decision, but she did the best she could for her and her family.

2.) I love the addicting storyline to the point of making me want to finish everything asap. The angst and drama are over-the-top without being too overbearing. I think it’s the right amount of adrenaline for two very volatile characters.

3.) I love Abby’s stubbornness protects her, but it became too much that I felt that she gave up on love with her soulmate, Jake, and just focused herself on the pregnancy, and then after the birth, attention is all on Rosa. Jake had to really, really try hard (though not all is his fault) to win her back. I felt terrible for him. In Book 1 – I was sort of mad at Jake, but after this book, with everything clicking into place, I was rooting for him feverishly.

4.) I love Dan White! I am convinced that he genuinely loves Abby, even after “everything.” Not in the same way as Beckett (ex-boyfriend) did, but more since even after Abby turned him down, he channeled his energy in helping both Abby and Jake in whatever way he could. I hope it won’t be the last time I hear of Dan White. He’s got a good storyline somewhere.

5.) Supporting characters from both sides were unforgettable. Not only Dan White but Abby’s friends – Sooz, Amanda, Sophie, and Zoe AND Ryan, Zack, Shaun, and Sam were amazing and supportive of the “craziness” of Abby and Jake’s relationship. All these characters had a part in arranging many of the “reunions” between Abby and Jake that it is impossible NOT to credit them for their eventuality.

“Nothing else matters because it always has and always will be you”

— Always, Lizzie Morton

In summary, Always is a story about finding your soulmate the second or third time around, taking risks, offering forgiveness, and accepting new beginnings with an open mind and heart. I love how the book pulls out all the emotional stops and makes readers realize that timing may be everything in a relationship, but Abby and Jake’s kind of love will always find a way. I understood Abby’s decision in the story. She was betrayed in all points in her life by the people who thought she trusted, so things have to come from Jake’s side, wherein his actions must speak louder than words. This book gave me all the fuzzies and shows how honest and true Abby and Jake’s love transcends time and space in the end.

PROS:

– angst writing at its finest
– evolving character development based on Book 1 to 3
– an ending that fitted the deep emotional love from pages to readers’ hearts

CONS:

– Saying goodbye 
After three emotionally charged, roller-coaster journeys of Abby and Jake, saying goodbye is bittersweet. Both characters kept me up for months since I got to know them, but I am happy with where things stand by the book’s last sentence – a great wrap-up to a timeless story.

TROOPS: rockstar romance, second chances, accidental pregnancy, angst, slow-build drama


About the Author

Author Lizzie Morton is an author of Contemporary Romance and New Adult novels. She lives in the U.K with her partner and three children.
Previously she has worked as a Personal Trainer and Back Pain Specialist and trained as a Chef at Leeds City College.
Her first novel was originally just a note on her phone but became a full manuscript – released in August 2020.
When she isn’t reading or writing, her favorite things include running, sniffling, and changing nappies.

Connect with Lizzie:
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Email | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon

Cover Reveal: Gouda Friends by Cathy Yardley

Cathy Yardley is returning to Pronto Beach with the second book in her rom-com series, GOUDA FRIENDS! Check out the series and pre-order your copy of the highly anticipated romance coming March 22nd!

Title: Gouda Friends
Author: Cathy Yardley
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: March 22nd

Synopsis:

Two high school BFFs reunite and endeavor to fix each other’s lives in this geeky romance from the author of Love, Comment, Subscribe.

Tam Doan dumped her boyfriend after he threw away her gourmet cheese. Sure, it’s a little more complicated than that, but the point is, he had it coming. Newly single and unemployed, Tam calls up her best friend from high school and utters the emergency code word—goldfish. Next thing she knows, she’s on a plane back home.

Josh O’Malley was a troubled, unconfident teenager. Now he’s the successful owner of a multimillion-dollar ghost kitchen. Tam, his high school BFF and fellow member of the Nerd Herd friend group, was instrumental in building his self-esteem. When she calls him out of the blue, he jumps at the chance to return the favor.

Josh and Tam immediately get to work fixing her life—but again, it’s complicated. Their close friendship was always a lifeline between them; a blooming romance might confuse things. Still, at least one thing is for certain: their chemistry is un-brie-lievable.

Pre-Order Today!

