Spotlight – Like Cats and Dogs

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The fur flies in this hilarious romantic comedy where the owner of a Brooklyn-based cat café and the local vet go ahead to head. The attraction is instant, but can you fight like cats and dogs and still be perfect for each other?

*****

Like Cats and Dogs

by Kate McMurray

Publication Date: 5/4/2021

Blurb:

Things are getting ruff in this Brooklyn neighborhood when new veterinarian Caleb Fitch moves in next door to the Whitman Street Cat Café and gets on the wrong side of café owner Lauren Harlow. Lauren has a few things to teach the new vet on the block, and rescuing kittens is only the start…

Lauren can’t ignore her attraction to Caleb, but he gets her even more riled up when he argues with her about how best to treat the cats in her care. Determined to smooth things over, Caleb comes to the rescue when a new litter of abandoned kittens is left on Lauren’s doorstep, and they confront the fiery attraction that’s been building between them from the start. But saving the baby kittens getting them ready for adoption is only the first challenge Lauren and Caleb have to face, and when a real estate developer comes sniffing around their block, they’ll have to work together, or risk losing everything…

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IZaFvz 

B&N: https://bit.ly/376Z5q5 

Apple: https://apple.co/3fxrmtE 

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3jtxDZx 

Bookshop: https://bit.ly/3m53bW8 

BAM: https://bit.ly/3l1QKZT 

Books2Read: https://bit.ly/3v5PKJu 

*****

Excerpt:

Evan walked into the Whitman Street Cat Cafe, pushing through the second door and grinning at Lauren like he’d already had three cups of coffee.  

“Derek got married this weekend,” Lauren said by way of greeting.  

“Aw, honey, I’m sorry,” said Evan. “Anything I can do?” 

“Drive to New Hampshire and punch him in the face?” 

Evan tilted his head and seemed to consider doing just that. “As fun as that sounds, Derek is kind of a big guy. He might punch back, and I bruise like a peach.” 

Lauren laughed despite herself. She shoved her phone in her pocket. “I’m over it. So my ex got married? It’s fine. I’m fine.” 

“Attagirl.” Evan looked up at the menu like he didn’t get coffee here nearly every morning.  

“Not that I’m sad for the business,” said Lauren, “but where did all these people come from?” 

“Didn’t you hear? The Star Cafe closed last week.” 

The Star Cafe was a great independent coffee shop that had, apparently until last week, been right across the street from the Cat Cafe. If it had closed, that explained all the people here, the last place that served coffee between Henry Street and the subway entrance on the next block.  

“I’m devastated,” Evan continued.  

Lauren raised an eyebrow at him. “If anything, this is probably better for your health. There are only so many cups of coffee you can drink per day because you think the barista is cute before the caffeine gives you heart palpitations.” 

Evan sighed and leaned against the counter next to Lauren. “Pablo gave me heart palpitations.” 

“Any idea what he’s up to now?” 

“When I got my caramel vanilla latte on Friday, he told me he’d applied to work at that little indie bookstore a few doors down. Hope springs.” 

“Crazy idea, but you could, like, ask him out.” 

Evan gasped dramatically. “Where’s the romance in that? We’re performing an elaborate dance.” 

“Right.” Lauren glanced behind the counter, where Monique looked panicked as she took another order. “Maybe I should hire him.” 

“He makes a mean caramel vanilla latte.”  

A bewildered man with light brown hair walked into the cafe then. Lauren had never seen him before, and she would have noticed. He was so handsome, Evan sucked in a sharp breath.  

Lauren had sworn off men ever since Derek had announced his engagement, because she was tired of getting her heart stomped on, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t look. Because this man was pretty foxy. He was tall and fit, with neatly trimmed hair, a square jaw, and blue eyes that sparkled even from behind the dark-rimmed glasses he wore.  

“Hello,” said Evan.  

The man looked around. When Sadie trotted over to investigate him, he looked a little startled by her presence.  

“Oh,” he said, catching Lauren’s eye. “I’ve heard about places like this, but I guess it didn’t occur to me that the cats would just be… out.” 

“Only Sadie has free rein in the cafe,” said Lauren. “She’s in charge. She’s also terrified of cars, so she doesn’t try to escape. The rest of the cats are through that door.” She pointed.  

“Ah.”  

Lauren wasn’t really sure what to say next. Evan elbowed her, though, so she said, “Did you want to see the cats, or—” 

“I just need a cup of coffee for now. This place is hopping.” 

“Go on,” Lauren said. “I’m not in line and you look like you’re in a hurry.” 

The man pulled a phone from his pocket and glanced at the time. “Yeah, a little.” He slid forward. “Thank you.” 

“Are you new to the neighborhood?”  

“Yeah. Just moved to Brooklyn a week ago, actually.” 

“Welcome!” 

He shot her a bashful half smile and nodded. “Thanks.” 

Monique said, “Next!” 

The light-haired man nodded at Lauren and then walked to the register.  

Victor, the other barista, must have noticed this guy was a little twitchy, probably with a job to get to—he was wearing a blue oxford shirt tucked into navy blue slacks, the uniform of the Midtown office worker—and he grabbed the pot and poured a cup of coffee right away. Once the man paid, Victor handed him the cup and said, “Milk and sugar are at the end of the counter.” 

“Great.” The man took his cup.  

“The usual,” Lauren said to Monique now that the line had dissipated. Then she walked over to the man as he shook a sugar packet. “I’m Lauren, by the way.” 

The man gave her a genuine smile this time. “Caleb. Maybe I’ll see you around, Lauren.” Sadie meowed and sat at his feet. “And you, too, Sadie.” 

Handsome and he liked the cats. No wedding ring. This had some potential.  

Oh, except for the part where Lauren was not dating in order to concentrate on making a fulfilling life for herself without a man.  

Caleb walked back outside.  

“Girl,” said Evan. “He was totally checking you out.” 

Warm excitement spread through Lauren’s chest. It had been a while since she’d met anyone who made her pulse race like this. She wondered if Caleb would come back.  

“Boss, your coffee’s ready,” said Monique.  

Lauren took it gratefully. “All right. Do you have to work today, Ev, or do you want to meet our newest resident? We’ve got a gorgeous new calico named Lucy.” 

“I’m meeting a client at ten, so I gotta go, but you can tell me all about Miss Lucy and report back on that tall guy over drinks tonight.” 

“Pop at seven?” 

“Perfect.” 

Monique handed Evan his coffee, which he took with a grin. He blew Lauren a kiss with his free hand and then walked out the door.  

“Come on, Sadie,” said Lauren. “Let’s get to work.” 

Excerpted from Like Cats and Dogs by Xio Axelrod.
© 2021 by Xio Axelrod. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

*****

Author Info:

Kate McMurray writes smart, savvy romantic fiction. She likes creating stories that are brainy, funny, and, of course, sexy. She advocates for romance stories by and for everyone. When she’s not writing, Kate edits textbooks, watches baseball, plays violin, crafts things out of yarn, and wears a lot of cute dresses. Kate lives in Brooklyn, NY, with two cats and too many books.

*****

Giveaway:

2 sets Like Cats and Dogs and Girl with Stars in Her Eyes

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/54ca7af71072/

~

 

 

Spotlight – The Stepsisters

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I get so excited when I see anything new from Susan Mallery and I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of this tour!

*****

The Stepsisters

by Susan Mallery

Paperback: 416 Pages

Publisher: MIRA; Original edition (May 25, 2021)

Blurb:

Once upon a time, when her dad married Sage’s mom, Daisy was thrilled to get a bright and shiny new sister. But Sage was beautiful and popular, everything Daisy was not, and she made sure Daisy knew it.

Sage didn’t have Daisy’s smarts—she had to go back a grade to enroll in the fancy rich-kid school. So she used her popularity as a weapon, putting Daisy down to elevate herself. After the divorce, the stepsisters’ rivalry continued until the final, improbable straw: Daisy married Sage’s first love, and Sage fled California.

Eighteen years, two kids and one troubled marriage later, Daisy never expects—or wants—to see Sage again. But when the little sister they have in common needs them both, they put aside their differences to care for Cassidy. As long-buried truths are revealed, no one is more surprised than they when friendship blossoms.

Their fragile truce is threatened by one careless act that could have devastating consequences. They could turn their backs on each other again…or they could learn to forgive once and for all and finally become true sisters of the heart.

MIRA | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads

*****

Excerpt:

“Your dad is going to be staying nearby for a little while,” she said, furious that they were winging this rather than deciding what to say in advance. But that was how Jordan rolled—create a problem, then leave her to clean it up. “You’re going to see him all the time. Once he and I talk some things out, we’ll go back to how it was.”

As she spoke, she glared at him, silently daring him to contradict her. He only shrugged.

“Are you getting a divorce?” Ben asked.

“No. Goodness, no. We haven’t talked about that at all.”

Which was true. They hadn’t talked about anything.

“You’re going to stay right where you are,” she continued. “Going to school, hanging out with your friends.”

“You’ll be here?” Krissa asked earnestly.

Daisy kissed her. “I will.”

“And Esmerelda?”

Jordan stiffened at that question.

“And Esmerelda,” Daisy confirmed. “This is just for a little while. Like I said, you’ll be seeing your dad a lot. And you can always text him on my phone.”

Jordan approached the bed. “I love you guys. You know that, right?” 

The kids released her and stretched out in the bed. They looked at their dad and nodded. Daisy stood, motioning for the dogs to resume their places.

It took another fifteen minutes of quiet conversation and reassurances for order to be restored. Krissa insisted on staying in Ben’s bed and for once, her brother didn’t object. Proof of their upset, Daisy thought bitterly as she and Jordan finally went downstairs. Once they were in the kitchen, she turned on him.

