PRICELESS by Catherine Stein – Featured New Release

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Happy Release Day to Catherine Stein’s Priceless, Book 2 in her Sass and Steam series.

BLURB

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He’ll pay any price to win her. But her artist’s heart is not for sale.

Raised in a squalid factory, Evan Tagget has battled his way to the top. Now a multi-millionaire, he runs a global empire of telecommunication devices, mechanical dragons, and clockwork gadgets. Evan can buy anything he wants. Except the love of the brazen artist who barges into his life.

Violet Dayton has made her living painting forgeries, scrimping and saving toward her true passion: a grand Paris art exhibition to display her work and the art of the friends who have always looked out for her. But a corrupt police inspector knows her secrets, and the only way to escape his clutches is to track down the master art thief plaguing museums across Europe.

With the aid of Evan’s money and connections, Violet knows she can catch her thief, but she hadn’t counted on her powerful attraction to the arrogant millionaire, or the complex, passionate layers beneath his cool exterior. With enemies everywhere, she’ll have to trust Evan with her life. Her heart, though, she guards closely. And the only way he’ll ever win her is to prove he knows the true value of love.

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EXCERPT

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“I have a proposition for you, Mr. Tagget.”

His neatly trimmed eyebrows twitched. “Excellent!”

Ack, that smug smile. The man was too handsome for his own good, and he knew it. Vi didn’t know whether she’d rather kiss that mouth or punch it.

The grainy magazine photograph she’s scrounged up hadn’t done him justice. It made him look older, more serious. It didn’t show the single stray lock of hair curling across his forehead or the dimples at the corners of his mouth, too prominent to hide beneath his short goatee. It failed entirely to capture that wicked glint in his eye. He wasn’t the cold, merciless industrialist she’d imagined. His blood ran hot.

She’d also imagined him to be quite a bit taller. Standing here, staring at him, they looked exactly the same height.

“You and I are going to enter a partnership, Mr. Tagget.”

“Oh, are we?” He managed to both leer and sound suspicious.

“You have heard, I assume, of the rash of art thefts over the past few months?”

“That fool who styles himself ‘l’Exploiteur’? Is he the mastermind he claims, or just a braggart?”

“I’m told he has stolen near to fifty works of art, mainly from private collections and small galleries. His thefts grow bigger and bolder, and he has begun to taunt major galleries and museums with the promise of the greatest heists ever seen.”

“Well, that does sound dire, though I fail to see how it is of relevance to myself.” His dark brows quirked again. “Unless you are this Exploiter? If so, then I absolutely agree to join you on your next heist. What are we stealing?”

“No!” Vi put both hands on her hips. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, I’m not an art thief.”

“More’s the pity. I could use an interesting challenge.”

“I’m an artist,” Violet huffed. “I create, I don’t destroy. I want my work on display, where it can be enjoyed by all.”

Tagget stroked his beard. “Hmm. What, then, is your concern with this pilferer of cultural treasures?”

“I’m trying to learn his identity and put a stop to his crimes.”

“How noble,” he chuckled. “Standing up for the dead masters who can no longer defend their works?”

Obnoxious ass. She really was going to punch him right in his pretty mouth, then storm out and find herself a different assistant.

Violet clenched her fingers. Rich businessmen with questionable ethics and worldwide communications networks couldn’t be found loitering on any street corner. She was lucky to even have the opportunity to speak with him.

“I was asked to help in this case because of my own connections in the art world,” she explained, trying not to glower.

He frowned at her, causing a small furrow in his brow. “Your connections? What sort of connections would a lady artist have that would be of any use in this situation? Unless…” The frown twisted into a smile. “You’re involved in illicit dealings yourself, naturally. A forger, perhaps?” He twitched. “Well, I’ll be damned. Are you Vérité? But of course you are. ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty.’ Though you look rather youthful for someone who they say has been working for fifty years and faked three hundred paintings.”

“Ten years, twenty-seven forgeries. Many haven’t been discovered, and many works have been incorrectly attributed to me.”

With her police file as thick as a Bible, Violet didn’t see any need to hide her deeds, and she was proud of the work she had done. Tagget looked momentarily surprised by her admission, then his smile returned.

“Fascinating. You made a deal with the authorities, I presume? But you need assistance. Why me?”

“I heard you were kicked out of the United States for spying.”

Tagget’s green eyes twinkled. “Now, my lovely blossom, you mustn’t believe every rumor you hear. I bent some laws, perhaps, but didn’t precisely break them. People did take exception, however, so I thought it best to focus on my European interests until the furor dies down.”

Violet turned up her nose at him. “I don’t care about the details. I care that you’re a teletics expert. Can you or can you not record information over a telephone or telegraph line?”

“I can. Most of it is irrelevant chatter. Sifting through is usually a waste of time.”

“And you’re an inventor?” she pressed on. “You can build things, and understand how machines work? You could dismantle them if necessary?”

A smile of a different sort touched his lips. More boyish, maybe even happier. “I could break through that mechanical door behind me with no more than a screwdriver, given enough time.”

“Then you’re the man I need.”

He fixed her with a heated stare. “I’m pleased you think so.” The husky timbre of his voice sent a shiver down her spine. “I accept your proposal. When do we begin?”

REVIEW

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Review to follow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Stein

Award-winning author Catherine Stein believes that everyone deserves love and that Happily Ever After has the power to help, to heal, and to comfort. She writes sassy, sexy romance set during the Victorian and Edwardian eras and full of action, adventure, magic, and fantastic technologies.

Catherine lives in Michigan with her husband and three rambunctious girls. She loves steampunk and oxford commas, and can often be found dressed in clothing that was purchased at a Renaissance Festival, drinking copious amounts of tea.

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THE LOVE NOTE by Joanna Davidson Politano – Book Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway

THE LOVE NOTE
by
Joanna Davidson Politano
Genre: Christian / Historical Fiction / Romance
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Number of Pages: 400
Scroll down for the giveaway!

