SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE by Tari Faris – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

 

SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE
Restoring Heritage Series, #3
by
Tari Faris
 
Genre: Fiction / Christian / Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: September 7, 2021
Number of Pages: 336 pages
 
 
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With her vision and his know-how, this thing just might work . . .

Leah Williams is back in the quaint town of Heritage, Michigan, and ready to try again to make her business a success. But blank slates are hard to come by, and a piece of her past is waiting for her there. Heir to the Heritage Fruits company, Jonathan Kensington is the guy who not only made Leah’s past difficult, but he also seems determined to complicate her present as well.

In order to avoid forcing a buyout of Leah’s building, Jon will have to strike a compromise. Can the two of them work together? Or will their troubled past set the tone for their future?

 
 
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With its uplifting theme of second chances–in love and in faith–Since You’ve Been Gone is one inspiring read. While tackling deep issues of childhood scars and fear of being hurt, grieving the loss of loved ones, and trying to succeed in business, Ms. Faris still managed to achieve a tone of lightness and hope that made reading this third book in her Restoring Heritage series easy and comforting.   
 
This is the first book by Tari Faris that I’ve read and I’m impressed with her ability to seamlessly weave two wonderfully sweet love stories in one novel. I especially appreciate the strong sense of family and community that shone throughout the book. All the charms of the small town setting were highlighted so well. The bit about Otis, the moving brass hippo, was particularly cute and heartwarming. I truly hope Heritage, Michigan exists because I want to go there for a visit. 
 
Love is letting someone in and trusting them even though they have the potential to break your heart.”
 
Leah and Jon’s rocky romance is both endearing and frustrating. It’s sweetened by swoon-worthy gestures yet soured by all the misunderstandings. Jon’s courtship of Leah, who he loved since high school, is complicated by his struggles with his sister, his conflict with his uncle regarding the running of the business, and his own insecurities about his readiness to lead the company his father built. Leah’s fear of getting hurt warred with her desire to be loved for who she is, quirks and all. Past familial drama did a number on her and caused her to be wary of love. Thankfully, supportive siblings and friends helped bring the two together for their much-deserved happily ever after. 
 
I love you and every broken piece about you and the fact you’re letting God heal that brokenness. And I hope you can grow to love every broken pieces about me.”
 
I liked Leah and Jon’s story but it was Madison and Colby’s romance that really captivated me. Of the two, the latter is more faith-centric. Damaged by abuse and finding affirmation in the wrong places, Madison took a self-destructive path in her youth. Her reluctant return to the town where she thought herself unwelcome and her rediscovery of her faith with the help of Colby and some unexpected new friends make a compelling story. The music she and Colby created was beautiful and profound. If it’s a real recorded song, I’ll buy it. 
 

Thanks to Revell, Tari Faris, and Lone Star Lit for providing me a copy of Since You’ve Been Gone for this review. I enjoyed this book, especially its earworm of a title, and will seek out the first two in the series. 

 
 
4 out of 5 stars
 

 
 
Tari Faris is the author of You Belong with Me and Until I Met You. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers and My Book Therapy, she is the projects manager for My Book Therapy, writes for learnhowtowriteanovel.com, and is a 2017 Genesis Award winner. She has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and lives in the Phoenix, Arizona, area with her husband and their three children. Although she lives in the Southwest now, she lived in a small town in Michigan for 25 years.
 
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ONE WINNER:
A copy of the whole Restoring Heritage series,
a $10 Starbucks gift card,
and a bookish sticker pack!
(US only. Ends 10/22/21.)
 

AFTER PERFECT by Maan Gabriel – Featured New Release

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AFTER PERFECT

Maan Gabriel

 

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9781647422035_fcThirty-six-year-old Gabriella Stevens is living quietly and contently as a devoted housewife to Simon—just as her traditional Filipino mother has always told her to do—when, after sixteen years of marriage and twenty years together, he tells he wants a divorce.

With New York City as her backdrop, Gabby—single for the first time since she was a teenager—goes back to school, gets her first real job, and faces unfamiliar reality with determination. But when she unexpectedly falls in love with her mysterious but utterly beautiful creative writing professor, Colt, she learns he is battling demons of his own: a tragic past that may have made him incapable of love. Is Gabby destined for another heartbreak—or will her connection with Colt be what unbreaks her?