“How could you just blurt it out without us talking first? Dammit, Jordan, they’re kids. This is not a problem they should be dealing with. I said you and I should talk, not that you should drop a bomb on our kids. We should have had a plan.”

He drained his wineglass. “Sometimes life happens, Daisy. You’re the one always telling me how busy you are. I was just trying to help you get through your to-do list so I can get out of your way. No need to thank me.”

The casual cruelty of his words shocked her. Jordan could be difficult, but he wasn’t usually so mean to her.

“You were wrong and you know it,” she snapped. “You can try to distract me by being a jerk, but that doesn’t take away from what you did.”

Instead of fighting back, he gave her a half smile. “I’m wrong so much around you that I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t.”

“So none of this matters to you? We’re all a joke?”

The smile faded. “You have no idea what I’m going through here. You don’t know what it’s like dealing with you and your life. I’m last on your list every time. The only joke around here is me and you go out of your way to make sure I know it.”

With that, he walked out. Stopping him wasn’t an option because she couldn’t speak. Or breathe. Or understand what had just happened.

He wasn’t a joke—he was her husband. They were married and she had no idea why he was acting this way. Something was wrong—she got that—but she had no idea what.

She sank onto a stool by the island and poured herself another glass of wine. She was tired and sad and scared and a thousand other emotions she didn’t want to name. She had work in the morning and for the first time maybe ever, she didn’t want to go.

Esmerelda walked into the kitchen. “He’s gone?”

Daisy nodded. “He told the kids.” She felt her jaw clench and consciously relaxed.

“I thought you were going to come up with a plan together.”

“Jordan isn’t a fan of my plans.”

Esmerelda stepped close and put a reassuring hand on Daisy’s shoulder. “You’re strong enough to handle this.”

“I don’t feel very strong right now.”

“That doesn’t matter. The truth is, you’ll get through this because you have to. Your children need you.”

Daisy knew at the very least, she had to fake holding it together. The alternative was to start screaming and that wouldn’t end well. “Why do you always know the right thing to say?”

“I’m blessed with wisdom.” Her humor faded. “Daisy, I worry about you.”

“I’m fine.” A lie, but what choice did she have? She was the one they all depended on. As her housekeeper had pointed out, holding the family together had always been her job. She forced a smile. “I mean it. You’re right. We’ll get through this.”

“Good. Can I get you something to eat?” 

Food was the last thing on Daisy’s mind, but she knew she needed to pretend normal for as long as she could. “Yes, please. Let’s go with the pork chop. That sounds delicious.”

*****

Author Info:

No.1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives – family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages. Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

*****

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Spotlight – A Cowboy of Legend

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Readers are saying this is another great story from Broday and giving it a whole lot of five star reviews!

*****

A Cowboy of Legend

Lone Star Legends #1

by Linda Broday

Publication Date: 4/27/2021

Blurb:

Famous across Texas, the Legends stand ready to take on any challenge that comes their way…

Deacon Brannock has struggled his whole life to amount to something. But when he finally saves up enough to buy the saloon that’ll put him on the map, he’s immediately challenged by the Temperance Movement. He only wants to make an honest living, but there’s no stopping the Movement’s most determined firebrand: Grace Legend.

And after one look at the fierce beauty, he’s not even sure he wants to.

Grace has always had her pet crusades, but she sees the Temperance Movement as the one thing that will bring her the deep sense of purpose she’s been missing. Yet when the owner of the new saloon turns out to be a kind and considerate man with warm eyes and a smile that leaves her breathless, she can’t help but wonder whether they could have a future together…if only they could find a way to stop being enemies long enough to become so much more.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2YAMCr8 

B&N: https://bit.ly/2YwsxlQ 

Apple: https://apple.co/3lbBKd0 

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2P0qPY4 

Bookshop: https://bit.ly/2LpNFXv 

BAM: https://bit.ly/34DebUR 

Books2Read: https://bit.ly/38SlKYR 

*****

Excerpt:

“Destroyer of men’s souls! Beware the pitfalls of the devil’s brew!” Grace Legend held up her sign and directed her loud yells into the murky interior of the Three Deuces saloon. 

A gust of wind delivered the stench of the nearby stockyards up her nose and a swirl of dirt to her eyes. She blinked several times to clear the grit as two dozen Temperance women behind her took up the chant, banging drums and shaking tambourines. 

A surly individual went around her and reached for the batwing doors. Grace swatted him with her sign. “Get back! Back, I say. This den of iniquity is closed to the likes of you.” 

Built like a bull and smelling like the south end of a northbound steer, the man narrowed his gaze and raised a meaty fist. “This here’s a free country and I can go anywhere I like.” 

Gunfire rang out down the street and a woman screamed. Grace was glad she’d stuck a derringer in her pocket. This section of town saw killings every day even though the citizens Fort Worth cried for someone to clean it up. 

She wanted to take a step back from the surly man worse than anything. She really did. He had meanness rolling off him like thick rancid snake oil. But giving ground wasn’t in her make up. Not today and not as long as she was alive. 

Grace sucked in a quick breath, shot him a piercing glare and parked herself across the doorway. “I bet your wife would like to know where you spend your time when you should be working. Shame on you wasting your money on whiskey.” 

“I earn it and I’ll spend it however I see fit. Now step aside,” he snarled and raised a fist. 

“Or else what?” A voice in Grace’s head warned that this course of action could be dangerous, but she never listened to that boring bit of reason. No, she saw it her right and duty to make a difference in the world and make it she would. She couldn’t do that sitting on her hands like some timid toad afraid to utter a sound. 

At least a half dozen gunshots rent the air and people ducked. A crowd had begun to gather and pressed close. They got into a heated shouting match with her ladies. 

Before she could move, the quarrelsome fellow barreled into her, knocking her sideways. Grace launched onto his back and began whopping him with the sign. However, the handle was too long for close fighting and none of her blows landed. 

She released a frustrated cry and wrapped both arms around his head. 

“Get off me!” he roared. 

“When hell freezes over, you moron.” 

A door banged and footsteps of someone new approached and yanked the two of them apart. “Hey, what’s the meaning of this?” 

“Send her packing, Brannock!” someone yelled. “Don’t let her run you out of business.” 

Chest heaving, she jerked at the bodice of her favorite royal blue dress that matched her eyes, straightening it before grabbing the immense hat that barely clung to one side of her head. She blew back a blond curl that fell across one eye blocking her view. Only then did she get a glimpse of the gentleman whose livelihood she meant to destroy, and the sight glued her tongue to the roof of her mouth. 

That he presented a handsome picture with coal black hair and a lean form was indisputable, but it was more than that. A Stetson sat low on his forehead—a cowboy? Grace did a doubletake. Saloon owners wore bowlers, not Stetsons. She was unable to move her gaze from his piercing eyes. Shadowed by the brim of his hat, they reminded her of smoke. The stormy gray depths warned of the danger of crossing him. 

And more. Oh my! 

Grace took in his silk vest of dark green like those of gamblers. Her gaze rested on a well-used gun belt slung low on his hip complete with what appeared a long Peacemaker. By now, most men left their firearms at home. However, having grown up with weapons of all kinds on the Lone Star ranch, she understood the need to sometimes keep a gun handy. Although crime in the rough area had begun to decline, running a saloon at the edge of Hell’s Half Ace was still a risky business. 

She patted the small derringer in her pocket to make sure it hadn’t fallen out. 

“I asked what’s going on,” Brannock repeated. 

Mr. Smelly glared, wiping blood from his forehead. So, she did get a lick in. “This churlish fishwife assaulted me, and I demand you do something.” 

“Churlish fishwife?” Grace swung her sign again—only it caught the tall saloon keep instead, knocking him back a step. 

Towering head and shoulders above her, Brannock snatched the sign from her hand, broke it over his knee, and pitched the pieces aside. His eyes had darkened to a shade she’d never seen before and had no words to describe. “Care to explain why you’re running off my business, lady?” 

The question came out silky and wrapped in velvet like her father’s did when he wanted to put the fear of God into someone. That frightened her far more than yelling. This cowboy saloon owner was someone to reckon with. 

Although quaking inside, Grace drew herself up and thrust out her chin. “I’m asserting my God given right to free speech.” 

“You tell him, Grace!” one of the women yelled. 

“Free speech about?” he snapped.  

“The evils of drink. It’s destroying the fabric of our society and wrecking homes.” 

“And it’s your duty to straighten us men out?” he barked. 

She inhaled a shaky breath. “As much as I’m able. I cannot turn a blind eye to hungry kids and wives bearing the scars of abuse.” 

Excerpted from A Cowboy of Legend by Linda Broday.
© 2021 by Linda Broday. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

*****

Author Info:

At a young age, Linda Broday discovered a love for storytelling, history, and anything pertaining to the Old West. After years of writing romance, it’s still tall rugged cowboys that spark her imagination. A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Linda has won many awards, including the prestigious National Readers’ Choice Award and the Texas Gold. She resides in the Texas Panhandle where she’s inspired every day.

*****

Giveaway:

3 sets April 2021 releases

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/54ca7af71062/?

~

 

 

Spotlight – Rounding the Bases

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Who else is excited that it is baseball season?!?!

*****

Rounding the Bases

Book 3 in the Out of the Park series

by Jaqueline Snowe

General Release Date: 11th May 2021

Word Count: 68,681

Book Length: NOVEL

Pages: 269

Genres: CONTEMPORARY/EROTIC ROMANCE/SPORTS

Blurb:

What happens when a summer fling doesn’t end with the season?