Catch up on the Series with Love, Comment, Subscribe.

About the Author:

Cathy Yardley is an award-winning author of romance, chick-lit, and urban fantasy, who has sold over 1.2 million copies of books for publishers like St. Martin’s, Avon, and Harlequin. She writes fun, geeky, and diverse characters who believe that underdogs can make good and sometimes being a little wrong is just right. She likes writing about quirky, crazy adventures because she’s had plenty of her own: she had her own army in the Society of Creative Anachronism; she’s spent a New Year’s on a 3-day solitary vision quest in the Mojave Desert; she had VIP access to the Viper Room in Los Angeles. Now, she spends her time writing in the wilds of East Seattle, trying to prevent her son from learning the truth of any of said adventures, and riding herd on her two dogs (and one husband.)

Connect with Cathy:  Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram | Newsletter

Excerpt Reveal: Grant My Desires by Charmaine Louise Shelton

Grant My Desires by Charmaine Louise Shelton is coming on November 16th! Check it out and be sure to grab your copy today!

Title: Grant My Desires
Author: Charmaine Louise Shelton
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: November 16th

Synopsis:

Welcome to the titillating world of the multibillion-dollar global companies and the love affairs of the families that control them.

Will sexy as sin Lachlan finally claim shy-cum-feisty Haley Steele The One he’s always loved? Or will their complicated past interfere with their fairytale future?

Find out if fate grants Haley’s desire for a life of love, marriage, and a baby with her childhood crush Lachlan in the last part of their sizzling, second chance billionaire romance.

Close your eyes and make a wish as Lachlan charms his Haley around the world from his Scottish castle to the top of the Eiffel Tower to the beauty of Bali.

Their love story is a standalone romance trilogy in the series. Get a glimpse of their dynamism in other books.

Pre-Order Your Copy!

Catch Up On the Series Today!

Tempt my Desires
Tease my Desires

Exclusive Excerpt:

The last day of our babymoon coincides with the one-year anniversary of our vow renewal wedding. I originally thought our trip was to mark the occasion. So I brought my gift for Lachlan hidden in my handbag.

When he comes out of the shower with a towel slung low around his narrow hips and his treasure trail dipping beneath it, I nearly forget my thought. His chuckle as he dries his hair with another towel brings my focus back from the outline of his big dick beneath the terrycloth.

I blink, and he laughs some more as he drops the towels to the white tile floor.

“See something you crave, My Lady?” He asks as his dick bobs with each step towards me.

Mutely I nod. Then squeak when he pounces onto the bed. He lands on his hands and knees on either side of my legs, with his face inches from mine. He rubs his nose to mine and purrs.

“Tell me your wish, My Lady,” he demands.

I palm the sides of his face and whisper, “Forever and a day with you, My Lord.”

His eyes shine before he slants his mouth over mine. The kiss is deep and full of emotion. When he passes for a breath, I press my finger to his lips.

He cocks his eyebrow.

I smile as I reach behind my pillow and lift the gift-wrapped box between us.

“What’s this?” He asks as he takes the box and sits beside me.

I grin wider and respond, “Happy vow renewal wedding anniversary, My Lord!”

He drops his head back with a groan.

“I was so focused on your—I mean our babymoon, today’s date slipped past me. Do you forgive me?”

I pretend to pout but can’t hold back my giggles.

“Of course! Don’t be silly,” I answer. “Now, open your present.”

My husband pulls the green and blue ribbon and ties it in a bow around my neck. Then he kisses me and tells me I’m the only present he’ll ever want before he winks and tears through the metallic green paper.

He pauses when the green box for Rolex watches appears.

“Go on!” I urge.

He nods and presses the closure. Then gapes.

“It’s the 1971 Cosmograph Daytona Reference 6265, also known as ‘The Unicorn.’ Do you know why I choose it for you?” I ask, so excited I grin like a loon.

He shakes his head.

“It’s the only known white gold, manual-winding Daytona ever crafted by Rolex. So it’s extremely rare. Just like you, and our love that withstood years of us being apart only for us to be together forever. Not only are you the hero in my childhood fantasies. But you are the unicorn in my real life. I love you, Lachlan Jackson,” I say.

My words end on a sob. But it’s not from the hormones. I truly love my man with all of my heart.