Focused on a career in medicine and not on romance, Willa Duvall is thrown slightly off course during the summer of 1859 when she discovers a never-opened love letter in a crack of her old writing desk. Compelled to find the passionate soul who penned it and the person who never received it, she takes a job as a nurse at the seaside estate of Crestwicke Manor.

Everyone at Crestwicke has feelings—mostly negative ones—about the man who wrote the letter, but he seems to have disappeared. With plenty of enticing clues but few answers, Willa’s search becomes even more complicated when she misplaces the letter and it passes from person to person in the house, each finding a thrilling or disheartening message in its words.

Laced with mysteries large and small, this romantic Victorian-era tale of love lost, love deferred, and love found is sure to delight.

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In this highly engrossing, totally original Christian historical romantic fiction, Ms. Politano mixes science and faith to show the power of words. Words both expressed and unspoken, written words, careless words, honest words all have the power to affect lives. They hurt feelings, break hearts, change events. They also heal, give hope, and express love in various forms.
… that’s what words do, when you choose ones with eternal impact. They are remembered, repeated, embraced. They burrow deep and remain, outliving short human lives and becoming a legacy.
The Love Note is a departure for me from my usual reads. Its prayer-filled content is a far cry from the steamy stories I myself write. Nevertheless, I find myself enjoying this tale of how a mysterious unsent love letter transforms the lives of everyone in Crestwicke Manor.
Written in multiple points of view (first-person for the heroine Willa, third-person for others), the story takes shape in intriguing, unpredictable, and surprising ways.  The named characters are so well drawn and properly developed that the sheer number of them doesn’t confuse the reader. There’s a strong theme of feminism that’s assertive but not too aggressive to be controversial. And the romance is not confined to one couple. At least three more found love restored or newly-discovered.
Matched souls always find their way back to one another, for they seek refuge in the same place.
While I mostly enjoyed the story, I wish that humor was more consistently employed throughout the book. It was present in the beginning but was gone in the second half. As a romance writer, I want more focus on the romance between Willa and Gabe. There were lovely moments, but I always wish for more.
Thanks to Lone Star Literary Life and Revell Books for providing me with the review copy of this fantastic book.
4 out of 5 stars
Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears and A Rumored Fortune. She loves tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear anyone’s story.
She lives with her husband and their two kids in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan. You can find her at www.jdpstories.com.
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10/27/20

Book Trailer

Hall Ways Blog

10/27/20

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Jennifer Silverwood

10/28/20

Character Interview

Reading by Moonlight

10/29/20

Review

Rainy Days with Amanda

10/30/20

Top Five

Story Schmoozing Book Reviews

10/30/20

Review

Carpe Diem Chronicles

10/31/20

Excerpt 1

All the Ups and Downs

11/1/20

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Book Bustle

11/2/20

Author Interview

The Adventures of a Travelers Wife

11/2/20

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11/3/20

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11/4/20

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THE KISSING TREE Book Blog Tour Mini-Reviewapalooza – Review & Giveaway

THE KISSING TREE

Four Novellas Rooted in Timeless Love

KAREN WITEMEYER, REGINA JENNINGS, 
AMANDA DYKES, and NICOLE DEESE

Genre: Christian / Romance / Anthology
Publisher: Bethany House
Date of Publication: October 13, 2020
Number of Pages: 400

Scroll down for the giveaway!

In this Texas-sized romance novella collection, courting couples, decades apart, leave a permanent mark of their love by carving their initials into the same oak’s bark. 

Regina Jennings: “Broken Limbs, Mended Hearts” When a young man from her past returns and upends their small town with a new invention, schoolteacher Bella Eden is reminded of the heartbreak she suffered years ago under the old oak tree. When her job is on the line, can she trust the man who disrupted her life to help her fight for a brighter future?

Karen Witemeyer: “Inn for a Surprise”
Determined to keep love alive for others, Phoebe Woodward builds an inn that caters to couples. When her father sends a property manager to help make it a success, she finds her whimsical vision thwarted by his stodgy practicality. Finding the right blend of romance and reality is a challenge, and her spinster heart may be in for a surprise. 

Amanda Dykes: “From Roots to Sky” WWII airman Luke Hampstead found comfort in letters from the sister of a lost compatriot. When he visits Texas to thank her, he discovers her constructing a project with surprising ties to his letters . . . and that she herself is even more surprising. While a promising opportunity awaits him elsewhere, will what they’ve shared be enough to give their future flight?

Nicole Deese: “Heartwood” Abby Brookshire’s world is turned upside down when the historic tree she’s strived to preserve as the head groundskeeper at the Kissing Tree Inn is put in danger of removal. Making matters worse, the only way to protect its legacy is to partner with the man she’s been ignoring since he left town years ago. Will she have the courage to move on from the past and start a new beginning?

 

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With its four delightful, heartwarming, and romantic novellas,  The Kissing Tree is one of my favorite books of 2020. Easily in the Top 20 of the 160 titles I’ve read so far.

Four excellent stories of love spanning generations. Three historical, one contemporary. One special tree at the center of them all. Related storylines, seamless integration of elements from one story to the next, cohesive execution. Each time I finished a story, I’d say it was my favorite. In the end, I couldn’t pick one. I choose all four. 

Broken Limbs, Mended Heart by Regina Jennings tells the story of how the stately live oak in Oak Springs, Texas became The Kissing Tree through Bella Eden and Adam Fisher. The pairing of schoolteacher and modern farmer is something I don’t read often and I’m long past the point of being able to relate to characters in their early 20s, but this sweet story appealed to me because Ms. Jennings created a lovely tale of young dreams being fulfilled and of a community coming together to welcome an innovation after initial skepticism.  