Sarah Blue has one dream—to open her own pet boarding business. When she receives an offer to spend three months in a penthouse looking after two dogs, she intends to do the best dog-sitting job possible, and focus on her business plan. What she didn’t expect was to run into a stranger so handsome that she could barely put two words together at the sight of him.

And she certainly didn’t expect him to live across the hall and befriend her.

Brigham Monaghan’s reputation is on the line. After an arrest that went very public, his future as an outfielder with Los Soles isn’t guaranteed. With his life a total mess, he welcomes the distraction from the blue-haired girl across the hall who not only doesn’t know his name, but hates sports. It’s the perfect situation.

But things get complicated when what was supposed to be summer fun and flirting turns into something more. Sarah’s business takes off, where Brigham’s future is barely hanging on by a thread. With the odds stacking up against Brigham, Sarah can’t help questioning his motives. Did he fall hard for her, like she did him, or is it just a PR ploy?

Either way, he’s going to break her heart…

Out of the Park series – https://www.firstforromance.com/series/out-of-the-park

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57204732-rounding-the-bases

Choose Your Store: https://books2read.com/u/mldwAM

First For Romance: https://www.firstforromance.com/book/rounding-the-bases

*****

Excerpt:

The constant battle of how mature to act raged inside me. Yes, I could flip off my parents, but what good would it do? They’d scoff and pretend they had never in their wildest dreams raised a daughter with the audacity to do such a thing. Flipping them off would feel good for three seconds before the regret would sink in and I’d drink about it later.

So I did the adult thing and kept my big mouth shut.

“We don’t want to discourage you from pursuing…your dreams.” My dear mother choked on her words and I swore my dad’s face turned even redder. “But is this really a way to make a living?”

Maturity is important. I tapped my rainbow-colored nails—because Pride week was soon and I was absolutely an ally—and forced a tight smile. “I appreciate your concern, but I happen to love my plan.”

“It’s not beneath you?” my dad asked, looking around us in the café like his uptight friends would jump out and laugh at his offspring. “Pet sitting?”

“I don’t have the patience for vet school and I love animals. It pays pretty well and I’m off your payroll, so why do you care? I’m saving up to open up my dream business. I have a plan, if you cared to ask about it.”

Oh, I was feeling ballsy. My best friends Megan and Ethan would cheer me on if they could have witnessed this exchange. I got a little thrill at rebelling when they got more flustered.

“It is just not a sturdy profession, Sarah Belle.”

The first and middle name. They might as well cut me out of the will now. I sighed and made sure to cause a real scene by flipping my bright blonde hair with blue tips over my shoulder. “It’s decent and I’m busy. But more importantly, I’m happy. H-a-double p-y.”

I did not mention my almost near-zero bank account. Nope. I’d rather shove the entire fork into my mouth than admit that money wasn’t rolling in like I’d hoped. Sure, Megs said my life was too boring because I only focused on opening this business, but I ignored her truth bombs. My dating life might have been boring, but my hope for the future sure wasn’t.

“Your attitude doesn’t suit you, dear.” My mother pursed her lips, and if she wore a pearl necklace, she would’ve clutched it. “How long do you plan on taking a break from schooling?”

“For…ever?”

She clicked her tongue just as my alarm went off and I sent a prayer to whoever was listening. “Gotta run. Meeting a new client. Bye!”

They stood up as I left the table. I didn’t humor them by trying to hug goodbye. We didn’t express genuine emotion when it was positive. Guilt and shame? Oh, we did that in spades. I’d have a doctorate in shaming if it were possible. I would at least have a degree then, and my parents would get off my back.

I snorted at my own joke, earning a confused look from the poor guy walking past me. Phoenix in the summer was way too damn hot and the fact that I wasn’t the only person outside saddened me. The sun burned the asphalt to the point it smelled weird and I hurried my short walk to the building where my next job might be. Three months, dog sitting, in a penthouse.

Thousands of dollars.

College wouldn’t pay me that well, would it, parents?

I stopped after I entered the luxurious swanky building and groaned as the air conditioning hit my face. Heaven.

“Ma’am, may I help you?” a tall, old gentleman with a large mustache asked. He wore a green coat and I groaned. He had to be super-hot with all the clothes.

“Hello…” I eyed his name tag. “Ferdinand. Do you go by Fernie?”

“No.” He somehow stood taller at my question. “What are you doing here?” He scanned my outfit and I waited until he met my eyes again. “You might be in the wrong place, dear.”

My light blue dress had tiny straps on my shoulders and fit my curves very well. It made me feel confident and it was the best one to wear when it was one-hundred-and-fifteen outside. Fernie would not judge me. “I’m exactly where I want to be. Thank you. Now, excuse me.”

“You cannot just enter this building,” he said, his eyes widening and his mouth falling open when I barged past him to the elevator. It couldn’t be too hard to find the penthouse. Highest floor, right?

“It seems I just did, good sir.” I pressed the Up button and blew a large bubble when Fernie blinked fast and put his hand on my elbow. I yanked out of his grip. “Oy! Watch it.”

“I will call the police if you do not leave right now!”

I was about to tell him all the ways he could kiss my ass when the elevator doors opened and the most handsome man I had ever seen in my twenty-three years stood there, looking way too good for rational thoughts to form. Perfection.

The hair. The eyes. The beard. The shoulders.

My saliva evaporated from pure lust and wouldn’t return unless he kissed me. It was the only way.

“Nando,” the man said, sparing me a quick glance. “Harassing guests again?”

“She waltzed in here and disobeyed protocol!” he hissed, and that snapped me from my lusty funk.

“Okay, settle down, Fernie. There were no rules posted.”

One side of the handsome man’s lips quirked up and I swore I felt that gesture as if he’d caressed my entire body. Shivers. “Fernie. I like it.”

“He looks like one, right? Maybe it’s the stern nose or the stick up his ass. I can’t decide.”

Ferdinand looked affronted and I held up my hands as the stranger laughed, a deep, rich, beautiful chuckle that made me dizzy. “Security. I will call them.”

“I’m not trespassing.” I held up my phone. “I was invited here. To the penthouse, actually.”

Whatever I said made Fernie’s lip twitch, and I did not like that one bit. Nope. He grabbed my wrist again and before I could yell at him for manhandling me, the perfect specimen of a man took a step toward us, looking pissed off. “Don’t put your hands on her. She’s done nothing wrong.”

“Mr. Alexandre is not here. He won’t be for quite some time.” He practically giggled. “So your excuse for being here doesn’t work.”

“Wrong again, Fernie. But don’t worry, I won’t hold it against you if we are blessed to meet again.” I rubbed my wrist where his fingers touched and I gave a smile of thanks to the stranger, only putting a hint of take me now into it. “Here. Why don’t I clear this up?”

I dialed the number from the app and waited until a rough voice answered. “Hi, Mr. Alexandre, it’s Sarah Blue. Would you be so kind as to retrieve me from the foyer, as your bellhop is channeling his inner Paul Blart.”

“Your reference makes no sense, but I’ll be down.”

“Great. Thank you so much.” I grinned as large as I could and crossed my arms, tapping my foot on the polished floor, making Ferdinand glare at me. “Your I’m wrong face is great.”

He blustered a bit and I used the time to study the other, gorgeous man staring at me. He wore joggers and a black T-shirt that had to be sewn onto his tan skin. Delicious. There was no other way to describe him.

If anyone asked what my type was ever again, I would say him.

He seemed to be studying me too and I blushed head to toe when he gave me a hint of a smirk. “How do you know Alexandre?”

“How do you?” I fired back. He liked my answer. He cackled and leaned on the doorframe instead of exiting. “Two can play your game.”

His amusement pleased me. I wasn’t a huge hit with guys when it came to first impressions. I was loud, spoke my mind, called out things that upset me and never put out. Sure, I flirted when I wanted to, but no one really stood out to star in my spank bank. But this guy. Yup. His face was enough.

“Sarah Blue.” He repeated my name and I bit down on my knuckle and groaned. “What?”

“You’re too good-looking for your own good. I shouldn’t stare at you.” I turned around and almost smacked my forehead for being an idiot. I couldn’t help myself. My parents had raised me to be seen, not heard, and the second I got out from their rule, I flourished into being who I wanted to be—not quiet, always seen and always heard.

The stranger didn’t get a chance to respond before the elevator door opened again and a very well-dressed man appeared. He had to be ten years older than me, maybe more, and he looked like he should be on a runway. His face was all angles and jawline and the suit looked like it cost more than my parents’ house. “Sarah Blue?”

“Mr. Alexandre,” I said, and he nodded. I took a guess that this was the man I was supposed to meet and I felt smug as hell. I wiggled my fingers at Ferdinand in a super not mature way. It was worth it though to see his appalled expression of paled cheeks and wide eyes.

“Ms. Blue, please, come with me.” Mr. Alexandre crooked his fingers at me and I obeyed, damn well knowing he was more terrifying than Ferdinand. It wasn’t unusual for me to meet new clients in their homes, especially if I was watching their animals, and I trusted my gut. While I feared Mr. Alexandre more than I liked, it wasn’t a creepy vibe he gave off. It was authoritative.

I waltzed into the elevator and felt the weight of the handsome stranger’s stare as the doors closed. If there was such a thing as second-hand lust syndrome, I had it. Bad.

Mr. Alexandre remained quiet the entire ride until the doors opened on the top floor. There were just two doors at the end of the hallway and he went to the right. “Are you ready to meet them?”

‘Them’ meaning his two King Charles Spaniels, Pico and Cassandra. “I’d love to meet your fur-children.”

My comment pleased him and he typed five numbers onto a pad before the large black door swung. His room was like a hotel I had only witnessed in movies. Glorious. Open. Beautiful. He had a couch that was at least the size of my old dorm room and it was covered in plush pillows. Oh, I wanted to fall face first onto that couch for a day. “This is beautiful.”