Tears in his eyes match mine as he pulls me onto his lap and buries his face in my neck. His shoulders shake as he cries softly against my skin. Instinctively, I stroke his back and hum the Scottish lullaby he taught to me. It soothes him when, moments later, he sits back and cups my face.

“You, Haley Jackson, are my life and my soul. The mother of my children. I honor you and I love you for all of eternity,” he says gruffly.

Through my tears, I repeat his words, changing them for his name and father.

We spend the rest of the morning in bed, honoring and loving one another.

And as I expected, we have the most ah-mazing babymoon ever!

About the Author:

Charmaine Louise Shelton the Founder, CEO & Author of CharmaineLouise New York, Inc. loves all things classic, elegant, feminine, and of course with an erotic edge! Favorite outfit of choice is a cashmere cardigan, leather pencil skirt, and seamed silk stockings with stiletto heels. Sexy Fantasy Type: sub with a dash of Voyeur. When not writing and designing, Charmaine Louise travels and spends time with her Maltese buddies, ZIGGY and Jynger. She loves to hear from her readers info@charmainelouisebooks.com!

Connect with Charmaine: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Newsletter

Blog Tour: Keeping It Under Wraps: Sex

This is my post during the blog tour for Keeping It Under Wraps. In Keeping it Under Wraps: Sex, real people from around the world share their experiences, humour, and heartache about sex and sexuality.

This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours and the tour runs from 1 till 14 November. You can see the tour schedule here.


Keeping it Under Wraps: Sex
Genre: Non-fiction
Type: personal essays anthology
Release Day: 04 May 2021

Get it here:
Amazon US |UK | CA
Booktopia AU | Book Depository | Waterstones | Blackwells Books | Bookshop.org
Paperback | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Global Links
Add to your TBR: Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

Society tells us what is right and what is wrong based on unrealistic expectations. In the end, though, no matter how unique our experiences seem, they aren’t wrong: they simply are.

The Keeping It Under Wraps anthology series provides a safe space to change the narrative, to speak openly about individual experiences, and in the end to understand that while each experience is different, we are not so different from each other.

Let’s start the conversation.

What better place to start than with sex?

Sexual health, sexual preferences, and sexual experiences: no stigma, no shame, no more keeping it under wraps.


Content Warning:

Some of the essays in this book include topics such as sexual violence, drug abuse, assault, and other related themes.

The writers of these essays come from diverse cultural and generational backgrounds. Their voices and their views are their own

Introduction:

The idea for an anthology about sex started with a group of friends talking about their sex lives over a drink one wintry evening. As we compared stories, it was clear that everyone felt different, or weird, because of their feelings about and approach to sex. Over wine and friendship, the conversation deepened. We realised that we are so brainwashed about what sex should be, what it should look like, and how it should feel, that our realities become irrelevant. Instead of living with our own reality, we have to live with what others say it should be. And when we live like that, we always come up short.

We decided to spread the word and see who felt comfortable sharing their personal experiences with us. It was a big ask, finding people willing to open up about their anxieties, their traumas, their shame, and their innermost desires. These are things we don’t talk about – but shouldn’t we?

This anthology brings together people from around the world with diverse experiences and reflections on what sex and sexuality is for them. Very quickly, we saw that the stories were unique, and yet, the themes were universal.

No matter our relationships or expectations, we are all looking for joy and acceptance – a way to belong not only to our own smaller communities but also to a larger community, where who we are is normal, ok, acceptable.

We have worth and meaning. We are enough.

Sex isn’t always pleasure. There is trauma, there is pain, there is inadequacy, there is shame, there is indifference. As much as we have to destigmatise pleasure, we must also not be afraid of talking about how people can inflict pain on others in the search to fulfill their own needs, fears, and expectations.

There is hope. In the saddest stories and the most traumatic experiences, sometimes the simple lesson is that right now, in this moment, it’s ok to not be ok. That our experiences, our hopes, and understanding – well, it’s all a bit muffled and fuzzy. Life can be shit and sex can be shit and people can be shit. That’s ok.

In the end, it’s about finding self-acceptance and love, especially from the most important person in your life: yourself.

These stories are collected and shared, with love, by Alnaaze, Louise, and Tracy. We are grateful to the writers who were courageous enough to share their stories, whether endearing, funny, painful, or traumatic.