 

Buy Links:

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Advance Praise:

  • “A heartfelt debut, After Perfect depicts a woman’s healing after divorce with grace and empathy. Maan Gabriel is an author to watch in contemporary women’s fiction.” ―Tif Marcelo, USA Today best-selling author of In a Book Club Far Away and The Key to Happily Ever After
  • “At once relatable and unexpected, AFTER PERFECT is the story of one woman’s quest to learn to live—and love—on her own terms after heartbreak. Maan Gabriel is a refreshing new voice in women’s fiction.” —Camille Pagán, bestselling author of Don’t Make Me Turn This Life Around
  • “Maan Gabriel’s After Perfectis the story of a marriage and a divorce and the complexities of both. Gabriel explores how cultural expectations may not only inform decision-making but determine it. In clear prose and through vivid scenes, Maan Gabriel shows us this irony―often through relationships, we come to know ourselves.” ―Corie Adjmi, author of Life and Other Shortcomings

ABOUT MAAN

MaanMaan Gabriel is a mom, wife, dreamer, writer, and advocate for women’s stories in literature. She earned her BA in communications from St. Scholastica’s College in Manila and MPS in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University. She has lived in Manila, Brussels, Dakar, and Mexico City. During the day, she works in strategic communications. Gabriel, along with her husband and son, currently calls suburban Washington DC home. After Perfect is her first novel.

 

Learn more at www.maangabriel.com


REVIEW

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From its pain-filled opening scene to the sigh-worthy hopeful ending, After Perfect is one highly evocative read. Maan Gabriel’s wonderfully polished debut involves the reader in newly-divorced Gabby Stevens’ journey to self-discovery amidst heartbreak and uncertainties.

After being cosseted most of her life, Gabby resolves to start over, go back to school, get a job, move into a small place, open herself up to new experiences, and stand on her own. Along the way, she maintains the support of her parents and best friend while creating meaningful relationships with new people. 

I like how Ms. Gabriel made Gabby so real and relatable by giving her balance in both long-held insecurities and newfound strengths. I love how she made Gabby’s Filipino heritage integral to her identity. I admire the way she drew her characters with dimensions, with light and shade. Thomas is, of course, a favorite as well as Gabby’s parents and her best friend Felicity. They provide the humor necessary to counter the angst in the storyline. As for Simon and Colt, I can see the attraction and approve of the final choice. They’re both important but this book is all about Gabby.

Other things I love: 

  • The inclusiveness and diversity of the characters reflect the society we live in today.
  • The great sense of place in both New York City and Washington DC locations
  • Everything that has to do with books (Thomas’s bookshop!!!), the writing and reading of them 
  • All the food

Some of my favorite quotes:

The thing about writing … It defines who you are as a person. It evolves and revolves around you, around how you feel, or around how you perceive life.”

If I become light, then darkness cannot overpower me. You can’t extinguish the light from the sun.”

When you have a book, you have been everywhere.”

Love is nobody’s fault. Love is someone’s magic. And no one should feel guilty for loving.”

Content notes: adultery, on-page miscarriage, deaths (narrated), body image issues

4 Four-half-stars

 

CREATRIX RISING by Stephanie Raffelock – Book Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway

CREATRIX RISING: UNLOCKING THE POWER
OF MIDLIFE WOMEN
By Stephanie Raffelock
Categories: Nonfiction / Self Help Memoir
Publisher: She Writes Press
Pub Date: August 24, 2021
Pages:176 Pages
Scroll for the Giveaway!

From the author of the award-winning book A Delightful Little Book on Aging comes a new self-help memoir Creatrix Rising: Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women. In her new book, Stephanie Raffelock liberates mold-defying midlife women, tired of the oft-inaccurate characterization of the “old crone,” to amplify the resounding strength within.

Ever since Eve was banned from the garden, women have endured the oftentimes painful and inaccurate definitions foisted upon them by the patriarchy. Maiden, mother, and crone, representing the three stages assigned to a woman’s life cycle, have been the limiting categories of both ancient and modern (neo-pagan) mythology. And one label in particular rankles: crone. The word conjures a wizened hag—useless for the most part, marginalized by appearance and ability.