Inn For a Surprise by Karen Witemeyer had me laughing with the rivalry between romantic innkeeper-wannabe Phoebe Woodward and practical self-made businessman Barnabas Ackerly. I love their conversations and the way their contest showed them how well they complement each other’s styles. Opposites do attract and with parental matchmaking at work, these two have their happily-ever-after. Barnabas’ nicknames for the inn are some of the highlights of this story. I also like the cameo of Bella and Adam from the first story to establish continuity. 

Phoebe’s line really resonated with me: “I refuse to settle for anything other than soul-stirring, fully reciprocated love.”

From Roots to Sky by Amanda Dykes is both light and deep. I always have a soft spot for military romance and this story of pilot Luke Hampstead and Hannah Garland, the woman he’s been corresponding with, induced me to both laughter and tears. Hannah’s vibrant personality matched Luke’s quiet steadfastness perfectly. As in the previous story, I love it when the couple works together to achieve a common goal. This time, on building the cottage inspired by Danny’s letters and Luke’s drawings from Europe. 

Heartwood by Nicole Deese gutted me. The only contemporary story of the collection, this second-chance romance between Abby Brookshire and Griffin Malone is the most relatable to me. Like Abby, I too lost my father to illness and that letter she wrote him had me bawling. While tears-inducing, this story managed to also have light moments and it ends the series on the right note. That of hope and strength in community and love. 

This is one of my favorite quotes- “When things feel completely out of my control, my options become very simple: I can either tighten my grip and hang on no matter how much that hold might hurt myself or others, or I can open my fist and trust in a process much bigger than myself … and let go.” 

 

The stories have an awesome sense of place. I actually looked up “Oak Springs, Texas” and “The Kissing Tree, Texas” on the internet with the intention of visiting them when it’s safe to travel once more. Alas, they’re only in the imagination of four talented authors.

Thanks to Lone Star Lit and Bethany House for giving me an early copy to review this wonderful book. 

Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University, with a degree in English and a minor in history. She’s the winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist, and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. Regina has worked at the Mustang News and at First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children.

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Voted #1 Reader’s Favorite Christian Romance Author of 2019 by Family Fiction Magazine, bestselling author  Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. She makes her home in Abilene, Texas, with her husband and three children.

Website ║ Karen’s Posse Reader Facebook Group 

Amanda Dykes is a drinker of tea, dweller of redemption, and spinner of hope-filled tales who spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family. She’s a former English teacher and the author of Whose Waves These Are, a Booklist 2019 Top Ten Romance debut, as well as three novellas.

Website ║ Instagram

Nicole Deese’s eight humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled novels include the 2017 Carol Award-winning A Season to Love. Her 2018 release, A New Shade of Summer, was a finalist in the RITA Awards, Carol Awards, and INSPY Awards. Both of these books are from her bestselling Love in Lenox series. When she’s not working on her next contemporary romance, she can usually be found reading one by a window overlooking the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in small-town Idaho with her happily-ever-after hubby, two rambunctious sons, and princess daughter with the heart of a warrior.

Website ║ Facebook

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10/22/20

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Hall Ways Blog

10/22/20

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10/23/20

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Carpe Diem Chronicles

10/23/20

Review

Book Fidelity

10/24/20

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10/24/20

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Librariel Book Adventures

10/25/20

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10/25/20

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That’s What She’s Reading

10/26/20

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All the Ups and Downs

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The Adventures of a Travelers Wife

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REVEALING A ROGUE by Rachel Ann Smith – Release Day Feature

REVEALING A ROGUE

by

Rachel Ann Smith

How do you safeguard your heart from the rogue you’ve sworn to protect?

As secretary at Neale & Sons barristers, an unusual job for a woman, little surprises Miss Bronwyn Cadby. But nothing could prepare Bronwyn for the day Landon Neale, the Earl of Hadfield, waltzes into the office and proposes marriage — to her.

Ready to fulfill his duty and marry, Landon decides the only woman who suits his needs is the brilliant and fiery Miss Bronwyn. But the woman is no blushing debutante. Rather than accept his proposal outright and marry properly, she insists they elope to Gretna Green.

Landon has one carriage ride to reveal his inner rogue and convince Bronwyn she is worthy of being his countess. With every scandalous mile that passes, he will work to win over his reluctant bride.

But will her plan to divert him from the altar succeed?

Revealing a Rogue is a fun, steamy regency romance. If you like unconventional heroines and rogues in disguise, then you’ll adore Rachel Ann Smith’s fast-paced series-opener.

Buy Links:

Universal link          Amazon          Barnes & Noble          Kobo          Apple

Review to follow.

Rachel Ann Smith writes steamy historical romances with a twist. Her debut series, Agents of the Home Office, features female protagonists that defy convention.

When Rachel isn’t writing, she loves to read and spend time with her family. She is frequently found with her Kindle by the pool during the summer, the soccer field in the spring and fall, or curled up on the couch during the winter months.

She currently lives in Colorado with her extremely understanding husband and their two very supportive children.

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ANY ROGUE WILL DO by Bethany Bennett – Featured New Release

ANY ROGUE WILL DO

Misfits of Mayfair #1

by

Bethany Bennett

He ruined her reputation—now he’s the only one who can save it

For exactly one season, Lady Charlotte Wentworth played the biddable female the ton expected—and all it got her was society’s mockery and derision. Now she’s determined to be in charge of her own future. So when an unwanted suitor tries to manipulate her into an engagement, she has a plan. He can’t claim to be her fiancé if she’s engaged to someone else. Even if it means asking for help from the last man she would ever marry.

Ethan, Viscount Amesbury, made a lot of mistakes, but the one he regrets the most is ruining Lady Charlotte’s reputation. Going along with her charade is the least he can do to clean the slate and perhaps earn her forgiveness. Pretending to be in love with the woman he’s never forgotten is easy. What isn’t easy is convincing her to give him a second chance.