Thank you all for your trust.

Excerpt

Object of Desire By Jennifer Wren


I can’t even remember the first time I was seen as a possession rather than a whole human being with a full rich internal and external life. I do remember, though, the first time I realised that my sexuality would be defined by others and not by me.

When I was fourteen, I had my first kiss. Although I dressed myself up in confidence, underneath the façade I was a reserved and rather timid teenager. At a friend’s birthday party, I sat on a swing seat in the garden in silence for almost an hour next to my crush before gathering the courage to reach out and hold his hand. A few weeks later, we kissed and a few weeks after that, I began hearing rumours. I heard how my boyfriend had been telling other boys about the sex we were having and how we’d been making our way through a box of condoms. Nothing I said could change the flow of gossip and nobody I turned to wanted to hear the dull truth of first base over the drama of hitting a home run.

For my high school boyfriend, his words may have merely been the result of silly teenage boy bravado and boasting. For me, his words left lasting damage, both in how others saw me and in how I saw myself. I learned that my reputation was not defined by truth and that my sexuality wasn’t defined by me.


About the Author

You can read more about this book and the contributing authors here on the website.

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Tour made possible by Lola’s Blog Tours.

Blog Tour: The Cowboy’s Christmas Retreat (Top Dog Dude Ranch Book 2) by Catherine Mann

This is my post during the blog tour for The Cowboy’s Christmas Retreat by Catherine Mann. In The Cowboy’s Christmas Retreat, a Rodeo champ is jilted at the altar and takes his best friend and her son on his honeymoon to the Top Dog Dude Ranch.

**It’s the second book in the Top Dog Dude Ranch series, but can be read as a standalone.

This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours and the tour runs from 26 October till 8 November. You can see the tour schedule here.

Keep reading for a special giveaway being held for The Cowboy’s Christmas Retreat’s release!


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: 01 November 2021
Published by: Harlequin Special Edition; Original edition
Type: standalone, series
Genre: Small Town Romance, Holiday Romance, Western Romance, Contemporary Romance
Author: Catherine Mann
Page Length: 288 pages
Read: 15 October 2021
Shelved: 18 October 2021
Rating: 3 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Support Independent Bookstores! Books-A-Million | Bookshop.org | IndieBound | Indigo CA

Other retailers: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Harlequin Books | Google Play

Add to your Bookbub | Goodreads TBR!

Synopsis

His love life has gone to the dogs—in the best of ways in USA TODAY bestselling author Catherine Mann’s latest book in the Top Dog Dude Ranch series!

After they’ve opened gifts

Maybe he’ll unwrap her heart.

Instead of his winter wonderland wedding, Riley Stewart has been jilted. This rodeo champ needs an understanding shoulder, so Riley invites his best friend, Lucy Snyder, her son and their scruffy pooch on his “honeymoon.” But moonlit doggy walks, romantic fires, the glow of Christmas lights—everything is conspiring against their “just friends” resolve. Will this fake honeymoon ignite the real spark Riley and Lucy have denied for so long?

From Harlequin Special Edition: Believe in love. Overcome obstacles. Find happiness.

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

About the Top Dog Dude Ranch series

Welcome to Moonlight Ridge, Tennessee, home to the Top Dog Dude Ranch, renowned for family-friendly rustic retreats that heal broken hearts. Some say it’s the majestic mountain vistas. Others vow there’s magic in the hot springs. All agree, there’s something special about the four-legged creatures at the Top Dog Dude Ranch that give guests a “new leash on love.”

Last-Chance Marriage Rescue(Top Dog Dude Ranch #1) by Catherine Mann

“They’re about to step into a parent trap of their twins’ making!”

Buy Now!
Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Apple | Google Play

Support local bookstores! Get your copy at Books a Million

Add Last Chance Marriage Rescue to your TBR list: Goodreads | Bookbub


Review

Lucy Snyder is a divorcee, a single parent to George, her son from her first marriage, and a fur-mommy to Pickles. Her failed marriage made her question her judgment to jump into any relationship besides friendship. The only thing that makes her have any relationship is her friendship with Riley, who has been her rock and supporter since they were both in middle grade.