None of us has ever truly fit the old-crone image, and for today’s midlife women, a new archetype is being birthed: the Creatrix.

In Creatrix Rising, Raffelock lays out—through personal stories and essays—the highlights of the past fifty years, in which women have gone from a quiet strength to a resounding voice. She invites us along on her own transformational journey by providing probing questions for reflection so that we can flesh out and bring to life this new archetype within ourselves. If what the Dalai Lama has predicted—that women will save the world—proves true, then the Creatrix will for certain be out front, leading the pack.

PRAISE FOR CREATRIX RISING:

“The perfect topic at the perfect time, Stephanie Raffelock’s self-help memoir, Creatrix Rising, identifies a new archetype, the Creatrix, that transcends the old archetype of Crone. Her stories and insights about how far women have come is nothing short of inspirational. A must-read for any woman who wants to embrace the strength and creativity of midlife.” -Marci Shimoff, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Happy for No Reason and Chicken Soup for the Women’s Soul

“Poetic and philosophical, Creatrix Rising will inspire readers to claim the courage and confidence that already lives inside of them. An intimate story of transformation, of journeying through life on your own terms without apology.”
Richard Blanco, 2013 Presidential Inaugural Poet and author of How to Love a Country

“The new archetype Stephanie Raffelock assigns to midlife women underscores the assets and wisdom older women bring to our culture and to the greater good. Creatrix Rising is an affirmation and celebration of the feminine story taking place in leadership and creativity throughout our country.”
Gabby Reese, volleyball legend, Nike’s first female spokeswoman, and New York Times best-selling author
Click To Purchase:
Amazon ~ Indiebound ~ Bookshop.org

Link To The Book Trailer On YouTube

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When you feel that a book is about you and written specially for you, it is impossible not to rave about it. Stephanie Raffelock’s beautifully-written, mindset-shifting Creatrix Rising is one such book and this is a glowing review of it. This early, I’m declaring it one of my Top 21 Reads of 2021.
I wholeheartedly embrace the move to redefine the archetype of midlife women from the dismal, joyless, and manmade Crone to the powerful, aspirational, and woman-made Creatrix. That’s not only my vanity talking but also my common sense. It’s obvious by their definitions which personification is preferable. At 49 with a pre-teen son, I still identify with the Mother archetype. It won’t be long though until middle age sets in and when that time comes, I’ll be ready to claim my title of Creatrix with the help of this book.
In laying out her own transformation, Ms. Raffelock shared deeply personal stories and meaningful relationships throughout her life. I found many of them incredibly affecting and inspiring, especially the ones about her grandmother Julia and her mother Cleo. She hinted at past pains but never delved too much in the mistakes and regrets. Rather, she celebrated the learnings she gleaned from them. While fiercely feminist and giving much of the spotlight on the incredible women who helped shape her, Stephanie was fair in acknowledging several men who have contributed in her journey of growth and self-awareness. I liked that. I also really liked the tone of positivity, of optimism in the book. Even when touching on divisive political topics, Ms. Raffelock kept her focus on opportunities and triumphs instead of dwelling on injustices and casting blames.
The sections on reflection, activity, and journaling are some of my favorite parts of the book. They’re interactive. They’re where the reader is invited to relate what they’d read to their own life, to think of people who made an impact, to remember experiences and interactions, and to tell their stories.
Creatrix Rising is easy to read. The language is profound but understandable, not clinical or highfalutin. Some parts are highly evocative, some are factual. Definitions are repeated for emphasis. The organization flows with purpose and intent. The book is immensely quotable. I am glad I have two copies because one (the eBook) is covered in highlighted passages. Some of my favorites are:
The way we envision older women needs to be altered to reflect the evolution of our continuing liberation and growing self-awareness, equality, and confidence.”
When I’m trying to uplevel my game, it helps to name what I hope to achieve and then claim that achievement. Name it and claim it.”
Women find a way. We all have a heroine who lives inside of us. We all have a story to tell. Telling our stories liberates us to love ourselves and command respect in the world.”
Embrace the beauty and grace of age and its gifts of wisdom. Make life on your own terms. You are never too old to dream, to participate, to engage. Uplift other women. Tell your story. You are at the front of the line now. Hold your light high, and be proud of who you are and who you are still becoming. Accept the mantle of Creatrix, and celebrate the goodness and grace that it holds.”
Huge thanks to Lone Star Lit, She Writes Press, and Stephanie Raffelock for including me in the blog tour and providing me with a copy to review.
5 stars

Stephanie Raffelock is the author of Creatrix Rising, Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women, (She Writes Press – August, 2021). She also penned the award winning book, A Delightful Little Book on Aging.