Buy links:

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Publisher’s Weekly starred review:

“In [a] splendid Regency-set debut . . . Bennett turns a spotlight on the class distinctions and gender restrictions of 1819 England, with a formidable leading lady and a swoon-worthy hero with lower-class roots. Filled with gripping drama, strong characters, and steamy seduction, this tantalizing story is sure to win the hearts of Regency fans.”―Publishers Weekly

Employing some of my favorite tropes of second-chance romance, enemies-to-lovers, and fake engagement in her debut Any Rogue Will Do, Bethany Bennett offers a well-crafted historical romantic fiction with an engaging storyline, fully fleshed-out characters, and steamy sexy times.

I like that Charlotte Wentworth is a capable, smart heroine who thinks on her feet and saves herself from dire situations without waiting for someone else to rescue her. I admire her independence and her desire to take control of her life while still working within the boundaries of the aristocratic society she belongs to. That means a marriage of convenience with a man who is willing to live off her dowry in London while she takes care of her estate in the country. She doesn’t require love as she has seen how it could devastate a person when somebody dies like with her parents.

I like that Ethan Ridley is a truly repentant hero who has matured into a responsible and hardworking man. I admire that although not born into the nobility, he genuinely cares for his tenants, wants his lands to prosper, and he doesn’t care to be looked down by society for engaging in trade to achieve his goals. His apologies to the people he wronged because of his past behavior are sincere with words backed by action. That’s how he finds himself offering a temporary fake engagement to Charlotte. Except, he quickly wants the relationship to be more permanent and more real.

I love that both of them maintain strong friendships with people from all classes. Charlotte with her godmother Agatha and her maid Darling. Ethan with his steward Connor and his best friend Cal. These secondary characters brought much of the humor in the story.  

While I enjoyed most of the story, I found Charlotte’s pushing Ethan away to stick to her plans frustrating and a bit unfair. I guess it’s Ms. Bennett’s fault for redeeming Ethan so thoroughly that he gained my sympathy and became less understanding of Charlotte’s reluctance to fight for their love.

The fact that I’m talking about these characters as if they’re real people should tell you how engaged I was with this story. A fantastic debut for Ms. Bennett. I’m looking forward to Book 2. 

Bethany Bennett grew up in a small fishing village in Alaska where required learning included life-skills like cold-water survival, along with several other subjects that are utterly useless as a romance writer. Eventually settling in the Northwest with her real-life hero and two children, she enjoys mountain views from the comfort of her sofa, wearing a tremendous amount of flannel, and drinking more coffee than her doctor deems wise.

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Chapter One

Somewhere in Warwickshire, Late August 1819

Ethan Ridley—Mac to his friends, Lord Amesbury to everyone else—lounged outside the Boar and Hound. With his face lifted toward the sky, he closed his eyes, taking in the familiar smells of horses and the hearty breakfast served at the inn. Scents of perfectly cooked sausages and fresh bread had him considering a second helping.

Thin wisps of fog would soon give way to the warm August sun, but for now, they clung, hovering in the trees like wraiths. The cool brush of a breeze lifted goose bumps on his throat, where yesterday’s cravat hung in a haphazard knot, the linen limp from a second day of being

tied. When packing, he’d forgotten a second cravat but remembered the book he was currently reading, so Ethan wasn’t terribly upset about the lack of fresh accessories. He shifted from one foot to the other. Not for the first time this morning, he considered leaving Calvin behind.

They’d traveled all the way from London to visit a highly regarded brewery to see how its processes could be applied to his own budding business venture. After waiting for over thirty minutes past the agreed time, he suspected at least another quarter hour would pass before Calvin

appeared looking fresh and annoyingly rested. Running a hand through his hair, Ethan winced as the strands snagged on calloused fingers. No doubt the unruly curls were assuming their usual vertical position, so he jammed his hat down over the mess. One of these days he’d get a haircut, but today was not that day. Tomorrow didn’t look promising either.

The clattering of hooves caught his attention as a wreck of a woman barreled into the stable yard. “There’s been an accident! I need a surgeon.”

It was the blood that stopped him from acting right away. God, so much blood. It covered her face and the top half of her traveling gown. She rode astride with her skirts hiked up and had the fiercest expression he’d ever seen on a woman. Like a warrior goddess hell-bent on dragging the next poor sod who got in her way into the afterlife, she didn’t rein in the mount until they were nearly upon him.

Forcing his legs to move, he shouldered through the taproom’s doorway. “We need help out here!” Without waiting for the occupants to jump to attention, he returned to the woman. Ethan swiped a palm over his brow, clearing away fear-ridden sweat, then placed a steadying hand on the heaving chest of the horse. For a moment, his mind had tried to retreat to another accident five years before.

Blood had soaked a different roadside while he held his friend, calling for aid until his voice failed. But the past, with its dark, clawed memories, would have to wait.

“My coachman has a broken leg.” The woman slid off the horse’s back. She touched her forehead, and her fingers came away wet and red. With a grimace, she wiped them on her skirts. One eye had swollen shut, and a cut near her hairline seemed the probable source of most of the blood. “He was unconscious when I left. My maid is with him.”

“Where’s the accident, miss?” a man from the inn asked, taking the long leather traces she’d used as reins.

Men spilled out of the taproom to lend their aid while grooms readied mounts and gathered carts to form a rescue party.

“By my best guess, they are perhaps three miles away. Directly down this road. You can’t miss them.” She pointed back in the direction from which she’d ridden.

Waving over a fellow whom he’d seen eating with the locals at the morning meal, Ethan said, “We’ll need the surgeon. Sir, do you know where tae find him?”

“Yes, milord. I’ll fetch ’im.” The man donned his hat and scurried down the road toward the village.

The woman swayed on her feet, appearing less warriorlike by the minute and more like a maiden about to faint from blood loss. Before Ethan could say something, Calvin arrived and offered his arm to escort her inside. Just as well. Ethan may want to help, but Cal’s particular skill set would be more useful to a damsel in distress. She went with his friend willingly enough, no doubt won over by his charm. Charm wasn’t Ethan’s strongest trait.