Riley Stewart wants to settle down. He’s been traveling on the rodeo circuit and has been wanting to “settle” soon. He’s already started to look for properties for a potential business and is planning to move from city to country-side soon. He is recently engaged and is excited about all the settling prospects in the works. His only hesitation is leaving his childhood best friend, Lucy, to pursue “again” his dreams. (Hint: there’s a heavy yet beautiful backstory on this.)

The Cowboy’s Christmas Retreat is a first-person, from both Riley’s and Lucy’s POV. It is written well and is true to the Harlequin Romance of sweet, undeniable love with a bit of complication to add spice to the storyline.

PROS:

  • Warm and cozy book tone. Plus, the fact that most of the scenes are in a retreat adds to its calmness of the mood. It gives me the “Silent Night” feels of an animal nativity scene peppered with a Jingle Bells Rock of line dancing moments.  
  • A great Christmas read to place readers through the holiday feels with the many festive activities partaken by the characters.
  • I love second chance/redemption books that this book has in full blast, especially when both main characters are finally “on the same life stage” to be there for each other. Both are finally single, though not yet ready to be in a relationship at the start.
  • I appreciated the story not being an “insta-love” approach. Instead, Lucy’s and Riley’s long-term friendship becomes the foundation that brought genuine healing and authenticity.

CONS:

  • The story’s build-up was slower than expected due to so many internal conflicts for both main characters. Although Lucy and Riley mentioned many repetitive details on taking their relationship beyond friendship, the author reminds readers that these characters’ flaws still need to be “worked on.” It was realistic with the slow-burning pace. 
  • I had trouble connecting or caring for the characters. Initially, I got excited about how flawed Lucy and Riley were. They made me want to unravel them and understand them, BUT I found their unresolved and traumatic troubled pasts came up too often that it felt repetitive. Granted that these issues were “not resolved,” I would have appreciated if the author mentioned that either character sought external help or anyone mentioned this since many “red flags” signaled this need.
  • Cheated partners get mentioned often, and the other appearing to cause doubt and frustration. Note: Some readers might not see this coming into the scenes. BUT, there surely wouldn’t be a story without these characters who hurt the main characters. I have an issue with an ex-partner’s reactions, which didn’t seem realistic to me. Granted that his particular partner was “in the wrongs,” but after what one of the main characters said…the reaction was too calm and “controlled.” There were no rebuffs or drama when the main character confessed the truth to the ex-partner, and then, this ex-partner, of two years, left quietly. 

Overall, The Cowboy’s Christmas Retreat is a light and easy-going read with minimal conflicts. This book came at a perfect time – just when I wanted an escapism book. The pace in some parts was slower than I was used to, and the “push-pull” moments were not to my liking, BUT I understood the author’s purpose for this. The heavier pace moments balance the internal conflict between Lucy and Riley. These conflicts became barriers in having Lucy and Riley progressing and helping each other until the last few chapter or two. I think I’ve been out of the sweet romance genre for too long. This book is something I would recommend to a reader who loves second chances, single-parent tropes, pet-lovers, and Harlequin romance reader fans.


About the Author

Catherine Mann, USA Today bestseller, writes contemporary romance for Harlequin, Tule, Berkley, and Sourcebooks. With over seventy-five books released in more than twenty countries, she has won a RITA Award, the Romantic Times Magazine Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Bookseller’s Best Award. She’s also celebrated six RITA finals, an RT Reviewer’s Award finalist, three Maggie Award of Excellence finals and a Bookseller’s Best win.
A former theater school director and university instructor, she holds a Master’s degree in Theater from UNC-Greensboro and a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts: Theater (with minors in both English and Education) from the College of Charleston.
After years moving around the country bringing up four children, Catherine has settled in her home state of South Carolina. The nest didn’t stay empty long though as Catherine is active in animal rescue, and also volunteers with area service dog and pet therapy organizations. Catherine enjoys hearing from her readers and can be found online frequently through Facebook. She can also be reached via mail at: PO Box 290762, Columbia SC 29229. (For a free bookmark, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope.)

Connect with Catherine
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon | BookBub | Newsletter


** GIVEAWAY ALERT **

In celebration of the release of The Cowboy’s Christmas Retreat – a tour wide blog tour giveaway is being run!