“Thank you. I had it designed for me.” His boots clicked on the…while marble? Quartz? Diamond? Floor. It was too pretty for my eyes and I pretended I hadn’t stepped in melted gum on the walk here. “Pico! Cassandra! Where are you, lovelies?”

I couldn’t stop my lips from curving up. People were weird about their pets. Nicknames and routines and boundaries, and the fierce love they had for their mammals. He wasn’t on the far end of the insane scale of clients I had worked with, but he wasn’t in the middle. If he had a—

He did.

He returned from a room just beyond his kitchen with a decked-out gray and black stroller. There was no baby in there. Just two dogs with sparkly blue and purple collars. “Here are my babies. Ms. Blue, Pico and Cassie.”

“Why, hello!” I crouched forward and spoke in a high voice, foregoing all sense of dignity. “Aren’t you both adorable? You two spoiled?” I held out my hand and let them both sniff it for a full thirty seconds before I attempted to pet them. Pico, who had deep brown and black fur, wagged his tail so loud a soft thud kept repeating. “Happy boy. May I?” I gestured to pick him up and Mr. Alexandre nodded.

Pico licked my entire face and I laughed. He was a cutie and we’d get along fine. But he wasn’t the alpha of the house. Cassie was and she gave me the stink eye. “You are a gem, Pico. We’ll be buds. Now, Ms. Cassie, what can I do to win you over?”

She eyed me. She was different from Pico. She had white, brown and black fur and almost had freckles on her face. She was gorgeous but not friendly. She held her nose high in the air and I went from petting her back to her bum, and bam. Her tail wagged.

Damn, it felt good to get along so well with dogs. Humans weren’t as cute.

“She likes you,” he said, his voice rising in clear disbelief.

“I must smell like bacon from lunch,” I said, hoping to ease his mind. That was the trick of pet sitting for people. Their babies couldn’t like me more than they did them, but they had to like me enough to trust me. It was a thin line and I rocked it. “Shall we do a practice if you need to run an errand?”

“No. They don’t like humans much.” He crossed his arms and blinked a lot. “Let’s talk availability.”

“Let’s.” I kissed the top of Pico’s head and followed Mr. Alexandre toward a small glass table overlooking a patio that had the absolute best view of Camelback Mountain. “God, this view. I could die here.”

“I hope you don’t. My babies need love and attention while I’m away.” He pulled out a couple of sheets of paper and a pen. “Your application said you do stay-ins, overnights. How long?”

“It depends on the client. Currently, I have about twenty stops a week that will keep me away roughly the same as work hours. Six hours a day, typically.”

“Where do you live?”

“I won’t take them out of your place besides walks, sir. I assure you.”

“No.” He waved his hand like I’d insulted him. “I meant, can you break your lease if you are renting? I can pay the fee. If you take this job, you will need to be here three months.”

July, August, September. Damn. But I kept my poker face strong. “That is a long time, sir. The cost will be high.”

“I’ll give you twenty thousand dollars, but I must have daily photos and a video chat every other day. They require two walks a day and the best raw food.” He continued talking, but his voice faded as the price kept echoing in my head.

Twenty thousand.

“That’s…that’s…” I mumbled, but he paid me no attention. He brought out a notebook with tabs and slid it across the table. “Sir, please.”

“I will not negotiate. Pico and Cassie are my joys and you are ranked as one of the best at this. Please, Sarah, take care of them. I wish I did not have to travel, but I do.” He sighed and a sad, resigned look took over his face. “This is a lovely place to live.”

“Even with Ferdinand?” I joked, earning a slight smile. “He won’t try to kick me out?”

“He is protective of the tenants. Just don’t bother the door across the hall. He likes his privacy. And do not ruin this place. I will deduct any damages from your payment.”

I gulped and nodded, unable to do much more. Those rules were simple enough for that much money. God, no rent, no school… I could save most of it. “Thank you, sir. I will not let you down.”

“Good.”

He shook my hand and eyed the pen. “Sign and it’ll be official. Can you start tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow?” I repeated, dumbfounded at the quickness. “I don’t… I need to get my stuff.”

“Take today and tomorrow morning. But noon, be here.” He rose and left me at the table with a contract and a check for ten thousand dollars. Half now, half later.

And I could only stare at it.

“Better get started on getting your stuff, dear Sarah,” he said, his retreating back not exactly friendly.

*****

Author Info:

Jaqueline Snowe lives in Arizona where the ‘dry heat’ really isn’t that bad. She enjoys making lists with colorful Post-it notes and sipping coffee all day. She has been a custodian, a waitress, a landscaper, a coach and a teacher. Her life revolves around binge-watching Netflix, her two dogs who don’t realize they aren’t humans and her wonderful baseball-loving husband.

You can take a look at Jaqueline’s Website and Blog and you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Website: https://www.jaquelinesnowe.com/

Blog: https://www.jaquelinesnowe.com/blog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jaquelinesnowe

Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/jaquelinesnowe

https://www.firstforromance.com/index.php?route=product/author/info&author_id=9874

*****

Giveaway:

Enter for your chance to win a fabulous gift package from romance author Jaqueline Snowe and get a FREE eBook from the author!

Jaqueline Snowe Rounding the Bases Giveaway – https://upvir.al/114452/lp114452

JAQUELINE SNOWE IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN AND GET A FREE EBOOK FROM THE AUTHOR! Notice: This competition ends on 25TH May 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

*****

Spotlight – Flirting with Forever

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The entire Graciella series is getting some great reviews … get a copy and find out why!

*****

Flirting with Forever

Book 3 in the Graciella series

By Sara Ohlin

General Release Date: 11th May 2021

Word Count: 60,211

Book Length: NOVEL

Pages: 247

Genres: CONTEMPORARY/COWBOYS AND WESTERN/EROTIC ROMANCE

Blurb:

What would you give up to make forever come true?

Adam Brockman has been working the land and the horses in Graciella since he can remember, and the new Brockman Farms business ventures are all blossoming. Adam’s always believed in the farm, in family, and he’s convinced he’ll find the perfect love in the perfect moment.

Widowed Cassandra Dorsey hopes her stay at a Brockman Farm cottage will help find peace and get her life back on track after losing her dream job as the food editor of The San Francisco Chronicle and being reckless with men in order to feel again have done nothing but leave her numb.

Tumbling headfirst into love, Adam sets out to woo Cass into staying in Graciella and becoming his forever. Although initially convinced she needs to get her old job back, the land and love revive Cass’s senses and she starts to imagine new dreams that include a gorgeous farm and her sexy cowboy.

But a bombshell flips their world upside down and shakes the foundation of their fledgling relationship. Will the shock of a lifetime tear them apart…or grant Adam and Cass their chance at forever?

Graciella series – https://www.firstforromance.com/series/graciella

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57481809-flirting-with-forever

Choose Your Store: https://books2read.com/u/brPv1W

First For Romance: https://www.firstforromance.com/book/flirting-with-forever

*****

Excerpt:

It wasn’t every day a man got to stand in the most perfect, spectacular place on earth. Lush farmland, rows of apple trees, green hills rolling off into the Pacific Ocean. A fantasy map drawn to perfection. Exactly what dreams were made of. Adam Brockman got to live it.

Gonna be another scorcher. Adam shielded his eyes from the blinding sun and took in the farm spread out below him. This land had never looked better. Full to bursting with things growing and thriving, crops, trees, animals, his family. The back of his pickup stood open and he shoveled farm compost, or good old-fashioned manure, whose ripe and humid scent wafted around him, beside the new walkways strewn throughout the farm.

First week of November and summer temperatures still beat relentlessly at the land. Long rays streaked across the colored leaves and toyed with the dirt drifting across the ground. But he wasn’t fooled. Fall beckoned right around the corner, despite the heat.

With the trees exposing their reds and yellows and the sun sinking earlier, the land was preparing for hibernation. The knowledge tightened in his bones. It charged through him, the change in the air. But for a few more dreamy days he subscribed to the mirage. He would be perfectly fine if they had summer’s sunshine and warmth all year long.

But damn, he hadn’t planned on planting hundreds of perennials in ninety-degree heat. He’d already added tulip and daffodil bulbs. Come spring, the hard, monotonous work he’d put in would pay off, with gorgeous blooms lining the paths. Although Adam preferred working with the horses, beautifying his family farm was important to him, to all his brothers now. The threat of old ghosts was finally demolished, allowing them to make Brockman Farms shine again. They’d spent months cleaning her up, nurturing her. Lily was nearly finished with all the cottages. Yes, come spring this place would be brilliant.

“Shit!” Adam yelled as his puppy, Bullet, streaked by in a wisp of golden fur chasing something, probably imaginary, and tripping Adam in the process. He lost his footing on the slippery ground, his bucket and shovel flying from his hands, and found himself butt down in the pile of compost he’d just finished mounding over the sedum. Being surrounded by manure, as a farmer, was nothing new, but marinating in it wasn’t on his agenda. “It’s a good thing you’re cute, you menace!” Christ, now the scent did more that waft around him, it oozed into his skin.

“What…what the hell?” A throaty, indignant voice interrupted his predicament. To his side stood a woman, bathed in the dusty glow of lazy sunlight, and compost. Well, shit is right. It was mostly at her feet, covering her shoes and ankles, and splattered on her jeans. A few globs clung to her cute T-shirt she had tied at her waist. Adam closed his eyes, banishing his clusterfuck, then risked peeking. There was even shit in her long hair, brown streaks of it splotched on her honey-blonde waves.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” She tried to stomp her foot, but with the wet pile of poop, her boot made more of a squelching sound. “Shit!”