Better to stay in the stable yard until everyone had a job and was on their way.

A gentleman with hair that glowed like a halo grasped her elbow, speaking in the same tone Lottie would use with a frightened horse. “Perhaps you should sit. Your head wound is still bleeding. Frankly, you need help as much as your coachman.” Her escort offered Lottie a seat in

the public room, which she took, moving with precision to avoid further irritating the bruises making themselves known.

After crawling out of the wreckage, she’d not thought beyond flinging herself atop a carriage horse, then praying she’d stay seated long enough to find a doctor. The shaking in Lottie’s legs began, and she feared the rest of her body would follow suit until twitchy, useless

nerves overtook her. Lacing her fingers together steadied her somewhat while she waited for her vision to clear.

Dear Lord, one of her eyes wasn’t working correctly. No wonder her face hurt.

She tried to focus on the man who’d helped her. His striking features and perfect attire seemed more suited to a London drawing room than a Warwickshire country inn.

“What brings a pretty fellow like you to a town like this?” A disconnect between her ears and mouth made the words come out slow and slurred. Mercy, her head hurt.

Following his gaze to a sparkling window overlooking the yard, she spied the behemoth of a man they’d left behind deploying volunteers and taking control of the situation with an air of command no one questioned. Ah, he must be here with the man using his impressive presence to get things done. The man’s confidence amidst an emergency didn’t hurt his aura of competence.

Fresh blood seeped past her lashes. Wincing, she turned from the scene and wiped an already filthy hand over her eyes.

The innkeeper’s wife arrived with water and a stack of cloths. “I’m Mrs. Pringle, dearie. Let’s look at your head and see what we’re about, shall we?”

Lottie waved a hand. “It’s nothing. Nothing serious at any rate. I’m sure I’ll be fine after a bath and rest. My coachman needs a doctor far more than I do.”

Clean tables and the scent of fresh bread made the inn warm and cozy. Hopefully, the rooms upstairs would be as welcoming. She desperately wanted to get her bearings, then find a tub and a bed. A bath would be heaven.

The elegant stranger pushed, “Please, miss, let her clear away the blood—”

Chilly air danced over her cheek as the commanding man from the courtyard entered the room. With a blunt “Give me the rag,” he once again took charge, swiping the cloth from Mrs. Pringle’s hand.

Her charming escort rolled his eyes. “Fine, Mac. Take over. I’ll see if I’m needed outside.”

The giant grunted an acknowledgment. Really, were actual words too much to ask? A few moments before he’d been kind, but now surly impatience colored his demeanor. The sheer size of him overwhelmed her—an unusual circumstance for a woman her own father referred to as “sturdy.” Even sitting, he dwarfed everyone in the room. Only one other man of her acquaintance had made her feel delicate in comparison, but that had been a lifetime ago.

The man tossed his hat on the table, revealing a mass of dark curls. Another wave of dizziness swamped her as recognition hit. Please, God, let her be wrong. And if she didn’t humiliate herself by fainting, she’d tithe double the next time she found herself near a church.

Maybe the head wound caused the buzzing in her ears—it couldn’t possibly be because this man still affected her after so long. But no. Even seven years later, Lord Amesbury, the one who had saved her, then callously ruined her, evoked a visceral response. If he thought to save her again, she’d best remember what he’d done the last time they’d met.

Amesbury leaned forward, sparking an almost forgotten heat of awareness in her belly. His dark brows were broody slashes under a disobedient lock of hair that fell over his forehead, providing the only softness on his face. Shadows played in the hollows under his cheekbones,

where at least a day’s growth of beard made him look as roguish as she knew him to be.

“I know your concern is for your coachman. ’Tis commendable. But you’re useless if you don’ see tae yourself.” That lilting brogue did something funny to her chest, creating flutters she’d rather not ponder. “Now please hold still so you don’ make a bigger mess on this good woman’s floor.”

Mrs. Pringle didn’t seem sure if she should leave or stay. The older woman stared at the floorboards while holding the water basin, no doubt wishing to be anywhere else. Lottie could relate.

Although his exasperated tone rankled, Lottie allowed the examination. Knowing this man, of all people, saw her in such a state set her cheeks aflame with a mix of embarrassment and fury. Fate, that fickle fiend, always tossed her in his path at her worst, casting him as a hero.

With a finger under her chin, Amesbury raised her face toward the morning light streaming through the window. His gruff words were at odds with gentle fingers as he brushed the blood-soaked hair off her brow and prodded at a painful area near her hairline.

How had he grown more attractive while she’d merely gotten older? Every year her body grew softer, rounder, despite daily rides all over the estate. As the butterflies in her belly would attest, the small lines at the corners of his eyes and a new hardness to his jaw didn’t diminish his appeal. Grossly unfair, in her opinion.

Over the years, she’d imagined a different meeting. In her version, she always wore a stunning new gown—the picture of intimidatingly competent femininity. Lord Amesbury would stop in his tracks, recognizing her in an instant. Then his striking face would flood with regret, evoking her pity—but only for a moment. A strong cup of tea would help the sensation pass once she snubbed him and went on her way.

No matter the scenario, Lottie served witty set-downs while looking ethereally beautiful, then left the man with an unrelenting grief to haunt him for the rest of his natural life. Really, was that too much to ask? In her imagination she would marry a gorgeous duke—even though young available dukes weren’t exactly thick on the ground.

Especially for spinsters.

Logic had no jurisdiction in daydreams and fairy tales.

Reality was sorely lacking. Her traveling gown’s tattered bodice barely clung to modesty, she’d just dripped blood on his boot, and any fool could see Viscount Amesbury didn’t remember her.