A graduate of Naropa University’s program in Writing and Poetics, Stephanie was a contributor to The Rogue Valley Messenger in Oregon. She has blogged for Nexus Magazine, Omaha Lifestyles, Care2.com, as well as SixtyandMe.com.

A former i-Heart Radio host, she is now a popular guest on podcasts, where she inspires women to embrace the strength and passion of their personal story. Stephanie continues to build her speaker’s resume by giving presentations for groups like The Ashland Literary Arts Festival, Breaking the Glass, WINS at Charles Schwab and Southern Oregon University, Friends of the Hannon Library. Her commitment to uplift women extends to teaching personal development classes for incarcerated women and non-profits, including Dress for Success, Austin.

A recent transplant to Austin, Texas Stephanie enjoys an active life with her husband, Dean, and their Labrador retriever, Mickey Mantel Raffelock.

Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn


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FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY.
Or, visit the blogs directly:

9/1/21

Excerpt

Hall Ways Blog

9/1/21

Review

Missus Gonzo

9/2/21

Review

All the Ups and Downs

9/2/21

BONUS Promo

LSBBT Blog

9/3/21

Review

The Plain-Spoken Pen

9/3/21

Review

Momma on the Rocks

9/4/21

Author Interview

The Clueless Gent

9/5/21

Author Interview

Book Bustle

9/6/21

Review

Reading by Moonlight

9/6/21

Video Guest Post

The Adventures of a Travelers Wife

9/7/21

Review

Chapter Break Book Blog

9/8/21

Review

StoreyBook Reviews

9/8/21

Guest Post

The Page Unbound

9/9/21

Review

Jennie Reads

9/10/21

Review

Forgotten Winds

9/10/21

Review

Carpe Diem Chronicles

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A RETURN OF THE WICKED EARL by Sadie Bosque – Featured New Release

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A RETURN OF THE WICKED EARL

Sadie Bosque


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A mistake she will regret for a lifetime…
Lady Annalise was a wide-eyed debutante when she fell in love and married Blake, the Earl of Payne. But their time together was ill-fated and brief. After being treated poorly by her new husband, soon Annalise’s love for Blake is shattered. When he disappears entirely, their marriage seems to have ended as soon as it began.

A terrible betrayal…
Blake, the Earl of Payne, had it all: a hefty inheritance, a respectable title, and a beautiful wife. But it all crumbles when he is abducted, tortured and almost killed three months after his wedding. Now that he’s back he is determined to win back his wife and take revenge on whoever is responsible for his abduction. Neither task is going as planned, especially since his wife has moved on and his abductors have a plan of their own.

A love that is stronger than hate…
As suspicions flare, dark secrets emerge, and old passions are rekindled, Blake and Annalise must decide if they can trust each other again… or let go of one another forever.

Buy Links:

Amazon          Barnes & Noble          Kobo          Apple


ABOUT SADIE

sadie-bosque-5Sadie Bosque is a steamy historical romance author. Surrounded by the enchantment of the historical setting, her love stories communicate to the modern reader through the experiences of her characters. The heroes and heroines of Sadie’s stories are flawed, imperfect creatures with big hearts. Sadie believes that a happily ever after has to be hard-earned. The trials and tribulations her characters go through make them stronger and make the HEA so much sweeter.
Social Media Links:
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TRACE OF DOUBT by DiAnn Mills – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

TRACE OF DOUBT

BY DIANN MILLS

Categories: Romantic Suspense / Christian Fiction / FBI Crime Solving Novel / Clean Romance
Publisher: Tyndale House
Pub Date: September 7, 2021
Pages: 432 pages

Scroll for the Giveaway!
 

 
 
 
Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.
 
FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.
 
But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.