Adam couldn’t help the laugh that exploded out of him.

“This is not funny.” Eyes narrowed, she skewered him with a look.

“It isn’t?” Adam tried to keep the question out of his voice. He took in his body splayed in a pile of cow shit, raised his head and grinned at her. He couldn’t tell from his spectacularly awkward spot on the ground if she wanted to scream at him or demand help. She’d just been assaulted with manure. Okay, okay, maybe it wasn’t funny on her end.

Swallowing back his laughter, he said, “I’m so sorry, gorgeous.” Dragging himself up, he tossed the shovel out of her way and offered his hand to help her out of her stuck situation.

“Gorgeous?” She huffed at him.

“Uh…” She doesn’t think she’s gorgeous or she doesn’t want me to tell her she’s gorgeous?

Deep chestnut eyes held more than disbelief or anger. Stories lingered there, buried deep. People always said so much more with their eyes than they realized. A smear of super-organic plain old manure stuck to her cheek. He reached for the bandana in his back pocket, then barely stopped himself from laughing again when he realized there was no way his compost-soaked cloth would do her any good now.

“A bit clumsy today, darlin’. I’d offer you my bandana”—Adam gestured to the disaster he now was—“but I’d get compost all over you, or more over you.” He made to wipe his hands on his jeans, but he was covered in shit.

“Don’t,” she said and shoved her hands up.

“Look, you’re stuck in…well, you don’t want to stay there, do you?”

“It’s cow poop! You flung it at me. I’m literally covered in shit. Why is it all over the place, anyway?” She reached up to pull a piece of hair away from her cheek. “Ugh!”

“I’m planting,” Adam said. “Didn’t expect my dog to toss me over. Or a beautiful stranger to come traipsing through and be caught in the shitstorm.” He couldn’t help it. His inner ten-year-old self found all the jokes and puns about this hilarious.

This hardened the indignant freeze in her eyes and shuttered all her hidden tales. Shame. He could wade in and happily discover each one.

“What is it with you people?” Wow, he was amazed at how angry she could make her words sound with her lips so tight and rigid. Sure has pretty lips, though.

“People?” He put his hands on his hips and got ready to face off with this gorgeous but prissy lady. He wasn’t mad—it took a lot to anger him—but he did take pride in his work. Plus, if she wanted an argument, he was happy to provide one. Bantering with a pretty lady was much more fun than digging in the dirt.

“Men!”

She wiped the spot on her cheek but all it did was smear it across her flushed skin.

“Oh.” Adam relaxed and smiled at her. “I thought it was farmers that ruffled your feathers. It’s men you don’t like.”

“Yes, arrogant jerks with your swaggers and winks, tossing ‘gorgeous’ and ‘darlin’’ around thinking all women lap that up. And I do not have feathers! Ugh!”

Laughter bubbled out of him again. “You do know what a figure of speech is, though, right?” He checked his surroundings. I’m still on the farm. Haven’t stepped into an alternate dimension or anything. “This is all my fault and I’m sincerely sorry. Here, please take my hand and step out of that mess.”

“No…I…” She shooed his arm away. “This is unbelievable and yet so fitting at the same time.”

Are we having two separate conversations? “Are you mad because of the sh—compost? Or because I like to use the correct words to address something? Do you not like people calling you gorgeous?”

“Ugh, men always thinking a woman’s worth is only through her appearance.”

“That’s not what I said or meant. Don’t go putting extra thoughts in my head.”

She nodded and gave him a fake smile that did not match the rest of her expression. “Right. Of course. Is your head overloaded already?”

Points for sarcasm. Probably wise not to laugh this time. Oh yeah, she’s ready to spar. It was entertaining watching her try to insult him. Adam’s defenses were a steel vault. Her insults were nothing compared to what he and his brothers threw at each other. Even so, she still confused the hell out of him. “Why…go to all that trouble—” He swore as he rubbed the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. He probably had a nice streak of manure on his face now too.

“What was that?”

“Now you want to hear my thoughts?” he drawled as he peeled his work gloves off and tossed them aside.

“It’s not polite to mumble at people.”

“I said, why do women go to all the trouble in the world to appear gorgeous, with your sparkly makeup to highlight the gold flecks in your stunning eyes and hair products to entice seductively soft locks, but prance around like a snobby cat the minute we dumb men comment on it?” He intended to provoke her a bit, tangle her up, but damn he sank into the shimmering depths of her eyes.

“How I dress or wear makeup does not give you the right to hit on me. It’s polite to address people by their names, not stereotypical monikers perpetuated by society’s gender biases.”

“Oh.” Adam barked out a laugh. There was no sense trying to hide his humor, since she was zapping him left and right. “I wasn’t hitting on you, but I get it now. You’re giving the poor dumb farmer lessons in politesse.” He stepped closer. Dang! Prickly and stuck-up though she is, she sure smells pretty, like wildflowers in a sunny field. It obliterated everything else, like a shot of adrenaline. He wanted to lie down in a meadow with her and explore her scent. They could argue and kiss and learn each other’s bodies. Whoa, slow down, slim.

“Wha-what?” She blinked. “No—”

He didn’t give her a chance to finish because what had started out as enjoyable banter had turned into a confusing tumbleweed blowing around inside him. What is that feeling? Annoyance, frustration, agitation? There was a whole lot of agitation going on in his chest and other places right now and he needed to get the heck away from her. But first he put his large hands on her waist, lifted her out of the shit pile and placed her gently back on the path that wasn’t covered in manure.

“Oh,” she gasped but placed her hands on his shoulders to steady herself, stretching her body closer to his.

Her touch annihilated any lingering lightheartedness of this situation. Instinct and manners warred in his body, heart and head, with instinct wanting him to tug her tight into his body. They’d fit in all the right places. His head ordered him to flee immediately. Is that my head issuing orders? His synapses were all jammed up. Her eyes fluttered closed and he wanted to shake her gently, make her open them back up when he kissed her.

WTF? Red warning lights flashed. He ripped his hands off her soft hips. “Sorry I ruined your boots, miss.” He tipped his cowboy hat to her in one last stupid flourish and headed toward his north star, the barns. “Maybe stay away from us idiots,” he yelled over his shoulder. “I guarantee you’ll enjoy your stay better.”

*****

Author Info:

Sara Ohlin has lived all over the United States, but her heart keeps getting pulled back to the Pacific Northwest where it belongs. For years she has been writing creative non-fiction and memoir and feels that writing helps her make sense of this crazy world. She devours books and can often be found shushing her two hilarious kids so that she can finish reading. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’ll most likely be in the kitchen cooking up something scrumptious, a French macaron, shrimp scampi, a fun date-night-in dinner with her sexy husband, or perhaps her next love story.

You can follow Sara on Instagram and Pinterest and check out her website here

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/saraohlinauthor/

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/saraohlin/

Website: https://www.saraohlin.com/

https://www.firstforromance.com/index.php?route=product/author/info&author_id=11716

*****

Giveaway:

Enter for your chance to win a fabulous gift package from romance author Sara Ohlin and get a FREE eBook from the author!

Sara Ohlin Flirting with Forever Giveaway – https://upvir.al/114470/lp114470

SARA OHLIN IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN AND GET A FREE EBOOK FROM THE AUTHOR! Notice: This competition ends on 25TH May 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

*****

Spotlight – Confessions from the Quilting Circle

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Readers are just loving Yates’s newest book!

*****

Confessions from the Quilting Circle

by Maisey Yates

ISBN: 9781335775856

Publication Date: 5/4/2021

Publisher: HQN Books

Blurb:

The Ashwood women don’t have much in common…except their ability to keep secrets.

When Lark Ashwood’s beloved grandmother dies, she and her sisters discover an unfinished quilt. Finishing it could be the reason Lark’s been looking for to stop running from the past, but is she ever going to be brave enough to share her biggest secret with the people she ought to be closest to?

Hannah can’t believe she’s back in Bear Creek, the tiny town she sacrificed everything to escape from. The plan? Help her sisters renovate her grandmother’s house and leave as fast as humanly possible. Until she comes face-to-face with a man from her past. But getting close to him again might mean confessing what really drove her away…

Stay-at-home mom Avery has built a perfect life, but at a cost. She’ll need all her family around her, and all her strength, to decide if the price of perfection is one she can afford to keep paying.

This summer, the Ashwood women must lean on each other like never before, if they are to stitch their family back together, one truth at a time…

HarlequinIndieboundAmazonBarnes & Noble
Books-A-MillionWalmartGoogleiBooksKobo

*****

Excerpt:

1

March 4th, 1944

The dress is perfect. Candlelight satin and antique lace. I can’t wait for you to see it. I can’t wait to walk down the aisle toward you. If only we could set a date. If only we had some idea of when the war will be over.

Love, Dot

Present day—Lark

Unfinished.

The word whispered through the room like a ghost. Over the faded, floral wallpaper, down to the scarred wooden floor. And to the precariously stacked boxes and bins of fabrics, yarn skeins, canvases and other artistic miscellany.

Lark Ashwood had to wonder if her grandmother had left them this way on purpose. Unfinished business here on earth, in the form of quilts, sweaters and paintings, to keep her spirit hanging around after she was gone.

It would be like her. Adeline Dowell did everything with just a little extra.

From her glossy red hair—which stayed that color till the day she died—to her matching cherry glasses and lipstick. She always had an armful of bangles, a beer in her hand and an ashtray full of cigarettes. She never smelled like smoke. She smelled like spearmint gum, Aqua Net and Avon perfume.

She had taught Lark that it was okay to be a little bit of extra.

A smile curved Lark’s lips as she looked around the attic space again. “Oh, Gram…this is really a mess.”