Three winners win a copy of Last Chance Marriage Rescue (Top Dog #1) with a PAW-tograph (autograph) from the author’s dog Biscuit. – US Only.
This giveaway is open to US residents only. The giveaway ends 15th November 2021.

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

Good luck!


Tour Schedule


26 October 2021
– KirstyReviewsBooks & Instagram @Kirsty_Reviews_Books – Review
– lindzanne1_bookworm – Review

27 October 2021
– Books and Zebras – Review
– Binding Addiction & Instagram binding_addiction/ – Promo Only

28 October 2021
– QuirkyBookReads – Review
– Lisa Everyday Reads – Guest Post

29 October 2021
– Thoughts of a Blonde & Instagram @lynn_thoughtsofablonde – Review
– Romantic Reads and Such – Excerpt

30 October 2021
– #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog & Instagram @bookreviewvirginialee – Promo Only

1 November 2021
– The Reading Devil & Instagram @thereadingdevil – Promo Only
– Cindy’s Love of Books – Review

2 November 2021
– Currant7 Recommends & Instagram currant7_recommends/ – Review
– So Many Books – Excerpt

3 November 2021
– Hearts & Scribbles – Excerpt

4 November 2021
– @4realreviews4u – Review

5 November 2021
– Book Reviews and More – Review

6 November 2021
– Jorie Loves A Story – Review

7 November 2021
– All the Ups and Downs – Excerpt and Guest Post
– Rustic Book Travels & Instagram rusticbookhermit – Review

8 November 2021
– b for bookreview – Excerpt
– A Hippie’s Bookshelf – Promo Only

Review after tour
– Romantic Reads and Such – Review
– The Reading Devil & Instagram @thereadingdevil – Review


Tour made possible by Lola’s Blog Tours.

Cover Reveal: Some Call It Attraction (Sweet Dreams #5) by Sarah Peis

COVER REVEAL

Title: Some Call It Attraction
Series: Sweet Dreams #5
Author: Sarah Peis
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Cover Design: Ben, Tall Story Design
Release Date: November 22, 2021

BLURB

Two best friends. One lie. A second chance neither of them expected.

He’s used to champagne and caviar; I’m used to burgers and boxed wine. We were as opposite as two people could get, yet we became best friends, anyway.

Turns out all it took to tear us apart was a lie.

The last thing I expected was to see him again years later on the set of a reality TV show I’m a contestant in. It doesn’t take long for us to fall back into an easy friendship I thought I’d lost forever. But the feelings I tried so hard to ignore refuse to stay dead and buried.

What will he do when he finds out that I lied all those years ago? Because I can’t walk away a second time. Not even when being with him could get me kicked off the show.

This is Rayna’s story and a second-chance, friends-to-lovers romantic comedy.

Note from the author: In order not to get kicked out of the good (okay goodish…. fine, sometimes good) girls club, I’d like to point out that I write steamy romcoms and my characters use bad language (sometimes) and like to get it on. There’s no cheating and all my books have a HEA.

Add Some Call It Attraction to your GOODREADS TBR list today! 

PRE-ORDER LINKS – 99c for a limited time!

Amazon: US | UK | CA | AU
B&N | Apple Books | Books2Read

AVAILABLE NOW

Sweet Dreams Series Box Set (Books 1-4)

Amazon: US | UK | CA | AU
B&N | Kobo | Apple Books | Google Play | Books2Read


** GIVEAWAY ALERT **

In celebration of the release of Some Call It Attraction, a giveaway is being run!

Up for grabs are 5 eARCs of Some Call It Attraction (5 winners)!
This Blitz-wide giveaway is open internationally.
Join now ➟➟➟ Head-on to here to join.

Good luck!


About the Author

Supporter of all things written, defender of the e-book revolution, and master of the take-out order – I’m not afraid to say I can’t cook, go a week without breaking something, read labels correctly, or park cars in a straight line.

I love the written word in all forms and shapes and if I’m not glued to a book I’m attempting to write one. I’m a frequent blonde moment sufferer and still trying to figure out how to adult. I live in Melbourne, Australia, with my two little humans, the holder of my heart, and two furry demons. I love to hear from readers so feel free to get in touch.

Connect with Sarah
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon | BookBub