PRAISE FOR TRACE OF DOUBT :

“Filled with high stakes, high emotion, and high intrigue.” – LYNN H. BLACKBURN, award-winning author of UNKNOWN THREAT and ONE FINAL BREATH

Trace of Doubt is a suspense reader’s best friend. From page one until the end, the action is intense and the storyline keeps you guessing.” – EVA MARIE EVERSON, bestselling author of FIVE BRIDES and DUST

“DiAnn Mills serves up a perfect blend of action, grit, and heart. . . Trace of Doubt takes romantic suspense to a whole new level.” – JAMES R. HANNIBAL, award-winning author of THE PARIS BETRAYAL

“Well-researched . . . with some surprising twists along the way. In Trace of Doubt, Mills weaves together a tale of faith, intrigue, and suspense that her fans are sure to enjoy.” – STEVEN JAMES, award-winning author of SYNAPSE and EVERY WICKED MAN

CLICK TO PURCHASE


 

Link to the Book Trailer on YouTube


 
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.
 
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.
 
 

IT TAKES HEART by Tif Marcelo – Featured New Release

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IT TAKES HEART

by

Tif Marcelo

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From romance author Tif Marcelo comes a heartwarming story about taking a second chance on love at a family-owned couples resort.

Heart Resort, a private resort in the Outer Banks, is a romantic getaway for couples but a hotbed of family drama for its proprietors, the Puso family. Brandon Puso, the youngest of the four siblings, prefers life on his own as a licensed contractor in DC after a falling-out with his eldest brother.

After a hurricane plows through the Outer Banks, Brandon has a change of heart. He returns to the resort to help with the grand reopening but encounters his big sister’s best friend, designer Geneva Harris, who’s there to do the same thing. But Geneva and Brandon have a secret. Years ago, they had a secret romance that ended in heartbreak.

With the resort’s future at stake, Brandon and Geneva decide to put the past aside and to keep peace with the family. But as their mutual attraction heats up, they have to decide if history will repeat itself—or if this time, love gets a second chance.

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Buy links: 

Tif’s Website
Amazon


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Tif Marcelo is a veteran US Army nurse and holds a BS in Nursing and a Master’s in public administration. She believes and writes about the strength of families, the endurance of friendship, heartfelt romances, and is inspired daily by her own military hero husband and four children. She hosts The Stories to Love Podcast, and is the USA Today bestselling author of In a Book Club Far AwayOnce Upon a SunsetThe Key to Happily Ever After, and the Journey to the Heart series.

Follow her here:

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

DEAD DUKES TELL NO TALES by Catherine Stein – Featured New Release

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DEAD DUKES TELL NO TALES

Sass and Steam #3

by

Catherine Stein

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Airship pirates, mysterious inventions, and a treasure beyond compare? All in a duke’s work.

Chicago scrap metal mogul Clifford Kinsley has never encountered an obstacle he couldn’t dismantle. Until he inherits a dukedom burdened with mountains of debt, stifling rules, and people who want to ship his seven-year-old daughter off to boarding school. He’s stuck with the title for life. Which leaves only one solution: kill the duke. And for that, he’ll need the assistance of a professional.

Sabine Diebin, the infamous pirate captain La Capitaine, has one final treasure to find before she settles down to a well-deserved retirement. Unfortunately, the key to finding her prize is buried somewhere in the mess left behind by the late Duke of Hartleigh. To speed up her search, Sabine makes a deal with the oddly charming new duke-next-door. If he digs through her clutter, she’ll help him disappear.

Working together, Cliff and Sabine uncover a trail of clues that sends them on a world-wide search for a potentially life-changing device. With their combined skills, they can dodge murderous enemies and unravel baffling messages, but they can’t deny their growing bond or the desire sparking between them. Pirates don’t have partners. But if they dare to open their hearts, they might discover that the greatest treasures of all can’t be buried.

Buy Links:

Universal        Amazon          Barnes & Noble          Kobo          Google Play          Indiebound

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DDTNT graphic 3“The leftovers of the Mad Duke.” He huffed a little laugh.

“Yes. I understand you run a scrap collection business? Perhaps I could employ you to haul everything away.”

“I was in the recycling business.” His mouth tightened into a hard line. “Now, unfortunately, I’m a goddamned duke, if you’ll pardon my French.”

Sabine tried not to laugh. She really did. But he was so delightfully, blunt-spokenly American.