Perhaps it was immature to wish the circumstances of their meeting were different, but the fact was that she found herself in another embarrassing situation requiring his help and he didn’t even have the decency to remember her. Inhaling deeply, she searched for calm and instead filled her head with the scent of him—not the wisest course of action. If only Amesbury favored the usual perfumes or bottled tonics, or smelled of rotten onions with a trace of dock water. Instead, he smelled like a man who bathed, then gave no further thought to his appearance. It reminded her of fresh air, leather, and an underlying warmth she couldn’t place. Now her heart pounded for a different reason.

The one thing her old suitor-turned-nemesis did well was confuse her. He always had.

Some things didn’t change, even after seven years.

Lottie exhaled his essence, pushing the tangle of emotions from her body. A man she hated so thoroughly shouldn’t smell so comforting.

VAMPIRES OF PORTLANDIA by Jason Tanamor – Book Blog Tour

VAMPIRES OF PORTLANDIA

by

Jason Tanamor

Publisher: Parliament House Press
Publication date: 29 September 2020
Genres: New Adult, Fantasy, Folklore

SYNOPSIS

When Marcella Leones relocates her family of aswang vampires from the Philippines to Portland, Oregon, she raises her grandchildren under strict rules so humans will not expose them. Her only wish is to give them a peaceful life, far away from the hunters and the Filipino government that attempted to exterminate them.

Before she dies, she passes on the power to her eldest grandchild, Percival. He vows to uphold the rules set forth by Leones, allowing his family to roam freely without notice. After all, they are aswangs.

However, when the aswang covenant is broken, the murder rate in Portland rises drastically. Who is behind the murders? And who is behind the broken covenant? Along with sensie Penelope Jane, Percival must find the truth.

It’s then they discover that there are other breeds of aswangs—werebeasts, witches, ghouls, and viscera—who have been residing in Portland for years.

Based on Filipino folklore (aswang), “Vampires of Portlandia” is a fantastical tale of different monsters coexisting in the weirdest city in America.

Purchase Links:

Amazon          B&N          Google Play          Kobo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Tanamor is the critically acclaimed author of the novels “Anonymous” and “Drama Dolls.” His new novel “Vampires of Portlandia” is a NA urban fantasy about Filipino folklore – aswang. His writings have appeared in more than 250 publications. He’s interviewed personalities such as Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Pete Rose, and Dane Cook, and has covered U.S. President Barack Obama. Tanamor currently lives and works in the Portland, Oregon area. 

Author Links:

Website     Facebook     Goodreads     Instagram     Twitter

REVIEW

This book has an intriguing premise that excited me when I first heard about it. The aswang supernatural creatures have been staples of Filipino folklore for ages and a story of them being present here in the US is an endeavor I like to support. 

In Vampires of Portlandia, a family of vampires settles in Portland after a narrow escape from being killed by an hunter and a manananggal (viscera) in the Philippines.  Ten years later, the head vampire Marcella Leones is dying and has to pass on the power to her eldest grandson Percival. A huge problem is that aside from some rules she imposed on her four grandchildren, Marcella never told them anything about their powers and responsibilities. Nothing about the existence of other aswang beings (werebeasts, witches, ghouls, viscera), nothing about the covenant that governs their behavior, and nothing about their kind being the supposed leader. So when other creatures are preying on the homeless and one of his siblings breaks the covenant, Percival is overwhelmed with no recourse other than to surrender the amulet that gives him his power and ultimately, sacrifice  his life.

I don’t know how many more revisions the book underwent after I received it, but it was severely unpolished and could have gone through more developmental and copy editing. The world building was inadequate, the device of breaking the fourth wall should have been deleted, the nouns used to refer to the same person were confusing, some of the information about the Philippines were incorrect, the plot holes were too numerous, and the characters needed more fleshing out. 

I wish I liked it better, but I can only give it three stars. I appreciate the effort to bring the Filipino culture into the American publishing mainstream. The book was easy to read with its use of simple language and it’s also quite diverse with the inclusion of multiethnic characters and LGBTQ romantic subplot. 

I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour. 

#AswangInPortland book blog tour conducted by Caffeine Book Tours.

THE RETURN OF THE DISAPPEARING DUKE by Lara Temple – New Release Feature

THE RETURN OF THE DISAPPEARING DUKE

by

LARA TEMPLE

 

BLURB

A scarred mercenary … Or the Disappearing Duke of Greybourne?

Rafe has spent years running from his true identity. He’s a lone wolf, living far from aristocratic England and his violent father. Then unconventional Cleopatra Osbourne requests his protection as she crosses the Egyptian desert. In Cleo he discovers a fellow outcast—and a fierce desire! Cleo must return to London, and here lies Rafe’s dilemma—because following his heart means claiming the title he’s avoided for so long!

BUY HERE:

Amazon: http://mybook.to/RafeDuke
Amazon US paperback: https://bit.ly/RafeDuke1
Amazon UK: https://bit.ly/RafeDukeUK

 

ABOUT LARA 

Lara Temple

Lara Temple writes strong and sensual Regency romances about complex individuals who give no quarter but do so with plenty of passion. She lives with her husband, two children, and one very fluffy dog and they are all very understanding about her taking over the kitchen table so she can look out over the garden as she writes and dreams up her Happy Ever Afters.

Social Media links:
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/LaraTempleAuthor
Facebook: www.facebook.com/LaraTemple1
Twitter: @laratemple1
Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2mWin9R
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/LaraTemple
Website: www.laratemple.com

 

REVIEW

The Return of the Disappearing Duke is my new favorite among the Lara Temple books I’ve read so far.  This book gave me respite from my sadness upon a good friend’s much-too-early passing.

Ms. Temple’s signature lyricism is at full display in her vivid descriptions of the characters’ travels through exotic Egypt, their turbulent sea voyage, and eventful arrival in England. Her command of languages, whether English or Arabic, is masterful in both narration and dialogue. The unpredictable nuances of her characterization for both Rafe and Cleo make them easy to love and root for. The fluidity with which she tells their story is highly admirable.