She had the sense that was intentional too. In death, as in life, her grandmother wouldn’t simply fade away.

Neat attics, well-ordered affairs and pre-death estate sales designed to decrease the clutter a family would have to go through later were for other women. Quieter women who didn’t want to be a bother.

Adeline Dowell lived to be a bother. To expand to fill a space, not shrinking down to accommodate anyone.

Lark might not consistently achieve the level of excess Gram had, but she considered it a goal.

“Lark? Are you up there?”

She heard her mom’s voice carrying up the staircase. “Yes!” She shouted back down. “I’m…trying to make sense of this.”

She heard footsteps behind her and saw her mom standing there, gray hair neat, arms folded in. “You don’t have to. We can get someone to come in and sort it out.” 

“And what? Take it all to a thrift store?” Lark asked.

Her mom’s expression shifted slightly, just enough to convey about six emotions with no wasted effort. Emotional economy was Mary Ashwood’s forte. As contained and practical as Addie had been excessive. “Honey, I think most of this would be bound for the dump.”

“Mom, this is great stuff.”

“I don’t have room in my house for sentiment.”

“It’s not about sentiment. It’s usable stuff.”

“I’m not artsy, you know that. I don’t really…get all this.” The unspoken words in the air settled over Lark like a cloud.

Mary wasn’t artsy because her mother hadn’t been around to teach her to sew. To knit. To paint. To quilt.

Addie had taught her granddaughters. Not her own daughter.

She’d breezed on back into town in a candy apple Corvette when Lark’s oldest sister, Avery, was born, after spending Mary’s entire childhood off on some adventure or another, while Lark’s grandfather had done the raising of the kids.

Grandkids had settled her. And Mary had never withheld her children from Adeline. Whatever Mary thought about her mom was difficult to say. But then, Lark could never really read her mom’s emotions. When she’d been a kid, she hadn’t noticed that. Lark had gone around feeling whatever she did and assuming everyone was tracking right along with her because she’d been an innately self focused kid. Or maybe that was just kids.

Either way, back then badgering her mom into tea parties and talking her ear off without noticing Mary didn’t do much of her own talking had been easy.

It was only when she’d had big things to share with her mom that she’d realized…she couldn’t.

“It’s easy, Mom,” Lark said. “I’ll teach you. No one is asking you to make a living with art, art can be about enjoying the process.”

“I don’t enjoy doing things I’m bad at.”

“Well I don’t want Gram’s stuff going to a thrift store, okay?”

Another shift in Mary’s expression. A single crease on one side of her mouth conveying irritation, reluctance and exhaustion. But when she spoke she was measured. “If that’s what you want. This is as much yours as mine.”

It was a four-way split. The Dowell House and all its contents, and The Miner’s House, formerly her grandmother’s candy shop, to Mary Ashwood, and her three daughters. They’d discovered that at the will reading two months earlier.

It hadn’t caused any issues in the family. They just weren’t like that.

Lark’s uncle Bill had just shaken his head. “She feels guilty.”

And that had been the end of any discussion, before any had really started. They were all like their father that way. Quiet. Reserved. Opinionated and expert at conveying it without saying much.

Big loud shouting matches didn’t have a place in the Dowell family.

But Addie had been there for her boys. They were quite a bit older than Lark’s mother. She’d left when the oldest had been eighteen. The youngest boy sixteen.

Mary had been four.

Lark knew her mom felt more at home in the middle of a group of men than she did with women. She’d been raised in a house of men. With burned dinners and repressed emotions.

Lark had always felt like her mother had never really known what to make of the overwhelmingly female household she’d ended up with.

“It’s what I want. When is Hannah getting in tonight?” 

Hannah, the middle child, had moved to Boston right after college, getting a position in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She had the summer off of concerts and had decided to come to Bear Creek to finalize the plans for their inherited properties before going back home.

Once Hannah had found out when she could get time away from the symphony, Lark had set her own plans for moving into motion. She wanted to be here the whole time Hannah was here, since for Hannah, this wouldn’t be permanent.

But Lark wasn’t going back home. If her family agreed to her plan, she was staying here.

Which was not something she’d ever imagined she’d do.

Lark had gone to college across the country, in New York, at eighteen and had spent years living everywhere but here. Finding new versions of herself in new towns, new cities, whenever the urge took her.

Unfinished.

“Sometime around five-ish? She said she’d get a car out here from the airport. I reminded her that isn’t the easiest thing to do in this part of the world. She said something about it being in apps now. I didn’t laugh at her.”

Lark laughed, though. “She can rent a car.”

Lark hadn’t lived in Bear Creek since she was eighteen, but she hadn’t been under the impression there was a surplus of ride services around the small, rural community. If you were flying to get to Bear Creek, you had to fly into Medford, which was about eighteen miles from the smaller town. Even if you could find a car, she doubted the driver would want to haul anyone out of town.

But her sister wouldn’t be told anything. Hannah made her own way, something Lark could relate to. But while she imagined herself drifting along like a tumbleweed, she imagined Hannah slicing through the water like a shark. With intent, purpose, and no small amount of sharpness.

“Maybe I should arrange something.”

“Mom. She’s a professional symphony musician who’s been living on her own for fourteen years. I’m pretty sure she can cope.”

“Isn’t the point of coming home not having to cope for a while? Shouldn’t your mom handle things?” Mary was a doer. She had never been the one to sit and chat. She’d loved for Lark to come out to the garden with her and work alongside her in the flower beds, or bake together. “You’re not in New Mexico anymore. I can make you cookies without worrying they’ll get eaten by rats in the mail.”

Lark snorted. “I don’t think there are rats in the mail.”

“It doesn’t have to be real for me to worry about it.”

And there was something Lark had inherited directly from her mother. “That’s true.”

That and her love of chocolate chip cookies, which her mom made the very best. She could remember long afternoons at home with her mom when she’d been little, and her sisters had been in school. They’d made cookies and had iced tea, just the two of them.

Cooking had been a self-taught skill her mother had always been proud of. Her recipes were hers. And after growing up eating “chicken with blood” and beanie weenies cooked by her dad, she’d been pretty determined her kids would eat better than that.

Something Lark had been grateful for.

And Mom hadn’t minded if she’d turned the music up loud and danced in some “dress up clothes”—an oversized prom dress from the ’80s and a pair of high heels that were far too big, purchased from a thrift store. Which Hannah and Avery both declared “annoying” when they were home. 

Her mom hadn’t understood her, Lark knew that. But Lark had felt close to her back then in spite of it.

The sound of the door opening and closing came from downstairs. “Homework is done, dinner is in the Crock-Pot. I think even David can manage that.”

The sound of her oldest sister Avery’s voice was clear, even from a distance. Lark owed that to Avery’s years of motherhood, coupled with the fact that she—by choice—fulfilled the role of parent liaison at her kids’ exclusive private school, and often wrangled children in large groups. Again, by choice.

Lark looked around the room one last time and walked over to the stack of crafts. There was an old journal on top of several boxes that look like they might be overflowing with fabric, along with some old Christmas tree ornaments, and a sewing kit. She grabbed hold of them all before walking to the stairs, turning the ornaments over and letting the silver stars catch the light that filtered in through the stained glass window.

Her mother was already ahead of her, halfway down the stairs by the time Lark got to the top of them. She hadn’t seen Avery yet since she’d arrived. She loved her older sister. She loved her niece and nephew. She liked her brother-in-law, who did his best not to be dismissive of the fact that she made a living drawing pictures. Okay, he kind of annoyed her. But still, he was fine. Just… A doctor. A surgeon, in fact, and bearing all of the arrogance that stereotypically implied.

One of the saddest things about living away for as long as she had was that she’d missed her niece’s and nephew’s childhoods. She saw them at least once a year, but it never felt like enough. And now they were teenagers, and a lot less cute.

And then there was Avery, who had always been somewhat untouchable. Four years older than Lark, Avery was a classic oldest child. A people pleasing perfectionist. She was organized and she was always neat and orderly.  And even though the gap between thirty-four and thirty-eight was a lot narrower than twelve and sixteen, sometimes Lark still felt like the gawky adolescent to Avery’s sweet sixteen.

But maybe if they shared in a little bit of each other’s day-to-day it would close some of that gap she felt between them.

Excerpted from Confessions From the Quilting Circle by Maisey Yates, Copyright © 2021 by Maisey Yates. Published by HQN Books.

*****

Author Info:

New York Times Bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit. 

Author Website

Twitter: @maiseyyates

Facebook:@MaiseyYates.Author 

Instagram: @maiseyyates

Goodreads

*****

Spotlight – The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes

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Axelrod’s newest is getting some really awesome reviews!

*****

The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes

by Xio Axelrod

Publication Date: 5/4/2021

Blurb:

Her name’s Antonia “Toni” Bennette (yeah, she’s heard all the jokes before) and she’s not a rock star. Neither are the Lillys—not yet. But the difference between being famous and being almost famous can be a single wrong note…or the start of something that’ll change your life forever.

Growing up in dive bars up and down the East Coast, Toni Bennette’s guitar was her only companion…until she met Sebastian Quick. Seb was a little older, a lot wiser, and before long he was Toni’s way out, promising they’d escape their stifling small town together. Then Seb turned eighteen and split without looking back.