“Has your new title destroyed your ability to pluck valuable bits from the rubbish?”

He adjusted his spectacles, assessing her with a steady gaze. His eyes were an icy blue, like the glacial caves in the Alps—quiet, still, and eerily beautiful.

“I don’t expect it has, no.”

“Since we are neighbors, maybe you would like to lend your expertise and help me straighten out this mess of a house? As payment, you may keep what you wish of the saleable items. After I have taken any that are of interest to me, of course.”

Hartleigh folded his arms across his chest. “Why, may I ask, did you purchase this house and all the items in it if you didn’t want them?”

“I do want them. Or, rather, I want some of them. There are items in this collection, purchased long ago, that are of great interest to me, if only I can find them in the mess.”

“So you’re a collector yourself, then.”

She chuckled. “More of a treasure hunter.”

“See, Daddy?” Lola grinned at her father. “I told you!”

“You told him I was a treasure hunter?” Sabine asked.

“No. I told him you were a pirate.”

“Oh, God.” Hartleigh put a hand to his temple. “I’m so sorry. Pirates are her new favorite thing. The trip across the ocean was very long, and we’d just read Treasure Island together…”

“Please, don’t apologize.”

He leaned so far forward he rocked the piano bench onto the front two legs. “No, I must. I’m sure there’s some way I could have better explained that you don’t call your new neighbor a pirate, even if she does collect treasure, and…”

“But I am a pirate,” Sabine said. “Haven’t you heard of the infamous La Capitaine? I am she.”

Hartleigh gaped at her. “I, uh…” Before he could stammer a coherent word, the piano bench slipped, sending the peculiar new duke tumbling to the floor with a resounding crash.


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This is a fantastic romp of a novel. It should be adapted into a movie along the lines of The Mummy and Romancing the Stone. The story is incredibly entertaining with humor, action, emotional depth, and romance blending well. The characters are wonderfully diverse and utterly likable, especially the MCs Sabine, Cliff, and Lola.

We’re better together. I’d rather have a short life with you in it than a long life thinking about what might have been.”

Cliff is my new favorite of Ms. Stein’s heroes. Reluctant duke, klutzy nerd, amazing girl dad, sexy considerate lover. He’s absolutely endearing. And Sabine, what a heroine! Super strong, smart, and capable with a soft center. They fit so perfectly.

5 stars


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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. Her books are full of action, adventure, magic, and fantastic technologies.

Catherine lives in Michigan with her husband and three rambunctious kids. She loves steampunk and Oxford commas, and can often be found dressed in Renaissance Festival clothing, drinking copious amounts of tea.

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A DUKE IN TIME by Janna MacGregor – Featured New Release

A Duke In Time

A DUKE IN TIME

The Widow Rules

Janna MacGregor

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Katherine Vareck is in for the shock of her life when she learns upon her husband Meri’s accidental death that he had married two other women. Her entire business, along with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a royal supplier, is everything she’s been working for and now could be destroyed if word leaks about the three wives.

Meri’s far more upstanding brother, Christian, Duke of Randford has no earthly clue how to be of assistance. He spent the better part of his adult years avoiding Meri and the rest of his good-for-nothing family, so to be dragged back into the fold is…problematic. Even more so is the intrepid and beautiful Katherine, whom he cannot be falling for because she’s Meri’s widow. Or can he?

With a textile business to run and a strong friendship forming with Meri’s two other wives, Katherine doesn’t have time for much else. But there’s something about the warm, but compellingly taciturn Christian that draws her to him. When an opportunity to partner in a business venture brings them even closer, they’ll have to face their pasts if they want to share each other’s hearts and futures.

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Buy Links:

Amazon          B&N          Books-a-Million          Indiebound          Powell’s


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With its wild premise, easy-to-root for main characters,  fascinating set of secondary characters, easy pace that kept the story moving, and low-angst conflict, A Duke In Time gives Janna MacGregor’s new The Widow Rules series a promising start.

Janna has always written strong and resolute female leads and Katherine is a remarkable example of them. Her occupation and hidden background provide for a refreshing change from the previous heroines who were born into nobility. Her backstory allows for a better understanding of her decisions and actions throughout the story.