What places this book over the top for me is the delightful humor that I’d only seen flashes of in Lara’s previous works but which is amped up here. The witty banter between Rafe and Cleo, Rafe’s nicknames for Cleo, her love for Shakespeare, his verbal exchanges with both friends and villains provided many smiles and grins from me if not actual bursts of laughter. 

I finished reading The Return of the Disappearing Duke feeling light and excited to share my love of it with Romance readers everywhere. 

AIRBORNE by DiAnn Mills – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

AIRBORNE

by

DiANN MILLS

Genre: Christian Romantic Suspense 
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Date of Publication: September 8, 2020
Number of Pages: 400

Scroll down for the giveaway!

Heather Lawrence’s long-awaited vacation to Salzburg wasn’t supposed to go like this. Mere hours into the transatlantic flight, the Houston FBI agent is awakened when passengers begin exhibiting horrific symptoms of an unknown infection. As the virus quickly spreads and dozens of passengers fall ill, Heather fears she’s witnessing an epidemic similar to ones her estranged husband studies for a living—but this airborne contagion may have been deliberately released.

While Heather remains quarantined with other survivors, she works with her FBI colleagues to identify the person behind this attack. The prime suspect? Dr. Chad Lawrence, an expert in his field … and Heather’s husband. The Lawrences’ marriage has been on the rocks since Chad announced his career took precedence over his wife and future family and moved out. 

As more victims fall prey days after the initial outbreak, time’s running out to hunt down the killer, one who may be closer to the victims than anyone ever expected.

A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR

The story line for Airborne came to me three and a half years ago. All I had was a what-if: A virus unleashed on an international flight.

The search to find experts who were willing to give me accurate information took another year. Along the way, God placed the right people in my path: a woman and new friend whose doctorate is in microbiology and immunology, a man who trains flight attendants for the airline that I envisioned in my story, a pilot who not only flies for my designated airline but is also a suspense and thriller writer, the amazing people and resources of the CDC, and the wisdom and guidance of the FBI.

Tyndale House Publishers saw my passion for Airborne. This book was completed and edited before COVID-19 spread across our globe. My mission then and now is to show a story that weaves hope, reality, and the sacrificial work of first responders when a deadly virus spreads through innocent people.

My prayer is people will experience God’s presence during our current global crisis. Will you join me in that prayer?

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With its fast-paced action, impeccably researched scientific facts, and super timely plotline, Airborne is totally unputdownable. I suggest for potential readers to schedule a few hours of uninterrupted reading time because they’ll surely be as absorbed in the story and characters as I was. 

To be honest, I had some apprehensions when I accepted the opportunity to review an advance copy of this book. Reading fiction is one of my escapes from the worries of real life and the subject of a virus being the central plot in the story seemed to be contrary to that objective. I am glad to have been relieved of my doubts.

While the book deals with the race to find a cure before more people died and the search for the villain who unleashed the deadly biological weapon, it also tackles relationships and the role of faith in them. Heather’s strong belief in God and Chad’s denial of a divine being are at the center of everything that happened to them. These informed how they made their decisions about their past and future, whether apart or together. 

Ms. Mills showed great skill in developing the characters in this book, especially the growth arc for Chad and the reveal of the villain. Her writing is commendable in that she incorporated science, medicine, law enforcement, and religion with a deft hand. The language is simple and the situations are realistic. 

My only quibble is the insufficient romance in the book. There’s not a lot of it except for the final chapter. Heather and Chad were separated physically and emotionally for the majority of the story and the few scenes when they interacted were mostly spent fighting. The Christian and Suspense parts were satisfactory, the Romantic aspect was a little lacking. 

Content advisory: several on-page deaths, physical violence, description of abuse. 

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; director, alongside Edie Melson, of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and Mountainside Retreats; and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. 

DiAnn is passionate about helping other writers be successful and speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston. DiAnn is very active online and loves to connect with readers on social media and at diannmills.com

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FOUR WINNERS

Each gets a signed, personalized hardcover edition of Airborne
+ choice of either $25 Amazon or $25 Barnes and Noble e-Gift Card

August 18-28, 2020
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8/18/20 Book Trailer Texas Book Lover
8/18/20 Review Forgotten Winds
8/19/20 Author Video Max Knight
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8/20/20 Guest Post Librariel Book Adventures
8/20/20 Review The Clueless Gent
8/21/20 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
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8/23/20 Excerpt Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
8/24/20 Scrapbook All the Ups and Downs
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CONFESSIONS OF LADY GRACE by Rachel Ann Smith – Release Day Feature

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CONFESSIONS OF LADY GRACE

by

Rachel Ann Smith

 

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She sacrificed her future to save his life.
His life means nothing without her.
Will her confessions set them both free to love?

Lady Grace’s bargain with the devil guaranteed the life of the man she will always love, but the price was giving him up forever. Now Matthew has returned to England, and she finds it impossible to let him go.

Freed from a hellish prison on the Continent, Matthew Stanford, Marquess of Harrington, retreats to his country manor. His days obsessed with thoughts of exacting revenge upon the man responsible for his captivity. His nights are plagued by memories of Lady Grace, the woman whose image spurred him to survive—and who replaced Matthew with another as soon as he was out of her sight.

Once they worked together, as close as two people can be. Now jealousy and wounded pride keep them apart. When Lady Grace’s confessions compel them to look past their broken hearts, they join forces to exact the revenge they both desperately crave—and perhaps find their way back to love.

Confessions of Lady Grace is the final book in the Agents of the Home Office series. An intriguing, heartwarming novel with unexpected twists and surprises. Guaranteed to tug on your heartstrings.

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An exhilarating finish to a fantastic debut series. With powerful female leads and the men who are their match in every way, the Agents of the Home Office books provide hours upon hours of engaging reading.