Now, Toni’s all grown up and making a name for herself in Philadelphia’s indie scene. When a friend suggests she try out for a hot new up-and-coming band, Toni decides to take a chance. Strong, feminist, and fierce as fire, Toni B. and the Lillys are the perfect match…except Seb’s now moonlighting as their manager. Whatever. Toni can handle it. No problem. Or it wouldn’t be if Seb didn’t still hold a piece of her heart…not to mention the key to her future.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3ls7kDE 

B&N: https://bit.ly/2EpLLCT 

Apple: https://apple.co/2Qpyc8Q 

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3jtxDZx 

Bookshop: https://bit.ly/3aWoeVX 

BAM: https://bit.ly/2YAkCE7 

Books2Read: http://bit.ly/3oKLVG2

*****

Excerpt:

The smile on Toni’s face faltered as Seb approached, eyes wide with disbelief. She banged the sharp edge of her guitar case into Jordan’s leg, and he made a pained sound. 

Toni winced. “Oh God! I’m so sorry.” 

Jordan laughed it off. “It’s okay. Seb has that effect on people.” 

Her hair had fallen into her eyes, hiding her from him. It wouldn’t do. Seb itched to reach over and brush it back. After so many years apart, he needed to see her, to look into her eyes. He needed to apologize, though no apology would ever be enough for what he’d done. 

As if steeling herself, Toni took a deep breath and raised her head to meet his gaze. 

Seb watched as confusion morphed into suspicion before giving way to unmistakable anger, which coalesced white-hot as her gaze narrowed. 

After a few moments of awkward silence, Jordan cleared his throat. “Toni Bennette, this is Sebastian Quick,” he said. “Seb, Toni the phenom.” 

Lilly nodded to Seb in greeting and pulled Tiff over to the piano, where a pile of headshots lay spread out on its ebony top. 

Seb’s heart hammered in his chest. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. The connection between his brain and his vocal cords had been severed, which was just as well. He had no idea what to say. 

“Nice to meet you.” A flush spread across her cheeks, but the ice in her voice sent a chill down Seb’s spine and made his jaw snap shut. Nice to meet you? 

Despite the greeting, Toni made no move to shake his hand, clutching her phone in one and her guitar in the other. Her eyes were steely and there was a clear statement in them: I don’t know you. Or, maybe, I don’t want to. 

Seb managed to nod. He wasn’t sure how to play this but thought maybe it was best to follow her lead. He owed her that. 

Jordan arched an eyebrow as if to say What the fuck is wrong with you? 

From his left, Seb could feel Candi’s stare burning into the side of his face. He needed to get his shit together. 

“Nice to meet you, too,” he finally said. And kudos to him for not screwing that up. “Nice stuff.” 

“Nice stuff,” Candi repeated, mocking his stiff tone. She stuck her hand out to Toni. “You know your shit, missy.” 

Toni held Seb’s gaze for a beat before she turned to her, giving her a warm smile as she shook her hand. 

“Thanks so much. You’re Candi, right?” 

“The one and only,” Candi replied pointedly before dropping her hand and walking over to Lilly. 

Again, Toni’s smile faltered. 

“Okay,” Jordan said loudly, his eyes still on Seb. He turned to Toni. “We’ll definitely be in touch.” 

“That’s great, thanks,” Toni replied, her eyes kind for Seb’s best friend. “I’ll keep my phone charged.” 

Jordan gave Seb one last look, sent Toni a little salute, and jogged over to the others. 

Seb found Toni studying him again, her expression indecipherable. 

Finally, she rolled her eyes with a huff and moved toward the door. 

Before he could think better of it, Seb followed. Grabbing the door before it could close behind her, he trailed Toni into the hall. 

She was moving fast, giving him a healthy dose of déjà vu. 

“Wait up!” He caught up to her in front of the bank of elevators. Seb watched her shoulders rise and fall on heavy breaths. 

Despite her distress, Toni’s voice came out even. Measured. Glacial. “You’re the last person I expected to see. Again.” 

“Yeah, well…” Seb rubbed the back of his neck. 

Slowly, Toni turned to face him, and they stared at each other for a long moment. 

Seb couldn’t read her at all. “You sounded good in there. Great, actually.” His words were so fucking inadequate. 

“Thanks.” 

Now that she was in front of him, Seb floundered. He needed to organize his thoughts. Figure out a way to approach her that didn’t cause her to shoot daggers out of her eyes. 

“I, uh… How—?” 

The elevator doors opened, interrupting whatever Seb thought he might say. 

Lifting her eyes to his, Toni walked slowly backward until she was inside. 

“See you around,” she said, dropping her gaze. “Maybe.”

Excerpted from The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Xio Axelrod.
© 2021 by Xio Axelrod. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

*****

Author Info:

Xio Axelrod is an award-winning, USA Today best-selling author of contemporary romance. In 2017, she founded the Philadelphia RWA chapter. Xio grew up in the music industry and began recording at a young age. When she isn’t writing stories, she can be found in the studio, writing songs, or performing on international stages (under a different, not-so-secret name). She lives in Philadelphia with one full-time husband and several part-time cats.

*****

Giveaway:

2 sets Like Cats and Dogs and Girl with Stars in Her Eyes

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/54ca7af71072/

~

 

 

 

Spotlight – The Wolf Wore Plaid

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Terry Spear is definitely a name to know if you are looking for your next paranormal romance read!

*****

The Wolf Wore Plaid

Highland Wolf series

by Terry Spear

Publication Date: 4/27/2021

Blurb:

An overprotective wolf meets his match in the Scottish Highlands of today…

Heather MacNeil has never backed down from a fight. So when some shady shifters from a neighboring enemy clan come looking for trouble, she refuses to feed their satisfaction. There’s only one wolf that makes her go soft…

For packmate Enrick MacQuarrie, the work as second-in-command never ends—as the feud ignites, clan security is more vital than ever. But a certain unpredictable, feisty Highland lass is determined to stand up to the aggressors, and Enrick is equally determined to protect her.

The action builds as Heather and Enrick grow closer, but will they be willing to sacrifice their wild friendship for true love?

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3s2cNnq

B&N: https://bit.ly/3bTZakr

Apple: https://apple.co/2NqTl4D

Kobo: https://bit.ly/30SihVR

Bookshop: https://bit.ly/3rY3K73

BAM: https://bit.ly/3rS5U89

*****

Excerpt:

“We’ve heard so much about your shop that we had to come and check it out,” Robert said, leaning against her counter. 

She didn’t believe him for an instant. Her phone was sitting on the ledge below the high counter and out of his sight, so she started to text Ian to see if he could send some backup, other than her three brothers—Oran, Jamie, and Callum, who would just as likely kill the men and ask questions afterward—if she needed the help. 

The doorbell jingled again, and she looked up to see who it was, afraid it would be more of the Kilpatricks’ kin. Instead, Enrick MacQuarrie pulled the door closed behind him, and a bit of relief washed over her. Now he was a welcome sight. Not for his supposed interest in dating her. That was so far-fetched, she couldn’t believe Lana would even think it. But Heather knew he would be all protective when it came to her or any other she-wolf of the MacNeill pack. 

She didn’t send the text message to Ian, figuring Enrick would deal with the Kilpatricks if they gave her any trouble. 

Not that she was totally reassured. Anything could go wrong, and she sure didn’t want Enrick hurt either. 

He looked so much like one of the men wearing a New York T-shirt while they waited for their steak pies that he could have been his double. Ever since Guy McNab had made it big as a film star in America, Enrick had been mistaken for him whenever he ventured out of the area. 

Enrick was the middle triplet brother of Grant and Lachlan MacQuarrie, tawny-haired and good-natured—except if he was defending the pack members or his friends, then watch out. He had a warrior’s heart, yet Heather had seen a real soft side to him too—playing tug-of-war with the Irish wolfhound pups, chasing the kids around the inner bailey in a game of tag, growling as if he were a wolf in his fur coat and making the kids squeal in delight. She’d seen him playing with his brothers as wolves and he was totally aggressive then, not wanting either of his brothers to win the battle between them. And in a snowball fight, he was the fastest snowball maker and thrower she’d ever seen. If they played on teams, she wanted him on hers. 

So he did let his hair down, so to speak, with the kids and with his brothers and others. With her? He clearly thought she was trouble. 

At least he was a wolf with a pack friendly to her own, and she smiled brightly at him, glad he was here in case she needed him. 

There was no smile for her, his look instead dark and imposing as he glanced from her to the Kilpatrick brothers, still trying to figure out what they wanted to buy. She hoped Enrick wouldn’t start a fight. They had so many customers, and she didn’t want to see a brawl break out in front of them. It surely wouldn’t help business. 

Robert pointed to the sign on the wall listing the kind of pies they sold. “We’ll take a couple of the steak and kidney pies to go.” 

Okay, so they weren’t causing trouble. Yet. They hadn’t noticed Enrick’s arrival, and she hoped he wouldn’t cause things to get ugly when the other men were behaving…for the moment. Enrick was observing them with a do-anything-I-don’t-like-and-you’ll-die look. 

Robert leaned against the oak countertop. “We hear there’s supposed to be a movie filmed at one of the castles nearby.” 

As her heartbeat quickened, Heather’s gaze darted to Enrick’s, and he raised his brows at her. Man, she was about to give the secret away in that one little glance at him. She knew he would question her next, once the men left. He could probably hear her heart suddenly beating way too fast. 

“We had a movie filmed at our castle a few years back, but that’s it.” Heather placed their order with Rush stamped on it. She’d never used the stamp before, but this was certainly one of those times it came in handy. 

“Not that film. A new one. More of a…fantasy,” Patrick said, “featuring wolves, even.” 

“At the MacNeills’ castle? No,” she said, shaking her head. She wasn’t lying. Ian MacNeill swore they would never have another film shot at their castle. At the time they’d been in dire straits financially, and the only way to keep the castle solvent was to do the film. Wolf packs had to keep their identity secret. Having tons of nonwolves traipsing through Argent Castle and the grounds could be problematic. Her pack had had to send a couple of newly turned wolves to stay with the MacQuarries, just so the human cast and crew wouldn’t have the surprise of seeing the newbies shift during the full moon. 