Christian, the titular duke, is himself an admirable character with his care for war veterans and his taking up the responsibility for his brother Meri’s three widows and the menagerie that kept on coming. His kind treatment of the people under his employ and his resolve not to follow his father’s debauched ways make him immensely likable.

I like that Kat and Christian formed tight friendships with each other and with others. I like that while there was an instant attraction between them, they didn’t act on it until they established a bond. I appreciate the absence of excessive push and pull. They satisfied their physical desire with agreement on both parties without coy protestations.

 While there are some aspects of the story that could have been better fleshed out (I’m still unclear how Katherine managed to start a business on her own with two hundred pounds to her name) and the lack of flaws in Christian’s characterization, I recommend this light and easy read to fans of “modern” historical romance.

4 out of 5 stars


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Janna MacGregor_Credit Hilary Hope Photography

Janna MacGregor was born and raised in the bootheel of Missouri. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and splits her time between Kansas City and Minneapolis with her very own dashing rogue, and one smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pug. She loves to hear from readers.

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GINGERBREAD KISSES by Minette Lauren – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

GINGERBREAD KISSES
Hot in Magnolia Book 4
By Minette Lauren


Publication Date: April 30th, 2021
Pages: 275
Categories: Sexy Romance

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Hollywood actress Ginger Lynn Harding is broke, unemployed, and stuck in the glaring spotlight of a sex-tape scandal thanks to her lousy ex-boyfriend. Changing her coveted ginger-colored hair to brown, Ginger heads to small-town Magnolia, Texas, where she plans to hide out and wait tables at the Cupcake Diner and Dive.

As a Magnolia constable and possible candidate for mayor, Roland Karr prides himself on protecting the community. When he nabs a Lauren Bacall look-alike for speeding, Roland is surprised that he lets the sassy beauty off the hook, but he can’t help it. She looks like she could use a break.

As Ginger settles into life in Magnolia, she can’t stop thinking about the handsome and debonair cop, but can she risk losing her heart when she’s lost everything else?

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With its double serving of swoony love stories, small-town quirks, adorable pets, and fascinating characters readers would want to get to know more, Gingerbread Kisses is an early holiday treat for Romance lovers everywhere. Its fun and light tone makes it an easy and enjoyable read and its steamy sexytimes live up to the series title of Hot In Magnolia. Funny, low-angst, and hot. Exactly how I like my Romance.
This is my first book by Minette Lauren, my first visit to Magnolia, and I’m happy to go back for more. I usually don’t seek out stories with actors and actresses as lead characters because I find so little in common with them, but Ms. Lauren made Ginger Lynn sympathetic to me and I give her kudos for that.
I admire Ginger’s determination to get back on her feet after her humiliating fall from grace, her willingness to work two jobs that she considered beneath her in the past, and her gradual warming up to the people of Magnolia. I understood her loss of confidence and cheered for her when she realized what’s important. I also liked the characterization of Roland as a by-the-book constable whose life is upended when Ginger came into town. I really like his patience with her and his respect for her wishes despite her sometimes hot-and-cold behavior. I especially like the ending where they both reached out to the other and decided to be together even to the point of giving up what’s familiar.
I have an equal appreciation for the second-chance romance between Lexi and Noah. I’m always soft for heroes who fall fast and fall hard for the object of his love and Noah ticks that box for me. There’s a “Seize the Day” quality to their getting together that is totally my jam.
Ms. Lauren’s vivid descriptions gave this book a great sense of place. I can picture in my head where the scene locations are as if they’re real. Magnolia seems to be a quintessential Texas small town with a higher proportion of hot men and women than most places in the state (or country). Herein lies my major cavil about this book–the lack of diversity. There’s not much indication of multiculturalism or unconventional lifestyles. Everyone seems to be fit, white, and straight. Not truly reflective of the society we live in today.
Overall, an engaging read and a book I’d recommend to the followers of this blog. It put me in a holiday spirit, inspiring me to bake gingerbread kiss cookies. I’m not sure if it’s Ginger’s grandma’s recipe, but it sure made the house smell like Christmas. Thanks to Ms. Lauren for the inspiration and for providing me with a complimentary copy to review through Lone Star Lit.
4 out of 5 stars

Minette Lauren is an award-winning author who loves animals and writes humorous romance in a small Texas town.

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GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!