Confessions of Lady Grace ties everything up neatly in a story loaded with twist-filled adventures and schemes yet still leaves room for interest in the upcoming spin-off series. While Ms. Smith makes an effort to summarize the events that lead up to the current time in this book, I strongly recommend reading all of the books starting from the prequel novella to have a deeper understanding of the over-arching plot and appreciation for the characters. 

I like that the agents are interconnected by blood and friendship. I approve them all coming together to ensure Grace and Matthew are reconciled. I appreciate the sensitive and respectful handling of an elderly character with cognitive impairment.  I also like the involvement of servants in accomplishing the missions. Finally, I like the unexpected twists and turns the plot has taken to reach its satisfying conclusion. 

 

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Rachel Smith

Rachel Ann Smith writes steamy historical romances with a twist. Her debut series, Agents of the Home Office, features female protagonists that defy convention.

When Rachel isn’t writing, she loves to read and spend time with her family. She is frequently found with her Kindle by the pool during the summer, the soccer field in the spring and fall, or curled up on the couch during the winter months.

She currently lives in Colorado with her extremely understanding husband and their two very supportive children.

Follow Rachel Ann here: 

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THE SECRET OF YOU AND ME by Melissa Lenhardt – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

TSOYAM tour graphic

THE SECRET OF YOU AND ME

by

MELISSA LENHARDT

Genre: Women’s Fiction / Romance
Publisher:  Graydon House (Harlequin)
Date of Publication: August 4, 2020
Number of Pages: 352

 

Scroll down for the giveaway!

 

Synopsis

TSOYAM book cover

True love never fades—and old secrets never die . . . 

Nora hasn’t looked back. Not since she fled Texas to start a new life. Away from her father’s volatile temper and the ever-watchful gaze of her claustrophobically conservative small town, Nora has freed herself. She can live—and love—however she wants. The only problem is that she also left behind the one woman she can’t forget. Now tragedy calls her back home to confront her past—and reconcile her future.

Sophie seems to have everything—a wonderful daughter, a successful husband, and a rewarding career. Yet underneath that perfection lies an explosive secret. She still yearns for Nora—her best friend and first love—despite all the years between them. Keeping her true self hidden hasn’t been easy, but it’s been necessary. So when Sophie finds out that Nora has returned, she hopes Nora’s stay is short. The life she has built depends on it.

But they both find that first love doesn’t fade easily. Memories come to light, passion ignites, and old feelings resurface. As the forces of family and intolerance that once tore them apart begin to reemerge, they realize some things may never change—unless they demand it.

PRAISE FOR THE SECRET OF YOU AND ME:

“Lenhardt convinces in her portrayal of the conflict between desire and control.” —Publishers Weekly

“A compelling story of second chances and being true to yourself.”
Harper Bliss, bestselling author of Seasons of Love

“At turns sweet, sexy, and always respectful of these characters and their journeys to their most authentic selves, Lenhardt’s wonderful book is highly recommended for all fiction collections.” —Booklist

 

CLICK TO PURCHASE

Interabang Books
(Personalized/signed copies available through Interabang)

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A portion of royalties are going to the It Gets Better Project.
(Click for more details.)

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Review_preview

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There was a question in one of my Facebook groups about which book I’d want to see made into a movie and I responded with a favorite title. Now, I have an additional candidate — The Secret of You and Me. The story of Nora and Sophie’s passionate second-chance journey to their happy-ever-after despite small town prejudices and past hurts lends itself highly adaptable to film. All the elements are there: fully fleshed-out characters, complicated relationships, well-described small town setting, timely subjects, and involving storytelling.

I loved how Ms. Lenhardt developed the characters of Nora and Sophie. Both are imperfect, broken people who, through the course of the story, have to learn things about themselves that they needed to address separately in order to forge a future together.

While Nora was able to live her truth elsewhere, Sophie has a more difficult time accepting her real identity within the narrow confines of her conservative town. A bigoted mother, a husband with political ambitions, and a teenage daughter she doesn’t want to lose if she came out all contribute to Sophie’s  quandary in making a choice. Similarly, Nora has her own internal conflicts to resolve with a family responsibility, a sick aunt, and a life in DC that’s hard for her to walk away from.

I also appreciate the balance of both opposing and supportive characters. For Nora’s always-complaining sister Mary there’s a mothering Emmadean. For Sophie’s heinous mother Brenda there’s her stalwart sponsor Todd.

Some serious topics are discussed in this book. Homosexuality, bisexuality, homophobia, PTSD, and alcoholism being the most prominent ones. For the most part, they’re treated with sensitivity and provide a positive representation of the LGBTQ community.

My main gripe is the overabundance of cheating. Sophie and Nora picking up where they left off eighteen years ago is an essential plot point but puts a tawdry element to their affair that can’t be erased by their true love for one another. Fidelity is an important issue (for me) in romance and the lack of it here gives me a little pause in an otherwise engaging story.

Overall, an entertaining read that highlights the message that love is universal.

4 out of 5 stars

 

AboutTheAuthor

TSOYAM Author photo

Melissa Lenhardt is a women’s fiction, mystery, and historical fiction author. Her debut mystery, Stillwater, was a finalist for the 2014 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest, and Sawbones, her historical-fiction debut, was hailed as a “thoroughly original, smart and satisfying hybrid, perhaps a new sub-genre: the feminist Western” by Lone Star Literary Life. The New York Times called her sixth novel, Heresy, “An all-out women-driven, queer, transgender, multiracial takeover of the Old West”. The Secret of You and Me, her seventh novel and her first contemporary women’s fiction novel, was published on August 4, 2020.

 When Melissa isn’t writing, she’s thinking, “I really should be writing,” and eating Nutella or peanut butter straight out of the jar. A lifelong Texan, she lives in the Dallas area with her husband, two sons, and two Golden Retrievers.

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August 11-21, 2020
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CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE
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8/12/20 Review Momma on the Rocks
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8/13/20 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
8/14/20 Top Six List Texas Book Lover
8/14/20 Review Bibliotica
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