Excerpted from The Wolf Wore Plaid by Terry Spear.
©
2021 by Terry Spear. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

*****

Author Info:

USA Today bestselling author Terry Spear has written over sixty paranormal and medieval Highland romances. A retired officer of the U.S. Army Reserves, Terry also creates award-winning teddy bears that have found homes all over the world, helps out with her grandbaby, and she is raising two Havanese puppies. She lives in Spring, Texas.

*****

Giveaway:

3 sets April 2021 releases

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/54ca7af71062/?

~

 

 

Review – Maybe We Will

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From Melissa Foster, the New York Times bestselling author of She Loves Me, comes a sexy and heart-warming novel about finding love—and family—where you least expect it.

*****

Maybe We Will

Silver Harbor #1

by Melissa Foster

Releasing May 4th, 2021

Montlake Romance

Blurb:

When chef Abby de Messiéres returns to Silver Island with her sister to get their late mother’s affairs in order, she expected to inherit her mother’s bistro along with their childhood home, not to discover a half sister they never knew existed, and a handsome vacationer camped out on her mother’s patio.

Workaholic Aiden Aldridge has been sent to Silver Island on a work-free vacation, armed with a “Let Loose List,” and ordered to get a life by the much-younger sister he raised after the death of their parents. After years of focusing on his sister’s well-being, he’s blindsided by his intense attraction to the gorgeous, free-spirited Abby.

Aiden might not know much about chilling out, but he’s excellent at striking deals. He helps Abby with the restaurant in exchange for her help in tackling the items on his list. Sparks fly as Aiden and Abby work, and play, side by side. Intimate conversations lead to steamy kisses and undeniable passion. But there’s more to Aiden then Abby knows, and when the truth comes out, their new romance is put to the test, as the two find out if true love really can conquer all.

The Silver Harbor series is published by Montlake Romance and will be available in paperback and audio formats at all book retailers, and exclusively in digital format for Kindle and Kindle apps. Download a free Kindle reading app here: http://bit.ly/FreeKindle_App1

Sneak Peek, https://melissafoster.com/maybe-we-will-sneak-peek/

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54907204-maybe-we-will

Goodreads series link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/297812-silver-harbor

KINDLE: https://smarturl.it/MWW_Kindle 

PAPERBACK: https://smarturl.it/MWW_Pb 

FREE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED

Available in audio! (Narrated by Aiden Snow and Jennifer Mack)

AMAZON: https://smarturl.it/MWWa_Amazon 

AUDIBLE: https://smarturl.it/MWWa_Audible

*****

Review:

Aiden has a good, tho not necessarily trouble-free, life. He took over as parent to his sister at a very young age and has spent all of his time raising her & running his business. His big heart and sharp mind has served them well over the years but, now that she’s happily settled into a relationship, she wants him to take some time off and learn to relax. Unfortunately that’s not easy for him … until he meets Abby, who’s zest for life instantly captivates him.

Abby is in town to settle her mother’s affairs, and maybe find herself. What she didn’t expect is the gorgeous guy having breakfast on the beach one morning. They soon find themselves getting to know one another, working on her family’s restaurant, and just letting go & having fun.

Maybe We Will is definitely for those readers that appreciate a slow burn. There’s not a lot of drama or angst, just a chance to sit back and enjoy two people falling in love. And while she definitely knows how to turn on the heat, Foster also knows how to deliver charming characters and enjoyable stories. Her newest is no different

(While all of Foster’s books can technically be read on their own, I think that you’ll enjoy them more when you are familiar with the side characters and their backgrounds.)

*****

Author Info:

Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance and new adult romance with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Melissa’s emotional journeys are lovingly erotic and always family oriented–perfect beach reads for contemporary romance lovers who enjoy reading about wealthy heroes and smart, sassy heroines.

Website:  http://www.melissafoster.com/
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/MelissaFosterAuthor
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Melissa_Foster
GoodReads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3023973.Melissa_Foster
Newsletter: http://melissafoster.com/newsletter/
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/melissa-foster
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melissafoster_author/
TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@melissafoster_author

~

 

 

Spotlight – A Plan for Her Future

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Harlequin’s Love Inspired line sure knows how to make your heart happy.

*****

A Plan for Her Future

The Calhoun Cowboys

by Clare Connelly

Price: Ebook $4.99 USD / MMP $5.99

On sale date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 9781488071096

Blurb:

One little girl

could give him a second chance at love.

Jack Prinz barely knows how to be a grandfather, much less raise a child by himself. But he has the perfect solution—marry his childhood friend to provide his orphaned granddaughter with the mother figure she needs. Now he has to convince Grace Partridge to accept his loveless proposal. If only sticking to his plan were that simple

From Harlequin Love Inspired: Uplifting stories of faith, forgiveness and hope.

The Calhoun Cowboys
Book 1: Hoping for a Father
Book 2: Home to Heal
Book 3: Christmas in a Snowstorm
Book 4: A Plan for Her Future

*****

Excerpt:

Grace Partridge, you look stunning so stop fussing.” Jessica James flipped up the car’s visor, hiding the passenger mirror. “Trust me, with your makeup update, your stunning wardrobe and now that glorious feathered cut, you’re going to be attracting men’s looks the entire three months you’re traveling the world.” 

“Oh.” Grace gulped. Attracting men’s looks— Did she really want that? “Maybe it’s too much…” 

“Out!” Jess laughed as she parked in front of Grace’s tidy bungalow. She leaned across and flicked the door latch so the passenger door swung open. “No more second- guessing yourself. Embrace the new you, best friend of mine. And finish getting ready,” she ordered after glancing at her watch. “The Calhoun boys will soon be here to drive you to catch your flight in Missoula.” 

“Yes, they will. Thanks for being my cheerleader.” Grace hugged Jess, stepped out of her car and then she bent over to ask anxiously, “You will call me before I leave?” 

“Try and stop me.” Jessica sounded amused by her hesitancy.

“Thank you, dear friend. You are so—” 

“I love you, too. Later, kiddo.” With a cheery wave, Jess drove away.”

Inside her home, Grace dropped her keys on the dish in the foyer while thinking how much she’d miss Jess these next few months. She hung the new dress she’d just purchased in the closet. What a lot of things she’d bought for this trip. 

Actually, her wardrobe shift wasn’t only for the trip. It was part of Grace’s plan to shed the three D’s: Dumpy, Drab and Dreary. 

Her musing disintegrated at the sound of frantic pounding on her front door. When she pulled it open, her jaw dropped at the sight of a young girl whose face streamed with tears while she danced from one foot to the other. 

“Help,” she pleaded. “My pops is hurt.” 

Taken aback, Grace wondered when that nest of black hair had last seen a comb. 

“Hey! Lady! Help him,” the girl begged. 

“Of course, dear.” Grace snapped into action and grabbed her phone. “Uh, where is your pops?” 

“There.” The child pointed. 

Grace gasped at the sight of a silver-templed man in a battered black leather jacket, lying sprawled on the street in front of an expensive-looking black car. She dialed 911 before racing outside and down her sidewalk toward the victim. 

“I didn’t see him, Grace,” her elderly neighbor Mrs. Fothergill wailed as she stood by her car. “When I started backing up, he wasn’t there. Then he was and my foot slipped on the gas pedal. Please help him.” 

“I’ll try, Mrs. Fothergill. I’m reporting an accident.” Grace focused on the operator and gave her address. “A man’s been hit by a car. We need the ambulance and police. Hold on while I try to find out more about his condition.” 

Grace knelt by the man. He was unconscious. She pressed her fingers against his neck for a pulse. With his head half-buried under his arm she couldn’t get a good look at his face. She was afraid to move him lest there were nonvisible injuries. 

“Oh, Lord, help us,” Mrs. Fothergill chanted repeatedly. Distracted by the feeble woman’s agitation, Grace suggested she sit in her car and wait for help. 

“Please, do something for Pops,” the little girl implored her. 

“I’m doing my best, dear.” Grace studied her watch. “He has a pulse,” she told the operator. “It’s a bit fast. Yes, I do have first-aid knowledge, but I don’t want to move him because his leg is at a strange angle. Also, there’s a large bruise forming above his left eyebrow. I believe he hit his head when he fell so he may be concussed.” She turned to the child. “Does your grandfather take medication?” 

“He already took it,” the girl explained. “I dunno if he’s s’posed to take more.” 

Grace relayed that information and the name of the pre- scription on the vial she withdrew from the pocket of the leather jacket. The name suddenly registered. 

“Jack?” she gasped in utter consternation. 

The man moaned and moved his arm slightly, revealing his face. Grace gaped as her breath whooshed out. 

He’d aged. His face was thinner, more angled, rendering him more rakish-looking than ever. But it was Jack. The operator demanded to know what was going on. 

“The victim’s name is Jack Prinz,” Grace explained after licking her dry lips and finding her voice. “He’s fifty-three. Not from Sunshine. Not for many years.” 

Heartfelt or thrilling, passionate or uplifting—our romances have it all. Visit TryHarlequin.com to sample FREE books from among 12 different series. It’s just a taste of the new books published each month—every story a journey guaranteed to leave you with That Harlequin Feeling.

*****

Author Info:

With more than fifty books and millions of copies in print worldwide, Lois Richer continues to write of characters struggling to find God amid their troubled world. Whether from her small prairie town, while crossing oceans or in the midst of the desert, Lois strives to impart hope as well as encourage readers’ hunger to know more about the God of whom she writes. 

Website: http://www.loisricher.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/128821.Lois_Richer

*****