THREE WINNERS
First place: Signed copies
of the Hot in Magnolia series books (prequel included) + $25 Amazon gift card
Second place: Signed copies of all four books in the series
Third place: Signed copy of Gingerbread Kisses

(Continental US residents only. Ends midnight, CDT, June 4, 2021)

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AAPI SPOTLIGHT – A LOWCOUNTRY BRIDE by Preslaysa Williams

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A LOWCOUNTRY BRIDE

by

Preslaysa Williams

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A heartwarming Avon debut of love, forgiveness, and new beginnings set in the beautiful South Carolina Lowcountry.

Maya Jackson has worked for Laura Whitcomb, Inc, a renowned New York City bridal gown brand for years and dreams of becoming Head Designer. She has the talent, she just needs a chance to showcase her unique style. Due to an illness, she’s always prioritized her career over her personal life until Maya’s father fractures his hip and she returns to Charleston, SC. While home for only a few months, she’s thrilled to find an opportunity at the local bridal gown boutique, never expecting sparks to fly with its owner…

A military veteran and widowed father, Derek Sullivan hopes to save Always a Bride from bankruptcy in order to preserve the legacy of his mother. He also wants to reconnect with his estranged, twelve-year-old daughter, who is still recovering from the loss of her mother. The last thing he needs is a relationship with a beautiful, smart, complicated woman who will be leaving soon.

When Derek begins to fall for the lovely Maya, he knows there’s no future. But destiny has its own plans, and these two lonely people with big hearts discover that coming home to love is the best gift life can give.

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ALB bookstagramA Lowcountry Bride is an affecting story of discovering identity, fulfilling dreams, dealing with loss, keeping the faith, and finding love. The authenticity with how the characters’ culture came across strongly emphasizes the importance of providing opportunities for own voices stories, of lifting marginalized creators, of representation and inclusion.

This book is bursting with Ms. Williams’s pride in her unique mix of West African/Filipino heritage. It’s manifested in the food, by distinctive sewing techniques, and in the sympathetic personalities of the main characters.

Maya Jackson, with her struggles to cope with a chronic illness while attempting to achieve her mother’s dreams for her amidst obstacles in the workplace, feels like a real person to me.  Adding to all those the care for her injured father, she is heavily burdened than most but utterly real. Maya’s internal conflict when making life-altering choices made me anxious. Despite the guarantee of a hopeful ending, I still fretted over her decisions.

While I liked Maya, I was soft for the men in her life–her father Carl and her love interest Derek Sullivan. These two dads had similar tales of guiding their daughters to find their paths. They had the best lines from the book.

Her dad’s advice resonated with me.

But don’t stop living, Maya. Don’t ever stop living. You owe it to yourself to live every single day to the fullest.”

Derek’s declaration made me melt.

It’s not the dying that matters. It’s the living. … I can bring the past with me and use it to craft a beautiful present and a hopeful future.”

I like that despite the heavy topics (illness, deaths from a mass shooting, inequity in the workplace, racism) this book is not depressing. There’s enough humor and joy in the successes both Maya and Derek achieved individually and together.

My minor concern is with the portrayal of Laura, Maya’s boss, as an irredeemable villainess. I wish there’s more dimension to her character. After all, she hired Maya in the first place. Her part in the story appeared soap-opera-ish.

Besides that, I enjoyed this book.  It’s engaging and made me root for the characters. I can’t wait for the author’s upcoming books.

4 out of 5 stars


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Preslaysa Williams (nee, Preslaysa Edwards) is an award-winning author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction with an Afro-Filipina twist. She loves sharing her culture with her readers.

She has an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and a MPA from the University of South Carolina. She is also a Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar, a Jackie Robinson Foundation Extra Innings Fellow, and a Sol Spiegelman Scholar. Preslaysa is currently earning a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University.

In addition, she’s a professional actress. She started acting at age eight, joining the Screen Actors Guild as a teenager when she co-starred on the Nickelodeon TV show, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo.

She’s an avid bookworm and planner nerd who hoards pens, pencils, and notebooks in her spare time. In her daily life, you’ll find her wearing mismatched socks while being a homeschool mom. Preslaysa presently makes her home in Virginia with her husband and two children. You can visit her online at www.preslaysa.com where you can sign up for her newsletter community.

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